41

my heart going boom, boom, boom!

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I spent my forty-first birthday exactly as I wanted: sleeping in, then rising up for leisurely coffee with Ralph. After my morning practice the four of us set to a deep clean of the house. The kind of deep clean where we pulled down every curtain, shampooed the (single) rug (we own), dusted, mopped, and cleaned the bathroom. My bedroom bureau was scrubbed and my little shelf for my Buddha wiped down with a soft, damp rag – in fact, each Buddha on my main floor got a cleaning as well. I lit charcoal in the brazier and burned resin incense; we put the cats out and aired out the quilts and washed all the bedding. We opened up gifts, each tenderly wrapped and with handwritten salutations and well-wishes.

In the late afternoon I traveled to a studio and held a yoga class, as I’ve done years in a row now on my birthday. I felt so alive on the mat tonight; our instructor led us through deep twists and triumphant standing postures and one-legged forward folds. My toes tapped through the music I’d set – a playlists of songs from 1977, the year of my birth.

41

41

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I changed into my jeans and hoodie and slouchy cap straight from yoga; Ralph and the kids picked me up and we drove straight to Olympia, to a little Chinese restaurant with the best vegan entrees, comfort food. Almond chick’n, smothered in gravy and alongside steamed vegetables. And crisp lemonade – I was so thirsty after working out.

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We shopped at Target and Nels and I sang on the way home – my thirteen year old son loves Lana Del Rey and has memorized every lyric and vocal flutter and soar.

Home and after a shower, chocolate cake in bed. My body feels indescribably good this evening and the comfort of my home is like a soft blanket I fold over my body, close. I do not like solitude so much, per se, but I do love having time for introspection and respite.

My little family cares for me so very well. I only hope they’d say the same of me.

41

sitting backstage / someone’s plus one

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In a few hours I turn 41. Of note: my mother brought me over a large floral arrangement today, along with a deep chocolate cake and three small houseplants each set in a simple copper tureen. Ralph and the children have been out on secret errands, happily procuring gifts. I am grateful to be loved so dearly by my little family.

I’ve spent the last two days practicing yoga, caring for family errands, volunteering, and doing those little business admin bits like invoicing and recording receipts and ordering and collating patterns. It is cold – cold in my studio, cold outside. Emerging from the bedroom this morning I find my husband stepping inside after the dog’s morning walk; Ralph is so cold he looks almost shocked. I pour him hot coffee and convince him to come to bed, where I hold him close. I steel myself as he slides his cold hands up my shirt, against the smooth skin over my ribs. The only one who’s touched me like this for two decades.

I’ve tried to stop judging myself how much it hurts my children are growing, are so independent. Every day they seek me out and hold me, and I am grateful for that. Every day they share with me. They can even be coerced to go on errands and I can always buy them a tea latte or lunch. What may be less obvious to my readers, unless you’ve been with me a long time indeed, is that at one time and for many years their company, their needs and laughter and tears and their words and smells and their hair against my cheek, always the sweetest straw-smelling against my skin, this was my world for fifteen plus years and even though things are as they should be I am bereft. For Ralph life is much as before; he’s had their lifetime away at his job, to come home in the evenings. For the children they have the security of their parents, as they rush off and bury themselves in work and play of their own.

All my life I remember people pityingly speaking of women who were too invested in their children, as if this were some mark of a pathetic, cramped nature, of an unimaginative woman to allow such a thing. One secret I have discovered: you can have a full life, you can have all these interests and a gorgeous career and a wonderful marriage and good friends and a meaningful avocation and a spiritual walk and a self-care regimen: and it can still hurt so damn much when your kids grow up.

