jill for real

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Welcome to the future

Where to begin? Firstly, my poor blog has been neglected; shoved to the back burner along with eating well, running 5 miles a day and giving a darn about peripheral wellness practices. Not good, but life has taken a few abrupt turns and those habits seem to have flown out the window like an oily croissanwich wrapper. What became of those practices anyway? They are probably residing in a ditch somewhere in the middle of a cornfield. While these are things that once meant so much to me, I have struggled to maintain even the loosest version of my former lifestyle of late. That being said, I am now sitting in the pharmacy waiting to get a flu shot and writing this entry. Gotta do SOMETHING for my health. Life changes of the magnitude that I am experiencing are surreal. Much like pregnancy, birth, getting settled into a new job or residence, these times creep by allowing one to ponder the gamut of queries; guesses and second guesses, doubts, and worried projections... Yet at future recollection, these moments are wrapped up in a package in our minds, adorned with general attributions of the period, perhaps as a cognitive mechanism. I am presently lingering in the former era, waiting and hoping, wondering what possibilities exist for the future and trying like hell to stay busy. Being a positive thinker is tricky during times such as these. Having always been somewhat forward thinking and future oriented, not knowing is torturous. Not that I had a solid, play by play plan Installed in my life, but there were certainties in my mind. Reassessing my certainties, I realize that everything has changed and this brings a surge of self doubt and critical thinking. Those whose love and support I was certain of have vanished. Calendars full of planned events scrapped; the dust is settling, but a vacancy has emerged. Negative feelings tempt me. This new space in my future has the potential to be any number of wonderful realities, but at this stage it just feels lonely. Perhaps when I Stop reeling my outlook will improve. Till then I am trying to plan only to be surprised.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To die for Winter squash recipe

Last night I thought I was going to be lazy about supper, so I threw some potatoes in to bake around 5.

Around 6 I remembered the gigantic Butternut squash that had been sitting on my counter for a week and decided I'd do something with it. My son came in when I was chopping the squash up and asked what I was going to make with it. I told him that I was imagining a creamy soup, and he said "you mean miso soup?", Which is his absolute favorite food of the moment.

After searching around the internet for a while I came across an interesting page and recipe: Medicine woman recipe

I made a few little changes, but it was the most delicious soup, with delicate, harmonious flavors. Here is what I did:

I guess it could be called "Butternut Miso Soup"

Peel 2 large carrots, 2 large parsnips, and half of a butternut squash with the seeds scooped out. Put these in a large stock pot with 2 quarts of water. Boil for 30 minutes, or till soft enough to mash. Remove the veggies and mash them in a bowl, then blend with a mixer, or you could just put them in a processor.
Return the mash to the boiling water and add 3 T grated ginger, and 3 T finely minced garlic
Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and add 3-4 T brown or red miso paste, and 3 T tahini paste (perhaps mixing with some water in a small bowl to separate before adding to soup pot)

Cover with lid till time to eat, but don't simmer again. Serve with chopped greens, if desired. Could serve with brown rice.

We ate soup and potatoes and it was the perfect meal. Superyum.

Monday, January 28, 2013


My son brought home a stuffed animal last night in a bag with a composition notebook. He excitedly pulled the animal out, cradled it, and introduced me to it ceremoniously, as if meeting a newborn for the first time.

"Mom, this is nutty, nutty, this is my mom."

His eyes didn't leave the plush squirrel. He was smiling as he gazed. Immediately his little sister lunged for the toy, sparking in him such rage that I feared the thing would be destroyed. Finding another toy to balance out the scene, my daughter sat plotting while my son explained;

"You see mom, everyone in the WHOLE class takes a turn taking nutty home with them and then bringing it back the next day!!! Isn't that cool?!"

The first thing that popped into my mind was the rampant flu virus that has been gripping the county; runny noses, younger siblings, bathrooms, toilets, vomit, diarrhea, cooties, and general, unfamiliar filth.

The amber fur was the same color and texture as the floorboards of my 4 runner, underneath the matts.

After washing my hands, I asked for the rest of the story with this nutty squirrel. My son looked at me, confused. He started to explain the "everyone in the whole class" thing again, and I interrupted him by asking what the significance was. What's the point? Just spreading germs or is there something else?

