Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Peaches

                  I've always liked peaches. I grew up in California where there was always fruit growing. My father, however, never went to great pains to feed us kids fruit. During his time in Vietnam, he learned to cook. His creations were famous around our neighborhood. All our friends knew what we were having for dinner. Slop. Slop #49. Slop #33. Yet, they still wanted to eat over at our place. I wonder why. I always thought the grey gelatinous concoctions were gross. Bubbling slowly at the bottom of the big pot on our stove. The worst was when he'd add canned mushrooms.Yuck! Just yuck! 

         The kinds of fruit my dad would buy were bananas, apples, and oranges. That was it. Oh, and sometimes grapes. Never berries, never tropical fruits like mangoes or pineapples, and never peaches. But, when my mom would take us kids to Utah to stay with our grandparents, we got to taste things like cherries, apricots, peaches, raspberries, and blackberries. My grandfather was a product of the Depression, so he grew a little bit of everything, "just in case". My brothers and I, during the hot summer afternoons of boredom, would raid the root cellar and bring up jars of fruit to make smoothies. When we made nasty ones, we'd never admit we didn't like them. Whatever we made, we liked. My grandparents and aunts were health nuts. They didn't have an ounce of chocolate in the house, but they had carob powder. Our smoothies were full of the stuff.  

      So, thankfully the Depression pushed my grandfather to grow his own peaches. I love them so much. I love how you can tell if they are ripe or not by their smell and how they feel. You can't fake a ripe peach. Maybe I love them because they are a lot like me. I'm not so great at faking things. And grocery stores can't fake a ripe peach. I don't even know why people buy those hard things. Maybe the people that buy them are just hoping. Hoping that someday, a ripe peach will appear in the produce section.

     Last year, we bought our first house. Behind the chain link fence in our backyard are rows and rows of peach trees. Right now the leaves are abundant and there is green everywhere. I've bought three boxes of peaches so far. Red Haven, and Suncrest. Before this year, I didn't even know the names of the different varieties. The owner of the orchard attends our church. We see him pruning in late winter. Tree by tree, he snips off bits and pieces to keep the shape under control. It's pretty amazing how one man can control the outcome and oversee such a wonderful operation. Yes, yes, I know there are other people. In fact, whenever I call on the phone, his wife answers. She relays all the messages and probably does a ton of stuff too. It's a family business.

      So, the purpose of my post today is in honor of peaches. Last year my friend, Patricia Miller, taught me to bottle peaches. This year, I'm doing it on my own. Who isn't doing things on their own this year? 

  

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Independent pets for Independence Day

Our kitten, who is not even nine months old herself, gave birth to a litter of six this morning. I went in the room where our two kittens sleep at night and I saw Nestle in the cat carrier with what looked like a row of Beanie Boos all clustered around her tummy. I was so excited. But then I looked at the cement floor leading to the door, and there was a lone kitten laying on the floor, alone. It wasn't moving. I started breathing faster, but knew I had to act fast. I went closer and realized it was still alive. I knew I needed to get it warm quickly. I picked it up but it was stuck to the ground. Underneath its tiny body was its umbilical cord, dried to the floor. Maybe that's why Nestle, the mama, couldn't move this kitten herself. I broke the connection with my fingernails and put the kitten in my shirt. It began to move and meow in its pathetic, wimpy way. I ran to Google to see what I should do while it looked around for a nipple. That was a good sign, right? Then I decided that it was very much alive and could probably find itself some food on its own. So, I went and put it with the other Beanie Boos. Mama Nestle began to purr and seemed really happy that her lost kitten was restored to her. She licked the kitten, another good sign. And now they are all together in the cat carrier. I'm still worried about that runty one that I found. It's not as fluffy and big as the others. I don't know how long it was just laying there on the ground. When I have these concerns, I voice them aloud. All my kids can hear me. Cincinnatus, our Kitty Slam-Slam Whisperer Guy, said that he couldn't deal with a dead kitten. I said that maybe I'd have to get a bottle and some kitty formula to help that runty one out. He responded, "I'll pay for it. Buy the best bottle and the best milk for it." He's very determined that all the kitties live. Maybe he'll become a veterinarian. He seems to care a lot for the weak and disadvantaged creatures of this word.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Free kittens available around the 4th of July. Reserve your Freedom Kitty now! White ones come with red and blue scarf.
patriotic A-MEOW-CATS - Cute Kittens Photo (41445824) - Fanpop 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Online school and promiscuous teens

