the clack of keys on a table

I’m holding a little tin chip in my hand. “6 months”. A little green coin, a trinket. I have it sequestered for a new friend, who’s asked I sponsor her in her sobriety. When the time comes for announcements in the group I introduce myself, say her name, stand up to bestow this little chip on her. Her face pulls down and she is crying, gratitude. We meet halfway and I hold her close and give her a hug because she is precious. I am honored she shares with me. I am delighted to see her.

Somehow this love was installed in my body and it flows without end every single day. My heart lights up when I see people. I am less angry. I find myself searching the hardened faces at the grocery store. I find my heart cracked into a million little fragments, and light flows through.

Yet there have always been impediments to the experience of love and lately those seem to be financial. My dog is ill and needs a $950 operation. My own medical bills have piled up with, what looks like some degree of mishandling from my urologist. Our home needs some proactive work (re-sealing the deck, repainting, and moss cleanup on the roof), and I’d hoped to fix an attic space into a livable one to better outfit my daughter with a study space for her colelge year. In trying to work a bit more, I’ve had the work of teaching the children how to run the household. Despite their willingness and general competence, this is taking a little time. I’ve had an influx of jobs lately, and I’m behind. I’m not angry about this, just surprised how much I’m struggling with the changes.

And when I set those worries aside I can take a few steps and enjoy the goodness I have. I can hold my daughter’s hand in mine. I can laugh at the kitty clawing at my window screen and gently remove her, instead of feeling angry. I can move on from conversations full of hate and misunderstanding. I am starting to speak up a little more. A little more directness.

Tonight my friend, my “6 months” friend, is in my heart. She has shown more vulnerability and sweetness – and smarts – than so many I’ve et. And I’m thinking of how the world is full of scorn and derision for those addicted. But those who are addicted have a bravery that few people can grasp.

a date with Beeps. xxx ooo

kindled by my love’s pleasing / into an ardent blazing

a date with Beeps. xxx ooo

This last week my son took care of kittens at a friend’s, while the family was on vacation. Tonight was his last night “on duty”, so the four of us travelled up the hill to help – I, to play with the kittens while my son cleaned their litter boxes. My daughter drove the BMW with Ralph as passenger; Nels and I walked so Hutch could get a walk too.

It’s a steep trip, and for me a slow one. The summer night air is balmy and gorgeous; I can feel at the edges of my restlessness and know I am working too hard, too much. I am not slowing down to enjoy all that I can.  I have dozens of bills – medical bills, veterinary bills, and household bills – and I’m letting these things creep into my mind. They’re my responsibility, true enough, but somehow it’s twisted and they occupy my head.

My children, though, still have the right sense of proportion about things. My daughter picks a cornflower before dinner – she is thrilled when I put it behind my ear, peeking out from beneath my head wrap. At dinner, in the booth of an Italian restaurant, she triumphantly slides in next to me than comes in close and holds my hand, her fingers wrapped around mine. I am often stunned how this little daughter, who was a blonde little thing with beetled-eyebrows and a sharp voice, has turned into this lovely bloom, this slender reed. A strong woman and a gorgeous one; a fierce and compassionate bloom.

At home my sewing studio is well-organized. I am halfway through a project today; I hang up my rulers and click my scissors onto their magnetic storage bar. I open the door to my son’s little computer room. He’s curled up on his chair, gaming. He is eating popcorn from a paper bag and his little bundled body in a too-loose striped shirt fills me with an inexplicable surge of affection. “Get dressed – we’re off to dinner,” I tell him. “‘kay,” he responds, his eyes on the screen, his hand reaching out for me. The kids are always hugging, reaching out for me, holding me, kissing me. My most profound blessings.

Later, on the walk down from our last kitten night – the family returned home while we were there, so we got to exchange warm salutations – I tell my son about tonight’s meteor shower – the Perseids. He is as joyful as if he’s never seen a meteor shower before, smiling and looking up, his hair shining blue-white in the light of the waxing gibbous moon. I think to myself I want to feel the way they feel, I want to see the world the way they do. I want to know I’m as beautiful as they see me. I want to return to that Place they inhabit. As long as they walk beside me I know there’s a chance I can.

