{this moment}

A Friday ritual: a single photo, unaccompanied by explanation, which captures “a simple, special, extraordinary moment…I want to pause, savor and remember.” ~SouleMama
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If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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A Month of China-free: A challenge.

I look around me and wonder about the provenance of the things we own. Partially, I’m interested in our “stuff” because one of my hobbies is garage-saleing and thrifting – I’d rather buy almost everything used (reasonable exceptions: underwear, cars). Where did it reside before we owned it? Was it well loved or neglected? How can it be repurposed? The thrill of the hunt is fun and you never know what you might find. But I’m also curious about where things come from for political, humanitarian, and sustainability reasons. And what I’ve become aware of over the last several years is alarming: it’s ALL made in China. Insidiously, we’ve stepped onto this train as consumers with a purchasing muscle memory, not bothering to check the destination…and it’s the wrong train. Many of the things I use, value, and decorate with are made in China. I’ve checked. My coffee maker? Yup. This computer. Yes. The outer shell of the cloth diapers I lovingly diaper my kids with? “Responsibly” made there. The Tom’s shoes I wear (yup, that Tom’s – the ones that aren’t just foot coverings but hipster humanitarian statements)? YES, Tom’s are made in China. Start checking the bottoms of or the labels of things – you are going to find something that surprises you, guaranteed.

I’m depressed by the mass quantities of *things* made in China. Cheap plastic crap begets the “more is more” consumerist mentality that pervades our culture, and even worse, this begets the blind eye that is turned on the ethics involved in sending production overseas. Have you read the recent article about a college professor who was jailed in China and forced to work in a labor camp, the products of which were for an unsuspecting American company? China’s judicial system is fraught with shortcomings, and one is that you are guilty until proven innocent. The SCOTUS decision this week is an excellent example of the consumer-fueled rampant corporate hypocrisy that “Made in China” represents. Not only does Hobby Lobby sell things – oodles of things – made there (clearly their Christian values are in deference to corporate profits), but they hold stock in the very companies that produce the contraceptives they object to covering on religious grounds. I feel compelled to depress you, too, with these injustices because knowledge is power. As Maya Angelou said, “Now that I know better, I do better.”

There’s a whole other level to my “Made in China” hyperventilation, who’s surface is hard to scratch. Many products with a USA/Canada/name another country COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling) are sent to China, packaged, and then shipped back to that COOL. Laws governing how to label the trans-Atlantic flights your stuff (and food! – many chickens take this route) takes are lenient or non-existent. You may never truly know how much jet fuel the meal on your plate or the plastic in your “Made in the USA” stuff actually used. Also, China doesn’t have the greatest food safety reputation.

I have little faith that “ethically produced/made” in China actually exists. There is no getting around the serious human rights violations pervasive in this country that are inextricably endorsed by us when we buy from companies that outsource to China. Perhaps a worker gets a living wage, laughable, but possible. But that does not retract from the ever present elephant in the room – China’s complicated and deeply flawed One-Child Policy. It has engendered infanticide, one of the highest rates of abortion in any country, forced abortions and sterilizations, and suicides. In my estimation, it stands in history as gravely horrific as the Holocaust. There is nothing more.

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So. Every now and then on Facebook, I see a friend or a farm running a 30-day challenge – decluttering, spending more time out-doors, budgeting and being thrifty. I thought long and hard about something I’d like to do more purposefully and here it is: I will make a great effort to not knowingly buy anything made in China this month and beyond (truly, I’ve been trying to do this for some time now). I don’t want to be part of the chain that ends in a place where human and animal rights are brutally marginalized. We celebrate 238 years of freedom this month…I’ll be doing it by only buying things made in the good ole’ U.S.A. I don’t mean this to be a plague of austerity in our lives, but rather a concerted effort to value where and by whom products are made – I’m aware that some things that we “need” are solely manufactured there, and often the things I buy used are as well. But, I’ll repurpose, reuse, recycle, all to reduce my family’s dependence on things made in China. I challenge you to join me this month.

Happy Birthday, United States.

For Later.

