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Today was my thirty-sixth birthday. The family and I took a roadtrip to Olympia and picked up a sewing supply, some bra and panties for yours truly (a long overdue purchase, and after we left the shop I told Ralph, “It’s expensive to have goodies,” and he responded, “As someone who was a woman the other day, I can say it’s worth it!”), and a creamy lemon-yellow faux leather coat, what I am now calling my Birthday Coat. The only thing that would make that coat cooler is if it was real leather. I still feel kind of sleek and sophisticated in it even though I am wearing plastic. That almost calms me down more, even, it feels nice and junky in this beautiful way that fits me. On our way home we stopped at an awesome barbecue restaurant and ordered whatever we felt like.

Our cars are both in a bit of trouble and if we don’t do something about them we will soon be without. The truth is life is (I choose to view it as anyway) a delicate dance alternatively weighing say, a muffler for Ralph’s car or a fuel distribution fix for mine (or my door seals, driver’s side door handle, and window and lock switches), versus groceries versus gifts for birthdays (both the kids’ are coming up) versus birthday parties versus a scholarship for another family versus a vacation for us this year (to be realistic: unlikely at this point) versus the orthodontist services now recommended for my son versus my daughter’s desire to enroll in martial arts versus the theramin I’ve wanted to buy Ralph 4EVER versus (back to being practical:) much-needed clothing for the four of us versus vet visits for the pets (we recently healed Hamilton’s neck bite using a homemade version of a “cone”, antibacterial cream, and vigilance – there’s $80, saved) versus fabric for my sewing ventures versus day trips or eating out for the family and then there are the things that aren’t options at the moment given our current survival-mode, like college fund and house downpayment and “nest eggs” or “six months’ living expenses” saved up.  Anyway our car trouble and this little juggle of this or that is nothing unique, nothing new, and nothing I’m complaining about – just something I’m documenting.

Yet I have to be very careful at this juncture to represent myself correctly. I patently refuse to let that above stuff, and the bits I’m forgetting right now, make me start to get panicky and obsess about what we “should” have, what I want, what I want for the kids – and thereby stop helping others. For one thing: a few years ago I opened my blog up for donations and my readers have responded with so much generosity there is Absolutely. No. Cause for me to complain. Ever. No matter what happens here on out.

But also there’s this bit about how, my life circumstances are similar as they’ve been since having children, but I am different. And that’s something I’d like to try to articulate, here and now. For years I spent a great deal of time feeling angry or frustrated at what seemed like Scarcity and unfairness. It was a big mess and you’ll excuse me if right now, at almost 11 o’clock in the evening after a lovely day, I don’t want to go down memory lane to remember how much stress, shame, blame, guilt, and resentment I used to swim in, and mostly how it left very little for me to GENUINELY give to others. No, what I was thinking is when I wrote the paragraph about our family’s needs and wants, well cars and car troubles are like groceries or like the kids growing bigger and needing new clothes or like vet bills or unforseen dramas: they will never be “fixed” and there will never be a lack of work to keep sucking air and keeping warm, or put another way:

there will never be a lack of opportunity to experience gratitude.

I have a little shrine in my home  and daily I make offerings and say prayers. Every single day I try to help people with no regard for return, and that means no regard for payback, status, love, people liking or esteeming me, et cetera. I only reveal it here so that if anyone ever wonders how I live and how I’ve lived through so much drama they can know that a steady, non-exciting, daily, ritualistic, footwork practice of altruism and prayer has done more for me than anything else. ‘Nuff said.

Helping people with no regard for return, and yes making the time and money and resources to do this even with the so-called difficulties posted above (and sometimes more besides), even if I go without (no problem!) or the kids go without (now that can be hard), well the funny thing about this practice is it builds a Person in a way that no scrambling-after can, and one day I look and I see that I like the person I am and I like living with me, and I also see deeply how the Universe provides abundance.

