Car trouble rears its head again. Ralph’s had my vehicle for the week so the kids and I have been walking, bumming rides, and riding the bus. Today, two trips on the transit. Lots of drug addicts and alcoholics clearly still in active addiction, some people with problems either tacitly or obliquely advertised. A white man grim and silent and with that hard-eyed look and holding his two year old who stays equally silent. A young woman tiredly and loudly on the phone, begging / nagging the father of their child to assist in raising their child. She gets off at our stop and takes herself and the babe to the domestic violence shelter. My kids walk alongside me making up imaginary games and helping one another carry the big backpack full of books and binoculars and Pokemon accouterments they’ll put to use while I do some volunteer work.
But in general, we like riding the bus. I get a little nauseated, is all. I have to look out the window. The kids lean against me and we jostle gently through the streets I feel I’ve known forever.
Phee took her first “job” and started this week. She’d wanted to rejoin the swim team after a few years’ hiatus. We didn’t have the tuition, so she made a proposal to my mom for a work trade. Weekdays now Phee works at my mother’s here and there when she’s needed, then hits her swim practice. It seems to be a very satisfactory arrangement. Phee is getting that age she really can do quality work, and my mom is often overwhelmed by her home and garden and other responsibilities. I wish them both the best. I have a great deal of faith in my daughter and don’t meddle. Those things are probably related.
This evening as dusk falls Nels stays behind and waits for his father to get home and cook dinner. Phee and I catch an evening bus to get to the Y. My daughter asks, “Are you going to watch me swim?” and I say, “Every time.” She leans against me and kisses me. I decide I will be there no matter what. It’s easy enough to make this happen. It’s just a new thing I get to say Yes to.
In the pool she’s friends with every child and adult. The swim team is huge, three large sessions of kids. We’re in the earliest session of the evening, the beginner kids I think. There’s all that annoying sport parent stuff I won’t detail here. What matters to me is watching my daughter. She is a natural, friendly and walking up and down the lane, encouraging her team members and clapping for them, she knows their names already. She’s the most sportsmanlike child out there this week. I wonder if she’ll stay that way. I’m proud of her.
For a client, another SteamPunk Pika hat. I would make custom wool hats for a living if it could work out. Nels models:
LOL at my kids in these pictures. Looking all grim and dystopian. Or is that merely my projection, as winter hit us hard all of a sudden?
Home and sewing and cleaning up and feeding animals. Baking a pie for a friend who celebrates a special milestone. Cold but we’ve heat and food and one another.
You know for as many hours as I’ve logged with addicts, people who are either still on the stuff or getting off it or in some kind of maintenance program (either medically-overseen or… not, as a couple I talked with yesterday were), and the hundreds if not thousands of testimonies I’ve heard, I actually, daily, realize how little I know. I mean don’t get me wrong, I think I know a hell of a lot more than your average Joe who sees this sort of thing as a very Other People thing, and I think I know some elements more deeply than your average television show and documentary. As an alcoholic in Recovery I have an insider view in a thousand ways. But still. There are lots of drugs and lots of family upbringings and lots of of lifestyles I never lived. And this isn’t just about drugs or alcohol, this is about understanding the multitudes of people out there and sharing in a human way. It’s about me growing compassion and learning not to judge, but to listen. The world is an amazing education. Really. I think I am getting better about participating, and deeply loving people, and learning a lot from them.
Today for the second day in a row I got to talk with my dear friend S. whom I love to bits. LOVE TO BITS. She is tough as hell and she has been through so many kinds of hell. She has been through it and done it all, I remember early on knowing her, hearing her talk about getting water out of puddles in a trailer park in Moclips to load her needle. And a hundred other stories.
S. has rock-solid Recovery and because of where she’s been, she is in an extraordinary position to help so many people that most of society would write off – people in the throes of all kinds of legal, familial, mental, emotional, spiritual, and existential crises. She is one of the strongest and most beautiful women I know and I’m privileged to know her – like so many I’ve met in Recovery. She recently had her sobriety anniversary (or “birthday”) and I told her across the room, “I Love You”, because I really really do. Anyway anytime I talk to her I understand how little I know, and how small my world really is. I am expanding it and sometimes it blows my mind. Sometimes it wears me out.
