I am not a single mom

I am not a “single mom” when Ralph leaves for a weekend or a week, on a conference or business trip. A single mom has to do all this shit without support on the daily. Me, I have a few days of focus and a bit of adrenaline and anyway, I could put a thing or two on the back burner if I need to.

That said, I do have to focus as it’s all on me. Up in the morning and the kitties need to be fed; Herbert Pocket does this adorable thing where when we take the lid of the cat food bin, she pops her little paws on the ledge and inspects the level of cat food inside. I get to take the dog outside on his walks, and make sure he’s fed and has enough water. I scritch him a little extra besides; as hard as I worked on washing him yesterday his fur is so thick and he could use another combing and bath! Maybe in a day or two.

Phoenix tells me tonight, after I paint their nails (black, for Halloween!) – “Thank you for getting me pizza this morning. That was the sweetest thing to wake up to.” While it is certainly true that teens can fend or even cook for themselves, I still feel it’s my responsibility as a parent to try to do a little of that work for them. 

Today also I took a bit of cake down to the recovery Club I frequent, right before I pick up the pizza. I slice the slab into two-bite size morsels and arranged them on a large platter. When I cook at the Club, or prep food, men swarm around. Attention; they need attention. “I’ll have a hot dog,” a young man toting a toddler instructs me – mistaking me for the kitchen worker that’s there during limited hours. I explain the situation to him: I’m not a member of the Club and the kitchen isn’t open at th emoment. Other fellows mill around, wanting to tell me about their job (or lack thereof) or just say Hi or whatever. But this is one place that’s good to leave food, because people are always coming through hungry, some off the street. When I first got sober I cooked on the regular because I felt desperate, and grateful, and wanted to give something to the group. And one day a fellow called me, “That chick that always brings food,” and I thought, Well that’s enough of that for now. That particular fellow is very very ill now and every time I see him I am not sure if I’ll see him again.

Tonight, incredibly, for dinner I decide to give a brown rice recipe a try: a (vegan) cheesy broccoli brown rice bake. I had enough brown rice growing up in the bus, I took a solid thirty-year hiatus, but I’m ready to try again. This evening I just know it will turn out wonderfully, and it does – accompanying the bean burritos and the cole slaw Ralph provides. I love peeling off the foil from a hot casserole and letting it sit just five minutes before spooning it out. I love watching how happy people are for hot food – my family yes, and a guest over for dinner.

Ralph is home and after my shower he comes to bed and I put my head on his chest and can feel my hair, down and brushed out, spill across his shoulder. He is warm and strong and feels exactly like home to me. And I know he’s too tired to pay me much mind by now, but my own mind is still a ways from being sleepy. I have had three days’ of hard work and I have some things to worry about besides. So after we say goodnight the pets gather round; two kitties flank me in the bed and I am still up just a little longer, a little deeper into the night before I sink back to sleep.

Cotton; Rayon Fine Sweater Knit

with the stillness of the air

I am playing a game with myself where I try to hustle up work, and then try to catch up with what I’ve hustled, and work as quickly and expertly as possible. So far, it’s going swimmingly. My studio is well-equipped to handle a seamless workflow, and every day I have something new on my table. A few times a week I meet with someone in town and hem a dress, or help design a garment. It’s a super good gig.

I have tremendous hopes to somehow start socking aside funds to buy my oldest the best tablet I can. Seems impossible with bills and all that sort of thing because we are in debt. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few years, it’s to not decide what’s possible, what’s not. Just do my thing and know somehow it will all work out.

Meanwhile, of course, I have a household to take care of. Lately: a very active hummingbird community outside my kitchen window. The little creatures fight with one another over two feeders, likely lured in part by the large orchids and hibiscus just inside the window. I notice my neighbor’s feeder looks sad and empty. I notice, with some small degree of satisfaction.

The kitties race back and forth through the kitchen. They hop up on the countertop and watch. Regrettably, none of them do that kitty “chirp” I like so much. Herbert Pocket, in particular, is most interested. She used to catch tiny bats in the yard of our last home. She is gentle and sweet here in the home, beyond reproach; but in her heart lurks that killer instinct.

