edification / disarray

Today Ralph spent about half his day working on the CD pressing and sleeve construction of “Mighty Holidays”, a compilation of SW WA artists’ – most of them our friends – seasonal music (more or less). He’s creating hard-copy albums for the artists who participated and any others who want to purchase a CD (the download is free, of course).

My husband is, to me, a deeply-energizing presence – yes, even as he struggles with fatigue and low-grade depression he still holds my interest and deep respect more than any other grownup I’ve met. He is not only talented (in many ways), smart, incredibly funny, hard-working, interesting, beautiful, deep, strong, an asset to his workplace, relentlessly ethical in almost everything he does, and deeply invested in family life – he also routinely is considering those in his life and how to help them or build them up, occasionally to the point of his own exhaustion. This particular album was a labor of love in part because he wanted to showcase his friends’ work and in part because he wanted to then gift this work to other friends. He spent many hours emailing, recording, meeting, and assembling (as a final touch our friend Ira donated the mastering – a big help). And now he’s offering the finished product for free because he’s a Creative Commons junkie. And I adore him for all that and more.

Case in point: my husband performed today’s work with the assistance of C., a teenager and friend to our family who has been suffering illness and migraine; as a result of this his mother was being hassled by the school district for truancy under the Becca Bill (um… I’m not going to go into my thoughts on this, just pretend I ranted for a few pages instead mmkay?). During this arduous drama C.’s mother decided to homeschool C. and, since she was had been turned over to court at this point, was required to submit a homeschool “cirriculum” to the judge (major *eyeroll* here). To help the family, Ralph offered the young man an internship in the website management, promotion, and production of local music. So today we got to have C. as a guest in our house while the two worked together and Nels and C. talked about Minecraft (of course!). I loved listening to Ralph; he’s a natural leader and teacher and children of all ages (infants through teens) love him. I think Ralph and I have figured out by now that having children in one’s life (your own or other people’s) is an opportunity to empower, support, learn, and exchange, and we grownups get as much as we give, if not more.

As for me, I spent most my day yesterday and about three hours today helping my girlfriend J. in party preparations for her most ambitious party yet (among other things I fried LOTS of meatballs!). I enjoy cooking and I enjoy helping, so it was a pleasure to do – and unless I really miss my guess, the party came off beauitfully.

Long story short I am now behind on Christmas sewing – but I have hopes I can pull through. And Oh Yes, believe me I have photos that I cannot wait to upload and share, when it will no longer run the risk of spoiling surprises! Given how hard Ralph and I have been working our house is in an uncharacteristic shambles and I’m a bit frazzled. The weekend flew by and I felt I barely had a resting moment at home –

But it was a good, productive, hard working, and joyous one at that.

twelve years hence

I Don't Think You're Ready

Today went from pleasant, and nice out, and calm, to kind of ONE HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR AWESOME – and at times, overwhelming.

I’m speaking specifically of my friend J. and her daughter E. calling us up to re-invite us to Westport. Realizing we had not missed our meetup window, the kids and I threw together snacks and water and a lunch and made our way to the fishing township as fast as we could given we were slowed down by the neighbor inviting himself along, a bridge closure, and hot hot blacktop roadwork.

The beach town was lovely – the heat ameliorated by a rich breeze – and the walk, and grownup conversation, and child conversation, and taffy at the candy shop, and verdant water and working class environs and massive, massive schools of anchovies (you can see some in above picture but a close-up would have been brilliant) and sea breeze and sunshine and happy, happy, happy kiddos were great. The children spent most of their time running along the rocks and shoals and on floats and watching the working fisherman. They needed no diversion or touristy purchases.

After our plunking around town we decided to go looking for the swimmable old rock quarry I used to frequent as a young woman. I hadn’t been there in years. We drove through the sunshine and I used my phone to call Ralph and accessed my brain to try to remember where the road to the quarry was, driving along and remembering a girlhood friend who’d lived out here and the lovely times we had, green grass halfway up to our chests and running about in the gloaming…

We found the quarry (after some travail). That is, we found the road. Then there was the parking and the hike –  not a long one, but a steep one. The four small children navigated this well and cheerfully, with littlest ones Nels and E. bringing up the rear and playing so sweetly together.

