This culture…

…makes me want to blow something up.

Link to ban pig cages. Click this link if you want to sign an online petition that will do nothing and go nowhere, but will make you feel better for having done “something.”

I have spent the last 3 days nursing a baby chicken that will probably die. She is in my bra right now, keeping warm against my breast, peeping when I move. She is weak and I’m not sure what is wrong with her. I prize her little beak open with a toothpick and pop in pieces of chick feed. I dip her beak in water laced with probiotics and electrolytes. She was born in an incubator, fed some gel with vitamins in it, and mailed in a box with 24 other babies the day she was born. Her mother lays eggs. Constantly. She will never know this baby and her baby will never know her mother. These eggs are placed in the incubator that makes the babies that get shipped around the world. It takes too much time for Mama to brood those babies. Better to get them in an assembly line and send them out. Oh, and before they’re mailed out, someone who is trained to run their thumb along their vent, essentially their anus and egg tube, ascertains whether they are male or female. If the person isn’t careful they can kill the chick by destroying its internal organs. This sometimes happens, but you know. Collateral damage and all that. So they separate the girls and the boys. The males, no one talks about what happens to those chicks, though in death culture, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s nothing pretty. Those who pass the test are mailed out. They usually toss in a couple of extra because it’s a given that some won’t make it. The weak ones. The weak ones, who if they get as far as the farm store or the home of the well meaning buyer, will likely die soon and get picked on in the process. Nature, you know. She’s a bitch. Except this isn’t fucking nature. It’s fucking insane and I’ve been just grieving it because to me, this entire way of doing things is a perfect metaphor for just how fucked up this culture is. Taking these babies BABIES! and fucking MAILING them. We have no soul.

In any case, I went to the farm store to buy some food for my horses. I peeked in the chicken cage to see the babies and I saw her sitting there, not doing well. A couple of the strong ones went and pecked her, and yeah, if it really were nature and she were out in the wild and were weak, that would be the best place to leave her. But this wasn’t fucking nature. This was a steel cage with red light bulbs and people staring in at these babies, so I opened the door and I scooped her out and I have kept her on me ever since. She has slept two nights sleeping in a bandana around my neck because it keeps her warm. Then tonight I turned on the facebook—a foolish thing to do, because there was this damn online petition to stop the caging of pigs and the photo accompanying it was so awful and so TYPICAL and so like the situation with these baby birds. Right. Sign an online petition and maybe someone will give a shit and ban these cages? Somehow, I doubt it. But the people “signing” it can feel like they did their duty and then get on with their lives. Fuck. Part of me doesn’t begrudge them trying to survive. But part of me does. Part of me begrudges them a damn lot. I’ll say something on the facebook and be that person again who turns the mirror at people and they’ll remove me from their notification list so their posts of online petitions don’t show up in my feed  and then I’ll tell them how useless this is. So turn me off because they don’t want to fucking know and this MAKES ME CRAZY. I post a happy picture of the baby chicks who were healthy frolicking on my desk and everyone gives me a thumbs up. I post all the bullshit that is wrong with this world and it’s crickets. My posts are a veritable field of crickets. Lonely crickets chirping through the night. No one likes the naysayers.

Ack. Why am I writing this? So I might feel a tenuous connection to someone, anyone who might get it. Might understand this frustration and grief. I HATE this culture with my entire being and soul. Saying it doesn’t make it better. I only hope I can save this one baby chick from this fucked up messed up WRONG world that hurts so much I can barely take it. It really and truly makes me want to blow something up.

Addendum the next day: I realized this morning that getting stuck in being angry just keeps the ugly going. Rather, I am going to continue to focus on being decent and loving. This doesn’t mean I’m not angry; just that if I think about blowing things up it just makes me feel worse. Doesn’t the anger come from the deepest love? It’s the manifestation of the anger that can be soul sucking. This culture likes to suck our soul through helplessness and frustration. I will instead put all my focus into loving this little darling right here. She made it through another night. Her breakfast this morning was cottage cheese, which was way easier to feed than chick crumbles. She perked right up then got super sleepy. Her little eyes closed, then her head gradually fell forward onto her little beak. Snore… Oh my goodness, she is the most precious little dear. I am in love with her sweetness. My poodle Oliver is lying on my lap snoring too. The sleepy family. They are wonderful.

Addendum later the next day: She died. I’m lucky I got to spend the time with her that I did. She was a blessing.

The Split Begins Early

The Eagle Creek fire is destroying forests all around Mt. Hood in Oregon and across the river in Washington. There are many fires raging, but this one is particularly wretched because it is known that it was begun by a teenager playing with fireworks. The woman who reported his action and the actions of the other teens with him described them as non-reactive to the likelihood they had started a fire in a very dry forest (see the story here). She said the girls were giggling and that they all were encouraging his behavior. They filmed it, like it was something fun to put on SnapChat or something. The woman’s description of these kids sounded like children who are very disconnected from their actions and the consequences for those actions.

In My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Chellis Glendinning describes the split, the dissociation from the self, that occurs in humans when they become “civilized.” Civilization is built on abuse and destruction. We began by destroying the land in order to grow things according to our own will. This led to abuse upon abuse upon abuse, to the point where abuse is the norm. Derrick Jensen, in The Myth of Human Supremacy, describes how in western civilization, we are indoctrinated from the moment of birth into a belief system whereby humans rule everything and that all the world is at their disposal. To my mind, the original sin was that of humans leaving the earth to “tame” and control it, bending it to their will, first through agriculture and on to the world we have today, where every aspect of the world is under human control. The Garden of Eden was the world before humans decided that they were “special” and that everything should be as humans decree. Thus, the split was born. Humans disconnect first from their selves, then from others, and finally from the world around them. Humans are the most invasive species, and the world is suffering because of it.

Today, that indoctrination begins practically before a child is born. It is not uncommon in this country for doctors and parents to schedule births induced by chemicals. That such births often result in the death of the fetus or the mother, or in an invasive surgical Caesarean section is no matter; it is a given that in most western births, induction of some sort will be the norm. Those of us who choose to have children at home with no drugs or medical intervention are considered bizarre and dangerous, as if the control of the hospital and the intervention of drugs is the more safe, and therefore, more sane route to childbirth. We are the wild west parents, putting ourselves and our delicate children in danger rather than having a birth controlled by chemicals and machines (or a doctor’s golf schedule).

