Stories

That time I took Abby grocery shopping

The day before Abby headed to school, we had a weird weather day of rain, then snow, then more rain, then nothing, then more snow — with a forecast that was, as Eric put it, for snow accumulation that amounted to anything between a skiff and 10 feet. Knowing she would be facing snow at school, we decided to meet at the grocery store (with 10,000 of our best friends who were also freaking out about the forecast) and get her weekly groceries so she wouldn’t have to worry about that once she got back.

cats for blog

This photo of all my furry children will make more sense later. Left is Goose, Bean is center and Pearl is ignoring everyone as per usual at top.

We were in the meat aisle and I was looking at roasts for the ol’ crock pot (because I still don’t have an oven) and coming up short on the inspiration, and anyway Abby is going vegetarian for environmental reasons. But out of the corner of my eye, I see her place two packages of hamburger and one roast at the bottom of our cart, and I’m like, Hey, what did you get?

And this woman I’ve never seen before was like, Well, I got hamburger and …

And I burst out laughing because, I mean, I tend to have weird interactions with people anyway because I’m just an awkward person so this is par for the course, but wow, totally not my kid. I pointed to Abby and explained that’s who I thought she was (and my astonishment at her meat choices because again, vegetarian) and she was like, I just thought you were really interested in my selection! and I was all, I kind of was because I can’t decide what to get myself but also sorry about that, and she laughed and we wished each other good luck in getting through the store on this crazy, crowded afternoon.

And I ended up with chicken from the meat counter, in case you’re curious.

Speaking of ovens … 

We have movement on the oven front! For those of you who are new, my oven tried to kill me way back in July (I think; whatever, it was a long time ago) and we have been without one since. We researched replacement parts and other various options (and when I say “we,” I mean “Eric.” I like to make a fast decision and live with the consequences whereas he likes to take his time. Which should adequately explain why we’re six months into this oven-less journey), and finally, we decided to accept the reality that we were going to have to get a new one and ordered the thing. The drama!

Christmas sales, got a deal. Well, sort of a deal. Turns out ovens without hoods are SUPER expensive. Why did we think putting an oven in the island was a good idea again?

The oven was supposed to be delivered last week but then we had another snowstorm and it got pushed back to this week. It doesn’t actually matter when it’s delivered, though, because Eric has informed me that he’s not taking out the old one until this spring or summer. Something about retrofitting the space and online reviews that point to huge hassles and, like, not wanting to rip up the kitchen in the winter. So the thing will live in the garage for a bit.

That’s cool. It’s amazing what you can cook in a crockpot. I could write a book at this point. Okay, fine, a pamphlet.

Kitten friends

The snow has excited the boys to no end. Bean and Goose fall over themselves trying to get out of the house every morning so they can go play and hunt and do whatever it is cats do. Yes, they’re in 10 minutes later because they get cold and need pats on the head and reassurances they are good boys and to make sure the food dish is still there (it always is and that always surprises them), but then they’re ready to go back out again. And come in again. Over and over and over.

Well, they’re cats.

Pearl, on the other hand, is greatly offended by the snow and cold and wet. She turns her nose up at the open door and hides behind the couch, where she can look out the window in warmth and safety. She shakes her head at the boys’ antics. I can feel the distain just rolling off her, for them, for the snow, for anyone who is dumb enough to go out into that dripping mess.

I feel you, Pearl. We are idiots.

The end.

Time + space + materials = this

Sunday mornings in the Walker household go like this: Eric immediately turns on the TV because he likes to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. I’d rather drink my coffee in peace, do a little blogging and journaling and catch up on the blogs that I follow — sometimes I watch with him, if I happen to hear something I’m interested in, but not often. In the summer, I’d just go on the deck, set up my parents’ old crappy card table and write while looking at Mount Hood. Now that it’s cold, I’m trying to figure out a good place to hide. Our house isn’t big, but I do have a couple of options: I could clean out my reading retreat, which has a built-in desk, or I could clean off the desk in Abby’s room. I should have thought of that before I woke up this morning, looking for a place to write this post (my Monday posts are always written over the weekend). So I’m on the bed, sitting cross-legged even though when I try to stand up, I will be hunched over and walking like I’m 93. I’m listening to a playlist that is mostly old songs by The Cure. (“Disintegration” was a big part of my senior year of high school.)

