7 years strong

this weekend is our 7th wedding anniversary. i started writing a big post about marriage and divorce last week, but i seem to have lost it. maybe that's for the best...
instead of getting dogmatic or political i'll just tell you that marrying damian is the best decision i've made in my life (rising out of 8th grade is a close 2nd). i love being married. i still get a thrill when i get introduced as damian's wife, or when i get to introduce my 'husband.' being married to damian so far has been a fantastic adventure that just seems to get better and better (of course we have our moments of horrible shittyness, we are only human). my perception that things are getting better all the time seems unbelievable in some ways, but when i think about it, it kinda makes sense. we are both maturing and evolving, growing up into better people. plus, we've been building trust and intimacy and sharing experience all this time, so why wouldn't it get better?
damian wrote this song last month. it's just a demo, but it goes along with my blog theme of the day so i wanted you to hear it.

and for what it's worth, my (possibly useless to anyone but me) advice for marriage:
#1) be kind -that's the most important. just be kind. it's hard sometimes, but do your best and say sorry when you blow it.
#2) think of yourselves as one unit seeking to create the best situation for both of you together. not: i want this and you want that and we disagree, but: we both want both of us to get what we want, how can we work together to make it happen? this is also huge for damian and i. every fight we've ever had has had to do with one or both of us (usually both) forgetting that we both want the SAME thing. as soon as we remember we are on the same team, we can come up with a solution in no time.
#3) spend lots of time nurturing the relationship. lots. you have to schedule it. schedule several hours of uninterrupted relationship time every week. have 'date night' once a week. or have a sabbath for a whole day every week. turn off your phone. have a tantra date, have a book that you are reading together. clean the house together. talk. snuggle. laugh. be silly. have fun. lots.
#4) give each other lots of compliments and appreciation every day. -thanks for doing the dishes. thanks for watering that plant. you look great. those pants look hot on you. thanks for working to make money for us today. thanks for putting gas in the car. lots. every day. little things, big things, things you are tempted to take for granted.

i think that's all. be kind, be a team, time, express appreciation.

sept 19th 2002.

what damian has been up to

damian has had a whirlwind of a week. as of early tomorrow morning he will have driven about 2,700 miles, played 8 shows in 7 days and slept in a different town every night. on monday they (tim easton & the joshua tree army) were in portland. here's a video from that gig.

the bus

I’m a big fan of appropriate transportation. I guess it started in Vancouver where the combination of traffic, sketchy left-hand turns, lack of parking, and involved graduated drivers license procedures combined with frequent busses, urban density and bike/pedestrian paths made it easy for me to put off getting a drivers license. In Eugene, the bus system wasn’t much to speak of, but that town is a bikers paradise. The biking is so easy, safe and convenient, a huge percentage of Eugene’s population use bikes as their primary source of transportation. I loved seeing whole families on bikes, or whole families on one bike! It wasn’t uncommon to see a tandem bike with a pedal trailer so the older kid could add some human power, and behind that a trailer for the little one(s) and groceries. Even pizza and packages came delivered on specialized courier bikes in Eugene. Ah Eugene, how I love you…
Here in Joshua Tree, we are not urban, we are rural. There is one bus route that serves our area. It goes east/west along the main hwy from Yucca Valley to 29 Palms. It goes once an hour for most of the day, except during the evening rush hour, when it doesn’t run at all. Seriously. The bus (route 1) stops at walmart, the courthouse, the hospital, the college, and the marine base. All you could ever need, right?
I love the bus. Really, I do. I get up early, ride my bike down to the highway along beautiful desert vistas, then listen to my music and stare out the window while the bus-driver concerns himself on getting me safely to school. In the evening after a long day that ends with algebra, I appreciate not being the one trying to see through a dirty windshield with the setting sun shining directly into my eyes.
Something that I love about Vancouver (and New York, DC, Berlin, London & Paris when I visited) is that you see all kinds of people on the bus/subway/whatever. Rich people, poor people, business people, students, old people, kids, people going to work, and people who’d been drinking all night. You hear people speaking in all languages, and everybody is just going about their life, getting where they need to go. Together. I love that.
Here on route 1 though, there’s pretty much one kind of person… "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses... The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me [and I’ll drive them to the court house for their child support hearing]”
I get sad. Today when the bus stopped at the hospital, a young mom and her newborn baby got on. She must have just had the baby and there was nobody who could drive her and her new child home from the hospital. Sometimes people who look pretty old or sick will get on the bus by themselves, still wearing their hospital bracelet. I know that kind of thing happens everywhere, but it makes me sad anyway.
My community college has had a 60% increase of enrollment this term, and our little route 1 bus has been over capacity hurtling along the highway every morning. Everyone says ‘they’ need to add some busses, and it really is ridiculous that there is no bus during rush hour, when people need it most. but to be honest, I’m not very hopeful. Not until some people with money start complaining.
Reading that last paragraph, I don’t like how it sounds. I feel like I should take this on rather than complaining. So the question is, what can I do to make the Morongo Basin transit system better?
Wouldn’t it be great if people here used the bus because it was easy, convenient and saved them money? Wouldn’t it be great if the bus ran every 15 minutes and connected to routes up to the park and along the main north/south streets? Wouldn’t it be great if people did their grocery shopping and commuted to work on the bus? That would be great! I should call my good friend the governater. I bet he could help. Maybe if I speak German he will be so charmed he has no choice but to secure the funds for a hugely expanded bus system. Then they’ll add a high-speed rail that goes straight from my house to the college in 3 minutes. Yes!

