This Baby Was Grouchy

an extra baby just for a minute

This Baby Was Grouchy

omg baby looks sad here but she really was OK – promise!

So a year ago last night, I helped my friend through a dark time in the ER. I thought a lot that night about how wonderful a gift sobriety is. Tonight things haven’t changed on that account:

When I got sober, I worried about some things… I worried there wouldn’t be joy in my life, that my life would be like this dry diet (or at least, what I imagine a diet is like) of “good habits”. I truly worried that I’d be bored, or boring. And I definitely thought I’d miss drinking.

 

Of the one hundred and one amazing and incredible and unexpected things that have happened to me the years I’ve been sober, not one of those worries has come to fruition. My life isn’t very boring. It doesn’t go according to my plans either.

 

I didn’t think tonight I’d find myself spending my set-aside rent money on the food and alcohol she needs to live. Two cases of skunky beer. Coors Light! I enjoy carrying the cases though. They feel substantial. Medicine they are!

 

Cans of tinned soup, packets of Chinese pork, fresh fruit, corn chips.

Today was a good day. I was home with my children, and I cared for a handful of other people. I let my husband hold me. I made a delicious dinner.

I got to be me, and like me.

So, that’s a pretty good gig.

Cracker Bros.

Cracker Bros.

Cracker Bros.

Phee + Pocket 

less blood on the pavement than you see this moment in my glass

Today right as I stepped out the morning’s shower I thought, My writing is in the rubbish bin. Easy to think about giving up, now that the spark is gone, a flame so long dormant one fears stoking at cold ash. I don’t write as much as I did and when I do, it’s different than it used to be.

Perhaps it’s that I hold too many confidences. To write in any detail would be insensitive, or even reckless. A friend flees a fight; her man has laid hands on her. She stands in my arms and shakes while I squeeze her tight. Another friend teeters on suicide; her text sounds “off” so I call her, and we talk. She lives another day, because something inside her wants to prevail. Another friend calls; she is angry. She dissolves into tears. I am not frightened of her pain and anger, because I know these are the paths we stumble on as we find a deeper truth. I’m honored to be asked to share a few steps along the way.

Another friend, sober for about five years who’d started “controlled” drinking this summer, has found a new meaning of ruin. Shortly after last Monday’s flood, he is detained for a hit-and-run, and a DUI. He stays in jail; his friends escort him to the local Detoxification And Stabilization facility. He can barely walk.

So: almost 9 PM and I wave to him tonight, as he and the rest of the treatment center clients have a smoke outside in the cold streetlamps. He stares back at me, dazed, a ragged bloom rooted to the earth, perhaps forgotten by almost every person on the planet this moment

Except

at least

One.

That’s all – you know, just in the last couple days.

My son is growing, a half inch a month, at least; I can tell when it’s happening. He devours food indiscriminately; he sleeps twelve hours at a stretch if allowed. His features are less boy-like and not quite a man: a sprite, a changeling. His feet are beautiful and strong and he rests them on my legs and gives me a massage. He’s been attending yoga with me; his young body simply folding in half when required, and wondering at all these grownups who have to work at it.

Our weather, after the flood, changed for the better: cold crisp days and sunlight, an air fine like pine needles. A friend tells me: she say something about Spring, and I realize, Spring will happen again!

And now: the house moves to settle. My daughter runs the last of the hot water to wash her face. My husband and his fine well-built body, in our bed, a candle and low light. I am thinking to myself that when it comes to my writing, it is important I am patient, it is important I persevere. It is important that upon each point I try to tell you exactly how it is. Not much else really matters. I learned long ago that my words can make a difference, and can bring hope to others even when I merely record minutiae, when I try to tell you what it’s like – hot water in a stainless steel basin, and the sound of the washing machine, and the cats settled in and the dog’s feet skittering in his sleep as he rests at his feet, on an old blanket.

May you find that peace, and comfort. May you deeply know the joy of still being here; of still feeling the earth by hand or foot, by the cheek against the pillow. Gravity holds you there and won’t let you go.

