Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Story so Far

Let's have another recap, shall we?

I've been living without my husband for more than ten months now. In that time I have spent a total of 18 days with him, over the two times he has been to visit (and that first time we were actually expecting to be crossing the border together, so the tone of that first visit was rather more dour than the second).

We have been misinformed all over the place so we have a hard time trusting what information is correct, as the process for getting a green card is handled by five different government organizations and they don't all know what the other is responsible for, it seems. Add to this mix, the process is changing, an ever-moving target.

In early January we were told "five months" until I have my green card. We are almost through three of those five months now - when will we receive our Third Notice of Action? When will I receive instructions for setting up appointments with the US consulate in Vancouver for an interview and a health check? Assuming that gets approved, how long will it take for my green card to be printed and sent? And once I have all my permissions to enter the US in my hand, how much time will Dan need to make travel arrangements for our big trip?

I don't have answers to any of these questions. I get asked a lot. So does Dan. Every day he checks his mailbox to see if there is something from the government.

In the last ten months, I have lived in four different places. I was a month in Ucluelet, where we were living when Dan was offered the job, but I did not want to stay in that big house by myself, and without his income I could not afford to pay the bills, so I entered my period of couch surfing.

I was three months at my sister's in Alberta, then two months with my in-laws in Victoria, and I'm nearing the four-month mark with friends of mine in Cowichan Bay.

A few months ago, I put a bug in my sister's ear about coming out to visit before I leave. She knows it will be quite some time before I can get back up to visit her again once I move, and an equally long time for her to come visit me. She made the decision and booked the flight yesterday - she'll be here to visit in a couple of weeks! She'll stay three nights only, but it will be kid-free sister time and we are going to have a blast.

Every time my sister and I get together, it is required that I make her my pizza. I learned how to make pizza years ago from Ursa, have been working on and refining my recipes and techniques, and it was the first pizza that my sister had ever had without meat that she enjoyed. (oat bran crust, corn meal and sunflower seeds underneath crust, stewed tomatoes, fresh herbs, three kinds of cheese, that's it). As I have been working my way through The Breadbaker's Apprentice, I have changed the dough I use in my pizza, so it will be a different version but I'm sure she will love it.

Did I ever tell you the story of the five cent candies? A long time ago, when my sister and I were both still single, I visited her in Red Deer. For some reason we decided it would be a good idea to walk down the road to the gas station and each spend $2.00 on five cent candies. At 11:00 at night. And then eat them all. Yes we did. So naturally we were both on a sugar high and ill from eating so much acidic sugar, but it is one of our fondest sister memories as adults. (To this day we both have a weakness for gummy candy).

Toni asked me a few days ago if my sister would be okay with how we eat. It occurred to me that I don't know how adventurous my sister is with food. She lives with three picky eaters (her husband and two children), and she herself doesn't enjoy cooking much. There aren't any good restaurants near her (they are all chain restaurants) so she hasn't really had much exposure to good food. So I asked her yesterday: have you ever had Indian food? She said she didn't know. (How could you not know? I'm guessing she hasn't). Are you okay with fish and seafood? Yes, I'm easy, she said.

So this could be a grand food awakening for my sister. Maybe I'll introduce her to sushi made at home. I'll show her how to make chilaqueles. Last summer she got interested in good coffee and has been expanding her coffee horizons (Yay!). Vancouver Island has a lot of local roasters, tons of good coffee to be had here.

I asked her what she wanted to do while she is here. She said "buy rye bread". I know what she means. Not just any rye bread. Last year when she came to visit us in Ucluelet with her daughter, we stopped into the Coombs Country Market. What a feast for the senses! She bought this massive beautiful loaf of Triple Spiral Rye, with three shades of rye swirled up. And it was delicious. More fond memories. That loaf lasted the four of us (Dan too) for their entire visit of five days. So naturally we have to go back and get more.

She also said "be silly". Well THAT'S easy. We haven't had any kid-free sister time since, well, I don't even know. We had a few hours last September when we dropped off her kids at another auntie's house, but Mum was with us, so I don't think that counts.

