& why was it lifted and taken from there

It has been many years since my daughter asked me to paint her nails. The children and I treated ourselves to professional mani-pedis just before last year’s Christmas vacation. Last December she chose a soft black, and calmly let it grow out over the period of months, her special little hands and feet.

Today: a soft black, again, in a little bottle she brought home.

First: the toes. they are each perfect, little beans. Some day they will be held and treasured by the familiarity of a lover.

Tonight, just me.

We’re in the kitchen and it’s very late and it’s very quiet. 

Her toes only take a touch of the brush.

Then: time for her fingers. Her hands are delicate and beautiful. They are always warm, her hands. She holds my hand still; she held my hand in the drugstore today. I hold each finger gently and carefully brush each nail, all my concentration. Nail lacquer is a great mindfulness practice.

“‘No Light’ Gel,” my daughter tells me. “I don’t know much about manicures, but…” [sharp intake of breath] – “the idea doesn’t seem sound.”

I am quiet, thinking of her mind. She started her second year of college today. At fourteen. Her mind is as sharp as any I’ve ever seen. I forget she still needs my help, my nurture and guidance. Adult as she sounds.

Yes but – but in her voice I can hear the same sweetness I heard when she was an infant. I remember when she was only two years old, she could “read” the large Dr. Seuss book The Lorax. She couldn’t really read, understand, but she’d memorized the words and tone of the words when we read to her, and she has always been the most delightful mimic. She would calmly turn the pages and recite the story aloud: “What was the Lorax? And why was it there?” I’d hear her musical but sharpish lisp from her bedrroom while I breastfed her brother.

She says, now, about the nail laquer – which she bought herself while on errands with her grandmother, a thoughtful purchase, “But it was one of the more moderately-priced products on the market.”

I die. I die a hundred times inside my heart.

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

brewing up stews / of cats’ mews

We are back to what seems, to me, one of the more idyllic ways to live – my husband off to work early in the morning, and I about my house, making coffee while the kids sleep. They sleep for hours and hours, unfettered by school’s schedule.

Busy as I am – currently making a video tutorial on a silk dress – when I hear them stirring I go sit on their bed, or crawl in for a bit.

This morning: “What was the deal…” my son asks, his brown body curled up with his back to me, “with witches?”

I ask him what he means.

“Why did people put them to death?” I can see he is troubled. I breathe. It hurts to think about.

I tell him what I know: men are afraid of women. So women with power affect them most of all. .”Witches” were independents: midwives, women who worked on their own or in some way did not meet cultural standards. So it wasn’t right, but some of these women were persecuted, tortured, and killed.

He asks if witches are real, though. I’m like – I don’t know. But my friend N____ is a witch. He asks, “How does that work?”

“It’s like religion. It’s very personal. So you can’t always go up to someone and ask them ‘how it works’.”

As we talk I feel his body, which had been curled up defensively, possibly a bad dream – I feel his body soften. He turns his cheek under my arm, and pulls me close. “You are so nice,” he says. “So lovely!”  Because it’s not that children can’t handle harsh reality. It’s that they aren’t meant to handle adults who don’t give shit, or adults who don’t commit to being the one to make it better.

I’m thinking how powerful it is to be a parent. I am almost never prepared for the responsibility.

Last Day Of School 2015

what air is to the lungs; or, how suddenly summer is upon us again

Last Day Of School 2015
My children’s first year at school together, come and gone. Not much fanfare after all; I brought out some homemade food on the last day of class – simply to be relevant, to impress upon the children there that their time is honored, that we do indeed see them and love them. And yes, I am glad to be there if only for this brief hour. The food in hand: deviled eggs and pretzel sticks, the eggs created in my kitchen only the half hour before. I carry the parcel to a few other classrooms, teachers. My footfalls are weary but I’m glad to ghost about the hall and experience the privacy of my thoughts. 

The edifice, the institution, the classroom, is as it always has been now that I’m an adult: a bit dirty, small-minded, housing implausibly-cheerful young citizens and adults paid a wage for honorable work. My throat constricts and my heart thunders with hope, and despair. My children are happy – everyone seems to be! – but I am ambivalent, an experience that will follow me the rest of the day.

And I am distracted. Our grocery reserves are limited to a bit of folding money in my pocket, and we are paid Thursday next. But even this is familiar, an adventure. Only distressing if I decide it is. Instead: it just means on our last school roadtrip I text my husband to send me coupons for take-and-bake pizza; I think of what we have in the fridge, and of when in the next week or so I can reasonably set up something special for the kids. They have, after all, completed a year on their own steam.

Driving home I know the car full of children – four in all – are feeling joy, and sadness, and a since of pulsing life. Even now today’s memories are blooming in their chest, to be touched upon lightly in years to come. Music and singing, the wind through our hair, the sunshine painting the winding road flanking the Wishkah river. They can afford to let the moment come and pass, while it lives wretched and sublime through my body, manifested in my fingers resting on the steering wheel, tapping out a rhythm more cheerful than I feel.

