aromatic cooking

Tonight I carefully slice into a red bell pepper, then a green one, and finally a cheerful purple onion. I cut a quarter wedge from each of these and slice as thinly as my patience will allow. I am exhausted, and I am trying to prepare a new dish. So I move slowly; but I do move. I heat up two types of tortillas (microwave under a damp cloth napkin) and wrap them in heavy foil packets into the warmed oven. Having pickled a jalapeño (while the others roast in oil and salt), I dice it finely and add to the marinade hosting thick tempeh slices. I halve cherry tomatoes into a bowl and gently combine them with a little oil, salt, sugar: set aside. I fry up the seitan chick’n strips – having pre-baked them dry and chewy in the oven – and add the peppers and onions and more pickled jalapeño. The kitchen warms brilliantly with the fragrance of peppers and onions and the family cheers a little. Finally: I slice avocado, bring out the lime cashew cream, and the purple slaw, my husband prepared earlier. We don’t set the table as my work is spilled across it, but join one another convivially on the couch to watch a quaint baking show before we go our separate ways again for the evening.

only – one day away from your arms!

I’ve been singing “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” over the last day, to myself. The Dusty Springfield version, of course; there is no other version. While I’m sewing or working her voice pierces my heart. I can sing as dramatically as I like, in front of my children. In front of no one else, in fact. Maybe I’ll grow a little less shy, or perhaps my children are just the most special people in my heart, and who can know the unvarnished Me.

as a means of self-escape

Two years ago today I had my ureter stent removed, after nine days of the worst kidney ordeal I’d yet faced. The device was placed on the twelfth after a brutal procedure, and that evening we had to make a call to paramedics; a couple days later I was in the ER. The entire experience was a nightmare. Removing the stent was scary and hardly pain-free; I remember simply letting my husband be with me for the ordeal because I didn’t have the ability to say yes or no, and because I knew he wanted to be there.

Today I felt an odd bit of kidney pain, only a little, a ghostly reminder. I have mastered the ability not to worry much, to predict it will get worse. Several years of pain, taught me some discipline. But the truth is I’ve had no major events since moving to a vegan diet; an entirely surprising yet welcome side effect. Every day, week, and month that passes without medical intervention and minor surgical procedures, I am grateful. We are still paying off the procedures from years ago.

So this time of year, yes I am grateful, grateful for my health.

I have planned an August sabbatical from client work; I have also cut down on social media significantly. Over the last few months I kept having friends ask me how I’m doing, and – since I am honest when people ask me this question – I had to confess I was a bit overscheduled. And confess it again, and again. Having disclosed this repeatedly, I realized I was responsible to do something about it.

Overscheduling is the kind of problem that creeps up, and it isn’t always a quick job to extricate oneself from these circumstances. So – carefully, with as much sensitivity for others as possible – I’ve been restructuring my life to a more sustainable pace. And this week, I’m starting to feel better, and more mindful; my yoga sessions are more refreshing and focused. My performances as mother and partner, are improving. Time is slowing – if only a little.

Tomorrow is my volunteer day; the day I devote the most time to others in my community. I am consistent with my volunteer work but I am also thinking about cutting back, or at least re-organizing. Today I know I don’t have to make any rash decisions on that count. I can wait, and meditate, and consult friends. 

And live to fight another day!

 

sleep, work, bike, yoga, eat, flop into bed; repeat

My children and I send one another memes all day long in Discord, and today my youngest forwarded one with an implied (and disrespectful) sexual reference. I was surprised and, as he and I thumbed through our phones next to one another, I mentioned my surprise to him. He was confused at my reference; from his comment I could tell he thought the image meant something entirely innocuous. I let the moment pass and I felt a small moment of gratitude.

Every day my children pass where they are safe, as they grow into adulthood, is a day I cherish.

