singing songs of love

My shirt’s too snug, as in the buttons are almost popping across my bust. It’s cold out and I’m standing outside my mom’s pickup putting gas in the tank.  Only a little. Believe it or not I can resolutely refuse to think about our car problems, because I have put everything in place that I can and Worrying is bullshyte and against God besides. One car is currently not running and I can’t afford to take it in until the tenth (and Dear Jeebus at that point I hope I can somehow afford to fix it). The other car is running but it has 395 thousand miles on the original engine. Absolutely true story. Our old Mercedes. With no heater. Like a land-submarine. The no-heater thing is kind of no-joke as it’s unpleasant to ride in the car but also dangerous, visibility-wise, at times.

So I’m putting twenty bucks in my mom’s tank but I’m a bit upbeat despite all this and that. Because a friend made a donation today we’re going to have some good dinner tonight and tomorrow and probably even the next day. I’m thinking of the salad I’ll make this evening: butter lettuce, peas, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber. I’ve got hunger pangs right now but I know how to pace myself through those. My kid is all right, the Little Guy who ran into the gas station with the twenty dollar bill and who holds my hand and kisses me wherever we go. A burger from drive-through for my son and I’m sipping on coffee. I’m so flat-out busted-ass tired and I haven’t eaten but I can pace myself.

It’s beautiful out. So very cold and dry. After gas and picking up the other kiddo I’m selecting vegetables at the fruit stand and it’s so cold I’m suffering but I think, I can get through it, and the thought of my children in the truck’s cab cheers me immensely. In the bed of the truck: Hutch, circling his rump when he sees me emerge from the store. Another shopper asks me: “Is he okay?” (meaning, is my dog a well-behaved dog). The man who asked had this snarling yappy thing in his car. People with dogs with problems, always asking if my dog is OK. My dog is really awesome in fact he’s a Goddamned Champ. He shares a home with two adults, two kids, lots of kids and babies traipsing through, three rude cats and a rabbit who literally will steal food out from under him once we put it in the bowl! (yes this happened today).

Ralph comes home to a messy house; the product of my sleepless night last night, and my inability to get as much done as I typically do. We make up the dinner – the glorious salad and some pizza and a celebratory  bit of pomegranate sparkling cider. Ralph makes up a pot pie for my mother and I hand-sew and watch some of My Stories. It’s that mental discipline too, resolutely refusing to think ahead about what I’m hoping to sew and knit my family and friends for Christmas. Not time yet not time yet as I’m stitching up these handbags.

I help my daughter with homework. My husband and children get ready for bed; hot showers, washcloths, Q-tips, toothpaste, warm towels. The pets settle into ponderous slumber, farting and snoring even! I light a candle for a friend; her partner is going through some severe health stuff and she’s going through some resultant mental health stuff. So many suffer in so many ways. I hope it makes sense that I write out exactly what I’m going through in the day. I can’t be more exciting or less so I can only be honest.

I recently read about a man trapped in a shipwreck for three days underwater in pitch black, finding an air pocket to perch in. Hours passed and he felt the most frightened listening to the sounds of large fish eating his dead crewmates. He remained entirely in prayer most the time and he was in pretty good shape when they picked him up, a miraculous rescue.

Prayer and faith mean a great deal to me today and they used to mean nothing at all.

in company

small stone #16
My friends saw me in my mom’s old pickup truck –
In the dark, in the cold, in the wet night.
“Who’s that with Kelly?” they asked.
Brake lights flared up:
My dog’s companionable profile revealed.
My friends laugh.

small stone #17
I get a headache listening to you,
but I think that’s just a coincidence.

You Had One Job

Well today, more like two jobs. Three. I had to find a way to cover our bank account so the balance wouldn’t go negative.

Then I had to find a running car to get up the highway to a sexual assault medical exam. And I had to find a friend to accompany me; the support I had lined up, was canceled.

Days like that it’s no wonder I feel drained in this special, assy way.

small stone #12
Your hair is copper-penny bright
and you look so grown up,
like a young lady.
In ladies’ blue jeans and all!

keep making me laugh / let’s go get high

Today I was talking and I would look up now and then to the room I was addressing and a man was looking at me with a lot of love in his eyes. It wasn’t a wrong kind of love, meaning lust or Ownership, it was the right kind, like that shining-eyed feeling we get when we love a friend and there’s no veil between us.