Cloned Basketweave Coat

Cloned Basketweave Coat

Photos of gifts and sewn items trickling in, now that Christmas is here and photos can go public. A while back a friend in the UK sent me her coat to clone. She needed it upgraded, size-wise. We talked about fabrics and she chose a beautiful basketweave from Mood Fabrics. I chose a champagne-colored lining, a pattern for a coat base, and off we went!

Cloned Basketweave Coat

 The new fabric (left) was quite a bit heavier than the original garment. The bulkier fabric made a very different result when it came to the gathers and freeform pleats. (Well. Very different to me, but most people probably wouldn’t notice!)

Sizing up a rather complex garment was no picnic, either! But things seemed to turn out beautifully in the end. Collar:

Cloned Basketweave Coat

Front pockets: the original garment had these very small in-seam pockets – just big enough for a ladyhand. The pockets were also located in a pleated area and are rather hidden. I absolutely loved the look of the ecru satin with the shell fabric.

Cloned Basketweave Coat

Hem and lining:Cloned Basketweave Coat

I sent over the parcel a few days ago; upon receipt yesterday, my friend had to pay £38 in VAT. I’ve sent many things overseas and that’s the first time that’s happened – or at least, that someone told me about it.

Finishing the coat meant – another coat! (for a friend: photos pending), and my Christmas gifts for Ralph and the two kids. As per usual my Christmas was full of a great deal of creative exploits!

no family is safe when I sashay!

I’m up before the children – three, in all – and I have those few minutes after my husband leaves for work, and before anyone else joins me. I shower, and dress. No makeup but a little lipstick – hair back in a slouch cap. Dishes, and laundry, and tidying up some tailoring work as we’ll be expecting company throughout the day.

Now I wake up the children: first, my son, who is frightened over the vaccination he’s set to receive this morning. Then, the girls: my daughter and the kids’ friend C. We’ve got to hit two doctor’s appointments back-to-back. We’ll be doing that before we get a meal out together.

It’s rainy out but I have a little coffee in my Nalgene bottle, and my warm scarf. The kids are cheerful company. Phoenix is a young woman now and would no more skip a morning shower than I. Her hair is wet; her face dear freckled face snubbed with a little powder. At the doctor’s, she finds some women’s magazine – Jane or Marie Claire or something – while the other young girl finds a Highlights.

People in the office, and later running errands – so many seem so unhappy. Irritable at those minor delays that happen everywhere. At the taquería working class men look me up and down as I ferry drinks and napkins and salsa to the table. I eat slowly, checking my phone. Enjoying that first meal of the day. I eat until I’m satisfied. And now: I must get us home. Drop one child off, receive another. Put together a few Christmas gifts.

It’s cold and rainy; my car is giving me fits. Tomorrow is payday so tonight I can write a check for our dinner, and for Christmas Eve dinner. My husband is tired – as tired as I. My knees, my neck ache. My son runs through the house, first acting out every song in “Jesus Christ Superstar” (he’s still quite fixated); later, in a pair of neon green boys’ briefs that match the garish bandaid on his thigh – his vaccination site.

The rain, the curious meow of kitties needing love. Keeps me company as the house falls more and more still.

Movie Date

i titter & coo / like i’m a cartoon / i congratulate you / as i leave the room

We’re in a group of about thirteen people all watching a film – and next to me my son sits in his white fur cap, content as possible. I watch him as he eats popcorn and tidily drinks from a small can of Sprite soda. His elven profile tears at my heart. I am rendered entirely helpless at how much I love him, and his sister, how they are my everything life and limb and body.

Today I dug into rent money to take my children – and two others – to the movie, and then for pizza dinner. I popped popcorn and hit the drugstore candy aisle and all that stuff because I will work for it, to give them a decent memory on their Winter vacations from school. All that work to try to get us to the theater on time and watching the film I am almost entirely disinterested; I check my phone as discretely as I can. I have a special exhaustion that seems fruitless and yet serene. I just have to move my body from here to there, to wash dishes, to cook pizzas, to direct children to wash hands or get ready for bed – et cetera, et cetera.

Last night was the second night in a row my son falls asleep right next to me, where I sit – crumpled up against me, his body turns heavy and his breathing even. As much as his interests have turned to school, for now (well – kickball and P.E., really), he is still a little boy who finds comfort in his mother. Why he seems so young and his sister – so much more sedate, darkling, older than her years – seems so grown, I do not know. It’s a rather dreadful juxtaposition as I’m torn between being too-important and not-important-enough, depending on which child I behold. Both children seek out my arms often and when I hold them I’m just wrecked in so many ways.