Today after listening to some of the stuff I came home and got on the bike; Hutch followed me for a two-mile run. It helped a lot to work up a sweat, and imbued me with gratitude my body can do this for me.
Earlier though, I had an odd day.At noon I biked to an appointment with the dentist; when I got there they discovered the filling I was scheduled for, well I already had it. The dentist was pissed at his employees but he masked this as professionally as possible and apologized to me – took full responsibility. The more I see the guy the more I like him.
Then this afternoon I went off to a blood drive – I had an appointment. Like the last time, my iron was too low (not low for a woman – healthy – but too low to donate). They stabbed me again and the second time the number was lower. I couldn’t donate today. This really bothered me. So I will be eating rare steak, shrimp (maybe), molasses, green veggies and try again in a week, the 1st of August. Because sumbitch I’m used to being able to donate and it means a lot to me.
And it was all kinda awkward because I had shuffled the kids and borrowed a car etc. etc. just to do my various things today. I was a little out of sorts about the whole blood-#FAIL. But I have this Buddhist adage I use on days where things don’t go my way. I believe I mentioned it in my post title.
In other news I’ve been listening to some kick-ass ladies while I sew (today – six t-shirts for my little girl).
I wish I was glamorous & had the wardrobe to match, & Peggy Lee’s clear, effortless, and sexually-frank voice. & could sing in a band. I love singing. & I’ve always wanted to let my inner Floozy have some more breathing room. She’s a pretty funny lady.
Things went my way today. I had energy again and got quite a bit of housework done. I experienced a happy, happy day free from constipation. (Yeah, readers? I didn’t fill you in on this whole ordeal, unless you follow me on Twitter. A side-effect of four days on medicine. I thought constipation was like this not-really-problem, instead of being one of those things that like, consume one’s entire thoughts and activities all day long. Fortunately for me, it was only a handful of hours of sheer Hell. I spent yesterday on the couch quietly sobbing while trying to be distracted by the delicious Danny Trejo’s turn in Machete.)
While shopping at the Goodwill for funiture (bright orange chair, acquired) Nels found this pseudo-ruched rainbow shirt with a boatneck and silver star. He loved it lots, and I bought it for him for $3.
Life is good, but it’s late and time for a hot bath and cold glass of water and snuggles.
We are still debating why things went wrong this morning. My son Nels is convinced it’s because he expressed a desire to give up life in Hoquiam and live in Vancouver – and yes we told him downtown Vancouver is usually NOT full of awesome unschooling kiddos and 100% fun, but he still said, “I have a better life here, and I’m staying.” When things went tits-up a little bit later he really really did believe it was his wish that queered the deal. Poor little guy.
But I thought maybe it was my own hubris. I had taken pride in holding my shit together in a most active and action-packed vacation, the most intense six days I’ve had in some time. I had spent five days eating and resting and doing yoga and Recovery. I’d breathed-deep as much as possible and thought I was behaving like a pretty good wife and mother and human being (MOST of the time). And this morning I prayed for God’s will to be done in my life as I do every morning I remember, even though I was very tired and starting to get sick (some virus from some body). And I thought as the luggage cart nicely packed all our stuff into the car by a courteous and friendly hotel staffer (all the staff were wonderful), and our loving children happily said goodbye to the wonderful time they’d had, with no tears and only good cheer, so anyway I thought: “Wow, things worked out so well. I’m proud of myself and of my family.”
SO less than one half hour after I had this thought we ended up stranded in BFE Sad-Sack Vancouver with a broken-down Prius and a trunk stuffed full of six days worth of our life and, for me, by this time, the largest desire EVER to get home for a variety of reasons (and some anxiety about my friend’s car, as she’s not in a position to have drama either). After a few conversations with our friend and weighing a few options, we elected to tow the vehicle back to Grays Harbor and ride along. If you haven’t read my Twitterfeed (spoiler alert!), go ahead and estimate how much this cost, which was as practical as any alternative, but not cheap. Our friend wants to pay the bill for the car-towing but I think we should split it, given our family is the reason the car was so far afield and she’s gonna have to have it repaired anyway and that just suuuuucks. I probably shouldn’t think about it too much until I’ve rested and healed.
