41

my heart going boom, boom, boom!

41

I spent my forty-first birthday exactly as I wanted: sleeping in, then rising up for leisurely coffee with Ralph. After my morning practice the four of us set to a deep clean of the house. The kind of deep clean where we pulled down every curtain, shampooed the (single) rug (we own), dusted, mopped, and cleaned the bathroom. My bedroom bureau was scrubbed and my little shelf for my Buddha wiped down with a soft, damp rag – in fact, each Buddha on my main floor got a cleaning as well. I lit charcoal in the brazier and burned resin incense; we put the cats out and aired out the quilts and washed all the bedding. We opened up gifts, each tenderly wrapped and with handwritten salutations and well-wishes.

In the late afternoon I traveled to a studio and held a yoga class, as I’ve done years in a row now on my birthday. I felt so alive on the mat tonight; our instructor led us through deep twists and triumphant standing postures and one-legged forward folds. My toes tapped through the music I’d set – a playlists of songs from 1977, the year of my birth.

41

41

41

41

I changed into my jeans and hoodie and slouchy cap straight from yoga; Ralph and the kids picked me up and we drove straight to Olympia, to a little Chinese restaurant with the best vegan entrees, comfort food. Almond chick’n, smothered in gravy and alongside steamed vegetables. And crisp lemonade – I was so thirsty after working out.

41
We shopped at Target and Nels and I sang on the way home – my thirteen year old son loves Lana Del Rey and has memorized every lyric and vocal flutter and soar.

Home and after a shower, chocolate cake in bed. My body feels indescribably good this evening and the comfort of my home is like a soft blanket I fold over my body, close. I do not like solitude so much, per se, but I do love having time for introspection and respite.

My little family cares for me so very well. I only hope they’d say the same of me.

41

sitting backstage / someone’s plus one

41
In a few hours I turn 41. Of note: my mother brought me over a large floral arrangement today, along with a deep chocolate cake and three small houseplants each set in a simple copper tureen. Ralph and the children have been out on secret errands, happily procuring gifts. I am grateful to be loved so dearly by my little family.

I’ve spent the last two days practicing yoga, caring for family errands, volunteering, and doing those little business admin bits like invoicing and recording receipts and ordering and collating patterns. It is cold – cold in my studio, cold outside. Emerging from the bedroom this morning I find my husband stepping inside after the dog’s morning walk; Ralph is so cold he looks almost shocked. I pour him hot coffee and convince him to come to bed, where I hold him close. I steel myself as he slides his cold hands up my shirt, against the smooth skin over my ribs. The only one who’s touched me like this for two decades.

I’ve tried to stop judging myself how much it hurts my children are growing, are so independent. Every day they seek me out and hold me, and I am grateful for that. Every day they share with me. They can even be coerced to go on errands and I can always buy them a tea latte or lunch. What may be less obvious to my readers, unless you’ve been with me a long time indeed, is that at one time and for many years their company, their needs and laughter and tears and their words and smells and their hair against my cheek, always the sweetest straw-smelling against my skin, this was my world for fifteen plus years and even though things are as they should be I am bereft. For Ralph life is much as before; he’s had their lifetime away at his job, to come home in the evenings. For the children they have the security of their parents, as they rush off and bury themselves in work and play of their own.

All my life I remember people pityingly speaking of women who were too invested in their children, as if this were some mark of a pathetic, cramped nature, of an unimaginative woman to allow such a thing. One secret I have discovered: you can have a full life, you can have all these interests and a gorgeous career and a wonderful marriage and good friends and a meaningful avocation and a spiritual walk and a self-care regimen: and it can still hurt so damn much when your kids grow up.

 

 

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!

that it’s just what we needed / you decided this

My son climbs in the bed and flips his hair, which is soaking wet from the shower. Even a few moments on my pillow will leave it wet the rest of the night, as much hair as he has and how well the tangles hold moisture. “I will love you forever,” he tells me as he settles into my arms. It’s late and he’s exhausted but he wants to fall asleep here with me. I hold him for a while but send him to his own bed. I fear tonight he may have night terrors; he used to get them so often when he was much younger. Now we see them about once a year. Frightening and brutal, but for all that I am glad for their infrequency.