"OHYEAH! And nutty has a journal!!!!! Everyone gets to write about their visit with him in the journal and draw a picture! It's soooo cool! C'mon!!! LET"S GO"

I took the notebook and scanned through the scrawled graphite script. Most of the kids mentioned snacking, video gaming, and watching TV with nutty. There were some pictures; mostly of stick people sitting on a couch. One girl wrote about going to her mom's work and taking nutty. Below she drew a picture of the local gas station with a gigantic squirrel in the window. One boy said that he climbed a tree with nutty, then he fell out and had to go to the doctor's office for an X-ray, and the following day his mother had to get nutty out of the tree. He described the squirrel's fur as "cold and crusty" when his mother brought it back inside. His picture was of himself with a cast, and nutty with a diabolical, furrowed brow.

I asked my son what he wanted to do with nutty. His eyes glazed over and he sat perfectly still.

"We could go to the park" I suggested. "We could ride bikes. Nutty could ride on your handlebars".

"Uhhhhhhhhhhhh gaaaahhh!!!!!! I don't want to do that. Do I have to?" He groaned. "I'm so tired and kinda hungry" he said as he made himself as flat as he could, his face buried in a pillow.

"I was just trying to think of some things that might make a good story for the journal, and that you could talk about to your friends. What would you like to do? Cause it really doesn't matter to me" I insisted.

As soon as I had said it, I realized it wasn't true. That toy needed to be shown a good time. Not video games, crap TV, risky tree climbing, but something fun.

My son looked at me pleadingly. "Please don't make me go to the park or ride bikes. All I wanna do is pop popcorn and play with leggos" he lamented.

Ok. We went to the kitchen and chairs were immediately scooted up to the counter in *precisely* the spot I needed to be. The children got as close to the gas stove as they could get as I ignited the burner, set the oily pot on top of it, and dropped three kernels into it.

Nutty was positioned leaning against one of my canisters. My son was speaking to him about hot oil and the importance of jiggling the pot constantly.

The kernels popped, and I added the rest of the corn, covered and shook the pot. The kids were elbowing each other in attempts to dominate the chair closest to the burner. They were both in between me and the stove. It was like something out of a bad parenting magazine.

My two year old started cry/screaming, and my 6 year old pushed her face, knocking her off the chair and onto the floor.

Popping kernels hit the lid of the pot three at a time, rolling in the steam and oil.

I made no attempt at consoling my 2 year old; mishaps such as these usually resulted in a drastic, transitionary device, such as a bath, a walk, a nap or the like, and since there was a steaming pot of oil and corn on the stove, I knew none such diversions were possible.

Her wails became louder and more bitter. She stood back up, grabbed the chair my son was standing in, and shoved it sideways towards the stove. My son fell towards the wall and started yelling at his sister.

Sensing a similar story as the tree-climber, I raised my voice level to "pissed" and directed the children to "leave the damn room, NOW", and I threw nutty through the doorway to the dining room, clear into the living room.

They yelled and bickered for a while, then became quiet. I could hear the familiar crackling sound of falling leggos as I salted and seasoned the popcorn. I lingered in the kitchen for a few moments munching popcorn and listening to All Things Considered.

After an impossibly long quiet stretch, my son came sprinting into the kitchen with nutty.


Two large boxes hung from the toy's legs. They were made using gray, blue and white blocks, and they had a "new wave" style about them. I was impressed with the craftsmanship.

"That is awesome!" I declared as I herded the kids back into the dining room. I set the bowl of popcorn on the table and my son began digging in it. My daughter was holding nutty above the wooden table, bouncing it, making him tap dance.

"Mom I love nutty." My son uttered. "I don't know how I'll be able to take him back tomorrow. I wish I could just keep him forever"

"What about all of your stuffed animals? You have froggy, piggy, beary, foxy, spot, stimpy, kenny, wally and daddy bear. What about them? Don't you love them?" I asked.

"No" He replied pitifully. "I hate all those toys" He whispered, looking down at the table, slowly chewing popcorn, one piece at a time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THIS place

When we moved 500 miles north this January, we packed all of our earthly belongings onto two 18 foot moving trucks, then unpacked them in our new, bizarre house in our new, bizarre town.

During a move like this, it is typical for people to toss all kinds of useful stuff. I had a large box in our front room for a month, and I added things to it daily; things I hadn't used in a while or didn't expect to ever really need. The wine and cheese picnic basket, maternity clothes, baby clothes, fifteen extra bed pillows.. Then there were things that I simply didn't want to decide on, clean, pack or otherwise handle. These things live as the careless disposals in my memory. My huge, blank canvas, my ice cream maker, my garment rack, a gigantic planter; things that I am positive that I would use if I had them right now.

Despite my attempts to be methodical about assessing our belongings, I became careless.

