On Books and “Eww, Don’t Become A Gross Married Woman”

I’m rereading The Bear and the Nightingale.

Finally.

I bought it a year ago and haven’t been able to visit it again since my first read through, which is a rare thing for me.

The Bear and the Nightingale

It ought to be one of my top five favorite books, and this should be my 6th or 7th time through it, because it’s just that good. It has everything I love in a book: the writing is amazing, the characters complex, it has a strong female heroine (not a necessity, but it’s a bit more fun to fall into that point of view), it has a gorgeous story (what is it about Russian fairy tales that’s so dang interesting?) and even a magical, amazing horse.

The problem is that it hurts my feelings.

I know the author didn’t do it on purpose, and I know that it’s a personal problem more than it’s a problem with the actual book, but it’s a trope that has been picking up speed recently, or at least more recently in the genres I love to read.

Let me try to explain, before I give you examples from the book.

I’ve always loved the book Call of the Wild and hated White Fang, even though they’re both about wolf dogs and both written by Jack London, who was one of my favorite authors growing up.

The problem I had with White Fang was the same problem I had with The Jungle Book, which is the same problem I had with Princess Mononoke: the happy ending consisted of everything cool and interesting and wild either dying, or giving up, or being domesticated. The boy joined the village. The forest spirit is no more. The wolf settled down in California (California?!?!) and voila – there was the end of fun and adventure and interesting stories.

Even as a little girl (I think I first read White Fang when I was 8 or 9), I wasn’t buying it. How in the world is leaving Alaska and moving to California to be boring and raise puppies and just lay around and get fat a happy ending? Who is going to sigh in contentment with the way a book ended after reading the wolf equivalent of “And then the main character managed to snag a full time job with decent benefits. He started paying his car payment on time for long enough that his credit score increased to the point where he could apply for a low interest loan on a nice town home in a decent part of the city.”

Greek mythology is even worse. There are only two options as a woman. You can either be interesting, or you can get married. All the coolest Greek ladies either figure out a way to avoid marriage, or they get suckered into settling down. “And then the adventure ended, because she got married, and nothing of interest ever happened to her ever again for the rest of her entire life, all because she settled down. I mean, her husband and sons went on to become kings and conquer countries and do really fun things, but she probably just… I dunno. Wiped counters and straightened her hair, or did a load of laundry… or whatever it is married women do that make them happy.”

It left an impression on me as a young reader. The moral of the story was quite clear. As a female, you could either have adventures or get married, never both.

I’m not going to lie. I left left young Becky with a very strong desire to never get married. When life handed me the “married with kids” box of chocolates, it took me awhile to wrap my brain around the fact that it wasn’t the end of Becky’s story and adventures like so many books had already told me, but just another chapter in a new and interesting direction.

When I fall head over heels with a book, like I did with The Bear and the Nightingale, and then I stumble on passages like:

“She is a handsome girl,” said Pyotr. “Though a savage. She needs a husband; it would steady her.” But as he spoke, an image came to him of his wild girl wedded and bedded, sweating over an oven. The image filled him with a strange regret.”

or

“Again, Pyotr knew a pang. He saw her heavy with child, bowed over an oven, sitting before a loom, the grace gone…”

or

“He saw all at once, as Pyotr had seen, the wild thing brought indoors, busy and breathless, a woman like other women. Like Pyotr, he felt a strange sorrow…

It seems like such a silly thing to take offense to, when it’s so prevalent in all the stories and so rarely meant in a bad way. Staying single is totally developmentally appropriate for the heroine of the story, who is a 14 (15?) year-old half-witch girl whose destiny is to rise up against Russian folkloric evil. It would be weird if she got hitched to some hairy old dude and popped out some kids. It would be incongruous and wrong for her character, bad timing for the story, and I’m not advocating it.

It’s just….

It would help my grumpiness if the married men in her story were also boring and fleshy and useless, but alas, only the married women become background furniture. The married dudes are still interesting and have deep thoughts. I know that’s part of the point the author is probably trying to make, seeing as how the story is set in medieval Russia, but still. When I read stuff like this, the old hurts surface, and I’m ripped out of the story so fast it’s almost impossible for me to fall back in.

It’s not just that the heroine that is upset at the prospect of marriage- it’s the fact that all the side characters all sit around and bemoan how useless she’d be if she ever did get hitched, how boring, how trapped and ruined. It’s the fact that there is not one single interesting married woman, even in the background.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t need every woman to be married with a bunch of kids- that’s ridiculous.

The problem is that in a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately, either there’s romance and kissing as a main theme, or there’s a strong theme of NEVER GET MARRIED OR YOU’LL BECOME A USELESS LUMP LIKE AUNT HILDA WITH HER BIG, FLESHY HIPS AND TOO MANY KIDS, AND YOU WOULDN’T WANT THAT, WOULD YOU?

Do you know what I would love to read?

I would love to read more about Great Aunt Hilda, with her big, fleshy hips.

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I want Hilda to be swatting one of her too-many-kids for pulling his sister’s hair, even as she’s reaching for the giant viking axe above the door because she can hear the horns blowing the call to arms.

I want her to be pulling that axe off the door as she barks to her eldest to bank the coals of the fire, because honestly, who knows how long this particular battle is going to take, and there’s nothing worse than burnt stew for a post-war meal. I want her hollering at her kids to do it right now, or they’ll forget, and if she comes back to find out that dinner has been burned so bad that all the kids have to eat stale bread and goat cheese for the 3rd night in a row, someone’s gonna get it. I want calling back over her shoulder to mind the eldest, and bar the door, and to stay out of the jelly, and seriously, bank those coals.

And then Hilda’s out of earshot because she’s running down into the valley for all she’s worth, and the first of the barbarian horde is creeping over the ridge, and she’s letting out a primal howl as she charges down the slope with the rest of the tribe, trying to catch up to Uncle Ivan who is probably already down there in the melee. And sure, maybe she’s not in the vanguard because she’s not as fast as she used to be, and maybe nobody’s going to be composing love sonnets to her grace because she really does have big, fleshy hips, and maybe when she jumps off that last boulder her knees ache and she probably dribbles a little pee because everyone knows that after kid number 8, you’re just gonna piddle a little bit during anything strenuous like laughing too hard or axe battles defending the homestead…

But she’s there, in the background of the story, and it makes all the rest of it so much more palatable.

I don’t need every story to be about Aunt Hilda…. but if she could just be in the background, that would make me so much happier.

Anyways, there’s my rant for the day, and the reason I have trouble buying more books by amazing, incredibly talented artists like Katherine Arden and Kristin Cashore (seriously, they can really, REALLY write, even if I didn’t like the “ewww, don’t become a gross married woman” undertone.)

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PS: Naomi Novik is not included in the above rants. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her books so hard. Her books have young things and old things and single things and in-love things and out-of-love things and mothers and lovers and they all have adventures. I adore you, Naomi Novik, so very much.

PPS: See, Aarene? I told you it was too long for a Facebook comment, and I really did turn it into a blog post.

PPPS: WordPress is hiding the underline button from me, so I’m sorry for all the improper formatting of mentioned book titles.

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Socially Awkward Extroverts: Unite!

Pregame Pep Talk: Okay, Becky.  It’s a Monday morning, and everyone has gathered around to celebrate a fellow employee’s birthday.  You should make some small talk!  Let’s do this!

 

Mouth:  Oooh, look, a person!  We should start talking.  We should just, you know, start stream-of-consciousness talking out loud, until we hit on an interesting subject.

Brain:  NO!  Good lord, you’re 37.  We’ve been telling you to knock this off for almost four decades.  STOP IT.  That is not the answer.  That is NEVER the answer.

Eyes:  Look at that lady’s gorgeous outfit.  You should tell her how pretty it is.

Brain:  …. Okay.  That seems safe.  Mouth?  Are you on board?

Mouth:  Tell her she looks sexy?  Sure, I can do tha—

Brain:  OMG NO.  STOP. Don’t….. just don’t move, until I give the signal.

Mouth:  Who doesn’t like to hear that they’re attractive?  That’s a great compliment.  I’m gonna do it.

Brain:  HAND!  HAND, DO SOMETHING!

Hand:  I’m already on it.  I’ve shoved a waffle in Mouth.  Better hurry though. It’s not gonna last long.”

Brain: Way to go!  Can you put in a bigger piece, and try to buy us some time?

Hand:  No!  Remember that time Mouth tried to swallow everything real fast so it could start moving, and we all almost choked to death? Or worse, what if Mouth forgets all the training we keep going over and tries to wad all the food over to one side so it’s “hidden”  and not technically talking while full?  That is so gross.  I’m not going to be responsible for that.

Eyes:  Oooh, I know that coworker! Didn’t she just adopt a kitten?  Ask about the kitten.

