Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Pandemic Prep.

Posted on | June 11, 2020 | 5 Comments

I suppose I was better prepared than the rest of you. Not because I had a pantry full of food or a gas mask. Just because I spent the last 2 years eating change for breakfast and drama for lunch. Whiskey for dinner as needed.

I’ve had some kids move out and some kids move in; some kids hunting for jobs and some kids almost making as much salary as me; some kids just learning to drive and some kids who have had their driving privileges revoked until I see fit.

I’ve never had less than 2 children in puberty for the last 5 years. Which means we’ve dealt with drugs and alcohol and sex. And because the tobacco industry is the devil incarnate, we’ve dealt with vaping, too. It’s enough to make any parent too nervous to buy Tide pods. While the rest of the world was buying a Smart Doorbell Cam to see if someone was stealing their packages, I was wrestling with whether installing security cameras in every room in the house was a problem because it was too invasive or because I really, really, really didn’t want to know what went on when I wasn’t home. (The result: I decided it wasn’t invasive if I put the camera in plain view. So I put it on a bookshelf next to piles of books. It took them 3 months to realize there was a camera. Because, you know, next to books. On a piece of furniture that only holds books.)

I lived in a 32′ long RV for 14 months, including winter and hurricane season. Loved it and would do it again in an even smaller RV. Might get to do it again if the world continues to careen out of control and we all end up working virtually. We all might have to do it if this stuff progresses to End of Days. Don’t worry I’ll help you dump your waste the first few times. But you’re gonna need a Flush King.

Now I live in a 25 year old double wide and am making excruciatingly slow progress on updating the flooring, replacing popcorn ceilings, and a long list of DIY projects. For which I can’t even summon that much angst. Most days I figure it’ll get done eventually. And on the rough days I just sit on the screened porch because I can’t see a single unfinished project from the screened porch. Sometimes that’s exactly the kind of scenery a person needs.

Of course, I got divorced. Which came with the added bonus of working a second job just to keep me and the kids afloat financially. And the added added bonus of learning that I love to teach EMT class. Not only do I teach with a good friend who taught me to be an EMT, I like meeting the students each semester. I even occasionally teach CPR classes with a sweet and smart paramedic friend who also runs her own training center. Because a third job means we can still eat out. And I like meeting people in the community getting certified in CPR to save others.

Liking strangers.
I told you there was a lot of change.

So I was enjoying Birthday Month at the annual Moms Beach Weekend in March when the world started closing its doors. We sat there watching the news and getting text updates from friends and family as colleges closed the dorms and workplaces shut down and March Madness was canceled and, finally, all the schools closed. It’s true that my birthday/spring solstice party got nixed due to the stay at home order. But God gave me 5 days of good friends, sunshine on my face, sand between my toes, and waves singing me to sleep at night before wrapping my birthday events up early. And I had 2 solid years of toil and strife to find my center and build my sanctuary before the storm hit and I got stuck in the middle of it. In an ambulance. In a paper gown and an N95.

Fair enough.

Probably way more preparation time than most people got.

I don’t envy the parents of littles right now. Although my friends and I have had some chuckles over those of you that only discovered arts and crafts and lima beans wrapped in a wet paper towel and those kids’ woodworking kits with ridiculously teeny tiny finishing nails from Lowes Home Improvement when the daycares closed. Been there, done that, be glad you have high speed Internet.

We had to wait for each individual pixel to load one at a time in order to learn how to hatch a butterfly from a chrysalis or what temperature to bake homemade clay creations. Honestly, it was faster to check out a book from the library or call our moms. And if you’re struggling with any of your projects I just want to let you know what happened the first time we successfully hatched a butterfly. As soon as its wings were dry, it flew into the corner of the old aquarium we were using and got caught in a spiderweb and the spider ate it. Right in front of the kids. Also, in case you need to hear this, I actually like the bottom tree better.

