under bridges of what’s to come

My kids’ shoes end up: in my bedroom, on the bathroom floor. As relatively tidy and supremely well-behaved as my children are, they are nevertheless creatures of comfort: discarding clothes before taking a luxurious hot shower, or slipping off shoes before crawling in bed next to me to cuddle. They leave off on their errands to game – I hear shouts! of laughter from downstairs – and leave their clothes here and there. If they were adults I was forced to room with, I would find it all very irritating. As it is, these mundane remembrances are a comfort to me. I know when they leave my home I will miss them so.

“Are you okay?” my son says, at dinner. We are the only two left at the table and he is helping himself to a third serving of pasta. I tell him Yes, I am just tired and he says, “Put your hand here,” indicating the table between us. His long hand rests on mine – preternaturally beautiful fingers, and long nails. Then, shortly: “I need this to eat,” he smiles, removing his hand and crossing his right over so he can still comfort me.

I am okay, sure – but I am mentally very tired. I am meeting once a week with a small business consultant. I am in couples counseling every two weeks; I take one of my children to therapy every other week from that. It isn’t as if I’m particularly worried in all these concerns, but they very much require a special focus on my part. I am still reeling from the kids’ transition into their teenage years – which is absolutely nothing like the dour, cynical predictions would have had me believe, but is nevertheless a sea change – and I am experiencing the sadness of finally, finally no longer having a family bed. My husband’s car is once again tits-up – and mine is on the last legs for its brakes. My mother is selling her home, after five generations of lives passing through the old Victorian. A family friend dies young and this brings up, for me, horrible memories.

Challenging? Absolutely.

There are many glimmers of goodness in this time. My older child is happier, a brief calm sea. They hold and hug and kiss me several times a day. The younger is a bit more volatile – a surprise, given his sweet nature – but I am gentle with him and he is good at coming to his sense and apologizing. And so, for that matter, am I. I put no small amount of concentration onto helping their father connect with them. He is gone for hours each day, after all, and misses the many opportunities I have.

On the turn of the dime it is absolutely fall, no longer summer. Even the warm days have a dampness and chill in the air. It’s incredible to me, as it was so very hot just before the break. Ralph finished painting the house during our driest spell. In a week or so I’ll pull all the summer clothes for storage and bring out my winter coats in preparing for the long, dark winter to come. As it will, whether we are ready or no.

T-shirt Upcycle

dust bowl / provender

Today felt impossible at times. I have had a delay in cash flow from clients and that has led to some tight funds. A polite way of saying: we’re skint. I tried to deposit a wad of cash into my account twice today, and both times the credit union screwed up. The whole business was rather a downer, to be honest.

Anyway in the midst of these adventures I’m standing in line at Rite Aid about to ask for their ATM, to try to get this cash where it needs to go. I realize the cashier is having a discussion with the customer in line. I look and see he is in a wheelchair, he is black, he is wearing some kind of trucker-style hat. I see that and then I am tuning into their words. “The cheapest is seven dollars for the Pall Malls,” she tells him. I watch him count some singles. He is a dollar short. He is trying to figure it out. It’s obvious what I can do. I lean forward and say, “I’ll get them,” and hand him the bill in my hand, a $5. He is immediately surprised and says “Thank you, thank you!” I am thinking, How much it would suck to not be able to buy the brand you want to buy? Maybe he even likes Pall Malls, who knows. But I’m in a hurry so I can’t stay. At that moment I spy the ATM and as I say, “You’re welcome,” I put my hand on his shoulder to say, Okay.

There was someone standing in my living room just the other day who was telling me about some panhandlers, and how they shouldn’t be out asking for money with a baby, and how they seemed “sketchy”. The person telling the story, well I was interrupted before I could say what I know, which is we don’t really need to worry about any of that because if I have extra cash or even sometimes of if I don’t I can pass something along because we all need to eat.

