creatures of the night

"Raquel" On Her 2nd Night Hostessing
Ralph aka “Raquel” in night two of MCing at a mini-drag show at the Theatre. He was by far the most beautiful and elegant lady there.

Movie Night

Up late; old movie. Warm blankets and wry quips.

Phee, Ready For Bed

 

Phee: my nighttime snuggle date. Drawing, sketching as per usual.

***

This afternoon:

Pressure cook beans and then I kept them on too high and vented pressure and it went nuts; formed like a bean-water spa, but since I’d rinsed them well after soaking it was a rather pleasant smell / carefully set outside on the porch and then:

Slice up carrots and garlic and the leftover ham; carefully dice canned whole tomatoes making sure no stem or skin passes into the soup, seasoning and broth and raw spinach stirred in at the end /

a cast iron skillet of cornbread

bowls on the big table, set for however many kids were running in and out. Cutting a paper pattern and answering the phone, helping other alcoholics stay sober for Today

washing dishes in hot soapy water and listening to Promise and the Monster

UNSCHOOLING PRODUCES UNNATURAL CHILDREN

one plus one. really?

Thanksgiving, we had our four family members and one lovely dinner guest. Ralph and I made – all from scratch:

A Michigander-style 16 pound turkey
Mashed potatoes & gravy
Sauteed green beans
Roasted lemon asparagus
Crescent rolls
Celery & butter stuffing
Fresh cranberry-orange sauce
Waldorf salad (with pears, apples, sour cherries and spiced pecans)
A pumpkin pie (from fresh-roasted pumpkin)
A dark chocolate / coconut custard cream pie w/organic whipped cream

The grocery bill for all of this, including the dinner and foodstuffs from the day before, came to a little over ninety bucks. That is PRETTY GOOD shopping considering I am not much of a Financial Panther. I was pretty relaxed and had a great time doing the shopping – and yes, it was during one of those intense shopping-mart rushes, and I had both kids, and had to park a full block away. And I was just, enjoying myself. In fact it was one of those wonderful, so-glad-to-be-alive and in-the-moment experiences. And I was also thinking of all the women I saw in their hustling-ass for their families. We need to give women more credit.

(I wrote it in the comments for a previous post, but I gotta write more about it here):

Yesterday, after swim team practice, my daughter is approached by a girl about thirteen. The girl asks,

“Do you go to school?”

“No,” Phoenix answers.

“What is one plus one?” the kid challenges.

“Stop bothering me with silly questions,” Phoenix retorts.*

I DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS AT HOW AWESOME MY DAUGHTER IS. I just… I can’t tell you. When I was my daughter’s age I was guarded about everything. I vacillated between being authentic and badass and brash – then shrinking up out of fear. I had no method of coping for condescension – let alone something as elegant as Phoenix’s straight-forward call-out. I wanted to be good at everything and I wanted to be liked, and I was easily shamed, especially by someone bigger than me or with more authority. If it were me I would have probably answered, “Two,” and felt humiliated, and that humiliation would have turned to anger, and I wouldn’t have known what to do different next time. Phoenix is the calmest and most centered girl. I take virtually no credit except I continue to learn to get out of the way, and listen deeply and give her the nurture she needs.

What is it with unschooling coming up more lately? I trust it will die down again. It goes in spurts. You know, spurts where we get to live our life without being commented upon or outright harassed. I am not complaining. No really! It is just odd it’s been coming up. Like while this thing was happening to my daughter, someone was telling her father how good it is Phee is on the swim team: “Oh that’s good, get her out of the house. Get her some socialization!”

No, really.

UNSCHOOLING PRODUCES UNNATURAL CHILDREN

 

Anyway so last night my daughter and I watch one of our favorite shows, “River Monsters” from Animal Planet (we are both HUGE Jeremy Wade fans). My kids are expert movie riffers.

“In order to catch this monster sting ray, I was going to have to do something I’d never done before -”

” – dress as a Sexy Lady Ray!”

then

“The residents were finding enormous bullsharks in the place they least expected -”

“a HOT DOG CART!”

… and so on. Many giggles into the night until we got too sleepy to watch and fell asleep all cuddled-up like.

***

* my daughter tells me she and this girl are now friends.

