The Tomato Thief

So, our beautiful tomatoes were suddenly disappearing.

tomatoesWe are kind of slow humans sometimes.  We noticed that sometimes our potted plants were laying on their sides, and we were pretty sure there were turning tomatoes on their vines.  But we couldn’t be positive.  So, we denied that it was happening.  We blamed them falling over on the wind, and picked them up, watered them, and left it at that.  Then, it was unavoidable.  There were definitely orange and dark green tomatoes disappearing from the plants.  First, we blamed the squirrels.  Then, we realized only tomatoes up to a specific height were disappearing.

The height, that say, a Sikagwa could reach.

She is snorting in this picture.

She is snorting in this picture.

Boyfriend denied it of course.  No, she’s just helping out by picking up the tomatoes that fell off, because of, you know, the wind.

Then, I caught her!  Staring out the back window one morning, I watched her sneak – ears back, head low, completely knowledgeable that she was doing something wrong – up to a tomato plant and start pulling a fat green one off the vine.

I yelled and slapped the window, and she went slinking away in shame.  Shame that she was caught!  Not a week later, more are missing from the plants, even with us monitoring her more closely.  The little devil. Here she is, feigning innocence and submission.

SAMSUNG CSC

She’s taken full advantage of being rescued from the terrible salmon wrapper.  She’ll never let a meal escape her mouth again.

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My Motorcycle Accident

Poor Fiona the Fiddle

I don’t like hospitals.  The only person who likes a hospital is one that is dying or in extreme pain, and they only like it then until the crisis has passed.

I don’t like hospitals because they make me feel super guilty – especially urgent care.  The people who work there are incredible!  I was stuck in a room in a remodeled urgent care, just waiting for the next step in discovering the extent of my injuries, like you do.  Those people work million hour shifts and almost everything is an emergency and some things are life and death!  I couldn’t do it, and they do it, and they’re amazing.  When I was there, there was a drunk guy they had strapped down in a nearby room, and he was cursing and screaming and yelling and saying awful things to the people trying to help him.  And the nurses and staff just went about their business.  I heard one nurse say, “Some one needs to wash that guy’s mouth out with soap,” as she walked past my room.  The ones who came in said, “Just another day in urgent care.”

Seriously?!?!!?  I need to befriend one of these people and find out about their life and what moves them.  I need some of their mojo.

One person can cause so much trauma and hardship.  It takes a whole army of amazing people to handle the damage that one person can inflict.  I know there are more good people than bad, because without that, the world would be tipping downwards at a much more alarming rate.

And yes, I was in the hospital in the first place because I crashed my scooter into the back of an SUV.  We were all breaking, because someone up the line had stopped suddenly, and I didn’t stop in time.  So then, I was standing up behind someone’s car and there were suddenly so many people there, all of them trying to help – picking up my bag and my groceries and guiding me and the scooter to the side of the road.  One man let me sit in his house to wait for paramedics and a young woman came with me, who happened to have first aid training, and her presence there was such a stroke of luck for me.  If she hadn’t told me about calling the ambulance, I would have just sat there, freaking out silently, until boyfriend showed up.

My knee hurt really badly, but I could still walk on it.  What was making me the most nervous was my vision.  It was blurred and there were fractal designs in vertical waves on the right side of my vision.  I also couldn’t commit anyone’s face to memory.  There were so many people, giving me their names.  I remembered the names but couldn’t remember who they belonged to.  One man told me he was Brian, or in Brian’s house, but I couldn’t tell any of the men apart because they all were bald or had short hair.  One woman, Carissa, had light brown hair, and the other, Mary, the one I hit, had dark brown hair, and that was how I told them apart.  I recognized boyfriend by his hat and the way he walks.  I really thought my brain was broken, and that any second I wouldn’t be able to think anymore.  I focused on protocol – getting my card out for Mary, thanking everyone who was within earshot, getting my motorcycle out of the road, gathering my things.  I even remembered to take the key out of the ignition and lock the front wheel.  But those things exist in my autopilot, so I guess I can see how that worked itself out.

