I’ve been singing “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” over the last day, to myself. The Dusty Springfield version, of course; there is no other version. While I’m sewing or working her voice pierces my heart. I can sing as dramatically as I like, in front of my children. In front of no one else, in fact. Maybe I’ll grow a little less shy, or perhaps my children are just the most special people in my heart, and who can know the unvarnished Me.
We are in for several months of absolutely stunning, perfect weather. We’ve had nothing but sunshine and warmth, and delicious soft rains. The daylight lasts well past nine PM and I’m taken back to my childhood and how much I loved those late twilights. During the blue and white, perfect daylight the life springs from the soil and everywhere the scent of green grass and blooms; the peonies we brought in to fill a vase are startlingly redolent with a heady scent. Everything is in bloom and the hot earth is panting and giving forth greenery. It’s beautiful here; I live by the mountains and by the sea. I may travel but I would have such a difficult time living anywhere else.
My youngest son has become irascible and peevish in this last half a year. I’ve parented long enough to not worry too much, But I don’t ignore those kinds of things either: children need interventions when things aren’t going well, when they are struggling. Tonight I made an offhand comment and he took offense; this is happening with relative frequency of late. He comes in the bedroom and lays down next to me I do not say all the things the adults in my life used to say to me. I don’t tell him he has a bad attitude or he’s snotty or selfish. I do not make condescending remarks about puberty or “teen attitude”. It’s a little damned depressing these thoughts even come to mind but, that’s how I was raised. Still, It is ending with me, I won’t parent that way. I won’t treat mine the way I myself was treated. My son holds me and I put my head on his chest. Both kids’ voices are deepening, and they are getting broader through the shoulders and they are taller than I and although we laugh about it, it puts me off track a bit. Impending old age and death, a ways off perhaps but sometimes it doesn’t seem so.
The older child soon creeps in and I hold him a while too. The two children seek me out several times a day. This is why, exciting as my career is, I can’t and won’t work fulltime as long as there are kids that need this. All kids need this. To think when I was pregnant with my first, I worried I wouldn’t have enough love, wouldn’t have what it takes. Well. I have what it takes. Turns out. What surprises me is that every day I can return to that intention, that not one day goes by I’m on autopilot all day. Sometimes I think parenting taught me mindfulness more than any other practice, or tradition, or lecture, or book.
The windows are open and I can feel the sea air and I can hear the trainyard; a sole candle burns on the dresser. The house is quieting although the younglings stay up late; they too are comforted by the long summer evenings, I think. Children of their mother.
I type this from on my couch, in a quiet home as dusk falls on a beautiful warm spring evening. My feet are up and my fourteen year old son’s head rests in my lap as he sleeps.
Today I celebrate seven years’ sobriety. I woke up to texts from friends, and an invitation (or rather a prompting), to attend a meeting. Of course I would go. I go to meetings several times a week and I can’t think of missing one on my birthday like that. On my kitchen counter rests two vases of lovely flowers; one from my husband, one from a friend. In my pocket a well-worn coin passed on to me by friends: VII.
Tonight my friend G. looked right at me and congratulated me on my sobriety and thanked me for my help in keeping his. I am not an inarticulate person but I find it impossible to communicate the depth of feeling I have for my brothers and sisters in recovery. They are the strongest people in my life, and the most unfailing.
Here’s the playlist from this last year. Enjoy.
“Mom’s popping off. Mom’s snatchin’ wigs!” my younger son yells joyfully. The kids are so disrespectful. I will say something like, “You need to finish the dishes before dad gets home,” and they will give me some backtalk while playing Splatoon 2 together. If I get irritable they laugh. They come find me and put their arms around me several times a day. They are both a couple inches taller than me. I’m depressed.
Today Nels and I drove around town trying to find him a bed frame. I’m about done turning over the charity shops and swap meets online, and ready to buy something new on credit. So we’re driving and Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” sparks off the playlist and I can feel my son listening intently. He asks me to play it again. He is processing. Those are beautiful moments with children, when you can tell they are taking something in and making it their own and if you’re not a fool you’ll be quiet and not spoil it with your own commentary.
It was a bit too windy to put out my starts – cherry tomatoes and blue lake bush beans. The beans seem to be okay after a brazen day on the deck but I fear one of my tomato plants is injured too badly to recover. I nursed each and every seed so carefully, so today I am a bit sad, having shored up the tender sprout with a little more potting mix and hoping for the best. I think we’ll also plant potatoes and tend to the strawberries (already sprouting) and I am determined to make it work this year. Inside I water my orchids, my hibiscus and lemon tree, my little aloe and spider plant and Swedish ivy and the other odds and ends I love caring for. I need more shelves! To be sure.
