aching knees / do as I please

My little tuxedo kitty Herbert Pocket is a shy, self-contained thing; now and then, however, she decides she needs affection. She is suddenly relentless, stropping at the ankles while I cook, or – as in this morning – swarming about me as I am deep in yoga practice. She purrs and takes menacingly little chomps with her perfect white teeth and pink tongue, her eyes directly looking into mine. This morning during savasana I pull her onto my chest and she purrs and kneads and I breathe quietly.

I have taken to more yoga practice as it has helped me with the overwhelming quantity of anger I’ve been experiencing; with the furious thoughts banging around in my braincase. Somehow it is far easier to engage myself in yoga and get a respite, than any other activity save binge-watching murder shows late at night while others sleep. And don’t be a fool and tell me the murder shows could possibly exacerbate my anger; that’s not how late night murder show marathons work!

There are other wonderful distractions. Today I sat in a salon chair and talked with a friend while she meticulously stripped the virgin color out of my long tresses, washed, dried, and applied a delicious mint green. She takes a photo and then I tuck my hair back up into a cap; it flows freely only at home. I arrive back in the late evening and when Phoenix sees me they say, pleased; “My little sea-witch!”

Ralph is making up tacos and I’m dying for a shower; it’s cold out, the kind that gets deep in your bones and only hot water can salve.

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

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

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

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

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



On anger.

From Thich Nhat Hanh:

The first function of mindfulness is to recognize, not to fight. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me. Hello, my little anger.” And breathing out, “I will take good care of you.”

Once we have recognized our anger, we embrace it. This is the second function of mindfulness and it is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting, we are taking good care of our emotion. If you know how to embrace your anger, something will change.

It is like cooking potatoes. You cover the pot and then the water will begin to boil. You must keep the stove on for at least twenty minutes for the potatoes to cook. Your anger is a kind of potato and you cannot eat a raw potato.

A Little Rough


The days are short,
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark

The rent money: it isn’t here (but thanks to a friend, we’ve got groceries! and – thank you thank you thank you!).

Two cats are sick; yesterdays’ gratis vet appointment fell through due to flood.

An unexpected bill (or two). An overdraft fee. Memories of when that was a lifestyle. Let it go. It’s not that way, today.

This morning: my daughter is diagnosed with asthma. The doctor can tell this is a bit for me to process. So he begins speaking slowly, explaining things in a thorough, calm manner. His kindness and dignity are so moving I feel the sting of tears in my chest.

(outwardly: I am stoic!)

I am ill – a head cold – but I do my job. I do the laundry, and the housework, and I drive a kid or two here and there. My head hurts. But I ask after people. How are they? How is their day?

I drink my water. I feel nausea. I swim in it, for a bit. I breathe deep.

(outwardly: I am stoic!)

Yoga class – a more challenging class than I’d expected. My back is strong – my leg strengthening work has clearly evidenced itself as we move through warrior, side-angle, triangle.

Headstand. I fear the attempt against a wall; I want help. I don’t ask for help. I try it. I bang my head against the wall. Everyone says, “OMG are you okay?!”

(outwardly: I am stoic!)

Lit candles: in awareness for our neighbors who have been affected by, and devastated by, the flood.

The truth is, I do have a pretty good attitude. And days like today it shows. And I need to keep a record so I can treat myself with the kindness I’d wish, in the future, I’d had the sense to enact today.

 A Little Rough

Swimming Hole


It’s been several hours and two showers and two changes of clothes but I can still feel the horrible slippery feeling of my flip-flops as I tried to navigate a muddy bank section of the river. Right when I slipped – again, and my eye was scratched by a tall reed, right then I realized – I am having such a hard time.

I am so angry.

I am so angry because I am worried for my child and because there is nothing logical I can do (that I haven’t already done) so I am just floundering in these waters. It is like a hangover, and beating myself up, araid and angry. Feeling sick and ill at ease even when I’m with those I love. It’s a horrible experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Walking a river is a great way to practice mindfulness – well, especially when you’ve an iPhone tucked in your bra that must, I repeat must, stay dry. So by the end of our trip I felt a little better. Then home; and after some work on the latest tailoring project, and after a hot shower and volunteer work – and talking with a friend – a little better, still.

Today really was beautiful. The children thanked me several times. “Thank you for financing this trip, Mama,” my little girl tells me. They didn’t once get tired of the many dozens of small frogs – and crawdads, and periwinkles, and wee little fish. They didn’t get tired of swimming and wading and climbing.