I have for the first time a large enough set of orders I am setting up a waitlist for my works; In doing this I have been fiddling with my professional website and so it’s down at the moment. I think typically I’d feel irritable and anxious at this hiccup; I can’t afford to at the moment. I get up and work work work until it’s time to be with the family. I get my bike ride and my yoga in. I do my volunteer bit. I eat dinner. I clean up. I spend as much time with Ralph as I can. “It’s boring, but it’s my life”. Except, it’s not boring. It’s busy, and I have to make sure to have some mindful moments, and some play moments.

Beeps has a brand-new tablet we purchased thanks to a tax return and a great deal on Craigslist. The damn thing is so big we’ve given up our dining room table so he can do his work there. It’s lovely to have my child nearby and drawing away, even if they are often dug into headphones, they will still laugh aloud at my jokes or comment on my own music. I instruct Ralph to make twice as much dinner as typical, since the boys get up, fiddle on their phones, and then serve themselves large quantities of leftovers. Growing is hard work!

Tomorrow morning I have a Skype date with a pattern designer on jean fit; I hope to also finish the dungarees on my table before diving back into a crepe dress for a local client. I’ve also got to schedule – besides the waitlist for clients – something I haven’t scheduled myself in a good long while: a break.

overwork / natural high

Every day after coffee with my husband, I take a shower, tie my hair up and put on my little zip-up hoodie and get to work. I would work all day if I didn’t have other responsibilities; children, mostly, and volunteer work. And feeding myself so I don’t collapse. Lately I’ve been out of balance: too much work, too much time on other people. I need more rest; I want to take more care of my home. I scooted past a young man today at a recovery meeting, a young man with a broken face who had just a couple days clean. Mistaking my passing for affection, he gave me this little sideways hug. My heart breaks in these little ways when these moments happen; there is no point trying to express what I’m feeling so I don’t try. But I look at him and ask if he’s staying for the meeting, and I remember his name and I know it means something to me.

Back home and my children come by and pull me in for a hug (if I’m standing); they prostrate themselves across my body (if I’m laying down). The college quarter is over and my oldest child has, as a birthday present, a new computer. Both kids shout and laugh from their little basement gaming room; supremely happy. They need this time, and time with friends and food and sleep and affection and those are most of their needs. The house is only tidied when I can yell at the kids to do some work, and when my husband puts his incredibly efficient housework into effect. His body is strong and so is his mind and both rarely slip.

I am sewing on a buttery-soft jersey ITY; I am hanging up dresses on the dress form. I am hemming a little black dress and shortening sexy spaghetti straps. I am work, work, working to keep food in the refrigerator and try to stay on top of these bills. I am busy with the seam ripper with a little heater at my feet and the sunshine of Martina Topely Bird falling on my ears. And I suddenly realize in all our time together, Ralph never put his job before the family. He did his job but he stood his ground. And I think to myself what that shows our children about their value. I see so many straight couples where mother works her ass off and father has (or thinks he has) the big important job and is away from home or too tired when he gets home because he has Bills to Pay and I think it’s so often unfair, so often shit.

I stand up; stretch. My daily yoga practice is sluggish because I am tired in some way that defies explanation; still, my efforts keep those little kinks out of my neck, my shoulders, my hips. But yes I am exhausted, beyond tired. I have a call into a physician because I can tell something is wrong. Some nights by the time I’m in bed, I’m in a fog. I came out about this fatigue recently and as expected people shout explanations, solutions at me. These things can take time. I only hope I have the persistence to see it through, and that I am assisted by a pair of skilled hands and a good mind.

slings & arrows

After a brief hospital visit on Saturday, I was discharged home with a directive to make an appointment with my nephrologist, a small bottle of narcotic pain medication, a hole in my arm from IV fluid administration, and relentless attendant nausea and pain. I slept pretty well that evening – eventually – but the last few days have been rough.

In the shower this morning I cough and gag. I have steered clear of the narcotic pain medication as it makes me ill. Instead I load up on ibuprofen; only problem is, I’m supposed to eat when I take this stuff, and the nausea makes food difficult. I struggle some cereal down; hop in the car for my first day back at work..