I am in the middle of a t-shirt upcycle project: seven shirts, 50 cents apiece. All re-cut and re-sized, with notes on how it was done. And of course I’m putting together a master tutorial for others to follow, if they want excellent results. My thirteen-year-old son is my model; a series of vignettes on his beauty. It’s the perfect summer project: keeping me company for a week, reminding me not to get caught up, not to forget.
T-shirt Upcycle

that marmalade quote I like so much

I made an error, recently. I relied on two entities who were sending checks. Both of them, insurance entities. Both of them insist the payment is on its way. They’ve told us this a little while now (months; weeks resp.). So far in our post office box blows tumbleweeds.

I counted on that money (that was my error). I bought the things our family needs. Now we are in a tight spot.

It’s easy to let a mistake slip into feeling sorry for oneself; into self-criticism. I can be patient with this a while.

But I also know an antidote to this, or at least a spiritual balm. An antidote to self-pity, to self-recrimination: work. Or as my friend John used to say, “chores”.

Not mindless work for the sake of doing it, but the work I should do no matter what. The work I’d do no matter what because it has to be done.

I have rice to cook, for an event I am helping with tonight. So. I saute up fine-minced garlic in olive oil and coconut oil. I set aside broth to simmer; season rice with pepper.

Dishes. Laundry. Yoga; coffee.

Breathe in; breathe out.

My son will wake soon. He will then be the next thing I get to attend to. I don’t know what our plans are for the day – our reduced circumstances have cancelled our road trip – but I do know I bought him lychee yesterday and he loved them as much as I thought he would. I do know I bought him a fifty-cent creampuff at a bánh mì shop and he saved that for this morning.

I do know that he and I will be provided for in some way – whether I can see it, or not. I often can’t.

the dark wolf

My sleep – fitful. I wake early while Ralph and Phoenix prepare for a long day: she is off on an all-day field trip and Ralph has to have her out at her rural school location by 7:15 in the morning.

But my sleep is poor not due to our slight shift in our morning schedule, but because I was plagued with a nightmare. Very unusual for me. I know the root of this, at least – sort of. I am worried. I am worried for someone I love. It is this gripping kind of fear; nothing abates it, I only get a moment here or there of reprieve. My hands and heart seize.

My worry has not died of neglect yet. Oftentimes, this is the case. But since it hasn’t, I know who I should talk to. So many love me, but many of those don’t have the strength I need right now. I share my feelings and thoughts with my loved ones if it seems appropriate. Something like this, I talk to someone who has a correct view. Who will understand where my heart is and will listen to my troubles – but also give me direction in how to set aside my fear.

I’ve only survived and thrived as much as I have, because I have learned how to take spiritual direction.

Kidney pain, car repairs, and stressful appointments with professionals. The kidney pain is one thing: the worry (about the future), quite another. Relapse into illness brings me to a dark place. I am glad though nothing can slap my gratitude from my mouth.

And, there is much to be grateful for. All the daffodils splashing across the countryside. A wool coat, found on sale – a deep grey and cranberry. Visits from friends. Email messages from those who seek my friendship and counsel. Watching a nature documentary with my son – we are enraptured by the tiny, impossible perfection of the flamboyant cuttlefish. My daughter, sliding into my arms and letting me put my hand on her soft belly.

My new phone! And: Ralph’s new phone. He didn’t think I’d buy him one, but I let him choose exactly the one he wanted, and then I bought him a case for it as well.

Taking care of myself, and my family, as best I can.

a small spark in the gloaming’s dark

One of the nice things about having only one car, that has a broken heater, is that when I get in the car, every time, I am cold and I chuff my hands and look forward to when the car gets warm. Then when I realize it’s not going to, I have this surge of awareness. I feel awake and alive. I think about those things we take for granted and how grateful I am for the opportunity to NOT forget those wonderful blessings.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, by turns exhausting and exhilarating. A friend shows up in need. A friend shows up to give. Someone tells me Thank You and then tells me why. A friend looks like she’s been crying. Another is staying away. A family member offers support. Our cat comes home with a tattered ear. A restaurant gives us a free pizza! I cook up two pots of soup in two days. Friends arrive for a movie, and an hour into it our rabbit rudely yanks out the electrical cord to stop the film, and we all laugh.

