A Facelift, An Uplift

padded bra
Maybe *I* could use a “lift” too… (Goofing with my girlfriend at the mall)

A Facelift…  getting a jump-start on a new year with a new look for the blog! And in case you have it bookmarked anywhere, please note that the domain name is changing to KanaSmith.com …(the old one was up for renewal, so I’m taking the opportunity to celebrate this year’s update in MY name!)

And an Uplift… a quote to remind us writers why drafts aren’t a waste of time:

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”

~Thomas Edison

Who’s that MAN?

[This post will probably provoke a protest of “Mo-o-om!” from its subject… (Have you noticed how a teenager can turn “Mom” into a three-syllable word?) But the fearless family-chronicler forges forward nonetheless. ;) Love you, Son!]

I had a weird moment just a while back, one that other moms-of-sons might recognize… I had taken a few moments to run (OK, drive) the few blocks home from our restaurant in the middle of a Saturday, leaving “the men in my life” (husband Keoni and 18-year-old son Kapena) behind me at the business. Knowing the menfolk were elsewhere, imagine my shock when I opened the front door and heard the sounds, from my 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom, of her voice in conversation with that of a man! I went busting through her bedroom door in a state of alarm, only to find…

Christian & Elena Grace
Christian & Elena Grace… It was HIS voice in her room!

…my daughter and my son chatting together. Oh. Stand down, Mama Bear.

I had noticed, since his thirteenth birthday, that Christian’s voice had begun jumping around from one register to another. But it wasn’t until that Saturday, being startled by an “unfamiliar” adult-male-voice, that I fully realized that this IS my son’s voice now.

At my birthday party a week ago he presented me with a fire-opal ring of two sea turtles—a reference to his first nick-name of “Turtle”—and I found myself lifting onto my toes to kiss his cheek in thanks. It’s been a almost a year already that his arms have been on top when he hugs me, and mine around his chest instead of draped over his shoulders.

with kids at our restaurant counter... Notice the relative heights!
with kids at our restaurant counter… Notice the relative heights!

And there seem to be other changes in the wind. He has insisted for years that he’ll “never” be bothered with girls, girlfriends, or marriage—and I haven’t contradicted him. (Sure, I’ve thought he might change his mind, but who am I to insist that he will? Besides, I’m happy to be The Woman in his life for however long that lasts…) These days, though, there’s a girl surfacing in our conversations. He says she has “friend-zoned” him, but in any case they have lots in common to converse about, and he has been following her fiction-writing on Wattpad.

She may (or may not) have something to do with the fact that he has just launched the first chapter of his own first novel on Wattpad. To put this event in context (because in my mind it comes with several exclamation points!), Christian has hated writing since he first picked up a pencil. He was reading “chapter books” by his third birthday and spoke already like a miniature professor, but when it came to writing, his own perfectionism made it a chore. Even as a Little Guy, each word had to be spelled correctly, each letter had to be formed precisely—and his own demands on himself turned writing into a hassle he hated.

Christian's budding pirate novel, "The Red Dawn"
Christian’s budding pirate novel, “The Red Dawn”

Despite his voracious reading, his tremendous vocabulary, and the treasure-house that is his imagination, he has hated every English class because of the demand for writing. So I’m thrilled at the chance to see what comes of this delightful and unexpected story-beginning.

One of the joys of parenting is watching our kids grow and change and become their own people… That’s true at every age; it’s just maybe accelerated during the teen years. It’s why I’m glad Christian talks to me. It’s why I’m glad he likes to share whatever he’s most recently discovered, whether it be a song or a show on Netflix or a book or an iPad app or a game. (Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have looked twice at a game of driving and shooting tanks… But I got a kick out of letting him show me how to navigate, and letting him laugh at my inept attempts when we played together on an interactive online team.) It’s why I’m glad he has started working with us at the restaurant, where we have stretches of down-time together and he fills them by telling me stuff.

our man at the register
our man at the register

It’s a pleasure, too, to watch this self-possessed young man (transformed from the kid of a year ago who described himself as “not liking to talk to strangers”) interacting easily with customers at our cash register. Our guests enjoy his humor and his manners, and I enjoy observing the “performance” of Christian’s newly cultivated social skills.