Melted Crayon Tree Art

And for those parents who are now trying to work from home while already working at home with their kids, I have no words. Probably better just to have a moment of silence and a candle.

candle GIF

With teenagers in the house my parenting mainly consists of supplying pop tarts daily, forcing in vegetables a few times a week, and telling them to keep the noise down when I go to bed. We started off with board games and puzzles and family movies. At this point I’m just relieved that we’re still eating off real plates. (Most of the time.) And although they might play 10 hours of video games a day, at least its not porn. (As far as I know.) This is Survival Parenting, not Kumon. Because I still work EMS and teach EMT class online. Because forcing teenagers to participate in Chinese checkers is exhausting. Because eventually they get bored enough to explore the world outside their bedroom and their screen on their own. Because we’re all part of this bizarre pandemic experience together and making up the rules (or lack thereof) as we go along.

And most of all because the sad face in the Kumon logo terrifies me.

I mean, did someone pay for that logo? Is this how we want our kids to feel about learning?? Kumon calls it “thinking face.” Seems more like a “Oh jeez, is it Kumon time again?” face. I think this a cultural disconnect. Or maybe it’s just me. After all when I first saw the “thinking” emoji I thought it meant, “What the hell is up with that guy?” And now you’ll think that for the rest of your life, too.

🤔 Thinking Face Emoji

Having older kids isn’t the only thing making my life easier during this pandemic. When I was living in the RV I decided to go naturally curly using the Curly Girl method. For years I have used hot rollers on my hair because it was too frizzy in some sections or too flat in some sections. Yes, I curled over curly hair. Which sounds like something a reasonable person would have given up a long time ago. But it wasn’t easy to give up.

First I had to figure out which type of curls I had, for which there is a chart.

r/curlyhair - Whats your curl type?

Too bad I have a combination of everything from 2A to 3B, depending on heat, humidity, how much hair product I put in, how I slept the night before, if it’s the first day after conditioning or the third, if I pinned it up or wore it down for the day, if Mercury is in retrograde, if the groundhog sees its shadow, etc. There are chunks of 2A right next 3b and sections of 2C with a few random 3c corkscrews interspersed. It’s like the Lithuanians and the Puerto Ricans from my lineage are fighting it out hair by hair. On my head.

Having determined that curl definition wasn’t helpful I moved onto using the right product and learned to “condish” and “squish” and “plop.” I don’t use hair products with sulfates, I don’t dry with towels, I don’t use heat on it ever, and it only gets washed every 2-3 days. In lieu of styling I lightly spritz it with some water in the morning and let the curls “refresh” for 5-10 minutes before heading out the door. After 2 years of this I still have a variety of curl types all over my head and I have no idea what my hair will look like from day to day. Even in the space of one day it can go from bad perm to corkscrew curls to beachy waves. And back again. I don’t think I’ve succeeded at the Curly Girl Method as much as I’ve succeeded at “letting go.” Maybe even “giving up.” But to keep from pissing off my hair I’ll call it “Letting my curls live their best life.” Regardless, it’s not as time consuming as hot rollers whenever I want to go out.

But, in the end, it was time that prepared me the best. I turned 47 years old a week or so before the stay at home order went into effect. I am now around 50 (AF) years old. And I’m surrounded by a community of friends around 50 years old–some below, some above. We all have families–whether it’s a household of kids, a patchwork of extended relatives, or friends we’ve collected as family over 20 years. We’ve all had a variety of jobs–from self employment to micromanaging bosses to close knit co-workers. We’ve leaned in and we’ve walked away. We’ve started over and over and over again–whether it was a life plan, a relationship, or a diet. It’s not that we don’t get scared AF. We just get on with it.

We are experienced AF, strong AF, connected AF. Indigo Girls released a new album which is musical AF. What better preparation for a pandemic? (In case you think I’m using AF wrong, I really don’t think I am.😉) 20 years ago I wouldn’t have been ready for all this. Another 20 years and I’d be one of those people strolling around the stores without a mask or hand sanitizer saying, “If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.”

Instead I’ve landed a contact at a commercial paper company who hooks me up with 98 rolls of toilet paper at a time. I’ve trekked my 300′ driveway for hours when they closed the state park trail.