The financial help is so welcome while we have hardship with the cars and while the weather is cold and while Christmas is upon us. When it comes to cash I’d like to save up for a house payment maybe, but instead I inevitably cave and purchase here-and-now-needed items: today, a few pieces of winter clothing for my children. It is very cold here and it kills me to see children improperly provided for (anyone’s children). My kids rarely complain about being cold but they gush gratitude at the new coats.

But, only after I buy the garments and zip them up under their chapped cheeks. While on our way to Ross my son is cranky: “Why are you buying me winter clothes? Last time they only lasted ONE winter then I grew out of them.” He is querulous, wanting things like video games and ice cream sundaes and trips to exotic locales, and I feel this kind of wild urge to cry, but it is a gladness all the same.

My husband leaves for work in the morning. He kisses my son and myself, snuggled in the same bed, Goodbye. I tell him, “I am not doing very well. I am feeling like a terrible mom.” Ralph says gently, “You’re the best mom I know.” I rest, breathing in and out, and I think No So Much, I don’t feel great. I feel unsettled and unsure.

Every morning when he and my daughter hit the rode I pray for their safety. Car travel is treacherous, especially when weather is foul.

It takes a lot of courage to get up each day and try to do well, and try to do the best we can despite what has happened recently to one of our children, and given what our family is going through in dealing with the aftermath. But one day I know I will feel better, and I’ll have a friend who will be having this kind of struggle. And I’ll be able to tell that friend about courage and maybe they won’t feel so alone.

For now having that full pantry and having something hot on the stove is a tremendous help.

“to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with”

This weekend, due to this or another thing, we do not have money for gas for my mom’s borrowed truck – nor groceries. A problem, to be sure. In addition there is a particular sting in not being able to take the kids to the Relay for Life and grab them an elephant ear or whatever, but this sting doesn’t have the maudlin, intense, and guilt-laden feel the way it used to, way back when things were more grim and felt entirely unmanageable – and, in some real ways, were. For some time now we’ve been able to pay our bills, a circumstance which apparently, sadly, was needed for my spirituality and outlook to improve.

I try and mostly succeed in being patient we don’t have running cars (I had to hustle my ass via bike and bus twice yesterday). Working cars will likely come, in time. Yet it is hard to be so sanguine when we don’t have food and I am preoccupied with other work I need to do. This week I am considering what to do regarding the Conch, as there are some changes afoot regarding that enterprise (and you all deserve, and will receive, an update soon). I would very much like pay out for groceries so we can cook for people on Wednesday. I think I will not be able to decide on this, not in the next few hours at least.

The 24 Hour Relay for Life is in it’s 25th year here in Hoquiam (we always used to call it “the cancer run” and I still slip up) and started up last night. I hadn’t been to the Relay since my father died. This year I walked quietly and thought on him, and all in my life he has missed, that I wish he could share in. I miss his advice as it spoke to the heart of me.

Relay For Life, 2011

The Relay here is quite impressive; Hoquiam’s Relay consistently performs in the top ten in America for money raised per capita. It is also now a party-like atmosphere with all sorts of barbecues, food, drunkenness and drug use, hugs and tears, joyful friendships and skirmishes, people fooling around in tents, drama, and grab-assery; in short, the whole beautiful mess of the human condition. I observed parts of the drag show and although it was a funny affair I felt sad to see the hints of mockery evidenced: mocking women, especially trans women, hints of homophobia. If I had the energy – and I do not today – I would (do more research, then) write the organizers with some commentary and advice on how to improve this feature of the Relay (for starters, a drag show that included the possibility of women in drag as men, would immediately benefit inclusivity).

But really, that whole bit was a footnote on an otherwise lovely walk with my husband and daughter – on a beautiful night.

Relay For Life, 2011

I miss my father terribly.

But you know?

It’s a good day, today.