I slept well last night and indeed have been sleeping well lately, and I am grateful for this. I am struggling with so much anger of late. My little family gives me so much solace and joy; so does my volunteer work. So too, does my yoga. Maybe it is just that I am so faithful in all of these and it’s my faithfulness that sustains me.

I set forth in my studio and work on a pair of velveteen trousers with gathered knees, and double-welt slash front pockets, and flower-shaped fell-stitched back pockets, a jaunty little pair of luxe knickerbockers for a small child. The velveteen is gorgeous but dot not perform well when cut, shifting irritating bits of fluff all about my clothing and sewing machine table. For all that I persist – building and constructing a half-lining similar to a pair of men’s dress trousers. Grosgrain ribbon for the inner waistline. When finished they are a delight; I set them aside as I will be adding more pieces soon, for this same child.

Part of my irritation may be the cold in my studio; I think it fatigues me to work there. My hands are cold when I come upstairs and I heat them by washing them, or pouring another cup of hot coffee. Last week I put together the hummingbird feeders again as a solitary soldier was visiting now and then; so I can look out the window while cupping my mug, and watch the alacrity of the birds, the sun and rain outside on the fierce and fine weather we are having.

 

Änderungen

Yesterday my eldest child had their first shot of testosterone, administered by a long needle with a physician’s expertise. In two weeks we’ll return and I will watch my child learn to do this by themselves.

I am not nearly as nervous about testosterone as I was even a year ago, when I had just started educating myself more seriously about being a parent to a trans child. In some ways those early days were a little dream-like; I have a very close friend who is trans and had cheerfully thought that would be my most intimate experience – and I was grateful to be included in her life, and in her journey. When Beeps came out about thirteen months ago I am sad to say I did not realize just how much this would change our lives. It hasn’t all gone as expected, at all. We’ve had disappointments (unsupportive family with poor behaviors), elation (supportive family with awesome behaviors), a lot of great support (thank Jeebus for the internetz), and a huge learning curve. To this day, as much as I’ve read and studied, I haven’t seen anyone as eloquent, well-educated, and kind as my own child on the topic of gender issues. There’s a career in it for them if they so choose.

This child has been noticeably happier since the week dawned when they’d get their first shot; time will tell, but of course as has been my experience these sixteen years of parenting, it really is okay to trust our children. Watching my child bloom into joy, (more) affection, and a great deal more playfulness, has been both wonderful and a bit sobering. It is so easy, when a child is “well-behaved” intelligent, and (seems to be) doing so well, to ignore things rather than pay them heed. Important things.

I forgot to tell you but I am determined, by the way, on a new New Year resolution: to stop criticizing myself. It might seem entirely silly or perhaps even a vague or even unattainable goal but I absolutely know it’s important, and it’s possible. I have been practicing simply moving away from those thoughts that are repetitive criticism (or even obsessive criticism), simply stopping them. This is, I am surprised to find, entirely possible to do. Not that many years ago, I couldn’t have succeeded, and sadly I doubt I would have had an awareness of how self-critical I was. I am finding compassion to be as much a daily, nuanced, complex and fruitful practice as my daily yoga. This gives me a tremendous sense of optimism and gladness – joy, even.

Ralph and Beeps are in their last quarter of German together; “Du hast Hausaufgaben?” my husband asks our child, from the hallway through bathroom door. For their part, Phoenix has been tutoring me a bit. Today while they swept the kitchen floor they sat me down and lectured me on numbers, and how to count according to the German language. I laughed and repeated the word for “fifty-five” several times and Phoenix praised my pronunciation and my handle on their numeric system, although I felt I barely had a grasp on it all.

Also: happy vegan anniversary to me (yesterday)! 

A wonderful, rich life, if the rain still pisses down and all that. Hell, it’s January. We got a ways to go.