The swimming hole itself… the quarry had not only changed vegetation-wise (there were large trees and a fair amount of algae carpet over the once-clean rock bed; salamanders and crawdads still reigned as in days of yore) – but –

the real change was the stunning amount of human refuse. I have literally never seen so many spent shotgun shells. And there were mattresses and auto parts. And food wrappers and beer bottles and kiddie pools crumpled up and discarded. And spent condoms. And broken glass. And coolers and torn-apart teddy bears. It might be easier for me to list what wasn’t there.

Two things occurred to me. One was how upsetting these changes were. They weren’t just dismal but they also hit me in the chest regarding the passage of time and the occasional ravages committed. In my mind and heart I’d been diving off these shores with my young boyfriend (that would be Ralph) only months before. But it had been some years and the place was utterly changed. After some time I realized I was making too many hard-humored jokes about the nastiness of the garbage, and I made myself stop. It was an effort. I made myself stop because:

That leads me to the second thing that occurred to me: the children were merely curious and cautious about the garbage but accepted it as a reality. They delighted in the trees and the water and wading and salamander-watching and did not complain we required them to keep their shoes on, because even the water, yes, was littered with dangers. They did not pull back or complain about the venue. It was humbling to see children, once again: how quick they are to see the Beauty in our world, mixed-bag as it often can be. They shared snacks and splashed and swam and waded and quarreled and explored. They were, really, the picture of enjoyment and agency.

After parting with our friends, I had lead-foot to make the RSVPd social engagement back in HQX. Which had some awkwardness including my accompanying extra kiddo who’d not been invited (I didn’t have time to return him home first, but I also think when there’s tons of extra food no one should begrudge an extra guest) then an old beau there walking about while I looked like Hammered Ass and felt pounded flat. Look, in the best of circumstances I am no beauty but after our “Shotgun Shell Swim” as J. called it I was particularly bedraggled (my clothes I put on after the swim were still damp with sweat and my swimsuit bunched unbecomingly under my dusty tank top) and so were the kids and I had mild heatstroke and was horsefly-bit and I didn’t want to press the flesh and talk to everyone.

Probably the worst thing was I was Unable. To. Deal. with any of this and I spent some time wandering the cool, silent, and totally secluded rooms of the local museum adjacent to the festivities, pretending to look for a sink for Nels to watch his snake-musk hands in (he and his sister caught a reptilian beauty) but mostly just being Silent with my son at my side like my most precious personal haunt. I realize this was rather ungracious and assy of me. But I am a Human Being and not always the picture of etiquette. I did my best, hanging on with my fingernails, and when Ralph arrived (he, frustrated, retained at work late today by his boss) he took over our kids and I escorted the neighbor boy home.

And now I give thee “Tetanus Meadow”:

Tetanus Meadow, Tentative

Tetanus Meadow, Assured

Yeah. And you know me. I’m pretty confident in my kids’ abilities to navigate without injury. But I was a bit concerned, given we were much distance from the car and my First Aid kit, and who knows what may have lurked on sharp edges ready to poison his bloodstream.

Of course Nels didn’t hurt himself one whit.

And seriously? Today was the most fun I’ve had in some time.

δU = δQ – δW

August 14th, 2010

(Sprout like a sonovabitch! Above, one of my creepy daily green smoothies.)

The heat is oppressive. In some ways it’s worse than the cold because in our home we can always make ourselves warmer (down blankets, layers, body heat, heaters, fucking cats). But this? We’ve got the window blinds down like normal on hot days – but today it’s too hot to even open them (so it’s stuffy and dark, ugh). I rigged up a swamp cooler which made me feel wistful for my Engineering school days when I knew stuff in my brain (reader, I am not even kidding, I recently realized I have been feeling very Stupid lately) and that really did help.

Sure we could go to a restaurant (air-conditioned) – except we kind of can’t, having a pathetic little stack of bills for next week’s mini-vacation and it’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow and I’m still panicking over that. The vacation we are all very excited about, except me, because it’s mostly just even more cooking for more people, but I shall enjoy the fact everyone else is having such a good time, and I hope to sew some gifts while we’re there if I can finish up my current project.

