turning the collar up, looks like I picked the wrong time to decide to shave my head

Bright and cold, the sun slaps down on the sidewalks and finds us much as we ever were, maybe here and there a little shabbier. Broken down businesses and those making their valiant try. More cars getting towed DIY-style lately, Ralph and I have both noticed this. I drive by my neighbors sleeping rough or living hard, hunched jackets against the cold in clothes that aren’t quite warm enough, walking with bottles that clink in thin black plastic bags, cheap fleece pajama pants.

My sister visited this weekend and went to some festivities around town. “Irish music and drinking, I know how much you love those.” She and my mother went ahead and did some of that. We also had lunch together Saturday and Jules and the kids and I goofed at the Halloween store, good memories for me. She always buys the children something sweet; this time, their Halloween Trick or Treat bags/pumpkin buckets.

I drive to Aberdeen in the afternoon and wonder why some days I feel in a panic. Nothing is wrong, I tell myself. Remind myself. I am sober, and safe, and mostly sane. We have wonderful friends and family and are surrounded by a great deal of love. My children and I have a roof over our heads and good food to eat. The kids are growing well and exceedingly happy, as far as I can tell. The cats lounge about. My house is tidy, I bought winter boots. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong. I have to talk myself down from the ledge now and then but the feeling passes after a while, like everything else.

Low Tide

“Low Tide” by Τϊζζ¥

More Hoquiam, WA.

only puts in motion what has been locked in frost

First Day Of First Grade

My first day of school, first grade
Taken in the bus we lived in

The family I grew up with until about age eight, my maternal family, mostly what I remember was a messy and boisterous tribe who started childbearing a bit later in life, consumed spirits by the case (or in the instance of wine, the box or gallon jug), smoked a fair degree of pot (some of them way more than others), and mostly wanted to eat and drink and have a good time and certainly never wanted that to end. The parties around the bonfire singing and playing music (old stuff from the sixties mostly), must have been fun for many but I grew them into a resentment. Most everyone worked hard and drank hard too, although a few members dropped out of much employment. As far as I know, I’m the only alcoholic in the family, but it seems like there sure are a lot of drunks.

In my memory my grandmother never much quit smoking cigarettes her whole life even though she ended up needing a breathing apparatus and assistance. She died of alcohol- and smoking-related complications but to my knowledge the family didn’t name it thus. You know, just a mystery stroke I guess. I got to be there for her death – myself, my husband, and the start of our own family: our four month old daughter. Many sorrows were ahead for my husband and I along the lines of our family inheritances, but at the time we didn’t know this.

My childhood experiences contain many hurtful memories, although in that family it was requisite we describe ourselves and our relations as “warm and loving”. Despite this mythology, I perceived I was only enjoyed and loved when I was being adorable – or a Good Girl, or both. I was told girls were supposed to be beautiful, and certain girls in the family were praised as such, and since I wasn’t, at least I knew where I stood on that count. At the same time I remember at a very early age believing there wasn’t any adult I could count on to choose me and my brother and our sense of safety, over their drinking and drugging. Since I was so little I was powerless to change any of this.

In addition to the drinking and drugging, which invoked a fair degree of fear as years went on, there was just daily life. The adults in my life changed, like chimera, during the day and as evening wore on. I rarely knew what was expected of me, only knew if I was meeting approval or not. One minute they’d be mostly tending to their work or the kids – or, as is more likely, ignoring us – the next they’d be overly sentimental, lachrymose, and effusive – or toxic and full of venom directed at little Me, their faces flushed and hardened into set-jaw choler beneath small angry eyes. My character defects and my errors, my objections to unfairness, any assertion of my own will counter to theirs, and my crudely-expressed desire to be treated with dignity was not ignored – it was punished. By age two the family called me “Little Hitler”, and later cited this as funny, good thing I straightened myself out, I was such a willful child.  Later an adult from this family would tell me it was okay for me to lash out against my own children. “They have to understand that you have feelings too.”

Oh, I made sure my kids understood I had feelings alright. Just the way I had done to me. As a mother I was Feelings ran rampant.

But, that was later – my own family.

Back to my childhood: relatively early in life I discovered I was capable at succeeding in school, and this performance placated these adults and put me in a category convenient for them. I wasn’t the beautiful one or the good one – I was the smart one.

I certainly wasn’t in a position to perceive that these people were sick and suffering in their own ways, and coped via chemicals and Authoritarian parenting and gastronomical excess et cetera, simply to manage their own pain, stress, confusion, depression, excitation, and suffering. They did the best they could with what they had. In this way my story is hardly unique, nor is my family.

