from the effort of loving to the making of bread

I’d walked out with dinner plates still dirty and left it all behind. My husband either would do the washing up or he wouldn’t but I couldn’t spend another minute in the house for this or that reason. I’d spent a large part of the day cooking: homemade rolls and slow-roasted orange pulled pork; a coleslaw with green apple and a pineapple marmalade upside down cake with cold cream to pour on top, and that was just dinner, not even what I made for breakfast and lunch.

The bread: satisfying. Handling dough, the mixing and oiling and steam-bath and fashioning and glazing and baking, wiping down traces of flour off the counter and the mixer. A lot of love into a simple food that many take for granted.

Now, though, it’s cold outside and I’m glad I don’t have to wait for the bus more than about eight minutes. I buy a punch pass from the driver as soon as I step on board, before I can think about it being twenty dollars and we have four more days until payday. The pass has a gold-leaf little bit embossed so people can’t fraud one. I zip up my coat and sit mid-way back. Riding the bus in the later hours is quite pleasant , although I need to really know when to catch one though, as they are few and far between and I don’t want to get stuck in Crackton, Aberdeen in this kind of cold. The interior lights are red and low and there are only a few passengers and they’re not rowdy. Like I said, quite pleasant, not as loud or as odorous as day trips.

I look up at the signs I’ve seen most my life up above the windows. “If You’ve Found This Number, Give Yourself A Break And Call”, followed by the phone contact for Narcotics Anonymous. I feel this little thrill sitting there, wondering how many people have happened on that sign and felt the familiar flutter in their gut and an accusatory jab, then cut their eyes away and tried to blot out their intolerable reality a bit longer.

We head up the hill to the hospital and back down with no one getting off or on. I was up at the hospital earlier; a friend gave me a ride to see another friend who was suffering internal bleeding. I flick my eyes up to the second floor and say a little prayer. Later in the afternoon, after our visit, I’d gone out with the ill friend’s wife and we ran our dogs at the bay. Two Bassett hounds and my Hutch, two hundred pounds of dog, and Hutch was in the lead being awesome!

I’m thinking though while I text and wait for my stop, I want for nothing. Both cars broke but one’s in the shop at least and hopefully it’s something we can fix, and the fact my husband isn’t upset about any of this helps me a great deal. I don’t want anything, not really, I am content with things the way they are. I’m happy to get more blessings but I’m okay if for a day or two things are tough. I was thinking maybe I’d want to take the family on a sunny vacation somewhere and you could even get a credit card for that sort of thing maybe? Even this option is something open to me, something we probably won’t do, but who knows, maybe we could do it. I’m okay with my thoughts accompanying me against the damp, cold glass, and my mind doesn’t hang on or cling or run neither.

Nels' meme, tonight

a niche in the eaves

[ my son makes memes. like no one’s business. ]

Nels' meme, tonight

 

Fall seems to be an incredibly creative time of year for me, and others in my life notice. I get a lot of compliments on my purple hair. In fact in Grays Harbor I’ve heard nothing but compliments. Children are the most openly admiring.  But not a day goes by grownups don’t say a few nice things as well. Women tend to compliment; men say something flirty and sometimes even touch me without permission (boo).

But in the car on our way to deliver a pie, my daughter tells me I look gorgeous. It’s pretty wonderful to be loved the way they love me. I know I’m one of my children’s heroes. I know they think I am beautiful and amazing. It’s quite humbling. It makes me feel less self-conscious and it sets a place for me in the world.

Just before I leave for my volunteer concierge shift at the Gallery I hear the stomping of feet and sense that kind of bundled-up energy children bring in the new rains. Wrapping myself in my scarf I step into the kitchen and I shit thee not, seven “extra” kids in my house, all boys. All rowdy, but completely obliging to my eldest child’s commands (wash hands, set the table, et cetera). All of them there for a fête Nels has planned: the celebration of Harris’ birthday. My son has made tea and set out cups and made cards. The children all sing the cat “Happy Birthday”. Phoenix kicks them out after I leave; we have a whitelist of children allowed inside while Ralph and I are gone.

Today in the kitchen: steakhouse bread (sort of like pumpernickel but without caraway, and made up WITH eggs and coffee), two layered chocolate and roasted coconut cream pies with Mexican vanilla. Then a soup the kids cook up while Ralph’s in Olympia: ham, chickpeas, spinach noodles, and fresh peas. Cherry tomatoes on the side and a big glass of milk for each kiddo. They eat sitting with me in my sewing room while I hum through one hundred and sixty-five half-square triangles on my old Singer.

Quilting and gallery sitting, and a few minutes talking with friends. It rained today but I thought ahead and I have proper raingear for the season – boots and coat anyway – and I’ve got proper raingear for the kids too. Food security, and clothing security, and shelter. A fortunate family.