“come downstairs & bring popsackles”

A cardboard box filled with kraft paper; I remove gifts, setting them on the counter. Wrapped in tissue: findings from another sea. Teas, candied ginger. A paper-wrapped parcel of fine chocolate. Two bolts of sumptuous flannel fabric – a pea green plaid, a yellow plaid. Set aside and I run my hands over them each; fine robes for Christmas.

A wooden box, masterfully if plainly constructed, with a fire-branded logo. A note. And opening the box: a plastic shark. I recognize it as nearly identical to the one my children used to play with in the bath.

Then when I call my brother – to thank him and his wife, for the package – he laughs about the shark. “Do you recognize it?” I am confused for a moment. He can’t mean my children’s toy, as he never gave them baths and wasn’t there when they were small.

He says, “It’s just like the one I gave you a black eye with!” He is gleeful.

I am thinking, Oh that’s right. A childhood fight – we were still living in the bus, so I was seven years old or younger. I am set back for a moment. I am blinking at the road ahead, the phone on speaker in my lap.

What I say is: “That’s the only black eye I’ve ever had.” But now I’m thinking of a man who beat me. He never gave me a black eye. I think when you’ve been terrorized it can come to you, visit at any time. On a sunny day, in a lighthearted laugh with your brother.

The shark is now installed in my bathroom, hovering above the glass bar lighting fixture. I cooked and cleaned today, instead of leaving it for my children and spouse. I am coming out of a state of living where I was caring for the children, the home. We are moving and growing; I am working more, and the children are learning how to run a home. They are willing participants, and they are strong.

Yesterday they waited at a bus stop and went to the dentist. The children were gloomy; I woke them up and scolded them when they did not do housework quickly enough. We sat in the living room and we talked about the challenges in the household now that I work. The children listened, and ate the simple breakfast I made – creamed wheat, coconut oil, brown sugar. They put the dishes in the sink and I cleaned the kitchen after they left, then moved to the studio to finish my work.

After their appointments, my mother returned them home – food in hand, of course. They quite circumspectly did not eat hot foods for a couple hours, as the hygienist warned them off. Once they were home we piled in the car and off to the beach; meeting with a new friend who was visiting from inland. I realized well into the meeting that I hadn’t taken a break for quite some time.

After a coffee date, we two women and our four children climbed the jetty down to a little partitioned beach. We showed the visiting girls the tidepools: anemone, barnacles, limpets, chitons, starfish – and the little crabs under any rock you overturn. Every size – from a pinhead to a few inches across, and every manner of color: white, blues, greens, deep purples. The anenomes we instructed – you could touch them. Be gentle! They are gentle to you.

I know I live in a beautiful place. I never forget it. But I don’t often see it as it can be seen to visitors. That itself, was quite a blessing.

a sponge dipped in vinegar

When I was thirteen, one evening during a week-long family reunion we went out as a crew to a drive-in theater. I remember what was showing – Bird on a Wire and Arachnophobia. (Great drive-in fare – and not films I’ve felt compelled to revisit later, either!)

The adults in the family smuggled us in. My brother, sister, a few cousins – we hid in the back of a pickup. The adults were probably half-lit, or at least they hadn’t thought it through. We underpaid, pulled into our spot, and everyone tumbled out. At that point the wary drive-in employees – probably teenagers themselves – came over and required payment for all attendees. I seem to remember it was a very near thing – we almost didn’t have enough. I remember we weren’t able to get snacks for the films. I remember worrying about this. Because I was a kid, and the adults in my life didn’t have their act together.

Today I wonder at my parents, aunts, uncles – that they could be okay with this sort of behavior. It isn’t that they were full of avarice or greed. My family was always the generous sort, and very kind. But I suppose like most other families, their morality was relative. They didn’t care too much about other people, when they wanted what they wanted. Most people behave like that at one time or another.

I’ve tried to raise my children differently. I never wanted them to see me take advantage. I didn’t want them to learn that way of life. Not just because it isn’t kind, it isn’t right, it isn’t fair to others. But because it’s a scraping way to live – always thinking of the next grift, hoping for a rescue, hoping to not have to be responsible for one’s share. Hoping things go my way. Feeling “cheated” when Life Happens. An acquaintance the other day – who found a large amount of currency but didn’t get to keep it – because someone else saw them pick it up. And the thing is, for just one moment (or maybe longer) this person thought that money SHOULD be theirs. Because they live life thinking they don’t have enough. Scarcity. It becomes a way of life if you’re not careful.

