Summer break is over

Well, kinda. For me, anyway. I walked in the graduation and ceremony and everything, and am definitely part of the class of 2014 … but I also have 3 credits to finish up. So I’m taking an online course this summer to wrap up those last few credits. It’s a 12 credit course, so I could conceivably just phone it in and still get enough credits — I just don’t feel comfortable with that in any way whatsoever.

I like school.

John’s vacation ended this week, so today was pretty much spent in a blur of housework and canning. I don’t know why, but for some reason I don’t really do chores as much when he’s home. It’s like, I know the laundry and dishes and whatnot need to get done, but I also just want to hang out with my guy. Generally, timing my workload to do the housework while he’s at his job is a good strategy … it just doesn’t work well when he’s on vacation, lol.

I did at least get to try some new experiments in food this week: I made homemade pho yesterday, and tonight we had wienerschnitzel with spätzle. I’ve made wienerschnitzel plenty of times before, but this is my first experience with spätzle. Man, I love testing recipes.

Today was canning day. I made my homemade applesauce, which I’ve decided to call awesomesauce, since it was the surprise hit of my canning ventures last summer. I use a basic recipe I found on Allrecipes, and add some lemon peel and cinnamon to it. I don’t know how much, exactly. I just kind of eyeball it. It tastes … bright. I don’t know how else to describe it. I don’t even like applesauce normally, but this stuff is really yummy. It disappeared so fast last year that I’m making tons of extra this year.

Awesomesauce

Awesomesauce

I also tried something new: Apple cherry jam. The base recipe I worked off called for apple juice, but I was like screw that noise. Instead I used two diced apples and a cup of cold water (I doubled the entire recipe). Oh, man, it’s really good. I’m actually pleasantly surprised … believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of cherries. We only got these because John wanted them. I’m more of a raspberry girl.

Apple cherry jam

Apple cherry jam

This picture so does not even approach doing this jam justice. Seriously. I cannot wait until that first loaf of homemade potato bread comes out of the oven tomorrow, and I can slather it with this jammy cherry goodness. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Man, I wish Rini and Luix had visited this week. I could give them some jam. Can I mail jam overseas? Is that allowed? I bet that’s not allowed. Side note — I asked Rini if she takes half and half in her coffee, and she said she takes her coffee with milk. I gave her a kind of funny look and was like, “You mean whole milk?” because who wants 2% milk watering down their coffee? Well, apparently in the UK, they don’t have half and half. I don’t even … I can’t even …

But … how do you drink coffee?

I don’t know why I remembered that. Probably because Rini imitated the way Americans say “half and half” (dropping the so it’s pronounced haf n haf), and it was so nasal and twangy and hilarious sounding that John and I have been exaggerating our American pronunciation ever since. And tonight we had to buy half and half.

Seriously, try pronouncing half and half with the “l“. It comes out, hallf and hallf, with the same “a” sound as in “hall” instead of the flatter “a” we usually say half n half with. It’s very weird.

Anyway. So. Today was canning and drying fruit day (yes, we dried some fruit) and grocery shopping day. Tomorrow will be baking bread and doing laundry and canning more awesomesauce day. I also have to bake some cookies with Kidling — I promised him we would try out this recipe for Jell-o cookies. And over the next week, we have soccer practice and games, homework, class readings, and I need to schedule some informational interviews. Oh, and it’s the 4th of July next week. And we want to ride over to Eastern Washington at some point to pick up raspberries. This summer is shaping up to be pretty busy! Man, remember the lazy summer days of childhood, when you didn’t have to worry about chores and laundry and practices and schedules? Ah, well. We all must grow up sometime, I guess.

Summer fun, vacation, and canning season

The days are so full I barely have time to blog. I’ve started one or two posts that are in draft phase, inspired by some discussions over on reddit, but I think I want to revise them a bit before posting (if I remember to at all).

This week has been pretty busy. Saturday we went garage saling, and scored quite a few neat finds. Besides the creepy doll and antique typewriter pictured below, we also found a working ice cream maker, some antique bottle caps, a beautiful red coat, a nice cowl-neck sweater, an hors d’ouevres server, some out of print books, a huge box of bionic lego sets for Kidling, two dog food dishes, and two foldable camping chairs. I may have forgotten a few items … John had some things he found, too. Total cost for the entire haul was under $15, so I feel like we did well. Oh! And I found some cute baby clothes for my little niece. Godniece? Adopted niece? Whatever, she’s the cutest.

Creepy Doll: $0.25

Creepy Doll: $0.25

Antique Typewriter: $1.00

Antique Typewriter: $1.00

We were planning to go to this summer solstice party we’d been invited to, but by the time the afternoon rolled around I was getting my ass kicked by a migraine of epic proportions. So instead we headed home so I could lie down in a dark and silent room with a cool cloth on my forehead. John hung up blackout curtains to make the room darker for me, brought me some excedrin migraine, and took Kidling off to the park to play soccer until I felt better.

