Monday, July 27, 2015

"Hey, Boo-Boo!"

Last Tuesday, I awoke to the sound of crashing ocean waves; the softly wafting sea air, and the cadent caw! caw! of the seagulls making their morning sojourn to the shoreline for breakfast.  I truly do live in paradise – a funky, red-trimmed, Cape Cod-style home, surrounded by blossoming sweet peas and Queen Annes lace – nestled at the end of a short gravel path that spills out onto thirty miles of pristine oceanfront property.*

*Of course, we are also Ground Zero for the impending Cascade Subduction  Zones apocalyptic 9.0 earthquake/tsunami.  So, its only a matter of time before the Pacific decides to go all 50 Shades of Ocean Spray on our asses and we are vaporized by a 100 foot tidal wave like the end of some craptacular Tea Leoni movie.  But. . .you know. . .YOLO.

Anyhoo, as it was garbage day, and I was feeling all proactive and shit, I punched the on button on the coffee maker, jammed my pitifully unpedicured feet into my husbands flip-flops, and wandered down the porch steps to drag our trash can out to the street.  Approximately 23 seconds later I clomped back up the steps in a stage 4 huff and angrily confronted Norm, who was blithely humming as he retrieved the half-and-half from the refrigerator.

Some stupid teenagers knocked over our trashcan!  I sputtered, kicking my (his) flip-flops into the sunroom.  Theres garbage all the way up the hill, so those little bastards must have drug it off into the woods!

Norm cocked his head and looked at me with his patented do not arouse the crazy woman look and smiled.  First of all, I find it hard to believe that our discarded coffee grounds and empty toilet paper rolls are a hot commodity with the local hooligans; and secondly, we live in a town of less than 2,000 people.  We dont have neighbors, Jen, let alone roving bands of dumpster-diving miscreants."*

*Oh, yeah.  Before you ask, the answer is:  Yes.  In thirty years I WILL be the barefoot cat lady standing on my lawn, waving a rake and muttering about those meddling kids like a geriatric Scooby-Doo villain.

Norm shrugged amiably as he slowly sipped his coffee.  Not a lot of wind coming off of the ocean last night, so it must have been a bear.

Wait. . .wha-what?

I froze to the spot, thinking (a) how can my husband be so blasé about the fact that our home is surrounded by wild animals that would love nothing more than to play our intestines like a meat harp, and (b) I really hope that wasnt the last cup of coffee.* 

*Because. . .priorities.

Bears?  I asked tremulously.  Like. . .bowls of porridge and pic-a-nic baskets, bears?

Norm calmly nodded and handed me a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee (My preeeeeeeecioussssss). Well, he mused a little less Disney and a little more Animal Planet, but yeah.  Bears.

OK, now I feel I must insert a few bullet points here to better elucidate my husbands and my rather divergent reactions to our front yard suddenly turning into the Hundred Acre Wood.  To wit:

  • Norm was raised in Northern British Columbia on a farm with his five sisters.  By the time he was eight, the boy could hunt elk, drive a logging truck, and build a survival shelter.
  • I was raised in Eugene, Oregon, with one sister.  When I was eight I was kicked out of the Girl Scouts due to my glaring lack of functional life skills.
  • When Norm was a boy he walked five miles to school in the snow...uphill...both ways.
  • When I was a girl, I rode the bus...6 blocks...because I was afraid of the neighbor's dog.
  • Before we met, Norm owned a hobby farm with 18 goats, 130 chickens, two horses, and a mule named Walter.
  • So far my death toll includes 2 hermit crabs, 4 goldfish, and a hamster named Biggie Smalls.
See where I'm going here?  

"You seem shockingly cavalier for a man who has just announced that Yogi and Boo Boo were recently having brunch in his front yard."  I said with an arched brow.

Norm chuckled.  "They're just black bears, Jen.  They live all over the peninsula.  In fact, last year I was jogging down the main road and one crossed the street right in front of me."

I sputtered, coffee turning my once-white T-shirt into a caffeine-laden Jackson Pollock.*

*Because I'm classy like that.

"It just, like, WALKED in front of you!?"  I cried.  "Like, how did it walk?  What did it do?"

Norm shrugged and refilled his coffee mug.  "Oh, you know.  It just crossed over to compliment me on my running shoes, we exchanged business cards, and. . .it was a BEAR, Jen!  It just looked at me like 'Hi, human, I'm a bear' and it walked away.  No big deal."

