Monday, June 26, 2017

The Gazebo Project

My back yard is a disaster area.

When we moved to this house sixteen years ago, I left behind a yard with a freshly-built deck, a beautiful pergola over a concrete patio, festooned with flowers in all manner of containers, English-style perennial gardens and a hot tub.  Little did I know that was the last I would ever see of a habitable back yard. 

About a year after we moved here, we attempted to begin customizing the back yard to our own tastes.  The previous owners had been into vegetable gardens and fruit trees.  I preferred decorative plantings.  After ripping out berry bushes and apple trees, a chain-link fence and a withered wisteria, we tried to put in the kinds of things we wanted.  THAT was when we found out that our home had been built on layer upon layer of hard-compacted construction fill, heavy on gravel, rocks, and clay.  When it took us four hours to carve out a planting hole for a small plum tree—resorting to a maul and pick-axe when shovels proved utterly ineffective—we knew we were doomed.

Over the years, we have managed to plunk a few things in the ground that actually grew, but everything is always stunted and contorted;  the plants use up 95% of their energy just trying to send roots through this nightmare soil.  A few years ago, we gave up and literally graveled the entire back yard.  Unfortunately, the gravel I chose turned out to be a perfect growth medium for the native weeds and grasses that are so hardy and plentiful around here.   Weeds, I can grow, with wild abandon.  Plants from the nursery, not so much.   

The past several months, I have looked out over my domain from my coffee deck in the morning, despairing about my yard on two levels:  1.)  It looks like crap, which just bugs the shit out of ME; and 2.)  We have to sell this place in a few years, and NOBODY is going to buy it with the yard in this condition. 

Add to this the dynamic of yard work in the Raminiak household:  Wife can’t do it alone, but husband H.A.T.E.S. to work in the yard.  So when wife is fortunate enough to cajole the husband into helping with a project, it is done as slapdash as possible because husband has no actual interest in the project and couldn’t care less how it turns out.  Which is largely how the place got to looking as bad as it does.

And, of course, there is our chronic lack of anything resembling the sort of disposable income a decent yard makeover would require. 

My landscape design has been distilled to two imperatives: cheap and simple.

When I got it into my head that I would like a small gazebo to replace an overgrown perennial garden—the last vestige of green in the sea of gravel—I quickly realized that the thing I wanted was going to cost $2000 for a KIT…which would mean we would shell out the funds and then have to build the thing.  Not gonna happen.  So I began scanning my go-to resource:  Craigslist.

And wouldn’t you know, I found exactly what I wanted.  A FREE 4’ x 4’ gazebo.  Just go and figure out how to disassemble it and get it out of this guy’s back yard.  I emailed the guy.  He got back to me a couple days later with the information that someone had beaten me to the punch.  Damn. 

We ended our correspondence with the agreement that he would contact me if, for some reason, the lucky first party could not make the thing happen.  And I figured that would be a cold day in hell.

Lo and behold, a couple weeks later, hell got a dusting of snow.  Because gazebo guy emailed me that the first party had been unable to figure out the logistics of removal, and was I still interested…?


This post has already become WAY longer than I had originally intended.  Let me just tell the rest in pictures:

This is how it looked when we first saw it. 
 Cute.  Sturdy.  The roof a little worse for wear...  But FREE!


OK...we got the roof halfway off (weighs a ton, by the way...)
Now what?

                                              Success!  Out of the back yard, 
on the trailer, and ready to go home!

Now it's in OUR back yard...
Waiting for the husband to rent a forklift to set it in place--
(this is to be his birthday present, believe it or not;
the forklift part, not the gazebo...
as long as there is a big boy toy for him to play with, he's happy.)

I will post another picture after it's in place.  And maybe a pic or two of the forklift operation...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Plus One

Opened my Blogger dashboard page this morning and was greeted by "+2" next to the title of my last blog post.   Hovered the cursor over the number; the little pop-up box indicated that this is the "+1 count."   Okaaayyyy...  WTF does THAT mean?

So of course I had to Google it ("what does +1 count mean?"--a truly sophisticated search.)

I'm afraid most of this "code" crap is complete gibberish to me, but from what I could gather by the explanation, it is yet another way for Google to track what a given person likes and/or clicks on, presumably so it can (a.) suggest similar pages to that person, in that annoying Google way; and (b.) sell this information to advertisers.  