Once the child is born, it is immediately placed into a system designed to disconnect it from anything remotely resembling connection to the self or its parents. The split is encouraged early. A “good” baby is one that sleeps all night as young as possible, without interrupting its parent’s lifestyle. One of the most common early questions of new parents is whether their child is sleeping through the night (because a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night makes it impossible for parents to sleep through the night, and discomfort of any kind is to be avoided at all costs in civilization).

Thousands of books have been written on the subject of getting children to sleep through the night alone. Doctors create systems such as that of Dr. Richard Ferber, whereby parents let their tiny infants scream and cry until they learn that their cries bring nothing and they finally give up and shut up. It is the ultimate in teaching children from a very early age not to trust that the world around them will be safe and welcoming. The parents hover outside, periodically going in and patting the child, then retreating to let it cry even further, viewing the action from a monitor in another room. It is pure insanity.

Children cannot tolerate sleeping away from their parents, and small babies need to be fed more frequently than once every eight hours, but never mind this. Parents still do it in western culture. Children are placed in cages in separate rooms away from their parents to sleep alone within days of birth. The parents hover over electronic monitors and cameras, rather than have their children in the same room or indeed, even in the same bed as them. In western civilization, a child who sleeps with its parents is considered to be “spoiled,” like a piece of meat gone bad. I have often wondered how bizarre it would be if wolves and bears laid their cubs in separate caves far from their mothers. What if mice placed each bare infant in multiple holes far from their warm breasts? Mammals have breasts for feeding infants. Only human mammals place their children in cages far from their breasts forcing them to ignore their own needs and call it normal (it’s an entire other subject and outside the scope of this rant how our language encourages all this crazy nonsense).

In addition to putting children in cages and ignoring their basic needs, parents feed them fake milk from plastic nipples rather than from their own breasts. In spite of multiple studies showing that this is bad for babies, bad for mothers, and even bad for the economy (which I could care less about, but which is a major force in this culture), breastfeeding children as long as nature intended remains a rare thing indeed among western mothers.

By the time children are two or three years old, they are already completely desensitized from what they were meant to be biologically. With the advent of iPads and other screen devices that further entertain and rewire the brain (see here, and here, and here), screens as babysitters are the norm. It’s no wonder that by the time some children are teenagers, they can toss firecrackers into a dry ravine and giggle as a fire begins to rage.

I could go on and on. This culture is crazy. Civilization is not how life is meant to be on this planet. We are the Earth. The Earth is us. Yet we continue to pretend we are separate and above it even as the obvious fact that we are not and that our attempts to control everything do not work. Mama Nature knows what is best. Sadly, we seem unable to see what is right in front of our faces and senseless destruction is the result.

Beets Turn Urine Pink

I don’t love beets. I love most vegetables, including many that others don’t generally like, but not beets. It is because of this that I have not eaten many beets in my life and I did not know that eating beets could turn one’s urine pink or red. I had no clue. Last Friday, when my 3 year old went potty and her poop and pee was red, I assumed she had blood in her stool, freaked, and called her doctor. The advice nurse asked a bunch of questions, but not whether she had eaten beets, and then said I should take her to urgent care the next morning (this was because it was after hours on Friday).

Four hours later, my daughter went potty again. This time she only peed and it was red. Further freaking, as this meant the redness came from pee and not poop, and could thus be related to kidneys and whatnot. Again a call. This time, advice nurse advised we go to urgent care that night. As it was 9:30, the only urgent care in our network was a half hour drive away. Yowza.

We all bundled into the car (we all being me, Milla, and Isabel) and headed out to the middle of nowhere to sit in a waiting room. We were finally escorted back and Isabel was urged to pee. She could not. They gave her apple juice. She peed. They tested it. No more pink and no issues. They could not find anything. Finally, someone asked if she had eaten beets. Well, I did not know. She had been to preschool earlier in the day. Although they were not normally on the Friday, perhaps she had eaten beets. The doctor sent us home with 2 prescriptions for bottom cream and a directive to go to our primary doctor as soon as possible during the regular week.

The next morning I called her preschool and left a message asking if she had eaten beets. We were not able to get into the doctor until Wednesday. In the meantime, no more pink pee and preschool did not return my call (she told me later while apologizing for not calling back that she rarely checks her home line messages–oops!). On Wednesday, while waiting for our dear doctor, I decided to call preschool again, this time the owner’s mobile phone. Lo and behold, it turned out that my darling daughter had indeed eaten beets.

In case you didn’t know it, eating beets turns one’s pee and poop pink or red. This is my public service announcement for the day (or maybe it is a pubic service announcement, but that is a really bad pun).

Autumn — Chapter 10

Read Autumn — Chapter 9

The spring Milla was born, we decided to move to Portland. Living in Corvallis had worn thin for me. It was too small and too far from the activities we enjoyed. I liked bigger cities and had mainly stayed in Corvallis because first Dan, then Bjorn attended university there. Bjorn had grown up in a suburb of Portland, and during a visit shortly after Milla’s birth, we realized we could move.

I remember clearly the moment it occurred to me that we could leave Corvallis and live somewhere else. We were driving along in the car in Portland near Bjorn’s childhood home. I was a passenger in the back seat next to the baby (because I was always a passenger in the back seat next to the baby), and as we slid past orchards and neighborhoods, the idea we could actually leave where we were and go somewhere else popped into my head, and I said to Bjorn, “Let’s move. Let’s move up here now.”

Milla wasn’t even yet a month old, but I wanted a change, wanted out of Corvallis with its memories and limitations. Bjorn had one year left towards his engineering degree, and I was planning to apply to law school. We held a garage sale, packed a moving van, and headed north. Autumn was six years old.

We started out renting a room in Bjorn’s dad’s house, but this proved unsatisfactory nearly immediately. I had learned the hard way what living with family can do to a relationship, and within a month we had rented our own apartment on the third floor of a complex that had been, only months before, a filbert orchard. There were still filbert orchards across from our apartment, and we taught the dogs to run out the door, down three flights of stairs, and out across the median to the trees to do their business.

