what the hell, that literally sounded like a tumbleweed blowing through, did you actually expect it to work?

Today Jen and I took our four kids up to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia.  Then to the park, hot dogs, organic coffee, the fabric store, ice cream.  A day built around (mostly) what the kids want to do yet in such a way as parents could enjoy too.  Homemade snacks, lots of play, sunshine and rain, great grownup conversation, and some four-way bickerfests from the progeny in the two backseats of the minivan (no one child was immune to asshattery today but I’m proud to say the moms held up pretty well).

At the park today some fool in a group of fools wolf-whistled me as I walked though the grass to collect the kids.  He had to do it a couple times because he had a really undeveloped, airy whistle.  Seriously? I mean don’t bring that shit if you can’t even get it done.  And note: the group of guys housing the whistler (who’d made appreciative grunts or whatever) were silent on my return trip past them, because I had kids with me.  Awww yeah. Because a woman ain’t worth hitting on unless you’re doing it with creepy intent, surely not for children to witness.

Dr. Sophie Hogaboom:

IMG_4450

Shopper & Chef Nels Hogaboom:

IMG_4471

You know what’s important? Coffee.

IMG_4475

Today: yards and yards and yards of fabric for a practice skirt for bellydancing. & now Ralph cooks dinner: Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad, Asparagus with a Parmesan Crust, and Lemon Pepper Baked Zucchini.

So, that all works out.

Brooklyn, a tank top: repurposing

Killa Zilla

My daughter seems to love the little knit camisoles and tanks I’ve made her.  The Brooklyn tank top was the next project as listed in my Farbenmix sew-up project, and yet the weather is not really tank-top weather. I chose to make a double-layer tank, providing more warmth than it might first appear.  Yesterday Sophie layered it under a close-fitting jean jacket. She survived outdoor walks in the wind and indoor frolics in the dance studio equally well.

Sophie / Dance Studio Mirror

Good quality knits hold up well during their usage, do not pill, and have intelligible grainlines to work with.  Purchasing good-quality knits isn’t exactly easy unless you live in a city and know where to find them.  You can order online but then, since you are not able to feel and see the fabric, you are at a slight disadvantage.  I do order fabrics online, but when I am matching something I prefer to see them in the flesh.  Case in point: nine yards of silk velvet burnout are on their way to my house for a bellydancing skirt.  I won’t purchase fabric to make a coordinating top until I can carry a swatch of the skirt fabric around in my hand.

Back to this tank top: fortunately, finding very nice-quality t-shirts is an option where I live because we have a few wonderful thrift stores.  These shirts are from Thrift City here in Aberdeen and are high-end brands in Pima cotton.

At first I’d thought to dress this top up a bit.  I’ve been sewing a bit of Alabama Chanin projects – making an armchair pincushion for a practice run – and I thought to decorate the bodice with reverse applique.  After experimenting with both hand- and machine-sewn versions, I decided to just keep the shirt simple.  It wasn’t working out for me.  To put it politely.

Instead I added a couple subtle tucks at the hem of the outer jersey fabric to expose the dusty rose of the underlayer. The double-layer makes for a sturdy garment; the soft hand makes for a very cozy shirt for my girl.

Pink / Pink / Pink

This top was very easy to sew.  If you are a beginner sewing with jerseys, I might suggest using strips of stabilizer or a stabilizing spray when you are sewing directly on the jersey (my mother-in-law tells me you can dissolve scraps of stabilizer in water and use it as a DIY spray or paint to stabilize. I am sure this works, and it is cheaper than buying a stabilizing spray). Your aim in using these products will be to stabilize the edges of the jersey.  Such persnickety handling is not needed for the entire project; for instance, after you’ve attached the trim and are topstitching it things go easily without stabilizing (the woven fabrics are against the feed dogs).

This brings me to my favorite aspect of this project.  The notable thing about this top was the construction of the trim.  I chose to use a woven fabric on the bias, as opposed to a knit.  For any novice stitchers reading here, bias trim is made from long strips cut on the bias of the fabric and used at hemlines and seamlines or as detail. These bias strips serve as ties and trim both.  Using the bias is important, as only then will a woven perform a bit of stretch and can easily go around a curve; a strip cut on the straight-of-grain would not work well at all.