new focus

i've committed to more active blogging this term. i don't have any writing classes this term and i don't want to loose all my hard-earned grammar and composition skills. I'm just not sure what i should be telling you all about. do you care about the new facts i'm learning in my classes? do you care about my strides towards being a relaxidly pleased,* highly efficient, cheerful, straight-A student? do you care about my experience coming in to college as somebody whose last school experience was in 8th grade? do you just want to know what i had for dinner?
i started this blog with a focus on desert life, gardening and homesteading projects. i will certainly keep posting about that stuff when it comes up, but my focus has changed so much since i started school that homesteading projects are few and far between.
let me know what you want to hear. in the mean time i'll see if i can give you a little update:
so far, so good. my classes are engaging, i like my teachers, and i'm learning really cool stuff! i LOVE anatomy. the homework load has started with a bang, but i think it's going to be totally manageable. that's what i tell myself anyway. last week i learned that spanish is the #1 language spoken in many parts of the US. I can also say hello, goodbye, and a few things in between and count to 30 all en espanol. i memorized the main anatomical regions of the body (don't get peroneal mixed up with perineal!) and the four stages of cell division, among other things. anatomy sure involves a lot of memorizing! i learned how to find the domain of a rational expression and how to wright rational expressions in equivalent terms. it's pretty fun. it's more like a puzzle than the algebra i've done so far. you get to compare the terms and if you find two that match you get to cross them out. i also learned that i like factoring.
we are still trying to figure out how to feed ourselves well while we are so busy. we're also trying to figure out if the combination of income generating activities we are doing is actually going to be enough to live on. i'll be planting fall greens in the next week or so.
Damian is going on tour next week! here's what i said about it on facebook:
Damian is about to do a west coast tour with one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Tim Easton. You can check out Tim and his music at http://www.myspace.com/timeaston. Tim is a great performer. His drummer, Ben, is crazy phenomenal (bring earplugs if you are sensitive like me), and the bass player, of course, is not only a fantastic player, but handsome as all get-out. actually, all three of them are extremely cute... I hope you get the chance to see them play in a town near you! Here are the dates:
Sunday August 30, Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
Monday August 31, Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR
Tuesday September 1,Cafe du Nord, San Francisco, CA
Wednesday September 2, Crepe Place, Santa Cruz, CA
Thursday September 3, The Fold in Redwood Bar, Los Angeles, CA
Friday September 4, Pappy & Harriet's, Pioneertown, CA

I've been slacking big time. i worked out once last week, but i'll do better, i promise! i did go to the optometrist to get a prescription so i can see the board at school and road signs when i'm driving. i ordered my glasses on-line and am a bit nervous. the total cost of my actual glasses came to $42. not bad, but i don't really have any way of knowing if they'll fit me or look good. i tried the 'virtual try' thing with an uploaded picture of me, but it's still hard to tell. i'm pretty excited about being able to see clearly.

