today I felt a bit of warmth & heard birds; Spring may indeed come again

A little after one o’clock I run out of gas, while trying to give someone a ride. We end up sitting in the cold bright sunshine talking; he finishes a cigarette while sitting cross-legged in some really sweet Italian leather shoes. I am disconcerted. There is something about having certain kinds of problems, I start to feel less like an adult, more inadequate, Shame. But I still my tongue and don’t overapologize or try to explain the whole business. Shit happens. There’s a reason I’m in the sunlight, having a delay in my day, which is so often go-go-go with my little plans and everything.

A bit later the two of us walk a few blocks and meet my husband, coming to my rescue with five gallons. My dog patiently waits through all this and, when we finally get home, obligingly butt-waggles his way back inside. A few hours later and he wants to ride with me in the car again. He never doubts me even if I sometimes doubt myself. Loyal.

Home, and Nels is with his friends, Phoenix is off to the beach with her grandmother.

Last night one child stayed the night; tonight we have another young guest. It’s pretty nice to have a safe, nurturing home for not just our kids, but others.  Home again and while the kids play I trace a sewing pattern; Ralph sets the table and sets out bowls of noodles, lettuce, mint, carrot, and cucumber; a fish vinaigrette sauce and sliced tri tip steak. A Vietnamese dish that is one of my favorite homecooked meals. The kids laugh while they eat and I snuggle my son’s long blonde tangles. Ralph runs a bath

and

it’s time to go to bed!

like a bee

Today:

Upcycled Wool Hat, Prototype

I posted a for-sale hat at Homesewn, thanks to my friend E.

Grandma Paints A Mural; Hutch Watches Over

Mural-sitting for my mother, who needs someone to watch over the manlift. I don’t get it as supposedly someone has to be there, but there is no training required or documentation. ANYhoo let’s just wait it out, she’ll be done in a few days.

Ladyfriend & perhaps future sisterwife hsofia posted her presentation of Unschooling as a Life Hack; she used a few photos of ours. Professional, human, warm and wonderful!

stole my money, & my cigarettes

Before I forget. I wrote a piece about unschooling, and the many comments “skeptics” like to make. I hope you find it helpful.

***

Hot. Friends invited us to the River. Where we hid out. It was excellent.

Wynoochie River With Friends

Wynoochie River With Friends

Wynoochie River With Friends

NELS’ TEETH, I DIE EVERY TIME

A few pictures of a shy guy, my friend S. Whom I adore. My kids love him too. Kids are a good judge of a person.

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

RIVER-DOG

Hutch, GOOD DOG At The River

My mom’s birthday. I made her a custom pincushion and got her flowers; then set up a surprise movie/dinner date complete with SUPER-SURPRISE birthday visit from my brother and his lady. Anyway here are the presents:

Jenny's 63rd Birthday

Jenny's 63rd Birthday

The local florist in Hoquiam is wonderful. Lucky to have some great businesses here.

4th of July

I pen this as my neighbors are getting up and going with their loaded frolicking, involving explosives, many of which are likely not legal within the city limits. They’ve already fired more than one firework directly into our yard, on accident I think, because they are smashed. I came home from my mom’s to be with my dog who is hiding in the closet behind me, but much relieved I am here.

Earlier today: date with Ralph at the taco truck.

Ralph, Taco Truck

We finished cake balls – they will be for sale at my kids’ lemonade stand, First Thursday tomorrow in Hoquiam (5 PM to 8 PM, Gray’s General Store):

Cake Balls!

Hutch relaxed a bit, at my mom’s place:

Resting

By the way, Hutch knows who his “grandma” is. My mom has been talking him up all over town. I shit thee not. People I don’t know, know I have a dog and that my dog is awesome. I am totally in the “Hutch is awesome” camp, and I don’t know how it happened. I give him rub-downs every single day. I love him so much.