She'll arrive on a Monday evening and leave on the Thursday evening. That's three days/nights. We could do the village tour - Cowichan Bay, Maple Bay, Cobble Hill, Chemainus. We're definitely going to Coombs. I want to show her downtown Duncan. Toni suggested I take her to Saison. Yes. If for nothing else, she needs to try the lemon tarts. I'm sure we'll get in a visit with my in-laws in Victoria. What else? I don't want to over-plan. I'm sure she'll also want to rest. The weather may be a determining factor too.

It's good that my sister will come for a visit soon. She was worried that she might not get to see me before I go, so this visit had to be done soon, because by late May they have to start getting their grain in the ground and farming season gets really busy. And I might be gone by then. You never know.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

knitting FO & WIPs

Here are some things I have been working on, knitwise...


Above is a meditation mat, knit entirely in garter stitch using up tons of little bits of colored yarn threaded together with some undyed worsted & aran I found. It ended up being bigger than I planned but it will double nicely as a lap blanket, should the need arise. I might actually make more of these, using other colours as the base colour but continue the rainbow throughout. Still have to weave in ends and block it. 


This is just a simple toe-up simple sock with a short row heel. These are meant to be house socks. I'm using a Mirasol yarn and I love it! I was going to keep going until I ran out of yarn (two 50g balls) but it was already taller than I was planning so the end of the first ball went into the above mat. This is easy take-along knitting or social knitting. Hopefully I will be done this soon!


I don't remember if I mentioned these before, but these are Dan and Stacey Reunion socks. I'm using Cookie A's Sam pattern from Sock Innovation, and I'm using two different yarns as I'm doing this two at a time. This pattern does NOT lend itself well to this technique so I've had to do a fair amount of mental yoga to get it going, but I'm almost past the patterned section, the foot is entirely stockinette. Dan and I have roughly the same size feet, so we are going to share both pairs of socks. Isn't it romantic? I know, we are so mushy.

Today I paid for and downloaded my first pattern/book ever. Natalie from the Cloudy With a Chance of Fiber podcast and the woman behind #knitchat on Twitter was kind enough to send me a box stuffed with enough yarn to make a sweater and then some.


After poring over patterns in Ravelry, I found the one I'm going to knit. I'm going to keep that quiet for a bit, until I'm certain I will finish it, but it's a top down cardi.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

what can you offer?

Being a regular prowler of social media, this morning I saw on Twitter that someone posted a story of communities in Greece who have started trading goods and services in lieu of money, since their cash economy has pretty much hit bottom.

I haven't really been keeping up on what's going on in Europe, but I do know it is quite unstable with Greece being the biggest wildcard, that their economy has failed in part because of government corruption and mafia intervention. Well, Greece is the birthplace of democracy, so who better to set the example of how to reset a failing economy by good old fashioned trade?

The idea is so simple it is beautiful. The story focused on a woman who baked a bunch of stuff in her kitchen, came to a market to trade her wares, then at the end of the day had a jar of olive oil and a bunch of other necessities.

I found this story to be rather poignant. In one sense, I am not participating in a cash economy right now, at least not very much. I have no income, and while I do have expenses (vehicle insurance, cell phone bill, food, gas, credit debt payments) I am managing as best I can with support from Dan. Things will be much easier when I get to North Carolina and I start working, but I have been doing a lot around here at Backyard Feast and hopefully earning my keep, as it were.

One of the things I have been doing is chicken-sitting. I think I'll save that for a separate blog post because I want to include photos of what a broody hen looks like, or what a chicken saddle looks like. Things are changing in the flock as spring draws near (even though today is "the first day of spring", it was snowing and pouring rain here all day) and there is much movement in the chicken world, but I digress.