We went to the Young Artists’ Show at Six Rivers Gallery. The substantial breeze while biking was hot enough it didn’t help much.

On Our Way To The Art Show

At the Gallery. Doesn’t Phoenix look like a flower?

Phoenix Flower, Waiting

Phoenix Flower, Waiting

Ralph played music for atmosphere.

(Small) Pedal, Feet Of Father & Son

Rock Star. In Dockers.

He’d done it as a volunteer effort but was, surprisingly, paid in cash. That’s very nice for our vacation stash!

Details of Nels’ and Phoenix’s work:

I love this series of Nels. You can see him as he begins to fall deep in thought:

Nels Moves Into A Deep Thought (1)

Nels Moves Into A Deep Thought (2)

Nels Moves Into A Deep Thought (3)

We got home and did what cooking we could – heating up roast chicken in coconut oil and serving it atop basmati rice, alongside simmering fresh peas from the farm and strawberries cut with a little cane sugar and topped with cream. I sewed a bit. Ralph and I were crawling from the heat. He gave himself slight heat stroke mowing the lawn. He went out to bring home gin and ice cream. I refreshed the swamp cooler setup. Slowly the heat backed off.

Hey and anecdotally, this spider we found on our kitchen sponge was so horrific it made me feel angry and sarcastic. Ralph said, “It needs a haircut.” It seriously had really shaggy pedipalps. Here’s my hand too, all casually giving you a sense of scale.

I Have No Words

And some kind of goddamned venom sacks!

Great. Venom Sacks.

Dear Nature: FUCK YOU. I am totally serious.

Pegasus/Unicorn Roller Skating Birthday Party

let’s not make it a habit

Oh my goodness – I bought a book! I did! I never do this! As in, if you come to my house you will see the smallest-ever little pile of books, because we are so incredibly selective about the ownership of said libros! I have literally never known of anyone who had fewer books!  (Pssst, there’s this secret thing called a library, they totally give you books – for free! and then you don’t have to own them and have them clutter up your house! It’s crazy!)

But purchase a volume I did, just yesterday – and it arrived today (speedy!).  The book: Sewing Clothes Kids Love: Sewing Patterns and Instructions for Boys’ and Girls’ Outfits (that is one decidedly non-catchy title, bro).

I bought the book for a two compelling reasons: 1. the styles, techniques, and layer-ability of the resultant garments are stellar matches for my children’s preferences and lifestyle (that is: active!), and 2. at $16 with free shipping, ten multi-sized patterns, and tons of directions for modifications and embellishments, the price and convenience of doorstop-delivery were “compelling… and rich”.  Today at lunch as the kids colored their coloring books and worked on math worksheets I flipped through the book and drooled – the Manhattan Special Occasion Dress!  The Avalon Jacket! – and reconsidered some of my upcoming sewing projects (my girl’s birthday, see below) to accommodate breaking into the pattern sheets.

In other news: we’re busy planning Sophie’s birthday festivities, which include a shared Unicorn / Pegasus skate party – Sophie (turning 8), and Michael, Ralph’s drummer (turning 22). If you don’t think this late-night roller skating party is going to be so incredibly awesome, well.  You’re wrong. And stuff.

Kids, late-night, roller skates, sugar-snacks, costume horns!
Kids, late-night, roller skates, sugar-snacks, costume horns!

friday, hitting it hard with a can of Ensure

Earlier in the day my mom came over – needing a break from preparations for a party she would host later – and took the kids and I along with her little Rat-dog for a walk along what we HQX residents call the flats, an abandoned industrial field along the bay, across from the old swing bridge and paper mill.  Funny because what may look like a wasteland of driftwood, crab grass, blackberry bushes, pissy Canadian geese, and various and sundry detritus (“Oooh, a blasting cap!”), the area in its way speaks to me (and I daresay, my brother and our friends) of freedom. Many nights were spent out on the flats around a bonfire, with or without underage drinking and drugging: summer nights where our only concerns were spending time with one another and heading to an all-night eatery when we got hungry.  In fact, one of Ralph and my first dates ended up in a parked car out this way, ahem!, where we wrestled around in the backseat more or less chastely but oh-so-fun.