The simple explanation is that it is a form of "like" button for blog pages.  If one of my blog posts pops up on a Google search, and the searcher likes the result, she gives it a "Google +1."  I'm unclear as to whether the searcher has to actually click on the page to "+1" it.  But let's assume that she does.  And that she reads and likes what she has read.

Hmmm...  A "like" button for blog pages.  I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.  

On the one hand, since actually taking the time to think about and comment upon a blog essay has become passe, maybe it will be nice to know that people do come here and like what they read, even if they don't comment.

On the other hand...well, I don't know.  I feel like it just encourages people to take the lazy, too busy, "I don't have time" way out.  For years I looked at my blog as a relationship to my readers, my friends.  I know;  it hasn't actually BEEN that for a long, long time.  Still, maybe it WON'T be so great to know how many people stopped by and didn't think it was worth the time to actually connect.  

Of course, it could be that my writing is just...bad.  It doesn't make people think.  It doesn't inspire people to comment.  And perhaps that's something I should know.  But since the blog has mutated into...what it has mutated into, great writing hasn't been my goal in a long time.  

I come here because it's MY space...and it has been MY space for almost fourteen years.  I've sort of adopted the attitude that if some of my old friends, or some new friends, come by once in awhile, that's great.  Even greater if they leave a note.  The writing...the essays are mostly stream of consciousness.  The kind of stuff you write when your head gets so full you have to let something out before it explodes.  I left great writing (at least, the greatest writing of which I was capable) behind years ago...some time just after the dawn of Facebook, I'd say.

So if you feel inspired to "+1" me, that's great.  Welcome to my space.  Glad you liked something here.  

But if you could find it in your heart and your busy day to take the time to leave a few words...even if it's just "loved this!"...THAT would make my day.  


Sunday, June 11, 2017

For the Coming Solstice

An hour ago, I walked the neighborhood streets, on the last dog walk before bed.  I scanned the sky for the two-days-past-full moon...and did not see her.  She is only just now tingeing orange the clouds above the roof of the Fred Meyer at the end of the block. 

I did see that the northwest sky was still a translucent  teal...and it hit me that the solstice is only days away.  I began to ponder how I might conduct my solstice ritual this season.

It's become habit, now, that a large part of my ritual revolves around setting aside "things that no longer serve."  And the list seems to get longer and longer, even while the things I attempt to set aside never seem to stay away for good.  Or even for more than a few days.  As I desultorily began to call up the list, a voice inside my head asked:


Why does it have to be about stripping away, setting aside, peeling off the layers until there's nothing left but bleached bones?

Isn't that what aging is all about anyway?  Isn't that what makes getting older sad and frustrating...the losses?  Of friends, of family, of agility, of abilities...of dreams and promise?  Why do I have to go out of my way every six months to come up with even more things that I can and should live without?

And a little voice answered:

"It doesn't have to be that, you know."

There's no reason in the world why your solstice can't be about adding things to your life.  Things that will serve. Things that will grow you, will expand your universe, rather than shrink it.  Read a book, take a class, climb a trail, make a friend.  Hold out your hand to people, to the wind, to the waves.  Open yourself and see what fills you. 

No more emptying.  No more setting aside.  No more throwing the bad things in the fire; the fire that never seems to end them.

Not this time, anyway.   

This is to be the season of fulfilling, not of emptying.  Of adding, not subtracting.  Of growing.  Not shrinking.

I am SO ready.   

Friday, June 9, 2017

I Hate Fed Ex's the sequence of events:

Fed ex notification earlier this week that my special package will be delivered Friday.

I get up stupid early so that I can catch them in case they hand it off to the Post Office,because that dame delivers at 6:30 am.

Feed cats, feed dog. take dog out to pee/poop.

Settle down in my recliner with my blanket, pillow and ipad to await delivery.

Check email.

Fed ex notification this morning that delivery date has been "updated" to Saturday.

I curse everything...go back to bed.

Get up at 8:30. Check email.

New Fed ex notification that delivery will be today and the package went on the truck for delivery at 7:03 am.