In this version, you attach the 1 1/4″ strip’s long edge to the right-side of the garment edge, flip the trim to the backside, and triple zig-zag topstitch all layers:

New Bias Trick For Knits
A triple zig-zag is a thready stitch, but such a great one with knits. You can pretty much use it with impunity. The results are a firm, slightly stretchy, and very sturdy trim application.  Given I have a very small stash of fabric, a project like this is perfect for using scraps to trim the top.

Tie Close-Up, Brooklyn Tank Top
¡Que bonita!

You can read a few more details in my Flickr tagset.

“he called me ‘sir’, without adding, “you’re making a scene”

I think my favorite moment today was when I biked on errands with Nels and halfway through my business I realized I was very hungry (I feed my kids first, when I remember to feed us at all), and I saw a sign advertising our own 8th Street Ale House’s vegetarian lunch special, and I decided to leave my son outside the bar while I popped in (JUST for the food to go, honest), and while I waited our police chief entered, and I half-expected to have my ass busted for the winsome little boy gamboling around outside the tavern and peeping in windows and hopefully not getting in the lawman’s cruiser.  (Previous sentence note: I am lousy with commas!) Our police chief is a very nice person and respected in his job capacity.  He is also intimidating, because A. he’s a policeman, hello (I have no bad experiences with police officers personally; there are just some types of Authority I feel a stilted relationship with, and they include teachers and doctors, whom I have been friends with but always call them Ms. or Miss or Mr. or Dr. Last-Name), and B. he is very tall (and handsome) – easily 6′ 5″ if not more, and in his uniform he looks even taller.  I just smiled at him and figured if he mentioned the kid running wild outside a drinking establishment it would be a good segue into something I want to ask about, namely having a mini field-trip for my kidlets to the police station, the kind of thing they miss out on since they are not in school.

But lo, as it turned out he was there on other business and did not cast his eye about the pub and bellow out Who was the Mother of this Poor (alternatively, Naughty) Child?, which is pretty much my internal fear any time I am ever anywhere with Nels (in some ways I cannot wait until this boy emancipates!).  It’s funny because whether my kids or myself are being Good, Bad, or Ugly do you realize I worry all the time I’m going to get busted for something?  Something, I have no idea what, as I am no law-breaker.  I don’t even smoke pot (borrring!) and imagine myself so Upright that if I ever get too much change back I always correct the cashier’s mistake (double borrring!).  Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough and I’ll get Busted for whatever and I’ll realize I had nothing to fear all along.

The barkeep is one of those guys that calls women insulting pet names, like today “Dear”.  This is how I feel about that sort of thing: [ here ] (I used to get it all the time when I was in the Engineering profession – snore!).  Anyway, after I tipped the fellow and loaded up my lunch (a Greek salad) I retrieved Nels (who had behaved himself well) and we hit the supermarket and bought the food for dinner tonight and tomorrow.  It was sunny today but a bit cold; I however am not complaining because as long as it isn’t wet my bike errands are relatively joyous to experience.  Yes, even when I realized I hadn’t brought payment and had to run to my bank to take out cash, then return to retrieve our sundries.  All Mayberry-like my bank is only a couple blocks from the supermarket.  My son wrapped his arms around me and we experienced the companionable silence on the bike that has served so many wonderful memories already.  We eventually got home and Nels was off the bike like a shot, playing with his sister outside where my husband found them when he returned from work.  Ralph also came home to a couple loaves of fresh-baked bread, a whole wheat loaf that I’d been working on since yesterday, lovely and fragrant fare.  If I was smart I’d bake bread every day because I can’t remember a time I made it that it didn’t make everyone in my family happy, and I am completely serious about that.