Brain:  Good one.  That’s safe.  Kittens are always safe to talk about.  Mouth, are you empty?  Almost?  Okay, swallow, and then repeat after me, very carefully.  Do not add words.  Do not ad lib.  Just say, “Hey, coworker, how is your kitten?”

MouthGulp. “Hey, coworker, how’s your kitten?”

Coworker:  “Oh, lovely!  What a sweetie.  He’s a great mouser, too!”

Brain:  Good.  Good.  This is good conversation.  We’re on it.  We’re doing it.  Go team.  Look at us, moving together flawlessly, seamlessly, like a normal adult. Mouth, continue the conversation. You know how standard conversation goes.  Repeat back what she said, in an agreeing sort of way.

Mouth:  Oh, I love good mousers!  My old cat was a great mouser.

Coworker:  “It’s so great having a good mouser.  He even caught one that snuck into the house, which my older cat ignored.”

Brain:  Excellent.  Kitty cats are good, safe topic.  Mouth, ask her how her other cat is adjusting to the new kitten.

Mouth:  “Oh, that is great! I’ve got an older cat, too.  He’s a terrible mouser.  He rarely catches anything that I can tell, and when he does, he brings them inside.”

Brain:  No!  You were supposed to ask her about her adult cat.  Do not ad lib!  Mouth, are you listening to me?  You are at work, at a meeting with other coworkers.  Stay on topic.

Mouth:  “Sometimes he only half kills the little mice before he brings them inside.”

Brain:  STOP! NO!  Mouth, can you hear me? Mouth, stop moving! Oh, man.  Oh, man, guys, this is bad.  Mouth has gone rogue.  This is an emergency.  Eyes, find something!  Hands?  Hands, shove waffle in Mouth!”

Hands (wailing):  I can’t!  I’m trying, but I can’t!  Mouth won’t stop moving.  Other people will see the food, or teeth might get me!  I’m waiting for an opening, but Mouth just keeps moving!  There’s no target!

Mouth:  “..and then he lets the little half chewed mice loose, for us to catch like we’re useless kittens, haha, and their mangled little bodies creep under stuff, and they die where we can’t reach them, and they start to decompose…”

Brain:  SOMEBODY STOP MOUTH.  SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!

 

 

Eyes:  I’m trying!  Where’s a clock?  Somebody find a clock in the room!

Brain:  I think there’s one on the wall.  Remember?  To the left…. to the left!  Eyes, make her glance at it!

Mouth:  “….and then it can take days for their dead bodies to dry up enough that they stop smelling up the house…”

Eyes:  Look at the shiny clock. It’s 5 minutes to 8:30.  Repeat.  It’s 5 minutes to 8:30.  Repeat, the clock says it’s 5 minutes to 8:30.

Brain:  HEY MOUTH, IT’S 5 MINUTES TO 8:30.  WE NEED TO GO RELIEVE THE PERSON COVERING FOR US AT THE FRONT DESK.  SEE?  SEE THE CLOCK?

Mouth:  “And honestly, sometimes we never find them…. Oh, shoot.  I’ve got to go.  I’ll finish that story later.  Enjoy your breakfast, and good luck with your cat!

 


 

Sigh.

 

Socially awkward extroverts unite!

 

… and then try to make small talk, and probably gross each other out, or maybe subtly insult each other, or laugh too weird, and then go home and spend the next few hours wondering why on earth did you say that?

That’s okay, though.  Don’t despair. You’ll all get lonely enough by yourself that sooner or later you’ll be brave enough to try to again.

#1: The mouseover text reads: “Doug cannot taste his teeth. He doesn’t know why that was the first thing out of his mouth.” #2: Wondermark is my new favoritest webcomic ever.

And people say being an introvert is hard.  Yeesh.

 

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Game of Thrones: Season 8

Just in case there’s anyone out there who is a book fan but hasn’t seen the show:

This post contains Game of Thrones Spoilers all the way through the end of Season 7, combined with my predictions about what might happen based on some stuff from the books. If you’re not current on the show, stuff will be ruined.

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“You see Bean, in a way, the Starks actually led to the downfall of the entire Targaryen dynasty. Lyanna wasn’t abducted. She married Prince Rhaegar willingly, which makes the Starks ultimately responsible for everything that followed with the Baratheons, Lannisters, etc. They claim that they don’t really like politics, but they ended up being the most politically influential family of all. That uprising ultimately ended with the destruction of what was a 1,000 year dynasty, which is why…”

“Becky, you talk about them like they’re real.”

“What?”

“You and your….. your nerd friends. You talk about this like it actually happened.”

“Don’t be silly, Bean. I just think the depth and complexity of the background is fascinating. See, if you look at the interplay between the houses, and—”

“Becky, you know this never happened, right?”

“Huh?”

“You know this never happened, right? That they never lived? None of this ever happened.”

“Of course I do, Bean. I’m not insane.”

“Then why do you know so much about it?”

“Maybe I just like the history of it. Maybe I just really, really like history. Have you ever thought of that?”

“You’re fascinated with history… that’s it? You’re just a closet historian?”

“….Maybe?”

” If you like history so much, then why haven’t you bothered to learn about the…. oh, say, the rise and fall of the families associated with the American Industrial Revolution?”

“Did the Early Industrial Revolution have dragons?”

“No, Becky.” <heavy sigh> “The Industrial Revolution did not have dragons.”

“Then what’s the point?”

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(Happy day-after-our-11th-anniversary, Bean! I still love you, even if you aren’t in love with dragons like I am.)

So, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m a little stoked that the Game of Thrones Season 8 premier is just around the corner. T-Minus two days!

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To say I’m excited is an understatement. This has been a long, long wait.

I still remember the feeling of disappointment as I stood there in the aisle of the Taft Library, looking at the blank spot where the next book in the Wheel of Time series was supposed to be. Somebody had gotten there before me and checked it out. Crap. Now what was I going to read all weekend?

No matter how hard I try, I can’t quite remember why I grabbed “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. Maybe it was on display? Maybe the librarian recommended it to me? Maybe I liked the colors on the cover?

I do know that I also grabed “A Dance with Dragons” at the same time, the recently published second book in the series. I wanted to be certain of having enough reading material to keep me busy before the library opened back up on Tuesday.

That was back in 1999, and there were only two books in the series. I was also 19, and single, and got plenty of sleep every night so reading through 1,600 pages of books in a weekend wasn’t unheard of, if the series was good.

Hold on a moment. I’m going to take a moment and reminisce about those long, sunny summer days I used to spend at the barn, reading my book for uninterrupted hours on end, listening to my horse eat his hay.

Mmmm. I miss those days.

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So carefree. So relaxed. So happy. Who is that sweet summer child?

I still remember when I got to the part where they chopped off poor Ol’ Ned’s head. I just shrugged and kept reading. It would be fine. He was the main character of the book. Someone would magic him back alive, somehow.

Only… only….. chapter after chapter went by, and he didn’t come back. I hooked a thumb where I was reading as a bookmark, and began flipping, looking for the next chapter heading about Ned.

There wasn’t one.

Horrified, I set the book down and flipped through “A Clash of Kings”.

No Ned chapters.

Holy crap. He was actually dead.

And that’s it – I was hooked. I couldn’t believe the author had killed the main character. I just couldn’t. I’d never had anyone manage to surprise me that badly in a book.

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2000, guys. I was 19 years old. I’m 37 years old now.

I HONESTLY DON’T CARE IF G.R.R.M. EVER FINISHES THE BOOKS. I WISH HIM HAPPINESS, AND WEALTH, AND FAME, AND FORTUNE, AND ALL MANNER OF GOOD THINGS, BECAUSE FINALLY.

FINALLY!!!

I AM FINALLY GOING TO GET MY ANSWERS!!!

This feels a little bit like finally finding out what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke, or what happened to the Mayans. At this point I don’t even care what the answer will be – I’m just excited to actually get one.

