LOCAL CYCLIST OUTRUNS FLEET SPRINGBOK

Today I took Ralph’s bike to Aberdeen and back – kinda twice, but not really because the first time was aborted partway through due to technical problems with the bike and I ended up needing to text someone for a ride so I’d make my commitment on time. I was using Ralph’s bike because a friend is borrowing mine to see how well it will work for her and her kidlets, and this is awesome, because one thing I’d love to proselytize regarding and spread around is the love of cargo/kiddo bikes.

Back to my misadventures, I guess I hate fixing things. Or rather, I’d likely adore it if I didn’t have a lot of other things I consider important and many distractions. See it seems making repairs or changes requires the right kind of tools and a need for an open schedule. Like today all I wanted to do was lower the seat (which by the way is this leathery, narrow little Ass-Punisher), and fix the mirror stem. I ran into problems in both cases (and have a badly-bruised knuckle to boot) and it took longer and was a bigger pain than I thought it would be. But at least I got it done and even upgraydded to a lever-release seat clamp that I’m thinking Ralph will find more handy.

Later in the day I finally made it to Aberdeen and back by pedal-power and I’m glad I made it happen. It was a lovely day and, later, evening for a ride – quite a temperature drop in a few hours but a good Washingtonian, I was prepared with layers. The trip home was dark; we’d loaned our bike light to our friend so I was extra careful. About Myrtle and Cherry I perceived a doe and her little baby deer and I felt a little jolt of pleasure at their night forms, no one else out to see. But as I approached the mother sprang away from her fawn and to my distress she ran away from me while the youngling resolutely ran in front of me, their distance from one another increasing rapidly. I decided there was nothing to do but race faster than the baby deer, which worked. And yes I kind of imagined myself a cheetah. This was made all the more fun by listening to Heart at volume 11 in my ears.

It was a lovely lovely night for a ride.

***

Tomorrow is Ralph and my 10th anniversary! And no, we are not doing anything special! I have, like, seven dollars to my name! But I am incredibly grateful to have my partner and our history together. “With some complaints” we’ve been awesome parents and friends (to one another, and to others).

Ten years, holy shit.

Big cold sunless skies, tumbling down, down

Today I had one of those breakdowns… a good one. Hot tears that just came and flooded, no congestion or anger. Crying and crying but it was okay after the first surrender, I didn’t mind. Crying at first from confusion and despair and then of brokenness and then finally of healing, sitting in a living room and crying with people I knew to trust, who were there for me. Like a home I never had but would have been there for me had I found it earlier.

Yeah, today a few people saved my ass, and in a totally separate incident (or was it?) today I witnessed an act of anonymous generosity that was hard to believe but only to be experienced.

Today I live a different life than I used to. Life before seems a bit alien.

The kids played on a giant wooded hill and ran about with the hose to cool off; later they hit Grandma’s and harvested her carrots (she paid them). I came home late-ish and Ralph made Taiwanese spaghetti – delicious, if you’ve never tried it.

Oh, and as I’m typing and waiting for the kids to be ready for bed? I’m watching a live #twitterbirth. Fuck. Yes.

Life is incredible.

bella ragazza

For her next expression of personal style, at first Phoenix wanted to do some purple. Then while we were saving up for that, she decided she didn’t enjoy the dyeing process much (I don’t blame her!). We mustered our hair-stylist friend and Ralph’s partner musician H. who came over and cut the girl’s hair (Ralph’s too, which is looking sharp by the way). Sorry for the extra-dark pictures. Mobile phone at night, because late late night is the best time for haircuts!

We asked my daughter if we could take a picture part-way through, since we loved the little fringe in front and a long braid in the back:

Before...

Phoenix let us, and agreed it was a “cute” look, but wasn’t swayed from her original vision: all of her hair at 3/8″.

& After!

I told Phoenix the neighbor boys might give her shit, and taunt her that she looks like a boy. She said, “I know, I planned it that way. I get to look like a boy and be a girl.”

So, seriously, I have the best little roomates ever. Oh and P.S., as for our living-room stylist, I love supporting the under-employed right now, because it sure is happening around us a lot.

A cat named Mustache

a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives

The last few days I’ve thrown myself into new work with addicts and alcoholics, giving rides here and there, buying breakfast for the flat-out underemployed, caring for other people’s kids, teens and pets, taking a friend on a birthday date, and helping those who have a hard time making ends meet.

