i got a man to stick it out, & make a home from a rental house

At the oddest times I suddenly feel like I’m living in a dream. I am loading the washing machine and I suddenly wonder: maybe I will wake up, and our lovely new home will be gone. We will be back in our rental. Nothing was particularly missing, or awry in our old place. But our new home is very, very special to us, and has felt like home from the very beginning.

Now that I’m working for the county a little over half-time, life has a tendency to fly by pretty fast. Today my supervisor asks me to stay late tomorrow, on Election Day – and I tell him, I have to go home and ask the family. It’s unreal to suddenly be working for pay, where there are a hundred (figurative) fires to put out, and not enough time, and every now and then you hear someone say something catty about someone else, which is seriously not something I’ve been around regularly as a homeschooling parent and artisan. And the public comes in and either tries to engage me in idle chit-chat while I’m obviously very busy – or maybe they say something really out of left-field. Or report a changing circumstance in their lives – something heartbreaking or just kind of unimaginable or different than anything I’ve thought about. And there is one issue after another, bam-bam-bam. The hours fly by, and then it’s time to go home!

The cold weather hasn’t set in yet, but the rains have. Yesterday while talking with a friend over coffee, a violent hailstorm of about three minutes’ duration shocked us all. My new house is on a hill, the living room window facing north to my neighbors at a higher elevation. It isn’t exactly an expansive plot of land, and the combination of this closeness and the trees in our neighborhood, help me feel safe, and secure.

Nights, Ralph and the children take our dog for a walk. Tonight three cats followed along. A few moments of quiet, and some time for me to journal. My daughter sits at the kitchen table and completes her homework – now that she’s in college, she’s completing a year of high school math in a quarter’s time. Somehow she’s adjusted to this as smoothly as the rest of us have adjusted. It’s going to take a bit for it to feel real, to feel like a new rhythm – although the old one feels so long ago.

a hot meal for a weary evening

My children are the bright sparks in my life, when things seem to go amiss, to seem dull or muffled. Last night – while my husband and my daughter were deep in their separate studies – my son and I made a simple meal: pasta covered in homemade marinara and golden, bubbling fresh mozzarella – green beans – garlic toast – roasted garbanzo beans – homemade dill pickles. I was tired but Nels chirped alongside me, happy and full of energy. He set the table, and clearly took a great deal of pride in helping dinner along.

I am well aware my children’s experience of this house are on another plane entirely from that of their parents. Nels regularly calls our house his “dream home” and he knows every inch of it – from the two warm attic spaces to the beloved modern kitchen to basement, a basement yesterday he praised high and low for its functionality and usefulness. He is tending a small garden outside and has strong opinions about the landscaping in our very private, very small and lovely backyard. He is quick to give a tour – whether the place is in good shape or not! – to almost anyone, and show off to friends.

My daughter is doing well in her studies, gliding effortlessly into college and digging into hours of homework per night. Today she took herself to soccer practice, came home and played games with her brother, and is finishing up schoolwork as I write. Ralph and I are still flummoxed as to tuition and scholarships: she is too young for many of the academic merit scholarships available, even though she tested so well! Well, there’s a wrench for every nut, as they say.

The beautiful summer has turned into a warm, balmy fall. Our large maple tree is dusting the deck with leaves the color of leather and loam. The days are getting darker and with that change: more introspection, sadness, but also a time of reflection and rest.

Wrapping up in blankets and holding one another a little closer, now and then.

Take Me 2 The River

a bend in the river

Take Me 2 The River
I live somewhere incredible. Only about twenty minutes from my house you find pristine waterways – with no one else there, even in 80-degree weather. It’s like a little bit of Paradise, and I grow fonder every year.

Above? That’s me after our trip. Nels probably has chocolate on his lip. My hair is two shades lighter than when I went in the water at noon! It was hot as Balls.

