The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

It just keeps getting better...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The 'Pause: Hotflashes, Wiggly Nights & The Crankies

Our Hen Hilda is bold, sassy and looking good after her raggedy Winter moult.

Teri and I are no Spring chickens...we are more like early Fall chickens in the midst of a raggedly moult.  In our late forties, we are both waste-deep in what I've decided to call "The Pause" (not sure why we need the word "men" in there; no offense to any men, but really?  This is a Female Adventure!)

There are days when we are both grateful we are so close in age and get to share in our transition. Truth be told, it is nice to have someone who gets it and with whom one can make comparisons and bitch without being accused of whining.  On the flip side, we have house that just may catch fire from the hotflashes of two cranky women and we are waging a full-fledge war with our sheets and blankets every night (window open? two windows? one blanket? two? who put all these pillows on here? flannel--hell no! I think you get the picture.)

The other day at work, in a room full of 20 and barely 30-somethings, I had a nice, toasty, head-on-fire, sweat-dripping hotflash and even though it only lasted a couple minutes, it was enough to make me feel a hundred years old and cranky as hell.  On my break, I texted Teri with: had a nice hotflash out of nowhere and know she was commiserating from her own red-faced work day on the other side of the county.

Now, before you offer us remedies and advice--we've read the books and articles, we're drinking our tea and using herbs and doing what we can.  We really feel quite healthy and it is more of a discomfort, rather than an overwhelming assault.  Besides, we don't want to hide or ignore it--we both see this time as a right of passage and while we're ready to move through and get to the other side, we don't want to pretend it's not happening altogether.

So while our periods are irregular now and have been distributed unfairly--I haven't had one since before Christmas, but Teri seems to be doubling up and taking my shifts; and we seldom sleep through the night with the uninterrupted sleep we used to know; and there are moments when we could leap over a store counter and shake bratty young clerks by the neck like a dog with a floppy toy; and while we haven't learned how to make a statement like "you're so hot, you're actually red-faced and sweat-drenched" sound sexy, we are still in this thing as a team.  We're rocking the 'Pause!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our Scary Life

Me being terribly threatening and queer with the also sweetly scary Hilda.
Recently, I had a hateful and homophobic post show up in my Facebook newsfeed, posted by a young extended family member.  It caught me a little off guard because, well, I think I've let my guard down since the elections ended and I've been happy to take a break from seeing and reading things people wrote and posted that reminded me how many folks in "America" really feel. They may smile to my face when they see me in person, but in the comfort of their own sheltered worlds, who knows the extent of what is said and done! Well, actually, thank to social networking, many of us know the extent of what is said and done.

My initial reaction to these things is to feel sad and disappointed in myself.  After all, wasn't one of the reasons for all of us to "come out" to give the younger generation ordinary non-scary role models and  might that counter the bigotry and bias they were learning in other places (including their own homes?) It makes me sad to know that while many young people have been somewhat liberated from their homophobia and hate, there are still some who have been not only allowed, but also encouraged to carry on the tradition of being bigots. That feels sad and wasteful to me. These are the same people I sent birthday cards and Christmas presents and other ordinary familial well-wishes to over the years, so I quickly move from sadness and disappointment to a bit of crabby frustration.
Teri being equally horrific with the iridescent Virginia.
Yes, I get that it is ignorance and fear, and yes, I understand we still have a long way to go but, seriously?! I would be horrified and ashamed if I ever heard of my kids--grown as they may be--saying or doing something willfully hurtful, racist, homophobic, sexist or bigoted.  I worked hard as a parent to do whatever I could to make sure the bias I grew up with stopped with me.  Teri is a bit better at shrugging her shoulders and chalking such things up to "the way things are" or the fact that "some people will never change." Me? Not so much...

So, despite the fact that I feel we have an inherited obligation of advocacy and modeling work to do, I've become increasingly liberal with the "unfriend" button.  Maybe I could be accused of trying to live my own version of a sheltered life, but I'd like to minimize the hate, bigotry, racism, homophobia, and whatever other ickyness that I have to read or see while sitting comfortably in my own home. I am still sad and disappointed and frustrated, but there is also some self-preservation involved. If I am completely honest, there is also a great deal of defensive solidarity with all of my awesome friends and loved ones who are also the targets of hate, bias and bigotry: not in my house, not on my screen--you've made your choice and now I'm making what choices I can.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring is Sprouting!