Lost Larry

Our kitten Laurence is missing. This is causing us a lot of distress. If any Hoquiamites know anything about this little guy (last seen 2 days ago here on 1st street in HQX) please, please let us know!

If anyone else wants to send prayers or vibes. I know that might sound silly to some. But I am rather upset about it all. His sister is curled up on my lap purring. She misses him and we do too.

another shot to the groin

I feel smashed flat.

I just spent a brief fifteen minutes touring a house in Hoquiam. It was within our price range. It was huge. It had lovely hardwood floors, two fenced yards, a deck, a clawfoot tub.

And the kitchen. Good lord. Counter space. Two ranges, one stainless, one in the island that also boasted a dishwasher. Hell, the laundry room was larger and nicer than the kitchen I was last in.

You know where this is going, right? I called the realtor as soon as I got in. It’s taken.

I know I should just decide this means there’s something else out there that’s as perfect for us. Or maybe I should decide to hate on something about that place. Right now I’m just wilted and depressed.

In other news, the day was good. I got up at 6:30 and cooked my parents and husband a large breakfast – how Chinese-wife of me! (sorry, my latest depressing work of Chinese fiction is still very much with me.) My mom and I readied the kids for a trip to the YMCA which here is affordable, amazing, and has reliable, clean, wondrous childcare. I did the elliptical machine and watched my mom’s ass as she jogged the treadmill. We lifted weights including this amazing girlie-machine that allows you to do dips or pullups by virtue of subtracting a certain amount of your own weight (the weight I subtracted was, I think, equivalent to my brother’s body including his heavy wool trenchcoat). And the whole time no one knew I was listening to Beyonce.

The kids came home and took monstrously large naps. We are about to head off to a movie. And the feather in the “Good News” cap – my dad and I bought Fat Tuesday doughnuts today:

MMmmm, Lenty!

dear diary:

“saying yes and meaning no.”

Well, Day #3 of camping out at the ‘rents and my fears, which and I have nursed since over three years ago when I quit my job and we briefly considered staying here, fears I most recently mentioned about three weeks ago, are starting to come true.

I’m not sure how I could have possibly been clearer, more circumspect, and more open-minded in requesting use of half my parents’ upstairs *IF* we ended up “camping” here (God forbid, and apparently He did not). This request of mine involves, primarily, a cleanout of many of my brother’s things (in a space he isn’t renting, but is using) and a few items of my ‘rents. I am the nervous, hyper-organized type so I asked three weeks ago very specifically and got the OK from my parents. On Friday when the shit hit the fan on the new place I offered my parents rent and expressly said it was to secure the space – to make it a formality. They refused rent but agreed, again (my FOO is not big on formalities or keeping agreements, as you will see). I told my brother on Friday that it looked like our staying here might be necessary, for a bit. I told him I was sorry it was even going this way, but we were trying to make the best of it. I also told him I wouldn’t bother him a bit about moving his stuff until after his girlfriend (visiting) left – today. And, finally, that Ralph and I were happy to help relocate his things when the time came.

So here I am, chomping at the bit that I have none of my things around me, I don’t have my husband, I don’t have a nest to entertain my children with their toys and their space, and I don’t have a retreat for privacy other than a barely-furnished guest room with a few of my clothes. Until I can set up camp, I am stuck either infrigning my children on my family, downstairs, or confining them to a guest room, upstairs, with little or nothing for them to do besides watch movies. I hate these two options.

So I am looking forward to cleaning my corner and setting up a space. I have decided I “need” that to happen. It is the ONE THING I am looking forward to (besides Ralph’s job, which I am anticipating he will love). My “job”, which is my home and the running thereof, was taken from me. I have this shaky ground: a place, a temporary one. So tonight, after dinner (which I cooked) I asked my brother about the move-out of his stuff. He said he could get it out. He was reticent. I asked when. He said, “after next weekend”, with a tone that implied if I was lucky.