It wasn’t until after the CATscan that my ability to recognize people’s face came back.  The first person I recognized was named Lucy, one of the nurses there.  I also remember that the doctor was missing a fingernail on one of his fingers because I had to trace the movements with my eyes.

The whole time, the “I” that exists through all things intact (through being high or drunk or in shock when your vision isn’t reliable) had grabbed hold of that calm place that sees me through all things.  The place I make jokes from, the place that continues through eternity.  Giving into the fact that nothing really matters because of how time works, it simultaneously makes it less important and the most important thing.  Less important, because it passes.  More important because it is NOW.

They overdid it at the hospital a bit.  Wonderful as they are, they are bound inside of strange, humanless bureaucracy.  Because I said my neck was tender, I got an impressive neck brace, and they moved me all around urgent care on a rolling bed, and moved me with a sheet and a piece of plastic from the bed to the CATscan and back, which caused me to giggle insanely.  I felt really silly.  The doctor prescribed me vallium AND vicadin, even though since I got home, the most I’ve needed was over-the-counter IBprofen, so I haven’t gotten the prescriptions filled.  I don’t think I’ve ever been on pain medications.  Also, they gave me a GIGANTIC immobilizer for my knee AND crutches!  They are worried about my ligaments, but the brace rubs all kinds of awful on the abrasion.  They have to go over and above what I need, even though it will be a large expense to me later (no health insurance! I actually got denied health insurance a few months ago), to make sure they aren’t liable for any mistake I make later.  That is depressing.  I didn’t really need the brace, and definitely did not need the crazy prescriptions or the crutches.  I went there only to make sure I wasn’t bleeding in my skull.

And in the end I was fine.  Really, really sore.  My knee has ballooned up, my chin is covered by a purple bruise, and if I am not constantly taking IBprofen, the pain in my neck becomes an oppressive headache.  But we’re all fine.  I don’t know how I’ll afford this, but I did my due diligence as far as the person I hit is concerned.

And that’s how it happened that my scooter lost its front end and I got a cracked helmet.

People are so amazing sometimes.

So now I become a better person

A little over a half a year ago, a guy wrote this: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person_p1/.  It’s a comedy piece, and inspiring for what it is and who it’s written for (young dudes who can’t get girlfriends, I think).  I didn’t see it until a few days ago, when I was doing a perusing of Facebook – I’m really bad at social media, by the way.  Facebook came out during my formative years, so I embraced it and made a habit of stalking other people through it, but since then, I’ve become an obtuse old bitty and refuse to learn new tricks.  I get kind of tired of the whole thing.  Of course I’m web-logging, but I started doing that when there was Xanga, sooo…

Anyway, a digital friend posted the link to the piece, and I read it one morning.  It’s about, as the link suggests, ways to make yourself a better person by becoming valuable to other people through the acquisition of a valuable skill.  At first it reads like he wants you to hop on the corporate train, and follow a ladder up through the standard route of promotion and blah blah then death.  He doesn’t mention the death part – I’m paraphrasing.  But towards the end, you get that he is just telling you to do something.  It doesn’t have to be prescribed, it can be what you enjoy, but other people have to need (also want… want sometimes beats out need) it.

I felt inspired that morning, went through my day cataloging all the skills I want to learn but keep putting off.  I want to learn woodworking, the ukulele, and write really good stories.  And why not! – wait, do people need/want those things?

Then, something about it started to creep under my skin, because I had grown up under assumptions different than he was suggesting.  Here’s 3:

Don’t assign value to oneself based on others’ values

I mean, I do try to learn and do things, whatever, but it’s not good to do them for the sole purpose increasing your value to other people.  That seems a bit dangerous of an assertion to me.  I get that we are social creatures and being able to stomach that hinges on our ability to conform at least to some degree, but for me, in his analogy about the dying guy and the need for a surgeon but you aren’t a surgeon, you’re just a nice guy with a pocket knife:

I don’t want to be a surgeon!  And I won’t become one just because some dude’s boyfriend got maliciously shot!  If I went around elbows deep in someone else’s blood all the time, I would live a very short, unhappy life, and probably be stealing the joy of someone whose passion is just that sort of thing.