To create, a person needs time, space and materials — I suppose that I’m lucky, since my creative endeavors are written. I’ve got a laptop (materials). I’ve got time (weekend mornings). It’s the space part that’s sometimes the issue, but only because I’m picky.

(Austen Kleon blogged about this last month — you can read it HERE. I like how his brain works.)

The need for time and space, incidentally, is what drives me to do a lot of my more difficult writing for the newspaper at coffee shops. Four of us are jammed in what used to be a small meeting room. There’s no such thing as uninterrupted writing time there — there’s just too much going on. But the coffee shop takes me away from all distractions (phone calls, emails, people popping in, pages that need babysitting and editing, etc.). Plus I get coffee! I don’t mind the noise because it’s not demanding anything from me personally — it’s just there in the background. I can concentrate on the task at hand. And I can crank it out much faster.

I feel like that’s a win on all possible levels.

Johanna is an artist, and I’ve noticed that, while her room is her preferred space to create, she is also not adverse to bringing her supplies out to whatever surface is available. (That’s why my kitchen table is covered in paint. Someday I’d like Eric to refinish it, but it’s always in the back of my mind that it will probably just get covered again, even if she IS almost 15. Art is messy.) She’s got her sketchbooks and her tablet, more pens than any one kid will ever require, and a variety of paint types. It might take her a couple of trips to get it all, but she doesn’t worry about that.

Now, if she can be flexible in bringing her time, space and materials together on a daily basis, surely I can figure something out on the weekends. (More coffee shops?!)

P.S. I’ve never explained this before, but having just gone to Jo’s conferences and hearing her name pronounced wrong all night (new teachers! so many pronunciations!), I thought I’d toss this out there: It’s literally just Jo Hannah. She gets called Joanna a lot, or Jo-hawn-a. Once she got called Jonathan. Just in case you were ever wondering.

The Great Walker Switch-a-roo

Tangent: I just survived CERTAIN DOOM when Bean decided it would be a great idea to dart between my feet as I was mid-step in hopes that I was headed to his food dish. It’s not empty or anything, he just really likes company.

Anyway, thought that was an important story to share.

I will try to keep this story to the point, but that might be difficult because the words are rambley this morning:

Last school year, Abby announced that it would be fine for Johanna to move into her room, as Abby’s is twice as big as Jo’s. Well, we built this house when Abby was 3 and Jo was nowhere in sight, but we assumed we’d have another one soon and that the girls could share the big room. (Abby was adamant she was going to have a sister named, of all things, Pepsi Shoe.) Jo didn’t actually arrive until Abby was in kindergarten, and by that time, we felt they needed their own rooms — I couldn’t have Johanna waking Abby up in the middle of the night for diaper changes and feedings, after all. So Jo got what was supposed to be Eric’s tiny office.

And that is where she has stayed.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, Abby took the small room (she was 3, remember) so Jo got the big room, which was also our computer room / TV room. When Abby was 7, she decided she wanted the big room, and Jo was 1 and didn’t really care one way or the other. But she’s been in that room for 13 of her 14.75 years.

So last spring, I guess, Jo decided it was time to move. She slept in Abby’s bed one night … and was like, nah, I’m keeping my room. And I was like, well, we can move your bed too, and she was all, too much work, let’s wait.

Johanna enjoys the path of least resistance. Abby blazes through life by sheer force of will. We’ve got two very different kids.