After settling in to our new home in Illinois, I returned focus to my craft instead of the arrangement of our belongings. With my fabric cataloged in the largish closet and iron plugged in, I began to think about what project I was going to begin. That's when I remembered that my machine had broken back in Knoxville, just before our move. I had intended to take it to a local store in K town that I had experience with, and I had even put it in the back of my truck and drove it around for a couple of weeks before the move. It never made it to the fix it place, instead it made it from the back of my truck straight into the back of the moving truck, without having been fixed.

I HAD attempted to fix the machine myself. I took the top off, one of the inner plates, and could see that one of the gears looked suspiciously asymmetrical. That's as far as I got, and I didn't even put the thing back together again. I put all the plates and bolts and screws into a zip lock bag, then duct taped it to the base of the machine. I put the machine into a plastic pepsi crate, and put it into the truck.

Since I do have a couple back up machines, I located the better one and proceeded to get my sew on. I put the busted machine in my car, and somewhere between a month and six weeks later, I took the thing to the sew n vac place in Champaign.

I had seen the place in my exploration of the town and made a mental note of it's location. I recalled there being something "strange" about the place, but I had forgotten what till the day I took the machine in.

While I appreciate salvaging anything that can be, I had never associated the action with that of the lord Jesus Christ. My attitude was "I might as well at least try and repair this thing; what is the worst that could happen? It would wind up in the shit heap anyway. Maybe I'll learn something about these things in the process."

Comparing a man's salvation to that of a vacuum cleaner is hard for me to comprehend. The analogy gets confusing; if Jesus is to mankind as what this guy is to vacuum cleaners and sewing machines, then I have a few questions. First of all, does God direct you in your work on vacuum and sewing machines? Are you a martyr, or do you symbolize a sacrifice to small machines on God's behalf?


This guy:Vacuum and sewing machines

I decided against asking the man these questions, instead I explained the problem with my machine, and he fiddled around with the baggie of parts.

"Seems like the casing is missing. Do you have any more parts?" He asked.

I blanked, and looked in my pockets and purse for no reason. I went out and looked in the trunk of my car, knowing it wasn't there. If the part wasn't in the baggie, there was no telling where it was. I went back in and explained that we had moved, and that the part was likely in my sewing room. He said that I could leave the machine there and bring the part by when I found it.

In the back of mind I knew there was no way I would ever find that part, but I destroyed my craft room anyway. Every box emptied, every corner swept, every cabinet searched. No part.

When I finally gave up looking, I decided I would take my better back up machine in and get him to spruce it up a little. The tension plates were never very sensitive; it is a Kenmore domestic machine from the early 1990s which has been used and abused, so it could use a thorough once over.

After calling the proprietor of the shop and letting him know the piece was gone with the wind, I drove the other machine there to swap out.

The proprietor's son works in the shop along side him and there's clearly a dominant/submissive type relationship between the two.

When I dropped my Singer off, a man was there purchasing three bags of vacuum cleaner bags and a bottle of cleaning solution. When he was checking out, the son, in an attempt at being James Bond radical, said "That's $14.95, those two are $15.40 each, and the solution is $12.65, so that would be.. ummm let's see, $58.40 plus tax, and for that I'll have to..."
Interrupting, his father said in a low voice "Sixty two oh five. With tax", as he slowly turned his head and torso away from helping me to meet the pleading gaze of his son.

The expression on his face when he turned back to me was one of bitter disgust accented by embarrassment.. He was shaking his head very subtly. Bearing a striking resemblance to Lyndon B Johnson, but less healthy, this man didn't possess a certain je ne sais quoi .

These situations used to embarrass me, but for some reason, now-a-days it is just amusing.

Junior had the same demeanor and style as Napoleon Dynamite's brother.

Last time I had the Kenmore machine serviced was over 10 years ago in Boone, NC where I went to college. I recall the shop in Boone charging me $80 for a routine tune up and cleaning, and they removed all my super cool stickers. After a decade the machine accumulated lots of new stickers, one of them being a radical "What Would Wesley Do" sticker designed by my friend, Brad Pope. It is an image of Wesley Willis with "What Would Wesley Do" superimposed across it. I couldn't help but wonder if he considered that sticker; it is ripped and half worn off, but I think the message is clear.