I am very glad to be home. And I’m grateful to our friend who loaned us the car to save on gas, and have a vacation-car. And you know what, we didn’t save money but in a way the intent came true. The Prius got great gas milage on the back of that big tow truck, and the ride home was fun, even though I was so so tired by then, have I mentioned?
Speaking of. Friendship, that is. The conference is over and we are now home. The conference was for me and my children, a life-changer (perhaps for Ralph too – you’ll have to ask). Now as far as I know, I have thanked each friend who has helped us in getting to this event. My thanks is deep and sincere and I am still swimming in gratitude. But I want to tell you: if you have any affection for my children, know that you did a wonderful, wonderful thing by helping us. This morning Phoenix said, “I can’t thank you enough for getting us to this conference.”
So, thank you. Truly once-in-a-lifetime and truly fabulous.
And now? A hot bath and an attempt at rest, before this throat-tickle turns into something ghastly.
I lie. The tire shop wasn’t sketchy. It was just a used tire shop, we’re bumped down from the days of Les Schwab and young handsome men running in slow motion out to the car.
I should say, our finances are, though. Sketchy. We’re scraping by to afford our little conference trip. And in the last couple days we’ve had to “emergency” surgery a cat, then “emergency” replace tires that were sprouting a crop of wire. I use the air dick quotes because, I guess it was all emergency stuff. If we didn’t surgery the cat she could have fallen gravely ill (and she was in pain), and if we didn’t fix the tires, we could have crashed on the road. So, damn, kind of non-negotiable expenses.
The kitty is fine. She’s all stitched up and hopped up on kitty drugs. I’m very grateful for her recovery. She is very dear to us.
Nels, a funeral for a bird. He voiced a lovely and earnest and powerful prayer before we buried her.
In other news: cute husband, who has helped create cute daughter. They are dressed as nerds today, for some theme. It works.
I also gave blood (of course) and my daughter held my hand through it all. Later, Nels rode on the back of the bike and held the basket with my embroidery supplies, for the class I taught. It was fun stitching, and showing people how to do some simple things. One student was an eight year old girl and that was about a thousand percent awesome.
Tonight Nels wants to throw a party. He’s making invitations up for all this friends. It’s about 5 PM.
“But Nels, you have to give people a heads-up – they can’t make it on such short notice,” Ralph tells him.
“But I’m using ENVELOPES!” he retorts, in total confidence.
I am tired and ill, but I am grateful. I am surrounded by loving children, a good partner and husband, kind-hearted and inspiring friends, and cats who’ll sit on my lap and allow me to give them pleasure by petting them. Our house is warm and our cars run (although I need both brakes and an alternator – and Ralph needs brakes and a new driver’s seat – yikes!). I am patiently sewing and knitting away on gifts for others.
Today Ralph mows the lawn, probably the last for a good while. The grass is lush and verdant and soft and spongey and deliciously green. I come home from volunteer work at the treatment center and he’s cleaned the bathroom, shining up the tub for me to take a candlelit bath should I wish.
The winter sets in early but we are safe and loved.
Yeah, the other day I had a bit of “Oh you have this degree, you should [insert employment ‘opportunity’]” directed at me specifically. You know, by someone I don’t (yet) know well, with no interest expressed nor questions asked as to what it is I actually do during the day, if I like it, how good I am at it, how interested I am at doing something else, what my family’s organizing principles are, etc. I observe over a decade I have never had this advice directed to me by a woman (so to borrow a phrase from Jasmine – men, get your shit together!).