I don’t want to have that mind. I don’t want to grasp. I don’t want to live in a fearful state, if I can help it.

Today my neighbor shouted at me, as I walked to my car. When I went to see what the matter was, they seemed very upset. They told me our cats had been climbing on their (new) car, and had made muddy pawprints and scratched the paint. I listened, and responded with feeling – “Wow – that sucks.” They talked a little longer – angry, but not telling me anything new.

I told them, I am open to your suggestions.

To my surprise, this person had none. They hinted they would “make” me pay for a new paint job on their car, and take pictures of our cats. (I’m not sure why they wanted to do that, except they seemed determined to have a fight.)

They then told me my daughter had been rude.

This, perhaps, is the only moment I felt my own anger rise. My daughter is unfailingly courteous, and conducts herself with a calm that adults sometimes find threatening. My neighbor was obviously upset and resentful, and had allowed adrenaline and rage to get the better of their faculties.

I held my tongue at this slight against Phoenix, though, while I made sure to listen. Not to argue. I thought of the ten cats or so that aren’t ours, who roam the neighborhood. The ones who climb on our cars, and run around under the deck doing cat-things, and scratch up our stairwell, and kill little birds and voles. I thought to myself what my mind would be like, if I were to get angry about all this and try to find these neighbors out and shout at them. I thought of “townie” life – a neighbor on one side with a sad, neglected dog who cries out during the day. A neighbor on the other who lets their dog wander around urinating and defecating in the neighborhood.

I thought, What would it be like if I were angry about all these things?

I thought, What if I cared about something like a car more than my responsibility to all living creatures?

So, yeah. I can’t help my neighbor much. I let them know I would not consider it rude if they were to make their grounds less hospitable – to shoo the cats. In a neighborhood full of cats as ours is, perhaps a car cover or parking in the garage might be an intelligent solution. I did not share this thought, as it seemed my neighbor wasn’t ready to move past their anger, not at this time.

One thing I thought of: we can keep our cats indoors. I wouldn’t do this just based on someone else’s car, but we had been discussing already for other reasons. In fact, Phoenix and I had been talking about it this morning! So, when I went back over to my neighbor’s later in the day, I expressed my desire to have a harmonious relationship while we lived near one another, and my hope an indoor cat solution might work for all of us (note: they hardly seemed mollified at this offering). 

But, I said – “I’m not sure that will solve your problem.”

Because I can’t really solve my neighbor’s problem. Not their real problem.

But I am glad I don’t have problems like that, myself.

Not today.

space

ain’t I rough enough, woo

Today was white-knuckle ugly. It seemed everywhere I turned there was something to try my patience – starting with the morning’s discovery that our little kitty Herbert Pocket got into a bowl of popcorn and later vomited about twelve large piles throughout the kitchen, bathroom, and hall.

It went a bit downhill from there.

But there are those little things.

My kids were happy and healthy. I was tired this morning, but I made them a good breakfast. We sat together at the kitchen table. They hugged me a lot.

I did the things I was supposed to do. I put aside things I wanted, in order to help a few others.

I breathed deep while waiting at the doctor’s, instead of playing on my phone. I practiced Stillness.

I hosted a few people even though I was tired.

My children were glorious, lovely individuals; and I’ve had some influence making that a reality.

I let someone be kind to me, and I let myself be entirely unguarded.

I crept into bed with my husband and he held me close for a bit and we talked about our day. 

So today kind of got the best of me.

But tomorrow is another day.

space

Illness

because sometimes you get a bit sad

Illness
Some readers won’t appreciate it, and I am sad for that, but this is the only visual I’m comfortable sharing from my recent illness. It took a few days to realize how seriously sick I was. The dehydration and infection really set me back. My husband helped me by carefully monitoring my medications and helping me take them. As soon as the antibiotics kicked in, I felt a little better. When the stent was removed, I was better still.

I am doing very well indeed these last few days, but I am sad too. It only took a few days to bring me so incredibly low. It’s a hard place to be. I fled my Buddhist practice during those very dark, very painful times. I could only show restraint in the way I communicated – and even then, I grew sharp. My husband came home later than I’d thought he would (should?) and I shouted, “Where have you been?!” I was doubled over in pain and very frightened. I felt very helpless.

I somehow recovered and then I jumped right into work.

So I am working again, and I am glad. But for these ten minutes I can admit, briefly, I would like to be able to rest a bit more. Can I do it? Will I let myself? Or do I just need to admit my weakness for a bit?

