KING OF THE JUICEEEEEE XAXAXAXAXA

The day was at least half-over by most people’s standards when Ralph and I agreed to get up to painting at the new house. Yeah, that’s just how we Hogabooms roll. While doing our typical thing – caring for kiddos, ours and other people’s, and cooking, and doing housework, and dealing with cats, and a meeting I get to chair at the Treatment Center on Sunday nights – we also shopped for supplies and got our gear to the house. Ralph and I cleaned and taped three large rooms and primer-painted two of them, getting home a little before midnight. Yeah, even though the house had white walls we had to primer, and grey primer, because like a total pain I opted for deep, vibrant, lovely colors, none of this taupe or melon or whatever. So that’s like, a thousand gallons and many many coats of paint. But I think it’s going to look lovely. I just need to do that trick where I am patient, mindful, and apply myself to the task at hand without letting my mind race on to the many things that will need to be done, to be settled in. GUESS WHAT, being sober helps with this A LOT.

The cleaning was big-time, at least in the kitchen, which is my opinion the (potentially) dirtiest room in a house. It was cheering though to scrub on a new domicile we’ll soon be occupying. We had music, and coffee, and hot water and lots of rags. We listened to Lady Gaga and Pink (while Phoenix was there; she quite helpfully unscrewed all the light-switch plates), and then Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, then some Springsteen, and then when it got to the late-night painting with Ralph he suggested one of my favorites, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, which I love Times One Million. And I told Ralph, “If you don’t sing along to JCS you’re fired,” and he said in a hurt tone of voice, “I don’t know all the words!” and I said, “Get. Out.” But actually I needed him because he did all the painting up high where my tiny forearms can’t reach.

But yeah, it was an honest day’s work, and of course there was some excellent, and shrill, rock opera emanating from my golden pipes. You shoulda been there. No I mean I really could’ve used the help.

Now I’m going to soak my feet in a hot bath and get my ass to bed.

the book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day

This was the first New Year’s Eve I remember in my life, where I didn’t count down like everyone else usually does. I’d planned on, after our dinner guests left, taking a friend and my family to a Buddhist meditation at midnight. Instead I was sitting with these folks in the Emergency Room, waiting to visit a friend who’d been trucked in after a collapse. My kids, husband, and my girl H. played some kind of Twister knock-off on a carpet a few feet away. Next time I looked at my watch it was thirty-four minutes past midnight.

The fireworks from the hospital’s hill were lovely. It was cold. Nels had about three girlfriends by the time we left the parking lot. A social child. Also, earlier, a grouchy child who’d disrupted our earlier dinner a bit.

My friend at the hospital seems out of the woods. I am very grateful. I gave him my number as he’s staying overnight, and told him to call if I could bring him anything at all.

***

We had a good day today; the kids and I accompanied another family to adopt a kitty for little E. It was pretty choice, getting to visit with and pet the kitties.

My Lovely Daughter

Phoenix was a very kind little girl at the shelter, taking stock of each kitty and remembering their names and tempraments. There was another Phoenix working there as a volunteer, a teen boy. He and my daughter got along great, although I think like many he didn’t, at first, think a younger child could conduct themselves with aplomb at a kitty shelter.

E. & Her Daddy, Talk Kitties

E. and her father discuss adoption plans.

Raider

Raider. A favorite of J.’s. He was a handsome kitty. But E. was intent on adopting a lady kitty.

I LOVE YOU NOEL AND I KNOW YOU FEEL THE SAME ABOUT ME

Here’s a kitty I like to call Noel, MY NEW BOYFRIEND. HE LOVED ME SO MUCH AND IMMEDIATELY CLIMBED IN MY ARMS right after I snapped this. He is the handsomest thing I have ever seen. Not convinced? Would you like a closeup?

NOEL IS MY NEW BOYFRIEND

I am going to get a tattoo of Noel and his likeness. His green-blue eyes are the inspiration of many sonnets. I’m sure he will be adopted out in no time and it just kills me.

Nels + Noel + Erin

E. + Nels + Noel. You can click through for like eighteen adorable pictures of them all looking at a “flashing light” they saw outside.

Nels + Noel

Nels reacts to something Noel said, probably something very suave and witty.

Erm... No Thanks, Panther

Panther may have trouble getting adopted.