That said, today’s three-hour river-float down the Wynoochee (yes my lovelies from far far away – we have the best names where I live – especially for rivers!) – was also a lesson in anticipatory terrors. Most of these terrors were experienced last night while planning the trip: the fear I’d select the wrong leg of a river, and we’d end up (best-case scenario) having to squelch a few miles on foot, in our swimwear – or (worst-case scenario) drowning and/or skinned alive by an errant black bear or redneck murderer. I am an Adventurer in very specific ways, sure – but outdoor unknowns that involve the safety of my children? I’m more of a Planner. (or an Obsessive.)

So I did all the planning, and last-night’s worrying. This morning after Ralph and I take a brisk morning walk with our dog, we roll the kids out of bed and pack up five kinds of sunscreen. My husband makes up some food and secures some water, then straps our huge truck-sized inner tubes into the back of my mom’s old pickup.

And I resolutely ignore the silent pleas of my all-time-bro Hutch, who knows we are up to something fabulous. Maybe next time, li’l dude! (so many regrets!)

Finding our base and access points is easy – for the upstream put-in, a friend lets us park at her lovely place. We have the obligatory, run-into-a-super-local who says a bunch of cryptic stuff that makes me think we are going about the whole thing wrong.

Finally, we’re in the river. The water is cold, the sun is hot, and I am still a little worried. I mean we are talking crawdads, leeches, horseflies (seriously!), sunstroke or hypothermia (or ye Shit Gods, both!) if I’ve misjudged the right distance – and fishing hooks hiding in the riverbed! As well as: I am terrified of water that is over two inches deep and not crystal-clear (for obvious reasons).

So: the first forty minutes is a little edgy. For me. The river is about as low as it’s been in about a hundred years (no joke), so floating over the occasional deadhead is a little unnerving. My husband and I are sharing the largest of our tubes when we hit our first rough rapids; he immediately and inadvertently almost drowns my ass with his frantic scramble to avoid a nasty stump and branches snarl. He is apologizing as we are still flying around the bend to our doom and I am laughing uncontrollably at the transformation from placid meander to sudden deathfall, and I am angry at his mistake, and kind of stuck in both those places for a bit.

Ultimately we have a wonderful, trip, and a safe one, Saints be praised. We also met my friend’s donkeys (unbelievably sweet!) –

and after all of this, ran right into town for pizza and Pepsi, which after all that sun and water was more satisfying than can be expressed in words.

It was a beautiful trip, and just the right amount of time out on that river.

Maybe the best memory of the day is showing my daughter how to pull the straps down the swim top, to avoid strap tan lines. Maybe the best memory is knowing my kids will remember our trip the rest of their lives.

Summer? It’s a little different.

More, please.

On Like Donkey Kong

Fathers Day 2015

healthy & hale

Today the children and I wrap a few presents for their father, and tidy the house for his return. He’s out meeting with someone he’s mentoring. Once a week, even with his schedule, he makes this time. I’m impressed by him. As always.

He shares the dark chocolate bar in his gift, with the children. They adore him.

Fathers Day 2015
Another beautiful sunny day – with that crisp bite of beachy air that I frankly am not willing to live without. I bake honey cornbread, first melting a stick of butter in the cast iron, and whipping the batter into a lightness. Yogurt and coconut flour additions: nutrition, growing children. I simmer beans on the stove while I instruct my daughter in dressing roasted chiles. We’ve an antiquated pressure cooker and can go from dried beans to tender in forty minutes – but I like the old-fashioned way, when I have the foresight.

My body is fatigued, more so that seems reasonable. I am continually amazed at the energy of my children – and it must be said, my husband as well. A few errands in the day, out to a volunteer gig this evening, then home for dinner where I feel wasted. I lie on the couch and, with my son, watch a full video game walkthrough – an impressionist, creepy 2D puzzle-play.

Evening falls outside and the house seems to settle. There comes a point when we know the work of the day is done. My daughter comes in and puts her arms conspiratorially around my waist – she asks if we can host her beau at our house for the day, tomorrow. I am on a one-day-at-a-time program: somehow finding the means, the methods, to care for my family (and others) as we await payday. There is a curious comfort to such methods; life is simpler. I don’t have the burden of making plans, and can set aside these ambitions.