After dinner (which I was too hungry to take pictures of, alas – delicious tacos with tons of fresh veg and accoutrement) – strawberry shortcake, soooooo good (recipe in the July 2012 issue of Tumblehome!):

Strawberry Shortcake

Fireworks, a few minutes before I started believing we might die tonight:

Boom

Firework

Nels is down with the pyrotechnics (as you know he’s totally cool with standing inside a firework):

Splash

One last spark before taking cover inside:

Spark

 

a life in the day

Swim Date, Goggles At The Ready

The sun comes out again today but I’m still managing to have a frustrating morning. Things haven’t been going my way just lately, as I mentioned. So now at 11:30 I’m trying to make lunch for the kids. I haven’t eaten yet and I’m going to be late to my meeting. I’m in the middle of shouting instructions to the children (set the table, et cetera) and then my mom walks in my house. Uninvited. I’m terse with her and she leaves, then I snap at my son, who is wailing about something or other not going his way. After I snap at him he really sets up protesting.

I calm down.

I go to the living room, hug my son, apologize. I take a deep breath and call my mom up and she apologizes for walking in, says she knows I don’t like that. She and I talk over some details with some kid-date stuff and I hang up. At this point I’m resigned to being late to my meeting – it’s only a little late, anyway, and I could benefit if I’d get over being tense about this kind of thing, especially as long as I have dependents in the home who have needs too (after ten years you’d think I’d have learned this!). So I relax, set the food out, ask the kids if they want to come with me or stay home. They elect to stay, and while I’m gone they clean up the living room, sweep, put away the dishes, and pack their swim gear. Seriously. What the hell was I tense about?

I make my meeting and sit sipping coffee, grateful for the sunshine and an hour’s respite. Back home I grab a coffee the kids jump in the car, off for swimming after a quick cupcake snack (above). I run my errands and finally get my own lunch before heading back to the pool. Even though they’ve been there a while and I’m worried they’re very hungry, they’re not ready to get out. My daughter thinks I’m making them disembark and she’s sore at me. She lets me take a picture of her.

Swimming. Also, @phoenixhogaboom Is Pissed At Me

So I let the kids be and Ralph brings them home on his way for work. The children are (finally) famished. Grandma buys them a hamburger and they drink the last of the orange soda Emily brought the other day, reading their comics at the dining room table. Then the friends start over, the friends who’d been knocking all afternoon as soon as they were out of school. The kids, finished with dinner, hop up and they’ve grabbed the Flip camera and they’re filming, culminating in a trip to the train tracks to play a version of Bloody Mary. I finish a sewing project and put my feet up as dusk falls. I feel the end-of-day endorphins, or whatever, start to flow through  my body. A long day of yoga, housework, kidcare, writing, a meeting, helping friends, phone calls, haciendo planes, crafting. Now my bones ache for a hot bath and clean pajamas and snuggling up to the kids before bedtime.

Yeah. It ended up being a pretty good day.

Ribbons

call it free

My life could be a little sitcomish, if you squint. Not the sit-coms I watch – well, I kind of don’t watch any. But, kind of silly and down-homey and provincial. Like, this afternoon my kids came and woke me up and they were so kind. I was taking advantage of the kids’ stay-over with my mother – staying in bed until ten or so after a poor night’s sleep. The kids showed up after movies and breakfast of steak and eggs and suchlike their grandma cooks them. (Um, have I mentioned how much it totally works out to live next door to her? It is really, really working out.)

Anyway some time after I get up and shower and pull my shit together, Phoenix cleans her room and I look around for my son while I make tea. I’m not too serious about finding him, as every day I’m half-resigned to the half-private and independent lives the kids often lead during the day. My mom comes over. She’d put out an artificial white Christmas tree on the corner with a “FREE” sign, and looked out the window an hour later to find it gone. All-pleased like she struts over for coffee, to discover the tree on my porch. Delivered by a very satisfied young man in his little suit jacket, I should say. We’re deciding if we’re keeping it, or putting it back on the corner. Nels admits it’s a little early for Christmas, but perhaps we could store it in the garage.

Nels and Phoenix run about outside mostly, later with friends out of school. And by the way, Nels’ four front teeth were recently lost and the new ones are coming in and it’s about a thousand percent adorable. I’ll have to give him an interview on video, for posterity.

