“i cut last night – would that explain the nausea and lack of appetite?”

My son puts his arms around me. “I’m ready for a rest,” he sighs. After a beat, he whispers, “I would never jomp you.”

“Jomp” is a word we came up with. On accident. I told him yesterday I was going to chomp him. But I said, jomp, on accident. The kids fell into peals of laughter and then asked me what jomping is. I said, “When I jump up and bite your neck.”

My son’s neck. His arms which furl like tendrils around me. He tells me he’s going to solve a case –  my missing phone – as The Cobweb – but he adds, “I’m disguised as a scruffy little boy.” Then under his breath, “I’ll brush my hair later.”

My daughter, this morning, arms around me with her head in my lap while I sip fresh, hot coffee. Her hair is iridescent, a dark waterfall, a brilliant teal. Her body solid, long, strong, lean; tattered pajamas, developing into a young lady right before my eyes, fingers catching hold of water. She is a loaded firecracker. She is full of righteous anger. She is tender and caring. She is fierce like a dagger.

Today:

Breakfast, prepared by my eldest; the younger child set the table:

And since last night was rough, a girlfriend and I – and the kids – took off to Olympia for GIANT DELICIOUS SUBMARINE SANDWICHES!

***

I am a Buddhist, and I don’t know if you’d call my chants “prayer”. I call these rituals “prayer” when I talk to others as much like the word, “God”, people seem to grasp what I’m getting at.

But do my prayers, my chants, my meditations, do they matter? I am not the only one I know struggling with difficulties. I have friends who are just being torn up by life. Friends who are going through pain. I name them at my shrine. I call them or email them. I check in with them, simply to check in. They are in my heart. I offer the help I can (food, a loan, advice if they ask). Mostly though I remember them. That is all perhaps my chants really are. Remembrances. I don’t worry for my friends but I suffer with them in some way I didn’t used to. My fingertips are on their pulse but I have no prescription, no magic pill.

Watching other human beings grow, and cope with their lot with dignity. It’s today’s “drug of choice”, this world of the spirit. It is an exhilarating place. I live, because others do the same.

Tonight: hot shower, glass of water. I set white sage alight; I put match to a honey candle. Turn down a newly-washed bed. Pull a child into my arm. Put my back into my husband, the crook of his broad chest, his strong arms.

To sleep; to wake, and work again.

May 27, 2014

“if you desire healing / let yourself fall ill / let yourself fall ill”

¿COMO ESTAN BEETCHES? to quote Anchorman.

So yeah. I gots a little tradition. I make y’all a mixtape on my sobriety birthday. This year, the playlist is a little blue. A little navalgaze-ish. That’s just how the last year went down I guess.

Thank you, everyone. It’s pointless for me to write how much gratitude I feel because even though I’m fairly articulate, the words just don’t flow right, and powerfully-enough.

May 27, 2014

Download for the mp3s and the CD case.*

Or, email me your address and I’ll mail you one! kelly AT hogaboom DOT org.

*early adopters – I usually have trouble with stuff like this so please let me know if the d/l doesn’t work!

well, I’m a weak and lonely sort / though I’m not sailing just for sport

My father wrote it in his journal when he knew he was dying, the month before he was dying: “disappointed”. I’ve got a strong visceral reaction to that word. I don’t like it, I don’t like being there. Like self-pity; it’s fundamentally a dishonest place, really. The word reminds me of a friend telling me of her own upbringing, and how she never wanted to be “The Disappointed One”. Like, it was a role members of the family played at by turns. I didn’t find out more about what she meant but I think I have an inkling.

I don’t enjoy feeling Disappointed. Sometimes, it happens. Today is like that. So today I remind myself nothing is Bad News, it’s just News. Or like the story of the farmer and “Maybe” – a story I first heard, again – from my father. I don’t understand what is happening or why – so why get too troubled about any of it?

Errands, in the meantime.

Work found me. The washer died today – only a few days after the dryer did. By day’s end I manage to secure a washer but the parties responsible to deliver the dryer, do not. I’m shorter on cash than I’d hoped. Life Happens.