"No big DEAL!?"  I countered, futilely dabbing at my coffee-stained shirt with a damp rag.  "It's a 400 pound bag of teeth and claws that is -- based on our garbage -- not terribly discriminating about what it eats.  And once the Berenstein Bears get a taste of human food, isn't it a pretty logical and food-chain-y step that eventually they'll see humans AS food?"

Norm smiled patiently and kissed me gently on the forehead.  "Pretty sure they're more interested in our leftover meatloaf than in a 120-pound bag of crazy."  He chuckled and wandered back upstairs to his office, calling over his shoulder,"If you're that worried, start carrying the Buck knife I got you."

"Yeah, sure!"  I called after him.  "For the record, I'm pretty sure that bears have, like, FIVE of those on each paw!"

It has now been one week since that conversation.  So far, no bear sightings.  But tomorrow is ((gulp)) trash day.

"Hello, Clarice."

Hold me. . .


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

As many of you know, the short people and I recently packed up and moved to Washington state.  Initially, I received some guff for leaving the great nation of Portlandia, until everyone realized that (a) the move came as a result of my getting married last year and marriages are generally more successful when couples actually, you know, LIVE together, and (b) we moved into a house with a ginormous backyard that sits on 30 miles of sandy beach with pounding ocean waves and pelicans and HOLY CRAP I LIVE IN PARADISE!!!!!
Of course, while BEING here is rad as shit, GETTING here was a giant bag of crazy.  Regardless of how organized, motivated, or well-funded you are, moving blows harder than a Kardashian at an NFL after-party.

Par example. . .


Regardless of how fastidious a housekeeper you believe yourself to be, when you move your furniture, you will find stains on your carpets that are darker than Stephen King’s dream journal.   And no amount of Rug Doctor, Stanley Steemer, nor “. . .all great Neptune’s ocean will wash this clean”. *

*Macbeth;  Act 2, Scene 2.  To all those who claimed I’d never use my Liberal Studies degree, thou mayeth suck it.

My advice?  Invest in throw rugs, and pray for buyers with questionable hygiene.  Trust me, a family with five dreadlocked children named after trees and several large house pets are unlikely to “pooh-pooh” a carpet that looks like a family of Welsh coal miners have been playing Twister on it for the last four years.


Seriously.  Do not be lured by their siren’s song of “$29 Dollars a Day”.  Lies, I tell you.  LIES!!!  First of all, that’s only for moves within the city limits.  Does it say that on the van?  Does it have a beautiful picture of the city skyline reading: “Trenton – City of Lost Dreams”?  No.  IT says “New Jersey – The Garden State”; which is all well and good unless you are driving more than 10 miles across the Garden State, in which case U-Haul will pound your ass like a narc at a prison riot.  And did I mention that they also charge you for mileage?  And gas?  And, umm, I know cars are fueled by fossils and – granted -- the thought that your Dodge Rambler is tooling around on the blood of raptors IS pretty fucking epic, I still don’t know which Machiavellian conversion chart deems that U-Hauls cannot be gassed up for less than $5 a gallon.  Cut your losses, y’all.  Now is the time to either invest in a utility trailer…*

*Norm got me one last year for Valentine’s Day, and believe me, nothin’ says lovin’ like being able to haul a couch, two kayaks, and seven years worth of nostalgia for less than $10 a day.  Bam.

…or purge yourself of all worldly goods (aka. furniture) and just go all zen and minimalist on your new place.   Namaste.


Like Norm’s contact solution. . . Or my running shoes. .  . Or the short people’s underwear.  Of course, there really is no reason for the absence of the third item(s) except to acknowledge that my children are not terribly bright.


One of the glorious things about combining two homes, aside from the whole “one heart, one hand” schizz, is the do-si-do of which photographs will occupy your wall space.  Yes, he had a life before you, as you did before him.  So, how do you determine which Kodak moments will grace your coffee table and refrigerator door?  Here is a Clif’s Notes version of what may (and may not) be deemed acceptable décor. . .

1)      A photograph of you and your college friends arm-in-arm as you stand in front of your first car?   Acceptable.
2)      A photograph of you and your college friends arm-in-arm as you stand in front of the eyewitness at a police line-up?   As long as the statute of limitations has not expired, you may want to rethink this one.

1)      A snapshot of your husband lovingly cradling his newborn children?   Green light.
2)      A snapshot of your husband lovingly cradling his junk?  RED LIGHT!  So.  Much.  Red.

1)      The glorious image of his ex-wife beaming as she walks down the aisle on their wedding day?  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!
2)      The glorious image of his ex-girlfriend beaming as she grinds on a stripper pole in a naughty schoolgirl outfit?   Are you shitting me?


