Long Overdue Poop Catastrophe

This is a shot with my new long lens.
This is a shot with my new long lens.

Many, many miles have passed under our truck this last week. We pulled out of Jack’s driveway on Monday and headed east towards Logan, Utah. We stopped and visited Great Basin National Park before landing in the yard of Burt’s friends from the year he experimented with college. But first the poop-tastrophe of 2019.

Longtime friends and readers know I have had many involuntary and surprising contacts with poop. Literal shit storms have followed me around since I was a wastewater treatment plant technician in 1984. All previous shit shows are now relegated to second tier events. That time to groover exploded and coated my chest with a brown air-brushed patina of feces? Not worth mentioning. The time the other groover exploded at the car wash when I was trying to illegally flush the contents? Ho hum. Olive rolling in human feces? Which time? Never mind. The shit coated bathroom behind the bus stop? The emergency evacuations in bushes, buckets, pants? The porno movie in Ecuador playing while I held the ‘door’ to the toilet shut and dumped? I could write a book and all would pale in comparison to the latest event. And yet it was so fast and stunning it’s hardly worth telling.

One great advantage to traveling with your home attached to your truck is there is always a bathroom when you need it, assuming you can pull over. Last week I had a sudden need for the bathroom. Burt dutifully pulled over at the top of the pass coming out of California. Nevada spread below and a icy alpine lake was by our side. The elevation was substantially greater than where we had just spent the last three nights. We were  five to six thousand feet higher that we had been at Burt’s dad’s house. It was gorgeous. I grabbed the key and dashed to the gNash. It wasn’t your normal urgent situation. It was a passing that required time and relaxation. I must have gotten dehydrated and, remember, I have that devious redundant and twisted colon. Think ungulates. Burt popped by to check on me and reported he’d seen a mountain quail. Dammit. A lifer bird and I was sitting on the throne. What could be worse?

Finally my work was done. RV life requires a degree of sanitary involvement that most of us would rather avoid. Since the toilet uses very little water you must turn and face your masterpiece and make sure it reaches its final destination. You depress the flush pedal firmly and quickly to try and induce a vacuum effect. If the poop is stalled extra effort is required. Some people use a pot of water to try and flush. A brave few grab a wad of TP and give it a nudge. The less brave or more health conscious use a tool we have named The Poop Stick. Poop sticks are disposable. when your poop is stuck you go get a stick, use it as needed, and discard. The result is that while it is very convenient to have a toilet with you at all times it comes with a price.

So there I was…Finally relieved of my burden. I turned and watched. Foot to lever. Firm and quick and BOOM. Instead of going down, or at least politely remaining stuck, it all exploded and flew skyward and hit me square in the face. Urine gravy with poop meatballs. My mouth was open. The word surprised is meaningless. I felt assaulted in the strangest way. Shock. Terror. Disgust. I heard a sound come out of me that I had never heard before. I was wailing and laughing and yelling. Burt came running WITH the dogs. Chava very helpfully ate the meatballs. I screamed at Burt to leave as I wailed that I needed help. Floor, ceiling, walls, and me were dripping in urine and a week’s worth of festering septage on top of what I had placed in the bowl. I started spitting and stripping while I kept wailing and chuckling. Burt left with the dogs. I mopped and cried and laughed. There was shit and pee in my hair. My glasses had saved my eyeballs. A long while later I came out of the gNash in fresh clothes but carried the knowledge that I was not clean. I could not wash hair without a shower. On the up side, the dogs were eager to hang out with me as we drove down into Nevada. Eau de Poo is a canine favorite. Urine has a lingering taste, too.

All day long I felt if I was slipping into some kind of dis-associative state. I veered between maniacal laughing and angry mutterings regarding the closest shower. I ate and drank but still imagined pee. We shopped at Trader Joe’s and Costco and I passed an entire day in a bipolar state of panic and hilarity. The shock of the blast was so profound that I found myself wondering how people emotionally survive bombings and other sudden violence. Something so minor as a toilet malfunction was bringing deep thoughts.