You know, I always appreciate my awesome husband, but I am really blown away by how lucky I am to be married to this man when I’m feeling like shit. He’s so patient and compassionate, and he does the sweetest, most thoughtful things to help me get through it. Before John, I was with my share of assholes — the type of guy who tells you to toughen up or stop crying when you’re feeling like shit. John learned pretty quickly that my pain tolerance is pretty high (walking as soon as my epidural wore off after a c-section), so he takes it really seriously when I say I’m not feeling well. It’s funny how valuable such a simple thing is — to be taken seriously when you’re not feeling well.

Sunday was a bit more of a lazy day. We did some canning (strawberry jam, yeah baby!) and caught up on shows and reading that have been pushed to the side with the houseguests and whatnot. On Monday, we hit up Wild Waves. Kidling brought a friend, and it was (as usual) super fun. They’ve installed some new rides and are doing some expansions, so we had the added bonus of exploring the new stuff. It was a really long and exhausting day, and we’re all a bit sunburnt (but happy!) from it. The next day, I baked some homemade bread like I do every week, but this time I doubled the recipe so I could pay back a friend who came by to check on our animals while we picked up my sister in Seattle. It was too much dough to knead in the mixer, so I had to knead it by hand — or I would have if Mishka hadn’t come by right then with my little godniece so we could go on a walk! John took over the kneading, and I got my walk on.

I also worked on my assignments for my online course. I had to watch a really cool video about the criminal justice system in the United States of America, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the criminal system. The bit at the end, when she talks about the risks of Megan’s Law, really intrigued me. It made me think of this CNN article I read awhile ago, The Rapist Next Door, about a new monitoring system being tested in Alaska. Did you know Alaska has the highest rape rate of any state? I didn’t either.

Anyway, on Tuesday evening, Kidling had his 2nd soccer game (his 3rd one is on Thursday). His coach says he’s doing really well, especially as this is his first time playing on a team. He always remarks on how much Kidling has improved between games and practices, and the positive reinforcement is really inspiring Kidling to practice on an almost daily basis. It’s pretty cool.

Today we headed off to Eastern Washington for fruit (more canning!). I love this state so much it hurts sometimes. It’s incredibly beautiful. We went over by way of Chinook Pass and hooked back through White Pass. It’s amazing to watch the changes in foliage and scenery as we pass through the state. Even the scents change!

I love that we don’t need to drive out to a special park or something to be surrounded by forest — going down pretty much any highway, the forest arches above and around, while the asphalt track of road winds ahead, sliced through with sun and shadow. It’s almost ethereal. I love Eastern Washington, too — the beat of the summer sun lancing down from a pale blue, cloudless sky; the golden warm hills rolling one into the next; the silver green shrubs dotting the landscape.

Image Credit: Greywolf.bravepages.com

Image Credit: Greywolf.bravepages.com

Besides apples (for homemade applesauce) and cherries (canning plans to be determined), we also picked up John’s camping gear. He’s going on a week-long off-road motorcycle camping trip that stretches from Canada into Oregon and back through this beautiful state of ours. He’s taking his go-pro, obviously, because he’s going to be seeing some of the coolest scenery. I’m almost jealous enough to wish I rode a dual-sport, too — but I’m not really an off-roading type of gal. I like my sport touring just the way she is.

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life (Twain)

What a fun-crazy week this has been! After my family headed back to their respective homes, John and I kind of vegged/ slept/ cleaned house/ caught up on GoT on Tuesday. Wednesday the three of us and the dogs drove out to this creek in Lewis County that we like to rockhound and swim in, and then on Thursday my friends Chico and Brit arrived.

So awesome

So awesome

We stayed up far too late catching up and looking at picture albums. Because they slept on the couch, and Brit came over from across the pond and was dealing with a bit of jet lag, John and I waited until about 8:30 to come out and start making coffee and breakfast.

I made french toast for breakfast, which Brit informed me is called, “eggy bread,” in the UK. I love that, and will now always refer to this dish as eggy bread. That’s brilliant. I canned some strawberry jam the other day, which paired nicely with the eggy bread. For lunch, we ate at this local Indian place. Brit (whose parents are immigrants from India) deemed it extremely authentic and delicious, although they apparently prepared the eggplant differently than her mum does.

