like a muddy puddle and lately everyone’s been stomping in it

home sweet home

I received a blog donation yesterday. What a boon! Some went to tonight’s dinner – a lemon roasted cauliflower, and a goulash which is baking while I type. Some ($8) went into Ralph’s gas tank. And a little went into two hot sandwiches for a young man and young woman out in a parking lot, with cardboard signs. My son delivered the sandwiches and the individuals tore right into them. Nels watched them from our car as we pulled out. The look on his face as he saw the effects of helping another – it was wonderful. I have been feeling so down about myself lately and so isolated and so icky. These little gifts help a great deal.

Driving off Nels is suddenly struck – “Mama, what about you? What are you going to eat?” My daughter puts her hands on my shoulders and lovingly squeezes. “How are your kidneys?” she asks. “It’s good to ask about your Mama,” Ralph tells them. I’m thinking, as the sun hits us in my husband’s too-loud car and I know that even though I am hungry I will be fed soon enough, Yeah, it is a good thing, it’s a wonderful thing, raising kids who feel cared for and who believe the adults in their lives are caring people. Because then our children are free to grow into the souls they are.

Tonight at the treatment center our little panel of clean-and-sober individuals were queried by the clients interred – especially one man Z., a self-labeled “skeptic” who kept trying to poke holes in a life of sobriety. He asked a few very direct questions, including asking me how I balanced my life with young kids, with that of helping others who wanted to stay sober. He asked a man on the panel named L. – a man with twenty-five years’ sobriety – how that man could still call himself an addict when he hadn’t had a drink or drug for a quarter-century. “I’ll be an addict until the day I die,” the elder responded, “- and so will you.” I thought, Hardcore. I don’t say that to others although I think it sometimes. I have a lot of things I don’t say aloud because I can’t be sure they’re okay to say aloud.

The young man Z. kept asking us about our methods of living without drinking and drugging. He was not convinced. I thought: So you don’t believe anything anyone says. If I tell you I do this work to keep my family and to get my good health, you don’t believe me. If L. tells you he’s still an addict, you don’t believe him. You don’t believe it’s possible to live without drugs and alcohol – and be happy. You don’t believe us even though we’re proof, and even though part of you wants to believe us more than anything because you are starting to be real tired of having the same problems over and over.

In the treatment center his intellectual violence is all in theory and unpleasant enough. In the real world it will be unimaginably harder.

I’m pretty sure Z.’s attitude is not properly labeled “skepticism”. It’s something else. It’s some kind of Perversity and a lot of people are imbued with it. All the same, I am disturbed by Z. because I know what it’s like to have that kind of mind. Pessimistic isn’t even the word although it’s an element within. What I realized after a year or so of ruminating on this kind of mind – the mind I have – was that it comes down to a kind of arrogance. I know more than anyone else, even about their experience – although I am careful not to say this aloud. If you tell me God saved your ass I am “skeptical”. If you tell me you did it on your own without help – I’m “skeptical”. I don’t believe anyone, or anything. Until Proof. What the fuck is Proof? Anything I can have Proof of is like sand shifting under my feet. One moment lulled into comfort; the next, terrifyingly off balance. I am never comforted. Never satisfied.

It’s a horrible mind, but at least it’s a searching one. I came to the Buddha, and the dharma, and the sangha through the exhaustion of this kind of mind. I exhausted this Mind and it exhausted me.

Tonight I’m torn up; I’m troubled. Yesterday as I prayed and meditated I asked, “Let me not be overwhelmed by the troubles of others.”


Deserve’s got nothing to do with it

Today my daughter hands two bills through the car window, to the man we often see impassively holding a cardboard sign. He’s youngish and handsome and has a sun-worn face. Today he has a nod going, maybe heroin or methadone, maybe just sleepy. It takes him just a beat to notice us. We give him the money and when he thanks us I say, “You’re welcome” and I feel not the slightest bit of angst or anxiety or grandiosity or depression about any of the business and I drive on and feel a tremendous sense of gratitude.

I have a book important to me I read everyday, and on the first blank page is a handwritten note, “What’s my motivation today?” Every day that I ask myself that question, I remember I’m put upon this planet to help others. The plans in store for me, well I have no idea (this is actually often quite calmly terrifying, more in a minute). I have come to know my purpose is to help and I’ve come to know I don’t know ahead of time where and when and maybe I’ll never know if I did or how much. The guy with the cardboard sign is just one example of someone I’ve helped (maybe), and not the only person I’ve helped (maybe) today. As for who I’ve harmed, I don’t know that either, although I hope if this is revealed I can make restitution.