Of course we presumed the disaster was caused by the rapid change in elevation but we were wrong. The toilet is vented and had never exploded before. The real cause was a blocked vent. This became clear when the toilet exploded several more times over the next two days. Subsequent explosions were far less catastrophic because we had learned to gingerly press the flush pedal to let the tank off-gas. Still pee was on our seat and I took some mean hearted comfort in Burt getting hit. The persistent problem created a new sense of panic. I was ready to scrap the whole house but we hatched a plan on how to clear the vent. It was a muti-step and iterative plan but luck was on our side. The vent cleared as mysteriously as it clogged.

All’s well, for now. This could happen again. Despite my day or two of PTSD I’m already back staring at my shit and slamming the flusher as hard as I can hoping it goes down instead of up. Hope does not rise in this situation.

These ducks don't want to know.
These ducks don’t want to know.
I can't remember.
I can’t remember. Oh, yeah, looking for sagebrush sparrow. I heard it.
I ate the turd. So proud.
I ate the turd. So proud.
Regret.
Regret.
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Driving North at a Leisurely Pace

Olive's last night at the home beach.
Olive’s last night at the home beach.
the Gypsy Carpenter's last night at the home beach.
the Gypsy Carpenter’s last night at the home beach.
This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the inetrnet shoud be.
This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the inetrnet shoud be.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Pinochle
Pinochle
This dog is eating twice as much as Elvis and it shows every day.
This dog is eating twice as much as Elvis and it shows every day.

The gNash and Dodge are rolling uphill towards Montana and we’ve got a hanger-on. The usual Gypsy Carpenters crew minus Mimi (DEP, sweet kitty) plus foster puppy Chava are all festively packed in the king cab of our 18 year old Dodge and it’s got all the makings of a drunken party. There’s daily fights, spilled drinks, vomit, public scratching, and that’s just the dogs. Only Elvis and Burt are completely satisfied with their space. Nobody crowds them and gets away with it. Meanwhile Olive, Chava and I are jockeying all day, everyday to make do with what we can get. You’d think we’d swiftly work out a compact of who sits where  when but noooo.  Chava is growing faster than a kudzu in July so it’s a turf battle everyday. What worked before noon on Friday was no can do by Saturday night.  Mood and climate also impact the degree of bodily contact allowed. Too hot? GTF off of me says Olive with a gap toothed crooked snarl. Too Cold? Climb up on my lap, there’s room for you both, says me. Just when everyone settles down somebody (me, Burt, or Chava) has to go to the bathroom and the proverbial pot is stirred again. And despite Chava knowing I am his boss he still treats me like a mom he can walk all over. Chava even tries to nurse on my forearms as he falls asleep. What a cutie-pie.

In the midst of the hourly land rush there have been countless bowls of spilled water and the aforementioned vomit and deafening barks in ears. Burt’s worried the floor boards are rusting from the constant moisture. I’m worried I’m growing mold on my perpetually wet bum. There are legs, teeth, and tongues everywhere and they have not figured out how to coordinate. Maybe that’s a good thing. Imagine them working together to thwart us. The mental and physical effort to keep two old dogs and one new puppy safe and satisfied is not 30% greater than the two dogs alone. I’d say the well trained but scarily growing puppy is a 100% increase in energy cost for Burt and me. He’s so fast and less solidly reliable to hold a stay or wait. By Monday morning he might weigh less than Olive but he will be stronger than Elvis and Olive combined. And he just eats and eats and eats. Which means he poops and poops and poops.

And it’s all been worth it. We’ve taken our time and let puppy stretch his legs in new places. When we first got Olive we did the same thing. We visited the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir just like we did eight years ago with Olive. A condor even flew over head on Chava’s first hike, the steep 4 KM climb to the Mirador (lookout) where you can see the Bahia de California from the top of the mountains. Human year equivalent 90 year old Elvis waited in the gNash. We told him it was boring. He only ate a little bit of a window shade in retaliation.