I’m sick today – a sore throat. I’ve been laying low and hand-embroidering while watching the kind of television program I do like to watch, mainly really really grim (well it’s either that, or grim but also slapstick). I took the advice of a friend online and rested, and I’m glad for it now that I’ve discovered I’m sick, and my sister is visiting later in the week. A little red meat for dinner, more tea, and back to handsewing and couch-time with family and friends.

 

Free

the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself

#cakemeh

I gave birth to my son eight years ago today. Over the last seven years I have posted his birth story on this date. Oddly enough, some people enjoy (re-)reading it. If it is your first time reading here, welcome. But feel free to skip over and check out pictures from today’s birthday party. And some thoughts I’ve had recently. Yeah, it’s a long post. I own it.

Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story

Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia [/Phoenix]
1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long

April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?

A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.

April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing

My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.

Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.

April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote

Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.

April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!

Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful to very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of his head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.

April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born

With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of my baby’s long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding my child to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. The child is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby in my own home, with my own power.

April 7th, early morning – getting to know you

I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my newborn away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the delivery of the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.

I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with my first child, too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with my daughter’s birth, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. My daughter Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.

My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.

***

Today’s birthday gathering, a few pictures:

Veggie Tray

We had a great deal of food: ten pounds pot roast, fifteen pounds mashed potatoes, popcorn with butter, a fruit salad, a veggie tray, homemade cake, ice cream, juice, tea, and coffee. My mom’s veggies were so pretty, but I forgot to take a picture of the rest.

"Who Brought This?"

Nels was thrilled with every present he received. Here, he’s asking who gave him this one.

Phoenix

Phoenix, parched. So is my lemon-tree (at far right). Likely dead.

Jason Examines Our Backyard Terrain

Jason examines back yard shenanigans.

Sister & Brother

Sister. Believe it or not she was not annoyed with him in this interaction. But her expression is awesome. Who is that?

Catnip Mouse Piñata

My brother makes epic piñatas. This one was a catnip mouse, as we had a kitty-themed party. The kids had a great time killing it. I think it took about three rounds a person.

Piñata Time

Whacking time!

The Candy Cigarettes Are Just Killing Me

The candy cigarettes. I was dying.

Almost Over

Done! (Almost). Very tired.

***

Today I was up at 5 AM as I’d been asked to give a talk to a group about my life as an alcoholic in Recovery. Telling my life story to a group of many friends and many strangers, quite a task. Afterwards I came home, made a few preparations, and then slept a while. I rose and finished some of the things I needed to do for the gathering.

I want to talk briefly about my gratitude for the many people in my life. I have had so much help in all my endeavors. I have had this help all my life, although I didn’t always perceive it. For some time I lived in awareness of the things I didn’t have, the dissatisfactions, the imperfections, the discontentedness. When others helped, I felt beholden and I tried to pay them back. Quid pro quo. This was exhausting, draining, and curiously devoid of gratitude. Servile and yet self-centered.

I want to talk a little about how much I’ve been helped so you can understand the wonderful people in my life. Just today, just today’s example, I want to talk about all those who helped me.

This morning my husband got me coffee and drove me to my talk. At the talk my friends greeted me and hugged me and said wonderful things to me. After I spoke, more kind words, more hugs – from friends and those who I hadn’t known previous. As I left, a friend handed me a fresh strawberry breakfast and said I’d want it about nine o’clock. (She was right!)

When I got home, my husband helped me with party preparations and took care of many things while I rested. Both my children came upstairs and gave me hugs. Touchingly, Nels dressed himself, washed his face, brushed his teeth, and got to the business of the day while I slept, and while his father was out on an errand. This was very sweet as Nels has been, off and on, frightened to be alone rooms of the house at times. He told me he took care of himself this morning to conquer his fear and to make me proud of him.

For the party, many friends helped. They all helped. An hour before the party a girlfriend texted and asked if she could assist and I said Yes; she helped me purchase supplies, wrap presents, and get gift bags ready. Another friend, at my request, brought the (delicious!) mashed potatoes and helped me serve. Other friends brought pop to the party.

