My baby likes bacon / And that’s what I’m making!

I’m inexplicably tired this evening so while my mom visits and Ralph bustles about making dinner I lay on the couch under a blanket. I feel vaguely nauseated so I’m giving myself permission to rest. An hour earlier I’d been trying to do some work, and after a bit of that I’d realized I was floating in an odd trance. One difference between me today and me of not-that-long-ago is that before I might have rested just as I’m doing now, but I’d feel terribly guilty doing it. OK, I still do feel a little guilty. See, the Guilty Monster inside me is still trying to blot out my existance and my conscious contact with God.

Dinner was incredible. Ralph made some kind of corn butter rice, lemon broccoli, and cedar-planked salmon, the latter of which was the most tender and delicately-flavored salmon I’ve ever, ever had. It was seriously amazing. Wedges of perfectly-ripe cantaloupe completed the meal. All five of us sat down and shared repast and conversation and after that the kids packed their suitcases, kissed me goodbye, and headed to my mother’s.

Ralph is very good at following recipes. He doesn’t take shortcuts if he can avoid it. It pays off. He is a very good cook because he has learned alongside me over these years (although he doesn’t seem to think he has) and he has a more exacting and precise methodology than I.

I haven’t mentioned here (yet) that for the last six days or so I’ve barely cooked. Ralph has taken over the job of meal planning and preparation – now his territory for the nearby future. This means he plans out what to eat and makes grocery lists, shops (a lot more than before, although I continue to do some), cooks and cleans. And me? I help. I let him have this job, but I help.

Oh shit, I am ambivalent about this all. But I am very sick and I am recovering. I also will mention I did the bulk of this work, like so many women in families, for… OH TEN FUCKING YEARS. I got so burnt out that I wasn’t even angry or resentful. I was just so so tired and confused. Even though in the past I’ve done this task well enough, the past few months I wasn’t very effective. My appetite had dwindled and my inspiration began to implode. My fridge was feast or famine and I drooped leaning against the door looking in, uninspired and uninterested. It was Sucktown, USA.

I am now the “helper” and Ralph the master. Last night I told him it was hard going for me to accept this – those old old labels of “selfish” keep rising up and yammering in my head. I have lost objectivity to know how fair it is for him to cook, as I told him, because he worked fulltime and it didn’t seem right (I can’t even believe I believe this, but old training is quite effective). To this he responded, “YOU work fulltime, taking care of yourself and keeping our children alive.”

The other day I asked him, Was this what it was like for ten years, you mostly got this great food and you didn’t have to think about it much? He said, “Yup, pretty much.” and we both laughed. Then he said, “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but, yeah. I was playing Legos with the kids.” I’m not mad about any of this but I’m kind of stunned. I’m just sick is all. I need time to myself and time to rest. And time to help others and time to be here for my family too. I have a backlog of not-resting. It’s kind of incredible. I could have lived this way a lot, lot longer, but I can no longer do so.

My appetite is returning. Slowly but surely. Tonight’s meal sure was simple and lovely and fun – for all of us.

Beware! I bear more grudges / Than lonely high court judges

Today I had the opportunity to learn a few lessons about myself – lessons I am sick and tired of having presented to me while I remain stagnant. I realized after a lengthy conversation with friends that I have been stuck on a particular issue for quite some time. The issue is more personal than I will write about here. At root – of course: fear. My fear of being noticed in a particular way, and of being infringed upon. Some part of me that still lives in reaction to things long past, events that no longer threaten my safety today.

Anyway, It’s old stuff and an old familiar way of life: Why can’t the world play according to my rules? Why can’t people stop asking certain things of me? As you may imagine, it’s a horribly precarious and pinched way to live. It leaves me less than whole, less useful to others, fragile and unappealing – and taking myself way too seriously.

