Thursday, June 30, 2005

If I had known it was a rule . . .

I am struggling to understand my new roommate/landlord. I'm not sure that she really wants me here. It's that, or her experiences with roommates is totally different from mine and it's causing quite a bit of miscommunication via assumptions.

My sense of unwelcome started with the moving-in process. When we had talked about it, I had said that my lease at the trailer wasn't up until June 15th, but that I'd like to start moving in on the 1st since I was moving myself. So, on the 1st, I went over there with a small load, prepared to give her $300 for the first month. She wasn't home and she hadn't done one thing to clean all of her stuff out of the room. In fact, there was more stuff than when I had last looked. I cleared some space on the floor by moving some clothes and left the stuff and a friendly note. I kept the $300, figuring I'd give it to her when the room was ready. For the next two weeks I took over loads of stuff and the sinking feeling that she didn't really want me kept growing because she was not making any progress and, in fact, someone was sleeping in my bed, which had been the only clear space to put my stuff. Also, she wasn't really calling in response to my notes or returning my phone calls. We all get busy, I know, but it was weird.

However, by the 15th, the stuff was almost entirely cleared out and she was very friendly, so I figured I'd shake it off and start new. She had vacuumed the floor that was clear but hadn't cleaned the bathroom, so I started off living there by giving her $200 cash (with a promise of the rest when I unpacked my checkbook) and unpacking my cleaner with bleach to get the pubic hairs out of my shower and toilet. Still, she acted a little weird when I asked her if I could rearrange the cabinets a little in order to make room for my dishes and appliances.

I spent three or four nights in my new place and then went home to Chicago for a week. I discovered last night and this morning that of the 7 foodstuffs that I brought and put in the fridge (I haven't unpacked the pantry stuff yet), she has eaten some or all of 5 of them. In the time I was gone, she (or her boyfriend) ate 4 eggs, several slices of American cheese, a stick and a half of butter, half a loaf of bread (she has other loaves of her own in the freezer), and the cottage cheese is completely awol. Only the peanut butter and the mayonaise have been unmolested. None of the items would have gone bad in the timeframe of my trip. I find this to be very odd and more than a little upsetting.

It is upsetting because she finished off my eggs (for a total of 6; that's half) and I didn't have any for my breakfast. Let's remember that she has chickens that lay eggs for her. There were chicken eggs in the fridge and she ate mine anyway. In fact, she wasted two of them because they are hard-boiled and in a plastic container but she left Wednesday morning until Sunday morning on a camping trip.

So, as I began to discover these things Tuesday night, I worked out my best Gordon-Murph-super-diplomatic-conflict-mediation-technique. I'm not nearly as good at it as he is. She had gone to pick up her car from wherever it was with her boyfriend. We were planning to talk about the various things that I needed to do while she was gone, because I told her I'd watch her dog for her. I agreed to do that before I left and then when I got back she asked if I would also take care of the chickens and feed the cat. So, with good humor, we walked around the garden and figured out how to do all of these things. When we got back into the house, I asked her if, while I was unpacking my kitchen stuff and slightly rearranging the cabinets, I could have a pantry cabinet just for myself. "Also, could I have a shelf in the fridge that would be considered mine? Because I'll be honest, Mindy . . ." Here, she broke in and said, "We ate the eggs, I know. I thought we had bought more." She looked and discovered what I already knew: she had not. I said, "It will be easier for me to have a designated space because it's just kind of a hot button issue for me," because it is. (I have a small food budget, plus I keep pretty good track of what I have in my head so that I get everything that I need when I go to the supermarket so that I do not make a zillion trips. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning and keep supplies on hand for 3 or 4 other standard meals. I think there are also some leftover childhood things with my brothers taking food off my plate. I think everyone has hot button issues that are somewhat irrational and I think that as long as they're not too crazy, we should all try to respect them in one another if we can.) She communicated in some way that she heard me after I said it was kind of important. At this point, I didn't know about the butter, bread and cheese. She did offer that the cottage cheese was gone because it was "well past its due date." Since I hadn't even taken the protective plastic seal off, even if it were true that it was bad, she wouldn't have had a chance to notice unless she had taken it out to eat it because it would not have smelled bad. Remember, the longest it could have possibly been there was two weeks since I brought it home from the grocery store after I moved in. She hesitantly agreed to the pantry cabinet and fridge shelf, looking doubtful. (About what, I don't know, but she definitely thought that I was asking for something unusual that might be detrimental to her.) I waited and she realized that I needed to know which cabinet and which shelf. She showed me the cabinet. I assured her that I would clean it out and she told me to pick a refridgerator shelf. This whole time I was very calm and phrasing statements like requests as a supplicant among equals but with a slightly apologetic tone for the awkwardness. It seemed like that interaction went well. I was straightforward with my needs without being accusatory and attempting to work together to find a solution. If the roles were reversed, I would want someone to tell me what SHE needed. She seemed pleasant and agreeable about it, so I went into my room to go to bed.

