Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thanks Paul Simon

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home
I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong
And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying
Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest
© 1973 Words and Music by Paul Simon
I'm anxious today.  I didn't sleep, of course.  Learning about mosquitoes won't make you immune to bites.  You might be able to identify the mosquito species and expound on its life history, but when it bites you it itches.  I'm worried that I'm not enough for my Group.  A few months ago, I was stuck on another Paul Simon song: 

It turns out to be
A great thing for me
I don’t worry
And I don’t think
Because it’s not my job to worry or to think
Not me
I’m more like
Every day I’m here, I’m grateful
And that’s the gist of it
Now you may call that a bogus
Bullshit, New Age point of view
But check out my tattoo
Says Wall-to-Wall Fun
-Cool Papa Bell

I think I'm better equipped than ever for helping build new Groups and handing what life throws at me. I have to slow down to survive.  Maybe I have a "New Age Bullshit point of view."  I'm going to bed now, but tomorrow maybe I'll be somebody's Protector.

The Circus

"Get out! Leave now!" I screamed at him.  He was older, but we were both in elementary school.  I was a second grader, he was in fourth.

"Okay, are you okay?" I remember him being concerned and he regretted what had happened but I sent him away with uncharacteristic force.

Earlier my friend and I were visiting the new kittens in their box housed in the attic of the garage.  My momma cat delivered three little kittens just a few weeks prior; Hiawatha, Geronimo, and Sacajawea.  We forgot to put little Sacajawea back into the box with her Group.  I blamed him when she fell, that's when I screamed at him.

Maybe months later, my dad took the two of us to the circus and he let us sit by ourselves in the outdoor bleachers.  We picked a top spot, of course, and our attention slowly transitioned from the working elephants to a group of teenagers.  They looked like teenagers then and that's how I remember them, probably though, they weren't much older than we were.  They spotted a Killdee nest under the bleacher and it had three eggs in it.  The mother bird was desperately trying to catch the attention of the few dozen on the bleachers.  Maybe in her effort to accept all of the potential danger, she disclosed her secret under the crowd.

The teenagers started with spit and then moved up to concession stand trash.  Each projectile was a chance to hit the eggs and hopefully smash one.  I wanted the elephants to notice.  Wouldn't that be perfect!  I still kinda laugh at the idea of two clinically depressed elephants quitting their jobs and disciplining rowdy teens.  But that wasn't going to happen and the teens' arsenal was growing; a condom was next.  We overheard their plan: they were going to put all three eggs into the condom and leave it on the nest!

My friend acted first, he cussed them.  I didn't know how to cuss yet and I was impressed!  He told them all sorts of things about mothers and sons and holes and I didn't understand any of the words but I knew he was all in.  I stood beside, although slightly behind him while he dished it out.  Finally, the girl teenager de escalated our little crowd and they left.  That's right, two little elementary kids made a huge group (probably three) of teenagers back down from a Killdee nest.

He knew his strength- cussing, he used that gift, and he didn't quit until the job was done.  In that moment we were all convinced that he was the Protector.

Ruby's Herd

She didn't know, there's no way she could've known. I didn't really know that a Nanny goat would reject a baby that had been away too long.  But that is the truth and a baby goat just isn't physiologically ready to make it on its own until it's weaned.

We needed a vacation. More accurately, we needed a distraction from the tedium of raising kids.  So we headed to the beach or Branson or something socioeconomically equivalent.  Lauren asked Her to watch over our little farm because She's one of the most capable people we know.  But She saw the five day old kid out in the cold and instinctively rescued it. We had decided on the name "Sapphire" since we were still going with the Jewel theme.  You see, Ruby and Jasper, both named by different previous owners, were Sapphire's parents.  We've got a whole treasure trove of names including Topaz, Sardonyx, Garnet, Amber, and so on.

When She brought Sapphire back to the herd, Sapphire was no longer a part of the Group.

A baby goat gets its status from its mother.  Ruby was the Queen of the herd, Sapphire was a Princess by birth and that gave her enormous privilege.  She could feed with Ruby at anytime without fear of jealous head butting from her cousins who were all Princesses in their own rites.  Sapphire could squeeze unchecked into the center of the goat huddle when it got cold.  But every once in a while, Ruby had to butt her own baby out of the herd.  I'm thinking that babies who don't get butted out into the cold every once in a while forget how to seek the herd.  Maybe Ruby was preparing the young Princess for the inevitable trials ahead.  Ruby was building her Group.  A strong member for a strong group.  But when Sapphire came back warm and full of canned donor milk, no goat remembered her.

