LJI: negative reverse

You don't really want to win LJ Idol, do you?  This endless write, read, repeat being done to Gary's whim on both topic and timing.  And shaking ideas out of your brain right now, while the entire world is dealing with - something - feels nearly impossible.  It's okay, you can fall on your sword.  You don't have to keep pushing to get your piece perfectly edited, cleverly titled, or linked on time.  I mean, if you want to I suppose you can keep going.  You'd have to be awfully brave though.


***What a perfect topic to create a sacrifice post with.  My work has exploded in the last two weeks in the best possible way (we're giving addtional grants to the schools we support) but it means when I'm not working I want to be away from my screen.  May all you brave people fight on!***

LJI: The Streisand Effect

“3…2…1.. Ready or not, here I come!”

I could hear giggling behind me from the direction of the bedrooms so I immediately turned the other way and headed to the kitchen.  I opened cabinets the kids could plausibly have fit inside and called their names.  After a few minutes in the kitchen I searched the living room where I had been counting, being careful to continue calling their names and commenting on what I was doing the whole time.  Then I moved down the hall to the bedrooms.

“Rachel, Bobby where are you?”  I opened the hall closet suddenly; “Ah-ha.  Nope, not in here.”  I could hear the giggling again, although there was an attempt to muffle it this time.  Rachel was under her parents bed and Bobby had buried himself in stuffed animals in Rachel’s room (they had just watched E.T.)  I searched Bobby’s room and then went into the master bedroom, last time we played I found Bobby first so it was Rachel’s turn this time.

In the master bedroom Rachel’s feet were sticking out from under the bed.  I shook my head and walked over to the walk-in closet; “Rachel, Bobby are you in the closet?”  The giggling from under the bed was getting louder and her feet were wiggling.  I didn’t let myself react to the movement in case she could see me from her position and checked behind the dresser and in the dirty clothes hamper before bending down to look under the bed.  “There you are; I see you Rachel.”

Rachel slid out from under the bed with some dust bunnies stuck to her sweater.  “Aren’t I a good hider Susan?  It took you ages to find me.”

“It did, you are a very good hider.  Now I just have to find your brother.”  I smiled at Rachel and walked directly to her room.  “I haven’t checked in here yet – this must be where he is.”  Bobby was the older child and had stopped giggling when I started checking bedrooms.  But he hummed to himself whenever he was a little anxious.  Rachel came running in and jumped on her bed.  She looked at the closet and then as though I wouldn’t have noticed exaggeratedly looked under her own bed.

“Is he down there?”


“Is he in your dresser?”

“He wouldn’t fit in there silly.”  Rachel started to laugh and I smiled.

“Then he must be in your closet.” I opened the door and started to move the clothes on hangers around.  Rachel’s giggle was back, and as I looked down I realized that Bobby had taken E.T. seriously and left his face clear looking out from the stuffed animals.  I checked the high shelf first, and then looked down.

“There you are; I see you Bobby.”

He stood up in an avalanche of plush and grinned.  “That might be the longest I ever hid!” he said proudly.

“All right, it’s snack time.  Good hiders get ice cream.”  Both kids cheered and ran for the kitchen.


It was always so easy.  Move to a new town and start babysitting for local families to make cash while I took classes at the nearest college.  Families are always looking for babysitters and once I found my first gig in a town the mommy-hotline would quickly spread my name and number around until I had all the work I could handle.  I would sit for anyone with grade and middle school aged kids, and could adapt to any and all food restrictions, tutoring requests, and supervision demands.  The one thing we always did though, every family every time, was play hide and seek.

People have forgotten that hide and seek was a survival game.  That hiding silently and well was a skill well worth developing once upon a time.  Now it was another game to let children win for as long as possible.  Ignore the giggles, and the butt sticking out from behind the couch; don’t hear the closet doors opening, miss the whispers as they plan their locations.  Children should believe they’re great at everything, even something as silly as hiding.

People have also forgotten about the bogeyman.  The name helps, even in households where the old Grimm stories have stuck around it never occurs to anyone to ask about bogeywomen.  I’m an oddity that comes around every few generations; I look almost totally human.  Human enough with clothes on, I mean.  I’m going to look like a 20-something college student for a long time.  So my clan came up with a new hunt.  They taught me how to behave human; we spend so much time watching them it wasn’t that hard.  Then they figured out a job that would bring me into contact with children, a job where it wouldn’t be too odd if I only stayed in one place for a few months at a time.  Then I taught the children of each town how to hide.