Three weeks after getting the message that the machine was repaired, I went to Champaign to pick it up. The proprietor made a point of bringing up the record of the transaction while both of my children climbed and stood on the same stool. I paraphrased the situation and the transfer of machines, and told him that I already had a check in the amount he quoted on the message. He continued reading from the computer and when he got to the note he had left himself about the message left, he recited it, then turned and looked at me, repeating, "Yes. That message was left September 18th. A full 23 days ago"

I apologized and tried to explain that weekends are better for me to go places without my kids, and that since his store isn't open weekends I had put it off over and over.

He took the check and looked at it at an extreme angle accessing just the right spot on his spectacles. Setting the check back on the counter, the man turned and shuffled into a back room returning with my machine, stickers intact. As intact as they were when I brought the thing in, at least.

The volume of my children was increasing, and with the combination of that and the man's attitude I was starting to loose it.

Sliding the check towards him, I grabbed the machine, and wrangled my kids to the door. He asked if I could manage, and I said that I could.

Settled back in the car, the kids and I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street.

"That is a really weird store Mom." Fox declared.

"Why do you say so?" I asked

"That grumpy man has a bunch of signs and crazy stuff hung up everywhere and the store looks like it should be shut down"

I agreed with him and we giggled about that guy and his son.

I guess spreading the good word with a "repair shop" metaphor is as good as any evangelical approach.

Monday, October 8, 2012

second amputee painting

I haven't been possessed to write lately.

Most of my evenings and weekend moments have been spent painting.

This is my second "amputee" painting.

It is a work in progress.

Sorry about the glare.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

the writing on the wall

As soon as I saw the graffiti on the ceiling of the picnic shelter at our local park, I knew my six year old son would see and be able to read it. Miraculously, he did not see it that sunny day, and we played on the monkey bars, then went home. Three more trips to the park came and went without notice of the scribbled "fuck you" inscription on the structure.

Last week we were at the park. The kids were at the swings begging me to come push them; something "fun" for the pusher for about five minutes in 100 degree heat, then it becomes an expectation leading to angry fits when not realized by the pushed. Rainer is never satisfied with my swing pushing; she constantly screams "higher, HIGHER", so her rear end leaves the seat for a moment, then she jerks the slack and wiggles back and forth till equilibrium is reached. It's horrendous! She's only two years old and 25 pounds at most. She isn't gratified with the swing set unless she nearly falls off, then catches herself, body dragging the ground as her seat dangles at her back as she clings, white knuckled, to the chains. After these experiences she doesn't enjoy simply swinging. She wants to have a "close call". Thrill seeker already, I guess.

So I was avoiding responding to the children's calls by sitting at the picnic table working a crossword puzzle and drinking ice water. They eventually gave up, and decided to throw rocks in the creek instead. Fox, red-faced and sweating, came running to me to take a drink of water. He sat on the top of the table and drank the rest, then laid back and stared at the raftered ceilings.

I knew what was coming next.

"Fuck You" he said slowly and clearly, then again, "Fuck You, Mom, what does Fuck You mean? It says it there", pointing upward.

Maintaining focus on my puzzle, I nonchalantly glanced at him, and tried very hard not to sound effected.

"Well; have you ever heard anyone say the F word, or F you?"

He said he had, and asked what it meant.

"The F word is a cuss word like damn, hell or ass, but it's much worse. People might ignore the other words, but NOT the F word. And if you say that to any of your friends and they repeat it in front of their parents, or if they get in trouble at school for saying it, they will tell their teachers and moms YOU taught it to them, then their moms won't let them play with you anymore and the teachers will think you're a bad kid."

Fox thought about it for a while mouthing the word silently to himself.

"Do you understand? You can't get away with saying the F word."

"Yes. I understand", he replied. "It would be really crappy not to get to play with my friends, and I don't think I'm a bad kid."

"Good, you aren't a bad kid, and you shouldn't even think about that word because the more you think about it the more likely it might slip."

"That would be really bad. Like a million bad. I would never say that, and that person didn't know how to spell the word you, so they just put the letter u. See?" Fox pointed again at the writing and lingered there for a moment before hopping down and scooping up a shirt tail full of rocks to throw in the creek. '

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tiny Door

When we moved into our present rental home, we had neither time nor resources to facilitate the process. After two moving trucks full of stuff, we were so tired of unpacking that we were just putting boxes in the storage area in the basement and garage and telling each other that we would go through it "first thing next week". Since Jason was still finishing his dissertation, that task got pushed again and again, till we decided that never would be a good time to go through that mess.

