T-shirt Upcycle

dust bowl / provender

Today felt impossible at times. I have had a delay in cash flow from clients and that has led to some tight funds. A polite way of saying: we’re skint. I tried to deposit a wad of cash into my account twice today, and both times the credit union screwed up. The whole business was rather a downer, to be honest.

Anyway in the midst of these adventures I’m standing in line at Rite Aid about to ask for their ATM, to try to get this cash where it needs to go. I realize the cashier is having a discussion with the customer in line. I look and see he is in a wheelchair, he is black, he is wearing some kind of trucker-style hat. I see that and then I am tuning into their words. “The cheapest is seven dollars for the Pall Malls,” she tells him. I watch him count some singles. He is a dollar short. He is trying to figure it out. It’s obvious what I can do. I lean forward and say, “I’ll get them,” and hand him the bill in my hand, a $5. He is immediately surprised and says “Thank you, thank you!” I am thinking, How much it would suck to not be able to buy the brand you want to buy? Maybe he even likes Pall Malls, who knows. But I’m in a hurry so I can’t stay. At that moment I spy the ATM and as I say, “You’re welcome,” I put my hand on his shoulder to say, Okay.

There was someone standing in my living room just the other day who was telling me about some panhandlers, and how they shouldn’t be out asking for money with a baby, and how they seemed “sketchy”. The person telling the story, well I was interrupted before I could say what I know, which is we don’t really need to worry about any of that because if I have extra cash or even sometimes of if I don’t I can pass something along because we all need to eat.

I am in the middle of a t-shirt upcycle project: seven shirts, 50 cents apiece. All re-cut and re-sized, with notes on how it was done. And of course I’m putting together a master tutorial for others to follow, if they want excellent results. My thirteen-year-old son is my model; a series of vignettes on his beauty. It’s the perfect summer project: keeping me company for a week, reminding me not to get caught up, not to forget.
T-shirt Upcycle

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.

A Little Rough

January:

The days are short,
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark

The rent money: it isn’t here (but thanks to a friend, we’ve got groceries! and – thank you thank you thank you!).

Two cats are sick; yesterdays’ gratis vet appointment fell through due to flood.

An unexpected bill (or two). An overdraft fee. Memories of when that was a lifestyle. Let it go. It’s not that way, today.

This morning: my daughter is diagnosed with asthma. The doctor can tell this is a bit for me to process. So he begins speaking slowly, explaining things in a thorough, calm manner. His kindness and dignity are so moving I feel the sting of tears in my chest.

(outwardly: I am stoic!)

I am ill – a head cold – but I do my job. I do the laundry, and the housework, and I drive a kid or two here and there. My head hurts. But I ask after people. How are they? How is their day?

I drink my water. I feel nausea. I swim in it, for a bit. I breathe deep.

(outwardly: I am stoic!)

Yoga class – a more challenging class than I’d expected. My back is strong – my leg strengthening work has clearly evidenced itself as we move through warrior, side-angle, triangle.

Headstand. I fear the attempt against a wall; I want help. I don’t ask for help. I try it. I bang my head against the wall. Everyone says, “OMG are you okay?!”

(outwardly: I am stoic!)

Lit candles: in awareness for our neighbors who have been affected by, and devastated by, the flood.

The truth is, I do have a pretty good attitude. And days like today it shows. And I need to keep a record so I can treat myself with the kindness I’d wish, in the future, I’d had the sense to enact today.

 A Little Rough

that marmalade quote I like so much

I made an error, recently. I relied on two entities who were sending checks. Both of them, insurance entities. Both of them insist the payment is on its way. They’ve told us this a little while now (months; weeks resp.). So far in our post office box blows tumbleweeds.

I counted on that money (that was my error). I bought the things our family needs. Now we are in a tight spot.

It’s easy to let a mistake slip into feeling sorry for oneself; into self-criticism. I can be patient with this a while.