             
As of last week, school has been cancelled. Well, not cancelled, just shifted to an online format. It really is a new kind of approach for everyone. I think what this is teaching us is that the required school learning can happen a lot faster when kids aren’t at school for 6 hours a day. There are other ways. My kids miss their friends though. They are bored once their assignments are finished. Dining in restaurants is prohibited. No gyms. No church. It’s a bit weird for us, but nothing really bad yet. I was feeling pretty depressed about it on the first day of online school. I had such high hopes for the month of May. My job and classes would be finished and my kids would still be in school. A whole month of me time. So, that’s probably why I was so bummed on the first day of guiding them along. It felt like my life in Turkey when my kids didn’t go to school and I had to homeschool them. They had nowhere to go. They couldn’t really talk with anyone because they didn’t know Turkish well enough. Playdates weren’t a thing. Anyway, I feel pretty prepared mentally for this type of life. I’ve done the isolation thing before for years of my life. I can do it again. The difference is that other people are doing it too, so I know I’m not alone.
              Lately our young ladies, Jingles and Nestle, have reached teenagehood (about 6 months). Nestle in particular has been in heat the last few days. She meows at the back door wanting to go outside more than usual. We’ve seen some suspicious looking tomcats lurking around these parts too. A rough looking calico and a big black one. Yesterday, we caught a glimpse of her walking along the back fence just inside the peach orchard as if she had no idea there was any other cat around. Nestle is a pretty little thing. Mostly white, with grey ears and a grey striped tail. We could see the Big Blackie sitting not far from her. Probably just 15 ft. away. Then he started walking toward her. When he got real close, she turned her head toward him as if she were saying, “Oh, it’s you! I didn’t know you were right there.” (Yeah, the playing dumb thing that teenage girls do when they know guys are watching them and drooling all over themselves). They exchanged a few kitty communication signals and before you knew it, the black cat was on top of her. At this point, I screamed, “Get her! Save her!” to Sherman and Jonathan who were watching the whole thing with me from our kitchen window. (More like, “Save us from the responsibility of taking care of more kittens!!!!!) Dad responded really slow, but Sherman screamed, “Rape!” and they both ran full speed to the back gate and saved Nestle from Big Blackie. I really hope my kids can learn about sex from this. Generally, boys like sex. Likewise, girls like sex sometimes. They have to be willing. And even if they are willing, it doesn’t mean it’s okay. It certainly doesn’t mean having sex is okay if the girl or boy are underage, like my darling kitties. I could go on and on with this inner dialogue about kitty sex, but I won’t. All I can say is Nestle got out of the house once again that day. She was out with you-know-who well past sunset and deep into the night. Cinci, who is our Kitty-Whisperer, was able to fetch her successfully. He told me today that he had found her in the branches of our big Blue Spruce and the two big guys were prowling around below. Cinci gave them all a talking to. He says his secret to getting her to come back is to yell at her with a broom in hand. Hmmm. I’m worried what he’s gonna do to his teenage daughters when they disobey. Perhaps Kitty-Whisperer isn’t quite the right name for him then. Maybe Kitty-Curser. Or Kitty-Slam-Slam. He certainly likes to mutter, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” to her every time he carries her back to the house.
              You may wonder why we worry about our darlings having kitty sex with Big Blackie or Crusty Calico (no offense to the owner of this magnificent beast). We just haven’t gotten our kitties spayed yet. It’d be nigh near impossible for me to get an appointment this week unless I wanted to pay $600 per cat. Do I have $1200 for that? No way. I do have an appointment for April 16th at an affordable price and I am really excited for it. Then our girls can go outside just as much as they want. And maybe Big Blackie and Crusty Calico can go slum it elsewhere, and leave my innocent, ditzy, teenage kitties alone.
              I’ll be writing about this later on if I find out Nestle or Jingles are pregnant already. Kitty abortion. Now that’s a topic worth writing about. Pro-choice or pro-life? Hmmmm. Jonathan is feeling pretty stressed right now at the thought of more kittens in our household. Is there any reader out there that would like a kitten? Be thinking about it, okay? 

