that it’s just what we needed / you decided this

My son climbs in the bed and flips his hair, which is soaking wet from the shower. Even a few moments on my pillow will leave it wet the rest of the night, as much hair as he has and how well the tangles hold moisture. “I will love you forever,” he tells me as he settles into my arms. It’s late and he’s exhausted but he wants to fall asleep here with me. I hold him for a while but send him to his own bed. I fear tonight he may have night terrors; he used to get them so often when he was much younger. Now we see them about once a year. Frightening and brutal, but for all that I am glad for their infrequency.

I slept well last night and indeed have been sleeping well lately, and I am grateful for this. I am struggling with so much anger of late. My little family gives me so much solace and joy; so does my volunteer work. So too, does my yoga. Maybe it is just that I am so faithful in all of these and it’s my faithfulness that sustains me.

I set forth in my studio and work on a pair of velveteen trousers with gathered knees, and double-welt slash front pockets, and flower-shaped fell-stitched back pockets, a jaunty little pair of luxe knickerbockers for a small child. The velveteen is gorgeous but dot not perform well when cut, shifting irritating bits of fluff all about my clothing and sewing machine table. For all that I persist – building and constructing a half-lining similar to a pair of men’s dress trousers. Grosgrain ribbon for the inner waistline. When finished they are a delight; I set them aside as I will be adding more pieces soon, for this same child.

Part of my irritation may be the cold in my studio; I think it fatigues me to work there. My hands are cold when I come upstairs and I heat them by washing them, or pouring another cup of hot coffee. Last week I put together the hummingbird feeders again as a solitary soldier was visiting now and then; so I can look out the window while cupping my mug, and watch the alacrity of the birds, the sun and rain outside on the fierce and fine weather we are having.



Today I swam a long swim, hustled money from one old rotten tree stump to another (to cover bills about to post), did the housework, got my kiddos where they needed to be, took an alcoholic and an addict sans vehicle to two back-to-back meetings, and swooped in to pick up and foster a kitten displaced by an evacuation in Hoquiam.

Beyond tired. No quips here; and I lack the stamina to write a bit more about it, really.

Crashing into bed in 3, 2, 1…

we belong to each other

I’m up early and my daughter is in the bathroom, getting ready for her day. She’s just applied green eyeshadow and looks smart in her skinny jeans and layered tops: Seahawks colors, in celebration of yesterday’s big win.

“How did you sleep?” she asks me.

“I slept well, but I woke too early.” I sit next to her while she ties her shoes.

“Are you stressed?” she asks, glancing up at me.

“I am. A little.”

“What are you worried about?”

“Stuff.” I rise, go to the window, open the curtain a bit. The morning light, a bit of sanity, a respite from the terror of night.

“I just heard about this study, where they analyzed nightmares. It was found people often suffered nightmares when they were stressed about something – usually relationships. Or money.”

“Bingo,” I say, thinking, food. Although my kids don’t need to know that exactly.

“I felt so moved reading that study because, I know what it’s like to have nightmares. Although -” her face scrunches in what is an almost comically-adorable expression of wonder – “I haven’t had nightmares in a long time. I used to.”

I ask her if she is happy in her life.

“Yes… mostly. It’s not perfect.”

“I doubt anyone has a perfect life,” and I’m thinking, Sophie, I don’t know why but something about her scrunched face reminds me of her toddlerhood and so my mind finds her long-ago child name –

“But – what would you like different?” I ask.

She looks at me with frank appraisal, yet she is blushing.

“Besides that,” I tell her.

“I think… I would like… a nice family.”

I’m surprised. “Oh? We aren’t ‘nice’?”

“It’s not perfect,” she repeats, but she’s thoughtful as she says it.

“What do you wish was different?” I ask her. She’s the wisest person of the four of us anyway, and – tired as I am, I’m willing to hear some new ideas.

“I don’t know,” she says now, sitting up on the couch and looking at me. Young tigress.

“How about that is your assignment for today. Think about what you’d like differently for the family.”

She nods, turns her head – her sleek hair pulled in a ponytail. She is very lovely, in every way.

You can see why, this morning, I was desirous to type out our conversation before it flitted from my mind.