Happy New Year. Anyone reading here with any regularity knows how grateful I am for my life. How blessed. I don’t mean “blessed” because so much good shit has happened to me or because God is super into me, I mean “blessed” because I’m very glad for the gifts I have. It is the gladness, the awareness, the awakenedness, when I have it, that is the gift.

Here’s Ralph taking a picture of me tonight just before tacos, because I wanted a new photo for Twitter. Thank you, husband, for taking a picture and making it of my ENORMOUS FACE.

New Years', Pre-Tacos

A cat named Mustache

a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives

The last few days I’ve thrown myself into new work with addicts and alcoholics, giving rides here and there, buying breakfast for the flat-out underemployed, caring for other people’s kids, teens and pets, taking a friend on a birthday date, and helping those who have a hard time making ends meet.

Plus all that other stuff of caring for my own kiddos and husband and pets and household as best I can. And having a bit of a social life, and a sewing life, to boot!

So, I am behind on both writing here, and responding to comments. I apologize.

One thing I want to point out is the few people I’ve helped recently, or a handful of them, have given me a valuable lesson. A friend I took a dozen eggs to yesterday because she didn’t have food money until today, the difference between she and I (back when we couldn’t afford food and utilities and our lifestyle, and were bouncing checks and igorning collection bills because it was all so overwhelming), is this friend asked for and accepted help. Asking for and accepting help, in appropriate ways and from appropriate parties, has been a new(-ish) cornerstone of my life. Let’s face it, without help I was flailing at best and often a Toxic Asshole either running from, or attempting to selfishly dominate, many of life’s challenges.

The Toxic Asshole part of me is still live and kicking and surfaces more often than I’m proud of, but there’s another presence within that I like a lot more. She’s like a Baby. Baby Awesomesauce. Baby Awesomesauce is growing up just fine, but things take time.

Of course giving back gives me immense rewards so it is in itself a selfish activity of sorts. One of the hardest things going right now is to know when to give freely to others, and knowing when if I were to do so, it would rob my family of something I should be giving them (time, groceries, mostly).

I put my faith in the path set before me and I know that one day I’ll look back and see with clarity where my life is heading, and why.

***

In lieu of Friday links I have two pieces of local interest:

First, Ralph and I put together a collection of my sewn pieces for sale at the On Track Art Walk tomorrow. I would love to earn money for my craft, to have my pieces find gleeful homes, and – most of all, to find a sewing community. If I had a dream it would be to be involved with a community center/studio where I could create, and help others do the same. I don’t have the resources to start this myself, but perhaps someone out there does. In any case, I’m ready to be Out There a bit more.

Second, our local town’s annual festival came out with their official t-shirt. Many HQX residents do not endorse the shirt and are taking actions, including boycotting, writing letters to the editor and City etc, and printing a better shirt and donating profits (you can read more about it here, if you have Facebook).

From my G+ post here are some of my thoughts:

“I love my town and I love my country. One thing I love about both is the right to protest ideas and products that are violent, offensive, and bad for children and grownups and probably even small puppy dogs. Yay local Jokay Daniel who’ll be selling the alternate shirt & donating profits; also J. for being instrumental in creating alternate shirts.”

Reading the comments in the Facebook group is pretty darn cool and makes me proud of my HQX peeps.

***

And finally, something to ponder:

A cat named Mustache

Jasmine, Peroxide Queen, assists Phoenix

like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies

Tonight: Listening to

So It’s 11 PM and I start up some sticky rice (a family favorite), taken from one of two large crocks on my kitchen counter (the other contains flour, ZOMG “empty” carbophobes, the HOrRoR!!1!). I dice up grilled chicken, partially cooked carrots, zucchini, and grilled garlic cloves – all donated by friends last night, sent home with us after they’d hosted us for a backyard barbecue. I stir fry the dice variously using a wok (J… I need to get that back to you, but I also want one just like it) and my one skillet, a cast iron beauty I put on layaway years before that I tenderly caress daily. I whisk up a sweet-sour-salty dipping sauce and Ralph puts out bowls and cloth napkins and we have a late, late dinner at the coffee table, the four of us.

It’s hot in the house. But it was nice running around today – especially minus many inches of hair. In fact today held a surprising amount of detail-work concerning hair: since Nels got his cut the other day via he and his father’s barber, I had Ralph cut mine off in what was the most pleasant locale I’ve yet experienced una corta de pelo – our own sunlit deck. Watching the chickens and cats get up to their fuckery. Later in the day Jasmine and I did a lot of work on Phoenix’s new hair (pictures tomorrow!) while Ralph made music up in Olympia. When Phoenix and I got home I ran laundry and worked a little on my latest sewing project (a SEKRIT!) and tidied up the many books the kids strew about the house.

