Thursday, November 11, 2021

Building Our Dream (?) House?

I might have mentioned, we almost moved back in May. It didn't work out (the real estate market is cooling off but still pretty cut-throat), and since then, we had the water heater bust a pipe (again), and we had to do a bunch of remediation and repair. Then James decided we needed to move the pigeon/chicken loft/tool shed, because we realized it's probably on the corner of our leach field. This weekend, Luke actually pointed out to us that the leach field has a leak (not at the shed; elsewhere). And Sunday night, we had to call our a/c guys for a recurring problem we have with our a/c drain clogging. 

Note: I started this blog post on October 13. Since then, our heat pump has malfunctioned and fortunately the company we use came out and didn't charge us. But also, we've realized that water is STILL getting into our house in the master bedroom. James pulled out the molded baseboards and drywall, and we pulled back the carpet and pad (again) to dry out the subfloor. We fixed a roof thing, tested it, and it seemed okay. But there was STILL WATER GETTING INTO THE HOUSE. We later realized there was a crack in the masonry, and maybe that was it? While James was fixing that, Laura noticed that our non-functional outdoor shower (only has hot water, so is scalding after a few moments) was kind of moldy around the handle. Got a plumber out to look at it and they closed off the valves, one of which (hot, of course) was dripping... for who knows how long. THEN we got a leak detection company out today, and they actually capped the lines to the shower just to be extra safe, and they could not make any more water come into the floor. For good measure, they caulked around the shower trim we had installed five months ago. I'm still nervous. I'll be un-nervous after a month has passed and we've had a good rain and there is no more water getting into the house.

Moving on...

This kind of thing makes me think we should rent.

We talked about it: selling our house and moving to a rental. The problem is that if you rent from a private owner, they're liable to sell the house out from under you. And if you live in an apartment... well, James's options for a workshop are pretty bleak.

So, we had our back lot surveyed, and spent the past month working through a "program" from an architect James found and really liked. We've sent the program in, and he's going to ponder it for a while and get started on some drawings. We know we want to build with eco-friendly materials like cob or straw bale or earth bags. We know we want the house to be whimsical and modest. We know we don't want to be paying property tax on three lots anymore, too.

James is thinking about re-platting our lots so that we take the part of the second lot our yard is on and make it part of the lot where we're planning to build, mostly to assure that we have lots of trees and no one decides to buy this house on the two lots, move the fence in, clear the second lot, and built another house right up on us.

So, hang on to your butts... we'll see how this goes!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Marrying Mal

A few weeks ago, Mal was asking me if his cousin's son was his in-law. I told him no, he doesn't have any in-laws. He was pretty bummed by it, and I explained that he wouldn't have in-laws until he got married. He thought about it for a few moments, then said, "If, in the future, I married Kona, then you'd be her mother-in-law! And her mom would be my mother-in-law."

He was pretty excited about the idea, and that was that.

Until a few days later... 

We'd been at a homeschool gathering, and on the way home, Mal said, "Mom, you know how I've been thinking about the future? Well, Kona has another friend who was thinking about marrying her."

Then the next time we saw them, Mal told me, "His name is Andy. The one who wants to marry Kona. I hope he changes his mind."

I said, "Well, actually it's up to Kona who she marries."

Then next time, after we left, Mal was musing, "I really do hope Kona chooses me." I said, "Mal, you have a lot of time to figure that out." He shook his head and asked, "Mom, have you ever heard that kids grow up quickly?" I tried not to laugh, instead explaining that literally, it was at least eleven years before he could legally get married.

Then after all of that time, earlier this week, we came back to Urban Air for the first time in months (Delta variant is waning). Mal met a girl and played with her for a couple of hours. When she left, Mal came over to me and whispered, "I have a secret that she told me not to tell you... We went and got another piece of candy from the front desk when no one was looking." 

I laughed at that and asked, "Did you tell her we don't care what you eat?" Mal said, "No. But I have another secret." Still whispering in my ear, "You know how Kona has someone else who wants to marry her? I can marry this friend instead." "Do you know her name?" He did not. He ran after to ask, but Urban Air is really loud.