I would move on at regular intervals to a new town, one that had been decided by the elders.  The rest of the clan would begin in the town I had just prepared and left.  Children who thought they were such good hiders found out otherwise.  My clan feasted on their nightmares, and the occasional child.  Not very many, the takings were always carefully calculated to bring no suspicion on my human cover.  And if dozens of children in a town all started talking about the bogeyman, well there must have been something inappropriate on the TV, or a stray add on youtube.  Parents would crack down on screen time and wonder when the nightmares would end.


“Hello?  Hi, Mrs. Nobbs.  Oh, I am so sorry I won’t be able to babysit for Rachel and Bobby next week.  I was just contacting all my families now, classes are ending for the semester and my family wants me home for the summer.  If I move back I’ll be sure to let you know.  Say hello to the kids for me and tell them they are super-hiders.  Yes.  Thanks Mrs. Nobbs, I appreciate it.  Sorry again.  Bye.”

I hung up the phone and continued to pack.  I had to turn the apartment keys in tomorrow and wanted to get everything into the storage unit today.  I wasn’t moving directly to the next city, this time the elders had decided I was allowed to stay and join the feasting.

Ready or not, here I come.

LJI: busman's holiday

Attending theatrical performances is always a little weird for me, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to go away.

See I used to work in theater.  I received a BS in Technical Theater (best degree ever) and worked a variety of backstage positions at a variety of theaters – summer gigs, internships – for several years.  Then I got the chance to be a stage manager and be resident at one theater and I did that for twelve years.  I mostly loved it though by the end I was crispy burnt out and needed some time.  Since my last show closed on June 1, 2012 we moved to another state and now I’ve taken the next step in my theater evolution – I’m a subscriber.

It’s been fun going to see theater again.  One of the things they don’t tell you about working in theater is you won’t get to see many shows except the one in front of you, because you’re performing at the same time everyone else is.  But walking into the local theaters is always a little bittersweet.  I recognize these communities (and occasionally specific actors); they feel like home to me, even though they have no idea who I am.  I get emails from the companies where they’re giving subscribers some backstage scoop and realize that they’re never new ideas for me, though it’s great fun to see inside someone else’s costume shop or backstage, places I still feel like I belong though I’ve never stepped foot in these.  Walking in to the theater with a ticket feels a bit like being the prodigal no one recognizes.

Watching shows is great fun, but my perspective is permanently a touch askew.  I take my seat and look up and around to see where the lighting positions are and if I can find the control booth.  I look over the set onstage to see if I can find the tricks before they’re revealed.  Once the show has started….

It’s most often at a musical when my husband glancses at me, “Why did you just gasp?  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine – did you see that light cue?”

This is a conversation that has happened a non-zero number of times.  It’s rare that I walk out of a show thinking I want to see it again, but more than once in the past several years I think “what fun it must be to call that show, I wonder if I showed them my Equity card they’d let me try it for a day”.  They will not and I know that.  It took several years to recover from the burn out and get back to enjoying theater again, but now the itch to play is back too.

I’ve thought about reaching out to local companies to let them know I’m here but I don’t want to go back to theater full time so I’m not certain what I’d say.  Especially since my last credit is nearly eight years ago (how did that happen?).  For the time being I’ll keep going to shows, supporting the local companies with my dollars and eyeballs.  When I overhear other patrons discussion questions I know the answers to I will smile a quiet smile to myself and not interrupt.  I’ll read the program front to back to see if I know any of the cast/crew/orchestra/staff.  I’ll stay in my seat at intermission to watch the crew do their magic and slow walk out of the theater to cheer for the orchestra after the play off. I’ll be a part of this theater community in my new role as best I can.

***LJ Idol continues - read other entries here***

LJI: Barn Raising

We are so pleased that you have chosen the unusual and exciting path of bringing home a Spectacular Shed.  Below are a few tips and tricks to ensure that your new shed will thrive as a member of your family.

  1. You should plan on spending at least an hour with your shed in our yards before loading it up for home so it has some time to acclimate to you, bring the whole family if possible.  We recommend having a flat trailer for transport – the sheds do not take well to being tipped on their sides for any amount of time. Please have straps, not ropes, for tie down.  If the transit will be longer than an hour, we suggest finding places to pause along the way and sit with your shed for a few minutes.  Unstrap your shed and move it to the yard immediately upon arriving home.