The snow is beginning to fall ever so gently (I do wonder how much we’ll get!), I’ve got a cup of tea just made, WV is asleep after an excellent play date with my good friend N and her three lovlies (and the dogs are, incidentally, having doggie dreams of their own), and so I thought I’d write a few things down. I don’t know about you, but it seems there is always a long list of things to do that just don’t get done around here. So much “upkeep,” so many creative projects, so much cleaning, so much writing. I welcome any advice on how other SAHMs/WAHMs structure the day to maximize efficiency and minimize exhaustion. One thing that has consistently helped us is meal planning…I’ve popped the sausages out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner…but I need to go further. While WV is napping, here is a small list of things planned…

CRAFTS.
I bought 49 yards (W pointed out that’s nearly half a football field’s worth) of fabric a few weeks ago and plan to get some serious sewing done. I have a couch and a chaise to recover and want to make roman shades for our bedroom. Will post a roman shade tutorial once I’m done because have you seen what’s out there? It’s not much (or good…Martha Stewart fail). I’ll surely procrastinate by making pillows and covering ottomans. Must find some ottomans.

I’d like to make my own nursing tanks (thanks, Pinterest!). This time, I’ll be more prepared to breast feed – nursing tanks are expensive, but tank tops are cheeeeap (I’m thinking Forever 21’s $2 tanks!).

Also, it’s probably time to make some more baby wipes. I hit up garage sales in the fall for receiving blankets that I will re-purpose as such.

WRITING.
W and I both have papers we want to complete from our recent degrees – we’ve thought about instituting an evening of writing once per week. Can’t decide if it should be staggered (ie one of us plays sitter) or if we should attempt to actually enforce a bed time and then write together. I like the latter idea.

We’d also like to more consistently post on this blog, and even revamp a bit. We’ve got 25+ posts in the queue that need a few hours before being set free. One on home loans. One on soups. One on inspiration. One on frugality. Several on our kitchen renovation and discovery of a secret room in our house. Even a few that we’d like to do a follow-up with (the cloth diaper post, for example); we’ve got a lot more to share in the “babies don’t cost that much” category.

WV’s birth story. Several friends of mine are currently pregnant and have asked about WV’s birth. It didn’t go as planned, I will say. And my doula and one of my midwives have suggested I get this done so that I can focus on the birth of E in the spring, afresh and with no baggage from my first labor and delivery. I want to do it. I just find it so hard. But I will.

I’ve connected with a blogger via my {this moment} posts who interviews writers each Wednesday. I’m working on her interview questions and will be featured on her Writer Wednesday sometime this spring!

COOKING.
Do I really need to say more? I have three biscotti recipes I’ve tinkered with that I want to share. A smattering of soups. And W is interested in branching out in the bread making department – his standard sandwich bread is like my quiche: memorized. Time to expand.

AROUND THE HOMESTEAD.
Oh, how the proverbial “to do” list on a homestead is a bottomless pit. Our number one priority is fencing. Lot’s of fencing. Some Morman friends I’ve made will be helping us when the ground isn’t frozen.

Make contact. We have several neighbors we need to drop in on to get to know better and to pick their brains.

Then there are lesser needs like: “what to do with the old smoke-house” (it’s a big shed…anyone? anyone?) and to prep the barn for goats and a milk cow I’ve already named Tallulah.

We also have to finish the kitchen.

Inspired by Wendell Berry, and many others, I must exclaim: homesteading requires you to be, at any given moment and all at once, an artist, an animal psychologist, a chef, an electrician, a gambler, a good neighbor, a plumber, a scientist, an even more sleep-deprived parent, a solver, a weather watcher, and a lover (and finder) of small victories.

Ok, nap over.
What’s on your to-do list? Good luck!

I’m linking up with The Prairie Homestead blog for another Homestead Barn Hop.

The hair is gone!

For months, I had been toying with ideas in my mind. Buzz it all off? Take a couple inches off? Let it grow forever?

We had just finished a marathon of packing boxes, loading the trusty Blazer (and other vehicles our helpful friends and family provided), unloading into the storage unit, all in the oppressive heat and humidity of July and August in southeastern VA. We were still living in a house with no central air conditioning, crappy old window units, and little to no insulation to keep whatever cool air we could generate inside the house. I was pulling out wads and wads of hair every time I took a shower. L kept complaining that the drain was getting clogged by my hair (I can neither confirm nor deny that my hair was doing any clogging – I don’t wear my glasses inside the shower and thus cannot see clearly below my my armpits). I was ready to come to grips with the fact that my youthful days of frolicking around and rocking out with long hair were coming to an end. Plus, there are plenty of people who were/are still successful after chopping off their locks – Andre Agassi, Jon Bon Jovi, Randy Johnson (although he did it because the Yankees paid him to), James Hetfield, etc.