Home now and it’s late; four cats slumber in four chairs. The house is full of the smell of baked bread and the flickering of candles.

 

 

 

the final form of love

(potential trigger warning as this post contains info about a hate crime/murder case)

A while back I viewed a documentary regarding the murder of a transgender woman (the Wikipedia article regarding the victim is – horrid, so I won’t link here). The movie was mostly about the “gay panic defense” and its implications in assault or fatal crimes against trans* people (talk about dehumanizing). Three men were brought to trial for this murder. During the course of trial, mistrial, and appeal two of these men appeared overcome with genuine remorse as the proceedings unfolded. Of the three there was one man who never expressed any such thing as far as I could tell. He remained remained remote and, to project my own reading, defiant to the end of the process – or at least the end of the documentary.

I don’t remember any of the pleas nor the severity of the charges against each man (I only know they were not all the same). Besides a lot of lawyers and legal people, the movie also showed a great deal of footage and interviews with the family of the murdered young woman. As can happen in these cases, the mother of the murdered woman became a huge legal advocate and has gone on to do so much for the law with regards to these cases and the horrid gay panic / trans panic defense. So, during this film one got to watch the mother grow, too. Despite her incredible strength and all that she learned, at the end of the documentary she expressed she was willing to meet with and talk to the two young men who’d expressed remorse and sorrow. She wasn’t willing to meet with the one who had not. Not that he had asked, as far as I know.

I found myself thinking about this a lot. Did the mother only find herself able to forgive those who expressed remorse? Or did she come to forgive the third man after the shock of the disappointing legal proceedings lessened?

Some people don’t forgive no matter what the offending party does or doesn’t do. Is it easier to forgive when there is some remorse expressed or a public record? Is it only possible to forgive if someone has apologized sincerely or well enough? Or if they’ve been incarcerated, punished, or killed in proportion to their crime or offense?

I don’t think so. I think forgiveness lies within our own power. I think it is accessible to every human being. We have to believe it is possible. We have to want it. Unfortunately, I think the latter needs to come before the former. That is why so many do not forgive. They do not have proof before they commit. Most importantly, they are not able to see, or willing to admit, how sick their unforgiveness makes them.

I know forgiveness is possible because I’ve seen other people do it under the most extraordinary circumstances.

I have been thinking of writing a book about forgiveness. It would be an independently punished work – of course. I see and hear a great deal about it every day and the subject is an immense one. I wouldn’t be able to write from any kind of professional perspective whatsoever, nor a religious or a scientific one. Usually when I start to go down the list of types-of-experts I am NOT, I start to think, “why should I even write about it?” And you may find this ridiculous, but I worry about trying to write about forgiveness. I worry that it smacks of pride to think I have anything worth saying – and that I will be punished somehow by having something horrible happen to someone I love. I can’t help it; I am to a degree superstitious.

Regardless I remain intrigued and think about forgiveness daily, lately. I am an expert on only one thing: my life’s experiences. I would like to help people if at all possible.

the staff of Life

The last couple days I’ve been really struggling. Old Behavior, it’s called. I’ve felt irritation at people several times during the day, which I can truthfully say is a very rare event these days. I’ve felt easily overhwhelmed by the kids’ behaviors, and have responded rather short-tempered. Today I spoke sharply to my daughter as I was angry with something she had or hadn’t done. Nels immediately rebuked me: “Mama, that’s not okay. You hurt her feelings. Imagined getting slapped, hard. That’s probably how that felt.”

The kids are amazing. Talk about moving targets. I used to behave a lot worse than than just taking a “tone” with them. You know, I’m glad they know a violation and say so. I am seriously so fucking glad. Somehow even in a decade of my mistakes I didn’t hammer into them to shove their feelings down deep. They feel absolutely fine speaking up.

I didn’t learn how to speak up until I was thirty-four.

It’s still not easy.

By the way, I’ve been thinking of writing a piece for one of the mags I enjoy working with. It was going to be, Practices I’ve Learned in Parenting (but with a Sleek! Hip! Sexy! Title), or something. You know. The things I’ve found helpful and consistently true. Can I write it without sounding condescending, or as if I’ve Figured It All Out (because: I haven’t)?

Anyway, today it occurred to me the care of and investment in children are wonderful exercises for smashing the illusion of Control and the resultant suffering from trying to have Control. Either that, or you can avoid this opportunity and try to control the children, and the process of living together. You will get very ill (and hurt the kids besides). In fact, just last night I heard of a friend who made themselves very, very sick trying to do this. The Control thing. Anyway, this morning as soon as Nels was up, before my coffee, he was making bread. Very ambitiously so, and he had the whole business just about right, including knowing the relevant ingredients, which is interesting because we’ve never directly taught him. But today he was 100 PERCENT INTO MAKING BREAD ZOMG!!1!

