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no bigger ‘n’ a minute

A week from today, we are hosting a swim party and a birthday party for my son. We are celebrating his 10th birthday. If you are reading here, and you are a local, and you haven’t been invited but would like to be – let me know. We will be having a lovely luncheon after swimming, and it should be a wonderful gathering.

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We made a Wish List based on things Nels wants, or loves. Last time we did this, for my daughter’s birthday a month ago, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. It ended up working out very well. She didn’t receive any duplicate items and she didn’t receive any gifts she didn’t love, and doesn’t use.

That said, mostly as we approach this celebration – his actual birthday is April 7th – we are grateful not just for our comfort, our home, and the extras that make life fun – but for our loved ones, and for the incredible honor of enjoying this life together.

Some portraits of Harris that Nels took the other night:

Nels' Photo Essay Of Harris

Nels' Photo Essay Of Harris

Nels' Photo Essay Of Harris

#snoopin

 

a tigress

Phoenix Turns 12

Today my oldest child turned twelve. She and I took a wonderful morning swim together; then Ralph and I treated her and a few of her close friends to a turn at the rollerskating rink. We brought the kiddos home for gift-opening followed by one of her favorite dinners – spaghetti and meatballs with green beans and homemade garlic bread. Ralph made up a delightful cake. All in all, a day on the quiet.

All in all, a good day.

But – I’ve felt this odd sense of sadness as well.

A decade ago my first counselor predicted I’d go back through my own childhood, as I watched my daughter grow. This was true as she reached age two (which was an important age for me); and while I watched this unfold, I remember thinking it might happen around age thirteen, as well.

I hadn’t thought about that conversation, or that counselor, for several years. But now the day has arrived, and the time has come.

Twelve years old, things were getting rough for me. They didn’t get measurably better for a very long, long time.

My daughter is not me, though. She is herself. I remind myself of this.

Yesterday Phoenix and I joined Ralph and Nels at a local brake shop; we were seeking a quote for his car. The moment, and I mean the moment we arrived at a table to sit, an older, odd-looking fellow came right up to our daughter – RIGHT up to her – and started speaking at her presumptuously. She huffed this angry little huff and turned her back right on him and walked away. It couldn’t have been a more pointed message had she said something aloud. The man kept talking, and raised his voice to get her attention – but she didn’t turn around.

I stood between the man and my girl, my heart. I said aloud, “I guess she doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.”

I could easily see how my daughter had responded; at the same time, I felt stunned. I was surprised at her unfailing intuition. I know I didn’t have it, not at her age, and not for many years. I am still rebuilding it. I’d been trained to listen to any old (or young) creep who wanted to bend my ear, or tell an overlong story, “flirt” or “compliment”, or talk at me in whatever way he pleased. I learned this not at my father’s knee (he wasn’t such a boor – thank God); but I’d learned it from other elders. And as the fellow finally stopped talking and drifted away again, I had an odd feeling of disconnect observing my daughter’s instincts.

A little while later, she and I leave the shop. As we step into my car I ask her: “You didn’t do anything wrong – but I’m wondering, why did you walk away from that man when he began talking to you?”

“I have a right to when I feel uneasy,” she replies simply.

I put the car in gear and blink back tears. She is her preternatural calm, as usual. She is that fierce ice storm. She is that loving girl who slides her left hand into mine, and finds the New Wave pop tune she loves on my iPod. She says, “I want to sleep with you tonight.”

My wish for her isn’t just that she is loved, and cared for, and fed, and kept safe – but that she is kept safe where it matters most; in her own heart. When it comes down to it, she will be the one keeping herself, she will be the one caring for herself. I will be gone some day but maybe I live on in her breast.

She is growing herself up, and everything is as it should be.

setting the pace

I have like, ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes since Ralph and the kids went off somewhere, before I have to hop in my own car and head to a meeting.

Second day in a row swimming a mile (or near-mile) and the swimming doesn’t make me tired, at least not while I’m doing it, which is kind of thrilling. I just keep going. And going and going. An endurance feat for me – not a sprint. My breathing is now intuitive and I do not gasp for breath. This is fast improvement since about ten days ago when I (re-)started swimming.

Hot shower; body oil, clean clothes. Feeling wonderful.

Back in the car; hot coffee in the thermos. It’s sunny out and I’m cheerful. My son and I head to my volunteer shift, music loud. Coming up on three years of this volunteer work. A good day today, like it usually is. Leaving a week bit early to take the kids to the dentist. Flowers for a very dear friend, today. Home to bake banh mi for dinner, wash dishes, put away laundry. Back in the car. Taking a homemade cake along to a meeting.

I like giving gifts on my birthday.