Tomorrow: a large fabric order, including five yardages of lovely, deeply-dyed linen. I will be happily ensconced in my studio, running upstairs to refill coffee or make a smoothie, and to take my children out on walks or pizza dates. It’s going to be heavenly.
Every day after coffee with my husband, I take a shower, tie my hair up and put on my little zip-up hoodie and get to work. I would work all day if I didn’t have other responsibilities; children, mostly, and volunteer work. And feeding myself so I don’t collapse. Lately I’ve been out of balance: too much work, too much time on other people. I need more rest; I want to take more care of my home. I scooted past a young man today at a recovery meeting, a young man with a broken face who had just a couple days clean. Mistaking my passing for affection, he gave me this little sideways hug. My heart breaks in these little ways when these moments happen; there is no point trying to express what I’m feeling so I don’t try. But I look at him and ask if he’s staying for the meeting, and I remember his name and I know it means something to me.
Back home and my children come by and pull me in for a hug (if I’m standing); they prostrate themselves across my body (if I’m laying down). The college quarter is over and my oldest child has, as a birthday present, a new computer. Both kids shout and laugh from their little basement gaming room; supremely happy. They need this time, and time with friends and food and sleep and affection and those are most of their needs. The house is only tidied when I can yell at the kids to do some work, and when my husband puts his incredibly efficient housework into effect. His body is strong and so is his mind and both rarely slip.
I am sewing on a buttery-soft jersey ITY; I am hanging up dresses on the dress form. I am hemming a little black dress and shortening sexy spaghetti straps. I am work, work, working to keep food in the refrigerator and try to stay on top of these bills. I am busy with the seam ripper with a little heater at my feet and the sunshine of Martina Topely Bird falling on my ears. And I suddenly realize in all our time together, Ralph never put his job before the family. He did his job but he stood his ground. And I think to myself what that shows our children about their value. I see so many straight couples where mother works her ass off and father has (or thinks he has) the big important job and is away from home or too tired when he gets home because he has Bills to Pay and I think it’s so often unfair, so often shit.
I stand up; stretch. My daily yoga practice is sluggish because I am tired in some way that defies explanation; still, my efforts keep those little kinks out of my neck, my shoulders, my hips. But yes I am exhausted, beyond tired. I have a call into a physician because I can tell something is wrong. Some nights by the time I’m in bed, I’m in a fog. I came out about this fatigue recently and as expected people shout explanations, solutions at me. These things can take time. I only hope I have the persistence to see it through, and that I am assisted by a pair of skilled hands and a good mind.
We’re roadtripping for Beeps’ haircut and my child puts on an 80s Spotify playlist. Fine by me. I love telling them about pop culture history; for the most part they love listening. “Oh man, The Pointer Sisters. Their music unleashed my inner sluttitude and for that I am so grateful!” I tell Phoenix about the video for “I’m So Excited” where June Pointer straight up stands up from her bubble bath and you see her business. OMG. In the 80s! Bless.
Next: “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins. I’m laughing now. “Kenny Loggins had his day in the 80s. This song was the theme for a movie called Top Gun, which was a big deal. It was about these super-macho fighter pilots who end up at a super-macho fighter pilot school. Plus it was super homoerotic,” I giggle. I’m picturing Kilmer’s tooth chomp.
“This song sounds pretty homoerotic,” my child responds. Wow.
They always can see a little deeper than I.
If I had to describe parenting teenagers in a word, I’d designate: mercurial. At any given point in the day one or the other is furious at me – usually, with cause. I make a lot of missteps as a parent and my kids notice every time. Their rapier-like accuracy in pointing out my failings – however gracefully or bluntly – is not irritating. I appreciate it. It keeps me humble. I do my best to mend the situation, then go off to work a bit more on my own thing (I installed thirteen perfect, accurate, bound buttonholes in a thick coating today) – then ask a child to come downstairs and say, wash the dishes. “Yes mama!” – all back to sweetness and light.
This repeats itself about eight times daily. I take my own advice and I don’t personalize any of it. And things work out well.
“With some complaints.”
Today after class I pick up Beeps (while Nels sleeps in) and we visit the Chinese diner on Wishkah; mapo hot and spicy bean cake on one plate, broccoli vegetable on the other. Absolutely delicious. My child is showing the signs of their T injections, and this blows my mind. Their shoulders are broadening. They will be much larger than I soon – they are already taller. My kid liked puberty so much they thought they’d do it twice! I have thought to myself. Despite being a member of some good support groups online, it is isolating being a parent to a transitioning child. It is unlike any other typical teenage milestone but it’s as major as the more commonplace ones, and I wish I didn’t feel so lonely about it.