We’ve even started fostering puppies for a local rescue. Because if you have a safe shelter shouldn’t you help someone else find theirs?

To top it off, my workplace (with just a little push) got us respirators. AKA gas masks.

Hang in there, people. I can’t stop Covid-19. But now that I don’t have to do my hair I’ve got a lot more free time. So I got you. And your toilet paper.

Dedicated to Jane. Who kept asking me where I was and when I was going to write again.

This Is Me.

Posted on | August 9, 2019 | 4 Comments

If you know any gardeners then you know that their gardens tend to resemble them. That person with a clean car, an integrated Google calendar, and a Dave Ramsey budget has a garden with perfect borders, straight rows, and neat plant markers. The person who pulls an outfit from the pile of clean laundry on the couch, leaves the plastic bags inside the cereal box ripped and gaping, and is always (at least) 10 minutes late has a garden with overflowing beds, a haphazard color scheme and some of last year’s dried husks still hanging from the trellis. It’s all OK–the garden does not judge (even if the neighbors do). The garden makes every effort to thrive where it is planted, which is probably a good life lesson for all of us.

My garden started out organized this spring. I rotated my crops appropriately, provided trellises and cage supports, grew beneficial companion flowers, and amended the soil with the last bit of compost in the barn. I even put down some weed cloth, which is not something I usually do, because I was expecting it to be a crazy busy summer. I thought the weed cloth might give me more time to focus on stuff outside the garden without worrying about weeds overrunning the plants.

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Muuuuvin’ On.

Posted on | June 12, 2019 | 4 Comments

So where was I?

I have no idea so let’s just start where we’re at, shall we? I haven’t posted in so long that the formatting on WordPress has changed. Which should make this post very interesting. If you consider lots of random spacing and a variety of photo placements to be interesting. Turns out I was 11 versions of WordPress behind. I failed to update to the latest version of WordPress for many years because I had no idea how to make a backup of my previous posts. Even my IT guy didn’t know how to do it since I had so many posts and was so many versions behind. But WordPress advises you very strongly against updating versions without a backup. So I just didn’t update.

Until today. Today I sat down to write a post, saw how much time had elapsed since my last post and thought, “Whatever.” And I hit the update button. Everything I’ve ever written could have disappeared into the ethernet. I think the word “ethernet” actually refers to some odd computer cable that your crappy rural internet service provider always blames for outages when the problem is really their crappy internet service. But if the word “ethernet” was used properly, obviously it would refer to the black hole of the Internet where all your work disappears when you didn’t bother to save an updated copy. In this case I fully expected all my posts to disappear into the the ethernet. But all that happened was that a new version of WordPress appeared with annoying new formatting.

Huh. Very anti-climatic. I probably didn’t need the shot of whiskey ahead of time. But better to be prepared, people, be prepared. Unless being prepared means backing up your work on a regular basis. Who the hell does that?

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Active Shooter.

Posted on | November 9, 2018 | 7 Comments

Active shooter days are hard for me.  I know they’re hard for everybody.  I know that a lot of people take comfort in that saying from Mister Rogers:

Image result for mr rogers meme, look for the helpers

The problem is that I am one of the helpers.  And here’s the cold hard truth, America: the helpers aren’t going to make it in time.  Between 2000 and 2013 the FBI reported there were 160 active shooter situations, the majority of which ended quickly. “In 63 incidents where the duration of the incident could be ascertained, 44 (69.8%) of 63 incidents ended in 5 minutes or less, with 23 ending in 2 minutes or less.”

The 2016-17 report from the FBI didn’t include time data.  Maybe because it was too hard to ascertain.  Maybe because, in addition to the increasing frequency of shootings, the limited amount of time for public safety to respond was too grim to face.  The time for a police response to any 911 call varies a lot depending on which study you’re reading and where you live but it hovers around 7-12 minutes.  The time to get an ambulance on scene is generally the same or longer.  Which means the shooting is over long before help arrives; all that’s left is the dying.

