Pack It In, Pack It Out

well and i even have a little left over, to help you

Pack It In, Pack It Out

Today on a Flats walk with our dog and three kids – two of the children mine, one from another family – we came across a dozen pelicans (of at least two species) diving for fish. It was really something to watch, as they hit the water with incredible force, like missiles. Along with the pelicans many species of gulls and other waterfowl messed about, and we spied at least two harbor seals. Obviously, there was a large school of fish in the water falling prey to this predation. In the course of the walk around The Flats, two different men along the trail told me two different stories about the species of fish out there (men love to tell you shit, even when they don’t know the shit!).

My dog was out of his mind with joy. In case you hadn’t been following: he’s been on near-bedrest for a few weeks since his incredible illness adventure with salmon poisoning. Today he was so excited he actually fetched a stick (unheard of) many times. He also played tug-o’-war with me and growled a lot. He has a huge, powerful mouth and very sharp teeth and I’d never heard him growl before. I was a bit unnerved!

The weather on our walk was so wonderful. It was balmy-warm – in fact, it would have been unpleasantly humid had it not been for a wonderful sea breeze. There were so many animals at The Flats – wild and domestic – and not a few people. It was a wonderful walk out and I’m glad I made the time.

***

Just lately: I am over-worked. Not only physically – besides having household responsibilities, more water aerobics, and two new Etsy sales that have me knee-deep in costumes – I’ve also been working intensively, and I do mean intensively with a new-to-sobriety alcoholic. I am astonished how much work she’s willing to do – but I’m also aware that yeah, it’s necessary. Watching someone reconstruct themselves from near-ruination is an honor and a privilege beyond what I can articulate.

And I’m a bit rueful: in Recovery communities you will sometimes hear those with long-term sobriety say, “I won’t work harder than the new guy!” [Meaning: as a sponsor to help him get and stay sober.] And yeah, I’ve heard it now and then and always thought that’s supposed to mean, Yeah that’s right, tough love, those lazy newbies! Well I never thought of the reciprocal. Because let me tell you, this new gal works like a dog, so that means I am working like a dog. I am not even kidding. Even if I didn’t think it completely unethical to share details, I haven’t the strength to write much about it. It’s working me, right now.

Many reading here won’t understand. [And yet she tries to explain anyway!] A big part of what’s hard on me is going through my own history – memories of what it was like to get sober, of those early days. If you’ve done it, you probably get it. It’s a big deal. Remembering what it was like invokes a kind of PTSD. Today and yesterday I’ve been thinking, Did I really do that? Did I really go through all that? And it’s like – yeah, I did. I felt like crying today and wanted to give myself a hug or somehow take care of myself in ways I neglected before. I had it hard. And I didn’t even know I had it as hard as I did. Does that mean I have it hard today, and I don’t know it, as well? It’s a scary thought. I am tired of suffering. It hurts.

Tonight: I resolutely put aside my fears and my own traumatic memories. I am here now, my children downstairs want me now. My husband is available to me now. A small dish of strawberry shortcake awaits. Hot water and soft pajamas. A warm bed. A curious dog. Purring, comforted kitties.

I am here now. Tomorrow is another adventure.

cha-cha-cha like no one’s business

Today on a walk the three kids and I spied a family of otters out in the depths of the Hoquiam river. Fiesty, playful otters – three from what we could tell. As we walked on a quarter mile Phoenix gasped: there they are, on the piling! Sure enough, all three were just a few feet away, gazing up at us with curious, bead-black eyes. A mother and two juveniles. We watched for a while and when I glanced down at my phone, and back up, only a couple modest ripples remained on the river’s surface. We remained for a while longer to see if they’d re-emerge, but they eluded us.

I spent much of today on foot, on my bike, or in a pool, and it felt great. This afternoon I stayed too long at an appointment, and got home in time to furiously pedal-arse to the YMCA for

AQUATIC ZUMBA

which I thankfully made in time.

Some of you probably can figure out what that is, others are like, “What?” Basically: dorky-looking water aerobics (I am still looking for low-impact exercise options because ye olde knees are not healed up). I laughed the entire time, because it was so awesome and silly. I could feel my buttcheeks waving in the water as I furiously twisted my hips to Pearl Jam, nameless techno, MGMT, other pop music. Lots of breast-bobbling as well (involuntary), since mere mortal swimsuits cannot restrain my DDDs. I kept up pretty good though. But only because my body gives me one “freebie” at a new routine. My arms like, “Oh this is nice, boy we sure are staying up in the air a lot, kind of tough. Ho ho.” Next time I try the same exercise they will be screaming in agony: “Go take a long walk off a short pier you twisted-up harridan!”

