And the art for Book of Life has made me finally come to terms with not being born on Halloween, but Dia de los Muertos. And I guess All Saints Day

Today I slept in and woke up to find that someone I've long admired on Twitter followed me. I'm always curious as to how people discover others, sometimes it's through a mutual aquaintance, but I don't know how or why this particular exchange was triggered. Another funny thing happened, a couple of them actually. A guy I've followed despite hating football and Star Trek followed me back after I made a comment in response to a tweet of his where he admitted he couldn't have been more wrong about something. I gave a shout out to a follower who is not native to California and he tweeted back that I made his day. Whether that was nice manners on his part, or a genuine response, it made me feel better to read that. I gave another friend of mine a shout out and he replied with over the top flattery that made me laugh.

What I'm really doing here is trying to understand where the lines are on places such as this and Twitter. At what point is writing good and tweeting a way to meet new people who open my world and when are these things harmful and potentially dangerous? The other day something happened that made me wonder about my image and my avatar on Twitter. I dislike pictures of myself because sometimes I feel like people are following that instead of the content and I am that content, but something about it still seems unsavory. I have the ability to put my face on the internet, but if you're following me or tweeting at me because you feel like I may at some point put out or titilate you, I'd rather not have you as a follower. That being said I am sometimes flirtacious and suggestive so I can see where I may have given the impression that I'm available and actively pursuing extracurricular activities.

I've had some time to think about what I wrote the other day. I needed to get it out and for some reason just writing it and keeping it in my drafts seems as if I haven't fully confronted those demons. I was in my oldest daughter's room putting a pair of socks away, which I shouldn't do for her, but I found a tub of half-eaten frosting, half a bag of Combos, a pack of gum, and a plastic container of pink and white Tic-tacs. While I was wracking my brain to figure out where she could have gotten money for those purchases I remembered that my mother-in-law had just sent the girls Halloween cards with ten dollars as her way of reminding the girls that she cares about them. At the time I was ecstatic to see money instead of the candy and other treats she normally sends that tend to be very hit or miss with the girls. I thought the money would be nice for them to spend on whatever, but didn't anticipate this. 

My first reaction was rage. I was furious that she had offered to watch the neighbor kids so she could take her bike down to the gas station and stock up on treats for herself and possibly her sister. When things like this happen I go into this mode where I literally want to do drastic physical harm to her the way that my parents did to us kids when we pulled similar pranks. My anger towards her is so extreme it feels like hatred to me. The idea that she's voluntarily putting things she's allergic to into her body scares me for her future, and I almost, but not quite, wish that something horrible would happen so she would get the message that food allergies are to be taken seriously, and death via anaphylaxis may well be a less traumatic event than something like cancer or osteoporosis. People will celiac disease also have an increased risk of miscarriage, and that's a sucky thing that I hope she doesn't have to deal with, but people who play with fire are often badly burned.

I think I'm upset because I feel like my daughter shouldn't be doing these things and I feel like a bad parent when I make these discoveries. While I'm not going to win any mom of the year awards, I'm doing some things that are helping me deal with this anger. I'm learning new parenting skills by reading books, listening to audio from the Love and Logic advocates, and talking things over with people that I consider mentors. Several years ago I attended a health and wellness conference where I listened to an MD explain that your children will eventually return to the healthier lifestyle you've been trying to advocate, but this is more of a power struggle than a food issue so I'm doubting that his reasurrance is valid here. I hope it is, but I can't control either of my kids and on a fundamental level that bothers me too. I hate feeling like my kids have no moral compass and feel like that's my fault to a certain extent too.

Today I can't get to the deeper feelings. They were there yesterday, but today I'm mostly numb. I'm tired of being married to someone that doesn't have the same value system I do. In almost every way you can enumerate I have been far from a spouse who loves, supports, and builds up their mate, and I don't have any excuses for that either. I feel like I was given an hour glass when I was born, and I'm standing there with a baseball bat watching the grains of sand fall to the lower level. I could smash it, but then my time would be over all at once, and I'd have a bunch of sand flying everywhere which may not be the worst metaphor for how I'm feeling now. It's a beautiful day and I'm sitting inside stewing instead of getting out and cherishing these vital rays of sun. Soon it will be winter and I used to really like that, but now it reminds me that more of me is going to hurt and last year was so brutal I'm scared of what this year has in store for us.