* "relaxidly pleased" is a phrase we got from Harvey Jackins, founder of Co-counseling. isn't it great? it's just silly enough that sometimes just saying it will make it come true "how are you?" "oh i'm feeling quite relaxidly pleased, thank you!" try it sometime.

summer goals, school goals

In seven days I’ll be back at school. I’m feeling excited and hopeful about this term. Last term was really challenging for me, but I’m confidant that I’ll be more relaxed, more efficient, and more balanced this term. I’ve got some ambitious goals, but first I’ll give you a recap of how I did on my summer goals:
1. Read integral life practice (a book) –yes! I read it and it’s really great. I’ve drafted my own ILP blueprint and am excited about it. More on this below.
2. Reread how to become a straight-A student -Yes! Another great book. I also read another book by the same author; How to Win at College. This one is also good but not as good as straight-A.
3. Garden overhaul-Yes, I mulched, amended, and snipped. I planted but unfortunately had very minimal success with summer crops. Squirrels, lizards, birds and intense heat got the better of everything but a couple pepper plants and some sunflowers. However, fall is around the corner and I’m not giving up on desert gardening yet. More on this below.
4. Set up income generating work– Yes, I am now the official bookkeeper for Not Back to school camp and Lowry House Publishers. I love my boss, I can work from home, hours are flexible, it’s the greatest thing!
5. Get in fantastic shape and set up a regiment for when school starts back. Yes! Well, ‘fantastic’ may be too strong of a word, but I feel strong and fit, and am likely in better shape than I have been in my whole life, which isn’t saying a whole lot, but still. I’ve been doing a 90 day transformation program (thanks Mattias!) and have 5 weeks left.
6. Spend time with Ben, Rebecca, family and, oh yeah, my husband too. –well, my summer has been very lacking in Ben & Rebecca time (what happened?) but we did get some good times in with Ely & Christina and Gabe & Maggie. I got to hang out with Darlene a fair bit (we had little house on the prarie siesta time in the middle of the day when the weather was too hot). And I got to see Nathen in Eugene.
7. Take fun little trips with Damian- we went to Carlsbad and sat on the beach and then drank margaritas. That was pretty fun.
8. Organize the office and deep-clean the house –I think this happened, but the house could probably use another pass…

My school goals for this term can be best summed up by my ILP blueprint and my color-coded calendar. The ILP thing may be a bit confusing, you should read the book. The basic idea is to be a top notch human by making room for all the stuff that’s good for you and the world. You’ve got your core modules: body, mind, spirit and shadow, and you should have practices that address all of these. Shadow is psychological stuff you have to work on so you aren’t a wing-nut. Some people call it ‘baggage.’ Co-counselors call it ‘distress.’ Here’s an example of shadow material: a random customer comes in to the store where I work and asks me if I am pregnant while I’m ringing up her groceries. If I had no shadow material at all around body image or my own fertility I would likely answer her question with a simple “no.” and then carry on with the transaction. Perhaps I would momentarily wonder if the shirt I was wearing looked like a maternity shirt, but that would be the extent of my mental process around it.
however, since I do indeed have shadow material around body image and my fertility (or lack there of), I respond quite differently. First I stare at her, then I look down at my non-pregnant belly wondering how fat I must be to illicit such a question, then I turn red, then I think about how much I would like to be pregnant and then I start to cry. Finally I explain in an offended voice that I am NOT pregnant and continue to wonder for weeks if I am fat.
The 3-2-1 shadow process is a practice highly recommended by the integral crew, it’s a quick & effective way to work through issues big and small. When used consistently, it can help avoid such dramatic health food store encounters as the one described above.
So here’s my ILP and the Schedule it (hopefully) fits into:


the little red bits are my vision improvement program. i'll actually be doing them mostly at school, not home as the color suggests.