This man with the cardboard sign, maybe that money went straight to benzos or a bottle of Boone’s Strawberry Hill. Maybe it went to food or socks. Most certainly his life isn’t any less worthy than mine, which means maybe it’s as simple as someone asking for something and I get to say Yes or No, and when I give I get to know I haven’t earned those two bills any more than he has, as far as I know. If I hadn’t been given the opportunity to give the money, then seen the opportunity and taken it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know I don’t deserve the money, it’s just something in my pocket. What a relief it is to know this last.

What a relief it is to no longer teach my children greed, athough they have every opportunity to invest in that quality in their lives, should they wish.

I have a rule about help for others, a suggestion given to me by someone who’s helped me quite a bit, maybe my first spiritual teacher in the flesh who I’ve recognized as such. She told me I could give and help as long as I did not rob my own family, and she told me to pray I do the Next Right Thing. That’s easy enough at least for starters. In the moment it isn’t always clear if I’m robbing my family or not, and I’ve come to rely upon a fledgling bit of intuition and I’ve had many such incidents I won’t bore you with now, although I assure you they were not at all boring for me.

It would be easier to live the way I used to because then I had Plans and I knew how things would turn out. Then I could obsess about things I wanted to do or acquire or feel smug about eventualities I was sure I was avoiding through my virtue (I’ve since discovered, I have no virtue). I could pretend I’d earned or deserved or worked hard for the comforts I have and the wonderful people I get to see every day. Then I had it all tidied up: I’d raise my kids like this, I’d do such-and-such on this day, I wouldn’t throw away my time on people unless I knew the return I’d get (although I never would have put it in such direct terms, most especially not to myself). I’d give gifts for friends to keep me in their good graces. I’d avoid enemies. I genuinely thought if I didn’t do things for others or say the polite thing or the thing I thought they wanted to hear, they wouldn’t like me.

Now: I have no enemy I avoid, not on this earth. Now: I don’t do things to be liked. Now: I like myself more than I have previously (I’m not claiming cause & effect, there, with those two separates). I don’t much worry who likes me. I know I’m loved. And I love so many, and I feel it so often.

One of the things I’ve realized in a most striking fashion is I could never, ever pay back the gifts I’ve been given. It is not possible. I have to live with knowing this.

It was easier to live the way I lived before. Back then I didn’t tremble like an ant before God, prone to devastation or heartbreaking good fortune alike.

Phoenie & A Newt

amphibious as it turns out

Today I was up running about, doing dishes, and cooking for a few concerns: first, the salad to bring out to the campground for an early dinner, secondly, a meal to take to the Mission (today we did not make up our weekly Conch meal* – but we continue to feed the hungry with food donations). For the latter I’d made up about ten servings of a salad: brown rice, black beans, corn, small-dice celery and garlic, vinaigrette dressing. I picked up a bag of hot fresh chips from Los Arcos ($2) to compliment. And – for myself – I got an Earl Grey tea latte from Tully’s for the drive, lactose intolerance be damned! (Tomorrow I’ll be weeping though.)

Out at the lake Nels and I found my mother and my daughter playing with another grandparent/children family scene. After sitting and talking with my mom I could tell something she could not: my two kids could play for FIVE HOURS (no joke) nonstop, in the water, and weren’t going to want to come away as early as we were. My mom still has that grandma or occasional-in-charge-grownup or whatever sense, thinking a playdate should be like an hour at most. You know, I’m realizing kids actually don’t nearly have the short attention span adults do.

We stayed a fair while at the lake edge, and I was due in town at seven, so there wasn’t time to camp cook – nor did my mom have the energy for her part (she and Phoenie had not slept well the night before). We travelled the few minutes into Montesano to an open and family-friendly diner (fortunately, the dish I’d brought for campside dinner – a salad with precisely-slided broccoli florets, dried cranberries, crumbled bacon, peas, sunflower seeds, and a sugar/red wine vinegar mayo dressing – was safe enough in my car, tidied in a cooler and iced). We four had a lovely meal but soon my little girl was curled up on my lap sleeping. My mom worried the girl had over-tired but Phoenix wanted to go out for her second night camping. I carried her to the car (stopping briefly to say Hello to a boy, ha, I went to school with) and loved her up then we parted ways.

Today: Phoenie and a newt. She, of course, is expert in catching them. This newt was so goddamned cute. (Yes, I’m a poet and boy don’t I know it!) It had it’s little mouth open at one point and I almost died from the sweetness:

Phoenie & A Newt

Home and picking up Ralph, who was deathly tired. Now into bed with my two fellas – time for some grateful prayers and lovely cuddles.