Last night we had a small family party for Beeps’ 16th; a lovely sky blue cake with lots of candy sprinkles, and sparkling cider, and gifts. A week ago I found a canvas of an Romuald Socha’s 1977 poster for Godzilla vs. Gigan – perfect! I won’t lie, it felt absolutely satisfying to see my child light up after unwrapping it. Another happy memory, another small entry in the books. Another year wobbling along and parenting this child, this child who changed my life in every way and continues to surprise me.
The Beyoncé “Hold Up” dress (here’s the original: yes, it’s amazing!) was my biggest project this Halloween. A friend saved up and went big – she not only requisitioned the dress, she acquired the hair, shoes (which were then hand-painted), and jewerly. There is nothing I like more than someone going all-out, and it was wonderful to be a part of that.
Let me get right to the knitty-gritty of how (I think) the dress was originally constructed (it’s from a collection, so there is more than one version out there – which is confusing for a reconstruction effort), and how I duped it.
So, he dress appears to be made with tiered chiffon flounces, and lace appliqué on a mesh and spandex underdress. The flounces were also roughly pleated and lettuce-edged; the bottom two flounces were trimmed with lace. The dress is hardly structured at all, a lot of bare skin shows as well as the actual push-up bra. My client found the black bra herself and hand-stitched an interlining to emulate the double-strap look on the bra. I wish I’d paid more attention to that particular bra detail, as I could have done that job for her by machine; her handstitching failed at the party she was at (bras need to be very sturdy, especially for the large-busted)!
Because the dress is mostly a monochromatic garment, I had to figure out how to get four matching colors in the absolutely gorgeous yellow of the dress, and this affected my choice of fabrics. Notice in the photo at upper left a version of the dress looks warm and poppy-colored, at left – and greenish at right; you will also notice the dress appears several different colors in this post depending on the lighting I am working with. I ended up deciding to buy my 25 yards of chiffon, and dye the other fabrics to match using a local dye artist. Note that dyeing different fabrics (including fabrics with differing fiber content) is a bit of a technical challenge, and will likely involve lots of testing and different types of dye processes.
It took trial and error to get the fabrics dyed the correct color; one nylon lace, for instance, simply didn’t take dye. My dye artist friend (Val from FiberPlay) had to do two washes to get the colors deep enough – but they were lovely and all matched, by the time she was done. Below, you see (from left, clockwise) the chiffon, spandex, mesh, and lace I used.
One other major technical component was the pleating. I believe the flounces on the original garment were cut circular, not straight – which meant the pleats were formed that way as well (I think of this as sunray pleating although I’m sure it has other names). After lots of pleating research and a few phone conversations with the *amazing* Rusty at SF Pleating (415.608.1983), I opted to send Rusty labeled strips, and he pleated them all. The pleats arrived in these fabulous crepe paper bundles. Rusty was beyond amazing and I hope to work with him again!
Now that I had the pleated chiffon and all properly-hued fabrics, it was time to assemble! I build the mesh and spandex underdress, using carbon paper to trace my flounce positions. I then fussy-cut the lace motifs, and applied the lace to locations on the mesh underdress:
The mesh needed a stabilizer to form a nice strong zig-zag stitch.
All of the chiffon flounces had to be finished by serge, as chiffon likes to fray into these teeny tiny fibers. These flounces were then either edged by serge or edged by fishing line. The latter process is so fun! You wrap your fishing line around a form, use heat (boiling water or heat gun) to seal the shape of the circular culry-q’s, let cool, and feed this line into the chiffon while hemming. This process required a lot of trial and error; you have to find the right weight of fishing line – but was super fun. I’ll have to create a tutorial someday!|
After the flounces were hemmed, I applied them to the mesh in the locations I’d traced:
One regret I had was not acquiring a twist-cord blank to dye. Instead I created cord from the spandex fabric, and used it for the dresses’ back-tie, as well as the three straps in the bodice.
The original dress likely does not fasten by tie, but this is the most adjustable and comfortable way to go for a costume:
So, obviously my friend K. stole the show at her event. It was both an honor and a privilege to get to make her something so special! And I can’t wait for my next pleated project!
New Year 2017 was a quiet affair at our place. I have a steady Saturday volunteer gig that I don’t miss for anything. Now yeah, there’s a lot of Saturday nights I don’t want to go. I want to stay home with my lovely husband and children. But I go, unless I’m in the hospital or called out of town.
So tonight I got dressed up a little, a hooded dress of my own making, a little eyeliner, a deep red lippie. The closer my hair is wrapped up and the larger my hoop earrings, the more secure I feel!
I had to pick a friend up. I’m off through the streets of Aberdeen, which are innately familiar. I’m a night person but New Year’s Eve others are obliged to join me. Lights in restaurants and taverns; a few souls out on the street but it’s cold, snow mixed in with the rain. I know people are gearing up to carouse, or maybe they’ve already started. A friend of mine is nearly run off the road by a drunk driver.
