blog luigi

Sweet Luigi the guard llama

We came along a plan to get three alpacas to graze and grow wool and be cute on our land. One requirement of the alpaca deal was that we employ a guard llama to protect the alpacas from all manner of threat. It was the first I’d ever heard or thought about llamas being a kind of furry, long-lipped security detail.

So, then we ran across a llama named Luigi who was able to fit the bill. Tall, pale, and handsome, Luigi grace our pen and acreage with his aloof presence. Two weeks later, Zoro, Keno, and Surveyor arrived: the Alpacas from town.

Their initial meeting with their new protector, Luigi, left the Alpacas feeling randy. Perhaps the mounting and circling was entirely non-sexual in nature and all about dominance. Either way, it was pretty raunchy – and noisy. I never knew that Alpacas were desperately noisy when provoked and make a sound that is reminiscent of both a whale and Chewbaca. It’s an amplified chirping with aquatic mammal resonance and intonation.

How do they see anything???

How do they see anything???

Mesmerized by the other-worldly display of intimate llama-alpaca weirdness, I must have leaned in a bit too close for comfort. I was slapped out of my daze by stinking meteor of slime that thwacked into my wide open eye. When someone tells you that llamas spit, know that “spit” is a grossly misleading euphemism for internal sewer sediment ball. Spit would be a pleasure after receiving the full horror of Alpaca lugeys.

Getting to know each other... a favorite alpaca icebreaker

Getting to know each other… a favorite alpaca icebreaker

That’s the other thing … the llama has never spit at me. It’s the cute alpacas that do the hocking.

Malodorous and unsavory as it is, I’ll take the end-rage Alpaca defense over the potentially bone breaking protective instinct of many other large land mammals. Like hard hooves or slicing claws or deep puncturing tooth bites.

Plus, Alpacas have great bangs. I’m not sure how they see anything but they sure look good.

Next…. it’s time for a bunch of rookies to shear the alpacas…


Where shall I begin with my list of excuses for not blogging since OBAMA DAY?

First entity to blame is, of course, Facebook. It steals my blog thunder.

Second scapegoat is my herd of 2 children. Which leads me to a new cyber acronym: TTTB (too tired to blog).

I am currently unpacking from a roadtrip we completed 4 days ago. Perhaps, by this time next week, I will be finished.

During our fabulous 12 day roadtrip in the supervan with the fam we :

  • attended 2 puppet shows
  • had two birthday parties
  • went to two storytimes
  • traded in a 3-year-old for a four-year-old
  • got cold and wet at a zoo, a pool, and an aquarium
  • used 100 gallons of biodiesel
  • went to two conferences
  • frolicked at 7 playgrounds
  • rocked out at two kid concerts
  • ate macaroni at a children’s restaurant
  • made two conference calls from the parking lot of chuck-e-cheez
  • got two sunburns on two different beaches
  • played with 3 fun cousins
  • presented at one meeting
  • ate several lollipops
  • stopped at Trader Joe’s 9 times
  • indulged in 5 amusement park rides.. some more than once
  • loved gaggles of friends and relatives
  • received one parking ticket
  • charmed one police officer out of a traffic ticket

One unexpected discovery was finding a beach volleyball scene that seemed to be exclusively for jiggly middle-agers with sunburned scalps. This was at Mother’s Beach in LA. Before finding this little oasis of reality, I had thought that all beach volleyball was the exclusive domain of the baywatch-esque bods of LA’s westside.

The girls loved most things but were especially thrilled at the bowl of free red lollipops within their reach at Bank of America’s Santa Monica branch.

Ossian found herself  starstruck when her favorite musician, Melissa Green, agreed to be photographed with us after an upbeat morning concert at an LA library.

We left sunny weather and went to cold rainy bay area stuff. Then, we left the rain and went to sunny southern CA. After that, our time in Santa Cruz was a mix of moderate weathers. As we approached our Northern home, we entered snow.
An hour later, we were home and surprised to find our daffodils blooming.

confused spring

confused spring

lollipop dance outside bank of america

lollipop dance outside bank of america

rainy day bday zoo fest

rainy day bday zoo fest

4 out of 5 cousins here

4 out of 5 cousins here

more lollipop dance..this went on for 10 minutes

our snowfriend... built and appreciated in the last hour of our journeu
our snow friend… built and appreciated in the last hour of our journey

Thank god. We all need this so badly. The world NEEDS this SO BADLY. An African American. An intelligent, thoughtful, charismatic, captivating, elegant organizer. A loving dad and seemingly sweet husband. A voice for peace, dialogue, moderation, global cooperation, international law, alternative energy, health care, human rights, diplomacy, economic fairness, integrity, and “hope”.

