Mendocino Headlands + Area 101

Our move to Portland is right around the corner, so every interaction with this beautiful place feels heavy with relevance. I’ve made a mental list of every place and experience I want to be sure to capture before we move away, and a visit to the Mendocino Headlands topped the list.

This is the first spot we visited on the NorCal coast, and it remains a favorite. When our friend Ray, one of the best people on Earth, came to visit a few weeks ago, we traveled to the coast to hike along the headlands and then camp in the redwoods.



On our way home we finally made a stop at Area 101. We’ve driven past this place so many times without knowing what it was — just seeing beautifully painted walls and statues from the highway. As it turns out, it’s a dispensary! because this is Northern California, duh. Covering all their bases, the site has statues of the Buddha, Ganesha, and Jesus, plus paintings of aliens, spacecraft, and various psychedelic adventures.





how I write a research paper

so productive lol

so productive lol

Decide on a topic exactly right on time, several weeks in advance. Do absolutely no research.

Paper is due tomorrow! Gather materials.

Sit the kids in front of Scooby Doo, pour a cup of coffee, turn off phone notifications, and settle in for an intensive focus on bettering myself through education.

Turn on computer. Check Facebook.

Why did I check Facebook? Close that shit.

Write title page.

Spend ten minutes trying to determine whether the course number and instructor name should be right- or left-justified. Or center? Important stuff.

Turn on phone to refer to class text. Check Instagram, Facebook, blog comments, Messenger, and email, just to clear the status bar.

Search for appropriate section in class text. Read for 10 minutes before realizing I’m in the wrong chapter.

Might as well check the tracking on that Etsy order.

Get up for another cup of coffee. Kids are done with Scooby-Doo now, I’m fucked.

Read one entire article on the subject matter. Open twelve tabs of source material.

Hey, isn’t Charlotte Russe carrying plus sizes now?

Image search “tall plus-size women wearing rompers.” Is this something I really want to do or have I just been watching too many episodes of Girls?

Deliberately close all windows without spending any money. Page through source material, close all windows that are non-academic.

Read one article.

Spend 45 minutes in a Wiki-hole.

Try to read the class text over the sound of the children squealing like piglets.

Write two paragraphs. Erase them.

Research MLA vs. APA format. Determine both are stupid.

Yell at the kids. Immediately apologize.

Write three paragraphs.

Raid the kitchen for fresh steamed vegetables. End up with a bowl of jalapeno kettle chips. Hate when that happens.

Erase two paragraphs. Question the topic of my paper.

Make a paloma. Surely this will help.

Caffeine finally hits. Rush through a marathon writing of three pages.

Reward myself by reading eight saved articles about head transplants.

Submit paper 3 minutes before the 11:59 pm deadline.

Get an A! Doubt that I deserve it.

The end.

I suck at holidays

Easter especially. I cannot conjure any interest in Easter, even as a parent. And we do have a history of celebrating holidays rather late. Until this year our kids didn’t notice, but now, oh boy do they.

It started with Christmas, I think. We celebrated the holiday with Jeremy’s family in Utah, then drove home and had downtime for a couple of days before having our own family celebration. And I think for the first time the kids were like, “What is this shit?”

I just refuse to be stressed out by holidays! The exact calendar date is basically meaningless unless you’re celebrating with other people, right? …right?

Maybe we’ve traumatized our children. But I beg of you, WHAT is the point of Easter unless you are Christian or have at least a modicum of neo-pagan belief? That’s why a couple of days had gone by and I still hadn’t colored eggs with the kids or purchased the requisite sugary-slash-plastic crap or had the discussion where I try to create little humans who are respectful and knowledgeable about even the most nonsensical of world traditions. And the kids got impatient. Politely, but still. So we dyed the damn eggs. And then the kids instructed us: “Okay, PARENTS. WE’RE going to stay in our room while YOU go outside and hide the eggs. Got it? Nod if you understand me.”


Okay, I guess the eggs are pretty or whatever.

And it was kind of adorable watching the kids look for the egg their scammin’ parents hid in the car door.

And I know I’m going to look back on this when I’m like 158 years old and they’ve abandoned me in a nursing home with only a robot to attach my catheter and regret that I was so cavalier with the candy-based holidays.


my favorite day of the year (+ PDX update)

The strawberry stand is open and everything in the world feels okay.

In the next few weeks I’ll head to Portland for a few days to find a place to live. We’ve decided that we’ll move into an apartment rather than look for a house because a) it’s cheaper, b) it’s easier, and c) we want to live as close to the school as possible. From the look of things we could move into a 3-bedroom apartment without paying much more than we currently do for our 2-bedroom house. The neighborhood around the school is right on the MAX line and has lots of little shops and restaurants where I might be able to find a job (more on that below). But we can’t quite afford a house to rent in that area, so it seems like an apartment where we could use public transportation and bike or walk to school & work would be a nice soft landing for our family.