In spite of the fact the apartment was rather small, near Christmas the year we moved in, my brother Derek asked if he could stay with us for a short time while he looked for a place to live.  He had been living with our parents in Jefferson, a town about sixty miles south of Portland.

For years, Derek had struggled with drug addiction.  He would go to treatment, move out on his own and get a job, then for various reasons end up back living with our parents and near the people who always helped him get into trouble.  This cycle had run through about four times at this point.

At the time Derek wanted to live with us, he had been back to our parent’s, and we all believed that if he could just get away from the area, he would have a better chance at success in beating his addictions.

Bjorn and I discussed whether to allow Derek to stay with us.  Bjorn actually didn’t have any problems with it, but I was worried if we allowed him to stay, we would have a difficult time getting him to leave.  Unless he did something awful, I didn’t want to have to call the police simply to get him to move on.

We finally decided that we would allow him to stay, but with certain limitations.  Namely he had to get a job and he could not stay with us longer than two weeks.  We also did not want his girlfriend to live there.  Neither of us I liked her very  much, but we did not tell Derek this.  Even if we had loved her, we simply did not have the room.

Derek moved in. We let him sleep on the couch and keep his belongings in Milla’s room because she slept with us in our bed.  Nearly immediately, he was able to secure a job during the swing shift, so we didn’t see him very much except in the late morning before he left for work.  One afternoon when he did not have to work, I took him over to the management office to help him fill out an application for an apartment of his own.

For Christmas, I invited my parents and my sister and her family to our house for Christmas.  The apartment was tiny, but I had decided after Milla’s birth that we were not going to do the usual holiday run-around anymore.  On Christmases past, we would drive to my parent’s, then Bjorn’s dad’s, then his mom’s family, and often to my sister’s, or some other version of it.  No one ever came our way.  I did not want my baby to spend her holidays driving all over the place.

We pulled out the leaves to the table and made room for everyone. The kitchen was not large, but it served its purpose, helping us to serve dinner to eleven.  Once the family was satiated, we all opened gifts, our families left for home, and I straightened up the mess.

For years I had gone to the movies on Christmas day, me and many others.  Apparently Hollywood figured out this trick because movies started opening on Christmas, which was great since we saw a lot of movies and frequently needed new choices.  During movies, I would breastfeed Milla and she would fall asleep in my arms.  Derek was with us so we all bundled up and headed out to the car and off to see a show.

Three hours later when we arrived home, things were not in order.  We had only opened gifts for my family and one another, but there were still many gifts left for Bjorn’s family and for our friends.  The wrappings to most of these gifts were now spread throughout the house.  Little pieces of ribbon, bows, wet wrapping paper, and tags lay everywhere, in the living room, across the rug in the dining room, down the hall, and in both bedrooms. The cork stopper to a jar of nuts was half shredded, bits of cork speckling the carpet.  Pieces of candy cane were littered everywhere, the chunks obviously sucked on because they were coagulated in their plastic wrap.  A thorough mess.

Normally if we had arrived to a scene like this, Autumn would be standing happily in the middle of it, tongue out with some incriminating evidence on her muzzle, and Molly would be hiding, but both dogs just stood there, looking at us.

“What in the world is going on?” I asked them sternly, knowing of course there would be no response.  “Did you eat our gifts?”

Looking further, we discovered several food items in the hall and in our bedroom.  It did not look like much was eaten, but they had certainly seemed to have had a party opening all the presents and spreading them all over the place.

“What in the world were you thinking?” I hollered?  “Why did you do this?  Do you really think I want to clean up a mess like this on Christmas?”  They ignored me.  Neither of them seemed in any way concerned, which for Molly was completely strange.

I began picking up the pieces and pulling the presents together to rewrap.  Bjorn and Derek took the dogs out on our patio to keep them from getting into anything else.

It wasn’t until years later, after Derek had been to rehab a couple of more times, and long after Bjorn and I were no longer a couple, that I learned the real truth of what happened that night.

Apparently my brother had hidden in his backpack a rather large, brownie-sized cake of hashish.  When the four of us returned home to the mini Christmas disaster that night, Derek quickly realized what was up.  His bag was askew, the pocket in the front of the bag where the hashish had been stashed wide open.  The hashish had been wrapped in aluminum foil with a sticker on the front that read Acapulco Gold!  This foil was lying smashed and spitty in a pile on the cream-colored carpet, the Acapulco Gold! label torn in half.

Derek immediately pulled Bjorn aside and told him he thought the dogs had eaten his hashish.  The two of them dragged the dogs to the patio to confirm their suspicions.  Apparently what I failed to notice was that our dogs’ pupils were the size of platters and rimmed in red.  The reason neither dog had reacted in any way to my tirade was that they were both completely stoned.

When I heard the story, so long into the future, I laughed, recalling the picture of both dogs baked and confused.  I can only imagine how it must have been from their perspective, discovering Christmas goodies while they were high on hashish.

Yet Derek and Bjorn were right that I would have blown a gasket if I had known at the time. Even later, the implications were not lost on me.  Derek had kept drugs in our apartment, and had done so with our small daughter there.  She was mobile by then, crawling about and getting into things.  He assured me the stuff had been zipped up tight in his bag, and that Milla would never have been able to find them, but his concealment had not been enough to keep our dogs from making their discovery.  They were very lucky they didn’t get sick.

Ultimately, Derek fulfilled his end of the bargain.  He moved into his own apartment in the complex and got a job.  His story then continued on its own trajectory.

Meanwhile, Bjorn and I were both ready to move less than a year later.  The apartment was so tiny and located in a suburb that seemed designed to stop all drivers at every traffic signal, which drove me crazy. It was also too far from the university where Bjorn attended classes and the law school where I planned to attend classes a year later. I wanted more than an apartment. I wanted a yard where the dogs and baby could play. I wanted space, and not to be able to hear our neighbors arguing.  Bjorn, nearly 6’7″ in height, wanted room to stretch his legs without banging them on another wall. And so, less than a year after moving north to Portland, we moved again into a high-ceilinged duplex with a rambling yard. An ancient oak shaded half the yard and kept our home cool.