 

 

it’s not a sprint, it’s a sojourn

My children are teens now and as I could have expected, this stage in our lives is absolutely as wonderful and dynamic as every stage before. The oldest child is the most mercurial of the family at the moment, swinging from open hostility when things are not going well, to a very intense emotional and physical desire to be close – to me. The intensity sometimes means that, instead of getting my own work done during the afternoon, I instead sit on the couch to watch something silly, or hold my child in my arms, or take them out for lunch. This desire to be close, it astonishes me at how intense and everyday it is.

Once I got my bearings it became very easy (well, most of the time!) to parent appropriately. When the child is angry and hostile, I leave the child alone (except for some overtures – asking if they want me to make them tea, that sort of thing). When they are needing intense physical comfort and time together, I have been putting aside what I can to provide this.

My younger child is going through something similar. Surprisingly he is curt and rude at times, new behaviors, but I can adjust. However after an outburst he is quick to come back and apologize, something my oldest either cannot or will not try except on rare occasions. My younger child is more frustrated with my limitations and shortcomings, or at least is more vocal about them, than anyone else in the family. For New Years he suggested as a resolution – politely of course – that I put away my phone more often. He has been criticizing me of late I do not cuddle him enough, and I am not a good enough listener.

We drove to Beeps’ college course the other night as a family; Ralph and Phoenix went in for class, Nels and I ran arond the town and had the most amazing night out together, getting dinner and coffee. On the lines of what I write about above, it wasn’t an easy night on this car trip from Aberdeen to Olympia. Phoenix was unhappy and did not respond to careful overtures. I remembered my own upbringing where my parents would have sharp words about my “attitude”. I let those memories wash over and pass, and I didn’t have to act on them. I wasn’t thinking about it much but hours later when I pulled the car around to pick my child up, even in the streetlamp I could see my oldest child’s strong, elvish features crease into recognition, gladness at seeing me. I realized that I am a drumbeat in this child’s life and every day I parent with gentleness and mindfulness is a day that opens my child’s future into something unimaginably wonderful.

2018 New Year

new year, new me, same me

2018 New Year
I am holding my oldest child close in our bed while my husband sleeps just a foot away. Beeps smells like roses and their hair is damp; they are warm and soft and even let me put my arms around their little tummy. I hold them close and I tell them, we make a plan. On Friday I will take them to the new LGBTQ+ teen center in Hoquiam. Beeps is socially shy, at least IRL if not so much online (where they exhibit dry humor and a quick wit). I tell them they can tag along and I will make up a reason to be there. “Why?” my child asks. I say, truthfully, “to find out more about volunteering there.” And my kid sighs a little gladly and says, “oh,” and I can tell they are glad their mother is the type of mother to put time into such a venture.

My first project of the year in my studio was to craft a wheelchair cozy for a child who is very sick, who last I heard only has a few weeks to live. It’s not quite possible for me to wrap my mind around this, although I’ve been trying, but it is possible for me to make this cozy little bundle for this child, a hack that circulated online and involves sewing two cheerfully-lovely puffer coats together at the hem, and the installation of four locations for straps. And I find a little patch, the same as the child’s nickname, and I sew it on patiently today in the kitchen while I listen to my own children talk; Nels is learning coding from Ralph, working on Minecraft mod. My kids are like my cats – they want to be in the same room as me, so when I hand-sew anything I try to let them know and soon enough, there they are

It’s been incredibly cold but today we were blessed with sunshine and, in the evening, a stunningly large full moon on the rise. Last night just after midnight, while neighbors were still launching fireworks, the children and I wrapped up in blankets and spent a few moments on the back deck, marveling at the light from the moon and the passage of another year. My twentieth New Years’ Eve with Ralph; and sometimes time is spinning spinning spinning and my children aren’t yet grown but I can reach my hand out and touch this future, and I think to myself There is absolutely nothing to stop this time from spilling out, so I have to take that deep breath and feel the enormity of the moment.

The oldest child is upstairs drawing; my younger child joins me in bed for just a moment now, before rushing back to his coding work. He is cold as his computer is down in the very basement I toil in; cold AF so he’s cold and we have a standing agreement in the family that we can come to one another for warmth but no pranking anyone by laying ice-cold hands on the warm flesh of the other family member.