But, I will play a ukulele while he lies there in his last moments.  I could make a poem for him, bring him a nice summer salad.  Oh! I could drive him to the hospital!  Would that help? Problem-solving.  That is a good one.

My point is, analogies are fun.  My other point is, if your goal is contentment, don’t get forced into a place you don’t want to be. You aren’t going to love yourself more if you learn programming just to get a paycheck.  And you’ll probably hate yourself and your life for deciding to move through that tedium for decades, even though that skill is valued.  Maybe it just goes without saying, even in David Wong’s piece, that you should enjoy what you do.  Follow your bliss, says Joseph Campbell from the stuff of consciousness all around us.  Seriously, follow your bliss young dudes.

“Doing” isn’t the only thing with value either.

Like what about the motivation behind the doing?  It speaks to who you are inside, and honestly, that might effect how you do your work and how you will make decisions about things later on.  Like, dude’s a surgeon.  Did he become that because he wants to make lots of money and be impressive at parties?  Or did he do it because it’s his bliss?  Important stuff!

Don’t berate the nice guy and his “favors”!

If a girl doesn’t like a guy (which might be the driving force behind the article, getting guys to become likable enough that they can get a girlfriend) it’s because he’s creepy (see this clip), there’s no chemistry, a hundred other reasons, or because he doesn’t value himself – and yes, only the shallow ones tend to like men based on their monetary value.  There are lots of other ways to be valuable.  I don’t really need anything from my boyfriend.  At all.  Anything I want from him, I could probably get elsewhere.  I actually like him most because he is honest – very honest – and some people just don’t like honesty when its tactless.  That is a quality he has, and I suppose he shows it when he says things or acts in certain ways, but if you are honest, it is unlikely you can act in a way that won’t prove it.  Probably the same with being nice, or clean, or funny, etc.  And the “favors” that nice guys do for girls they like are actually providing the girl with something that she needs or wants, which should make the guy attractive to her by Wong’s logic.  For some reason, being able to give the girl something of value just sometimes doesn’t equal instant relationship. Guys who keep fixing a crush’s computer have an enormously valuable skill, there’s probably just no chemistry there on her side.  Time to move on!

In sum, you do need to do things, because it’s common sense.  If I sit around playing video games all day, I don’t feel so great by the time I go to bed.  But if I write or bike or surf or clean the house or tend the garden or spend hours preparing a delicious meal, I feel pretty awesome.  But I don’t think that just acquiring some skill is the way to the happy.  Like the man Joseph Campbell said,

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

I’ve seen it happen.  It hasn’t happened to me because I have no idea idea what my bliss is.  I thought it was writing, but through lack of confidence and fear of embarrassment, condemnation, etc., whatever creative power was in me has been shoved into a shallow grave.

Which brings me to my favorite part of Wong’s article: people who pick apart, destroy and criticize other’s work in a way that is not helpful – they suck.  And often aren’t creators themselves.  It IS easy to sit back and destroy something someone made when anything you could create or produce or do is hidden safely in the recesses of your brain.  That point in his article kind of gave me permission to revisit writing, drawing, photography, even learning to play music.  People who create have respect for the process, and know how much courage you need to share your work.  So when someone mindlessly attacks it, all you have to do is throw back “Well, what have YOU made?”  Often, it’s nothing, and it feels like a really good defense against people who would hate on your work.

I don’t want to go into good work vs. bad work – it freaks me out that I might pour my heart and soul into something and have people react to it like they do to Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey.  I don’t particularly like the writing style there, but really, whose to say I’ve got anything better?  And those authors created it and shared it, and even if it is sensationalist, formulaic and demeaning to women, it still wasn’t easy and it still was a risk.  So good for them, making something, and then making money off of it!