I loved that duplex. Too bad there were drug dealers in the park next to it. We could hear shouts and shots and all sorts of unmentionables there, at all hours of the day and night, which frightened me somewhat, considering the blonde, curly sprite living with us. The dogs also barked at all hours, warning off interlopers, causing us all to jump as we studied and played.

Finally, after witnessing a police officer throw a half naked woman and several baggies filled with white powder across the hood of his patrol car, cuffing her and tossing her carelessly into his backseat, we decided that it might be best to move on yet again.  During the years Bjorn and I were together, we had a knack for moving into places that suited one need and not another.

Our next choice was the perfect little farmhouse. Charming and comfortable, the house was yellow with white trim, and sat on two acres in the middle of one of Oregon’s wealthiest suburbs. The acreage was grandfathered, allowing us to keep livestock, so we fenced it and brought home my old childhood pony, as well as some ducks. We could have stayed there forever. Unfortunately, the little house was a rental and the manager a son who was waiting with bated breath for his mother to pass so he could develop the property, which he did not long after we moved out. There was a five-story cherry tree in the front yard, which was promptly chopped down, along with the house, in his zealous desire to destroy the land and fill his greedy hands with cash.

Our next place was our first purchase and horribly ill-suited for us, too far from town, and too much suburban sameness, block after block. In purchasing this house, Bjorn and I took the advice of a well-meaning, but misguided friend who assisted us in making the purchase. It was only years later after Bjorn and I broke up that I finally bought a house that was suitable to me. We learn with age that which we will no longer tolerate.

However, at the time we chose the duplex, we were a long way from buying our own home. Bjorn was in his last year of school and I was in my first of law school. We both worked and studied and parented our child. The duplex was spacious and shared only a small wall with our quiet neighbors. Built in the sixties, it had sloping, vaulted ceilings and two bathrooms. After the dinky, third-floor walk-up, this was paradise!

During our move from the apartment to the duplex, I saw a sign over the mailboxes at the apartment complex advertising a free cat. According to the sign, the cat liked children and other pets.

Milla and I headed over to visit the prospective cat. The apartment was on the third floor. The people who owned the cat ran a daycare service out of their home. The lady of the house wanted to find the cat a new home because her husband would not allow the cat to come into the house, and he had therefore been living on the balcony for his entire short life. She had gotten him from the humane society when he was a kitten. Except for a few visits with the daycare children where he was dressed in doll clothes and pushed around in a stroller, he had spent eleven months living on a 3 by 6 balcony with one other cat. His name was Friday and we fell in love with him on the spot.

For the rest of his life, Friday adored us. I swear he was grateful to his bones we had released him from the prison of that godforsaken balcony and the daycare children dressing him up in baby clothes.

Autumn had never been a big cat chaser. There had been cats living at the apartment complex in Tennessee and in every neighborhood we had lived in since. She and Molly were both nonplussed by the newest member of the family. After some initial sniffing, the three all ignored one another.

I suppose after Milla, as far as the dogs were concerned, any new family members were acceptable. The two of them had both settled into life with a tiny person running around. First she was a lump they could sniff and mostly ignore, but then she began moving about and carrying food with her, and suddenly she was a much more interesting prospect.

They also relished her diapers. Their’s was a disgusting and foul habit, this desire to eat diapers. No matter what steps we took to keep used diapers away from them, they would somehow manage to get into them and eat them. This would be followed by yellowish turds filled with chewed up plastic and diaper innards.

We had purchased for Milla’s room a widget called a Diaper Genie. The thing had a weird hole in its top through which one placed a used diaper. The diaper would slide through a convoluted plastic contraption and into the bowels of the Genie. A door on the front of the Genie allowed access into the bag which held the diapers. Its point was to ensure that the smell of the diapers did not escape into the room where the Genie was placed.

Both our dogs could open that Diaper Genie and get the diapers out. We would come home from wherever we had been to discover diaper shreds, baby shit, and pieces of soiled diaper spread from one end of Milla’s room to the other. Molly, of course, would be hiding in our bedroom under the bed because, in spite of her biological urge to eat diapers, she knew that our discovery of them would result in lots of hollering and hand-wringing, and this terrified her half to death. Autumn would sit among the diapers, her tongue lolling, breath smelling foul and wrong, wondering where she could find some more.

We attempted to avoid this problem by placing the Diaper Genie into the closet in Milla’s room. To no avail. Autumn was always a clever getter into things, and she would simply open the closet and proceed to dismantle the Genie in there instead.

Finally, I went and purchased an industrial strength, outdoor garbage can, the kind with a lid and bungee cords for closing. We put the Diaper Genie in this, put the whole contraption in the closet and, as long as we remembered to keep Milla’s bedroom door shut, the closet door shut, and the lid on the industrial garbage can securely fastened, we could avoid diaper catastrophes. It was also imperative that we remove the filled bag from the diaper genie to the outdoor garbage can once it was full. On a couple of occasions Bjorn left the full bag on the floor in the bedroom, which may as well have been a giant, flashing invitation to the dogs to come in and have a diaper smorgasbord at their pleasure. It only took a couple of misses on this one for Bjorn never to make that mistake again.

Milla celebrated her first birthday at the duplex.  I invited our family and our closest friends to a little garden party.  I baked a cake that looked like a caterpillar and covered it with fondant.  I sat up half the night stringing together green and yellow, construction paper, daisy chains, which I hung all over the kitchen and living room.  Clearly, Autumn’s birthday parties were just a warmup.

Within weeks of her first birthday, Milla walked across the living room.  She had been cruising for a while, walking everywhere as long as her hands held a couch, the wall, or some other support.  Then one afternoon while holding a marbly green, plastic ball, she took off and walked twelve steps across the room.  It was as if the ball were her support.

Once she began walking, she kept going, and only became faster.  Up to this point, the dogs were interested in her usually only when she sat in her high chair.  Both Milla and the dogs had discovered that the high chair could be quite fun.  Milla would toss whatever food item she happened to be consuming, and then laugh hysterically as the dogs pounced on it like starving lunatics.  Occasionally this would cause arguments between the dogs, which only made Milla laugh more.  First lessons in cause and effect.