I suppose you could say that my favorite “show” is the ever-evolving people-scapes that are my children… And just like a fan of a pop-star, I’m gratified by any sort of glimpse into their personalities and their private lives.

and now… a writer!

I think that’s what most intrigues me about Christian’s nascent story: not just what plot or characters he might imagine, but also the emergence of his writing voice.  It’s a whole new aspect of him.

But then, I was just as fascinated by what he chose to write about himself in the “biography” section on Wattpad. Even where the content wasn’t “news” to me, it’s another thing to see his self-image crystallized in his own words. Take this gem, for example: “I’m partially tone-deaf, meaning that while some people can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I can’t carry the bucket. I do play the cello though, and I am very good at recognizing an artist from their music.” I also found myself grinning at the last three statements with which he wrapped up his bio:

  • My life dream is to buy a sailboat and sail off into the sunset.
  • I work as a cashier and waiter at my mom’s restaurant, Kana Girl’s Hawaiian BBQ.
  • I want to become a Dive Master so that I can lead dive tours around Hawaii, where my mom and stepdad plan to move after I graduate from high school.

yesterday in a carseat, tomorrow with a driver's permit!
yesterday in a carseat, tomorrow with a driver’s permit!

Every parent I know talks at some point about how fast time flies by. (Well, not every minute of it… A night awake with a vomiting toddler lasts at least as long as most weeks… But mostly.) It’s almost cliché even to make the observation—but then, I guess clichés are generally derived from Truths. So here I am thinking that “just yesterday” this kiddo was in a carseat, and now he’s counting the (very few) months till he can get his driving permit. All the more reason for this Mommy not to miss any episodes of “the Christian show” while it’s still airing on our home station!


The Diarist’s Conundrum, & a Story About Community

Keoni & me in California this month with our three oldest grandkids: Annalia, Keoni, & Leland
Keoni & me in California this month with our three oldest grandkids: Annalia, Keoni, & Leland

I’ve been keeping journals since I was six years old. That first diary is a real gem, with one-sentence entries like: “Today I went crazy and thawt I was a frog.” I wish I remembered the story behind that…  The trouble with keeping journals, though, has always been the fact that when you have the most material to write about, that’s just the time when you have the least time in which to write it!

Traveling is a perfect example. Just when you’re experiencing the most new things that you’d like to record, you’re too busy experiencing them to write about them. So my junior-high journal records every detail of school days—even though I had 180 of those every year that were almost exactly alike—but it just hit the highlights of the weeks my parents took us to Europe.

For the last couple years this blog has replaced my journal, and that same principle applies to the last couple months. More stuff has happened in the six weeks since I last wrote than in the whole previous year when I was writing near-daily posts about whimsical every-day stuff… We’ve had momentous events and joyful events and serious events and exciting events.

baby grandsons
our newest grandsons: me with Jacob (son of Keoni-the-younger) and Keoni-the-elder with Dominic (Kawika’s son)

Three of our kids had birthdays (hey, that’s a big deal when you’re under-eighteen!), two of our kids had new babies, one of our kids got married… The child who hasn’t spoken to us for a year since we “practiced tough love” and asked him to move out is talking to us again. (Yes, it’s because he wanted something from us. But—here’s progress—he’s still talking to us even though he didn’t get the thing he wanted.) We’ve been busy preparing for the opening of our restaurant. Keoni is recovering from two major surgeries (spine and knee replacement). Not one, but three in-family “feuds” have come to happy ends—the aforementioned son is back in our lives, my ex-husband and I are enjoying cordial communication after five years of near-war, and Keoni made peace with an uncle who’d been holding a grudge.  And some deeper currents that maybe won’t be up for public consumption (because it’s not just about me—and as open as I’m willing to be about myself, its not my call to make that choice for other people just because they happen to be in my family)… But with all that going on, I haven’t made the time at the keyboard.

Hawaiian wedding
our daughter Anelahikialani and her new wife, Sarah (and “Pastor Kana” presiding)

And… I miss it. So here I am again. But now there’s the second conundrum: when you’ve gotten behind and have a whole lot to say, it’s hard to figure out where to start or what to catch up on first… I guess I just have to remind myself that I won’t cover it all in a single post. Rather than trying to tackle all that today, I’ll just get the ball rolling with one funny little “small-world” story.