Cotton; Rayon Fine Sweater Knit

Blazer; Thread Paint Detail

Child's Blazer (3T); Hand-Embroidered

Panty Clone

Double-Hooded Sweater

a sponge dipped in vinegar

When I was thirteen, one evening during a week-long family reunion we went out as a crew to a drive-in theater. I remember what was showing – Bird on a Wire and Arachnophobia. (Great drive-in fare – and not films I’ve felt compelled to revisit later, either!)

The adults in the family smuggled us in. My brother, sister, a few cousins – we hid in the back of a pickup. The adults were probably half-lit, or at least they hadn’t thought it through. We underpaid, pulled into our spot, and everyone tumbled out. At that point the wary drive-in employees – probably teenagers themselves – came over and required payment for all attendees. I seem to remember it was a very near thing – we almost didn’t have enough. I remember we weren’t able to get snacks for the films. I remember worrying about this. Because I was a kid, and the adults in my life didn’t have their act together.

Today I wonder at my parents, aunts, uncles – that they could be okay with this sort of behavior. It isn’t that they were full of avarice or greed. My family was always the generous sort, and very kind. But I suppose like most other families, their morality was relative. They didn’t care too much about other people, when they wanted what they wanted. Most people behave like that at one time or another.

I’ve tried to raise my children differently. I never wanted them to see me take advantage. I didn’t want them to learn that way of life. Not just because it isn’t kind, it isn’t right, it isn’t fair to others. But because it’s a scraping way to live – always thinking of the next grift, hoping for a rescue, hoping to not have to be responsible for one’s share. Hoping things go my way. Feeling “cheated” when Life Happens. An acquaintance the other day – who found a large amount of currency but didn’t get to keep it – because someone else saw them pick it up. And the thing is, for just one moment (or maybe longer) this person thought that money SHOULD be theirs. Because they live life thinking they don’t have enough. Scarcity. It becomes a way of life if you’re not careful.

I don’t want to have that mind. I don’t want to grasp. I don’t want to live in a fearful state, if I can help it.

Today my neighbor shouted at me, as I walked to my car. When I went to see what the matter was, they seemed very upset. They told me our cats had been climbing on their (new) car, and had made muddy pawprints and scratched the paint. I listened, and responded with feeling – “Wow – that sucks.” They talked a little longer – angry, but not telling me anything new.

I told them, I am open to your suggestions.

To my surprise, this person had none. They hinted they would “make” me pay for a new paint job on their car, and take pictures of our cats. (I’m not sure why they wanted to do that, except they seemed determined to have a fight.)

They then told me my daughter had been rude.

This, perhaps, is the only moment I felt my own anger rise. My daughter is unfailingly courteous, and conducts herself with a calm that adults sometimes find threatening. My neighbor was obviously upset and resentful, and had allowed adrenaline and rage to get the better of their faculties.

I held my tongue at this slight against Phoenix, though, while I made sure to listen. Not to argue. I thought of the ten cats or so that aren’t ours, who roam the neighborhood. The ones who climb on our cars, and run around under the deck doing cat-things, and scratch up our stairwell, and kill little birds and voles. I thought to myself what my mind would be like, if I were to get angry about all this and try to find these neighbors out and shout at them. I thought of “townie” life – a neighbor on one side with a sad, neglected dog who cries out during the day. A neighbor on the other who lets their dog wander around urinating and defecating in the neighborhood.

I thought, What would it be like if I were angry about all these things?

I thought, What if I cared about something like a car more than my responsibility to all living creatures?

So, yeah. I can’t help my neighbor much. I let them know I would not consider it rude if they were to make their grounds less hospitable – to shoo the cats. In a neighborhood full of cats as ours is, perhaps a car cover or parking in the garage might be an intelligent solution. I did not share this thought, as it seemed my neighbor wasn’t ready to move past their anger, not at this time.

One thing I thought of: we can keep our cats indoors. I wouldn’t do this just based on someone else’s car, but we had been discussing already for other reasons. In fact, Phoenix and I had been talking about it this morning! So, when I went back over to my neighbor’s later in the day, I expressed my desire to have a harmonious relationship while we lived near one another, and my hope an indoor cat solution might work for all of us (note: they hardly seemed mollified at this offering). 

But, I said – “I’m not sure that will solve your problem.”

Because I can’t really solve my neighbor’s problem. Not their real problem.