I had a wonderful day with my family, in my plastic jacket and forty-year old car that makes so much noise people glare, and my kids with the many hugs and kisses they give me, and my husband with his strong hard hands and I hold his hand in the car,

and I’d like every day to be a little more like today, if possible.

amongst the hungry ghosts

Purple Sky, No Filter

 
I have been released from the wheel of suffering in some way I cannot fully explain. In a film I viewed last night, I seem to remember a man talking as if some great power picked one up and shook one like a snow globe. I perceive things entirely differently than I used to. My insides were shook up and are now reorganized. I am not sure if others can tell. It is one of the most joyous experiences of my life, and it continues steadily day by day.

Today I walked with my son a few miles in the cold. We had good winter clothes to keep us warm, and we had one another for company. He is so incredibly dear to me, and I get to be with him every day.

When I go places people often stare at me. I do not know if it is my appearance, or if it is my Being, or if it’s just Grays Harbor and people gawk (this is a real thing!). Perhaps I have been stared at this way before, and I only notice now. I know I am more Naked than I used to be, and I am as they say, “comfortable in my own skin”. I don’t mind being stared at as I don’t feel anxiety around other people. Very often [she added].

For many years I was not comfortable in my own skin. I was too this or that, or not enough one thing or another. Other people did not behave in the ways I wanted them to. So I had to arrange a great deal of things in my life, to find life tolerable. I flitted from pleasure to pleasure and I decried the existence of those people, or events, which gave me pain. I don’t live that way now and I hope to never live that way again. I am aware I may not get to decide a great deal about my future, but I am grateful for this experience. Life is quite the gift.

an unschooling morning

In the AM, I took a few pictures of what was up. Planned to take a few more later in the day but this is what I got.

an #unschooling morning

Nels wakes up and if he finds himself alone he usually comes and finds another person in a room, and falls asleep. He can sleep cuddled up next to someone, or on the floor, or here on the couch. Josie (lower-right) contemplates joining him.

an #unschooling morning

Just part of a sketch my daughter made. She draws about fifty figures a day on average. I shit thee not.

an #unschooling morning

an #unschooling morning

an #unschooling morning

I can’t remember what they were reading to one another, here. It’s pretty cool every morning they get to wake up and have a snuggly morning. Good stuff. No wonder they’re growing up so good.

After Nels ate breakfast, got dressed, & cleaned up, he spent some quality pet time:

an #unschooling morning

an #unschooling morning

Hamilton. Lap-magnet.

an #unschooling morning

an #unschooling morning

A couple pictures for people who might get the impression I always have a tidy  home. I think my home is tidy only about thirty percent of the time. In fact as of late it’s been messy because we had dog drama, then I had a very busy day, then I fell ill and am still recovering. Only the bare minimum of household work is getting done on my part, although of course the kids do their part with dishes, laundry, sweeping, and pet care.

At some point after these little snapshots we got busy as hell; mostly I was sewing up a difficult project – then Ralph and I had a Monday evening commitment. The days fly by, which is why it’s all the more important I practice mindfulness and meditation.

“You’re not in trouble. We don’t get into trouble here.” – my daughter Phoenix, to a friend

Today my friend Wendy tweeted an article by Norm Lee, the author of nopunish.net. It was just my kind of thing – a brief history and analysis of the school system.

I’d been thinking about Norm Lee just recently. On the seventh of March, 2010 I sent him an email asking to subscribe to his newsletter. Five days later I received an email from him. It read, in part:

Okay, you’re included on the nsltr list. you happy? For the week following your email, I haven’t been able to do a lick of email work – AND IT’S YOUR FAULT. Engrossed as I’ve been with reading your stuff, I’ve kept wondering if there is an end to this wonderful tunnel of love & freedom. Lovit, lovit, lovit! Where did you get the devotion-to-kids, the insights, the compassion, the courage to be so open and vulnerable and brave the brickbats that are inevitably visited upon anyone as free? I’ve worked on it for more than the last half of my life (I’m 81), and I just get stronger and more dedicated. But then, I’m a trained Buddhist (Bodhisattva), with 40 years of daily meditation practice, so slings and arrows are just slings and arrows, nothing personal, nothing more.
 