But for serious I was thinking about careers and status. And men. (More in a minute!) Until the other day it had been a while since anyone else brought up my former life of moneyed and statused career in referendum of my current life which is a bit different in both those spheres. The symptomatic current-life devaluation of my existence doesn’t sting like it used to simply because I rely on my spiritual life and people I know and trust to help me know how I’m doing and what I’m worth. Really, the whole thing is funny to me (but it wasn’t when I first heard that college-degreed women who stay home to raise children are “opting out” and a bunch of other stuff about how they’re Ruining Everything – heard it from close friends, coworkers, etc). Because all of this is about them, not me. The day someone queries what it is I do, what I find value in, what my life is like, what I’m passionate about, who I help, what I’m skilled at (up until now), what I’m not (so far), what I long for, what I’m afraid of – and then makes some suggestions? Well first I’ll acknowledge them for even giving a damn to listen so much, but at that point I’ll also be interested in hearing their opinions on my life’s course.
I was thinking about, and this is related believe it or not – and truly a confession here I’m not proud of – how angry it’s made me, in the past, when men flirt with me. I have responded to men and women (very rarely) by flirting back, sure; but increasingly over the years I have become a fixed and hardened person when it comes to men, a smiling cipher who will move away when they move close (literally or figuratively), an outward smile and tactful deferral but years of scorn and fear slowly calcifying around my heart. Until very recently I have taken (false) pride in my defensive response, but now I realize it was a sign of my weakness. Because really, until now I have thought men who flirt are telling me they don’t think I’m worth much. They don’t care to find out if I’m in a mated pair (I am, and I wear a ring for one thing), or anything about me at all except for I make them have feelings in their pants or maybe I’ll take care of their laundry or their kids or their Existential Loneliness, whatever they crave, with sex of some sort. They (often) don’t know anything about me whatsoever; how can any interest in me be anything real or personal at all? Why do they put me in the position of having to do a goddamn thing (like “Yes” or “No” to an advance) when I want to go about my day and buy potatoes or ride a bike or mail a package?
I’ve hated myself for not saying something aloud. Like “Please stop, this is bothering me.” Of course, most women know what happens – often – when you do this. I haven’t been strong enough to stomach any more of what always happened before. “What’s your fucking problem?” “Don’t flatter yourself.” “I wasn’t doing anything.” “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” “Bitch!” Physical threats.
But today I need to forgive men, or at least those with the entitled assumption that all women find flirtations welcome or flattering. I need to forgive those who’ve abused me in the past (all of them). I need to forgive those who diminish me. I need to forgive them their clumsiness, even forgive those who are straight-up manipulative and/or hate women (that hatred is a Fear response anyway; I can empathize because Fear is indeed a plague that besets us all). We are all lost, at one point or another. I need to forgive myself for receiving and internalizing the message it is my beauty (ha!), or my “nice”ness, or my accommodation, or my cooking or my figure (ha!) or my performance of Femaleness, or a myriad of other things, that really count and that are up for others’ measure and evaluation. The thing that counts is I’m a person. Other people may not give me respect or be interested, not in Me really, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give these gifts to myself – and to them. I don’t have to hate those who are only doing the best they can at the time. I can’t forgive all, and instantly so, but I can know it’s what I need to do.
Do I wish sometimes I could have two weeks on an island free of this stuff? Yeah, I do. But I don’t have that space or time, and life is life.
I have been messing about fixing a car; if you’ve been counting, you’ll know we currently have one that’s working and one that is not. The car stuff is bringing up some of the Flirting D00d stuff; today in a garage I was assailed repeatedly by no fewer than four men, jumping on me like starving fleas. Doing that thing where they apologize profusely for their slips of “bad language”. Because I’m a Lady. And I guess I need smelling salts when someone says the word “fuck” (the thing that actually disturbs me is, acting one way when a woman is around and another when one is not, feel free anyone to self-reflect on that). Then telling me I smell good. Then wanting me to come look at their car project (“Hey, guess what this is?”). Then teasing me for texting (my husband, as it happened) and asking me to come over (I am not making this up). Instead of learning a bit about my car as I’d hoped to, I had the opportunity to experience all this. Finally the owner showed up – he actually helped me quite a bit in a totally direct and friendly manner. I drove off happy. I told myself I would never know why these men treated me this way, I can’t assume they were flirting with any intent, maybe they were just hyper – or Lonely. Hey, Lonely is okay. We’ve all been there. Nothing to be pissed about.