Abby thus spent summer in her room, and Johanna decided she would move sometime after starting her freshman year. Then the two of us decided we’d wait until Eric went elk hunting in October — give us a good project to work on while enjoying our girl time.

And also he wouldn’t have to witness me, like, slamming a full sized bedframe through two doorways and across our wood floor. Eric and I have different methods for going through the world, too.

The day came that second week of this month, when Eric and his brother left for Wyoming with special tags they were quite excited about. Both came home with huge animals, just FYI, and it’s okay if you don’t understand the appeal because I don’t either. Although I do appreciate the organic meat in my freezer (and the fact that it’s humanely “harvested,” as hunters like to say).

ANYWAY. Day one, Jo and I worked on getting the beds switched. I bought Johanna a new bed frame (just the bottom part); we got Abby’s bed out, Johanna’s bed in, and then we set to work on getting the frame set up.

Easy, really, except I forgot that Jo has two mattresses and they both fell through the frame when she sat down for the first time.

DJFLKSDJFKDJFLKDJFKDFJKDFJSLKFJ:ASJIFh.

Okay, that’s fine. I went to the hardware store on day two, told the clerk exactly what I wanted and she found me a board, then directed me to the back where I could get it cut to size. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes and $4. My feminism was roaring!

I picked up Jo from school, we had dinner and then we got to work putting the new (very nice smelling) slats on the frame.

They were two inches too big.

Look, I don’t know if it’s because the guy didn’t cut them to my requested 39-inches or if my hastily Googled “how big should twin bed slats be cut” search was wrong. I didn’t measure. In my defense, why would I? So Jo and I just look at each other and she’s all like, we can wait for Dad, and I was like, NO JOHANNA WE DO NOT NEED A MAN WE CAN DO THIS, although what we did need was someone who could run power tools, to be perfectly honest.

(This is one of those times where I cursed my father-in-law for falling off his ladder and dying. I’d have called him that first night and he’d have taken care of everything and we wouldn’t have lost two days to sheer stupidity on my part. God, I miss him.)

So I go down into Eric’s shop and eye his table saw. I have zero training and a great love for all my fingers, so I decided to find a handsaw instead. I did — and I found a clamp, too, which I used to steady the board while I cut. You know how in the movies and things, people saw back and forth perfectly and it goes super quick? That was not my experience. But I did manage to saw through far enough, only back, never forth, so Jo could whack it on the concrete and sheer it off. It was not pretty. They were not even. But they did the job: The bed held.

YAY ME!

Oh, geez, the words are making me add this even though my mother will read it and freak out: Every night while Eric is gone, Mom checks in to make sure Jo and I are locked in and not hanging a sign outside that says HEY BURGLARS AND MURDERERS COME ON IN! And I’m always like, yes, we are safe, doors are locked and all is well! And then the next morning after this little saw escapade, Bean was running around inside after I had let him out. I asked Jo where he came from, and she said, the basement, and I was like, did I forget to close the garage door or something? I didn’t even think I opened it, and upon investigation, I saw that Eric’s brew room door was wide open; Jo had used it to bang the slats on the concrete and didn’t close it hard enough when she came back in. And I was like, huh, that explains why it got so cold last night.

Anyway, on day three, Jo and I started moving some of her stuff into her new room and Abby’s stuff out of hers (namely Abby’s books), and on day four, Jo had basketball practice and came home beat, so we were like, eh, good week’s work! and left it at that.

Eric came home, surveyed our work, had to cut another board because one of mine kept falling down (eh, details) and all was well.

Last week around Wednesday, Abby decided she was going to come home for her three-day weekend (special university holiday) — and I was like, uh, Jo, we need to get back on the moving wagon because otherwise, Abby wasn’t going to have a place a place to sleep. (I should also mention Abby decided she wanted it to be a surprise, but, being my child — or perhaps my mother’s granddaughter — she thought it would be good if someone knew she was coming. I monitored her progress via Find My Friend.) And we made great progress in a two-hour time slot: Chucked all the ex-boyfriend’s crap that Abby had hidden, got her desk cleaned out, moved clothes and emptied her other set of bookshelves.