Plus all that other stuff of caring for my own kiddos and husband and pets and household as best I can. And having a bit of a social life, and a sewing life, to boot!

So, I am behind on both writing here, and responding to comments. I apologize.

One thing I want to point out is the few people I’ve helped recently, or a handful of them, have given me a valuable lesson. A friend I took a dozen eggs to yesterday because she didn’t have food money until today, the difference between she and I (back when we couldn’t afford food and utilities and our lifestyle, and were bouncing checks and igorning collection bills because it was all so overwhelming), is this friend asked for and accepted help. Asking for and accepting help, in appropriate ways and from appropriate parties, has been a new(-ish) cornerstone of my life. Let’s face it, without help I was flailing at best and often a Toxic Asshole either running from, or attempting to selfishly dominate, many of life’s challenges.

The Toxic Asshole part of me is still live and kicking and surfaces more often than I’m proud of, but there’s another presence within that I like a lot more. She’s like a Baby. Baby Awesomesauce. Baby Awesomesauce is growing up just fine, but things take time.

Of course giving back gives me immense rewards so it is in itself a selfish activity of sorts. One of the hardest things going right now is to know when to give freely to others, and knowing when if I were to do so, it would rob my family of something I should be giving them (time, groceries, mostly).

I put my faith in the path set before me and I know that one day I’ll look back and see with clarity where my life is heading, and why.

***

In lieu of Friday links I have two pieces of local interest:

First, Ralph and I put together a collection of my sewn pieces for sale at the On Track Art Walk tomorrow. I would love to earn money for my craft, to have my pieces find gleeful homes, and – most of all, to find a sewing community. If I had a dream it would be to be involved with a community center/studio where I could create, and help others do the same. I don’t have the resources to start this myself, but perhaps someone out there does. In any case, I’m ready to be Out There a bit more.

Second, our local town’s annual festival came out with their official t-shirt. Many HQX residents do not endorse the shirt and are taking actions, including boycotting, writing letters to the editor and City etc, and printing a better shirt and donating profits (you can read more about it here, if you have Facebook).

From my G+ post here are some of my thoughts:

“I love my town and I love my country. One thing I love about both is the right to protest ideas and products that are violent, offensive, and bad for children and grownups and probably even small puppy dogs. Yay local Jokay Daniel who’ll be selling the alternate shirt & donating profits; also J. for being instrumental in creating alternate shirts.”

Reading the comments in the Facebook group is pretty darn cool and makes me proud of my HQX peeps.

***

And finally, something to ponder:

A cat named Mustache

much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread

NOT THE BEESNOT THE BEES

One of my favorite things about my life these days is time with my kids as well as other children. Recently when I had a few extra in tow a friend I ran into in town said I must have a lot of patience. I thought about it and it is true, I’ve learned to relate well with children, not just “good kids” or kids from “good families” (wtf people mean by that, it’s a careless thing to say at best), but with the kids that have problems or bully or are deceitful or angry or passive aggressive or plain ol’ aggressive or whatever. I genuinely like kids, probably a teensy bit more than I like grownups, but I’m learning to like adults a lot too. I only wish I had a bigger car and more money and I’d have a lot of them, the kids, around as much as possible.

When I contemplate this it’s actually kind of incredible. I still believe children are kinda routinely squashed in home and schools and institutions, squashed in just about every way you can squash someone, and they usually have to move out from authoritarian paradigms when they come to our place. And it works out really really well actually because I can just address stuff head-on and kids are fucking smart. So even “bad kids” (whatever, I could write more on this but won’t for now), I haven’t so far often been at a loss.

But what’s more incredible still is to contemplate my own nature. I grew up first of all, not being classified as a Patient person. At all. I would never call myself Patient even today. I also grew up believing/being told that kids were kind of a drag, they were messy and annoying and uncouth and unsophisticated and stressful to be around and not perceptive nor moral et cetera (so of course, my job growing up was to shed these traits or at least hide them). Today I realize I believe none of these things about children at all, and I like nothing more than having kids and young people around.