When we first made this decision I did assume that I’d launch my business again in Portland. I do think I could be successful there. But it didn’t feel quite right, so I sat with it for a while. I’ve already written about how much of one’s life is chewed up by being self-employed. This year I’ve been trying to make room for things that make me feel like a present + well-rounded human being. I’m using my camera again (such a pleasure and seriously if I ever try to convince myself again that a phone is just as good please slap me), playing the ukelele, spending more time with friends, reading actual books, cooking for fun, working out, and taking regular road trips. The only reason I’ve had time for these things is because, knowing that we were moving away, I’ve allowed my business to taper off since the beginning of the year — I haven’t developed new clients or made a special effort to retain any, I haven’t done any advertising or promoted my work, I just let it quiet down until I closed altogether last week, a great closing that seemed to leave my clients feeling satisfied.

Thinking about going through this whole process again after making such a big, stressful life change is… tiring. Building my business was a huge undertaking that required months of intense, prolonged focus, as well as a financial investment, and even knowing what I do now, even knowing that I CAN be successful… I just don’t want to do it again.

I do intend to work, of course; I’ll be looking for something right away. Just not self-employment.

What I’ll be doing instead is going back to school. This was a really difficult decision because I’ve tried to go back to school a few times since my kids were born and it’s never worked. But this time is a little different because I can actually finish my biology degree entirely online. I’m taking a couple of classes right now, and everything’s a little tight and creaky, but it feels good as well.

I’m coming full-circle on this one. I didn’t think I’d ever go back to my first love and try to make it work. I’ve talked myself into so many different directions over the years, trying to adapt to various limitations — parenthood, income, location, my partner’s career. In my heart of hearts I’ve always had a little tingle of “What if…?” What if I didn’t have kids so young, what if we didn’t live in a rural area, what if we were making more money, what if Jeremy’s job wasn’t so inflexible…? What would I do?

I’ve known the answer to that, but it just wasn’t an option. Was. Not. So I made up some other answers.

Now, my kids are both in school, Jeremy’s career isn’t so intensive, and we’re moving to the city. And we’ve both accepted the repercussions of student loans to advance our career opportunities, something we could not feel good about when we were younger and stupider more idealistic. So I’m finishing this bastard of a biology degree, and then I’ll look for work as a lab tech, and then I’ll go from there.

Options. They are really quite nice to have.

spring breaks hearts

When I tell people that we’re moving to Portland, they usually want to talk about two things: Portlandia, and the rain. No comment on Portlandia. But I do usually rush to say that I love the rain. I spent my entire desert-locked childhood dreaming of living in the PNW. There isn’t enough rain in NorCal to satisfy me. And so on.

All of which is true. Drizzly gray days are my favorites. But if I’m completely honest, I have found in the past couple of years that those endless weeks of gray don’t necessarily love me back. After a while, I do feel a little depressed. I do find it hard to leave the house, I do struggle to sleep well and I do tend to feel smothered and sleepy.

I just don’t realize this is what’s happening until the clouds lift and this happens.

(Yes, I did get a new lens and start using my regular camera again!)

an urban education

For a few days our egg situation has been a little questionable. They’re often dirty, and sometimes they’ve gone bad. So I took a look in the coop and sure enough, it needed attention. We use the deep-litter method for our birds, which is a great low-maintenance way to keep a coop clean and warm and dry, but it does have its limits, and we’d reached them. The birds were scraping deeper and deeper into the pile, leading to lost eggs that were later collected, mistaken for fresh, and broken into a ruined batch of waffles.

So I grabbed the rake and the pitchfork and went to work, scraping out months of old straw. Jeremy hauled a straw bale into the run and I spread it all over the coop floor and tucked it into the nesting box, then the chickens went to town on the rest. At the end there was a flock of happy chickens, a clean coop for the next few months, and straw in my bra.

When we first began keeping chickens, I was afraid of everything that could go wrong. On some level I believed that if they didn’t have a perfect coop situation — the more twee the better — they’d just drop off their roosts and die, and the books were mainly concerned with many dozens of diseases and deprivations. More than five years later I’m pretty cavalier about chicken tending. Unless you live in an area with weather extremes, they don’t need much in the way of housing — fencing is far more important. Health issues generally resolve on their own — through some 75+ egg layers I’ve only had to stick a greased hand up a hen’s vent once. I’ve learned to induce a broody hen to raise chicks that aren’t hers, have brought up several rounds of newborns under heat lamps, and have participated in the slaughter and dressing of dozens of birds. Chicken tending is something I feel very confident doing, along with growing big productive organic gardens, preserving the harvest, milking a cow, collecting a herd of errant sheep, and fending off a nasty goat. And all of that knowledge isn’t likely to be worth much in a few months, when we move to the city.