“does your thumb get sore?” – asked me, today, by a friend

Answer: No. I have strong hands from the time I’ve put in.

"Patience & Care"

Keeping it real, a bitch has been working hard to get her craft recognized in a world of Walmart and Target and buy-it-from-Martha-for-the-homemade-look-but-guess-what-it’s-made-in-China. And probably just the most insidious bit, the materialistic pursuit to own a bunch of stuff, willing to sell out others to get comforts, buying into that aspirational lifestyle.

This all used to bug me. And probably a half dozen other complaints. I can tell you I am no longer bitter about these forces, because I have accepted I can’t change any of it. But *I* changed. A while back now I stopped competing in this worldview. It’s just too damn depressing. And frankly, I could stop messing about – because Ralph’s salary pays rent and food [she said, flatly]. I stopped sewing things I didn’t want to sew. I stopped saying Yes to things I didn’t want to do, and I stopped listening to advice from people who didn’t understand artisan craft. The many Makers I’m blessed to know have given me the gift of valuing my work.

So yeah, I finished this wonderful quilt today. I already know my next item for Homesewn. In fact I can design and create stuff a little too fast, but I want to give people time to get some scratch together if they want to buy something. I know the pangs of waiting for a payday.

This & that:

A manatee baby bunting made for a family expecting a child in a bit:

Oh The Hu-Manatee!

I designed the manatee (or dugog, if you will) in all cotton and fully fleece-lined with an asymmetrical closure, carseat buckle window, and little foot windows because having babies in bags always seemed a little off to me, although it probably bothers no one else. Besides babies’ socks are always slipping and this way you can reach and snug them up. I’m most happy with the eyes and hand-embroidered eyelashes but I didn’t get good pictures due to poor lighting and all the hundred other things I had going on this morning.

A thread-drawn patch on a baby wrap. Designed the patch, overdyed the chambray, and sewed the wrap.

Thread-Drawn Patch:

& while I work – Harris, sleeping off a nap.

Harris After A Hard Day Eating A Lot Of Food, And Sleeping

Just before I finished the quilt – I picked up some lovely Dylon at Gray’s General Store for a not-so-distant future project.

"Patience & Care"

I’m truly grateful to get to practice my craft and it gets more satisfying all the time. I am aware at some point, my abilities may fall away. Old age, illness, calamity. Whatever. I meditate on my bodywork and enjoy the experience while I can. Funny, for many years I was declared the math & science type and some influential people in my life hinted like that was all I was good for. Now I’m like this crunchy-as-fuck unschooling mama stitching and spouting feminazgul manifesto.

That’ll work.

“The room’s spinning. ’cause of all the Friday.”

It’s Friday again! Who gets to have a bona-fide weekend? What are you looking forward to?

To get you started on your fun/relaxation/debauchery, here are some stellar links:

First: Ralph, our friend Jeanne, and I are proud to unveil the website for the Fiber and Textile show we’re curating! And I never thought I’d say this, but if you’re on Facebook, please “Like” us. It will help us get some wine sponsors, for one thing. Listen: I am so very excited about this project. If you know any artist, non-local or local, who may be interested in submitting a piece (please check out our About thesis statement) send them our way. Thank you!

Radical Homemaking: It’s Not a Competition by Shannon Hayes, as sent to me by my friend Cynthia. This is a wonderful piece about following one’s passion, taking up friends and mentors – and the experience of envy, which we would do well to recognize, acknowledge, and unpack.

How to blog and comment on race, feminism, and equality at What Tami Said. For any readers taking an interest in my social justice interests, this particular piece spoke so strongly to me. I can’t say enough good things about Tami’s work, and this piece is the kind of work I’ve come to expect from her, and enjoy so much. I hope her pieces continue to be shared the internet over.

“When I Became Pregnant” at My Feminine Mind. This was written by a Christian-identified mama in first person and I thought it was a touching piece (trigger warning for discussion of self-harm).

Make the World’s Smallest Photo Postcard at photojojo. This is exactly the kind of adorable, relatively useless shit we Hogabooms fritter our time on instead of keeping our lawn tidy.

Another cute manicure at Design Fetish. Don’t be thinking I regularly do this sort of thing. I have weeks-old dusty blue stuff flaking all the way off and am likely not going to get to that anytime soon.