It is wonderful to have Ralph home for the weekend.  Even though what he does when he’s at home is work work work, it seems he is happiest when here.  He tells me this weekend he’s going to give me the Lawn of My Dreams, although I’m not sure what that is.  I do think the fact he dug up a huge pile of garbage (previous tenants) and is installing garden beds is a good start.  The chickens absolutely love the temporary pile of dirt and sod.  They  pick through it triumphantly; they come running when anyone enters the lawn, anticipating more grub-revealing shovelwork, or perhaps the leftover chocolate chip pancakes from the morning’s repast.  They are happy birds indeed and reward us with their eggs – five from four hens the other day, wow! – which they leave in secret little roosts they choose about the premises.

stitch by stitch

Yesterday at Homeschool Sports a new mama took me in to talk to. I am gradually getting to know these parents one at a time. I’m in no hurry as I’m not particularly needy for friends right now. Anyway, I’d noticed this woman before but she always seemed engrossed in conversation with other mothers.  In case you’re not a lady, I might point out that in social scenarios it’s easy to get one’s feelings hurt if you aren’t embraced into the fold – to wonder if people are clique-ing and clustering up and eschewing you.  Day two of sitting on the bleachers with everyone else talking and you away alone and you start to think they all hate you, or judge you, or are happier and more well-adjusted than you, or bitchier and narrow-minded, or whatever.

And it’s almost always just not true. Case in point: I’m the only non-Christian lifestyle parent at this function – as far as I know – and definitely the only woman with tacky hair and the proclivity to say words like “cock” (often).  More relevant or close to my heart (okay, “cock” is pretty close to my heart, but still) I believe (could be wrong) I’m also the only matriarch shrugging at “traditional” homeschooling whilst fully embracing self-directed learning. And don’t get me wrong, at times these can feel like huge differences.  I could choose to feel like an outcast or all Special Snowflake or Different.  But that’s not my style.  I know I’m not any more special than these ladies; they may church-talk like no one’s business and wear classy yet understated fashion but they are not the Borg and I am not all misunderstood and awesomely weird and “So-Called Life” Different. We’re all mothers, women, people and the only way we can know what we have in common (more than we might like to admit) is to talk to one another.

I think I asked this woman A. a question – I can’t remember what question exactly – but I’m glad I did because she was one of those people with a lot of experiences and opinions – on a variety of subjects.  In fact A. talked so much and jumped from subject to subject so rapidly as to make me look positively inarticulate and wallflower-y. Within a few sentences she asked me if I was a Christian. I can’t remember exactly what I said (I should have bellowed out, “Ma’am I am tonight!”) but within the next few minutes she, a Biblical fundamentalist, was talking about the difference between her and other Biblical fundamentalist who are too fundamentalisty, more Bible-exacting (long skirts, long hair worn up, no mainstream music) and too… something.  I felt a little jet-lag as I was thrust into the conversation of fringe Christian, which although disconcerting at times interestingly enough has a lot in common with my own views (namely, a fierce defense of family and the position that our children are not primarily the State’s children).  A. was mother to seven children, the oldest being 20 and the youngest looking about 2.  She was a veteran homeschooler and a passionate person.  I like passionate people.  I was glad to talk with her.  The little homeschooling group has been a much-looked-forward-to date during my week.

I’ve been more or less sucessfully hand-sewing.  It’s different than machine sewing; mostly in that I can sit in the living room instead of in my sewing studio. During the day my work seems to calm the children.  They like having me there.  My latest project was an armchair pincushion, mad practical:

Alabama Chanin Pincushion

Alabama Chanin Pincushion, Close-Up

LoveFool
The entire time I was trying to take a picture of the above, the Love-Cat kept getting in the way. Wanting Love. More Love. There is never enough Love for her. Unless there’s Food. Then she wants that more. When she’s done with that? Back to Love.

spring in name only, it feels like summer

Nels wore Sophie’s little blue bubble dress and her Riviera leggings today. He looked very fetching in that electric blue. He was a total joy, happy and alert and funny (although I am instructed to never, ever laugh at him, and he helped me out with the things I needed to do when I asked (predictably because things never go totally smoothly, it was Sophie who was more difficult for me today, or perhaps more accurately she is finding me problematic. She’s mad at me and I don’t yet know why). In the afternoon he played for a good half hour en la lavandería while I shopped at, shocker, Thrift City. The kids aren’t tired of it and neither am I. While I browse Sophie likes to take a few minutes on the dilapitated-but-working treadmill that’s been there a while, hoy con helado de fresa en mano.

