wash, dry, rinse, repeat. try not to drink too much.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when I can articulate a problem – often here in this journal in writing, but sometimes in person to another live human being or several live persons – the problem is almost always facilitated, solved, or changed in terms of importance and urgency.  And I do mean pretty much every time. So let’s be honest, I need to own a problem I’m having which is:

I’ve been feeling utterly defeated by my responsibilities in life. Very suppressed.

Because the fact is my kids need me right now (and so do, to varying degrees, my husband, my cats, my chickens, and my mother’s dog who is our ward at the moment and also ill from a possible allergy and confirmed infection). They need me and for about a week I’ve been suffering, because I haven’t wanted to give what they need. Reluctantly, reality has won out, and I’ve shifted. The last several days my sewing room lay fallow as I’ve spent my days looking to all our needs – the care for, feeding of, cleaning, administration of medicine and attention and affection. This has always been a lot of work – and it is necessary work. Right now my family is relatively high-need, as far as my family goes. I wish I would have tuned into their needs a wee bit sooner as the last week or so I’ve suffered a lot as I’ve tried to avoid my small dilemma.

Honestly?  With two children aged five and seven, there was a part of me that had been behaving as if life should be easier than when they were, say, one and three. I should have been considering the time I had to myself in my sewing room as blessed, fortunate, wonderful, and definitely not a given – not any more than anything else in life. I should not have allowed myself the envy and despair that reading the handful of craft and sew-blogs I do inspired in me. These assholes with their one-to-one income ratio! Their lack of mouths to feed! Their ability to buy fabric and go into a room and listen to music – not listen to their kids tear apart the house! Yes, these last few weeks I’ve been pining to sew; yet in the few minutes I’ve had to do so I’ve felt crushed with the sense of responsibilities elsewhere: I need to spend more “quality time” with the kids, wash the dishes, put away the laundry, plan for, shop for, prepare the meals – but especially, spend time with the kids.

What I know about my family life is things change, evolve. There have always been times of sweet solace and rest since I’ve had my children. In fact, since we’ve become a family on one income, I would venture to say rest and respite have been there for us – albeit in unexpected ways – more than when Ralph and I both worked. But there have been times like now: where the needs of my children are pressing and it is foolish to pretend otherwise or to spend time wishing it wasn’t so. As babies, their needs were physical and intimate. Breastfeed a baby and you are more or less forced to sit or lay down; you cannot also scrub the bathtub or drive to the store while changing a diaper (even if, sadly, you allow yourself to feel intense pressure to somehow have resources you do not). These physical needs were so intense in my childrens infancies. I have come to believe these requirements were both a boot camp-style lesson in the rigor and hard work I would find inherent in caring for my children – but also, they were opportunities for me to see my life changed for a number of years. I know it was wrong and foolish for me to expect my children not to need so much from me – just because they are toilet-trained and can read and take walks to the grocery store. I stand corrected, and now that I’ve altered my perception, I expect to suffer less; I also expect that soon enough time will open up, and I will be back in my little sewing room crafting from wool and cotton and lovingly folding yardage. As it was, so it shall be, all in good time.

Today the children and I sat on the floor of their room and played a rather involved game of Legos. I had to accept that sitting on the floor with my kids was good for all of us: it wasn’t “less than” my long chore list in the day. It was so hard not to jump up after a few minutes to do the dishes, or IM my husband, or knit on the hat I’m still making. Over a period of an hour and a half I grew to enjoy our time together; my kids liked it even more still. They are so incredibly creative and clearly loving; I even found myself interested in the construction of a small ship and the character of an Intergalactic Horse Thief. I don’t know if I’ll ever reclaim my long-buried (or lost?) sense of Play; but I know it is in there, somewhere. The important thing for me in sitting on my kids’ room floor and playing wasn’t that I try to be someone I’m not; it’s that I show up for my kids with who I am, and really be that person with them.

back slowly away from the crazy woman

It’s just before six and I’m kneading dough for pita while my son helps clean the dough bowl. This is the third meal from scratch I’ve made today and normally this is doable but today, it’s not. And yesterday, Saturday, stretches out behind me of a day of cooking and having just a few dollars for groceries. The lack of money is only a problem in that I’m forced to be more creative, but I’m just tired in some elemental way that makes me exhausted tenfold to think on what to feed the family. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow I get to get up and do it again, amen.