Of course, having law enforcement arrive quickly (or paid security on scene, for that matter) isn’t a guarantee of anything; they get shot and killed, too.  Dead cops can’t save anyone.  And when EMS arrives, they aren’t able to enter the scene until police know the shooter is down or has left.  Because dead medics can’t save anyone either.  In desperation, FEMA, the FBI, and Homeland Security are changing this element of response—now, police are urged to enter a shooting scene immediately, even if they’re alone.  When EMS arrives, they are now escorted into active scenes by law enforcement.  I’m not sure how many citizens can be saved if EMS ends up treating the cops who are shot escorting them into the building.  But, really, EMS’ ability to save anyone at an active shooter scene is limited.

EMS is trained to apply bleeding control, tourniquets, chests seals, and decompress a possible pneumothorax before moving on with police to the next area in search of more victims.  That’s right—there won’t be any immediate extrication from the scene until law enforcement and EMS has cleared the building or area.  You get a tourniquet and then we leave you where you are.  I feel sick imagining how this will play out in real life.  What do I do when a bloody citizen is clinging to my leg, begging me not to leave them?  I asked this question in a training session and the federal law enforcement personnel teaching the course told me to kick them down if I needed to, but we keep moving.  That’s the reality of rescue in an active shooter scene.  How do you like that, Mister Rogers?

Of course, bleeding control measures are life-saving but if you have massive internal bleeding or head trauma or an acute lung injury, then what you really need is a rapid transport to a hospital and a surgeon.  There’s nothing else that will save you.  And according to the surgeons that treat gun shot wounds everyday, even a surgeon isn’t a guarantee.  That’s why shooting victims die in such large numbers.

Maybe you’re thinking that concern about these desperate measures is really just cowardice.  That cops and EMS signed up to give up their lives for citizens in need and if they don’t like it, then they should quit.  But in my small town, the majority of public safety personnel don’t just work here, they live here, too.  I have 4 children in 4 different area schools.  My co-workers have kids in schools all over the district; we all have family members working in community businesses, attending local churches, filling the stands at sporting events, dancing in the park during concerts. Every single one of us would rush in, would do anything, would give it all up if we knew we could stop the killing of our friends and families and loved ones.  But our bodies, our lives, won’t stop the shootings from happening again and again and again.

Active shooter days are hard because I have to remind my kids that when the shooting starts, they need to move.  They need to move and keep moving, even if they or their friends are injured.  Their only chance of survival to is to move away from the gunfire and if they are injured their best chance for quick medical treatment is if they are off the active scene.  I’m not going to be able to help them.  I am not going to make it there in time.

A couple years ago, I was at work when we were notified that there was credible evidence of an active shooter threat at a local high school.  Two of my kids were in that high school that day.  I was working on the ambulance that is the responding unit for that high school.  All of the public safety agencies were in high gear—investigators tracking the threat, tactical teams getting in place, the school on lockdown.  EMS headquarters was preparing to load the ambulances with extra supplies for multiple patients.  Public safety was doing everything they could do to mitigate the danger.  And as I sat in the front seat of my ambulance, waiting to get a call for an active shooter at the school where my kids were locked into their classroom, I knew there was still nothing I could do.  They were on their own.  The helpers aren’t going to beat the bullets to the scene.  So active shooter days are hard for me.

I’m not comforted by the thought of arming more and more citizens.  Nothing about adding to the plethora of guns lets me sleep easy at night.  Because I believe the research from the CDC—-at the least the research that the government allows researchers to do.

I’m not comforted by the new policies of throwing first responders at shooters in the hopes that a human sacrifice can stop the shooting spree.  Bodies do not seem to be a reasonable alternative to effective gun control legislation.

I can’t comfort myself by telling myself that these occurrences are rare.  Because they really aren’t anymore.  The afternoon of the shooting in Thousand Oaks, I received an automated email from my kids’ school saying they had a rumor of a gun on campus and were investigating it thoroughly.  After the Thousand Oaks shooting, it was discovered that some of those present at the Borderline Bar and Grill had been at the Las Vegas shooting last year, the deadliest mass shooting in US history.  This is what it’s come to in America—-you might survive one mass shooting, but you may not survive when you’re caught up in the next one.  The next one, Mister Rogers.

