and not pieces of gold and silver

So, health problems. I am so fortunate to have friends and family who care and who ask and who offer to help me. I am determined to learn how to graciously accept these offers, when appropriate. That is one thing I may stand to learn from this process, as well as a few other potential lessons.

I am frightened at the possible prognosis for my health difficulties. The couple people who knew a few details after the ER visit tell other people some stuff, to my somewhat-dismay, but I’ve only divulged to my brother every bit I know so far, including the details from yesterday’s appointment with the specialist/surgeon. For the time being I’m not super-interested in sharing. You know there was a time not too recent I’d feel I owed it to anyone who asked, to tell them everything. Not so, any more.

BY THE WAY, the visit with the specialist/surgeon was a discrete joy in what has been a slightly out-of-body experience. He was like someone drew a really Handsome & Distinguished Doctor, then made a cartoon about him, then adapted a live-action movie of the cartoon. We had a consultation in his largeish office which included “many leather-bound books”, and etched-glass awards for being amazing in his field, and he was at a big desk listening to some smooth-ish jazz and typing away on the laptop and airily but I assure you professionally dismissing some of the questions I asked, the ones where my nails were digging into the chair arms.  He had a direct gaze, firm handshake, knew his arena of expertise (far as I could tell), and carried an impeccably-polished mien. Later in an exam room he joshed with his assistant while trying to casually put hands all up in my business, unfortunately I couldn’t hear their conversation because everything turns to white noise when I’m subjected to this kind of thing, necessary though it may occasionally be.

I step out into the fall weather with the kids, or today on my way downtown on my own. I’m grateful for the solace of meditation and walking, two activities that are very helpful to me, especially now. I’m grateful too for my family who is very strong and very loving. For the friends I saw today and the friend who’s coming to dinner tomorrow and for the sister who visits. For the chocolate ganache I made up in the kitchen and the “extra” children we had in our home. For the warmth of new boots and a car to drive and the way my body, most of my body anyway, feels alive. I am grateful for time in the pool today with friend and my own children, enjoying an afternoon swim and the feel of the water hugging my body and the experience of hot and cold and shower tile and back into jeans and my favorite hoodie. I am grateful for juice my husband buys just for me, and for my son’s loving and open nature as he asks if he can take a flower from the bouquet he bought me, and bring one to a neighbor girl, and then later tonight when he brings me a bowl of fruit, and then a glass of water.

I am grateful for knowledge to be patient with myself as I learn how to live. What a gift life is to me, not to be spent but to breathe in, “As it is,” and breathe out: “As it is”.

much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread

NOT THE BEESNOT THE BEES

One of my favorite things about my life these days is time with my kids as well as other children. Recently when I had a few extra in tow a friend I ran into in town said I must have a lot of patience. I thought about it and it is true, I’ve learned to relate well with children, not just “good kids” or kids from “good families” (wtf people mean by that, it’s a careless thing to say at best), but with the kids that have problems or bully or are deceitful or angry or passive aggressive or plain ol’ aggressive or whatever. I genuinely like kids, probably a teensy bit more than I like grownups, but I’m learning to like adults a lot too. I only wish I had a bigger car and more money and I’d have a lot of them, the kids, around as much as possible.

When I contemplate this it’s actually kind of incredible. I still believe children are kinda routinely squashed in home and schools and institutions, squashed in just about every way you can squash someone, and they usually have to move out from authoritarian paradigms when they come to our place. And it works out really really well actually because I can just address stuff head-on and kids are fucking smart. So even “bad kids” (whatever, I could write more on this but won’t for now), I haven’t so far often been at a loss.

But what’s more incredible still is to contemplate my own nature. I grew up first of all, not being classified as a Patient person. At all. I would never call myself Patient even today. I also grew up believing/being told that kids were kind of a drag, they were messy and annoying and uncouth and unsophisticated and stressful to be around and not perceptive nor moral et cetera (so of course, my job growing up was to shed these traits or at least hide them). Today I realize I believe none of these things about children at all, and I like nothing more than having kids and young people around.