Ralph knew what was happening but he had no way to tell me; I hadn't learned to listen to him yet.  He sat with Sapphire stoically when the goats threatened to butt her.  He was showing me what to do.  Keep the kid close to the herd, but protect it.  So we did that all day and it worked!  I periodically milked Ruby and rubbed her milk all over Sardonyx to cover up any lingering smell of people.  I fed her a 6th bottle of fresh mother's milk.  She was healthy and warm and active.  Goats are tough.  I went to bed.  She died of exposure that night because she lacked the status to make it to the center of the Group.

Then Garnet grieved.  Garnet was a distant cousin to Sapphire and they were similar in age.  Garnet laid down that afternoon and didn't get up for three days.  I checked her temp, it was high.  I gave antibiotics and fluids.  By day 2, Garnet was stationed on an old couch in my shop where she received electrolytes and oxygen through a welder hose.  She got up around noon of day 3 and recovered very quickly.  She wanted to graze so I leashed her and took her to the pasture.  It had been three days, would the Group reject her?  Garnet's mother is Teet (more on her later) and she's the strangest goat I've met.  Remember "BrushFire" from the other story?  He passed on all of his weirdness to his daughter Teet.  Teet is undeniably weird. Anyone who's had to get her unstuck from the fence can attest to that.  She's also good.  Teet has always had to rely on the Group.  She never had status or privilege so her instinct was immediately to rejoin the lost Princess.  Garnet will maybe be queen one day but her mother has to stay in a special pasture because she can't keep her head out of the fence.  Maybe Ruby forgot just how bad things can get outside of the Group. I think it's clear that Ruby's Herd was not a Group until they were tested.  Garnet  gave the Group a second chance after disaster.  Teet founded the Group when she decided to reunite.  I'll always call it Ruby's Herd because she is the matriarch. If Ruby is the head of the Group, Teet is its soul.

Dog Tales

Raccoons take only what is easy.  If you pay attention, you'll notice city raccoons just skim the best morsels from your trash.  I knew one that was addicted to sunflower seed. But this one had plucked the heads off of half a dozen chicks.  He did this by reaching his dexterous hand into the wire cage and grabbing a chick.  The wire is too close together to allow a full chick through, so he just ripped off the biggest pieces possible.

One day, I'll write about how I already know for sure that you can't "trap out" raccoons.  There's always more, trust me for now.  I spent weeks predator proofing my chicken house by adding layers of wire and metal to key weak points but I knew they'd find a way eventually.  I found an electric-timer controlled window blind opener and used it as a chicken coop door opener/closer.  I learned that more moving parts leads to more problems and lost full grown hens every single time my door malfunctioned.

Ruby was pregnant.  We had borrowed a buck named "BrushFire" to breed to Ruby.  He was a weird goat in his own way but I never held that against him because he got the job done.  Things got tense around kidding time (no kidding, that's what goat labor is called).  After all this was her first pregnancy and my first goat labor duty.  About a week before the new arrivals, Ruby got attacked. A goat is big enough to be safe from most raccoons or any suburban critters really, except dogs.

In the middle of the night, two German Shepherds made their way through my fences and into the goat yard.  Raccoons are considerate compared to dogs.  Normally, nuisance dogs are well fed and kill primarily for the act itself.  They kill indiscriminately, I saw where a man lost over 30 goats to one dog. That night, I woke up in time to hear one of the goats screaming so I automatically ran through the hallway, up the stairs, out the back door, and into the action.  I stood on my elevated back deck.  It was a wooden deck six feet off the ground but I had no time for stairs.  In the seconds it took me to pick out dog shapes in the dark, I had already leapt.  I don't know if I had made a plan yet but I needed one quick since I was accelerating down towards two big dogs and one hurt goat.  Luckily for me, the attacking dogs decided if I was bat shit crazy enough to jump six feet from a rail, in the dark, naked; they'd better go.  Ruby recovered easily but my Flying Naked Angel of Canine Torment act wouldn't protect goats forever.