I’ve spent time in my life having to do shit I didn’t want to do. A lot of time. Increasingly I find my day filled with things I’m engaged in and enjoying, so many I don’t always get to them all but most nights I fall into bed satisfied. And hell, the things I don’t want to do, or haven’t in the past been able to deal with without dread, are a lot easier. Truth be told I have a whole new support network in my life, I’m sober, and the sun is out – the darkness has passed – and those things make a big difference. Day after day – lately – I experience gratitude. I’m grateful for my kids, our animals, my spouse, and the health and love of all. I’m still grateful to now, after over half a year, have two running cars (seriously! Although the brakes are spongey on the Mercedes and I’m fearing the worst). I’m grateful I’m parenting more gently and helping my children in more constructive ways. I’m grateful for friends; those who support me and those I in turn support.

Life, in short, is pretty good. L-O-V-E

Jasmine, Peroxide Queen, assists Phoenix

just to peel the potatoes

Bob is standing behind me, he sits and stands during the fireworks display here along the river, long hair and beard and biker leather jacket and riding chaps. Behind him Dana and Steve and then next to me Robin like a flower, a large blooming iris, sedate but wry good humor, here on my blanket. She’s beautiful, but shy about me taking a picture. What’s funny is our little group has accidentally situated ourselves under a speaker playing music – loudly – and there is such a crush of people in attendance there’s no point much in moving ourselves. This speaker plays a relentless series of increasingly patriotic tripe, including a country song about a three-day beard and cooking rice in the microwave and how awesome that is (what?), and then I think it’s Beyonce showboating “God Bless the USA”. Chris joins us on the blankets a bit later and hums or sings along the music, to much consternation from some members of the group, but upon the Armed Services Medley I know all the words to “Wild Blue Yonder” and “Anchors Aweigh” and such back from Veterens’ Day performances in choir. Then there’s Neil Diamond belting out “Coming to America” which inspires a vague wave of simultaneous nostalgia and nausea. “Jesus CHRIST,” groans Robin under her breath. And I laugh each comment she makes.

When the fireworks slam up ahead I feel increasingly astounded and it has nothing to do with the crowds or pyrotechnics or the friends or the hot coffee in my hand or the cold grass beneath my seat. I feel the presence of God, or Divine Chance, or whatever or whomever you might name unless you’d maintain none of that is real, but for me God is pressing down on me like squashing an ant, for the first time ever, in a way that surpasses experiences of pleasure or pain and carries not even a strong emotional response. How is it I am alive? is all that occurs to me. BOOM BOOM BOOM thunders in the sky and in my body. How is it I’m here to be this way, sober now some time and of a clean (enough) mind and on a blanket with friends and I’m given breath to draw. Normally I’d be heckling and hassling or running up to be with Ralph and the kids (who are scattered off at the playground with other kids and teens) but instead I stay on the blanket like I was assigned there and this particular duty was of utmost importance.

The fireworks finale is even more beautiful than the year before, or perhaps it’s just my state of mind and body and spirit, then people clap and I fold blankets and I hug my friends and wait for my family to join me. “Blood Moon,” the kids tell me when they arrive and I look and perceive the deep-red sliver they’re pointing to. Walking to the car and the air is cold but ripe with possibility and promise, and people run off to fight or drink or fuck (or all three) or maybe just slip into a hot bath and then to bed (as I long to do).

It was a good day.

a berry bacchanal

Last night at a party a fascinating gentleman and I got to talking. Among other things, he told me a visit to a Childrens Hospital will make one an atheist, then and there.

The reverse concept occurs to me as I’m at my kitchen sink topping and washing the huge bowl full of strawberries my husband has brought in from our garden: I could become a believer based on this fruit. These berries are amazing. They are almost a pornographic depiction of the word “strawberry”, the word “fruit”. So tender it seems ludicrous they could stand their own weight in the bowl, yet they do. They are each perfect, not a blemish, rounded and shining, glossy. So fragrant it’s almost overpowering, yet one does not tire of them. Biting into one and I do not encounter the wooden stem and the flavorless sadness of the berries that ship to our stores; these melt in my mouth, they redefine the word red with their taste, they dissolve in a joyous surrender to being eaten. They grew just a few steps away from where I’m now washing and cutting them.