But I am glad I don’t have problems like that, myself.

Not today.

Sir Digby

scuffing one’s toe at the abyss

Today my lithotripsy procedure was moved up a few hours. As it worked out, the family and friend who’d planned to accompany me – to give me moral support and to drive me home – weren’t able to be there. I got to check in alone, fill out paperwork alone, receive my IV alone, and be wheeled into general anesthesia without saying goodbye to anyone.

It suited me, to be honest.

Illness, accident, and then death: they come for us all. When I arrived at the hospital I parked my car in the sunshine and looked out over my beloved Aberdeen. Any time could be one’s last; I suppose when heading off for a drug-induced near-death sleep, it’s as good a time as any to appreciate these sorts of experiences. I wouldn’t want anything different. I am happy with what I have.

But of course – I woke again, and lived to see another day.

And now that I’m home, and the house is quiet, I’m thinking on how quickly life changes. We have yet another mama kitty here in our home, with her five (thankfully healthy) little two-week old kittens. My children are navigating teen- and preteen-life and there have been a few surprises: some pleasant, and some less so. My halftime job is heading into a period of intensity: Friday, a man screamed at me on the phone, for no other reason than he is a very unhappy human being and he thinks abusing a woman in the clerical field will make him feel better.

A friend of mine passed, suddenly, on April 27th. My heart still hurts over this one. Thanks to the internet, and a passionate community of friends, I have been able to trade stories, to see old photos, and to process the grief. It is a welcome experience. I need people. Maybe on the terms that suit me best, but I need them all the same.

Then home. And housework, laundry, filing papers, paying bills. And kitten handling and maintenance. Life’s a full time job!

Sir Digby

Pip

so everyone is pretty much settled in

Pip
I can’t believe how many changes hit our family at once. A couple are too private to write about – at least, not at the moment, not until I can collect my thoughts. But – we bought a house, we moved, the kids came back home to homeschooling – and a job found me.

Yes – for the first time in thirteen years I am working day hours out of the home – and today was my first day. I guess these last couple weeks – and the next few – I’ll be taking it easy. Remembering to breathe.

Sometimes life comes at you fast!

Pip, A Little Under The Weather

then having swallowed him I’ll creep / into the Guest Room Bed to sleep.

Today I have a few minutes alone, in the vet, waiting on a diagnosis. Our little Pip is ill – a skin infection at his shoulder blades. The difficultly was discovered yesterday and though his spirits are up, and his appetite is good, I woke up ready to worry. So, today: a vet appointment.

Pip arches about in my arms in an indolent, satisfied way – purring like a little buzz saw and stretching up his head to kiss me. I scritch his neck, his ears. I think to myself, My kids’ first week in school, gradually getting used to being places without them. Other grownups, caring for them. My children, caring for themselves. Out there in the world.

I am overcome. Not sad, or happy – an experience of newness. Coming back to time to myself, a rare quality for thirteen years. It’s like a gently sore back, needing to be worked in a little, a few stretches. I take long, deep breaths. I know I will adjust; tasting the newness. Some vertigo.

Right now what matters is holding this small cat, this wee scrap of life. His beating heart is as sacred as mine – or anyone else’s. Holding him right now, is holding everyone in the world. If I remember that, my life blossoms into something fragrant, vibrant – the senses attuned once again to the colors of the skyscape and the music of the open road.

I hold my little kitty and when the vet returns he talks to me swiftly and concisely. The cat will recover. All is well. Here – medicine. The veterinarian touches me – my hands, my knees, even my shoulder – often. He has brief, gentle hands. “Do you have any questions?” he asks. I do. I ask about antibiotics, about flea control. Pip thrashes in my arms, the picture of feline ecstasy. And now hearing this vet, when I realize my little kitty is going to be okay, tears start up in my eyes and I look ceilingward. I tell him, “I’m so glad to have him seen to. I was starting to freak out. The vet says: “It’s okay to freak out. That’s what we’re here for.” His kindness makes me blink. I remember how I need people, how I need help. I know my kitten needs help and somehow we are helping one another, holding one another.

Home in the heat – exhausted, but breathing deep, full breaths. Another day; the office of caring, and loving, going deeper down into my belly and bringing forth new life from within.

Pip, A Little Under The Weather