only – one day away from your arms!

I’ve been singing “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” over the last day, to myself. The Dusty Springfield version, of course; there is no other version. While I’m sewing or working her voice pierces my heart. I can sing as dramatically as I like, in front of my children. In front of no one else, in fact. Maybe I’ll grow a little less shy, or perhaps my children are just the most special people in my heart, and who can know the unvarnished Me.

changing pace

I often think I somehow had more energy when I was drinking. It seemed I could get up in the morning, take quantities of coffee, and put to use intense reserves of power – cleaning, cooking (a great deal of cooking, wonderful dishes), writing, sewing, active parenting, and constantly hatching up those plans and dreams – taking future trips into all the great things I’d do or become.

I haven’t had a drink in almost three years and in that time I’ve stepped on a path of spiritual practice.  I’m sober which is a rare way of life, at least in the country I’ve been raised in. For me, it’s a life more vibrant, more unexpected, and altogether more wonderful than I could have dreamed Life to be.

Still – now it seems I get less done, I have less to show for myself, my parenting is no longer “supermom” and is instead much more the role of a mentor, much more about unconditional love and steadfast faith. Admittedly the house is still relatively tidy and the meals are delicious but a great deal of that is courtesy of my partner – who has more strength and joyous energy than any person I know. You ever watch our big dog Hutch running, bounding with his big muscles and exuberant body language? That’s Ralph. He can run and run and run – figuratively, and literally.

I have changed, though. It is said alcohol numbs us somehow. I think that is true, and I’ve spent years now studying, and I try to observe rather than analyze. I see the end results of the drinking lifestyle in those who’ve come to see they have a problem, and want to recover – those like me. I see the desire for “numb” in the social media posts and the casual conversations of those who still drink – they drink to relax, to feel better, to “reward” themselves after a hard day, to believe they are enjoying themselves. I don’t know who’s really enjoying themselves and who has that deep pit of awful in their belly, and a head full of angry scribbles. It’s not my job to know, it’s their job. Here’s what I know: many never figure it out in this lifetime. All I can do is be here for those who want help, and love all people unconditionally. That job keeps me busy enough.

Leaving drinking behind changed my life – second only to having children. I would have told you the quantity and frequency of my alcohol consumption didn’t have a significant effect on me – but I would have been wrong. This is the great mystery of living in denial. We believe we are okay. We believe other people have the problems. We are blind to our own selfishness.

Now that I’m not taking alcohol or mind-altering substances, I sure get to experience more reality! This reality keeps unfolding before me and it’s amazing, exhilarating – and often, exhausting. My feelings are stronger than I knew; my body aches here and there and I seek to “fix” it but my doctor says it’s because I’m getting older. Even my kidney disorder, one I was born with – this mysteriously had a near-complete “remission” from symptoms from about age 17 to age 34 – which corresponds to when I was actively drinking.

This morning I put together a cake for friends; I cuddle my at-home child when he wakes, briefly, from a distressing dream. I’m folding up tattered towels and washing dishes in soapy hot water. I am writing emails to a few dear friends who are struggling. In a few moments we are going for a swim, and then taking lunch. I am traveling out to Wishkah to cook alphabet soup with a classroom of sixth grade children. I’m letting my dog in the car although my daughter groans and rolls her eyes when she has to share a seat with him. I am meeting up with a friend in the evening; I am holding space for her. Tonight I hope to put my arms around my husband, and pet the cat who jumps on my lap the moment I sit down.

My life changed because over time I began to Want What I Have. Even now my feelings and my aches and pains, I get a little friendlier every day, a little more peace, a little more clarity.

It took a long time getting here and I hope I can stay here a bit longer.

“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?

from the effort of loving to the making of bread

I’d walked out with dinner plates still dirty and left it all behind. My husband either would do the washing up or he wouldn’t but I couldn’t spend another minute in the house for this or that reason. I’d spent a large part of the day cooking: homemade rolls and slow-roasted orange pulled pork; a coleslaw with green apple and a pineapple marmalade upside down cake with cold cream to pour on top, and that was just dinner, not even what I made for breakfast and lunch.

The bread: satisfying. Handling dough, the mixing and oiling and steam-bath and fashioning and glazing and baking, wiping down traces of flour off the counter and the mixer. A lot of love into a simple food that many take for granted.