My mind. My practitioner told me I should rest it, to feed my blood. I believe she is right. Resting one’s mind is quite a challenge!

I am stressed, I am worried. I am. A little. I’m not thrilled my sleep was shortchanged but since I’m up, I will wash dishes and take my dog on a run. It’s true today I’d rather curl up and “do nothing” but I’m going to do what I should because I should do it. I gotta be patient and not panic although when my sleep is disrupted, I tend to worry.

Patience. Patience. At swim class the other day, the lifeguard told me: “The only sport – the ONLY sport – where you have to consciously think about your breathing.”

Yes. & no. Today I gotta breathe right, even though my head is nowhere near water.

sweet little baby on a big white doorstep

I’m dismayed to report that stress has gotten the better of me, just a bit. It’s not that I think I should be stress-free or anything. It’s just: I’m on that roller coaster and while I can practice some self- and other-care to help me out, I can’t just magic-wand the anxiety away.

A few times this last week I’ve been slamming awake at night just minutes after falling asleep, in a panic. This used to happen nightly; but I’d had a reprieve for a few months, thank baby Jeebus. The panic dissipates slowly over a few minutes, and I fall asleep within a half hour. Then, I sleep well (I think), but then in the morning, the last couple weeks or more, every morning, I wake up and:

How will I feed the family today? Tuesday I had put aside my Singer treadle; an acquaintance had asked us to hold it and was adamant they wanted to buy it. Then, about an hour before they were to come over, they cancelled. Now this kind of thing, to them maybe it’s no big deal, but for me: food for us for the next four days, vanished. I am not angry, though – of course not. I know that caring for my family is my responsibility, not someone else’s.

Yesterday I saw my doctor for a few issues, including some “sports” injuries, and an unrelated nerve pain in my arm. He gave me medicine for the latter and said it would help with insomnia. I thought about telling him I was experiencing stress but I kept quiet on that point since we had other things to talk about. I have a follow-up with him in two months and if I’m still having troubles, I can tell him then.

There are times in my life I find it almost impossible not to be intensely preoccupied with the struggles I have. Yes, they are real but, come on – they aren’t that big a deal, when I pull back and look at my life from the perspective of the massive, infinite Universe. I am only on this planet in this body for a minute or so! Why my preoccupation? Selfishness, really.

I do what I can to find some balance. I try to eat right, to drink my five quarts daily of water, to get some exercise, to rest up, to meditate. It is at the point that even if I rest, I don’t feel very rested. I am drained and tired. But I try to rest and eat anyway, as well as I can, and I turn my thoughts to one thing that seems to ease my mind and nurture my spirit: helping others without regard for return.

And on that note, wee kitten No-No, whom we’ve fostered a little over two weeks, is going off to PAWS on Saturday to receive her vaccinations and be made viewable to the public. Surely she will be adopted her first day in public (and if not, we will pick her up and bring her here again, then bring her back on next adoption day) so on Saturday when we drop her off and I CONFESS after we kiss her black kitty lips at eleven A.M., it will likely be the last time I get to hold her.

This is going to sound – well, who gives a shit how it sounds. What I want to say is, I am proud of my family for fostering this little kitten. She is just a little tuft of life but without our care (and the vet’s medical attention) she would have had a feral kittenhood and adult cat life, which is to say a dangerous one. As it is, in our home, she’s been well-fed, de-flea’d, and loved up almost every waking moment.

Maybe it’s precisely because times are tough, doing something I know makes a difference, it feels concrete in some way.

Some people teased me we were just adopting a kitten, not fostering it, but our foster intentions were real and still are. I am glad to let No-No have a forever home although I’m not going to lie, I will MISS HER so much.

No-No, Nighttime

Little scrap!

No-No, Nighttime

Even as I type, she prounces under my desk and swats at my feet. I reach down and she’s already purring, an anticipatory response to pleasure. I curl her up on my chest and smell her honey-fur warmth and it’s off to lie down a bit. Patience, and rest, and taking things slow.

a little sunburn by the glare of life

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.”