I have this fantasy that’s grown within me recently that a friend or someone local would take their kids out of school and entrust the kids to my care while the parents worked. Of course the parents involved would have to be totally on board with the way we do things around here, I mean really a model of trust and non-coercion. And it’s late because we’ve been up working and playing hard, so I’ll just put it plainly: it’s not even like I think of this as a vocation or “labor” I should be paid for, it’s like many parent/carers wouldn’t be willing (or able) to put forth the money for the groceries and just goofing-off money or whatever for their kids to have the life we live daily – and perhaps more relevantly, really many parents aren’t able to trust the process of kids growing outside institutionalization. I know this is silly but I wish I could afford to feed and care for more of them. Then I think my kids are going to grow up and we won’t get the opportunity to share this kind of living on a regular basis. Phoenix and Nels don’t complain for a lack of friends or activities, it’s really just something I am starting to long for but feel I have no ability to enact – and am not really sure of my motives in any case.

But – tonight we had a bonfire and roasting marshmallows and music and goofing off and ringtone downloads and wrestling and a lot of joking around and teenagers over until way past curfew. It was fucking great.

In bits and pieces I get to have this tribe, and it’s always lovely when I do.

Coffee Shop, 3 Out Of 4

***

I forgot to mention, yesterday Phoenix became angry with me and slammed the door – unfortunately, catching her own finger and hurting it horribly. Even though we immediately iced the injury for quite some time, by morning her nailbed was black and the end of the finger was painfully swollen. She told me yesterday she didn’t need the Emergency Room (contemplating both the trouble of going at that particular time, and the cost to our family), but today we went to the doctors’ where I came to realize she had made a good choice in electing to do so. The injury was bad enough to require treatment – specifically, trephination with an electric cauterizing lance, and that is as bad as one might think it is. At her request I held and kissed her forehead as her tender finger’s-end was cleaned with iodine (which hurt badly enough, I could see), then her nail was lanced three times as the doctor tried to relieve the pressure and finally blood spurted out then was squeezed out for a few minutes by the physician. Phoenix cried hot tears and wailed softly but did not scream nor move or waver; it was quite horrid and beautiful at the same time to watch her cope. She elected not to take pain medicine after, but over the next hour I saw her relief and I saw her come back to her old self.

So now in the car heading home in the sunshine (Nels spent the visit in the waiting room, talking with younger babies and children and their carers) I tell my daughter, “Phoenix, at one point you said you couldn’t take the pain but you did take it. You elected that treatment and you coped all by yourself.” She tells me, “I didn’t cope by myself, I had you with me.” I say Yes but, it wasn’t me that had to go through the pain. She replies: But you had to watch your child in pain. That must be so hard. And she cries again, silent tears, but for me this time. Empathy.

I feed the children and bring them home and to their father and their friends. I am curiously drained by the past hours of my daughter’s pain and anxiety. She had also felt a fair bit of guilt over hurting herself and this troubles me as well – but I know this is her path, today, however much a part I have been instrumental in it. She holds my hand and I think to myself how glad I am for our closeness, how I wouldn’t want things any other way.

It’s like I awoke from a dream, parts of it quite desperate and lost, to realize that through all my mistakes and difficulties I held onto some shred of decency and did an okay job in mothering. So far. And I hope to still improve. I am amazed at these children I live with and what they are able to cope with, who they evidence themselves to be, and what they do and do not need from me. Today my daughter took the lead and she was wiser than I, but I also have cause to believe I helped her in the right way.

There’s not much more I’d want to report, really.

Present

a little bit hopeful / a little bit cold

Scenes from a tender, kid-friendly (and how!), environmentally-conscious, Bahá’í wedding:

Women

Casual

Sculpture

Vows

Ruby Beach

A walk in Hoquiam whereby we saw the Saddest Garage Sale Sign Ever, and met Mustache Cat:

Yes. It Is Closed.

Mustache Cat!

Salsa De Aciete

A trip to Olympia with Nels; a bit of shopping, a shared meal, lots of walking, and a visit with friends:

Nels Wants This Feather Boa

Nels @ The Iron Rabbit, Olympia

I feel so incredibly fortunate not only to have Ralph an extra day of the week (he’s adjusted his work schedule for t he summer), but to enjoy this life more than I have previously. I no longer want to live as a walking dead, always plotting or scheming or planning or holding grudges or resentments or worries or – and this is the hardest one for me – fears. (So many Fears!).

I had a really hard day two days ago but I knew what I had to do, and I did it, and the next day was far better, and today was lovely – and serene.