I’m grateful for one running car. God-willing, the other car can be repaired cheaply. But even then I have no need to be angry as if the repair costs money I simply can’t do it now, and that simplifies things.

Ralph cooks up beans and sweeps the floors. So much pet hair! The cold weather hits and the heat’s turned up and the pets just dump out their new winter coats. Today: a milestone – we train Hutch to sit patiently while Bun-Bun the rabbit lopes about the room. Hutch is triggered by the bunny and fixates on him; with careful observation and with a few sharp commands soon our dog is relaxed. He startles and looks at the rabbit, ears pricked – then glances away, and relaxes. More supervision is needed for some time but we’re on the road to our rabbit being consistently safe from a large, muscular predator with jaws that could swallow the lupine whole.

This pay cycle I will need to be near-prostrate with prayer to get through. But that’s okay, I know how to live by faith. Faith and hard work (mine), but always that gratitude and that openness. We’ve had a roof over our head and our utilities have been on and our debts are getting paid off at a glacial pace. Maybe we’ll “make it”! Look, we are making it!

Somehow!

I miss smoking, myself, sometimes. Smoking felt good and gave me that edge. It’s like: I need a cigarette to calm down, to relax, even though as we know the act of smoking rather amps us up. I haven’t had to smoke in quite some time, coming up on a year, and I am grateful for this. I’ve got no vice to supplant this twisted urge; sometimes I just gotta breathe and take a hot shower and know I Am, I am here for now, just keep breathing.

mishaps, various & sundry

Second-to-last errand of the day and the kids run upstairs to find me, breathless: “Mom! The car blew up. It made a noise and green stuff and smoke came out!”

Holy Good Mother of God.

The car had been idling in the driveway and even after this BOOM is still running. I switch it off immediately and my eyes close and my head falls back, just a bit. Dollar signs dollar signs dollar signs. A neighbor pokes her head out and starts talking to me. I’m distracted and I can’t remember what I say; but I hot-foot it back inside because it isn’t like I don’t have shit to do.

I go inside and thank the kids. They are alert, ears pricked, full of questions about the car. I am overwhelmed. “Please quit talking to me about this. I need a few minutes of silence,” I tell them. I drink a quart of water. I take a deep breath.

I thank the kids again. I send Nels next door to borrow my mom’s truck so we can get to where we need to go. We’re back on the road. I make a phone call to arrange for my car to get a look-see.

I can take those deep breaths. Thank jeebus!

It’s just – that kind of scene.

More upstetting than the car, even – today I got to once again deal with, except not-deal with because the communication is so poor on their end, those in official capacities regarding my child’s sexual assault case. I cannot stress how unpleasant certain entities have been these past two months. I am at times full of fear and anger. I am worried I’m going to get this huge, huge resentment towards entities I am not responsible to, and suffer trauma over events I have no control over. I am so glad I seem to be the only one in the family acutely suffering.

Now rather than vent my spleen in a public place, and from a perspective that might not be the healthiest, may I just say I pledge to you, dear reader, that if God Forbid this kind of thing should ever come knocking on your door, I am here for you, holding watch and bearing witness, having bourne out this trouble with dignity and self-respect. I’m getting through this ish not just for my child’s sake but for my own and for countless others; that I might help some day. The empathy, I am learning. The patience. The persistence. The gratitude – at times I struggle with that.

The whole thing is so crap that sometimes I have to find meaning in it. For my own sanity.

So yeah. Today was kinda shite.

* deep breath *

small stone #7
Hot coffee, a little bitter.
A man talks to himself feverishly; laughs, rolls eyes, swipes at the air!
The others around the tables
bear his behaviors with patience.
He could be me, I’m thinking.
He’s somebody’s son, I’m thinking.
I’m overcome with sadness.

an old machine that’s reeling

Shit is BROKEN.

My computer is broken. I can’t see colors on my screen. This has been like – a month now? At first I thought, OK well, at least I can still type. But the lack of colors is more debilitating than I thought. I haven’t been able to blog my (considerable amount of) sewing – and I haven’t been able to update my Etsy listings either.

Shit is BROKEN.

Our cars are broken. Ralph’s has something sort of serious – a loud clunking sound now and then – enough we’ve stuck it in the driveway until we can (afford to) fix it. So Ralph and I have both been biking a lot, yes he’s been biking to the college and all. My car – good Lord! – a broken window, busted all the way out driver’s-side. It’s been broken several days now but we are fortunately in a dry spell. That’s going to end any minute though at which point I will have to go with some plastic.