And when Abby came home Friday night, the girls spent some time (after we watched the new episode of The Great British Baking Show) winnowing down more of Abby’s possessions. The thing is, Mom, she told me at one point, everything I want is already in my room at school. I think what we really need is some sort of keepsake box that she can put awards and photos and the like in, but that is another project for another time.

Like maybe Thanksgiving weekend.

Anyway, the point of this story, a bit over 1,400 words later (sorry about that) is that Johanna is now in Abby’s room, Abby is now in Johanna’s room, although actually they’re just back to their original bedrooms, and it was a big ol’ project but … I don’t know, it was kind of fun and Jo is so happy and also good timing on the Abby visit part.

And Bean, who loves cuddling with Johanna on her bed, has taken the move in stride. He seems just has happy in the new room as he did in the old.

The end.

TBT: When Jo got fish for Christmas and we were sure they would die in like three days

Trisha’s Note: I have been working on a real post, but I’m not happy with it yet, and also Johanna’s almost 4-year-old goldfish took the toilet plunge last night and it reminded me of this post that I put up in January 2016 about getting her two goldfish for Christmas and how we didn’t expect them to live very long. (The other one got flushed last year.) We definitely got our 28-cents worth. Original post HERE and real post Monday, I promise.

A Christmas wish fulfilled

There’s something very stressful about goldfish.

Eric had the bright idea this Christmas of gifting Johanna a fish tank. She had been begging for a puppy this year, but recently gave up on that front and began lobbying for goldfish.

I can only assume this is because of the repeated number of times she has been told that our family does better with pets that ignore us, i.e. cats.

Look, I don’t even have houseplants. There are reasons for this. Goldfish technically do ignore you, so that’s a plus, but they are also notoriously fond of keeling over quickly, which is a strike in the “downside” column.

So much relaxation!

Another downside: Having to pick up the pieces of a heart broken over a fish.

But oh, the look on her face Christmas morning when she unwrapped the tank, the joy of arranging the decorations just so — should this plant go by the barrel or the sign? — and the happiness of finally bringing Gumball and Darwin home.

(Gumball and Darwin, incidentally, from The Amazing World of Gumball, a cartoon-ish kind of ordeal that Johanna cannot get enough of.)

It was enough to make me think that maybe this was a good idea after all.

Erring on the side of caution and practicality, we’ve explained to the child that goldfish do not have long lives, and at 28-cents each, are exceedingly replaceable.

“You might go through a lot of fish,” I warned.

“That’s okay!” she chirped.

I was hopeful that the lesson had sunk in when she made a list of 30 potential names — enough for a year’s worth of fish, I’m assuming — until it occurred to me that she was just excited and this was her way of coping with the wait to go to the store.

“You might want to keep a hold of that list,” Eric said.

“I will!” she beamed. “I wrote it in my journal!”

“That’s Darwin,” Johanna says confidently. Then pauses. “Or THAT is Darwin.”

Still, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. (T.S. Eliot knew what he was talking about.)

“Abby said not to get too attached,” Johanna told me after a conversation with her sister on the way home from the store, “but I think it’s too late.”

I’m happy to report that Gumball and Darwin have managed to survive an entire two weeks under Johanna’s watchful eye. She finds them entertaining and relaxing, and likes to give minute-by-minute updates: Darwin is a bit of an explorer, while Gumball likes to hide behind the plants. They both like the barrel feature.

But while she thinks her new pets are enchanting, the rest of us find them nerve-wracking. The Walker family is on high-alert, with our collective fingers’ crossed that Gumball and Darwin manage to live … well, a little longer.

Maybe we should have just let her get a dog.