Nels, Brushing Teeth (13)

from morning until night!

It is a beautiful life.Nels, Brushing Teeth (13)
My basement studio space is cold, super cold, and there’s no real getting around that. I bundle up as best I can but I work long enough hours that by the end of the day my fingers are stiff and I’ve got a chill set in my bones. I come back upstairs and warm up and soon enough I’m in the hot shower for the evening.

My studio time is currently split about evenly between work for clients, pieces for the family, and gifts. Every day I feel so much gratitude this is my reality: spinning gold out of straw, able to create anything I need to. Inside a jacket: rayon challis and faux fur. Underlined (invisible!) in an ugly flannel that came from I-can’t-remember-where:

Coat With Assymetrical Snap Closure, Faux Fur Trim, Fully Lined

Just out the door this week: a dress with sweetheart top and semi-sheer overskirt – taffeta, organza, mesh, and velvet ribbon.

Organza Overskirt with Velvet Ribbon

Playing with topstitch settings, to get it just right. I love the chunky look of proper topstitching thread:

Topstitching Practice

And of course, sweet little dates with each family member (or all three!) This next week is, mercifully, the last week of the quarter: Phee will only have two remaining before they earn their AA degree. This last week Nels and I accompanied Ralph and Phee to drop them off for German class, and he and I had a lovely date on the town. Our one car is officially dead, and the other needs brakes. It’s worrisome, but I try not to worry.

Nels, A Date

some chocolate crisps, a packet of bamboo knitting needles, et cetera

We are travelling in the Jimmy, east on the rain-soaked little highway into Olympia, to the community college where Beeps takes their German class. Ralph quizzes our oldest child and they do some verb conjugation together; they are taking the class together two nights a week. Nels is cheerful as well; he is planning on hitting the Mario Odyssey demo at Target. He worked for, saved up for, and pre-ordered the game as soon as it was available; these last few weeks he has been reading up and watching videos and is quite the expert.

My children are still so incredibly demonstrative and sweet (I get to define the word “demonstrative” to one of them, today at lunch). Phoenix seeks me out and gently hugs me and kisses me every day first thing. Today they say, their voice muffled in my hair as they hold me close: “You smell good. Like a jellybean.” Interestingly Nels is a bit more standoffish than he has been as a child but please understand Nels’ “standoffish” is another child’s “wildly and intensely clingy”, as every day he hugs, kisses, asks brazenly for snuggles, holds my hand and kisses my face in public. I didn’t think I’d have children that were so lovely and kind to me and so touchy-feely, but I am not complaining at all.

Nels and I share a dish at the Thai restaurant while Ralph and Phoenix sit in on their test; sticky rice and golden sesame tofu and fragrant vegetables in a lemongrass and ginger reduction. Nels is absolutely the kindest and sweetest boy and he is a pleasure to spend time with. As night is falling outside I feel that inexplicable sense of panic; I have lived with it for more years than I can remember, I can’t remember a time I didn’t live with it. Today I manage through prayer and meditation and, instead of drugs or alcohol, the anesthetizing effects of a parlor room mystery on telly.

After finding Nels a demo at the local game shop – with an enthusiastic and sweet employee chatting through the experience – the drive home is cozy. We are loaded up with special and nutritious snacks for Phee’s class trip to Mt. St. Helens tomorrow, for Geology. My spirits have lifted just a bit; the thought of our home, my bed, our kitties waiting for us. And my son’s happy chatter, “I am so excited!” and “I am so happy!” he keeps telling us. Truly a gift, to know your child is well and happy, especially a gift in the dark evenings like this.

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truly, madly, deeply, and in a hurry!