Shit is BROKEN.

My kidneys are broken. The doctor is probably going to recommend something icky as I have some part of the kidney possibly blocked off. It took about a year for me to begin to accept the pain. Now I’m trying to accept the fatigue and the nausea. The fact I’m trying to accept it means, maybe I will be there soon.

SHIT is broken.

Hutch is ill. We are hoping it is just random awfulness he (somehow!) got to sneak into his gullet. I am trying not to obsess it is something worse. He is weak and trembly and not eating food and if you know Hutch, that is weird AF.

SHIT IS BROKEN —

Most disastrous of all, our cat Hamilton is missing. Today has been one week since we saw her. Today is one week. I am sick over this. Just sick. We miss her so much.

Today despite all this I did my best to be kind, to treat my family and friends with consideration, and to attend my volunteer work.

What else can I do?

for a while I was dealing in tears and powders

I realize after a few minutes that I have been sitting in a living-cringe position. The waiting room at the doctors’ is crowded and every now and then the bored and somewhat hostile low-level buzz is perforated by a dog’s mighty WOOF. Let’s stick to the facts, because it’s my dog. He’s outside being massive and friendly – and being naughty, and getting rewarded by every stranger who passes and gives him love. I haven’t figured out how to get my dog not to bark when he’s tied outside, and I’m inside somewhere. Because he is SILENT AS THE GRAVE at home and doesn’t bark for any reason whatsoever (even when the children want him to) but then he does this!

So anyway, how I handle the dog doing his thing is I pretend it’s not my dog and I don’t know whose dog it is. But I am sitting in a defensive posture because I’m just waiting. Every now and then a patient walks outside and praises him and calls him a Sweetheart and then leaves the outer door open so a few seconds later his WOOF reverberates through the whole building. I don’t want to step out and close the door because he’d see me and he might think he’s getting what he wants.

I sit for an hour and fifteen minutes before I know I have to leave, no doctor today. I talk to the receptionist then I step outside and pack up my bike and an older woman approaches me: “Is that your dog?” And I wait to hear an admonition or something but instead she says warmly, “He’s so faithful.” Right, like he’s a Goddamned Champion! An even older man follows right on the heels of this woman, tottering and walking so unstably with his arms out so he looks like a small child, he trips towards us and his eyes are open in surprise, whether at my magnificent dog or because he’s about to fall I can’t tell before I turn away. This woman, then, catches him up and I swing my leg over the bike and my dog and I are off.

I’m home and I flush some medicine and I feel better about that. And I make a pot of coffee and light a candle and say some prayers.

I write a list of things I want to get done but I lose the list.

I gather the kids up and climb in through the passenger side of my car. My driver’s-side window shattered the other day and any time I move the door a bunch of glass settles deep inside and makes unsavory crunch-noises. It will get fixed soon enough.

I take the children to lunch somewhere they really like and I feel a little bit better than I have been.

We take two walks out through The Flats and back. The first walk is so hot I strip down as much as is decent. The second is in the gloaming and swarms of gnats accost us. We walk past a dark car and a woman inside, crying. I know her. She rolls the window down and greets me. I ask if she’s Okay and she shakes her head No. But she puts her hand up and signals I leave. I place her back where I found her and I walk on. I say a prayer for her but I walk on.

Home and I run a hot bath and make hot tea.

the air that I breathe & to love you

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

The sun is out and there’s something about the air; it’s still got a bit of chill especially as the evening falls but I find I’m feeling restless for the summer. We’re down to one car and we’d better fix a few things on that or we’ll be down to zero (sorry to talk about the cars again; it’s just where we live, family-of-four life without a car is no joke). I turn the engine over and the Mercedes belches out grey smoke and coughs for a while while it warms up. This car. The missing muffler and the screaming belt. I am serious. It’s funny. Sorry neighbors. I still love it, though.

It’s the sunshine and the car trouble so I say something out loud before I’ve thought it through, I don’t know if we’ll get a vacation this year, and I’m okay with it, just thinking of hot sand and doing nowt and just picturing the little pots of money moving them back and forth, more than enough to feed us and shelter us so no worries. But:

“It will be worth it,” my daughter says. “We’ll have sent a family to the unschooling conference.” That’s cool. It’s like as a parent you make these decisions as best you can, and you bet we made this decision as a family, informed consent, but it’s cool the kids aren’t backing down even while I’m teetering on feeling like an ass.

