the noise of flowers and the smell of birds

Phoenix bundles up in layer upon layer and fits herself with her new hat and handwarmers and big boots, runs outside and jumps up alongside me in my mother’s truck, slamming the door which is a bit funny and doesn’t shut easily. Her face in the gloaming a freckled and friendly precious entity emitting some kind of ambient light that soothes me into a preternatural calm. We can sit in the car and drive in companionable silence and every second I feel grateful for my time with her and everytime she opens her mouth, I swear she says something so smart. At the grocery store she selects some flowers for her father, campanula get mee in a cool purple with a biodegradable pot. She pushes the cart, leaning on it while with one hand seats a complimentary Safeway cookie; I walk ahead with my moleskine cracked and my mind climbing up and around food needs for the family. For $67 I bring home several days’ worth of food and in the parking lot receive a call from my mother; dinner at her house tomorrow is secured, which means I can sew a little bit more than I’d originally hoped.

Terrible news accompanies us into the new year: our wee kitty Josie has been missing for four days now. The last time we saw her was on the snoopin’ walk I wrote about (and yes, we’ve cased the neighborhood and called animal control and put up fliers). I’m so sick about it I don’t want to think or talk about it as of course, I feel it’s all my fault. I worry so much she’s suffering somewhere. (This is unlikely. She’s either dead with no body evidenced, or has been snatched. Still. I obsess.).

If Josie doesn’t return, 2010 was shit as far as cats were concerned: first the loss of my beloved Blackstone then the mysterious and complete disappearance of Laurence and now this. Never have I had such cat-drama, and I’ve lived with cats all my life and in all kinds of wacky scenarios and alongside highways and in a coyote town and in the middle of the city. But when I think about it I realize for as long as we’ve had animals we’ve never been free of awful or sad or scary things happening (the death of wee little chick Peepteron 1 after my father’s demise; Felix’s possum-murder, Stryker’s mysterious deaththe neighbor’s loose terriers tearing up our chickens on Sumner, my mother’s dog being hit by a car a month ago – in both these latter two incidents the animals survived thank goodness) and really, pet ownership is just that. A deeply meaningful and joyous experience of love and companionship and the value or caring for another being; small triumphs and occasional large, very large, heartbreaks.

I really think my kids have a good perspective and I seek to emulate that.

They Placed 3rd In

And now? for a cold beer, soft bed, and warm husband.


Deep Winter
(Small Stone #1*)

Today the landlord didn’t come like he said he would
to fix the sink, electricity, leaking water heater.
We are interlopers in our own home
taking refuge from the cold.
Hanging shabby quilts, taking hot baths;
the bruise on my daughter’s hip faded
perhaps only a false memory

Small stone project

something needs to be done he said, as he looked about angrily

Today it’s caught up to me again, this ugly malaise, despite a day where a fair amount got accomplished and the sun shone (which always helps me); I had the honor to host a few extra kids in and out during the day and then watch my daughter play soccer while basting zippers into a particularly lovely sewing creation I’m now almost finished with. My husband had a hard day at work but he had a good time talking to me about it. He leaned against the fence and looked handsome but tired and Nels climbed all over him loving him up. Ralph and I approach our ninth marriage anniversary (one week from today) and are in the thick of our thirteenth year together. Our companionship and sense of humor and sense of purpose and connection and our love for our kids – there is so much goodness between us even though when we fight it is very ugly indeed.

Ralph and I don’t fight today, and the kids and I don’t fight, but something hurts and someting feels off. Little disappointments trickle in: a fabric delivery that will be late; late enough I have to push back a deadline perhaps – to talk to my client or hope for the best? Two packages I sent out got returned and needed to be re-delivered; my fault, I didn’t double-check addresses (Even then though, not all has been glum today as something wonderful arrived via post today which I will be sharing about shortly!). The house seems dirty and I lack the energy to clean (this is very rare). The washing machine still sits broken, half full of water which I need to do something about. My clothes are threadbare and our towels too, and I know I’ll prioritize Ralph’s workpants and towels over my own fare, and that’s fine but I hate it when it seems “everything” is wearing out at once (an illusion, I tell myself).

I deliver pickles about the neighborhood to stave off the gloom, pickles to neighbors and acquaintances, hoping to spread good cheer, I swear food helps people, I was sad last night my slow-cooked lovely fare was not eaten by my rather frail grandfather who is visiting, I remember the panic I felt two years ago when I could no longer cook for my dad because he no longer ate, the pain of not being able to gift this thing. So: pickles. If I can’t find the root of my odd feelings at least I can bestow kindness, something small but colorful and beautiful and zing! flavor.

My mother and I trade phone calls and favors and she takes the little ones out for a burger. Upon their return Phoenix’s soccer-mate I. comes over for a few hours and the girls enjoy the kitties and the chickens; neighborhood boys come and go to get an education on Nels’ impressive PvZ skills. For a boy so intent on and in love with the game he is most lovingly generous at showing other children the works, allowing them use of his netbook and his strategies, exhibiting none of the dull-eyed and single-syllable gruntings one might think would be the result of such saturation.