Make the decision that if I have missed that package, I will soon be on the phone screaming at Fed Ex.

Go out to check the mailbox to see if there is a "we missed you" notification from the Post Office in the box.

No note in the box. Now I'm thinking, "Shit...if that package is coming 'some time' today, I won't even be able to take a shower until after they get here."

Fed Ex truck drives up to the curb as I'm coming back from the mailbox.

All is well. But it just couldn't get that way without making me crazy first.

Did I mention I hate Fed Ex?

My parting analysis:  This is what happens when a service business grows itself beyond its capacity to provide acceptable service, as seems to be the patented American Way of doing business in the 21st century.  It is now an act of random chance ("luck," if you will) when an American consumer actually receives the service she pays for in a timely manner without numerous glitches, technical or otherwise. smh...     

Friday, June 2, 2017

Next Level Lens

So, today....

I ordered this:

I've been dancing around getting one of these for years.  Went so far as to buy a $1400 camera last fall (that has turned out to be mostly frustration in a box) to put it on, and still couldn't pull the trigger on it.  I have no idea why.  Or maybe I do.  I don't know. 
For some reason, I was completely cowed by how much it cost.  Which is odd, because the telephoto I own now cost more than this one.  In 2008 dollars. 
So I put my 4-year-old $700 Canon on Craigslist--the Canon I don't use because learning the ins and outs of ONE brand of digital camera is MORE than enough--and got a couple hundred dollars to throw toward this spendy lens for the camera I DO use. 
I figure the surprising ease with which I unloaded the Canon was a sign from the Universe that I REALLY do Want. This. Lens.  And I should have it.'s coming some time next week from Amazon. 
Kinda can't wait.  Kinda scared to death.
Seems like most every time I've tried to take something--anything--in my life to "the next level," the next level was generally "crash and burn." 
We'll see.   

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Age:  15 ½ weeks

Height:: 15 ½ inches at the shoulder

Weight: 21 lbs (on her way to 40-45lbs, according to the vet at last night’s visit)

Eats: 2 cups of puppy kibbles plus two cans of Beneful “Medleys” per day;

Favorite food:  Anything she can put in her mouth that we DON’T give her.

Commands she knows:  Come here; NO!; Drop; NO!; Sit; NO!; Go in your box; NO!; Get in the Kitchen; NO!; Get Out of the Garden; NO!; Let’s go in the house; NO!

Percentage of time she actually obeys commands:  Roughly 50.5%

Favorite toy:  Bumble!

Nicknames:  Jo-boo.  Jo-jo-bee.  Joelzebub.  

Today’s Story:  Took the dog out into the yard for a photo shoot for this post.  Got some decent pictures…then it was time to go in.  And, of course, this was one of those times when “Let’s go in the house” meant, “Stay as far away from me as you can get.”  Took me five minutes of cajoling to get her to come near me.

Once in the house, I wanted to get a picture of her with Bumble.  I still had my telephoto on my camera, so I needed her to be some distance from me in order to get a clear picture.  So of course she glued herself to my feet and followed me around like she was sewn to my shoes. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Yet another national holiday, providing yet another opportunity on social media to see who can out-patriot everyone else.

There will be memes galore on Facebook, thanking our "heroes;" declaring that any person who loves this country must loudly and eternally proclaim undying gratitude to our military for procuring and protecting our freedoms.

Which is a crock, really...  If our military were in charge of protecting our freedoms, they would have zeroed in on Congress and the president decades ago.  But that is called a "military coup" and among modern Western peoples, is frowned upon in no uncertain terms.  If you honestly ponder the role of the military in our society, you must concede that "protecting our freedoms" is NOT its primary function.   

We will see flags flying everywhere, on lawns, in cemeteries, on public buildings, and especially in the ether.  Many of those "ethereal" flags will be testimonials to a deranged degree of icon-worship, which will include mean-spirited challenges and accusations that any person who does not "venerate" this scrap of cloth to the zealous degree of the poster is NOT a worthy American; may, in fact, be an enemy in white man's clothing, and/or will be invited to leave this country with the boot of a "real" American planted firmly between his/her buttocks. 