Monday, June 18, 2018

The second half of my life


I’ll be turning 40 in a few months and as I look back on my life I’ve done many worthwhile things. I’ve done many things that have made me happy and have produced good and happy memories. I’ve experienced the usual rites of passage for my generation and culture such as graduating from high school, first kiss, first job, having that favorite teacher, going to college, serving a mission for my church, falling in love, getting married, having kids, graduating from college, traveling to cool places, blah blah blah. Now that I’m almost 40, which ever since my childhood has always been old, I’m am scrutinizing what I’ve done with my time. Am I happy with it? Can I say I’ve done enough? Do I have any regrets? Are there things I’ve wanted to do or learn that I have never approached either because I didn’t have the money, time, talent or age for it? Turning 40 doesn’t mean you’re dead, no. By all means, no. But, there are some things you just can’t do when your body isn’t young. Having kids for example. I wouldn’t want to wait until I’m 40 to have kids. Becoming a ballet dancer is another. I’m 20 pounds overweight and I’ve got bad knees. Now is not a time to begin a dancing career.
The thing is I’m not beginning a career. I’m living life. I’m experiencing life through this body and mind I’ve been given. So, that’s why I’m taking up dancing again. I love music. I love dancing. My mother put me in ballet classes when I was a little girl and I went to those classes for many years. Until I was 12 or 13. Basically, I didn’t have a ballet dancer’s body and when you’re 13 and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror next to the other girls in the class, and you realize you’re just bigger than everyone else and you actually have boobs, you just want to quit. It was your mom’s idea anyway, right? So I quit and never looked back until I reached my mid 30s. Then I recognized there was peace in ballet movements. The mobility I could have maintained had I retained my ballet habits would have been beneficial to my health through the decades. The fitness trends of the day are jarring and fleeting and are unable to engage my mind as much as dance can. Plus, watching someone dance is entertaining. It’s a gift to spectators and a work of art. Running on a treadmill is purely self-serving. So, next week I’ll be the fattest, oldest lady signed up for the community belly dancing class at the local university. My fat will jiggle but I’ll try not to care.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8re8kEIMbJ0  She rocks!

As inspiration I will always remember the women I’ve met in my life that despite their age, have tackled new activities. I met a woman in her mid-fifties in Los Angeles who decided that she was going to learn Latin dancing. Alyona was her name. She had come to the USA from Russia to take care of her grandchildren and as they grew she began going to college again to improve her English, to get certified to be a math teacher in the States and to top it off, she learned how to Latin dance. She would even go dancing by herself at the Latin clubs in LA and dance with men half her age even though she was married. She had no intentions of slowing down. I have no idea if she knows what an anomoly she is.  
Another woman I admire is Gayle Davis. She was a librarian at the San Jose Library for many years. If you believe that the things in your house reflect something about you as a person, then she is definitely the most interesting person in the world. She didn’t have a huge house but she had a full size loom in her front room, a piano, and all the usual furniture most people had. She had a collection of masks and hats on her wall, a collection of magnets on her fridge, a collection of mini flags that bordered her dining room, and lots of scientific gadgets and knick-knacks sitting around. Microscopes and a bird-bobbing thing on her kitchen window sill. She was obsessed with the Day of the Dead and would make dioramas and jewelry. There was a timeline drawn on her wall that continued down her hallway simply because history literally goes that far back. Another interesting thing about her is that she is an enormous person. Most people would look at her and say she is just another fat lady. But I believe she has a health condition that causes her obesity. She has to buy two airplane seats when and if she flies. When I was a young child she moved around fine. But now she has to use a walker to move around her house and to her car. It has inhibited her movements for a few years now, but it has never kept her from accessing the things she’s wanted to access. After she retired from her librarian position, she took a bead making class and became very interested in making jewelry out of different materials. I even brought her back a collection of bottle caps from Turkey. She’s a kind, empathetic person and has been my neighbor and emergency contact for as long as I can remember. I admire her greatly and always try to visit her when I visit my parents. 
I also know many older women that don’t inspire me. They let themselves be limited by their culture, by their fears, by their age, by their size, by what they don’t know. It is depressing to watch how their lives are unchanging as they drift off into the oblivion.
If you know me, you know I love Dostoevsky with a passion.
I think my husband is even a little jealous sometimes when I snuggle with The Idiot or Brothers Karamazov at night instead of him. Fyodor said this:
It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing, but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.
I intend to prove my precious Fyodor wrong.   