And they all lived happily ever after.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

"You Look Great" as blatant fatphobia

This weekend, I attended an event where one of the people there has lost upwards of 100 pounds during the pandemic. He himself was pretty low-key about it, only talking when people remarked or asked questions. He said that basically his weight loss was due to doing mental health work and realizing that he was spending a lot of time eating to avoid wrestling with his anxiety and other issues.

Twice, I heard people say, "You look great!" Both times, I cringed. Both times, I didn't say anything because I haven't seen these people in at least a year and a half, and some of them I had never met before. When my mom recently remarked that someone who'd lost a bunch of weight "looks great," I said, "She looks smaller. She looked fine before."

I wish I'd spoken up this weekend.

Fatphobia is ugly.

Complementing a person's looks when they have lost weight is fraught. You don't know whether they lost weight on purpose (in this case, it sounded like he hadn't), or even if intentional weight loss is something to celebrate. In my case, I got a LOT of positive feedback when I dropped pounds... but the reason I was doing it was to avoid losing someone's affections. That's not something for which I should have been given a pat on the back. I lost weight to comply with someone else's ideal of feminine beauty. I should have been encouraged to explore why I felt compelled to do that instead of insisting that I be treated with respect regardless of my size.

Furthermore, complementing someone on their weight loss implies that they look better now than they did before. This is problematic on several accounts. One is that, if they are like 95% of people who intentionally lose a great deal of weight, their body will fight to put that weight back on... and it will. So when they return to a larger size, they're left with the ghosts of complements past, and they know that they're being judged as having let themselves go or some other such nonsense.

Another problem is that there are often (and there were in this case) people in the vicinity who weigh in the ballpark of that person's "before." You're basically telling them that they'd be better and more attractive if they could just get it together and drop some poundage. That's thoughtless, and it's rude.

The fact is that thinner people do not objectively look "better" than bigger people. We've learned as a culture to value thinness, but one way to help fix this is to intentionally expose ourselves to a variety of body sizes. It's difficult to do that with mainstream media, because most people on television and in magazines are still extremely small. But a great thing about TikTok and Instagram and YouTube is that you can find bodies that are differently-sized, have different levels of physical ability, and whose gender expressions vary from the pretty narrow spectrum commonly seen in content generated primarily for commercial success.

It seems silly that we have to remind ourselves that fat people aren't failed thin people (thanks, Virgie Tovar), and that there are fat folks living great lives everywhere all of the time. When someone loses weight, it's just that: weight loss. It's not good. It's not bad. It just is. Same as when someone gains weight: not good, not bad... just reality.

If we could find our way to this understanding, life would be so much better for all of us.

And next time, I'm going to say something in that moment. I've really had enough.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Pumpkin Patch, 'tis the season

Last weekend, we visited a dog-friendly pumpkin patch in Temple I'd read about. Because my niece told me we needed to be there RIGHT when it opened (she was right), we stayed in a hotel the night before. D even went with us! It was a nice little 24-hour getaway.

Luke and Mal both settled into the hotel pretty quickly. We realized that Luke's crate wouldn't fit in our car, and I don't think it hurt his feelings at all.

Our plan had been to all (but D) go to the park together, but Mal was having fun at the hotel and wasn't interested in getting out. So I took Luke to a dog park, and my parents met me for about half an hour or so.

The kids had McD's for dinner, and James and I got sandwiches from Krazy Waffle. He had a breakfast sandwich, and I had the Monte Cristo. It was tasty, especially because I'd forgotten to eat lunch.

The night went off without a hitch, and the next morning, we drove ten minutes out to the farm. There is about a mile stretch where the road is one-way, and that's why you don't want to get there after it's open and there is a line. It's like those construction areas where one side of the road is closed. Glad we only had to do that on the way out!

There were tons of photo opportunities, and lots of neat things to do included in the entry price. We also brought home a couple of ornamental and a couple of pie pumpkins.

2 of D's 3 archery attempts. The last was close to the middle, too!