I didn’t get the truck to the shop. Tomorrow, perhaps. Today we mostly focused on enjoying the sun, and eating ice cream. Like, I fed them ice cream all day. So, there’s that.

Muchos Helados Hoy

of needlesharp ire

Yesterday in my belly dancing class we learned to hold the veil and work with it while dancing. Holding the veil hurt the claw part of my hand, because I’ve been handsewing more of late.  The pain in my extremeties served a bittersweet reminder of my love and bondage; it spoke aloud of something that will be with me for the life I have, as long as I’m able:

Because I love sewing. Times one million.

I’ve been sewing since tempus immemoria, i.e. always.  And over the years I’ve been annoyed by, to some extent large or small, the following:

1.  The elitist, sizeist, racist, ableist, etc. buffet our current glut of craft books and websites are serving up. This needs so much unpacking I had to write up a separate post.

2.  “You should / could sell those!” Really?  Because I’ve never heard anyone say that before.  Or no wait, I hear it all the time.

I understand this is delivered as a compliment 99.44% of the time.  That’s cool.  And it’s interesting that from the lips of so many springs the concept that the ultimate compliment is deigning my work fit for commoditization or earning potential.  Huh.

A tip: those who sell things usually mass-produce them at some level.  This is not for everyone.  Some of us who sew shudder at the very thought of making two identical pillowcases (hello!), let alone churning out one after another diaper cover. Some sewists thrive on this sort of thing, sure. I personally know several. But when someone spies my crayon roll- up (genius!) and says you should sell those, they don’t seem to realize if I took their “advice” I’d be making a bunch of crayon roll-ups instead of other stuff, and the resultant item would be something that would either end up being more expensive than I could unload easily, or it would necessitate a whole wholesale fabric / factory-style construction / mailing center / production workshop.  And me making the same thing over and over.  And: no.

These days I simply smile and say, “If I sold them I wouldn’t have time to sew for my family.”  Ralph says I’m getting good at this.

What I say to other crafters:

“Wow, that’s fantastic.”
“How long did that take you to make?”
“Do you sell those?”
“I’m impressed.  How long have you been making those?”

3. “My mom/Granny/whomever used to make all our clothes.” Really? Did she do anything else, ever? Did she bonsai kitten you into a glass jar so you didn’t grow?

I have no doubt some moms (grandmothers, aunts, fathers, etc. etc.) did in fact make close to 100% of their progeny’s garments (though: socks? underwear? shoes? really?). However the number of times I hear this, I’m pretty sure many have exaggerated. Before I sewed a lot I used to say this about my own childhood wardrobe and I think I’ve even heard my mom say it. Until I look at the pictures in the photo album and yeah, I’m rockin’ some homemade digs but a lot of non-homemade stuff too.  To the extent cheap labor and crappy enviro-pillage occurs it’s currently a bit cheaper to buy ready-made (although not necessarily quality) than the materials and time-effort going into homemade.  This wasn’t always the case, though, and some people did used to sew quite a bit.

It annoys me to hear it because it’s all part of a conversation that cheapens the time and effort needed for high-quality, sturdy clothes. As if a half-hour a day thrown here or there could clothe a growing family.

What you could consider saying to crafters instead:

“My mom/Granny/whomever used to sew clothes for me. I loved (/hated) them!”
“How much time did it take to make that?”
“How much time do you spend sewing?”
“I seem to remember my mom made so much of our clothing. I wonder why so few do so now.”

4. “Will you make me one of those?  I could pay you [ some incredibly small amount for your time and the materials ].”