I have this fantasy that’s grown within me recently that a friend or someone local would take their kids out of school and entrust the kids to my care while the parents worked. Of course the parents involved would have to be totally on board with the way we do things around here, I mean really a model of trust and non-coercion. And it’s late because we’ve been up working and playing hard, so I’ll just put it plainly: it’s not even like I think of this as a vocation or “labor” I should be paid for, it’s like many parent/carers wouldn’t be willing (or able) to put forth the money for the groceries and just goofing-off money or whatever for their kids to have the life we live daily – and perhaps more relevantly, really many parents aren’t able to trust the process of kids growing outside institutionalization. I know this is silly but I wish I could afford to feed and care for more of them. Then I think my kids are going to grow up and we won’t get the opportunity to share this kind of living on a regular basis. Phoenix and Nels don’t complain for a lack of friends or activities, it’s really just something I am starting to long for but feel I have no ability to enact – and am not really sure of my motives in any case.

But – tonight we had a bonfire and roasting marshmallows and music and goofing off and ringtone downloads and wrestling and a lot of joking around and teenagers over until way past curfew. It was fucking great.

In bits and pieces I get to have this tribe, and it’s always lovely when I do.

Coffee Shop, 3 Out Of 4

***

I forgot to mention, yesterday Phoenix became angry with me and slammed the door – unfortunately, catching her own finger and hurting it horribly. Even though we immediately iced the injury for quite some time, by morning her nailbed was black and the end of the finger was painfully swollen. She told me yesterday she didn’t need the Emergency Room (contemplating both the trouble of going at that particular time, and the cost to our family), but today we went to the doctors’ where I came to realize she had made a good choice in electing to do so. The injury was bad enough to require treatment – specifically, trephination with an electric cauterizing lance, and that is as bad as one might think it is. At her request I held and kissed her forehead as her tender finger’s-end was cleaned with iodine (which hurt badly enough, I could see), then her nail was lanced three times as the doctor tried to relieve the pressure and finally blood spurted out then was squeezed out for a few minutes by the physician. Phoenix cried hot tears and wailed softly but did not scream nor move or waver; it was quite horrid and beautiful at the same time to watch her cope. She elected not to take pain medicine after, but over the next hour I saw her relief and I saw her come back to her old self.

So now in the car heading home in the sunshine (Nels spent the visit in the waiting room, talking with younger babies and children and their carers) I tell my daughter, “Phoenix, at one point you said you couldn’t take the pain but you did take it. You elected that treatment and you coped all by yourself.” She tells me, “I didn’t cope by myself, I had you with me.” I say Yes but, it wasn’t me that had to go through the pain. She replies: But you had to watch your child in pain. That must be so hard. And she cries again, silent tears, but for me this time. Empathy.

I feed the children and bring them home and to their father and their friends. I am curiously drained by the past hours of my daughter’s pain and anxiety. She had also felt a fair bit of guilt over hurting herself and this troubles me as well – but I know this is her path, today, however much a part I have been instrumental in it. She holds my hand and I think to myself how glad I am for our closeness, how I wouldn’t want things any other way.

It’s like I awoke from a dream, parts of it quite desperate and lost, to realize that through all my mistakes and difficulties I held onto some shred of decency and did an okay job in mothering. So far. And I hope to still improve. I am amazed at these children I live with and what they are able to cope with, who they evidence themselves to be, and what they do and do not need from me. Today my daughter took the lead and she was wiser than I, but I also have cause to believe I helped her in the right way.

There’s not much more I’d want to report, really.

Present

To set budding more, / And still more, later flowers for the bees…

So Phoenix decided a while back she wanted to see a doctor to talk about the small bumps developing in her chest. I’d told her it was likely normal breast development (we’ve talked with both kids about puberty, tons – as according to their interest), but she still wanted to enlist the care of a doctor. I asked her if she wanted to see her pediatrician or if she’d like to see a gynecologist. After a short discussion she decided on the latter. We proceeded to the day steadily and she looked forward – in her typical sedate way – to the appointment.