A Christmas package in the mail: a project knit in secret. Homemade Christmas cards. Yoga, and some time to myself on the mat. Breathing out a deep “cleansing breath” and feeling my face against synthetic plastic and knowing my husband is now at home, caring for the children. Dinner will be ready when I arrive and another day will come to a close.

Day in and day out, caring for younglings, one can learn quite a bit about the Right Stuff for the Right Reasons.

Movie Date

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party

on hospitality

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party

Today is less peachy-keen than yesterday. Still very low levels of kidney pain – most of the day, non-existent – but I am fatigued, and suffered a good deal of nausea rising in the later part of the day.

I do the best I can: rescheduling an appointment, making a few more. Laundry (a neighborhood gentleman came over and helped inspect our dryer), dishes, and food – cupcakes and chicken sandwiches for our later event. Drive to the bank to make a deposit.Thankfully, the deposit gets there before the check for rent pulls funds.

Put the house in order; light candles. Cut out three layered t-shirts; return pattern to envelope and filing system. Fold clothes and make a pot of hot, strong tea.  Drive the rainy distance along the river out to pick up my children, and one other young one, at the bus stop. Put a call in to a friend.

The sandwiches, the tea party: a few visitors today, one very special. My friend E., my daughter’s best friend A. – and the kitten new to A.’s home. A kitten almost identical to our own Pip, but of a fluffier nature with a hard, round, low-slung belly.

You can see why it was pretty important we make it a real Occasion.

Jon-Won Kitten / Cupcake Party 

A. and her kitty leave a little after 8; I tidy up. It’s 9 PM – my makeup is fading; my body feels ill. My son collapsed at six PM, clothes and all, in his bed – lights on. His early bedtime somehow leaves me feeling lonely, sad and ill. The early sunset isn’t a great help, either.

I remind myself that just because I am not feeling well, does not mean those in my home are similarly afflicted. It is so important to give them all the love I can.

No matter what!

amanita bisporigera

In the living room I hear my mother turn down the bread my husband offers; Nels asks if she’s on a diet. No, she says. Well, kinda. Her tummy – she tells my son – her tummy is real sick.

From the next room I can feel his demeanor change. He asks, “Have you been eating mushrooms?” He has that alert tone I recognize since he was about three. Like, The Cobweb. Like “Kibbleland”. He’s ten years old and so bright, but he’s still my baby. 

Because I know what he means about the mushrooms. Sure enough, Nels now tells his grandmother: “There is this one kind of mushroom, if you eat it you feel okay at first. But then you get sick and die. And there’s no antidote.”

“Oh!” my mom says, taken aback. A bit impressed, really.

I’ve been so tired lately it’s like something’s wrong. Maybe more rest? Maybe more walks? I think of red meat, I think of fresh fruit. I think of Cher in the film Moonstruck, fixing a steak: “You’ll eat it bloody to feed your blood.”

I spent our Christmas money – I spent it on food for the family, and I “spent” it in the form of a loan to a friend who had to move. I don’t regret either, although sometimes I think I am not practical. I’d offered a loan back in the summer when she was imminently homeless and I had a little bit of savings.

But since the money is gone, I am oddly at peace. Mostly. Some moments, my mind chews on things. The seals in my car are gone and it makes the car wet, cold, and truth be told a bit unsafe to drive. My daughter needs cloth menstrual pads and new bras. There is something about puberty, it’s like leaving home with your baby and finding you are without coat or shoes, it doesn’t feel decent not to immediately provide – and provide as best as one can.

I need to fix my cracked tooth (going on two years – ha!). My husband needs jeans, and I’d like to get him a new wool coat (the green one he has, I bought it for him before we had children together). These little things, it’s my job for them to swim in my awareness, swim away as I rise for the day, wash my dishes, take the dog for a walk. Feel a profound gratitude for all the good things we have, not least of which are these children. They are my heart, they are anything that was ever good about me.

