mint, turmeric, saffron, cardamon, ginger, garlic…

Today when I wake I know I’m going to do my yoga, drink my coffee. Hem a linen dress with a blind stitch. Press the dress and hang it up, to deliver to a client in a couple days. Wait for my children to wake and then take them out to pizza.

It’s my oldest’s sixteenth birthday.

In the evening we travel to an event, the LGBTQ+ safe space, a crafting night. I bring embroidery supplies and work on a small project. Many other young people are there. Beeps doesn’t always fit in; they are friendly, intelligent, and well-spoken but they have a preternatural calm and a presence that others find intimidating. I am not nearly as calm as Beeps but I know what it’s like to be considered intimidating. People assume you don’t need the kind of care, the kind of asking-after. They assume you don’t need them to walk over and say Hello.

But someone does walk over and sit with us and we do handwork and we talk. I am embroidering a little goth skull for a friend in Tennessee. Deep deep deep purple, and a silvery-blue, and a lavender. Cotton floss.

And when I get home I will be making chick’n biryani, because I know (even though I haven’t made it before), it will be loved by my children. Earlier in the day I spent the last 19 dollars to my name this week on the supplies – well 12 dollars on the vegetables and herbs as I had to spend seven on medicine for my mother, who called from her house and asked. I have gas in my car and dried beans and rice at home and a day or two to hopefully get paid by a client and so I’m cheerful enough.

Home and my partner has chopped up the herbs and spices and peeled the potatoes. This is what I love – alchemy, he and I together. I have the confidence the dish will taste perfect – and it does.

My children lay on me when they can – on the couch, in my bed before I sleep. They still need so much attention; they still crave touch. It can be comedic; if either child sees Ralph and I embrace, they move into the middle. They’ve done this since they were very little and they do it now. I am pleased because I am a special person in their hearts; they also need these kinds of things from their father but from no one else, do they trust like this. I am so glad every day we get to earn their trust again, and again.

We have a special birthday cake and a few gifts, lined up for Sunday when my mother comes over. I ordered a cake in a cheerful blue; I will make another special meal. Another trip around the sun, for my glorious firstborn!

Nels, Brushing Teeth (13)

from morning until night!

It is a beautiful life.Nels, Brushing Teeth (13)
My basement studio space is cold, super cold, and there’s no real getting around that. I bundle up as best I can but I work long enough hours that by the end of the day my fingers are stiff and I’ve got a chill set in my bones. I come back upstairs and warm up and soon enough I’m in the hot shower for the evening.

My studio time is currently split about evenly between work for clients, pieces for the family, and gifts. Every day I feel so much gratitude this is my reality: spinning gold out of straw, able to create anything I need to. Inside a jacket: rayon challis and faux fur. Underlined (invisible!) in an ugly flannel that came from I-can’t-remember-where:

Coat With Assymetrical Snap Closure, Faux Fur Trim, Fully Lined

Just out the door this week: a dress with sweetheart top and semi-sheer overskirt – taffeta, organza, mesh, and velvet ribbon.

Organza Overskirt with Velvet Ribbon

Playing with topstitch settings, to get it just right. I love the chunky look of proper topstitching thread:

Topstitching Practice

And of course, sweet little dates with each family member (or all three!) This next week is, mercifully, the last week of the quarter: Phee will only have two remaining before they earn their AA degree. This last week Nels and I accompanied Ralph and Phee to drop them off for German class, and he and I had a lovely date on the town. Our one car is officially dead, and the other needs brakes. It’s worrisome, but I try not to worry.

Nels, A Date

Seitan

for tomorrow’s repast

Seitan

Today in the kitchen: making up a batch of seitan. Blending spices and miso and tofu and vital wheat gluten; kneading and pressing. Baking while heating the spicy, redolent broth to simmer with. Vegan cooking somehow makes me so profoundly happy it is almost impossible to describe. It seems we spend less, eat better, and enjoy everything so much more.

Upon waking, my 13 year old son opens his eyes and says, “What is that unbelievably good smell?” I am transported back to the days when the children were littles and I wasn’t sewing as much (and certainly not as a business owner) and I cooked so much more than I do today. Today, these days I am overworked and jumpy and not quite as able to walk through my kitchen chopping and sauteing and washing up with fragrant, thick soap suds.