“Oh, this is all just ‘stuff’,” you’ll cry.  “Really!  Get rid of whatever you want; it’s just ‘stuff’.”
This is a lie.  Do not EVER underestimate the power of another person’s ‘stuff’.  When you combine homes and find you have the sum total of 14 spatulas, 6 TVs, and 4 rice cookers (don’t ask), you will be compelled to the whole TLC ‘Hoarders’ meets ‘Intervention’ on your cribs and start purging like Kobiyashi after a Fourth of July weenie roast.  Abort mission!  Abort!  Mission!  What once was ‘stuff’ suddenly has a whole new and deeper meaning when in the hands of another clueless, albeit well-meaning, individual.

I present into evidence the following. . .*

*And, no.  These are totally not rhetorical.

What seems like a “why-in-hell-would-anyone-save-this?” broken piece of plastic to you will inevitably wind up being the integral part of some high-tech, expensive, manly shaving system that your husband will grumblingly dig out of the garbage while he (not so) secretly wonders about your mental stability as represented by your inability to recognize its intrinsic value.

Of course, you too will have the singular moment of “Da fuq?” when you discover your framed high school senior portrait face-down in the trash because your husband didn’t understand why you kept a picture of John Denver all these years.*

*It was the 80’s.  Don’t judge.  In my defense, my bangs were Rocky Mountain HIGH, suckahs.

But the bottom line is: all the crap you save, toss, box up, and recycle. . .it truly is just ‘stuff’.  And stuff will not be sitting across from you at the dinner table.  Stuff will not be running through the backyard, howling with laughter.  Stuff will not hold you when you break down, or make love to you, or argue with you over who clogged the toilet or left the bathroom light on.  Stuff will come and go out of your life like a  breeze, so quit being so fucking obsessed with it and focus on the people surrounded by the ‘stuff’; because they will be the ones holding your hand when you leave this earth, not your CD rack or your high school yearbook.

This last week and a half has been Crazytown , and admittedly, I’ve been weepier than a tween at a ‘One Direction’ farewell tour.  Saying goodbye to my old life, starting my new one, walking through the empty rooms of the house I proudly bought, and making my mark on my husband’s home. . .we’ve been tap-dancing around each other nervously, trying to figure out where we all fit.  But, sitting here now, at the writing desk Norm set up for me because (and I quote), “You’re a writer, Jen.  You need to write”; listening to my children downstairs, making their breakfast and talking excitedly about the day’s plans, smiling up at my husband as he tells me “You look exceptionally beautiful today”, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where we fit.  Not just this town, or this house, but all of us together.  We fit.  And no matter where we are, or where we go, or how many times and places we move. . .we fit.  We are a family.
Much love, people.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Portlandia...Er, Washingtonia Mom?

First of all, let me apologize for being all angsty "Gone Girl" and going the full J.D. Salinger on y'all.

I have to say, I've kinda enjoyed the hiatus.  Not that I don't miss writing, I DO!  But it's been rather cathartic to be a lazy motherfucker for the last six months; with my biggest "deadline" being finishing my NetFlix queue of "Orange Is The New Black" before season three kicks off.  But now, it's time to reenter the land of the living from my toasty newlywed cocoon of love and lust and all the rest of that sappy Nicholas Sparks crap.*

*By the way, Norm is the raddest husband in...EVER!  He shares my sense of humor (God help us all), encourages my shenanigans, and feels that lemon meringue pie and M&M's are totally acceptable breakfast entrees.  I love him mad hard.

My next few weeks of posts are going to be a rather erratic montage of marital bliss and "WTF!?!?" as within the next 12 days my family is moving from bustling Portland, Oregon, to a coastal town in Washington with a population of less than 2,000 people (and no Starbucks.  I shit you not.)  As such, I will be transitioning from a life in academia and the non-profit sector to being a full-time homeschooling, organic gardening mom.*

*I swear this is true.  And no. . .I haven't been drinking.

Sooooo, buckle up, y'all.  We're packing up the clan and we're leaving Beverlyyyyyyy...*

*Hills, that is.

This oughta be good.  :-)


Friday, April 3, 2015


I watch you sleep.

On the cusp of your 59th year on this planet; the 21,535th time you've closed your eyes in slumber, I watch you sleep.  And that, in and of itself is noteworthy.

"You just never know what a day might bring", you are fond of saying -- sometimes in mirth, sometimes with a cynical curl of your lip -- but it is true.  Life is nothing more than a series of tiny survivals; endlessly strung together to create a span of time that defines us all.  And you have survived.  You are here.  "How do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mister Death?"  For he is unvanquished.  Still, he lives.