These days I will do it for free or not at all.  Because first off, again, my goals do not include earning currency. Secondly, if I charged someone a fair price it would be more than most people are willing to pay (trust me!).  So the offer of $25 for a full dress and pintucked pinafore, including fabric costs, is insulting (true example!).  But a request for a gift is flattering (I may not say yes, but it never hurts to ask).

5.  “OMG I would love to sew but I just don’t have time.”

Right.  I have loads of it to spare!  Why don’t I come over and do the rest of your lifework so you can sew, if you’re not too busy!

OK, no more sarcasm, but: Hey guess what!  I made all that time!  I elbowed other things out of the way!  It has been long, mostly joyous, occasionally hard, haul! It’s not like I just had time lying around!

6. “OMG, did you make that?  That is so cool!  I totally want to sew but I just can’t get past blah-blah, one time I made such-and-such, and everyone loved it blah-blah”

My sewing is All About You, so thank you!

7.  “You need new curtains?  Why don’t you just make them?  You can sew anything!”

FUCK YOU*, I totally hate sewing lots of things, including home dec, duvets, cushion-covers, etc. Just because I can make things doesn’t mean it wouldn’t kill my soul to undertake the effort (recent potholder-fail, I am looking at you!).

[ / asshattery, mine ]

* I don’t literally think “Fuck you” towards hardly anyone, it’s more like I think “fuck you” towards curtains.

suspicious characters

My husband takes a deep breath, sighs, looks pointedly at the steering wheel, then kills the engine.  I know exactly what he’s thinking.  Is the truck going to start when we return? I’m hoping it will as we have kids at home getting up to God Knows What while we shop for groceries and believe it or not, asking people for jumps gets a bit old (although it must be said in Grays Harbor people are really ready for this eventuality, my friend J. tells me they also carry chainsaws in their trucks ready to cut down trees lying across the road, you know, just in case).

The truck thing is kind of his fault.  A few days ago before he embarked on fixing my mom’s troubled beast I’d asked him if the vehicle mayhap have a charging system problem, not so much a battery problem, take it and get it diagnosed first, blah blah.  He figured it was the battery, a good guess really plus he was doing the repair bit on lunch break, so he bought a new one on my mom’s dime and now the damn thing still dies every two days (if you use headlights at all).  OK: so, fine.  Tomorrow I’ll take it to the shop my dad always recommended.  And the kids and I will bus back. And I hope it’s not raining, ugh.  You know, that whole hour in between buses shit in the wind and rain.  Today was sunny but cold when you’re out hoofing it.

You know in Hoquiam and Aberdeen very few people take their errands or their work commute by walking, biking, or the public transportation?  It’s fricken rare to see people hitting the streets who aren’t poverty-level or dealing with a variety of drug, court, mental health and/or welfare problems (I currently have none of the above). Most peeps in my peer group are in their cars, minivans, trucks shuttling back and forth.  In fact there are huge swatches of pretty much normal Aberdeen where by being seen walking you’re judged to be either down-on-your-luck or poor or prostituting or mething and heavily judged or WTF’d based on any of these assumptions (actually, don’t even click and read the comments in that link, it’s just kind of depressing).  As for the supposed sketchy areas of the fair township, my pwecious widdle babies and I walked some of them today, first getting a hot dog at the stand by the carwash (not very prepossessing in appearance but delicious all the same) then some helado a la tienda naranja before ending up in my Monday afternoon belly dancing class.

IMG_4341

IMG_4338

IMG_4343

P.S., why am I in a belly dancing class. First off, most the ladies in there seem really into the scarves and skirt and jingles.  I own not one skirt except a denim mini (which I happened to wear today b/c of the sunshine).  I don’t like flowing veils or fringe or all that wispy twirling around with scarves thing.  So, I dance in my jeans with my fat rolls hanging out the top.  FTW.

Which brings me to:  I do like the dancing.  It feels great.  I like the ladies in the class, especially my friend J. and the instructor L.  I like really dancing, energetically so.  I try not to glimpse myself in the huge studio mirror, because my cavorting looks so much less impressive than it feels.