My mother helped a lot today. She helps us most days, but today quite a bit. We used many of her supplies last-minute to get ready for the gathering. Besides the gifts she and my friends brought my son (which I’m not even listing, here – but which were all lovely and thoughtful), she also made two dishes, full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

My daughter helped. She helped get ready for the party and she helped me clean up during the party. My son mostly enjoyed himself, but he also helped take care of the youngest child at the party. I thought this was very tender.

My brother made the piñata. It is pretty excellent and he bought and paid for and made the whole thing. It gave the children a great deal of joy, and the grownups too (we broke a stick on it and then went to work with rebar).

Today many texted, emailed, or in other ways told me to relate Happy Birthday to my son. Today I felt a lot of gratitude for the friends and family in my life. They make my life deeply worthwhile.

And today many of my friends made my son feel very special. He will likely remember the day the rest of his life.

Nels today:

E. Looks On

Nels one year ago:

Happy Birthday!

 

Nels, Satisfied

Have your coffee, splishy-splashy

@phoenixhogaboom & I At #HQX #YMCA, Waiting For @stuffnelssays

Phoenix, waiting

Today my son went swimming on his own. We dropped him off at the Y after running a few errands (cat food! dear lord the racket our felines make if even one meal is late!) and picking up groceries for ourselves. My daughter and I ran home and messed about a while, doing our thing, then made a hot lunch to take to the Y for post-swim. I knew the Little Guy would be hungry indeed.

When my son saw us waiting for him he splashed over immediately, all wet-puppy and lovely. After dressing, he devoured his bean and rice burrito in no time flat. After the briefest turn at foosball (I will never play my daughter again, a week ago she absolutely killed me), the kids ran outside into the (now wind-and-rain)storm, flung themselves into the car. Nels’ impish nose and beaky little face full of joy as he wiggled in his seat.

“I met a girl,” he tells me. “Named Miley.”

Ailey?” I can’t hear him over the defrost.

Miley,” he shouts back.

“Oh. Did you like her?”

“Yes. She loves me.”

“Oh really! Well does she know how naughty you are?”

“She doesn’t know. I kept THAT a secret.” He laughs wryly. WRYLY. He’s just a Little Guy!

My son is too little to know crushes but it won’t be long. My daughter already has an awareness. The other day a few ten to twelve year old boys were hassling her. I come outside an hour later and she’d kicked all their asses, AND they were in love with her, she was leading the pack. She’s got it figured.

Back home: children running about the house and wrestling upstairs. Crafting: more embroidery, a present for Nels, and I finished a few of the last tailoring details for a coat of my own.

Custom Shoulder Pads, Sleeve Heading

Tomorrow: I’m up at the Treatment Center a while, and the kids are making Easter baskets with their Grandma. My father’s birthday approaches, just a bit after my son’s. Time for contemplation, even if I’m busy.

your one & only

Gifts: Flowers, Plant, Señor Mysterioso

Left to right: the plant was a recent gift from a woman in Recovery.
The grape hyacinths a gift from my son.
Señor Mysterioso was a present for my 30th birthday from one of my friends in Port Townsend –
(he has faithfully watched over my kitchen ever since).

***

A few words on a subject. We live next door to my mother now, and that probably wouldn’t have gone so well a few years ago – especially given she is sort of the de-facto property manager, as my aunt owns the house. Yeah I KNOW! Who gets themselves into such a situation?

Well, I feel pretty good about the whole business. We’ve had a few key learning experiences over the years, especially since we moved back to Grays Harbor in 2007 and my parents and the kids began to experience each other more. Both households have put a lot of good-faith effort into the relationship, and that has yielded a strong and loving family experience.

I remember at first my mom could barely handle watching the kids for the hour and a half it would take Ralph and I to go out to a movie. When she did watch them, she’d talk about the event like it was kind of a big hassle. Not the kids, but the work of watching them. Do you know how much this bugged me, my mind the way it was, also the fact I was like OH REALLY IT’S HARD WORK, FUNNY I DIDN’T NOTICE THAT DOING IT EVERY DAY LIKE I DO YOU COLOSSAL ASS, NO ONE GIVES ME A BREAK!!! Yeah… that was me, alright. (#LOLsob) I know she didn’t mean to speak in a way to cause me anxiety and irritation; she was a stressed-out kitten. And so was I!