Sunday, May 20, 2018

FORCING KIDS TO DO THINGS THEY DON'T WANT TO DO


      
San Pietro has so many ladybugs. I enjoy their company.
    



       

San Pietro before I began working there.

 I can’t express how happy I am in some aspects of my life right now. Ever since I’ve been back in the States I’ve had access to an empty lot of land that my brother and sister in law own. I call it San Pietro, after my brother in law, Peter. But also to remind me of one place my family and I lived in Rome one summer. We rented a little cottage in a jungle hidden right in the middle of Rome, near Vatican City. And walking out of our nestled hideout in the shade of the trees we could see the Basilica of San Pietro looming above us down the street. So, now I have my own little jungle in the middle of Provo, Utah where it seems every last tiny bit of land is being purchased so developers can build some more cookie cutter homes for potential buyers. This little natural area is by no means a jungle. Even though it has tall weeds now that are probably an eyesore to the neighbors, I don’t care. I go to San Pietro at least three times a week to work my ass off and feel my back strain as I wrestle with stubborn rocks in the soil. I like how my body aches and feels like it’s going to crack when I finally stand up straight again. I know the exertion probably contributes to an early physical demise, but I prefer to live fully in the present rather than amble along in mediocrity.



       Yesterday, I forced my whole family to come with me to San Pietro to work. Yep, I forced ‘em. Sometimes I read books that make me feel guilty about forcing my kids to do anything. Like Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I enjoyed the book and I believe what the author is saying, but when it comes to putting that stuff into practice, I crumble, as a lot of other parents do. Well, to my defense I offered no reward to my kids to come and work at San Pietro. No money. No surprises. Actually, I did say that we were going to get Slurpees but in the end we didn’t get them because my husband, a big cheapskate like myself, wanted to wait until 5 pm to get points on our 7-Eleven rewards account. So we passed right by the 7-Eleven at 4:15 PM with the understanding that we would return in the middle of our labors to get our beverages. By 5 PM we were all engrossed in our dirty garden tasks that no one even mentioned any Slurpees or Big Gulps. For those readers who have never stepped into a 7-Eleven convenience store, a Slurpee is a frozen sweet flavored drink that is like pourable snow. There are usually at least four flavors to choose from in each store at a time. A Big Gulp is a large, American version of large, soda or beverage of your choice that you can get yourself from the tap. I go to 7-Eleven for the Slurpees or just because my kids want to. (In the past I’ve tried to act like I’m too good for 7-Eleven, but I’ve come to the realization that I’m not. 7-Eleven is a truly working class American establishment run by lovely Indian people who to me seem very upbeat and hard working. I’m American. I work hard. Therefore, I belong at 7-Eleven when I get sweaty and want a beverage that isn’t water.) They do sell water though. But the only people that buy it are the Americans who don’t really belong to the working class. They kind of accidentally arrive at 7-Eleven because they are from out of town and don’t know where anything else is. Kind of like my relationship with McDonald’s but I’ll explain that another time.