You can imagine how finicky and cautious these physicians are with young girls – probably not to scare them. And I respect that, although in our household this stuff is pretty matter-of-fact – and my daughter has not been sexually abused – so the treatment was a bit odd. During the entirety of the examination another employee, a woman, was in attendance. The physician (a good doctor; my own) introduced himself and shook hands with the patient. He then spoke directly to her and asked her why she was there.

“I have two bumps in my chest, and I’d like to know if they’re normal.” Phoenix was a slim little reed in the smallest gown they had, a soft lavender one.

“You’re quite a nine year old,” he said. He asked a few questions and eventually proceeded to an exam – asking her before touching her. You would have thought my daughter was made out of glass, they were so scrupulously careful – but not tentative. They also treated the whole business with seriousness. It was good stuff and I felt a bit… I don’t know, weepy or something.

“No cycles yet, mom?” he asks (this time, to me). “No,” I say.

After a very gentle exam he closes up the robe. “Breast buds,” the practitioner practically mouths at me, with an almost secretive air.

To my daughter, he says, “Your boobies* are coming in. Do you know about periods?” She nods. He continues, “It means in a few years, maybe one or two, you might start your period.”

“This is already happening – at nine?” my daughter asks immediately. The conversation goes from there.

But it suddenly pops in my head this physician has interpreted my relative silence (as my daughter has handled the entire thing just fine), and perhaps common prejudices associated with the knowledge we homeschool (why does he know this? ’cause get what just about every grownup asks every kid upon meeting them? Yeah. What grade they’re in.) I am suddenly wondering if the physician and his assistant think I’m a uber-faith-based homeschooler shelterin’ mama bringing her daughter in with these shameful dirtypillows and we don’t talk narthin’ ’bout periods neither. I mean don’t even think I’m weird for perceiving this. The number one question I get from strangers, regarding homeschooling, revolves around Christinaity – and “sheltered” children (in fact I fielded this exact double-pronged question again, not an hour later, in another setting entirely!).

I am silently mirthful on this thought. “No sir,” I want to say. “You perceive incorrectly. I’m actually a feminazgul radical unschooler whose kids probably know way too much about how the world works, like on the way here we were belting out Carrie Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats’* – and actually we do say words like ‘breasts’ in our house, I’m sure since you have a medical degree you’ve heard the term.”  I am seriously not giving the guy a hard time, really, he did very well (and the whole thing was a hundred percent more awesome than how my parents introduced me to this stuff, which was… oh wait, they didn’t. Assery.). It was just funny.

The physician asks my daughter to call him, or “tell mom”, if anything comes up. He also explains periods in the most euphemistic way but – again, really, it’s fine. I mean think about it, all his caution, he probably wouldn’t want to offend a family who didn’t want to or hadn’t yet discussed this stuff with their kid(s). He’s in a delicate position.

Well anyway, Phoenix was a very proud young lady when we left. Believe it or not, I think she had actually been a tiny bit nervous. Not enough to disrupt her but just – a bit. I was touched. She is one of the most self-possessed kids about stuff like this.

Oh and by the way. We waited an hour between when we got there and when we were seen. Phoenix spied the exam table (she’s seen many such, of course), and asked:

Like A Giant Clam, Waiting To Snap You Up

“What does ‘the Ritter’ do?” She even put “the Ritter” in “air dick quotes” and used a low, serious, voice. Man we started laughing and then we couldn’t stop making jokes. She made the creepy light “eye” look at me. I joked it was like a giant clam that if you sat on it, would snap shut. When the doctor came in, as it happened, the assistant asked Phoenix to sit on THE RITTER (not calling it by its monstrous name of course) and the doctor hurriedly interjected with, “No no, it’s okay, she can stay in her seat.” When he left I leaned over and said to Phoenie in sotto voce, “They hadn’t fed it and they knew it was hungry”. We dissolved into paroxysms.

Seriously, most fun I’ve had in a gynecologist’s.