This weekend I didn’t get things done I wanted to: printing out my finished zine, making more headway on my brother’s coat I’m sewing (I’m currently angry about some bound pockets that didn’t quite work), enjoying the family, relaxing. We did do a lot of chores and Ralph’s loft bed is finished and painted with the kids’ room all set up for them and I freeycled two things and got a buyer for Sophie’s old bed frame. But no amount of “getting done” helps me now because with my hands on the dough at the table it just seems all I do is cook and clean and clean the refrigerator and work for other people and when I take time to myself I’m too tired to do anything worthwhile. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s no one’s fault. It feels like being first trimester pregnant again. Wretched and uninspired.

At least today I got to tell my mother, remember that part in that Ya Ya Sisterhood book (we both read it) where the mom goes crazy and just leaves her family for month? I keep telling them I’m going to do it but they don’t realize I mean it. I think because to the outside world and to them it looks like I’m functioning the same, functioning well. My mom told me to take a job. I’m not sure that will help; I’m not sure what will help, really. And I don’t want help; I want to learn how to take care of myself so I can take care of my Others. And I want to be able to tell people I might be needing a Crazy Person Vacation, even if it doesn’t end up happening quite that way.

“Are you OK?” Yes, I’m OK. Just not every minute of every day.

the circus has not left town

Today I was trying to think of a way to do a weighted list for the front page of my zine (I am biting my tongue to keep from further discussing this publication right now). And I had another in a string of sad, disappointing realizations about my current reality. See when I used to work outside the home I could actually decide to figure some technical project like this out and have the time to do it in a linear troubleshooting fashion. Sure, maybe I didn’t get the whole 30 minutes straight to mess about formatting something on the computer (although that was usually easy enough to arrange) but at least if I started it and was called away no one got on my workstation and messed with it or opened an IM client or shoved a CD in the drive or dragged the kitten’s ass across my desk. I can’t count on any of these things not happening – or even something worse (Nels darted across the street today before Ralph could stop him; later exploits in the day included handling the dirty kitty litter box into the cat’s water dish; there’s more, I’ll stop now). I have a lot of control over my schedule (as the House Boss) but very, very little over how much peace, decency vs. chaos or drama ensues from my two semi-retarded simian coworkers.

Yesterday a friend told me that “if someone didn’t know [me] better, they’d think they needed to call CPS on [me]!” alluding to, I think, the darkness of my writings and my unedited Mama sentiments. I just want to point out I’m perfectly capable of warm and fuzzy feelings and I post those often. I’m actually slightly too bummed out and overwhelmed to list a few other things that suck that are going on. For now it’s getting by day to day, enjoying the little things (Sophie found a snake on the trail today and dedicated it to me; I visited my mom who’s sick and made her tea), and trying to ask Ralph for what I need (and hoping he can help provide it).

Today I am planning on making bagels for dinner and cleaning the kitchen whilst listening to my first-ever audiobook (Rex Pickett’s Sideways). If I can’t get a full day off I can at least get an hour or so plugged into an iPod while I do chores.

"Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit smoking cigarettes."

My son is driving me nuts.

This morning for the third time in the last couple months he poured a bottle of my perfume out – this time, on the kitchen table. I totally lost it – I was so pissed. I tanned his hide. I put him in his room. I cleaned the mess. I was practically crying. He has done this three times now.

But even as I threw heavily-scented kitchen towels in the washer it didn’t take long for me to stop being mad at him. The damage was done; it was over. I went back to his room and he flung himself into my arms and sobbed and cried and said, “I’m sorry, Mama!” and yes, it was genuine on his part. I was sorry too and I told him so. Sophie hung back crying because in my fit of temper minutes before I’d told them I wasn’t taking them to the Y. After some three-way discussion and cuddling I realized I still had it within me to get them dressed, ready, and pack my gym bag. So that’s what I did.