I believe I love you. (So much for training in detachment.)

I remember how I felt reading this email. It was kind of a Big Deal at the time. First, I felt glad that someone out there in the Ether, an experienced parent and grandparent at that, supported my husband and I in trying to raise our kids without coercion and violence. There was light at the end of the tunnel, there was a mentor saying, “You can do it!”, and that meant a lot. Because believe me I am surrounded culturally and personally by adults who either flat-out denigrate these aspirations or at the very least, have a complete ignorance as to how to live them or what life is like when you try.

I appreciated Norm’s support; but I also knew I wasn’t where he was at – and I envied him. His sentence, “slings and arrows are just slings and arrows, nothing personal, nothing more” stuck with me. Ever since. I knew what he wrote was true for him, and I knew I wanted it to be true for me. It was a truth in my head but not in my heart. At the time I had recently received my first “anonymous” hater online. And despite handling it okay, maybe, I perceived other people’s opinions of me mattered too much. While critics, either directly criticizing or implicitly shaming, had sometimes helped me a great deal, I also knew they could upset my little happy-rowboat. It’s not an exaggeration to say I let other people keep me awake at night.

Today I also know slings and arrows are just slings and arrows. I know it is nothing personal. And I know it in my heart. My change didn’t come from Norm’s email and it didn’t come entirely from practicing Buddhism (although both of those things helped) – and it didn’t come overnight. My life is very different now. It’s a wonderful thing.

It is possible to arrive at this place; and having arrived, to practice the principles that give us this grace.

As for non-punitive parenting, I still get it wrong sometimes. But I get better and better at leaving that way of life for others. Sometimes I get a few days in a row being a nurturing, present parent. Today I’m content with my commitment to the practice, and I’m grateful for those who do better than I. They are my mentors.

Today there is not much a critic can say to upset my rowboat. Thank you, Norm, and the many others who’ve helped me and continue to help me.

everyone becomes a poet

The other day in the lightning storm things got dicey, and Phee and I figured we might not make it out of there. So my daughter says, “I have to tell you something,” and tells me a secret about a boy. AND I JUST ABOUT DIED FROM THE ADORABLENESS, that she told me this because she thought we might perish together in the car, meeting our demise in a storm. And no, I haven’t told anyone the secret. Not the one. Not even her father.

So today she came home and showed me a bracelet she’d been gifted, engraved with the word, “LOVE”. And I asked if it was from the boy in question, and she said Yes. When she later asked me to fasten it around her wrist, I asked how that all went down and she said, “He kinda threw it on the ground and said I should have it.”

So, at their age. That sounds about right.

My kids made a cake today while I was busy; it wasn’ t quite finished baking at 1:40 PM when they were due for their dentist appointments. They biked down there and I finished things up and joined them. And seeing their little bikes all parked and them taking care of their dentist shit. It’s pretty awesome.
 

dentist

Being a mother is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It has pieced back everything good and blessed of my humanity.

We have a busy few days. I’m making a birthday snack for a friend tomorrow; we’re hosting a band for dinner and a friendly tour or two of HQX. The kids are featured in an art show opening this week. And I get to make my other commitments including daily walking the dog a few miles.

It’s all good stuff; I hope to relax and enjoy it as much as possible. I need to slow down and expand my prayer life. Here’s hoping I remember, tomorrow morning.

treatment

The young man has incredibly beautiful, large blue eyes. Leonine. Red-rimmed but striking. Today after I ask if he has anything to share, he finally breaks down and talks about the violence he committed while drunk, or on drugs – I’m not sure which (it doesn’t matter). He can barely speak and by the end he is crying as overwrought as I’ve seen anyone in real life. He’s choking and crying and in almost any other place you’d have people rescuing him or shushing him or uncomfortably squirming. This is a holy place though and that doesn’t happen, now.