Today the flats contain nothing more or less for me than a simple walk: a mother, daughter, grandchildren, a cowardly dog.  The kids find sticks of driftwood – Nels in particular needs an exact half-dozen, each looking unremarkable to me but containing the power and label of Pogo-stick, walking-stick etc.  My mom and I talked; Nels became angry at the lack of attention received.  I scored a small victory for myself (and my children) when I did not get irritated with his demands, but continued on in my way and let him have his feelings.

Later in the evening Ralph joined us for my mother’s party; because it was mostly older folks (no really, I spent a large amount of time listening to fishing stories from a man old enough I had to memorize his birth year, then come home and use my calculator to figure his age, P.S. this tiny story-lette is actually more about me being dumb) everyone had left by 10 PM.  10 PM, people! That’s just when I start getting going.

We had a nice time; I haven’t been to a real party, early bedtimes notwithstanding, since Halloween (when we went to two, bam-bam, take that!).  And tonight, pretty much every conversation had and every individual there was a delight.  In an effort to help my mother with her hosting I made a huge vat of frijoles refritos and a double batch of tamales de puerco. By party’s-end the only food that had been entirely consumed was the latter – beating out the expensive platter of ribs (suck it, ribs!) from the local restaurant (suck it, restaurant!). I am not going to shit thee, those tamales were delicious.  Which is kind of cool because as much as I’m an accomplished cook and regularly provide meals from my kitchen, sometimes I do a very mediocre job, and I always hate when that happens to a large group of people, many whom I’ve only just met.  In these latter cases I usually give “The Shrug” since, you know, I did what I could.

Early in our evening a few guests began to inquire regarding my blog and writing – then, my life at home with the kids.  Query me they did, and rather pointedly indeed.  In fact, the abovementioned fishing-story gentleman began to ask me many questions: what did I write about, what were my three most important topics, why did I choose to homeschool, what did I do for my children’s religious education.  I must admit, I love talking about all these things, but I wasn’t exactly on my feet and ready to, you know, defend (or even describe) my life, only specifically because I have some unanswered questions right now and, sadly, a lack of mentorship regarding these.  Tonight’s discussion and curiosity were completely respectful, and at any moment I could have changed the subject, but I didn’t for whatever reasons.

And yet:

The next time someone asks me why my kids aren’t in school, I’m going to ask: “Why should they be?”

sounds like maybe ralph should play charlie’s next time

“Charlie’s is the best fucking bar, man! You can get so much titty action there!  Well, Levi can.  I don’t got game.”

I overhear this, walking in front of a small pack of boisterous men and headed up 4th Avenue in Olympia, looking for a 24-hour coffee bar I know is up here somewhere.  I’m also looking for my girlfriend and trip-mate Jasmine who was not allowed into my husband’s rock concert on account of misplaced identification (sad times!).

“She’s got more game than me,” the breast-aficionado indicates yours truly. Ladies know this ritual well: a male stranger, bringing you into a conversation on an awkward or slim segue.  It’s usually harmless; it’s usually friendly.  I return communication in that spirit, because I do not assume guys are unilateral creeps, or that they don’t have the right to talk to me.  He compliments my fishnets.  I tell him they can be his for $1 at Wal-mart.  He tells me I wear them better than he could.  I ask if he knows where the coffee bar is.  He walks me to it and manages to shoehorn in several colorful Olympia facts as well as saying there’s “nothing to fucking do around here.”  “I take it you live here,” I say, and after his assent I tell him: “I’m from little old Hoquiam, and I like visiting a lot.”

If I’m out during nightlife, I get hit on, yeah. I think I get hit on because I am a content and happy city-goer.  I like talking to strangers.  More than that, I love going to music (especially Ralph’s), and I love eating food in the city, and I love the summer night and what it’s doing to my mood, and I love that I took Jasmine out to lunch and the spa and we had a wonderful time – even if her plans to watch a show were derailed.  I am ecstatically happy for a free night while my kids are out with other grownups – my daughter with my mother, my son home having pizza and recording music with a friend of Ralph’s.  I am happy, but also the world seems spinning so fast it might throw me off entirely, at least where my children and my paths have momentarily diverged.