Two-week-old Marilla (a Plymouth Barred Rock) plays among the rosebuds and calendula flowers

As Teri and I had our first "picnic" of the year yesterday--eating sandwiches while sitting in the sunny warmth of our little bare-limbed orchard, we chuckled as the seeming suddenness of kooky wild spring: The cats are acting kooky; the neighborhood children were out in force, loudly whooping and screaming; the sound of lawnmowers was popping up in every direction and our own chickens seemed to have turned into ravenous, laying-focused hens over night.  As I told Teri, "the natural world has done lost its mind!"

We watched yesterday as all three of our hens tromped in and out of the coop, clucked and squawked around the yard, climbed in and out of the nest boxes, and just generally let the world know that they had things to do. Meanwhile, the baby chicks seem to grow an inch or more every day!  The past couple days they have taken to playing a chick version of leap frog--flying at each other clumsily--trying out their fast-growing new wings. Everyone is starving and we are forever scooping food and filling water bowls.  The cats are chasing squirrels, the squirrels are chasing each other, and the jays are stealing straw from the chicken coop to seemingly build a straw house.  Things have gotten busy!

Despite the frosty nights, the garden is starting to sprout as well.  The early peas are up--even if they have only just stretched their sturdy pea stems above the wet ground. The daffodils are blooming among the fat, prickly artichoke leaves, and the chives are stretching their tender, fresh green shoots up among the decaying leaves in the herb bed. I was delighted to find the hop vines sending out new buds and the raspberries getting promising green buds along the short, leftover canes. The currant bush has bright pink, drooping blossoms and the cherry tree is thinking hard about coming to life too!

This time of year is always a bit volatile--the weather can do anything; the garden could be anything; and while there is such a relief that winter is over, there is also a sense of panic.  When the natural world wakes up, we start feeling like we are already running behind!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ready for Bees...

Our bee box is ready...we think...we hope...we'll see!  After fussing, reading, pricing, drawing plans, and, finally, taking the leap and building what we hope will be our foray into the world of beekeeping.  Now, we just have to wait for bees.  Well, that isn't really all we have to do, but that is the next step in our adventure.  The way we see it, the arrival of bees will actually be the true beginning!

Just between you and I, we are actually pretty proud of our top-bar bee hive.  We built it from both new and reclaimed materials and it cost us around $40 to build.  This is in contrast to the $250-$300+ priced ones we were looking at before we looked at each other and said, "Sheesh, we can build a box for a lot cheaper than that!" Sure, it doesn't have fancy scrolls, or custom-made legs--we figured a couple milk crates might work just fine for the time being.  The very top (painted the sassy purple) is actually a recycled protest sign; I painted over the revolutionary-inspired words with purple spray paint.  The box itself is painted with a lime-ish yellow paint--we probably spent as much on that paint as we did the lumber for the box--we got a little carried away in the paint aisle!

We were advised to let it "off-gas" after building it, which as far as we could tell, is just a fancy name for letting the paint dry and the box age and air before the bees move in.  In cooking terms, we needed to let it cool. About a week ago, we moved it from it's creation home in the gayrage to it's new home in a sunny, south-facing corner of our backyard--in front of the fig tree. We also put up a new bamboo fence along our side of the open-slatted fence our neighbors have up.  We decided that the less they see our future bees buzzing in and out of their hive, the better for our continuing neighbor relations!

So far, the current "farm" creatures are finding it temporarily useful.  The chickens can hide under it when it rains and the cats find the purple top heats up nicely in the sun--making an excellent napping spot.  We've been warning them to enjoy it while they can, as hopefully soon it will be a-buzz with busy bee comings and goings!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chicken Babies!

The house is alive with the tiny peep, peep, peeps of brand new baby chicks again.  While our best laid plans of bringing home a Welsummer and a Dominique didn't happen, we figure we got the girls we were meant to have!

For the past three months, we have had the date of February 27th circled on the calendar.  This was the date our nearby urban farm supply store listed as the arrival date for newly hatched Ameraucana, Welsummer and Dominique chicks.  From our studious research, these were the next three breeds we wanted to try--Dominuqes being one of the oldest heritage breeds in the United States.  We scrubbed our brooder tote with vinegar water, washed all the gear from last year (water and food dishes) and weaned the pepper starts off the heat lamp so it could be used for the new babies and then we checked the days off on the calendar.