We came back home Saturday night, and Mal had his first Halloween party on Sunday. There were some crafts and he got to play with one of his good friends, so that was nice.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Mal got to play with another friend whose grandparents live around the corner. They made plans to see each other this weekend at the trunk-or-treat and outdoor movie our town is having. We also have a homeschool trunk-or-treat Friday, and one the town over on actual Halloween. Yesterday, my friend from Las Vegas said, "So you'll have candy for a year." I don't think she knows me and my family as well as I had thought... :) 

Thursday, October 7, 2021


In the past year or so, I've had several short bouts with what I think is depression. It comes and goes. (Memo to me: check out Delta-8 gummies.)

Mal has been SUPER into swinging lately. That comes and goes, too... like in his life. It does seem like this time of the year, when it's mostly nice a lot of the day, he wants to spend a lot of time on the swing set. Problem is, he does not know how to swing himself. So there is much asking and begging and cajoling of grown-ups for assistance. Since James works most days, that typically falls to me. One day last week, he was asking me to keep pushing him (even though I already had twice, including the time we were finishing up because I needed to go inside and start on dinner), and I said something that made him cry. It almost made me cry, too, actually. 

I said, "Mal, I love you, and I love to help you do what you want to do. But sometimes I have other things I HAVE to get done. I also have things that I myself want to do, and you know when I get to do them? Never. I don't have any time to do what I want." Now, this was a little exaggeration, and a little mean, though unintentionally. Fact is, I had him because I WANTED a kid, and I wanted to take care of him. Same with the dog. Same with being the designated "homemaker." But in terms of just deciding to do a thing that makes me happy, and then doing that... my life doesn't really allow for much more of that than maybe eating a really good cookie, or watching a television show while I do something else, too.

In thinking about that, I realized that I don't even know what I like to do, or what I'd want to do with free time. Again, I can spend time on my phone throughout the day while I'm sitting with the dog so he'll calm down a bit. I can find pockets of time that randomly show up to do some volunteer work on the computer. But a pottery class? No way. In-person book club? Nope. Even a night out at the movies with a friend? It's just not feasible given how our lives are structured.

Besides, I don't know that, if I had free time, I'd want to do any of those things.

Several people have asked me lately, "What do you like to do in your spare time?" or "What are your hobbies?" And I genuinely don't know. I used to like to write. Now, ehh. I used to like to eat in restaurants. We really haven't done much of that since Mal was born, because he's not a huge "sit in one place for an hour" kind of person. Also, now that I'm out of diet culture, food is not the end-all/be-all it used to be.

All of this might be because it's possible I've entered into perimenopause. 

For the first time since I had Mal, last month, my period was late. Like 2-3 weeks late. I was hoping that I'd just never have another one, but, alas, that is not what happened. When it arrived, it made up for the time it lost, for sure. So maybe also it was heavy on the hormones.

I'm feeling much more balanced this week.

Oh, and we have some cool news coming soon. Maybe even today? Just seemed like it should go in a separate post from this downer. :) So stay tuned!

Sunday, September 19, 2021


I've never been to Europe, but I'd love to visit. It looks beautiful, and old, and so compact compared to Texas. I've never been to Peru, but the idea of Macchu Picchu has intoxicated me since I was a teenager and had a poster in the living room of my first apartment (is it "mine" if my parents paid for it?).

I've been to Disney World multiple times, and flying is definitely the way to go. Actually, the first time we flew (which was the third time we visited), it almost felt "wrong" because the journey getting there the first two times was so much a part of the experience. But spending more days in the park and fewer on the road, after that first time flying, I was hooked.

I spent all week in Hawaii in a state of rapture: the flowers! The ocean! The food! The people! It was a week like none other before or since.

And cruising has taken me to places I didn't even know I wanted to go, but will never ever forget. The village of Chacchoben is one of those little corners of beauty that I didn't realize existed. The island of Roatan is another.

Covid scrapped our plan to fly to California, which we promised Mal would be the last time we'd get on a plane for a while. He's pretty anxious about air travel. I was bummed about not getting to visit Disneyland for the first time, and sad that I wouldn't get to see the Pacific Ocean any time soon... but since then, we've taken some pretty cool "consolation" trips.