I had a tidy two months off, and the time flew by. I’m surprised to find myself cheerful as I walk into the little government office where I work. I work with women who function as clerks; today I witness a man trying to bully one. He leaves, then comes back a few minutes later. In the meantime, my coworker has called for a bit of backup. Nothing dangerous but still. Unpleasant. “Ugly behavior,” I say, when he leaves. My coworkers cope with this sort of thing with a lot of dignity. They inspire me, because I’ve been disrespected recently and, even though I behaved myself, it still stings.

It’s beautiful out: stormy, but the sun breaking through now and then. Home from work (then yoga); my partner is searing garlic in a pan. My children are playing at their own enterprises; today was my daughter’s last-ever quiz in Biology so she’s happy. “Pay attention to me!” my son suddenly says, from the couch. He comes over and wraps me in his arms. “I love you. I missed you. Why were you gone so long?”

Why the hell do I give any good goddamn about how anyone else treats me, is what I’m wondering.

Me

no mama drama

Me
I adore my new(ish) job, but there are decided quirks. For instance, budget problems are major issues amongst personnel and almost every day I’m there, someone is sniffing out “so… what exactly are you doing today?” All the more depressing considering my predecessor was gloriously underpaid and while “appreciated” (as in well-liked by all coworkers) – quiteunappreciated when it comes to working conditions.

So for me – even though there’s plenty that needs to be done, and lots of cleanup I’ve been messing with, and little training at navigating databases and lawful requirements – well still, many days I’m facing some direct or oblique form of, Is There Any Possible Way We Don’t Need You Here?

Now I am a patient woman, a competent worker, and a confident person, so I don’t get too excited if I think someone trying to get me to justify my contribution. Still, it is a bit depressing. I find my mind wandering to people are accustomed to living this way for their food and board, daily. Work is a trade – my best hours for your rate of pay. Where do we get the idea we’re lucky to have a job? Give me a break.

At two o’clock today I zip up my coat, pull on my wool cap, and bundle into my scarf, ready to brave the elements for a lunch break. A storm hit the Pacific Northwest this morning; now the Chehalis River is flooding and deadfalls are crashing to the backroads. The wind is lashing torrential rains against the grey little buildings squatting outside, cheerful lights flickering within. My coworkers take a moment from their clerical exertions to watch the storm. The joke they’ll see me blow across the street if I step outside.

But I need hot food. I’m going.

My husband and children are home, safe inside the house.  I’ve sent Ralph a grocery list, so he can get us a few things should we need them. The power might go out; we need to be as reasonably well-supplied as possible. We’ve got a fireplace and plan on putting it to a maiden voyage these days.

At four-thirty: home then, and caring for the family. It’s getting dark, but the road isn’t as wet as I’d feared.

Ralph cooks most meals these days – funny that! – but while he’s taking a nap tonight, the house is quiet. I enjoy making up our meal: mashing up garbanzo beans, mixing up herbs and spices and breadcrumbs for falafel cakes to fry. Pita, fresh out of the oven. I let the kids help – first putting away the clean dishes, then washing their hands and squeezing lemons, snipping fresh parsley, placing the hot bread in a cloth-covered bowl.

Tomorrow I have the day off; the storm seems to have died down. My car is out of commission – some kind of horrendous leak somewhere, we are still troubleshooting – and the bank account is, predictably, overdrawn.

But – so what? I’ve got safety, warmth, and a lotta love.

and a new fireplace!

First Fire

gun powder shakes

My new part-time work involves clerical duties and data validation for a local official concern. It is important work, which makes it rather meaningful. It is also skilled labor, although the pay scale is low, which keeps me humble. And grateful. It’s very much “civic/citizen” work, and very soothing. Working it fulltime would absolutely wreck me, but that’s not what I’m doing, so I’m okay.