I watch you sleep.

Your brow puckers faintly, eyes flickering behind gossamer lids.  Do you dream?  Are you at peace?  What demons dare chase you even in slumber?  Perhaps you are a child again, wandering the forests of British Columbia, trailing behind your father's muddy work boots. Maybe you are an achingly young man, laughing in the bed of a pickup truck with your friend, Lorne.  Maybe in your dreams you fly; aloft with the pelicans, swooping over the stormy gray Pacific waters. Or do you dream of things not yet seen?  A spirit world known only to you.  I will not ask.  Your dreams are yours and yours alone and a gift between you and God.

I watch you sleep.

I see the marks upon your skin.  A faint discoloration on your nose where you rubbed it raw as a child.  The feather-light lines at the corners of your eyes from years of squinting into the sunlight from the seats of motorcycles and dandling ski lift chairs. Your slightly crooked smile from a bar fight in your youth, when you were flying high on hockey, beer, and youthful immortality.

I watch you sleep.

I watch you sleep and as you stir, your arms reaches for me clumsily, and I feel the warmth of your skin against my belly.  You curl into my body and my shoulder presses gently against your strongly beating heart.  I feel the blood coursing through you; Irish from your father, German from your mother.  Generations of Teutonic and Celtic warriors that battle through your veins and cry out "He lives! Despite your best attempts, oh life of toil and terror -- still, he lives!"

I watch you sleep, and as I nestle against you, my hair trails against your shoulder, and I rest my hand upon your chest.  Watching as it slowly rises and falls with your breathing, I imagine the hands that have lain here before mine.  A grandmother, checking for fever.  A mother, bandaging a wound.  Your children, faces milk-drunk and drowsy, as they sleepily nuzzle upon you after a late-night bottle.  And the women before me:  each one resting against your shoulder, hands on your chest, and each of you holding onto each other with something that felt like hope...something that made you both believe that, if only for a moment, there was love.  I welcome them all.  Your family, your lovers, your friends...I open my heart to them and thank them, one and all, for every kiss, every caress, every scar, and every strike, because they made you.  They molded you with every touch and every tear, like a creek slowly chipping away at a canyon wall to make the man who lies beside me and takes my breath away.

I watch you sleep, and I see your children in your face.  I see your determination and intelligence in the set of your daughter's jaw and the intensity of her gaze.  I see your tender heart and ebullient joy in your son's dreamy hazel eyes and warm smile.  I see your legacy in their faces and I glory in the gift of being given admittance into their lives through you. Through them, your life continues indefinitely.  Through them, you shall never die.

I watch you sleep.

I watch you sleep, listening to the soft purring noise you make that brings a smile to my face.  I watch you sleep, nudging you gently when that soft purr slowly becomes a louder, snoring growl which is...not quite as smile-inducing.  But even that mild annoyance is a gift; a treasure.  It is a way I know you are here, even in sleep.

I watch you sleep.

I watch you sleep and know that soon you will wake.  I will wish you a "Happy Birthday", you will smirk and drawl "thank you, Darlin'", and we will wander to the kitchen for our morning coffee.  Then, I hand you over to the rest of the world, for you are not a are not mine to keep.  In a few hours, the world will reach for you with its ringing phones, chirping texts, Facebook messages, deadlines, budget reports, and needy, clinging talons and you will be gone.  But for now, you belong to no one but the night. And she is not a jealous lover...the night shares you with me and I gaze upon your face with wonderous awe.

I watch you sleep.

I watch you sleep and I know peace.

I watch you sleep and I know love.

I watch you sleep, and I drift away as well; your breath on my neck, your arm on my waist, and my heart in your hand.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy, Joyous, and Free

Happy New Year, one and all.  As it the morning after a holiday replete with more alcohol than The Sigma Chi house during Hell Week, I thought I’d take a minute to rant a bit on something that’s been bouncing around in my brain like a toddler on Red Bull.

Many of you know that I am an alcoholic.  And, in case you didn’t: “Hi, my name is Jen…”  As an alcoholic, I have learned that the only way to not wind up insane, incarcerated, or dead is to schlep my punk ass to an A.A. meeting at least once a day, read my Big Book, and have some serious tete-a-tetes with the Big Man Upstairs.  And, really. . .how cool is that?  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was eight years old and wrote an essay stating: “When I grow up I want to be a weepy drunk who plows her car into a tree and winds up in a jail cell with a 300 pound woman who smells like flop sweat and PBR but as far as diseases go, at least I got slapped with one that comes with jalepeno poppers and umbrella drinks.  Sorry. . .gallows humor.  In all seriousness, though, how cool is it to have a disease in common with doctors, lawyers, Academy Award winning actors, brilliant artists, and some of the raddest mofos in the Portland metro area.  And the treatment for this disease?  It’s totally FREE!  I get to hang out with these crazy bastards, eat candy, and talk about myself.  I’m telling you, A.A. is the bomb.  For realz.  But while I loves me some A.A. like a fat kid loves cake, I am increasingly made aware of the appalling lack of understanding surrounding addiction and recovery in this country today.