Foodie: Grilled Asparagus (as if anyone needed a reminder); also, a homemade Snicker’s bar? Fuck yes. And finally: How to slice a cheesecake! Seriously. I had to figure this out on Wednesday for the Conch.

When loathing feels normal, don’t buy it, fresh from Elizabeth at My Milk Spilt. No one needs to weigh in on why they may find women’s magazines defensible, fun, or a guilty pleasure. I am not the Lady Magazine police, and I recognize these publications are popular. But if anyone would like to weigh in on reasons they chose to stop reading or subscribing, I encourage you to do so – either here, or at the source article (and speaking of, here’s a great post by Snarky’s Machine on the topic). I’ll post my own comments soon.

In the must-see category: Wednesday night Ralph and I watched Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008) (on Netflix Instant) and I found it so incredibly wonderful. I read a lot about body image and self esteem regarding issues most particular to women; this film in essential in understanding more of the picture, specifically with regards to male role models in America. Just: an incredible documentary.

Indian Country Responds to Geronimo, bin Laden Connection. Read and drink deeply – a thoughtful and measured response, one we likely won’t see getting as much credence or civil discussion in the MSM.

And finally: in the Best Youtube I’ve Seen This Week category – I give you these two awesome ladies… discussing the magical and phoney-ass hymen.

the noise of flowers and the smell of birds

Phoenix bundles up in layer upon layer and fits herself with her new hat and handwarmers and big boots, runs outside and jumps up alongside me in my mother’s truck, slamming the door which is a bit funny and doesn’t shut easily. Her face in the gloaming a freckled and friendly precious entity emitting some kind of ambient light that soothes me into a preternatural calm. We can sit in the car and drive in companionable silence and every second I feel grateful for my time with her and everytime she opens her mouth, I swear she says something so smart. At the grocery store she selects some flowers for her father, campanula get mee in a cool purple with a biodegradable pot. She pushes the cart, leaning on it while with one hand seats a complimentary Safeway cookie; I walk ahead with my moleskine cracked and my mind climbing up and around food needs for the family. For $67 I bring home several days’ worth of food and in the parking lot receive a call from my mother; dinner at her house tomorrow is secured, which means I can sew a little bit more than I’d originally hoped.

Terrible news accompanies us into the new year: our wee kitty Josie has been missing for four days now. The last time we saw her was on the snoopin’ walk I wrote about (and yes, we’ve cased the neighborhood and called animal control and put up fliers). I’m so sick about it I don’t want to think or talk about it as of course, I feel it’s all my fault. I worry so much she’s suffering somewhere. (This is unlikely. She’s either dead with no body evidenced, or has been snatched. Still. I obsess.).

If Josie doesn’t return, 2010 was shit as far as cats were concerned: first the loss of my beloved Blackstone then the mysterious and complete disappearance of Laurence and now this. Never have I had such cat-drama, and I’ve lived with cats all my life and in all kinds of wacky scenarios and alongside highways and in a coyote town and in the middle of the city. But when I think about it I realize for as long as we’ve had animals we’ve never been free of awful or sad or scary things happening (the death of wee little chick Peepteron 1 after my father’s demise; Felix’s possum-murder, Stryker’s mysterious deaththe neighbor’s loose terriers tearing up our chickens on Sumner, my mother’s dog being hit by a car a month ago – in both these latter two incidents the animals survived thank goodness) and really, pet ownership is just that. A deeply meaningful and joyous experience of love and companionship and the value or caring for another being; small triumphs and occasional large, very large, heartbreaks.

I really think my kids have a good perspective and I seek to emulate that.

They Placed 3rd In

And now? for a cold beer, soft bed, and warm husband.