* What’s up with the Conch thing? Nothing, we still want to finish our tour. We’ve had a few breaks – not my original intention. Ultimately enough people held on to baskets and dishes (part of our mission was to be as environmentally conscious as possible) that it took the wind out of my sack a bit. I should probably get my shit together but I’m a bit tired from other commitments lately!

a pleasure as well as a necessity

The Conch Shell Deli

So, I know what you’re going to think: our new enterprise is fabulous. No, but seriously. Check out that menu. For realz. All that home-cooked fare? I am telling you it’s going to be good.

So yes, Nels and I are going to run a restaurant for a while. Well, it’s a “restaurant” anyway. Nels named it (I made the logo) and designed the scheme (when Ralph and I finished the website he was very impressed) and was quite opinionated about the selected dishes as well. Every Wednesday we’re making food (a fully-rendered dinner, paired dessert, and drink of choice), and packing it in reusable takeout for friends and family to opt-in. Yes, we came up with a market-value donation equivalent to, you know, if this were an actual business. Yes, we have one “customer” confirmed (my mom), and color all three of us food-geeks excited!

And while I’m at it, if it isn’t clear already, let me tell you something: EVERY aspect of this venture has my son in the driver’s seat. He’s emphatic we get paid (more in a bit). He’s also emphatic we freely share, too, though:

Sour Cream Banana Cake

Nels’ second part of our business plan: he wants our food to be free for those who can’t afford it – the “homeless” and “poor” (his words). And don’t think I’m not totally impressed he put forth this construct. He’s awesome.

So today we did just that with the above-shown cake – after errands Nels hopped out at the bus station with a colander full of wrapped sour cream banana cake parcels and handed them out; the kiddos walked the remainder through the front door of the Mission. Both Nels and Phoenix were very interested in all this and Nels talked, all the way home, about being happy he helped, and how he wanted to help more.

So I’m sure you’re thinking Wow that’s really cool, Kelly’s such a good / supportive / creative / talented mom, and That Nels is so sweet and bright etc. etc. But you don’t know the whole story.

I mean I’m not sure if I’ve rendered, fully, how fucking tenacious this child is. I mean I’ve talked about it here and there. Until recently he had the video game Minecraft occupying his body, mind, and soul. Now that he’s off the video games (for now) he has his 110% energy up to cooking, making menus, and heckling. Dear god the heckling. Let’s make this, let’s make that, put spaghetti and meatballs on the menu, also that Vietnamese dish, with the noonles (not a typo), and let’s test out dough for bread.

And the questions. I mean even as we’re making the goddamned bread at 1 AM. The questions, Great Balls. Why can’t we have an actual business and make money? Why would we have to pay to do that? Why do we have to have licensure, insurance, and cook in a different kitchen? I like cooking in our kitchen. Why can’t we just tell people about it, make ads and flyers? Can we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner? Can we share just dessert? Should dessert be ten dollars?

Who is homeless? How can you tell? Is a homeless person dirty with a cardboard sign? Why can’t I ask someone if they’re poor? Why does ______ keep saying they’re poor when they have a bigger house than us and two nice cars? Why did the city of Aberdeen post signs that tell people they shouldn’t help people? Is what we made healthy enough? Could we make something different tomorrow?

Can I give homeless people clothes?* Can I give them a computer? Would they like this palm pilot? Can I give them my money? I’m going to invite a homeless person to sleep at my house. I’m going to grow up and build a house with four extra bedrooms for people to sleep in. I’m going to have a hostel. People care too much about money. People should help.

It’s not just that eventually I’m at the point of “Mama why is the sky blue?” “Just shut up and eat your french fries”, it’s that rather early on I realize Nels is just right about everything, and I get tired thinking of how the world kinda sucks a lot of the time, and I’m pissed and tired I have to defend or explain. Any of it. Oh and I don’t want him to change, to lose this compassion and this intelligence and this love, and I’m scared one day he will, but I feel powerless to do anything. Except stay up all night baking bread while he pours in every cup (of eleven) of flour and says, “I love you, Mama.”

They’re exhausting. The kids. But it’s the right kind of exhaustion, I guess. Truthfully, I have no idea how long my six-year old will remain interested in this project, but I can say I’ve been enjoying the last few days immensely. Besides the menu and web design we’ve been testing recipes: three-bean chili with shredded pork, honey white bread, bún thịt bò xào, jalapeño jack cornbread, and sour cream banana cake. Tomorrow: yeasted Tabasco-cheddar biscuits, sesame slaw, and coconut muffins.

Yeah, it feels right.

Oh, and this Wednesday evening? Palak Panner, Vegetarian Korma with Carrots, Potatoes, and Cauliflower; Basmati Rice in Ghee with Cardmom and Cinnamon, Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade with Mint, and Coconut Cupcakes for dessert.