Now, though, it’s cold outside and I’m glad I don’t have to wait for the bus more than about eight minutes. I buy a punch pass from the driver as soon as I step on board, before I can think about it being twenty dollars and we have four more days until payday. The pass has a gold-leaf little bit embossed so people can’t fraud one. I zip up my coat and sit mid-way back. Riding the bus in the later hours is quite pleasant , although I need to really know when to catch one though, as they are few and far between and I don’t want to get stuck in Crackton, Aberdeen in this kind of cold. The interior lights are red and low and there are only a few passengers and they’re not rowdy. Like I said, quite pleasant, not as loud or as odorous as day trips.

I look up at the signs I’ve seen most my life up above the windows. “If You’ve Found This Number, Give Yourself A Break And Call”, followed by the phone contact for Narcotics Anonymous. I feel this little thrill sitting there, wondering how many people have happened on that sign and felt the familiar flutter in their gut and an accusatory jab, then cut their eyes away and tried to blot out their intolerable reality a bit longer.

We head up the hill to the hospital and back down with no one getting off or on. I was up at the hospital earlier; a friend gave me a ride to see another friend who was suffering internal bleeding. I flick my eyes up to the second floor and say a little prayer. Later in the afternoon, after our visit, I’d gone out with the ill friend’s wife and we ran our dogs at the bay. Two Bassett hounds and my Hutch, two hundred pounds of dog, and Hutch was in the lead being awesome!

I’m thinking though while I text and wait for my stop, I want for nothing. Both cars broke but one’s in the shop at least and hopefully it’s something we can fix, and the fact my husband isn’t upset about any of this helps me a great deal. I don’t want anything, not really, I am content with things the way they are. I’m happy to get more blessings but I’m okay if for a day or two things are tough. I was thinking maybe I’d want to take the family on a sunny vacation somewhere and you could even get a credit card for that sort of thing maybe? Even this option is something open to me, something we probably won’t do, but who knows, maybe we could do it. I’m okay with my thoughts accompanying me against the damp, cold glass, and my mind doesn’t hang on or cling or run neither.

in this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it

Yesterday a man shows up at my door and tells me he’d seen my babies walking, and he wanted me to know there was a registered sex offender in our neighborhood. A new one. He showed me a picture. I told him Yeah, you could look that stuff up online and all the local crime too, which I had done. He was surprised (OUT-SAFETY’D, SUCKA!!!) but then returned to talking about this guy. He kept reiterating he saw my babies walking and he thought he’d talk to me. My babies. I wonder how he knows where we live. Then he says he was trying to get the sex offender OUT of our neighborhood. He says, “Why don’t they knock on doors and ask around, ‘Do you have kids?’, and ask if it’s okay if a sex offender moves in?” I have no words. Just, no words.

I thanked the man for his concern. I closed the door. I feel oddly depressed. Later the kids and I had a little talk about strangers and walking about.

Life goes on.

Now this evening it’s dark out and I know where my kids are, but I’m a wee bit uneasy. It’s not related to the guy who showed up yesterday but he didn’t help or anything. It’s as if, at a certain point I have this tingling sixth sense. I walk outside with the dog and see my kids across the street, returning home in the company of an extra kid (who is now here and staying the night). It’s like I don’t rest easy until once again I see my children safe. The kids, all three, run up and inside and make up bowls of dinner (pork fried rice and green beans) and get to some cleaning up: vacuuming and doing the dishes. Phee is soon on her laptop and giggling, playing online with friends.

I wonder when I’ll get used to how sufficient, how competent, my children are. Today they packed up their swimsuits and towels and went out with my mother to the lake. Before they left I asked them to do some housework, and they cheerfully obliged and got the kitchen cleaner than Ralph or I generally do it, talking the whole while to one another in meme-speak, almost unintelligible. At a certain point I just kept adding on suggestions, feeding the cats and sweeping, and can you put this away, and that, and they did these cheerfully enough, since they knew they were off to the lake as soon as I was off to my volunteer shift at the gallery. It’s like I worried all these years about teaching my kids life skills and I have some kind of anxiety hangover.

Sometimes besides feeding and snuggling and taking the kids where they want to go, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to be doing for them. They are exceedingly happy and well-balanced and perfectly okay asking me for whatever they want, which means each day is an opportunity in trusting in something greater than myself. My ability to plan, manipulate, execute.

Family life is a lot easier than I used to make it.

#goodnight

“By the sea, Mr. Todd, that’s the life I covet!”