Which is my second Why am I in a belly dancing class query, because really?  Yes, I can do a bit of a camel walk or a figure eight or large hip circles or a shoulder shimmy or a veil drop.  But ask me to combine two or more?  Why don’t I just fall down, break my arm, and piss my pants while I’m at it, because that’s where I’m going to end up.

Oh and by the way, Ralph and I made it home from the grocery store.  The truck survives to fight another day.

IMG_4335

Documenting my domicile: our little porch.  Adorned with the Hogaboom Lemon Tree and (lower left) a Thrift City bifurcated rag rug for $2, which I carried all grimy-like in my fist for a half hour in line at the store, then washed and dried at home and you should have seen Ralph’s expression, although he has come to believe it’s a nice addition, so that’s good.

all zen about it, my ass

(Our life these last few days).

Yesterday I went through my sewing OPPs. It ended up being a draining, terrible experience.  Kind of funny, because the rest of the family had no idea I was having an attack of the Inner-Crazy-Sadness.  It’s good to be a stoic mom.  That means when shit goes wrong, no one cares or notices much.  Hey, wait a minute.

So first off, throwing out, cutting up, or moving on my unfinished sewing projects?  It just sucks. It’s like looking at my creative life through a lens of failure. A few minutes into it and I’ve forgotten these projects – I think there were about five in all – are the sum total of all those things I didn’t finish from the last two years.  It takes so long taking stitches out and packaging up unfinished potholders and cutting the busks out of a corset that soon it seems all I’ve done, ever, is fail.  It’s easy to forget my accomplishments. It’s easy to forget how I feel when I sew and it’s going well.  It’s impossible to see these items as my husband calls them: “learning experiences”.  Huh.  Yeah.  Learning I suck at being a man my whole life.

After this demoralizing experience (one pattern still lies under my table, wadded up and needing ironing and scanning and re-assembly) I likely shouldn’t have gone through the kids’ old clothes and the toys that need to move on. It tears me up inside to cull the children’s items – donating to the Salvation Army, recycling, throwing out. Most people who know me wouldn’t suspect this.  I keep a tidy house, I’m told.  “You don’t have very much stuff!” people say (usually admiringly).  But: there is a cost, and the cost is Letting Go.  Some people spend their lives avoiding this.  They eventually die with a bunch of shit left over for other people to deal with.  It doesn’t matter either way – you don’t take anything with you, not your prized whats-it nor your thrift store “scores” or the antique fuckery from your Grandma Whozit.  You step out of it all like stepping naked into a pool.  Yet neither do you take the “Neat & Organized” trophy either for being a Good Girl and not having Clutter.  I know these things.

Still, it’s important for me to travel light as possible (which is not very possible, as I live with three other people and I can’t just throw their things out willy-nilly, although can’t you tell I kind of fantasize about that). I take things into my home, and I remove them, in a measured, steady fashion.  Because I enjoy being able to move through and work with and love in my space – to feel peace as I work.  I take joy in the moment and what I have, not those things that we burden ourselves with, new or shabby, that give us so much comfort (and, alternatively, despair).

So, I like a sparing life, if I can get it.  It’s just…  folding up my kids’ clothes and putting them in the donation box, I feel like I’m taking apart my babies and my memories of them.  It hurts, badly.  Every time.

Not Yet Ready To Wake UpGood thing I still have the actual babies in my house.  Look at how suspicious they look.  Suspicious of what?  Like, I’m about to make them pancakes!  P.S. this picture was taken well after noon.

I’m taking a break from my Farbenmix project and doing some handsewing.  It’s a trip.  You start out slow and get faster and faster and it’s oddly soothing. My kids seem to like my handsewing and knitting because it means I sit down in the living room.  They gather and play around me.  After a while I realize they’re hungry and I rise to serve beans, homemade bread, and do dishes (again).  The house fils up with the smell of cooking and my kids and husband praise me from high to low.

I Try Something New (Frontside)

I Try Something New (Backside)(The natural/undyed fabric is an organic bamboo knit and a gift from my friend J.  It’s wonderfully soft.)

The sun comes through the window and feels amazing.  It is impossible for me to get too sad on sunny days.