Anyway, I’ll end the rant here.  It really was a rant.  I just had strong feelings about the article – even if it is a half a year old and written for a comedy site.  Also, I think it did its job – learning these skills I’ve been wanting to learn will make me feel like a better person.  Thanks young dude!

And because I don’t want this to be a post without a picture, here is one of my friend’s kitten.  So cute!

Clover

Korin catches a wave

Vista

I have always loved the water.  I’m not trying to say that my feelings for water are more than anyone else’s feelings – I mean, it might just be superficial attraction, but I want to say it because its something I’ve never quite pinpointed before.  I have known how to swim since before I can remember – (surprise!) I used to be tan in the summer because I would wear a bathing suit daily (I probably had one for every day of the week).  We used to spend at least half the weekends of the Central Valley summers on lakes as a family (not the nice foresty lakes!  Nasty brown reservoirs with blonde hills and large scrawny trees scattered on the shore.)  I spent most of my swimming time in lakes.

Then, I went to school in Santa Cruz.  I went there mostly because of the environment – there are places you visit that feel all of a sudden like home – but I hadn’t counted on the claustrophobia I felt from the trees.  Right?  The trees! Giant towering pines and firs all stacked on top of each other, blotting out the sky and causing raindrops to fatten up before they made it to your head.

I went to the beach often.  Not for the water, but instead for the open sky and a horizon.  The Central Valley is on one side a horizon, and on the other a gentle incline on the backs of rolling hills.  I went to the ocean so that I didn’t feel so stuffed up under a canopy, so that I could breathe. But I never went in the ocean at Santa Cruz. I like water, I like to be near it, and the ocean is beautiful and powerful and nice to be near – but I am freaked out by the ocean.  I remember having a staring contest with it when I visited the beach with a friend’s family in my childhood.  The coves and inlets, the waves, all little ripples and appendages of a massive gelatinous being splayed across all the earth, moving and seething with the moon and housing all kinds of beastly terrors in its darkness.  I had nightmare visions of being pulled out to sea and my corpse being devoured by skeletons with glow-lights.  Fish eyeballs give me the willies, not to mention sharks, with their unblinking dark globes that are so alien.  Far more so than slugs, reptiles and even dangerous mammals and insects, more so than any horror monster dreamed up  – there is nothing scarier than a shark.  All of these things compounded to keep me straight out of the ocean.  I’d go in to maybe my ankles, and the gentle tug of the tide rolling back out to sea would seem like a threat.

I was a fresh water mammal.  Yepper.

So moving to Portland, with its ubiquitous rivers, sounded like a no brainer.  Why would I pine for the coast, after being raised among canals, rivers and lakes, when there are tens of tributaries just waiting for me to submerge myself in?

Turns out, rivers are… special in their own way.  Freezing cold, in one way, when they come straight off of glaciers, and not to mention the current, and the rocks, and the foliage-crowded shores.  Don’t  get me wrong, I can move past these things easy enough, if it weren’t so hard to find and secure a “spot,” especially on oppressively hot weekends when you and everyone else in a 25 mile radius want the cold, cold water, I’d be a lot more interested in going.

Also, I forgot that I loved the water.  I started to love it like a blankey or my favorite stuffed animal – something that used to make me feel good when I was a child, but that I should no longer partake in.

Then, in the way that strange ideas are built up into epic promises of adventure and excitement, my boyfriend and I convinced ourselves that it would be awesome to take a surfing road trip down the pacific coast.  It wasn’t hard to convince ourselves that it would be awesome, and we were so convincing that the enthusiasm carried the idea into morning – even with me having NO INTENTION OF PUTTING ONE TOE IN THE FREEZING WATER.  And not so many days later, boyfriend bought a surfboard in preparation for the roadtrip, and I watched him (suppressing my paranoia) don a wetsuit and struggle out past the break.