I should mention some rather awesome stuff happened today. Someone donated to the blog (thank you so, so much J.!) and it was the exact fund I needed to secure a bill that came in today. The landlord sent a crew over to build not only a fence, but fix our outlets – and we now have sink water pressure in the kitchen. This latter, if you’ve been to my house, you know has been a long time coming and has been a comically, I do mean comically small trickle of water since we moved in like a year and a half ago. There was some other really awesome stuff but I’m almost flopping around on the keyboard, I’m so tired. Just: a good day.

And yeah, my daughter is growing up.

As for Nels. He continues to grow tall and impossibly thinner. None of his pants fit because they’re all falling off. Seriously, I would be worried if he didn’t seem so full of energy, eat so well, and deliver “stools… gigantic and [with] no more odor than a hot biscuit.”

And so it goes. #familylife

* “boobies”? Just… No.

** When we sing along we don’t say the phrases “tramp” and “white trash”. But we’re cool with the rest of it. Just so you know.

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much

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.

We decided that we would have a soda / My favorite flavor, cherry red

Today a doctor prescribed me two anti-depressant medications, on low dosages, to begin immediately. I filled the prescriptions (well, the Lexapro was provided as a gratis stack of samples, but – anyway) and I plan to give it a go. The physician had initially described another medication by way of referencing the television ad associated with it and, when I didn’t recognize the ad, describing it in detail – to his own highly-evident amusement. P.S. my husband calls this particular physician “the Pill Catapult”, because he’s happy to prescribe drugs, and really that is what many doctors mostly do, and I knew that going in.

This is only my second (formal and legal) pharmaceutical venture into managing anxiety, depression, and onset insomnia (these days I’m concerned more regarding the former than the latter two). About a year and a half ago I briefly tried Ambien as a sleep aid (suck-tastic side effects, so I stopped). And of course, in the last year I’ve been busy messing about with lots of other avenues: the allergy elimination food plan, alcohol, pot, a host and I do mean host of supplements, various teas, and a rigorous exercise program (and of course, a combination of several of these). Interestingly, the exercise and the alcohol have been the most effective, although hardly problem-solving and in the case of booze, with self-limiting side effects. As it stands today, besides these new pills and a home-blended tea at night and considerable doses Acceptance and good humor, I am also planning on securing a consultation / session for EMDR as soon as possible. Oh, and a new haircut, when I can find someone I can trust to give me the right hint of faux hawk. (¿ideas, gente locale?)

So, by the way, how Acceptance works for me, I’m keeping wide and calm eyes on the path I’m choosing. I’m okay that maybe I’ll look back and wish I’d tried this sooner, I’m okay that maybe I’ll look back and shudder and say, “mistake”. Today I accept this is temporary – because everything is. Today I also accept the gladness I feel for my friends and family and supporters but also, wonderful and strange, a gladness and a sense of surprise and gentleness with regards to my own self. I keep sitting here trying to type what it’s like but it’s eluding me, for now. Some time soon.

Oh and I want to point out, sitting an hour waiting for my doctor, it was pretty fun to have a phone to fuck with.

Sharps. & Gloves.

Sink

Waiting

Eye

After my doctor visit, Phoenix hopped out of the truck and set off to a friends’ for a playdate. I took a slightly diffident Nels to Javier’s International Barber Shop, which ended up being one of those super-fun micro-adventures you wish you could have every day, but they allude us in the pursuit such that we only find them just when it’s right. Javier was a pretty excellent barber – especially in relating to my seven-year old companion – and I saw, for the first time, Nels having fun while getting a haircut. He (Javier) also complimented my Spanish and said I spoke it better than his wife, which gave me a laugh.

Nels + Javier + Pingüinos

Home and Nels joined his sister at their friends’. I got an incredibly rare opportunity to do some cooking by myself, music up loud (Peaches), making cucumber-mint raita and banana pound cake with caramel glaze for tomorrow’s menu, and if I had a slightly less meager (in size) kitchen, well that would have been the only thing to make the whole business better.