save one life and you save the world entire

Yesterday evening our dog walked through the door after three days and two nights hospitalization. He is still very ill but – we hope – on the mend. He is eating of his own free will after almost a week and he can walk again although he staggers. Today he managed a bowel movement. Little things – that are big things, in Hutch’s world and ours at least.

I am still recovering, myself. I had never seen an animal suffer like this – and I watched my cat succumb to lung cancer. I didn’t panic externally but, I am not going to lie, I did a little bit on the inside. It’s that same fear and that same grief, I’ve seen it before, I’ve visited it, and sometimes I can experience the grief with serenity and sometimes – not so much..

But we got through what was, for Ralph and I, the worst bit of a large crisis in our family (paying the bill is going to be another matter). And I got through it while meeting my responsibilities as best I can, and with – hey! – a little dignity and a great deal of gratitude. My husband reminds me of a mantra his spiritual mentor tells him: “I don’t have to like my situation, but I have to like myself thorugh it.” An admirable goal and one to set sights on while stuff is going pear-shaped.

I am very tired as I think my kidney, the right one, is pretty messed up. I am finding myself in a place of fatigue. Times like this and life is on automatic. Get up, groom and dress, feed children, do housework, do other kinds of work, take care of one another and the animals, meet volunteer commitments, reach out to friends and care for them as best I can.

It gets me through!

“calmer ‘n you are, dude”

Hutch, V. Ill

I took a photo of our beloved Hutch today just before Ralph and Phoenix drove him up to Summit Veterinary Referral Center, where they continue to run tests and put the dog on IV fluids and another batch of antibiotics. I had responsibilities here in town and so I performed them – cooking, cleaning, volunteer work, some support work for friends, taking Nels to the orthodontist, picking up a friend for an appointment.

With my time in Recovery and my discipline in spiritual work it almost seems like for naught as I am at the point of overload. Logically my mind says Hutch is in good hands and there is no point doing anything but wait until this latest series of tests and treatments is done – his third battery of treatments in as many days – and then see what the Next Thing is. However either my discipline is shot or there is a limit to even a tough cookie such as yours truly, as these several days of blinding worry have now got me in a numb, disconnected place. Last night for about an hour and a half after the second “we don’t know what’s wrong but he’s very sick and you’re right to be concerned” conversation I lost the ability to speak in a smooth cadence; it was only with a great deal of effort I could tell the kids and Ralph how to get dinner. Later in the evening I returned to normal. Today has been touch and go.

Hutch has been ill since last Friday; accordingly, I haven’t even been able to grieve the loss of our cat or process my upcoming kidney procedure. In the last case, good riddance. I don’t need to give the kidney procedure a single thought since it’s happening and there’s no point in thinking about it and I have no responsibility but Acceptance. The kitty… well I guess there’s no point thinking about that too, except I miss her terribly and I still feel that painful tug of What Could I Have Done Differently. I even remember the last time I saw her, heading away from us back towards home on the corner of 7th and L after she’d followed us a block – her tail all bushy and her back paws flipping up. I know I loved her well and often and with my hands and voice and thoughts while she was with us.

What else do I know? Well I am finding that sometimes – for me, usually! – it’s the easiest, natural, most healthy experience to Love. Other times it hurts so much it almost seems like I should guard against it at any cost – not that such an attempt wouldn’t be futile. I can’t help who I love and how hard, and this experience is showing me this in such a deep and profound sense that perhaps I will have more compassion for others when I get through what I get to get through.

tell me something good

Today my son got about three pounds of his hair cut off. At the salon a woman getting a foil stared with hostility at his before-mop of tangles, a huge multicolored straw bundle of tresses falling midway down his back. When Nels was all finished, another stylist gasped at the change. Parents, you know how it is – those haircuts make our kids look years older. I silently cried into my gratis mocha of the day.

Before (ish):

Nels, 3 Weeks B4 The Big Chop


Nels, After The Big Chop

I listed another piece in my Etsy shop – courtesy of some wonderful techniques I learned in an online class (here is a link to my earliest efforts). Pump Up The Jeans!