My children, I know, will have a wonderful Christmas. I sometimes get sentimental like most parents: wish I could be lavish and ridiculous and buy them something incredible. It’s okay to think on this a bit, because again the thought floats off and I’m left in the sunshine, in the cold, walking along the bay – I’m left at peace.

And I think to myself how fortunate I am we are satisfied with the life we have. Enough ingratitude, enough envy – and the fattest bank account won’t do the trick. Like Nels’ beloved poisonous mushroom, there is no antidote.

Phoenix Fire Hogaboom, Halloween 2014

a bride to amazement! or, how Halloween is finally, finally, mercifully sweet Jeebus, behind me

If you have any questions as to how I made something, or where I found something – ask away! Remember anything you ask benefits those who come searching for tutorials.

Phoenix Fire Hogaboom, Halloween 2014

Last year I believe I created about a dozen pieces for people not related to me – and my children didn’t mind the modest assemblies they received as a result. This year I staved off favors and clients, sewing about six pieces. I wanted to give the kids exactly what they wanted, and to go all out.

So, that happened.

And without further ado:

10 Things I Learned This Halloween Sewing Season

(individual notes on costumes in the Flickr tagset)

Nels, AKA A Dragon

 

1. Sequin fabrics. Unbelievably beautiful, and wonderful to work with. After you’ve spent countless hours painstakingly removing, one sequin at a time, every sequin in your seam allowances. *whimper*

2. Easy “scales” makeup for mermaids, or reptilian what-nots – place a bit of fishnet or tulle over the skin to be made up, and carefully blot a little bit. Nels’ little scales (above) took about thirty seconds and I really adored them.

The Happy Couple

2. You can dye a synthetic wig with off-the-shelf hair dye. Phoenix’s friend Allison (above left) is sporting a thrift store wig that her mama dyed. It turned out fabulous! Phoenix’s wig was purchased as-is from Arda Wigs – and then augmented with a little black hairspray. Colored hairspray, in general, needs to be purchased in large quantities to make a serious dent on hair color.

3. For the bride: mixing dead colors: grey, ivory, pale green and pale grey-lavender – was a total blast! I look forward to making another layered, many-color piece again!

The Happy Couple

4. Tearing and tying one hundred billion strips to the waistline of the wedding gown: worth it. Looks great! I tore along the grain of the fabric which drastically reduces thread coming loose when you launder the costume – which, believe it or not, is machine-washable!

5. Benefits of a dead/corpse/zombie/apocalyptic etc. costume: no need to wash, set and style a wig. Just throw it on!

Nels, AKA A Dragon

6. My costumes are adored not only for their looks but for their wearability. I line and underline them which is why they last through many children. Nels wore his to school and spent our cemetery photoshoot mushroom hunting (there were a billion kinds of mushrooms out!). A garment fully-lined in satin feels wonderful to wear. And of course – I included pockets because that seems like such a lovely and humane feature to give children.

7. Dragon wings: two half-circles of crumpled taffeta, and two of regular taffeta. Each pair sewn right-sides together, then turned right-side out and topstitched. Attached from sleeve hem to hip in one straight line. Simple, sweet, and comfortable to wear.

Dead Bride Costume, Close-Up

8. Bodysuit from mesh fabric, so one can eschew body makeup for that grey corpse-like look: perfect. And surprisingly quick to make. Spandex World for the mesh – using their sample swatch service for the color.

Dead Bride Costume, Close-Up

9. Newspaper roses, spraypainted very carefully: yes. They look as pretty as I thought they might. They are actually rather time-consuming, so be warned.

To Have & To Hold. Plus, A Dragon

10. Crafting as a family affair is wonderful. The clients pictured above all helped with their costumes – and my children did their part doing extra chores so I could work on their pieces. And they thanked me about a hundred times. It’s nice to satisfy!

Happy Halloween!

 

Tonsillitis

the ground I stand upon

Tonsillitis

My son takes a day at home, a nasty bout with tonsillitis. (Pip helps him rest.) Today he is much improved; he arranges a picnic with his grandmother, and I drive out to pick my daughter up at the bus stop by myself.

She steps off the bus and she’s so happy to see me her face lights up and flushes. Do you have any idea how it makes me feel, that this is her response to me every day?

