a walk with paradise


Moss On Sidewalk

“Why do people claim all boys like the color blue, and all girls like the color pink? It isn’t true.”

My daughter is asking me. She’s holding my hand; her other is engaged in walking my mother’s dog, whom we have for the next week while his owner buries her toes in a Mexican beach somewhere. The three of us are on a walk. Kind of a long one.

I tell my daughter, now: “Well, I have an answer. It’s kind of long. Do you still want to hear it?” She tells me Yes.

I tell her, you know basically, historically, people have a tendency to oppress one another. I ask her if she knows what this means. She says Yes. We talk about this for a bit. I tell her one way people can feel justified in their worldview is to believe those oppressed are less human, or categorically separate. I say it comforts some people to make up reasons one group of human beings is innately different than the other. I tell her some more of what I’ve seen. I make sure to qualify it is not all people who do this in every regard, but that most of us have learned to do it unconsciously. She brings up her father. She tells me he is someone who does not oppress women. I tell her Yes, and No… sometimes he makes mistakes. I remember aloud when she was little(r) and he began to refuse to help her clean her body in the bath because she had a female body, even though he continued to help his son. She nods, not necessarily remembering this, but getting my point.

I tell her anyone can make mistakes.

She’s thinking about her body, and her brother’s. She says, “But we’re not that different. Just a little bit. Like how our fingerprints are unique. Like tiger stripes.”

Enlightenment. Incredible! “Do tigers have unique stripe patterns?” I ask. Miracles.

“Oh yes!” she says, brightening with the typical enthusiasm she feels for the world of fauna.

We walk for a while.

I continue, because I feel her expectation. “So, when people believe men and women are socially different in ways irrefutably tied to biology, that’s called oppositional sexism. And when people decide the traits associated with men are superior to those associated with women, that’s called androcentrism.”

She’s with me. All the way.

I say, “You know how some people value physical strength over emotional strength?”

She says Yeah.

Then she adds, “One time in the mine in the backyard, P. couldn’t pull something out of the pit, so I did it. I was strong enough to do it. After I did it he said, ‘Thanks for doing that. I tricked you, and now you’re my slave.'”

A beat. Then, I say, “That’s one hundred percent bullshit.”

“Yeah,” my daughter agrees.

My eyes sting behind my sunglasses. She is so incredible. I often can’t remember our conversations verbatim enough to log them, to write them all out just how good they are. I tell myself it is wonderful enough just to have this time with her, the real experience is now, in the moment, not later, although I am always so pleased to continue journalling.

We walk together for a while.

At her request, we stop at a nursery. While observing koi in a pond, she hears frogs in one of the greenhouses.

She catches frogs, so carefully, so swiftly. She speaks to them and when she releases them she says, “I’ll see you soon.”

Tree Frog On Taro Leaf

Phoenix Handles A Tree Frog

After the first frog she’s figured out some way to handle them where they sit, placid, in her hand.

Trust

She encourages me to hold one. I am terrified. They seem so fragile, yet so startling in their jump! She finally convinces me to hold one. It turns and regards her while I take a picture.

My Frog Experiment

The proprietor of the business joins us eventually and shares lots of helpful and interesting facts about native frogs. Then he demonstrates the grownup-typical chastisement of my daughter for being a human being while small – don’t catch the frogs, don’t step there, blah blah.

My daughter doesn’t seem to mind. So I figure I shouldn’t either.

We continue on our way, stopping at the Farmer’s Market to buy a bunch of daffodils for a sad friend, and a bird of prey coloring book for my daughter.

Then along the wet and angry river and to home.

Secret Frog

the Church of the Holy Cabbage

Phoenie Takes A Portrait

Good lord, I’m a busy beaver these days. Mostly entirely preoccupied with just getting the day-to-day done – occasionally without funds, a usable car (currently one runs but cannot be operated at nighttime), and/or phone minutes (oops! but u can always text! 3605003287) and in addition today we had five clients to feed through the Conch Shell Deli (the site desperately needs a few blog updates but I haven’t made the time yet!). Now that it’s mostly sunshine and light (with a little rain here and there) I feel about a hundred percent better. I’m even going to bed without drinking myself down. Most nights. w00t

Back to food: today’s featured menu: cabbage rolls with organic beef and brown sugar, garlic mashed potatoes with shallot gravy, winter fruit salad with lemon poppyseed dressing, sour cream Guinness stout cake with chocolate ganache, a mixed-berry pavlova, and lemonade with fresh-squeezed, tart, rich lemon goodness!