After obsessing over the fate of these characters for the past two years, I have come up with a couple ideas on where they might go. Here are my predictions, in no particular order:

  1. Bran: Bran kills the Night King, or at least makes it possible to kill him. He dies soon after, because let’s face it, the real Bran died when he became the Three Eyed Raven, and the only reason he’s still around is as a clumsy Deus Ex Machina. The way he defeats the Night King will have something to do with the time warp they keep alluding to, what with Hodor/HoldtheDoor and the way Ned actually heard him call out Father.My guess is that at some point he actually connects up with the mad King and breaks his brain with the timewarp thing and convinces him to hide the wildfire up underneath the streets of Westeros, to “Burn Them All” – with “them” being the future White Walkers?It’s either that or he’s gong to warg into the Night King and take him over and suicide that way, somehow.
  2. Arya: Arya does not have a long life ahead of her of returning to normal everyday “wear a dress and be a good little wife” life. As she said to her wolf Nymeria, “That’s not you.” She’s going to die. For a good character resolution, she’ll die sacrificing herself for someone else, possibly her sister. I feel like Hot Pie foreshadowed this when he said, “I’m a survivor, like you.” So she will die, and she will sacrifice herself when she dies, because that would be the most complete character arc for her, as she’s been all about surviving as a lone wolf for the past 7 seasons. The only thing that might save her is that she’s G.R.R.M.’s wife’s favorite character. If she makes it, she and Gendry better pair up and make angry, athletic, muscular little blacksmith babies.
  3. Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Owner of the Unspellable Name: She will not end up as a ruler. She’s an awful ruler. The show stagnates on purpose every time she tries to be a ruler. The only time she kicks butt is when she’s a conqueror – they’ve made too many references to her as Aegon’s heir, and too many musical triumphant fanfares when she’s conquering. I think they foreshadowed her death when she said she didn’t want to be the spoke on the wheel she wanted to break the wheel. So she will, and then Jon will “quench” his sword into her heart and Longclaw will become Lightbringer. Her death will turn the tide, and allow Jon to conquer. She will sacrifice herself in order to defeat the white walkers, right after (SNIFF!!!!!) the dragons die.
  4. Dragons: Jon will ride Rhaegal, Danerys will ride Viserion. Both Rhaegal and Viserion will die, along with Danaerys, as there is no place for dragons in the future. The Children of the Forest have died, The White Walkers will die, and Danerys will die… magic will die. If the dragons had a future we would know their gender, and more about how they make eggs. Besides, they weren’t even part of the original series. GRRM’s wife talked him into having the dragons hatch, which means they are just a cool addition, not actually part of the original plot.
  5. Cersei: Her pregnancy will result in the birth of a dwarf child, as that is hereditary. She will kill the child herself. As a result, Jamie will snap and kill her.
  6. Sansa: Sansa will take over the iron throne. Maybe she’ll remarry Tyrion? After being married to the Bastard of Winterfell, she will come to realize how amazing Tyrion is as a husband. They will have a bazillion babies who will be the heirs to both Casterly Rock and Wardens of the North. There will be no Iron Throne, but Tyrion and Sansa will rule – everything they’ve ever wanted, except now they’re so damaged from all that has happened, they realize they don’t want it any more…. which fulfills GRRM’s prediction that the ending will be “bittersweet”.
  7. Jon: Kill the boy, let the man be born,” is what Maester Aemon said. If it weren’t for that line, I figure Jon would die too…. but I suppose he’ll end up Jon Snow. King in the North… and everywhere else? He’s Azhor Ahai, the Prince that was Promised and his sword “Lightbringer” will be born of fire. Remember that scene in Season…2? The one where The Red Woman and Stannis burned all those old gods on the beach, and then Stannis went and got his sword of fire from one of the burning gods?Well, that was just the Red Woman trying to force the prophecy. Here, read the story of Azor Ahai:Darkness lay over the world and a hero, Azor Ahai, was chosen to fight against it. To fight the darkness, Azor Ahai needed to forge a hero’s sword.[3] He labored for thirty days and thirty nights until it was done. However, when he went to temper it in water, the sword broke. He was not one to give up easily, so he started over.
    The second time he took fifty days and fifty nights to make the sword, even better than the first. To temper it this time, he captured a lion and drove the sword into its heart, but once more the steel shattered.[3]

    The third time, with a heavy heart, for he knew beforehand what he must do to finish the blade, he worked for a hundred days and nights until it was finished. This time, he called for his wife, Nissa Nissa, and asked her to bare her breast. He drove his sword into her living heart, her soul combining with the steel of the sword, creating Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.[3]

    After that, whatever Azor Ahai stabbed burst into flames…. useful, eh? I bet Jon’s gonna have to stab Daenerys through the heart at some point. She will die. She will be reunited with Khal Drogo and her son.

  8. Cersei: She miscarries or gives birth except her son has dwarfism, so she kills her kid, and then dies. FINALLY. I truly believe Jamie will kill her for killing their son… but man, wouldn’t it be cool if Arya got her?
  9. The Mountain: The Hound will kill him.
  10. The Hound: He will kill the mountain. He will survive, and eat lots of chicken, and become the world’s worst priest.
  11. Qyburn: He dies. I’m thinking Varys kills him.
  12. Varys: He dies. he definitely dies – they’ve even stated it in the show. 🙁
  13. The Red Woman: She dies also – she’s the one that told Varys that they would both die in Westeros.
  14. Ser Bronn of the Blackwater: Man, I hope I’m wrong about this. He dies, too 🙁
  15. Tyrion: He lives! Please! I’m just worried his character arc is nearly complete, so there’s no reason for him to continue living. I really do think the coolest thing would be for him to rule with Sansa. They both are very good at playing the political game, and have just enough clout between them to calmly ensure that whatever political dynasty starts after this is all said and done is off to a decent start.
  16. Sam and Gilly: They live. Once the Whitewalkers are defeated, there’s no more reason to have the Night’s Watch, so it’s disbanded. Released from his vows, he returns to rule his home, as his brother and father are dead. He becomes a maester of sorts, and writes the history of this time period – as foreshadowed when he told that one Maester at the Citadel that the title of his book was boring. Sam’s got more imagination than that – he’s gonna call his book “A Song of Ice and Fire”.Brienne and Tormund Giantsbane: They get married and have giant, monster babies who conquer the world. PLEASE, GRRM. PLEASE!
  17. Barion Donderric: Stupid name. Badrion Dondarub? Barion Ronderic? Darion Bonderick? I can’t wait for him to die so I can quit calling him “that dude who keeps coming back to life, the one with the eye patch.” He’ll perform some great feat which makes all his coming back to life worth it, and then he’ll finally be allowed to die for good.

There are more characters I’m forgetting about, I’m sure, but my lunch break is almost over, so I’m gonna hit publish.

What do you think is going to happen?

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Conversations With The Goats

“Good morning. We’re baby goats. Come snuggle us.”

“I wish I could, guys, but I have to go to work.”

“What is work?”

“It’s where I go sit for 9-10 hours a day and move around pieces of paper, and -”

“And eat them?”

“What? No? I don’t eat them, I just push them around my desk, or from department to department, and make sure people scribble the right words on them.”

“That sounds boring.”

“It’s actually not too bad. Although, sometimes people who are mad about government or something that happened to them try to take out their grumpiness on me.That’s not really fun.”

“Is it because you chewed on the wiring on their BBQs?”

“No, no, I don’t do that. That’s just you guys. I’ve never acquired a taste for BBQ wiring.”

“Oh, it’s the best! I mean, nothing really beats whole cows milk mixed with buttermilk and evaporated milk, heated up and served in an old soda bottle….

Mmmmmmm…. It makes our tails wag just thinking about it! But seriously, BBQ wiring is a close second. Maybe you should offer some BBQ wires to the grumpy people to appease them.”

“I don’t think that will help.”

“Have you tried?”

“…. No. No, I have not.”

“Well, then how would you know? Besides, you should definitely stay home from this “work” and hang with us instead.”

“I can’t. I really can’t.”

“We could snuggle, and then later we’ll go outside and run around aimlessly, darting about and then randomly stopping, over and over. The goal is to dash around as erratically as possible.  It’s best if you pretend the floor is lava and that it’s burning your hooves, so you need to sproing in the air as high as possible. You get extra points if you twist around at the apex of the sproing.”

“I don’t think I’d look as cute as you, if I sproinged around the yard. Moms in their late 30s definitely don’t sproing as well as baby goats.”

“Sproinging is the best. You’ll love it. When we get bored with sproinging and running around we can climb up things and jump off of them. That’s always good for an hour or two of fun.  When you get hungry, since you don’t like BBQ wires, you could enjoy some of the weird moss that grows on the muddy hillside by the house. That will make you happy.”

“Eww. No thanks. I’ve been meaning to ask you – why don’t you eat the goat food and Timothy hay I left out for you?”

“That stuff is boring. Moss is much better, although we’re seriously beginning to question your taste.  You really don’t like eating old moss OR BBQ wires?”

“Nope.”

“Shoelace strings?”

“Nope.”

“That dangly sleeve on the sweatshirt your kids keep forgetting to put away?”

“Nope.”

“One of our neck wattles? Chewing is no good, but you could suck on it for awhile? We find it very soothing, almost as soothing as laying on your lap and getting scritched.”

“I’m NOT sucking on your neck wattles. That sounds….. uncomfortably gross, like something that should only happen between two consenting adults.”

“Oh, no, it’s very soothing. Try it! Patches has the best wattles, but Gazelle’s can do in a pinch.”

“No. That’s gross. And frankly, I wish you guys would quit doing it. It weirds me out.”

“It’s not gross, it’s wonderful!”

“We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Look, I really need to get to work. You guys have a great day doing all your…. your goat things. Sorry I can’t stay with you.”

“We don’t think you’re making good decisions. Work is silly. Hanging out with us is obviously the better choice.”