While I was undressing, she knocked on the door. As I went to open it in my T-shirt, she said, "I have a reverse request. While I'm gone, will you please eat anything from the fridge? There's a lot of good food that I don't want to good bad." She then listed several examples. Something in her tone and syntax indicated that she was upset, so I tried to explain my earlier request but only got out partial sentences, trying to communicate that I didn't mean she couldn't eat anything, I've certainly had experiences where I didn't realize that I was out of something and borrowed from my or my boyfriend's roommate, it was just that the eggs were gone and if I had known they were gone, I would have bought more when I was in town at the grocery store. She responded, agreeable but strained, "And if I had known the rules, I wouldn't have eaten them."

I'm saddened because I tried really hard not to set down rules. That's crazy roommate behavior and I don't want to be a crazy roommate. I tried to state my need and to work with her to get it met, rather than to try to make her "get it" by eating her food or writing my name really big on stuff.

I'm bewildered because everything I understand about roommates that aren't best friends or romantically involved tells me that there are definite boundaries, especially with food. It wasn't like it was a case of mistaken identity. She didn't have her own American cheese or butter; my bread and eggs were totally different from her bread and eggs. Did she say to herself, "Yippee! Butter! That's always so expensive, I never buy it for myself. Rebecca's is so nice for getting me some." Susan and I used to buy food together, but it was just that: food we bought together, so both of us had access to it. Jeff simply has designated cabinets and fridge space that go with each room for his roommates, like assigned parking spaces. Also, it just seems like common sense and courtesy not to finish off something that someone might have been counting on. I mean, she was opening and throwing away containers as she ate and finished stuff. Didn't she once think that maybe I bought it because I wanted it?

All of this makes me want to ask, "Mindy, when you asked me to move in, did you expect me to actually live here or just to put all of my stuff in one room, give you $300 a month and visit every once in awhile?" It's very discouraging.

Monday, June 27, 2005

So, Rebecca, how was your trip?

It was home and family and those are two of the very best concepts represented by words that I know.

It was also hard.

It was hot and my mom is starting to feel old and she doesn't like it. My dad was quiet and my brother was punchy.

It was hard to avoid little bits of Dennis everywhere.

When I first made the decision to move to Orcas Island, my counselor and I talked about the possibility that I was running away from my problems and from what sometimes seems like my failure. After talking about it for awhile, we decided that I wasn't. I had continued living in the house that we had bought together for a year after he left. I had to deal with seeing him sometimes at Speech tournaments and in other small interactions where he inevitably made choices that hurt me just a little bit more, so I healed little bits at a time. I wrapped up some of the big loose ends of our marriage, especially when I actually began moving and packing and giving stuff away. On Orcas Island, sometimes, I can forget the fact of Dennis.

But in the suburbs of Chicago, it seems like he's everywhere. Blues on the radio, Mark Strand in the Chicago magazine, movie theaters we went to, Star Wars (can I say that I wish I'd never given him that part of my life), the entire fucking length of the 294 expressway, the grocery store where he works that I have to avoid, a South side wedding shower, odd bits of local color that we noticed and laughed at together. Everything is a conversation that I want to have with him.

When I was angry, I could be angry. After two years, I finally just miss him.

Family helps. I can think of no situation more beautiful thing than sitting in the same room with one of my parents or one of my brothers. Even silent and cranky and punchy, we make room for each other, both physical and psychic. We also get each other glasses of limeade or protest when someone doesn't. The comfort of expressing even as simple an emotion as "Nuh-uh, that is so not fair. I just made the limeade. You can't make me burn that CD myself when you're sitting at the computer not doing anything else," without fear that I'll change the relationship is something that I can't get in a place where people have only known me for 10 months. There isn't the wiggle-room in the space that we make for friends that are that new. We have to be diplomatic. It's like the Daffy Duck cartoon when the artist keeps changing the scene. A giant pencil comes onto the screen and erases the pleasant Hawaiian landscape and draw an airplane around Daffy with clouds in the background. He has to go from singing a ukelele song to realizing and then acting like a buzzboy in seconds. This happens again and again to poor Daffy. He can never quite get his equilibrium and he ultimately goes stark raving mad. At the end, the black screen that normally signals the end of a show falls on him like a thick sheet of tar. Daffy struggles to make space for himself but he is pushing taffy against the force of gravity. After trying to hold it up with the flimsy stick that the artist draws in for him but that ultimately breaks for comic effect, he is saved by the Warner Brother's bullseye. It's solid that's-all-folks circle is like an egg in its perfect ability to hold off the pressures of the suffocating blackness. It makes a space for him to relax from constantly trying to make space for himself. (Of course, Daffy can't relax; he's got one more insult coming to him even there but the meatphors shifting now, anyway.) I heard once that if you cut egg shells in half around the middle and lined the floor with them, their spherical nature would hold your weight. I don't know if that's true, but the egg that is my family certainly hasn't broken yet.