What a mess he’s inherited today. He’s a smoker. Though I hope he quits someday, now is probably not the time.

What can he really do??? My dear adopted sister Janelle said that “until Obama does more damage than W, he is the MESSIAH.”

I agree. Even if Obama does absolutely nothing, which is beyond unlikely…even if he just sits in that Oval Office and lets the status quo roll on, his presence as an African-American in the white house brings some healing to the country and the world. Just him sitting there is radical change. Thank god.

Of course, he won’t just sit there


We gathered, potluck style, at our Community Center around a wobbly pull down screen that loosely captured the projected Democracy Now streaming of the Inauguration. With no television reception in our rural neck of the woods, we patiently waited out the internet pauses.

Well, here goes one of those posts that does nothing more than guiltily chronicle headline events of this little life of mine to make up for blogging delinquency – six weeks of delinquency to be exact. All of this is to clear the air so that I can get back in the blogging saddle tomorrow.

Why the delinquency? Moving, miscarrying, merrymaking, remodeling, hosting, grieving, and visiting are to blame. But really, there is no excuse.

Here are some snapshots of the last many weeks to bring us into the present. At the end of this very important MLK birthday, on the eve of a MONUMENTAL inauguration day, the present is where I want to be.

Our first bonfire at the Briarpatch with beloveds, Violet, Amy, and Justin

Our first bonfire at the Briarpatch with beloveds, Violet, Amy, and Justin

Nola figured out quickly how to climb up to and open the bunny cage so that she crawl inside.  She loves the bunny hutch.  The bunny, however, is not so keen on her intrusions.

Nola quickly figured out how to climb up and open the bunny cage so that she crawl inside. She loves the bunny hutch. The bunny, however, is not so keen on her intrusions.

Blase coping with a santa crisis by suddently becoming santa.

Blase coping with an extreme santa crisis by suddenly becoming santa.

Laying floor, laying floor, laying floor.  It never ends.

Laying floor, laying floor, laying floor. It never ends.

Assembling bunny cages as though I had all the time in the world for such diversions.

Assembling bunny cages as though I had all the time in the world for such diversions.

Little jammied elves making special presents for nanas, papus, manamas, poppys, aunties, and dadas.

Little jammied elves making special presents for nanas, papus, manamas, poppys, aunties, and dadas.

Another nola trick..."What bunny crackers?! I don't know what you're talking about!"

Another nola trick..."What bunny crackers?! I don't know what you're talking about!"

smoothies are serious business around here

smoothies are serious business around here

Oh ... and we accidentally got a new dog, Shorty.  Here are Blase and Shorty, engaged in ancient inter-species bonding ritual.

Oh ... and we accidentally got a new dog, Shorty. Here are Blase and Shorty, engaged in ancient inter-species bonding ritual.

Osh "helping" Blase apply more slurry to our hernia-heavy concrete countertops which are happily and finally gracing our kitchen.

Osh "helping" Blase apply more slurry to our hernia-heavy concrete countertops which are happily and finally gracing our kitchen.

Nearly one year later, here is what's left of the massive Sperm Whale that washed up on our Mattole Beach.

Nearly one year later, here is what's left of the massive Sperm Whale that washed up on our Mattole Beach.

What kind of person goes into a Long’s Drug store at 6:50 am on a Saturday – disheveled and asking for a pencil sharpener which she then buys for one dollar and forty nine cents using a $100 bill? I did. Today.

I was required to use that ancient artifact of the old world, the #2 pencil for my highly pleasurable CBEST exam this morning. After 4.5 hours of sleep, I drove 2 hours to sit for the 4 hour exam with two #2 pencils, well sharpened, in hand. In preparation for today, I purchased 6 environmentally unfriendly pencils last week. I stood for a long time staring back and forth between the eco-pencils and the flashy iridescent ones in enlivening colors. When it comes to standardized tests, I am shallow and indulgent. I feel excessively entitled to lots of rewards and comforts around the testing experience. So, I chose the bad pencils. Having done so, I highly recommend flashy and exciting pencils for any paper-based standardized test. They really pulled me thru some dull moments.

