& to be honest with you, for about 20 minutes, I also thought about making a dress out of people.
Today is less peachy-keen than yesterday. Still very low levels of kidney pain – most of the day, non-existent – but I am fatigued, and suffered a good deal of nausea rising in the later part of the day.
I do the best I can: rescheduling an appointment, making a few more. Laundry (a neighborhood gentleman came over and helped inspect our dryer), dishes, and food – cupcakes and chicken sandwiches for our later event. Drive to the bank to make a deposit.Thankfully, the deposit gets there before the check for rent pulls funds.
Put the house in order; light candles. Cut out three layered t-shirts; return pattern to envelope and filing system. Fold clothes and make a pot of hot, strong tea. Drive the rainy distance along the river out to pick up my children, and one other young one, at the bus stop. Put a call in to a friend.
The sandwiches, the tea party: a few visitors today, one very special. My friend E., my daughter’s best friend A. – and the kitten new to A.’s home. A kitten almost identical to our own Pip, but of a fluffier nature with a hard, round, low-slung belly.
You can see why it was pretty important we make it a real Occasion.
A. and her kitty leave a little after 8; I tidy up. It’s 9 PM – my makeup is fading; my body feels ill. My son collapsed at six PM, clothes and all, in his bed – lights on. His early bedtime somehow leaves me feeling lonely, sad and ill. The early sunset isn’t a great help, either.
I remind myself that just because I am not feeling well, does not mean those in my home are similarly afflicted. It is so important to give them all the love I can.
No matter what!Read More
The light is on in the hallway; the dryer is running, keeping my son company while we hold one another close in his bed. He twines his arms around my neck and tells me, “I wish you’d sleep with me.” I am not at all tempted, because I can only fall asleep in my own bed. But there is a pang – I love him so!
Nels tells me he will “tempt” me, and starts listing all the soothing things he can think of to put me to sleep. “A nice chicken dinner,” he whispers, referring to our evening’s repast. And now – I’m stifling laughter. His hair, his skin, his breath – so sweet. And I am sad I will be leaving his arms.
Today – I was exhausted. I was so glad to be experiencing a manageable level of pain for our matinee performance that my time onstage was simultaneously joyful – and also monstrous, because with each bar of music I remembered the night before. I came home, had a late lunch, a hot shower, and retired immediately to pajamas for some junky television.
My daughter has a dry cough that’s gone on for quite long enough: tomorrow, a doctor’s appointment. Moving around a few dollars to cover the rent check. Canceling crafting out at the child’s school – probably, unless I feel much better. Tackling the handful of bills we can’t pay this pay period.
Tonight, though: gratitude for another day, for friends who are loving, helpful, and supportive. And that I didn’t vomit onstage.
I get these little sticking points, these moments of non-acceptance. I’m cast from my place of ease and serenity, or at least my finger on the pulse of the dharma – into confusion, a small smudge of despair – rudderless. Tonight it’s in the car, as we drive to the hospital and my 12 year old daughter hears her mother praying aloud and crying, the helpless cry of abject suffering. Finally pull over at the side of the road – this is at about 9:30 PM – to vomit. Drive up to the ER and check in for pain relief. Pace and pace and breathe – finally on the bench in the lobby, rhythmic humming sounds. Placing myself in a trance to endure.
My daughter knows I won’t die, I’m only in severe pain. She gets to learn what it’s like to offer someone moral support – a loving presence. She puts her hand in mine. I tell her it means so much to me that she’s here.
These days, kidney stones pass about every three weeks. Most are a couple hours of pain – intense, distracting, maddening – but often such that I can walk about and focus on the business of others. Most times the pain eventually eases off – blessedly.
Tonight wasn’t like that. The pain started at about 2:30 and came and went, getting worse. Bringing a nausea that kept me from eating for about eight hours. At seven – right when we’re ready to take the stage for tonight’s performance – it steadily worsened. It took all I had to stay in the show to the end. The memory of getting through each bar of music, each song, each act. I was in a small, fourth-dimension place of a pain so acute the world seemed a Victorian-era vignette, unreal and distantly depersonalized.
I am home now. Exhuasted, but pain-free except for the ache in my lower back.
The hospital was kind. I am fretting about another medical bill. I haven’t yet moved off of that (futile) worry.
Still – today was, somehow, a good day. I kept a glad spirit – or I started off that way and it sustained me. And then: help, from so many quarters. A friend took me out grocery shopping. Another friend bought us our Christmas tree (!) and then delivered an oilskin envelope along with it – folded twenty dollar bills. Another friend sent me an online donation. Another friend let me help her with a home repair project. Another friend hosted my son this evening and took him out to a diner, and played video games with him besides. Another friend asked me along to her lunch. Castmates gave me hugs – castmates who aren’t particularly demonstrative.