Summer, then. And already my son is half-feral: he has plans to do his banking – he packs his stamped-leather piggy bank in my car and is querulous I don’t make the time to stop at his branch. He tells me he will stay a week at a friends’, someone he hardly knows. His summer tan returns seemingly overnight, his hair lightens from honey into an earnest, bedeviled blonde. He is outside and running the neighborhood as much as we let him; home, he cooks meals at late hours, and tries to take a bowl of soup to eat in his bed, although perhaps I have scolded the children for this kind of thing hundreds of times. He painstakingly arranges his most treasured effects in the many small wooden boxes and metal-clasped receptacles he’s squirreled away over the years. In one such repository: miniature Lego pieces, a geode, a key, foreign currency, fossilized sharks’ teeth, and nondescript rocks imbuing a meaning known only to he. “I wish I could keep your heart inside,” he says – then, with a quick glance lest I misunderstand, amends his statement to mean my soul, my spirit, not my anatomical heart.

He tells me he will forgo school next year – but who can tell? This time last year, we had no hint he’d want to attend, and we wouldn’t have predicted how that would go in any case.

I have a leadership role in my household. This is evident to anyone who knows our family. This is something we four know. Yet in so many ways I am blind and striking out, making way in hostile, confusing terrain so the family can grow into themselves. They thrive in confidence in this shadow, lush and verdant greenery twining in the loamy darkness, growing strong. They fall asleep easily while at night I am prone to anxiety.

And tonight – as evening falls, sitting on our couch with my legs folded underneath my body – I talk with my husband. I speak of the disappointment and sadness I feel to watch so many I know, falter in their spiritual path. I speak of Doubt, which is so much harder for me than Fear. A mirage of illusion. “There are a small number of people I have found to be faithful,” I tell him. “You’re one of those people -” I say, and turn my head strategically for just a beat, to let this pass, before I complete my thought.

I am glad of their faith because, if I cannot always be happy, be sure, they are still the best thing to have come along, to awaken me to something beyond my own machinations and limited understanding.

the hardest habit to break

“We should focus on snuggling,” my son whispers, drawing nearer. He has a morning routine: his father wakes him up shortly after seven, whereupon the boy makes his toilet, dresses, gets breakfast – sharply objecting if Ralph dishes up too much breakfast as that means it will take up too much time – before climbing the stairs and into bed with me. His every single move in the morning, is such that he can maximize this time he holds me close. Sometimes I’m half-awake. Sometimes I get up after he leaves – sometimes, I fall back asleep.

For many days I didn’t even notice my boy was doing this, really. Living with children, swimming in the waters, you can miss even something special. And now I think: what gifts his morning demonstrations are. And I think, These days will pass by, just like everything else!

This evening I sat in a group, a spiritual gathering of sorts. I heard a man talking about his life a few years ago. He said some things that troubled me. I reached down and refolded my pant cuff, fiddled with my shoelace. Trying to process my thoughts, my feelings. Trying to touch them, first.

What is wrong?

I discover: I have a sense of unease, when people put themselves down. When they say how horrible they are, and especially when they use harsh words. Piece of shit, whiny little bitch, liar cheat and thief. I hear these things. I feel uncomfortable, that’s how I feel. Just about as uncomfortable as when people use that language to talk about others.

If I easily gravitate to hate-talk about others, or myself, even my past self – well, I’m probably still saying it, thinking those hateful things, about myself. Later, I will look back and ask, why was I so hard on myself? On others?

Life is too short for self-hate. It seems like it’s something we can’t stop. Maybe if we knew how much we did it, we’d feel appalled. We’d want to do something new.

Maybe that would be a beginning.

My husband and I meet in the kitchen, after housework is done and the kids are getting ready for bed; the cats are fed and the dog has been walked. I put my arms around my husband as it seems daily he grows more dear to me, more beautiful.

That’s one of those mysteries I wouldn’t have believed, or understood, maybe even not so many years ago.

 

Pip

we’re all sensitive people, with so much to give

Pip: He is a doll. Truly. He is feeling so much better.

Pip

Plants: I set aside a few for a teacher who wanted some for her classroom. And put them in cute little pots. It felt right.

Avocado, Spider, Succulent, Wandering Jew

Progress. We are fixing some flooring in need of repair. I’m trying to find some old tongue-in-groove fir, 3 1/4″. This flooring is common as dirt but I haven’t yet found it around these parts!

Flooring

Plans. Taking a break from an overstuffed schedule of sewing for clients, I… sew for another client. In this case, a project to donate to a local auction. 

Auction

Perfect. Turns out the kittens are way into Ralph’s beard. Like really into it.