During her crawling phase, when things became a little too silent, I would often discover her on all fours, both hands in the dog water dish.  She was also quite fond of making dog food soup, mixing together whatever food stuffs were left in the dogs’ dish with their water.  I kept the dishes on a place mat in the kitchen, and after these escapades, the floor around and under the mat would usually be a watery mess.  Autumn especially loved eating the soupy mixture, and would wait to one side while Milla mixed it for her, then dive in as soon as the baby crawled off to explore elsewhere.

When Milla began to walk, she also began to carry different food items with her.  I usually put her in her high chair to eat, but sometimes, especially if I was busy trying to study or straighten the house, I would pour some cereal in a little dish for her to carry around, or give her a cracker.

One night I sat at the kitchen table studying.  Milla had finished her dinner, but was wandering around with a sandwich in her hand.  Molly was hiding under the dining room table, doing her best to remain as unobtrusive as possible.  Autumn, of course, was following Milla, trying to get the sandwich she held in her hand.  Milla kept telling her “No!” and holding the sandwich up, trying to keep it out of Autumn’s reach.

Finally, frustrated at her inability to get the food, Autumn jumped up and tried to grab the sandwich, snapping at it, shoving Milla backward into the cupboard.  Autumn tried again to snatch the sandwich, but she got Milla’s cheek instead, high up, underneath her eye.

Milla cried out in pain.  I jumped up and raced over to her, shouting, “Autumn!”  Autumn ducked and backed up as I gathered Milla into my arms, sobbing.  Bjorn raced into the kitchen, screaming “Autumn” in a loud and ferocious voice.  He grabbed her by the ruff of her neck and threw her across the room.

“I could kill that dog!” he shouted.

“Leave her alone,” I screamed.  Milla wailed.  “She was trying to get the sandwich.  It was an accident.”

“I don’t care if it was a fucking accident,” Bjorn raged.  “She bit my daughter in the face!”

“It wasn’t on purpose.  She just wanted the sandwich,” I answered.  Milla hugged me and sobbed in my arms.  I grabbed a washcloth and set her on the counter to investigate the damage.

“Go get some antiseptic cream,” I instructed Bjorn, hoping that a project would separate him from his anger.  He stalked out of the room to go search for the medicine.

I wet the washcloth and gently rinsed Milla’s face.  She had suffered a small scratch under her right eye.  Thank goodness the bite was on her cheek and not her eye.

I looked around to see where Autumn was at.  She was cowering in the corner near the glass back door.

“Autumn, it’s okay,” I cooed to her.  “I know it was an accident.”  She was trembling.  I opened the back door and let her out.  From wherever she had been hiding, Molly came running and scooted out past me as well.  Neither dog was comfortable with yelling and violence.

Milla calmed down.  I swabbed some ointment on her small wound and then took her into the bedroom to nurse.  She was none the worse for wear, but Bjorn was still quite angry, and never forgave Autumn for this bite.  For days he told anyone who would listen that he should have killed my dog.  Eventually his anger wore down, but I made took extra care with Milla and food to ensure nothing like this event ever happened again.

Read Autumn — Chapter 11

Bipedal Sun Brain

I’m trying not to be grouchy. I’m trying not to react to a coworker who, in his own fear spiral, lashed out at me yesterday. I’m trying not to scream at the workers next door who decided to vibrate my house this morning at 7:15 a.m. with their power tools.  I’m trying.  It’s not working so well.  I lay in bed this morning thinking of all sorts of responses to the coworker.  I even began drafting an email in my head, but I reminded myself that I did not want to get sucked into his thing.  Still not satisfying.  I asked the workers next door to close the windows to the house so that it wasn’t so obnoxiously loud, and they did.   Now I can hear the noise, but it isn’t vibrating my house. My little one is next door playing in her bedroom, talking to her toys.  This squelches some of the grumpiness. Mainly it’s just this damn grey weather.  We had sun for a few days and I started feeling normal again, but then the last two days, we have this droopy, cloud on the ground, grey colorlessness, and my bitterness returns.  For someone of Scandinavian descent, I certainly don’t manage winter well.  I have often wondered whether humans were meant to live in such weather.  If we evolved in the deserts of Africa, maybe our brains are designed for that sort of light. Of course at that time we also moved an average of 12 miles per day, on our own legs.  Now it’s lucky if we move 1000 feet in one day on our own legs. Bipedal sun brains. Anyway, the grouchy isn’t completely gone; it’s beaten back for a while. Baby is coming to see me. That should help.

Virtually Useless Post

This is one of those extra special posts where I say virtually nothing and put it in a blog post.  Come to think of it, isn’t that what all of my blog is, actually?  I’m gradually discovering that I have nothing of any value to impart via the written word.  Nonsense, nonsense, all of it.  This is not an attempt to fish for compliments from my friends, but truth.  Really, going back through every single post, if none of it had been posted, no one would be any the worse for it, except maybe for the Pure Med Spa posts, and that was a complete accident.  Happenstance.  Fortuity.  Anyone could have gone online and bitched about Pure Med Spa and it would have been them to whom all the traffic on the issue would have been directed.

Anyway, all this was a sidetrack. What I really wanted to say was that I have the most adorable little dog in the world.  I love the adoration of dogs.  I love how they pick you and you’re their person, which means you’re the one they follow when you get up to go in the bathroom or the kitchen or across the room.  I love how when I climb into my bed, for whatever reason, little Ava isn’t far behind.  And even as annoying as it can be, I love her shrieky little bark and licking.  I wish she would not lick most of the time, but it’s her, and therefore I love it. I hold her little face in my hands and ruffle the bed head fur on her puppy head, and completely melt. Keeping a dog like this one is like having a baby around all the time.  Having my baby around all the time is joy in and of itself as well, so the combination of the two of them makes life pretty sweet a lot of the time.