My mother will be picking up most of this to begin canning. Everyone is getting a good deal here; I insist I don’t like to garden – but I love the food that comes out of the garden, and I love to cook. My mother similarly loves to prepare food, especially in large batches. The only one that grumbles a bit is Ralph, who gets a workout on his back picking the fruit.

I cut and cut and cut the tops off, honing my ability to save as much as possible of the prized flesh. A selection of perfectly glossly dark red berries go in a bowl for tonight’s dessert (including shortcake made with eggs from our hens, yay!), the rest in a large bag in the fridge, added to the ones frozen previously; “putting food by”, experiencing the earth’s bounty.

"we already had a frog-rabbit"

This morning after a bath I’m wrapping a towel around me in my bedroom; my hair is up in a towel, and a green clay avocado mask on my face. I tuck the towel around me and look up to see the neighbor girl, up on Sophie’s bunkbed, her eyes wide and her lips in a perfect “o” shape – a delighted shock at seeing a grown woman naked, or surprise at my green visage, I can’t know. “I didn’t see you there, I.” I tell her as I pull my robe from my closet to wrap around the towel (it’s cold today).

This girl I. is a beauty. She has brown curly hair and hazel-green, guileless eyes; a surprisingly throaty chuckle that you hear often when she comes over. Her mother more or less allows her free reign to invite herself over to neighbors for which I’m grateful. The girl will stand in my doorway, seconds away from my acquiescence at which she will strip her scarf, shoes, hat, and coat off gleefully and join my children in their room. Today they are playing Barbie and “Package Versus Pets” – a game where Nels inserts himself into a large cardboard box, the girls pretend to receive it from the postman, and he emerges as some kind of wild animal they must guess at and then tame.

“That cocoa smells good,” I. smiles at me as the kids tumble into the kitchen, setting their little cups up complete with cloth napkin and spoon. I reflect again on my opinion that people should spend more time with children – on the children’s terms, not the grownups’ – because children are unspoiled in a way few adults are. They are so direct, so visceral in their expressions of pleasure, amazement, disbelief, and anger. My time with these wee ones only increases my desire to find my elemental Self; the woman who plain enjoys life, disavows discomfort and pain, and can ignore the future’s troubles for absolute presence in the moment.

"… ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."

Today as I walked between my kitchen and living room I came upon the tipping point about our homeschool decision, which was: if I ever decide I want money more than I want our homeschool / family experience, I can always choose money. I am not destined to poverty for life (which is how I sometimes fear my future) just because – for now, and a while at least – I’m choosing not to work outside the home for financial compensation.

But can anyone know how strongly I feel I’m supposed to be hurrying my children along to free babysitting so I can go put my time and brain and body into someone else’s endeavor, so they can give me money, and I can bring it home? Why do I feel this way? Simply because that’s what nearly everyone I personally know is doing. Although this doesn’t match with my or my husband’s goals, I still feel this tremendous pressure to chase investment (in a home, in better cars, in more stuff, in nicer stuff), some outside sense of accomplishment, some way of being smart money-wise so I can have enough that I don’t have to actually count up the bits and think about them.

What I need: mentors. I have been told, oddly it seems sometimes, I am a mentor or at least an inspiration to not a few who read here or know me. And I’m seeking the same in this category of my children’s education and our life as a family. Applicants, do seek me out because I feel decisively like I’m setting on a path few travel and maybe one more importantly: a path my own family of origin did not travel.

I briefly feel such a kinship with and gratitude for my mother when I discuss this with her, later in the day on the phone. I’m saying, “… trying to accept that I won’t be working” when she starts to talk and I add, “well I mean, working for pay.” She interrupts herself to laugh “Yeah really!” aside, under her breath, in the exact we’re-both-knowing-the-same-thing tone she’d use if I mentioned how perfectly sexy Johnny Depp is or said a perfect joke we both know and love. See, she and I know what “work” I really am looking forward to, work I started in on the moment my daughter was born but only get better at and enjoy more (with a few decidedly horrific “off” days, hee hee). My last six years and my future stretch out in a continuum of priorities and newness and love and learning and gratitude that just seems to bloom more and more and give me more energy than any previous endeavors.