Friday, June 24, 2005

I refuse to call it Chi-Town

I am currently in Illinois. I apologize to those of you living in Illinois for not calling but I needed to see my mom.

It's hot here.

I should not have hit the hot tubs and the sauna both days before I left because it loosened my body up to the point that it was vulnerable to every little discomfort of the traveling journey. Now, all of my muscles, even the little ones in my feet are tight and sore.

I took a ferry to a bus to the airport in Seattle to the airport in Denver to the airport in Chicago where my little brother picked me up at 1:00 in the morning. I could have gotten an earlier, direct flight on stand-by, but the woman who was checking bag said that she could only check my bag for the flight I was scheduled for but if they had space for me once I got to the gate, I could pick up my bag later when it did arrive. This seemed a little odd, what with security issues being what they are but I figured that United Airlines probably had pretty reasonable training for its frontline employees, so I went to the gates. Of course, once I got there, nothing could be done to retrieve my bag from the maw to which it had been abandoned. She was very nice, though, and explained that next time, I could asked to have my bags checked on stand-by. The two days worth of sauna and hot tubs made it so that I actually didn't care either way. That, and I just wanted to be home.

I've found lately that this seems to be the case. Things that should cause me to be upset because they just aren't fair don't actually upset me. Yet, I still talk about them in social settings as if they do. I wonder if this is a stage. I wonder if I still need things to talk about with people and for so long I've relied upon the daily injustices of life as my conversational fodder. Like Seinfeld. Hopefully, I'll stop talking about things that don't upset as if they do just to have something to talk about. It's like an Eastern religious ideal. I'll just be.

I think there are two possible reasons why things don't bother me like they used to. The first is that because I've suffered some very huge and personal betrayals in the past two years, these little things just don't hurt anymore. I've built up immunity or callouses to the inconsequential, impersonal betrayals. The second is that after taking some time for myself away from the world in order to heal, it no longer feels like every little thing is piling on top of everything else. My camel isn't carrying anything, so no one straw will make any kind of difference. In fact, without other straws to get tangled into, the wind of my journey blows individual straws right off.

I like this state but I hope I find something else to talk about because peacefulness just isn't very entertaining at parties.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Security blanket to look forward to

I'm putting on some weight because I'm working so much and not working out.  Also, I'm eating crap because I haven't settled into the move to give myself a consistent kitchen base from which to create healthy meals. It's got me a little worried but there's not much I can do right now.  I'm trying to take yoga but the schedules for that are pretty erratic.   Overall, I guess I'm not real happy with my life right now a lot of the time, but I have a plan and that's something.  I've been missing a plan for awhile and it's a little like losing your security blanket.  After Barterfaire, which is in early October, I'll move in with my brother Daniel and continue living this bohemian lifestyle for awhile in the city while I apply to U of C grad school. That's more than enough of a plan for me and I think it's a good one.  My brother wrote me a letter recently.   He's also very proactive about making sure that we'll live together.  That makes me feel good.  I'm pretty homesick right now.   I had a craving for my mother's mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy two nights ago.  It's funny because that's a very fall/winter food and in Illinois is steaming hot.  However, here it's a pretty consistent 75 degrees.  That, at least, rocks.

I want to amend the "I'm not very happy most of the time" statement. It's only partially true. In reality, most (as in more than half) of the time I'm very content. The ocean is always in sight, the mountains are gorgeous, the community is near perfect. The minutes of the day and the mundane interactions are beautiful. I just don't fit here anymore. So, I'm sad and a little frustrated when I stop to think about it. However, I'm so busy that I don't often stop to think about it so it's not even close to as bad as this post makes it seem.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Coco Rico

I was, in fact, awoken by a rooster this morning. Let me tell you, the majestic cartoon rooster on the Kellogg's box only crows once. This rooster just keeps on crowing, even after the sun is up.

I have yet to decide whether I regret leaving the stinky trailer.

So, although the first milestone is moving out, the second milestone is moving in. I have only just accomplished this. For some reason, I've been working like a demon and have not had time to set up the nest in the new home. I've been living out of my backpack and whatever little odds and ends that I've left at Jeff's house. So, after last night, I now have a bathroom to get ready in with all of the necessary unguents for starting the day. I also have an array of clothes accessible by genre (T-shirts, girl-shirts, pants, sweaters, hoodies, etc.) The bed is made and the alarm clock (unnecessary) is plugged in and set. Melvin the Frog is guarding the place. The craft supplies, which are legion, are stored on the top shelf of the gigantic closet. The computer and its speakers and sub-woofer are ready to go and broken in with the best of Ray Charles. The books and miscellania are still in boxes, though.