I’m really uncomfortable with a lobbyist group (the NRA, of course) telling the doctors that treat gun shot victims of all kinds that their opinions on gun control are unwelcome.  If anyone gets to have an opinion on gun violence, it’s the doctors left to treat the damage inflicted by the bullets.

So instead I spent the day doing what I usually do on active shooter days.  I wandered through my life putting things in order.  After I dropped kids at school I did my workout and ran my errands, picking up the items I needed to disguise leftovers into a new dinner.  I returned a shirt that had been patiently waiting in the backseat of the van for weeks to be returned.  I came home and paid bills and balanced the checkbook.  I hooked up the frost-free hose for the RV and weather-proofed the water spigot so I don’t lose water during the upcoming freeze.  I confirmed Big’s medical appointment and called the insurance company to dispute a charge for Little’s last doctor’s visit.  I took the crates that had been sitting on the deck for weeks and moved them to the barn.  I washed my sheets and towels and aligned my comforter so that each side that hung off the edge of the bed was perfectly even.  I refilled the birdfeeders and put out fresh suet.  I put on the cattens’ flea and tick medicine.  I went back to the school and dropped off Middle’s lunch because he forgot it.  And I just moved along checking off each little item because focusing on the things I can get done takes my mind off the things I can’t control.  Apparently I am not the only person that this works for—accomplishing mico-goals releases dopamine in the brain.  So that by the end of the day I can pick up my kids from practice, drive them to work, kiss them goodnight, then head in to class to teach a new generation of EMS providers, without picturing my loved ones bleeding out in a street or hallway waiting for help.  It keeps me sane, but it doesn’t keep them safe.

What would Mr. Rogers say to this advancing threat?  I guess we won’t ever know because Mister Rogers died in 2003.  Fifteen years before a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in his Pittsburgh neighborhood.  An active shooter in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.  I’m glad he died before that happened.  Rest in peace, Mister Rogers.  It’s a peace increasingly hard to find for the rest of us.




Posted on | November 4, 2018 | 3 Comments

This is National Novel Writing Month which means I pledged to write every single day this month.  It also means I am doing everything except rewriting the 198 pages of the novel.  Not editing, rewriting.  Because I decided it was way too descriptive and I also wanted to change it up to start each chapter with an action scene.  It’s okay, I can face making the change.  I just need to do everything else in the world before facing it.  Since I can practically spit clean (that’ s a real thing, by the way, and science backs it up) my house in all of 15 minutes I had to venture out into the garden.  The fall garden needed a lot of fall cleaning.  A lot.

I decided I would move forward with my plan to shorten the rows to leave an open area for a bonfire pit as well as large spaces for herbs.  Now that my kids are so busy they only eat at home about 3 times a week I don’t need as many veggies.  But I do need a bigger bonfire pit suitable for whisky drinking and s’mores (surprisingly good together).  Also I need to move the current bonfire pit away from the front engine of the RV–although using the headlights for light is convenient, it kind of makes my guests nervous.  I’ve assured them the gasoline tank is a solid 24 feet away from the engine but people are such nervous nellies about fire and gasoline.  Plus I should certainly start experimenting with a wider variety of herbs.  Homemade herbal tea goes well with living alone, having cats, and spending as much time reading in bed as possible. Also herbal infused or mulled whisky drinks are all the rage and seem so much classier than just sipping it out of the bottle between bites of s’mores. Read more

A Day In San Francisco.

Posted on | October 11, 2018 | 1 Comment

We beat the traffic in San Francisco and parked at Union Square. Even the homeless people were still asleep and none of the shops on the square were open.   So we made our way to Mr Holme’s Bakehouse and by the time we had navigated our first San Francisco “hills,” we were ready for specialty croissants and donuts.  Plus a pic with the famous sign.  I don’t think Little gets it, do you?

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It Will Be Cold Again.