My A.A. Sponsor, Shannon, takes a trip to Mexico every year, to an off-the-beaten-path spot, and she has gotten to know some of the local folks (she attends A.A. meetings while she’s there) as well as some of the other visitors who come there regularly as she does. When she got back from her annual trip this year, she called me up with a story. She’d been chatting with one of her friends down there, another U.S. citizen who visits every year, and the topic of talk had turned to writing. The friend is a writer, and Shannon mentioned that she had a sponsee who’s also a writer. When she referred to me by name, her friend exclaimed, “Not ‘Kana’s Chronicles‘!” Turns out she’s a reader here. Is this a small world or what? :)

When I started out “journaling” here, I didn’t expect any readers aside from my husband and my parents—but I’ve come to love the connectedness of our community. And I’ve missed it over these last couple months! I have reading to catch up on, as well as writing—but I’d like to think I’m back. And clearly I have a lot of story-telling to get on with! Thanks to all of you who make it a PLEASURE to write here. I love you guys.

Pushed Over the Edge?

Second Amendment
Reminder to self: this “Founding Philosophy” of the U.S. is NOT universally self-evident…

Um, wow. I posted the other day without even thinking about how differently my topic would come across to various of my “international audience” of blogging-buddies. Lots of food for thought in the ensuing commentary…

The dodgy topic: my “Concealed Carry” handgun class. (There, I’m being more “international” today—dodgy isn’t an American term. I looked it up while reading Harry Potter…  “Evasive, shifty,” OR “So risky as to require very deft handling.” Ha, blew that one.) Okay, the post wasn’t entirely a disaster, but I DID go merrily prancing into the topic without any forethought about the serious cultural and political differences it might stir up.

Startling statistics: gun ownership by country (image courtesy of smallarmssurvey.org)

One of the early comments (from France) brought me up short: “It’s such a surprise that America has a gun problem. I can’t see how that happened at all.” Wow. Okay. But I can see his point—there I was, after all, nonchalantly waxing enthusiastic about killing my cardboard cut-out with a 40-caliber handgun.

Another reader (from the UK) inquired what a Concealed Carry permit constitutes, because their laws are so different and she didn’t have a frame of reference. Good point. Here was my explanation, which she found somewhat alarming:

Most U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can carry a weapon (that includes knives, etc. as well as handguns) but without a Concealed Carry permit, the weapon has to be in plain sight. (Exceptions to the “right” to carry weapons include people who have been convicted of a felony crime, anyone who has been deemed mentally unstable, anyone discharged dishonorably from the military, anyone on probation or parole, and anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.)

WITH a Concealed Carry permit, the weapon doesn’t need to be visible, so I could have one in a purse, pocket, or hidden holster, or out of sight in my vehicle—and can carry it anywhere except a courthouse, jail, airplane, or school property.

Her response brought home to me how little I had considered how differently we treat guns here: “Wow! That… that is nutty. So as long as the weapon is visible, its legal to carry one (except for those omissions). That’s most people in the US, surely? Meep! I can’t even begin to imagine that here; I’d shit bricks if I saw someone just ambling along the street with a gun on their hip!”

There’s the cultural divide. She can’t imagine seeing someone with a gun, and I’ve never thought twice about it. I mean, they’re not all over the place, you don’t see them on every second person in the supermarket, but the sight of a shoulder holster doesn’t even make me blink. Her amazement echoed in additional comments from Italy (“I’m curious, does it mean that you can walk along a street with a gun hanging on your side like in western movies?“) and from an Aussie-transplanted-to-Canada:

I’ve lived in Australia and now Canada, where wearing a gun (concealed or otherwise) is anathema in both countries, ** and although I’ve become sort of aware of it since I’ve been here, the concept’s never really ‘clunked’ into my forebrain until reading through these comments.

You’re right that it’s a cultural thing, ‘cos I can’t get my head around walking into my local coffee shop and seeing someone sitting there sipping his or her latte with a gun on their hip, and checking their facebook account!