Then there was just the occasional invasive weirdness. She’d do stuff like offer to take the kids on a walk, citing – aloud – the suggestion Ralph and I could use that time to have sex (um… Ew, mom. Also? Not always my first priority when I have a little time without responsibilities. Probably more like a distant sixth priority. And may I reiterate? Ew, mom.).

So, I wasn’t especially grateful for my mother’s help, conditional as it was. Like a laser-beam I focussed on her limitations, instead of acknowledging several facts. One, no one owes me SHIT. *ahem*. Two, my mom always had trouble with kids including her own, back in the day (hell, she has trouble with Responsibility, period, often feeling claustrophobic). I’m not proud to admit this – but I was judging her the way so many others judge mothers. Three, my dad was sick with cancer and dying, and during this I knew better than most, many of the ways this affected her. You’d think I’d have more sympathy. Finally, although it would be nice if the world assisted parents/carers of children more, especially in those early years, at least where I’ve lived they kinda don’t. Again, I was aware of this by the time we moved here. So why I thought my mom “owed” me more than what anyone else was giving, is beyond me (well wait, I know why – childhood resentments! More in a minute).

The simple but kinda flooring fact is: my mother was the ONLY person in our lives who offered this kind of help with any regularity – even the ladies in Port Townsend were more like, “LET’S TRADE” – and my father, loving a grandfather as he was, seemed happy to have the kids over but didn’t actively try to help my mother much. He let her do most of the worrying, feeding, et cetera.

But from the beginning my parents respected Ralph and I were adults with kids of our own. They honored or even celebrated our journey caring for children they loved so very much, just like we loved the children. That was pretty damned cool and not something everyone has. My parents were also willing to hear how Ralph and I did things differently than they themselves had. I think that takes a lot of strength, or faith. When all is said and done, I consider my parents and my brother three of my biggest EVER supporters. I am really fortunate in this regard.

My father died before I got sober, but things improved between my mother even more when this happened for me. The resentments I’d long held, some subtle, some festering and large, those all went away. This has made a tremendous difference in my life, one I cannot overstate. When it comes down to it, it matters little if the wrongs done to me as a child and teen were real or imagined. I had held them too long and let them operate on me, to the detriment of all I came into contact with. I gave myself the gift of forgiveness. and it’s made me a better daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother.

Living next door to one another, today we have a few courtesy traditions. We are clear – so far (grin) – on whose house is whose. Everyone knocks or rings doorbells, no one just enters. In fact, today after my mom invited me in for coffee, my son came over and even though he knew I was there, he still observed the doorbell-ringing. Class act.

Most days the kids are back and forth, either helping Grandma with her projects – like working on planting or building a greenhouse, or cleaning the fish pond – or just goofing off on errands. My mom helps take care of the kids, something she does with regularity. We can ask one another for favors, and, as far as I can tell, we give and take with willing spirits. The kids are getting some fine treatment. Once a day my mom takes them out for a burger or shake, or chocolate milk, feeds them steak for breakfast, or invites them over for a smoothie and cartoons. Ralph brings dinner over to her house, something he did at the old house but is even easier now. I make coffee when she comes over, stopping my work if necessary. She’s my mom, and I’m fortunate to still have her around.

From the very beginning I let my kids have their own relationship with most people, but yes, even my parents. I’m really glad I did this – it was really a deep-rooted choice for me that at times seemed contraindicated by others I saw around me. I guess when it comes down to it, even back in the day I trusted everyone to be themselves – and I really trusted my kids to form their own thought-life and relationships.

It’s good stuff.

“Loneliness comes with life.”

I have this odd thing about milestones, an internalized pressure I have to have a good day. I’m supposed to, you know. On Christmas, Valentines, my birthday. That “supposed to” leaves me little room for being human, being fallible, making mistakes, not knowing what’s going on, committing errors. It’s not a very good force in my life, that “supposed to”. I’m sure many people can relate.