Pump Up The Jeans

My dog is still crazy-ill – hasn’t eaten in five days, ropy drool and lethargy. The vet hasn’t yet called today to tell me what’s up, after the pooch’s many tests yesterday. And as of this afternoon I am back from the doctor where I received upsetting news about my own condition. I haven’t told Ralph the latter yet.

I am overwhelmed with emotion at the moment while things are in apparent disarray. I cannot wait to see how the Universe is going to continue to support my family and I. Where will we go, ill and broke – and heartbroken? Will I get to support our family with my homesewn work? Will I take a fulltime job in something inspiring – or something less so? Will my readers continue to provide the assistance that has been so valuable in the past? Will we sell our cars and rely entirely on our bicycles? Can I perhaps sell my large quantities of pristine urine to people who need it? (That’s a joke… but I do produce a lot.) Will Ralph sell of his musical gear? I am open and, if not excited, kind of weak with gratitude because I can do nothing but rely on the Universe. I don’t have to be anxious because I’m simply not going to obsess on it – this has become, for today, a minute-by-minute discipline.

It isn’t as if I don’t have tons of shit to work on a daily basis, and Worry does not help. Serious financial straits provide a great deal of opportunity for creativity, and an even more challenging opportunity to not worry nor start investing in a Scarcity mindset.

The sick Me is not so awful when I weigh it alongside the very ill dog and the missing cat. When it comes to that stuff I give up a little, I die inside a tiny bit. I just have to prostrate myself on my bed and cry over that stuff. That’s the best I can do – for now.

an old machine that’s reeling

Shit is BROKEN.

My computer is broken. I can’t see colors on my screen. This has been like – a month now? At first I thought, OK well, at least I can still type. But the lack of colors is more debilitating than I thought. I haven’t been able to blog my (considerable amount of) sewing – and I haven’t been able to update my Etsy listings either.

Shit is BROKEN.

Our cars are broken. Ralph’s has something sort of serious – a loud clunking sound now and then – enough we’ve stuck it in the driveway until we can (afford to) fix it. So Ralph and I have both been biking a lot, yes he’s been biking to the college and all. My car – good Lord! – a broken window, busted all the way out driver’s-side. It’s been broken several days now but we are fortunately in a dry spell. That’s going to end any minute though at which point I will have to go with some plastic.

Shit is BROKEN.

My kidneys are broken. The doctor is probably going to recommend something icky as I have some part of the kidney possibly blocked off. It took about a year for me to begin to accept the pain. Now I’m trying to accept the fatigue and the nausea. The fact I’m trying to accept it means, maybe I will be there soon.

SHIT is broken.

Hutch is ill. We are hoping it is just random awfulness he (somehow!) got to sneak into his gullet. I am trying not to obsess it is something worse. He is weak and trembly and not eating food and if you know Hutch, that is weird AF.


Most disastrous of all, our cat Hamilton is missing. Today has been one week since we saw her. Today is one week. I am sick over this. Just sick. We miss her so much.

Today despite all this I did my best to be kind, to treat my family and friends with consideration, and to attend my volunteer work.

What else can I do?

for a while I was dealing in tears and powders

I realize after a few minutes that I have been sitting in a living-cringe position. The waiting room at the doctors’ is crowded and every now and then the bored and somewhat hostile low-level buzz is perforated by a dog’s mighty WOOF. Let’s stick to the facts, because it’s my dog. He’s outside being massive and friendly – and being naughty, and getting rewarded by every stranger who passes and gives him love. I haven’t figured out how to get my dog not to bark when he’s tied outside, and I’m inside somewhere. Because he is SILENT AS THE GRAVE at home and doesn’t bark for any reason whatsoever (even when the children want him to) but then he does this!

So anyway, how I handle the dog doing his thing is I pretend it’s not my dog and I don’t know whose dog it is. But I am sitting in a defensive posture because I’m just waiting. Every now and then a patient walks outside and praises him and calls him a Sweetheart and then leaves the outer door open so a few seconds later his WOOF reverberates through the whole building. I don’t want to step out and close the door because he’d see me and he might think he’s getting what he wants.