** apart from criminals and police.

Ah, there’s the rub, in that last line. As the bumper sticker would have it: If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.

gun control
Truthfully, there are logical arguments on both sides of the gun control issue… (image courtesy of memegenerator.net/instance/23767318)

And with that pithy observation, we just hit the slippery slope of American political vitriol. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say here that I’m a Democrat. Socially and politically, I’m pretty far Left on the scale of Liberal. But then there’s this “gun thing”… The Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) seems, for some reason, to “belong” to the right-wing crowd. It causes some dissonance in my own brain, I must confess, on occasions when my thoughts seem to echo rhetoric from politicians whose positions I generally detest.

The topic has been distilled into political sound-bites and statistics, banalities and bumper-stickers, all of it heated to a slow boil of emotion. All the arguments seem circular, and I acknowledge the logic of both sides’ contentions. On the one hand, there’s the platitude that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” True—though the fact remains that those people would be less lethal if they didn’t have a gun to hand. That axiom about “only outlaws” having guns is true as well, and would leave the rest of the population without equivalent defense. But with the sheer numbers of guns, we get a corresponding number of incidents in which those guns are used—episodes that could not have ensued in the absence of those firearms.

I won’t pretend to have any answer to the political question of whether citizens “should” be allowed to arm themselves. I’m not interested right now in trying to decry or defend my nation’s current laws. I’m just going forward from the point where we ARE. I can own and carry a weapon, and I am choosing to learn how to use one.

image courtesy of CNSnews.com

Why? Well, let’s step back from the sound-bites and bumper-stickers, and bring the question back into the realm of people. The instructor of my handgun class made an observation that really hit me in the gut. He said he has been a cop for twenty years, and he’s never once arrived in time to STOP a rape or a murder. He said his job is to show up afterwards, clean up, and hope to figure out who did it. But he’s not on hand to prevent it. That is specifically why he teaches concealed carry courses when he’s off-duty.

Of the people I know who regularly “carry,” most are law enforcement officers who carry even when they’re off duty. The rest are mostly women who have previously been raped or sexually assaulted, and who are determined not to be helpless in the future. My own history on that score? I was sexually assaulted a few years back—by a sitting State Senator (Republican “family values” guy, wouldn’t you know it?—but hey, today he’s sitting instead in the county jail).  If I had been armed at the time, it would have been a briefer incident—and I’m ready to swear I wouldn’t have needed to USE the weapon. Having it would have been sufficient.

image courtesy of someecards.com

That incident isn’t the driving force behind my interest in the handgun, though it plays a part. I’m not a person who devotes undue mental energy to fretting about threats, but I acknowledge their existence. I’ve faced some already, and I’ll face some in future. I sincerely pray that I won’t face any that might warrant the use of a weapon, and I hope I will not EVER have cause to draw one—let alone fire it!—outside of a shooting range.

But… A life can change—or end—in just a few moments. I’m exercising my power of choice, the chance that I could influence the outcome of “a few minutes” when they count most… should the occasion ever arise.

A couple days after I wrote about my shooting class, Keoni’s friend Mike came home from his night shift at the prison to find his wife Sherryl dead in their home, shot four times in the chest. The killer is not being charged with premeditation, which leaves us to wonder whether Sherryl might not be alive if there hadn’t happened to be a gun to hand at the time. From a “political” angle, this death might seem like a straightforward example to support gun control. Although… For what it’s worth, the murder weapon wasn’t a handgun or automatic or any of the categories that cause most contention; it was a hunting rifle. And to counterbalance the question of how-it-would-have-been if he didn’t have a weapon, there’s the reverse of that same question: what if she had?  If Sherryl had ever taken the training I just finished, would Mike still have his wife? I don’t have any answers. I just have my own choice to go forward with.

girls with guns
Finger doesn’t touch the trigger unless I’ve made a conscious choice to destroy something. (Case in point: Here I am on a shooting range, pointing at a cleared target… Finger NOT on the trigger.) No accidents allowed!

I choose to know how to use a weapon, both wisely and well.

I’ll continue praying that the only use it will ever see will be in the context of “sport” and practice.