Finally: today’s cat bullshittery. I wish I had the picture of when I tried to give the fourth (and not-pictured) cat, Harris, a light shower, just real quick (there was a reason, for reals!). Regardless to say he Kicked My Ass. No, he didn’t scratch me, but managed to knock me over and splash me with a quart of water off his filthy back. I technically accomplished my goal but he humiliated me. Here are some other Cat Moments:

Josie

“My coat is soft and lush. No you cannot touch it, Hardly Ever.”

Hamilton

IMPORTANT SLEEPINZ

Mable

Lonely Cat Iz Lonely for Lurve (Yes, she got it.)

Today? Was a Good Day.

Serve God, love me and mend

It’s been suggested to me I should build a sense of humility by doing “inconspicuous good deeds”. It’s a really good idea. Today I took a few friends’ kiddos for a walk, then dinner and a bonfire; and while cooking I got a phone call; I received the opportunity to commit to taking two more teens tomorrow to an Al-Anon meeting (and ice cream after). Of course in writing about it here I risk being not-so “inconspicuous”, but today the awareness of helping others with no desire for reciprocity or reward kept me right in the moment.

Flora

Railroad tracks.

Kidlets

I had enough kids that at one point I almost left one behind somewhere. But that was okay, it was one of mine.

At My Mom's

We stopped at my mom’s for firewood…

At My Mom's

… and I lingered in her back garden.

Phoenix, Cassidy, Nels

I made the kids hot dogs, hardboiled eggs, potato chips, carrot sticks, cubed cantelope, macaroni and cheese, apple juice, and s’mores. While I cooked I sent two girls back with the firewood wagon, to my mom’s. The children brought out chairs and helped me start a fire and a few of them sat and read. It was heavenly.

While walking at one point Nels asked A. if he could hold her hand. She smiled and said, “Why?” He replied, “Because I like you.” She said, “Okay.” Then they held hands for a while and she said, “You’ve said you love me but that you aren’t going to marry me.” He said, “Right. I love you.”

It was about as simple as hand-holding can be.

as close as hands and feet

Happy 33rd!

Myself, Billy. And our fridge-magnet creation we dispassionately display here: “Mad Max”.

Today is my brother’s thirty-third birthday. He and I were born a year and a half apart, more or less, so his age is about as easy to keep track of as mine (this endeavor grows more difficult every passing year, especially as my basic arithmetical skills have atrophied).

It was pointed out to me yesterday the people we have the longest relationship with in our life are our siblings – not our spouses or partners, friends, or even parents. Holy shit. I hadn’t thought of it that way. My half-sister Jules and I weren’t raised together and I got to know her best the brief time we both lived in Seattle, while I was attending school – and of course, I get to know her today, I’m fortunate to. Having been raised with my brother, and without my sister, I can say it sucks not to have known her more, had her as a regular part of my life.

But still, back to Billy, his big day. I’ve known him ninety-six-point-five percent of my life. I can’t remember a time without him. He was a sweet boy and the grownups (in my opinion) didn’t give him enough of the right stuff. It seemed to me like my mom worried about him and prodded him to do better in school (he was a straight-A and B student), more socially than anything else, whatever that meant as he always had friends and teachers liked him. Family told us “they” (who? teachers? family?) thought for a time in early childhood Billy was “retarded”. Yeah, “retarded”. You heard right. I don’t think my mom, brother or I use that term anymore. Anyway, I mean just the way it was said, not so sensitive nor apt, not because if he’d been neurologically atypical I would think that’s a bad thing, it was fucked up as there was an unspokent judgment in that whole story: you know, be like everyone else whyont’cha? (product of baby boomer mentality)

I mean like I said, this was a student who did fine and a boy who always had friends and had a lovely character. Yet almost every year on his report card a teacher would write, “Billy needs to finish things on schedule”. These teachers always meant their schedule of course. If Billy had been my son (I know, weird), my eyes would have rolled ’til they clicked and I’d have said, “Fuck your schedule.”

Because Billy was, and grew up to be, and is to this day – as far as I can tell – a detail-oriented, kind, caring, intelligent person with a deep love for his close friends (of which I am not sure I am one … yet), a strong commitment to his work and a desire to do it well (both our parents were this way, except, notably, our father when it came to home repair projects). He’s ended up in a detail-oriented position with employers who love him, and he them, and he takes deadlines seriously. He’s the same as he was when a boy, or at least all the good parts. As far as I can tell. He’s a bit private and I only know him as well as he lets me. I think he did pretty well or has so far because mostly he got love from our mom and dad despite their shortcomings.

