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!

Interfacing

in SPACE-VISION™

InterfacingI am elbows-deep in supporting my kids through their schooling and extracurricular activities, paying our bills and keeping house, practicing yoga daily, firing up my B-movie site in a big way (as well as participating in the Bmoviecast and attendant community), and working on a semi-secret (but not really) and massive sewing project.

Also: setting up a 3D super-Wi-Fi blu-ray projector system in our house!

Space-Vision (TM)!

But sadly – all too often, movie night ends in a senseless napping tragedy.

Movie Night

This Baby Was Grouchy

an extra baby just for a minute

This Baby Was Grouchy

omg baby looks sad here but she really was OK – promise!

So a year ago last night, I helped my friend through a dark time in the ER. I thought a lot that night about how wonderful a gift sobriety is. Tonight things haven’t changed on that account:

When I got sober, I worried about some things… I worried there wouldn’t be joy in my life, that my life would be like this dry diet (or at least, what I imagine a diet is like) of “good habits”. I truly worried that I’d be bored, or boring. And I definitely thought I’d miss drinking.

 

Of the one hundred and one amazing and incredible and unexpected things that have happened to me the years I’ve been sober, not one of those worries has come to fruition. My life isn’t very boring. It doesn’t go according to my plans either.

 

I didn’t think tonight I’d find myself spending my set-aside rent money on the food and alcohol she needs to live. Two cases of skunky beer. Coors Light! I enjoy carrying the cases though. They feel substantial. Medicine they are!

 

Cans of tinned soup, packets of Chinese pork, fresh fruit, corn chips.

Today was a good day. I was home with my children, and I cared for a handful of other people. I let my husband hold me. I made a delicious dinner.

I got to be me, and like me.

So, that’s a pretty good gig.

Cracker Bros.

Cracker Bros.

Cracker Bros.

Phee + Pocket 

no family is safe when I sashay!

I’m up before the children – three, in all – and I have those few minutes after my husband leaves for work, and before anyone else joins me. I shower, and dress. No makeup but a little lipstick – hair back in a slouch cap. Dishes, and laundry, and tidying up some tailoring work as we’ll be expecting company throughout the day.

Now I wake up the children: first, my son, who is frightened over the vaccination he’s set to receive this morning. Then, the girls: my daughter and the kids’ friend C. We’ve got to hit two doctor’s appointments back-to-back. We’ll be doing that before we get a meal out together.

It’s rainy out but I have a little coffee in my Nalgene bottle, and my warm scarf. The kids are cheerful company. Phoenix is a young woman now and would no more skip a morning shower than I. Her hair is wet; her face dear freckled face snubbed with a little powder. At the doctor’s, she finds some women’s magazine – Jane or Marie Claire or something – while the other young girl finds a Highlights.

People in the office, and later running errands – so many seem so unhappy. Irritable at those minor delays that happen everywhere. At the taquería working class men look me up and down as I ferry drinks and napkins and salsa to the table. I eat slowly, checking my phone. Enjoying that first meal of the day. I eat until I’m satisfied. And now: I must get us home. Drop one child off, receive another. Put together a few Christmas gifts.

It’s cold and rainy; my car is giving me fits. Tomorrow is payday so tonight I can write a check for our dinner, and for Christmas Eve dinner. My husband is tired – as tired as I. My knees, my neck ache. My son runs through the house, first acting out every song in “Jesus Christ Superstar” (he’s still quite fixated); later, in a pair of neon green boys’ briefs that match the garish bandaid on his thigh – his vaccination site.

The rain, the curious meow of kitties needing love. Keeps me company as the house falls more and more still.

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party

on hospitality

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party

Today is less peachy-keen than yesterday. Still very low levels of kidney pain – most of the day, non-existent – but I am fatigued, and suffered a good deal of nausea rising in the later part of the day.

