Bonjour. I am sorry about this year’s Notre Dame football team but I suppose you're getting used to it. And I hear the cold Paris autumn is intolérable. I know I’ve been unusually silent since the spring, and I know too it makes you feel disconnected from everything that’s going on here. Again, I’m sorry. Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I’m just going to give you a broad update on what’s been going on.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been on a big life improvement kick. As you know, it started with the around the clock renovations on the house. I just couldn’t take it any more – the constant mess, projects everywhere. It consumed me – and frankly, I went to and from school, Home Depot and Lowes. Alexis and I worked as I’ve said before, late into the night. Day after day after day.
(achem - my dirty little secret - the laundry basket of unopened mail - Awesomez is helping me - correction forcing me to open- ok I'm still lying she's opening it and I'm standing next to her)
(Alexis works and works and works)
Then Lisa and Lindsey moved in and the renovations that weren’t finished came to an abrupt standstill. Even now, pieces of window casing and crown molding stacked in the game room. But it was time to prepare for the fair.
Honey became the focus. We had to jar and then we had to buy shelves to put the jars on. Banners were designed, and created, business cards, t-shirts tables, tablecloths, infomercials, etc. Awesomez labeled day in and day out. The fair came and went.
Sales from the fair were underwhelming. It was exhausting trying to compete with deep fried Oreos™. The problem we face is that true honey lovers don’t like you to “do” anything to their honey and consequently, they don’t appreciate the idea of the Stingers™ line. Unfortunately, people who really like it don’t want to try it, because they think they don’t really like honey enough. I’ve been racking my brain how to overcome this problem and I keep thinking about the Life cereal campaign “Hey Mikey! You try it.” Moms were supposed to think it was healthy, but kids were supposed to think it was tasty.
A few stores are carrying it now and it seems to be selling, but we really need an endorsement from someone whom people admire, a food editor or someone. If only Ellen liked spicy food. Who knows? Maybe she does. Perhaps I’ll send her a jar. We did just get accepted as a member candidate to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, which means we may be going to their Winter Fancy Food Show in January. It’s in San Francisco and though it won’t be cheap, I think it’s the best way to help launch Henry’s Sweet Miracle Honey™ and Stingers™. Oh and by the way, we’re just now coming out with a new flavor! The Naughty Nana™. It’s a ginger/pepper blend. I can’t wait for you to taste it when you come in January. Chris says it’s his new favorite.
School started and life became complicated. Awesomez and I were trying to juggle the kids, school and everything else. Lindsey is very teen and thought living on the farm was fine in the summer, but it hampered her social life. So after much discussion, Lisa and Lindsey found an apartment in town near school. It was definitely the right decision. They have two dogs (Angel and Tasia- as in “Fantasia”) and neither got along with Irish. This made living in the house a bit more of a circus than usual. And having them in town is handy. I can go and spend the day at their apartment learning QuickBooks™ (a bookkeeping program) and not have to stay at a coffee shop all day. Awesomez can drop off or pick up something for me so it’s great in a lot of ways. Awesomez and I are actually spending more time together than when we were living together. I feel as though I got my friend back. Besides, blending two families isn’t easy. Heck, living with anyone isn’t easy, especially, since she's about as fanatic about football as you are.
The truth is though it hit me hard they were going to leave; I’d worked so long for them to arrive and spent so much time preparing. I had this picture in my head of snowy evenings with us around the fire watching some old movie. Alas, that was not to be. Lindsey won’t watch old movies. Awesomez is so allergic to pet dander she could barely sit on the sofa, proving life isn’t always a Christmas card. Selfishly, I’d also imagined Awesomez would be there to help me with all the winter stuff.
As luck would have it, just about this time Alexis mentioned he was looking for a place to spend the winter. His situation was coming to a close and he needed to move on. So without much hesitation I offered him the attic “penthouse” and he gladly accepted. We worked out a rent/work agreement and are happily preparing for winter getting heat lamps, checking water heaters and putting in wind blocks. There’s so much to repair on the loafing shed in the pasture. The little cows have pushed down planks all over the place and the round bale feeder leaks like sieve.
I can’t tell you what a relief it is to come home and find something done that I didn’t do. Alexis has already reorganized the barn and prevented an electrical fire down at the pump house. It seems my cracker jack former contractor didn’t make sure the wiring down there was done properly and we had an accident waiting to happen. The water stopped one evening when I wasn’t home and Alexis went to investigate only to smell the smoldering. He changed it out and prevented a disaster.
Speaking of shoddy workmanship, my sink in the kitchen has sunk again. I don’t understand why, but I guess the guys who put in my new counters and sink never built the proper support beneath it. So the sink has separated from the counter again by about two inches – This is the second time in less than three years. Bless his heart Alexis is fixing that today. While I steal away this precious time drinking coffee and writing you. C'est la vie.