Back on the bike; home to a warm house and kids, just my own two for a change. Ralph’s three-nights-a-week RHPS practice means a messier home and a wee bit less man-cooking as well. Currently: 11 PM and he’s making me sesame noodles, which is working out well for me. Late night cuddles and probably a really bad b-movie.

It’s kind of a routine. [ casual shrug ]

is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment

I’ve spent so much of the last dozen years in near-constant company of children you’d think I find them quite unremarkable as companions; but in fact, they are a special type of experience to me, still. I often feel uncertain, and think I am supposed to be providing them more food, more cuddles, more baby-talk. However I have very little to offer on all these accounts – sometimes not much for my own little ones.

The girls visiting tonight are, as per usual, excited about our life and they explore it frankly. They are enamored of our home; they enjoy my mother’s property next door, with the witchy garden and koi pool and fire pit. They are excited our children do not go to school and they are enthusiastic about Nels’ lemonade stand (he spent all day out there; cheerfully greeting, pouring, mixing – and when alone, singing songs and saying, “I’m a winner!” to himself).

In the evening Ralph leaves for a meeting and the four children and I venture out to our favorite little walk along the harbor. Within a few moments the younger sister N. sits behind me on my bike, completely at-ease with a grownup she’s never met before. She has a wicked sense of humor, very dry – a lot like my daughter. She is pretty in a winsome, Scout-from-To-Kill-A-Mockingbird type of way. Her sister is a real beauty, clouded blue eyes and long lashes and dark hair falling across her clear brow. They are very composed little girls and quite game to shift bikes back and forth when we are joined by another child on foot, woefully protesting the unfairness of not owning a bike. Phoenix, for the first time, rides my X with Nels on the back while I carry N. I feel a sting of pride. A little later my daughter rounds a corner too fast and ditches the bike too, falls right over although she and Nels are very good at dumping bikes without being hurt. Phoenix gets up and dusts off. “It’s not a maiden voyage of an Xtracycle if you don’t fall,” I tell her cheerfully; she brightens up.

The children know where to look for animals hidden here and there in the hot, muggy wetland – we find all sorts of creatures, including many centipedes criss-crossing our path, a long-toed salamander (rare for our area of Washington), and a small nest of nubbly purple-pink rodents. The children entreat me to take photos with my phone although in the case of the little baby nest, I don’t want to get too close.

Long-Toed Salamander

Rodents Of Generally-Expected Size

***

Back at home the visiting girls stay until the last possible moment before they’ll be late getting home. They keep asking about my sewing and my sewing room. Finally it occurs to me they might like some of Phee’s hand-me-downs. I step into the closet and begin pulling out this and that, garments my daughter has grown out of that haven’t found a new child. I hand over a few things then start straightening the hangers, lost a bit in preoccupied tallying of my children’s clothing needs. A moment later I turn to find one of the girls still standing, expectant, hoping for more magic to be pulled out of this dark and dusty little closet. The girls try on the garments and one of them, the older one, brightens up considerably at Phee’s leopard-print-and-lilac-rose dress. She changes into the frock then skates into the kitchen and twirls; the dress suits her even more than it did my daughter.

Giving clothes to children is funny. The kids have to like the clothes and then who knows if the parents will let them wear them. And then there are the unintentionally-comic requests; a friend of my daughter asked me to make her a Justin Bieber t-shirt. As if you can’t find one of those for $5 at Walmart! Still, I am gratified to think these particular garments will find another happy home. All told, the girls left with the Blue Dragon Egg Jacket, the Bleeding Heart Dress, the Rayon Tiered Leopard Dress, and Blue Goth.

(A retrospective:)

Happy As A Clam
Supermodels
Up Close, Flowers, Leaves, Vine
Pensive At The Coffee Shop

i believe in magic

Holding hands, I solemnly tell my son:

“Thich Nhat Hanh says, ‘The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.'”

Nels smiles: “PWNed, walking-on-water!” and then he giggles.

***

Bowerman Basin

Bowerman Basin

Bowerman Basin

Bowerman Basin

Bowerman Basin

Bowerman Basin

 

(Trundle.)

My son tells me the walk is “romantic”. My daughter brings me a flower. Then she says, “Never leave me.”

Bowerman Basin

Today:

Bowerman Basin

One year ago exactly:

Kiddos, Bowerman Basin

2010:

Lurve 4

2008 (August):

They Do Science

Thank you for that experience.