Last October, we drove around Hill Country and saw some very cool sites, ate some really good food, and had laid-back family time. It was great.

In November, we went to Port Aransas, which is no CA or HI, but has its own charms. My parents and my sister's family spent Thanksgiving there.

In July, we visited Dallas for a few days (a drive we have well worn over the past decade), and in August, we went to Houston extremely briefly.

In the end, I think James and I have basically agreed that air travel is just a thing of the past for us. In addition to Mal's fears, and even more importantly, we will stop flying for the same reason we got solar panels: The cost to earth is too great.

Sadly, I looked up comparative carbon emissions and saw that cruising is significantly more polluting than flying, per passenger mile. Sigh.

But once I get over the disappointment of thinking I'll never experience a Belgian Christmas, I remember other things: There are wonders everywhere. Staying close to home not only saves wear-and-tear on the planet, it also saves money. Additionally, places like Hueco Tanks park in West Texas only allows about 70 visitors per day, due to the effect of an influx of people has on the surroundings. I'm starting to realize that when we go to "exotic" places like Roatan, and the island has to change to keep up with the expectations of well-heeled tourists, it's the same effect. And it's ironic because now Roatan depends almost entirely on tourism. Here's a very well-done article on all of that.

So, we drive. And probably not too far. At least until we get an electric car and can figure out the charging situation.

What I'd like to see go away is the classist, "Oh, you simply MUST travel. It broadens the mind in ways you just can't find doing anything else." I call BS because I know a lot of people who have traveled extensively and are as small-minded and pompous as anyone else might be. I remember one night, chatting with an older couple at dinner on a -- gasp -- cruise after the magical day at Chacchoben from Costa Maya. While I reeled over the intense beauty and wonder I'd experienced, the woman said to me, "You can understand why they all want to come to America" as she shuddered a little. It was like we'd been on different planets.

Traveling doesn't mean you're worldly. It only means you have the time and means to travel. And good for you. I love traveling! But it's not morally superior to being a person who never leaves their hometown. Can we strike that down, please?

Basically, we want to be better stewards of our planet. That might involve a lot of us deciding to leave most of it well enough alone, and stick to our neighboring destinations. We're ready for that. It's probably beyond time.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