A little after four AM I hear my son’s voice like a pebble tossed in a still pool. “Mama. Would you be willing to comfort me in some way?” His voice is calm but sad. I realize, surfacing from sleep, he’s been under the covers, shifting silently, his body giving off heat like fresh-baked bread, frightened and trying to cope on his own for several hours. I hold him close and as I wake up more I collect myself to care for him. First I bring him to the bathroom to pee, then wash his hands and have a drink of cool water and then I feed him a little cereal. His body in his little underpants reminds me of my childhood books, Mowgli the “little brown frog”, legs and arms and a little fragile neck. His hair is long and tangled and every color of blonde, the smell of a dusty sunshine, a special heaven made just for me.

We return to bed and like a stone sinking in a pond he sinks into sleep, gradually over minutes but the minutes feel like much longer, laying beside him and in a state of half-sleep as I’m ready and willing to rise with him again should he need it; should his sleeplessness be the beginnings of a flu or fever. I stroke his back; smooth as velvet, living ribs rise and fall beneath my hand. It is quiet and the earth is spinning and soon I spin down to join him.

In the morning I hear my son telling Ralph about his restless night. He tells his father I’d held him, and got up with him. “And I got a glass of lemonade and I didn’t even have to rush because she was waiting for me. She was very kind.” I am tired, but I am content with being tired. I am learning how to rest, sometimes. And now I hold his hair gently off his neck and kiss him at the nape of his neck; his body folds up against me and his dusky little voice tells us both about his plans for the day, which include swimming and showing off his “fort” (at the bay side) to his father.

Later in the day my daughter arrives home from a beach trip and does not go in the house, but instead finds Ralph and I in the garage where we are doing the dusty work of cleaning. “Mom, a little assistance?” she asks now, unwilling to track sand through the house. Good, my four hundred thousand exasperated remonstrations over the years have made some effect. I gently whack the sand off her as best I can and with her cooperation tug off one of her t-shirts; we travel into the shower where she stands while I bag up her sand-laden clothes. I leave her there, treading to the laundry room to wash her things, and she turns on the tap. I remember how good a shower feels after a beach date.

My children show the evidence of the season’s change; they are outside immediately when the weather improves and they stay out for months. It is a cheerful ritual I have almost nothing to do with, but that helps me immensely. Even cooking hot meals in the kitchen while the family is out, even pouring scalding water and suds into the sink, there is a privacy I experience in keeping the home while they are out, that is much-appreciated after the winter months being cooped-up. I cook beans with chiles and pour strawberry lemonade for my husband; before I go out in the evening I change into a thin white shirt and step out into the sunshine, a bit cooled from earlier in the day.

like a sleepy golden storm

This morning in bed I barely moved and my sleeping son rolled over and draped his leg over mine. We sleep like a single organism, our family. It’s wonderful. & now, I can’t fall back asleep, but I am content. I bury my head in his hair. It is THIS pillow-bushy and blonde and tangled and smells delicious. Depths. His skin is smooth and alive and flawless, warm velveteen, a tawny timbre even in the dead of winter.

This morning my first cup of coffee and I’m watching a little telly. My daughter comes downstairs, long legs and a shallow belly-bowl and her little cotton underthings and big beautiful eyes and she plunks next to me on the couch, and I mean right next to me, and I tell her not to get dressed, when I get home after the treatment center we’ll watch television together, and she is well-pleased.

A little before 1 I pull the car off onto the main thoroughfare and a few moments later my phone rings and I click on over and it’s my son and he’s sobbing. He’d chased my car because he wanted “one more kiss and one more hug” and now he hiccups he’s lost. Turns out he ran over four blocks and almost caught me. I had no idea. I tell him to call me back if he can’t find his way home and my eyes sting a little.

Tonight. My husband is out the door for a run after kissing me goodbye and in the quiet I fold up clothes then I plate up dinner – all-day pot roast and an Ethiopian cabbage, potato and carrot dish. Today I didn’t get up to much, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy so much what I have.

verily i say to thee, No Shit, Sherlock

The terror sets in about dark. I can breathe through it, smile at it, or I can succumb to it. It flutters in my chest when the evening sets on and car headlights appear; so in the winter, it begins about five PM. Driving home late and my eyes spy an “OPEN” neon sign, whether at a cafe or an auto parts shop: I get a false start of hopefulness – then I realize once again it’s errata because No, soon everyone will be abed and I’ll be up and alone. Alone. Tick tock. 10 PM rolls around and my family begins to tire; yet my non-sleep hours stretch ahead of me. Baffling, stunning in their aridity, a desert landscape of suffocating sameness.