But heck, even that is ancient history. Right now (post-gym and a lunch date just Nels and I at Billy’s restaurant) he’s making me crazy because he’s in his room playing and talking instead of napping. There is just something more claustrophobic knowing they aren’t napping, even if theoretically they are occupying themselves (making a mess) which again, theoretically gives you “free time” (P.S. likely time later you have to bust hump to help them clean messes).

I know I’m lucky to have 5- and 3-year old nappers. I’m spoiled. Not just for the break in the day (altho’ that’s the obvious bonus) but for the fact my children are most always well-rested and happy up until their rather-late bedtime. Oh, and I get a good sleep-in if I want it (I do). For now, my solution to Nels’ happy squawking in his room is to put some headphones in as I go about chores.

I need a cup of coffee.

ETA – Overheard a few seconds ago as Ralph opens a care package mailed to us from a family member: “No, no, no! Don’t touch that! It’s broken glass!

blarfing doesn’t work for me

I can’t believe how hard it is for me to be sick. If I’m “cute” sick, like for a day or so (which is the normal routine for me), it’s a minor inconvenience I get to bitch about. But this time, as it would happen, I got sick bad. Sick where I’m prone for an evening, then the next afternoon and evening, then a day, then another day, then I’m worried, and I can’t do much anything without feeling mighty dizzy afterwards. On my back with a throbbing headache and a stiff throat, reading interminably, unable to do more than one minor physical task (maybe take a bath, then lay back down on the couch still in a towel with wet hair), not well enough to cook, let alone care for my kids. My husband stays home, we shuffle the kids’ to my mom, and yeah, some of the time I have them while I’m dizzy with fever. P.S. this wasn’t as bad as the bout of strep and you will hear me give a prayer of thanks I am not that sick again.

Being thusly compromised if ANYthing else goes wrong, it feels like a crushing blow. I’m trying not to feel hurt, overwhelmed, upset, devastated. What with moving recently, and some of my FOO’s garbage (my parents each seem unsympathetic and disbelieving that I am actually rather ill; they seem to view this as a voluntary vacation I’m taking) and some other hurtful mini-drama here or there (I’m considering hipmama-cide but can’t figure out how to do it), it just fucking sucks.

And with that I’m done with my 15 self-allotted computer-time minutes and am going to try to get some coma sleep.

i had to have a come-down eventually, i suppose

This weekend I’ve learned I have problems. I’d looked forward to a weekend with just Sophie. I was happy Ralph was going to get some R&R time – albeit not entirely duty-free, as he would have Nels with him. I thought I’d be more relaxed than I have been lately.

Instead I am lonely and depressed. I tackle household projects, thinking there’s a solution there – but there isn’t. I work hard but feel sluggish. I feel behind on everything and oddly anti-social. It’s almost as if I had this tremendous burst of energy that was enabling me to get through the changes of moving, the less-than-ideal situation of living with my parents, the newly-re-emerged unhappiness of my husband, the homesickness for Port Townsend. Now I’m running out of those reserves.

But mostly I’m just lonely. I suppose that’s OK – it’s been years since I’ve felt anything close to loneliness, so I should accept that’s the way I feel now.

This site is really working for me on so many levels.

like a bad string of johns

Two blocks away from where I sit, a house is emptying of its current tenants. A house with shag carpets swaying in two small bedrooms and a bathroom just as small as the one we left, but without benefit of a second one in the house. The house was that of a girlhood friend and her single Mama. My father, oldest child, and I visited it yesterday. In this case the owner was a calm, friendly person who seemed on good terms with his tenants. A kitchen larger than the one I left (that’s good!) but wait, with too small of a dining area for our table (that’s bad!) A fenced yard (that’s good!). A cyclone fence (that’s bad!). I hope to never live in a place with a cyclone fence. “At least it’s a fence,” says my mom. She’s right. P.S. cyclone fences around here usually surround yards peppered with dog turd landmines half the size of my child.