I was not being facetious when I called today’s test pleasurable. Maybe it is an indicator of how much my brain has been craving some other channels besides mommyland  and  miscarriage grief lately. It was also refreshing to take a standardized test that didn’t make me feel like I was being tricked. I either figured out the algebraic equation or I didn’t. I either comprehended the reading passage or I didn’t. I either knew how to read a table of contents, or, I didn’t. I think with most of the questions, I did.

I got a little carried away with the two essay questions. I love writing, that was part of the problem. I also felt a little thrilled at the unfamiliar experience of handwriting, in a flashy # 2 pencil, two entire persuasive essays. I pushed right through hand cramps and finally had to just cut myself off.  I finally remember that the beleaguered test reader doesn’t really care what I think about diverting public funds to subsidize elite private schools.

On the way home from my testing revelry, I snatched up these ridiculous fluff balls … our 8 week old french angora bunnies.  Soon, we’ll be moguls in the highly lucrative wool business….


This miscarriage business is complex.

We buried our “miscarriage” last night. Picking the right spot was tormenting… the first spot was too exposed; the second place was too far from the house and I cried about not being able to see it or protect it; the third spot, in the garden, was at least visible from the kitchen sink and dining room table so I could keep my eye on it. I like that it was within the fence and not just out in the wild. We named it “felt”.. the in utero nickname I’d been using for the past several weeks.

I remember one 15 year old client I was working with who miscarried at 8 weeks. She and her adolescent boyfriend and some cousins and pals crafted a small coffin out of a shoebox and lined it with velvet. They had a funeral and buried it. She was devastated. I was supportive and appropriate in my social worker way but I secretly thought it was very strange and way over the top.

As I buried my own little one yesterday, I thought about her. I don’t think she was strange or over the top anymore. She was authentic and heroic and brilliant for grieving so thoughtfully and doing what she felt she needed to do to deal with that loss. I am a mess. My condition makes her look stoic.

The etymology of the word “miscarriage” dates back to the 1300’s with “mis” meaning wrongly.. so to miscarry is to “wrongly carry”.. by 1527 the word came to mean “to deliver an unviable fetus”. It all sounds so active and implies some failure of the deliverer/woman.

It also seems a pale euphemism for what the “delivery of an unviable fetus” really looks like and feels like. A rougher word with more hard consonants or something might feel more appropriate….. maybe it’s not the word that is the problem. Maybe it is the relative silence around the experience that affects 1/3 of all pregnancies (that’s a lot of women, partners and families). For me, it is a bloody, painful, gut wrenching, mournful, dissonant, guilty, jarring, and isolating collision. I just keep thinking in disbelief, women go through this all the time.

I sent Blase to rent the dumbest romantic comedy he could find at our little store. He brought home a box that seemed to fit the bill with some nice looking couple on the front, smiling and stuff. The kids finally fell asleep and we turned it on. The opening scene looked to be set in the 50’s or 60’s and was of a woman, crying as she was wheeled into a hospital – having a miscarriage. The next scene was that same woman, again being wheeled into a hospital, screaming – for her second miscarriage. This repeated through her subsequent miscarriage – totally 7 in a row.

We were amazed. Neither of us could think of any movie in recent memory that even vaguely or lightly depicted miscarriage. On this day when we wanted only distraction from our loss and miscarriage pain, we’d somehow gotten this film. What were the chances???? ( It was a great film – check out “The Music Within” if you haven’t already.)

Anyway, the woman suffering the miscarriages was totally broken by her experiences; no doubt compounded by the historically insensitive (abusive) treatment of women by the medical establishment in decades past. Every year, she made a cake and decorated and had a birthday party for each lost baby. Every party ended with her unconscious on the table after overdosing on sleeping pills. This happened 7 times each year. The movie is based on a true story.


My unplanned but celebrated third pregnancy is now an unexpected miscarriage in process.  All of the excitement, anticipation, imagining, and nurturing around this impending baby is now just incessant blood on a pad.  It is simultaneously surreal and inescapably graphic.  We were so curious about this new being and eager to meet him or her.

After 5 days of bleeding, crying, and hibernating, today, I showered, changed my aged clothes and broke the news to my 3.5 year old daughter.  We anguished over how and what to tell her… finally, the moment and way arose.  I was reading to her and somehow the story segued into a discussion of eggs and chickens.  She was asking about how eggs get in and out of chickens and how eggs become chickens.  After we’d momentarily exhausted her line of questioning, I explained that I learned something when I went to the doctor… that the egg in my tummy was a special egg and isn’t the kind that turns into a baby.

“Well, where will the egg go?”, she asked.

It will come out eventually”, I answered.

I want to see the egg,”  she stated.