My Mom & My Son, Before Heading Out To The BeachMy son, & my mom, about to head out to the beach together.

So YE GODS I’ve been having fun embroidering. Last night I finished up this space-age sampler as designed by Wendi Gratz. I really dig her whole approach, as found on her site Shiny Happy World.

Space Sampler

Space Sampler

Embroidered Comet, Close-Up

The whole business made me decide to make up my own patterns, including a sewn samper. LET’S SEE how it goes. Because you know, not only can I draw, but I’m into stuff. For instance last night? I started and finished the above piece, concluding my last stitches while viewing Attack of the Crab Monsters with my kids, Tylur, and Emily, and whilst sharing a pint of Late Night Snack with said Emily.

YES I REALIZE I HAVE NOTHING, EVER, TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.

Anyway I could draw up some awesomeness ala Crab Monsters right this moment. Instead I drew and traced and finished a pattern of subjects close to my heart, non-Crab-Monster-related – and provided my sampler doesn’t shit the bed, you’ll be seeing it soon!

Embroidering

(Hint: will involve GLOW-IN-THE-DARK thread!)

Glow-In-The-Dark Embroidery Floss!

In other news: we got our table finished. The entire table was a gift, both in materials and construction, from friends. I am more than thrilled. It is my Favorite Table Ever. Many people were almost maimed while we put it together.

Making Our Kitchen Table Which Almost Killed A Few People

New Table! With New Wool Coat In Progress

First meal made on the table – meatballs! (recipe, previously shared):

Making Meatballs

Making Meatballs

Followed by – using the crusts discarded from Phoenix’s bread-cubing – fresh bread pudding for breakfast:

Fresh Bread Pudding For Breakfast

Phoenix:

Phoenix, Sly Creature

Harris (Every. Damn. Day!):

Life Is REALLY HARD For Harris

Finally: a piece of mine was published in the latest issue of Natural Life Magazine. As you’ve no doubt heard me say before, I heartily endorse anything written or published by Ms. Priesnitz, and I encourage y’all to head over and subscribe to this excellent publication.

In closing please, do not be so casual about “just a few land crabs” – unless you want to pay the ultimate price.

the most obvious punchline ever, but, still…

 
Yeah, the other day I had a bit of “Oh you have this degree, you should [insert employment ‘opportunity’]” directed at me specifically. You know, by someone I don’t (yet) know well, with no interest expressed nor questions asked as to what it is I actually do during the day, if I like it, how good I am at it, how interested I am at doing something else, what my family’s organizing principles are, etc. I observe over a decade I have never had this advice directed to me by a woman (so to borrow a phrase from Jasmine – men, get your shit together!).

But for serious I was thinking about careers and status. And men. (More in a minute!) Until the other day it had been a while since anyone else brought up my former life of moneyed and statused career in referendum of my current life which is a bit different in both those spheres. The symptomatic current-life devaluation of my existence doesn’t sting like it used to simply because I rely on my spiritual life and people I know and trust to help me know how I’m doing and what I’m worth. Really, the whole thing is funny to me (but it wasn’t when I first heard that college-degreed women who stay home to raise children are “opting out” and a bunch of other stuff about how they’re Ruining Everything – heard it from close friends, coworkers, etc). Because all of this is about them, not me. The day someone queries what it is I do, what I find value in, what my life is like, what I’m passionate about, who I help, what I’m skilled at (up until now), what I’m not (so far), what I long for, what I’m afraid of – and then makes some suggestions? Well first I’ll acknowledge them for even giving a damn to listen so much, but at that point I’ll also be interested in hearing their opinions on my life’s course.

I was thinking about, and this is related believe it or not – and truly a confession here I’m not proud of – how angry it’s made me, in the past, when men flirt with me. I have responded to men and women (very rarely) by flirting back, sure; but increasingly over the years I have become a fixed and hardened person when it comes to men, a smiling cipher who will move away when they move close (literally or figuratively), an outward smile and tactful deferral but years of scorn and fear slowly calcifying around my heart. Until very recently I have taken (false) pride in my defensive response, but now I realize it was a sign of my weakness. Because really, until now I have thought men who flirt are telling me they don’t think I’m worth much. They don’t care to find out if I’m in a mated pair (I am, and I wear a ring for one thing), or anything about me at all except for I make them have feelings in their pants or maybe I’ll take care of their laundry or their kids or their Existential Loneliness, whatever they crave, with sex of some sort. They (often) don’t know anything about me whatsoever; how can any interest in me be anything real or personal at all? Why do they put me in the position of having to do a goddamn thing (like “Yes” or “No” to an advance) when I want to go about my day and buy potatoes or ride a bike or mail a package?