Darkness now, in earnest. The evening rituals of hot showers; time for vitamins, brushing teeth. A last glass of water, perhaps. I’ve been having nightmares, small bouts of terror that wake me minutes after I fall asleep. For many months I’d been spared these episodes – but the last two weeks, I am terrorized more nights than not. My husband has noticed and asks: What’s going on? But I tell him: the whole point, is that my conscious thought can’t figure it out. I endure these unpleasant episodes as best I can. I am nothing – if not patient.

darkling / darling

Some days the rituals that keep me sane, and let me fall asleep in the late hours, are simple and few: my evening journal entry. My nightly gratitude meditation. Making sure the kitchen is tidy as night falls.

And then tonight: a walk in the gloaming with the children, and Ralph, and our dog. Whatever we talk about, sublime or mundane, and whether Ralph and I get to talk or are interrupted by our children (tonight’s lively discussion: what film elements make a film a “Western”?), just being out in the night air and in their presence is immensely grounding. We’ve had these wonderfully beachy fogs lately, bringing a chill to the air that is nevertheless alive with the promise of spring and summer.

Daily I give up somehow trying to keep up with the children – their interests, their growth, their projects, their social lives. Not so long ago I was their everything and knew what they did, and what they thought, and who they saw. Now they fly back to me, little fledglings to the nest, and tell me their every thought. Yet I still try to grasp and to wrest control of it all, to be the one who is calling the shots, instead of being carried along.

It isn’t true that it is only infants who seek out their mother’s breast. My children are half-grown and yet in my presence they are forever coming close, putting their arms up – or merely out – to hold me. Kissing me, wrapping their bodies around mine, or tangling their legs between my ankles on the couch, or in bed. If anything the physical intimacy is the same as it has been since they were very small. I am humbled to find I did not create this exactly, nor earn it, it is simply the nature of things, time flying by as it must.

We reach the end of the kids’ first year together in school. Their grades are exemplary, their rmemories are many, and happy. They are well-regarded by peers and staff at the school. One and a half band concerts left, and we will be free of the school schedule for some weeks. And I will have my babies back, if on such terms as remain unfamiliar to me.

Portland Trip

a trip to Portland, Oregon

I’ve had a hospital visit, a couple chest x-rays, and a couple roadtrips since I last wrote here.

Portland Trip

Nels dressed up for the cats at Purringtons Cat Lounge. Yes, that’s a real thing. Above: Owen. Owen was a bit of a trouble-maker – but handsome, and affectionate.

Portland Trip

Emily with Rephil. Rephil was not shy about straight-up clinging to a lap. Anyone’s lap, really. A true sweetie!

Portland Trip

Phee, looking super-posh. <3

Portland Trip

Portland Trip

After the cats: a soak at the Kennedy School.

Portland Trip

Then dinner at Nicholas Restaurant on Broadway. Pictured above: Phee’s lamb kebab.

***

Now and then the cloud of depression lifts. It is such an obvious difference – like clouds parting for sunshine. I am wise enough to really appreciate my good-mental-health days fully – to savor them. Who knows how I will feel tomorrow!

Today I started sewing after a long hiatus. I have an ambitious project I’m debuting in spring, and I’m making the preparations now. Winter was a little rough – first, the tail-end of my busy season, then an unsavory experience or two.

One good thing about getting older – for me, anyway – is having a bit of perspective. I don’t take my time, talents, or resources for granted. I’m glad to have had a chance to put in some time designing and sewing tonight.

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

something beautiful that [I] can find

Today was my 38th birthday. I took a picture first thing: before shower, before makeup, before dressing – before my first cup of coffee, even. 