As I’ve said, the awareness came after a conversation familiar to me – and a discussion with people I care about. I dislike (inadvertently) exposing my sick traits to friends and family that I love, but sometimes I can’t stop running my mouth while this happens. Comes down to it, I worry these loved ones will tire of my imperfections and sicknesses and leave me. I worry they will seize onto that seed of self-loathing I have deep within, and of course they will leave because that self-loathing is right, I really am not worthy.

But ultimately, when I think this through, I realize I have been abandoned many times in my life and I’ve lived through it. So while I would like to be a better friend, and I would like to be less sick than I am, I must accept who I was today. I would also like freedom from the obsession on my character defects. I would rather cultivate some gratitude upon the discovery that Yes, I am stuck, I am in this place.

A close friend told me the other day I have a martyr complex, and that I hadn’t fed it in a while and it was hungry. “It’s going to die of neglect.” She also told me, if I understood her correctly, it would grab onto anything it could eat. I sense this is true. It is highly unflattering to realize the extent guilt and shame has played in my life but this does not make the reality any less true. It isn’t a pretty picture. However I can’t be any more well than I am. I brought my best Self to today, and tomorrow is a new day.
 

***

When I bike with a handful of other grownups I feel like a bike gang, kinda West Side Story all snapping our fingers and a little bit silly. Wednesday, G. is wearing a garbage bag as a simple poncho/windblock, having donated his jacket to J. once the night got gold. We stop at the AM/PM to get air and the two of them service my bike like a personal pit crew. I tell them thank you and then we’re back on the road and it’s perfect and simple like when we were kids.

***

I have always enjoyed this turn of the season. Today walking home with Nels, his hand in mine, I sensed the experiences and feelings of my childhood, good experiences. Yes, they’re in there, deep inside! I perceived my son feeling the same way, shuffling through the first of the fallen leaves and with the crystal-clear sky and neighborhood kids hailing him. I love it when the kids put their hand in mine. I don’t know how many more times I will experience it. It is really an amazing gift.

only puts in motion what has been locked in frost

First Day Of First Grade

My first day of school, first grade
Taken in the bus we lived in

The family I grew up with until about age eight, my maternal family, mostly what I remember was a messy and boisterous tribe who started childbearing a bit later in life, consumed spirits by the case (or in the instance of wine, the box or gallon jug), smoked a fair degree of pot (some of them way more than others), and mostly wanted to eat and drink and have a good time and certainly never wanted that to end. The parties around the bonfire singing and playing music (old stuff from the sixties mostly), must have been fun for many but I grew them into a resentment. Most everyone worked hard and drank hard too, although a few members dropped out of much employment. As far as I know, I’m the only alcoholic in the family, but it seems like there sure are a lot of drunks.

In my memory my grandmother never much quit smoking cigarettes her whole life even though she ended up needing a breathing apparatus and assistance. She died of alcohol- and smoking-related complications but to my knowledge the family didn’t name it thus. You know, just a mystery stroke I guess. I got to be there for her death – myself, my husband, and the start of our own family: our four month old daughter. Many sorrows were ahead for my husband and I along the lines of our family inheritances, but at the time we didn’t know this.

My childhood experiences contain many hurtful memories, although in that family it was requisite we describe ourselves and our relations as “warm and loving”. Despite this mythology, I perceived I was only enjoyed and loved when I was being adorable – or a Good Girl, or both. I was told girls were supposed to be beautiful, and certain girls in the family were praised as such, and since I wasn’t, at least I knew where I stood on that count. At the same time I remember at a very early age believing there wasn’t any adult I could count on to choose me and my brother and our sense of safety, over their drinking and drugging. Since I was so little I was powerless to change any of this.

