Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Homestead

Now that the inside of our house has been, for the most part, completed I can start indulging my green thumb. Although I am planning on using only indigenous plants, so it's more like a "greenish-brown and spiky" thumb. I started with two miniature gardens this weekend, one filled with transplanted cactus from around our property:

and one filled with succulents we bought at Lowe's:

I've started taking pictures of all of our renovations, and am going to put together a big "before and after" posting. But here's two of the projects that have made me particularly happy. One was our front door, which was dented, dirty, and painted a very pale pink. It is also a very unusual size that has made it virtually impossible to replace. So we took it off the hinges and I repainted it with the image of brightly colored Victorian houses in my head, but to match a plate we got in Nogales:

The fireplace in the Arizona room was made with native lava rock, but unfortunately was sloppily installed and was covered with cement that couldn't be removed. Then the kids who partied in the house when it was abandoned set a fire in fireplace without opening the flue, so it was soot-stained. We built a frame around the existing fireplace and then walled it in with peacock slate and used glass tile accents:

The picture doesn't do justice to the slate which is full of beautiful colors and shimmery mineral deposits.

And, finally, the view from our front door. This view makes me feel very, very lucky every time I walk out of the house. We have our second generation of Gila Woodpeckers being raised in the saguaro on the right side.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hard Labor

I've spent the last two days helping Danny build a solar powered gray water system. This is his brain child and if you ask him about it he can tell you all about how it works, but really my only contribution has been manual labor. Well, manual labor and whining. An integral part of the system is a series of pipes leading from the shower and the washing machine to a 300 gallon container we have housed in an old chicken coop. Pipes that have to be buried. Buried in trenches that have to be dug. By me. Now, we live in the desert which means we do not have "dirt". We have sand, dust, and rocks. To make it even better, we live right by a solid rock mountain, which means that we live on top of solid rock, covered by a thin layer of smaller rocks and dust. You can stick a shovel about a 1/4 of inch into the ground before you hit rock. If you pound on it with aforementioned shovel you can break through another 1/4 inch. The last time I tried to dig a hole I ended up with a disabled pinky finger. But since I had no idea how to assemble the system of pipes, I was stuck digging the trenches. Oh, and it's 100 degrees out. I took a break to go to the hardware store with Danny, mainly so I had an excuse to be in air conditioning for a while. But I was tired, cranky, and dirty. So when Danny started showing me low energy lightbulbs and talking about how much less of an impact our house would have on the environment, especially with our new gray water system, all I could say was "the environment can go fuck itself." He suggested I go home and lie down for a while.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's the Blanket....With Sleeves!

This year I decided to be the loving daughter my mother deserves, rather than the absent minded one who calls a week late to wish her happy birthday, so I got her Mother's Day presents. I don't think I've done that since I was young enough to get away with a hand glittered card. My first gift was Dooce's first book, accompanied with a card that read "Happy Mother's Day! I'm glad giving birth to me didn't result in your institutionalization in a mental hospital". Touching, right?

My other gift was a stroke of genius. My mom used to wiegh as much as normal moms do, that is to say, as much as I do now without children (*sob*). Anyway, somewhere along the way she managed to lose a lot of weight. She says through diet and exercise, but I think that's a legally binding confidentiality agreement all skinny people have to sign after they get whacked with the Skinny Fairy's wand. The downside to being skinny is that she doesn't have enough insulation to keep her warm, and she unreasonably refuses to eat more cheeseburgers to remedy this. So I decided to send her the Snuggie:

This picture demonstrates the versatility of the snuggie, as it fits Teresa who is about 4 feet tall, and her husband Zac, who is approximately ten feet tall. For those who have not heard of the Snuggie before it is THE BLANKET WITH SLEEVES! Perfect for people who are too skinny to survive in the wild. Not that I am bitter.

Anyway, I went to the snuggie website and began the snuggie ordering process. I entered my credit card number, my address, and my mom's address. I clicked "order one set of snuggies", since it's buy one get one free (with free book light!). The next page pops up: "Do you want a free snuggie?" Thinking that the question was a bit redundant, I clicked yes. The next window- do you want a DELUXE snuggie, featuring adorable pictures of kittens or puppies? Although the fleece-y eyes of the kittens stared at me plantively, I thought I clicked no. Then a couple more windows popped up, and I apparently had something of a brain spasm and just began clicking the yes button to make them go away. Suddenly, my order confirmation page appeared. "Congratulations! You ordered 6 snuggies for the low price of $99.94!" I order $100 of snuggies in a variety of stylish colors. And I had to allow 24-48 hours for my order to process before I could call them to change it. This led to an embarrassing conversation with my husband:

Me: Um, I did something bad.

Danny: *sigh* What?

Me: You know how I wanted to order my mom a snuggie? Well, I accidentally ordered too many.

Danny: How many is too many?

Me: 6.

Danny: Oh that's not too....

Me: For $100.

Danny: WHAT?