Because they had a limited amount of time in the area and couldn’t really go out of town, we took them downtown to wander the shops and waterfront, although first we made a detour to Cabelas. Apparently they don’t have giant superstores dedicated to hunting, fishing, and camping that are filled with taxidermied animals over in the UK. Weird. Brit was a little freaked out by the crazy-huge gun display, and when you consider it from the p.o.v. of someone who comes from a pretty gun-free nation, I can see why. There were a lot of guns. As we walked through, she joked that she was a little worried about stumbling into one and accidentally setting it off.

Although joking, the comment made me think — it’s funny, I actually feel safer in a gun store than I do in a gun owners home. A gun store, I know that the store policies mean the guns are definitely unloaded, and that the seller has a vested interest in preventing any negative media about gun accidents in their store. But in a gun owners home, the guns aren’t always kept unloaded and in a safe area. It’s a topic of huge debate in the gun owning community apparently — on the one hand, loaded guns secreted around the house are pretty much deadly accidents waiting to happen. On the other hand, an unloaded gun locked in a safe is pretty useless against a threat. Whatever the reasons, far too many gun owners seem to leave their weapons loaded and unsecured within their homes, and that worries me.

After Cabelas, we went downtown. I showed them all my favorite local stores, and each of us bought a few small items — books, gifts, cards, etc. Brit bought these beautiful friendship bracelets (she chose the purple one for me because it matched the embroidery on my sundress).

Friendship bracelets!

Friendship bracelets!

At Dumpster Values (a consignment thrift shop), we found a great pair of barely-used motorcycle pants for off-road riding, which fit John perfectly. They were $16! What a steal! Armored pants like this usually run $100 – $200, so damn. And perfect timing, since he has that multi-state off-road motorcycle trip coming up!

Then we went and got some Olympic Mountain ice cream cones — they have a vanilla habanero flavor, and it’s surprisingly yummy. John was the one who got that, of course — I stuck with my usual cherry vanilla. We sat outside and enjoyed the sun, ice cream, gorgeous view of the Sound, and the conversation.

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Man, I love visiting with these guys. We had the most fascinating discussion on the culture of gun ownership and anti-gun control justifications, and came up with a set of gun controls that we would like to see implemented:

  • Require 3 character references for a gun purchase, 1 of whom is a medical provider for the potential buyer. (based on the fact that all of the recent shooters had telegraphed their intentions through conversation and social media prior to obtaining their guns)
  • Keep a national gun registry. (gun advocates like to compare guns to cars. Well, we register our cars, and that information is available to all law enforcement agencies. Similarly, we should require and maintain a national gun registry.)  
  • Limit amount of guns an individual can legally own (because there’s no reason for non-military/ non-police individuals to own an amory — 2 handguns and 1 rifle should be sufficient for any civilian … more than that is just overkill)
  • Provide an on-site gun library at the shooting range. (Chico pointed out that some people own more guns than they need because different weapons fire differently and require different types of skill/ training. The solution is that people who want to try an AR-15 can just check it out at the gun range. They might already do this, I don’t know.)

I thought of two more after we got home:

  • Make it so guns can only be sold through authorized retailers (it should be illegal to sell guns through social media sites or gun shows). 
  • Invest more in safe guns. (I can’t believe the NRA opposed this)

It was a really fascinating conversation, and Chico and Brit pointed out some aspects of gun control (both for and against) that hadn’t previously occurred to me. We all agreed that the relatively simple step of requiring character/ medical references for potential gun owners was something that would be easy to implement and difficult to argue against, seeing as we already ask for references in job and financial loan situations.

It seems like a natural step, and it’s a relatively minor hoop that most gun owners have hopped through for other things (job/ loans), so should be fine with hopping through for the weapons they so adore. Plus, if you read the various manifestos of the crazy-ass homegrown terrorists that keep shooting up schools and towns, there’s one pretty common thread — their family and friends are pretty concerned about the disturbing statements these people are making, and would generally not tell a gun-seller that the person is totally emotionally stable and to be trusted with a weapon.

But I digress. After the ice cream, we wandered along the pier and then headed home. We stopped by Olympic Cards & Comics real quick — it’s the biggest comic book shop on the West Coast, so how could we not? — and ended up buying a few graphic novels and comics. Chico bought Kidling a MLP comic, button, and a Calvin & Hobbes book. To thank us for our hospitality, he also bought us a copy of Preacher. By then it was about 7 pm, and they still had a two hour drive ahead of them, so we went back to the house and said our goodbyes.

It’s been such a hectic week with houseguests and graduations and more houseguests, but it’s been such an amazing week, too. I don’t like to use the word “blessed,” but I can’t really think of a non-religious alternative at the moment which expresses how I feel — I feel blessed. I am so grateful to Bex and dad for coming out to my graduation. Their presence this week was such a valuable and meaningful gift for me. I was delighted with the unexpected arrival of thoughtful gifts and congratulations from my Aunt M and older sister. I felt humbled by the support and delight of my friends, who came to my final project presentations, cheered me on as I graduated, and joined me for the graduation celebrations.