***

Deep Winter
(Small Stone #1*)

Today the landlord didn’t come like he said he would
to fix the sink, electricity, leaking water heater.
We are interlopers in our own home
taking refuge from the cold.
Hanging shabby quilts, taking hot baths;
the bruise on my daughter’s hip faded
perhaps only a false memory

Small stone project

maker

I get asked often how long I’ve been sewing. The truth is I can’t remember a time I didn’t know how to sew. I think I’m only a modestly-skilled stitcher, really, considering I’ve been exposed my whole life. Some of my earliest memories of focussed work are of pinning cloth and sitting on the floor cutting with a pair of orange-handled Fiskers; of crinkled tissue cut down to size and marking notches by painfully cutting small triangles. In fact in learning something as a young child the methods my mother used were the ones I thought were The Only Way To Do It. As a grownup I’ve learned my own methods and taught my mother not a few. For instance in contrast I iron all my patterns (shout-out Amore!) and never ¡EVAR! cut them; I dispatch yardage from a table and with rapier-like acuity using a rotary wheel and mat, and I mark notches by a chalk line or tailor’s tacks.

Rollin' On My 201-2

My mom sewed a bit more as a young woman, before she had a family and career. She didn’t sew all that much while I was growing up but what is most important is – I remember she loved it. She seemed to enjoy the feeling of competence in her craft and she definitely enjoyed the design process (such as it is when you’re sewing out-of-envelope). I often think the familial example of someone who does Work and loves it is the most likely avenue for subsequent generations to take it up. This is why I’ve never much bothered to try to get my kids to sew. My guess is they will end up doing it because it’s in their blood. They know so much about it already, without even knowing they know! (They also think everyone knows how to make clothes… they don’t realize how rare this is.)

Three years ago my mother brought me my grandmother’s sewing machine – a Singer Centennial 15-91 made in 1950, both popular and utilitarian. The very machine was manufactured and shipped from the same location, only days apart, from the one a friend gave me about eight years ago when she moved from PT (mine is a Centennial 201-2, another great machine). As a Mother’s Day gift in 2009 I got grandma’s machine tuned up and re-gifted it to my mother – who hasn’t yet used it.

If I had the room I’d have kept it myself. I currently own two working sewing machines. I’d love more and to have them set up – it really is helpful, especially given how quickly I construct things – but I lack the space. I sometimes fervently wish for a room to spread out and outfit myself further with a set up serger and a cutting table and, jeebus, SHELVES would be nice! Realistically this won’t happen for some time; we aren’t likely to have a larger house anytime soon. My husband has offered to rent me a studio space in downtown Hoquiam because he is a Really Fucking Awesome Guy. But even the incredibly-cheap prices of downtown HQX aren’t in our spending plan; neither much are shelves or more accoutrement to fill such a space.

But if I could, I would snap up that opportunity toot sweet.

My clothes generally last so much longer than what people buy. My kids’ closet is bursting with garments I’ve sewn. When they grow out of the pieces (which is relatively quickly!) the clothes go off donated or gifted… I am rather shy about giving off my sewn clothes because I’m unsure of what people like and want (and I hate to mail stuff. A lot. So locals are easiest for me to gift to). A surprising number of garments end up going to the Salvation Army. Whatever their future destinations, I hope they are as well-worn and well-loved as they are when in my home.

Currently I’m only a few minutes away from finishing a couple wool coats, which I’ll post soon. Tonight I’m on another pair of Monster Booties, much requested by readers here and there. I have to put a pause on Yes to favors and outside-of-the-family work; Christmas approaches and one of my chief pleasures is sewing for those I love.

Wool Underlined With Cotton

Wool, wool, wonderful wool! How I wish I had yards and yards and yards…

French Seam

French seams on the inside of a coat – underlining exposed.

In other news, we have my mom’s (incredibly submissive, aged) terrier Tuck here for a few days while she cat- and house-sits in Portland. My mom brought this huge dog bed as well. Last night, his first night, Tuck curled up on the bed and a second later alpha-kitten Hamilton walked over and put her paw on his face. He immediately self-telescoped using his own butthole and slunk off; three of the cats took the bed in a neat feline coup. Ralph and I trained the cats off the bed (this was very easy and involved putting them outside in the snow every single time they so much as stuck a claw towards it) but I had to snap a picture for my mom.

They STOLE It From Us, The Precious!

While I did this the fourth kitty Mable watched and decided if she wanted in on the Hot! Sleeping! Action!:
Watchinz

She voted “No”, on the account of she would have had to move her body, which resembles the form and function of a Guild Navigator, about eighteen inches. Much easier to stay on the goddamned chair.

suspicious characters

My husband takes a deep breath, sighs, looks pointedly at the steering wheel, then kills the engine.  I know exactly what he’s thinking.  Is the truck going to start when we return? I’m hoping it will as we have kids at home getting up to God Knows What while we shop for groceries and believe it or not, asking people for jumps gets a bit old (although it must be said in Grays Harbor people are really ready for this eventuality, my friend J. tells me they also carry chainsaws in their trucks ready to cut down trees lying across the road, you know, just in case).