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I love the fall so much, and yet I somehow forget just how much. The weather turned on a dime this year; one weekend it was close to a hundred degrees and we huddled under the shade of two willow trees at the K Records festival; the next weekend it was cool enough to keep the A/C off. The air has turned crisp and my lawn is, over the period of a week, now a lush soft green. The kitties are mostly contented – we have let them venture outside after a year of being indoor-only – and as I pad to and from my car at the curb, on my errands, they rush up to me and fall over to sun themselves and hope for strokes from my hand.

I am balls-deep in Halloween costumes; one moment knitting three Minions hats, the next ordering colored grommets and looking up faux-greenery. Never in my wildest did I think I would get to do something creative day in and day out, and I love it. It is only my practice of personal discipline that enables me to leave aside the work in the studio and come upstairs to cuddle a child (teens love to cuddle as much as youngsters, I’ve come to find out), or make a meal, or wash the dishes.

Ralph’s car is in serious trouble; having overheated it a year ago, the poor thing has not recovered despite several trips to the shop. My car is fairing a bit better, yet it gutters a bit when I start it, and the breaks are grabbing. Meanwhile we need to consider driving school for Beeps (yes! They are turning 16 in a few months!) and perhaps a car there, too. There is food in the fridge and the heat bill is paid, at least. I have lived through harder times.

Nels convinces me to plays Super Smash Bros and I rest on his (new) bed (queen sized now, as he is fast outstripping me in height). His shoulders are broadening; his voice will soon deepen. But he is sweet as a young boy and I suspect will stay the same. We play for a while and Nels attempts to hold back – he is a considerably gifted gamer – and I am just amazed at the complexity of the game’s moves. I cannot fathom how many hours one has to put in to master strategy. Nevertheless I focus, rather than just mash buttons madly. Nels tries not to trounce me but his naturally competitive side takes over. I watch for a while before getting ready for bed, taking a scalding shower and dressing in pajamas and falling into the blankets with Ralph holding me close, before blessed sleep and rest and – another day! Racing towards Halloween and – will I have my projects completed in time?

under bridges of what’s to come

My kids’ shoes end up: in my bedroom, on the bathroom floor. As relatively tidy and supremely well-behaved as my children are, they are nevertheless creatures of comfort: discarding clothes before taking a luxurious hot shower, or slipping off shoes before crawling in bed next to me to cuddle. They leave off on their errands to game – I hear shouts! of laughter from downstairs – and leave their clothes here and there. If they were adults I was forced to room with, I would find it all very irritating. As it is, these mundane remembrances are a comfort to me. I know when they leave my home I will miss them so.

“Are you okay?” my son says, at dinner. We are the only two left at the table and he is helping himself to a third serving of pasta. I tell him Yes, I am just tired and he says, “Put your hand here,” indicating the table between us. His long hand rests on mine – preternaturally beautiful fingers, and long nails. Then, shortly: “I need this to eat,” he smiles, removing his hand and crossing his right over so he can still comfort me.

I am okay, sure – but I am mentally very tired. I am meeting once a week with a small business consultant. I am in couples counseling every two weeks; I take one of my children to therapy every other week from that. It isn’t as if I’m particularly worried in all these concerns, but they very much require a special focus on my part. I am still reeling from the kids’ transition into their teenage years – which is absolutely nothing like the dour, cynical predictions would have had me believe, but is nevertheless a sea change – and I am experiencing the sadness of finally, finally no longer having a family bed. My husband’s car is once again tits-up – and mine is on the last legs for its brakes. My mother is selling her home, after five generations of lives passing through the old Victorian. A family friend dies young and this brings up, for me, horrible memories.

Challenging? Absolutely.

There are many glimmers of goodness in this time. My older child is happier, a brief calm sea. They hold and hug and kiss me several times a day. The younger is a bit more volatile – a surprise, given his sweet nature – but I am gentle with him and he is good at coming to his sense and apologizing. And so, for that matter, am I. I put no small amount of concentration onto helping their father connect with them. He is gone for hours each day, after all, and misses the many opportunities I have.