One might ask, why did this take me so long? I worked a double shift Wednesday, worked a single shift Thursday but fell asleep at 8:00 that night because of the previous double shift and so could not get to Mindy's before Friday night. Also, the restaurant that I wait tables for is on the opposite side of the island from Mindy's house. The island is shaped like a horseshoe, so that actually involves some time to get from one side to the other. However, we are stuck in a relative distance mind-set here. To get to my restaurant from town in 25 minutes. Yet, every single local will describe it as "really far" and will take that into consideration before choosing my restaurant over ones in town. Since there is no traffic, the distance covered is considerable. However, 25 minutes? Really far? Come on people. I used to drive that to go to work every morning in the suburbs. It takes that long to find parking on the North side. However, this also delights me about the island. Think of it. The community values the active use of time in deeds that are actually worthwhile. So 25 minutes in the car is not seen as a regrettable means to an end but as an actual waste of time that can better be spent elsewhere. But, once they do make that choice, then there's no stress involved in the commute. Once you've increased the commute from 5 minutes, little things like deer in the road, stopping to watch an eagle and hitchhikers to be picked up are simply part of the journey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My life in boxes and bags

I have officially moved out of my stinky trailer.

Can I tell you how much I hate moving?

I hate it. I hate that all of the things that represent my life and its accomplishments can be summarized into just so many featureless boxes and bags. I then hate that I think of my life in terms of the things I own. Then, I hate that I've accumulated so much stuff in so little time. How could I possibly need all of that stuff? I denounce myself as overly materialistic a few times and then I just plain hate the drudgery of getting those last few things that seem to stick in the shadowy cupboards and corners. Just when you think you've gotten every last thing, you discover a drawer full of utensils that you forgot. Or, you remember that the freezer is full. It seems like the bags of miscellaneous stuff will outnumber the "kitchen" or "bathroom" bags. (I use the word "bag" a lot because I ran out of boxes very quickly and had to resort to handled grocery bags. Very tricky. Shows lots of lack of foresight.)

I hate moving so much that I've never actually moved myself. I try to be as absent as possible in the process. When I first moved from my parents' home, I wasn't there at all; my ex-husband did all of the work while I met with the caterer, I think. Stuffed animals, furniture, teen magazines from the bottom of the closet all packed impersonally for me to sort out later. The second and third moves were also primarily him and his friends with their rag-tag vehicles, creating a parade of stuff. I lost some precious things in the process but I just considered that payment to the higher powers of fairness for not doing any of the work. (I am, in my heart, a true Calvinist.) When I was packing up my house in order to move out here, plenty of people came over and said, "Just point me to a closet and I'll pack it for you." Also, my mother came over a few times just to sit on a bucket and talk to me while I pulled the final things out of corners. She also helped me clean the house once it was empty because, regardless of how hard it was to leave that house that I had bought with Dennis, she communicated - without ever saying a word - that it was important to give this new couple that was moving in a good experience of homecoming.

I decided that I would move myself this time. And I did. And I hated it. But, it wasn't actually that hard. Part of the ease was that there is only so much stuff that can fit in a trailer. The other part is that I wasn't finding little Dennis artifacts unexpectedly. Also, I didn't have to sort much. I've always seen moving as an opportune time to sort and clean what I had been meaning to sort and clean for the entire time that I lived in a place. It's a silly expectation but I have it. However, in a trailer, everything has to stay somewhat organized or life gets really really difficult. So, I only had three categories: stuff to take with, stuff to give to The Exchange and stuff to send home.

Jeff went by this morning to get the stuff for The Exchange (I'm working a double shift today), but other than that, I did it all myself. And, I didn't cry. I consider it a triumph.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Losing my anonymity

People are starting to find my blog because they have entered the name of the resort where I work into search engines. That means that those people are potentially going to come to my island as tourists.

This makes me a little nervous for two reasons. The first is that not everything that I say about where I work is complimentary. This blog was started to keep my friends and relatives updated on my adventure so I wanted to give an accurate frame of reference to those that had been here and an accurate description to those that had not. Plus, I was never any good at pseudonyms and initals anyway, so I never engaged those techniques in my writing. So I name where I work and I'm honest about the situation there: the food is fantastic but management is still working out its kinks.

The other reason I'm nervous about people finding me this way is that no one on the island but Jeff knows that I write this blog. That gives me the freedom to be accurate. The blog is more about me than it is about the island and to be true to myself, I need local anonymity.