For the record, let me make the following statements:

1.)  I am not anti-military.  Nor am I pro-military.  I concede that the military exists, and will continue to exist in its present form for the foreseeable future.  I do not blame the young conscripts who comprise our fighting forces for the nebulous efficacy of the agencies in which they have enlisted. I don't necessarily thank our soldiers, sailors and flyers for their service;  my feelings toward them tend more toward...apology.  I am emphatically sorry that they go where they go, do what they do, for the benefit of (and generally in place of) the rich and powerful, who then discard them like shell casings at a skeet shoot when they have outlived their usefulness.   

2.)  I do not believe that my degree of appreciation for the country of my birth is anyone else's business.  I do believe that one of the most cherished principles upon which this country was founded is that I may express my disappointment in its people, its policies, its president, its government, without forfeiting my citizenship, my rights, my safety or my life.   Two centuries ago, men DID, in fact, die that I may enjoy that freedom, and the others listed in our Constitution.  Let no person who calls himself a patriot pervert or deny my right to "tough love" my country.      

3.)  I DO NOT worship flags.  A flag is a fancy scrap of fabric--nothing more.  While there are lovely stories behind the symbolism of the design elements of our flag, it is essentially, like any flag, merely a sign of ownership.  We slap the flag on things that we want to declare as belonging to the United States of America.  Ships.  Planes.  Hills.  Mountain tops.  Buildings.  The moon.  We use flags to mark our territory.  They're basically piss on a stick.  If I put a plaque with my name on it next to my front door, I don't worship the plaque.  The value is in the place, the home, that it signifies.
So, there.  Love me or hate me, those are my beliefs.
A final thought:
We are so ready, these days, to fight with everybody about everything.  We argue.  We name-call.  We debase.  We seethe.  We hate.

Because we can.

Maybe this Memorial Day, the thing we should remember is that we're also free to agree.  Embrace.  Build up.  Cooperate.  Love.

Because we can.


Saturday, May 27, 2017


This came up on my Facebook newsfeed; "liked" (unfortunately) by a friend...

Two responses formed in my mind:

1.) ...And MY rights don't end in front of the muzzle of your gun...

2.)  No...but your willingness--even EAGERNESS--to hurt others' feelings says more about YOU than it does about ME...

But since the person who posted this IS my friend, I didn't put either of these comments on her Facebook post.

Just thought I would sneak them in here, in my very own private (pretty much) space.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Handbasket is Still Heading Southward


For all that we sad, tired, frightened progressives would like to tell ourselves that Trump is repeatedly shooting himself in the foot and that his days as Village Idiot-in-Chief are numbered...

...the painful reality, outside our fast-exsanguinating liberal bubble, is quite different.

When a candidate can physically assault a reporter--to the point that he is actually charged with a crime--two days before the election, and still walk away with the victory, smelling like a rose...
We are in B.I.G. trouble in this country.
Let's face it.  It took the better part of half a century for our society to disintegrate to the tragic condition we are in now.
Four months of the kind of outrageously pathetic performance Trump is conducting in Washington are not going to significantly alter the course of the Fall of The United States of America.  
Nor, I suspect, should we pin a great deal of hope on the 2018 mid-term elections.
All indications have us suffering through Trump for at least a full four-year term.  If not, perish the thought, a second one on its heels.  That is, if the country is not literally in smoldering ruins by then. 
There really isn't a word for the emotion that overwhelms me as I consider our democratic, constitutional and moral collapse; and my utter helplessness to stop it.  


Long and tedious as the season past was (I hesitate to call it "winter," as the period of horrid weather lasted through fully two of what we would normally call "seasons")  we seem to have FINALLY put the miserable cold, wind and rain behind us.  Oregon has erupted into summer...spring got lost in the transition. 

And with our sudden summer has come a bumper crop of ospreys.  They can be seen on almost every utility pole, bridge span or nesting platform. 

On the "Oregon Wildlife Photographers" Facebook page, everyone has posted his/her picture (after picture after picture) of, fighting, nesting, doing what ospreys do. 

They're easy pickings for photographers all right...but (of course) I never seem to have too much luck with them.  Finally struck up a relationship with this one on Sauvie Island...and duly acquired MY picture of "Osprey with Fish."  Until I pissed him off and he took his half-eaten fish elsewhere...