Still. Since this is an early Recovery setting, there is a break in the sacrosanct listening you can usually expect when there are other “old timers” (like me! Ha!) present. See, addicts in treatment are like a box of baby chicks. Certain things disturb them and they start acting up in concert, popping out of the fog of their meds and talking. After even only fourteen months of regular experience, it’s still rather predictable. Depending on what they’re exposed to, sometimes they’re angry, edgy, and disrespectful. But today they’re offering the young man encouragement, because he’s in so much distress, and maybe they’ve not learned to let someone get through it, because there is no consoling the inconsolable. Or maybe they don’t realize this is a special moment, and our Presence is all that’s required. So anyway they tell him the person he abused will forgive him, the love of family is always there. They say parents are there for you no matter what. They say all the stuff they want to believe but don’t really, deep down, know to be true.

I’ve learned wisdom can come from just about anyplace, and I don’t give less credence to people based on their circumstances. But my thoughts: you can’t get clean or sober based on what your family thinks or whether they let you use them as a punching bag or whether they don’t return your calls. You can’t rehearse the remorse and guilt ad infinitim either without playing with the Relapse thing. And you can’t get clean and sober because you “owe” it to someone. Jack shit on that account. But I stay silent because even though I’m chairing this little get together, I’m not especially needed at the moment.

A few minutes later, incredibly, a young woman M. tells a story of triumph. She’s got it all figured out and she and her ex-husband are going to have a life together and fix everything between them since he’s been clean two years. Another woman asks if she’s afraid, saying, “My boyfriend and I only did heroin together the last four years.” “I’m not afraid,” M. says, lifting her head up. “What am I afraid of? Love? We’re going to be that cute old couple that drives around on casino tours in an RV with a little dog.” Of everyone tonight, she’s the spookiest to listen to. She’s not scared enough, I don’t think. I could be wrong though.

I’m thinking of how much suffering I’m exposed to. It’s quite phenomenal. The human capacity to suffer is incredible. We will take it to such extremes, until we are angry and pinched and flee only to the corners that cosign our bullshit, or the chemicals that give us release, but soon those things aren’t even enough.

Then there are those in limbo. I’m thinking of a woman who came into Recovery sad and frightened but now she’s angry. She’s angry she can’t drink but she’s angry about other shit too. I can see it as clear as I can see through a still pond. She sits in the group and won’t share and smiles but the look in her eyes is crazy-anger. She’s ballooned up in weight and her eyes bulge like someone squeezed her around the middle. But she won’t share. “I’m just here to listen.”

Last night another woman eight months sober broke down crying after many months of “not sharing”. She’s one of those women who’s incredibly beautiful, she did more drugs than I’ve seen and was hauled off to jail and evicted and she’s tough as nails and stunningly lovely. And I sat four inches away and let her cry, it was beautiful and I hope she comes back for more healing. It’s this kind of crying… I can’t describe it. It’s not that congested, angry crying. It’s like watching a river flow, watching a freshet. It’s sorrow, sure, but it’s also a very real moment because someone is breaking down and being themselves, and being broken, and doing this with another human being. It’s one of the most spiritual things I’ve seen and one of the most spiritual things I’ve experienced.

When I was scared I stayed scared until someone could help me, and I did as was suggested and I never got to the angry part. I’m not angry I can’t drink. Well, I can drink. For me, to drink alcohol would make as much sense as drinking Drano. There were many years I drank and thought it did me little harm, and maybe that it helped, and that it was my prerogative. But I was incorrect. It did harm me.

Back to treatment. It meant a lot to me tonight that this young man J. recognized me from last Wednesday, and his face lit up when he saw me. Wednesday I’d made a joke at the end of our meeting, as I’d noticed he had “DGAF” written on his knuckles. Just before we broke the group up I said, “J., I hope it’s not true that you DGAF. I hope you do GAF.” His face went from inanimate to a surprised smile and his eyes came alive. Anyway when he saw me tonight he was glad to see me. He’s one of those who cuts me right to the heart, because at 35 many of these I work with are children. I am often capable of seeing the child in any addict or alcoholic but the ones who are so young, it’s like I want to breastfeed them.

Oh and when I leave tonight a young man C. says, “I like your style.” That’s pretty cool.