As carefully as I’ve laid out my childhood memories, I want to further impress upon the reader that I do not hold resentments over these events – not anymore. In fact, the release of resentments has been the greatest gift I’ve afforded myself, and it was only possible through some measure of divinity (the old adage is true). But I am also not going to pretend these things didn’t happen, or they didn’t hurt at the time. They are simply a part of my history.  I know now that not one of these adults wanted me to feel unsafe, or scared, or sense I was an afterthought running around barefoot and expected to be “good”. As best as they were able, they loved the children in their midst, likely better than they themselves had been loved.

By the time my mother, father, brother and I moved north and away from this family to take advantage of an inexpensive living situation, my survival traits were intractable and reflexive. Seen this way it seems I was doomed to have a love affair with the escape available in alcohol and drugs. I remember my first drink – it was at age twelve and I flew high above those feelings of low self-worth, Unacceptability, embarassment and shame. The history, frequency, duration, and behaviors of my drinking career are details unimportant regarding what I write here, and now.

What matters today is I have a story to share with those who suffer as I did. What matters today is I am responsible for myself and others, and there is no point to shame myself or blame myself – or blame or shame others – for the past. I was gifted something amazing in my Recovery, as I could have lived the rest of my life out as others before me have – or far worse.

Today I live on a knife-edge of amazement, a case of being astounded by what has been given. When I am outside walking and the wind is blowing and I feel clear and alive I am also on the verge of an agoraphobic episode, flying off the face of the Earth into the Great Beyond simply because it is so massive and so much larger than I. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. I am fearful of God, but not in the way most nonbelievers would think this means. I do not worry God is going to bash me flat like Whack-A-Mole and I do not think there is a vengeful power who holds sway. I am fearful because I perceive the depths and breadths throughout, but I can not understand or grasp it all. I have lived for some little time floored at the life I was given, how incredible and amazing it is. It is such a gift. I do not wish to squander it. I do not wish to forget the gift. I no longer wish to poison it or smash it to bits, or smash at other people.

I want to hold so fiercely to my gratitude and never let it go. To life any other way is, for me, a Living Death.

***

Found written in a notebook:

Escribir

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.

Today I visited my doctor, the one who months ago spoke to me in a way I was ready to understand about the possibility I might be an alcoholic. The next day I had gone to a recommended place and discovered this was a certainty, for me, personally.

The day I knew I was an alcoholic was one of the best days in my life.

So before I talk more about that, well, today – the doctor’s. We reviewed how I was doing. He asked me how the summer went, with all the barbecues and beer and booze flowing. I told him quite honestly it hadn’t been a problem. I talked to him about a few of my concerns. We straightened all that out then he said he didn’t need to see me for another year.

He shook my hand firmly and told me succinctly, “Good job.” I looked right at him and said simply, “Thank you. You can’t imagine how different my life is now.”

And since then I’ve been reflecting how much it means to me, that he thinks I could handily do a year on the track I’ve been on.

I only sat with him ten minutes today. I’ve had so little time with him over all this – the biggest change in my life, besides the birth of my children – and I suppose he’s just another person of many who has influenced me in such a deep-down amazing way – but I wonder if he realizes the gratitude I feel for his assistance, his intervention in my life (although, truth told, I did go see him for help because I wasn’t getting answers elsewhere… and I have followed suggestions every day since). After we said goodbye I walked out to the reception window, made that seemingly way-off followup appointment, then stepped out to the waiting room where my son waited. Then my boy and I went out to lunch together.

I write this out a bit because I am so incredibly grateful for my life today. I’ve come to know entirely new meanings of “help”, and love and care and wisdom. I’ve come to see the folly and death inherant in the myth of self-sufficiency. I’ve experienced serenity for the first time since I was a young child. I’m slowly growing up my emotions and shedding some of those horrible drives I’ve lived with since long before I took my first drink: shame, blame, guilt, remorse. Terror and anger.

I really didn’t know how much I lived with them until they started to slip away. As they say, this didn’t happen overnight, and I say that because if you’re suffering now I want you to know you won’t always be suffering.

I expect to keep growing.

Today was a good day. I went on a wonderful morning run in the fog, I took my son somewhere wonderful in the morning, I had time with both kids separately, I helped a few people and someone who needed support told me I made her day, I made her smile. I stand to have some hot tea with honey and a good rest.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

***

In other news, I CAN’T STOP MAKING BABY MITTENZ

Trivial Coloriffic Mittens

Fly-Dyed Softies

Made With Love

Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight

What have I been up to lately? Running again, a bit slower even this time so as not to wear myself out. I’m almost completely finished with a little woolen bunting that I’m quite pleased with, made for a client a bit south who has a new little relative on the way. Included in the package are a couple knit items I am dying over, they are so cute. And were so soft and lovely to work and cheered me immensely to construct. Pictures soon.