       So, before coming, my oldest son, Atticus, moaned and groaned because he wanted to hang out with his friends. He tried to get out of coming to San Pietro, but I stood firm. The other kids kind of just accepted the idea and didn’t put up a fight. We piled into my in laws’ Subaru Forester because our 7 seater Eurovan is STILL in the shop. There were a few punches between Cincinnatus and Sherman but we got to San Pietro alive. We kind of exploded out of the car like a shaken up bottle of soda. San Pietro is so great for kids because I could see immediately how the kids interacted with the space around them. At home there are walls and flat floors and nothing really pliable that they are allowed to touch and break. At San Pietro they have made pathways in the weeds. Three weeks ago when they all came, I gave Cincinnatus the job of walking back and forth on a set path so there would be a clear path in the future. At that time, the weeds were about a foot high. Yesterday, the weeds were 3 to 4 feet high. The paths have remained and as the kids walked through them I could see their hands reach out and grab the waving weeds. Sherman waved his arms back and forth on them and watched them bend back to their original place. Hansel and Gretel, I mean Helen and Hector, scampered off into the pathways and chattered as they went. Cincinnatus just started walking back and forth, doing his thinking. That’s his main activity, thinking. And Atticus, who didn’t want to be there but is also a very dutiful boy, asked, “What do you want me to do?” I gave them each a job to do and we all completed our jobs without complaint except Sherman. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say, all this outdoor work and activity has made him think seriously about doing better in school. Now he wants to go to Oxford and have some businessman job where he wears nice clothes and works in an office, preferably in England. Maybe he can follow Meghan Markle’s example. He is a little old to be marrying little Charlotte though.

       To tie up all this blabber, I just wanna say that sometimes forcing your kids to work in a garden with their parents is not such a bad thing. They may not see the benefits at that moment, but as a mom, I got to see where their strengths lay. How did they respond to the task? How did they figure out how to do the task if they didn’t know how initially? Did they complain constantly? Did they have a good work ethic? Could they envision the outcome of their labors? Did they work well alone? Could they even stand to be alone for a second? Did they appreciate nature? Could they care less? I learned a lot about each one of my kids during that two hour period.

  • Atticus- he likes using brute force on things, he relishes killing monster weeds, works well alone
  • Sherman- he doesn’t like working in dirt, doesn’t like being alone, doesn’t like being ignored, the only thing he was interested in was the sprinkler system I was setting up
  • Cincinnatus- he likes walking, he likes being alone, he’ll try to do work if he knows how to do it, he gets really frustrated if he doesn’t know how
  • Hector- he has a really short attention span and often forgets what job he was supposed to do, he notices colors, rainbows in the spray of the hose, ladybugs, and admired Helen for finding 25 ladybugs, is scared of touching bugs and dead weeds
  • Helen- loves bugs, not afraid of dirt, really short attention span and doesn’t really like to do hard work but will do small tasks without complaint, loves planting flowers and saving drowning ladybugs, not afraid of getting dirty and touching bugs and weeds


  My kids will probably have no interest in gardening until maybe when they are older, I know. My mom loves gardening and was always involved in her garden. Was always watering her plants and talking about the plants and using their names. I thought it was a hobby for old people. Well, I guess it is, because now I’m almost 40 and now I like gardening.

Helen eating her packed lunch at the garden after school. 


I will “force” my kids to come with me again in two weeks. We’ll see what jobs I can think up for them. By that time my plants will be growing which will add excitement, at least for me and Helen. I’m hoping they will think of their own jobs and want to make or build something on their own. We’ll see.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

He's like Donkey and Prince Charming

 This little stone mosaic is supposed to say Ellada, which is how you say Greece in Greek. There are lots of smooth stones at this particular beach. As I searched for white and pink stones and arranged them, I thought about how much time was put into the mosaics that you find in old churches and temples. My life is pretty basic right now. I don't have much that I have to do except feed my kids and teach them. I have no extracurricular activities to drive them to or school for me to attend. I don't go to a gym and I don't work outside the home. I can definitely see how people a long time ago could pour everything from inside them into a work of art. Something that would reflect their peaceful surroundings and express something meaningful in their lives. I really love art. I love making art, but I don't do it enough. I also don't produce the art I visualize in my head, which means I should be honing some sort of technique or skill. During this down time I've had here in Greece I should be doing that honing of skills. Shame on me. America, with its competition, its continual desire for growth and expansion, its speediness, will never let me sit quietly for long. Not like here. Here, when I wake up in the morning and look out the window, I have time to notice that the colors of the sea and the sky make a dark and light line and the water is still. By midday they blend together in a greyish, tan mushy color. By evening the waves are crashing and the sunlight gleams off each wave as it speeds toward shore and the colors of the sky turn warm. I don't know if I've ever watched the horizon of the Pacific all day long. Nope. I haven't. Atticus has honed his rock skipping skills. I didn't know you could skip rocks on the sea. I thought it had to be still water. "I skipped it 30 times" he said. "Well, it was actually just skimming across the top of the water for a long time," he rephrased it. I think his uncle Cameron might have a challenger about now. 