The truck thing is kind of his fault.  A few days ago before he embarked on fixing my mom’s troubled beast I’d asked him if the vehicle mayhap have a charging system problem, not so much a battery problem, take it and get it diagnosed first, blah blah.  He figured it was the battery, a good guess really plus he was doing the repair bit on lunch break, so he bought a new one on my mom’s dime and now the damn thing still dies every two days (if you use headlights at all).  OK: so, fine.  Tomorrow I’ll take it to the shop my dad always recommended.  And the kids and I will bus back. And I hope it’s not raining, ugh.  You know, that whole hour in between buses shit in the wind and rain.  Today was sunny but cold when you’re out hoofing it.

You know in Hoquiam and Aberdeen very few people take their errands or their work commute by walking, biking, or the public transportation?  It’s fricken rare to see people hitting the streets who aren’t poverty-level or dealing with a variety of drug, court, mental health and/or welfare problems (I currently have none of the above). Most peeps in my peer group are in their cars, minivans, trucks shuttling back and forth.  In fact there are huge swatches of pretty much normal Aberdeen where by being seen walking you’re judged to be either down-on-your-luck or poor or prostituting or mething and heavily judged or WTF’d based on any of these assumptions (actually, don’t even click and read the comments in that link, it’s just kind of depressing).  As for the supposed sketchy areas of the fair township, my pwecious widdle babies and I walked some of them today, first getting a hot dog at the stand by the carwash (not very prepossessing in appearance but delicious all the same) then some helado a la tienda naranja before ending up in my Monday afternoon belly dancing class.

IMG_4341

IMG_4338

IMG_4343

P.S., why am I in a belly dancing class. First off, most the ladies in there seem really into the scarves and skirt and jingles.  I own not one skirt except a denim mini (which I happened to wear today b/c of the sunshine).  I don’t like flowing veils or fringe or all that wispy twirling around with scarves thing.  So, I dance in my jeans with my fat rolls hanging out the top.  FTW.

Which brings me to:  I do like the dancing.  It feels great.  I like the ladies in the class, especially my friend J. and the instructor L.  I like really dancing, energetically so.  I try not to glimpse myself in the huge studio mirror, because my cavorting looks so much less impressive than it feels.

Which is my second Why am I in a belly dancing class query, because really?  Yes, I can do a bit of a camel walk or a figure eight or large hip circles or a shoulder shimmy or a veil drop.  But ask me to combine two or more?  Why don’t I just fall down, break my arm, and piss my pants while I’m at it, because that’s where I’m going to end up.

Oh and by the way, Ralph and I made it home from the grocery store.  The truck survives to fight another day.

IMG_4335

Documenting my domicile: our little porch.  Adorned with the Hogaboom Lemon Tree and (lower left) a Thrift City bifurcated rag rug for $2, which I carried all grimy-like in my fist for a half hour in line at the store, then washed and dried at home and you should have seen Ralph’s expression, although he has come to believe it’s a nice addition, so that’s good.

time, part 2

Sometimes I get asked by a woman I know in town, “So what are you up to today?” I never have anything to say. I probably sound like I do nothing, really.

Because what I’m “up to” is taking care of people. And an increasing number of animals, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Yesterday immediately upon rising (at 6 AM) I’d made beds, finished laundry, cleaned the kitchen, prepared homemade strawberry shortcake, finished a kitchen sewing project, fed the animals, taken out the recycling, and made my husband a lunch. This was by 9:30 AM.

Today at 11 AM I’ve done the same as listed (minus shortcake) as well as taken our new kitty to the vet for a cursory examination ($119! That diseased little scrap!) and our hen Sophie to have her staples removed (I’m happy to say she is fully recovered although the experience has ruined my enjoyment of crispy skin on fried chicken). I’m riding home with my hale and healthy children and my healthy, happy animals (including a kitten rescue, which is feeling very noble and enjoyable to me at the moment) and I feel like celebrating. And all I’m doing really is taking care of them. I have no other body of work. It’s like I’m constantly feeding, sleeping, washing, rinsing, loving, carrying, listening to, talking, instructing.