Shallot Garlic Gravy

All items had to be made free of dairy, wheat, and onion for one set of clients. Generally I try to prepare all the food identically as long as I think substitutions or amendments will turn out beutifully – and in the case of cabbage rolls, my recipe contains no wheat, dairy, or onion anyway. I did make separate versions of both the gravy and the mashed potatoes (don’t worry, both were loaded with full-fat goodness) because I kind of cry a little inside if I mash up potatoes and don’t get to immediately whip in butter and sour cream. In the case of dessert, I made the mixed-berry pavlova for the clients with dietary restrictions, because if you are going to make a sour cream Guinness cake without dairy nor wheat, well best luck to you (and seriously, shoot me a recipe) but I didn’t have time to fool with that this week.

Sour Cream Guinness Cake With Chocolate Ganache

So in short, today I learned a bit more about gravy (traditional butter-flour roux, and gluten/dairy-free) which ended up being lovely. Before today I’d been uncertain and kind of irritated at the prospect of gravy. But today, I think I did rather well, and came up with a good system. In fact, two of my clients – whose fare I respect in their own right – directly asked for the recipe. BOOM

I’m finding it’s rather wonderful to cook with children, as long as (like in all things kiddo-related) they are willing participants. Today Phoenix (our newest partner) assiduously peeled potatoes, scissored romaine, cut and squeezed lemons, whipped ganache, roasted and then peeled resultant garlic, and oversaw the emulsion process (a dispersed phase within a continuous phase, Chris!) for the lemon poppyseed dressing. Nels ran about outside and kept the spring-break-kids from shooting our chickens with their various weaponry (no, really), and every now and then I’d see his lovely blonde head skateboarding – barefoot – by my window. Nels also didn’t set anything on fire or break bones (his or anyone else’s) for which I am very grateful, as he was mightily unobserved for much of our day. AND he counted up the earned cash and asked Ralph how much to give him for grocery expenses (one lovely client paid using two dollar bills, half-dollar pieces, and golden dollar coins, which went over with the kids a hundred and fifty percent, and for a solid hour and a half kept Goblin Nels stacking and organizing and dispersing).

Tomorrow we’re making banana cake and off on our way to feed the downtown Aberdonians. We’re also expecting company for the weekend (fingers crossed). It’s a bright (near) future. Let’s see if I can hold my shit together.

Phoenie Takes A Portrait

In other news, my daughter is lovely. She is the embodiment of the word.

I Take A Portrait

Don’t you think?

murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas…

“Mama…” my son says, lying warm and still beside me. “Cats are more likely to bite you than snakes. Foxes are rough… but they’re so cute when they’re young.” Nels is falling asleep. A beat later he says, “Foxes are so cute, I just love them so much.”

It’s 9:30 PM and we’re lying together in the kids’ bedroom. It feels so safe and secure and cozy and well-tended: the kind of room I’d have loved as a child with everything in its place, soft starlight-lighting and clean sheets and nooks to read or sleep in. Ralph and Phoenix, a few moments ago, had put the room back in order (after a day of Legos, drawing, reading, and respite from outdoor shenanigans) and now a pink nightlight bathes us in a glow and Nels is snuggled next to me under a down comforter. It’s seemed warm inside today so the window is open for fresh air. He holds my hand and sighs and kisses me and his blonde hair falls across my face now and then and his body finally grows heavy with sleep and his skin is so soft and smooth.

It was a hard day for he and I. He made a fool of me in the coffee shop or rather, he behaved like a six year old and I responded poorly, making a fool of myself. For quite some time afterward I was angry and unforgiving even after he’d repented (for his part) and after I realized I’d done him wrong (and apologized for it). It’s like – some days I don’t bounce back so quick. Eventually I softened and we rejoined in holding one another close (physically and emotionally).

Still, I was grateful for a walk with the children in the cold, crisp air, and a night cooking dinner on my own (teriyaki chicken and sticky rice; carrot and celery sticks and baby corn with dipping sauce) while Ralph taught his late-night class. Phoenix is knee-deep in her book series and surfaces to run around outside for a bit (the kids are digging a “mine” in the backyard) or eat; little else.