At the bus stop:

TWEEKERS
SUCK
then, clearly added later,
YOUR
[BITCH]
TITS

It’s cold as hell and the bus “shelter” provides no respite. I tap on my phone and look online expecting to see the bus here any second; instead I find we will have to wait fifty more minutes and I’m like, stunned with despair.

I want to cry. My serenity vanishes and I am completely pissed. I will spare you the details; it’s ugly and trifling, but yeah I’m angry and I’ve already figured out how everyone is to blame. And with every ounce of self-restraint I do not say or do anything shitty out of this mental place and instead I zip my coat and I walk alongside my husband and I tell him, “I’m very cold.” He’s a cheerful bastard and has his metabolism so in a single-layer cotton hoodie he’s fine. He and my kids, I’m telling you. Their bodies ramp up and they are like hot little bread loaves in the bed at night, ask me how I know this. But I’m cold, cold, always cold.

A man gets on the bus and then another, and I recognize them from Treatment. They perhaps don’t know me or are too busy. One looks good though like he might not be drinking. Last time I saw him he was all yellowed up even in his eyes.

One thing about being wet and cold and out in the elements, we’re finally home over an hour later, and I am so pleased to be back inside. My daughter brings me a blanket and a pillow and asks if she can remove my shoes, and I’m so grateful and she blushes, pleased with herself she could make me so happy.

My daughter. This morning, first thing she said to me, she pulled me in close while she was still in bed and whispered her good dream she had. It was the most stunningly beautiful handful of words I’ve heard in a while. And I knew it was a secret only for me the moment she told me. It brought tears to my eyes; the dream and its sweetness, and amazing thing that she shared with me because she trusts me.

Things were different for me when I was her age. It’s hard to believe in something better, even when it’s right before my eyes.

I wrap up in blankets and I rest. A friend picks me up and takes me home, later. Simple things, those little things that help me. I am very grateful for these.

***

I haven’t been posting too many links lately, but I wandered across this today and I got some good laughs, mostly from the rebuttals. Like “Dave”, and SOYFUCKER omgggggg lolz

***

Ralph’s project this evening:

from the effort of loving to the making of bread

I’d walked out with dinner plates still dirty and left it all behind. My husband either would do the washing up or he wouldn’t but I couldn’t spend another minute in the house for this or that reason. I’d spent a large part of the day cooking: homemade rolls and slow-roasted orange pulled pork; a coleslaw with green apple and a pineapple marmalade upside down cake with cold cream to pour on top, and that was just dinner, not even what I made for breakfast and lunch.

The bread: satisfying. Handling dough, the mixing and oiling and steam-bath and fashioning and glazing and baking, wiping down traces of flour off the counter and the mixer. A lot of love into a simple food that many take for granted.

Now, though, it’s cold outside and I’m glad I don’t have to wait for the bus more than about eight minutes. I buy a punch pass from the driver as soon as I step on board, before I can think about it being twenty dollars and we have four more days until payday. The pass has a gold-leaf little bit embossed so people can’t fraud one. I zip up my coat and sit mid-way back. Riding the bus in the later hours is quite pleasant , although I need to really know when to catch one though, as they are few and far between and I don’t want to get stuck in Crackton, Aberdeen in this kind of cold. The interior lights are red and low and there are only a few passengers and they’re not rowdy. Like I said, quite pleasant, not as loud or as odorous as day trips.

I look up at the signs I’ve seen most my life up above the windows. “If You’ve Found This Number, Give Yourself A Break And Call”, followed by the phone contact for Narcotics Anonymous. I feel this little thrill sitting there, wondering how many people have happened on that sign and felt the familiar flutter in their gut and an accusatory jab, then cut their eyes away and tried to blot out their intolerable reality a bit longer.

We head up the hill to the hospital and back down with no one getting off or on. I was up at the hospital earlier; a friend gave me a ride to see another friend who was suffering internal bleeding. I flick my eyes up to the second floor and say a little prayer. Later in the afternoon, after our visit, I’d gone out with the ill friend’s wife and we ran our dogs at the bay. Two Bassett hounds and my Hutch, two hundred pounds of dog, and Hutch was in the lead being awesome!