They are truly my greatest teachers.

Swimming Hole


"This Is Gonna Get Weird... Two Frogs"

Little Frog




muffled, dark, angry, water churns

Today one of the chapters closed on our child’s sexual assault case.

I have longed to write more frankly, and more frequently, on the events we’ve been privy to since the abuse first came to light. Interviews, medical exams, evaluations, appointments, reading materials, and helpful and less-helpful professional experiences, opinions, and evaluations.

But I don’t write more, because I have been learning to more deeply respect my child(ren)’s privacy.  In the early days post-abuse disclosure, when I was treading water and flailing, I shared a few details with adults in my life. Not every one of those people held my disclosures in confidence. I’m not sure how much it hurts to be gossiped about, for me personally. But it really hurt that I trusted a few people with my child, and they were clumsy with the child’s safety, and the child’s story. So, I’m not willing to throw my child’s life on that particular bonfire again.

Damn their eyes!

I have a few friends that I’d trust with my absolute life, and those are the friends who hear more on the subject. They have been a lifeline.

But oh, how I’ve suffered. I’ve suffered horribly. I’ve suffered in ways that don’t make sense. The depth and breadth of my suffering has been unreal. Sleep has been snatched from me; at times my appetite slapped from my mouth. As a spiritual mentor of mine told me last fall – “Remember – this didn’t happen to you. It happened to your kid.” Her helpful sentence has sometimes been the slim thread that has kept me in sane behavior – if not in a sane thought-life.

I’ve suffered while trying to do my best with institutions and entities that have been occasionally helpful, but often bureaucratic, dishonest, and frustrating. Entities who had more information on the assaults than I, yet were not willing to share it. I’ve had to make decisions and find counseling and advocacy and that has felt  like a crap shoot at times. The financial expenses are nothing when compared to the anguish of worrying for my child’s wellbeing.

I am not trying to complain for pity, or for – well, anything. I am trying to be honest. This has been difficult. And since my habit of writing – and writing frankly, warts and all – is one of the most helpful exercises I’ve ever had at my behest, to err on the side of non-disclosure these past months has been stifling.

I only write now, not for my own therapeutic efforts but in case someone who reads here may one day need comfort. I can say this has been the hardest thing I’ve gone through as a parent – so far. Sometimes the pain is so great I don’t know what to do with it. It has been a dark experience. I can feel okay for a while but then something bumps up against me and suddenly I am angry. I can’t sleep. I am full of anxiety. My trust is etched away in an acidic bath of hate.

So today – another report. Another series of findings. A case closed. Another difficult talk within the family.

I light a candle and take Refuge. I swim for an hour and meditate. I do housework; I help others. I feed my body and care for my loved ones (and a few friends, and a few strangers).

Friends give me tender loving care. They send me kind messages, texts, and sometimes emails. Sometimes they send funds, which are very helpful. Sometimes they more or less just tell me they read here – that is very helpful too.

I’m trying to be patient with myself. Because lately life has been dark, and ugly, and baffling.

& sometimes the bear eats you

Today my son was slapped, in the face, by a stranger.

You can read about it here

– because I’m just too tired and discouraged to write it all out again.

I am angry with this woman, and her full-grown companion who apparently backed up her lie. I guess I should have known this was a possibility. I can understand someone having a bad day and making a mistake, and I have empathy for such a scenario. But clearly this is a sick couple of individuals and it really saddens me that they displayed cowardice in response to a child brave enough to make a report. My son not only was brave enough to tell me – he was clearly afraid to do so, worried the woman might get “in trouble” – but he also conducted himself at the police station admirably even though he had his worries.

I am angry with the police, too. The officer who took our report saw the mark on my son’s cheek (we went straight to the station afterward), and admitted my son had no reason to make up such a story. At the same time, he told me that since there was a “witness” backing up this woman’s story, that no criminal charge could be filed. Affter I expressed my concerns about the dangerousness of an adult who would assault a child, then when confronted, deny the assault – the officer speaking with me said she “wasn’t dangerous” and cited her age as proof of this.

After this officer told me a criminal charge wasn’t possible, and I asked him for advice, he told me, “Don’t let your son walk alone in that area.”

I will just give you a minute to think about that one.