I feel privileged to have such wonderful people in my life, and I think it’s far too rare in our culture that we express gratitude and thanks for the beautiful relationships in our lives. It almost feels like bragging instead of reveling. All I know is that this week has been so jam-packed with support and affection as my loved ones celebrate this milestone with me that it’s difficult not to smile. I can’t help the delighted grin that keeps spreading across my face, or the cheery song that keeps spilling from my lips.

 

Graduation, Father’s Day, and a Birthday!!!

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This was such an amazing weekend. I feel so lucky and happy to have such a great family, both of choice and of origin. The last time my sister visited, we still lived in Centralia, and she was pretty sick (and lethargic) with some infection she caught at our sister’s in the days before she came to our house. My dad visits about once a year, but it’s usually only for a few hours — not a few days, as a houseguest. So I wasn’t quite sure if we’d clash or have a great time, but it ended up being AWESOME. It started out great and just got better from there. Seriously, I love my family so much.

Thursday | Arrival

My kid sister, Bex, arrived on Thursday morning. John, Kidling, Bex, and I spent the day bopping around Seattle. We went to the Pike Place Market and shared a strawberries and creme crepe at Crepe de France.

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We spent some time wandering the waterfront and popped in at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop to gawk at the mummies and buy some knick-knacks. I bought a cool new wallet for me and a neat sculpture made out of recycled gears and metal for John’s Father’s Day gift. Oh, we also bought him some novelty candy. And I bought Kidling one of those extendable gripping hands, but this one is covered in fur and looks like a monkey hand.

Family fun in Seattle

Family fun in Seattle

We were waiting for dad before going to dinner, but his flight was super delayed. After the obligatory Space Needle pictures, we headed out for dinner at the Genghis Khan Mongolian Grill — one of our favorite restaurants, and one we try to take everyone who visits us to at least once. Dad’s flight arrived as we were finishing up our meal, and we all met up at the house to settle in the houseguests and play a quick game of Catan (Bex won). For the next few days/ nights, Bex and Kidling camped out in the living room while dad took Kidling’s bed.

Obligatory Space Needle picture.

Obligatory Space Needle picture.

Friday | Graduation

On Friday, we had two graduation ceremonies. From 9-10 a.m., Kidling’s 6th grade class had a cute little graduation thingy jigger, where they walked across this stage and received certificates of completion. I don’t remember them doing that when I was in 6th grade, but it was adorable.

6th grade graduation, 2014

6th grade graduation, 2014

That afternoon, I walked in the 2014 Evergreen Graduation Ceremony. Officially, I graduate in summer 2014 (when I get my last 3 credits), but summer graduates walk in the spring. It was … not what I expected, to be honest.

I’ve been to a few graduations. High school, one or two at BYU, and my Centralia College graduation. Usually they’re super formal and somewhat boring affairs. I don’t know that I would ever use the term “fun” to describe a graduation before last Friday, but it’s the best word I can think of for that particular ceremony.

People were wearing crazy hats and outfits. One woman walked across the stage in full medieval regalia. Another guy danced across in a Rocky-style boxing outfit. A bunch of people had basket-woven mortarboards. Our commencement speaker, Winona LaDuke, urged us to take care of the environment, start a non-profit, fight corporations, and that if we get arrested, to do so for a good cause. There was fun music playing during the processional and people dancing in their seats.

It was outdoors, so the audience was seated not only in the folding chairs set up on the redsquare, but on the grassy areas and on the steps of the clocktower and even perched in trees. People whistled and shouted in approval during the speeches and as graduates accepted their certificates. In general, there was an air of celebration and joy instead of pomp and circumstance. It was awesome.

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Plus, because it’s so informal, it’s apparently not uncommon for parents to walk across the stage with their kids. So Kidling walked with me in the processional and accompanied me across the stage. It was really cool. When we sat down, the Greener Grad to my right said, “Hey, little man. Are you graduating today?” — and Kidling beamed so bright it seemed like he lit up the entire square. It was great.

He joked in reply, “Yeah, I’ve been going here for 5 years! They thought I was too dumb, but I fooled them — I screwed I lightbulb into my head!” The guy laughed, which made Kidling even happier.

He fell asleep in my lap during the commencement speeches, but woke up in time for the awarding of the degrees. As we made our way to the stage, one of the professors asked, “Future Greener here?” and Kidling nodded excitedly and said, “I’m going into robotics!” He has it all planned out. The faculty probably didn’t realize he is in no way messing around with this — he’s already signed up for an intro to robotics course in 7th grade.

Kidling crossing the stage and waving his monkey arm.

Kidling crossing the stage and waving his monkey arm.