I had two dogs in my life before Ralph.  Minnie was a short haired lab mutt that loved training.  Years later we got Splenda, she was not like that.  Lauren brought Splenda home as a puppy for me on Valentine's Day when Max was a baby.  Minnie and I would go on nightly walks over by the high school ditch every night.  Splenda did not do leashes.  Minnie liked running obstacle courses in my backyard.  Splenda shat in my house.  Minnie loved swimming and fetching.  Splenda peed when near water.  Minnie loved to go to the river house and play.  Splenda tried hanging herself from the car window with her leash at 45 mph....repeatedly.  Getting Ralph was a big decision since I was still recovering from Splenda 4 years prior.

Max went with me down to a community near Hot Springs.  The farmers there had Great Pyrenees/Anatolian puppies.  I don't have the ability to convey that kind of cuteness.  It's something that must be witnessed firsthand.  We met Ralph's mom.  She was huge.  Ralph rode in Max's lap all the way home.  I don't know why Lauren and the boys always rub things they like under their noses, but they do.  It could be a shirt or a blanket or even a dog.  That was about four years ago.  Last night, Max let big full grown Ralph in for a while.  There was time to warm up, the coyotes weren't out yet.

Ralph stays in long enough to warm his joints and then he's back to work.  Many busy nights, he runs for hours on end just to demand that the wild things recognize us and carefully consider us.  He imposes our rule on a small radius and within that radius, he is the Protector.  Ralph's son Scooter is now bigger and stronger and one day he will be the Protector.  We have a system that works!  Guardian dogs are, without a doubt, the most vital part of the farm.  I have seen Ralph cuddle newborn goats to keep them warm.  I've seen little goat kids jump on him and torment him endlessly.  It took thousands of years of selection and careful husbandry to lead to a dog like that.  He is the perfect balance of power and patience.  He ran the new farm with ease.

Then he got shot.  The bullet is still in his right thigh.  I wasn't able to take out the .22 caliber fragment without doing too much damage.  Ralph doesn't care about pain.  To him, it's just another obstacle to his work.  I sliced out a chunk of dead tissue, poured on iodine, and administered an intramuscular antibiotic.  He pulled through.  The perimeter remains secure.  I never asked Ralph how he got shot.  Maybe someone didn't know he was the Protector.

My Sous Chef

There is no good double stroller.  Some allow similar sized kids to sit next to each other.  Some are "front and back."  Some have complex mechanisms for holding a baby carrier.  But, a double stroller means that you're outnumbered.  If Mercedes made a double stroller with chrome and jewels and gold wheels, nobody would steal it.  What sensible robber would take a chance at having to be responsible for two?!

Many people have never been responsible for the day to day maintenance, feeding, grooming, training, and breaking of children.  Those of us on the inside can tell immediately.  We see you vying for our attention, but surely you see that we're kinda busy at the moment?

"Where you work at?" Old neighbor man in his work truck stopped next to me and my stroller.  This was a double stroller side by side Trek modular system with optional bicycle attachment.  We started our walk with the oldest boy running and the two younger brothers sitting in the Trek.  After a few hundred feet, positions shifted and I had three boys in the Trek and our walk became my walk.  This beauty of a stroller had presta valve tubes in aluminum wheels, wind breaks, and a functional brake system. 

"ASU." I shot back startled at the intrusion but immediately embarrassed that I answered that way. This was in the days of teaching nights and SAHD days. Why didn't I just say, "Use your eyes, old man.  I'm on the clock."  instead, I used a professor job as the perfect shield for people criticizing my life choices.  Being a college teacher is great validation for someone already insecure.  If I just tell people that I teach college, being a SAHD won't seem so unconventional.

I puzzled about the old man while I walked the kids back home.  Surely he meant to disparage me.  Surely his greeting was a warning that I'd better get a real job so that these kids have someone to respect.  My obsessiveness requires that I assume others are constantly judging and I'm coming up short.  My experience forces me to consider others' points of view.  After all, I've had people say absolutely terrible things to me about being a SAHD.

I found my Rituals once I got home.  I didn't even know that's what they were back then.   Max skipped the nap with me, Ben and Sam went to their own rooms for nap time.  Diaper changes, drinks, snacks, little tasks that have order and meaning-Rituals.  In the kitchen, Max and I were making fried chicken.  At that time, I used only cast iron and my electric range for this process.  I started to relax and feel better once I was in my routine.  I had time to reflect with pride on the fact that I cared for three boys all day and I could still easily have a hot supper ready for Lauren.  I was "SuperDad" and Max's vocabulary was really..... wait. 