Redbird Fever‘s set was a good one; I was touched by the friends who came, many from a 1 or 2 hour drive away, and the unexpected and pleasant surprise of Ralph’s old bandmate I hadn’t seen in nine or so years.

Small town; good times.

a violent streak

This weekend included an incredible amount of activity: volunteer work, a bit of waitressing, a four-day visit from company, a birthday party, gardening, cooking like mad, a sleepover guest, and lots of garden work. I was too busy to even blog some of the witty and urbane observations running through my mind (observations like, “Good damn I need another cup of coffee to cope”).

Tonight Nels drags his feet along a DVD against our hardwood floor – an annoying habit of his I cannot seem to talk him out of. My solution lately has been to, as much as possible, keep this kind of media away from him. Tonight he has one in his possession again, somehow, and he’s abusing it. I warn him if he puts it on the floor I will remove and discard the DVD. A few minutes later and he’s spinning on it with one foot. Half judiciously as a parent, half in irritation, I remove the DVD and – instead of merely removing it, as I should – snap it in half. Or rather, attempt to – it’s rather difficult to do as it turns out. It bends, irrevocably (although it was scratched beyond repair as it is), and now rocks on the desk, a sad and wonky proof of my failure. Nels is unhinged and cries – of course. I am not even mad enough to feel remorse; I realize the split-second after I did this that I should not have done it. My son races downstairs to cry injustice to his father, who of course is an amazing and sympathetic listener.

After a while the boy is back. He runs about the room half-crying and I’m half-listening. In a couple minutes I finish my email and turn to apologize to him. He collapses, ready to accept my love, and puts his tear-stained face against my chest. He is in mourning more than angry with me; he knows I was wrong and that I am sorry. He starts crying and clutching at me and yammering and I hear something about a jump rope and tripping. I realize that behind my computer chair he had placed a “booby trap” of a stretched-out jump rope – to trip and murder me, no doubt. Half there to forgiveness, now, he tells me when I succumb that he’ll protect my head with his hands, so only my body gets hurt. “I don’t really like you but I don’t want you to fall down the stairs”, he says, the look in his eyes showing me even this isn’t true, and he no longer wishes me any harm at all, and that he likes me very much. As I hold him and wipe away his tears his words lose their violence and become only tender expressions of love and howls of sadness. His movement through hurt, anger, unconditional love and sadness could not be expressed more clearly.

I can’t be angry or shocked that he would set up a vicious trap because I am only too familiar with my own murderous nature. I should be a better mom, it’s true. But I am glad in this moment, for at least tonight, that I’m smart enough to know when I’ve made a mistake, that my son can express his feelings so clearly, and that I can minister to him and give him comfort when he hurts. The goal tomorrow will be not to cause him undue distress – to offer him gentleness only and instead.

a muffled morning

When I find the time, I need to remind myself to feel guilty about how much rest I get. This morning I slept in until about 10:15; and it wasn’t one of those “hop out of bed” refreshed wake-ups. This was more like the slow-motion crawl, swimming to the surface, gee-I’ve-been-sleeping-for-a-long-time slow, sloooooow wake-ups.

My dreams just prior: intense. My family somehow withholding a letter from my father. My nicest aunt writing a mean email about me! My grandfather, my brother, both being, well, kind of dicks (they aren’t IRL, I swear). And always, permeating the nocturnal dreamscape: missing my father a lot.

Last night found me at a Ladies’ Night at the Deli. Good times. Amazing food, more bottles of wine than I’ve ever seen in one spot (I did not partake; I get high on life), those games where you make a fool out of yourself, and a silly movie. Cost: $10. Ridiculous(ly cheap)!

Thursday nights my mother has been taking the kids for an overnight, and Fridays I work at the Deli for a few hours. This for me is a nice little adventure; serving grownups instead of my own wee ones, great food, a paycheck now and then coupled with tip money I use for groceries, gifts, or occasionally saving up for something practical (Keen rain boots, check!). I don’t kid myself that this little reprieve is due entirely to the gift of my mother: quality, guilt free, wonderful care for our little ones. HQX has given us some decided advantages.