“On that we can agree.”

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Draft Dump: Part 2 of Something

If you have no idea what the above title means, start here.

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Cotton
Last Modified 2/24/11

I hate group trail rides.

To be honest, I really feel like It’s almost not worth getting up on the horse at all, if it means I have to ride in a big group.

For someone who is as obsessed with horses as I am, that’s saying something.

It seems like every time I’ve gone on a large group trail ride, there has been some kind of minor disaster. Someone gets bucked off. A horse bolts. A deer pops out of the brush and causes a chain-reaction spooking, ending in someone getting thrown.

Even when everything goes perfectly the horses tend feed off each other’s excitement and work themselves up into a lathered frenzy. It takes forever for them to settle down… and then once you start heading back towards the barn they all get worked up again.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy spending two or three hours on top of a jigging, sweating, snorting mess of a horse.

I’m not against trail riding in general, just mass group rides. I don’t mind riding out into the country with a friend or two. The horses are usually better behaved for it, and it’s always nice to have some conversation if it’s going to be a long ride.

Nevertheless, when Bunnygal offered me a chance to go on a mountain trail ride, even though I knew it was going to be a large group, I threw myself into the passenger seat of her truck before she could rethink her offer.

The road up to the starting point was an impressively steep mountain switchback, and I had to admire Bunnygal’s ability with her trailer as she nonchalantly whizzed around the corners, singing along with the radio.

I kept myself occupied by studying the minute details on the truck dashboard. Maybe if I examined it really closely, I could keep myself from slamming my foot down on my imaginary brakes and panicking at how close the trailer wheels were coming to the drop-off that made up the side of the road.

For the record, Bunnygal is a very safe driver. The problem is that I grew up in Orange County and I live at sea level. Our idea of a steep cliff is the inch-high ledge between the boardwalk and the sand. I mean, you have to be careful . You could stub your toe, or something.

After about fifteen minutes of studying the dashboard in all its glory, I noticed we were pulling off onto a tiny dirt Forestry road.

“Ummm… Bunnygal? How are you going to turn the trailer around?”

“There’s a big turn around up ahead at the meadow…” She trailed off as we rounded a corner and came upon a large, locked gate.”

CLOSED DUE TO SNOW

It was almost humorous, with the 65 degree May weather and not a snowdrift in sight. The two of us sat there staring at it silently, the tendrils of smoke from Bunnygal’s cigarette curling around us.

“Do we head back?” I glanced in the rearview mirror at the microscopic dirt trail, incredibly thankful that it wasn’t me behind the wheel.

“No. They probably just forgot to take it down.”

And with that, Bunnygal shifted her truck into gear and drove around the gate, trailer tilting drunkenly at its sudden off-road venture.

About 100 yards down the narrow road, we began to see small patches of snow.

Several hundred yards past that, we saw a couple of decent-sized snowdrifts.

By the time we reached the trailhead, even Bunnygal was beginning to question whether we should have turned back.

When we finally pulled into the large, circular clearing, I was amazed to see the area dotted with other truck/trailer rigs.

Apparently we weren’t the only ones who took the closed gate as a suggestion.

Bunnygal and I unloaded the horses and saddled up with the dozen or so other riders. I stared longingly after Twistin, sighing as someone else led her away to borrow her for the day. Twistin may have been an pissy-faced, sour, kick-other-horses-for-no-reason alphabitch out in the pasture, but under saddle she was a dream to ride – soft, responsive, athletic, and level-headed.

I turned back to my horse for the day: Cotton.

Short and powerfully wide, Cotton cocked her hip in a deceptively lazy manner, her neck lowered sleepily.

I was not deceived.

I’d only ridden her once before. I had the time of my life, but I knew she wasn’t an easy ride. Now I was supposed to hop up on her and head off into the mountain wilderness on a group trail ride?

Gulp.

I threw the saddle up on her back and slipped on her bridle, trying to seem nonchalant. Ho-hum. Ho-hum. Don’t mind me— I’m just about to die, that’s all.

The second I swung up onto her back I felt her come alive. Body tense – nearly vibrating. Eager. Alert. Unbelievably, nearly freakishly responsive.

Double gulp.

I lowered my reins , resting my hand on her neck, and did my best to think lazy thoughts.

“Ready?” Bunnygal was riding Willie, a silvery red roan whose solid frame and kind eye made it easy to forget just how young he actually was. He probably had no more than a dozen real rides on him at that point. If it were me and I were riding him, I would just be easing into the idea of breaking into a trot in a nice, safe arena…. An arena filled with pillows and fluffy cotton.

But this was Bunnygal – why bother just riding in circles around an arena when she could just do her training out in the rugged, remote wilderness?

To be honest, I’m still not sure whether she’s my hero or whether she should be institutionalized.

The trail ride started out like every other group trail ride. The horses were skittery and jiggy. I tried to bring Cotton down to a slow, stately, middle-of-the-group walk.

Cotton was not very thrilled with my idea, and fought me.

I tried to correct her, and I felt her tense up underneath me. Left? Right? Spin? Gallop and slidestop?

I loved riding Bunnygal’s cutting horses, but sometimes I kind of missed the old point-and-go half-dead horses from my old Wrangler job.

The more I tried to communicate my wishes to Cotton, the more I could feel her starting to work herself up into a lathery mess. It’s not that she was disobedient – it’s that she was trying so hard to figure everything out that the two of us fed into each other’s anxiety.

So I did what an old cowboy told me to do – I dropped my reins on her neck, sat deep and loose in my saddle, and let her figure it out on her own.

I still remember the day I learned that trick – I was out on a trail ride with an old cowboy friend of mine, trying to figure out the buttons on my five-year old off-the-track thoroughbred. The more I tried to convince him to calm down, the more he spun out of control. I could feel the nervousness eating a hole in my stomach as he danced lightly, snorting and sweaty, pencil-thin neck slammed high in the air. Nothing I was trying was bringing his head down. In fact, it seemed like it was doing exactly the opposite. I was just contemplating getting off and leading when:

“Drop yer reins.”

“WHAT?!” I twisted in my saddle to gawk at Thom, causing Jubilee to skitter sideways, lunging in place in a cross between a jig and a stationary canter.

“Drop them. Didn’t you ask me out there to help you? Well, do it. Drop your reins.”

“But he’ll bolt if I do!”

“No he won’t.

“HE WILL!”

“He won’t.” He said it so matter-of-factly… but……

“But what if he does? I can’t sit it. If I—“

“DROP YOUR REINS, GIRL,” Thom said in disgust, rolling his eyes at me. Obediently, I let some slack into my reins – and Jubilee immediately revved up even worse with his sideways jigging, muscles coiling up. I squeaked, and reached forward to haul him back when,,,

“GET YOUR HANDS OFF THE REINS. I SWEAR…. JUST HOLD ONTO THE HORN.”

I mumbled something under my breath, and did just that.

“Now sit back in your saddle. You ain’t no jockey. Where do you think you’re headed, all hunched over like that?”

Thom’s drawl was straight out of the movies. On anyone else it might have sounded fake – almost forced. But Thom was over 80 years old. He had come by his drawl and his blunt sarcasm honestly.

Leaning back, I gripped the saddle horn nervously.

“Your horse has sense – he ain’t going to run off and leave my horse. If he did, he’d be out of the herd. When he gets like that and you’re in a group, just drop the reins and sit for a bit. It’s you that’s making him nervous. You’re pulling on his face, and making him tense. See?”

True to Thom’s word, Jubilee was already beginning to settle down. His snorts were coming less often, and instead of jigging sideways, we were at least jigging forward in a straight line.

Within a few hundred yards, we weren’t jigging at all.

By the time we crested the hill, Jubilee was imitating Thom’s gelding Wildfire – level neck, steady, deep steps and a quiet, alert eye.

I never forgot the lesson. How could it? It scared the crap out of me to learn it. There’s nothing like fear to cement something in your brain.

So, when Cotton began to rev herself up, I followed Thom’s advice and just laid the reins down on her neck.

Within a few steps, I felt her level out beneath me. She had a quick, springy walk that was surprisingly quick. Once we only had a horse or two in front of us, she relaxed, looking around curiously.

We began to enjoy ourselves. The patches of snow were dotting the trail everywhere, but it was a beautiful morning, probably close to 70 degrees. It was surreal. Silent. Incredible.

We rounded the corner and came upon a shallow uphill slope, the path completely covered in snow until it rounded the bend.

We stopped.

“Hey guys, what do you think… should we?”

“Well, I guess…”

Finally, someone shrugged. “Well, maybe there’s too much snow, but I guess there’s only one way to find out.

Dodging The Bullet

Last Modified 3/23/11

I’ve never been good at “meeting the parents”.

There’s something about my inherent inability to make polite small talk combined with stress that brings out the worst in me.

I stutter.

I stammer.

I ramble breathlessly on about subjects and stories that bore even me.