I’ll admit that I thoroughly enjoy the “sport” aspect of target shooting, but please believe me that I don’t treat guns or shooting lightly. Keoni (who was a Range Master and competition shooter with Oregon’s Department of Corrections) drilled me thoroughly in safety and protocol before I ever set foot in that class, and my finger doesn’t touch that trigger unless I’ve made a conscious choice to destroy something. (Case in point: I reprise this photo to point out the positioning… On a shooting range, sighting a cleared target… finger NOT on the trigger.)

I can’t say whether this post will prove soothing to those who were taken aback by my original, but I will say that it has been an interesting exploration of my own head! My thanks to my blogging friends for giving me so much food for thought.

Will I be starting a whole new round of controversy if I mention that our eleven-year-old son begins his Hunter Education classes this Tuesday?  For better or worse, America’s “Old West” is still alive and kickin’ here in Idaho…

Well, This is Embarrassing…

Shirker? Yep, that’s me… Computer open on my lap, but fast asleep.

I don’t intend to shirk responsibilities, truly I don’t… But here we have it. I seem to be a bona fide, certified Shirker.


I sent off my bundle of deadline-writing this afternoon (including an article—I’m not making this up!—on the assigned topic: “Can my dog get me pregnant?” OH. MY. GOD) and thought I’d reward myself, as usual, by writing-for-fun HERE… And experienced the nearly-unprecedented sensation of realizing I didn’t know what the next blog would be. I usually have half a dozen thoughts queued up in my head and elbowing each other to get to the front of the line…

And then I remembered… That I have been gifted with a responsibility that I haven’t yet fulfilled.

Well, actually a couple.

Well… maybe kind of a…  list. (Did I mention shame?)

Here’s the deal. The Blogging-World is, above all, a community experience. The joys of sharing our work—our writing, our stories, our photography, our Art, our Lives—are multiplied and enhanced by the interactions with our fellow-bloggers. In this World we are not only Bloggers, but Readers—because at it’s best, blogging is a two-way street! Or… a multi-road intersection… Or maybe… a roundabout? Okay, I don’t know what the best traffic-analogy would be, but it’s Community I’m angling at here.

Some of my blogging-compatriots have done me the honor of entrusting this blog with awards.  I use that word (entrust) deliberately, because I feel a sense of accountability, both to acknowledge the recognition, and also to pay it forward. That’s how these things work in a Community. With apologies for the lengthy interval (six months on a few of these, cringe)  between the Award and the acceptance, I would like to thank and acknowledge:

My most heartfelt thanks to all of you for being a part of my Blogging-Experience, and for reaching out to me the way you have!

Standard Operating Procedure for any blogging-award indicates that I should:

  1. Not wait six months before I get around to acknowledgments. Crap.
  2. Offer thanks and links to those bloggers who conferred recognition on this blog. (See above.)
  3. Share seven (or three, or ten, or some number) of informational bits about myself. I refer you to the “Chronicles” link above, given that I share pretty much everything a person wouldn’t want to know about me, right here on the pages of this blog. (Hence the earlier “TMI” award, ahem…)
  4. Share the awards by conferring recognition on some of the awesome bloggers I’ve been fortunate to discover.

For that last bit, I’m going to be a bit unorthodox (please try to stifle your yelp of surprise) by listing some of the amazing bloggers whose work hits my Inbox, and asking each of them please to select which of these awards they would like to accept. In no particular order…

Wait. One more thing I’ve gotta say. One of my favorite things about other people’s “Award” posts is the ready-made lists of bloggers-to-follow. I go blog-trolling regularly by tags and topics, and come across great discoveries from time to time—but when bloggers I already enjoy hand me a list? I’m all over that shit. I invite the rest of you to enjoy these guys too!

Blogging-Love to all! Thanks for being part of my experience here.

A Tattooed Chicken-Farmer in Heat (Wait, that didn’t come out right…)

Keoni’s thermometer at work last night. No, it’s not stuck in a hot dish—the KITCHEN was 118 degrees F!

Okay, okay: “A Tattooed Chicken-Farmer in THE Heat.” That’s what I meant. (Though our teenager, who has learned to approach our door warily if he arrives home unexpectedly, might vote for the original…)

Point is, it’s HOT in high-desert Idaho in the summer. Too hot to think. Too hot to remember all the, um… the little thingy-words that should go in the title. (Too hot to remember what we call the little thingy-words… Oh, articles! Yeah, those.)