Today finds us at Burt’s Father’s unibomber home in California. We lovingly call it this because it’s a 50s era mail order log cabin with no potable water and a hot water heater only turned on once a week for Jack’s shower. It’s a dark place. If and when I take a shower in the cool rust waters, the dribble hits me in my bellybutton. I tweak my back wetting my hair and I come out smelling like a can of nails left under a drain spout. Not worth the effort. I’ll wallow in my dog water stink and vomit a few days more.

This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the inetrnet shoud be.
This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the internet should be. That’s a California Condor.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Pinochle
Pinochle. Bad hand.

 

 

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Girls Group Breakdown

Yeraska by Janexci
Yeraska. Photo by Janexci

After 4 years of working and playing (let’s be honest) with neighborhood kids we’ve had a drastic contraction in numbers. For a couple of years we had a steady eight to ten kids, mostly girls, show up for art and English and extracurricular activities. Sometimes the number would well to nearly twenty. More kids showed around parties and field tips or after rumors of gifts. Last year tension developed between two factions in the group. The tweeners (10-12 year olds) started picking on each other and lines formed between a group of kids in our immediate vicinity and a group of kids from further away. It was annoying to mediate between the two groups. This year I wondered what would happen. I really didn’t want to deal with a pack of boy crazy girls learning how to get their nasty on with each other. In Spanish.

It all started out pretty easily. The group of further away kids naturally stopped coming. They were older and had newer interests. They drifted off. No big deal. Now all I had was my immediate neighbors and a few ‘cometas’. Cometas are people that come occasionally to standing gigs. Like that woman you see in your yoga class three times a year. They streak by and get a little attention because they are so rarely seen. The group was reduced to essentially four kids, a pair of sister pairs. It seemed a little sad at first but it was so much more manageable. For an instant.

The eldest girl has been disruptive for three years. She has stolen. She has lied. She has inappropriately touched other kids. Even though she was now one of only four and they were next door neighbors she still couldn’t stay out of trouble. Now that she was 11 and we’d been working with her for more than 3 years I was starting to lose hope that we could get through to her in a positive way. Mid-winter she intentionally but secretly damaged a piece of art in our home. We had a meeting. A written agreement was drawn up. A contract on behavior. A chance to formalize the many second chances we’d already given this young girl. This girl is so smart, lovely, and troubled. She breaks our heart. We all (not just Burt and I) want to see her succeed but she can’t escape her negative behaviors.

Last week she orchestrated a scam where she convinced the other kids to tell me there was no school on a certain day and then get me to agree to do something fun with them. It was a brilliant and spontaneous lie. She said, “We don’t have school tomorrow.” The other kids merely backed her up. Two are so young I’m not sure they even knew they were lying. The next morning as I drove to yoga I noticed a bunch of kids going to school as usual. Uh oh. Well surely they parental units didn’t let the scam go through. I texted the neighbor that takes the gang to school and I asked her what was going down. She said, “Nobody showed up for their ride today. I was wondering why.” I knew why.

I got to the driver’s home and I told her the kids were ducking. So I went to one house and asked if the kid went to school. The mother told me her daughter had begged and cried to skip school so she could do something with me. Mom relented. Note, this kid didn’t lie to mom. I explained to the mother I would never knowingly schedule anything on a school day. The next home was the home of the criminal mastermind. I asked the grandma where the kids were. Grandma said, “There’s no school today.” I had to tell her that there was school and that her granddaughter had lied to her. From inside the house I hear the mother’s reaction as she realizes we’ve all been taken by the kid’s lie. Meanwhile the mastermind comes outside to great me, laughing at her success, and I in a fit of anger say, “You will never come to my house again. You’ve had all your chances. We had an agreement and you lied to me, your grandmother and your mother.” I gave a very dramatic but grammatically flawed speech on lying and the importance of school. I could here mom yelling inside. I feared a beating was coming. I left feeling sad for so many things. I was struck that her caretakers didn’t know the school schedule.