Body tired, mind at ease. Works well.

But something is on my mind. Some little thing… anxiety. But regarding what? Financial problems? I don’t think so. My children? Possibly. Just: how much work Life is, in general? Yeah, probably.

The anxiety… I wait for it to pass. Sometimes I find the root of these things – often, I don’t. I merely keep breathing, and keep my mind focussed. Today: on the nose of a blue kickboard. This evening: on the next bit of housework, or cooking, or bill-paying, or correspondence.

Whatever is next.

my beacon’s been moved under moon & star

HAPPY THIRTY-SEVENTH BIRTHDAY TO ME

Here is your two-disc set mixtape biatches

Songs from the year I was born (OK. Maybe a few songs even a wee bit earlier) and up until what I’ve been rocking this last year.

Thank you for all your love.

[ zip file, includes CD cases & two CDs ]

smcover1

smcover2

disc 1:
Only The Young; Journey // Ain’t No Sunshine; Bill Withers // Radio; Lana Del Rey // Blinded By The Light; Manfred Mann’s Earth Band // Daddy I’m Fine; Sinead O’Connor // Give A Little Bit; Supertramp // Goodbye Horses; Q Lazzarus // Skateaway; Dire Straits // I’m A Man; Pulp // Ride a White Horse; Goldfrapp // Season Of The Witch; Donovan // Superstition; Stevie Wonder // Baker Street; Gerry Rafferty // We Belong; Pat Benatar

disc 2:
Higher Love; Steve Winwood // Crazy On You; Heart // We Run This; Missy Elliott // Raspberry Beret; Prince & The Revolution // Mr. Blue Sky; Electric Light Orchestra // Southern Cross; Crosby, Stills & Nash // Year Of The Cat; Al Stewart // Kids; MGMT // Creep ; Radiohead // Just What I Needed; The Cars // Go Your Own Way; Fleetwood Mac // Safe and Sound; Capital Cities // Tenth Avenue Freeze Out; Bruce Springsteen // Time Of The Season; The Zombies // Twilight Zone; Golden Earring

tiny bubbles / making memories

As some of you know my kids are down at Disneyland this week – with my mother. Monday I drove the lot of them to the Portland airport’s Radisson hotel. I walked them to their room, made pleasant talk, and then left. Like I was normal. I can still see my son poking his head out the hotel door, happy to send me on.

I walked through the lobby and out into the balmy parking lot. I climbed in my mom’s minivan and sat. I felt myself consumed with a terror and sadness. I recited The Three Jewels aloud, three times. I cried. Then I turned the engine over and got on the road.

Life is better than it used to be. Instead of driving in a numb haze of grief, I began to wake up. I began to breathe deep. By the time I met my brother and sister-in-law at the most amazing restaurant of all time (Country Mouse is very Country, & easily impressed) I was almost feeling normal – if hungry. I had a wonderful dinner and got back home a little after ten, to a tired husband and a clean home.

I have been okay since I got home. I have access to breathing deep, to being mindful. Seeing a little baby in a stroller today, kicking his legs, I got that pang. Seeing a tousle-headed blonde child at the hardware store, there it is again. I can’t believe how much less work it is, having no kids in the house. I’m on my last client costume of the season, and I’ve been able to work on that in peace. I can do dishes and laundry, and more do not pile up. It’s been nice.

But it will be lovely to have those little warm arms around me and hear their voices again. I don’t know how people can stand being away from their children but I’m here, and I’m standing it, and I’m even living my life a bit.

the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation

Today I took care of my mind, soul, and body. Most notably, and at times exhausting, I worked intensively with other alcoholics. And it was a special day for a number of reasons. One woman, under two weeks sober, came to my home and we we shared our experiences. Side by side. I am honored, as ever, to be a part of another’s Recovery. When I work with another alcoholic in this way I’m reminded of my early sobriety – a precious memory to me, today.

Today was also my mother’s natal birthday, and my sponsor’s sobriety birthday. Both these women are so incredibly important in my life. I have a different relationship with each, and I have different ways of honoring them. Each friendship has its own tenor, but they are each a source for me.

My mother is one of the largest influences in my life. If there is any quality you find in me and admire, I could tell you a bit about where it came from, and I have a conscious contact with roots in what I’ve learned from my mother. Whether a quality she brought, or one she lacked, all paths lead back to her. I found her failings so distressing as to lead me through painful journies, and today I bless the memory of those more difficult times. Her assets, however, eased my path and in turn bless all those in my life. From my mother, I learned a steadfast loyalty, a wicked sense of humor, a joy in sensual pleasures, an appreciation for the lovelier things in life, and a genuine trust of and love for other women.