Paying bills. Picking up a prescription; groceries (coffee filters milk baking chocolate wax paper mint carrots rice noodles). Special garbage liners, two mailings at the UPS store, a deposit into my aunt’s account, securing rent, setting up bank accounts, arranging a volunteer commitment, buying Phee’s special hair dye, returning vases to the florist. Stopping at the (new-to-us) used record store; finding a Crosby, Stils, Nash & Young for $3 and putting that on tonight just before 11 o’clock when it’s time to fold my body into some yoga.

Tonight, asking for help. It took some guts. I’m waiting, now. To see.

The day brought other kinds of News. News that soothes my heart. A letter from someone dear. My own mother’s empathetic response to our laundry troubles (which, with one income, four humans, and five pets, is a bit of a pickle). The florist gifting my family five rather special carnations. A meal with family and a friend. The smell of my son’s hair as he walks alongside me, our arms around one another’s waist. My daughter’s laugh at something I said. Someone holding my hand in this really wonderfully firm way. My husband asking, more than once, “How can I help?”

Gifts.

This afternoon I did not want to put aside my work (which had been delayed enough already), and pack children into the car – rowdy children, not all of them mine – and go to a few shops, and pick up groceries for a summer dinner, and come home and prepare that food. I did not want to pay for or organize a cookout meal next door at my mom’s, but I did it anyway. I did so because I knew my mother and the children and the dog would enjoy it. I knew it didn’t matter if I enjoyed it so much.

It was my job. I was that guy. I want to be that guy.

This morning I didn’t want to be honest with a suffering friend. I worried my honesty might hurt an already-hurting person. I worried I was wrong anyway. Why speak up, if I might be wrong? But I also know: I want to be that guy. I want to be that friend you say, “She always told me the truth.” I want you to know I meant what I said when I said it. It’s my job. “You’re not thinking straight,” is how I actually started the main part of the conversation. It went from there.

I have more than one friend suffering and suffering over shit that is real. As years go on sometimes it seems I can help so very little, although I often wish I could help a great deal more.

I am a Buddhist. When I am thinking straight, I know I don’t have big problems or little problems, I just have Problems. I soothe myself with gentleness. I don’t know if I was helpful today. I know I tried to be helpful. I don’t know if I harmed someone today. I know I tried not to. How can I task myself with doing anything perfectly – whether counseling a suffering friend, or offering assistance to someone homeless, or teaching children how to play charades, or organizing a hot dog roast at my mothers’?

It doesn’t feel like Doubt, it feels like sadness. It isn’t always easy to stay on the path. My foot slips and there’s that moment I wonder if my journey matters much at all.

But life is too short to take seriously. I remember that. I lift my chin. I realize I am not easily intimidated, and that I like the company of myself. When my day is rough, I am my own best friend. This is new; it happened sometime in the last few years. It is wonderful.

And that I have a boundless love. When I lose it, when I let the fire down in the damp, I put down my load and go look for it. Right away.

I keep my love alive.

home dec

Today one of my little household projects came to fruition: new curtains for my bathroom. I think… well… some of my friends might have heard me swear I’d never sew curtains again. Maybe I even shook my fist. Nevertheless, I am pleased with these. The fabric was only in my possession a few hours before it was sewn up. Last night our friend E. accompanied Ralph, Nels and I up to Olympia where I found a really lovely seaweed-y floral on sale:

 

I also picked up the framing job I’d coupon’d and saved up for – for a screenprint by my friend Robin:

 

So. Bathroom pix it is. Above one of the doors, the little figurines a friend dropped by a little while back – love them!

 

A sculpture up by the light – also by Robin:

 

The little enamelware cups I use to store a few items – our bathroom is very small so we need to be creative to keep things tidy:

 

And of course – a figure of the Buddha (above our mirror). I have been (slowly) collecting Buddha figures that reflect the character or sentiment of the room they adorn. I think of our bathroom as being full of light and water, so a wooden effigy seemed apt:

It’s wonderful having a space that feels calm and nurturing.

unfriendly skies

I am almost four hundred dollars short on rent.

I am physically exhausted.

I am having a wee bit of emotional turmoil.

Yesterday I heard one of the women I came to know through the Treatment Center very recently, died of an overdose. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this one but in my small town it is impossible to share without the possibility of causing more pain to those living. It is very hard for me to wrap my mind around the reality this young woman was here just yesterday, and is gone today – although God Knows I have no cerebral reason to experience surprise.