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

I had a wonderful day out with family and friends. I woke to a few gifts in the post – a large parcel of treats, and a package of yummy socks. My good friend E. picked me up and we headed to Olympia for this and that. While there, Nels and I each got a haircut – he made quite a change!

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

We shopped, ate food, picked up a few things, and headed back to town to reunite with the family.

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

 After we got into town, I ran off to the yoga studio and sweated it up pretty profusely on the mat – nursing my injured shoulder all the while, of course.

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

 Dinner at the local Rediviva – where the chef made me something special. More flowers, and a few moments with friends and my mother.

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

 My mom made a homemade cake – a white cake with fresh berries. She made separate cupcakes for the restaurant workers too. Because that’s how she rolls.

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

 I don’t have a picture of this – but Ralph found and paid a violinist to serenade me with “Happy Birthday”. Every year my husband finds a way to surprise me, and every time it’s something very special. It occurs to me now that he is providing a wonderful example for our children. I hope I am doing the same.

My 38th Birthday: February 11, 2015

 Home again – finally – and I snap a picture of Phoenix, who researched how to tie a sarong, so she could dress up for me this evening. Of all the wonderful, amazing gestures and gifts today this was the most unexpected. She is a lovely lass and as you can see – I am very grateful.

 Flowers from a friend, flowers from my husband, gifts in the post: chocolate and clothing and candy and sweets.

My house is full of gifts, and warmth.

My body, tired from this evening’s yoga. My cough is a bit deeper and I look forward to rest.

I am, as always, quite grateful for the love I receive on my birthday. The loving generosity of family and friends is always humbling, and always wonderful.

Namaste.

 

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

so cal

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Our porch as we depart. I thought our raggedy-ass scene and wanton cat-house business might be made the funnier when contrasted with the glamorous lifestyle we were hours away from dabbling in. As it turned out, I was right.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Grey and a little clammy; we flee Aberdeen!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

I’m unsure if anyone has appreciated a flight more than Nels. He was delighted. Phee acts like a pro. She’s flown about three times as often as he has though.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Crater Lake. When I’m in a car, I read and re-read the map. On a flight, I survey the terrain. Stunning – and humbling.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

OK seriously, airline-that-shall-not-be-named – y’all should know better than to talk up your coffee on a plane heading out of Portland, Oregon. There’s nothing you can do to compete!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Um, that’s more like it? In-N-Out Burger. Peerless restaurant. Last time I was in CA we had a death in the family but you bet we made time to get here.
Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

#swerg #swergittySwergSwerg

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

#noFilter

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

One of about three massive pool attractions at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. The most lush accommodations I’ve yet had the privilege to experience.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Night-swimming right away. Of course.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

We met my mom out for dinner. This place was like a massive warehouse of seafood. You know that Simpsons episode where Burns dredges the entire seafloor to make “Li’l Lisa Slurry”? This place was like that!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Ralph made a friend!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Phoenix impressed us with her LOVE ACUMEN

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015
Morning: two beds, many blankets, sleeping children. Perfect day outside. Time to swim!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Feeding the Hyatt’s koi. The biggest I’ve seen. Kind of horrible in their way.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Breakfast: the family loved this place – a waffle-oriented scene. But me? I needed something more

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

TACO-RIFFIC
Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Phee – another swim.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Doppio Zero. The owner loved his product and the family there was entirely sweet. Also: the best cannoli I’ve ever, ever tasted:

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

At my grandparents’ place on Saturday night: at the bonfire. I was pleased my children – despite not knowing many of their relatives, and the guests, who were there – were not too shy to pick up a musical instrument or two and do some playing.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

At the hotel, after yet another swim! My only regret on the trip: a room service meal. I wasn’t hungry enough for it and it was awfully expensive. Delicious, though!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Sunday morning: farewell to my grandparents’ place. Forever. That’s a little rough.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

 This pic: somewhere in between lunch (with my mother) and our trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015(Nels, a li’l scared to pet the rays)

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

 

For some reason, in the lorikeet aviary I was the only person graced with a bird on her shoulder. My smile is one of pure delight!