Isabel, a Polar bear, and a Giraffe

Isabel went to the zoo with her cousin Sarah yesterday.  We saw lots of animals because it was early and the sun was hiding behind clouds (as opposed to the last time we went in the middle of a sunny day when they were all napping). I felt sorry for the animals.  Many of them were exhibiting behaviors associated with severe boredom.  Also I found it ironic that the zoo was filled with many signs describing the effects of climate change and the corruption we are causing our planet, and begging us to redefine our behaviors, yet at the same time they were selling tons of plastic junk.  Something of a hypocrisy there…

Anyway, here are photos I took of Isabel, a polar bear, and a giraffe.

Introduction to Brain Rules for Baby

This is an excerpt from Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.  I have fallen in love with his book Brain Rules, and discovered the baby version on his website.  I wish the school system would read this and stop trying to stuff reading in five-year-olds like they are pate’ geese on the way to slaughter.

From the introduction.  See it here:

Scientists certainly don’t know everything about the brain. But what we do know gives us our best chance at raising smart, happy children. And it is relevant whether you just discovered you are pregnant, already have a toddler, or find yourself needing to raise grandchildren. So it will be my pleasure in this book to answer the big questions parents have asked me—and debunk their big myths, too. Here are some of my favorites:

Myth: Playing Mozart to your womb will improve your baby’s future math scores.

Truth: Your baby will simply remember Mozart after birth—along with many other things she hears, smells, and tastes in the womb. If you want her to do well in math in her later years, the greatest thing you can do is to teach her impulse control in her early years.

Myth: Exposing your infant or toddler to language DVDs will boost his vocabulary.

Truth: Some DVDs can actually reduce a toddler’s vocabulary. It is true that the number and variety of words you use when talking to your baby boost both his vocabulary and his IQ. But the words have to come from you—a real, live human being.

Myth: To boost their brain power, children need French lessons by age 3 and a room piled with “brain-friendly” toys and a library of educational DVDs.

Truth: The greatest pediatric brain-boosting technology in the world is probably a plain cardboard box, a fresh box of crayons, and two hours. The worst is probably your new flat-screen TV.

Myth: Telling your children they are smart will boost their confidence.

Truth: They’ll become less willing to work on challenging problems. If you want to get your baby into Harvard, praise her effort instead.

Myth: Children somehow find their own happiness.

Truth: The greatest predictor of happiness is having friends. How do you make and keep friends? By being good at deciphering nonverbal communication. Learning a musical instrument boosts this ability by 50 percent. Text messaging may destroy it.

Research like this is continually published in respected scientific journals. But unless you have a subscription to the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, this rich procession of findings may pass you by. This book is meant to let you know what scientists know—without having a Ph.D. to understand it.

Barcelona

I have noticed since being in Barcelona, and indeed I have noticed in all of our European travels this summer, a lot more men carting around children than I see in the states.  And here in Spain I have noticed many, many sets of grandparents or a grandparent caring for young children.  I wonder if instead of placing children with daycare centers, more people here utilize family for childcare.  I’m talking about babies and very young children.

Today while swimming in the Mediterranean I was drifting in from a swim out a ways from shore, when a turd floated by.  I immediately exited the water, packed up the baby, and went to take a shower.  I just could not swim with turds.  Call me particular.

Anticlimactic

The interesting thing for me in finally finishing one of my books is how anticlimactic it has been.  I finished it, then sat here and thought, Okay, it’s done.  I will have to read through it and edit, but the bulk of it is complete. It seemed as if the occasion deserved something more, but it really didn’t.  If there has been a sincere shift in my thinking over the last few years it is this:  life is about the ride, not the destination.  This book just proved to me how much this has sunk in and become a part of me.

Time to rouse baby and get her dressed.  I love the smile she gives me when she awakens.  This morning before I got out of bed, I was lying next to her and she wakened for a moment, then patted my chest for milky, and gave me her lovely smile before latching on and going back to sleep.  Ah, baby love is the best love of all!

Pointless Rambling

Do you ever have a day where it feels like there is a burr in your ass?  I didn’t start out the day feeling that way, but ever since I woke from a midday nap I have felt increasingly cranky.  I’m sure a lot of it is that I did not get enough sleep last night, and the other part is that I’ve got a damn cold again, and my voice is nearly gone, and by the end of the day I’m frankly sick to death of squeaking rather than speaking.  I finally decided it would not even be a good idea to work on my book because my attitude would more than likely worm its way into the text and I don’t need that.

All this said, I have the cutest, sweetest, most adorable baby on the planet sleeping next to me and just seeing her fills my heart with love and joy.  She is perfection.  Tonight in the car, she picked up her chubby, sandaled foot and held it to her head like a phone.  “Lo?” she said into her heel, her toes to her ear.  What could be cuter than that?  Sweet adorableness.  I’m in baby love.  Older daughter was actually kind today too.  She had me come in and cover her with blankies before going to sleep, then I cuddled her and accidentally poked her in the eye.  This required kisses and loves.  At least she didn’t snarl at me.  I’m not in love with this snarly, surly age. I hope we get through it intact.  I foolishly believed I would be immune from adolescent angst in my child.  Oh how wrong I was…

Monday

One of my several books is finally coming together.  I have been plugging away steadily and actually making a dent in getting it done.  The result though, is that when I have time to sit and write, it doesn’t happen here.  Many days, like this one, the choice is eat, write, cello, or French.  Usually only eat wins.  Tonight I bought plant starts for the garden, and since it was not raining I decided to plant those instead of all my other potential projects, so I managed only eat and plant.  Oh, and pull weeds.  First I had to pull weeds out of the planter boxes in order to plant the vegetables in them.  The ground was soft and loamy, perfect for pulling weeds and also for planting.  Oregon’s weather today was as schizophrenic as ever, unable to decide between warm sun and pounding rain.  I’m a bit dismayed by the rains we are getting.  They are more like east coast rains than typical Oregon rains, but things are changing in the weather world, so I should not be surprised.