Rumors reached me that the girls were grounded. They weren’t seen for two days. I softened a bit and have agreed to meet with the troubled kid and talk with her about the road ahead. I’m pretty certain she won’t be welcome in my classes but I want her to know we can still be friends and can still talk. I worry about her but there’s nothing I can do by myself. She may learn to live another way or she may not. So far the lying and cheating and stealing are working for her.

It’s been over a week. The girl is still banned from classes and another has chosen not to come in solidarity. The two youngest are leaving their older sisters behind and coming to class on their own. I am so proud of them. Today we went to the beach. I think it’s important to remember I have been working with these two kids since they were four years old. In so many ways it was already too late for the older kids to trust me.

Janexci by Yeraska
Janexci. Photo by Yeraska.
Hair twirl by Yeraska
Hair twirl. Photo by Yeraska.
It's not Judo by Janexci
It’s not Judo. Photo by Janexci.
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Other stuff

Burt getting the hat lecture
Burt getting the hat lecture

Other things we’ve been doing instead of writing:

1. I endured an all day, every 2 hours glaucoma test. Pressure is rising but not too high. I can’t recommend this diagnostic approach.

2. Annual skin check. The dermo wants us to bathe every day and add moisture. I say no. I’m gonna stick with my less is more routine.

3. Our windows are almost all here. They showed up and put some in. We haven’t paid so don’t fret.

4. We’ve been singing twice a week in a professionally conducted choral. More later. It’s hard work.

5. Elvis required his own emergency vet visit. Nothing was found but he was so snippy he had to be sedated for the exam. Twenty-four hours of sleep fixed him.

6. The kid’s class blew up and reformed after the older kids lied to me. In a scam that nearly succeeded they told me they had no school last Friday so they could do something fun with me. Too bad I drove by the school and saw kids going to school. Then I had to go to their parents and tell them about the scam. The main instigator lied to her parents and drug her younger sister into it. And actually convinced them there was no school.  Another kid didn’t lie but convinced her mother my class was better than school (it might be). I told that mother I would never let the kids skip school to do something with me. Awkward. I banned the oldest kid and main instigator. I put the next oldest kid into the penalty box and I let the youngest kids off the hook with a stern warning to not be lemmings. I’m not sure if the youngest kids even knew there was school. Their schedule can by confusing. In fact there is no school his Friday.

7. We played Bridge.

8. We went to the mountains.

9. I returned to yoga class.

10. We have a house concert/hootenanny this afternoon. So I skipped yoga to rest. I still need a lot of rest.

11. We depart in ten days. A destination filled June is planned.

Hurricane windows
Hurricane windows
Mom cards
Mom cards
Three dogs
Three dogs
Burt and Chava
Burt and Chava
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Bridge is almost over for us until next fall

Wednesday Kitchen Bridge
Wednesday Kitchen Bridge

Lorna and Janna spent winter Wednesday evening’s playing party Bridge with the Gypsy Carpenters. It was a lovely time. Now Lorna is leaving for the season and our game dissolved. Burt and I won last night with a score of +1 to their -1. Not much of a win, more of a draw. I’m sad because I’ll miss the Bridge but mostly because I’ll miss spending time with these two. They’re both great people and fun to hang with.

Lorna, on the right, is our Todos Santos club director. She mentored three of us through the club director’s test two weeks ago. The test was a drag but I think we passed. If we did pass we’ll have some needed back up for Lorna and the ability to offer sanctioned games when Lorna is gone.

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Pro-Trump Bible Thumping Spam

Chava waiting for his vaccinations.
Chava waiting for his vaccinations.

Here’s some puppies instead. Meet Chava. He’s our foster pooch. He ran under our car while we were driving. Burt (all his fault) stopped to see if he was okay and in leapt Chava. Todd and Gretchen are on the line as his adoptive parents. Meanwhile we’re getting him all cleaned up and trained. Olive is not amused.