I’ve hated myself for not saying something aloud. Like “Please stop, this is bothering me.” Of course, most women know what happens – often – when you do this. I haven’t been strong enough to stomach any more of what always happened before. “What’s your fucking problem?” “Don’t flatter yourself.” “I wasn’t doing anything.” “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” “Bitch!” Physical threats.

But today I need to forgive men, or at least those with the entitled assumption that all women find flirtations welcome or flattering. I need to forgive those who’ve abused me in the past (all of them). I need to forgive those who diminish me. I need to forgive them their clumsiness, even forgive those who are straight-up manipulative and/or hate women (that hatred is a Fear response anyway; I can empathize because Fear is indeed a plague that besets us all). We are all lost, at one point or another. I need to forgive myself for receiving and internalizing the message it is my beauty (ha!), or my “nice”ness, or my accommodation, or my cooking or my figure (ha!) or my performance of Femaleness, or a myriad of other things, that really count and that are up for others’ measure and evaluation. The thing that counts is I’m a person. Other people may not give me respect or be interested, not in Me really, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give these gifts to myself – and to them. I don’t have to hate those who are only doing the best they can at the time. I can’t forgive all, and instantly so, but I can know it’s what I need to do.

Do I wish sometimes I could have two weeks on an island free of this stuff? Yeah, I do. But I don’t have that space or time, and life is life.

I have been messing about fixing a car; if you’ve been counting, you’ll know we currently have one that’s working and one that is not. The car stuff is bringing up some of the Flirting D00d stuff; today in a garage I was assailed repeatedly by no fewer than four men, jumping on me like starving fleas. Doing that thing where they apologize profusely for their slips of “bad language”. Because I’m a Lady. And I guess I need smelling salts when someone says the word “fuck” (the thing that actually disturbs me is, acting one way when a woman is around and another when one is not, feel free anyone to self-reflect on that). Then telling me I smell good. Then wanting me to come look at their car project (“Hey, guess what this is?”). Then teasing me for texting (my husband, as it happened) and asking me to come over (I am not making this up). Instead of learning a bit about my car as I’d hoped to, I had the opportunity to experience all this. Finally the owner showed up – he actually helped me quite a bit in a totally direct and friendly manner. I drove off happy. I told myself I would never know why these men treated me this way, I can’t assume they were flirting with any intent, maybe they were just hyper – or Lonely. Hey, Lonely is okay. We’ve all been there. Nothing to be pissed about.

Short potential morals of these stories, if you find them useful: pay attention to people and who they evidence themselves to be. Ask yourself why you’re being prescriptive. Don’t be a Creeper. Find what you’re passionate about. Enjoy the passions of others as they display them. See if you can look yourself in the mirror and say aloud you (honestly) like yourself. Respect others.

When you run across a person you can be damned amazed you have this life and another human being to share it with. You don’t have to fuck it up, or at least you can fuck it up less.

All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood.

Waiting

As I believe I have on occasion expressed before, I have a love/hate relationship with giving blood. It’s scary and upsetting and uncomfortable but only at a few specific junctions and not enough to be a deal-breaker. It feels good to help but I won’t lie, it feels even better to have Phoenix’s esteem. She was happy to accompany me today in her little white fleece leggings (a cozy and lovely gift from my mother) and big boots and sweater. An old man flirted with her in this condescending but affectionate way and she handled that just fine. She kissed me and told me “Good luck” and told me she was proud of me and I was “smart”.

The Big Stick (BOOBSCAPE 3000)

I was their last “customer” and when I finished (8 minutes) they pretty much told me to fuck off, get out of there. I know they have a lot of work to get done after the blood-cattle leave. I’ve always been treated so well by bloodworkers. An impressive record considering they have to work long hours in a cramped space, in an, ahem, charming town like Aberdeen.

Short entry today as I have a fair bit of laundry; Ralph and I are also finishing up a batch of matzoh ball soup. No one is sick but that doesn’t mean delicious preventative measures aren’t a good idea!

Cashier
(Small Stone #6*)

I don’t know why you’re especially cheerful today
But I’m not joining you.

Small stone project