I sit for an hour and fifteen minutes before I know I have to leave, no doctor today. I talk to the receptionist then I step outside and pack up my bike and an older woman approaches me: “Is that your dog?” And I wait to hear an admonition or something but instead she says warmly, “He’s so faithful.” Right, like he’s a Goddamned Champion! An even older man follows right on the heels of this woman, tottering and walking so unstably with his arms out so he looks like a small child, he trips towards us and his eyes are open in surprise, whether at my magnificent dog or because he’s about to fall I can’t tell before I turn away. This woman, then, catches him up and I swing my leg over the bike and my dog and I are off.

I’m home and I flush some medicine and I feel better about that. And I make a pot of coffee and light a candle and say some prayers.

I write a list of things I want to get done but I lose the list.

I gather the kids up and climb in through the passenger side of my car. My driver’s-side window shattered the other day and any time I move the door a bunch of glass settles deep inside and makes unsavory crunch-noises. It will get fixed soon enough.

I take the children to lunch somewhere they really like and I feel a little bit better than I have been.

We take two walks out through The Flats and back. The first walk is so hot I strip down as much as is decent. The second is in the gloaming and swarms of gnats accost us. We walk past a dark car and a woman inside, crying. I know her. She rolls the window down and greets me. I ask if she’s Okay and she shakes her head No. But she puts her hand up and signals I leave. I place her back where I found her and I walk on. I say a prayer for her but I walk on.

Home and I run a hot bath and make hot tea.

these precious days I spend with you

The weather at the lake was kind of glorious. It was warm, but rainy. There was a kind of glow in the air and a stormy closeness. Hardly anyone else was at their cabins, which is nice. We’ll be back in September where once again the crowds tend to be missing.

@ The Lake

@ The Lake

@ The Lake

Father’s Day 2013. This year I missed my father acutely, so it did me good to see many of my friends loving up on the daddies in their lives. Ralph got a few lovely gifts from the kids and I, then spent the day on the road with his oldest off to see a MLP movie.

Fathers' Day 2013

As soon as we got back from our Mason Lake trip, I mean only a few minutes after we unpacked, the kids and I ran out to Ocean City to see the beached fin whale. I figure you might not want to be surprised here by corpsey pictures, but I have a few on Flickr. We ended up walking a few miles to get to and from the whale, and I also ended up hijacking a fellow in his big truck – so the kids, dog and I could pile in and get a ride. It was quite a sojourn but it was a massive, amazing specimen. Oh BY THE WAY my dog ate lots of that whale. And this whale was not fresh. The blubber pieces were reddish black. This is why we can’t have nice things.

We got back from our trip and I was balls-tired for many reasons, including a few miles’ walk on sand after a long day cleaning and driving. Ralph had cooked up this vegetarian feast of grilled vegetables – asparagus, red cabbage, and brussel sprouts – on a bed of basmati rice and drizzled with chile dressing. The kids were unimpressed, but it was very dear to me.

Grilled Vegetables Ala Ralph Hogaboom

“Look what I can do!”

A little photo-blogginz:

The dog, who is rolling around in ecstacy as I furminate his fluffy ass. Pictured: approximately the same amount of hair as is in my backseat after one car ride. I jest, or do I??!?!

The De-Furring Process

The De-Furring Process

The De-Furring Process

The De-Furring Process

The De-Furring Process

Mable, being awesome & chillaxin’ in her favorite chair. She likes it best when I clean the chair, so she can immediately furball it up. If you’re sensing a pet-hair theme now that the warmer weather has hit, BINGO.
Shaking Head LIKE A BOSS

Party time! A gift (hours of sewing but I didn’t take a photo, oh well!), & a three-layer chocolate cake with cheesecake filling and cream cheese frosting:
Gift, Cake

Cake With Fresh Flowers

& the pièce de résistance, our uteriñata! The first-ever piñata I’ve made, as far as I know… it might have been Ralph’s first too. Ribbon-pull method, as nope, there won’t be any beating of a uterus up in this household.