I want to be spoiled. I want hot chocolate chip cookies. I want an Aster & Bay face scrub. I want the hummingbirds to visit more often. I want a kitten to cuddle. I want a vacation I don’t have to pay for. I want dinner brought to our home, and to stay in bed. I want someone else to clean up my desk. I want the yard weeded and the deck lights strung instead of telling my husband to do it. I want to wake up tomorrow and have someone make me a pile of hot waffles.

But instead I settle for writing a bit. For taking a hot shower, and dressing in my soft pajamas. My daughter spends an hour with me before bed, holding one another and talking about our day. About our lives (“You’re a good role model to everyone around you,” she tells me). About our aspirations – for now, for the summer, for life.

She is off to bed, then my son joins me. He’s put the kitchen in order, and then readied for bed. His face is bright and keen from the evening’s wash. Sleep comes, for all of us, and soon. I’m tired enough I think I won’t stay up much longer. Just enough to write a bit, and then another night in our home, safe for now, and ready for respite.

a white dress, a blue room

I’m standing by the clothes dryer ironing; my son is telling me a joke he wrote. It doesn’t really make sense. But he laughs, his face flushed with pleasure. He steps up to me – he’s almost as tall as I and will be taller this time next year – and puts his arms around me. He kisses me frankly. Then pulls back and looks, peering: “Also – I put three potatoes in the oven to make baked potatoes.” His tone is half-proud, half cautionary, as if somehow I’d be alarmed to find the oven on if I went upstairs.

His father taught him how to bake potatoes. You scrub them up really good, wash them dry them. Coat in olive oil and coarse salt, then stab ’em with a fork. An hour at 400 degrees F. They really are sublime. But Nels, he’s really proud of himself. In fact the kids have settled so thoroughly into veganism and it seems like everything is more peaceful, is more funny. It seems we eat less food but enjoy it more. We certainly spend less on food.

Today I finish up the hooded sweatshirt in a bamboo french terry – set it aside for washing and air-dry, it will be a gift for my daughter in the fall. I steam-press linen for a dress shirt for my son – a gorgeous cerulean blue. I cut out a pattern and catalog it; hanging it up for next week. I will be ordering a pink jean zipper for stretch jeans. I will be overdyeing some gorgeous fleece yardage for my Halloween costume. Yes, I start early. Because some years I get an awful lot of Halloween costumes.

This evening I am finishing up a meeting with a sponsee; sitting in my car with her for privacy. A client arrives – a bride-to-be. She wants her tulle-overlay dress converted to a strapless dress. This means? Cutting into a wedding dress. She is a relaxed bride so there is something very thrilling about it all. Instead of sending her away, I have her sit with me while I whip-stitch the remains of the overlay to the inside of the bodice. The result is gorgeous and she’s very happy when she leaves.

I’m exhausted. My pain level has been very low today, with about 1000 mg of ibuprofen, an acetomenaphin – and this evening, half a hydrocodone. For now I am trying to be patient and trying not to worry about the future. I have a pile of laundry on my bed that will need to be put away before I can sleep in it. I need to drink some water.

A hot shower, and then falling under covers.

 

Mr. Blue Sky / please tell us why

I found out I was wrong about the difficulties with my procedure on the twelfth. My sudden post-surgery illness was not due to a medication miscalculation or reaction, but rather the trauma of the surgery itself. “You had a really blocked-up system,” my urologist frowns at me. Like I did it to be naughty. “Like a cork,” he adds. He tells me it was so bad they did what they could but they had a limited amount of time.

I am shocked they didn’t tell me how bad it would be after the procedure, or give me something I could take for the pain. It would have saved me terror, agony, stress, and a second hospitalization.

Mostly – the fear. I haven’t had pain like that before. I thought something was terribly, unutterably wrong. And then things did get wrong. I am glad I recovered. I have learned a lot.

So now I am in a patient place, waiting for the next test. I am thinking about pain, and fear, and my Buddhist practice. I am going to get to go deeper than many people do.

Meanwhile I am well enough to work. I have several writing assignments, a web site (my new job!), and several sewing plans in the works. Tomorrow I meet with a client about custom garments. I’m tired but I’m doing okay. I get to be careful, to pace myself.