Are you ready? Some thing called BibleFreedom.com sent me an email to GypsyCarpenters.com that explains everything. If you need a good scare I suggest you check it out. You’ll have to type it in yourself. I will not give them the pleasure of a hotlink. I’ve read second hand about how fundamental Christians welcome Trump because they believe that he will fulfill some epic biblical prophesies. Second hand reading did not prepare me for the first hand fear fest of this web page. The end of teh world is just what we need and Trump will bring the end of the world. Something we can all agree on, I guess. But why do so many think this is a good thing. Why do we have such apocalyptic fantasies? Can’t we just watch Walking Dead? I personally would like to save the world and make it a nicer place to live. I’m trying in my little corner.

Along these lines, do anti-vaxxers, or my new favoritepro-plaguers, vaccinate their pets? I’ve seen plenty of dogs suffering in Mexico from preventable diseases. It hurts to see dogs with permanent tremors brought on by the high fevers of distemper, nevermind the puppies that don’t make it after weeks of intensive care. The rate of vaccination is lower and so the herd immunity we (mostly) enjoy in our US pet populations doesn’t exist. Chava was a lucky pup. He made it to about three months and is in fairly good health. He had some fleas and worms and was skinny and losing hair from malnutrition but after five days of care he’s already growing and looking better. He had his first DHPP and kennel cough yesterday. Next week he’ll be neutered an then, right before we leave he’ll get rabies and the second DHPP. Good to go world traveling.

Olive photo bomb. She was vaccinated as well.
Olive photo bomb. She was vaccinated as well.
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Sickly

Cardinal of BCS
Cardinal of BCS

I’m not having much fun. Neither is Burt. Burt is at least getting better. Me, I’m not convinced. Monday I saw another doctor because after finally feeling better I was suddenly feeling worse. My lungs ached. I had no stamina. There was a fry cough. I had no interest in anything. The doctor looked around and said they didn’t think there was an infection but ordered a culture to be certain. I was instructed to return to the clinic the next day at 8:00. No food, no drink, no teeth brushing. Do not disturb the environment in your mouth with anything. Bring your skeevey mouth in as it is when you wake. Check. Meanwhile they gave me prenisone to clear up the minor inflammation.

I arrived on time with gross mouth. The technician stuck a long swab down my throat. There was much gagging and drooling. I’d started the course of steroids so I was feeling pretty good again. Burt and I went to breakfast to celebrate. I was told to check back in three days. My understanding was in two days they’d know if there was a bacterial infection. If there was an infection, they’d know which antibiotics were effective in an additional twenty-four hours. Since I felt pretty good (thanks, prednisone) I presumed the doctor was correct and there would be no infection. So after the bare three days I checked in with the clinic. Sorry, your results aren’t ready. I can do math. I knew that meant an infection. They were in the last hours of finding an effective antibiotic.

The next day I got the news that I had contracted staphylococcus pneumoniea. I didn’t have pneumonia, yet, but I was very sick. Now the month that had had three days of fever, vertigo, exhaustion, and general ick made sense. The culture showed my bug is resistant to three families of antibiotics but several commonly available medicines are still effective.

So I’m done with the steroids and feeling crappy. All my research indicates it’s going to be a slow recovery. I might be cured in five days but the exhaustion may linger for weeks. I have three more days of shots in the large muscle mass of my bottom. The cardinal is a spring yard bird here.

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Pat Owens, Rest in Peace my friend.

Here's a bird for Pat
Here’s a bird for Pat

My friend Pat would have said a prayer for us but now she’s dead and I am left wrestling with my complicated emotions. The last two weeks haven’t been too difficult, no worse than anybody’s share of life’s burdens and much lighter than many, but they were enervating. I knew the financial shock of our taxes would pass quickly and it did. Burt’s hernia required some effort to find a doctor but we did and the surgery was affordable and quickly done. But before he had his surgery I popped out a rib while rolling over in bed and he came down with the flu. I was blinded by the rib pain. I mean literally blind. I could not see. Burt was in bed with a fever and I was pacing the gNash like I’ve seen dying animals pace. I could find no rest. I thought I knew pain. I hope I never know pain like this again. That morning we headed to the ER and I got pain pills. The next day Amir (thank you, Amir) popped my rib back in. Then I got the flu. Then Burt had his surgery and somewhere in here Pat died. And now 8 days post surgery I can almost manage to think clearly enough to share my emotional pain.