20 Years After 9/11

It's been 20 years since 9/11 changed the world as we know it. In a lot of ways, I feel like this post is probably about as interesting as my mom telling me about where she was when JFK got shot. Or maybe where she was when she found out. That was so interesting to me that I can't remember what she told me. Though I obviously remember that it was important to her. To me, 9/11 wasn't as emotionally impactful as the Challenger blowing up. That's mostly a confession about the shallowness of my priorities as a human being. I'm not proud of this. I recognize that it's a serious flaw in my character, I'm trying to overcome it. A handful of people (including a teacher!) died trying to get into space when I was in junior high. Thousands of people died when terrorists stole planes and changed history by flying them into skyscrapers that symbolized capitalism. I was working in Boulder, CO at the time. I'm almost positive that I lived up the mountain in Nederland. And that I'd taken the bus into work that morning, which is why I hadn't heard any of the news. Someone had brought in an old-school (even for the time) portable TV. It was a clunky CRT thing, with rabbit ears for its antenna. The footage of the planes flying into the buildings was playing over and over. I don't think either had collapsed yet. I'd spent the past few years getting disenchanted with the American government. I'd dropped out of college to join the military for Desert Storm. Back then, everyone I knew was afraid that the goverment would have to bring back the draft (most of our teachers remembered it going away when they were young, and they warned that it was just a matter of time before some serious military conflict brought it back). So volunteering for the Navy seemed like a wiser choice (and chance to be lazier) than being forced to join the Army or Marines. Plus, I liked the Navy recruiters better (ah, the stupidity of youth). After I got out, I came to the conclusion that Desert Storm was a huge mistake. This was a shock to me. I grew up believing that I could trust the U.S. government to mostly do the right thing. Despite growing up in a family that identified as mostly Native American. Both my grandfathers fought in WW2, because it was the right thing to do. My dad volunteered to fight in 'Nam, as soon as he was old enough. I grew up hearing about how disappointed he was that he wasn't allowed to join that fight due to hearing problems. I trusted that the government wouldn't have taken us to war in Vietnam if it wasn't the right thing to do. Just like we wouldn't have gone to war against Kuwait if it hadn't been right. After all, Americans are the good guys! We saved the world from Fascism in WW2. Right? Well, no, but that's a story for a different day. I hated the point of my existence while I was on the submarine. Our entire purpose in life was to threaten to be suicide bombers on an inconceivable scale. We were the world's biggest terrorists. We might have had an arsenal of ICBMs that we could launch and wipe out every major city in China. Or Russia. Or anywhere else in the world that had cities to melt down to radioactive glass. It's also possible that we didn't. I never had a "need to know," so I was never sure whether our missiles were the real thing or not. Whether they were or not, we all lived with the grim reality that Russia (at the very least) would be able to respond quickly enough to vaporize a cubic mile of ocean around us. We played a lot of war games when we'd pretend to sneak up to launch depth (with a squadron of enemy ships hunting all around us), launch our missiles, and then sink slowly back away so we could sneak back up a few hours later and launch a few more. But we all knew that we wouldn't survive after that first launch. I don't know about anyone else on the sub, but I know that I didn't want to. I couldn't have lived with the fact that I'd just helped wipe out a dozen or so cities. After I got out, I managed to get enough space to actually examine the truth. And I came to the conclusion that my fundamental assumptions were wrong. America had not been the "good guy" there. We weren't the "good guy" in Vietnam. We hadn't been the "good guy" in Korea. Or, really, in any of the other military actions since WW2. It's quite possible that we weren't even the good guys in WW2. Maybe the real reason we got involved at all was because the Soviets were about to conquer the world, and FDR wanted to present the American Way of Life as a better alternative. At best, we showed up to help straighten up the mess we made by getting involved in WW1. And there just is not any excuse for our involvement in that one. It turns out that the US government has almost never been the "good guy." So: I was really not a big fan of the US government when 9/11 happened. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of NYC either. There's a lot of other emotional baggage there, and this post is already long enough. When I saw those planes fly into that tower, my reaction was "Well, there goes what's left of our freedom." At the time, people pretended that the terrorists attacked us because the hated our freedom (that wasn't it: they attacked us because we refuse to stop meddling in the Middle East, because we're addicted to their oil). And they got belligerently patriotic and flew big American flags all over the place and insisted that we couldn't let the terrorists win. Then they threw out a huge chunk of the freedoms that the terrorists supposedly attacked us to eliminate. When I was a kid, you could just wander through an airport. Hang out at a terminal and watch planes arrive and leave. I'm glad they decided you can't just smoke everywhere and got rid of the ash trays, but I'm sad that we've gone so over-the-top about pointless security measures. I'd love to be able to walk Laura to her gate and kiss her "good-bye" the next time she boards a plane without me. When I was in school, teachers would call roll and make a list of the missing students. Then they'd hang that list outside their door. Now, there are biometric scanners to track who is in each classroom. And kids are fine with this! It's like they've been brainwashed to believe that it's fine for Big Brother to track their every movement. And then there's the surveillance state. When I was growing up, parents would scare their kids by telling us how the government in the Soviet Union monitored every facet of their citizens' lives. They didn't have the technology to manage the kind of surveillance that we regularly expect from our government. And that doesn't hold a candle to what we voluntarily share about our lives for the convenience of the little personal spies we carry around in our pockets. At least Apple and Google can't murder us with impunity just because they don't like our opinions. And, so far, the federal government hasn't taken that step (though things started getting close with the way Trump handled some of the Black Lives Matter protests). On the other hand, Congress did decide to allow the President to do pretty much anything he wanted to try to get revenge against the people who were behind the attacks. And we've committed a lot of atrocities since then. 9/11 was an unspeakable tragedy. Our response in the Middle East was much, much worse. Americans should be better than we are.