Ralph Cooks

10 PM: a warm oven

I remember when my husband and I used to fight a lot. In between fights, that tension we tried to ignore. Or at least I did.

Today he makes me my favorite bagels… today I think of anniversary gift after anniversary gift for him.

Ralph Cooks

Bagelz

I’m tired – my feet are tired. My back is tense. The bed calls – cool linens and warm bodies, laughter and inviting arms.

#goodnight

turn around, bright eyes

This morning the phone rang early; I answered to a small coutille shop across the country who wanted to know if I really did want their rather arcane and old-fashioned form of tracing paper. It was like: they were vetting me to see if I knew what it was for. In truth I am very happy to have found the product as, as a seamstress, my tools and fabrics are everything. And I’m going to be looking forward to that tracing paper like a huge, huge nerd.

Anyway after the brief call I hung up the phone, arose and brushed my teeth and hair, then fell back in bed.

My son was loving when he woke before I; he arose, dressed and cleaned up, and fixed himself a breakfast. Eventually he opened the door, “Mom? Do you want to get up?” Yes, yes I do.

I had trouble for the first hour I was vertically walking around. I am tapering off medicine that was prescribed to me in late May. I am feeling uncomfortable at times. I have good support. But wake-ups – a little groggy, still.

I am grateful for my family who is very patient with my limitations.

Tonight: Ralph (with a good-natured assist from Eric), busking. Today marked the official last day of the brick-and-mortar of local shop Gray’s General, which I adored. I think I was literally in there, their first five minutes being opened about two years ago. I’ve written blog posts and tutorials, hosted a class or two, and shopped for all sorts of wonderful craft this-and-that. Living where I do – with no fabric store, which is like a personal horror – Gray’s has been a well-loved experience for me. I will miss them, but I am so glad to have had them.

My daughter; looking half-grown. Today I told her to make sure to ignore any boys who were bugging her. She said, “There won’t be any kids [where we’re going].” I said, “Yeah, maybe not. But… even though you’re only twelve, men are going to start in with their stuff.” She immediately got my drift. I told her to read a book and ignore dudes who bothered her. She already knows how to do this, by the way.

A candle, lit for those in need. I told someone today, “We put other things where God belongs. We trust in things that don’t work.” Nothing is constant but that choice we have, to put our trust and our faith in something larger than ourselves and our limited understanding. This has, many times, been the only thing that has got me through.

dancing / kneeling

Today would have been my father’s 71st birthday. I miss him terribly. He taught me so much.

 

After he died I wrote his obituary – I believe I began it with his body still in the room. Re-reading it now it fucking kills me he never knew my daughter’s real name. He never knew how homeschooling would go for us. He didn’t know Ralph and I would get through some hard years and build a strong marriage.

He never saw me get sober. I don’t think my dad thought of me as an alcoholic but I know he knew I was troubled. It is only through some ministration of divinity I am not in personal agonies that he died before I could make direct amends to him.

I don’t believe he “knows” somehow, anything, now. Or that he is “with” me in some way, watching over me like those maudlin Family Circus comic strips. I believe we have been separated in some profound way and his form will never be reassembled again. “Everything dies”, and from that stark sentence springs a beauty so fierce I want to cry. From that stark sentence springs a faith that is simple and indefensible.

Sometimes I think it was my father’s gentleness, and his witness to my life that enabled me to survive so many trials. My father didn’t rescue me from so many perilous situations, but he seemed to know a lot more about me than anyone else did. I didn’t think anything I did could separate me from his love.

As he sickened and died it was my mother and I alone who stayed witness. Sometimes I think that is a bond she and I share that could also never be broken. I remember watching him in his deathbed and watching him waste away and feeling a profound, keening helplessness that was beautiful in its simplicity. I could cook or clean but nothing would change a thing. I could wait on him but he needed me less and less until he left.

I can remember the panic in my mother’s voice as my father fell into the suffocating last moments of his life, not enough oxygen. She cried out for me while holding his head to her breast. It was a horrible way to die maybe, but we do not know how exactly the body suffers, and our own time will come soon enough. There is no part of me that regrets being there. I only hope I offered him some sort of comfort, some sort of Presence, just like he’d given me.

My heart breaks to think about it. Today would have been a wonderful day to remember him in some way, besides the small slice of lemon meringue pie (his favorite) that my mother procured me. I would have liked to do more – but I was tired, preoccupied, I had a hard day of my own. I know that sometimes these milestones pass and there is only this scuffling sound and an inert sadness.

But even so: one never knows. Tonight in searching his obituary I find his Guest Book hosted by the mortuary; I had never seen these notes before. There is a glimmer of something; someone out there cares. Whatever struggles I go through, mediocre or keenly-felt, there are those who care and who are there to keep pace.

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.