I could write pages and pages more just on the last couple days alone. It could be overwhelming if I let it. It helps to write.

One of the most amazing things I’ve learned is I haven’t met the the addict or alcoholic who doesn’t hurt so bad for what he or she did to other people. Not the one and I’ve literally heard thousands of testimonies. It is incredible. It is a blessing. My faith in the beauty of humankind and of God is unshakable.

I’ve also learned to be entirely at home with other human beings.

A woman who helped me so much, and continues to, told me soon I’d feel my heart break because so much compassion would flow in. I remain grateful and humbled by my experiences. There are too many to pray for each evening. Too many to remember in my consciousness. My god-consciousness will have to do, as much or as little as I may have.

with lingonberry preserves

The 27th is my sobriety date. It doesn’t matter much, I know, but I do reflect on it every month on this date. For one thing, it is still an awkward and clumsy nut-punch that my blogging career changed so quickly. One day I was like, “write the theme tune sing the theme tune”, just living my life and documenting it as much or as little as I felt like it with a lot of detail, being as circumspect as possible regarding the feelings or experiences of others, and believing I did a good job not being an ass online about those I rubbed elbows with. And the next day BAM! I’m involved in work I can’t write about at all really – or I guess I could, but I don’t want to, most especially because it involves other people’s lives (and yes… I did start up a totally anonymous recovery blog, but I’ll never tell you about it!) and people sharing in spaces that are safe spaces. Yikes. It really felt like a muzzle and it came out of nowhere.

So, you’ll hear me say this again: I wouldn’t want to go through my first week sober. I was really scared, confused, foggy and exhausted. Baffling and yet very real, I’d been diagnosed an alcoholic by a kind but direct physician – the first time in my life this label had been applied by anyone but myself – but I didn’t know what, if anything, could be done (deep down I thought: nothing). More humiliating still, I’d never consumed the quantities alcohol that others can and did and do get up to (believe me… I checked into it), nor had troubles with the law, nor done a lot of the things pop culture (and my uh, family) liked to label as Alcoholic. It’s like you could have paraded my accomplishments, my attributes, the wonderful things in my life, and how many people loved me. And I would have heard you and maybe even felt a bit moved, but I was mostly just so profoundly confused. Nothing made sense. I had no compass and no sense of proportion. I was all habit energy. Some good habits, some bad. Kelly was lost to a depression and confusion more painful than she’d experienced. Yeah. I was lost.

I am not confused these days. I am not lost. I am rarely set back, angry, anxious, depressed, or resentful. When any of these feelings surface, today I often can know it, and I can figure out why. Today I have the help I need and I seek it out without hesitation. I have so much help, so much support, and a clearer conscience and vision. My life is very different. I am grateful and when I am not grateful, I am still profoundly okay.

I certainly don’t have to drink any more.

On Monday, I made amends to someone for something I did when I was twenty. That’s fifteen years ago.

This morning I was up and resting with a cup of coffee when the children awoke. Nels proudly skipped into the living room wrapped in a blanket, with his most-recent lost tooth in hand. The children were bright-eyed and happy, fresh haircuts and coming from a clean warm bed. It has always given me tremendous pleasure to care for our children. I have made a lot of errors and missed a lot of opportunities, but on many occasions I’ve also had the gift of perception to make the most of it. Time flies quickly while raising children, but the moments can be reduced with the most stunning clarity when I breathe and experience the moment. I am so grateful for the many wonderful experiences in my life, and for the hard experiences too because pain has been a great motivator. Pain and love, one or the other. I can seek to study the latter first so that the former is not so harsh a tutor when she arrives.

Tonight I had a lovely group meditation. And now I’m typing after dinner guests left, late. Like a little cooking show, I taught them how to make the spaghetti and meatballs (here’s my recipe). The kids trounced around and made all sorts of chatter with our guests. Nels, touchingly, has memorized birthstones and likes to tell people their stone and the stone’s meaning – if they are so inclined to listen. Phoenix brought out her little leopard gecko but held it at a circumspect distance from a guest not too keen on reptiles.