I’m to a little corner building, flipping on lights while another friend brews the coffee. A vigil, here for those who observe life’s triumphs and travails without the use of drugs or alcohol.
As much as I love the holidays, I’ve come to know that they are a hard time for many people. I figure since I’ve been okay for holidays, I love them in fact, I can be there for others. Maybe one day my time will come, and it won’t be so easy.
The coffee: hot, dark. Delicious. I have half a cup. Alongside my quart jar of water. I still get the moonshine jokes. I’ve never had a drop of moonshine in my life!
I welcome a man who is new to the area. He’s just moved, and he’s exhausted. I get to talk with a woman I see now and then. I’m thinking of a man I knew. I can see him crystal clear. He was older. He was on oxygen. He wasn’t healthy. I can’t remember his name but I remember his face. He would come in from the beach to sit with us. I grew to a swift affection. Where is he now? His name will come to me. Is he still with us? Is he sick? Is he well?
So many come and go. I can’t keep up with them all; not just the sea of faces, smiles, and handshakes here in this room – but the friends who wish me well, the little letters and emails and text messages, those who write me and ask for advice or who thank me or who call on me for some reason or another. I used to be able to grasp them all but there are too many. So I get to settle for telling people Thank you, and trying to comfort and be kind, and to show my appreciation.
Home now, and I have a hot slice of deep dish pizza. We sit down. After my shower, I am still not feeling well. My husband holds my feet in his hand, paints my toenails; holds my hands and paints each fingernail too. I am still feeling ill. I lean up against him. He smells wonderful; like cedar and warmth. He has always smelled wonderful to me.
At midnight, the fireworks, more than I figured. I bump up the music: INXS’ “Need You Tonight”. I’m on the couch in my blanket and I watch Ralph and Nels don coats and go outside to watch the pyrotechnics; I lean back and feel that mixture of sadness and joy. I remember where I was the day we heard Michael Hutchence had died by suicide. I was at a house party and someone played a ballad and for a moment we were quiet, drinks in hand doing nothing to keep us from reflecting on yet another loss.
And tonight, another year sober and another year deepening my practice. This year brought me more Buddhist practices; I am still astonished as I sink deeper into them. Tonight, my oldest child is sketching at the table, on a tablet. My youngest is in his underwear, gaming on the couch. He is only a few inches shorter than I, now.
This year life kept crashing along, despite everything.
Today’s a really special day for me. And as is my custom, I made y’all a little mixtape.
Click on the image to get m3u download and CD cover, zipped:
Streaming: [ gmusic link ]
1. Shadows Of The Night / Pat Benatar
2. Shadow People / Dr. Dog
3. Guitar Town / Steve Earle
4. Going To California / Led Zeppelin
5. Operate / Peaches
6. The Passenger / Iggy Pop
7. Missionary Man / Eurythmics
8. Airbag / Radiohead
9. Disparate Youth / Santigold
10. Turn to Stone / Electric Light Orchestra
11. The Only Living Boy in New York / Simon & Garfunkel
12. Hopeless Wanderer / Mumford & Sons
13. Electric Love / BØRNS
14. My Shit’s Fucked Up / Warren Zevon
15. Moonage Daydream / David Bowie
Shortly after I arrive home, the pain begins. It starts as a bit of a pinch, a bit breathless, and as usual I don’t really notice for a bit. But after about a half hour I come into awareness. So now: fright. The pain is rising, clashing, a small crescendo in my lower back – this time, on the left. The pain isn’t the hardest part. It’s the fear. I know how much worse the pain can get. I know it won’t kill me, but pain is my master. Pain like that, anyway.
By the time I am stepping into a hot shower – a futile distraction, a bit of comfort to my bones while my body runs riot and S-H-O-U-T-S! at me from the very within – by that time my hands are trembling. I am in a state of heightened awareness, of stillness. It has been about fifteen months since I’ve entered the hospital. I hope to stay out, tonight.
Out of the shower and I shakily dress myself. A hot pad for my lower back. I am shaking too much to type or text. I lie in the bed and gently rock back and forth, and shake. But maybe it won’t get worse.
And this time, it doesn’t.
Today some good things happened.
– watching my son shoot baskets, dribble the basketball, his lanky frame looking more and more like his father, the man I met when he was a boy
– sitting next to my mom on the bleachers and trying to tell her about a film I recently watched. And singing, “Across 110th Street” to remind her
– my daughter showing me things that make her laugh, and make her angry, on her phone. My daughter climbing into bed with me tonight while I suffered, and telling me she wouldn’t leave my side until the pain was gone
– my husband at the oven, baking hot pita bread, and washing his hands then coming close to hold me
– the moon tonight on a drive on the beach Highway… lonesome and cold and bright as a beacon