It happens I used to feel some self-pity when my birthday came and I felt blue, or things didn’t work out to my satisfaction, or the boyfriend wasn’t nice or I didn’t have a girlfriend or whatever. A long time ago, I think, the self-pity bit. Because several years ago I realized I had been given a very special life to live. Maybe this sea change germinated during my 17th and/or 18th birthdays, where both years my close friends pulled off some excellent surprise party-age for me; two years in a row tricking me, by the way – I was totally convinced nothing special was going down (and yes, I felt self-pity before the “SURPRISE!”, then felt like an ass, predictably). Or my 21st where I got a car with a bow on it from my parents, after a lovely dinner at the posh little restaurant my brother-in-law worked at. Or my 30th, the last few days in Port Townsend, when I had the most overwhelming and lovely going away/birthday party (P. remember you came down with gastritis?!). Or just the many little and brilliant things that have happened on so many birthdays. The small little stack of cards on my shelf right now with wonderful things written in them from good friends.

I have had in my life a lot of love and many wonderful friends. They’ve given me so many gifts: their time, their handcrafted wonderfulness, their gifts, sometimes quite extravagant, their gifts, usually knowing me and what I adore. They’ve given me their company and their kind regards and even those emails and little DMs and IMs and texts and handwritten cards. They’ve given me flowers and cakes topped with flowers, and wrapped-up lusciousness and very dear perfumes which were a pleasure to apply every morning. They’ve given me coffee and teas and soaps and candles and lipsticks, those things in life that make such a gift out of the smallest rituals. They’ve given me their company whether I felt happy or blue, whether I was being selfish or rude or distracted or happy. They’ve given, given, given.

They’ve gifted me all this and more.

I can only say Thank You to these friends and family; I can only say Thank You to the universe and re-commit to appreciating those in my life. I can re-commit to being kind and telling these people how I feel. I can only commit to taking more care to gift others, not out of obligation but because they are special people to me and gifting is a wonderful privilege. This sounds like only a little, but it is a lot. It is easy to get distracted and to not appreciate those in life when they are right here with us, to love or ignore, our choice.

I seem to have less of a mind for detail than I used to. I used to be able to remember so many things the kids and I did and I would write them all up here on this journal. Reading my old entries causes me pain. I think I was funnier, I know I had more pain and was more crass, I know I had more drama, but I think I’m still about as passionate. Still, I can only write as well as I do.

Here’s one event from the day: Phoenix and I were lying in bed this afternoon as I didn’t feel well (seriously I really did injure myself on that dance floor last night, my creaky old joints need more practice!), and she started making fun of my saggy boobs (they aren’t that saggy, but, whatever). And she was going on with quite a bit of prose on this fantasy so like really quickly all of a sudden I grabbed at her and poke-tickled her ribs (my brother had this move down with his boney-ass fingers) and she collapsed laughing and said, “I love insulting you!” and I said I would smash her flat, and she said, “You can’t control who you gave birth to!” and I said, “I know, and I immediately regret the choice to have you!” and we laughed really hard.

Then she fell quiet for a moment and corrected herself that yes, I could have chosen to not birth her, or to birth her but not raise her. And she grew somber and said how people who had too many cats would take a new litter and put it the creatures in a bag and throw it in the water. I said, “Yes, that is a sad thing.” She said, “It’s awful.” Then she said, “I think people might be doing this right now,” and her perfect little mouth was quite grave.

And I said, “Now that you have that awareness you can take care of animals, and teach others the value of caring for life.”

And Phoenix said, “What I’d like to do, is cross-breed kittens with snakes. Then if someone went to put them in a bag, [ mimics hissing / striking action ].”

Kitten-snakes.

So anyway, that’s one of the people I live with, and how their mind works.

Oh and yeah? It turns out, after a rough start, I did have a very nice birthday.

***

R.I.P. Whitney Houston; & here I have a dedication to my homegirl J., remember when we used to watch this in the apartment on 8th?