(The Mission, & a Grays Harbor Black Dog:)

Grays Harbor Black Dog

* Yes, I’ve explained how my extremely careful tending of clothing, including last week at the Aberdeen Clothing Bank, is in fact donating clothes, although Nels has a point about just going up to someone and offering them something.

Birds are like little people

if it’s friday, you should mess around on the inter-netz instead of working

“The Facebook Double (D) Standard on Obscenity”
This is just sort of amazing to ponder. What is really happening when we ban images of breastfeeding but promote any degree of (usually young, usually sexualized) cleavage? Breastfeeding is a recognized and protected “right” in many states – but not all! Breastfeeding it is under fire continually and, most importantly, people demonstrate an ignorance and vitriol toward women and their bodies that is staggering and sobering to behold. Women are still wrongfully arrested for breastfeeding, told they can’t breastfeed here or there or must cover up – even when the law does not support this (this in Washington State today, recognized as one of the more breastfeeding-friendly of our fifty – and by the way this conduct demonstrated by the Long Beach Head Start facility clearly violates Washington Law Against Discrimination), and maybe most tellingly everywhere the subject comes up we see viscous, untenable and shameful rhetoric heaped on the personhood of breastfeeding families – targeting the breastfeeding woman, of course (and on this, I refuse to link to the hate). My breastfeeding days are over but I feel deeply, deeply sad at how poorly our country and cultural framing is on what is a very pro-family, pro-baby, and pro-woman practice that should be regarded not as an enforced standard for every individual bio mom but as a protected and supported reproductive right.

“Grrl Vlog #4: Celebrity Weight Loss” by Reel Girls. Very good watching – take four minutes and DO IT. “OK I’m skinny now, but I’m also, like, nice, and sweet, and pretty, and refined.”

“When ‘Both Sides’ Aren’t Enough: Reporting on Weaver’s Blackface Pic” at Soc Images
I’ve often thought this before; the “obsession with [false] parity” (which often leads to “innocently neutral” articles that ignore historical context lived by those marginalized, thereby keeping privilege and oppression invisible). If anyone is in any doubt as to why blackface (and along the same vein and with some similarities, redface and yellowface…) is offensive, one can start the education at the excellent Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorablilia – particularly the “Caricature” treatments, Dr. Pilgrim’s many writings, and Question of the Month essays.

“When Teachers Highlight Gender, Kids Pick up Stereotypes” from Pennsylvania State University, and reported (of all places) at Main point: in a classroom setting, teachers don’t need to be actively spouting gender stereotypes to effectually promote them. I like the idea of using “child” and “friend” language over “boys and girls” language – very much.

If you run over a fat person and kill them, you won’t go to jail. I mean c’mon, they were going to keel over any minute now anyway since their veins pump gravy and stuff.

Twisty goes on sabbatical (boo hoo!), also links to Privilege-Denying Dude (yay!)

Domestic Industry
The grilled moussaka I made yesterday was delicious according to Ralph and (sort of) the kids, but I thought it was a total miss. So anyone who’s got a fail-proof moussaka recipe, lay it on me. By the way, who is this reviewer complaining moussaka is too “heavy” of a dish? Guess what, “heavy” food gives us the energy to survive, not to mention the zest for life and a will to live!

Shallots in Red Wine at Craft. I’m making Italian fare for Thanksgiving; I’m going to make this dish with whole garlic.

Thanksgiving books; these are with a vegetarian bent (if you won’t be doing the turkey thing) and also several by Native / First Nations authors. I put some on hold at our library to read while we’re at the Lake.

They’re dying of cholera in Haiti; other places in the world lack soap to prevent diseases. 5 million die a day, mostly small children. Go to to help (more on “How to help Haiti” at the Chicago Tribune).

“Eight Great Ways to Help Others on Thanksgiving”; yesterday I donated several pounds of veggies and some pantry business to a local family. It felt good to help; it also felt very good not to waste food, something that sends me into a tiny panic. Our cats and chickens help us not waste food either; scraps go to both sets of animals (our chickens are vegetarians but our cats are not).

It’s Christmas time, or rather, it’s time for Ralph and I to stop spending money on utilities and buy and create those extravagances that are so lovely to experience. Ralph and I make most our Christmas presents, but we buy a few as well. I’m currently plaguing Ralph to buy some Samsonite for the kids (their current luggage is falling apart); last night I got the perfect safety pins for a Phoenix project.


One thing’s for sure: Nobody ever sees the pool shark coming.

Birds are like little people.

comic from toothpaste for dinner