For Ralph and my ten year wedding anniversary, my mother bought us memberships to the YMCA so we are now restored to regular visitations of that facility. Today due to one thing and another it behooved me to set a swim date up for the kids with our friend H. as I wasn’t going to be able to take the time and also honor other commitments. A little after noon I left my children in the McDonalds parking lot with $10 and a duffel bag and I felt a little skeeved by a guy I saw loitering there, just one of those weird feelings. I was frankly relieved a half mile down the road when I discovered I’d kept their YMCA key fob used for entry (although all the employees know them and would have let them in) and I circled back, glad for a reason to calm my likely irrational fears. Sure enough the kids had ordered and set themselves up and Nels was putting a napkin on his lap and beaming at his sister over the strawberry milkshake they’d set themselves up to share, whipped cream and cherry and all! And the lurking guy ducked out the door with a printed paper bag full of food, probably off to do entirely un-skeevy activities like eat lunch.

Forty minutes after I left the kids they’d finished, cleaned up, travelled to and planted themselves in the YMCA waiting area to meet H. They kept track of their key fob and my change and their clothes and had a great time. About an hour after the three hit the water I arrived from my meeting to pick the kids and H. up and take them out to the taquería for lunch, finishing up some I-cord on size three needles while I waited for everyone to dress.

What else, well amongst other things I’ve been doing some volunteer work in a treatment center which is wonderfully healing and amazing every day and I am so grateful to have this work suggested to me. I finished (hopefully) some graphic design that will (hopefully) put a little money in my pocket as we are needing some furniture. I keep not turning in the fee and application to the Fiber Arts Festival here in Elma next month, and I’d better get on that.

But, tonight I sat in the bleachers and watched my daughter’s first-ever gymnastic session. She was surprisingly talented and took direction well and with interest. Observing her teacher’s graceful cartwheel, my daughter’s face lights up: “Nice!” she compliments the young woman. Watching Phoenix perform her second iteration of a backwards somersault she pushes up and out with her arms as instructed and I feel my body oooomph with sympathetic effort. I never did, or at least haven’t yet, learned how to do any of that stuff besides a simple bridge and forward somersault.

Only two boys were enrolled out of the fifteen or so children and every single girl there (ages three to ten) with the exception of my daughter had long long hair and I’m pretty sure 90% of their parents wouldn’t have permitted their girls cut it all the way off as I “let” my girl do. Phoenix was completely nonplussed when I observed aloud she was the only girl there with short hair. She doesn’t much compare herself to other girls except to observe and consider for inspiration. I have the suspicion she won’t be as prone to peer and social pressures as most girls end up being, and for this inkling, if I’m right, I’m quite grateful. Case in point, she’s determined to grow her hair out long and curl it and she is entirely unpreturbed this will take some time, and she is totally happy with the super-short hair she has now. This personal knowledge, satisfaction, acceptance, common sense and long or broad view of things puts her in a class of about, oh, the top first percentile of almost every woman I’ve known with hair vanity issues, which is almost every woman I’ve known.

I could stand for the good weather to continue, although I don’t mind the slight dip in temperature. Tonight on the way home from a book study I stopped in our most favored restaurant for takeout. I leaned against the counter with my arms crossed enduring the stares of locals as I waited for our to-go Italian fare; while lingering I spied a huge jug of the wine I was raised on and I thought of the gallons and gallons and millions of gallons. Ah, Uncle Carlo, sometimes I miss you so, but alas we have parted company forever.

I was just remembering one of the worst summers of my life, if not the worst, which was actually one of the best in some ways before it tumbled into shit. As the days careened toward doom I hosted house parties most nights of the work week or weekend and we enacted many such scenes as evidenced in this song video, including young men in their underwear while we women stayed clothed. In this way one ritual was at least a small, dramatic, fierce triumphant bit of nihilistic joy I’m sure not to forget it.

Well, there was the bit that you missed where I distracted him with the cuddly monkey then I said “play time’s over” and I hit him in the head with the peace lily.

Friday linkage (my apologies I missed last week)! Short, but sweet:

Got Milk? Got Misogyny at Soc Images. The PMS thing is such crap. I’ve been pretty good at ignoring it much of my life. I find it terrifically interesting our culture holds that normal biological or physical processes of women are inherently flawed, scary, silly, unmentionable, gross – or all the above. I’m pretty much done with that, how ’bout you?

