the hyphens that define my life

Misrepresentation February 23, 2016

Filed under: Family,Gardening,Life,Work — multihyphenatedme @ 12:07 pm
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Over the holidays I was in a gift shop and found a congratulations card created for new parents. This card, created by Elliot Maxx, a Northwest stand-up comic, states: “The reason parenting is so difficult: The job itself is completely unrelated to the application process.”
Allow me to repeat: The job of parenting is completely unrelated to the application process. Let that soak in for a minute. This hilarious come-to-motherhood fact strikes a chord with me not only because I am a mother of 4 absolutely perfect children, in my day job, I am a recruiter, a headhunter. As a recruiter, I talk about jobs, the application process, job descriptions and qualifications all day long. My children remind me daily that the job of motherhood is completely misrepresented by the application process. A mother’s reality check, a recruiter’s nightmare. Blatant misrepresentation. How is the case of this fraudulent misrepresentation not the lawsuit of the ages?
Let’s all agree, making babies is fun. Fun is not part of most job descriptions nor a requirement for most jobs. There are fun parts of the mom job, but not all parts of the mom job are fun. This jokester card got me thinking, what if we applied for all jobs in our lives in the same “wink wink cuddle cuddle” fashion of becoming moms? For example, I want to be an artist, I want to be a CEO, I want to be an attorney, or, my favorite, I want to be a surgeon. What if we just clapped our hands and clicked our fingers and, as if by magic, in a very short 9 month window of time, the job you declare, any job from artist to surgeon to welder, is yours. Why not? After all, motherhood requires higher education which none of us receive, a lifetime of responsibility with no prerequisites, just a nine month waiting period before you can put your assumed innate maternal skills to work.
Let’s take this train of thought to the next stop. Other than proclaiming, “I want to be a mom!” is there any mom job that I would want other than my own? Do you go around saying, I want to be that kids mom? I don’t. I already have enough chips off the old block, you can keep yours to yourself. There are some moms that do a far better job than I do and I truly admire them. And there are those times on occasion, I will admit, I have said quietly to myself, give me 10 minutes with that kid and this mom will straighten them right out. Fear not, I promise I have not said or thought this about any of your kids.
I digress. Back to the question, is there any other mom job that I want? Mother Teresa? That’s a lot of giving goodness. I am not that good. Mother Goose? Being the imaginary author of fairy tales and nursery rhymes sounds like a good gig. My rhyming skills are weak, definitely don’t ask me to rap. Old Mother Hubbard? I’m not that old and I don’t want to live in shoe, though I do have plenty of children or so it seems some days. The mom job I most appreciate is the super hero of all mothers, Mother Nature.
My kids often ask me what super power I would want to have. As they ramble off a list of super hero powers – flying, telekenisis, xray vision, morphing…, I interrupt and say, every time they ask, growing things. That’s not a super power, they say, and stomp off disgusted with my lameness. Growing things, call it gardening if you wish, is my super power, following Mother Nature’s lead. Plant a seed, give it what it needs – warmth, love, attention, food, shelter – and POW! In true super hero fashion, that seed will grow. Isn’t that motherhood at its finest? Do we offer anything more as moms?
We all learn how to be moms through observing our own mothers, our grandmothers, aunts, moms of friends and, of course, TV moms. The mom we mimic most though is often unrealized and underappreciated. Mother Nature guides us by example. Love and warmth from the sun’s rays, occupying our minds, bodies and spirit with mesmerizing natural beauty. Mother Nature provides food to hunt, fish, gather and grow to feed us and naturally formed shelter to protect us.
As much as Mother Nature gives, she also shares traits of most moms I know. If we children do as we’re told and play nice we are rewarded, the sun shines, the plants grow, all is good in the world. Well behaved children means happy mom. If we misbehave, Mother Nature display the ultimate wrath throw down. Her head spins just like mine, only she unleashes hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and blizzards. I just lose my mind. Similar wrath in her house and mine, just ask my kids.
Though growing things is my desired super power, I do not meet all of the qualifications required for the Mother Nature job so I won’t apply should the position ever become available. Meeting the qualifications for a job has never stopped me before. I’m not certain I was qualified when [ahem] “applying” each time I became a mom. I often say I have the best job as a recruiter. Truth is, the sweetest job is to be my kids mom.


Black Horse & the Cherry Tree April 10, 2015

Truth be told I don’t have a black horse.  I should.  At least a miniature pony.  Or even a goat.  With a cart. I live in the city and no goats or horses or ponies with carts are permitted.   I could manage a few chickens but I’ve drawn the DIY line at chickens.  I can get fresh eggs at the farmers market easily enough.  We did have a black dog [RIP sweet old boy Dale Anthony].  Now we have a black-brown dog. My horse in this story is our 8 week old Airedale Terrorist puppy, HRH Prince Ezie Otis.  Ezie, to us common peasants.