I have limited options. Lying awake “trying” to sleep for a bit, before watching television programs, the more mind-numbing the better. I learned years ago not to “try” to sleep in the dark for long, nor get up and do a bunch of work and risk re-activating the Mind. I get to be with myself. It’s like the ultimate enforced meditation. Torture at times.

A lot of the addicts and alcoholics I know used to bypass these sleep issues by the use of chemicals. Of course! You can ensure you sleep (i.e. pass out). Or you can stay up for days and fly high, keep that mojo (not a Scientific Term) going so you can work without pain, emotional or physical. A far cry from the image of an addict as a selfish monster, most of those I’ve met in Recovery who were staying up and sleeping little were very earnest in their desire to perform well-intentioned tasks: cleaning the home, working a job or two. The intentions were good, and relatable to any human being, really; but the individual stories can be heartbreaking. A friend of mine told me about a home improvement job he’d been working on for three weeks at the time someone dear to him in the family was dying. He just kept working on this very exacting, very specific task. Clean and sober a few months at the time he tells me, it had pained him to return to the home improvement project and see it for what it was. While using, though, the focus, strength and power he’d felt had kept him going.

This is one of those incidents I might, MIGHT be tempted to say those who aren’t in Recovery, simply do not understand. Coping with sleep is tricky while drinking; try it sober! Tonight I read online: “[A]lcoholics can continue to have sleep problems for many months after they quit drinking […] [P]roblems with sleep onset may be more pronounced than with sleep maintenance […] [M]any former alcoholics had sleep problems that predated the onset of alcohol dependence.”

LOLOL it’s as if someone peered into my noggin and my life the last eight years or so.

As has been true for me for some time, my sleep problems like all of my problems become not “problems” at all, only a lesson I am listening quite intently to. I have already learned a great deal: to wit, a continuing acceptance that I am not a “bad” person, but a sick person. To wit: I did not “cause” my sleep issues, and I may never know why I have them. To wit: I may always have these issues, and I can accept that and no longer feel frightened, angry, obsessed, or depressed. To wit: I can learn how to care for myself with great intelligence and diligence that I might care for others – and for my own self, if ever I have a more protracted illness, or the prescient knowledge of my own death.

My “problems” transmute quickly into not being “problems” at all. Suffering can not be avoided, and I take comfort in that knowledge. Not-sleep is not something to be angry or anxious about; merely another opportunity.

rise and shine, sleepyheads!

Our last full day at the conference. Morning:

Another Morning At #LiG2012!


Tigress #LiG2012

Having just listened to Ronnie Maier’s talk, “Leveling Up: Advancing Your Unschooling”, and then Mary Gold’s closing remarks, Ralph and I picked up coffee right across the street at the (semi-)new Torque (small world, our housesitter knows one of the employees). Now Ralph’s off to do a last bit of laundry and grab a movie for this evening, and I’m about to go to a meeting. Tonight my brother and his girlfriend are coming up to visit and we’re going out to dinner. It’s our last night in the hotel, and tomorrow we have a picnic with the Life is Good attendees remaining.

You know I haven’t taken any pictures that indicate the volume of people, and the level of energy at this thing. A picture couldn’t encompass it anyway. But I’m guessing others have made a few films and those will pop up online and I can link to them later. A few minutes ago I cornered Mary Gold, the conference organizer, and thanked her for a wonderful time. Then we told her we’d tell all our friends about it. I have this wee dream of getting a schooling family to go and check it out. I have another dream to do a double-hustle and raise funds for next year so our family could go, and we could also send another family, preferably one who couldn’t afford to attend otherwise and/or a family of color.

But these plans and shenanigans can wait. For now, it’s time to rest and take care of myself a bit on the last leg of our journey. We’re still having a wonderful time.