hurtling toward another muffled week of winter

Work has been hard, as I’ve been feeling ill. Pain comes and goes; today it didn’t start until the afternoon. But it must be taking its toll all day, as I’m considerably less energetic than I’ve come to count on. Now: lying on my back, temples feeling squeezed, lower back a dull ache and fire.

So today I fought to keep it together and to run the household. I’m only half-assing that for the most part. I can’t pay bills right now, so into the little wire basket they go. Sewing up my latest online tutorial, and the low-light in my basement studio and the deep cold (even though I wear a coat) is a deterrent. My kids ask for food and we put something together. My son hugs me – he’s over five foot tall now and will soon be reaching for things on the shelf that I can’t get. His hair still smells like sweet straw. His nose and cheeks still look like boyhood, when I watch him sleeping. Blond hair, caramel skin, against the white of the pillow.

Phoenix, she asks me about when she was born. I hold up my hands and remember how small she was. I remember holding her close. Funny, as the kids still put their arms around me and put their head to my breast. They will never not-remember how that feels, I suppose. I somehow lost that experience with my own parents. I have no memory of seeking them out in that way. Something got broken along the way, I suppose. But I always knew they loved me dearly.

The car has a light on, some kind of engine problem. We had a lovely, lovely person donate Phee’s tuition for this quarter – but soon I will need tuition for Spring. I am frustrated because I can’t seem to get the house in order. But – why should I? We have been down for the count. Ralph has been ill – he is also only a few classes away from earning his Bachelor’s Degree, which is kind of amazing, but it also means he’s working hard. In fact it seems everyone in the family is working hard on their projects. Family life seems never to stay in one spot for long. I am a veteran in that I don’t fear the future like I used to. But the present, the right-now, it seems to slip through my grasp as soon as I try to cling to it.

réalisant mon espoir

“I don’t understand why everyone acts like Florida is so special,” my son says to me cheerfully – easing the shopping cart through the aisles and every now and then slyly tapping at something in the midway.

It’s a little after 11 PM on a Saturday and even Walmart is fairly empty. I’d had these visions of getting an oil-radiant heater for our freezing little attic bedroom, and am quickly realizing they don’t have anything like that in stock. I’m tired – tired in a way my schedule, and my waking hours, don’t quite explain.

The last few days the sun and balmy skies have given way to rain – vicious, cold, angry rain. “Sidways rain – it gets up your nose!” a cashier in the grocery store cheerfully says to me, yesterday. You’d think, living here as long as I have, I’d be used to it. That my friends and neighbors, and the grocery store clerk, would be too. But we kind of hunch up, retreat; our conversation taciturn, skin roughened by the cold. Grab at hot cups of coffee and stay inside.

And then there’s the bills to pay. A stack of a few more, since my daughter’s sudden illness (she’s feeling better, by the way – responding to medications). And I’d just knocked down our medical debt to within sights of zero. And now – back up again!

I realize my son is still talking – gloriously denouncing The Sunshine State’s undeserved reputation: “… not as if it’s a land of gold and riches or something!” he finishes with a flourish.

His energy is unflagging. Until nighttime when he strips down to sleepwear and tries anything to climb in bed with us. I will miss these days when they’re gone and there is nothing I can do about that.

Last night the friend of a friend ran into trouble; her husband was chasing her around the house. Berating her. She texted a friend and the friend texted me and I did what I could. And tonight I’m wondering how many women I know have those troubles, locked up inside their hearts, in the memory of their bodies. I’m glad my home is a safe one, a pleasant one. Even if right now I’m walking about in the garish lights, asking help from retail workers with red-rimmed eyes and knowing it’s a long cold drive home with a busted heater in the car. I got a home and it’s a good one.

paradise is you

The kids are out of school for Spring Break. Don’t think I even get how I’m supposed to be this schooling parent. In fact I think I have given up trying. I am often at a loss as to schedules. I don’t fit in with the culture. My kids had conferences last week and it seemed like for all the haranguing about standardized tests and attendance, the school staff and admins are lost and jumbled about it all. One of my children had a low (for the child, anyway) grade in a class. Now last week the child and Ralph tried to get to the bottom of it, and the teacher had a bunch of assignments incorrectly allocated. But here we’d confronted the child the night before – and the child had cried – over this mess. I don’t know if I’m supposed to not give much of a shit, or if I’m supposed to bust in there and straighten everyone out. And it’s hard to get too excited about something, grades and such, that seem entirely meaningless.

So anyway, school is whack and I am amazed they like the good parts – of which there are many, they’re called “other children” – enough to tolerate the rest. But they are enjoying themselves and this gives me immense pleasure. I know they appreciate that we support their rights to do what they want.

So I figure my job is to keep them in school clothes, and try my reasonable best to support them in their extracurricular activities and social lives, and feed them, and provide a safe, loving home for them to rest and recover in.

My son’s birthday is tomorrow – he turns eleven. I am hardly prepared – mentally, emotionally, or any other way, really. I sound a mess and maybe I am.

This afternoon I picked up my car from the shop. Gotta rob some rent to pay for that. But that said the kids and I were grinning like fools to have the car back.