In addition to everything else, we’ve been asked to video document almost everything that goes on around here for a project. I feel a bit silly on camera, but I’ve been trying to comply. The idea is to inspire interest in Fort Flashback and the colonial living history camp. I know Dad I still dream. Rêver le rêve impossible. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and all of that.
I haven’t slept well in months, which has been taking its toll on me. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. It’s the coyotes. My friend, Anna who has a turkey farm has lost a huge portion of her heritage turkeys this year. I worry every time I hear howling close by. During the day I worry about Frank, Brad, Silence and Alice - my silly turkeys and of course, Louise, my one kooky chicken. Norton and Midge seem to take care of themselves, but a pack could definitely take them if they tried. So I’ve been thinking seriously about getting a llama. I know, I know, another animal? And it’s not colonial. Although I can rationalize with the best of them and the llama actually originated in North America millions of years ago before moving to South America - so actually it's Pre-colonial. Right? Anyway, I’ve struggled with this day after day turning the options over in my head.
The thing is Miracle had just quit working. It seems this isn’t uncommon for donkeys they seem to work about two years and then retire. I guess she’s not unlike a lot of women, she fell in love and quit her job. What can I say? She’s an ass. Then of course, there’s Irish, but frankly he’d rather be curled up watching “Dancing With The Stars” than living outside guarding animals. So the only other choice is a llama. What with winter fast approaching and darkness being the order of the day, coyote attacks become more and more likely.
If you can imagine, the nights are worse. You see, Lucky is still lame and I’m afraid they could easily take her down. I can’t imagine what a slow terrible death that would be. Irish does alert me to any trouble. So almost every night I get up and listen at the window to hear how close they are. If they are in fact, in the pasture I put on my coat and go down in the van. This happens so many times a night I’ve taken to sleeping on the sofa with Irish so I can get up quickly.
I don’t’ know if you remember Lucky – she’s one of the little Irish Dexters I got from Pixie Forest Farms. She’s red like Gnatalie, Petite’s daughter and Gnatalie’s cousin. She’s a sweetie with a curly hairdo. Somehow last winter she injured her leg. I had the vet out last spring, but and he couldn’t find anything wrong with her that can be fixed. He told me to try putting her in the barn. Isolating her so she could get better, but she became insane and broke out of the barn. She doesn’t like being alone. Then back when Alexis and I were working on the house we built a corral underneath the Kubota barn. I thought maybe she’d be ok being outside if the other cows were nearby and she could see them. She broke out of there and limped back down to the pasture. So for the warm summer I left her grazing in with Petite and Gnatalie. I locked Abe and Andy out and let them roam the hills. The vet said they could try to mount her and that would be the end, so they contentedly roamed. For a while I thought she was getting better, but she isn’t. In fact, she’s atrophied so much on one side she looks strange. I fear she won’t last the winter. I don’t think she can maneuver through the mud and I can’t imagine what will happen with the snow and the ice. I’m looking for a sign that it’s time to put her down.
Strangely, Henry, Tom and I are actually getting used the idea of butchering her if she does need to be put down. At this point after so many discussions, we feel throwing her away would be a sin, especially in these economic times. This has led me to think of Maryruth often. I don’t think I’m where she is, I don’t think I could just butcher Lucky to eat her, but I think if I have to put her down, I think I’ll be ok with it. What the heck is happening to me? Am I really a farm girl or what? The whole thing makes me want to crawl in a hole and go for a pedicure. If it weren’t for the money.
On a different note, Henry got in a fight after school with a bully. I was extremely proud of him as he was protecting his friend, Dylan. I guess as usual it was over some girl. The bully thought Dylan had said something derogatory. He and Henry had been trying to avoid the kid during the day, but persistence paid off for the bully and he finally cornered them on the Village Green in Fairhaven. ( It sounds so Boston Massacre) Anyway, Henry said something right out some Clint Eastwood movie like "You'll have to go through me, first..." and the bully took him at his word disabling our hero with a blow to the neck. The bully was no stranger to street fighting. Henry on the other hand brought a knife to a gun fight. He had a perforated eardrum, a black eye, a chipped tooth,bruised ribs and a shattered ego. A vacationing pediatrician saw the whole thing and gave me the details. Chris was closer, left work and picked up his nephew who was embarrassed he hadn't even really gotten in a good swing.
He's been prohibited from playing his horn while his ear healed, but in any case he is probably giving up band this year. He’s going to finish his third year, but doesn’t really think it’s his thing. His ear has healed and he is back playing but he has informed me it’s not his dream. "I'm just not another Grandpa Horn..." Frankly, I’m just glad he stuck with it this long and hope maybe he’ll want to pick it up again in the future. I know he has your musical genes but honestly I can just about tell the difference between the piano and drums.