We were up in DC, living with L’s cousin while waiting to close on our house, so I figured there’s got to be someone in DC who can take me from looking like a dirty hippie to a somewhat respectable gentleman. Google once again came to the rescue! I googled “best places for men’s haircut DC” and got a much smaller list than expected. I researched them all. Read reviews, looked at prices, looked at location. All of them had great reviews, most of them had crazy prices. I was expecting a little bit of price gouging, being DC and all, but there’s no way I’m dropping $60 (some places were charging even more!) just to get my hair cut. (Beer prices were a little inflated as well, but that’s a different rant…)

Based on good reviews, decent price, and the salon being within walking distance (about a mile), I decided to go with Bang Salon in NW DC. The woman cutting my hair was actually more nervous than I was but she was nice and did a good job of making me not look too ridiculous. I may not have the long hair anymore, but that will never stop me from rocking!

There was one thing, however, that I did find strange, which was how many short hairs were incredulous as to why I would cut my hair – nobody with long hair gave me a hard time about chopping it off. All you short hairs trying to live vicariously through us long hairs?

Enjoy some pictures of the hair in action for the past 8 years, and here’s to [hoping] at least 8 more years of hair:

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I can no longer call myself a long hair, but I’m ok with that. I don’t miss it, at least not yet. And I still have the pony tail if anyone wants a wig or two. Any takers?

Goodbye Guinea Riviera

Leaving our place was the essence of bittersweet…

I stood in the misty rain that fell the whole day that we moved, just for a moment (because we had a lot to do), and thought about the kinds of sweetness tied to this life, this house.

I will miss the cocky little Carolina Wren that bravely flew under our screen door’s 4-inch gap for years to build her nest in our entry way. She would swoop off the nest and out under the door every time I opened the inner door to come out. Then she’d be all bossy, like, “What ARE you DOING?!?” until I was in my car and she could resume a-sitting. When our landlords finally replaced the door jamb, she made do, making her nest in the crook of a piece of gutter that was falling off the house.

I will miss our garden. For years we have lovingly grown and tended too many zucchinis to count, so many green beans that I once almost didn’t like them anymore, carefully observed the transformation from flower to fruit, watching the tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplants and peppers swell until we picked them.

I will miss our porch. Our poor, lead-contaminated porch. The porch we had to cut off and keep off this summer, peeling paint like decrepit beckoning fingers.

I will miss our kitchen. Not for it’s zero counter space or crappy linoleum…but for what happened here. We started this blog in the kitchen. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation at our kitchen table. I labored at our kitchen table. My best friend got engaged in our kitchen. We made countless meals that we shared love and laughter with friends and families over. There, in that kitchen.

I will miss the end of the road. It’s only a few tenths of a mile from our old house, we walked it sometimes three times a day with our dogs. From the end of the road, we looked out at the mouth of the Perrin Creek into the York River, and out the mouth of the York River into the Chesapeake Bay. The river was never the same. In 8 years there, not one day was it like another. It always made me recall a lecture on Brownian motion, my first year in grad school. There are so many kinds of watery surfaces you learn when you live by the water – choppy, glass, foamy, prescient, chaotic, rhythmic, blue, green, turbid, reflecty (that’s a word)…and every nuanced state in-between.

I will miss all of our nearby old and new friends and neighbors. On this I shouldn’t expound, for I will begin to blubber. You’re all great. And we love you and will miss you terribly.

And the bitter will dissolve quickly, making way for our bright future. But, for humor’s sake (and so you can understand some of why being forced to leave wasn’t that horrible after all), here’s a list of the top 10 things I won’t miss:

1) Driving past my best friend’s house (she lived 6 houses closer to the main road, so I had to pass it to get anywhere)…because she no longer lives there. Every time, since she moved, it pulled at my heartstrings, and I missed her so. Not hardly a day went by when we were neighbors, that we didn’t go for a walk, share a meal or a recipe. The people who live there now don’t take care of her roses. They don’t wave. I dislike them for their sin of not being her.