2018 New Year

new year, new me, same me

2018 New Year
I am holding my oldest child close in our bed while my husband sleeps just a foot away. Beeps smells like roses and their hair is damp; they are warm and soft and even let me put my arms around their little tummy. I hold them close and I tell them, we make a plan. On Friday I will take them to the new LGBTQ+ teen center in Hoquiam. Beeps is socially shy, at least IRL if not so much online (where they exhibit dry humor and a quick wit). I tell them they can tag along and I will make up a reason to be there. “Why?” my child asks. I say, truthfully, “to find out more about volunteering there.” And my kid sighs a little gladly and says, “oh,” and I can tell they are glad their mother is the type of mother to put time into such a venture.

My first project of the year in my studio was to craft a wheelchair cozy for a child who is very sick, who last I heard only has a few weeks to live. It’s not quite possible for me to wrap my mind around this, although I’ve been trying, but it is possible for me to make this cozy little bundle for this child, a hack that circulated online and involves sewing two cheerfully-lovely puffer coats together at the hem, and the installation of four locations for straps. And I find a little patch, the same as the child’s nickname, and I sew it on patiently today in the kitchen while I listen to my own children talk; Nels is learning coding from Ralph, working on Minecraft mod. My kids are like my cats – they want to be in the same room as me, so when I hand-sew anything I try to let them know and soon enough, there they are

It’s been incredibly cold but today we were blessed with sunshine and, in the evening, a stunningly large full moon on the rise. Last night just after midnight, while neighbors were still launching fireworks, the children and I wrapped up in blankets and spent a few moments on the back deck, marveling at the light from the moon and the passage of another year. My twentieth New Years’ Eve with Ralph; and sometimes time is spinning spinning spinning and my children aren’t yet grown but I can reach my hand out and touch this future, and I think to myself There is absolutely nothing to stop this time from spilling out, so I have to take that deep breath and feel the enormity of the moment.

The oldest child is upstairs drawing; my younger child joins me in bed for just a moment now, before rushing back to his coding work. He is cold as his computer is down in the very basement I toil in; cold AF so he’s cold and we have a standing agreement in the family that we can come to one another for warmth but no pranking anyone by laying ice-cold hands on the warm flesh of the other family member.

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

under bridges of what’s to come

My kids’ shoes end up: in my bedroom, on the bathroom floor. As relatively tidy and supremely well-behaved as my children are, they are nevertheless creatures of comfort: discarding clothes before taking a luxurious hot shower, or slipping off shoes before crawling in bed next to me to cuddle. They leave off on their errands to game – I hear shouts! of laughter from downstairs – and leave their clothes here and there. If they were adults I was forced to room with, I would find it all very irritating. As it is, these mundane remembrances are a comfort to me. I know when they leave my home I will miss them so.

“Are you okay?” my son says, at dinner. We are the only two left at the table and he is helping himself to a third serving of pasta. I tell him Yes, I am just tired and he says, “Put your hand here,” indicating the table between us. His long hand rests on mine – preternaturally beautiful fingers, and long nails. Then, shortly: “I need this to eat,” he smiles, removing his hand and crossing his right over so he can still comfort me.

I am okay, sure – but I am mentally very tired. I am meeting once a week with a small business consultant. I am in couples counseling every two weeks; I take one of my children to therapy every other week from that. It isn’t as if I’m particularly worried in all these concerns, but they very much require a special focus on my part. I am still reeling from the kids’ transition into their teenage years – which is absolutely nothing like the dour, cynical predictions would have had me believe, but is nevertheless a sea change – and I am experiencing the sadness of finally, finally no longer having a family bed. My husband’s car is once again tits-up – and mine is on the last legs for its brakes. My mother is selling her home, after five generations of lives passing through the old Victorian. A family friend dies young and this brings up, for me, horrible memories.

Challenging? Absolutely.

There are many glimmers of goodness in this time. My older child is happier, a brief calm sea. They hold and hug and kiss me several times a day. The younger is a bit more volatile – a surprise, given his sweet nature – but I am gentle with him and he is good at coming to his sense and apologizing. And so, for that matter, am I. I put no small amount of concentration onto helping their father connect with them. He is gone for hours each day, after all, and misses the many opportunities I have.