"Max!'" I scream-whispered down the hallway but I was too late, he'd already gotten to Sam.  Sam was already quite awake by the time I got there.  It was important for me to remember that Sam was different.  As babies, Max and Ben were easy going and actually eager to please Lauren and me.  Not Sam.  Sam and I had an uneasy power struggle that revolved mainly around a high chair and a spray bottle of water set to "MIST."  To this day, I can't think of another more humane option for trying to feed this little beast of a child.  "Don't make me turn this to "STREAM."

I tried to put Sam back down in bed but he wailed a protest that I knew he could sustain for hours, maybe days.  So, he got to come help cook too.  So did Ben.  He came up a few minutes later claiming that he'd not been asleep yet anyway.  So WE were cooking supper for mom.  No big deal, no problem, usually just Max and I did the cooking.  Hey if I can cook with one boy, three should be barely manageable, right?

Wrong.  Bisquik got everywhere.  A couple years later when I removed carpet from the living room stairs, I found little accumulated greasy snowbanks of bisquik near almost every toe board.  Sam got bored with piecemeal destruction and decided to escalate.  While I was finally getting the chicken into the hot oil, he took the box of bisquik to the recliner and bathed in flour and cholesterol.  By itself, that little transgression was adorable, hardly a bother.  I took a cute photo of him.

My lights went out, tv turned off, air conditioners gone.  I figured that I'd blown a breaker by cooking with my newly wired electric range.  No problem, I went to flip the breaker but I couldn't find anything tripped.  Instead, I saw a man in my backyard.  I was starting to piece it together, "He's a worker? Oh no!" It was my job to pay the utility bill and I was overdue. But I paid it yesterday...
"But I paid it yesterday!" I just needed to catch the worker!  Where was he? I ran out to the front driveway and got to him as he got near his driver's side door.  Max, Ben, and Sam were on their way down the stairs to me in the front driveway. 

"Can I help you?" This worker was already looking for a confrontation.

I thought, "Oh no, oh noooo, not an asshole. Not now." But I said, "Yeah, you turned off my power."

"Pay your bill."

"I did yesterday."

"Then it was late."  He drove off.  Somehow, I imagine him laughing maniacally on his way out of the neighborhood.

So.  I had to navigate the pre-hurt feelings of the electric company's bureaucracy and it had to be done within the most stressful medium invented yet-telephone.  But finally, after two VHS tapes of "the Wiggles" a new worker came.  When I watched the new worker open up my meter box, I realized that when the company "turns off" your power, they simply flip a switch.  I wondered in dollar terms how much the company had wasted on me that day.  Waste and inefficiency can really drive me crazy. 

The chicken smoldered, the smoke alarms rang, the children found more bisquik.  I had ruined a big pan full of frying chicken.  When we lost power, I didn't turn the burner knob off!  So what now?  I aired out the kitchen and threw acrid burnt chicken off the back porch.  This kitchen would take an hour to clean without kids and there'd still be no food.  Where are they?

"Dad, get a towel!"  Max has always taken on responsibility naturally.  He was so good at communicating to me when his little brother needed to be cleaned up.

But, Ben and Sam were with me.  It didn't make sense. I was worried before I saw the damage.  The fish room was flooded.  At the time, I had 300 gallons worth of freshwater tanks that I used for breeding and plants and a fun hobby.  Due to the power outage, my siphon-fed sump pump quit working.  The result was about 25 gallons of fish water in my basement floor.  I didn't start crying then simply because I was already crying about the stupid frickin chicken!

I don't remember cleaning it up at all.  It's funny sitting here trying to remember cleaning it and coming up blank.  I guess I did.

Lauren came home to an explanation but no food.  She fixed everything automatically.  She led and followed me simultaneously.
"Might as well try again, especially now.  I'll be your sous-chef." She's like that.


Why do we make our kids keep on playing even if they're losing?  We've been playing  multiple games of "Magic the Gathering" every evening.  I think of the outcome as having three possibilities: A) dad wins, B) kid wins big, and C) kid barely wins.  Imagine you're the kid, don't you want option C every time?  When we barely win, it feels earned.  We had to fight for it and it's a great feeling of accomplishment.