I’m thinking though while I text and wait for my stop, I want for nothing. Both cars broke but one’s in the shop at least and hopefully it’s something we can fix, and the fact my husband isn’t upset about any of this helps me a great deal. I don’t want anything, not really, I am content with things the way they are. I’m happy to get more blessings but I’m okay if for a day or two things are tough. I was thinking maybe I’d want to take the family on a sunny vacation somewhere and you could even get a credit card for that sort of thing maybe? Even this option is something open to me, something we probably won’t do, but who knows, maybe we could do it. I’m okay with my thoughts accompanying me against the damp, cold glass, and my mind doesn’t hang on or cling or run neither.

the air that I breathe & to love you

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

The sun is out and there’s something about the air; it’s still got a bit of chill especially as the evening falls but I find I’m feeling restless for the summer. We’re down to one car and we’d better fix a few things on that or we’ll be down to zero (sorry to talk about the cars again; it’s just where we live, family-of-four life without a car is no joke). I turn the engine over and the Mercedes belches out grey smoke and coughs for a while while it warms up. This car. The missing muffler and the screaming belt. I am serious. It’s funny. Sorry neighbors. I still love it, though.

It’s the sunshine and the car trouble so I say something out loud before I’ve thought it through, I don’t know if we’ll get a vacation this year, and I’m okay with it, just thinking of hot sand and doing nowt and just picturing the little pots of money moving them back and forth, more than enough to feed us and shelter us so no worries. But:

“It will be worth it,” my daughter says. “We’ll have sent a family to the unschooling conference.” That’s cool. It’s like as a parent you make these decisions as best you can, and you bet we made this decision as a family, informed consent, but it’s cool the kids aren’t backing down even while I’m teetering on feeling like an ass.

She continues: “They’ll have a wonderful time.”

I say, “We had sixteen families apply for our scholarship. They are all great applicants. Would you like daddy and I to make the final decision, or would you like to help?”

“Oh, I’d love to help!” Her response is immediate. We talk about it a bit. We share ideas about criteria for selection. I put the car in gear and we head out to take her to swim team. My son puts his hand on my arm and tells me he loves me.

***

Later, Ralph’s out of town, I walk in the falling shroud of darkness, wet and cold, I’m with the dog, off a little over a mile to pick up my daughter. In the backpack I’ve a couple rolls for her to eat, a big woolen hat and a coat. Hutch trots at my side, HAPPIER THAN ANYTHING EVER just to be along with me. Even after his massive weight loss he is still a big dog, and despite his obviously friendly, mild body language, sometimes people cross the street when they see him. In fact, walking at night alone as a lady, I don’t mind having a huge dog alongside. He is the gentlest creature ever though and I have no idea how much he’d protect me if I were accosted, that is unless my assailant was a giant hot dog.

Over the bridge and across the deep, dark river, which fills me with terror. I love the evenings, people hurrying home or perhaps off to parties or out of town. I’m alone but others are awake. I’m wrapped in a big scarf and my plastic jacket. My body feels good and my mind does as well. Every day as my last drink recedes from me, further away, I am profoundly aware of my gift of sobriety. I hate to talk about that so much too but, it’s on my mind and in my heart, often and daily. Every day I work with people and I see how many don’t keep a continuous sobriety, and heck those are the ones even trying to get help, “tip of the iceberg” doesn’t cut it. Every day I know less and less about Why for all of it. There’s nothing that sets me apart as being so fortunate but I am and so I don’t piss it away by being ungrateful or unconscious.

“If you don’t drink today, you’ll never drink again.” I heard this today. I tell my husband. He doesn’t quite understand. I explain it a little but it’s okay if people don’t understand. I understand.

My daughter is pleased to see us. She is out of the locker room at one minute past seven; she is on time. We both thank one another for being punctual. She bites the first roll and then tears off a chunk for the dog; he CLOPS it up and then CLOPS, CLOPS in gratitude or beseechment or both. We travel to the store by foot and buy two bananas to fulfill requirements for a loaf of banana bread; we have two quarters and the sum total is 49 cents and I’m pleased. Later Nels will eat the bananas without asking about them first, then he apologizes. For all his devilry he takes it very seriously when he makes a mistake or inconveniences others, probably too seriously. And so I’ll send Ralph to the store to get some more bananas tomorrow, so he can bake a quickbread for our daughter before she gets up.

viajar en autobús

Wet Kidlets, Playing

My friend on the bus with her newborn son, she tells me she just ran into the father of the child and they sat only inches from one another without acknowledgment. She tells me this was awkward, but I can tell it was upsetting and as tough as she is, she’s a bit rattled. A few minutes later and we tell her goodbye and I sit and look straight ahead out the steamy bus windows as much as I can. The diesel smell makes me ill. People smile at us a lot, perhaps because my children are cheerful and beautiful, perhaps because it is unusual to see a mother and school-age kids riding at this hour, perhaps it is simply because many people are having a Good Day today.