In living with children sometimes I feel I’ve been given this extraordinary privilege and gift, like a bottomless well of light and joy I can sample from any time I choose. I write and write and write to get across what it’s like when I’m wise enough to choose this way, but I can only capture glimpses and I suspect I’ll never make it fully known how deeply I love and enjoy these little ones. I’ve had wonderful friendships and family and jobs and experiences and moments in my life but nothing as magical as these children have been.

Now at 10:30 Ralph warms up my mom’s truck so we can head out for groceries (provided our plastic doesn’t bounce), and a few minutes alone and on the road. Tonight in the hours before I sleep I’ll go into the room and kiss my sleeping son, before crawling in bed with my newly-bathed daughter and watching B-movies or nature films into the wee hours. This winter continues to be hard on me, but family provides much respite and healing. I feel so fortunate to have them.

For my daughter, on her 9th birthday

Dear Phoenix Fire,

Today at 5:57 PM I’d just stepped outside the diner Forever The Oriole for data reception. I was acutely aware of your voice behind me at the counter, giggling delightedly with Grandma. I was thinking of you, of course, because you were born at precisely 5:56 PM nine years ago this evening, after a protracted and medically-interventionist labor of about eighteen (very rough) hours.

Obviously I loved you at first sight; I write “obviously” not because that’s the way it always goes but because I’ve directly told you this so many times I don’t need to tell it again. But I want to. I can still see your flushed skin and feel your softly fluttering heart. I can still remember how exactly you smelled because you smell the same way today!  I used to lie next to you in bed in those first days of knowing you and I’d tell you with a frank devastating simplicity, “There’s everyone else in the world, and then there’s you.” Your dad didn’t have everything I had for you, every bit of my fiber and bloodstream and physicality we shared, but he caught up fast. Who wouldn’t? You inspire love wherever you are.

Today as we walked together your hand sought mine and I felt as gleeful and amazed and happy you wanted me and we could be together a while, the same specific joy I felt nine years ago when I held you in my arms.

I’ve written before how much knowing you has shaped me as a person. Mostly you’re just such an at-ease being it’s often guaranteed I am improved by your presence. Your integrity, your compassion, your sedate intelligence and your good-hearted nature are unparalleled in anyone I’ve yet met. It’s not just me who feels that way – every week people are telling me in new ways what a delight you are. I see life through your experience and I see a happy girl who knows she is loved. This is quite a gift for me to witness, as when I was your age I’m not sure I felt so good.

A friend this week said you seemed like an “adult” to her in every way. Yes, I can see what she means, but of course you are very silly and I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this quite sternly. For instance at the restaurant today what was with you and Grandma’s jokes about “King Tut grows butts”? And when I told you to stop wrestling with my mother because these very sour-faced patrons were glaring at me and I was tired of it, you said, “Glare back,” and you did just that. I don’t have the guts you do but I aspire to. Someday.

Of course, you are the funniest person I know even if no, I don’t much go for “butt” jokes. You can screw up your face into any expression and you cast your voice like a spell. When you make jokes I invariably laugh because they’re funny as hell. I can tell when you’re happy and well-cared for when you are quick to laugh at mine. I can tell something is amiss when you scowl at me, although you don’t do much of that lately.

I don’t know how much time we have together but I do know I like drinking up every drop. Thank you for sharing your life with me. Stay as long as you like, leave when you’re ready. Let me know how I can support you in everything you need.

Much love,

Mama

Cobra

Pleased

The other night while we watched a cartoon movie you said, “That’s what I want for my birthday – a giant mechanical wolf!” Well, I’m not sure if that’s in the cards, but we were gratified to see how much you like the scary-looking robotic LEGO cobra Grandma got you. Thanks for not holding it against me that the wolf is not immediately forthcoming.

hoeden

I’ve sewn a few quickies since my last slightly-ambitious project. Including: two hats!
On The Sly

The green was entirely designed by myself; the blue, only slightly helped by a six-gore hat pattern. YES on the blue bunny I totally made those circular hand-stitched tucks, and the bunny ears, and HELLS YES do both kids love the results! (More construction detail if you’re clicking away and looking for it.)