I don’t even avail myself of the free childcare that is public school so I could get a break – or make some money.

When I’m not actively taking care of people – and this includes my time watching the kiddos swim, or riding bikes to the park – I’m usually cleaning. Oh wait, shit, that’s taking care of people again! OK, so occasionally I sew. And very occasionally I sew for someone not my kids. I don’t sit down all day except to type and maybe eat one meal. At the end of the day I crash out to a B-movie and snuggling, maybe a few pages of a book (just finished, Lessons From The Fat-O-Sphere and Killers Of The Dream – both excellent!). That’s my R&R. And yeah. I’m aware the “snuggling” is also part of the Mama work.

In other words, nothing I do all day is worth writing home about and I never find a way to present it – especialy to the inquiring friend who doesn’t do what I do, or finds other earthy distractions that always sound more exciting. My life? In the words of Ron Burgundy, “It’s boring.” It only means a whole, hell of a lot to four people, three cats, four chickens, a few friends, neighbors, and family members who receive my home-cooked and home-sewn goods and the favor of childcare, and the many who’ve told me they enjoy reading my blog.

"Clothes are never a frivolity: they always mean something."

Last night I told my husband I was so hurt about something I simply didn’t want to discuss it anymore. Somehow our roles had become reversed: he wanted to talk, talk, talk it out, and I didn’t. This wasn’t because I didn’t have the verbiage to offer. In fact I felt like we’d discussed the subject much over the last year – at least. I was done. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I didn’t know what he was going to do. But I’d said my piece, I’d heard his, and I simply needed a break.

The issue? Clothing. My clothing. Currently, at this juncture in my life, my largest frustration. For weeks as this chewed on me more and more I’d felt shallow for my little obsession. But a few days ago I came to the realization: food, shelter, clothing. Basic needs. I think even the cavemen with their depleted frontal lobes had that shit down tight.

Now my family, we have food. We have shelter. My husband hustles at his job in large part pursuing these things; food and housing are our largest expenses as a one-income family of four (39.5% of our take-home pay). Our clothing allowance in our spending plan is currently at 0%, modeled to come out of an “everything else” fund (that would include road trips, fundraising efforts for our childrens preschool, technology for the house, late-night runs for cough syrup or flea medicine, gifts for friends and family, you name it).

I am responsible for the acquisition of, laundering, care for, and inventory of my family’s clothing. At any given point I can tell you how many pair of shoes the members of my family have, what I’ve set aside for consignment earnings, what items are going to the Salvation Army for donation. I mend, I grift, I sew (when I’m not cleaning, cooking, or writing). I have begged and borrowed to supply my children with good winter coats and shoes. I spend a significant portion of my daily chores laying out the wool socks by the fire and folding every t-shirt of my husband’s to its proper place and making sure my kids don’t leave their coats out in the wild.

You can predict where this is going, right? Because as it turns out the lack of formal acknowledgment of the fiscal burden of clothing coupled with the de facto assignation to myself of the practical elements has left me: dead last out of four, wearing holey jeans, my husband’s socks, and (this is the worst, the absolute most demeaning) broken, cheap bras that work so ill my breasts actually ache.

This month it started raining in earnest.

And then a few days ago my husband, beneficiary of a small financial windfall, tells me he is going to buy himself a guitar.

Now, I want to be very careful here. My husband has the right to his guitar. First of all, this is his money. Secondly, he is a songwriter, a good one. His artistic endeavors are as important as, well I don’t know as clothing, but they’re damned important. It isn’t that he’s buying a guitar, or the rain is setting in, or that when it comes to clothes (and clothes alone) at this point I carry a huge crazy-person backlog and a skewed perception of poverty. It’s my fault, entirely, for letting the backlog reach this point. But the guitar: that point where the codependent machinations of intimate relationships threaten to overcome my more logical, Buddhist spiritual mindset. I find myself at first reeling in the grips of the former: the fact he could even think to buy a guitar when I don’t own a coat without holes! I am wearing shoes I bought when last pregnant – approximately one hundred thousand million years ago! A mental picture: I’m outside, kicking the hell out of my car’s passenger-side radial, and shouting, “F*cking, stupid, asinine, selfish a*%hole!”