If it weren’t for friends, if it weren’t for kindnesses large and small – my life would have little meaning.
And now, exhausted, I am back to pacing myself. Tomorrow: a matinee. I am behind on work for clients. I am tired and will need to recover further.
I can’t figure out tomorrow, today. That is for certain. I am grateful for the help and support I get. May it always remind me how worthwhile it is, to help and support others!Read More
It’s cold. Cold and windy some days; merely cold others. I dress as best I can for the morning walks with my dog and frankly I’d rather end up over-bundled than the opposite.
My dog is a fit and hardy soul; he traipses across large puddles encrusted with thick ice; these frozen lakes groan under his pressure and he takes a quick drink, then he’s trotting ahead again. I find myself enjoying the fresh air and some contemplation; small brown birds abruptly blossom into colorful flowers – slam into the tenacious blackberry shrubs at trailside. I see a fellow dogwalker now and then, but mostly it’s just the sound of the water in my ears, and my dog’s companionable tread.
They’re pulling the paper mill down, across the river. There’s a part of me that can’t believe it’s gone. I stop and really get a look – as long a look as I’m willing to take given the cold – and I think about my past, my future. I’ve lasted longer than the mill. Huh. See, I started my engineering life at that mill as an intern, after my sophomore year at college. I remember all the other engineering students and how all they’d talk was money and job prospects and the cars they’d buy.
It depressed me long before I earned the degree so maybe I was fated to let that life fall aside.
I think about when I quit engineering and the few who told me I was wasting my “good brain” by leaving a technical field.
But I’m still standing; the mill isn’t. It seems like each attempt, each vocation, each series of struggles and failures, and I’m left humble, less-than, and in a satisfied smallness.
Today I line my eyes in black eyeliner; powder, line them again. I tuck my blonde curls away up in my watch cap. I adorn myself with the one necklace I own – a cheap little affair with a black cross. And hoop earrings. I make the bed, stopping to kiss the small kitty who asks for my attention. He reclines on his back, his paws up, lazily paddling the air in his ecstasies.
I wash the dishes, and care for the animals, and sew two simple garments. I meet with a friend, and attend to my duties: picking up the children, chairing a meeting, attending pickup rehearsal.
My children are old enough to have a life of their own; this happened very swiftly, and it is taking me quite some time to get used to this. I find myself teetering on the balance beam; realizing that they have formed of themselves most of the persons they will be, and that my job is no longer so much to help them manifest, but to support them in their ever-blooming self. So when my children are well, I feel well; when they suffer, I suffer more than seems possible, and certainly more than is logical.
My daughter’s manicure, deathly deep blue – chipping. The blonde tendrils of my son’s hair, clinging to his perfect skin as he emerges from the bath, wrapped in a threadbare towel. The cozy clink here and there from the kitchen: Ralph washing the dishes. My own anticipation of a hot shower, and a hot lemon and honey to drink. And hanging the last of the clothes to dry and wiping down the counters.
And last night, when my son had so much trouble sleeping, and couldn’t settle, and cried out. And I brought him a warm milk with honey and after he drank it
In the living room I hear my mother turn down the bread my husband offers; Nels asks if she’s on a diet. No, she says. Well, kinda. Her tummy – she tells my son – her tummy is real sick.
From the next room I can feel his demeanor change. He asks, “Have you been eating mushrooms?” He has that alert tone I recognize since he was about three. Like, The Cobweb. Like “Kibbleland”. He’s ten years old and so bright, but he’s still my baby.
Because I know what he means about the mushrooms. Sure enough, Nels now tells his grandmother: “There is this one kind of mushroom, if you eat it you feel okay at first. But then you get sick and die. And there’s no antidote.”
“Oh!” my mom says, taken aback. A bit impressed, really.
I’ve been so tired lately it’s like something’s wrong. Maybe more rest? Maybe more walks? I think of red meat, I think of fresh fruit. I think of Cher in the film Moonstruck, fixing a steak: “You’ll eat it bloody to feed your blood.”
I spent our Christmas money – I spent it on food for the family, and I “spent” it in the form of a loan to a friend who had to move. I don’t regret either, although sometimes I think I am not practical. I’d offered a loan back in the summer when she was imminently homeless and I had a little bit of savings.
But since the money is gone, I am oddly at peace. Mostly. Some moments, my mind chews on things. The seals in my car are gone and it makes the car wet, cold, and truth be told a bit unsafe to drive. My daughter needs cloth menstrual pads and new bras. There is something about puberty, it’s like leaving home with your baby and finding you are without coat or shoes, it doesn’t feel decent not to immediately provide – and provide as best as one can.