In addition to the drinking and drugging, which invoked a fair degree of fear as years went on, there was just daily life. The adults in my life changed, like chimera, during the day and as evening wore on. I rarely knew what was expected of me, only knew if I was meeting approval or not. One minute they’d be mostly tending to their work or the kids – or, as is more likely, ignoring us – the next they’d be overly sentimental, lachrymose, and effusive – or toxic and full of venom directed at little Me, their faces flushed and hardened into set-jaw choler beneath small angry eyes. My character defects and my errors, my objections to unfairness, any assertion of my own will counter to theirs, and my crudely-expressed desire to be treated with dignity was not ignored – it was punished. By age two the family called me “Little Hitler”, and later cited this as funny, good thing I straightened myself out, I was such a willful child.  Later an adult from this family would tell me it was okay for me to lash out against my own children. “They have to understand that you have feelings too.”

Oh, I made sure my kids understood I had feelings alright. Just the way I had done to me. As a mother I was Feelings ran rampant.

But, that was later – my own family.

Back to my childhood: relatively early in life I discovered I was capable at succeeding in school, and this performance placated these adults and put me in a category convenient for them. I wasn’t the beautiful one or the good one – I was the smart one.

I certainly wasn’t in a position to perceive that these people were sick and suffering in their own ways, and coped via chemicals and Authoritarian parenting and gastronomical excess et cetera, simply to manage their own pain, stress, confusion, depression, excitation, and suffering. They did the best they could with what they had. In this way my story is hardly unique, nor is my family.

As carefully as I’ve laid out my childhood memories, I want to further impress upon the reader that I do not hold resentments over these events – not anymore. In fact, the release of resentments has been the greatest gift I’ve afforded myself, and it was only possible through some measure of divinity (the old adage is true). But I am also not going to pretend these things didn’t happen, or they didn’t hurt at the time. They are simply a part of my history.  I know now that not one of these adults wanted me to feel unsafe, or scared, or sense I was an afterthought running around barefoot and expected to be “good”. As best as they were able, they loved the children in their midst, likely better than they themselves had been loved.

By the time my mother, father, brother and I moved north and away from this family to take advantage of an inexpensive living situation, my survival traits were intractable and reflexive. Seen this way it seems I was doomed to have a love affair with the escape available in alcohol and drugs. I remember my first drink – it was at age twelve and I flew high above those feelings of low self-worth, Unacceptability, embarassment and shame. The history, frequency, duration, and behaviors of my drinking career are details unimportant regarding what I write here, and now.

What matters today is I have a story to share with those who suffer as I did. What matters today is I am responsible for myself and others, and there is no point to shame myself or blame myself – or blame or shame others – for the past. I was gifted something amazing in my Recovery, as I could have lived the rest of my life out as others before me have – or far worse.

Today I live on a knife-edge of amazement, a case of being astounded by what has been given. When I am outside walking and the wind is blowing and I feel clear and alive I am also on the verge of an agoraphobic episode, flying off the face of the Earth into the Great Beyond simply because it is so massive and so much larger than I. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. I am fearful of God, but not in the way most nonbelievers would think this means. I do not worry God is going to bash me flat like Whack-A-Mole and I do not think there is a vengeful power who holds sway. I am fearful because I perceive the depths and breadths throughout, but I can not understand or grasp it all. I have lived for some little time floored at the life I was given, how incredible and amazing it is. It is such a gift. I do not wish to squander it. I do not wish to forget the gift. I no longer wish to poison it or smash it to bits, or smash at other people.

I want to hold so fiercely to my gratitude and never let it go. To life any other way is, for me, a Living Death.

***

Found written in a notebook:

Escribir

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.

Today I visited my doctor, the one who months ago spoke to me in a way I was ready to understand about the possibility I might be an alcoholic. The next day I had gone to a recommended place and discovered this was a certainty, for me, personally.

The day I knew I was an alcoholic was one of the best days in my life.

So before I talk more about that, well, today – the doctor’s. We reviewed how I was doing. He asked me how the summer went, with all the barbecues and beer and booze flowing. I told him quite honestly it hadn’t been a problem. I talked to him about a few of my concerns. We straightened all that out then he said he didn’t need to see me for another year.