So I want you to remember what I said about the ocean.  I want you to imagine your legs dangling in the water, put your sight behind the implausible eyeballs and the thousand rows of jagged teeth, and then you will know what fear I had to overcome to put on my own goddamn wetsuit and paddle out into the water.  But after about 10 minutes of freezing hands and being preoccupied by the other human beings trying to teach themselves to surf, that fear was entirely forgotten.

It was fun!

So the first wave I caught was a surprise.  I faced the shore, sitting on my board and mirroring everyone else, then I heard “go, go, go!” from my boyfriend, telling me to paddle.  The wave crashed down, and I closed my eyes, and when I opened them I was speeding across on the water toward the shore (gripping tight to the surfboard, using it like a bodyboard instead.  Stand-up?  Hell no!  I didn’t even know what was happening)!  I know it’s juvenile for me to be so amazed by this feeling.  People catch waves all the time, but they never say how great it is.  Like you suddenly have a really quiet, ancient, weightless and powerful motor strapped to your board.  To be pushed by it makes me feel like I’m riding down the goose-pimple of a megagod.  I bet it’s a lot like sailing.

It is a completely recognizable and fantastic feeling to catch a wave.  It’s a synergy with the ocean, the old human thing where we take a tool and take a force of nature and make it into something really great for us.  After “riding” that first one, I think I’ve become a little obsessed.  The second time back had me at least up on my knees – I surfed for hours, the second time (though I did freak myself out a little while sitting alone on my board – sharks goddamn it!  It didn’t help that I researched statistics feverishly before committing myself to this hobby).  I can’t wait to go back.

Most of all, I can’t believe I spent my entire life not surfing.  I lived in one of the US’s favorite surfing cities! All that time wasted, and now it is a half-tank of gas to get to the ocean, and apparently the waves aren’t even that good – though they are plenty good enough for me.  So that’s what fear does for you.  Although, I’ll be eating my words if some appendage of the giant mass of ocean devours me, or I get traumatized by the eyes of some ghastly carcharodon carcharias.

For good measure, here is a ridiculous picture I forced boyfriend to take with me.  I mean, we really could have just asked to borrow someone’s surfboards to pretend like we are surfing.  But it’s all the proof you get.  And Seaside Surf Shop.  They are nice there.

Me-and-Brandon

Nasturtiums

Wildflowers for hummingbirds

Our garden tried to explode into weeds and edible things and bushes and flowers and grasses.  I want to blame any and all success that we’ve had out there on my boyfriend.

But we have managed to coax some edibles out of the soil.  Garlic, onions, cucumbers, broccoli, enough kale to feed a small army, and we have some bell peppers and jalapenos. The tomatoes will be the greatest triumph – and the brussel sprouts.  There is also quinoa and leeks.  Nothing has failed entirely, but we’ve been bullied by pests, lack of space, and our own inexperience.

Anyway, boyfriend planted a pack of wild flowers in a pot to attract hummingbirds and, not only did they come out looking like an expert gardener had planned it (my wildflower pot hardly came up at all), but it was overwhelmed with these delightful, peppery treats.  It is a flower, and it is tasty.  If you see them, don’t be afraid.  Pop it in your mouth!

Sasha

Sasha
I have never done so many posts about dogs, but these two are pretty wacky.

This one is Sasha. She’s got her own little place on a leather chair in the corner, where she sleeps, sits, and generally gets confused about the goings on of the house.

She is 17. That’s like a billion in dog years. She’s partially blind, partially deaf, littered with growths and tumors, skinny as her bones, and her breath smells like she’s been a smoker all her life, but when you start to play with her she starts on in a little geriatric blind dog dance that makes you think of a really tall, skinny, lumpy puppy. She still moves about just fine, but she has a habit of following you around really stealthily and standing just behind you in order to make you feel guilty about knocking her over, and she LOVES rubbing her face all over your legs, like she’s using your knees as a petting mechanism.

She still walks, eats, and goes about her business as though she isn’t posed at the precipice of the eternal sleep. Maybe she’s not.  Maybe she’ll live another 17 years.

And yes, she’s wearing a sweater.  It’s Martha Stewart.