At the party, our children – being beautiful, being themselves.
Our Son


of stitchery & water-witchery

Today I have commitments elsewhere and gotta leave the kids in the lurch. This is rare; almost every single day I can easily construct my day around their needs – which is a really wonderful way to live when you think about it. I hadn’t really thought about it until I started typing just now. So anyway.

Yeah, today I owe a few hours of my time to an enterprise and after helping the kidlets with a few morning practicalities I tell them: I gotta go. I briefly run down my schedule and they are cheered at the thought of a morning to themselves, getting up to their own work without grownups. Who wouldn’t want a day like that?

When I arrive home I bring in a hot pizza and some fresh flowers. The dishes are done and put away perfectly, but I can’t help but think the little ones’ hearts aren’t in it too much since Nels, without fail, leaves the cupboard doors open after he puts away the dishes and cutlery (sometimes in exasperation I tell the children, “Do the dishes/clean the living room/vaccuum the sewing room like Mama would do it“, and they always get what I mean by that). We eat our pizza and I hold each child in turn for a moment and then they’re out the door to a friend’s, promising to return at 5:30.

Glad for a little time to myself, I am sewing up a dress shirt for my son – we will be attending a wedding this summer and I have several garments to make. The fabric I’m using is quite fine, semi-sheer, and wonderful to work with. All the fiddly bits of the shirt – the placket, the collar stand, the cuffs – flow together and the pleasant hiss of the iron’s steam accompanies my singing voice. Hot coffee and laundry and stitching, trimming, pressing. I fall into the trance of craftsmanship.

The children return just a couple minutes late and my daughter stands in the office doorway and apologizes. She is tall and scruffy-looking with her spikey hair and her baggy jeans. Her cheeks are pink and her nose is wet. She asks if she can bring friends over and I say, Sure. Yeah I like other people’s kids in the house, just not when their parents are there at the same time. So anyway, soon my daughter is sitting down with another child and they are painting watercolors and cutting and glueing collages. I listen to my daughter’s patient and confident assistance and I marvel at her tact and generosity. My mother visits, in and out, and expresses admiration for the girls’ artwork. She leaves. Nels leaves. Nels returns. He has Oreo crumbs on his face. Grandmother’s pantry.

My family life courses around me. I’m in the flow still, stitching and trimming and finger-pressing and threading my buttonholer; tying invisible knots and running fingers through the bright-busyness of glass jars holding hundreds of thrifted buttons. I remove hot bread from the oven, and stand to eat in the kitchen: a fold of fresh pita around breaded tofu, cucumber, and sharp cheddar cheese. Ralph, home now, sets plates for the children.

Evening; the house hums into a different state. Ralph to bed; the children playing Legos first loudly, then softly; now reading. The washing machine shudders to a halt for today. The dog slumbers at the foot of  my bed, folded into a muscular comma-shape, settling his bones. Without fail he woofs in his sleep, every night. So funny as he is a silent dog during the day!

A glass of water

And a purring cat

And a turned-down bed.

salt skin

Today Ralph and Phee took the day off to hit Olympia, so Nels and I got up, had breakfast, donned as few clothes as possible, lathered up with sunscreen, and biked an eight-mile trip in the heatwave to pick up groceries. I biked slowly, for me, as I have something wrong with my knees – especially the left one. I remind myself: I don’t have to have knees that work or get my exercise or go to the doctor or take medicine or get an xray, all I have to do is be here right now and ride the bike with care and take the time I need. I’m not doing anything else right now, just This.

On our trip – against the wind on the way there, bolstered by it on the way back, thank Jeebus – my son clings to me and talks mostly about his exploits outdoors and I enjoy the sights of the sidestreets of Aberdeen. I pass a man nodding out in the alley in a not-insubstantial pile of fast food wrappers. At first I think he is a pile of refuse until he moves in a very human way, which spooks me. A moment later I am thinking of the addicts and alcoholics who perish from exposure during extreme weather. I pass a group of brown-skinned children playing with a hose; five boys taunting a girl who with seriousness chases them down to spray them. Nels and I smile and laugh and are both secretly delighted when we get a few drops from a dashed water balloon.