In the studio I watch a lesson on sewing with organdy and organza, slowly adding to my repertoire of skills. I print out a template for costume sewing. Answer an email and snap a photo for a potential client. Upstairs again and switch off the hot broth pot and set aside; making a plan for tomorrow. To the grocery store for seltzer water, celery and an onion, for kombucha for Ralph and gallon ziploc bags for freezing. Another fall day with those quiet responsibilities wherein life passes in measured tread.

some chocolate crisps, a packet of bamboo knitting needles, et cetera

We are travelling in the Jimmy, east on the rain-soaked little highway into Olympia, to the community college where Beeps takes their German class. Ralph quizzes our oldest child and they do some verb conjugation together; they are taking the class together two nights a week. Nels is cheerful as well; he is planning on hitting the Mario Odyssey demo at Target. He worked for, saved up for, and pre-ordered the game as soon as it was available; these last few weeks he has been reading up and watching videos and is quite the expert.

My children are still so incredibly demonstrative and sweet (I get to define the word “demonstrative” to one of them, today at lunch). Phoenix seeks me out and gently hugs me and kisses me every day first thing. Today they say, their voice muffled in my hair as they hold me close: “You smell good. Like a jellybean.” Interestingly Nels is a bit more standoffish than he has been as a child but please understand Nels’ “standoffish” is another child’s “wildly and intensely clingy”, as every day he hugs, kisses, asks brazenly for snuggles, holds my hand and kisses my face in public. I didn’t think I’d have children that were so lovely and kind to me and so touchy-feely, but I am not complaining at all.

Nels and I share a dish at the Thai restaurant while Ralph and Phoenix sit in on their test; sticky rice and golden sesame tofu and fragrant vegetables in a lemongrass and ginger reduction. Nels is absolutely the kindest and sweetest boy and he is a pleasure to spend time with. As night is falling outside I feel that inexplicable sense of panic; I have lived with it for more years than I can remember, I can’t remember a time I didn’t live with it. Today I manage through prayer and meditation and, instead of drugs or alcohol, the anesthetizing effects of a parlor room mystery on telly.

After finding Nels a demo at the local game shop – with an enthusiastic and sweet employee chatting through the experience – the drive home is cozy. We are loaded up with special and nutritious snacks for Phee’s class trip to Mt. St. Helens tomorrow, for Geology. My spirits have lifted just a bit; the thought of our home, my bed, our kitties waiting for us. And my son’s happy chatter, “I am so excited!” and “I am so happy!” he keeps telling us. Truly a gift, to know your child is well and happy, especially a gift in the dark evenings like this.

I am not a single mom

I am not a “single mom” when Ralph leaves for a weekend or a week, on a conference or business trip. A single mom has to do all this shit without support on the daily. Me, I have a few days of focus and a bit of adrenaline and anyway, I could put a thing or two on the back burner if I need to.

That said, I do have to focus as it’s all on me. Up in the morning and the kitties need to be fed; Herbert Pocket does this adorable thing where when we take the lid of the cat food bin, she pops her little paws on the ledge and inspects the level of cat food inside. I get to take the dog outside on his walks, and make sure he’s fed and has enough water. I scritch him a little extra besides; as hard as I worked on washing him yesterday his fur is so thick and he could use another combing and bath! Maybe in a day or two.

Phoenix tells me tonight, after I paint their nails (black, for Halloween!) – “Thank you for getting me pizza this morning. That was the sweetest thing to wake up to.” While it is certainly true that teens can fend or even cook for themselves, I still feel it’s my responsibility as a parent to try to do a little of that work for them. 

Today also I took a bit of cake down to the recovery Club I frequent, right before I pick up the pizza. I slice the slab into two-bite size morsels and arranged them on a large platter. When I cook at the Club, or prep food, men swarm around. Attention; they need attention. “I’ll have a hot dog,” a young man toting a toddler instructs me – mistaking me for the kitchen worker that’s there during limited hours. I explain the situation to him: I’m not a member of the Club and the kitchen isn’t open at th emoment. Other fellows mill around, wanting to tell me about their job (or lack thereof) or just say Hi or whatever. But this is one place that’s good to leave food, because people are always coming through hungry, some off the street. When I first got sober I cooked on the regular because I felt desperate, and grateful, and wanted to give something to the group. And one day a fellow called me, “That chick that always brings food,” and I thought, Well that’s enough of that for now. That particular fellow is very very ill now and every time I see him I am not sure if I’ll see him again.

