Made me pine / For the lamplight / Where you lie

Sometimes I wonder if those reading here, this last year’s open self-identification as a recovered alcoholic, guess at the nature of my previous drinking. Like how much secret guzzling did I do, quantaties. I’m going to get to that in a minute but first I wanted to say some things about my day.

Today I got myself up early after a very poor sleep in order to make the commitments I said I would.

Today I cared for my son and daughter by putting away laundry and getting breakfast ready and pareparing the house for a calm and nurturing environment, and by driving my son the special place he wanted to go.

Today I texted a sick friend and offered to bring her something if she needed it.

Today I drove in the car and smoked a cigarette and sang along quite joyfully and felt so happy to have a car and gas money.

Today I made time to meet with and talk to another friend about something that was troubling her, because I care and I hoped she trusted me enough to talk, and I hope she didn’t later regret that in any way.

Today I asked after a man’s health and heard he’d been having a hard time with a rather scary event. I listened and we talked a while about his physical ailments and his perceived dangers of semi-longterm prescribed narcotic medication.

Today on two separate occasions I gave a man a cigarette. In one case, the fellow needed one. In the second case, I’d remembered the young man likes the kind I smoke. Directly after this transaction he asked for a hug and I gave him one, and today it was a loving and completely comfortable and genuine hug, because today that’s what I really truly deeply have to offer.

Today I talked with a practitioner who felt compelled to come out to me, although she told me she hadn’t yet done publicly or to her employer.

Today I took a phone call and laid aside plans to listen to and discuss someone with a long-standing serious health issue that had recently come to a head.

Today I asked my mother about her day and took a few minutes to give her attention.

Today when I came across my husband during our various activities, I asked him, “How are you?” or “How was work?” and I genuinely wanted to hear, and I listened as best I could.

Today I assisted another woman in Recovery in the way I understood that woman wanted my help.

Today I answered an email from across the country about a parenting/family issue that was giving the author some grief.

Today I coped with my physical pain by expressing gratitude for those who help me (the practitioners, family, and friends) and accepting that Ouch, It Hurts.

Today instead of the sewing I’d longed to do, I recognized my pain level and instead watched an old B-movie while I rested.

Today I apologized to a friend for a careless mistake I’d made.

Today I treated my children well.

I do not write these items out to try to look good for others. I write them because they are directly related to the quality and experience of my sobriety. To respond to my inferences earlier, I used to drink, mostly starting around dinner dime, for medicinal effect. If you ever came over you’d see how I drank, I didn’t get too sloppy. Maybe I even looked “normal”. I certainly had many people express surprise when I came out as alcoholic and needing help.

But man, it had nothing to do with how many glasses of wine or how many fingers of Jack. See the days I worked hardest to be a “good” mom (warning on that link, ranty), or deal with the latest setback, or my anger at my husband. The days I tried to do things to make my friends happy. You know, I had less quality friends then and fewer friends, than I do now. But anyway back then I had to wonder about how those friends felt about me. I felt I should “fix” them if they were in trouble. I felt I had to perform as a “good friend” just like my “good mom” stuff. If I made a mistake I felt humiliated, too much show to make a good amends. The friends who behaved toward me in ways that hurt, I ended up avoiding them, effectually cutting them out of my life.

None of that is how I live today. The difference may not be something that loud and evident but is experienced so deeply it is truly a revelation to write.

I don’t give the list of the things I did today to brag. Or to try that Sisyphean effort of being “good”. It’s to remind myself of the woman I am today, of what my actions evidence. That’s not who I used to be.

“just keep ’em appetizing!”

The last few days have been full of lots of home-cooking. A broccoli, swiss, and pepperjack quiche, an apple pie with oat, brown sugar, pecan and cranberry topping, baguettes, green beans, mashed potatoes (SERIOUSLY Ralph does a great job on these), pot roast and green beans, spaghetti and meatballs (in case you’re wondering, two days ago Phoenix emphatically lifted vegetarian requirements but suggests organic and/or ethical meat when we cook with it), butter broccoli, roasted garbanzo beans atop red and white basmati rice (again, Ralph nailed this one) with an attendant fresh-veggie tray, salad with butter lettuce and cherry tomatoes that burst in one’s mouth, sweet tea and our usual hot coffee, ice cold Red Hook beer.