Our home is a peaceful and well-lived in one. I have been working too hard, and I hope to avail myself of some comforts the next few days. I’ll take pictures so you all can get a window view.

in other news

RPing
Ralph went to bed a bit early; the kids and I stayed up. Phoenix and Nels are both very popular. Here Phoenie chats with her peeps.

RPing
She is so incredibly sweet.

Nels Snaps A Shot
Nels takes a picture of me, while we’re out doing our thing today. I think I kind of look like I should be wearing a power suit with shoulder pads.

Nels & Kobai
I stopped by at Rosemary Cottage to get some pictures for my spiritual community’s website. Nels was new boot goofin a bit.

Practice
Dedication to the departed

You Know You're Doing Something Right
Yeah, look around my house and you see a LOT of this sort of thing. I figure we’ve got good energy in the house.

More Drawings
Phoenix draws so many creations a day I’ve long given up doing anything other than now and then commemorating a few by snapshot or what-have-you. The kids have been up to some crafting (hence the yarn, pipe cleaners) from kits their grandma Betty sent them.

connected relationships

Tonight I was honored to be invited to the home of a grieving family. A little past midnight, and I’ve just returned to my own home, husband, and children. I am tired. But I am grateful for the wisdom not to run from death, and not to leave alone those who need our presence, our prayers, our practice, and our practical assistance.

Tonight I am also grateful for spiritual traditions which give me more dividends every day. I am considering a ceremony of some small sort  to commemorate taking refuge in the Three Jewels. I have some more study to do and a few people to talk to.

Today my son brought me two gifts he purchased with his own money. I am daily reminded that through many mistakes I have done surprisingly little damage to my children; or perhaps, even in these last ten years I repeatedly saw fit to change and undo the damage I could. Our connectedness is really quite profound.Perhaps their health is mostly credited to their own strengths. At home, living then going out and returning, I receive much respectful and loving speech and the kindness and kisses and hugs of children very much alive in their own skin. I reflected tonight that perhaps even from their infancy, when I was determined to set aside an income and material possessions to nurture them as best I could, that this was a wise decision. This decision seemed to come from something deep within myself and separate from my Ego, a decision separate from my own greed, fear, insecurity, and worldly desires.

I am very tired tonight. It was my intention to write a bit here, as I like to write best, things that some said to me and events that happened. Some of these involve other lives and I therefore am anxious to keep private what others may need private. I am also very weary and individual instances that might be shared without hurting others, are not flowing easily from my fingertips.

I will say I learned a few things today. One is that I will not practice resentments or judgments against other living beings. The second is that my past is my greatest asset, and must be understood to the best of my ability in order to help myself and others. The final, a more practical manner, is that sitting on a cold surface may bring the onset of hemorrhoids, and that at the very least one should place a magazine between our posterior and cold cement.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. – Mother Teresa

burn it as fuel for our journey

This summer while waiting for a friend I sat in a sunny living room and talked with a young man and his mother. The young man was a little more interested in my conversation than his mother seemed. He was watching a documentary I’d seen not two weeks before and had really enjoyed. He and I had a brief but interesting discussion and I thought how pleasant it was to talk with someone who had such a spark and such an intelligent mind.

Today that young man committed suicide in that same home I sat in a few months ago.

I know the family. They are friends. If I sit here and feel stunned and think maybe there could have been something, some clue, something I could have done, I can only imagine what his close friends and family must feel. As a mother it is painful to consider the implications of today.

We are all, each of us, such crystal-clear and breathtakingly beautiful phenomenon. The idea that someone can suffer so much as to end such a living breathing unique manifestation is quite sobering to comprehend.

Today, the 27th, is the monthly date anniversary for sobriety. I had forgotten until I saw the date in a book. My friend gave me a little gift. Afterwards I took my children to the Y to go swimming and, while they cavorted, attended a Board meeting for the local Buddhist group where I was indoctrinated into service. I picked up lunch for the children and met another friend back at the Y and we ate and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.

Today is a day for holding tight that which we value.