Ezie Cherry Tree

In this photo, Ezie is sitting in the well of our cherry tree, ready to play.  He doesn’t realize [total apprentice fail] that we’re on a gardening mission.  We have work to do.  Sabotage is on his agenda, not work.

Mother’s Day 2014, my four kids [notice they are nowhere to be found when I get in gardening mode] each bought me a fruit tree for our front yard orchard.  One side of our front yard is a vegetable garden, the other side of our front yard is our fruit orchard.  In our orchard we have three dwarf trees – cherry, apple, and pear and 1 dwarf peach.

With the exception of the peach tree, the cherry, apple and pear are grafted trees. The purpose of a grafted tree is for cross-pollination within a small space.  Instead of needing multiple trees to meet the pollination needs required by some fruit trees, 3-5 trees are grafted together to serve this need.  And I get a variety of fruit from planting one tree.  Sweet!

Yesterday, Day 2 of my 100 Days of Gardening, was an overcast then rainy day.  I ordered an expandable willow fence to keep out the aforementioned beast as well as the substitute mailman who somehow thinks it’s ok to walk through my yard. [Dude!]  High hopes that either the pup or the fence will deter the wild turkeys that roam our neighborhood. The willow fence will also serve as my pea trellis.  Fencing to keep out varmints and pests – even cute ones – is essential to gardening.  Doubling as structural support for my peas is a bonus [until said pests and varmints start eating my peas]. Here’s an example of the handmade fence I purchased on Etsy from a local Washington craftsman:

willow fence

My 5-n-1 grafted dwarf cherry tree is starting to bloom.  The five types of cherries on this tree are:  Bing, Lapins, Lambert, Royal Ann and Black Tartarian.  Each branch is a different variety.  The Black Tartarian branch has begun to bloom:

black tartarian cherry bloom

Not a lot of gardening progress on Day 2, but happiness is found with a big [growing] black-brown dog  under a cherry tree.  Thanks to the rain and mud, HRH had to have his second bath this week.

Ezie Tub Time 1

Who needs a horse?






100 Days of Gardening April 9, 2015

The Great Discontent (TGD), a quarterly magazine with candid interviews on those that create, has inspired me.  The interview of my photographer friend, Ike Edeani (check him out, follow him on Facebook and Instagram) was featured in their first issue and connected me with the magazine.  TGD began a #The100DayProject, as defined on the website:

What Is the 100-Day Project? It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.

The project began on April 6 but, if you’re like me and forgot to start until April 8, you may begin at any time and finish at your own pace.  Whew.  I’m in.

My project focus is gardening, #100daysofgardening, and my creative process will be posted daily.

Pause here for clarification:  yes, I know I’ve written many times that I will blog/exercise/eat right/do something daily and then drop the ball.  Guess what?  I may do fail to meet the daily expectation.  Life happens. However, with heightened awareness, a sense of purpose, and our last threat of frost rapidly approaching, I am going to try my damnedest to garden daily.  Really, I have no choice if I want a garden this year.

Yesterday, I ventured to my front yard garden to assess what prep work will need to be accomplished. Front yard gardening is a big deal, Google it.  It is controversial in some areas, forbidden (the horror!) in others (doubt me, ask your HOA or check with city/county regulations) and subject to extreme criticism from the neighborhood.  My front yard garden is permissible (no HOA strings on me), no city restrictions (I checked), and has been well received by the neighborhood.  I made new friends last year during the construction phase of the garden too.

Last year, I dug up all the sod (yes I could have rented some machine to do the job but I needed the therapy of physical labor) and created 10 unformed raised beds and pathways in a keyhole design.  Unformed raised beds are just like raised beds without the wood frames.  Unformed raised beds may require reshaping each new gardening season.  I reshape while cleaning up winter debris or adding soil amendments, not an issue for me.  One district representative did ask me, “What would [will] happen to the dirt when it falls out of shape?”.  [dart your eyes back and forth a few times and raise your eyebrows like I did in the moment for effect.] “The dirt will fall to the ground”, I replied. Total state of chaos. Save yourselves while you still can.

Back to the project.