He shook my hand firmly and told me succinctly, “Good job.” I looked right at him and said simply, “Thank you. You can’t imagine how different my life is now.”

And since then I’ve been reflecting how much it means to me, that he thinks I could handily do a year on the track I’ve been on.

I only sat with him ten minutes today. I’ve had so little time with him over all this – the biggest change in my life, besides the birth of my children – and I suppose he’s just another person of many who has influenced me in such a deep-down amazing way – but I wonder if he realizes the gratitude I feel for his assistance, his intervention in my life (although, truth told, I did go see him for help because I wasn’t getting answers elsewhere… and I have followed suggestions every day since). After we said goodbye I walked out to the reception window, made that seemingly way-off followup appointment, then stepped out to the waiting room where my son waited. Then my boy and I went out to lunch together.

I write this out a bit because I am so incredibly grateful for my life today. I’ve come to know entirely new meanings of “help”, and love and care and wisdom. I’ve come to see the folly and death inherant in the myth of self-sufficiency. I’ve experienced serenity for the first time since I was a young child. I’m slowly growing up my emotions and shedding some of those horrible drives I’ve lived with since long before I took my first drink: shame, blame, guilt, remorse. Terror and anger.

I really didn’t know how much I lived with them until they started to slip away. As they say, this didn’t happen overnight, and I say that because if you’re suffering now I want you to know you won’t always be suffering.

I expect to keep growing.

Today was a good day. I went on a wonderful morning run in the fog, I took my son somewhere wonderful in the morning, I had time with both kids separately, I helped a few people and someone who needed support told me I made her day, I made her smile. I stand to have some hot tea with honey and a good rest.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

***

In other news, I CAN’T STOP MAKING BABY MITTENZ

Trivial Coloriffic Mittens

Fly-Dyed Softies

Made With Love

Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight

What have I been up to lately? Running again, a bit slower even this time so as not to wear myself out. I’m almost completely finished with a little woolen bunting that I’m quite pleased with, made for a client a bit south who has a new little relative on the way. Included in the package are a couple knit items I am dying over, they are so cute. And were so soft and lovely to work and cheered me immensely to construct. Pictures soon.

For Ralph and my ten year wedding anniversary, my mother bought us memberships to the YMCA so we are now restored to regular visitations of that facility. Today due to one thing and another it behooved me to set a swim date up for the kids with our friend H. as I wasn’t going to be able to take the time and also honor other commitments. A little after noon I left my children in the McDonalds parking lot with $10 and a duffel bag and I felt a little skeeved by a guy I saw loitering there, just one of those weird feelings. I was frankly relieved a half mile down the road when I discovered I’d kept their YMCA key fob used for entry (although all the employees know them and would have let them in) and I circled back, glad for a reason to calm my likely irrational fears. Sure enough the kids had ordered and set themselves up and Nels was putting a napkin on his lap and beaming at his sister over the strawberry milkshake they’d set themselves up to share, whipped cream and cherry and all! And the lurking guy ducked out the door with a printed paper bag full of food, probably off to do entirely un-skeevy activities like eat lunch.

Forty minutes after I left the kids they’d finished, cleaned up, travelled to and planted themselves in the YMCA waiting area to meet H. They kept track of their key fob and my change and their clothes and had a great time. About an hour after the three hit the water I arrived from my meeting to pick the kids and H. up and take them out to the taquería for lunch, finishing up some I-cord on size three needles while I waited for everyone to dress.

What else, well amongst other things I’ve been doing some volunteer work in a treatment center which is wonderfully healing and amazing every day and I am so grateful to have this work suggested to me. I finished (hopefully) some graphic design that will (hopefully) put a little money in my pocket as we are needing some furniture. I keep not turning in the fee and application to the Fiber Arts Festival here in Elma next month, and I’d better get on that.