In the past few years, since near the end of my Master's degree, I haven't worked (as in paid employment) very much. There was waiting for a move for a job in the fall of 2009, then moving to Ucluelet in early 2010, not expecting to need to work and getting a weird fish job just for fun, then when our reason for moving there didn't work out and we both needed incomes, jobs that paid a decent wage were hard to come by, and by the time I did find a job that I liked, it wasn't long before I left it (when Dan left I couldn't afford to pay living expenses on the income from my job, so I figured there was no sense in working at all and began couch-surfing). Then there was the waiting-for-immigration-not-looking-for-a-job. I would feel dishonest if I went into a potential employer and said "I"m waiting for immigration so I could end up leaving in a month or two."

So what ends up happening is you learn what you can do without money. What can I offer up in trade? I mentioned the chicken sitting. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen here, developing my bread baking skills, trying to keep at least one dessert around (which may or may not be a good thing). As the hours of daylight increase, Toni and the Skipper are spending more time outside after they get home from work so I'm helping with dinner preparations. If March wasn't so darn stormy, we'd be out there in the garden more but that is on my list of tasks I can do for my friends. The week before last my truck was used in the procurement of fire wood.



 Sometime in the next few days I'll be hauling hay in my truck. So I help in any way I can around here. But this article also got me thinking about what else could I offer in a trade economy? And this led to thinking about what do I actually want to do for work?

Big questions. I can offer knitting, that's for sure. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that peak oil was now and it was almost impossible to have cheap highly processed sock yarn shipped to Vancouver Island. Local farmers who raise fiber animals would be sought for the securing of a stable supply of fiber for spinning into yarn which is then knit or crocheted into garments. A raw fleece is worth a certain amount. Then that fleece has to be washed and carded and spun into yarn of varying thicknesses. Then, depending on that yarn's intended purpose, it will also need to be plied (more than one strand wound up together to give it strength). Then dyed, and this is all before a sock is even knit! I don't know how long this process would take let's call it 20 hours, and then knitting a basic pair of socks by hand would take another 40-60 hours. I daresay hand knits would start to be valued way more than the commercial machine-knit cheapy cheapies from China are!

What else. I can do lots of things, and yet trying to compile a list has been utterly challenging. I can offer transcription services, I can babysit, pet-sit, I can write/tutor/proofread/edit. I can bake. I can make soap. I have a big truck with a long box that is good for hauling stuff. I can do yard work and some farm chores. I can make butter!

It is very sobering to come up with a list like this. What can I do for you in exchange for something you have? In this sense, I think I have a lot to offer, especially since I have the luxury of time right now. This particular exchange is known among anthropologists as reciprocity. Toni has been reading this book called Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, that talks about a gift economy. The idea that if I give you a gift, I do not expect you to give me one back but know that you will pay it forward and eventually I will receive a gift from someone else in the future. It's about the flow of energy, and a recognition that giving and receiving are the same thing.

I'm still processing a lot of this in my head but you get the idea. It's a good exercise and something I will be pondering in the coming days. What do you have to offer?












Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Patrick's Day adventures

so...

A friend of mine stayed overnight on Friday, which meant we had all of Saturday for exploration and adventure. Now that I've been on this part of the Island for a few months, I've gotten to know a bit of the terrain and investigate a few of the interesting places. It's fun to hang out with a friend and do some exploring, checking out places neither of us had been to!

Our first stop was Cowichan Bay village. It's small and parking is hard to find even in the winter, but we managed. Cow Bay has lots of interesting little shops to offer, including True Grain Bread and Hilary's Cheese, as well as the Udder Guy Ice Cream. We popped into the Spinning Ninny and found the proprietress needle felting mustaches. 


We had a lovely exchange with her about ideas for future moustaches. My friend is a creative, and she had lots of great ideas for themes and names of moustaches-on-sticks. 


I didn't catch the gal's name but I strongly encouraged her to get on Twitter - if she was tweeting stuff like this and had an etsy shop, she would be making money hand over fist! (Maybe she is - her stock was almost completely different from when I was there last month - and that's in the winter.

Then we headed into Duncan. Duncan used to be this run down sleepy little town that wasn't very interesting, but over the years it has gotten to be a mecca of young families, new farmers, people wanting to live the organic and sustainable lifestyle. It's cheaper than the city (i.e. Victoria) and offers all services, located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley where there is a huge local food movement. Duncan has lots of neat little shops downtown, some of which I had never been to, and it was fun to explore. 