Day 1:  Assess the situation.  Dirt on the ground.  [good start]

garden 2015

I need to rake up leaves and debris, add some bark to the pathways; address irrigation and shape the beds.  I began the clean up process, noting that my tarragon and sage are returning.  Some carrots, arugula and lettuces have sprouted from last year’s seed.  Then I found this surprise:


My first asparagus.  I am surprised because I bought three asparagus starts at the Manito Park Plant Sale last summer and just stuck them in the ground, not paying heed to the planting direction of digging a special asparagus trench (what?) and other special asparagus tricks.  Asparagus starts are supposed to take two years to produce. I planted just to see what would happen.  Lo and behold, an asparagus is born.

100 Days of Gardening is not going to be easy, it will be a lot of work.  The process of this work is what I love.  The produce is what I enjoy.


My apprentice.


These Two Hands – Our Year In Review – Part 4 June 19, 2014

Filed under: Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 10:50 pm
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Truth is, be careful what you ask of me, assign me, challenge me or give me.  These two hands splayed before me can do anything.

Disclaimer:  Except knit.  It’s a crazy thing.  My cousin and I were both taught how to knit by our paternal Grandmother.  My cousin is an award-winning, knitting camp attending (ok, show of hands, who knew knitting camp existed?), master knitter who has photographs of her work published in knitting books.  Me?  I can knit.  Scarves, just don’t count my stitches or expect any awards.  To be fair, I am an award winning pie maker and this same cousin can’t make crust, even though we were both taught by the same woman, our Grandmother.  Let’s call it a tie, I just want to be honest, I can do anything, just with varying degrees of accomplishment. Best believe, I will give whatever is presented before me my best effort.  If I call it a scarf, accept it as a scarf.  Give it to the cat if you hate it.

As a corporate recruiter, in addition to regular every day career placements, my day job includes travelling to our US and Toronto offices and 15-17 universities throughout the year.  At some point I tallied I travel 57 days a year.  Manageable, and I get to meet great people and see some fantastic places too. Most of this travel happens in the spring.  If you’ve kept up with the series, you will agree, this past spring was emotionally difficult.  Pushed to my limits, I needed a big project, a big distraction to deal with my life, my emotions.

I’m not sure my husband was fully aware that I was serious when I asked if he had any thoughts or comments to my brilliant idea to ripping out half of our front yard and putting in a vegetable garden, but he agreed.  He doesn’t like watering or mowing the lawn so he was happy to have less lawn.  Excellent.  The catch was that he put me on a tight budget that allowed for irrigation and soil and seeds, but no labor.  If I wanted this garden, I had to do it myself.  I called a contractor to get a quote to remove the sod. My husband laughed at the quote with a hearty, “No!”  Being a kind hearted guy, my husband did buy me a new shovel.

Yes, I have a husband, a daughter and three boys, but all quickly disconnected themselves with any garden responsibility.  Think of The Little Red Hen story, I am The Little Red Hen.  They know the story too, and helped just enough to say they did.  My husband dutifully went on every Home Depot run and gave me instruction on how to cut, glue and fit PVC.  Yes, I dug sod, I went battleaxe on gigantic tree roots, I dug out the pattern and I moved all the compost and wood chips from the street to the garden.

Five hundred square feet of sod removal is how I managed my stress, my workload, my sadness, my emotions, and my pain.  My vision of my garden was my therapy.  I ached.  I hurt.  I had blisters.  I was filthy.  I collapsed into bed and slept solidly every night.  Exactly what I needed.

My project proved Sponkanites to be a curious, opinionated bunch.  No wonder I love it here, I fit right in!  Everyone that passed by had a question or a comment on what I was doing, why I was doing it and what I should do differently.  I met and conversed with so many, including the preschool chain gang that marches by every week on their walk around the neighborhood.

My design is an unframed raised bed in a keyhole pattern, providing twelve 4′ x 8′ beds.  My kids say it looks like sunglasses.  All of my previous gardens have been hidden in the back yard.  This garden, located in the front yard, had to be more than some rows of dirt.

It took me over two months, not quite three months of inconsistently working.  The garden is in, see for yourself:

photo 1 (2)




   IMG_2349 IMG_2350 IMG_2365

The plants are growing, I just haven’t taken any pictures yet.  We’ve eaten lettuces every night for weeks.  I have red potatoes, artichokes, rainbow chard, cabbage, kohlrabi, romanesco broccoli, regular broccoli, cauliflower, kale,  haricort vert, shelling peas and sweet peas, bush beans, fava beans, lima beans, zucchini, patty pan squash, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, 7 kinds of tomatoes (10 plants total), tomatillos, sweet corn, pumpkins, jalapenos, red and gold sweet peppers, eggplant, popcorn, leeks, carrots, beets, arugula and mixed lettuces.

I have yet to plant my radishes.