But, tonight I sat in the bleachers and watched my daughter’s first-ever gymnastic session. She was surprisingly talented and took direction well and with interest. Observing her teacher’s graceful cartwheel, my daughter’s face lights up: “Nice!” she compliments the young woman. Watching Phoenix perform her second iteration of a backwards somersault she pushes up and out with her arms as instructed and I feel my body oooomph with sympathetic effort. I never did, or at least haven’t yet, learned how to do any of that stuff besides a simple bridge and forward somersault.

Only two boys were enrolled out of the fifteen or so children and every single girl there (ages three to ten) with the exception of my daughter had long long hair and I’m pretty sure 90% of their parents wouldn’t have permitted their girls cut it all the way off as I “let” my girl do. Phoenix was completely nonplussed when I observed aloud she was the only girl there with short hair. She doesn’t much compare herself to other girls except to observe and consider for inspiration. I have the suspicion she won’t be as prone to peer and social pressures as most girls end up being, and for this inkling, if I’m right, I’m quite grateful. Case in point, she’s determined to grow her hair out long and curl it and she is entirely unpreturbed this will take some time, and she is totally happy with the super-short hair she has now. This personal knowledge, satisfaction, acceptance, common sense and long or broad view of things puts her in a class of about, oh, the top first percentile of almost every woman I’ve known with hair vanity issues, which is almost every woman I’ve known.

I could stand for the good weather to continue, although I don’t mind the slight dip in temperature. Tonight on the way home from a book study I stopped in our most favored restaurant for takeout. I leaned against the counter with my arms crossed enduring the stares of locals as I waited for our to-go Italian fare; while lingering I spied a huge jug of the wine I was raised on and I thought of the gallons and gallons and millions of gallons. Ah, Uncle Carlo, sometimes I miss you so, but alas we have parted company forever.

I was just remembering one of the worst summers of my life, if not the worst, which was actually one of the best in some ways before it tumbled into shit. As the days careened toward doom I hosted house parties most nights of the work week or weekend and we enacted many such scenes as evidenced in this song video, including young men in their underwear while we women stayed clothed. In this way one ritual was at least a small, dramatic, fierce triumphant bit of nihilistic joy I’m sure not to forget it.

it starts in my belly / then up to my heart

One of life’s many pleasures for me is stretching out for a run, or one might not even be able to call it a run, as I am just now training again and I am slow-slow-slow. But soon I have a good sweat worked up and my body feels great and the blues are bluer and the greens are greener. A fellow in maitenance, working with two others putting football lines on the high school field, when I pull up to the track at a fair clip on the bike, he says, “Looks like you’re getting some exercise before getting some exercise.” He’s got long white hair and a big white beard and he’s skinny in work jeans and how I miss my father so much.

Another wonderful pleasure is later, slipping into a hot shower after a run and then pouring coffee. The kids wake up just as I’m about to duck out and join my sister for coffee (she’s heading back to Portland today) and Nels comes along. He and I both enjoy a toasted Everything bagel with cream cheese, some Superfood juice, and I sip coffee while he plays YouTube on my phone so Jules and I can talk (and talk and talk and talk). Afterwards he and I hit the store (pears, banana, pasta, a Hemplers’ ham) and I come home and make fresh vegetable soup for the kids and soon I need to rest as we’ve a dinner guest coming over at seven. After a simple dinner of Ralph’s creation (chicken piccata, roasted cauliflower, spinach and pea salad) we grownups take a walk over the scary clumpy sidewalks and pick up ice cream and talk to the Night People along the way; my mom picks up the kids for a date at her house, and Phoenix stays over. I’m seated on the porch and she comes and holds me and kisses me because she knows I’ll miss her but she knows she’s coming back. Her body feels lovely and substantial in my arms and her little boychick head of spiky hair smells divine.