It’s just. Damn Hot.

Elena Grace avoiding “bad form”

As if to psychically second what I was just typing… Christian is giving his sister instructions for using the iPad’s App Shopper to find new games: “There you go, yeah. For device you pick ‘iPad,’ for the price you pick ‘Free,’ and for categories you pick ‘Games’.”

I piped up with the motherly suggestion that the “Education” category also includes a lot of games, to which he replied with narrowed eyes, “Mom, it’s Summer! That would be bad form!”

[Who taught this mouthy kid to talk like that, anyway?   …Oh.]

Did I mention that it’s too hot for thinking?

Using my fancy watering-can to try and keep plants from shriveling with heat. Thinking of trying it on My People as well.

So today, here’s a mishmash jumble of odds-and-ends that haven’t made it into the blog in the last few weeks. Along with thanks to my friend Le Clown for the “tattooed chicken-farmer” moniker, which had the whole family giggling this morning!

The Art of Scrounging

I wrote recently about the much-maligned art of Packrat-ism, but hadn’t put a name to the activity that precedes Packrat-ing—namely, Scrounging.

Scrounge, v.  Finding cool shit in unlikely places.

our “scrounged” beach cart

Keoni is a master at this. Particularly if you expand that (highly technical) definition to include creative use of materials-at-hand to meet needs for which they weren’t originally designed… (Witness, for example, my “watering can” above.)

Just for fun, here’s a (partial) list of his scrounging-successes just in the last few weeks:

  • A folding cart that’s perfect for rolling our beach-stuff (cooler, portable BBQ, chairs, towels) from the car to the beach. Or, for that matter, from our house to the beach when the car has accompanied Keoni to work. There used to be a roadside vegetable stand near us, and this cart was among the things they abandoned when they closed up…
  • A 55-gallon soy-sauce barrel from a restaurant supply company, which is now destined to become our compost barrel. After we finish the chicken-house.
  • Christian demonstrating a Taekwondo move with his raft-pole

    Basaltic boulders (cleared from a construction site) to build our planned backyard fire-pit.

  • A metal fence-post for Christian to use in poling his inner-tube around the lake. (He tried a tree-branch walking-stick but punctured his ride almost immediately with one of its branch stubs…)
  • A bicycle. When he offered to help our neighbor Chuck, a disabled vet, to assemble the bike-bits leaning against his porch, Chuck said he intended to donate it… Well, we’ve been looking for a bike!
  • All the wood for our chicken-house project (including the house-shaped end pieces, from the same abandoned fruit stand). He came home on several occasions with two-by-fours strapped to the side of the car as if the Buick had taken up jousting…
  • …And speaking of Bessie Buick, several replacement bits for her dinged front end—and a pair of jumper cables!—from the “Jalopy Jungle” junkyard…
  • I appropriated one of the firepit-rocks to paint this “warning” for our front steps…

    Leftover wooden fence-post pieces from a ranch down the road, now sliced into different heights and standing on end to edge the boardwalk leading up to our house…

  • Stackable plastic soda crates (our grocery store let us take them) which have served in turn as craft table, fan stand, outdoor seating, and sawhorse…
  • Leftover tar paper from a nearby paving-job, perfect for use as a weed barrier underneath…
  • …the starter beds of wildflowers we’ve dug up from various places, and herbs we’ve transplanted.

In my previous life I would have gone straight to the store when I wanted any of these things—even the damn landscaping rocks—but this is WAY more satisfying.

Father-Son Bonding & Glitter Nail Polish

how Guys remove nail polish

Our teenage son stood in our bedroom doorway the other night and announced that he had to ask us a serious question.

[Parental attention engaged!]

“Do my toes match my outfit?”

As it turns out, his girlfriend had painted his toenails for him. And as it turns out, glitter nail polish is a bitch to remove. My nail polish remover was no match for the stuff… but luckily the stuff was no match for Dad’s pocket knife.