MorningI have a bit of a morning to myself before my beloved monsters awake.

la gente de la pie

I’d like to think of myself as a steady force but truth be told I’m a bit faddish, and my newest fad (semi-obsession!) revolves around a thrift shop in Aberdeen se llama Thrift world, a veritable mecca of decent brands, clean and organized stock, crazy-low prices, and kid-friendly employees. It seems I’m the last local to avidly take to the place – I’d steered clear based on previous tenents of the building (it has been a thrift store of sorts under varying ownership for at least twenty years). Having visited the other day, I am hooked.  “Have you been to Thrift World?” I ask my friends.  Yes. So basically there are trends in our little hick corner and I’m on the bleeding edge of exactly zilch.

Today’s date involves a meetup at the bakery with my friend J. and her daughter E.  We are late arriving to meet our friends (car problems FTW! But we did in fact get the battery issue in my mom’s truck sorted).  I order a coffee and we caravan the few blocks to the secondhand shop.  I’m searching for bedding, complete with my flexible tape measure (nerd!), as well as my notations of the items I’d seen a few days ago that were not on sale yet, but would be today (double nerd!).  J. is looking for jeans but, I am told by reliable sources, came away with additional t-shirts and tank tops, of which Thrift World has an impressive cache.

After plowing through piles and piles of sheets on packed shelves I am satisfied with my haul and drag it up front.  “Buenas tardes,” I respond to the cashier’s hello. I pile armloads of JC Penney and Eddie Bauer sheets and pillowcases up on the counter, topped by a pair of low-level Converse in a size just right for Nels and some growing room. “¿Cómo se dice en español?” I ask, holding up the rather threadbare shoelaces that almost always attend secondhand shoes. “Agujetas,” she says. I put my hand behind my ear, or say “¿Cómo?”, I can’t remember which (I am much better at learning a lanugage by reading than by listening; although the more I speak of Spanish, the more I can “hear” it properly), and she repeats the word firmly. I say it back, then: “¿Tienes aquí?” I ask. She turns to another employee to ask; the second employee replies in the negative and then looks at me and elaborates in Spanish (this always fills me with a little gladness as it’s how I learn).  At first I catch only “something-something bolsas”, but after a beat I understand: sometimes the manager brings sealed bags of shoelaces into the store.  “¿Con los zapatos?” I ask? No. En bolsas by the linen section.  Gracias.

The cashier rings me up.  Doce dólares for the whole lot.  I thank both the ladies and, my purchases swinging in a large white plastic bag, move to collect my own children, who have been happily playing in the toy section during my purchasing.

When I join my friend J. back at the counter the cashier looks over at me and asks, “You speak Spanish?” “Un poquito,” I respond (the only true answer).  She asks if I learned the language in school. “Si, pero… hablando con la gente locales,” I answer. I’m pretty sure I don’t have that right at all, but she understands what I’m saying, nods.  I add, “Y mi niños también: hablan un poquito.”

Such a transaction is enough to add a spring in my step.  I suppose I speak my Spanish, what I have, what I’m collecting, for three reasons relatively on par with one another: porque mucha gente en mi comunidad hablan espanol, because I like to talk, and because it feels amazing in my brain to flow in another language. I am slow to learn but oddly I learn best by, you know, talking.

Sometimes I”m fortunate in that my Spanish-speaking acquaintance will assist me with my errors but mostly I end up going home and finding out I said something like, “I had to wait outside in the bad date,” instead of the last noun being “weather” (this is because “time” and “weather” are both the noun tiempo, and I learned the concept of “date” and “time” on the same day in Spanish class).  And then I wonder if I just sound like a fool.  But, at least I’m no gringo simply shouting at native Spanish-speakers, or avoiding eye-contact, or all kinds of ass-hattery I see around this place.