But I also know an antidote to this, or at least a spiritual balm. An antidote to self-pity, to self-recrimination: work. Or as my friend John used to say, “chores”.

Not mindless work for the sake of doing it, but the work I should do no matter what. The work I’d do no matter what because it has to be done.

I have rice to cook, for an event I am helping with tonight. So. I saute up fine-minced garlic in olive oil and coconut oil. I set aside broth to simmer; season rice with pepper.

Dishes. Laundry. Yoga; coffee.

Breathe in; breathe out.

My son will wake soon. He will then be the next thing I get to attend to. I don’t know what our plans are for the day – our reduced circumstances have cancelled our road trip – but I do know I bought him lychee yesterday and he loved them as much as I thought he would. I do know I bought him a fifty-cent creampuff at a bánh mì shop and he saved that for this morning.

I do know that he and I will be provided for in some way – whether I can see it, or not. I often can’t.

I got it all on the back of my hand / I want your answer so I won’t forget

 
Early ghosts of summer. Night walks. Sunshine through freshly-washed curtains; newly potted plants.

Too tired to cook, much.

Sore shoulders: yoga, bike riding. Tallying up: money for groceries, dinners out, new doctor bills. Debts.

Plans; worries. Set them aside. Anger; fear. Set them aside. Sage smudge stick, a candle, metta-meditation. Not quite enough, but all I have.

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.

“grow[ing] through a crack in the concrete”

From an essay Phoenix penned this year:

What is a hero? A hero is a girl or boy, straight or gay, who has done something good for themselves or others. No doubt heroes are all over the planet. Heroes range from a fearless gladiator to bees who bake Japanese Sparrow Wasps to death. A lone wasp first visits the honeybee’s hive and attacks a few bees, then smears the hive with a chemical stored in the Sparrow Wasp’s body. That signals the wasps to attack. Almost all of them come at once and prepare to slaughter the honeybees, but the bees come out and start flapping their wings to create an intense heat. A couple degrees more and the bees can die. In fact, some bees die in the process but the others just push them aside and keep going.

***

Our next paycheck arrives paid Monday, the 10th. I am so close to meeting my somewhat ambitious goal: to enter the next pay period without debts (this means: bad checks floating around out there, or bills we were supposed to pay last pay cycle but pushed up to the present one).

I am so close. About $100 off. But, who knows? It might happen. I am patient. Ralph is owed reimbursement for some services; perhaps that money will come in before Monday. Donations come in here and there from readers and friends online. Sometimes I get an Etsy sale or some goofy thing.

I’ve learned that managing the family’s money is exciting – it really is.

These last two weeks I have been exacting and working very hard to accomplish my goal – employing some goofy and some practical measures (we decreased our energy bill by $75 this month), selling a thing or two, performing the kind of small but meaningful money-saving operations that are my calling as the at-home worker [Queen] bee – and lastly, benefitting from a few donations from readers. Bless you, readers.

Our dog’s medical expenses – severe salmon poisoning and hospitalization last summer – have been significant in this last six months’ 20-30% shortfall. Hutch’s standing debt is intense, equal to that of the four human Hogabooms. But his debt, unlike ours, could be catastrophic. As of the end of this month, if we don’t pay the remaining $1600 balance, we will receive the sum total of deferred interest in one fell swoop and then begin getting charges on that amount – the typical Damoclean-assery of credit card companies.

This is distressing – but, what can I do? Hell, I am impressed we’ve paid down the additional $900 that was involved in the experience. I don’t regret caring for our dog and keeping him from a grisly death. I am proud of how we care for our animals, even if the learning curve can be a bit distressing at times!

I took over our family’s accounting and finances a few months ago. It turns out, I love it. It is difficult to do the family thing on one income; it seems it is harder even than it was predicted to be, twelve years ago when we made our decision to live as a single-income family (I even remember where I was when Ralph and I did decide!). Not only do I have no regrets, but it seems the experience keeps teaching me more about gratitude, about planning – and about laughing a little when plans go awry (as they usually do!)

