December 29, 2008

Caitlyn goes racing down the hall, into the office, zig-zagging around where I'm folding laundry.

"What are you doing?" I'm a bit suspicious. It's the tail-end of the day and she's probably moving her toys into the office where I'll trip over them or something.

"Running!" And she runs back toward her room. It's not a long hall, so the complete circuit requires less than one minute.

"Why?" Every parent's question.

"Because I'm crazy!" Saying it seems to have pointed out the truth in her actions. She stops running and returns to her room, where she begins having conversations with her animals and trains.

December 24, 2008

"Santa comes down the chimney?"

"That's what they say."

"So, how does he go up?"

"Well, he lays a finger aside his nose," I say, demonstrating, "and he goes up."

"He has to climb back up the chimney."

"No. He puts his finger by his nose and just goes up."

This is met with a look that's part confusion, part my-mother-has-lost-her-mind.

"Santa's magic."

A pause.

"So," like she's caught the flaw in my logic and is about to pounce like a 3.5 year old trial lawyer, "how does he get down off the roof?" Ha! I've got you now! Just try to get out of that one!

"He doesn't. Remember how Santa has raindeer? The raindeer and the sleigh are waiting for him on the roof."

She's had enough of trying to figure this out. Logic be hanged, she's going back to a magical view of the world.

"So, what does he say to the raindeer?"

"On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, on Donner... I forget all their names."

"Oh, can we do projects now? Like cutting and folding and, and, and coloring!"

Yep, time to go back to the things that make sense. She's right though; when you explain it that way, the whole Santa thing is laughable, really. Odd, that in a culture that seems to see everything in light of either hard science or divine miracle, we still hang on to (and encourage!) the Santa story.

December 21, 2008

After dinner this evening, Caitlyn announced, "My voice is getting loud because of my imagination. It's this big," spreading her arms about shoulder-width.

"That big?" said Ian.

"Yes. It's medium sized. And oval shaped. And orange."

"Your imagination is shaped like an orange."


"Is your imagination juicy like an orange?"

"Sort of."

"Will your imagination grow as you get bigger? Will it get juicier?"

"Yes. It will be really juicy when I'm sixteen."

Oh, honey, you have no idea.

Happy Solstice from Seattle, where we have about a foot of snow on the ground and somehow miraculously still have power.

December 18, 2008

Snow! There's between 4 and 6 inches (by my highly inaccurate and subjective measuring - that is, I looked at it and thought about quilting rulers and came to a conclusion) on the ground already, and it's still falling. I'm astounded we still have power.

December 14, 2008

Oh my goodness, it's cold. The snow that fell on Seattle last night is mostly still here, which is unusual in my (limited) experience. Factor in the wind and the perceived temperature has been below 20 degrees F all day, which is about where it's forecast to be for the next week to ten days. I'm very much not looking forward to standing at the bus stop for our rides to and from school tomorrow.

Cold weather is good, however, for appreciating the work that went into food storage over the summer. I spent time this evening pouring over cookbooks and recipes, looking for things to do with winter squash and/or sweet potatoes. All the ideas I found (Zanzibar Beans and Sweet Potatoes, Penne alla Zucca (pumpkin), a curry that uses both) are beyond Caitlyn's frontiers of culinary exploration. She might try the pasta based on the presence of noodles, but the others are have too many ingredients. I'm tempted to try anyway, but probably not this week. We'll have sweet potato quesadillas a la Kingsolver and probably potato soup.

While I'm thinking food, though, let me recommend the letter to President-Elect Obama from the folks at in support of a Secretary of Agriculture nominee who will:
"recreate regional food systems; support the growth of humane, natural and organic farms; and protect the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda."
If you think the national agricultural vision should favor small, local and sustainable family farms over agribusiness and commodities, please consider signing the petition.

December 09, 2008

I have a new favorite quote:
Despite all our pretensions, we still are totally dependent on six inches of top soil and the fact that it rained.
-- Confucius
So the economy is falling apart, retailers are starting the post-holiday sales before the holidays in hopes that they actually make some money, the Toys for Tots warehouse is empty, food banks have slim pickings, the American auto industry wants a bailout (Who's next?!?! Is this the new consequence for making poor business choices, begging for taxpayer funds so that a failed business doesn't actually have to fail? When the corporations have taken all the taxpayer money to keep themselves in the black, can the taxpayers rely on the corporations to give individuals handouts when the average wage doesn't keep up with the cost of living? Yeah, that's what I thought...), and $700 billion in taxpayer money has gone to the finance sector, apparently where it continues to sit instead of unfreezing the credit markets as intended.

In times like these (a loaded statement if there ever was one), it's important to remember what's really important, and not in the some mushy holiday way. We don't really need all the things we claim we can't live without. Americans are so good at panicking over things that should be amenities and ignoring the essentials. The loss of healthy farmland, either to agribusiness and genetically modified crops, to over-dependence on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers so that the soil is stripped of life and blows away, or to shiny new subdivisions, is a far more tragic, far more impactful loss than fewer Christmas presents, a bad retail season or the collapse of the American auto industry. We can scale back our expectations, tighten our belts, appreciate the things we have instead of whining for the things we don't. The failure of one industry makes room for another, hopefully lighter on its feet and on the planet than the American auto industry has been.

But if we loose those six inches of topsoil, we don't eat. And if we don't eat, we die. And that seems a more significant impact than all the rest of it.

December 06, 2008

I don't think I like grief. It's unpredictable, illogical. If somehow my eyes don't burn, my stomach hurts instead, and if I'm actually having a moment of physical peace, I'm uneasy in my mind because I simply don't know what to do.

This wasn't supposed to affect me like this. It's not like there was a car accident, something swift and sudden, leaving us all shocked. This went on for years, longer than even the doctors thought it would. We said goodbye by degrees, brain cell by disappearing brain cell, always a one-way conversation, over and over and over again. I would have thought there were no more goodbyes to give.

Maybe it's the silence that gets me, the fact that the goodbyes are really done. The service is over, the condolences from old family friends received, the ashes scattered. We're down to our own memories now, dusty, imprecise things buried under the bitter taste of the last seventeen years. He left so very slowly we didn't know he was gone until he was different - mean and suspicious and silent and unengaged instead of laughing, hoping, caring. Now that this chapter is closed, can I find the happy memories again? The ones I can think of have the patina of oft-told stories but not the warmth of genuine affection.

"FTD" usually means flower delivery, but it will always first mean "fronto-temporal dementia" for me. It will always be the thing that stole my father, first his gentle, geeky personality, his ability to make sound decisions, his words. It took his memory of me, his eldest daughter and the first of the family members to vanish from his mind. It stole whatever joy he might have had in knowing Caitlyn, his only granddaughter. It took his dignity, the integrity of his body, then stripped him to essential functions and finally took from him the comfortable habit of breathing.

We knew a decade ago where this road would lead. And now that we've arrived, I've run out of map. The view from here is amazing, a wide open future, but I have no idea what I'm looking at. I'm not sure where to go next, which path to take, since I'm not sure where I'm going. So I sit here, unmotivated, sure there is something I should be moving toward or taking care of, but not certain enough of the next steps to make it happen. The days stun me with their hours, their endless minutes of knotted stomachs and prickled eyes, and the silence after the last echo fades.