Our dad was kind of a dick to him, by the way. Again, at least I think so, I don’t know if anyone else does. Shortly before my dad died, but when he could still get around, he showed up at my house on Eklund and rambled about Billy and how he, our father, wasn’t as tender and loving as he could have been, and he thought Billy suffered because of that. It was weird, my dad talking to me like that because that isn’t how my dad talked (adulthood – I only remember him hugging me and saying “I love you” to me just before he died). Anyway after a while of this sitting there having coffee I said to my father, “Shit, it sounds like you need to talk to your son, not to me.” I don’t know if he even did. But then Billy wasn’t there when dad died. So there you go you old weasel, you get like you served up.

Billy and I are so physically different it’s funny. He’s thin and I’m plump. (Our parents used to tell me not to bully him because one day he’d be bigger and would retaliate. I think I still outweigh him by about forty pounds.) He’s dark-haired and olive-skinned (but pale) – like our sister – and I’m fair(ish). He can grow quite the beard and I can barely manage a mustache. We used to make jokes when we’d go out in public, as if we were perceived as a couple and somehow people also knew we were brother and sister, and were creeped out.

My brother is hands-down the best listener I’ve known. He’s also been so supportive of my parenting and marriage as far as I can tell. Get that, I just told you our siblings are who we know longest and I have this loving guy who’s a great listener and supporter. He’s also very funny and we share a lot of jokes. I’d like to think we can make new ones, not just have the old ones.

I can only speak on my brother and his childhood from my perspective, and I can’t know if he relates at all. I think about him often, and I’m always glad to see him or hear from him. I am glad he has a good lady in his life and great friends and a good job. And I send him – regularly – pictures and videos of our cat bullshittery (LEGION!) which I know he appreciates.

Happy birthday, Lobster Eyes. Many more I hope.

***

Myself taking a picture of my sister taking a picture of my brother and daughter (you can tell the picture’s a few years old by how little my Phoenie is!):

My Sister Taking A Picture Of My Brother And My Daughter

gifts

Phoenix sits cross-legged in the straight-backed chair and takes her turn as she, A., J. and I read from Trivial Pursuit cards. My daughter knows a surprising number of answers, but what’s more notable to me is how excited she is to stay up late (until about 2 AM as it turns out) and hang out being a Grown Up. Later at home she gives herself a bath and puts on camisole and panties and we join Nels (where we’d found him at my computer, watching original “Pink Panther” cartoons and laughing like he discovered the first joke) then queue up an Australian mermaid teen drama for a few episodes.

I can’t tell if the show is good or not. The kids love it though. “That makes sense,” Nels sagely nods when one of the characters makes a decision involving who to invite to her birthday party. Phoenix agrees. For all their smarts and worldly know-how, they are still as simple and loving and straightforward as children ought grow up to be (and as I often wish I could easily reclaim). I love that my seven year old son has no problem identifying with and celebrating femme-identified heroines. I love the kids cuddle tangled up in one another’s arms, happy I’m watching their show with them. A few moments later: “Her hair looks like Top Ramen,” my son says in the same judicious tone. When I’m sleepy I ask the children to turn off the show. Nels runs off to join his dad for sleep (Musical Beds, in our household, including feline members as well), and Phoenix wraps herself around me and we whisper how much we love one another, and I’m into sleep.

Life has been so busy and full for me it’s a wonder I keep track. I write lots of notes in my moleskine and that helps. I have one of those cool phones but for some things I like putting pen to paper, it’s more efficient. Today in my son’s possession is a small bronze coin that means more than other currency, and he carries it tenderly in his pocket as he runs off to play with his sister. I buy a cup of coffee and greet the well-known baristas who at 11:30 AM I see in an aura of clear divinity. In the evening I emerge from a church building to a pouring rain that’s warmer than any I’ve felt; I’m taken aback. Then for a friend who quite suddenly lost her companion kitty today, we buy flowers and a card (the flowers roses on Nels’ insistance, the card quite tasteful and sweet and chosen by Phoenix). I smile and say “excuse me!” and mean it and make eye contact in the shop when a cart crosses my path (or vice versa).

Today someone told me “I love you” in a way where I knew they really meant it,

and that was pretty amazing.