Monday, May 22, 2017

Some day

some day
soon, I think
I'll say
*we need to be apart right now

and I can make that happen*
and I won't pause
take a breath
and wait for him to stop me

some day
soon, I think
I'll say
*we live these separate lives
in the same house
and sometimes we're nice to each other*
and I won't wait a beat
and hope he'll say I'm wrong

some day
soon, I think
I'll accept what is
learn to live
not pause
not wait
not listen
not hope

...or maybe not

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I'm a good person.

I have high moral standards.  I have empathy for the downtrodden.  I'm open to change.  I leave people to do, be or believe what they do, are or believe in, as long as it hurts no one; I allow that it's a big wide world, and the things I do or believe are not necessarily the only or the best things.  I can see the bigger picture, and understand that what I want or need are not always the top priorities, to be achieved at whatever cost to anyone else.

I'm loyal.  I'm hard-working.  I'm generous.      

I appreciate beauty.  I love art and music; I have a spiritual reverence for Nature.

I'm sensitive.  I genuinely care what others think of me.  (Maybe THAT is not a good thing.) 

But I am not nice.

Trust me, the two concepts--goodness and niceness--do not necessarily go hand in hand.  Don't we all know people who are incredibly nice, but, at heart, are greedy, selfish, lazy, vain...not good at all?

So doesn't it follow that there are also people who are at heart, quite good...but, for whatever reason, do not possess the gift, or the talent, of niceness?

I am one of those.

As a woman, all those other traits, all those good things that I am or do, are meaningless--or at the very least don't get the attention they deserve--because I am not nice. 

Women are supposed to be nice.

Sweet.  Loving.  Maternal.  Ever-smiling.  Ever-welcoming.

And let's just say I've never been accused of being any of those things.

In forty years in the workplace, this translated into never being able to quite achieve what I should have been able to achieve.  Strong women are bitches.  Strong women are mean.  Strong women need to temper their strength, hide it, maneuver it in ways that don't draw too much attention.  And if they use their strength of character to get ahead, they are manipulative and unattractively ambitious. 

Well, you know what?  Maybe I'm not so strong after all.  Because there's only so much you can do, only so hard you can battle, faced with constant negative reaction to your very existence, much less your demeanor or your management style.

But not only have I been hindered from getting ahead, I've been actively and aggressively sent backward.  For the repeated, grievous transgression of not being nice.  For not wrapping my "less desirable" personality traits in the cotton wool of sweetness and passivity that our still-paternalistic American society requires of a female.  As a woman, you better damned well be the most skilled or the smartest or the best educated if you want to get ahead without niceness.  And since I am none of those things...well, it is what it is.

I used to believe that I had not encountered much gender bias in my years in the workplace.  I used to believe that I had worked hard enough and been good enough to get a lot further than I had ever believed I could.  But that isn't enough, is it?  Looking back, I realize I was never encouraged to have big dreams of achievement, not even by my parents.  And though I did accomplish some things, they were little more than the small things I was allowed to shoot for. 

And always, always, any forward progress I made was a tough battle, hampered as I was by my lack of natural niceness and my inability to fake it.  There were folks along the way who recognized my goodness and my abilities.  But there were more who resented and disliked me.  And when management had to make tough decisions, I was always at the top of the "Expendable" list.  Every. Single. Time.

Which is why I finally took myself out of the workplace.

I believed that the only boss I could ever please would be myself.  I believed, left to my own devices, I could be successful despite the social handicap of not being nice.

Silly me.

We all know how that turned out with the restaurant.  In the end, I almost lost everything--including the one person who, I thought, would always be able to reach inside of me and connect to the good person I was.  And now, I'm running around the countryside with my little concession business, doing fairs and festivals and markets, and I find that still--STILL--being "nice" is what is going to get me ahead.  It's what is going to ensure my acceptance and my continued participation at venues where the competition is fierce and the management is...volunteer.

In fact, being "nice" might be even more important now that I'm a sexagenarian.  Everybody expects older women to be even more sweet, even more loving, even more ingratiating than women twenty or thirty years younger.  Oh. My. God.

I can't do it.  And if that is what is going to be required of me to be successful with even this tiny pebble of the planet that I call my own...

It's not gonna happen.