How [not] to Repel a Brother

Christian pointed out to Elena Grace the other day that she might want to re-think how she labeled her diary if she really didn’t want anyone to read it. I noticed the next morning she had done some editing:

Before & After the Brotherly Advice


Christian reading in his tent-fort

I think it’s been about four months since either of the younger kids have actually slept in their beds.

Around Spring Break our daughter and her wife visited from California, and we shuffled around the sleeping arrangements for a few days with the younger kids in “tent-forts” in the living room. Christian’s tent-fort, under a U.S. Marine Corps blanket draped across the corner of the room, has been there ever since. We moved Elena Grace’s tent-fort into her bedroom after the Cali-kids left, draped between her desk and chair. We laugh about the fact that she’s not using her perfectly-good bed… But it did make things easy when my mom visited—Elena Grace was already installed in her tent, with the unused bed waiting for Grandy.

Christian’s tent-occupation is, to some extent, a matter of privacy. That might seem counter-intuitive, since he’s planted right in the middle of the household now, but unlike his sister, he had a shared room—and suffice it to say that the sleep-habits of 11-year-olds and 16-year-olds are not a perfect match. Christian wakes early to read, but didn’t want to disturb his brother by turning on his lamp. Kapena comes home late from work or friends’ homes and was less observant about how his entrances affected Christian’s sleep.

Elena Grace in her tent-fort, before it got too HOT for flannel pajamas

Even at his dad’s house where he has a room to himself, I don’t think he feels it’s HIS room anymore. He has never been a guy who enjoyed surprises, so he was kind of traumatized when he arrived after a weekend with us to find his furniture replaced, his favorite reading-chair sitting in the street with the trash, and some of his favorite things mysteriously missing. (The kids have noted several times how assiduously their stepmother erases traces of ME in that household… And the reading chair had belonged to my grandfather.)

So bit by bit, Christian has been bringing his most Special Things to this household, and setting them up in his tent-fort where they’re safe.  Remarking on the fact that we allow him the permanent occupation of a living-room corner, he told me the other day that I’m “not really a traditional kind of Mom.”  Um… Thanks?

When it’s TOO HOT…

There’s only one place for a tattooed chicken-farmer and her family to go. We pack up our little scrounged cart and get our scorched butts to the beach.

Living in a climate that ranges from (Fahrenheit) five degrees in the winter to one-hundred-five in the summer, we sometimes think wistfully of the consistently temperate weather back in Hawai’i… But we’ve also learned not to lose out on the joys of Today by living in our  heads anticipating something different. Just think what we’d miss!—Today. Hot as it is, still a day with our ‘Ohana.

Home to Roost

Never mind the “Secret Lives of Bees”–I’m intrigued by the Secret Lives of Kids. I would never guess what’s going on in my own kids’ heads if I didn’t chatter and play with them. Case in point: our 11-year-old son, Christian, has been harboring a long-standing wish to own chickens.  I had no idea.

He first floated the idea in the context of our long-term Plan: a bed-and-breakfast on the acre that’s awaiting us on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Could we have chickens there, he wondered, and could he help with them? Given that the “long-term” part of the Plan is largely due to considering ourselves anchored-in-Idaho by joint custody until the kids get through school, that would be a lo-o-ong wait. Really, you want chickens? Well… How about NOW?

chicken coop
Anatoli’s chicken-house

Our neighbor Anatoli has chickens already—chickens who (he claims, in his own thickly accented English) “speak Spanish, and English, and on Saturdays, Russian.” And Chuck (the disabled Vet just down the way from us, whose yard gets mowed in turns by Keoni and Steve and Bill, who have undertaken the volunteer rotation without ever talking about it) has hens that he raised himself from the eggs. So no problem, we figured—and we promised Christian chickens this summer.

The beginning of May, to our surprise, brought a form-letter from the landlord reminding everyone to mow their yards and keep their porches tidy… and to get rid of “farm animals” by June 1. The letter clarified that chickens were meant by that, and that there had better not be any chickens left on the property by June. The afternoon of the letter’s arrival, Steve and Bill and Keoni and Anatoli convened at the “four corners” where our yards converge, and (like a bunch of biddies themselves) dissected the letter, managing in the process to dissuade Anatoli (conditioned, perhaps, by Soviet-Bloc life?) from immediately killing his dear hens. The idea of a neighborhood petition arose from the gab-session; Keoni volunteered me to write one up, and Bill said he’d walk it all around the park.