  2. The yard area the shed will be installed in should be three times larger than the eventual full-grown size of the shed.  Please do fence off this area – it doesn’t need to be very sturdy, but it does need to be enclosed or your shed may wander off to the neighbors.  Make sure that nothing stationary or breakable is left inside the fencing, your shed will roam until it finds its favorite spot to build a foundation (typically at about two months) and cannot be blamed for stomping things left in its area.

  3. You should visit your shed for at least 30 minutes every day.  You don’t need to talk to it, we know some folks feel awkward about that, though we do suggest giving it a name and at least saying hello and goodbye.  Try sweeping the floor, or opening and closing all the windows, or even just sitting inside with a book to read.  You do need to socialize your shed if you want it to grow into its best self.

  4. Once the shed has had a few days to explore its new area, begin introducing it to at least a few of the animals who will be tenanting inside; sheds will adapt both in size and structure to the living things it meets.  Take this process slowly – if you put every animal you plan on keeping in the full-grown shed in the yard all at once your shed may try to go straight from juvenile to adult and that strain will damage it.  Make an appointment to talk with Sharon our acclimation specialist and bring with you a list of what you intend to store/live in the full-grown shed and she will be able to help you create an introduction plan to set you on the road to success.

  5. Praise your shed exuberantly.  Juvenile sheds do not respond well to any kind of punishment but once it knows what makes you happy it will remember and repeat those actions.

  6. Care for your shed as you would any non-sentient outbuilding.  It should be kept clean, free of rot and mold, and painted annually.  Your shed will mostly take care of itself, though if you have old shipping pallets, leave them leaning against the shed.  We're not certain what happens either, but the pallets will disappear in a few days. Because the sheds have been bred to be interested in life you will need to keep an eye out for nuisance animals like rats or pigeons.  Do not under any circumstances kill an animal in the shed or put out poison inside.  You can use traps, but the best way to prevent unwanted animals from moving in is to block up however they’re getting inside.

If you have additional questions do not hesitate to ask any of us here at Animate Architecture, making the entire world live!

***Read other Idolers take on barn raising here.***

LJI: If the creek don't rise

East Palo Alto (EPA) has long been the poor relative of Silicon Valley.  Despite sharing a border with Palo Alto and sitting alongside the Bayshore Freeway almost exactly midway between San Francisco and San Jose it had a reputation as undesirable when I moved to CA in 1996.  Their tax base was small, there wasn’t much shopping, and the homes were in disrepair.    I was told over the freeway was ‘scary’; this mostly meant that the population wasn’t very white.  But there is a small strip of EPA on the nice side of the freeway, sandwiched between it and San Francisquito Creek.  The area was still referred to as whiskey gulch, dating back to the days when Stanford had been a dry campus and this small area was just far enough away to legitimately sell liquor to students.  It also had cheap apartments, a lot of young families and Stanford grad students lived there.  For a few years, so did I.

Crossing the little bridge over the creek showed a stark difference between the two towns.  On the south side was Palo Alto.  The homes were lovely and large, with expansive lawns.  Most had two car garages with fancy SUVs and Mercedes parked in the driveways.  People walked the sidewalks and waved to their neighbors.  But once you crossed the creek to EPA the sidewalks were ill-kept or disappeared entirely.  There were few single family homes; it was almost all apartment complexes with no grass.  The few blocks that still earned the whiskey gulch distinction housed a lot of disreputable looking bars and liquor stores with bars over the windows.

My apartment was great – nothing fancy but perfectly fine, especially given that anything of a similar size would have cost at least twice as much across the creek.  There was a place to park off-street, and the neighbors were all quiet and mostly kept to themselves.  About once a month there would be some police action over by the bars and we had one break in, but it certainly wasn’t the awful unlivable place I had been promised by the stories.

Then came the winter of 1997-8, it was an El Nino year, and it felt like it would never stop raining.  In early February my boyfriend stopped by and said “Come on, we’re driving out to Nate and Heidi’s now.”


“There’s a flood warning for the creek.  Woodland Ave and the frontage road could both have issues, if we don’t go now we might be stuck here for a few days.”

I packed some clothes quickly and followed his car out.  It was eerie, the creek was roaring in a way it never had before and was higher than I had ever seen it.  Low lying spots were already accumulating water, as we drove toward campus where our friends lived we saw a few cars stalled out at the bottom of underpasses, their drivers not realizing how high the water had gotten.  We made it safely to higher ground and had a little storm party, lit candles, a lot of wine, and listening to the rain that kept falling down.