Afterward, we took some graduation pictures, then went out to sushi at my favorite restaurant. Then we headed back to the house to relax and veg for a bit before leaving for a potluck/ BBQ held by one of my professors.

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My friends Mishka and Ari joined us for that little shindig, so I had the happy opportunity to introduce my dad and sister not only to my favorite professors and some of my awesome classmates, but also to introduce them to some of my closest friends and their cute little baby girl. Unfortunately, this means that dad, Bex, Ari, and Mishka colluded in dire plots, and decided that I need to write a screenplay about our experience with the scammy employer that was sued by the AGO. I tried to explain that I don’t write screenplays, but was pooh-poohed.

Clearly, I’m tickled pink about this.

Saturday | Outdoor Day

On Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t get many pictures. I mean, I did, but they’re all on the waterproof camera … my phone was pretty dead, and I kept forgetting to charge it.

On Saturday, my dad took the ferry to Anderson Island to set up a “For Sale” sign on his land out there, and the rest of us went crabbing in the Puget Sound. Well, John and I went crabbing — Bex and Kidling paddled an inflatable boat around. We showed Bex anemones, sanddollars, and various types of crab as she paddled around in the Sound.

John and I wore full-chest waders and walked up and down the shore with nets, looking for crab. Dip-netting is an unusual method (we always used traps in the past), but we’ve found it to be more interesting and better exercise. Bex has apparently never had real crab before, so we were delighted with our good luck when we caught 8 rocks (4 each for John and I) and one dungeness — but what a dungie! I think John said it was a little over 8″ across and 3.5 lbs. Yum!

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After we caught the dungeness, we packed up our gear, hiked back up the trail and went home to boil up the crab. John was taught this method of killing the crab before boiling, which makes everything so much easier — the guts are scooped out prior to cooking (making picking it easier), the crab fits better in the pot (allowing more to cook at a time), and it makes cleanup a breeze. So we were able to boil everything up and put it in the fridge in fairly short order, and left within the hour to eat out.

Ronelle requested that I remove all images of my nephew spending time with his family.

Dinner with the family.

Dad even managed to finagle a supervised visit with the nephew of an estranged family member–a pleasant, if emotionally jarring, addition to the afternoon.

Ronelle requested all images of my nephew be removed from my blog.

Rare cousin time.

Kidling and his cousin used to be close, but due to circumstances outside of the children’s control, an estrangement between the adults affected the children, and they no longer have a relationship.

I actually prefer to avoid the rare interactions/ visits like this one. The boys enjoy them too much and immediately begin laying plans for more visits, unaware it’s not in the cards. I also find myself tongue-tied and stumbling when trying to speak to my nephew–not wanting to estrange his parents further by exposing them as liars, but not wanting to lie when he asks why I won’t let him visit.

So I awkwardly tell him the truth: That he’s always welcome in my home, and I would love for him to come by anytime he likes, no matter what. No matter how old he is–but I know when he goes home, the same old story will be poured into his ears, and it breaks my heart.

edit/ Not my choice, for either estrangement–the adult one, or the unfortunate fallout on the children. I’m of the opinion its possible for adults to disagree without using children as pawns, and I also think kids can be friends without the parents needing to be besties.

Sunday | Father’s Day

At this point, our houseguests have been here for 3 days and 3 nights. I don’t care how much you love one another, that starts getting a little close for comfort. So I think everyone enjoyed the break brought on by 3 hours of church. Bex and Dad headed out to the home ward to meet and greet all those families we’d grown up with, while the rest of us stayed home. Kidling and I gave John his Fathers Day cards and gifts while Bex and Dad were at church.

It's a reclaimed metal sculpture of the xenomorph from Aliens, John's favorite movie series.

It’s a reclaimed metal sculpture of the xenomorph from Aliens, John’s favorite movie series.

Then we just kind of vegged and futzed about on the internet. Also, I vacuumed and baked some bread. When dad and Bex got home, I gave dad his Father’s Day gifts (a book of humorous legal poetry from me, and a tie from his wife), and then we played a game of Catan and ate fresh homemade bread from the oven. After I won the game, we all headed out to the Falls for a nice Sunday walk.

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We wrapped up the day with some froyo from LimeBerry, and turned in around midnight with plans for another busy day on Monday.

Monday | John’s Birthday

If I’m honest, I was a little concerned about the ability of our houseguests to keep to a schedule. Actually, this weekend was kind of enlightening in that regard — my dad has been consistently late for pretty much everything my entire life. Church, graduations, weddings, mom’s funeral … dad’s always late. I’ve actually developed something of a kneejerk aversion toward lateness, and I do everything in my power to arrive early or (at the very least) notify my hosts if I will be late.