It is nice to have time on that is not really my own, bits of my life I have slotted away for someone else – no more nor less than a certain precise amount. Today, for lunch, I walked down a sunlit hill to find a good cup of coffee at the quaint little shop on the corner of our county seat’s modest thoroughfare. I’m so used to my little patch of the world I sometimes forget how lovely it really is – and how remote it would seem to those who live in urban areas. Lifting my eyes off the modest street, I see green, forested hills snugging us in. A blue sky booming with cumulus clouds almost too majestic to seem real. The air has an autumn chill but the sun is still cheerfully hot, and warms my cheap work-casual wardrobe.

The coffee shop fellow is friendly and asks, “What’s on the agenda for today?” I am so unused to being asked this by strangers, it takes me a moment to grind into the routine of friendly chit-chat. I tell him: “After work, I’m taking care of the family. Then yoga and a date with friends.” He tells me he’s off to work on the brakes of his car. Truth is, most times, I’d rather hear about someone else’s plans than talk about my own. But even so I’m thinking – I’m terrible at this, at asking people about their day. Maybe I’ve got some learning to do, about connecting to people in a real way.

At the end of workday I file the last bit of bureaucratic ephemera, check the desk for tidiness, log off the computer – then swing my bag across my shoulder and bid adieu to my new officemates. Home and my car has a “CHECK ENGINE” light on. Radiator, still cracked. Brake linings need to be seen to. At week’s end I will owe a phenomenal amount of tuition for my daughter’s new educational ventures.

It’s a damn good thing I know better than to worry – about anything.

Because right now, I have to get home. Feed my family. Ask my kids about the first part of their day. Try to rest.

It’s been a busy few weeks.

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!

“does your thumb get sore?” – asked me, today, by a friend

Answer: No. I have strong hands from the time I’ve put in.

"Patience & Care"

Keeping it real, a bitch has been working hard to get her craft recognized in a world of Walmart and Target and buy-it-from-Martha-for-the-homemade-look-but-guess-what-it’s-made-in-China. And probably just the most insidious bit, the materialistic pursuit to own a bunch of stuff, willing to sell out others to get comforts, buying into that aspirational lifestyle.

This all used to bug me. And probably a half dozen other complaints. I can tell you I am no longer bitter about these forces, because I have accepted I can’t change any of it. But *I* changed. A while back now I stopped competing in this worldview. It’s just too damn depressing. And frankly, I could stop messing about – because Ralph’s salary pays rent and food [she said, flatly]. I stopped sewing things I didn’t want to sew. I stopped saying Yes to things I didn’t want to do, and I stopped listening to advice from people who didn’t understand artisan craft. The many Makers I’m blessed to know have given me the gift of valuing my work.

So yeah, I finished this wonderful quilt today. I already know my next item for Homesewn. In fact I can design and create stuff a little too fast, but I want to give people time to get some scratch together if they want to buy something. I know the pangs of waiting for a payday.

This & that:

A manatee baby bunting made for a family expecting a child in a bit:

Oh The Hu-Manatee!

I designed the manatee (or dugog, if you will) in all cotton and fully fleece-lined with an asymmetrical closure, carseat buckle window, and little foot windows because having babies in bags always seemed a little off to me, although it probably bothers no one else. Besides babies’ socks are always slipping and this way you can reach and snug them up. I’m most happy with the eyes and hand-embroidered eyelashes but I didn’t get good pictures due to poor lighting and all the hundred other things I had going on this morning.

A thread-drawn patch on a baby wrap. Designed the patch, overdyed the chambray, and sewed the wrap.

Thread-Drawn Patch:

& while I work – Harris, sleeping off a nap.

Harris After A Hard Day Eating A Lot Of Food, And Sleeping

Just before I finished the quilt – I picked up some lovely Dylon at Gray’s General Store for a not-so-distant future project.

"Patience & Care"

I’m truly grateful to get to practice my craft and it gets more satisfying all the time. I am aware at some point, my abilities may fall away. Old age, illness, calamity. Whatever. I meditate on my bodywork and enjoy the experience while I can. Funny, for many years I was declared the math & science type and some influential people in my life hinted like that was all I was good for. Now I’m like this crunchy-as-fuck unschooling mama stitching and spouting feminazgul manifesto.

That’ll work.