But in this house, we have a rule: you don't get to quit a game just because you're losing.  I instituted this rule before Max got new cards!  Ben found two awesome cards for his deck and he dominated our decks!  Ben organized and strategized this new deck completely on his own so it shocked me to see him just stomp all over the rest of us.

"I can't even attack if you've got out "Illusionary Wall!  You just hit me with "Flame Wave.  I think it's not fair.  You should take at least one of those cards out of your deck."  It sounded like Max was making a final plea before resigning.

"Max, you have to finish the game.  You're just going to have to find a way to beat him."  I didn't really think that suggestion was possible but I really wanted Ben to have an official win.

Now, Max has the best cards and Ben is losing the Arms Race.  There's no doubt that they've become better Magic players because of their relationship with each other.  We all laugh at how scared we were of "Illusionary Wall" and "Flame Wave."  Even my deck is good enough to handle those cards.

One time, I was asked to cut down some trees.

  The temperature was in the teens and I'd forgotten to plug in my engine block heater overnight in Old Greenish, my diesel F250.  It was definitely not going to start cold, no problem, just plug it in at 7 AM before barn chores then start it up at 8 or 9.

That's not how block heaters work.  I know this by the end of every winter but I forget it every spring.  I drained both batteries by 10:30 AM; no problem, just use jumper cables and the suburban!  Nope, suburban battery was dead.  Tractor!  The tractor has a battery and an alternator, I can just run cables to my truck battery.  Nope, in that crescendo of panic, the tractor fuel pump just bit the dust.  Remain calm, don't break something, go slow, it will all seem better soon, clear your head, breathe.

How about the four wheeler? Nope.  Solar panel battery bank, nope.

"Maybe those jumper cables are too small of a gauge and they can't carry the current you need."  Yep, says the friend who came to help.

But he'd already boosted me and Old Greenish was warming up.  Time to load up saws and the four wheeler with the log splitter.  I was feeling better already.  Even though I'd missed hours of daylight fooling with that truck, we'd still get to the trees before noon.  The friend and I identified the most problematic red oak to fell first.  We determined that the tall one with a dead top was the worst culprit; it leaned over the house.  We also identified the second tree to cut.  He's pretty darn good with notching a tree so we put it down within an inch of our mark.  We had enough time in the day to cut the trunk into sections, drag off all the limbs, but we didn't have time to start splitting.

The log splitter was giving us attitude.  I don't guess it liked being stored all summer.  Another problem is this, we roped the tree to the splitter and the splitter to the four wheeler and tried to pull the tree to direct its fall.  The main problem here is that I forgot to look behind me and before I knew it, the splitter had been pulled up off the ground and then landed right on the motor.  The splitter never forgave this insult.  "No problem, let's start it.  Nope.  Troubleshoot, clean out carburetor?  That's the right track.  How about starting fluid?"  Some of you know where this story is headed.  Spray that explosive aerosol into an engine and you might get a surprise.  If you just got done working on a carburetor, there's gas all over your engine.

There wasn't much to say when the splitter engine spat fire.
"Oh shit."  He's not surprised.  He lives this kinda life too. But he did have a nice cold Aquafina to extinguish the flames while I wrapped my hoodie around the disappearing plastic components of the engine.

"Wanna quit for today and come back tomorrow?"  Man I was hoping he was ready to go home.

"Sure, I'll bring my splitter tomorrow." Unfailingly indomitable.

So we cleaned up the ground around the neatly sectioned red oak trunk and headed home to our families.

I received an annoyed phone call on the way home.

It was the wrong tree.

This story almost ended there, but we decided the best course of action was to finish the wrong tree and get the second tree done before dark the next day.

The thing you'll notice if you throw yourself into any work is that many people will have absolutely no idea why you're doing it.  It seems like the default position is to work only when it brings financial gain.  Doesn't this cheapen work?!  For me, something earnest and honest, - real work- is tainted when money is involved.   Of all the benefits I've gotten from work, money is not near the top.  Through work we help people, teach people, build everything, maintain goodness.

I'll always be extremely self conscious about employment.  I had a teaching gig lined up after grad school. It was a busy year, but I taught full time, did research, and completed a bunch of PhD courses.  I felt my life's focus shifting to the lab.  It's exciting to do research with expensive equipment and smart people.  Literally every person in my life would have been supportive if I'd just lost myself in research at that point.  Everybody probably expected me to become an aloof scientist anyway.  So I quit.  I couldn't bear being away from my new little family for 80 hours a week.  I kept teaching part time, but I mainly worked at being the primary caregiver- the Stay at Home Dad.