In any case, it was pouring rain when I bought the baby plants, but by the time we got home, I made dinner and we ate it, the sun had decided to come out and stay out until dusk when I completed the planting.  This was quite satisfactory.  I love digging in the dirt and growing things.  It makes me feel centered.  Isabel came outside with me and helped. She scolded Ava whenever Ava barked at the wind, or the walking neighbor, or the squirrel, or the cat, or the way her fur fell across her face.  Isabel also made her hoo sound and showed me plants, helped me to pick weeds, and showed me how her coat snaps.  She liked pulling out the old leaves from the flower bulbs that have already bloomed for the year.  She stacked them in the stack of discarded plant parts and old rooty things.  Then she watched closely as I dug holes and placed baby lettuce or baby corn into them.  Adorable.

I finished this gardening project at dusk and my hands were filthy, so I figured it was as good a time as any to take a bath.  However, taking a bath and getting baby ready for bed took up the whole evening, leaving me basically no time for cello, French, or writing.  Now I should be sleeping but I’m typing this.  Why?  I have no idea.  I just pulled out the computer and started to go.  I can’t say what insane motivation drove me to it.  I am going to overcome this motivation now and go to sleep because the only time I’m going to get writing done during the week is in the early morning, which means getting up early, and if I am going to get any sleep at all (which is necessary in my brain for coherent writing), I have to stop this now and turn out the light.

Personal, Life, Weather

It’s raining again today, but it was sunny for three days in a row even though they said it would only be one, and I got to wear shorts yesterday it was so warm, so I can’t complain about rain today.

Apple took away my brand new MacBook Pro.  I have to say, my apple products are on the shit list right now.  I bought a new MacBook Pro.  Immediately upon bringing it home it started having this issue where the screen would not light up when I opened it.  It did not happen every time I opened the computer, but a lot of the time.  I figured it was brand new and should not do this so I exchanged it for another one.  What a mistake. The new one had the same issue, only it happened every single time I opened the computer, and it was difficult to get it to come on.  So I called Apple.  They said it was a “known issue” and told me some key fix while turning it on.  It didn’t fix it.  Every morning I have a tiny window in which to write before my baby wakes up.  I spend most of that tiny window trying to make the computer wake up, so the other day, in complete frustration, I called Apple again about this issue.  During the conversation with the Apple support representative, my ear touched my iPhone and hung it up.  Ears aren’t supposed to hang up iPhones.  I tell you, at that moment, Apple was at the height of the shit list and I was mad as hell.  While on hold during my call back, the guy I had been talking to called me again.  He apparently used my serial number to get back to me, which is a good thing because it was the only information I had given him before the call hung up.  We spent the next half an hour working through a bunch of repair things behind the scenes in the guts of the computer’s programming.

Didn’t work.  Yesterday I opened up the computer and the damn thing would not come on no matter what I did.  Here I have been touting Apple products to anyone who will listen and I am having all these issues, although I can say I am typing this on my 3-year-old MacBook that still works just fine.  I just wanted a computer with more space and RAM, which is why I bought the Pro.  Maybe I shouldn’t have.

Anyway.  In frustration, I made a Genius Bar appointment between court and my next client.  I took it in there and left it with them.  Of course the piece of shit opened up and worked just fine in front of the Genius Bar guy so I looked like a hysterical female.  However, he looked at some history thingy in the guts and saw something that backed up my story, and agreed that they would do some tests and get back to me.  They had not gotten back to me yet by late afternoon yesterday so I called, and they said it would not be ready until today.  They said they “had not finished looking into the problem,” which means “We have not gotten to your computer yet.”  Duh, I’m not dumb.

My small writing window is rapidly closing here.  Isabel woke me up today, but she has been running around and is now eating the pancakes Milla decided to make for breakfast before school (I wonder who will do THOSE dishes?). It will not be long before I am the only person in the world with whom my baby would like to interact and there are other writing things I need to do that are more important than cheering the sun or complaining about computers.

My baby

My sweet baby holds a doll and rocks it back and forth and up and down exactly as I rock her, holding it in the same position as if it’s being nursed.

She then drops the doll with a thunk and goes and picks up the cat by the neck.  There is a limit, I suppose, to the similarities.

Isabel

Isabel, have patience!  Have patience, Mama? I’m only 1 and a half years old.  How am I supposed to have patience? And then I realized, today Isabel is exactly 1 and a half.  Happy 1 and a half birthday, Isabel.

Today Isabel also quacked at me. She picked up her new orange and white duck and said Wuack!  We wuacked back and forth a bit.  She is big into animal sounds.  For the longest time it was only barking, but lately, meowing is the most popular sound in her repertoire.  Maooooow, maooooow.  And now the duck.

If we blow in Ava’s face, she tries to eat the air we blow at her.  Isabel finds this completely amusing and has taken to blowing in Ava’s face as well, only she isn’t that great at blowing yet, so there is not a lot of air and Ava doesn’t respond quite as vociferously.  Instead she licks at Isabel’s blows.  Isabel, hoping for a bigger response, tries harder.

Love

My little daughter is perfect.  I have moments sometimes, when I’m holding her hand or looking at her, when I think to myself that I am a human and she is a human, she is my cub, my baby.  I held her hand tonight as she lay against me in the crook of my right shoulder. I could smell the warmth of her body wafting upward, see the tiny curls forming in the sweat along the base of her neck.  She held both my hands with her hands, each of her fingers warm and soft.  I picked at her baby fingernails with mine, catching the ends and pulling off the sharp places.  This is my cub, I thought. This is my little human.  Here we are, two humans, lying together in this bed in this house in the twilight as she moves into sleep.  The moment was so basic, so contented, so perfect in its simplicity.  I love my human child.  I love every moment with her.  She brings me grace and contentment.  She is perfect.

My baby is kissing the mirror

Isabel is strumming the heater vent like she strums her ukulele, Milla’s violin, and my cello.

I have said it before, but it is true.  I used to be prolific.  Go back to 2007, 2008.  You’ll see.  Every day, all the time.  Now the most writing I do is an occasional status update on facebook. Whoopee.  That’s life with a baby.  I actually had a real idea last week right in the dawn space before waking.  I lost it.  Then this morning I decided to write about cello shopping…shello chopping. Now baby is kissing the mirror, biting the ball, kissing the mirror, biting the ball.  She is a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal.

Time to get going again.  I will watch Isabel strum, and oh, now she is shoving the ball into the mirror and singing to it.  Fun times!