When I try to project an innocent “girl-next-door” vibe, I come across as someone who is hopelessly “blonde”– to the point where I’m sure they’re wondering if I should be walking around outside without a helmet on.

When I try to come across as poised… I sound shallow and somewhat stuck-up.

I know what you all are thinking. You’re thinking, “Just be yourself!”

Yeah.

Right.

Uh-huh.

The problem with just “being myself!” is… well… I’m *ME*. Becky. I can’t seem to keep from embarrassing myself under normal circumstances, much less highly stressed-ones.

Being me is a dangerous thing,

The first idiot thing out of my mouth happened over breakfast.

Faced with a daunting, somewhat judgmental silence I decided that the best thing I could do was tell

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Exercising with the DM
Last Modified 5/4/11

….That’s it. That’s all there is, just a title. Why did I hoard that draft for almost 8 straight years? Why did none of you stage an intervention?

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Mexican Families and Their Names
Last Modified 5/19/11

Edit: I changed the names in this one, to respect my family’s privacy. Also, I still haven’t introduced The Bean to my family.in Mexico, barring the ones who have come and visited me. I think I’m going to go there anyways, because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for the war to stop and never visit half of my family, every again.

One of these days, when Mexico stops stacking up the bodies like a depressing, small-scale version of Rwanda, I’m going to take the Bean to meet my family.

This sounds like it will be fun, and it will be. For me.

For the Bean?

It will probably be confusing. Unbelievably confusing.

“Bean! Come meet my uncle Jose Luis.”

“Hi, Jose Luis, nice to meet you.”

“Meet his son… Jose Luis.”

“Jose Luis, Jose Luis’ son, nice to meet you.”

“And meet Jose Luis’ son, also Jose Luis, known as Jose Luisito.”

“Hi, Jose Luisito, son of Jose Luis, son of Jose Luis.”

The problem with keeping the members of my family straight is that we all have the same names.

In fact, while I respect the anonymity of my kids (hey, I blog, but they may want to be anonymous one day), I feel perfectly safe

For the sake of the white folks (and to show the ridiculousness a little better) I am going to substitute the white people names to make it easier to follow.

My grandparents were Lisa and Johnny.

They gave birth to five kids.

Their firstborn daughter’s name?

Lisa.

Their firstborn son’s name?

Johnny.

When Lisa got married, she married a man named Michael.

Lisa and Michael had two kids.

Their names? Yup, you guessed it: Lisa and Michael.

When Lisa #3 got married, she married a man named Aaron.

They have two children, also a boy and a girl.

I bet you five bucks you can’t guess their names. Yup. Lisa and Michael.

You’d think that it would get confusing, what with four generations worth of Michaels, and Lisas, and Johnnies, and even Beckies. Yeah, that’s right – there’s a whole herd of us down there.

But it’s not confusing, provided you just keep everyone’s nicknames straight. See, that’s the problem with introducing people down there. “Hi, this is Ignacio, but he’s actually just called Chencho, but honestly, we have something like three Chenchos, so it’s just best if you call him Nacho, except that when he was young he was chubby so we called him Gordo, but we also called his dad Gordo, so he was Gordito, so now he’s just known as Ito. It’s probably best if you just remember him as either Nacho or Ito, so you don’t get confused.

And this is his wife….

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No Title
Last Modified 6/29/11

“Put the money in your sock!” my mother hissed.

I wiggled my shoe off, wadding the stack of 20s down into my sock. Two hundred bucks was a lot of money, and it made my foot feel weird.

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Dirty Minds
Last Modified 8/18/11

Dear everyone who keeps finding my blog by googling the search term “Three Dollar Hooker”.

Wow. I bet you all were a little disappointed, huh?

There you were, innocently searching the internet to satisfy your need for some discount lovin’, and instead you found this: a post from a fat, married woman.

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Took Carrots out for a walk with the kids (human kids, not goat kids) yesterday. She tucked her butt when I tossed the saddle pad up on her… And that was it. She was perfect, and didn’t spook once after that, even after months of no riding. She still needs wet saddle blankets with a solo rider (no bad habits, just uncertainty), but she is the best leadline pony I’ve ever worked with, period. I looked outside yesterday and the boys had tied her to a tree and were climbing in the branches above her, while baby goats twined between her ankles, and she didn’t even flick an ear.

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Draft Dump: Part 1 of….. something?

Every time I log in to write a new blog post (all both times a month?), I’m greeted by a sea of draft posts.

Some of them are ones that I am still working on, or that I’m waiting to be in the right headspace to finish.

Some of them I stopped because I realized it was coming out all wrong – judgy, or mean, or the tone of it was annoying me, and crossing the line from funny into obnoxious.

Most of them?

Most of them I started writing, and then life called me away and I have absolutely no idea where I was going with the story. You’d think that I would remember, since it happened to me in real life, but most of my blog posts I sit down and type out an hour after they happened, proof read it once, and then hit post. If I have to come back to it days later, I don’t really remember most of the details.

Since I have a Dothraki Horde of children (Thanks, Tony, for the suggestion), life tears me away from the computer more often than I would want, and thus I have a sea of barely-begun blog posts.

In a normal, sane world, I would erase them all and not be bothered by their existence every time I log in….

But…. But I birthed those words. 🙁 I plucked them from my brain and forced them through the sieve of “does this sound good” and then released them through my fingertips. I’m attached to those words. I can’t just destroy them – that would be bad, and wrong.

On the other hand, I don’t want to sit there and have those words stare at me accusingly, so I’ve decided to do a couple of blog-cleaning-draft-post-dumps.

After 10+ years of writing this blog, I figure you guys can put up with a little housecleaning. I’m not going to do any editing of these excerpts, because I’ll get all dragged down into details and never finish.

Also, it’s really important for me to say this: Some of these are over 10 years old, and I was writing when I was single, and in college. They… they’re definitely Baby Becky writings, and that’s part of why I can’t bear to get rid of them… but they remind me of the crappy poetry I used to write. I loved it when I wrote it, but they embarrass me nowadays.

Still, they’re part of my history, and I can’t bear to just have them all disappear, so here goes nothing:

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Eragon, Last Modified: 12/17/06

I have been waiting for the theatrical debut of Eragon for months. I’ve been a closet sci-fi fan for years. When I was younger, I read every book in the library that had a dragon on the cover. In fact, I’ll even let you in a little secret: I used to spend HOURS (and I do mean HOURS) every single day, playing an online RPG game that involved dragons. Ahhh, Anne McCaffrey, your world of Pern was so much more interesting to live in than my mundane world of chores and homework. I finally had to stop when I realized that I didn’t have ANY friends outside of this little online world that I’d created. It’s sad, but true. On the other hand… I was a junior weyrwoman, with a really cool gold dragon, and we laid lots of eggs (well, she did most of the hard work), and we were responsible for helping to select the candidates, and, and, and….

You see? That’s why I had to stop. Because nobody–I repeat, NOBODY–cares about what you accomplish in an online RPG. You can’t exactly go to school the next day and start bragging.

“So, Billy-Bob, guess what I did this weekend? I learned how to use a flamethrower!”

“Really, Becky? That’s so friggin’ awesome! Tell me about it!”

“Well, since my gold dragon can’t eat any firestone, or else she won’t be able to lay viable eggs…” Here’s where I would have leaned across the table on my elbow, and said in a know-it-all-tone– “Of course, everyone knows that firestone makes dragons infertile. Anyways, so, I strapped this flamethrower over my shoulder—you really should have seen the outfit I was wearing!!— and then my weyrling leader started..”

“Wait a second, Becky. Dragons? You’re talking about that stupid online game you play, aren’t you? You’re such a geek.”

At this point the imaginary Billy-Bob would have walked over and eaten lunch with a much cooler group of people, and left me to my geeky weirdness.

And that is the reason I stopped playing online RPG games.

And that is what brings us to the movie, Eragon. So, after being a closet dragon-lover for all these years, imagine my surprise when I realized that they were coming out with a bona-fide dragon movie. Suh-WEET! I stalked the movie website for months, scouring the websites for cool picture of what Saphira the dragon was going to look like. The day I found out that it was opening on December 15th was the day that I made my plans to go see it. I bought my movie ticket ahead of time, just to make certain that I wouldn’t miss opening night due to it being sold out. Man, I was *ready*. I even checked the two books out of the library and spent a couple of days re-reading them, so I would be all brushed-up on my Eragon vocabulary.

Friday night came, and off to the theater I dragged my semi-willing boyfriend and my unsuspecting stepdad. I got there early; almost thirty minutes early, which is a near-record for me, as I’m always late. By the time the movie started, I was in such a state of excitement, I could barely sit still in my seat. Finally! A dragon movie that was worth something!

Friends, let me let you guys in on a little secret. Eragon is one of the WORST movies I’ve EVER seen. It’s one of those movies that you just KNOW is going to suck, within the first five minutes.