When I walked into the living room my youngest was standing on top of the couch dancing and laughing. I'm sure I did similar things as a kid, but I'm having a hard time remembering that type of youthful optimism and free flowing movement. I hate being depressed so I told my therapist that I wanted to ramp up the counseling. It will be a budget drain, but feeling like this isn't good for anyone. I feel worthless and useless. I'm a social drain at home, and my family deserves better as do I. I'm going to go through the people I follow on Twitter and get really honest with myself about whether I'm following them because they increase the quality of my social interactions, or I'm afraid of hurting their feelings by unfollowing them. I also want to get past the idea that I can't unfollow people because they have a certain prestige attached to their name. That sort of shallow character isn't what I want to be known for and I have to start by admitting that's why I follow those people to myself.

I don't feel better about writing this, but I think it's important to not let another opportunity to get things out pass me by. Habits are formed because people do them even when they don't feel as if they're necessary or helping in the moment. This moment is all we have. Nothing is guaranteed, tomorrow may never come. When I spoke with the MD I met last Tuesday she gave me some encouragement. I can work with people to get a better schedule and to be more consistent with things like journaling so I can look back on a long line of logs about whatever day it was and feel proud of that accomplishment. There were many times when I wanted to leave this place for good. Today I'm glad I stuck with it and overcame people who were unkind or bullied me. I want to be more disciplined, and this can be a small step forward.

Take care,


Do ghosts "exist"?

I've lived long enough to know that they don't.
I've lived long enough to know that they do.

That odd, inexplicable events happen, and happen daily, is evident to anyone paying attention. The shame is that so few of us are paying attention to the natural world, we miss the rhythms and the mysteries that envelop our modern minds every moment.

Today is All Saints Day, to celebrate the sanctified among us, as though following some moral order could save us from the coming dark, a world in which wasp larvae eat hornworms alive, from the inside out, and humans die monstrous deaths lying in ICUs with multiple tubes pierced into the body, hoping that like St. Sebastian, we will miraculously recover.

If you need a video to be convinced ghosts exist, you don't truly know what it means to know that the dead are among us.

The question of ghosts is not an idle one. We follow spirits of our own making all the time. We follow rules and rhythms of our own making now, wrapping ourselves in a sad cocoon of hubris, wiling away our hours fulfilling nothing more than deadlines upon deadlines without a hint of irony.

I'm headed out to a mudflat in an hour or so, under a wet and wild early winter sky, to rake up a few clams, alive as I am, and as alive as I am, I will be as dead as those clams will be tonight in less than a lifetime.

I went hiking and mushroom hunting with my friend J yesterday in the Olympic Mountains.

He picked me up at 11 am. I had been mostly watching and occasionally bailing as my boat, inherited from my father, was pulled out of the water by a crane and put on a trailer. The trailer is newly acquired and newly fixed. Sun Tui is a 25 foot sailboat built in Hong Kong in the 1950s by an American company. My father picked her because she has a full keel and plywood sides, so very stable in these cold waters and less maintenance. Though all wooden boats are holes in the water that you throw money in to.

Anyhow, it rained most of the time. Usually we get this fuzzy mist stuff, but no, this was wet. I had been out since 8 am, so changed my wool socks, switched from rubber boots to hiking boots, and switched from foul weather pants to an actual rain suit. I picked up a yellow rain jacket and pants in my second hand wanderings. It says Qwest on the left chest, so I can now work on peoples' phone lines and computer modems.

We drove to the hike, south of Quilcene. We hiked and talked. We started seeing mushrooms at the campsite four miles in. I am still slow hiking and get short of breath even when we go uphill only a little. He says that he knows 11 edible mushrooms so far. There were lots of ones that are not poisonous but don't taste good, one kind that is psychedelic, one that was purple and looked psychedelic and then fairy mushrooms. Lovely.

We started finding golden chanterelles. They don't grow on dead wood, they have very flat gills and then have branches out near the edge, plus they have a shape that's pretty distinctive. Also a solid stem. We weren't finding tons.