I need to fix my cracked tooth (going on two years – ha!). My husband needs jeans, and I’d like to get him a new wool coat (the green one he has, I bought it for him before we had children together). These little things, it’s my job for them to swim in my awareness, swim away as I rise for the day, wash my dishes, take the dog for a walk. Feel a profound gratitude for all the good things we have, not least of which are these children. They are my heart, they are anything that was ever good about me.
My children, I know, will have a wonderful Christmas. I sometimes get sentimental like most parents: wish I could be lavish and ridiculous and buy them something incredible. It’s okay to think on this a bit, because again the thought floats off and I’m left in the sunshine, in the cold, walking along the bay – I’m left at peace.
And I think to myself how fortunate I am we are satisfied with the life we have. Enough ingratitude, enough envy – and the fattest bank account won’t do the trick. Like Nels’ beloved poisonous mushroom, there is no antidote.Read More
So it is total bullshite that if you are a lady larger than a US size 12, it becomes nearly impossible to find trendy t-shirts that fit – let alone t-shirts that are well-made, ethically-made, and/or affordable. Men’s trendy tees typically go up to a 3X and that 3X corresponds to a man who is genuinely a fair bit larger than the average dude. My husband and I are both the same degree “overweight” and he easily can wear – and therefore find – a medium or a large.
Women’s clothing is different. I’m a US size 16 – one size larger than the average US lady – and I am almost always too big for the 2X sizes at these shops. And that’s if 2X is even an option – it usually isn’t.
“Just buy a men’s shirt and wear it!” inevitably says some ignoramus who assumes I can’t do Life right? Sheesh. Wearing a men’s/”unisex” (unisex meaning: men’s) garment, with my build? RIDICULOUS LOOKING AND HORRIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE
It’s a bummer, and I’m fed up.
I do like this recent crop of trendy literary tees. Unlike my many band shirts, I have actually read – and I love – the books depicted on the t-shirts I wear. Last night I took this men’s 2X and made myself a two-layer skater-style LS tee. It took me about an hour and it is super boss.
I am sitting here thinking how awesome I am. Actually I am thinking how goddamned cold it is. Photo credit: Nels Hogaboom, the sweetest 10 year old child EVAR!
Some tips for those who want to redesign t-shirts:
1. Learn how to sew with knits. There are all sorts of great resources for this – including some of mine – but mostly, it takes time, patience, and persistence.
2. Find a handful of perfect patterns for you. May I suggest Jalie – their t-shirts are perfectly drafted and most patterns come in a huge size range so you can make tees for your friends.
2. Buy a men’s size shirt in your corresponding ladies’ size – or one size larger (so for me, a 2X, the men’s 3X is ideal). A shirt with side seams often has better grain to work with.
3. Expect surprises. As a woman favoring a slim-cut pattern, my shirt shape is quite different from the men’s crewneck shirt: I have narrower shoulders with more of a slope, a deeper neckline, a smaller waist, a smaller sleeve, and larger hips. Usually these changes mean the motif on the resultant shirt will not line up like the first shirt. You can colorblock the new shirt using another shirt or fabrics if you want the motif in a particular place. Sometimes creativity is needed – for instance I got the neckband of this tee shirt, from the hem of the original.
4. One nice thing about t-shirt surgery is my final shirt is not only better-fitting, but far better made than the original. That feels pretty good – not going to lie! And of course: it’s the only t-shirt out there like it. #bombtastic
*(I’m 80).Read More
Tonight at the treatment center I speak for about twenty-five minutes; two of my friends follow. At the end of the meeting we have five minutes remaining for questions.
A man turns to me and says, “I have a question – for you.” He’s older – kind blue eyes, a beard, a sports cap, and a roughened, red face.
He then says, “When you detoxed -” and then goes on to describe some of his recent experience. He’s seven days sober today. He tells me how he used to wake in the middle of the night. And when he says, “when you detoxed” though, a spontaneous memory comes to me, my memory of that first week sober. And how I felt. And just how hard it was. My eyes fill with tears. The room notices. See, because I’ve been sober a while sometimes people think I’m not human, it wasn’t hard.
I listen to his question. I speak words to him maybe no one can understand unless they’re ready. To give up the chase. The chase (drugs booze money status sex friends job reputation prestige power vanity), the chase that so many keep occupied with until the day they die.
I am struck humble for the moment. I am touched at what he’s asking. I’m thinking that if he’s willing to ask me something, to ask my advice – I’m half his age, and yet he wants to hear from me. Me, a stranger! How often do we open ourselves up like this?
I talk a bit. And I end on this: “It takes time. Months. Years. But it gets better. Don’t give up!” I put my hand on his arm. Right now it’s just he and I in the whole universe. My body is flush with empathy. I have that jolt. I am alive.
I drive home; the air is cold, and the cold is in my bones. I drive home to a warm, full house, and food and good cheer. I drive home to myself, where I’d left it a while back. But I’ve returned now, and I remember why it’s all so important.Read More