I am angry – and sad – because besides the woefully callous regard for my own child’s experience of assault, what is this saying for the other children in the neighborhood? Who is protecting them? Are we waiting for another incident before we take this woman’s actions seriously?

When I told Nels the woman denied hitting him, his face registered total, bald shock and he said, “What? … How is that possible?” I hugged him and I told him sometimes grownups lied. I told him I believed him, and that I love him. He put his arms around me and melted against me.

Nels and I did our part by filing a report. I have to tell myself that. Whatever this woman’s actions, we did our part by taking action. My son – my son is very brave and today was a day for him to demonstrate this.

I am discouraged, angry, and feeling that whole stew of ick one feels when their family is threatened.

My kiddo seems okay, and for that – I am very grateful.

this is the face of depression

Today everyone was perfect. The kids were wonderful and beautiful and my husband and them were like in the kitchen laughing gaily while sipping cocktails. They were a bucket of kittens. They were a unicorn painting. Everyone was stellar.

Except me. I sucked.

I didn’t sew. Not a stitch. I wrote this arcane little social justice piece no one will give much of a damn about and those who read will likely think I get all frothed up over unimportant stuff*. I didn’t lift a finger to sort out domestic life (leaving Ralph to clean house, cook food, grab groceries, set the table and serve dinner, and raise our children). I tried to knit something but I’m too inept to figure out how to do a provisional cast-on (yes this is AFTER watching YouTube tutorials). I didn’t even get any television-watching done. I bathed and got dressed – because I have never been in my life so depressed I didn’t do that – but that’s about the only thing I did that made me feel like a human being.

So really? You know those days where you just end up ungrateful and dispirited and you suck? Yeah. That was kind of the overarching sentiment.

* OK, rescinded, a few people liked it and a few more people at least “Like”d it.

calgon, motherf*cker, take me away!

Those who do not keep house for any number of years, for dependents and spouses or partners, you cannot know the pain I will write of here.  You just can’t.  Those that have done what I do – especially those who are still doing it now – this is for you. And maybe after you read, can I get an “Amen”?

Today I wake up and after going pee and brushing teeth I head into the kitchen for the carafe of hot coffee my husband usually makes then leaves the remainder of (bless him!). My plan is to pour a cup (black) then sit down to my Google Reader (someone help me by coming up with a euphemism for how addicted-like-crack I am to this service) which serves as my morning wake-up. Ah, yes – the few minutes I have during the day where I get a little quiet – even the cats are sleeping in flaccid, soft piles between the legs of my slumbering children.  I typically get about a half hour before one of my kids – the eldest, usually – opens sleepy eyes and immediately says, “Mama, cuddle me.”

But no – today it is not to be.  The kitchen not only lacks hot coffee, but there are no coffee grounds whatsoever (my mother had taken the last and not rebought) and even more defeating the dirty dishes are haphazardly stacked in a big assy pile – including those from my mom and her boyfriend the night before.  Which of course I have to do first-thing if I’m wanting to cook my kids breakfast.

No. Freakin’. Coffee. So I start on the dishes.  There are so many, so very many, and some of them are that truly unpleasant kind of dish (oil-soaked casserole pans, some kind of ketchup-y, deep-fried oyster leavings with lemon rinds strewn about) and I just kind of lower my shoulders and do dish after dish, and dry them with a clean towel, and drain and run water again, and fill up the sink strainer. Again.  Methodically I finish them all.

The kids get up and about during all this and after throwing them some food, and instructing them to get dressed, I examine them and find their teeth were not brushed last night and in fact don’t look like they’ve been brushed well for days.  I get the choice: be the sole family member who gives a damn that they might have a tooth in their head by old age, or just say, “Fuck it!” and let them run off as-is.  I choose the former, of course – because the truth is, when it comes to self-care, kids need lots and lots and lots of repetition to bring the habit into their own.  And I can accept that. But what sucks is that about half the time I brush their teeth or lay their heads on my lap to floss they complain or whinge about it.  I mean that part somehow gets to me.

I’m somewhere amidst yelling at my daughter to get dressed (again!) and putting away the floss when Nels gets ahold of the trail mix, opens it (messily) and proceeds to eat every chocolate piece and strew so very many of the unwanted nuts, raisins etc. all over the table and floor.  When I tell him I expect him to clean this up when he’s done he hedges, and gets angry, and then yells, “I’m sleepy, and I want to rest – it’s my job to rest and it’s YOUR JOB to clean up!