2) Our landlord put-put-puttering over at 7am on his glorified go-cart, down our driveway, causing dogs to bark, babies to wake and parents to be grumpy. Every. Single. Saturday. Sundays, too. And Monday holidays.

3) The handle/pull-less particle board kitchen cabinets that have inspired endless dreaming on Pinterest for sleek, sweet new ones…with knobs.

4) The fact that this house neither stays warm in the winter or cool in the summer, but loves to stratify, so that the upper 2 feet of the kitchen are warm in the winter, the steps and upstairs landing are inferno-hot in the summer and the bathroom is like our private jungle room.

5) Mold. My enemy. See above climate issues.

6) The family down the block who swore in court that their dogs are harmless, even though one bit W, and on numerous occasions attacked me and WV and other friends. I know our friendly animal control guy, Steve, will be happy we are no longer Gloucester residents.

7) The god-awful poison ivy and oak that seems to creep and edge every green surface.

8) The flying mice with hypodermic syringe proboscises masquerading as mosquitoes.

9) The crack that kept growing…and growing…separating the upstairs from the wall, the raccoon family that brought the stench of death and rot into our ceiling crawl space the summer I was pregnant with WV (and our landlords did nothing), and the general disrepair and decrepitude that went un-addressed by our landlords, actually. There’s only so much one can do to repair a house that isn’t theirs.

10) OH YEA, AND THE LEAD PAINT!!! Siyonara!!!

Leaving our place was bittersweet…but more sweet, that’s for sure. Sweet for the future and sweet for the memories we will take with us. There is no way to replace those lovely, quirky, hidden things that made a house a home. But these things we loved were intangible anyway. I am looking forward to finding new friends and birds, new water, new wonder, a new place to call home.

New, sweet beginnings. L’shanah tova!

If you give your landlord a (positive) lead-based paint test…

If you give your landlord a (positive) lead-based paint test…you know, the home-test kind that you get from Lowes, that they said we probably didn’t need anyway because we should be “fine” since we’re so far removed from the 70’s when it was banned, but then 2 out of 3 tests come back positive, they probably will get a real testing company to come and audit your house (like you’d wondered if they’d ever done in the first place and asked about). And they’re gonna find lead paint. Of course. Which means, naturally, you’ll get kicked out, because now you’re a liability to them.

Ok, I can’t keep this trope from the children’s book alive, but suffice it to say, we’re being kicked out of our home of 8 years.

This has caused me/we to be: 1) In a ridiculously stressed out frenzy, searching high and low for an adequate (short-term) or excellent (long-term) place, 2) A terrible friend – b/c if you thought I was in a baby-induced sleep deprivation walking coma, you should see me now (I found the computer mouse in the tub the other day, my cell phone in the fridge, and let’s just say I haven’t cleaned up dog puke I noticed three days ago), 3) Very sad. Our sanity is suffering, right along with our garden (weed-choked; haven’t even had the heart to post our glorious garden info, since now it’s all moot), our pets (no special walks), and our plans for WV’s first birthday. 4) An insomniac. When WV goes down, we should sleep riiiight? Nope, the wheels just keep spinning around our plight and we’re tired. Very tired. 5) Very familiar with lead paint test kits, detection, remediation, exposure… I just have to hope there will be a silver lining to this unfortunate situation – we’ll find a place, a better place, and karma will bite our landlords in the butt big time.

There are many behind-the-scenes details, as with any story. For instance, they gave us the news via email. We’ve all been tested for lead poisoning, with levels of lead found in our blood that indicate exposure but do not alarm our Dr. enough to start any kind of treatment. We’re eating lots of calcium-rich foods, which is the best way to self-chelate. And although I would like to say more (alot of it involving expletives), I think I’ll wait ’till this situation is behind us, for prudence’s sake. So, alas, our time on this road named after a communist island, and in this house we’ve made a home is short. We’re going to take this mini-homestead, drop it somewhere else and make a ripple effect. MexicanNights 003