And, of course, by the time I was able to call and attempt to cancel the excessive snuggies the order had already shipped. However, the snuggie people were perplexingly generous, perhaps because I was not the first person to accidentally order 6 times the number of snuggies they intended to, and they gave me ALL BUT ONE SNUGGIE FOR FREE! I got FIVE FREE SNUGGIES! And an unknown number of free book lights. The best part of this entire debacle was when my mom received an enormous box from the snuggie people, and opened two of the individually wrapped inner packages before she decided to call me at work to see if I had lost my mind entirely. She was pleased with the snuggie concept, but berated me for thinking she would want the "sage green" snuggie since she thinks green makes her look sickly, and one has to look elegant when wearing a blanket with sleeves. However, she then told me she has been wearing a fleece jumpsuit around the house when she gets cold, so I am still confused about how a sage green snuggie is unexceptable but what are essentially adult footie pajamas are the height of fashion.

Since then I have been thinking about other people I can bequeath snuggies upon. My officemate and I decided we are going to wear them at work, since our office is usually cold enough for us to see our breath. Danny thought maybe he could forsake clothing and just wear around a snuggie, and then I was thinking that Siva might appreciate a snuggie she could wear on cold winter nights. Does anyone else have some suggestions on innovative uses of the snuggie?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I have two tattoos- the word "faith" on one ankle, and the word "practice" on the other. For some reason people tend to only see "practice", and always ask "practice what?". The whole explanation is too long for the daily explanation, so I usually say something like, "anything worth doing takes practice." But, for once, here's the long explanation:

My mother is from a Quaker family. No, not Quaker Oats. No, she's not Amish. The Quakers are pacifists, and believe that God exists in all people, and they have been around since before this country was founded. The book that their faith is based on is called "faith and practice" and is like a prayer book. I'm not Quaker, but I believe in a lot of the tenets of their faith. But that's only a tiny part of the reason for my tattoo- a little shout out to my Quaker ancestors, if you will.

My mother is Quaker (kind of, not really practicing any more) and my father is an atheist. Religion was never a big part of my upbringing. I didn't grow up being taught about God, or Jesus. I was taught that space was infinite, and no one knows what happens when we die. As I grew up the enormity of death overwhelmed me. I'm a strangely introspective and panicky person in general, so not having the comfort of the idea of a heaven or really any definitive answer other than the finality of non-existance was overwhelming and terrifying. I had something of an existential crisis a few years ago, and felt paralyzed by the idea that I was going to die, everyone I loved was going to die, and I had no idea what would happen afterwards. As much as I would love to believe in Jesus, or some omniscient being up in the clouds controlling everything and laying things out as a part of some master plan, it's never been an idea I could buy into. I am jealous of those people who have found some kind of faith that brings them comfort and serenity, but there's always the rational side of my brain, the atheist side, that mutters in the background "but that doesn't make any sense!" And there are so many truly terrible, tragic things that happen in this world that simply can't be the result of a loving deity.

In any case, I continued to be terrified of death, less my own than those of people I love, when Frank got sick. Frank was my father in law, although he didn't make it to my wedding. In six months, from when his shoulder broke as he tried to get out of his chair because the tumor had eaten away the bone until the time when he died, I learned a little bit about faith. I saw a man who always held grudges suddenly becoming loving, mending bridges that had been broken for years. He stopped being angry, started reaching out. Two days before he died he announced he was going back home, and made a trip back to his small town that he hadn't seen for months because he had been too sick to leave Tucson. He died in his own bed, exactly where he wanted to be. But I don't have enough faith to not still be angry. Not enough to not make me angry at the senselessness of his loss, of the fact that all he wanted to do was see us get married and he couldn't make it, or the fact that my husband lost the person he loved best, or that my children will never know their Grandpa Frank. These things still make me so sad, and so angry.

But I have faith in memories of him. I have faith in the fact that periodically when Danny and I are riding in his dad's truck the windshield wipers randomly turn on when we mention his name. I have faith in the fact that his grandmother, who has Alzheimer's and doesn't remember anyone, sees Frank and his father who died in the same year, periodically and tells them, "No, I'm not going with you yet. I'm staying here".

Faith shouldn't be easy. It isn't a platitude, a Hallmark card, or a bumpersticker. Faith shouldn't be defined by moral judgments. Faith should be the most difficult thing to hold onto, and the most important. Faith is constantly challenged, and is sometimes lost. I cannot always define what I have faith in, and sometimes I lose it entirely. On the dark days when I question everything, I remind myself- everything worth doing requires practice. I have to practice faith every day. And maybe someday it will get easier.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Anybody out there?

Hi! It's been a while! (looks around nervously, listens to the crickets chirping). I could blame my lack of blogging on being in school and such, but really it's because I'm lazy. Fortunately I have funny friends to create blogs for me! Like this text exchange a while ago with my friend. We'll call her "Selina".

Selina: I had a hell of a time finding a size large at Forever 21. I'm drinking a smoothie for dinner.
Me: I'm going to skip dinner in favor of drinking later.
Selina: That's a good idea. I'm going to take laxatives before I eat meals so I can just shit it out but still enjoy eating full meals.
Me: Good call! Much better than vomiting everything up. Although that's a good ab workout.
Selina: It is. Another downfall is that if I poop too much I will damage the muscles of my sphincter and will crap myself suddenly and unwillingly throughout the day.
Me: It'll be hard to find a boyfriend if that happens.
Selina: I think it just depends- does a guy want a fat girlfriend or a skinny girlfriend that craps her pants?
Me: That should be one of the screening questions for
Selina: That'll be the first thing I ask a guy I'm into.

So, it's the summer now. Maybe I'll try to come back a little more often :)