Grow Food Not Lawn March 23, 2014


This weekend was dedicated to prepping our garden. Unlike established gardens, we, having moved last year at the start of summer, had to start our garden at the very beginning, by digging. Springtime in our house starts with sod removal.

This isn’t a small backyard garden. In California, I always had a 200 – 300 s.f. backyard garden. This will be my largest garden at 570 s.f. with the added challenge of being a front yard garden. My mantra is grow food, not lawn. Front yard gardens are tricky because they are exposed, accessible and open to comment from your neighbors.

Lawn. My new nemesis.
570 s.f. of sod removal.
There are options to dealing with sod than just the manual labor of removal. I solicited some quotes from local landscapers that were too pricey. I could have rented a tiller but I didn’t want the potential of weeds being propagated by tilling the front lawn into the soil. Truth be told, big reartine tillers scare me. I could have just built and placed raised beds on top of the sod but that still leaves pathways that would need mowing. No thanks. Grow food, not lawn. Grow food, not lawn. Grow food, not lawn. Stick to the mantra.

570 s.f. is just half of our front yard, the smaller half, on the northeast side. Our back yard has trees with minimal sunlight. Our front yard gets fantastic sun all day long, the perfect spot for a garden. The other half of our front yard has a future as our dwarf fruit tree mini orchard. Maybe this year, maybe not. For now, we’re just focusing on the northeast side.

Day 1, Saturday. Sunny, clear, blue skies and crisp. I made breakfast, suited up and headed out to dig. Just me, my shovel and 570 s.f. of front lawn. Only when the first wheelbarrow load was full did I realize the wheelbarrow had a flat tire. Argh! My husband came out to help and told me he’d pick up a new tire intertube when he went out in a couple of hours. Until then, he and our two older boys helped shovel sod and pile it up for two hours. Our daughter joined in the action too. We managed to clear and 11′ x 19′ space within a four hour window. I was thrilled with the help and excited with our progress. My triceps, hamstrings, shoulders and back ached! Check out this progress!


Day 2, Sunday. Another spectacular day in Spokane.
My husband repaired the tire, then took the boys out for a few hours. Our daughter studied for her last final.
Today I was alone, just me, my shovel, wheelbarrow and all my neighbors out walking, stopping to inquire and give their two cents.
I removed some sod, but my focus was to deal with the giant mound of sod we removed and piled yesterday. What to do with all this sod is the issue with sod removal. My plan for the sod is to compost. To start, I stacked the sod to create the walls of my compost area. Better than pallets or spending money on a premade compost bid. After another four hours of work, here’s my progress and compost structure. Yeah!

photo 1 (2)

photo 3

I was wrong to report that my body ached on Saturday night. Tonight gives new meaning to body aches and pain. I’m not sure if my pain is from two days worth of manual labor or the thought of the work still ahead. I have only just begun.

My garden plan is awesome and my vision for garden greatness keeps me motivated and excited to get outside tomorrow after work and continue the hard work. My digging this weekend provided soil samples to submit to Spokane Conservation for soil analysis. Spokane Conservation is a great resource that will tell me what amendments are needed in the soil. Considering I had successful gardens in Southern California with heavy clay soil, the rich,beautiful, dark, non-clay soil in my Spokane yard will make a bountiful garden.

What am I growing? Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Corn, Popcorn, two types of Summer Squash, Butternut Squash, 3 kinds of Onions, leaf and head Lettuces, Spinach, Arugula, Beets, Carrots, Leeks, Pumpkins, 3 kinds of Beans, two kinds of Peas, six kinds of Tomatoes, all the herbs, Kale, Chard, Potatoes, 3 kinds of Peppers, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Artichokes, Blueberries, Blackberries and Raspberries.

Our eight year old, our youngest, refrained from helping this weekend. He said, “I only like planting a garden, not digging a garden.” Who doesn’t? Smart[alec] kid. This isn’t a Little Red Hen story, this is a full family effort.

Grow food not lawn!


Prancin’ in my Pants November 25, 2013

Filed under: Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 7:34 pm

Prancing is not a Christmas word.

Prancin’ is what I do when, after 23 days of detoxing, dieting and exercising, I am able to button jeans that are a size smaller than when I started.  Yes, I dropped a size.  In late October, these jeans had a good inch and a half to two inches of belly between the button and the buttonhole.   I don’t think I’ve worn these jeans in over two years.  I hesitated to even try them on this morning as there is nothing worse than clothes still not fitting after working so hard.   Instead, I buttoned those babies up, without lying down mind you and without lycra stretch, these are true blue jeans, and let out a whoop.

I woke the boys up for school this morning singing this song:

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’ in my pants.

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’ in my pants.