Anyway, I never really thought about why my dad is late. If I considered it at all, I assumed that he was just disorganized, or maybe that he himself placed so little value on arriving on time that he assumed everyone else didn’t care about punctuality either. This weekend, I learned what it is:

My dad is really bad at judging how long it takes to get somewhere.

Yup. That’s it. He just really sucks at judging the time frame. I’m not just talking about the driving time (which he consistently underestimates by about 5 minutes), but all the other little things. For example, he doesn’t allow time for bad traffic, or stopping for gas/ food. When picking someone up, he doesn’t account for the time spent on social niceties like front-door chit-chat. It’s not that my dad is selfish or doesn’t care about being late (he actually became quite agitated when he thought he wouldn’t have enough time to get through airport security), it’s that he just doesn’t judge the time very well. I don’t know why.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has developed a bit of a neuroses about time as a result of dad’s endemic lateness, though. So with John, Bex, and I keeping track of time frames and schedules the entire weekend ran neatly within the time frames we plotted out, and allowed us plenty of free time in between entertainments for relaxation and conversation. We left on time every single morning, which just made the entire visit so smooth and stress-free.

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Monday was John’s birthday. Dad gave him a card and a gift (a multi-tool for his upcoming motorcycle trip), and the gift from Kidling and me is in the mail (to be delivered tomorrow). Bex has never been to the Tacoma Museum of Glass, so we went there first. They had some pretty cool exhibits, including a fun interactive one with light-up letters. I had fun spelling out Happy Bday for John.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

When we were done, we went to the Japanese Garden and Rose Gardens over by the zoo. We used to go there all the time when I was a kid. I remember on gloomy days, my mom used to strap us all in the car and say, “Let’s go look for the sun!” … we always seemed to end up there. I told John that story when we were dating, and ever since, he packs us into the car on bad days so we can search out the sun. We usually wander a bit further afield than Tacoma, though.

All in all, this was an awesome weekend with some of the most awesome people in my life. I’m so happy that my dad and sister came out for my graduation, and that my husband was able to take vacation and spend this whole weekend with us, and that my son was able to join me when I walked across the stage to accept my “degree.” I’m so glad I was able to spend father’s day with the two most important dads in my life — my husband (father of my child), and my dad.

I can’t even find the words to really explain how great this whole weekend was. It was absolutely perfect, and I feel like I need to do something big and amazing to show John and Kidling how much it meant to me. I mean, Kidling gave up his bed for our houseguests, John pretty much forfeited his birthday celebration, and we all tried to stop swearing for the weekend (with some amusing missteps). Plus, we’re a bunch of homebodies who rarely invite people over, and we had houseguests over for four nights. But everyone was patient and understanding and we all had a great time. I LOVE MY FAMILY!!!!

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Auto Shop Sexism, Graduation, and Guests!

Wow, super busy week here. The last two weeks were crammed with finals — exams and projects — and evaluations. I did well on my evals, and two of my professors offered to write letters of recommendation should I continue on to graduate studies. I am also strongly being encouraged to take my LSATs and pursue a law degree, but I’m ambivalent.

Haha, but no. It’s really just the debt.

I mean, on the one hand, I’d love to go to law school; I think it sounds amazing and challenging and very interesting. On the other hand, a friend of mine graduated in 2011 with her JD and this year with her LLM. She was 3rd in her class at a prestigious university, part of the law review, had a scholarship and a spouse to help ameliorate her debt … and she’s still $20k in debt with job offers of $25/ hr. That’s not a shabby starting wage for a BA, but for a top-scoring advanced law degree?

Uh, wow. I knew the legal field was glutted, but that’s worrisome. I’m going to keep asking around, talking to other recent law school grads. I don’t want to burden my family with that level of debt without any return on the investment. I’m also considering looking at overseas graduate programs, so long as I can move my family with me.

In other news, my dad and sister are coming in to town for my graduation. They’ll be here through Monday, so we’ll get to celebrate my graduation, Father’s Day, and John’s birthday with them.

My aunt sent me a lovely hand-woven basket and a check as a graduation gift, too, which was really thoughtful and sweet. I’ve filled the basket with the polished rocks John has collected during his rockhounding trips and placed it as a decorative centerpiece in the middle of the table. John has taken 2 weeks vacation time for their visit, the visit of some out of state friends, and a mini family vacation.

Our out-of-state (and country!) guests will arrive next week, after my family leaves. I’m super excited to see them. “Luis” I’ve known for over a decade. He’s a fellow writer and an incredibly intelligent, funny, nice guy. He’s been dating “Rini” from the UK long-distance for awhile now, and this is her second visit to the USA — and I get to meet her! I know her online and have spoken with her through IM and Skype. She’s super amazepants, so I’m pretty excited to meet her in person.