On the turn of the dime it is absolutely fall, no longer summer. Even the warm days have a dampness and chill in the air. It’s incredible to me, as it was so very hot just before the break. Ralph finished painting the house during our driest spell. In a week or so I’ll pull all the summer clothes for storage and bring out my winter coats in preparing for the long, dark winter to come. As it will, whether we are ready or no.

Watermelon Lime Punch

“I am going to need to cut power”, and other delightful interludes at 11:30 PM on a weeknight

I’m standing at the kitchen counter and it’s almost midnight and I take a bite of the sliced watermelon from the platter. I’m halfway through putting a few things away, and I’m overwhelmed because my husband is tearing apart the ceiling in my studio. At this hour. It has to be done, not that I’ll mention names as to what dog let his bladder loose on our living room floor, except his name is Hutch.

The dog doesn’t piss in the house so that means maybe something is wrong, so I get to think about that too. We’re behind on our vet bill as-is, to the tune of hundreds.

And tonight I get to wrangle two teenage boys into their sleepover needs, setting up a bed on the floor, and try to make meaningful contact with my eldest who has been gaming most the day. I think my husband is stressed about the house/dog thing so I get to think about that.

But now, I just lean on the counter and I have this slice of watermelon. I am struck by the fact that Ralph and I used to be up all hours on the regular when the kids were babies. Now we get another night like that. And while he’s down there hopefully not electrocuting or injuring himself, I make up the bed and put up some candles and a bit of lime oil in the diffuser and put on some Beach House and try to make things just a little pleasant, a little time stolen together if possible.

Watermelon Lime Punch

Son, 13

Mane
Lurve

time is luck, and other commentary on those blessings we do not recognize

Working for myself means I work all hours and each day unless I tell myself I’m not going to. It’s surprisingly easy to work every day. I get to remember and take time off, for my sake – for my family’s sake.

This morning’s roster involved a cancellation, a challenging client, and a do-over. By about four PM I was ready for a rest. I tied my hair back up and slipped into first some loungewear and then into bed with a good murder mystery. Ralph made a fresh pot of coffee and I recovered after a fashion.

About six Nels comes back inside, breathless, smelling of black powder and ozone. “What have you been up to?” I ask. I’m thinking of all those years the children needed so much supervision – gone, poof! – and they are young adults now. As evidenced by the next thing my son says: “I’ve been lighting fireworks – and cleaning up after people,” he tells me as he holds aloft a garbage bag full of the miscellany of this most litter-prone holiday.    

While I rest, Ralph packs up a picnic dinner. We pull out a quilt and grab coats, and drive down to the river. I suppose I love small-town life as we can park only a few feet away from the shore, and walk to find a comfortable spot on the green grass. I can smell sugar in the air from cotton candy, heavy marijuana smoke. Talk is pleasant, no fighting, no loud drunken brawling. My body feels chill and even in a coat I sidle up to the warm chest of my husband, holding myself close to his familiar form. His strong arms and the way he smells, clean like fresh-cut grass and so comforting. I can’t hold anyone in my family for long without my 13 year old slipping in between us. The whole evening the children are holding me close or holding my hand. They are a great comfort to me even as old as they are, they seek out touch as much as they did when they were small.

The big fireworks display, when it launches, regales us with a half hour of successive incredible pyrotechnics. My favorites are the waterfall-like gentle rains, and the little after-crackles of some of the larger multistage blooms. As a family we are held together in complete comfort and intimacy, safe on our little quilt, a soft cotton island in a sea of green grass.

The drive home is a cautious one, but passes without incident. The celebrations have kicked up in our neighborhood; my cats and dog, however, are calm. The house begins to settle; I can only hear the washing machine and the pop-pop-pop and the pleasant music from my son’s Minecraft game. Time for a hot shower and time to rest, and tomorrow to take up work again, to what end I’m never entirely sure.