Gretchen Anderson
Gretchen Anderson, author of “The Backyard Chicken Fight” (and raising chickens in our hometown)

A little research showed that every town in our county (including the capital city of Boise) legally defines hens (up to a certain number, which varies town by town) as pets, rather than farm animals.  Since our leases prohibit “farm animals”—but not specifically chickens—our argument hangs on the definition. I got in touch with nationally-recognized author and “backyard chicken advocate” Gretchen Anderson, who happens to live in our own town of Eagle, to inquire about the rules and interpretations of this municipality–though I realized soon after that our trailer park (“Eagle” address notwithstanding) is outside the town boundary…

In any case, our “Request to Reconsider the Ruling Regarding Chickens” relied on these points:

  • Female chickens, up to a certain number, are legally considered pets rather than farm animals even within city limits of the cities in Ada County. The most restrictive city in Ada County is Boise, which currently allows up to three female chickens (and is in the process of considering an increase to allow six).  Other cities in Ada County have set even higher numbers allowable as pets, collectively setting a clear legal precedent for the classification of chickens as pets rather than as farm animals.
  • Female chickens do not create any noise nuisance, health hazards, or devaluation of property value.
  • Chickens provide excellent pest control with regard to bugs, provide fertilizer for gardens, and provide eggs for the household—all of which are markedly advantageous for families attempting to feed themselves in these tough economic times.

backyard chickens
image from backyardpoultrymag.com

By the next evening Bill had collected more than forty signatures on the petition. The only person in the park who declined to sign cited as her reason the fact that she didn’t want her son-in-law (who also lives here) to take it into his head to raise chickens…  Bill met with the manager, presented the petition, and then… We waited.  June 1 came and went, and we still hadn’t heard anything either way. Anatoli’s and Chuck’s chickens continue to cluck away on either side of us, oblivious to their suspended sentence.

So… We’ve decided to go ahead and build our poultry-pen. Steve has a stack of two-by-fours for which we bartered a couple recycled coffee-creamer-jugs filled with Keoni’s teriyaki sauce & his ginger salad dressing, I just found a free roll of chicken wire on Craigslist, and Christian is doing the research about details like chicken-food…


On a more sobering note (literally, for the two of us), our little neighborhood also marked a sad circumstance today. Our neighbor four doors down—known for his metal-work and his race-car driving—took his own life today. Steve knew him well because he used to live in our trailer, and Steve (who has been Sober a year longer than we) says he was in Recovery, but had gone back to drinking. The Crime Scene Investigation team has been courteous and circumspect, quietly inquiring among the neighbors about his recent habits, what sort of music he’d been listening to. And I suppose it’s telling that in this fairly tight-knit little country neighborhood, no one had answers. It’s telling, too, that he’s one of the only neighbors whose name I don’t know.  We’d actually been keeping an eye out for him, wanting to introduce ourselves and ask if he had plans for the stack of tiles in his driveway, but we hadn’t yet found—or made—the opportunity.  We were reflecting yesterday on our brief 18 months of Sobriety—as well as lessons learned from that relapse, brief but utterly disastrous—and our neighbor’s suicide brings the severity of this disease home to roost.

While we’re working toward chickens, we’re enjoying ducks. We’ve watched this troupe since they were eggs under our back bushes…

To end on a related—but more upbeat—note, we lost a dear friend yesterday morning. I say “upbeat” because this man’s life is one to celebrate, even mixed with the sadness of goodbye.  Gary (or Grrrr, as we always called him) “graduated from the Program” with decades of Sobriety behind him—a man who daily celebrated the blessing of “going to sleep every night instead of passing out, and waking up every morning instead of coming to.”  We’re pretty sure that he has already ensconced himself in a back-row seat for the Great Meeting in the Sky, set up his Cribbage board, rolled his own cigarette, and responded to another angel’s “Good-to-see-you” greeting with his standard response: “It’s good to be seen!”  Grrrr, you are loved! And we know that you have gone home to roost where you will be most joyful. Save us a seat!