Henry’s turning into a teenager before my eyes. He’s not as helpful as he once was without my occasional screaming. And you know I can scream when the occasion calls for it. Toby’s going through the same thing with Dean. Dean is doing well in school and has a girlfriend – Her name is Fredleynn (that’s correct - Fred- a – lynn). He took her to the Burbank High Homecoming Dance where they had their first kiss “Right in front of the principal,” according to Dean. However, a real teenage boy Dean has been completely disregarding all rules of the home. He disobeyed Toby and left the house for school at 5:45AM in the dark to go to the park. She went ballistic. He doesn’t seem to be able to comprehend the danger he could be in alone in the park at that time of the morning and she doesn’t know why he would do this. We’re worried about someone taking advantage of him and he of course thinks he can handle anything. One night Toby came home from shooting “90210” and found Dean engrossed in some program with jelly all over the carpet. She said recently her head spins around on a normal basis and she is not exactly sure whether she goes completely Linda Blair. The smart money says she does.
Henry hasn’t gotten that bad, yet - but he gives up on every chore without really trying. I never would have watched Mom do the kind of work he let's me do without helping. I brought the hammer down pretty hard the other day and I am seeing an enormous improvement. Just to make sure I know he's really, really trying to help out, he gives me a running dialogue as he does his 'good deed' Yesterday for instance I heard: “Gee, look there’s a box of my mom’s things that have tipped over. I think I’ll pick them up without being asked and set them somewhere out of the way so the dogs don’t knock it over again…” ETC. He’s a pain, but generally amusing so I still give him dinner.
Eying him the other morning, as he was pulling clothes of the top of the dryer and getting ready for school I noticed his clothes were way too small and fit like Jethro Bodine. We don’t get the hand-me-downs we used to from Trevor being all the way up here, so I’m going to have to go out and get him some bigger clothes. Otherwise, Quinn will inevitably go on and on about how socially unacceptable Henry is.
Quinn is actually trying to be helpful in her own teenage way. She is turning out to be a pillar of morality. I guess one of her friends is going down a bad path and she told her she couldn’t be friends with her if she continued doing some of the things she was doing. Quinn’s response when the girls asked her just to accept her and not judge her was, “I can’t be friends with someone I can’t respect.” I have to say I don’t think I would have had the insight to respond like that at her age.
When I ask Lisa about her she responds with “You know, Quinn is lovely and I adore watching her play volleyball. I sit in the stands and cheer for my daughter, but the moment she comes over and starts criticizing my hair and clothes and tells me to stop embarrassing her, I remember I have a teenager.”
Oddly, we skipped Halloween this year for the most part. Oh, Henry wore a costume to school of course. He said to me one day Winnie the Pooh had an eating disorder, Piglett was OCD, Eyore had clinical depression and Tigger had ADHD - so that was the perfect costume for him. We had planned to do it up, but I just couldn't get it all together. Tom flew in and we went to the Donaldson's and learned to paint Ukrainian eggs. On Halloween we worked as a family on our gingerbread competition. The one at the Bellingham Ferry Terminal. This year we're finally going to enter. Tom’s been working on the mock-up and mechanics. I’m researching everything from the best gingerbread recipes for construction to icing for cement. Henry's been a baking fool. We’re going to go big! Everything has to be ready for Thanksgiving weekend when we'll assemble.
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and I’m having a houseful. Toby and Dean are coming so is Laura Miller, Ayumi (Henry/Quinn and Phoebe’s babysitter) and her daughter, Awesomez and Lindsey, Alexis of course Team Donaldson and Nana – and maybe Mike. You’re probably wondering about Mike. That would make two of us. He has completely dropped off the face of the planet. I have not spoken to him since September. I got one email confirming he’s not dead. He doesn’t call back he doesn’t write. I know money’s been tough and work has been hard. He hurt his back, which forced him to walk awkwardly causing his knee to act up. I don’t know much more than that. We’re all worried and have no idea what he’s doing or whether he’ll show up to Thanksgiving or not.
To answer the question I know is on your mind – NO, I’m not working at the Everybody’s Store, but I did apply for quite a few positions on including an assistant director at a daycare, a cleaning woman and a cake decorator. The assistant director position pays less than the cleaning position. I sent pictures of my Easter cookies and Phoebe’s birthday cake for the bakery job. Surprisingly, I got called back for interviews on all three so who knows what’s going to happen. Lisa is concerned about me getting the cake decorator job before we enter the gingerbread contest. She says if I get it we might have to switch to professional category. I told the woman I’ve never ever decorated cakes professionally, but she seemed to like my samples so I’m excited.
Stay tuned, you never know what’s going to happen next. . .we’re not sure if Midge is expecting piglets.
Adieu pour maintenant, je vous aime,
p.s. Although Vivian is limping from the osteosarcoma, her quality of life is much better than I expected. I don't know how long she'll last, but she's older than Josephine or Gladys. In fact, she will be ten February 1st (and Luther 11 Irish twins) and I am grateful she is doing so well - here's a peek
p.p.s. At least the Lakers are winning.