Short potential morals of these stories, if you find them useful: pay attention to people and who they evidence themselves to be. Ask yourself why you’re being prescriptive. Don’t be a Creeper. Find what you’re passionate about. Enjoy the passions of others as they display them. See if you can look yourself in the mirror and say aloud you (honestly) like yourself. Respect others.
When you run across a person you can be damned amazed you have this life and another human being to share it with. You don’t have to fuck it up, or at least you can fuck it up less.
I am not going to lie, I’m disappointed that in the brief bit you hear me (“K Street, Ralph”) I am speaking in a perfectly pleasant tone. It’s not at all how I imagine I typically speak.
Then – Jasmine & Nels, at Hoquiam’s Tully’s (of course):
We have been so fortunate to have lovely and clement weather. It makes all sorts of things possible for us that we otherwise cannot do; grocery shopping and biking on errands (without all of us wet, cold, and miserable). Around here most middle-class-and-up grownups, if they’re outside, are mowing lawns or tidying up their outdoor facade or going for runs. We walk and get groceries and sometimes I think, honestly, people gawk at me like I’m a loser (no seriously, Grays Harbor Gawking is a pasttime here). The main thoroughfare in town is also a highway and it can be unpleasant.
That said, I love my west side Hoquiam with all the fierceness of my little black heart.
We Hogabooms approach a degree of economy in worldly possessions such that – only in comparison to our peers and many neighbors, mind you – it occasionally seems less a display of conscientious living, prioritizing family, community, and creativity over material gain, and an eschewal of consumer oneupmanship and more, well – fucking Shabby. It doesn’t really matter today which thing fell apart in the public eye or how soggy our clothes were at the time or who was staring at us or how much under $10 cash I had for a lunch out with the boy or how negative my little bank account was. Let me merely state it as so: I feel the sting of class shame now and then and nothing much makes it go away – and I’m wise enough about myself not to chase money to alleviate the discomfort. Lately I’ve decided to accept my attendant class shame, and I don’t expect everyone can understand it (and I hate it when they try, or claim to know how I feel!). But that’s life; I come from a working-class background and, because we need one of us home for the family, we’ve chosen a working class income with lots of kiddos and cats and chickens and – well. It’s hard sometimes.
A benefit to holding my experience of class-policing with a kind of a quizzical and humorous disposition is the deep, deep gratitude I often feel for the most simple and yet stunning gifts that come our way – for instance, yesterday in the grocery store with my husband and son, buying tomatoes and sourdough for late-night sandwiches (a new little ritual for Nels and I) and wine and apples, and feeling so grateful we can afford food, good food, and these days it is so rare to run out of grocery money. Then there’s my mother, who is so instrumental as a family resource – in more ways than one – that each extention she makes to us, each gift she gives, often of time and love to our children, is appreciated by Ralph and I – and, I’d imagine, our kids feel the same. Example: today she took the kids and I out for hot dogs, then by the office supply business to order me a Mother’s Day gift: a sewing room table (w00t!). Awesome-lady hat trick: she dropped Nels and I off in piss-ass rainville Montesano for my doctor’s appointment – which saved the kidlets and I a rainy and (for myself) car-sick bus ride.
Then I got to feel grateful for my son and my son’s good health; he played with me in the waiting room and poured me a coffee and assiduously wiped up a small spill, and was so friendly to the staff and waited in the waiting room talking up the receptionist while I was able to meet with the physician for a rather involved consultation. Before my appointment we waited an hour, but these things happen and I didn’t mind because my boy was good company (OK – so is my phone). Trapped inside, an absolute downpour and a nearly vacant waiting room, just he and I to be together.