My children have little appreciation for me or my efforts but I was (and still am) ecstatic.  It’s quite a catchy tune that I’ve been singing to myself all day.  Truthfully, the jeans are buttoned, but the jeans are snug.  I can breathe, walk, squat and bend, they’re just snug.   I’ve worn them all day as a reminder to not lose focus.

Prancing is not a Christmas word, nor is it a Thanksgiving word.  I won’t be prancing in these pants on Thanksgiving because I’m allowing myself four days to enjoy my family and good food.  Though I don’t plan to overindulge, I do plan to indulge (did you see my menu?).  I will stick to my exercise program and include a pre-Thanksgiving dinner hike.  I’m not worrying about whether or not I will be able to wedge into these pants on Monday but I will be back on my dietary regiment and exercise track.

My success thus far has been a combination of diet changes and adding more exercise.  The first two weeks was Reboot Your Life, omitting wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol.  Lots of fruits and vegetables, some salt and some olive oil.  These last two weeks, I allowed 2 eggs a week, yogurt with probiotics, and 1% milk. My caloric intake has been between 700-1000 calories.  I’m not perfect, nor was my diet (I have cookie grubbing kids in my house that lead me astray) but most days I was on track.  My exercise program involves walking 5 days a week 30-60 minutes, with weights and calisthenics on two of the walking days, leaving two days a week for recovery days with no exercise.

Before anyone comments on how low caloric diets are unhealthy, let’s be real, being overweight is unhealthy and that trumps all discussion.  Further, I feel good and that is all that matters.  Ok, the first few days I didn’t feel so good, but once my body acclimated, I have felt great.

I’m not fretting about numbers, the scale doesn’t matter.  Fitting into my clothes is what matters.  Hearing I have to lose 30 pounds sounds far more forever long impossible than I need to drop a size or two or three.

I still have a long road ahead and holiday festivities will be a challenge.  Right now I’m focusing on today.

Today, I’m prancin’, I’m prancin’, I’m prancin’ in my pants.


Card Sharks November 18, 2013

Filed under: Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 7:39 am
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Playing card games is one of my favorite games to play.  A deck of cards is always packed in my bag when I travel.  When our daughter and I travelled to Spokane a year ago January, we played card games on the plane, in the airport, on the plane, in restaurants and in our hotel.

Now that night befalls at 4 PM, we have incorporated Family Game Night on Wednesday and Saturday nights to bring the family together and have fun too.  We typically play Uno Attack because our youngest is obsessed with this game.  Uno Attack is a normal Uno game with an electronic card random dispenser and additional cards such as swap hands, all press the dispenser (you may or may not receive cards) and press ??? which requires the next player to press the dispenser until cards are received.   These games remind me of the summers of my youth spent with my paternal grandparents playing “Screw Your Neighbor,” a card game similar to Uno played with two regular decks of cards, jokers wild.

Our oldest son, a tween to soon turn 13, tolerates game night as long as he’s required, typically an hour, before bailing our scene.  Teenagers.  Our middle son tolerates Uno Attack but he is our true card shark.  After Saturday night’s game night, he and I played two to three games of Speed.

On Sunday, I taught him (re-taught him) how to play Rummy 500.  This is my extended family’s game of choice.  Rummy 500 is what our daughter and I played last January, the game my sister, mom and I played in October while in Seattle for the bone marrow transplant and this is how I spent my Sunday.  The weather cooperated, cold and rainy makes for a good card playing day.

The way we play Rummy 500 is each player gets seven cards.  One card is turned over for the discard pile.  With each turn you draw from the pile, or from the discards, and you must discard.  The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards by laying down and accruing points with 3 or 4 of a kind and minimum three card straights.  Number cards are 5 points, the 10 card is 10 points, face cards are 10 points and aces, if used as 3 or 4 of a kind or an ace, king, queen straight are 15 points, 5 points if used in an ace, two, three straight.

I coached our son through the first couple of hands.  Once the game came back to him, let the cards fall where they may, I play to win.  He won his fair share in the five games I played with him, somewhere between five and ten hands per game, that’s a lot of card playing.  My son sings while he plays cards, which is awesome.

He old me he wants to sing (along with cooking, horseback riding and blacksmithing).  I asked if choir is available at school.  “Yes,” he said, “but I lip sync if I sing in a group.”  He gets embarrassed singing in front of people.  Apparently not embarrassed singing and dancing in front of me.  Maybe the cards gave him confidence.

Thankfully my card shark is going to school on Monday so I can get some things accomplished.  Though I wouldn’t trade in the card games played with our son this weekend.  I only hope he remembers these games as fondly as I remember the card games around my grandparents table.