On the turn of the dime it is absolutely fall, no longer summer. Even the warm days have a dampness and chill in the air. It’s incredible to me, as it was so very hot just before the break. Ralph finished painting the house during our driest spell. In a week or so I’ll pull all the summer clothes for storage and bring out my winter coats in preparing for the long, dark winter to come. As it will, whether we are ready or no.

of an evening

It’s deep into night and as I emerge freshly dressed from my evening shower, I do what I always do – push the towels and laundry from the bathroom floor into the hallway, where it will be retrieved and sorted downstairs by someone in the family. My eldest child always leaves all their day clothes – including shoes – on the floor. Tonight the shoes are a set of knock-off vegan Uggs, slippers really, and as I push them aside I think about how carefully I launder our clothes, and how I set out these very slippers to sun-dry and they look good as new, and here they are on a pile on the floor. And I feel a tremendous sense of affection for my teenage children, who are so busy doing the things they care about and don’t do the things that might be convenient for me, like tidy up their shoes of an evening.

My eldest is out as a non-binary person, and so I get to be out as the parent of a non-binary person. This rarely comes up of course, and I only volunteer it when it is helpful. Saturday night in a recovery meeting a woman looked right at me and said, 

“Kelly, do you have children?”
“I do.”
“How many?”
“Two.”
“A boy and a girl?”
“No.”
“Two boys?”
“No.”
“Two girls?”
“No, I have one son, and one child who is non-binary.” This statement is not met with immediate recognition so I add:
” – so neither boy nor girl.”
A beat of confusion, and then – her hand kind of forming a fish-fin in the air swimming at me, my interrogator says,
“Kind of middle of the road,” and smiles.

Easy as that, so.

This particular child, thanks to a new therapist or perhaps more harmonious relations in their social circle, or maybe even the weather, has been happier lately, and more consistently so. They have had a spring in their step and if you’ve had a child suffer depression you know how wonderful those good days are, the days they feel better.

Life is okay.

T-shirt Upcycle

dust bowl / provender

Today felt impossible at times. I have had a delay in cash flow from clients and that has led to some tight funds. A polite way of saying: we’re skint. I tried to deposit a wad of cash into my account twice today, and both times the credit union screwed up. The whole business was rather a downer, to be honest.

Anyway in the midst of these adventures I’m standing in line at Rite Aid about to ask for their ATM, to try to get this cash where it needs to go. I realize the cashier is having a discussion with the customer in line. I look and see he is in a wheelchair, he is black, he is wearing some kind of trucker-style hat. I see that and then I am tuning into their words. “The cheapest is seven dollars for the Pall Malls,” she tells him. I watch him count some singles. He is a dollar short. He is trying to figure it out. It’s obvious what I can do. I lean forward and say, “I’ll get them,” and hand him the bill in my hand, a $5. He is immediately surprised and says “Thank you, thank you!” I am thinking, How much it would suck to not be able to buy the brand you want to buy? Maybe he even likes Pall Malls, who knows. But I’m in a hurry so I can’t stay. At that moment I spy the ATM and as I say, “You’re welcome,” I put my hand on his shoulder to say, Okay.

There was someone standing in my living room just the other day who was telling me about some panhandlers, and how they shouldn’t be out asking for money with a baby, and how they seemed “sketchy”. The person telling the story, well I was interrupted before I could say what I know, which is we don’t really need to worry about any of that because if I have extra cash or even sometimes of if I don’t I can pass something along because we all need to eat.

I am in the middle of a t-shirt upcycle project: seven shirts, 50 cents apiece. All re-cut and re-sized, with notes on how it was done. And of course I’m putting together a master tutorial for others to follow, if they want excellent results. My thirteen-year-old son is my model; a series of vignettes on his beauty. It’s the perfect summer project: keeping me company for a week, reminding me not to get caught up, not to forget.
T-shirt Upcycle