That’s not all. I had a really difficult conversation that I had hoped wouldn’t have to happen. I had to stand up for myself to someone who I know to be retaliatory. My husband pointed out to me I shouldn’t be afraid because I learned to stand up to HIM back in the day and that I had a lot more to fear, then.

Well. He’s probably right. But fear keeps me company sometimes.

Life has been a creaky, uphill climb; a brief bit of comfort here and there. Then suddenly: stunning experiences of love. Today I looked out a door and saw an addict I know, sucking on one of those fake cigarettes, and I felt this surge of love. He probably doesn’t know I feel anything for him and he probably doesn’t give a shit about me. I felt this weird comfort about this. A gladness to be alive.

Tonight in another setting I waited my turn to speak and I felt an irritation and anger that rattled my chest and soured my guts. I prayed for Love and Tolerance. A few minutes later and I had it, and I could speak with love and laughter.

Today my husband put his arms around me and I felt his human presence with gratitude. In June we will celebrate sixteen years together.

In one month exactly I will celebrate three years’ sober. I am not an inarticulate woman, but the gratitude I feel is nearly impossible to express. I am aghast.

Tonight I try to give myself the gift of compassion. Sometimes it seems the only true treasure one can grasp.

bravery is required

Spring emerges. Skunk cabbage, and newts in the small freshwater streams. Flowers have erupted from the still-cold and seemingly-inhospitable earth. It felt like things weren’t going to change. It was dark. The light is spilling in.

Tonight I flush a pain prescription; yet, afterwards, I feel foolish and uncertain. What I’m really trying to do is stop struggling. The most insane of struggles that I take up, time and time again: fighting my fears.

Stop worrying. I am beginning to think one day I will lose a kidney. Despite my efforts, despite the care of physicians. For a person who has a severe fear of even minor surgical procedures, the concept of something like that is very difficult.

And it feels wasteful to flush drugs I could sell on the street. Yes, I am shocked I even have such a thought, however fleeting. I have never sold drugs and I do not think that is ethical behavior. I know it isn’t legal. And yet the thought occurs because my mind has been overrun with fear. How will I provide for my family, how can we make Rent.

It is the most powerful seduction: there is something I can do, there is an action I can take Right Now, that will sort out my life.

In the car the other day, a beloved friend and I were talking. I said – in gratitude – “God supports me,” and she responded, “Well. I support myself. I provide for myself.” I drove on for a bit and then I said, “There is a lot of suffering in that idea.”

I am going to stop saying “God” when what I mean are the three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha. I am shy about Buddhism because where I live it is a minority faith tradition. If you say “God” people might be prejudiced but at least they might not be outright bigoted about it all.

I can be a little bit brave. A little at a time.

a gradual thaw

Nels and I pass the Trave-Lure in Aberdeen. “‘Aberdeen’s Finest’,” my son says, making “air-dick quotes” with his hands. I laugh – to myself – but keep quiet. I am thinking about the lives we live and how the world drives past. So many suffer and suffering doesn’t have a downtown crummy address especially; it lives in the human heart.

A moment later my boy asks, “Mom? What’s the difference between a motel, a hotel, an inn, and a cozy?” A COZY! What is this, even? And I am dying over how his voice sounds when he says the word, “cozy”. I don’t want to tell him a “cozy” is not anything in the hospitality industry, because basically I never want to hear him stop saying “cozy.”

I tell him what little I know. This leads to a frank discussion of a vacation: Nels wants one. The sun is out, first day of spring, and anything seems possible, even if it’s kind of not.

Spring. It is a little incredible to believe it is here. But it is. The buds are flowering; the air, though still cold, is changing. The sun is out and it has a favorable look.

Spring / Ocean

Nels called his father today for a favor – asking Ralph to drive out to pick up Phoenix, so we would have time to visit the “wildcats” out in Westport. Ralph didn’t know what our son meant, so asked me for the phone, to clarify. When I explained Nels meant, feral cats that live at the jetty, Ralph laughed. And of course our son took no small delight in finding, and attempting to feed, the ragtag little bunch flitting in and out of the rocks.

“This is gonna get weird. TWO cats.”