Knotty!

Detail

Close-Up; Lined

My kids are all busy growing up and it kills me.

Grr!

Proud Of Her Papa

(Shoutout to Ralph for the above-pictured Hoquiam tourist brochure, which he designed. It’s making its rounds out in the world today… here Phoenix is looking it over approvingly (and adorably, if I do say so!) at the new Tully’s)

you may escape without a mauling

It’s 11:30 PM and I’m standing in the aisle staring at the frozen food chest. Ralph is trying to find me something, some convenience parcel I will find tasty, perhaps Amy’s Indian cuisine, palak paneer? He’s so tender and he’s been so stubbornly sweet that after several hours of his ministrations it’s almost like I’m finally going to crack and cry. It’s been easier to spend the day committed to not expressing feeling, but that can only last so long.

Depression consumes everything. It dampens joy, aggravates worries and anxieties. My five or fifty minutes late. The project that doesn’t turn out perfect. The project I decide not to do. The project that turns out well enough, but took away time I could have done something else. The friend who doesn’t respond to my messages. Any pain my children suffer, ever. Anything out of place. Anything I could have done better, or smarter, or earlier. Anything one could possibly blame me for, depression is on it.

Nothing is immune. There are wonderful things in my life but it devours them in its slow-chapp’d power. I feel better for a few moments then later I feel nothing but panic and anxiety but more to the point dread, and considering how many people support me and love me I feel ashamed to let them down. But for more than a few moments at a time, it’s impossible to feel good about myself. Even when I accomplish something well, or when I’m reminded aloud or implicitly I’m a Good Person. I worry by not being happier I’m going to lose my friends, one by one, but I know I could only fake happiness in any case. For now.

That relates to this space here. I’ve felt pressure not to write about depression, sadness. I worry I sound boring. Or like I’m trying to get attention. Neither of these are true; I write because it has always helped me more than almost anything; and yes, I do get enough attention, really. But the feeling persists: no one wants to hear this. It is tiresome. And rather pathetic, besides. Make something up, something better.

Then I think what the hell. No one is required to read here, Ever. Also: I’m really sorry if my suffering inconveniences people. I typed that sarcastically but I rather mean it. I don’t actually want to inconvenience people, and I’m not even sure I can meet this meager goal. I don’t want to be given up on. I want my friends to think enough of me not to pull back, I want them to tell me if they need something different. Maybe I’ll be able to handle it, maybe I won’t. I want them to try, if so moved.

It helps me very much to have others. I know that cleaning the house, preparing food (for my family and other people), doing right by my children and my husband, these are things I can do in the space where I am No One. It grounds me. It feels like the part that is really Me, the awareness there even while my brain tries to tell me terrible, horrible things about myself.

At the store with my husband and son, now, I’m saved by a stranger. “This is embarassing, but can you help?” a handsome, very tall man with a long braid asks us as he approaches. “My girlfriend sent me with a grocery list and she doesn’t know I can’t read.” He holds forth a scrawled piece of paper listing a few items, including something amazing and crystal clear: “Marionberry Pie Ice Cream”.

I kick into action. Friendly voice and accommodation, I could do this in my sleep. Help people? I know how. If I can just keep doing things I won’t have terrible thoughts.

It works pretty well until it doesn’t. But then it works again, later.

a pie en Hoquiam:
On Foot To Get Coffee

The bus, Grays Harbor Transit, just as I’m feeling about to puke:
Red Light

Flow & Commerce

Even in my days where nothing happens, or it feels like not much, I guess I’m rather busy. Busy doing things I love more than anything. The time flies by.

Today I got up to find a Freecycler had dropped off two sets of bamboo knitting needles in sizes I didn’t have previously: 11s and 13s (I’m looking forward to knitting either some chunky scarves or hats-in-the-flat). I brewed coffee and finished laundry and dishes and sat down and worked on a wee knitting project (which is truly STELLAR; I will be posting pictures soon!). While still in sleepwear with my pillow-hair (very tangly) another friend and Freecycler stopped by with a dress for Phoenix (a lovely little import number) and I gave her my bellydancing practice skirt for her daughter to use for Halloween. Just as this woman left my mother called and asked me out to breakfast. Entirely thrilled with this I made ready and as she got here the kids stumbled out of bed all lovely and sleepy. My mom is always happy to have them along and she coaxed accordingly; Nels came with us while my daughter stayed at home. We went out to breakfast (it was really lunch) and had a long talk while Nels played PvZ and then at the questions of our server did indeed elucidate on the game and strategies (people, do NOT ask Nels about his computer activities unless you really do want to hear his answers!). I paid for lunch which made me feel all awesome. Usually my mother pays.