Three Gigs and a New Heater Core

P1060133What a busy past few days. Thursday was spent finishing the job I had started almost a month ago (tough to find time on the weekends, weekday evenings are too buggy) of replacing the heater core in the Blazer (thanks to my good friend and band-mate TB for helping me find screws and bolts I overlooked). It was a royal P.I.T.A. Chevy did not make the dash removal process very user friendly – no wonder it costs an arm, leg, and your firstborn child to have the stealership or a mechanic do the work. Unfortunately, I did not take pictures from the get go, but I did include a few that I snapped throughout the process. The Haynes manual was pretty good on this one. I decided not to put EVERYTHING back together… it was way too hot outside (don’t have a garage), the bugs were getting bad, and I really don’t care that much about the plastic crap covering up the underside of the dash. I use the Blazer for hauling band equipment to gigs, garbage/recyclables to the dump, transporting large items such as sofas or tables, storing things in it because we have zero closets, and occasionally towing a trailer. Do I really need that plastic crap covering up the underside of the dash for these purposes? The above pic is what the inside of the Blazer normally looks like (it is our storage unit… bass amp, chicken feed, and a jogging stroller can be seen in this image). Here is a quick step-by-step process:

1. Remove the dash (including the underside plastic crap, and lower the steering column). I disconnected the battery and also disconnected the connection to the airbag. Don’t want a surprise deployment… There are about 943,051 bolts and screws that need to be removed, and when you think you’ve removed them all you probably haven’t. I think we used Torx, 7mm, 5.5mm, 5/16″, 1/2″, and 17/32″ bits for this process.

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2. Drain the radiator. Getting to the drain plug is a bit of a chore, so I just disconnected the lowest hose and let it drain from there.

3. Disconnect these 2 hoses going to the heater core (I got the first one, and L got the second much more quickly since she has a Ph.D. in hose connecting/removal).
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4. Remove the plastic cover inhibiting access to the heater core (I think it was only 6 bolts).
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5. Remove the metal bars holding the heater core in place, and put the new one in. Put everything back together (or as much as you want to put back together), re-connect all the electrical connections in the dash, put the steering column back in place, fill the radiator, and you’re good to go. Easy, huh?

It was good to spend some time with TB fixing the car, gave us some good old fashioned male bonding time. And L made us delicious sandwiches with tomatoes and cukes from the garden. Thursday evening was a nice night of playing music on the Crab Deck and watching the fireworks across the river from Yorktown (mere feet from the location of the British surrender, essentially guaranteeing American independence – are we really free though?). I love doing outdoor acoustic gigs – L and WV can come and not be blasted away by the walls of speakers, it’s a lot less physical energy expended on my part, and I don’t come home at 3am smelling like an ash tray (although this is rare since Virginia banned smoking in most bars/restaurants in 2009). Don’t get me wrong, I love cranking my amp to 11 and watching drunk people dance the night away at bars, but I’m not as young as I once was and I have responsibilities that I didn’t have 6 or 7 years ago.

GloucesterYorktown_But just because we were playing a low key acoustic gig at a fancy yacht club restaurant, don’t think it was all Sperry shoes, khaki shorts, and white/pastel Polo shirts. We had a little bit of everything there: Drunk dude showing up around 7:00 (by boat…), trying to keep himself somewhat perpendicular to the floor, loving every minute of us playing, tipping us quite well), and then getting into his boat to weave his way around $1,000,000 yachts docked and the families coming back from watching the fireworks on the river. Thankfully, management handled it well and didn’t let him drive his boat home. Salty old owner telling us we were too loud (turns out we’re not special, he acts the same towards everyone). Standing room only crowd in the parking lot to watch the fireworks (the Gloucester crowd doesn’t like to deal with the traffic and tourists in Yorktown on July 4… I don’t blame us/them). I wanted to get a couple pictures, but L accidentally left the camera at home charging. Oh well.

Friday, I got my hours in, then met up with the rest of the band for a 3 hour drive down to Lake Gaston for another gig. Outdoor rock and roll with Key’d Up. We were literally out in the middle of nowhere. My droid couldn’t find it. TB’s iPhone couldn’t find it. But for some reason our drummer’s “dumb” phone was able to find it. We rocked for about 4 hours, and the cops only came out twice!

P1060203Saturday we finished our little mini tour right where we started. Another acoustic evening on the Crab Deck, watching the sun go down while enjoying a cold beer or two (or three). No crazy shenanigans this time, although the salty old owner was having a discussion with the manager (manager is totally cool, btw) about how he thought he had kicked us out last time… Anyway, we weren’t kicked out, and we rocked the place again (albeit at a slightly lower decibel level than on July 4). Here’s a pic of WV enjoying a lime and another one of L and WV enjoying the music:

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