I have everything we own in a big moving truck outside. That moving truck is due back tomorrow and everything has to go somewhere. After everything else, after the house falling through and not another place yet, after worrying over my husband doing the work packing and moving and driving (he got here tonight; he’s fine), after feeling strongly I didn’t want to be in the position of living here and having my kids for several days while house-hunting and trying my best not to worry too much, after the shit-sandwich knowing we’d have to now move our stuff twice, and rent storage besides – it was too much. “Stunned and dismayed” about covers it. But all I said to my brother was, “I thought we discussed this eventuality three weeks ago, and over the last couple days.” He was like grunt, grunt – the typical response from he or my father.

I had to leave, come upstairs, and cry.

This story is not about my brother. It’s not about my parents. It’s not about moving going horridly wrong (still). It’s not about my FOO’s tendency to pack-rat, which I live in total fear of and reaction to by having a rather sparse home and feeling inexplicable terror at having it inch into my life, here and now. It’s not even a story regarding my intense desire for space and occasional privacy. And it’s only partially a story about my FOO’s method of communication – non-communication.

This story is about being heard.

Do they think I’m a hinter? That I don’t say exactly what I mean? A passive-aggressive type? What do they know of me? In what way do I not ask for what I want? What happens when people say “No” to me? Do I retreat, hate them, emotionally distance myself? Or do I move on and find another plan?

Do they think I’m the type to make idle, half-assed plans? How do they think I live out my life as a stay-at-home Mom? By floating with the tide and hoping for the best?

Who am I? Do I matter? Does the fact that I’m here, sharing space, mean I don’t get the courtesy of being listened to? How much more straight-forward and direct-dealing do I have to be?

Why can’t they say what they mean, and do what they say?

My friend charitably points out “this is about them”, and not me, or their vision of me. But the exact scenario I’d hoped to avoid – the scenario where I would be vulnerable and need direct, honest communication, mean that in whatever way it is about “them”, it is also now, necessarily, about “me”. Not to mention my family, who I am responsible for.

My only explanation for what is happening, with my FOO’s distinctive brand of non-communication and “yes means no” and not saying what they mean – for what may very well continue to happen as long as I’m here – is that their idea of me, or their idea of what they want (which they aren’t willing to tell me straight-out, apparently), is more important than who I actually am and what I actually want. It is OK to inconvenience or hurt me because I am some cartoon caricature and I don’t really care about the things that I’m telling you I care about.

Diary, dear sweet blog, I only write this because there’s nowhere else for it to go. I write here because I want to move on and just live out my time here however long, with as much mental and emotional peace as I can find. I don’t want to be angry at them, to hold up hurts and bite them down. I have found those hurts don’t go away. But in this case, we can see where directness got me. Now all I can be is direct to you, dear blog, and move my scope to coping as best I can, and take care of my children as best I can.

every which way

Today I am distracted, frenetic, lazy, and sad.

I am distracted and frenetic because I don’t know how to tackle my many, many to-do list items for our move. People ask the harmless and sweet question, “Are you packing up yet?” to which I think, Holy shit, am I supposed to? I mean, how I do I pack a couch I sit on every day, or clothes I wear? Yet the inevitable fact looms: in just a few days this stuff has to go in one truck and I can’t even imagine it.

I am lazy because in some way, my confused activity has resulted in a decidedly non-efficient use of my time. Here’s the problem: I know that if I tick off my “to do” list, methodically, stuff will get done. But how can I focus on one “to do” item at a time? No, so much easier to run about my house, hands flopping uselessly in front of me and making “pfft! pfft!” sounds with my mouth.

I am sad because I really miss Fancy our cat and would like to have her home.

I have to hand it to single parents and dual-working parents. Today I got just a taste of the kind of shuffle that must be part of their life. This afternoon my lovely friend Sara babysat my two children for a couple hours and this evening my friends the Creccas babysat my boy for dinner (so Ralph and Sophie could do their swimming lesson). The amount of shuffle-shuffle, do-you-have-a-carseat?, remembering details of who went pee and who’s been fed, do-you-have-Sophie’s swimsuit? – Holy shit. I think I’ll keep my quaint and relatively measured SAHM gig. For now.