Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The Adventure of my How My Parents Met was one of those things I was always hearing about growing up.  It was a part of the family lore, something I would pester and pester my dad to tell, even though I already knew all the words.  To his credit, he was always obliging.  In part, I think, to the memories of his younger self it would conjure.

My dad was a true hippie in every sense of the word.  In the Sixties, he left behind a large, Mormon family in Minnesota,  to set out and live on the infamous corner of  Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco.  To my father, those years were a blur of  free Jimi Hendrix concerts in Golden Gate Park, massive bell bottoms extended to ridiculous proportions with panels of velvet fabric, and a cocktail of mind-altering subtances.  During one short-lived foray into the world of gainful employment as a U.S. mailman, Janice Joplin left him a bundle of joints in her mailbox for Christmas. He still waxes nostalgic over an old school bus, painted over in psychedelic colors and hung with curtains, used solely to pick up hitchikers during impulsive road trips. So it was a great surprise to no one when, along with my 8 year-old sister, he decided to take an old, beat up truck and see how far south  it could carry him.

They made it through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras before they finally ran out of gas and money in Managua, Nicaragua. Their Spanish lexicon consisted of seven words, repeated every morning to various waitresses in humid, unfamiliar countries: "Leche, cafe negra, y heuvos rancheros, por favor." Undaunted by this ignorance of the local language, my dad decided to get a job working in the fields alongside the natives.  Being the first white man these particular Nicaraguans had ever seen, they nicknamed him "Geronimo," after a saint known for his similar fair skin and long, flowing beard. Under the impression that North America literally had streets paved with gold, these natives welcomed my father with bemusement but acceptance. The details are shady as to whom babysat my sister while my dad worked the fields. In the many tellings of the story, sometimes she is enrolled in a small, village school consisted of a thatched roof and dirt floor and sometimes she is watched over by some kind women that worked in a hotel (or, possibly, brothel).  I suppose it would be a simple matter to call her and get the details, but I prefer the mystery.

My dad ended up meeting a young girl named Maria, and the rest is history.  The marriage may or may not have involved angry brothers with shotguns and the legality of it may or may not have been called into question due to a previous, forgotten-about marriage in the States but the three of them lived happily in Nicaragua.  Well, for a little while anyways.  The tropical jungles of Central America began to be seen as less than a paradise once they began to echo with the bullets of the Sandanistas, so back to America they came and I enter the picture.

I'm leaving out a lot of the little stories I've grown up with regarding those times.  Most of them are my sister's to tell.  Of all of them, however, this one is my favorite. The very idea of taking off on a whim to some little known third-world country was something that never failed to grab me and set fire to my imagination.

I'm thinking that's why my parents were not surprised that I left home the moment I graduated high school at seventeen.  It was something they could more than empathize with.  They both left behind large, close-knit families to seek the new and unknown.  On the downside,
it also explains why I haven't seen my brother and sister in ten years or why I have never met an incredibly large percentage of my family.  We're just scattered too far and wide.  I'm preparing myself now for when Zane tells me he has decided to move to Sri Lanka, but I'd like to think I too, will understand.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blundering Chicken Owner

My husband and I have recently acquired a small flock.  I don't remember how the idea came to us.  Maybe it's the Nicaraguan in me, or the obsessive scientist in my husband, or maybe we were both just taken with the notion of having pets that make us breakfast every morning.  However it may have been, we now have three chicks in a cardboard box in our laundry room.

 My friend, who grew up on a farm with large flocks of chicken, soundly denounced this as the worse idea we've ever had.  She went on to list a myriad of reasons as to why our chickens will end up sick, maimed, or dead.  This was counter-balanced by another friend, who has no experience with chickens whatsoever, but was so thrilled when I mentioned the idea, she immediately encouraged me to ignore my city's zoning ordinances and get more chickens than was legal within city limits.  (For the record, we have one more than legally allowed, but who's going to notice?)

Since chickens lay the peak amount of eggs in their first two years, we chose breeds that are good for both eggs and meat.  That way we could just eat them when they start to fail to produce and replace them with new chicks.  Cycle of life. Unfortunately, we also chose breeds that were known for their docile, friendly attitudes.  One big orange one was described as "the Marmaduke of chickens."  This was a HUGE mistake on our part.  The minute one of the chicks climbed onto the crook of my arm, snuggled down, and fell asleep, the plan to eat them went right out the window.   I think we may have been better off choosing ones that were hostile and aggressive, ones that go for the eyes whenever you enter the coop.  That way we could have at least felt a sense of vindication when the time came for some fresh chicken cacciatore.