There are hurts so deep they don’t even hurt any more.  And for this numbness I’m grateful.  I don’t especially feel better or well-supported when my mother comes in on the end of this trail mix debacle, shushing Nels, and beginning to help him clean up.  Because she has a tiny and likely unknown contribution to my sorrows, the woman who brings down messy dishes – her boyfriend has never done Dish One, and I feel scorn for a woman who waits on all the men in her life, and I need to examine this, because for one thing who am I kidding? because look at me this morning – and leaves them, and takes coffee, and returns at noon with coffee (NOON! for fuck’s sake), and then spills the grounds all over the counter I. Just. Washed. Oh and I also cleaned up the rotting tomatoes left there too by Who Knows Who. And the thing is, it’s OK to spill coffee grounds, right?  Of course I can’t require anyone clean the counter until they’re good and ready, or OOOPS I didn’t get to the dishes [again]! Sorry! But of course this is the place where I have to feed us all and have to feel a small sense of peace living in and working out of.

Raising children is an amazing, endless task. Sometimes the things that make it great also makes it hard: in this case, loving, consistent work over the course of many years.  I know if I take care of myself, and take care of them the way I’m supposed to, things will work out as best they can.  Sophie later puts her arms around me and tells me not to give up on her dental hygiene, but to continue taking care of her for as long as she can’t manage it properly.  I thought this was very sweet and well-spoken on her part. And I really am up to the task; I just wish, more than anything, I had a space of my own now and then to retreat to, all by myself, when I need a break.

My daughter drives off with my mother in a couple hours.  She’ll be gone for one or two nights.  Let me tell you something: I walk the talk, I let my kids out into the world, and I give them a heck of a lot of freedoms because I know this is right (today Sophie bought our groceries again, solo).  But I hurt, every time she goes, for even one night. Every time.  I don’t even think she knows it.

what brings us together is food

An entry from today featured in our newly launched family project, Ask Nels:

Cynthia asks:
I want to find a boyfriend. Where should I look?

Nels replies:
You can just ask someone to be your boyfriend. You can look inside some woods, like my Grandma did. You can stay there until I get older and then I can be your boyfriend.


I hosted nine people for dinner tonight.  Three of our friends from up north came by on their way back from camping, and my mom invited her boyfriend D. over.  In honor of Sophie’s first soccer practice I prepared her favorite meal: spaghetti with meatballs (I rarely if ever use a recipe for this dish and it is always fantastic).  I also made roasted cauliflower, salted cucumber, garden carrots, ceaser salad, and sweet tea.  And somehow I did this while chatting with my out-of-town friend S. and not feeling at all crazy about (still) living in the non-space that I make my home in.

As we sat down to dish up D. waited until my mom had loaded his plate with veggie accoutrement, then took up a huge, huge spoonful of angel hair pasta.  My mom quickly (but quietly) jumped on him for taking such a large share.  “You can’t take that many – there are lots of people here!” she whispered.  “But I’m hungry for this much,” he said, and didn’t budge.  WTF – is he five years old? They actually argued over this for a while.  Then he put some back, and later when there was enough, requested her apology.  This was kind of perfect, a knife’s edge balance of things that grate on my ass: my mother’s constant chastisement of people about the “polite” thing to do, vs. a display of douchebaggery at a communal meal. Unbeknownst to the guests I’d already set an extra salted pot of water to boil for the possibility of a pasta FAIL, so we were covered.

In D.’s defense, I have seen my spaghetti and meatballs make people do crazy things before.  Once we had a male guest who loaded up plate after plate, telling us these enthralling stories the whole while to distract anyone from infringing on his meat-share, and only getting one speck of red sauce on his impeccable shirtfront.  I have seriously not seen anyone eat that many meatballs, not even Joe Crecca from my Port Townsend years.

By way of previous reference, my mom did indeed find a boyfriend “in the woods”. Or rather, they ran into one another in town and when she found out he lived off the grid out in the boonies (no plumbing, no electricity, a house that needed much work on) these aspects of his lifestyle further recommended him to her fancy.  I haven’t been to his place.  I don’t really like the guy.  But I’m glad my mom does, and that my kids do.  They’ve been out to his place a few times (the kids).  But he comes over much more often to ours.

Looking up my own caesar salad recipe I came upon a post  (also including diners who behave like heels) that reminded me:  I miss my dad so much.  That was some OG bastard.