Life Goes On…

Man, it’s pathetic how little I write on this anymore.  It seems like my days start so early and are filled to the brim until late and then I fall into bed completely exhausted, only to start it all again the next day.  Work has been a living hell.  I have been hating my job so much, trying to focus on what I like about it, trying to help people, but shit just keeps coming up that I have to deal with and it takes time away from the stuff that actually feels useful.  Today a client told me she thinks I’m wonderful and that she knows I’m fighting for her, and that part is true, I do want the very best for my clients.  But I’m not so sure about the wonderful part and I am barely keeping my head above water.  It was nice to hear though.  She brought a smile to my face.

My infant daughter brings the most smiles to my face.  She is so happy and growing and changing so much.  She smiles and makes a little hoo sound all the time about everything.  She call me Maa Maa and says bye bye when she waves.  She is the most adorable little person.  She laughs all the time. She loved Christmas.  She opened her presents one by one, handing me pieces of wrapping paper as she went.  She and Milla are the reason for the holiday for me. They enjoy themselves so much and it is utterly delightful to watch them enjoy and experience everything.

I can’t believe how tall my Milla is getting.  She has passed my friend Rita and is on her way to passing my friend Sara. She’s lanky and tall and completely gorgeous.  Luckily she is also still very much 11 and into dogs and knitting and being as comfortable as possible so she goes around dressed like a hippie all the time, which is totally fine with me because I don’t need the boys chasing her yet.  I think she will manage to be taller than they are for several years to come so by the time they figure out how amazing she is, she will be older, which can’t hurt.  She is a smart girl.  She knows how these things roll.

I have to go to bed.  It’s 11 and I get to work all day tomorrow. Lucky me. I’m grateful to have a job, but I sure wish it wasn’t such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Ewww

Someone asked me how many times a day I have to change Isabel’s diaper, the implication being that I must change cloth more than I would change disposables. It should be the same.  If someone is changing their child less frequently because the child is wearing disposables, that means their child is sitting around in plastic soaked urine. That is just gross.

Pointless Rambling

Ahh, Lara never writes here anymore.  I’m tempted to stop using this blog and use the other one I started some time ago.  I like that one because the one person in particular who stalks me here doesn’t know where that one is at so I can say what I want without worrying I’ll get grief for it later.  It’s the Pure Med Spa thing that keeps me keeping this blog going.  I get a new note every few days from people screwed over by that company.  It has gone through about four or five incarnations since being called Pure Med Spa, yet it keeps on ticking and stealing from the public.  Seriously, the FBI needs to get involved.

My baby girl is getting bigger and bigger.  I do write on her blog DaysofIsabel.  I don’t keep it up as often as I envisioned in the beginning, but more frequently than I would have expected.  I love my babies, both the 11 month old baby and the 11 year old baby!

This has been a weird week of running into and reconnecting with old friends.  First, I ran into a lawyer friend I had lost touch with a few years back.  Then I reconnected with a guy I dated so long ago, all the major grownup things in my life had not happened yet.  Then I ran into my old paralegal from the toxic snake pit. Then yesterday I visited with a high school chum at his garage sale.  It really has been interesting reconnecting with all of these people.  I hope we can maintain better contact going forward.

We live in a neighborhood of old, lovely homes.  They are high-end homes from the turn of the century.  What I like about most of them is that they are sedate and solid, without being ostentatious or pretentious like so many of the disgusting mansions are these days. There are a few that are a bit too large, but mostly they are just really gorgeous older houses along a ridge that overlooks the city.

Apparently, one of our neighbors in one of these houses either passed away or moved to a nursing home.  There has been an estate sale going on for the last three days.  On the second day, after fighting yet again to get out of my driveway because of all the foot and parking traffic, I discovered what was going on and went over to investigate. It isn’t often I get to go inside one of these lovely old houses.

The surprise was how truly unspectacular this particular house is.  It certainly has the potential to be restored back to its original splendor, but as is often the case with old houses, it has been bombarded by ugly from the last several decades.  Hideous carpet covers much of the hardwood floors.  The bathrooms are tiny, the fixtures old and nothing special.  The kitchen is dated circa 1960, but not in a good way.  And the worst transgression is that someone built a covered porch thing out in the back that blocks the view from the house.  It’s hideous and large and seems not to accomplish much in the way of being a nice place to sit outside.

There were signs offering the house for sale at $632,000.  If I had that to spend on a house, I would not buy that one.  I think $400,000 is more its range, considering all the updating that will have to happen.  I also overheard some discussion about issues with the plumbing.  Of course, based on the prices these estate sellers were asking for simple junk, I’m not surprised someone is thinking they can get that amount for the sale price.  There was a set of big, old speakers they had priced at $800.  For some reason there was  a lot of old stereo equipment and they wanted 100s of dollars for each piece.  I have been looking for an older stereo and record player and based on what I have seen out there, those sellers were smoking crack to think an old set of speakers could bring $800.  They had a couple of old amps similar to those I have seen at other sales for which they were asking $250 and $300.  Nuts.  That’s how most stuff was there.  Some things were cheaper; they were offering 50% off anything under $50.  I bought a Shaft record in perfect condition for $1.50, a ceramic pot from Italy for $6, and a stuffed bunny for Isabel for .50c.  But most of the stuff was overpriced and nothing special.  They are going to have to drastically reduce to get rid of a lot of it.  Much will likely end up in a landfill.  This is how it goes at the end of our life if we have collected a bunch of not much.

Today I have a lot to do.  I have to finish some applications, pay some bills, finish an article, go shopping for baby party invitations, make a risotto, get the house ready for the busy week ahead, type a petition, and get some other petitions ready for hearings on Tuesday.  Tomorrow I have “oral surgery,” what they call it when they inject bone into the hole in your head where a tooth fell out 15 years ago in order to make bone grow for an implant.  Fun stuff.  They say it won’t hurt as much as a filling, but we will see.  I am not working though, in case it hurts more or for longer.

Isabel is up and crawling around.  It is time to get started on our day. We cuddled for several moments when she first awakened.  I love snuggling her. She is my joy.