We found some oyster mushrooms, soft white mushrooms growing on a downed tree. We had to go off trail to get them and were both wandering a bit. I saw something white and went to investigate. I called J over and score: a sparassis radicata, a Western Cauliflower mushroom. It looks like soft white egg noodles, the first one like a brain growing out of the woods, a little bigger than my head. There were two more behind the tree, more yellow and these were a good two feet in circumference. We picked the first one and a little of one yellow one, but didn't have enough bags. I think I can find the tree again, though, because they come back. We had gone far enough and headed back. We saw some of the very poisonous destroying angels and one bolete and a couple of small hedgehog mushrooms. There were also quite a lot of brown scaly mushrooms, some of which are edible and some of which make some people pretty sick. Best to stay with the distinctively safe ones.

Home by about 4:30, quite damp thought feet dry. Now I had two sets of dripping clothes. I was tired and ate some leftovers first. Then I read some recipes and sauteed part of the cauliflower mushroom in butter with salt and pepper. Yum. My appetite is finally showing up on some days, which is good.

I want to get a mushroom book but would still rather go out with someone who knows what they are doing. J hikes for miles and miles all over the place, 10 day solo trips. He's seen bears and cougars. I have seen marmots, lots, but would rather see a cougar when I'm with someone. I am a lot smaller than J and might look more tempting.

God forgive me.

The man was standing off to one side, not sure if he could interrupt me. His was the demeanor of a homeless man who realized the indignity to both of having to impose on passersby. I was on the phone to a relative, but I quickly ended my conversation and approached him.

He was missing many of his teeth, so it was difficult to make out what he was saying, espescially since he was speaking very gently. He was a black man in a very white and very rich neighborhood, which may have added to his unease.

After a couple of gentle repeatings it turns out he was looking for food, for where the banquet was at. But the church wasn't going to be holding its requiem mass until Monday. He was there a day early. He mentioned "Peachtree and Pine" at some point, which confused me, as the banquet was here.

His speech was somewhat disjointed, and I tried to follow. But I invited him in and showed him the hall it was going to take place in. He seemed a bit uncomfortable, those who were there were in very nice clothing and the presence of so much stained glass and brass seemed out of his comfort zone. But I reminded him this is a church, and it's open, VERY open, to everyone. I shook his ashy hand warmly to his immense surprise and took the elbow of his arm in my other hand, which he appreciated. I asked him to please stop apologizing for coming here, as he is more than welcome.

I had some money in my pocket: gas money which I needed, a contribution to the collection (which was going to go to help the homeless) and some spare cash, about six dollars or so. I gave him the six dollars and told him if he was hungry (he seemed unfamiliar with the area) there was a Publix very close by. He was even more surprised and grateful and pledged to return.

As I came back in I noticed some volunteers packing food together onto carts. 

"Did I get the date wrong?" I asked, thoroughly confused.

"No, we're donating a meal to the homeless at Peachtree and Pine." 

My heart sank as I realized I'd just directed a man AWAY from a great meal. There was key lime pie, steak and an entire mound of food: and not just easily and cheaply made in bulk sandwiches or spaghetti - this was definitely church members wanting to do something special.

"There's a homeless shelter", the volunteer continued, moving boxes onto a pallet, "at Peachtree and Pine."

"Oh dear" I said, "there was someone here LOOKING for that. Let me see if I can catch him."

The volunteer tried to say something, but I was out the door. The grounds are extensive and I looked, but our visitor was long gone.

I came back, dejectedly. 

"I think I just sent someone AWAY from the meal you promised."

He looked at me solemnly

"I was trying to tell you, it's for the people already at the shelter, they're not taking people in off the street."

And both of us felt something as the import of that took hold. So much need, no little charity. So little justice. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and right now a man is heading to Publix with six dollars for whatever he can buy with it, when I could have given him thirty six and given extra to the church later, putting the gas on my credit card.

But there I was, in the heat of the moment, already having compartmentalized and triaged the money I had. Reflexively: this is for my needs, this is for the church, you get what's left.

That's NOT what I was supposed to do.

I know God will forgive me. The hard part is forgiving myself.

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