So, if you are visiting the island soon and have read my blog (this is not just fancy on my part, I swear) please don't mention this blog to anyone. I would have to stop writing it if my friends and acquaintances here started reading it. That would be sad. Come see me at Shearwater or the Doe Bay Cafe and it will be fun to meet you. However, please let me keep this little conceit. Gossip is the national pasttime of the island and I'd rather not be a casualty of that game.


Orcas Mandala

Yesterday, I tried yoga for the first time. I don’t know anything about yoga, except that it seems to involve stretching, some of the stretching has names that people make jokes out of, like “downward dog,” that lady sitting in the chair on PBS is doing it for seniors, there’s something vaguely spiritual about it and magazines are starting to say that it’s really good for you.

So, after talking to Rhonda and her friend Jared about it for a little while (I really didn’t learn more than I already knew), I went to the place that they recommended for a class. I figured that I could wait until I got back to Chicago, but then I’d have to find the authentic studio that wasn’t just doing it because it was trendy. I wouldn’t have enough knowledge to judge that very well, though. Also, I’d be surrounded by pretty people who would be shoving their heightened spirituality at me. So, I need to learn here. It’ll be part of the island experience.

Here is what I learned about yoga: it’s hard.

It’s hard because it’s subtle. When I’ve learned to play sports in my life, fine tuning things like grips on bats or racquets didn’t become an issue until after I’d mastered the basics. In yoga, tiny little adjustments in posture are necessary right away to get the right stretch. Luckily, there were only two other women in my class and they knew what they were doing. So the instructor, Hannah, was able to walk around easily and adjust me. It was mind-blowing what a difference tucking my pelvis or rolling my shoulders just a few centimeters made.

But all the time, you’re supposed to be breathing. And that’s good, because blowing out your breath really hard gives you something to focus on when it hurts to keep your leg in the air. I like the breathing. Time doesn’t exist when you think about your breathing. There is only the air. At the roots of language “air,” “breath,” “wind” and “spirit” are all represented by the same word. When you notice each breath that comes in and each breath that goes out, every other thought but that seems not to even exist. It’s like prayer. In fact, my first experience with paying attention to my breathing was when the chapel in college brought in a Buddhist to demonstrate meditation. So my first experience with meditation was sitting on a pew in church with a cross looming over me. Since the chaplain had organized it, I didn’t have to feel threatened by a foreign religious practice. I could pray to my own god through someone else’s tradition.

Today, muscles I didn’t know I had hurt. Did you know that it’s not just skin over your ribs? There’s muscle there too and mine hurts. The breathing that Hannah was instructing was different than the breathing that I’ve learned to sing. In singing, the breath goes down and fills up your belly, pushing your diaphragm out. If you fill your chest while breathing to sing, you don’t give your vocal cords enough room to resonate as well. In yoga, though, you expand your chest, activating it. By activating it, now it hurts. Everything that is worthwhile, though, hurts in the beginning.

I don’t know much more than I knew before. I did a dolphin and a twisted root. I breathed. An hour felt like forever and went by in no time at all. I hurt. It’s worth learning.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Community Supported Agriculture

I got my first order of vegetables from Rhonda this week. My mom bought me a half membership in her CSA when my parents were here a few months ago. Mom talked about how much work doing one raised bed in the backyard was and how impressed she was at the number of raised beds Rhonda had created through sheer force of will on her acre of land. So, she was supporting both Rhonda and me with her check. We figure that the boys get leftovers when they go visit her house, so the vegetables will be like my leftovers. Also, paying Rhonda for her harvest means that the work that I did for her in the planting season is actually a gift, rather than her having to feel like she should trade me food for work as barter.

So, this was in the first box. You should divide each of the amounts in half to fully understand just how many vegetables I have.
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I have eaten the gailann exactly as she recommended. I've made salad with peas and carrots and garlic tops. I plan to make kohlrabi and bok choi slaw and the cilantro goes into my quesadillas. I think I'm going to make a cheese and carmelized onion tart with the braising greens.

More and more, studies are showing that vegetables from the grocery store have very few nutrients because it takes so long to get them to the grocery store and they're bred for shelf longevity and image rather than taste and nutrition. Also, so many petrochemicals are used in commercial farming that it's actually killing the world to feed us now. So, the idea of getting my vegetables directly from Rhonda, who uses no chemicals, on the day that she harvests them is pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Harvey is a classic island kook. He is the island slum-lord. He is also an electrician. The only interaction that I've had with Harvey before this week was one day at the Island Flava when he was looking for Hannah because she needed an apartment. Hannah wasn't there so he talked to me and told me a lot of his life story, which included mentioning that hsi children lived up in Canada with their mother and he only gets to spend part of the week with them since he made his living down here. At that point, he described his children as prodigies. He has this twitchy personality so I chalked it up to normal paternal pride that was oddly communicated.