In other, minor venting news, I finally got our car to the shop. They called me and said the wires to the ignition coils were exposed, so we needed to replace the wires, spark plugs, and ignition coils. They said the coils were about $200/ ea, and it would cost approximately $800 to fix the whole shebang (work discounted).

So, of course, I let John know. Okay, why is it that John can always argue the auto shop down $200 – $300 from what they quote me? They call me and are like, “Uhhh, it’s gonna be $800 to fix your car. Those parts are spendy,” and I’m like, “Okie dokie!”

So John looks at the proposed invoice, calls them, and is like, “Uh, these coils are like $60/ea if I buy them and do the work myself.”

So they drop the price to $500. What is that? What is that?

He did this last time, too, when they quoted me this massive amount for the timing belt and I was all stressed out at work trying to negotiate the car pick up and figure out the budget and my (ex) boss was flipping me crap about riding my motorcycle while my car was getting repaired because I was driving it to death on her stupid daily non-office-related chores.

That time, John called the auto shop and was like, “Wow, you’re quoting my wife really high for a pretty simple job. How ’bout I send AAA to pick up the car and bring it home, and I’ll fix it myself?”

And the shop was like, “Oh, sorry, here’s a discount and we’ll have the work done today — you can pick it up in half an hour.”

I swear to god, I always thought auto shop sexism was a myth, or at least that I didn’t get it because I look all butch with my short hair and motorcycle. But nope, apparently I am not exempt from the vagina markup. This fucking pisses me off.

Mainstream is not Controversial

There’s a funny thing that happens in places like Washington. We’re a little liberal corner of the world, unnoticed by most. I often joke that the national news stops in Oregon. When Colorado legalized pot, the time zones and news cycle made it huge news: The first state to legalize pot! Even now, most news stories seem to focus on how pot legalization is rolling out in Colorado. Hardly anyone seemed to notice or mention that Washington legalized both pot and gay marriage in one fell swoop.

Someone once told me Washington has the highest amount of churches per capita, and the lowest attendance. We’re home to The Evergreen State College, a highly respected liberal arts college. We have the highest minimum wage in the country, and rank among America’s wealthiest states. In 2012, the median household income in Washington was $57,573, while the national median household income was $51,37. It’s a beautiful state, is what I’m saying — not just in terms of clean air, plentiful wildlife, and beautiful state parks, but in terms of liberal state policies.

It does have problems — all states do. Washington, for example, has a population that is almost 86% white, which means most white Washingtonians are raised and interact in largely white-only populations. This creates an interesting situation where many of the left-leaning liberal anti-racism Washingtonians are actually pretty uneducated about race relations, and often labor under the mistaken conclusion that racism as a whole is in the past, and people of color experience no real fallout from racism.

In fact, Washington’s biggest problem is a sort of persistent denial that racism, misogyny, anti-atheism (or paganism, or any non-Christian religion), and homophobia are still pretty damn mainstream and well-accepted in large swathes of America. One of the most frustrating and frequent conversations I find myself having in my little liberal corner of the ‘verse is debating the existence of discrimination (or worse, that “reverse discrimination” is a thing).

Something I want to say to everyone who earnestly argues things like, “We don’t need to worry about the girls, we need to worry about the boys,” or, “The only people who won’t say [n-word] are people who are afraid of looking racist. It’s just a word,” or that workers who look for higher wages are lazy and unambitious: Your views are not controversial. They are not new.

It might seem like you’re adopting a radical philosophy because you happen to be enmeshed in a tiny liberal little corner of the country and world, and your particular social group likely does not agree with your stance — but if you move to pretty much any small town (even in liberal states like Washington!) or any stretch of the midwest or South, your views become the norm. Your views are the status quo. Your “controversial” opinions are the tired, worn out arguments that are repeated ad nauseum across the internet, news media, marketing world, and history books to justify discrimination of all sorts. You are the status quo, mindlessly repeating the bill of goods you’ve been sold.

I want to say this, but I don’t. Because I have said it, in the past, and I know what the response is. They say, no, I’m wrong. I’m close minded. I just am refusing to hear their response. In online debates, they read the first three lines of my response and angrily type out their rebuttal without ever reaching the body or the conclusion.

I did not grow up identifying as atheist, or feminist, or as an LGBT ally. I was not raised in an environment or culture where pro-union sentiment, progressive politics, and critical race theory were taught.