Dear everyone,

Hey there! I did not mean to take a break from blogging — the words were there, but not the time. I like writing, so that was not an easy decision (and it forced me to do other things that weren’t as fun), but it was the right one.

I’ve learned to allow myself the gift of saying no. I’m trying to learn not to feel guilty when I do.

First things first: We took Abby back to school a couple of weekends ago and the Walker Four is again settling into its Walker Three Plus One Out of Town routine. Not my favorite, but I’ve got two years of this under my belt so essentially I’m a pro. Back to school is such an intense time, with its excitement and anxiety. What makes it easier is that she was ready to move into her new place, to see her friends and start classes. (Clinicals this year! We got her a stethoscope for her birthday. Wild.) Uh, and it also helps that we have Snapchat, Instagram, texting, FaceTime and emails to keep in touch.

We had a lovely summer. It’s time for the next step. I’ll quit crying eventually.

Johanna has wanted to get her ears pierced for several months now, and a trip to the big city with Abby in July seemed just the time to do it. That’s when we all learned you need a parent physically present if you’re a minor. Good to know. Anyway, we had some errands to run for Abby’s move-in weekend, so we hit the mall for that sole reason. The short story is that Jo got her ears pierced and I learned that the holes I let grow in when I was 14 were still viable — so I ended up with earrings too. It always surprises me when I see Johanna and her pierced ears, and then myself with mine.

We’re so punk!

Also: Johanna is a freshman in high school this year. I can’t even, except I have no choice.

One project I’m getting ready to launch (that sounds too high tech for what I’m planning) is a weekly quote from a woman on this very blog. Without getting up TOO high on my soapbox, I’ve noticed that most of the quotes I’ve collected over the years are attributed to men. I mean, that’s fine, but where are the women? You can’t tell me that we don’t have just as much to say. I think it’s more an exposure thing, or maybe a “who can yell the loudest” thing. Yeah, I said it. Nothing like having daughters to make you a feminist.

So that’s coming. Eventually. I haven’t figured out formatting yet.

Another project: The Simple Year anthology is now just me and Kerry (Year 1). No one else has time. I’m learning to use Google Docs. I wish I wasn’t.

But it’s fun to have projects going on that I’m excited about. Work has been kind of rough — we don’t need to rehash all that garbage, I’ll just leave it with this: Sometimes I really think about whether or not I want to continue being a journalist.

I think I still do. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out, though.

One story I just covered that I was jacked about as a person interested in zero waste and social justice: A local church held a free clothing event where everyone was welcome to come and outfit their kids with whatever they needed. Church pews were sorted by boy and girl items, and then by size. The parishioners even made sure everything was cleaned beforehand.

They have a partnership with the school district and items unclaimed at the lost and found at the end of the year made up the bulk of the items offered, but parishioners also supplied brand new blue jeans because that’s what is generally most in demand.

With all the shitty news out there, this was a breath of fresh air. People helping people, no questions asked, no agendas. The whole ordeal was heartwarming and affirming.

Anyway, my dear internet friends: Off I go. I hope you are all well. Let me know what’s on your radar at the moment. I can’t be the only one with stories.

— TW

Good things

I am beyond heartbroken and stressed and sad and upset and angry and just … things this week in the States have been rough. I can’t stand the news, I can’t stand social media, I can’t take any more negativity.

I just can’t. But the hits just keep on coming.

So today we’re going to talk about good things. Not because things are good — they aren’t. But to remind ourselves that despite all that, there is light. Even if we have to dig really deep to find it.

So here are a few of my good things, in no particular order. And in the comments, I’d like to see yours.

  • This plant
plant blog

Mind Flayer at work?

I wrote a story about a local fundraising effort for fistula repair in Uganda, and the woman behind the fundraiser gave me this plant as a thank you. Thank yous are NOT necessary — I’m a reporter, I reported! — but I appreciated the thought and the kindness behind the gift. Abby has claimed it, and I’m also happy about that because plants bring her a lot of joy, and this one will remind her of me when she’s at school. Plus it’s just freaking cool — that droopy flower growth has been two months in the making. Awesome.