On the morning of February 27th, I called the Fancy Urban Farm Store (not its real name) to make sure to reserve our chicks so Teri could pick them up after work, only to find out that none of them were in and it wasn't known when or if they would be in.  What?!  Disappointment.  Sad faces.  Regrouping.

That night, Teri and I had a heart-to-heart about whether we wanted to wait and hope and search for those breeds or whether we were open to the adventure of trying other chickens and expanding our flock regardless.  Guess what decision we made? We decided we weren't that snobby and that it might be fun to be a little more spontaneous.

The next day, Teri called the Fancy Urban Farm Store just to see if there was any chance for the Doms and the Wels.  Turns out that sometimes eggs don't hatch.  The best-laid plans of farmers and schedulers just don't matter and for whatever reasons--genetic or environmental--incubated eggs don't always hatch cute live baby chicks.  We were told there would be some Ameraucanas in that day, however, and there were various babes almost a week-old from the previous week's hatch.

What little we know about chicks is that you want to get chicks close in age to increase the chances they will get along and not pick on each other.  Teri picked me up at 5:30 pm after both our long work days, and we stopped first at our local farm and ranch supply store where we picked up a tiny Rhode Island Red from one of the few tubs they had.  She chose it and paid while I called the Urban Fancy Farm Store to see if they still had any of the newly-arrived Ameraucanas.  We were in luck, but we had to get there by 6 pm!  We promised the farmy ranchy folk that we were not going to raise just one lonely chick and zoomed off across town, sliding into the parking lot at the Urban Fancy Farm at five minutes to six.

We chose our Ameraucana and, on the spot, decided a Plymouth Barred Rock would round out our trio.  After all, we thought we remembered them to be black and white like a Dominique so Teri would have her wish that all six would look completely different!

So, we are forgetting why it seemed so important to have the original breeds we chose as we get to know our new babies and they get to know each other.  They are already sleeping in a pile and playing an exhausting game we call "Chick Rugby" with each other (they take turns grabbing a tiny piece of cedar shaving and chase each other around trying to grab it.) As a mini-flock and as individuals, they all seem different from our current hens (and last year's babies.)  Feathers are growing in before our eyes and we have plodded headlong again into the delightful world of raising pullets...again!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just Cuz I'm Getting Older, Doesn't Mean I'm Getting Dumber

I turned 46 on my last birthday; I consider myself on the young side of middle-age, but yes, solidly middle-age.  It's been almost thirty years since I graduated from high school (thank the Good Laura).  I've raised kids, built a career, traveled across the world, been published, and learned to use just about every type of computer and dozens of different software programs since the eighties.  I've kept up.  For some reason, however, I've hit the age when those under the age of thirty assume I must be unable to either understand or learn new things.  There seems to be a little confusion over what is youth and pop culture and what is actually knowledge...

I don't mean to sound cranky, obnoxious or egotistical, but just because I'm not staying hip to new bands and music artists,  doesn't mean I don't know how to Tweet or create an event page on Facebook.  Surprise!  And guess what else I can do?  I can create and manage a big 'ole budget, decipher financial statements, chair a board meeting, write and/or edit a book, write from just about any angle, point of view, style or "voice" imaginable, book and manage international travel for two dozen people, bake a pie, build a bookcase, change the oil in a car, and carry on an extended conversation without slang or curse words.  Truly.

I worked on my first ad campaign when I was sixteen and it was fine, probably even somewhat creative and sassy, but it was in no way the best work I've ever done.  I wrote my first grant proposal when I was 22 and it was definitely not the pinnacle of my proposal-writing efforts. I have had to morph, change, learn, and let go. I may not know computer programming, but I was working on web sites when it meant copying in html and codes and spending a day getting photos, links and texts to behave the way they were supposed to.  I learned then and I'm still learning.

Ageism is an interesting thing--I've definitely been that young person trying to carve out a place in work and the world. Strangely enough, I've always most enjoyed work scenes where there was the most age and other diversity.  I've worked with brilliant people who were much younger than I and those who were amazing and 80. They all knew things, they all had great talents and knowledge and experiences to bring to the table.  I would like to hope that as I continue to get older, there will be a place for the experience, knowledge and energy I've got as well.  If not, I'm going to get damn cranky...