 
I made dinner with the leftover chicken broth and meat from the other night. Rice, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and a few eggs. My version of fried rice minus the soy sauce. 12 days left until we get to America. Should I buy a bottle of soy sauce for just 12 days? No. We don't use it that often. Then I decided to go to the store because there was not a snack in the house but I didn't want to go alone at night. When Jonathan is out of the country I always get scared and never do anything that would separate me unnecessarily from my kids. I am my mother's daughter. Skilled worrier. Sherman was willing to accompany me to the store, a 20 minute walk from the house. He's a willing companion and enjoys being with people a lot. Jonathan and I wonder where he got that trait because neither of us really love being with people ALL the time. Sherman must be with someone. In fact, we watched Shrek 2 tonight and Atticus and I realized that Sherman acts exactly like Donkey: very loyal, slightly annoying at times and extremely comical to people watching from the outside. But, he looks like Prince Charming. 

As we scurried down the beach pathway in the dark, huddled over from the wind, we discussed the menu for the next day. We have to because we don't have any excess food in the house since we are moving again soon. We will be eating red lentil soup for lunch and baked potatoes with assorted toppings for dinner. Sherman is also very good at shopping. He also likes hugs and isn't afraid to hold my hand or smile or talk to me. He's very sweet even if he tries multiple times to interrupt my alone time at night. 


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lucky seven

 I get exhausted just looking at this picture. It was taken almost ten years ago on a trip to London our family took while we were living in Turkey the first time. I remember the trip with fondness, although I can't for the life of me think of why. Look at those wiggly kids. It must be because I was still young and energetic with dreams of making my kids geniuses by showing them the cultures of the world. Well, those days are gone. That they just be good people is enough for me. 
This photo was taken a few days ago. Jonathan couldn't come with, I was taking the picture, and we had two additional kids. They enjoyed the Natural History Museum about the same as they did when we went ten years ago. It was another lovely experience. Its still free and still beautiful. 

London exhausts me though. Like most big cities, it is tedious. London was a bit strange though. It was easy to get around and find things but it was expensive, food portions were small, and no one talks. Seriously, we got on the underground and every seat was taken. Maybe there were a few people standing, but the entire space was silent. No one was talking or making any noise. I felt like I was in church praying that my kids would be well behaved. My kids were the only ones making noise and they weren't being naughty. They were just being themselves. It startled me that they could be so quiet. The metros in Istanbul were loud. Athens, they're a bit quieter but there is always some human noise. But in London, silence.
 This time around we rented a car and drove outside of London. We saw Stonehenge. It was really expensive. 19 pounds for an adult ticket. I told Jonathan that I didn't really care about going in myself and that he could take the kids. I had read a disappointing review of Stonehenge by a fellow Worldschooler on Facebook recently. She wasn't impressed, nor was her family. I kept thinking to myself, its just a place on Earth. Just like my house or a patch of grass. It doesn't mean anything. I don't need to spend that 19 pounds. I'd rather read my book. Jonathan insisted that I join them. Atticus even wanted to go in. I asked him why and he said that there is a scene in Transformers that takes place near Stonehenge. Of course. I'm glad we forked over the money. The museum portion was excellent and I wish I'd had more time to enjoy it and go through more of the exhibits. Stonehenge itself is striking and strange. It wasn't just another place on Earth. It was discovered and we get to know about it now.  
Then we drove southwestward. It was peaceful and the people were kind, open and friendly. Simply because of that, I want to make another trip to England in the future. I thought I'd had enough. I've probably been to London six times in my life and not once have I ever thought, "Gosh, I have to come back. This place has got something that I'd like to experience more of." Well, maybe the seventh time is the charm. I'm coming back and staying out of London. Anyone wanna come?