I do the best I can: rescheduling an appointment, making a few more. Laundry (a neighborhood gentleman came over and helped inspect our dryer), dishes, and food – cupcakes and chicken sandwiches for our later event. Drive to the bank to make a deposit.Thankfully, the deposit gets there before the check for rent pulls funds.

Put the house in order; light candles. Cut out three layered t-shirts; return pattern to envelope and filing system. Fold clothes and make a pot of hot, strong tea.  Drive the rainy distance along the river out to pick up my children, and one other young one, at the bus stop. Put a call in to a friend.

The sandwiches, the tea party: a few visitors today, one very special. My friend E., my daughter’s best friend A. – and the kitten new to A.’s home. A kitten almost identical to our own Pip, but of a fluffier nature with a hard, round, low-slung belly.

You can see why it was pretty important we make it a real Occasion.

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party 

A. and her kitty leave a little after 8; I tidy up. It’s 9 PM – my makeup is fading; my body feels ill. My son collapsed at six PM, clothes and all, in his bed – lights on. His early bedtime somehow leaves me feeling lonely, sad and ill. The early sunset isn’t a great help, either.

I remind myself that just because I am not feeling well, does not mean those in my home are similarly afflicted. It is so important to give them all the love I can.

No matter what!

WALKIES

the fox in the snow

WALKIES

It’s cold. Cold and windy some days; merely cold others. I dress as best I can for the morning walks with my dog and frankly I’d rather end up over-bundled than the opposite.

My dog is a fit and hardy soul; he traipses across large puddles encrusted with thick ice; these frozen lakes groan under his pressure and he takes a quick drink, then he’s trotting ahead again. I find myself enjoying the fresh air and some contemplation; small brown birds abruptly blossom into colorful flowers – slam into the tenacious blackberry shrubs at trailside. I see a fellow dogwalker now and then, but mostly it’s just the sound of the water in my ears, and my dog’s companionable tread.

Winter Walk

They’re pulling the paper mill down, across the river. There’s a part of me that can’t believe it’s gone. I stop and really get a look – as long a look as I’m willing to take given the cold – and I think about my past, my future. I’ve lasted longer than the mill. Huh. See, I started my engineering life at that mill as an intern, after my sophomore year at college. I remember all the other engineering students and how all they’d talk was money and job prospects and the cars they’d buy.

It depressed me long before I earned the degree so maybe I was fated to let that life fall aside.

I think about when I quit engineering and the few who told me I was wasting my “good brain” by leaving a technical field.

But I’m still standing; the mill isn’t. It seems like each attempt, each vocation, each series of struggles and failures, and I’m left humble, less-than, and in a satisfied smallness.

Winter WalkToday I line my eyes in black eyeliner; powder, line them again. I tuck my blonde curls away up in my watch cap. I adorn myself with the one necklace I own – a cheap little affair with a black cross. And hoop earrings. I make the bed, stopping to kiss the small kitty who asks for my attention. He reclines on his back, his paws up, lazily paddling the air in his ecstasies.

I wash the dishes, and care for the animals, and sew two simple garments. I meet with a friend, and attend to my duties: picking up the children, chairing a meeting, attending pickup rehearsal.

My children are old enough to have a life of their own; this happened very swiftly, and it is taking me quite some time to get used to this. I find myself teetering on the balance beam; realizing that they have formed of themselves most of the persons they will be, and that my job is no longer so much to help them manifest, but to support them in their ever-blooming self. So when my children are well, I feel well; when they suffer, I suffer more than seems possible, and certainly more than is logical.

My daughter’s manicure, deathly deep blue – chipping. The blonde tendrils of my son’s hair, clinging to his perfect skin as he emerges from the bath, wrapped in a threadbare towel. The cozy clink here and there from the kitchen: Ralph washing the dishes. My own anticipation of a hot shower, and a hot lemon and honey to drink. And hanging the last of the clothes to dry and wiping down the counters.

And last night, when my son had so much trouble sleeping, and couldn’t settle, and cried out. And I brought him a warm milk with honey and after he drank it

he fell

into silence,

and slept.