The Thermostat

When we moved into our house we tore out the nasty carpet and repaired the walls and ceiling, among other things. We installed a new floor and windows. A lot of the light switches didn’t turn anything on and a lot of the wall sockets still don’t have any juice.
In our bedroom was a ceiling fan that had no wiring whatsoever and an old thermostat sat dingily on the wall. I don’t remember if I ever tried the thermostat, but there are no baseboard heaters in the house and we tore out the swamp cooler that used to be on the roof. Damain and I both assumed that the thermostat was a dead remnant of something that no longer existed or worked.
We were wrong.
This is an embarrassing story, but here goes. We painted the thermostat instead of tearing it out.
Many mornings I’d wake up and look at the thermostat. I’d think to myself, I ought to turn that into a little interactive art piece- I’ll paint “more” and “less” on it and then we can turn the dial according to the mood of the day.
Finally one day in June I pasted the word “beauty” over the thermostat and turned up the dial. It was fun. I didn’t think about the thermostat again for some time.
Meanwhile, the weather was getting quite warm and we were using our swamp cooler more often. We couldn’t help but notice that the bedroom felt quite a bit warmer than the rest of the house. We commented on it frequently. “gosh, I don’t remember the bedroom being so much hotter than the rest of the house last summer,” We said to each other. “I guess the sun just hits this room in the evenings…” on a few occasions I remarked, “this must be what the ceiling fan was for, it feels like all the heat just collects at the top of the room.”
Then the July electric bill came - $130. It was more than four times the highest it’s ever been. We frantically ran around turning off power strips and turning down the water heater. “How could the bill be so high?” we wondered. I called the electric company to see if they had any ideas or perhaps the meter was read incorrectly? Edison’s only suggestion was to unplug my toaster when I’m not using it. It seemed unlikely that my humble toaster would suddenly jack up our electric bill 400%, but whatever. I went to Oregon, came back, we went to LA, came back. Finally last night as I was again feeling perplexed by the temperature difference in the bedroom, it dawned on me. I turned the thermostat down and heard a click that I instantly recognized as the click of a heater turning off.
I don’t know what the moral of the story is, but I do know that I think installing a radiant heater in the ceiling is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of.

joys of summer in the desert

living here in the desert, we can expect high temperatures around 100F (37c) most days from mid may to september. this year june was a glorious exception and i found myself shivering in the chill on several evenings since i just don't expect to be cold in the summer here. ever.
now that it's july, summer has come in earnest and a lot of people have skipped town. the folks who are left mostly fall into two categories; those who don't want to be here and those who do. the people who don't want to be here complain about the heat, and scuttle around from air conditioned car to air conditioned house to air conditioned work place.
the people who want to be here understand the beauty and simplicity of a lazy summer in the quiet desert. they have mastered the art of the siesta and come out at night to play music and drink beer. they don't move too much or too fast during the hottest part of the day. instead they close the curtains and sit under the swamp cooler with a good book and some chilled watermelon cubes. early mornings are good for watching wildlife and exercising, afternoons are good for naps, movies, and meditating. evenings are good for grilling, sitting outside, and sipping margaritas.
when i first moved here, i have to admit i was more in the first camp. i remember before we had our swamp cooler hooked up i had a particularity rough afternoon and i cried to damian, "i just need a dark, cold, wet cave! you can just leave me there and i'll lay there and it will be dark and cool..." the heat can go to your head, but now that i've learned how to stay hydrated (i put lemon, Himalayan salt and trace minerals in my water) and i've learned not to try to accomplish much in the middle of the day, i think i'm making my way into the second camp.
recently we went on a sunset picnic to the national park with ely, christina, ben and rebecca. the park was almost deserted and the air was so nice as we watched the stars come out. i thought, 'this is what to do in the summer! there's no reason not to have a picnic every night and watch the shooting stars and satellites.'
here's a few photo's i took last night.


summer has arrived in joshua tree. it's hot and a bit humid, which means our swamp cooler is more of a placebo than climate control. in weather like this, only a handful of foods are appealing; salad, jello (not real jello, i make it out of juice), Hefeweizen, watermelon, ice cream, and of course okonomiyaki- savory japanese pancakes. i hear okonomiyaki are popular bar food in japan. something to eat while you drink beer. they are really easy to make, don't require heating up the house, and can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand. i usually make mine with shredded cabbage, grated carrots, zucchini, chopped spinach and slivered onions. bean sprouts are an obvious, but i rarely have them around.
they are especially good with the okonomiyaki sauce and sweet japanese mayonaise -both of which can be purchased at an asian food store. since i don't live near an asian food store, i make my own sauce out of dashi, mayonaise, wortishire sauce, tamari, agave and ketchup. it sounds horrible, but it's really good.
to make the pancakes:
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup dashi, vegtable broth, or water
2 cups or more shredded or grated vegetables
okonomiyaki sauce and mayo for garnish
fry in a bit of oil and flip when golden.

if you need more inspiration, check out some of the cool you-tube videos like this one: