so, some of it got paid forward today

Today…. well, a bit overwhelming in bits and pieces.

On the way to Aberdeen along with my mom she let me stop by the brand spankin’ new business of a local blogger, Etsyan, and young mother for a mystery package. After touring their office (the pride in their hard work really shone through) I accepted a gift package and well-wishes for the family. When I got in the van I found in the packet coloring books, crayons, and other little bits for my children as well as a Visa gift card with the following message:

“Sometimes things can be tight – regardless there’s always someone looking out for you! Go buy some cheese for those pizzas! [heart] & hugs – [signed] Amazing Family

I sat there a minute and swallowed hard while my mom asked me what my brief visit was all about. It’s hard for me at times because I work so hard to make sure my writing here is never a specific communication to anyone or a plea for any kind of help or consideration (as my friend Cyn says, “can I tell you how I feel without you feeling like you need to solve me”). I always want the freedom to write what I want to write even if that might make others uncomfortable (or maybe, on the other hand, colossally bored, whatever). On the other hand, all the rest of you reading this, you are nowhere near as cool as this woman for how kind she was to me today.

I kid, I kid. No really. I am totally kidding. And yes, I am going to buy us some excellent cheese.

Three minutes after this visit I set my bag of goodies on the floor of the van, get out, and hoist Nels into the parking lot for our all-too-familiar trip to my father’s biweekly poisoning session. When we arrive in the new chemo ward (fancy!) I realize I know three of the seven patients there. My own father and two fathers of friends I grew up with. You know, I never get angry at Cancer. But today I was really struck by seeing these men and I felt like there was some cruel joke being played on all of us. Why are these men being stricken, weakened, and yes, taken from us while they still have so much to offer?

The second part of my day I am on foot with my two children through the rain and wind. This is because I had no gas in the van and had piggybacked on my mom’s errands (hanging posters for our theatre’s upcoming showing of Mary Poppins among other things) so when she suddenly found herself caught short she dumped us in West-ass Hoquiam to take her meeting. Luckily my children are seasoned winter travelers.

“You really need to learn how to play that game,” I tell my son as we walk. Nels has this remedial, caveman-like concept of Paper Rock Scissors, the game I’ve adopted to help the kids choose who gets to ring the bell on the bus, or pick the ice cream flavor to split with one another. He thinks Rock should beat everything else (I swear, this makes sense to me). Depending on Sophie’s mood she will either take advantage of this to win, or deliberately Scissors so he gets the prize. When she wins, and we don’t do a rematch, he howls with anger.

Spending so much time on foot, bus, and bike (I have $134 left to pay off my new bike’s layaway… I am just so excited for it!) is a real blessing. I experience my children, my community, and my world so much more viscerally. Things slow down. I am grateful for my alpaca mittens and I think ahead about packing snacks in my pockets for the kids. I rarely see anyone out with their kids in this town. I see dads walking fast with a kid in a stroller, smoking. That’s about it. Everyone else is in cars.

hard to come back from caveman

This morning at 1:15 AM our power came on. I woke up, lay in bed and thanked God (it had been three full days), then got up to re-arrange my fridge (we’d packed all into the freezer with ice bags and I would now have to re-rescue the food from the other end of the temperature spectrum) and start some laundry. Last night my daughter had kept me up with a croupy cough. With the candlelight and lack, completely, of anything to do when the darkness fell I was starting to feel like we were living a throwback existence.

It took me a while to get to sleep after our lives suddenly were put back to normal in a snap. Life had become very different. We’d started marking off our days in terms of experience (the first day was “Novelty Day”, then we were on “Ice Day” and heading into, “OK, Now I’m Really Cold Day”… Thursday was slated for “Shit-Water Day” and frankly I’m glad we missed out on that).

My parents arrived over about 8:30 for heat and breakfast as their power, like so many others’, has not returned. Their well-insulated house had finally achieved the outdoor temperature. My father is especially sensitive to cold as a side effect from his platinum-based chemo. To his credit, he hasn’t complained once. This morning I cooked honey biscuits and broccoli quiche. In fact we’ve been eating well enough, because there’s not much else to do except think about what to cook and how to cook it. Last night I succeeded in a homemade pizza on top of my gas insert.

Hoquiam’s west side is fully up and running. Minus many fences, pieces of roof, trees, and skipped school and work days. Ralph’s work servers are still down and I know many around the county are still suffering cold and wet and some major property damage.

for lack of two bits

Today I found myself at 11:15 leaving my daughter’s school (where I do volunteer work every Monday) and on my way to pick up Nels when: problem? I forgot bus fare. Luckily it was only very, very, freezing-nuts-off cold as opposed to the torrential rain that descended at 2:45 that day when – again, on foot – I needed to go pick up my daughter. At 11:15, realizing my error, I tied my hat earflaps down and walked super-fast to my parents’ house to ask for their van or 50 cents and the use of the phone. As I walked I thought about what it is like for families who really DON’T have a car or people who RELY on public transportation regularly. There is simply no room for, “Oh whoops, I forgot such-and-such,” or “Oops, running a little late!” when you’re catching a bus in order to get somewhere.

As of two yesterday our van battery is dead. Luckily nothing phases me when it comes to getting around; it’s a good life skill if you ask me. Today at 3:22 as I pulled the kids along to our bus stop (uncovered and right by a crosswalk; people slow down and glare at me, waiting for me to cross. I point and point to the sign we’re next to but no one registers it is indeed a bus stop. It’s weird.) my children asked me why we have to walk so fast in the pouring rain. I said, “OK. Let me tell you a story about what’s happening. When our car breaks down, we don’t have money to fix it right away. So we take the bus. You know some people don’t have cars at all. Some people have money to fix their cars right away,” and a bunch of other things. It was a good conversation. They really listened as we slogged through the wet. My three year old son valiantly hiked his coat up and kept a jog for four blocks. Yes, we made the bus. They are pros at it. Nels rang the bell when we got to the Y.

Despite being on foot, on bus, and bumming the use of my parents’ van once I still managed to arrange school for the kids, take homebaked cookies to Suse’s school, deliver a hat to a friend, and get the kids to the Y for my workout (very sluggish today) and the kids’ first night of Short Sports (tonight’s workshop: basketball skills). Arriving home at 7:30 and my body doesn’t yet know it’s time to rest (in fact, the dirty dishes and piles of laundry encourage my body to keep going). But it really is time to rest. And give the family the SNUGGLING OF THEIR LIFE! Does that sound threatening? Because it’s meant to.

it was a brilliant, clear, and lovely day today

Today I was blessed with many things. Not just time with my most loved ones, ever – and also fresh air and exercise and good coffee. Most of all: walking home after picking up Sophie it was streaming sun and the sky was laden with puffy, white clouds accompanied by a few glowering dark ones. And predictably out of this rose a rainbow; a brilliant, vibrant presence that inspired its own shallow doppelganger just above it. I listened to my children’s delighted descriptions and a block later we were met by Harris the Fierce Not-So-Kitten; he follows us most of the way to school these days then disappears a block a or so from the final destination. Then on our return he prounces up to us out of whatever yard he took to exploring that day, running ahead and behind and inspiring liquid giggles from the kids.

It must have been a special day because only a few blocks later cross-traffic commenced with the Coleman Mortuary’s hearse (a new one, it looks like) passing by up the hill to the cemetery. A caravan of twenty more cars followed, fresh from rain and transitioning from the service to the burial. The faces in the cars, some are sad, some are happy, some preoccupied, some are tear-stained and devastated. I watched them all as we waited the cars out and I answered the questions the children asked. Harris hid in the tree behind us and then, when we crossed, darted after us on hunter’s paws to skid ahead of us into our front yard.

omg sweet sweet internet

Since late last night our internet connection has been down. I have always known that email, IM, and blogging keeps me from focussing on other household duties but this morning really proved it. By 11 AM I had roused, fed, and dressed each child, taken Sophie to school via bike, done two loads of laundry, made beds, finished the dishes and cleaned the refrigerator, made homemade pizza sauce for tonight’s dinner and brownies for dessert, and finished the machine-sewing for Nels’ latest pair of pants (there’s a story to these pants I will sew-blog later). The efficiency and pleasantness of the morning is almost enough to make me forgo Inter-Tron during my morning hours. Almost.

One reason I am a badass is that I biked Sophie to school in not only rain but gale-force winds (with the help of The Stills on iPod – thanks J. for the suggestion!). I suspect this will be my life for a while until I can figure out how to come up with $793 for my van and it’s fubar’d fuel pump. P.S. I just got the estimate yesterday by phone and tried to hold off telling Ralph who’s having mental and emotional problems with the realities of our financial situation. It’s too bad we couldn’t be down to one car during the lovely summer months we just spent.

Due to the storm I wasn’t feeling as excited about my normal modes of getting around (biking, walking, bussing). So this morning I’d called to ask my mom if she’d give Nels and I a ride to the library (my current locale as I type here). She was headed to a funeral today – my lifelong next-door neighbor died last week. So I asked for my dad and he agreed to pick us up.

My father is an intelligent, laconic, grumpy person who likes to rudely tease his three nuclear family members in some sort of twisted way to relate to them (example, “Got a job yet?” in a snotty tone to my brother who is currently living below poverty-level – albeit in a nice home with at least one month’s rent paid – while he searches for one and daily grows more anxious and sad). I have decided to choose to believe my father loves me, because his behavior towards me could / does indicate a lack of respect – often. I love him and will always love him. And yes, he can be helpful. When he took me out to my van last Friday he assited me in trying to get a jump and evaluating the problem to be needing a tow, or not (it did. Shit. P.S. I surmised fuel pump and was correct as it turns out. Perhaps I should try to hone my auto-psychic skills to make a quick buck). After we left my van to drive into town he not-so-helpfully treated me to a deriding monologue about how this van is a piece of shit and has been giving us problems from Day 1. When it comes to looking for advice and guidance this kind of meanness / weirdness really clouds my judgment at whether to look to him for assistance and mentorship, or not.

So today when he dropped me off as I packed my son out of the van he abruptly grunted, “What are you doing?” (which meant, “Dear daughter, I am concerned at how you will get home in the storm. Would you like me to pick you up and take you back home when you’re done?“). I said, “I’m just going to use their computer and pick up a hold.” He said, “You’re not coming over later?” I said, “No… I’ve got to get home and do some chores.” He said, “I could drive you back,” in his patented half-offer, half-belligerant delivery that is so uniquely Dave Fisher. I told him we’d bus home, I thanked him, and said I’d see him at 5 when they came over for dinner.

I love my father and that’s one of the major, and I mean major reasons we moved here – to be near my family while my father was facing the last days – or months, or years; whatever his cancer affords him – of his life. But sometimes he and my mother tire me out. His grumpiness, and even more so her excuses for it (for her own personal settling and to encourage my brother and I to settle for it as well). I still love them both and more than ever. I don’t feel victimized by them in any way; I am fully aware that I can bring my desire for different behavior to them at any time, and I have in the past. I am proud of Ralph and I for giving them the kindness of moving my family close to them. I am glad for their help, strings-attached as it sometimes seems. Today, I was glad for a trip to the library out of the wind and rain. That, and the bus-fare I stole out of their van for the trip back home.

"Spooning with a stranger in the back of a van, now that’s a violation!"

Yesterday afternoon I found myself in Aberdeen in the van while it was pouring rain, I had our kitty Harris in the passenger seat, and we’d just escaped the a shop after being hijacked by two separate store employees who were lonely and we’d been in there so long I’d had to timeout Nels (watching the van through the window) and by the time I got out to him he’d been crying and holding his pee and had to go and I wouldn’t go back inside (both b/c of the employees’ overtalking tendencies and Nels’ immediate need) and I said, “Sophie, give me that cup!” and like a well-trained pit crew member she knew what I was doing and got the cup and took off the lid and I got Nels out of his carseat and pulled down his pants and he peed and RAPIDLY began to fill the cup, stopping 1/4″ before the top.

As it was happening I was thinking how all of it made sense on some level (except the kitten but he was really lonely and is a good car rider) but I’m pretty sure no one else would have thought it made sense to watch how it all went down.

Afterwards, I poured the fresh hot cup of steaming urine into the gutter. I’m sure that’s not the first time anyone’s leaned out of a car in downtown Aberdeen and done the same.

Tonight I finished “Freaks and Geeks”. I’ve never seen a show before like it and I see why it’s rated so high on IMDB. The funny thing is, it started out decently enough for the first ten or so episodes (there are 18 total). But by the end I was in tears just about each chapter. I’ve also never experienced high school all over again, but I sure did during that show in the most amazing way – in a good way. Thanks Chris, for the recommendation. I got through them all eventually.

Tonight also marks the first five inches of my first sock! Yes, I’m knitting socks. I’m told it’s addictive although it seems to be more like: knit knit knit knit for hours and hours and hours – here’s a wristband!

And finally: newness in our household as Nels gave the kitty a bath. Using the toilet. Yes, it really happened. I can’t really talk much more about it.

of bussing, rain, and pungent leavings

Today after a memorably annoying lunch date (kids were not on best behavior) Sophie and I rode the bus back from Aberdeen while Ralph and Nels took to Top Foods for groceries. Sophie and I waited a long time for our bus into Hoquiam, and it was cold even in the bus shelter. Then there was a twenty-five minute wait at the HQX station – Saturdays and Sundays the bus routes are nearly dead – and by then the cold was in our bones so we took my last $2 to the 7th Street Sweet Shoppe to split a cocoa. Here’s what’s funny: the proprietors of this little cafe ply my children with more sweets and extra helpings than a grandma on love-crack. Today I didn’t escape without double cocoa portions, extra whip cream, and a giant cake mix cookie to take home to give my kids after dinner (this last excuse was used when I claimed my children had had enough sweets for the afternoon). Jennifer, the patroness of the shop, especially wanted my son to get his part of the decadent cookie. He is her biggest fan in an almost stalky way, which by the way is kind of cute on a three year old.

The leg of bus route that gets us closest to our house runs through the more run-down or low income area of town known as North Hoquiam – my girlfriend who grew up there affectionately calls it “the hood”. This is also the most active part of the Hoquiam bus route since those that take the bus in Hoquiam and Aberdeen are usually poor, carless, or both. Today as we passed the Lincoln Commons we let out a man and he winked and smiled sexily at the driver as he crossed behind the bus. He was one of those men that retains a certain handsomeness and dangerousness – a Daniel Desario or Danny Zuko – keeping his lothario charm despite years of bars, pulltabs, smoking cheap non-brand cigarettes and living a life of, well, low-income apartments I guess. In any case I got a kick out of his optimism as the driver in question was a big-boned toothsome woman with Barbie highlights at least fifteen years his junior. She didn’t look interested in flirting in any way, her kohl-rimmed eyes weary and irritable from working on a Saturday in the rain.

We passed by the apartments again on my way back from the Perry Ave. loop and I found myself wondering about the families and citizens in my [hometown] / new burg. Who where these people and what were their lives like? How does it feel if you ride the bus because it’s your only way to get around? Why do some people live with their family, even a large family, stacked up in these tiny apartments on the edge of town? Why do those who can and do own a spacious home all to themselves pretend these others don’t exist or flat out decide they don’t exist for all practical purposes? Why am I hearing so much about “the hills” and “the flats” these days – more than I ever heard of the haves and have-nots when I was growing up? Why am I puzzling over remedial “injustice of the world” questions as if I was a thirteen year old just discovering them?

Hey, you know what’s awesome? People that let their dogs crap on our sidewalks and yards and lawns without cleaning it up. Today was really great because just a few minutes ago I was helping Sophie remove her boots when my hand, gripping the heel, came into contact with the slimy, rancid horrible backend vomit of some neighborhood pooch. Although this is the first time I have mashed my hand into dogshit, the weird thing is my body had a preternatural awareness of what this substance was, right upon contact. After my revulsion and anger I washed her boot and scrubbed scrubbed scrubbed my hands and I can still smell shit. You know, there’s almost no point to this tirade – I don’t really feel any differently on the subject than I did almost two years ago.

My brother is moving to Portland in two days. Wish him luck! We’ve been feeding him a lot. I think he is kind of lonely yet overworked and stressed lately.

’cause the temperature’s too high / going way too fast

It’s only 7:10 in the morning but already a few things have happened.

First, the cat stepped on my face this morning. Precisely and gently, in an attempt to get mornin’ lovin’, and I felt every pad in her cold little foot. Have I mentioned nothing grosses me out more than the thought of a bottom of a cat’s foot? Have you ever wondered why when you get a cat scratch it takes forever to heal? Fucken germs, man.

Second, Ralph and Nels left this morning for Port Townsend and the annual Rhody Run which takes place at 11 this morning – 7.46 miles, w00t! And a few hills thrown in and Ralph runs with Nels in the stroller. While my boys were up this morning (Nels seamlessly adjusting happily to being up two hours earlier than the norm) my son came and got in bed with me not once but twice. Speaking of mornin’ lovin’, how nice that was! It seemed like mere moments after I acknowledged I was having trouble with my son’s behavior, he and I started getting along a lot better. The second time he came and snuggled with me was post-breakfast, and he put his cold hands and feet right up against me. And I love him so much I let him.

It is raining and shite today – putting a damper on my plans to take Sophie out with the bike (we’ve been biking daily with the good weather). Plus I just noticed Ralph seems to have hijacked the fry bread which I’d planned on eating – black bean tacos for breakfast. You heard.

Now: second cup of coffee, heck maybe even a morning half-cig. Why not.

"We live in raintown now," – Sophie

Today we attempt the 3/4 mile walk from our house to my parents’. Sophie has, snuggled under her quilted coat, a book we need to return to Grandma. I call ahead, of course; I plan to call ahead before every visit, Lord help me make it happen.

Nels refuses to put his hood on. I cajole, he doesn’t want it. Halfway through the walk and he is soaked. His hair is wet and water runs down his face. “My eye,” he mourns, wiping his fist across his forehead. I put his hood up and his hand grasps mine. For the duration of the walk he is silent, shuffling and snuffling along. He is not crying but I know he is cold and sad. He makes it through. We arrive at my parents’ house and he instantly strips down, takes off his “meatballs” (overalls) and his voice is back; he sings and hums along to me.

Moving in is going slowly. But that’s because I’m being picky about it. I have decided not to have things squirreled away in attics and shop spaces, things that then when you have to move you are totally pissed and humiliated you still are hanging on to them. So my closets are still empty and lots is in the laundry area / garage awaiting my yea or nay. My sewing room is in some kind of half-assed tearapart as I take this opportunity to winnow out some fabric stash I no longer need.

Today: Sophie to school, Nels home for a nap, Kelly to her sewing room happy as a clam.