After meeting Harvey, I heard a story about him. Apparently, he is a little bit of a kleptomaniac. He was in the Island Market and stole rediculous things like candybars and microwave popcorn. When a clerk asked him to pay for the items that he had shoved into his overalls, he fled. Let me say that again, he ran away. On an island. The story gets better. A civilian began to chase him and saw Harvey climb into his well-marked electrician's van that had his name and phone number on it, if he weren't already a well-known public figure. As he drove away, he threw the things he had stolen out the window into nearby bushes. You should have seen the police beat in that week's local paper!

So, with that in mind, I want to show you this:
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This is a quarter-sized handout but there are also 8.5 by 11" posters up on the bulletin boards as well. Also, Harvey has painted the propane tank that is located on a prominent corner and is used for local announcements. What is even funnier about the handout is that I watched him offer it to a woman at the Exchange. When she said she'd love to but she'd be off-island that day, he took it back. He took it back! Then, he gave it to me.

I thought you'd enjoy a little local color.

Whales and boats

This past summer, my family went up to Michigan and I drove behind my father while he rode his motorcycle. He nearly drove off the road because he was so fascinated with how deeply he could see into the rock quarry that we passed. At that point, I started making a list of things that my dad will stop and stare at. For the most part, they are simple things like quarries . . . and three-legged dogs . . . and biracial couples. He's like a little kid with a parade. "Rebecca, Rebecca, look at that!" he says in hushed, excited tones. I figure I can read the list at his funeral to make people laugh. It's funny because my dad is a powerful person in the world. That he is often so rediculous in his personal life is beautiful because I see that behavior juxtaposed with his (deserved) public status as a mover and a shaker.

Yesterday was a day that my father would have enjoyed. Amy (Jeff's sister), her husband Reece, Jeff and I went over to San Juan Island for the day. We did not go shopping in the cute little shops (although I did buy some knitting needles) but instead drove out to several of the public parks that are on the shoreline. So, we walked up and down the beach at one of them and then played in the driftwood house that some hippies must have spent hours building. Then, we went to Lime Kiln Point.

I have to interject here and say that we do not see Orca Whales on Orcas Island. It's one of life's great ironies. Most Killer Whales in this area follow the salmon runs and the salmon do not run to the interior of the San Juan Islands. They run along the west side of the island that is actually named San Juan. So, although the image of the Orca whale, especially as depicted in Northwest Native American designs, is ubiquitous, the actual whale is not, at least in my experience.

However, we hiked out the very easy path to Lime Kiln Point and sat down at the first available picnic table. We took out some food and looked out at the ocean. Jeff commneted that it seemed like there were a lot of "whale watch" boats out there, so we kept looking. We thought we could see some spurts of water from blowholes in the distance. As we kept watching, we started to see fins, some of them very giant. Then, it was like a parade of 30 or 40 whales, all told. At least two of our resident pods and maybe all three went by. We saw lots of dorsal fins as well as lots of upper bodies. Then, they started slapping the water with their tales and even doing partial breeches. Almost toward the end of the parade, one of them spyhopped, which means it stuck its head up vertical from the water. These are not just behaviors that they do in the show at the Oceanarium! It was wonderful. We spent almost half and hour watching whales that were only 100 or 200 feet from shore. It was perfect. Jeff says he's never seen anything like it in all the time he's lived here. Amy and Reece paid to go on a whale watch boat the day before and they didn't see anything like it then.

This, however, did not make it a day that my dad would love. This was a day anyone would love. But, when we headed back into town, we were early for our ferry, so we sat outside at a little bar that is directly across from the ferry landing. We had pop and crabcakes and watched the marina. I noticed that a little 10 foot boat seemed to be adrift close in to the dock and said so. All four of us looked again and confirmed that it was, indeed, adrift. We then got to spend the next 20 minutes speculating as to what would happen to this small boat that was adrift. It had a little cover that caught the wind, so it was a more exciting drama than you might think. First , we worried it would hit the pilings at the ferry landing (those are the bumpers for the ferry to make sure it's centered as it comes in), then we wondered whether or not the ferry would come while the little boat was blocking its port. This led us to ponder all the possible scenarios for a ferry/small boat encounter in just such a situation. Would the ferry stop in time and send someone out to move it? Would the ferry just crush the small boat? However, the little boat cleared the first ferry landing, then the second group of piling, then the second ferry landing and headed out into the harbor. We discussed how the owner would feel to return to the dock and find his boat missing and what steps he would have to take to get the boat back. What if he didn't know it was missing for days? Then, a sailboat sent out a little Zodiac to catch the little boat and we cheered. At the same time, the dock sent out a formal rescue boat. Jeff says the owner will be fined for the service. It was a drama that moved at exactly the right pace for people that had already seen Orca whales and hippy driftwood. It was also the exact type of simple observation that my father enjoys. He would have loved the day.