A few hours later and my mom and I cruise a house on Stewart Avenue. A lovely, lovely house that ultimately is too large and yes, in Aberdeen, which my husband is dead-set against and I’m OK with his preference. Why did I look, then? Good question. One minute I’m desperate enough to consider anything including places you need eighteen locks and a shotgun to live in; the next I’m sensibly holding out for my requirements, of which I have a half-dozen that are a bit rare to find overnight.

My point is for every house you look at your mind instantly moves in, you think, what would it be like to live next to that condemned, falling apart shack next door? or, hey look, there’s a picnic table in the backyard!, you juggle the type of heat and the power bill estimation and the neighborhood and the distance from school and the jagged tears in the kitchen linoleum and the size of the yard. After days and days of this – the first installment a few weeks ago, now another installment thrust upon us – I start to feel I’m somehow being screwed over by these places. Exhausted. My friends email and tell me not to settle. I am already “settling” in some way. I look forward to and hope for, quite sincerely, a home.

this is the longest goodbye / aching to get your pocket picked

What kind of jerk goes to bed on time, nicely, no fuss, only to wake at 1:15 AM with insomnia? It isn’t as if I got a few good HOURS in before I was up. I am currently typing as “quietly” as I can (on my parents’ laptop, mere inches from their open bedroom door) while waiting for the combination effect of a glass of wine, an OTC sleep aid, and some sort of generic vicodin to kick in. My children are slumbering quietly together in the guest bedroom upstairs – a full-size bed I try to accommodate myself to after being spoiled with my king at home. It seems the older I get the more picky I am about where I sleep. It doesn’t help that tomorrow I am house-hunting and full of fears, worries, and mental refuse.

I could have it worse; I thank Sweet Baby Jesus for the ways I have it good. My children were cheerfully good company on our 3-hour drive here. They took off their shoes and advocated for the right to pee and asked, many times, when we’d get to Hoquiam (and grandma and dinner). They were polite at the meal (custom-pizzas designed by my mom, a cook whose competence and joy in cooking I myself have grown into), they took baths without complaint, they went to bed easily and happily. Sophie has been not sucking her thumb for the past few days (since her last dentist’s visit) and she just lay next to me and DID it – fell asleep with her hands by her side.

The last few days my children have made my life as easy as they can; Nels has stopped having accidents in his pants, he is listening to Mama, he holds my hand and tells me great stories. Sophie is so intelligent and entertaining to be around I constantly look forward to seeing more of her. Life has changed from the days where I longed for their nap so I could have “me time”. I still want “me time” – I always will – but I no longer feel desperate for personal space, for sleep, for escape.

My parents are helping us out, most importantly (to me) by being there to discuss every little thing. They are also providing us with home-cooked dinner, with a backup plan of staying with them (please Lord no), with support and understanding for what we are trying to do. I think they’ll even provide us with a loan for moving expenses as our cash flow bunches up oddly in these last few weeks. Note to self: kiss ass more.

Life would be perfect if I was just moved into our new place already. God-dammit.


I was up late last night. Anxious, upset, possibly my choice of a post-dinner cappucino wasn’t a good choice. Who knows? I couldn’t sleep and there was no one to keep me company. Eventually, yes, I even DID CHORES. Chores, hey – what I do every day, most of the day. And even late – 2 AM – I wasn’t tired. I had two glasses of red wine and read and finally fell asleep in the bed next to my children at about 3:30. Only to wake up four hours later and get up, get the kids ready, cook breakfast, make up some food for a preschool party, blah blah, you get the drill.

Today I (sadly, very sadly) gave up coffee after 2 PM. I am now trying not to think about a drink. Instead I need water, natural, deep sleep, a calm book. I need to quit running my ass ragged. For now: a hot shower with Sophie, pajamas, blankets.