Posted on | October 8, 2018 | No Comments

Life was always happening in the garden and the barn.  The summer heat, the winter wind, the spiders and their webs, the birds and their nests in every nook and cranny.  While everyone else was moving from their temperature controlled house to their temperature controlled car to their temperature controlled office, I was slogging through spring mud or breaking the ice layer in water buckets or dripping sweat onto the tomato plants as I pruned them.  I knew the minute slug season arrived, and tick season, and when the field mice abandoned the field for the greenhouse.

Of course, I always retreated to my air conditioned house.  And we all know about my love affair with the woodstove.  Despite all my outdoor activities, I woke up in the mornings like everyone else–surprised when I peered out the window and discovered it had rained during the night, shocked when I opened the deck door to get the dog her breakfast and found a cold front had moved in and temperatures had dropped.  I took shelter in a brick house that, as all good little piggies know, withstood weather and wildlife very easily.

Enter the RV.

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Big Lessons.

Posted on | October 4, 2018 | 5 Comments

The problem with parenting is that you never really know anything until you’ve lived through it.  Sure, you can read parenting books and you can ask other parents, but until you’re actually trying to convince a living, breathing 2 year to put his poop in the potty you don’t really know, well,…you don’t know sh*t.

That’s why raising the first child is less like parenting and more like a partnership.  A partnership in one of those random, crazy start up companies that you invested in because it seemed like a good idea, the guy was cute, and you had a little bit of money laying around.  What could go wrong?  And the next thing you know, you are sitting in a nursery that cost thousands of dollars in renovations, going on your 17th sleepless night, and it’s just you and your firstborn, weeping hysterically.  Both of you weeping hysterically.  No one’s in charge on those nights.  There is no parenting.

Oh, there were with sleepless nights with the rest of ’em.  But by then I had plans and tricks and strategies and coping mechanisms.  All of which I learned from Big when he was little.  That I learned with Big.  And that’s how it played out for the rest of his childhood–from the right preschool to the easiest road test examiner at the DMV.  I researched all the options, gathered reviews, and then thrust Big out there.  If it didn’t go well then he had an interesting story for his memoirs and his siblings had better odds at getting it right the next time around. Read more

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods.

Posted on | October 2, 2018 | 1 Comment

So there we were in Bakersfield, CA in the summer of 2017.  Bakersfield wasn’t originally part of our trip.  My original plan was to head north from Phoenix, hit the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, and then the Sequoias.  ‘Cause they’re all lined up neatly from east to west.  Too bad there’s no pass through the southern part of the Sierra Nevadas.  Which kept throwing me off in Google Maps.  How in 2017 was there no road through the mountains?  In 2017??  Honestly, I didn’t realize the Sierra Nevadas were much more than a beer, never mind something that can barely be crossed in the 21st century.

But travel is nothing if not a chance to see things that you weren’t planning on seeing.  So we cruised down Hwy 99 past all of the fruit packaging plants.  We saw the home of Halos and Cuties mandarin oranges as well as Dole packing plants and a Sunmaid Raisins facility with its own storefront.  Although I admit my favorite part was blooming shrubbery in the highway medians.  For mile after mile we flew past flowering pink and white oleanders.

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Cleaning house.

Posted on | September 29, 2018 | 3 Comments

So I’m gonna start at the ending and work my way back to the beginning.  Which is against the rules, I know.  But the rules are kind of fast and loose around here lately.  If you wondered where I was for almost the past year, I was cleaning house.  That seems like a lot of cleaning.  And it was.  Oh, it was.

I’m writing to you from my 32′ RV.  Where I stay now.  Overlooking the pond and garden on a raised gravel lane with my own power pole and water line and, of course, wifi.  I have 2 indoor/outdoor cattens (1/2 kitten and 1/2 cat. You missed their full-on kitten stage) from the animal shelter that hang out on the couch when I’m in here and underneath the rig when I’m not.  They are pleased to join me when I open the door and start passing out cat treats but just as quick to dump me if they see anything interesting going on outside.  They are, after all, cattens.  Capable of dispensing love and indifference in equal quantities.

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