It is funny sometimes finding out who I am, as I grow. I’m always a little surprised to find I’m not who people told me I was.

mama’s happy when mama’s busy

I wish I’d had a camera this morning. It was pretty blissful to hang out with two four year olds to do all our Thanksgiving shopping. Well, technically Nels and my friend’s child E. are 3 1/2 and 4 1/2, resp. but you get the idea. While Sophie was in school the two younguns and I avoided Wednesday crowds and got our action on.

So my Thanksgiving menu is as follows:

Turkey
Dressing
Carrots w/butter
Green beans
Mashed potatoes
Gravy?? If I can figure out how to make it!
Candied yams w/homemade marshmallows
Waldorf salad
Cranberry sauce (I made last night)
2 dozen yeast rolls (awesome recipe featured in November’s zine)
Deviled eggs w/pretzels, pickles and olives (half-assed appetizer I suppose)
Pumpkin pie (made up and froze the other day)
Bread pudding
Apple pie

Today this involved the following groceries:
Bread for stuffing
1 gallon organic milk
Canola oil
2 dozen brown organic eggs
One huge-ass free-range turkey
2 lbs. butter
Chicken bullion (sp?)
Karo corn syrup (OMG… this list is looking so evil!)
Can pumpkin
Can black olives
Whipping cream
2 quarts organic chicken broth
Total = $73

Then we hit Jay’s where I bought the produce:
5 lbs. apples (macintosh for the waldorf salad, granny for the apple pie)
4 lbs. carrots
10 lbs. potatoes
3 lemons
1 head celery
1 large bunch seedless grapes
1 lb. tofu
Total = $17

And finally, a few bakery items from The Marketplace:
3 lbs. light rye flour
1 lb. semisweet miniature chocolate chips
25 lbs. bread flour
Total = $18

So – $108 for the whole shebang (9 people to be fed). This doesn’t include the ingredients I asked my guests to bring: 1 cup dried cherries, 2 cups whole pecans, 1 lb. coffee, 2 lbs. butter (yes – two more pounds than what I bought), 1/2 and 1/2, 3 lbs. yams, pretzel sticks, 5 bottles sparkling cider, and beer (volunteered by a guest). My sister donated $50 to the effort which I took out in Portland Aveda trade (um, I think I’m as excited to see Aveda as I am to have company over!). So – it’s a feast, and thanks to help from the guests, it’s easier on my budget.

Also on my list:
Shampoo the carpet (Ralph)
Clean the bathroom even though it’s always clean
Wash bedding at two houses
Steal from mom’s house: roasting pan and rack (make sure turkey fits), muffin tins, stoneware baking pan
Finish holiday mix tapes

And that’s about it, really! Plus I’m making T-day lunch for Sophie’s kindergarten class tomorrow. And stapling and distributing the zine. And working out at the Y daily.

Today at 11 AM while I waited outside for the library to open – Nels in a monkey hoodie and E. borrowing the pink kitty hat – the kids climbed all over the railing in front of the entrance doors. Those two absolutely love one another, being kindred spirits of mischievousness. As I watched them a man next to me, scruffy and anonymous (there were three such men waiting with me) said, “I don’t know if I should feel bad.” I asked what he meant and he told me he’d been feeling the dogs at the pound (a kennel outdoors by the police station and next to the local grocery store) and a rott puppy had squeezed out of his slot and was running “free” in with the other dogs. I told him not to feel bad. I asked him what he’d been feeding them. “Cookies,” he replied. (!)

The things I like about holidays: the food, the people.

the little ones, again

A few days ago I read about Youssif, an Iraqi boy who was doused with gasoline and set on fire my masked attackers. I repeat, some full grown men threw gasoline on a child and lit this child on fire. CNN aired the story and viewers responded, wanting to help in some way. Two days later the Children’s Burn Foundation (great cause; assy-looking website) set up a portal to donate to Youssif’s care. He and his family will be flown to their group in California for both physical and psychological care.

Yesterday I only donated $10. I know that isn’t much. But maybe someone who reads my blog will donate, too. I have kept this blog over three years and I’ve never done a plug for a donation. For me, it wasn’t Youssif’s scars that pained me to see – scars that are quite severe (the picture of his head entirely encased in bandages seemed worse to me). It was his mother’s description of the change in his personality after the crime. I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind, a beautiful and happy child who’d turned into a sullen and sensitive child.

I believe we should try to be a force for good. If we stop giving, if we stop listening to the suffering and the needs of others, I believe we are a force for evil. It isn’t important how we help, it’s important we keep ourselves open to helping.