Sadly I didn't think to take more photos on our blog-able adventure, but I will say we went into a few antique shops, a few second-hand stores, and the photos below show the pot of gold we found at The Celtic Connection. It was St. Patrick's Day, after all, we *had* to go in! They were serving tea & scones with jam and freshly hand-whipped cream. They were doing a good business that day, people buying hats and T-shirts for their later festive engagements. We entered the draw for prizes but I don't think we won. We had to guess how many gold-covered pieces of chocolate were in the pot (yes, regretting not taking a photo) - I guessed 187, my friend guessed two hundred something. O well.


It turns out that it was also the first day of the Duncan Farmer's Market!We rolled in ten minutes before closing, but it was good to see all the vendors full of cheer and glad to be back doing the market scene.

We then headed into Victoria, to have a growler of Hoyne Brewing's Dark Matter filled up. As we were about to enter, my friend ran into a couple she knows, who happen to live in Cowichan Bay. While we were inside, a couple I knew came in! There must have been something in the air... I dropped my friend off and headed back up Island.

After the overindulgence the night before, I was fine with not having a big St. Patty's day bash. I think we all even went to bed early that night. I had a great time with my dear friend, chatting about all sorts of things. When I got back to Backyard Feast, I was ravenous and delighted that we had so many leftovers from the night before! I reminded her to please send me the link for the recipe for the awesome salad that she brought - you all must try this! Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad  It's SO good you'll want to eat it every day for a week!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

pizza party!

On Friday, we had some friends over for pizza.  Above is the apple rhubarb berry crisp Toni and I made for dessert.



I use the pizza dough recipe from The Breadbaker's Apprentice and this was the third time I had made it.  I kept on forgetting to make the dough ahead of time to give it a long proof period, and ended up only making the dough that morning. I liked the effect - it was much more manageable and I could stretch the dough out quite a bit more without tears.


Clockwise from top left: smoked tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, mushroom, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives


Two pounds of shredded mozzarella!


Table setting for six


 Other toppings: wine salami, spinach, garlic, feta


The sauce - I smeared a spoonful of pesto, then sprinkled a teaspoon of oregano, then a couple spoons of home made tomato sauce. 


I'm really terrible at waiting for guests to arrive when I have everything ready half an hour before they get there. I had so much dough for pizza, I figured I had time for a food experiment. I brushed a blank with olive oil and sprinkled sea salt on it. YUM it was so good. 


This is the second one. They turned out pretty impressive. 


Toni and the Skipper decided we needed a pesto only appy. Again, YUM. 


Things start to get a bit fuzzy here because the guests arrived, bottles of wine and beer were opened and poured, and some went in me. I was cooking the pizzas, drinking wine and beer as well as conversing with my dear friends, so I couldn't tell you about the individual pizzas that followed except that they were all delicious. 



I admit I started out with wine, but gosh my friends are so good at beers too that it was hard not to drink a little of everything on the table.

We had lots of leftovers and everyone was fully stuffed by night's end. I definitely overindulged but it was so good. I went to bed full and drunk. Woke up with a screaming headache at 4:30am, took something, and went back to bed.

It was so wonderful to have dinner with five people I love dearly. It made me deeply thankful for the good people in my life. There was talk of a big send-off party for me when I go (whenever that is - we still don't know but we are now halfway through the promised five months). I have left the Island so many times and have had lots of farewell parties thrown for me. You know me, I love a good party. Maybe that's why I keep on leaving and coming back? ;-)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

emotions run close to the surface

I'm nearing the end of this 21-day meditation challenge and it has been absolutely transformative for me. Not only have I learned a bunch of different meditation techniques, but it has also opened doors to the exploration of my inner self, things I have long ago buried but want to excavate and get rid of.