My child, my eldest, is off on a retreat this weekend – she is at a gathering meant to support children of alcoholic families. You can imagine how impressed I am of her, how much I love her for embarking on such a thing. Still, I miss her. She hasn’t been texting us much. I am lucky to get the lion’s share of the messages.

Night time and it’s time for kitties, for snuggling under blankets. For something easy to watch. To drift off to sleep. 

Tomorrow is another day!

ureteral stent

the latest appliance

ureteral stent

Today marked the end of a small, unpleasant eight-day epoch with the removal of my ureteral stent. I won’t bother posting links because you can look it all up yourself.

The fear set in last night. I did my best not to give this fear too much energy. Really, I slept pretty well all things considered. This morning I resolutely did my housework bits, and went off and picked up a sangha member to help her with her spiritual walk. 1:30 PM on the waterfront with my ladyfriend I took a couple Alleve and drank a healthy portion of water, the sunlight streaming in through the windshield and (most) everything okay with the world. My husband met me at the urologist’s and we sort of grimly waited events. The procedure was harrowing and unpleasant but not over lengthy. The urologist triumphantly held up the stent to show me, but I couldn’t look. I was too upset about what had just occurred. I thought it best to be quiet and courteous. Those were the behaviors I hung my hat on.

After I got dressed, Ralph and I met with the urologist in his posh little office and he confessed I was having too much trouble. Time to make an appointment with another specialist. Not really what I want to hear but, I am not driving this bus. I am along for the ride.

If I hear one more person telling me they’re sure I’ll feel better soon I might just have to slap them. No one can make that promise. Why bother? Wishes and prayers for my health and pain-free experience – I’ll take those.

Warming up outside and a bright moon; waning from the apex last night. My daughter and I on a walk with our dog, whose spirits are inexplicably low. His tail is a bit low and he seems cautious. I guess I kind of relate.

no matter how I try to disabuse you of that notion

Nightmares.

They’ve plagued me since my procedure, eight days ago. Two hospitalizations and one visit from paramedics, in the space of four days. Dehydration, secondary infection, and constipation. All of these are resolved today, but the combination made me so very ill and so very quickly so, that I am sobered by the experience. Now I’m on a regular medication schedule and that has been very interesting; I’ve never before taken loads of ibuprofen.

So in the last few days I’ve been able to do some work. More importantly, I’ve stopped fearing a sudden onset of pain that cannot be remedied. During the worst bouts, I had very dark thoughts indeed. Amazing how easily we can be brought low.

So the nightmares – why? Medicine? Stress? Both?

My children have been mastering more household work. Surprisingly, my son seems more focussed. My daughter has trouble.

Last night I sit at the edge of her bed, in the dark, and I ask her. Why didn’t she take the dog on his walk earlier? Why didn’t she finish laundry? She tells me, I don’t know. The room is heavy with her sadness. I ask, “How can I help?” She tells me it’s her thing. Her problem. She needs to fix it. I ask her if she still wants to do what she signed up to do. She says Yes. Her voice is firmer, now. I tell her, It’s okay, just try again tomorrow. It can be hard to learn new habits. I sense her easing off. She feels better. I say goodnight.

Downstairs to my son who has snuck my laptop and is trying to procure a half-dozen starfruit through mail-order means. He arranges his time these days between playing outdoors until all hours, and gaming in his little studio (Minecraft, mostly), and doing his household work. And then piling on me like a bag of sticks. Watching a little television in the living room while I’m resting after a bout of pain. He tangles up and kisses me over and over. I ask him, “What would your friends think if they walked by and looked in the living room to see you kissing your mom?” He smiles and says, “If they teased me I’d just say, ‘Oh you don’t like your mama? That’s so sad.'” We are giggling and wrestling a bit and he is trying to crack jokes, to make me smile. He wants me to feel better. He’s a child so he thinks its his job to fix me. I can’t really make him not feel that but I can reassure my children whenever I can.

We’ve had a break from hot weather; balmy days with an ocean breeze, but a threat of heat. In the night when I wake to take medicine, I pad into the kitchen for a drink of water and there is Herbert Pocket our little tuxedo kitty, all curled up on top of the stove. I know I should shoo her off but I can’t. I have to pet her and she stretches and splays out her back toes and curls her spine, belly up, asking for some love. I don’t particularly like being up in the middle of the night and being ill, but I do love my house and the safety I feel, and that I have in some measure provided the same to a few other sentient beings.