Lunar Eclipse, Last Modified: 08/28/07

So, there was a full moon lunar eclipse last night. As disconnected from reality as I am, the event caught me by surprise. Since the burning of my car a couple of weeks ago (did I mention my car burned to death?) I’ve found myself in the not-so-unique position of reliving my high-school days. Namely, I spend the vast majority of my days following people around, whining “C’n I have a ride? Please?” in endless variations. I figure if I spice it up and never ask the same way twice, then people won’t get annoyed as quickly. I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of my twenties in this position. It’s really rather degrading, and I’m not really sure how I keep managing to find myself here.

So, there I was, accepting a ride from a much younger coworker who actually managed to maintain a functioning car (oh, the humiliation!) when both she and I suddenly noticed the lunar eclipse. On average, by the time I usually manage to settle my food tabs and get out of work, it’s usually about 3 in the morning. This time, through one bit of procrastination or another, it was almost four in the morning. The eclipse was in full-swing by that point, and almost complete. My coworker and I both decided that it would be an absolute shame to not share it with each other, so we headed over to one of her friend’s house to watch it.

After an appropriate amount of time oohing and aaahing over the spectacle, we went inside to chat for a bit. The friend, who I shall now dub “Star” was a handsome somewhat androgynous skater dude in his mid twenties. I’m sure he was extremely handsome when he was younger, but the fact that he was covered in strange tattoos really made it hard for me to take him seriously. I mean, if he’d been covered in big, scary tattoos not only would I have taken him seriously, I probably would have been a little afraid of him. His problem was that he had chosen some of the most strangely feminine, almost ubiquitously average tattoos I’ve ever seen… and then he’d chosen to paste them all over really strange parts of his body. No, no, I didn’t see anything inappropriate…. just what kind of a hussy do you think I am? It’s just….

Well, for instance, he had the “Mom” tattoo. You know the one I’m talking about! It’s the word “Mom” written on a flaming heart, and EVERYONE knows that it belongs on the shoulder of an overweight, mid-forties biker guy. It does NOT belong on the inside wrist of a skinny skater dude. I’m not against tattoos (even though I probably should be)… but c’mon! Get something with a little imagination… And if you’re not going to have any imagination, at least put the darn thing where it belongs!

He also had a variety of other strange tattoos. There was a buddhist gate thingie… and a tribal design (of course!) and two knives, and a spider web, and a couple of rather large orchids (which looked completely out-of-place). The best one, of course, was the large, pastel star that took up almost his entire chest. He was wearing a deeply-plunging v-necked shirt which showed most of the star, as well as a carefully knit beanie.

Anyhow, moving past Mr. Metrosexual and his pomegranate-citrus Bath and Body works hand soap…. Let me get to how much he got on my nerves.

I have a bit of a raw spot when it comes to wanna-be Buddhists. for reasons I won’t go into, they tend to get on my nerves. Following Buddhism with a

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Baby Theorems, Last Modified 11/12/08

I have discovered an interesting new subset of mathematics, and it all has to do with my recent arrival to motherhood.
Specifically, it has to do with babies. Even more specifically, it has to do with my baby, the DragonMonkey.
I don’t know why nobody bothered to explain these weird truths to me before, but since I am the kindhearted person that I am, I will share them with you guys:
Mathematical Truth #1:
A baby’s output is in no way proportional to the input. How so? As far as I can tell, if the DragonMonkey is eating as he should be, he is putting away about 3 ounces of breastmilk every two hours or so.
3 ounces is not a lot. I mean, as an ex-bartender, I can tell you that it’s not much at all. So HOW IN THE WORLD IS THIS CHILD MANAGING TO COME UP WITH somewhere around 312 SOPPING, DISGUSTINGLY DIRTY DIAPERS A DAY? And even if he is managing to convert those measly three ounces

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Night Feeding, Last Modified 12/04/08

It all starts with a quiet, frustrated grunting…

Usually I can tell that the DragonMonkey’s waking up even before he can. I keep my cell phone right beside me so that I can tell what time it is when he starts his angry little snorts. If it’s been anywhere close to two hours then I try to pick him up and feed him before he gains full consciousness. If it’s only been thirty or forty minutes then I lay really, really, really still so that my movements don’t wake him up.

No matter how still I am, it’s usually futile. Once he starts the angry, snorty breathing, the Ray Charles side-to-side head whipping is on its way; once he starts his Ray Charles impersonation, the crying is only minutes away.

So

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Dear Immune System: I Hate You, Last Modified 5/5/10

Seriously.

How stupid can you really get? Look, I know you do a pretty good job warding off colds, and creating T-cells and eating stuff with neutrophils and what not… but it’s become obvious to me that you’re not exactly the brightest crayon in the box.

Look, I’m sorry if my honesty hurts, but it’s the truth.

IT’S A KNEE. THOSE ARE KNEEEEEEEES. They’ve always been there. They probably always will be there, although that kind of depends on you.

Haven’t you noticed them before? They’re the weird little knobby hinges that make my legs bend.

I mean, it doesn’t really look like an accident that my knees are bending, right? I’ve been doing it for quite some time. I mean… I’ve been bending my knees since before I was born. This isn’t exactly a startling news flash.

And yet, to you it is. You’re like one of those annoying ratdogs that here’s a car door slam in the distance and then spends the rest of the night yapping about it.

“It’s a knee! It’s a knee! It bent! Get it! Get it! Getitgetitgetitgetit! Attack! It’s doing that bending thing again! Make it swell up in a grotesque fashion! That’ll teach it!”

You. Are. An. Idiot.

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This is obviously going to be a multi-part series. So, there you go. Part 1 of…. 4? 5?

2006 Becky had no idea she’d soon have four kids and sofa goats.

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What I Want

It’s International Women’s Day.

According to what Google said about this year’s theme, I’m supposed to be wishing for empowerment via social protection and sustainable infrastructure, or something like that…..

But I’m not.

I know that sounds kind of mean and unsupportive, and I really don’t mean it that way.  It’s just….sustainable infrastructure is not very much fun to daydream about, no matter how hard I try.

Here is a list of stuff I actually want instead:

  1. A pause/erase/do-over on all voicemails – Yes, I know some voicemails offer that option, but why the heck is this not a standard thing? There is nothing worse than being halfway through a voicemail and realizing you said the wrong thing and sound like an idiot, or you gave them your cell phone number instead of your work number, or, or, or…..

    … but it’s too late, you can’t fix it because you’ve already started talking and now you’re being recorded, LIVE, and every single thing you say could conceivably be saved forever, or be turned into a viral video, and maybe if you get lucky you can figure out a way to talk into the judgy silence of the voicemail recorder and save this situation….but no. 

    No, you’re not that lucky, and now it’s too late. 


    Image result for i hate voicemail


    Now you’re sounding weird and rambly, and you don’t sound professional or coherent at all.  In fact, you passed the line from too-talkative into “hey listen to this weird voicemail I got” about five or six sentences ago, and oh geez, you just keep hoping that you’ll find the right combo of sentences to make you seem like a functioning, intelligent adult who represents your company with pride, but you can’t, you just sound like a freak,  and it’s 2019 and technology is nearly limitless and WHY CAN’T I DELETE THIS VOICEMAIL AND START OVER?!

  2. Sarcasm font- How hard can this be?! It’s such a simple fix. You could use italics for emphasis, and then you could use backwards italics (slanting to the left instead of the right) for sarcasm.

    Image result for THE WORLD 'NEEDS SARCASM

    Do you know how many arguments and hurt feelings could be avoided by letting people text as sarcastically as they speak?

  3. A giant plastic/wooden model of a horse that I could use to practice mounting, posting, dismounting, and maybe even trick riding – You could set it up in your backyard, and not only could the kids could play on it, but it would be a great workout, too. Forget squats, or Pilates, or CrossFit – just practice mounting without cinching up the saddle very tight, ten times in a row. Could you imagine the workout you could get, and how much happier a horse would be if you could practice this sort of stuff without having to flop around on their backs? I could practice trotting without stirrups and build my leg muscles without worrying about whether my crookedness is going to make a horse chiropractor necessary. Plus, I could slowly but surely teach myself to swing up bareback onto a horse, or how to do that “run at them from behind and vault over their butt” without worrying about getting kicked.  I’d get so much use out of one

  4. Wireless/Bluetooth Video Game Edition Of The Giant Fake Horse – Once someone invents the fake horse from the last daydream, I want to have an indoor, electronic version that pairs with my TV/Video game console.  It would be like Wii Dance, or Wii Sports, but with horses.

    Kind of like this, but full size and a bajillion times awesomer.


    You could “compete” against friends in a cross-country jumping edition, or practice “riding the fence” in a reined cowhorse competition, or just practice your two-point on a virtual ride in Mongolia… ALSO,  DUDE, JUST THINK HOW COOL THE NEW RED DEAD REDEMPTION WOULD BE IF YOU COULD ACTUALLY RIDE INSTEAD OF JUST USING A CONTROLLER!