When I mention this someone always rushes to assure me that Portland is a homesteading-friendly city where we could probably find something akin to our situation here. And in the beginning, when it looked like this was the move we’d make, that’s just what I intended to do. I jumped on the Internet and looked up websites and message boards for urban homesteaders, scanned rental listings for ranch homes with big backyards and gardening permissions, and carefully analyzed the area using the terrain setting in Google Maps.

Essentially I was working to carefully dig a perimeter around our rural lifestyle, lift it straight out of the NorCal soil, and transplant it into a city of more than half a million people, without losing a single microbe or pullet or green pea shoot. But I think this might be the wrong approach.

Before we moved here, we never had a decent garden and we never had chickens. But long stretches of time passed without driving because we used public transportation. We biked to the farmer’s market every week. We spent huge chunks of time at the public library where we were exposed to an ongoing collective of initiatives in food, sustainability, and economic justice, which because of their urban location were focused less on individual self-sufficiency than communal interdependence.

At the time I didn’t appreciate many of these things because I wanted that individual self-sufficiency. I wanted the farmhouse in the woods, the half-acre garden under a billion visible stars, the pond and the orchard and the herd of sheep, the solar panels as a wall between myself and a wasteful, polluting population.

And now I’ve had some of those things. I’ve lived in a tiny house, coaxed growing green things from soil compacted by generations of cattle, rationed water, run a blender on solar energy, eaten animals raised by my hand, lived miles from another human being. All of these, an education, which is nowhere near complete.

But it just doesn’t feel right to transfer into the same program when we move to the city. Maybe the city has something else to say.

keep the car running

Hey everyone, I have some news.

The primary reason we visited Portland two weeks ago was because Jeremy had an interview at the Waldorf school there, and he got the job. We’ll be moving to Portland in four months.

This is fine. I feel fine.


Seriously though. This wasn’t in the plan. You know, The Plan! The one where you’re like, hey universe I want this. And the universe is like, you got it babe! Oh shit, that doesn’t exist? It doesn’t exist! We just prattled on our merry way thinking we had lots of control and nothing would ever ever change. Always good for a laff.

Clear up through December we did not expect to leave. We talked about it a hundred thousand MILLION times and every conversation went like this.

So hey maybe we should leave.

Yeah maybe we should.

It makes sense.

Yes it does.

It would be okay.

Sure it would.

Maybe it would even be great.

I think so too.

So we’ll just stay here then.

Yep sounds good.

But one day I had a thought. What if we made the decision based entirely on what’s best for our kids? And I know that sounds funny because don’t parents base EVERYTHING on what’s best for our children? Well, no. We actually take many things into consideration, and settle often for what’s good enough, especially when the kids aren’t immediately obviously suffering. And our children aren’t suffering. Sure, there’s only one other boy in Isaiah’s class of 7. Willow doesn’t have many chances to connect with kids who are a little more off-beat. But they are happy healthy children.

Still, when we decided to approach the question this way, the answer clarified. We’d give them as many opportunities as we could. Social opportunities, educational opportunities, cultural opportunities, environmental opportunities… We’d want their world to be as wide as possible (ahem, as wide as we can afford — world travel is not in the budget).

Let’s put it this way: Isaiah’s class is Portland will have 18 boys next year. Eighteen boys! You should have seen how Isaiah’s face lit up when he heard that.

Once we accepted that moving to a more populated and innovative area would probably be the best choice for our kids, we turned our attention to the benefits for us, the adults in the equation. Jeremy’s new position is in the math department for the junior high and high school. After graduating his current class, he’ll have a break from being a main lesson teacher (which is an enormous emotional investment), and he’ll get to pursue his first love of math in a professional setting. He’s thrilled, and I’m thrilled for him.

And as for me… look, I built my little meal-delivery business as an alternative to extremely limited job opportunities — because I didn’t want to cultivate marijuana for a living — because I felt smothered by office work — because there is no university here and even if there were, there are no jobs here in anything I’d want to study — not because I really want to cook for a living. As much as I love it, I recognize it as a compromise. In Portland I’ll have the opportunity to pursue work that is both challenging and meaningful.

Other benefits: public transportation, walkable communities, affordable mortgages, so many cultural events, tons of “ethnic” markets, a curvy yoga studio, bike lanes, a thriving Buddhist community (other than Tibetan), interesting architecture & history, cooler summers, places I can safely eat occasionally, NO DROUGHT, really great coffee, closer to family, and plenty of opportunity to overcome my latent fear of bridges.

I focus tightly on all of these wonderful things because the drawbacks include leaving our “logical family” (thank Maupin for that wonderful term!) and abandoning this incredible place. This will hurt.

For so long, I couldn’t even think of leaving because I thought we’d be running away, and I refused to run away. I refused to give up, or to give in to that grass-is-greener mentality. Before this point I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to instead just turn very slightly in another direction, to redirect, and not with fear and regret, and to willingly keep my heart in multiple places.

So there you have it. Four months. Goodbye Mendo, hello Portland.