I struggle with occasional experiences of guilt when it comes to my kids and their care – food is an aspect of that care and it’s hard to feel daily okay about my efforts (unless you’ve been a mom you may not fully understand – not that every mom necessarily does, either).  In a more balanced vein, the part of me that feels genuinely Me instead of feeling under pressure, one of my pleasures in life is to cook for those who enjoy the food provided; there is an additional pleasure I get in seeing my kids devour everything on their plates (which they don’t always do, but for instance they did tonight). I think it’s a pretty simple thing, really. Their bodies and minds are strong and beautiful and growing; their robust appetite reminds me of this and feels like an odd sense of security and love. I also genuinely enjoy it when I’m able to provide someone with the exact thing they want, and my family loves what I provide. My kids tell me fresh bread or lemon asparagus or frijoles refritos or hardboiled eggs and carrot sticks or bún thịt xào; I can make it happen as if by magic, and always with love.

Tonight I worked right up until I realized it was long time for me to rest. I wanted to be brave enough to not do the dishes (Ralph almost always does them but tonight he watched a movie with me instead). But, no dice, becuase once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to let it go. Just after 4 AM I washed dishes and wiped counters and made some new sweet tea for Ralph tomorrow but soon l I felt genuinely beat, and I still had more work to do. I followed the kids through their bath and picked up bath toys and re-sorted tidied the living room…

and got a cold beer and came to bed and turned on a ghost television show on Netflix …

And now? Close the laptop and take a few minutes with the kiddos before Slumbertown, Population: Us.

greater than the fear of bondage

Today? Was kind of suck. For instance I only got a couple hours of sleep. Because of this and I suspect a slight run-down from a recent very busy schedule, I was fairly “worthless” for getting work done here at home. In light of that I did a minimum – and I do mean a minimum – of housework, and caught up on movie-watching, my head bobbing around and my eyes all bloodshot, and a little extra snuggling with the kids.

Good movies, at least (the snuggling is always good, that goes without saying). In fact, it felt pretty awesome to watch some drama (Black Swan [ok, that one wasn’t so good but still], Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, The Missing, Shadowboxer, Megamind [with the kids], Insomnia [remake], The Machinist, Bright Star, True Grit [remake], and 127 Days). Yes, I did watch all those movies in the last 24 hours – easy to do when you don’t sleep. And yes, I guess I was in the mood for “gritty”. Not too gritty though. Not gritty-for-the-sake-of-grit. For instance I considered watching Shutter Island for the atmosphere and the DiCaprio and the noir but ******* spooooilller ******* I heard the film features about a hundred graphic and exploitive shots of murdered children, knothx bai.

So mostly, movie-wise, it totally worked out.

So yeah, I got to rest today, for which I’m thankful, but a lot of stuff went tits-up. Today’s planned swim date: didn’t happen. Company planned for tonight, wires got crossed: didn’t happen. PLUS Ralph was one day late on utilities billing so our water got turned off. Now that set me back a bit. Then I discovered our kitty Harris has a very ugly wound on his back so I have to get him to a vet tomorrow.

My mom hassled me today. Out of concern. “Why aren’t you sleeping?” “Should you see a counselor?” I was too tired to be overly polite, although I just (politely enough I think) told her I didn’t need advice about my sleep. She was very sweet and we caught up; she had invited kids over for a date but I’d forgotten to pull that together TOO. At my request she baked and brought us some individual pizza crusts so Ralph made homemade veggie pizzas for dinner. Another vegetarian day at the Hogabooms. I must admit the groceries are a lot cheaper.

So now? It’s 10 PM and I have nothing to show for myself today. I know that’s okay, or that’s allowed. It’s just rare for me. I tell myself I’d rather receive the opportunity to rest and relax than to fall ill. I’m going to have some more water, some tea, and a hot bath, and try to stop feeling like an ass for being as human as the next fellow.

something waits beneath it

Our household is usually such a peaceful and cozy one and never so much than late at night, dishes done and the house tided, the kids (usually) on their laptops or one of the other computers in the house – or like now, playing with clay and reading quietly. Ralph is asleep and so are all the cats; Hamilton in bed up around his neck, Harris under the kids’ easel, Josie on our phonograph, and Mable in a cardboard box Phoenix found today and brought home to fit with towels for this very purpose.