  • My grandma
gma blog

Grandma Hollywood

Grandma is 95. She came to live by us this past May. She’s seen a lot, she’s done a lot, she has great stories and has had great heartbreak, but she just keeps going. I love being able to stop by and see her. I love hearing her stories and learning about some of the genetic quirks that make me a Trisha (panic attacks, check!). I love that she’s always excited to get a copy of the newspaper and that she reads my articles first. I love how she proudly tells everyone in the halls, “This is my granddaughter, Trisha.” Grandma kicks ass, you guys, and she’s right down the road. I haven’t had relatives closer than 2 hours away since I was 9. This time with Grammie is such a gift.

  •  My laptop
laptop blog

Freida on the deck — that’s my parents’ 1970s card table she’s resting on.

Freida, born of anger and fire, has proven to be a beacon of peace and calm. Wow, that sounds dramatic. Here’s her origin story: I purchased this ol’ girl from an office supply store about a year and a half ago because I wanted the freedom to get out of my office and write, say, in a coffee shop. (Freida is derived from freedom. I wish I’d have been clever enough to come up with that, but it was Eric.) Freida and I have written in those coffee shops, on park benches, on the deck, in my parents’ backyard and in hospital waiting rooms. I lug her around every day in my backpack and, while she’s heavy and clunky, she’s worth it. Freida gets me out of the office, but more than that, she gives me the gift of possibility.

  • Coffee

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I made my 57,000th batch of iced coffee Monday night (method HERE — although now I use a gallon of water, 1/4 pound of ground coffee and let that sit upwards of 12 hours) and was reminded that there is such simple pleasure in grabbing a cup, filling it with ice and cold coffee, topping that mother off with lots of half and half, and heading to the deck to read or write. I don’t have a lot of food pleasures because my stomach is a jerk, but I do have coffee. Thanks, magic beans!

  • All my kids under one roof
IMG_6122

An old photo, but a good photo. And very indicative of their personalities.

It seems like just yesterday that Abby came home from college for summer vacation, and now we’re looking at roughly one more week with her here before taking her back. Johanna is pretty sure we can just lock the door and she’ll have to stay. Seems like a solid plan. I’ll report back on how that works. Although actually … we are in a good place. It’s exciting to see both girls spreading their wings and figuring out where they want to go. I mean, yeah, I would like to go back to when they were younger and I didn’t have to rely on apps to communicate, but I don’t know if I would wish for that because … well. You can’t stunt them, right? Isn’t this what we’ve been working towards? Those wings? Well, whatever, we’ve had a great summer and I have thoroughly enjoyed having both girls under my roof. They’re fantastic. And yes, I am biased, why do you ask?

All right, my lovely internet friends: Your turn.

P.S. Happy birthday, Shannon! Your list is coming …

Once upon a time …

… There was a Golden Retriever named Moose. He was visiting from San Francisco with his caregivers. They all happened into a local store where Abby was working. She saw him and immediately started swooning. Moose took all that attention in stride. Which is to say, he went to sleep.

Moose

“What a good boy!” Abby said, snapping a picture for her social media accounts.

“You want to watch him tomorrow while we go on a bike ride?” said Caregiver One, kind of joking.

“Hell yes,” said Abby, not joking.

So Moose came the next morning for a day with the Walkers while his caregivers went on a bike ride. He took a walk with Eric and found a Good Stick. He tried to chase kittens, but they all got wise after the first three seconds and disappeared. Johanna gave him plenty of pets. Abby gave him treats and love — and so did her friends, who came to visit so they could see him, too. Even Trisha, a solid cat person, was enchanted by this big floppy floofy Good Boy, who cuddled up next to her with a sigh and took a snooze. And that’s how Moose came to be an honorary Walker for a day.

The end.