She continues: “They’ll have a wonderful time.”

I say, “We had sixteen families apply for our scholarship. They are all great applicants. Would you like daddy and I to make the final decision, or would you like to help?”

“Oh, I’d love to help!” Her response is immediate. We talk about it a bit. We share ideas about criteria for selection. I put the car in gear and we head out to take her to swim team. My son puts his hand on my arm and tells me he loves me.

***

Later, Ralph’s out of town, I walk in the falling shroud of darkness, wet and cold, I’m with the dog, off a little over a mile to pick up my daughter. In the backpack I’ve a couple rolls for her to eat, a big woolen hat and a coat. Hutch trots at my side, HAPPIER THAN ANYTHING EVER just to be along with me. Even after his massive weight loss he is still a big dog, and despite his obviously friendly, mild body language, sometimes people cross the street when they see him. In fact, walking at night alone as a lady, I don’t mind having a huge dog alongside. He is the gentlest creature ever though and I have no idea how much he’d protect me if I were accosted, that is unless my assailant was a giant hot dog.

Over the bridge and across the deep, dark river, which fills me with terror. I love the evenings, people hurrying home or perhaps off to parties or out of town. I’m alone but others are awake. I’m wrapped in a big scarf and my plastic jacket. My body feels good and my mind does as well. Every day as my last drink recedes from me, further away, I am profoundly aware of my gift of sobriety. I hate to talk about that so much too but, it’s on my mind and in my heart, often and daily. Every day I work with people and I see how many don’t keep a continuous sobriety, and heck those are the ones even trying to get help, “tip of the iceberg” doesn’t cut it. Every day I know less and less about Why for all of it. There’s nothing that sets me apart as being so fortunate but I am and so I don’t piss it away by being ungrateful or unconscious.

“If you don’t drink today, you’ll never drink again.” I heard this today. I tell my husband. He doesn’t quite understand. I explain it a little but it’s okay if people don’t understand. I understand.

My daughter is pleased to see us. She is out of the locker room at one minute past seven; she is on time. We both thank one another for being punctual. She bites the first roll and then tears off a chunk for the dog; he CLOPS it up and then CLOPS, CLOPS in gratitude or beseechment or both. We travel to the store by foot and buy two bananas to fulfill requirements for a loaf of banana bread; we have two quarters and the sum total is 49 cents and I’m pleased. Later Nels will eat the bananas without asking about them first, then he apologizes. For all his devilry he takes it very seriously when he makes a mistake or inconveniences others, probably too seriously. And so I’ll send Ralph to the store to get some more bananas tomorrow, so he can bake a quickbread for our daughter before she gets up.

36

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.

today I felt a bit of warmth & heard birds; Spring may indeed come again

A little after one o’clock I run out of gas, while trying to give someone a ride. We end up sitting in the cold bright sunshine talking; he finishes a cigarette while sitting cross-legged in some really sweet Italian leather shoes. I am disconcerted. There is something about having certain kinds of problems, I start to feel less like an adult, more inadequate, Shame. But I still my tongue and don’t overapologize or try to explain the whole business. Shit happens. There’s a reason I’m in the sunlight, having a delay in my day, which is so often go-go-go with my little plans and everything.

A bit later the two of us walk a few blocks and meet my husband, coming to my rescue with five gallons. My dog patiently waits through all this and, when we finally get home, obligingly butt-waggles his way back inside. A few hours later and he wants to ride with me in the car again. He never doubts me even if I sometimes doubt myself. Loyal.

Home, and Nels is with his friends, Phoenix is off to the beach with her grandmother.

Last night one child stayed the night; tonight we have another young guest. It’s pretty nice to have a safe, nurturing home for not just our kids, but others.  Home again and while the kids play I trace a sewing pattern; Ralph sets the table and sets out bowls of noodles, lettuce, mint, carrot, and cucumber; a fish vinaigrette sauce and sliced tri tip steak. A Vietnamese dish that is one of my favorite homecooked meals. The kids laugh while they eat and I snuggle my son’s long blonde tangles. Ralph runs a bath

and

it’s time to go to bed!