So yes, I visited a new doctor and left with a new prescription, my most recent attempt at pharmaceuticals being a very small dose of a tricyclic for two days and a microdose of an SSRI for under a week. I don’t mind telling you, I feel like a coward and a fool for not being able to commit to those medicines, but they had bad enough side effects immediately that I felt alienated from myself (I’d rather be “me” and anxious for a couple hours at night, kthx). I think I am rather sensitive to medication – I guess, anyway (my hat is doffed to those who cope with stronger dosages, something I clearly would have a very hard time with). I don’t mind telling you, these tiny pills I have now are causing me a little fear. Maybe if I take one that feeling will go away. It’s almost Pill O’Clock anyway.
Tomorrow I’m packing up a pair of too-small jeans for credit at the recycle clothing shop, and hopefully disappearing into the sewing room to make something for a friend. With a return of darkness and shit-weather I’m back to practicing patience with myself. I can’t always experience peace, but I can try to make peace with that.
This weekend included a cross-country interview (will post soon) as well as the composition of two articles I was rather satisfied with. Also, and more on my mind for healing properties: many sunny walks (one of them rather long, and involving salamander-catching along a slough), a bike ride, a trip out to the bay, and the meeting of, right-proper, new neighbors across the street. The seven, nine, and eleven year old children new to the neighborhood are already adhering quite quickly to my own kids. Today when Ralph and Nels and I came back from our grocery run we found Phoenix with one of our quilts, lying in the neighbor’s yard alongside her new friend L. In the sunshine, my daughter’s strawberry blonde hair shimmered like golden floss and it felt pretty damn good to think when she was ready she’d run in and grab lunch real-quick (chicken noodle soup, milk, and a banana) before running back out again, grass stains on her corduroys.
More touching than just about anything I’ve experienced in a while, my friend Dawn hosted us for lunch on Saturday and cooked for me – fried chicken (and chard, and potatoes). The kids and I brought homemade peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream (practice for Wednesday). All of it the food was delicious – I maintain there is no fried chicken to be found better than someone doing it out of their home, and Dawn did a great job. Besides my mother, I rarely get anyone homecooking for me, and it’s a wonderful treat.
Speaking of the kitchen, I’ve been baking a lot of chocolate cakes – and, just to be clear, I have more than one chocolate cake in my repetoire.Two sour cream Guinness stout cakes are currently cooling in my kitchen; these involved two cups of the beer and lots of good chocolate melted carefully and a cup and a half of sour cream and very very fresh eggs. One cake is for a friend; I borrowed her bundt pan to bake it right in there for her (I shall, of course, remove the cake and apply the chocolate ganache, and clean the pan before returning). Much like I’m so very into making baby buntings as of late, I would pretty much like to make chocolate cakes many times a week for people – and I do think mine are better than what you can get in any restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery ’round here. The price of dairy and chocolate being what it is, I can’t do so nearly as much as I’d like. Funny thing about baking is, I love to bake for other people but I hardly ever eat anything I bake. And another thing, I think the smells that fill my house are almost enjoyable for my family and guests as the food itself.
We are back down to not having a running car, and in fact will need to acquire a tow as Ralph miscalculated and believed he could have a few days’ more starting power in order to deliver it to the garage. Fingers crossed we can convince the garage to allow us to finance the repairs (tires and brakes plus, I suspect, betcha anything, glow plugs), because it’s pretty depressing to have two rotting cars laying fallow in the driveway.
But. I can’t do anything about any of that, really. So why worry?
As I type, Nels runs out from the bath with a towel wrapped haphazardly around his wiggling, clean little body. “Freshly-baked buns, just for you,” he tells me, a joke he made up himself and repeats now and then because he knows how much I like it. I’m going to read to the children again tonight, the mines of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring. Last time I read to Nels I was on the kidnapping of Frodo by a barrow-wight; my son’s eyes held huge and his mien quite serious as he listened to the resolution of that spooky chapter.
There are some things money can’t buy, and those are some of the best things. Good health, sunshine, an appreciation for the natural world. The love of other human beings and the love for them as well.