    I think I remember seeing somewhere that this technically exists in some “just for Olympics level” riders, but I want one in my living room.

    Also, I want my giant fake horse to have hinges so it can fold down small enough to slip under the couch when I am not actually using it.


  5. 19 Acres for dirt cheap: I would like my two next door neighbors to grow irritated with owning land, and decide to sell all their horse/hay pasture to me for a ridiculously low price.

    “Are you sure?  That’s so…. So cheap!” I would exclaim. “I would feel bad buying it from you for so little.”

    “Oh, seriously, don’t feel guilty.  We just don’t want the hassle of all this land ownership. Owning all this land is such a drag.  If you can just take all this rolling, treeless pasture off our hands, you’d be doing us a real favor.  We’ll even sweeten the deal by fencing all of it with brand new horse fencing before we sell it to you for .30 cents an acre.”

    “Well…. If you insist……”

  6. A Robotic Perpetual Puppy – Sometimes you want snuggle a puppy, but you don’t actually want another dog and all the care that goes with it.  The Robotic Perpetual Puppy would have all the cuteness and fluffiness of a 7-week-old puppy, but when you don’t want to deal with it you could just turn it off and stuff it in the closet.

    Image result for basket of puppiesI admit I daydream less of this now that I have the goats, because honestly, they’re kind of like puppies that I can legally lock away whenever I’m tired of playing with them. I cannot recommend baby goats highly enough. 

  7. An Indoor/Covered Arena: 200 x 100, please.  Also, if it could have a raised, covered area with a couch for the kids to hang out in, that’d be great, too.

    Image result for indoor arena lounge

    I would never leave. Ever. I would happily live on that couch the rest of my life. The Bean could take over the entire house as his man cave.



  8. Jeans with shapewear sewn on the top, like maternity pants – I know some people hate pregnancy wear, but at the risk of sounding stuck up, dude, I rock maternity jeans. They’re the only jeans that I can wear down low around my hips, where the back pockets sit low enough to make my butt look good. I mean, I suppose I could wear all jeans like that, but maternity jeans are the only ones I can wear like that without worrying about bending over the wrong way and flashing the mom version of plumbers crack.

    With my imaginary shapewear jeans, the jeans portion would be completely normal, but then there would be a bit of shapewear sewn to the waistband. To keep it from rolling down you could make the shapewear kind of like a tank top (the shoulder straps would keep it in place). Not only would you never have to worry about plumber’s crack, but you’d also never have to worry about muffin top or sucking in your belly or wearing a belt to keep your pants from slipping down. Control top jeans. Why don’t these already exist?  I’d buy the heck out of them.

  9. Stitch-Fix, but for broke people – It’d be exactly the same as Stitch-Fix, but they’d fill your monthly box with stuff from Goodwill so you could actually afford it. Who spends $40 on a single shirt?!  Are you high, Stitch-Fix?!

  10. A minivan capable of hauling a horse trailer –  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  Then I wouldn’t have to choose between fitting all the kids in one vehicle and being able to haul horses places. Also, I’d really like it if it could get decent gas mileage. Also, also, it would be affordable, unlike those big SUVs that are still going for 30k when they have 100,000 miles on them.

  11. Facial Recognition Glasses  – The glasses would have facial recognition software, and then you could program them to show you important information about the people you run into (only you could see what you programmed into it.) It could be something as simple as the person’s name, or as complex as where you met them and why you sort-of-but-not-quite remember them. I know this is verging into Black Mirror territory, but there’s nothing more frustrating than recognizing someone, starting to say hello, and then remembering too late that the reason I recognize them is that they were a total jerk to me (nobody goes to City Hall to be nice to the person behind the counter) and I don’t actually want to talk to them but now it’s too late to back out of the conversation because I was the one that waved at them, and Hiiiiii, how are youuuuuuuu?

  12. Affordable Kids’ Summer Camps: The camps would be local, and affordable, and educational…. And the kids would think it was really, really, really fun.  I would send the kids to it for a week while I went on a catch-up-on-all-our-lost-sleep vacation with The Bean, and then when I came back I’d discover that my children had not only had a great time, but they had also they learned how to cook healthy meals, build a fire from scratch, how to change the oil in a car, and also maybe they accidentally learned how to do pre-algebra while playing nerf wars with the camp counselors.

    “Did you have a good time, boys?”

    “It was wonderful! We learned so much, thank you for sending us, Mom!”

    “I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it.  What was your favorite part?”

    “I think it was when they taught us how to be kind to others, and how to always be polite and well-spoken with adults so that other people think you’re an amazing parent!”

    “No, no, my favorite part was how they read to us every evening and now we are magically voracious readers completely in love with books, and they taught us the secret of how to persevere even when it’s difficult, and always be grateful for the small things, and make our beds, and eat salads even when offered a candy bar. Can we pretty please go again?”

    “Well, I dunno boys, it’s $25 a week with all your room and board included…. but okay, I suppose we could afford another week!”


    Image result for kids summer camps

    Look, we’re learning how to divide fractions and having a great time doing it!



    Shhhh. It could happen.

  13. Human Kibble. I’m serious about this one.  If they can make a dog kibble that my dog gets excited about, and if they can make canned cat food that my cat will sprint across an entire field for, then they can come up with some kind of cereal that has all the protein and vitamins and whatever a human body needs, but also tastes like Reese’s Pieces or something.

    Dude, I’m so tired of cooking. Cooking all the time for four kids is exhausting, even if you liked cooking (which I never have.)

    Human kibble. We needs some.

  14. Tinder For Writers: It’d be like an online dating service, except instead of swiping right and having to deal with STDs or marriage or whatever it is all those single people do with Tinder nowadays, you would find someone to coauthor a book with you. I used to play an online Pern-based RPG that was text based – it was called Dragonsfire Moo, I think? I always had a good time, but every once in a while I’d stumble across someone whose writing style just absolutely meshed with mine, and writing scenes with them was pure magic.

    I have absolutely no idea how this would work, and I’m sure in real life the paperwork involved would be a giant headache, and now that I’m really thinking about the practical aspects of it I imagine most people who used it would end up with more lawsuits than actual money, but I don’t care. This is my wish list, and I want a Tinder Writing Service to help me find a coauthor. In this scenario I could come up with the big picture ideas and the zany female characters and funny situations, and they would come up with the boring middle section of the book and the witty male dialogue, and we’d churn out, like, five books a year and live like royalty on the proceeds. We could totally be the next Ilona Andrews team, and end up with a bunch of giant movie deals, and then I could afford most of the stuff on my daydream list just by the money we brought in.

  15. Alfalfa Candle: I want a candle I can burn in my house that makes the whole house smell like fresh cut alfalfa warming up in the summer sun.

  16. The Forever Outfit: I’d like the ability to hire someone to come up with the perfect, wear-every-day-for-the-rest-of-my-entire-life outfit for me. This person would look at my skin tone, and coloring, and body type, and then they’d design the perfect outfit.  The jeans would fit me just perfectly and never need a belt to keep from sliding down my hips as they stretched out throughout the day… the shirt would be long enough that I would never have to worry about it riding up when I reached for something above my head.  It would be tailored at the waist so that I didn’t look like I was wearing a box with sleeves, but not so tight I felt uncomfortable. It would be layered, so that I could wear the outfit in both summer and winter…..

    And then I could just order that same exact outfit, forever and ever, and nobody would ever think it was weird.

  17. The Everyday Cloak: Okay, so if nobody actually ever invents The Forever Outfit then I want to be able to wear whatever I want, whenever I want, and not have it be weird. I know I live in America so nobody really judges me on my clothes, and more specifically I live near Portland, so I really could wear whatever I wanted and short of it being a MAGA hat or literally  being on fire, nobody would judge me….  but I want to wear weird stuff and not have people stare at me, even if they’re just staring out of curiosity.

    Okay, if I’m actually being specific…. I want to be able to wear cloaks again. I just have a thing for cloaks, okay?




    I want to have an array of cloaks hanging up in my closet, and some kind of, I dunno, basic adventurers outfit beneath it, like a black tank top and a pair of jeans. It’d be like the Forever Outfit, only it’d be Awesome Cloak edition.

    She must be overwhelmed with the awesomeness of her cloak. That’s the only reason I can figure for her weird, blank expression. I don’t blame her. It’s a COMPLETELY awesome cloak.

    Every day I’d put on a pair of jeans, a tank top, my Ariat Fatbaby boots, and then I would just pick out my cloak depending on my mood that day, and stride down the street looking totally magnificent. I could swirl through the aisles of the grocery store, with my cloak flaring out in whirling, colorful splendor behind me.  I could use it to sit down on the grass at the park without worrying if my butt was gonna get wet.  I could pull up the hood whenever I was cold, or just didn’t want to talk to anyone.