One of the things that comes up a lot with meditation and other new thought/new age practices is forgiveness. The idea is that once you forgive yourself and others, all that can be left is love. After one of the meditation exercises, we are encouraged to do one act towards forgiving someone who has caused us pain and suffering, and then one act towards forgiving ourselves for the pain and suffering we may have caused to others. It's easy to be dismissive of these things, to assume that I have already done this work and therefore I don't need to do it again. But that would not be true. I did the work, I wrote a letter to someone who had caused me pain and suffering from my past - not a letter that they would receive but that I needed to write to get it all out. I needed to write it because that person's name has come up in conversation with a number of friends recently and it has become glaringly obvious that I needed to process that baggage and move on. So I did that. That person can no longer hurt me. I will no longer avoid social functions in case that person will be there. I have forgiven that person for their own transgressions, and have accepted that they have their own lessons to learn as I do mine. I can let go of that resentment.

The other letter I wrote was to myself for the way I treated so-and-so. Again, I considered not doing this because it felt silly, but in the writing of this letter I had a moment of shifting consciousness, where some disparate thoughts of mine lined up, clicked together, and I had that wondrous A ha! moment. I can't tell you how freeing that was.

I'm not going into details about what happened to necessitate this forgiveness, it is unnecessary and irrelevant, and I certainly don't want to dig up that baggage. The point of my telling you this is that sometimes the work we are asked to do may seem silly or may not make sense, but our willingness to do the work is enough to unlock keys to previously closed doors.

I have titled this post "emotions run close to the surface" as that phrase came up in a recent conversation I had with a friend. It really resonated with me, as I have found that I am really emoting a lot these days, and it's a good thing. I feel a lot less blocked than I used to. When I was growing up, displays of emotion were simply not allowed in our house, and if I was upset, my father would threaten to "give me something to cry about" (as in a spanking). So I locked up my emotions, channeled them into teenage poetry, and went about my business of becoming an emotionally challenged young adult.

The turning point for me, the moment where I felt like I could allow myself to cry and cry in public, was the rehearsal for my sister's wedding in 2002. The marriage commissioner was running through his speech and the vows and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of love of everyone there. It surprised me then and it still surprises me now, ten years later. Sure I had cried for lost love before, but only in the silence of my own space, my room, or wherever I was alone. This was different, this was an opening and a realization that I could allow myself to feel these feelings and that they were healthy.

It's coming up to a year now that I have lived without my husband. I have certainly experienced a lot in these nine and a half months, lots of it loneliness and sadness for missing him, but I'm coming through that. Yes I still miss him and I'm sad that we're not together, but I am healing from all kinds of things. I am healing from the chest cold I had back in August (in fact, I do believe I am fully recovered!). I am healing from the anger and resentment that caused us to be in such a precarious predicament in Ucluelet, that drove us to be in our current state of separation 3,200 miles apart. I have been thrown into this circumstance now as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to be surrounded by people who love me, and in a way that I would not otherwise have experienced if I had been able to go with Dan last May.

In my adult life, I have not been able to spend much time with my sister. I love my sister tremendously, she is one of the best people on this planet, in my opinion. We have been lucky if we saw each other once a year. She was always one of those people with whom I felt like I never got to spend enough time with. Then when she had kids, I was sad about not getting to spend time with them. So, last summer, I had the gift of three months of being with them, being a part of their life, and getting to know their personalities while helping my sister.

In the fall, after being rejected at the border, I had another gift of time where I spent two months living with Zola and Thor, Dan's siblings, at his parents' house. I really learned the personalities of these people and how wonderful and gracious they are. It was amazing to me to be around people who are capable of only love and acceptance without judgement. As an added bonus, they appreciated my cooking as well. :-)

Then Toni and the Skipper opened up their home to me. I have been referring to this place as the Backyard Feast Retreat Center, complete with the Healing Chickens. Tomorrow I'll have been here three months, another gift of time. I have learned the rhythms of the house, deepened my relationships with my friends who consider me family as I do them. I have learned to communicate with the chickens and see how my cat interacts with them. I have healed from all kinds of things here, in a loving, restful, relaxing and nourishing environment.