The next morning pictures of our area of town were all over the news.  San Francisquito Creek had broken through the embankment near University Avenue at 1am and the water flowed down to the frontage road where a new creek formed held in by the walls designed to protect residents from freeway noise.  Several cars had been washed down the road and were in a heap at the other end.  The wonderful thing for me was that most of EPA that directly bordered the creek was okay, including my apartment.  The land was naturally a small hill, so most of the homes were up above the water, and other than where the embankment had given way at the bend by University our ugly 4’ tall cement levee held.

But the Palo Alto side was a mess.  Water was at a depth of 8-12” for a solid half-mile from the creek, homes with basements had flooded, and anything left outside was a total loss.  Some folks had attempted to sandbag but most had started too late without enough supplies.  Their land was flatter, but also the residents hadn’t wanted an ugly cement levee to be an eyesore along the creek.  Each land owner had their own fencing bordering the creek, mostly redwood planking, though some had thin birch lattice work and at least one house had a simple chain link fence.  So as the creek swelled and roared through town our side had a 4’ higher bank than theirs did, keeping us mostly dry.

It was a couple of days before I could safely drive back to my apartment and discover for certain that things were okay.  The Palo Alto news was full of articles trying to figure out who was to blame,and I know lawsuits were eventually filed.  Interestingly, no one ever proposed a 4' cement levee on the south side of the creek, though.

Functional is its own kind of pretty, I think.

***LJ Idol week 11, topic 2.  Read more about other creeks here.***

LJI: wild goose chase

The Denver area has a lot of Canadian Geese.  I didn’t expect that when we first moved here, some live here year round in our mostly moderate weather and some make this the southern stop on their migration.  There are several parks in the greater Denver area with lovely lakes and expanses of grass which equals perfect goose habitat.

When we first moved to Colorado we stayed in the guest room of friends, while we were figuring out where in the metro area we wanted to be.  Those friends live close to City Park which has some gorgeous running trails, including a 5k loop marked out all within the park.  I was excited to go running in City Park and explore as soon as the April snowstorm melted.  But I quickly discovered that the geese were an issue.

First is the most basic concern – goose poop is slippery.  And it was everywhere.  Any run was a head down affair with an exciting bit of weave and dodge added in as I tried to make it around the lake without stepping into a gooey mess.

Next was the geese themselves.  These were city geese that had zero fear of humans; mostly they saw us as an occasional source of food.  This means that if a flock were currently moving across the sidewalk I was trying to run down, I had to dodge the geese too.  They wouldn’t really move out of the way or try to avoid me at all; there was zero respect for my predator status.

I adjusted to this new and interesting challenge in my runs.  I learned what times they typically waddled from their nesting area under the trees to the lake and back, and adjusted my schedule to avoid those times.  I saw a fellow runner clap repeatedly as he approached several geese hanging on the sidewalk and they did move seeming annoyed at the sound, so I added that to my repertoire.  But mostly I just expected them to be there, it wasn’t new anymore to run through a park full of geese.

Then came the goslings: so cute, so fluffy, and so clumsy on their brand new legs.   I slowed down to get a better glimpse of the adorableness, but the flock was keeping them close at hand and staying back at the trees to better keep track of their new members.

As the goslings started to grow the geese resumed their wanderings back and forth to the lake, now with the little ones along.   However, they learned the same disdain of humans that their parents had. Now that the babies were there clapping no longer seemed to startle any of the geese away.

So sometime in June I was running near the lake and dodging through a large group of geese spread out across the sidewalk.  Apparently the clear spot I stepped through put me between a mother and her baby.  Suddenly I was being chased by an angry goose – wings spread and honking – to inform me that I was messing with the wrong gosling.  It became an unexpected sprint workout as I got away from the goose mama as quickly as possible, a few other geese joined in the honking but luckily none of the others felt the need to actually chase me down.  It was over and done as quickly as it had started.

There’s no way to tell which gosling belongs with which goose, I had run through flocks with their juveniles before but that time I was unlucky.  I avoided that corner of the park for about a month until the goslings got their own flight feathers and became one of the crowd; I figured it was safer for myself as well as the geese.

***LJ Idol week 11 topic 1, because there's always a twist.  Read about other wild chases here.***
time is twisted

Happy New Year!

Happy, merry, joyful to one and all.

I stayed up to see the clock change last night and eat pickled herring as the first food of the new year for luck.  Our friends swear by it, and it's definitely preferable at midnight then to wake up and eat it for breakfast.

I ran a 5k this morning to start my year moving.  The sun came out and given the current cloudy, windiness it looks like we had the best part of the day.

May today be the first day of a wonderful year!