    I know I could wear cloaks and maybe I’d be the person to help them make a comeback… but I don’t’ want to be a fashion trendsetter.  I want cloaks to be normal, the same as wearing a hoodie.



    Also, I want them to be easy to wash and dry and be wrinkle and stain-resistant.  If I’m going to daydream, I might as well daydream in a practical fashion.


  18. Book On Demand Coffee Shop – I want a coffee shop that can print a book on demand. Like, you go into Starbucks and you sit down with your coffee, and enjoy it, and then you order your book on demand with an app, and 2-3 minutes later a kiosk spits it out, all warm and freshly printed and smelling deliciously of paper so you can sit with your coffee and read your new book.  It’s 2019.  Why is this not a thing?

 

So, there you have it.  That’s what I want. 


What do you want? 

 

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Baby goats!

I could talk about where we got them, and the amazing generosity that enabled us to to have them, but I’m exhausted, so I think I will just do a giant photo dump instead.

Portland sunset skyline

Daddy goat

He didn’t smell at all, but apparently they wash him with dog shampoo a lot.

Mama goat to the red and white buckling. Sorry about the low quality photos, but the flash spooked them so I took the photos in dim light.

Red and white buckling on the right. He belongs to DragonMonkey, who named him “Patches”.

More of Patches

This is the mama to the twin doelings. She has blue eyes, but every photo of her with her eyes open was way too blurry to bother sharing.

I have to admit, I’m jealous I didn’t get to pick a goat for myself. Being a “fair mom” is hard sometimes. I wanted to take first pick of the doelings as mine (solid red with blue eyes is such a cool color! I want Squid’s doeling). , and leave them with whatever two I didn’t want.

I understand it doesn’t matter whose goat it is technically, that we will all love and care for them ….. but my inner-8-year-old doesn’t agree.

This is doeling #1. Doeling #1 is technically registered in DragonMonkey’s name in case he wants to show her at 4-H this year.

“Family doeling” also has blue eyes.

Basically, the breeder thought he should have the buckling, since he’s the only one old enough to do 4-H this year, and the buckling is nice enough to maybe win some ribbons, etc.

Since DragonMonkey got to have his name on the papers of two goats, I gave Squid first choice of the doelings, and then this other doeling is kind of the family goat, albeit registered in DM’s name.

If we decide for some reason the buckling/probably-a-soon-to-be-wether is not a good fit for us because we want only females, then DM will still have a doeling.

He’s so in love with the buckling because I’ve been very careful to to it s “his” goat her the “family goat” to try make everything fair, I sincerely doubt that will happen.

And then the final baby goat, little sister to the one above. She belongs to Squid. She’s the smallest, and a blue-eyed solid red with a couple of moonspots. He hasn’t thought of a name yet.

Only two days difference between these kids.

And here are some videos of our first bottle feeding:

The downstairs fencing we have will keep them in maybe a couple of days more (if we’re lucky) without a lid, but we have a fully enclosed 12×12 shelterlogic corral we’re making goat proof this weekend.

They are so small they’re basically hawk-bait at the moment, so they can’t roam freely until they’re a little bigger.

This was a good decision- maybe not time wise or sanity wise, but joy wise it was a GREAT decision, and sometimes we all need a little more joy in our lives.

And now, off to bed, because I now have SEVEN KIDS to get ready in the morning before I leave for work.

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Life is Busy

I don’t have nearly enough going on.

I don’t have four kids and the stomach flu going through our household.

I don’t have a barn with an untrained 9- month-old Morgan.

I don’t have a gassy, hairy pony who is shedding so bad her hair keeps clumping up in her armpits.

I don’t have a full time job, and an unwashed laundry mountain in my basement, and books I haven’t written, and dog hair I haven’t swept up, and unhealthy dinners I haven’t cooked last minute, and, and, and…

And that is definitely not DragonMonkey reading up on how to bottle feed baby goats.

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Magpie Vs. Mom

I like how I wrote the saddest post ever, left it up for a a bit, and then I completely disappeared and the blog shut down.

It made everything seem so much more melodramatic than the actual truth.

The  truth was I forgot I needed to renew my blog, spent the money elsewhere, and remembered too late to do anything other than wait for my next paycheck to turn the lights back on.

I suppose I could incorporate the renewal and hosting and other boring background stuff for this blog into our regular budget, but this blog is mine.

Image result for it's all mine
It’s mine, I tell you… all mine!


It’s not an ours/married thing, it’s mine, all mine, and it’s not to be sullied by practical, accountanty things like budgets and schedules.

Of course, it’s also the only bill that’s regularly forgotten about and regularly goes overdue and gets shut off…. but let’s not focus on that.

Anyways, the blog hosting is back, for another 3 months or so. If it suddenly disappears again in late April or May, you’ll know why.

I’m not in the mood to be sad today, so in reference to my post about Caspian all I’m gonna say is that I read every single one of your words, multiple times, and that I wish  everyone had people like you in their lives to help them heal when sad things happen. You helped more than you know.

Moving on, before I get maudlin.

Monday morning I tried to use my windshield wipers to clear the snow off of my windshield. It worked – sort of.

I mean, technically it worked – the wet snow went sliding off the sides of the car with soft plopping sounds, but when the windshield wipers tried to return to their normal position, they couldn’t.  There was too much snow built up at their base.

Clunk.  Clunk.  Clunk.  Clunk.  The wipers sounded whiny, almost petulant as they tried to click back into place.

I sighed, and got out to scoop the snow with my hands.  I thought it would be a quick affair, but there was more of it than I had thought. We had about 3-4 inches come down over the weekend, but Sunday night’s rain had turned everything into a heavy, sodden mess. It looked like snow, but it acted more like a half-melted slushy without any syrup in it.

We were promised a Snowmageddon up here near Portland, but unfortunately for us, it was just a few degrees too warm. A couple hundred of feet more in elevation or a couple hundred miles north, people were trapped with almost a foot and a half of snow.

Alas for Bean Acres, every time we built up any inches, the rain would swoop in and melt it. 

I
It made for a couple of cute pictures, but overall it was a bit of a letdown.

The next morning the snow was rapidly getting melted by the rain, but not fast enough for my morning commute. It took several minutes of scooping before I was finally able to replace the windshield wipers to their normal position, and by the time I opened the door to huddle in the driver’s seat and blow on my frozen hands, my fingers were an angry red.

“BRRRR.  BRRRR, it’s COLD out there,” I complained, to nobody in particular.  I alternated between blowing on my stinging, clumsy fingertips and trying to fumble my seatbelt on.

“You putta onna da hat,” came Magpie’s slightly disgusted tone, floating up from her car seat in the middle row.

She’s not quite as verbal as Squid was, but she was so unintelligible for so long that her sentences still startle me when they come out so clear.

Of course, clear is kind of a relative term. 

Half the time she sounds like she’s pretending  to be Italian, with her random “a’s” she tends to stick on the end of words.

The other half, especially when she’s angry, she sounds like an irritable Russian grandma from a cheesy 80’s film. “Vat? Vat you vont, Feen?  Vhy you do dis to me?”

Today she sounded Italian, and also slightly put out that she had to explain something so simple to me. There was something so sensible, so practical in her tone.  If I was cold, why hadn’t I bothered to put on my hat?  She had put on her hat.  Her head was warm, nice and snug beneath her pink and blue Paw Patrol knit cap. Why couldn’t her mother follow her good example, rather than sit there and complain about it?

“It’s not that kind of cold, Magpie.” I tried to ignore the feeling that I shouldn’t have to defend my actions to a toddler.

“You cold. You putta onna da hat.”

“No, it’s not that kind of cold.  I was scooping snow with my hands.  That’s why I was cold – my hands are cold from touching the snow.”

“Mama putta onna da snodoves.” 

“I don’t own any snow gloves, or I would have.”

“You putta onna da pockets.”

“…. What?”

“You cold,” she said in weary disapproval, turning her head to stare out the minivan window.

Life is an exhausting affair, especially when you are saddled with a mother who can’t manage even the simplest of tasks without constant reminders.


“You cold,” she repeated in her world-weary voice. “You putta da hands onna da pockets.”

“Fine,” I conceded, having been verbally outmaneuvered by a knee-high person who still goes peepee in her diaper.  “You’re right.  Putting my hands in my pockets would have kept my hands warm.”

“Yah,” she said, her tone turning to something a little less condescending.  “Pockets.” At least her mother understood that she was right. The world would run so much smoother, if more people just listened to Magpie’s good sense.  She stared out the window, content with the wisdom she had imparted, and began singing quietly to herself.  “Tinkle, tinkle, widda stawr… How-a I a-wonda…whewr you aaaaahhh…”

She’s not even three yet, guys.

Someone hold me. I have a feeling I’m in for a looooooong teenagerhood.

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