And we were driving home and laughing with my mom, talking about our cat, trying frantically to bury a slimy mushroom on the floor. And I realize that with the little ones by my side, I’m really at my best somehow. I don’t know I’ll ever do much better. It’s like a really small, ignoble little victory in my heart, that I’m really okay with this.

merry go round broke down

My car went kaput today. At least we pulled over safely. We weren’t that far from home. I’d paid the bills, dropped off the mail, and fed myself.

I got the kids home and set them up with food. Ralph and a few generous friends hauled my car home.

FUUUUUuuuUUH

*slowly lowers head to desk, gently sobs tears into plastic fake woodgrain*

Here’s the thing though. The secret. Life is good. Life is good because I like myself. I like myself because I’m at peace with the dharma.

“It’s boring. But it’s part of my life.”


the dark wolf

My sleep – fitful. I wake early while Ralph and Phoenix prepare for a long day: she is off on an all-day field trip and Ralph has to have her out at her rural school location by 7:15 in the morning.

But my sleep is poor not due to our slight shift in our morning schedule, but because I was plagued with a nightmare. Very unusual for me. I know the root of this, at least – sort of. I am worried. I am worried for someone I love. It is this gripping kind of fear; nothing abates it, I only get a moment here or there of reprieve. My hands and heart seize.

My worry has not died of neglect yet. Oftentimes, this is the case. But since it hasn’t, I know who I should talk to. So many love me, but many of those don’t have the strength I need right now. I share my feelings and thoughts with my loved ones if it seems appropriate. Something like this, I talk to someone who has a correct view. Who will understand where my heart is and will listen to my troubles – but also give me direction in how to set aside my fear.

I’ve only survived and thrived as much as I have, because I have learned how to take spiritual direction.

Kidney pain, car repairs, and stressful appointments with professionals. The kidney pain is one thing: the worry (about the future), quite another. Relapse into illness brings me to a dark place. I am glad though nothing can slap my gratitude from my mouth.

And, there is much to be grateful for. All the daffodils splashing across the countryside. A wool coat, found on sale – a deep grey and cranberry. Visits from friends. Email messages from those who seek my friendship and counsel. Watching a nature documentary with my son – we are enraptured by the tiny, impossible perfection of the flamboyant cuttlefish. My daughter, sliding into my arms and letting me put my hand on her soft belly.

My new phone! And: Ralph’s new phone. He didn’t think I’d buy him one, but I let him choose exactly the one he wanted, and then I bought him a case for it as well.

Taking care of myself, and my family, as best I can.

crine

Today…

sweet Baby Jeebus.

Five pets. Three vet-office visits split between two vet clinics. Medications. A surgical procedure (Bun-Bun’s neutering)! A cone of shame for Hutch. A financial commitment (to us, by another) dropped, quite suddenly. So: bank errands. Hustle.

Exhaustion.

I’m out of gas, so I use my mom’s truck. I take a break and call a mentor; I get a few moments’ relief. Then, right before I’m off to collect the rabbit post-surgery, the front driver’s side tire shreds. I mean just completely flies apart. I got a bunny to pick up, and a little girl to get at a rural bus stop.

I don’t panic. I make some calls. My son is trying to talk to me. I’m so tired. I lean back.

The day got wetter, and colder, and more scowly, and weirder from there.

I’m tired and tonight I feel a little low. It’s easy to beat myself up when things don’t go according to plan. Gotta practice a little of that self-kindness, that love and compassion, so profound a lot of people never get to it for more than a brief moment at a time. Gotta practice it because I need it and because I want it for when times are shite.

All animals medicated, fed, warm, safe, & love. THREE of them on my bed right now, with a little son about to join to boot.

Goodnight, lovelies.

a small spark in the gloaming’s dark

One of the nice things about having only one car, that has a broken heater, is that when I get in the car, every time, I am cold and I chuff my hands and look forward to when the car gets warm. Then when I realize it’s not going to, I have this surge of awareness. I feel awake and alive. I think about those things we take for granted and how grateful I am for the opportunity to NOT forget those wonderful blessings.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, by turns exhausting and exhilarating. A friend shows up in need. A friend shows up to give. Someone tells me Thank You and then tells me why. A friend looks like she’s been crying. Another is staying away. A family member offers support. Our cat comes home with a tattered ear. A restaurant gives us a free pizza! I cook up two pots of soup in two days. Friends arrive for a movie, and an hour into it our rabbit rudely yanks out the electrical cord to stop the film, and we all laugh.

The financial help is so welcome while we have hardship with the cars and while the weather is cold and while Christmas is upon us. When it comes to cash I’d like to save up for a house payment maybe, but instead I inevitably cave and purchase here-and-now-needed items: today, a few pieces of winter clothing for my children. It is very cold here and it kills me to see children improperly provided for (anyone’s children). My kids rarely complain about being cold but they gush gratitude at the new coats.