The family is happy and healthy. I am feeling better and drinking (booze) less (yay!). The kids are joyful and content. Ralph suffers a bit as at night he typically stays awake longer than he should (for his sleep’s sake), because he wants to have time with us. As for the kids and I, our night-owlery is something we can afford to do with no ill effects; without a school schedule we are free to pursue the sleep and rest and activity we need.  I am quite surprised to see how different our winter rhythms are than summer was. One of the principal joys of having seasons is appreciating the one you’re in and looking forward to ones to come.

That said, the children don’t seem to mind the gloom and cold, yet this year I do. I wonder why?

A Bath With My Young Son
(Small Stone #5*)

Your skin like velvet
Even in the cold pale of winter,
Rich like coffee and cream.

Small stone project

Where do we go from here? Is it down to the lake I fear?

Last night Ralph and I were invited out to the pub where, unbeknownst to me, it was Trivia Night. Do not get me started in a trivia contest. I wouldn’t say I’m competitive because I can’t be assed to care if we lose – but I am rather good and I get hyper as hell (seven years of Nerd Bowl, most of them as Team Captain). Which is incidentally how I was during our wedding day too – hyper that is, I have it on film. So last night was a version of Name That Tune and I nailed about 90% single-handedly, “Love Plus One” by Haircut 100 and Gary Numan’s “Cars” and a handful of relatively obscure Bruce Springsteen songs and some old live Stones and Stephen Stills and Roy Orbison for good measure. And I had to do a little dance every time I got a song right (don’t worry, I varied the dance, for the legions of fans). I was a complete dud for the handful of new country songs that were played – fortunately a few other ladies on the team knew those by heart. We placed 3rd, 1st, 1st, then 3rd and won a shitload of candy which of course I had no interest in.

Today was kind of a little gift, a reminder of just how amazing people are who deal regularly with sleep deprivation and function at the same time. I can’t remember the last day I didn’t have a solid six to eight hours under my belt; today I managed on about three and it hurt. My son and daughter spent the day hugging me and asking how I was doing. We had a friends’ kid over in the afternoon (and a sidewalk-chalk note from another girl who stopped by while we were out); in fact our little informal ritual of having from one to four extra kiddos during the day/evening/night is really a wonderful one for me. Today we took a late Thai lunch and I ordered for the kids and they were happy with my choice. They were such delightful mealtime companions; I don’t know if I’ve had better. Sun-dazzled and beat I drove home and had to ask them a few times to repeat themselves. My brain was a bit sluggish.

Ralph taught class tonight so I was on my own with the kiddos until about 9:30 PM. Tired as I was, it was a delight to sit in the car knitting and watching my daughter play quite energetically on the soccer field while my son wooed several other children on the playground. I waited for as long as the kids wanted to play. They were the last off the playground and we came home for a late dinner and a night in. Too tired even to knit, or maybe even drink.

“It’s hard to concentrate on the work at hand when a kitten is playing at your feet.”

The neighborhoods we walk in and bike in often contain derelict houses, overgrown lawns/lots, jagged unfriendly pathways (seriously I could keep up an entire blog mocking the HQX sidewalks). One time last summer as we made our way across Hoquiam and Aberdeen to get our groceries my daughter, irritated at the broken bottles, garbage, and variety of obstacles she was having to steer past on her new, almost-too-big-for-her bike, querulously asked, “What is this, a Glass Parade?”

This morning at 5 AM when I finally surfaced out of a lovely sleep as I realized I’d been hearing a crystalline “tink”, “tink”, “tink” for some time. I came to and discovered Hamilton the kitten was on the windowsill, six inches from my head, repeatedly and rhythmically tapping the window-blind cord stop against an empty glass. I removed the cat from the sill and disentangled my feet from her slumbering brother and got up for a glass of water and heard the sound of one of my adult cats outside, fighting/arguing with another feline from the neighborhood (you know that low, threatening cat-growl that sounds so alarming).