For those of you that have been here these last 9 years you may remember Pat as our steadiest comment provider. Until Trump ran for president Pat and I were able to overcome all political and religious differences and meet on the vast common ground of our love of service to others, nature, dessert, and travel. Pat was funny and silly and not-worldly. She wrote letters to prison convicts and made me teeth cleaning appointments when I was in her area. She made lemon bars for Portal Irish Music Week (until Trump). She gathered clothes for my kids. She kept up and she sought out ways to help me and a lot of other people. She loved her lord and Jesus and she showed it in her service to others. She was suspicious of gays, deeply afraid of the border issues (she lived there so I’ll not dispute her), loved going to Mexico to shop at the Pink Store, and said some crazy things that I would alway stry to gently share a different perspective about. In our 7 years of near daily contact we never had a direct disagreement over politics. I knew she was conservative and, well, you know me. There was no reason to talk about things like that. She and I were people of action. Actions speak louder than words.

Pat loved the Gypsy Carpenters. She designated herself our roadie/groupie and made herself a t-shirt. She used to come to all our shows. We played a party at her house once. She needed cheap dental care and I took her to Mexico. It was a good relationship based on common good. Where the fuck did it all go wrong? I wish I knew. I feel like if I could figure this out we could solve the bigger problems.

My first inkling there was a problem was when Pat one day didn’t show up to comment and one day turned into ten days. I had recently written a rare political piece about how grateful I was that the ACA (Obamacare) worked for me. It shows you how regular she was. I noticed in a day that she wasn’t reading my work. I wrote and asked if she was okay. She said yes, but she hated Obama and couldn’t stand to read my blog. I gently told her she was my friend and I though we could still be friends despite not agreeing on politics. Just like always. She came back. For a little while.

Somewhere in here I learned from a friend (also now deceased) that Pat was a committed Trump supporter. I found it hard to believe but remember this was before the elections. I didn’t realize Trump’s sway with evangelicals yet. I decided to ignore the information. I also decided if I felt like saying something political on my blog I would. Pat stopped writing and I didn’t reach out again. Trump was elected and I was so angry I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to her again. Portal Irish Music Week came and went two more times. One time she slyly delivered lemon bars through a mutual friend. The last time there was nothing.

Occasionally our paths would cross, we shared some hikes, we had mutual friends, but he bond was broken. We’d been polarized by external circumstances and neither of us knew how to reach across. Here’s where I am not sure about what is right and what is wrong. What I do know is Pat withdrew from all aspects of the life I knew. Many friends said she changed or no longer participated in the community. Because our relationship was largely virtual I had no way of knowing this. I wonder why? Did she feel mocked, belittled, defensive?

Is it now impossible for me to be friends with people that support Trump? I still think yes, but I wonder if I owe those friends a check in? An I love you? An our past matters to me? Or, as I feel is the case here, I did reach out and she turned away from me so do I make my peace and move on?

I do know this. Pat Owens you were a good friend to me and I will never forget you. I could have used your prayers this week even though you know I don’t believe. I never resented them.

 

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It’s that time of year and it’s a whole new world

Hooded Oriole sipping the aloe nectar.
Hooded Oriole sipping the aloe nectar.