My sponsor – thinking on her brings tears to my eyes. I have had so much help and from many quarters, but it was she who taught me the meaning of dignity after catastrophic lowness. She taught me about Forgiveness; and I watched her for quite some time to see if it was real. But, it was – she had forgiven things I did not think were possible to forgive. She has taught me about patience, kindness, and honesty. If you have ever thought I had a modicum of empathy and compassion, she is one of my greatest teachers. Our friendship is entirely reciprocated in equal measure and with a great deal of warmth. In many ways she is a mother to me where no other mother quite rang true, and she has been a steady friend in ways practical and spiritual. She is truly a blessing in my life.

***

This morning I took a bike ride to the track stadium and steadily climbed up and down stairs; I am attempting to strengthen and heal my knees. I took my time and rested between flights, and listened to a Buddhist podcast. I laughed aloud in recognition many times by the simple truths I heard, and I sat on a humid little wooden bench and looked out on green fields. “Life is not so serious as the mind makes it out to be,” I remembered. I felt a gladness I could touch something calm, and real, with my mind, which still needs much healing.

Home after my outing I cooked, and cooked, and cooked some more: dishes for my children, for my friends, for my mother, for my husband, for myself. Cooking, washing dishes, patience and persistence and service. Sliced ripe mango; perfectly over-easy eggs for my son. Butter-fried jalepeƱo slices over pressure-cooked beans with fresh garlic – warmed wheat and corn tortillas. Sharp grated cheese, fresh lettuce. Cooking itself a meditation, if I let it be one. As I sliced garlic I thought, “I am slicing garlic now so I can pay attention to you when the time comes.”

A mindfulness practice. So I can be here for you.

“life’s a bitch at it’s best”

I just found out my friend Sandy died yesterday. A moment where I hear the news and I can’t hear anything else for a couple minutes.

I am Okay. Mostly I am having a painful but sweet experience of pure love… the grief is inseparable from the gratitude. She was a wonderful woman – I’d mentioned her only a few days ago, because she was/is tough as fuck and taught/teaches me to be grateful and to keep things in perspective. She was fucking BAD-ass. I learned a lot of wisdom from her – including what’s quoted in this post title.

Sandy wasn’t just a friend, she was a mentor to me and the first mentor I’ve lost since I got sober. She pointed at me the other day in a room full of people and called me a Miracle. And yeah, that was really nice to hear because coming from her, I know it’s truth.

Loss isn’t so bad, not if we appreciate things while we have them. Sandy is another example of how this is true. I expressed my love to her freely and she knew I loved her, and I knew she loved me. I will be at her memorial service.

I am sitting quietly with this loss. We’ll see where it goes.

lead into gold, weariness into ecstasy, bodies into souls, the darkness into God

Today was my husband’s 36th birthday. I was thinking this afternoon that our marriage is an extraordinary one. You know those vows, “in sickness and in health”? I realized today Ralph and I have spent almost all our fifteen years together in sickness. With my recent reflections on my kidney illness, it doesn’t look like any time soon we’ll be in a “health” phase, either.

But our relationship has matured into something quite wonderful and very strong, and something I treasure very much. Respect is easy to promise or even to give when you’ve not gone through Hell together. Respect, love and devotion after we’ve been through is the most precious alchemy.

Today the four of us drive to Montesano for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Nels complains about a gift winging its way to him in the mail, and I give into my irritation with his ingratitude. “With that bad attitude, you’ll probably make bad things happen to you,” I tell him tartly. He replies serenely, “That concept is called ‘karma’. Which doesn’t really exist.”

And I calmly turn my head and looked out the passenger-side window and laugh silently. He won that argument, although no matter what he believes I’m not sure if there’s anything I have more respect for than karma.

Something changes in the car and soon we are all restored to good spirits. We discuss names and name-changes, and Nels announces his plans for a new name. When he clarifies the spelling I am quite impressed: Aqua Sun – as in, Aqua Sun Hogaboom. Which suits him, if you know him. Now I don’t think he is serious about the name change – unlike his sister three years ago – but I do think I love that name so much, and I love the thought of the responses I’d get calling him that in public.

As I write, this same child is singing to his father and brings him some homemade sweets. “That’s a lot of jam,” I hear my husband observe mildly. Nels proudly brings me this impressive concoction in a bifurcated cupcake dish: a ripe plum sliced perfectly into a Pac Man presentation, a cloth napkin and fork, and a “jam cake” garnished with fruit and a large swath of glitter-frosting. By “jam cake” I do not mean something baked, it is literally what looks like a quarter-cup of preserves. (“It’s only one scoop!” he says cheerfully after his father demurral).

Nels likes to cook.