Today, life is exciting. It’s not scary, it’s an adventure. Now and then anxiety gets the better of me; but there again, too, I am patient. Patience pays off where almost nothing else does.

I think that’s a bit heroic – don’t you?

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 bit of sick / a bit of health

Yesterday one of my children – who asked they remain anonymous – had a sudden bout of vomiting, and several hours of low-level misery. This child has since been bathed, snuggled, temperature taken (a low fever of 100º), swaddled – and has been sleeping well over twelve hours at this point. When I checked on the child they were sleepy but said they felt better – then fell back into a much-needed slumber.

I am so thankful for my health, because there is much to do.

Our washer died and we’ve no grocery money so I gotta be a canny lass.

So today – I’m up: put the coffee on. Yoga. Dishes. Shower. Meditation. Now: paying bills. We are short, and we are paid on Friday. I’ve a pot of spaghetti in the fridge for tonight. Still, by “short” I mean: I have to find a way to put money into an account today. I can do it. Right? Or maybe I can’t. Well if I can’t do it, I can at least laugh about it!

I’ve said it before; it is difficult, when things are financially strained, not to let too much of my existence become about The Hustle (the legit Hustle, nothing shady!). In my past, when times were tight there was an attendant sense of Shame or even like… Anger. It’s hard enough supporting the nine mammals in this house, without the Shame and Anger, so I don’t want to live that way. Most days I’m pretty good at walking the path.

I wish I’d have known this back in the day. Two nights ago while shopping for groceries I realized: my family and I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs (at all), we don’t gamble. We care for our health as best we can (including our spiritual and physical health). We don’t buy expensive clothes or cars or iPhones or have any pricey habits – just those pesky “habits” of needing food, heat, clothing, et cetera!

How is this relevant? Well, I remember when we had more trouble – debt in collections, primarily, and that was no joke – and when we had a few of those smoking and drinking habits… (okay, that was pretty much just Me). I remember feeling a sense of Shame about our circumstances, and way way way in the back of my mind I think I thought it was My Fault our lives were this way. At the same time my mind was often in a furious state of Denial: I blamed others, that constant chatter, it was THEIR fault; or maybe, THEY didn’t understand. The bitterness, the envy, the anger. It’s an ugly way to live. Most people living this way can’t stand to admit it – and mostly I couldn’t either. It just hurts a lot to live this way and we think if we are honest about it, there’s going to be a hell of a reprisal.

I’m glad I got honest.

Today we live a better lifestyle and hell, it is still difficult to make it paycheck to paycheck. And I don’t know if this makes sense, but now that we are living in a better way I see the Shame and Blame are unnecessary today, and they were unnecessary when things were worse. There is this odd way Shame and Blame become an entire trap; keeping me from taking responsibility, keeping me in the same problems. It actually doesn’t matter if I blame You or blame Me. If I’m caught up in blame it is entirely illusion (or as I like to put it delicately, Bullshyte), and it saps my strength, robs me of my humor, and stunts my empathy.

So today. I got a few problems, but Anger, Shame, Blame, Guilt, & Remorse aren’t on the list. I can deal with scrumping groceries. I just have to keep laughing about it, because I really am grateful for all I have.

Meanwhile I put my hair up and put on some Josephine Baker while I do the housework. It makes me feel kind of wretchedly glamorous and joyful!

big sacks of flour

Dinner Awaits

As some of you may or may not know, our primary source of income has not been receiving pay raises as per “normal” for a couple years; & in fact has been receiving cuts, as the result of state-wide budget changes.

As of this morning I have a debit card hooked up to my Paypal. Any donations sent here – and I do appreciate them – are used for groceries, pretty much immediately. Sorry I’m not too glamorous about blog donations, but, there it is. Probably pinto beans, coffee, flour, milk, bananas, peanut butter, &/or Nutella will be involved. Unless you want to specify I use the funds for something specific. By all means.

I appreciate all forms of support. Thank you, my lovely readers.