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

Finally: almost home. And – sadly, some li’l truckers had to take a break:Huntington Beach, CA, January/February 2015

VAMPIRES n shit

“just a bunch of stuff that happened”

Yoga. Tonight on the floor, on my mat, my mind wanders. I think of a cigarette. Then I think how funny it would be if I just calmly lit up in class. There are so many people here on the floor we have to be careful not to touch one another. Heavens no!

Smoky aspirations aside (I’ve been Quit over a year and a half!), my body can go deeper into yin now that I’ve been practicing. The body feels great; but it is unpleasant to have my face on the mat. I feel panic that I can’t breathe. I return to the breath and tell myself, I’m not going to die here. Mental discipline. I suppose.

So: life is busy.

VAMPIRES n shit

I forgot to tell you – I’m watching a vampire movie every day this month. Almost all of them are those I haven’t seen: the above-pictured is one I have, years ago. Had to get a DVD and everything!

Puppy Timez

 Puppy Times. Not our puppy! Oh my gosh. This puppy was built like a cube. It doesn’t even have a job!

Troublez

So this is what I come home to at night. Nels says Herbert Pocket has “intelligent” eyes. What do you think?

Phoenix

Soccer season is about halfway through. I don’t know what I’m going to do about Saturday’s game; I have about four places I’m supposed to be at once.

A Shared Meal

Friends joined us for a movie. And some taco dip. And taco soup. It’s fall, so it’s time for tacos. (It was also time for tacos during spring, summer, and will be in winter too).

SQUATCHIN'

Working on a pretty awesome project! Unveiling in two days.

Just Before A Walk

The kids are rocking it at school – and come home with energy to spare. I miss them

– but it’s liveable.

 

“This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.”

My Father, Mother & I - c. 1978

I miss my father.

If you’ve mourned the loss of a beloved one, you know that the “missing” part never goes away. It changes. You are changed, from having loved and lost. The pain resurfaces in pangs now and then. It is like this sweet ache. It almost feels good because it is a reminder how very alive I am. If that makes sense.

I grieved for my father in a healthy way. I am not angry he is gone. I am not one of those “fuck cancer” people. This has never resonated with me. For one thing, cancer gave me the opportunity to practice mindfulness, and to be glad for what I had while I had it, and to appreciate someone with my very soul. I had eight wonderful years to know my dad was dying. We are all dying; but rarely do we truly appreciate the implications of this fact.

I used to visit him during his chemo. I would bring him a milkshake, because he had trouble keeping weight on, and one thing he’d always consume was a chocolate shake. One time I went out of my way to find some protein powder to mix in. I somehow screwed it up and it wouldn’t dissolve. My dad took a sip out the straw and it was powder. He was so pissy. It gives me joy to think about it (although I felt bad for making a mistake). Just how pissy he was.

My father’s cancer was a very long journey with many rough spots. Kind of like life. I’ve this friend – she also died within the last year – very dear, a wonderful friend. She was hardcore and awesome and had survived SO MANY things. She used to say, “At its best, life’s a bitch.”

I would have liked more time with my father. He occupied an incredibly important place in my life. He’s one of the few people whose respect I wanted to have. Even so, I learned a healthy bit of detachment before he left. He was just a human being. He could be a real turd at times. He made me laugh. He gave me a great deal of comfort.

My father gave me many gifts. He was an agnostic, but he told Buddhist tales and koans and it is thanks to his influence I am a Buddhist today, which gives me so much joy.

My dad was more beloved to me, is more beloved, than I can express. I am not only grateful he raised me along with my mother, I am grateful that I liked him so much and that he was so gentle. My life was not to be a gentle one, but I always knew something better was possible. He was like a beacon in the night as he was very kind – at least he had become kind by the time he had children. Sometimes I think the compassion I have, whatever there is of it, has a lot of its root in my father.

Rest in peace, Dad. I miss you so!

My Father