But, only after I buy the garments and zip them up under their chapped cheeks. While on our way to Ross my son is cranky: “Why are you buying me winter clothes? Last time they only lasted ONE winter then I grew out of them.” He is querulous, wanting things like video games and ice cream sundaes and trips to exotic locales, and I feel this kind of wild urge to cry, but it is a gladness all the same.

My husband leaves for work in the morning. He kisses my son and myself, snuggled in the same bed, Goodbye. I tell him, “I am not doing very well. I am feeling like a terrible mom.” Ralph says gently, “You’re the best mom I know.” I rest, breathing in and out, and I think No So Much, I don’t feel great. I feel unsettled and unsure.

Every morning when he and my daughter hit the rode I pray for their safety. Car travel is treacherous, especially when weather is foul.

It takes a lot of courage to get up each day and try to do well, and try to do the best we can despite what has happened recently to one of our children, and given what our family is going through in dealing with the aftermath. But one day I know I will feel better, and I’ll have a friend who will be having this kind of struggle. And I’ll be able to tell that friend about courage and maybe they won’t feel so alone.

For now having that full pantry and having something hot on the stove is a tremendous help.

singing songs of love

My shirt’s too snug, as in the buttons are almost popping across my bust. It’s cold out and I’m standing outside my mom’s pickup putting gas in the tank.  Only a little. Believe it or not I can resolutely refuse to think about our car problems, because I have put everything in place that I can and Worrying is bullshyte and against God besides. One car is currently not running and I can’t afford to take it in until the tenth (and Dear Jeebus at that point I hope I can somehow afford to fix it). The other car is running but it has 395 thousand miles on the original engine. Absolutely true story. Our old Mercedes. With no heater. Like a land-submarine. The no-heater thing is kind of no-joke as it’s unpleasant to ride in the car but also dangerous, visibility-wise, at times.

So I’m putting twenty bucks in my mom’s tank but I’m a bit upbeat despite all this and that. Because a friend made a donation today we’re going to have some good dinner tonight and tomorrow and probably even the next day. I’m thinking of the salad I’ll make this evening: butter lettuce, peas, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber. I’ve got hunger pangs right now but I know how to pace myself through those. My kid is all right, the Little Guy who ran into the gas station with the twenty dollar bill and who holds my hand and kisses me wherever we go. A burger from drive-through for my son and I’m sipping on coffee. I’m so flat-out busted-ass tired and I haven’t eaten but I can pace myself.

It’s beautiful out. So very cold and dry. After gas and picking up the other kiddo I’m selecting vegetables at the fruit stand and it’s so cold I’m suffering but I think, I can get through it, and the thought of my children in the truck’s cab cheers me immensely. In the bed of the truck: Hutch, circling his rump when he sees me emerge from the store. Another shopper asks me: “Is he okay?” (meaning, is my dog a well-behaved dog). The man who asked had this snarling yappy thing in his car. People with dogs with problems, always asking if my dog is OK. My dog is really awesome in fact he’s a Goddamned Champ. He shares a home with two adults, two kids, lots of kids and babies traipsing through, three rude cats and a rabbit who literally will steal food out from under him once we put it in the bowl! (yes this happened today).

Ralph comes home to a messy house; the product of my sleepless night last night, and my inability to get as much done as I typically do. We make up the dinner – the glorious salad and some pizza and a celebratory  bit of pomegranate sparkling cider. Ralph makes up a pot pie for my mother and I hand-sew and watch some of My Stories. It’s that mental discipline too, resolutely refusing to think ahead about what I’m hoping to sew and knit my family and friends for Christmas. Not time yet not time yet as I’m stitching up these handbags.

I help my daughter with homework. My husband and children get ready for bed; hot showers, washcloths, Q-tips, toothpaste, warm towels. The pets settle into ponderous slumber, farting and snoring even! I light a candle for a friend; her partner is going through some severe health stuff and she’s going through some resultant mental health stuff. So many suffer in so many ways. I hope it makes sense that I write out exactly what I’m going through in the day. I can’t be more exciting or less so I can only be honest.

I recently read about a man trapped in a shipwreck for three days underwater in pitch black, finding an air pocket to perch in. Hours passed and he felt the most frightened listening to the sounds of large fish eating his dead crewmates. He remained entirely in prayer most the time and he was in pretty good shape when they picked him up, a miraculous rescue.

Prayer and faith mean a great deal to me today and they used to mean nothing at all.

in company

small stone #16
My friends saw me in my mom’s old pickup truck –
In the dark, in the cold, in the wet night.
“Who’s that with Kelly?” they asked.
Brake lights flared up:
My dog’s companionable profile revealed.
My friends laugh.

small stone #17
I get a headache listening to you,
but I think that’s just a coincidence.

You Had One Job

Well today, more like two jobs. Three. I had to find a way to cover our bank account so the balance wouldn’t go negative.

Then I had to find a running car to get up the highway to a sexual assault medical exam. And I had to find a friend to accompany me; the support I had lined up, was canceled.

Days like that it’s no wonder I feel drained in this special, assy way.

small stone #12
Your hair is copper-penny bright
and you look so grown up,
like a young lady.
In ladies’ blue jeans and all!