The bus fills up gradually and it lumbers through the wet grey streets it seems I’ve never not known, and after what seems like a long, long time, but a peaceful enough ride, we arrive at the grocery store. I pick up: red leaf lettuce, cucumber, mint, carrots, beef, rice noodles. Nels gets a complimentary cookie for himself, his sister, from the bakery. The children are hungry but we’ll have to wait until home to eat. We pack our groceries in my backpack and I carefully allocate things so the lettuce won’t get bruised, then heft the bag onto my shoulders and step out into the cold.

We walk several blocks along highway traffic and the rain has set in in earnest. Into the health food store and pick up the teas Ralph likes, along with fresh yeast, ten times cheaper here than anywhere else. Packed away and back outside and now the rain is horizontal into our eyes and the children suffer as we walk about a half mile, a little less, to the bus station. Phee puts up her collar but Nels falls behind and cries out. We pass the dancing Payday Loan employee, dressed as a Statue of Liberty a young man wearing a dazzling smile, even in this weather, but I am cold cold cold.

On the bus and even with the stench of fuel I am feeling relieved. I am cold, my body so cold it is tired simply from being cold. The kids are cheerful and have kept up their wrestling and singing and most of the time on the bus or on foot Nels has been holding my hand.

I get home and put my hands in hot dishwater and I’m a special kind of exhausted. I make a pot of hot tea for my husband and put it in the oven, after preheating then switching the oven back off. The cut of beef is cheaper than past cuts but Ralph transforms the rest of the ingredients into a delicious meal and we fold clothes and draw the curtains and a friend stops over to visit,

and Phee & I will finish watching the documentary on American whaling tonight,

fin

Wet Kidlets, Playing

mama’s #krafty

Some of my Christmas sewing. Some. Click on pictures to be directed to my Flickrstream where I detail a bit about how I made these items, what patterns I used, when I self-drafted, where I got my fabrics, etc.

First, and some of you got a preview here and there – the kids’ Christmas coats:

F*ing Frock Coat & YETI-riffic!

"Taking A Picture Of Me? Too Mainstream."

Nels is saying, “Taking a picture of me? Too mainstream.” For realz.

My Son Is Beautiful

Let’s talk about Nels’ coat for a minute. Please pause and take a moment, close your eyes, and emit a string of foul-mouthed oaths. That’s how I feel about this garment, which I choose to privately christen the “F*ing Frock Coat”. I will seriously not bore you with how much went wrong and how often. Some of this is due to the source pattern which I shall not publicly name. Some of it was just weird, and bad, luck.

My son enjoys the coat, though. He doesn’t have to know it almost made me resort to arson.

Natch, Phee loves her YETI-riffic coat. She wears it everywhere, including to sleep! It is warm and luxurious.

Some casual digs sewn on Saturday:

Plaid Skinny Jeans & Patch'd T42

Plaid Skinny Jeans & Patch'd T42

Plaid Skinny Jeans & Patch'd T42

While the t-shirt was a lot of fun, I am happiest with the Plaid Skinny Jeans (which aren’t “jeans” at all) – specifically the linen front yoke, the perfect welt pocket, and the back elastic. Most of the details I like the most are those I self-drafted, so don’t count on the source pattern helping you if you’d like to emulate my results.

“To Gir With Love” – made for a friend, who’s step-daughter loves a certain cartoon character. Phoenix and I made this yesterday. She did absolutely all of the design work, except for the basic hat shape, which I took care of.

"To Gir With Love"

Up close: 100% wool sweater upcycled for the black detail.

"To Gir With Love"

Skele-Quilt:

Skele-Quilt

Skele-Quilt

The backing: a brightly-colored spacescape – I love the intensity:

Skele-Quilt

Hand-bound:Skele-Quilt

I’ve been working on this quilt for five years. Fortunately, I kept it enough on the DL my daughter hadn’t yet seen it. Even more fortunate, both my daughter and I still love the fabrics, meaning she liked the gift and I liked working on it. I was sewing on a binding right up until Christmas Day. It just isn’t Christmas Sewing without the last-minute shite.

Finally, a hand-embroidered wrist pincushion for my brother’s fiance:

Wrist Pincushion For Jamila

Wrist Pincushion For Jamila

I designed the whole business here, including yes the Jack Skellington Shrinky-Dink pin and the safety measure of a plastic insert so one won’t accidentally stab oneself. Linen & cotton.

If you have any questions on how I made anything, please ask either here or at the Flickr photos. I love sharing the craftivism!