Everything found it's place, and we bought a dining room table on craigslist for $50. My only friend in town, a lady with nine children who lived next door to me, abruptly moved away. I was really bummed since I had just recently gotten to be friends with her and discovered that she wasn't involved in a creepy commune or cult. They are christian to the max, but the great kind that are nice to people and don't evangelize every chance they get. She is funny, strong willed, and an incredible task master. Her children are all sweet and smart. Anyway, when she left she pretty much gave me my pick of furnishings from her house. I was so disappointed in her move that I wasn't as jazzed as I normally would have been, but it was really cool to suddenly have an extra bookshelf and an air hockey table.

I also signed up for the local free cycle list serve and have gotten rid of items which we haven't had use for. The snowmen dishes, the size XL scrubs that mysteriously appeared in my sewing stuff, the footboard of the bed frame that the children obliterated with their incessant jumping; all taken.

Fantastically, I have an entire room specifically for sewing and painting, and have been working lots. When I initially started moving my things into the room I remember noticing a tiny door in the corner of the room and wondering about it. It was teeny like the door in Being John Malchovitch, and I entertained a host of scenarios regarding the mystical properties of the door, and somehow, I never opened it. As curious as it was, I was happy wondering and concocting stories and ideas.

Finally one day, Jason was in the room and he noticed the door. He opened it and it was full of laundry. Pre-teen laundry, to be exact. I had noticed the chute in the upstairs bathroom and considered it, but the door made a really excellent platform for my gigantic jade plant, so it has been closed since our arrival. At first glance you could see a lime green bandanna, something Hannah Montana print, and the tiniest, underwire bra I've ever seen. I asked him to close it and just leave the stuff there, since it wasn't hurting anything.

Again, I ignored the door for some time. Looking around my sewing room, I thought about items that could fit into the door; things that would be really funny to store there. My daughter has a fuzzy hair troll doll in a Hawaiian shirt that would be hilarious in the chute. It would be a good place to store my eleven pairs of scissors and five pin cushions since the kids can't seem to resist them. I imagined shoving baby dolls into the doorway till they filled the chute all the way up to the bathroom. If I decided to do this I would certainly wait till Fox was in the upstairs bathroom because, besides myself, he would appreciate a doll geyser more than anyone in the family. I'd have to move the Jade plant, but it would be worth it. Another great use of the chute would be to suspend someone's cell phone halfway down to drive them crazy.

Last week my other neighbor asked me if I was interested in looking through some hand me down clothes. She runs a home-based daycare, plus she has four kids, so when the neighborhood yardsale weekend came, a few of the parents of the kids in her daycare brought things for her to sell. Her oldest daughter is in the fifth grade and full of sass. She waits for the bus with Fox in the morning and I have talked to her a number of times. She is really cute and funny, and every time I talk to her she reminds me that her friend used to live in my house.

After picking through the immense amount of hand me downs while mentally patting myself on the back for never making the mistake of having a home based daycare, I settled on two large bags of little girl clothes, and started to head back across the street. My neighbor volunteered her daughter to help me with the bags since I also had my daughter and a stroller. She walked beside us and started to tell me about her friend, Janayah (rhymes with papaya) who lived in the house.

"Her room was the one at the top of the stairs beside the bathroom. And her sister and brothers shared the big one with the two huge closets. For a while one of them lived in the closet! The downstairs bedroom was Janayah's mom's room. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? THERE WAS A LAUNDRY CHUTE FROM THE BATHROOM TO HER MOTHER'S ROOM! IT WAS SO COOL!"

I remembered the stuff behind the tiny door and I invited her in to see what the house was like now. She followed us in and went straight to the tiny door. She looked at it, then looked at me and my daughter.

"Go ahead and open it" I permitted.

She reached over my drafting table and opened the door, then gasped.

I opened my eyes really wide and asked her if she thought that was Janayah's stuff.


"Maybe you could take it to Janayah." I proposed; "Do you think she would still want that stuff?"

The girl believed that Janayah would be really excited to have her things back, and, quite frankly, I was really happy to free up that secret space for other ventures.

While Fox gave her a tour of the rest of the house I put the laundry into a plastic grocery bag for Janayah. They came stampeding down the steps and she wanted to get another look at the chute.

"I can't believe you don't use the laundry chute" she said in disbelief, shaking her head. "It's just SO COOL"

"Well, I guess if the downstairs room wasn't my sewing room, we might. But I really don't want the entire family's dirty clothes coming out that tiny door onto my drafting table."

"Maybe you could move your bedroom down here and put your sewing room upstairs" she suggested.

I told her that I'd think about it and that it was kind of a shame not using the chute.