Driving home and it’s sunny and lovely in this way so unique to the township I live, where I’ve spent so much of my life. My eldest child is on the bench seat next to me (the youngest is with J. and E. as we head en masse to the YMCA) and she leans her head onto my shoulder.  El sol es como música en mi piel y estoy muy contento.

ch-ch-ch, tra-la-la

Some self-guru or other said, “You have the life you want,” all smug-like and distinctly sounding like Quit Bitching, You Totally Deserve Whatever Lame Shit Is Happening To You. Truth or fiction, in my view this adage lacks both compassion and helpfulness when delivered to those who are suffering – especially as I often seen it delivered by parties currently enjoying life served at the Comfort Buffet. I do, however, feel pretty confident ascribing the mantra to myself if anyone reads here and, you know, feels bad for my troubles or even worse, all SOLVE-Y about them (because seriously? You can ask if I want to solve the problem and I might say no! For reals!) As in:

The car we’ve been borrowing (since our Mercedes threw the crankshaft pulley a week ago!), my mom’s huge ginormous truck, died about a half hour ago and before I’d really got my day started. It turns out the truck has a charging system weakness whereupon engaging the headlights drains the battery in an exceeding fashion. So even though last night after our extensive shopping trip at Thrift World I raced home to safety as fast as I decently could before the sun went down (RIP Haim!), I did in fact find it necessary to turn on the headlights for a few minutes or else be in violation of the law, tapping my foot nervously as the kids turned up The Gossip on our little rigged-up mp3 / amp, thinking to myself, “Hell, no big deal, I’m only a few miles from home”, and No I did not elect to force Ralph to re-charge the thing (he was very sick yesterday, so sad), and No I did not charge it myself, being occupied with laundry and cooking and cleaning and writing and chasing ungrateful cats around the house, so today after the kids’ and my first stop downtown I jumped up in the cab on top of the world and put my key in and: the vehicle simply clicked and wouldn’t turn over.

So as of 1 PM all my children have consumed are cupcakes and green pop from the City Hall St. Patrick’s Day fundraising lunch (we arrived too late for the food, which sold out quickly, but please do know I generously donated for the cupcake breakfast) and we’re hauling around Sophie’s leopard gecko (her choice) and my plan to buy “new” sheets at the abovementioned Secondhand Mecca have all gone down the drain. Ah, and I have such modest, silly, Kelly Hogaboom plans most days: this morning after putting the St. Patrick’s Day beef roast in the oven (brown sugar! beef stock! garlic! salt! Worcestershire!) I’d measured our mattress and squirrelled my sewing tape into my bag so I could measure decent sheets and outfit our bed for a few bucks, because bedding and sheets are one of those things I never bother to buy and then suddenly they’re all falling apart. No seriously, I have the same sheet on my bed that I stole from the Surfcrest Resort when I worked there in high school. And yes, I wash it often, which is a testament to the strength of the bedding used in the hospitality industry, especially since the sheet was already used when I ganked it. Oh and for the record, I’m sorry I stole the sheet from the Surfcrest, even if it was a terrible job in some ways (but an excellent one in others; I worked with two of my best friends and my own brother, and for the only time Ever my mom made us paper bag lunches, and we watched “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, the full hour, every lunch, and we had lots of smoke breaks in between rooms, and the in-joke “Snake!”, are you listening Reecho?) it is still wrong to steal, and I do regret it, and let me remind you I was only eighteen.

Today the sun is shining though, and I practiced bellydancing in the morning and took a hot bath with my lovely children and put food in the oven and yelled after my kiddos, who upon dressing and brushing teeth and tumbling outside are my Favorite Companions Ever, and even though I must away soon for the cupcake-in-belly scenario seems hardly fair to their growing bodies, it is difficult indeed to get me down. Even if piling up around our ears are various and sundry old boxy vehicles that need our elbow grease in the from of DIY or Ralph’s sweat-income, and I mostly fritter away my days just, you know, living Life and not having a great deal to show for it.

Still. Life is still pretty great.

* Thrift World is FTW GH: I purchased three pair of new pants for Ralph (Dockers, Gap, Falconable), pajamas, a Twister game for the kids, two pair of shoes for kiddos, two t-shirts for myself, a new notecard set for Nels and a Chanel-style coat for my girl J. – all for $28!)