Oh and speaking on that – Tami Harris has some choice words on a few recent commercials which are almost unbelievable even as experienced by my tired-out leathery-psyche of anti-kyriarchal cynicism. Just: wow.

An Apology To Parents at PickleMeThis – now admittedly these sentiments seem like only the beginning of a greater understanding of adultism and attendant misogyny, but heck, it’s a good beginning. This entry seems a lot better off than I was for many years. I wish this person well and hope others find the words helpful.

This is over a year old; but I hadn’t shared it yet. You can read the text here. It’s well worth it.

 
New WA DUI law in effect. Anyone have any opinions? (Um, “Don’t Drink & Drive” not worth the effort to type it, so don’t, or your ass is modded).

I was also thinking – tangentially so – of my favorite film scenes involving drinking. I came up with a few. On the humor scale: Cary Grant in the beginning(ish) of North by Northwest comes to mind, as does Will Ferrell’s turn in Old School (the latter film I don’t exactly reccommend, although Juliette Lewis’ “I’m sooorrrrry” while blowing cigarette smoke is also choice!). On the awesome-in-a-drama/realistic way I’d cite the entire performance of Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (as I believe I’ve mentioned before), Paul Giamatti’s work in Sideways, and the family dinner scene in Half Nelson which makes me grit my teeth, it’s so perfect.

Teh Awesome: from one of my favorite thrillers. I would love to sponsor this one at the 7th Street!

Make: How-To: A Custom Pair of Tap Pants at CRAFT. I only own one dress but I’d like to own more. Why not have some funderwear for underneath? Instead of my usual cotton.

Make: Buttermilk Potato Salad by Martha Stewart. I made this for this week’s Conch and it was delicious!

Finally: “Red Light Bulb” by Madeline:

The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or the fourteenth

The couple sitting across the restaurant is drunk. Very drunk. Having, according to them, a “wonderful time”. Due to the history of my alcoholic family of origin and my as-yet-in progress healing, I am not relaxed around drunk and rowdy people. I’m only waiting until someone asks them to please move on, or please do not grab my ass, or whatever boundary is communicated, before a sudden sodden viciousness is levied against those who’d oppose their asshattery or dangerous hijinks.

But in this case we, the public, get off easy enough. The man of the couple manhandles the waitress, which she suffers as best as she’s able, but mostly they seem in the “friendly” category of drinkers (which is as far as I’m concerned often only a temporary phase; many who drink habitually to excess, I believe, are often self-medicating deep suffering and a hair trigger away from destructive behavior). Later I find out these two were on a blind date and finished two bottles of champagne before paying up and moving on to find a bar proper. They certainly have one thing in common at least. I wish them the best.

We had stopped for a pizza after attending the Washington State Ghost Society’s audit of the 7th Street Theatre, a closed event. We had bundled up in blankets and listened while Nels, disinterested, whispered in my ear loudly about his latest computer programming aims. Phoenix evaluated the replayed EVPs and read the Society’s report, cocking an ear, then levelly auditing their presentation efficacy while drawing monster after monster in my moleskine.

**

Today news reached us of the Tucson shooting which killed at least six people and injured twelve or thirteen (at the time I type this) in an anti-government mass murder. The youngest victim was a nine year old girl named Christina-Taylor Green, born on September 11, 2001 (yes, really) and recently voted onto her school’s council. Christina-Taylor was, in words of one family friend, “brought by her family to meet the congresswoman [Giffords, likely a target,] to see how government works”.

I don’t have words for how this has affected me; deeply. I feel so incredibly sad, a deep devastating sadness that permeates my every action today. This isn’t a left or right political issue (please watch the brief video of today’s statement made by Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik). This should be a call for peace and for democratic, responsible and measured responses in our language and activism. Tonight I take a break from my Twitterstream where so many activists I typically respect (and as are my proclivities, are left-leaning) have today and in the past levied so much vitriol and violent language against those they oppose. Anger is a natural emotion and one that lets us know something is wrong; however, rehearsing that anger and revelling it and acting from that place has brought so much sorrow and suffering and devastation upon so very many (and is precisely irresponsible to those unbalanced or vulnerable). Today Christina-Taylor and the many others killed, wounded, and traumatized (as well as their families and communities) paid a terrible price.

Beacon
(Small Stone #8*)

Bridge lights and the illuminated structure
In the blue-black inert night
Rendered distant and cold
Close enough to touch

Small stone project

a stutter step that you hear when you’re falling down

The onset of the colder weather is a very odd and precious time for us because, like I imagine in days of Yore, it usually involves a period of compromised resources and more meager habits, an odd preciousness of more carefully-selected enterprises and purchases and a more dear experience of daily life.