Two days ago, for $10, I bought myself a lightweight jacket to wear on bike rides or running, and a $5 3-pair sock set. This tiny amount of self-care is harder for me than others may realize, but once done, I feel the better for it. Sometimes I think I should make a list entitled “self-respect” and see what I’d do for myself if I cared as much for my own body and heart and mind as I do for others. It’s a work in progress.

xtracycle

you wanna fly / don’t want your feet on the ground

xtracycle

I get a rush when I bike long distances and today was no exception (I’m already used to the seat, by the way). I had a full day including picking up a refurbished New Home sewing machine (squee!), then later a wonderful coffee date with my sister, just the two of us. Afterwards she took me next door to the bike shop and bought my new head and tail lights, in addition to a very generous gift certificate for the family. What a wonderful gift for us and a real blessing.

But the highlight of my day sticking to me now was about ten PM when my friend D. who’s tended towards shyness in the past agreed to ride on the back of my bike there in west Aberdeen, and we did a few loops in the summer street while people laughed a bit, circling around a big bonfire while P. played Foreigner’s “Records” out the stereo of his impeccably-shiny Harley.

Or maybe it was an inadvertant poem I heard early in the evening: “Pray to be sane / drank a Hurricane”.

Or later as it was cold out, meeting Ralph and Cole for hot coffee and pizza at the Mia.

Either way, things seemed to work out real well all day long.

the Mia

 

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it

Today my daughter hands two bills through the car window, to the man we often see impassively holding a cardboard sign. He’s youngish and handsome and has a sun-worn face. Today he has a nod going, maybe heroin or methadone, maybe just sleepy. It takes him just a beat to notice us. We give him the money and when he thanks us I say, “You’re welcome” and I feel not the slightest bit of angst or anxiety or grandiosity or depression about any of the business and I drive on and feel a tremendous sense of gratitude.

I have a book important to me I read everyday, and on the first blank page is a handwritten note, “What’s my motivation today?” Every day that I ask myself that question, I remember I’m put upon this planet to help others. The plans in store for me, well I have no idea (this is actually often quite calmly terrifying, more in a minute). I have come to know my purpose is to help and I’ve come to know I don’t know ahead of time where and when and maybe I’ll never know if I did or how much. The guy with the cardboard sign is just one example of someone I’ve helped (maybe), and not the only person I’ve helped (maybe) today. As for who I’ve harmed, I don’t know that either, although I hope if this is revealed I can make restitution.

This man with the cardboard sign, maybe that money went straight to benzos or a bottle of Boone’s Strawberry Hill. Maybe it went to food or socks. Most certainly his life isn’t any less worthy than mine, which means maybe it’s as simple as someone asking for something and I get to say Yes or No, and when I give I get to know I haven’t earned those two bills any more than he has, as far as I know. If I hadn’t been given the opportunity to give the money, then seen the opportunity and taken it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know I don’t deserve the money, it’s just something in my pocket. What a relief it is to know this last.

What a relief it is to no longer teach my children greed, athough they have every opportunity to invest in that quality in their lives, should they wish.

I have a rule about help for others, a suggestion given to me by someone who’s helped me quite a bit, maybe my first spiritual teacher in the flesh who I’ve recognized as such. She told me I could give and help as long as I did not rob my own family, and she told me to pray I do the Next Right Thing. That’s easy enough at least for starters. In the moment it isn’t always clear if I’m robbing my family or not, and I’ve come to rely upon a fledgling bit of intuition and I’ve had many such incidents I won’t bore you with now, although I assure you they were not at all boring for me.

It would be easier to live the way I used to because then I had Plans and I knew how things would turn out. Then I could obsess about things I wanted to do or acquire or feel smug about eventualities I was sure I was avoiding through my virtue (I’ve since discovered, I have no virtue). I could pretend I’d earned or deserved or worked hard for the comforts I have and the wonderful people I get to see every day. Then I had it all tidied up: I’d raise my kids like this, I’d do such-and-such on this day, I wouldn’t throw away my time on people unless I knew the return I’d get (although I never would have put it in such direct terms, most especially not to myself). I’d give gifts for friends to keep me in their good graces. I’d avoid enemies. I genuinely thought if I didn’t do things for others or say the polite thing or the thing I thought they wanted to hear, they wouldn’t like me.