Tonight, incredibly, for dinner I decide to give a brown rice recipe a try: a (vegan) cheesy broccoli brown rice bake. I had enough brown rice growing up in the bus, I took a solid thirty-year hiatus, but I’m ready to try again. This evening I just know it will turn out wonderfully, and it does – accompanying the bean burritos and the cole slaw Ralph provides. I love peeling off the foil from a hot casserole and letting it sit just five minutes before spooning it out. I love watching how happy people are for hot food – my family yes, and a guest over for dinner.

Ralph is home and after my shower he comes to bed and I put my head on his chest and can feel my hair, down and brushed out, spill across his shoulder. He is warm and strong and feels exactly like home to me. And I know he’s too tired to pay me much mind by now, but my own mind is still a ways from being sleepy. I have had three days’ of hard work and I have some things to worry about besides. So after we say goodnight the pets gather round; two kitties flank me in the bed and I am still up just a little longer, a little deeper into the night before I sink back to sleep.

Watermelon Lime Punch

“I am going to need to cut power”, and other delightful interludes at 11:30 PM on a weeknight

I’m standing at the kitchen counter and it’s almost midnight and I take a bite of the sliced watermelon from the platter. I’m halfway through putting a few things away, and I’m overwhelmed because my husband is tearing apart the ceiling in my studio. At this hour. It has to be done, not that I’ll mention names as to what dog let his bladder loose on our living room floor, except his name is Hutch.

The dog doesn’t piss in the house so that means maybe something is wrong, so I get to think about that too. We’re behind on our vet bill as-is, to the tune of hundreds.

And tonight I get to wrangle two teenage boys into their sleepover needs, setting up a bed on the floor, and try to make meaningful contact with my eldest who has been gaming most the day. I think my husband is stressed about the house/dog thing so I get to think about that.

But now, I just lean on the counter and I have this slice of watermelon. I am struck by the fact that Ralph and I used to be up all hours on the regular when the kids were babies. Now we get another night like that. And while he’s down there hopefully not electrocuting or injuring himself, I make up the bed and put up some candles and a bit of lime oil in the diffuser and put on some Beach House and try to make things just a little pleasant, a little time stolen together if possible.

Watermelon Lime Punch

Son, 13

Mane
Lurve

custom pajamas

the lap of luxury

“You got me out of bed so we could pick up Thai food – so you wouldn’t have to leave the car!”

This is true. I mean – I’m in my PJs and knock-off Uggs and my hair is covered but I don’t think I have makeup on? See, I am okay with walking from the car to my house, but not so much standing outside, in public, waiting for food.

“Yes, Nels. You told me to be honest, I’m being honest.” It’s the last day I can get takeout here, before the restaurant takes a month’s hiatus.

“You made me get up and get going early!”

“Nels… it’s TWO-THIRTY PM.

This child. 

My eldest is on their spring break after a full quarter. They sleep all kinds of hours, on a lopsided schedule. So my job mostly consists of trying to feed them, cuddling them, taking them on little road trips, reminding them to do a few chores, and maybe buying them little treats now and then.

My son though, that’s another story. He is up late with me, then sleeps in. He is my little shadow, as he’s been his whole life; if I’m still up and working he’s next to me, pressed up against my side and playing on his Wii U. If I’m in bed watching something he’s snuggled on my right, trying not to wake his father, whispering in his gorgeously harsh voice – sometimes on topic with what we’re watching, sometimes telling me of the worlds he and his friends have created, whether online or in the backyard. Then up to bed into his bed tent where he listens to music and puts on a cheerful set of lights.

He turns thirteen in a few days. His father and I are working hard to find him the video console he wants. I’ve got a few other gifts secured. I’m taking him and his buddies swimming, and then for pizza, and a movie.

Maybe there’s nothing more I like than those special things for my kids.

The basement studio is finally warming up; I am sewing, making clothes for babies, and children, and clients. Today, out the door: a pair of custom pajamas and a stripey hat.

Stripes cheer me up. Ready for spring.

custom pajamas
double gauze
chullo hat

beans

lemon-roasted garbanzo beans

This is one of my favorite snacks of all time! I have been known to make a midnight sandwich by simply stuffing these in a roll and devouring it! Doubltess some will like these hot, but I prefer them room temperature or cold. You are aiming for almost-overdone. These are also really great with a veggie tray, alongside a vegan ranch dip!

2 cans garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons olive oli
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon tamari
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, chili powder, salt, and garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450°F. Drain the cans of garbanzo beans and save the liquid (this liquid is aquafaba, and it is the most magic baking and cooking ingredient).