Sekrit Catz

My son reminds me that life is really good As Is. Needs no improvement, nothing to blow up bigger than it is, or try to make smaller, either.

 

being a Helper

Shrine

Every pay cycle I purchase flowers, for my shrine, from a local florist. I can only set aside a small amount, but as time passed the parcels quickly bloomed into larger, and lusher, arrangements. The experience has become a spiritual lesson, for me. Because: spirituality doesn’t make sense. It isn’t logical. I “can’t” afford flowers and the florist surely “can’t” afford frothing arrangements worth at least twice what I pay.

And yet. Week in, week out. A subtle, fluid heartbeat in my life, no matter the season.

***

I know the man involved in the ongoing police standoff, here, in South Aberdeen. As “police”/military presence continues to escalate, and as mounting pressure is put on this man – who just lost a loved one before the incident – I experience fear for his life.

About a year ago he and I spent a few months volunteering assistance in recovery meetings, at the Treatment Center. We went on at least one roadtrip to Seattle in this capacity; I remember that day we saw a double rainbow, and that he helped out tremendously when my car ran out of gas on the drive back. He was particularly close with another friend of mine – they became fast friends in the first months of her sobriety. My heart is with her today, too.

Last night in the first few hours of the standoff, I mentioned it to Ralph. He remembered ___ and said, “I was impressed by his intelligence”. As more and more guns and uniforms and heavy artillery surround his house, I feel less and less certain he will be allowed to live.

And if he lives, what then? Surely he will be locked up. If he lives, will I be able to see him, I wonder? If he lives, is there any way he can return to his community? If he lives, who will be helping him grieve his loved one – and heal from this scary experience?

***

The day before yesterday we took in the refugee kitty Peppy – one of the residents displaced from Emerson Manor. I knew the kitty’s owner also – again, from my volunteer work in the community. But when we picked up her kitty, I don’t think she recognized me. Many of the residents in the Manor, all low income, live with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. Peppy’s owner was near beside herself at having to be separated from her feline companion. The rescue liaison, my friend Deb, told her I knew what I was doing. That felt a good to hear.

The wee kitty Peppy is on day two of hiding out. She’s under the bed while my son has a lie-in. Hutch sleeps only a few feet over; he is a perfect foster-brother dog as he is so wonderful and gentle and loving. Peppy’s care isn’t like that of No-No’s; Peppy is old enough to be quite frightened, and she isn’t feeling that up to cuddling. Yet.

So family life is busy, as per usual. My car is still locked up in a shop and I fear the repair cost, which I will be hearing within the hour.

It’s funny how people say nothing happens in small town life.

No. You just don’t know how to see.

creeper peeper

Nels lays on the bed, eyes fixed, body still. He’s pretending to be a lifeless, motionless doll – for as long as he can. I lay my body on top of his to see if he’ll giggle. He’s silent. My right ear on his chest; his birdlike ribcage, his heartbeat – so strong! After a few moments I find a peace, feeling the life of my boy, but I’ve enough of our game’s concept in mind that when he suddenly and silently cranes his head to bite my neck I am half-convinced this eerie doll is coming to life and I am freaked out. He starts laughing, and his arms grasp me as he tries to play-bite in earnest – and now I’m scrambling off in equal alacrity. From a loving stillness to a froth of action! Phoenix, hearing the commotion, flits in the room and tries to fight him off. We’re all tense and electrified by our creepy little preternaturally-undead talisman!

The cold outside seemed all the more cruel after the evening’s swim; a pristine sky and harsh, cold stars – a bite to the air. My time in the water tonight was rough – I had to work too hard to get my requisite number of laps in, and this work left me nauseated. My husband’s car; no heater. Brakes so bad they grind. My car is in the shop as of this afternoon on the forth iteration of a door handle repair – our previous garage bungled the job three times in a row. I’m upset as this car repair means we won’t be able to afford taking Phoenix and a friend for a zoo trip for her 12th birthday, Sunday. I haven’t told her yet, but I know she’ll be okay. I just have to wait until I’m okay. I need a night’s sleep on the disappointment of today.

My son, and Emily – our sunny afternoon lunch at Thai Smiles. I dunno. I think you can tell that they like one another.

Nels + Emily

Nels + Emily

Nels + Emily