No to mention, how on earth will we explain it to Zane?  I'm all for having kids know where their food comes from.  I think it's healthy for them.  I'm thrilled that he gets to help me gather the eggs and then watch me scramble them for breakfast.  But he's named them (okay, we all named them). And the above-mentioned friend who grew up on the farm?  She has this horrific story of becoming really attached to one of the lambs they were raising.  One night, after a delicious dinner, her father turns to her and says, "We just ate Walter."  To this day, she won't eat lamb chops.

So now we're not quite sure what we're going to do when the hens quit laying and it's time for new chicks.  The things live for eight to ten years.  I guess we could just keep them and hope the neighbors don't notice our flock keeps doubling every two years.  But that's a steep, downhill slope to ending up on the news or in a documentary about animal hoarders.  Good Lord, there's already an unused hot tub in our driveway and a claw-foot bathtub on our back porch.  There's really no need to keep adding to the image. Are there retirement farms somewhere for elderly chickens?   

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blundering Working Mom?

After three years of being a stay-at-home mom, I interviewed for a job today. Originally, I had sent out a crapload of resumes in a sudden fit of panic when hubby's work was getting few and far between. When we started having decide on things like, should we get groceries or pay the mortgage, I thought it might be a good time to get back in the work force. So I applied at various winery tasting rooms that were looking for weekend or evening help, so I could still stay home with Zane. I still have a mental block about sending him to daycare. I know, I know, gajillions of moms send their kids to daycare, it's good social time, blah blah blah. I don't even have a compelling reason to not want to send him to daycare, I just can't seem to do it.

Anyways, sent out a bunch of resumes, and lo and behold, husband's job is all of a sudden reliable again. Guaranteed-working-five-days-a-week for the next year reliable. And I get a call back from a winery. They need a weekend person in their tasting room. I have experience working in a winery tasting room, and I loved it. Loved the wine, loved the people, loved everything about it. So, I thought, well why not? It may be good for me. Get me out of the house for a couple days a week. Plus, hello, employee discount on some nice wine. Hell, I'd probably just work for the wine in and of itself.

I go to the interview and ace it. Really connected with the girl interviewing me, love the winery, just have a good feeling about it. But there's a problem. They want me to work weekends and one weekday. Being neurotic, over-protective parents who practically run background checks on anyone who watches their kid, family or not, we're kind of short on babysitters who could watch Zane one set day a week. The mother-in-law may be retiring soon, but she's been saying that for months. The other people who usually watch him are moving to another state, have weekday jobs, or have newborn babies. So...that's one problem.

Another problem is the job requirements themselves. I wouldn't be a simple, tasting room position like I thought. It would be managing the tasting room and planning events. I could handle the management part, it's the event planning that scares me. When it comes to customer service, I can charm most anyone, but planning? Good Lord. I didn't even plan my own wedding. Just showed up on the date. True story. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the invitation to my own wedding. I'm good at helping someone who's planning. I'm good at being given tasks and completing them competently. But having all the pieces pull together and fall into place as a lovely little olive oil and tapenade tasting in some park? That just seems so foreign and overwhelming to me. My husband loves the idea of my challenging myself. He thinks I'm selling myself short and would probably do just fine. I mean, look at how Zane's birthday party went! But I'm thinking there's a pretty big gap between a winery event and a two year-old's birthday party. Not to mention, he seems to forget the part where the the ice-cream cake was rock hard, causing us to break three knives trying to slice it, eventually sending the children home without any cake.

So...I don't know. I'm torn. Maybe the stress and travel will be too much, I'll fail miserably, and find myself being even more impatient with my family than I am now because they keep interrupting me while I'm trying to research caterers. Or maybe I am selling myself short and this is a great oppurtunity that will grow into something more, I'll discover a hidden talent in myself for putting together elegant yet fun events, and the time away from my family will make me appreciate them all the more during the week.

I just keep thinking of last week when my friend handed me two types of flowers to cut and put in a vase, and when I was done, she said, "Um...wow...that's quite a flower arrangement."