So instead of being sad about how long I have been apart from my husband, I am choosing to view this now as a gift of time to have these healing and loving experiences. When I did the mediation about Love, I became overwhelmed by it and came to tears. I have so much love in my life and I am so thankful for that. I am thankful for the learning and growing I have been able to do here, as I develop my meditation practice and cultivate mindfulness. There is a loving exchange of energy as we build fires, cook dinners, spread compost on the raised beds, sneak some sunflower seeds to the favourite chicken, share stories, go sailing, gather firewood, and live our lives with joy. I miss my husband, but I am experiencing joy in this moment that I never thought possible. This comes from counting my blessings and choosing to view things only in the positive, I take delight in the smallest of things.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

unbounded joy

I have spent much of this morning feeling happy. Not for any particular reason, as in we are still waiting for news of my immigration and I'm still waiting for a big chunk of money to fall into my lap, but I feel good. Jubilant. Full of joy.

I'm on to Day 11 of the Chopra Meditation challenge. I have started reading the works of Doreen Virtue who is the leading expert on angels, who also writes about crystals and chakras. Yesterday I finally encountered Louise Hay, whose book You Can Heal Your Life has passed through my hands hundreds of times when I worked at the library but that I had not encountered until I watched it in DVD form yesterday.

I started working my way through A Course in Miracles earlier this year and have been enjoying the videos of Earl Purdy as a guide to the Course.

My mind is exploding.

The message I'm getting from all of this is that I can change my mind. And once I change my mind, the reality that I am experiencing changes with it. I can look at my present situation as being stuck in Canada without my husband, or I can look at it as a gift of time to heal, recover, rediscover and learn more about myself while I have this time of solitude. And a gift of time it is. Every night when I go to bed, I go through my daily 'gratefuls'. I am grateful for my husband. I am grateful for my cat. I am grateful that I get to spend so much time with my beloved friends in their house. I am grateful for the food in my belly, the roof over my head, a warm bed, clean air, safe drinking water, my awesome truck (I love my truck!), knitting, literacy, for my health, etc. The list can go on and on, depending on how soon I actually want to fall asleep. The point is that I count my blessings to the Universe every night and don't dwell on the lack. If I dwell on the lack, the Universe will manifest further lack.

So.... I am changing the way I think and the way I speak. I am trying to speak only in positives, and eliminate negatives. I would like to be free from saying or thinking 'should', which is not a very helpful or loving word. Also, I am speaking what are called affirmations. One of the messages from the material I encountered yesterday was that if you pray and wish for something, telling the Universe that you want or would like something, then it will perpetuate your want, rather than helping to manifest the thing you want into your present reality. Therefore, I drew some pictures of things that will manifest soon in my life:



This is me and Dan and Sam, driving in my red truck to North Carolina. I normally would have redrawn this picture in ink, but I was just too excited and left it as is, in pencil. So what is not really visible here is me knitting, or how unthrilled Sam looks while we're driving. Also of note: I need to knit some seat belt cosies for the truck!


This is the important one. This is me and Dan and Sam, all together in North Carolina. I think I will actually redraw this one, make it larger, and post it somewhere visible in my current location.

While writing my morning pages this morning, it occurred to me that I could also draw pictures of what it would look like for me to not have any worries about money. What would I be doing with my time here (while waiting for immigration) if I wasn't worried about money? To be honest, I wouldn't really go too crazy with spending, since I want to keep the amount of stuff I move to the US to be minimal - I can buy things when I get there. But what would I buy while I'm still here? I would be able to contribute more to the family food budget here at Backyard Feast. I would buy a few more art supplies. I would buy some exercise clothing and equipment. Really though, I would be just happy to pay off my debts. I would love to cross the border debt-free. Then, when I start earning an income in North Carolina, I can put that money towards buying a house and replenishing my yarn stash and wardrobe. See? These are all things I have to be drawing pictures of. As I am imagining my life in North Carolina, I am going to get really good at drawing the map of the state. That can only be a good thing.