Next, rinse the beans so they’re easy to handle. Sit down with a friend or your kids and de-hull each bean, setting the hulls aside for compost or the garbage. It is easy to de-hull – simply gently squeeze the pointy end of the bean and the hull slides off. Every bean has a hull, even if it doesn’t look like it! De-hulling two cans takes a few minutes, and there are shortcuts to be found. But I’ve never found a shortcut I liked as much as doing each bean by hand.

The good news is, you’re almost done!

Drizzle the oil on the beans. Place in the oven, single layer in a cookie pan, and roast about thirty minutes. About halfway through roasting, combine the lemon juice, tamari, and spices; add to the pan, stirring well.

Continue roasting. You have to really check the beans out. One minute they’ll be underdone and then next, overdone! But even a little overdone is better than under, in my opinion.

Enjoy!

the most amazing business in the world

Driving home I’m sad. It’s gorgeous out. And I’d like to feel better. I get tired of all the hate in the world, all the people who are unhappy and willing to splash it around at leisure. Today I got hit with some splatter, let’s just say. Someone hurting I suppose, who elected to be nasty.

My mind touches on happy memories form the last 24. A stripey kitty with white socks, running across the street. I’ve never lived with a stripey kitty with white socks (although I hosted one briefly, this summer). Maybe that can happen someday. 

The other day, at breakfast – Nels exclaims happily, and points out the window. “Mom, come look! You will like it!”

I come look. It’s an inchworm, a little yellow guy about an inch and a half. He’s racing along the railing of our deck. Yes, I do like it. I step out to take a picture.

Nels has been bringing me inchworms because he knows they make me happy. A recent specimen was only about three millimeters long. They are always so busy and earnest and they move so quickly. We only examine them moments before my son takes the back, always back to where they came from.

***

Yesterday my son comes alongside me as I am fooling with some noodles, straining them in the sink. Making a lunch.

“Did dad tell you I tripped on some glass?” he asks, by way of conversation.
 
“No. Are you okay?”
 
“Yeah. Just a really deep cut,” he says nonchalantly, showing me a shiny new bandaid in the flesh of his palm.

A really deep cut!

 
“I keep wondering if they’re glass in my hand. I keep pressing on it.”
My children are teenagers – well, almost, in Nels’ case – but they retain that childlike nature, a positivity and helpfulness, that makes them a heck of a lot better company than lots of grownups. My daughter rescues a small spider that falls in the washing machine. She draws a sketch for a dear friend. She cooks for herself – tater tots, half of her repetoire!
 
She asks me to make her some menswear-style clothing – she wants to dress “butch” this fall. Ask and ye shall receive!
Working in the studio until late. Time to take a hot shower and get to bed. Meeting with a new client tomorrow: altering a bridesmaid’s dress. Grocery money for my little ones. Not so little now. But still my little chicks, under the wing.

sharing space

When I wake, I pull up my phone and read for a bit. The room is cool and dark but I can tell it will be warm out today. Another day I will take care of dinner, so when Ralph comes home he can work on refinishing the deck.

But this is for later. I am still in bed. My son wakes and pulls himself close to me. After a bit he turns over and nestles up against me, the little spoon. His skin is smooth and brown, cream in coffee. I stroke his back a bit and pull him close, put my face in his hair. “I love you so much,” he whispers.

I make up a lunch, later, before I retire to my studio to sew. I soak rice noodles and whisk together a sauce; minced ginger, shoyu, tahini, peanut butter, and sesame oil. Carrots, green peas. A hot pan and seared tofu in sesame oil.

My daughter is in the shower; Nels and I sit down with our bowls of noodles, and garlic chili sauce. He is exclaiming in wonder how delicious the food is, and how quickly I cooked it. I think about how I cooked for the family for the first ten years of family life; my husband has been doing most of the cooking the last four years. Funny though, you don’t really forget, when you have that much experience.

The sun streams through the windows; the kitties are more or less content. Herbert Pocket sleeps curled up around the hibiscus trunk, her body fitting perfectly in the earthenware pot. The children take the dog for a walk; Phoenix hangs towels and puts away laundry, before padding off upstairs to draw, as she is wont to do.

Downstairs where I work, little spiders come to visit, and I carefully move them aside. The garage door is open and I ask after the young neighbor next door. He comes inside and sits with me and we talk: school (he’s at high school this year), siblings, Halloween. 

The companionship of kitties, of children, of little baby spiders. It’s no wonder I have been feeling rather well lately.