I’m talking taxes. The Gypsy Carpenters just went through their annual tax reporting. As we all knew, know, or will know, the so-called tax reform does not favor the small time business owner. Taxes were confusing before but we knew the system. Now nobody knows the rules, including, it seems, the TurboTax e-filing program. A person of average intelligence should be able to file their own taxes without emotional trauma or fear of misreporting. Filing was difficult before the reform. Today, post-reform, I have no idea what when why or how. It was ugly. We owe so much that retirement looks more profitable. You think I’m kidding? I am not. Looking at you, Mr. Trump. Our main hit was caused by changes to rental income. What once was a legal and reliable loss or net even for us is now income. Substantial income. Also troubling, the TurboTax program is double counting my 1099 income. I can’t get it to take it once with appropriate deductions. It’s either in twice with deductions or in once with no deductions. A person of standard intellect should be able to manage. Tears were not shed but they were there caught in my lashes wanting to break free. I will not cry over you and your assaults on the small business owner Mitch McConnell and friends.

What does any sane person do in this situation? I estimated our taxes due and filed extensions with the feds and the state and sent them a ton of money. And now I put my head in the sand until we return to the US and I can find advice. The way I currently read the tax situation it does not pay to be a part-time entrepreneur.

Meanwhile Burt has a hernia and our livelihood is at stake. A surgical repair is required for him to get back to work. No heavy lifting from now until six or more weeks post surgery. We’re trying to figure out how to schedule the operation and recovery so Burt can get to work as scheduled. At least our Baja house is at a place we can leave it until Burt and our bank accounts recover.

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English class contracts and expands

Digestive system
Digestive system

This kid’s group thing we’ve been doing is full of so many complications I never imagined.  There’s been the usual attendance and attention issues. There’s been petty jealousies and cliquishness. And most recently vandalism to our personal property. Minor vandalism but the kind of thing I just feel powerless to deal with constructively. The other day I discovered someone had drawn a black dot about an 1.5″ across on a painting on our property. The dot is in black marker. I suspect the same marker we use for the white board. I know exactly who was using that marker so I have a pretty solid idea who our culprit is and it is an 11 year old child that has been caught stealing and defacing property in another friend’s home. We’ve been trying to manage this child and help them learn a better way to behave in people’s homes. It’s all easy for me to say until it’s my home that is damaged.

Well I was pretty mad but I knew that would dissipate. Burt and I talked. We were both torn. Neither of us wanted to single out anyone. We remembered all of us did stuff like this and any one of the kids could have done it and might do it still. So we had this plan: We’ll just let the group know what happened and we’ll set a new limits. No unattended wandering on our property and no visits to our friends homes as our guests. The message would be simple. If we can’t trust you in our home then we can’t trust you away from home. That would mean no pools, no art galleries, no restaurants. Maybe peer-pressure would change behaviors. If sufficient time passed without further incident we’d  start venturing out again. We hoped it would be enough stick and carrot. So I had it all planned but I still felt heavy.

Yesterday was class day. I walked down to get the kids. My meeting them at their homes to escort them up to our place has dramatically helped attendance. Scary dogs and no watches made on-time arrival sketchy and it’s an easy fix. They only live two blocks away. My two youngest kids (7 and 8 years old) were ready for me. They announced that the 11 year olds had decided not to come. The rumor is class was boring and they didn’t want to do it anymore. Meanwhile an older girl (post high school) was escorting them for he second time. She was not bored. I told them great. We could have fun just us three. And I was relieved. My problem kids had self selected out. Since we’d made an agreement two weeks ago that regular attendance was a requirement for participation unless they had another activity (not merely boredom) I could cut those kids loose. We’d had a group meeting on goals and logistics and they’d agreed to the terms of participation. No pressure on them or me.  Of course, they can change their mind but I have a feeling guilty hearts are the cause of the boredom. The future is hazy…

So the three of us headed up hill and picked up another regular and discussed what we should do. That’s where I learned Edre is studying to be a paramedic. So we hatched a plan to study the human body in detail and in English. Hence the digestive tract below. Just as class got started several long lost students showed up and I was delighted to have them back. Vikki, their adult escort, has been swamped by work for months and she finally was free enough to bring her daughter and nephews. So instead of class being a hard talk it turned into a nice reunion of new and old students on a new subject. We drew the digestive tract, practiced first aid for bleeding, finding a pulse, and sang some songs. The future is still hazy but class was fun.

Working hard
Working hard
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