But, I am incorrect. And I don’t allow myself more than a few tortured mental moments imagining my husband as this monster. And I don’t kid myself: the situation is, in large part, my own fault (he is left on his own to figure out his responsibility). And if he’s reading this and decides not to buy the guitar, after what we’ve discussed since on the subject, I will punch him directly in the nuts.

I typically don’t find the need to justify our financial sacrifices for the life we want to live. And I am not a clothing princess (as I type this I’m ill-attired in my husband’s pants, a pair of panties from Ross’ bargain bin, and a free t-shirt). The point is, my values are not being expressed in my clothing. This trap is entirely of my own making. I can speak of the tell-tale numbers of our financial plan all I like, but the truth is up until now I myself have been out of alignment.

What, then, is my proposed plan? After our conversation resumed last night (and this morning), my husband and I have a plan to recommit financial resources to the family’s clothes. I feel defeated by the lag of what I need (raingear, for instance, for bike-riding the kids about in the rainforest in which we live. I still feel stung at my husband’s lack of practical support coupled with what has felt like an expectation of impossible frugality. And most baffling I feel – and this is the laughable part – I will betray my own self and find myself, months or years hence, as starved, frustrated, out of sync.

Ask me in a couple months when I have a modicum of waterproofing, at least one sweater, and a pair of shoes that don’t leak. Perhaps my perspective will have cleared and the real and true will have emerged, leaving the parts of the martyr (a role I do not play well) left behind.

Our clothes are too much a part of us for most of us to ever be entirely indifferent to their condition: it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body, or even of the soul. – Quentin Bell

"the king of the table"

I’d like to think I’ve had a handful of accomplishments in my life and hold a few talents as well. But the thing I can do that gives me the most pleasure lately is my breadmaking. Today I find myself tempted to feel pride in my bagels – a history with not a single one collapsing during boiling, all of them turning out taste- if not picture-perfect. Then I quickly spin around three times and spit on the floor, not wanting to upset the capricious devil-gods of bagel cookery, so quick to jealously smite my next efforts in retaliation for baker’s hubris.

I view my breadmaking not as a talent – because really, I’m a beginner – but an accomplishment. First of all, it’s a frugal way* to add heart to a meal otherwise made from soaking dried beans and pulling tomato sauce out of the freezer and carefully frying a portion of squash. A platter of soft, fragrant pita completely, and I do mean completely, makes up for the fact I’m not serving red meat, chicken, or a rich lasagna (cost: five thousand dollars, with the cheeses needed). This is me: if I’m forced to be frugal on Ralph’s cash grocery allowance I will find a way it satisfies me.

I also like breadmaking because it’s the closest I get to meditating, praying, or relaxing. Most breads you have to knead (sometimes for many minutes), shape, and wait while the bread takes form. It’s something that checks me back into my kitchen and my home. It fits into a busy schedule at the same time – a bread that needs to rise can be slowed in the refrigerator or sped up (within reason) by a pan of steaming water. There’s plenty of time to run to get a kid at school or do the dishes and wipe the table and sit for a cup of fragrant tea in a sunny kitchen.

I like making bread because my children are learning not only how (something I missed out on as a child) but are also quite good at and help me with all parts of the process. They see their food created, not under plastic in the harsh lights of the supermarket. There is no better fragerance in a home than the yeasty warmth of fresh bread – unless it’s sauteed onions or garlic.

And finally, I take pleasure in the fact that so many people love homemade bread, or at least the breads I make. Last night’s dinner company, and my own family as wel, sung praises over the simple homemade pizza (with my own sauce and dough recipes) which was easy to make, economical, and nourishing. Last Thursday with basket on arm I parsed out slices of a chocolate rye coffee cake to those stuck in cubicles and offices and indoors. I’d like to make bread every day. Thomas Fuller said “Eaten bread is forgotten” but I think instead it builds a legacy of care, of frugality and lushness, of a joie de vivre.

* I buy my flour at 1/2 the price found at the supermarket and my yeast at 1/10th the price of the bulk jars at the same; this reduces my bread cost to a fraction of a storebought loaf.