While I think The United States of America is the coolest kid on the block, and I cry like a little bitch whenever I hear The Star Spangled Banner, it pisses me right off every time I hear debates and political filibustering about spending tax dollars to place restrictions on the sale of drugs and alcohol.  This may seem counterintuitive to what I’ve just said, but bear with me. . .  History has shown that banning illegal substances/activities does nothing to curtail their production and consumption.  While prostitution is still technically illegal in Oregon, you can get a knob-shine from the gal of your choice on East Burnside.  And do you know when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded?  Two years after Prohibition was repealed; which should indicate to you the efficacy of attempting to banbathtub gin.  If I felt like really letting my Republican flag fly I could draw a parallel to the increasing fervor regarding the restriction of firearms in this country, but I digress.

The point is that the United States government could declare a militant fatwa on mind-altering substances and Americans will revert to licking toads and huffing Scotch Guard to get high.  It’s human nature to want to feel less. . .human.

Maybe, instead of spending billions of dollars on federal prohibition statutes, and propping up Nancy Reagan’s St. Johns knit-clad corpse to remind us to “Just Say No”, we could spend some of those government dollars to subsidize treatment facilities for those recovering from addiction. . .or open some sober living facilities across this country that will help men and women in recovery learn to acclimate to life in the “real” world, rather than kicking them out of a detox facility after 28 days and leaving them blinking in the sunlight as fucked up and confused as a groupie when Lollapalooza leaves town.

Addicts and alcoholics need treatment.  They need recovery.  They need a chance to feel like human beings rather than second-class citizens, because despite the stigma surrounding addiction, it is, in fact, a neurological condition.  You wouldn’t fire someone for having epilepsy, would you?*

*Well. . .you might.  If you were an asshole.  But, I like to think that most people aren’t.  Life is just more pleasant that way.

You wouldn’t ostracize someone with clinical depression.  And I’m betting you wouldn’t lock someone in jail for having post traumatic stress disorder.  And yet, according to statistics, of the 2.3 million prisoners in our nations prison system, 1.5 million meet the criteria for drug and alcohol dependency. 

One-point-five-freaking-million.  Take a minute to ponder that shit.

Have you pondered.  Good.  OK, moving on then. . .

Perhaps. . .just perhaps. . .our tax dollars would be better spent providing rehabilitation services rather than paying to have someone sit on a concrete bench in an orange jumpsuit watching Adam Sandler movies.  Here’s a thought:  Why do we find it necessary to punish someone who has already done a blue-ribbon job of punishing themselves?  None of us entered A.A. or rehab on a winning streak, folks.  We don’t drink and use because we have a drug and/or alcohol problem; we drink and use because we have a LIFE problem.  So, why not focus more on venturing down the rabbit hole and figuring out WHY we ended up at T.J. McChucklenuts every night sucking on mai tais, rather than slapping our hands like recalcitrant children?

What sort of pious, self-righteous, society have we become when we spend our time wringing our hands in righteous indignation over these despicable addicts and alcoholics while we pop another Xanax and surf some internet porn.  Addiction is addiction, y’all.  Legal or not, we all have our shit.  So why don’t we all start owning our own, rather than throwing other people’s in their faces like a spastic orangutan.

I say, free the courts and jails of sick men and broken women who feel the need to use chemicals just to feel human.  Rather than banning alcohol, let’s tax the ever-loving shit out of it and use that money to provide cognitive therapy, and rehabilitation for people devastated by its use.  But, most importantly, let’s stop deluding ourselves into believing that treating someone like shit who already doesn’t believe they deserve to live isn’t doing anybody any fat, freaking favors.

Ten percent of the population of the United States of America is an alcoholic and/or drug addict.  Ten percent.  She’s making your latte at Starbucks.  He’s passing you the offering plate at church.  She’s teaching your sons and daughters to read.  He’s falling asleep next to you at night.  She’s sitting at her computer, reaching out to you and begging that if you make but one New Year’s Resolution this year, that it be this one:  Show compassion.

Happy New Year to you all.  I wish you peace, love, and joy in 2015.