“That would be neat but with this kind of egg, it is SO small that we won’t be able to see it.  Not this egg, not this time,” I ventured.

Seemingly satisfied, she insisted I resume reading.

At bedtime, she pulled up my shirt and placed her hand below my belly button to “feel the baby.”  Breathing deeply, I reminded her that because of the special egg, we won’t be able to feel this baby.


I cannot sleep. For a change, this sleeplessness is NOT due to my beloved unplanned pregnancy but to the turbulent world’s suspense of all that hangs in the balance of today’s already unfolding events. I cannot think into the possibility of Obama NOT winning without feeling the hint of emerging hives. The spectre of another stolen election leaving us with the deadly wonder twins and their certain path of peril is so deeply depressing and ominous that I skip lightly over the thought in my mind when it arises.

I have had numerous conversations that remind me of the pervasive misconceptions and prejudices that will frighteningly play themselves out on a loaded national and international stage this election day. I remember an 18 year old who said he won’t vote for Obama because he’s an “iraqi”. Blase called an “undecided” voter who lambasted the democrats for their stupidity in choosing a “foreigner” for their candidate. NPR interviewed voters a couple of weeks ago who repeatedly said they wouldn’t vote for Obama because they “don’t trust him”. When pressed for reasons behind their stated mistrust, many said, “he’s Muslim”. After the interviewer’s correction, reminding the voters that he was actually Christian, more went onto say that they would rather vote for an “American who was born here”. Again, the interviewer clarified that Obama was actually born in Kansas. “Oh”, some replied, “well, I just don’t trust him…….he’s black,” they concluded.

Lately, when I drive to town to town to do errands, I torture myself briefly by listening to conservative (aka mainstream) radio stations for as long as my stomach can take it. This is usually a matter of 3-4 minutes but long enough to hear the repeated discussions of Obama as “barack HUSSEIN Obama”. You can really only hear the HUSSEIN part followed by a faint Obama. Listeners calling in repeat this again and again… “HUSSEIN Obama…” This manipulation and hate/fear mongering propaganda, though not suprising, is painful to hear.

Today is monumental. Let it be a day of massive change in a hopeful, sane direction. VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!


There was a wasp in my slipper this morning. When I slipped my groggy and cold foot into the warm comfort of the sheepskin lining, I felt the electrical zing of its sting. This is how Wednesday, October 15th began, with a shock. Like unexpected bookends, the day would end with a shock as well.

Cafe was busy as usual and filled with grateful diners. Storytime made it’s debut with a gaggle of sporadically focused toddlers milling around tiny chairs as a patient volunteer read book after book amid the din of dishes, conversation, and music that is the weekly soundtrack of the Lost Cafe.

I had a low-energy but invigorating run – my first in our new “neighborhood”. I panted through downtown and out North Fork Road which meanders alongside fairly dry riverbed and then slipped my tax return into the mailbox just before it was too late.

We made our daily pilgrimage to the Briarpatch to save abundant vegetables from rotting in the garden. Such an amazing thing to inherit an established and thriving garden. The steady flow of piles of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, squash, and greens means frequent late night canning for me. Jars of salsa, sweet peppers and tomatoes are multiplying and enlivening our otherwise drab kitchen coffers.

Despite piles of work to be done, everything stopped for the final presidential debate. Obama was steady, authentic, and sharp as usual. Did anyone else hear Mccain say Palin is a “breast of fresh air” during tonight’s debate? And then, somewhere amidst the banter about educational reform and Roe v Wade, there was this:

Yes, following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin, I am expanding the brood beyond a sustainable level.. my symmetrical and manageable little family of four (including grown ups) is expanding to FIVE.


I handed the omniscient, news-bearing stick without explanation or forewarning to my dear husband as commentators recounted the candidates remarks. He smiled broadly while changing our youngest’s soaked diaper.

Our beloved friends in the form of Sambada came for the world’s shortest visit to Petrolia and an outrageously fun show at our very own Grange Hall. The P-town Freaks made their endearing debut and Blase Bonpane graced the stage solo-style as well. By some miracle, my children fell peacefully asleep in the jogger at the concert, allowing me to dance ecstatically for joyous hours.

Sambada camped out on the bare floors and christened our new house, the Briar Patch. After filling them with espresso, frittatta, and a box of apples, peppers and tomatoes, we hugged them and packed them into their cozy van so they could roll off to their next gig.

Inspired by daddy’s performance, Ossian and Nola took their own musicianship to a new level. Check out the video.