We were pressed for time, so I asked him to wait. I made them pancakes (with his very avid assistance) and cut up some fruit for breakfast so we could make our appointment on time. As soon as Nels was back home, many playdates later and in the evening, he was at it again. BREAD. By this time I was trying to finish a sewing project but I gave him the guidance he asked for, hollering measurement estimations toward the kitchen, which he followed perfectly well. The dough I sampled before we put it up for its first rise was tender, smooth, and delicious.

As I type the dough is on its final rise, resting on parchment paper. After one or two more bread-making events he’ll be quite competent.

I didn’t learn how to make bread until I was about thirty-two.

But anyway, yeah. Living with children the way we do, I don’t get to decide when they want to learn something (very different than  school… which is always telling kids when to learn something and how). It’s not only about not trying to have Control; it’s an exercise in Setting Aside. Someone else needs my help and what I want to do with my life at that second isn’t so important after all.

If I’d remember this consistently, I’d consistently be the parent I always admired.

No Bread

i didn’t get anything nice like this when i was a kid

Sophie, Nels, Jasmine, my mother and I went to the County Fair again today.  Afterward, we took my daughter to her first session of week-long summer camp.  I didn’t cry or anything.  Not until way later, out of eyesight of my kids.

Sophie would love to receive mail; if you feel so inclined, please write her at:

Sophie Hogaboom
YMCA Camp Bishop
1476 W. Lost Lake Rd.
Shelton, WA 98584

Friday is her last day; the camp asks that any mail arrives by Thursday.

Tonight I make my own recipe of bread: molasses, cornmeal, all-purpose flour, eggs, warm milk, salt, sugar. Believe it or not I like poems, and here’s a favorite:

Bread

Wheat is still.  It makes no sound
As it pushes from the ground.
As it runs its slow, serene
Course in rows of tender green.

Wheat is quiet; as it grows
It only whispers what it knows.
What is mute – till it is fed
To children as a loaf of bread

Then it is laughter; it is song;
It is clamor all day long.

– Ethel Romig Fuller

Bread Is Important, Yall

Bread Is Important, Y'all

of school efforts and sci-fi

Nels. Hogaboom!” Mrs. Lenss says from her position in front of the stage. It’s the end-of-the-year graduation performance at my son’s preschool. Three different classes perform songs and receive their “diplomas”. The room is crammed with family and friends – and my son is the one child the entire night to be chastised during the proceedings. At this, in the very back of the room my mother, husband and I snicker. Nels is telling a story to C., the beautiful, near-silent girl with long dark hair and big blue eyes. I can’t tell if she’s listening attentively or not. Nels’ arms move out from his shoulders and we see he’s saying something is “this big“. His face glows as as he leans toward her smiling, he tosses the hair out of his eyes and confidently fiddles with his cap. It’s hard to believe only thirty minutes ago he and I were in the bathroom in the sundappled tub, and he was naked, sleepy, and yawning. He has his second wind.

Nels is now kindergarten age. And poof, just like that, seven years of co-op school and all it has meant to me is behind me. Sophie was only nine months old, just starting to walk, when we first enrolled (and of course, Nels has attended since birth). I will never forget the experience of co-op school and I will be actively looking for, creating, or pining for the experience for my (now officially school-age) children. I’ve spent long hours and life’s blood helping run these little schools; tonight after the proceedings are over I don’t stay to help, I merely step out the door and into the sunlight, seeing my children off to their grandmother for a sleepover, swinging the old green vinyl case into her pickup. Driving off with my husband who in this moment probably doesn’t know I’m feeling sad in that way we do: my little community lost to me, our children growing up so, so fast.

After dinner with friends Ralph and I attend the new Star Trek movie because, deep in his heart, my husband loves science fiction. He doesn’t follow it nor obsess about it but it captures his interest. At home we’ve been watching the original Star Trek television series on Netflix (which is far better than I’d realized!).

And what can I say, Spock turns me on. It’s not the actors who play him (this current young version nor the iconic Leonard Nimoy); it’s the character itself. His incorruptible nature, a competency in his life’s work, an existance almost entirely self-validated. That’s me in real life, too: attracted to the independent, the hermitty, yes, the nerdy – and virginal, or seemingly so. If I was serving on the Enterprise I’d have it bad – but in my fashion, maintain a well-behaved and completely undetectable crush.

Home and my house seems sedate, well-ordered – and lonely. The sight of Nels’ bath, still undrained, and I feel blue. This morning my children awoke at the same time and came down to the kitchen (I was making bagels) and as one put their arms around me silently. I put my hands on their clean, soft blond heads and marveled at what is mine to love and enjoy, made only the more bittersweet by the knowledge that nothing is permanent. Put together they are lots of kid; their bodies are growing and they gain strength. Their time on earth opens up for them daily; sometimes I feel like mine is only winding down.