At home I rest with a root beer float and then a tomato sandwich. I bake a Brooklyn-style pizza for dinner and make Ralph a Vietnamese coffee. The extreme heats of oven temperature and olive oil and kalamata olives curiously satisfy me in my kitchenspace, which I’ve learned to keep cool, or at least cooler than the out-of-doors. Despite my precautions, I am a bit sun-fazed, tired from my ride (and my knee did get worse, despite the care I took in not straining it), a little scattered. At nine o’clock we take a walk out by the bay and I limp along and our dog, happy with not one not two but three long walks today, smiles alongside our conversation, padding in the deep grass in the dark, a gliding white shape accompanying our travels to nowhere in particular.

the sun, the moon, & the truth

Phoenix and I cut eyes at one another as Nels heads back into the kitchen – he’s happily chirping something-or-other, picking up a glass of milk to accompany his lunch of homemade matzoh ball soup. While we wait for him to return she and I turn back to the newest member of the family, “Jumpkin”. Jumpkin is a cheap plastic Halloween jack-o-lantern candy bucket, inexplicably “dressed” in a pair of Nels’ underwear and old flip flops and sitting at the table in mute (to us) reproach. An hour before, as I sat stitching away in my sewing room, Nels had emerged from a morning bath talking tenderly to this creature while briskly brushing her plastic smile with his toothbrush (he brings this up later: “My, how clean your teeth are, Jumpkin!”). And now I’ve got an extra place to set at the table.

The afternoon develops. After I clean up lunch and while I sew, Jumpkin is ministered to alternatively with tender loving care – Nels asks Jumpkin her preferences about afternoon activities and pauses while listening to her responses – and then sly pranks (“Such filthy language, Jumpkin!” Pheonix retorts in a shocked tone, after a bit of silence at the table). I arrive home later in the evening and Jumpkin is stacked with party accoutrement for tonight’s meteor shower party: pretzels, honey sticks, a flashlight.

Today was beautiful. The sun breaks out and the children are delighted – and I mean like, four-star delighted – when I unpack their warm weather sandals. They walk the dog down to the grocery store to buy their choice of breakfast cereal, a baffling product named SMORZ that is even more sugary and shabby and ridiculous than I could have guessed (later, Nels refers to the day’s repasts as “a sugar montage”).

Tonight: a fire burns in my mother’s backyard pit but it can’t keep the chill quite out of my coat. I huddle and watch the flames, content but not sleepily so for the cold. My daughter says to us, serenely: “Everything is for sale – but you can’t buy happiness”. My mother fetches coats and blankets and offers to cut up apples and cheese for the kids. They are the centerpiece of our gathering, happily picking through yard waste and bits of scrap lumber and raffia ties and feeding these into the flames. Two of our cats duck past on fences and through the greenhouse, watching with night-bright eyes. Nels beams from his grandmother’s old corduroy coat and talks near non-stop and hauls Jumpkin from chair to chair; he finds a rock in the shape of a heart and triumphantly plunks it in Jumpkin’s recesses. Hutch, excited, pants and drinks from ceramic plant holders and trots here and there and ducks and smiles and finally settles on an old afghan. Ralph fiddles with the telescope and shows me the moon’s craters; later, like a ghost he spirits across the wet grass of the dark yard and sets up the telescope first here then there, and now to see Jupiter. I look in the eyepiece and my own breath causes the watery vision to tremble: Jupiter, faint atmospheric stripes the colors of creamsicle ice cream; and distant moons at precise orientation to the planet.

Nels cradles Jumpkin, safe from the fire, offering aloud her opinions on a variety of subjects and her thoughts on the various members of the family. He holds her in his arms and turns to her and says, “Jumpkin? Don’t get mad. Can I tell you something?” then he brings her close to his bright cheek and whispers, “You’re really just a soulless husk of plastic.”