After my mom dropped Nels and I off at home I asked my daughter along to my errands and to my glad heart she said Yes (I was hoping to have time alone with her). I have the inkling to set up a little display of my sewn pieces in a shop or caf̩ around here so locals know there is a custom / homesewn seamstress around these parts. I have a few ideas about where and how to do this, and I have a few people I want to talk to. On our way to our first stop we talked with the proprietress of the local indie book store Рopening on Saturday!, and by the way, will be the ONLY bookstore in Hoquiam/Aberdeen with a population of 25,000 or so! Рand chatted for a few minutes. Phoenix introduced herself clear as day, stepping forward with her hand extended, her eyes clear and freckles popping.

In our recycled clothing shop I turned in a pair of Old Navy jeans and earned consignment to buy a new (to me) purse. Phoenix selected a lovely fall-color poncho and was very pleased with this. I bought her a burger on the way to picking Ralph up from work; the three of us then headed to the bakery in Aberdeen and I picked up a consignment form, coffee, and a cream puff.

At Thrift City we shopped, primarily with the goal of finding clothes for Ralph (and P.S. good sir, your total aversion to pleats is seriously hampering your choices). He futzed around in the electronics section while I came away with five pair of pants and two longsleeved work shirts for The Man, two trick-or-treat buckets for the kids, a pair of shoes for Phoenix, a few LPs selected by Ralph, and a – yes, a sewing machine, a vintage Wizard heavier than you can imagine. All of this cost $25. Doing laundry later today I reflected I’ve developed quite the system for our clothing, not formally or by design but in ways that make absolute sense for quality and frugality. I wear mens’ jeans and recycled clothing for cheap/sturidiness along with my trusty doc martens (and yeah, a big part of my Plan is to mostly just look a bit shoddy). For the kids, most of their gear is stuff I’ve sewn augmented by the occasional hand-me down and thrift store purchase. Ralph’s digs come from Thrift City as the men’s clothing there is well-made, great brands and in good shape. His socks we buy at Ross, his boxers I sew, his sunglasses he’s always losing and then buying new cheap ones (like we do here in the PNw).

At home Ralph made dinner while I resumed knitting and visited with a friend who dropped by looking for discussion/advice on her children’s schooling. Her preteen daughter sat at our feet and we all caught up together. After they left and I stitched my last on the now-finished project, Ralph and I walked down to my mother’s in the lovely fall inky-black night where I picked up some more yarn from my mother’s stash.

It really was a perfect night for a walk.

And of course, in addition to all this there were emails and tweets and IMs and reading articles and scratching kitties and a few other friends I ran into and wrestling and snuggling with my children while a handful of other kids ran in and out (in the evening Phoenix’s good friend S. came over and my kids went for a walk with her to a neighborhood fort).

If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite moments (so far!) were on my walk with Ralph, or even the moment he invited me – or maybe the hugs I shared with my face in Nels’ warm sunny hair – or maybe the minutes alone with Phoenix in the car. She was heart-achingly “appropriate” in the store; my used jeans had earned me $7.50 and she judiciously looked for pieces that cost under that – no hinting on her part for more, and no need for me to state that requirement (which in this case, I didn’t have). I told her to get what she liked and the knit poncho ($9) was something she was very pleased with. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and looked at her beauty in the sideview mirror of our car and my heart skipped a beat. I wish when she was younger I’d worried less and felt less stress as a mother. Here she’s practically raising herself and she’s doing an incredible job.

So see there’s usually nothing particularly sublime to my days, or maybe actually everything about most my days really is phenomenal. I don’t know. Days like today are typically the way I spend our time – nothing especially exalted, but exactly the kind of bliss I’m used to regularly experiencing.

I feel very fortunate. It seems like life used to be a lot more work for me a lot more of the time.