Religiously, I was raised LDS. I was baptized at 8 years old, and I was taught that men were the natural leaders of the household and religious institutions. I was taught that women existed as complements to men, to be helpmeets, mothers, and eternal companions. I learned, and believed, that I could not achieve the highest levels of heaven without a husband. I believed watching porn was a sin akin to adultery. I believed divorce was the sundering of the most sacred and special relationship available on earth. I was taught I was a warrior in the “Rising Generation,” and I believed that I was among the select, chosen by God to bring His word to the world in the last days. I was taught that Mormons were hated and discriminated against, that lies were told about us, and that we were persecuted. As a pre-teen, I wrote a short story (and imagined a longer novel) about a dystopian future where an anti-religious secularist government rounded up all the Mormons into concentration camps in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada — and I didn’t think it was an insane impossibility.

My parents voted Republican — my mom even campaigned for Nixon — and so when I turned 18, I voted Republican. I was anti-abortion. I didn’t even know homosexuality was a thing until I was 17. I didn’t think about gay sex or relationships or rights. My schools were largely populated with white people — “diversity” to me meant the students of Japanese, Chinese, or Korean descent. We had some native Hawai’ians in our ward who used to do a traditional hula/ fire dance at ward talent shows. I had four black classmates in middle school, but when a new high school opened up the following year, I went to the established school while they (and all the other “urban” students in the area) went to the newly opened school.

In other words, I was an LDS Christian white girl, raised in the political and religious attitudes of my parents and community. I spent the first 23 years of my life intentionally not seeking out information that contradicted my views. I was not the best or most devout mormon, but I did believe in the doctrine completely. I voted Republican. I voted for President Bush. In our state election, I voted for Rossi and complained bitterly about stolen elections when Gregoire won. I believed movements that agitated for the rights of women, minorities, and workers were unnecessary; that their aims had already been achieved and their equality enshrined and protected by law.

Because my dad was a lawyer, I was well versed in how to debate. I knew the arguments for my side. I knew the talking points of the arguments for the opposing side. What I did not know was the meat of the arguments; the history and the why — for either side. I thought I did, and to my everlasting shame, there are numerous conversations in my past where I hotly defended anti-abortion laws and the opposition of gay marriage.

But somewhere between my mom’s death and starting college, I began to question my assumptions and attitudes about the world. I began to research the issues. I began to expand my reading and worldview, and I discovered that the world I thought I knew did not exist.

I still learned wonderful things in my childhood, and I don’t regret it. I love my parents. They taught me to be compassionate and forgiving. They taught me the value of respectful debate, and of considering both the micro and macro. They taught me that a system can be perfect, but the people who enact it are imperfect and flawed. Their lessons, perhaps ironically, made it easier for me to divorce my emotional response to the facts and history and consider the information based on its merits.

When I assess the validity of information, I usually ask myself questions such as, Is it peer reviewed? Is it accepted by an academic consensus? Are the conclusions supported by statistical data, ethnographic research, and/ or longitudinal studies? What are the goals of the sources — who funded them? Why? What were their research methods? How do they distribute their conclusions? Are they engaging in deceptive tactics to get their information out?

For example, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is widely accepted and cited by both conservative and liberal academics and experts as a non-partisan and non-profit group that studies American economic policies. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is backed by a marketing firm who is funded by a cadre of conservative businessmen opposed to increasing the minimum wage. Their “studies” contradict all the statistical, longitudinal, and historical research regarding economics — but their web addresses are (respectively) www.epi.org and www.epionline.org. Someone who doesn’t know how to assess sources could easily confuse the two and think that the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is the well-regarded Economic Policy Institute (EPI) cited by every economic expert in the media.

When I am examining the long-term impact of historical forms of discrimination, I follow the thread all the way through to today. When historical information is cited, I ask, Where the information comes from? Are contemporary documents cross-referenced? Are the archival and archaeological records compared and contrasted? What were the immediate effects? The generational effects? What were the political and social responses to the situation? How did the issue evolve?

Because my parents taught me to back up my arguments and encouraged my tendency to academic curiosity and research (though, admittedly, they were not nearly as comfortable with religious self-examination, which somewhat stymied my predilections), I learned to ask these questions of my sources and research fairly early on.  Sadly, I didn’t apply these research methods and source assessments to socio-political and religious issues until I was in my mid-20s.

Still, I did. Eventually I did. So when someone comes to me and tries to tell me that racism is a thing of the past, or that misogyny isn’t a real issue, I find it incredibly frustrating because we’re approaching the discussion from completely different spaces. I used to hold those views and determined through prolonged and intense study that I was wrong; whereas they ignore the research and data I present them to just yell over me that I’m not listening and I am wrong.

You’re not controversial. You’re not new. You’re not innovative. You’re mouthing the same justifications to perpetuate discrimination that have been mouthed in various permutations for decades. You’re approaching the same old problems in the same old way, but you think you’re unique and innovative and different because you happen to live in one of the little liberal pockets of the ‘verse where your beliefs are challenged by your peers instead of sliding by unopposed.