Heading out to the ocean

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This is my friend Erika and I kayaking while she was here. I think we made a pretty good team.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Family laughter

If you did not read the comment from one of my anonymous Danville relatives, I encourage you to take a moment and read it. I want it noted that I am by no means the only person in the world to make fun of my dad, or as he likes to be called, El Gordo.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Fashion Don't

Today I gave into peer pressure and wore one of the dominant island fashions. I'm not happy with myself. I had planned to wear my light blue, knee-length courderoy skirt, a light blue heather shirt, black cardigan hoodie and my new Chaco sandals that I'm in love with. However, I'm in the process of moving, so when I woke up cold this morning, I did not have a lot of options that would still allow me to get to work on time. I did, however, have a pair of black, terry cloth, boot-cut workout pants that were easily accessible. So, I put on the workout pants UNDER my skirt.

So, I am currently wearing both pants and a skirt. This is not unusual for the island. Leggings and skirts are common. Leggings and shorts are even more common. (I think it comes from the number of kayakers and outdoorsy types on the island. They want to be ready for outdoor recreation at all times.) I don't like the look on me, though. I feel like I look disjointed. It doesn't help that my skin is blotchy and my nose is red from allergies. It's possible that I wouldn't have liked the outfit even without the pants. In long examinations in the store mirror, I've determined that the skirt, when forced out by the waistband of the pants, makes my tummy look big in a matronly way, rather than in a cutie Pulp-fiction-pot-belly way. Since the skirt has that much room to begin with, it's likely to have done that even without the pants. Also, I'm wearing a bra with padding since it's the only one I could find, so my top looks too rounded and chunky. It's all in all a bad-looking, bloated kind of day.

Jeff's sister Amy and her husband Reece are coming today. Of course. Jeff said I looked good. He's nice like that.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Whew! It has been an intense couple of days.

I worked solo for the first time on Wednesday at Shearwater. That was fun. I get satisfaction from filling in the spaces on the scheduling sheet. Everything is neat and has a place. That is great for me. I cannot tell you the hours of my life I have spent creating neat little forms to be filled in, starting from when I was a small child.

However, Tuesday and Wednesday were hard for me because I was completely unreliable for my father. He and I have been working on this huge grant proposal that we had to send out on Friday. We've been sending it back and forth but we were counting on having Wednesday where we were both available at the same time, because that's necessary sometimes when telecommuting. However, two of my jobs needed me at the last minute on Wednesday. This freaked my dad out because although I had all day on Thursday, he was going to be travelling that day. Also, his internet went out on Wednesday, so his stress levels zoomed way up because so much of the proposal process requires internet access. So, I took the laptop to work with me at the Island Flavor in the morning and finished another draft and sent it to him. But then I wasn't available at all for a few hours and then I wasn't where I said I'd be and he and my mom had to call around the island to find me. Even if I had an explanation why I wasn't where I'd said I'd be when I'd said I'd be there, I know how crazy-making that must have been for them before they knew. So, I was just kind of unreliable all day, which I hate because my dad has been so reliable to me throughout my life.

Wednesday night I went out to Jeff's hosue because it had been forever since I had seen him. Also, I wanted to help him clean up a little since my friends were going to stay at his house. However, he didn't have anything for me to do, so I spent Thursday working on a grant proposal and doing naked laundry since I was the only one at the house. It was a nice little vacation day.

Thursday night I worked at the Cafe with no incident. Friday morning, I got up at 6:00 to work out the final details of the proposal with Dad. Then, I went out and worked at the Exchange, then drove back across the island to wait tables at Doe Bay, again without incident.

Saturday, I did the Farmer's Market. At the same time and the same place, the community was having its Bit of Orcas, which is along the lines of the Taste of Chicago, but on a much smaller and cooler scale. At the same time and same space was the Pet Parade. The day was chaotic and fun. The pet parade was held pretty much where my table was set up so I got to see the goldfish being pulled in a wago. Also, the gerbils, guinea pigs and baby chickens that also used wagons. Some frogs were loaded onto skateboards. I small Jack Russell Terrier had been dyed blue. I met a beautiful 12 pound female pug that was not in the pet parade. I liked her so much and her owners were so friendly that I offered to dogsit if they needed me during the 4 weeks that they're on the island. Who would have guessed that I'd be such a sucker for pugs? This couple had owned over 15 pugs in 30 years. I was inspired.