Case in point: car troubles could be a source of anxiety if I let them. We already only have one car working and it’s not working well. The worst problem (of a handful), the most serious that I can tell, is a leaking of at least two seals which lends itself to an extremely wet interior now that the rain has set in (we’re talking squishy sounds when you step in, they’d be satisfying if they didn’t herald a fall-apart we can’t afford) which means children who have to hold groceries and my purse and their books on their lap (for fear of water damage), and even rusty bits beginning to fall off the car (frowny-face). We do not have a Plan at this point, or rather we could have lots of Plans if we had a bit more funds. Fine, whatever. We will survive. In fact I look forward to whatever future we have – as far as a car goes – as the current one is not sustainable.

Today I worked extra-hard, despite a lack of sleep and that nagging irritation I was seriously behind on sewing work (which I am), to put the house in order and love up the kids and make a lovely, nourishing dinner for my husband when he arrived home from his late-night class. I haven’t really mentioned this much but Ralph Hogaboom is being rode hard and put away wet at work since the very busy summer, without abatement so far. Ralph is a stellar man and as you might expect a heroic Systems Analyst (or twatever they’re calling them these days). His job is kind of both of ours in the sense I can listen and advise and think about his position and be entirely impressed with what he delivers. It’s not that I couldn’t respect (or sleep with) a man who did only his lukewarm-best in the nine daily hours he’s ransomed to Strangers… it’s just, knowing about his work reminds me of why I like him so much. Enough to breed with him, as it turns out.

In addition (today) I kept getting distracted by our children, so funny and alive and particular. Nels bobs around playing his various games and requires my participation at times; he delivers kisses and hugs and tells me how Pretty I look today. I take my daughter, after soccer (practice goes an extra half-hour because they are enjoying themselves) and we get some milkshakes. Her body is wiry and cold and she comes to the grocery store with me and pushes the cart and is the Best Company Ever. My last $50 of the week, gone, parts of it spent to make her suggested dinner (spinach and bacon quiche, served alongside a multicolored salad and some rich red chianti for Ralph and I). After dinner, at home, a hot bath for both of us.

Of note: today I also wrote a small magnum opus: “part 2 (.Tenderness.)” at Underbellie (a follow-up for “Hi, my name is Kelly. I’m a recovering Good Parent (Part 1)“, penned about three weeks ago). Response has been wonderful including a specific and incredible Thank You email that reminds me why I write.

Sometimes I write a rather polished post and other times, like tonight, I write until I’m about to collapse into a hot bath and then bed. What are you gonna do.

Where do we go from here? Is it down to the lake I fear?

Last night Ralph and I were invited out to the pub where, unbeknownst to me, it was Trivia Night. Do not get me started in a trivia contest. I wouldn’t say I’m competitive because I can’t be assed to care if we lose – but I am rather good and I get hyper as hell (seven years of Nerd Bowl, most of them as Team Captain). Which is incidentally how I was during our wedding day too – hyper that is, I have it on film. So last night was a version of Name That Tune and I nailed about 90% single-handedly, “Love Plus One” by Haircut 100 and Gary Numan’s “Cars” and a handful of relatively obscure Bruce Springsteen songs and some old live Stones and Stephen Stills and Roy Orbison for good measure. And I had to do a little dance every time I got a song right (don’t worry, I varied the dance, for the legions of fans). I was a complete dud for the handful of new country songs that were played – fortunately a few other ladies on the team knew those by heart. We placed 3rd, 1st, 1st, then 3rd and won a shitload of candy which of course I had no interest in.

Today was kind of a little gift, a reminder of just how amazing people are who deal regularly with sleep deprivation and function at the same time. I can’t remember the last day I didn’t have a solid six to eight hours under my belt; today I managed on about three and it hurt. My son and daughter spent the day hugging me and asking how I was doing. We had a friends’ kid over in the afternoon (and a sidewalk-chalk note from another girl who stopped by while we were out); in fact our little informal ritual of having from one to four extra kiddos during the day/evening/night is really a wonderful one for me. Today we took a late Thai lunch and I ordered for the kids and they were happy with my choice. They were such delightful mealtime companions; I don’t know if I’ve had better. Sun-dazzled and beat I drove home and had to ask them a few times to repeat themselves. My brain was a bit sluggish.

Ralph taught class tonight so I was on my own with the kiddos until about 9:30 PM. Tired as I was, it was a delight to sit in the car knitting and watching my daughter play quite energetically on the soccer field while my son wooed several other children on the playground. I waited for as long as the kids wanted to play. They were the last off the playground and we came home for a late dinner and a night in. Too tired even to knit, or maybe even drink.