Now: I have no enemy I avoid, not on this earth. Now: I don’t do things to be liked. Now: I like myself more than I have previously (I’m not claiming cause & effect, there, with those two separates). I don’t much worry who likes me. I know I’m loved. And I love so many, and I feel it so often.

One of the things I’ve realized in a most striking fashion is I could never, ever pay back the gifts I’ve been given. It is not possible. I have to live with knowing this.

It was easier to live the way I lived before. Back then I didn’t tremble like an ant before God, prone to devastation or heartbreaking good fortune alike.

Big cold sunless skies, tumbling down, down

Today I had one of those breakdowns… a good one. Hot tears that just came and flooded, no congestion or anger. Crying and crying but it was okay after the first surrender, I didn’t mind. Crying at first from confusion and despair and then of brokenness and then finally of healing, sitting in a living room and crying with people I knew to trust, who were there for me. Like a home I never had but would have been there for me had I found it earlier.

Yeah, today a few people saved my ass, and in a totally separate incident (or was it?) today I witnessed an act of anonymous generosity that was hard to believe but only to be experienced.

Today I live a different life than I used to. Life before seems a bit alien.

The kids played on a giant wooded hill and ran about with the hose to cool off; later they hit Grandma’s and harvested her carrots (she paid them). I came home late-ish and Ralph made Taiwanese spaghetti – delicious, if you’ve never tried it.

Oh, and as I’m typing and waiting for the kids to be ready for bed? I’m watching a live #twitterbirth. Fuck. Yes.

Life is incredible.

like a sealed letter they could not plainly read

Today marks my ninety days in sobriety. This probably means fuck-all to anyone not in Recovery but it sure means something to me.

Tonight I sat tapping my foot at a dance in an old chair in a corner but I was too shy to run out and join the small group, although it was a song I enjoy (mostly because it’s a well-known and most excellent sleazy rock anthem, and points if you can guess it in the comments). I sat there like any wallflower and when I got over worrying someone would think I looked foolish I started to feel all sorts of things. I acutely felt the sunburn I got from two hours exposure in the sun today and I felt a fierce joy that today I’m too shy to run out on the dance floor. And my reticence and the pain between my shoulder blades and my calmness and my sadness and my joy and presence and anxiety, I just felt Alive like, This is a part of it.

At any point I can take a deep breath and make contact with myself and my spirit, and look to my husband or my friends and know I’m Alive.

Ralph, Nels and Phoenix joined me a few minutes into the dance and the kids ran out on the dance floor and started wiggling and jumping around immediately. And I thought how precious my little family is to me and how I managed to hang on to that and to them throughout all kinds of Hell (of my own making) and all kinds of difficult times.

Yesterday I was gone for several hours during the day and evening, and during this time my daughter scheduled a sleepover at the neighbors’, with her friend L. I heard later Phoenix was packed and hanging out across the street and as evening fell she kept looking out the window at our house. Finally L. said, “Do you want to go home, Phoenix?” and my girl said Yes. She came home and unpacked and wouldn’t talk to Ralph about anything – except to say she’d been homesick. Ralph asked her a question and she sat for a moment, and then a light came in her eyes and her shoulders lifted and she said, “When does mom get home?”

And when I did get home at 11 or so I got loved up on by both kids. And I put my face in Nels’ blonde hair and thought how much I love the way my kids smell and have known it since before any other knowledge, and I know it’s no coincidence but one of the most incredible blessings of my life.

Sometimes I forget how much my children deeply love and need me. I am rarely apart from them for hours, and when it is a long venture it’s usually of their own design. Take a half-day away for myself and I come home and I discover how much I’m appreciated and loved.