Saturday evening, I again headed out to the Cafe. The atmosphere was grim because the sous chef, who was related to the prep chef quit and went back to Bellingham. In that grimness and the fullness of my days, I was led into a conversation in which I agreed that, yes, I was working tomorrow night. When I had been asked formally to cover that Sunday night shift, I had said no since my friends were coming. However, she wrote my name on the schedule anyway and I messed myself up by agreeing in casual conversation later. So, Sunday at 6:00, I found out they were looking for me and I couldn't pick up the slack. It was the busiest night that they've had yet because of the holiday weekend. They need to figure this out soon or I will move on to another job for my own peace of mind.

The rest of Sunday was great. Erika is a friend from college. She was in my wedding. Betsy and Glackin are acquaitances from college. We were all in Habitat for Humanity together and our groups overlapped sometimes. Betsy lives in Seattle and I have gotten a chance to know Glackin better since we have all graduated and very much like her. They arrived around 1:30 at The Exchange. I was at the Exchange because I had a comlete islander day. I had planned none of the deatils ahead of time, figuring that I would just wing it as it was necessary. Actually, I didn't figure much of anything. I just hadn't had a chance to plan out the detail. This is very odd for me. I absolutely want an itinerary and explicit directions before outings. After Sunday's chaos and the crazy feelings produced, I think I will stick with that particular modus operendi. However, things worked out and someone was able to take my shift at the Exchange at the last minute. So, I showed the girls around there and then headed into town. We looked in all the cutie little shops and treated ourselves to beer, fish and chips, and burgers at The Lower. Those were the three expressed needs of the girls and we were able to satisfy all of them at the only tavern in town. Perfect. We went out to Jeff's house because we thought we were going for an evening sea kayaking trip. However, the winds were too fast and the tide shift too dramatic. So, we headed back into town to get dinner for Jeff and a second "light" dinner and dessert for the rest of us. However, most resaturants aren't open on Sunday since usually it is a day when all of the tourists are leaving the island. So witht he holiday, the remaining tourists had to pack into the few restaurants that were open. The one we wanted to go to had a server call in sick because it was a beautiful day. It was a service to the owner for us to take our business elsewhere. However, as the farsical montage of video clips of us walking up to various restaurants only to see the "closed" signs as we were pulling on the locked doors shows, we were unsuccessful in finding a place to feed ourselves. We ended up driving out to the ferry landing to the little grocery store there to get sandwiches, a giant piece of chocolate cake and a pint of ice cream. We took these back to the The Grange, where a reggae band from the mainland was supposedly playing. We sat outside and ate our cake and ice cream. The usual group of children were chasing each other in the lawn. One begged for some cake, so I gave him some. We realized later that his parents were nowhere to be seen, so I'm glad I gave him some attention rather than shooing him away nicely. I felt a little bad, because the girls weren't really prepared for how much of our lives are spent outside in 60 degree weather. They only had T-shirts with long-sleeved shirts over them and I think they were cold for much of the evening. We did not end up going inside to the reggae dance party (I was hoping for a local color scene to show them) because the whole time we ate there was no music to entice us and it was a $10 cover charge, which is pretty steep for out here. Not only did we not want to pay it, but also, other people apparently did not want to pay it because there really wasn't much of a scene. So, we headed back to Jeff's house and hung around talking for a little while until the girls were falling asleep in their chairs. We got them settled inot couches and spare beds.

Monday morning Jeff did get to take us kayaking out to the Peapod islands, which are wildlife preserves so we had a few harbor seals looking at us and an eagle posing grandly (sorry, Dad). It was a little choppy out there, so some of the animals stayed away, plus we had some intense paddling on our adventure on the high seas. The girls expressed much gratitude for the experience so I think they liked it. I can't claim credit for anything other than having a cool boyfriend. Then, we went out to the ferry with a quick stop at the Studio 4:20, which is am on-your-honor gallery of neat little things. We didn't find anything but I liked the experience. We got to the ferry at 2:00 and by 3:00 the 8:05 ferry was already full. I stayed with the girls until the 4:00 ferry was boarding. I haven't talked to them to find out if they got on that, the 5:00 or the 8:00. I don't know what the tourists who didn't know to get there early did with the rest of the day.

I loved seeing people from my old life here in my new life. I loved remembering what it was like to be new here. I loved that although we told some stories from college, we mostly talked about our lives now, rather than lapsing into nostalgic talk that sometimes covers the fact that old friends can become incompatible. As we were leaving the Studio 4:20 to walk back tot he car, Erika held my hand. I like that kind of friendship.

So I extend the invitation to all of you, my readers. If you find yourself with 4 days of freetime (or more), come visit. We'll put you up if need be and a round-trip ticket from Chicago usually costs less than $200 this time of year. I'd love to show you my island.