One role I played dwarfs everything else. A Stay at Home Dad chooses to be vulnerable when he's been trained to be tough.  He chooses mercy over justice; patience over power; tenderness over "the lesson."  He learns to make bread while baby naps.  He loses aggression; testosterone dips, look it up. This is when Ben became an expert Go-Fish player because of countless hours in the waiting room of speech therapy. Sam became the "bravest baby."  I hope someone reading this remembers how fearless he was on playgrounds at the park.  We even routinely took snakes to show and tell at Max's school.  We're talking foundational stuff here; I was there when their neurons were making connections.

So, I've worked.  I'm self conscious because I don't have money to show for it, and that seems to be everybody's focus.  But, I don't guess I wanted or needed the money in the first place.  I did choose the correct work to do. I do my best.

In moments of guilt or shame, it's not my money that redeems me.  Instead, the fruits of my labor can't be spent.  I look back at my twenties and see spots of distraction and addiction and ennui but the underlying fabric is pure.  I was assembling my Group.

Remember that wrong tree? I kept the second tree and it's warming my house today- the work has been done.  Cut wood is a Chronic Present.  I made my friend keep the wrong tree, I didn't feel right.  I hope it warms his house well and I hope his family thinks it's the right tree.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Can

Prisoners in the Can have no sorrow for themselves.  We looked at each other and saw how miserable we could let ourselves be.  It would be so easy to drink a week away in the Can.  I won't deny wanting to pass into the Guiltless Oblivion where I don't remember my cares.  But in the Can, you will not make it without your Group.  You depend on your Group and they keep you alive. I first noticed that the Can had a total of two normal beds, a cracked television, and a sometimes functional toilet.  My Group consisted of one adult male, one adult female, and three boys.  The boys, obviously, hadn't had childhoods other than their own already so they took the Can in stride.  The female and I were less resilient and the boys' innocence was sometimes all that drove us.

How do you stay honest with your kids and comfort them simultaneously? I struggled with coming up with  the right way to discuss loss and uncertainty with these boys. Maybe I wanted to apologize for getting us all sent to the Can.  I tried talking to them about it so much that it became easy.  We were able to joke about it, laugh about it, be serious about it, mourn it, and move on from it.  Here's a theme, I think we'll see it again: if I focus on improving others' situations, maybe I'll feel better too.  And that's what happened, the Group gave me focus and daily goals.  I would have died without the Group.

The Can Greatest Hits

*the washer doesn't work/ is frozen
*the dryer sucks sewer gas into the Can
*propane plumbing valves freeze constantly (see also "unreliable heat")
*unreliable heat
*imagine tossing a soda can into a wind tunnel, that's how we slept all winter
*no water usually
*no hot water usually
* damp and cold and crowded
* We learned how to play Risk again.
*Max and Ben honed their chess skills and became real life champions.
*We celebrated New Year's Eve with friends that actually came to visit us in the Can.
*Lauren became assistant cook when I refused the full time position.  It paid off, you should come eat sometime!
*My brother contracted the new house build and he taught me more than I ever could've learned about building.
*Friends gave directly to my Group.  Friends worked countless hours just to get us out of the can.  Why would a happy guy on the outside pause his life to bust us out of the can?  I think some people just can't help it, they gotta help.
*My boots stayed dry the whole time we were in the Can.  I needed them.  I knew that if I didn't put my boots on the electric boot dryer before bed I'd be in trouble.  If I missed a morning of house work or farm work, we'd get more time in the Can. I had found a Ritual.  The thing about a Ritual is this: once you have one, you can build on it to do even more.
*Sam started reading chapter books.
*We learned to depend on each other.
*We learned:
     *you can make a huge variety with just milk and eggs
     *how to butcher a pig
     *how to build a house the right way.  Yes, there is a chimney this time!
     *how to hold it until someone else is through (more on this later)
     *sharing a bed with a loved one is not a sacrifice
     *each member of our Group is a deeply good person.  There was little to no animosity or argument in the Can.  We each knew we owed our best to the group.
     *there is no substitute for work.  The only way out of the Can is to build its replacement.
*the sewer pipe fell off again...
*the Group ultimately escaped the Can. With an UNCANNY amount of help!

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