Later: the rain hits the roof in torrents; darkness whirls outside. I’m sitting in a theater, listening to my castmates practice. Smiles, laughter, silly impromptu dances, yes – but everyone is in earnest. Our director helps each performer with notes, with mood, with blocking.

I miss my home. I miss feeling a part of; feeling like the center of the household. Sewing for others, and writing and volunteering, and now this production – I am not the at-home provider the way I once was and I am still finding my niche. My children’s worlds continue to expand and although my life is very full, the sea change leaves me unsettled.

The gas tank, and the bank account, are empty. My son’s illness, though not a serious one, is very sad and frightening. He is one who hallucinates and has terrible dreams, when he has a fever. Sometimes my hands stretch out and find his edges; he feels like a little boat tossed in furious seas. I hold him close and kiss his head and yet my heart is tossed to and fro as well.

I bake – chocolate pumpkin bread – I boil eggs. I buy raw milk, I peel oranges. I tackle the laundry with sincerity – we have the worst dryer we’ve ever had and our little laundry hallway is piled deep.

I try not to worry: how will I afford groceries the next few days? Instead I buy lamb for a friend who recently had an illness, and cannot digest many kinds of meat. With satisfaction, that is the last $8 in my account. I am glad to gift her. Another friend asked me last night – why don’t I keep things? I told her, “I’m a Buddhist. We are all about non-attachment.”

Giving a gift when I have but little grounds me in a way almost impossible to articulate. I know I do not need to, either.

four more blocks, plus the one in my brain

To my right, a woman takes her seat. She is small, and has a slender neck balancing a very round head, like a pumpkin. Her hair is blonde and molds to her fine, delicate skull, before slipping midway down her back. She is probably fifty years old, but holds herself child-like. She is very quiet – likely still very fresh from detox. The other clients are very, very kind to her, and call her by name. As I help chair our meeting, I can feel her presence beside me. I am tenderhearted and sad tonight, but I still breathe in sync with the addicts and alcoholics here, those I am supposed to be helping.

I am a very special sort of tired; it isn’t just physical, but in mind and spirit as well. I realize as I talk – and listen, tonight – I am doing my best but my best is pretty rough. I am bored, bored of talking about what life was like before I got sober. Because understand: I’ve told my story hundreds of times. It isn’t the same every time I tell it, but my mind plunks stones in lakes best left undisturbed.

Kindness. Kindness is the heartbeat I can feel. I don’t have to be perfect. I do have to hold a kind heart. With that thought, my mind sets on a silver shore. I can do it. One hour at a time.

After my volunteer partner and I have spoken for some time, the floor is open to questions. I call a woman by name (I try to remember names; names are important); she sits across from me. And now she says, slowly, “I know exactly how you feel.” I wait. She nods. Her grief is huge. I sit with her, even though she is across the room, and others are watching. I finally ask, “What part?” She says – “All of it.”

At the meeting’s cessation I cross the room – speaking to a few others there, first – and sit with her. Up close her eyes are a beautiful, rich green, a violent depth. I ask when she goes home. She tells me. I ask where home is. She tells me. Then she tells me a little about the hell that awaits her there. She tells me, I am scared. I put my hand on her knee. “You are safe here,” I tell her. Her eyes well with tears. I tell her, to find women in Recovery, to get their phone numbers. “People wouldn’t write their names on a phone list if they didn’t want you to call.” She says, “I’m fifty years old. I have no children.” I tell her, “There are women in Recovery who can help you. They will take care of you.” I tell her these things because I know she can make it. But if she tries it on her own, she has no chance.

The elevator ride back downstairs I am tired; I feel sad. I am cheered a bit talking to my friend R., who helped with the meeting. He and I are becoming friends. I drive him back to his place. He says a few kind words, calls me “young lady”. He is not a demonstrative fellow, but he says kind words. A penny from his pocket, are like riches from another.

I get home. I check my phone. A text message: “I know you are coming back from —–, but when you get in can you call me? I need to ask you about —–.” A friend who needs help.

I am near tears with gratitude, to feel useful, to do something for someone else. My friend answers the phone and her voice is muffled, frightened. An hour later before we ring off we are laughing. Laughing together.

Some days it seems all I can really cling to, is helping others. It gives me that space I need to heal from whatever hurts.