So that’s when the phrase, “Cat Parade” enters my mind, i.e. a world with Let’s Face It, too many tuna-breath little scurriers who, somewhat humiliatingly, follow me through the house and much like my children enjoy nothing more than being with me as I A. sew or B. cook. In fact as far as sewing goes at this point when I’m in the back room contentedly stitching the floor is so littered with cats in such extremely excessive states of repose I often feel embarrassed for them and myself because of how much pleasure we take in our company.

As I type this I feel one of the kittens begin climbing my back (fortunately I’m swaddled in a blanket so I don’t scream in pain and anger). I reach back and gently grasp the animal; you can tell it’s Hamilton because she has a very fat, round tummy (her brother is quite skinny). A few minutes later and she’s up watching me, cuddled up near my computer monitor. A couple minutes after that and she’s become singularly obsessed with attacking the mouse (computer-mouse that is) on the desk.

This is Hamilton:
Natural Defenses Hamilton is blurry in this picture. Now we own an incredibly cheap camera, I admit it, but nevertheless I rarely end up with an unfocussed picture like this. So I’m pretty sure she looks blurry because she is starting to feel sleepy.

Don’t tell anyone I was online reading “kitten quotes”, but I totally was, and I liked this one:

“A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her until you tread on it.”

I know my kittens are just sort of Nothing to anyone else, just a blip, another mouth to feed or a series of rather uninteresting anecdotes. For me the little ones remind me how fleeting life can be; how special is our Now and our time of self-discovery. My kittens remind me of the incredible good fortune I have, how I find I am able to give a little more to care for one more person or one more body and how I can always find more love. My kittens (are far, far, FAR easier than caring for a child but) remind me of babies and newborns and that when one chooses to care for others there is a lot of feeding and cleaning and loving-up and chores and just plain stewardship and often the acts themselves are the “rewards” and not all see how this is so. Some of the people I like best in the world are those who care for others – deliberately and with great joy – because people/pets/the world all need care.

But I’ll tell you one thing. If I’m going to own four cats I’m a little resentful that there have been moments when I totally want to sit down and have a cat on my lap and none of the little creatures are willing to provide.

I have the feeling I could own twice as many cats and never get that lap-love guarantee.

just:

Balls.

It is passing 6 AM and will soon be light out.  I have been hit with the no-sleep curse, something that strikes every now and then and is a pretty disruptive force.  I’ve had to cancel (much-looked-forward-to) plans for tomorrow – um, actually today, only a few hours hence – and this cancellation, though regrettable and suck-tastic in just about every way, at least means I may in fact get a bit of rest. You know, before the kids are up and my services are required.

Have I written much about how very, very much I hate insomnia? There is no upside.  Or if you can think of one, let me know.  In fact, call my phone number with your thoughts at about, oh, 8 AM, just when I’ve probably drifted off.  Shite.  The terrible thing is I was almost asleep right around 4:30 and something snapped me to wakefulness: likely an impending sense of doom, which happens to me often enough at night.  I am too tired and worn out to get up and sew, or write a good film review, or do the dishes or start some bread or do anything.  I am just sitting here kind of hating myself for having sleep problems. How very un-mellow of me.

Thank Jeebus for two things: first my son, whose warm, lovely body is curled up next to mine.  He drifted off late, late, late, with his arms around me and his last words were, “You are my girlfriend, my precious Little Mama.” This makes up for some of the times he comes after me with a knife.  So anyway, he’s here, and he feels and smells better than just about anything.

Second thing I am thankful for: my husband’s laptop because I can at least just loll around, no pressure, while I await my body to take its rest.  My choices for viewing tonight have thus been “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog” (very good; albeit too brief), and The Thin Blue Line, the latter a documentary on the killing of a Texan police officer (and Texans in general, holy moly!).  Both were viewed with absolutely no preconceived notions of content nor context, for which I’m grateful; I do hate, though, to have accidentally surprised myself with a movie-watching session ending on decidedly sociopathic notes.  My brain can only handle so much.

So: I’m off to log a few more minutes of viewing (look, if I have to, I’ll watch some real dumpage* if it means it will lull me to somnolence!) and hopefully get some shut-eye.  And seriously?  I’m hoping some love and tenderness is coming my way.  Universe, I need it.  Worn out and frazzled.

* ETA: I admit it – I couldn’t bring myself to do it.