So the children at least live freely and happily. It would seem the neighborhood gang is attempting to suck the last few days out of their summer (school starts next Tuesday for Hoquiam kids); there is an air of desperation as they get up to malarkey (two older boys were BB-gunning the chickens today – tells me pop-eyed J. when I get home) and run about shouting and ride their bikes in circles long after the customary neighborhood sunset curfew.

Tonight I turn off the sewing machine and close up “shop” and check my salt brine crock (looking good and smelling lovely), wash my hands and sit at the table with my family and the lovely fare my husband has prepared. I’m tired, which makes no sense, but there it is.

Perhaps tomorrow things will be better.

r.i.p. & pbbbth

We had a milestone today – a really crappy one. Early, early this AM one of our pullets was killed by an opossum. This was Felix Jr. – or “Rattlesnake” as the neighborhood kids called her for her speed. She wasn’t fast enough apparently. The other birds were shaken up but today with a few strawberry tops and sunshine they seem to be back to normal.

Ralph buried the bird last night and trapped the possum, bent on murdering it. I tried to talk him down. He is not a vicious man but he was heartbroken and angry. I told him What about the possibility of baby possums? etc. I went to sleep hoping I’d convinced him.

This morning while he was at work we IM’d:

me: Did you kill that opossum?

Ralph: No.
I won’t, either.
I read about them a lot this AM, and had a change of heart.

me: Good

Ralph: They’re not very intelligent, they’re migrant, and they eat whatever they can find. They’re opportunists, and generally beneficial to various areas by cleaning up organic matter – carcasses, often – when available.

They’re kind of like zen animals, doing largely good things.

Besides, that piece of shit dug out from where I’d trapped it.

Ha! But: yeah.

We’ve kept our hens pretty damn safe considering we’ve been in four different homes with them in neighborhoods with people who let their dogs loose. This is a good track record considering we’ve owned chickens for a couple years now (at least I think it’s about that long, and I canna be fucked to look it up on this blog) and besides loose canines the raccoons and possums can be quite determined (they have all night to get to it as hens at night won’t raise an alarm nor defend themselves). Our good track record and our loving TLC is comfort right now when, like any pet owner, he and I both feel guilty, sad, and suppressed that something went wrong.

We are sad at Felix, Jr.’s passing.

In other awesome pet news we’re dogsitting my mom’s poodle/terrier mix Tuck, who loves me very much, likely because I treat him very well and take him everywhere I go. Today he’s had a stomachache from eating something wrong and he’s alternated between keeping his tail clamped over his ass and his back humped up in pan, vs. shitting into the clamped tail, the latter of which led to the most vile shit-cleaning experience I’ve ever had (reader, please ponder on my breadth of experience). While I was at it I gave him a Dr. Bronner’s bath. Ralph dried him off and put him out on the deck to dry in the warm sunshine, where he currently sits and I where I decidedly hope he is not brewing another Fecalstorm.

Ralph and I just made the below video while cooking lunch for ourselves and an extra kiddo (lunch concluded with strawberry shortcake made from home-baked poundcake and lovely local berries, ripe and red all the way through). It cheered us up. (Soundtrack by my husband):


The Sad Life of Kittens from ralph hogaboom on Vimeo.

(Let me tell you a little secret, it was LOUD and ACTIVE in the kitchen while this was made, also, the kittens followed up filming by a huge, huge long nap on my bed).

oh yeah, about that.

It would be untrue to say the reason I didn’t respond to Chris’ IMs – 2:12 PM through 2:24 PM – was due to “the largest poop event I’ve had to deal with in my life.” The truth is, it’s more like the biggest event for about a year. It really did come abruptly and without warning. Nels called me in the bathroom and – well, he was trying to take care of things himself and failed. As I ran a bath and cleaned the bathroom he said, “I’m sorry, Mama. Thank you for cleaning up the mess,” but I told him the truth is, the whole thing was so out of nowhere and impressive I was amazed. I wasn’t even mad.

No, what surprises me is how easily it was for me to go from being used to dealing with someone else’s poop – on demand, at any time day or night – to being so, so blissfully happy and used to not having to do so at all after less than a year of reprieve. It seems one’s default state of humanity is to not have to clean up excrement on a regular basis. Interesting.

A few minutes later, post-bath, he wraps the towel around him and strolls into his sister’s room to select his wardrobe (his latest fad is dressing in sister-drag). After a selection from head to foot Sophie I tell him we have to head out to the van to go grab The Girl from school. Nels descends the steps and grabs at the back of his dress (actually his favorite rugby knit casual frock over a Mary Kate and Ashley full white skirt serving as a petticoat – he’s the prettiest girl at the ball) and I ask what’s up and he says in surprise, “My underwear!” Because of course, it isn’t his underwear, it’s his sister’s. And apparently a set of boy tackle – even a miniature set – disrupts the fit significantly.

Speaking of Nels’ garb, I found out I have only six days to get his little Christmas velveteen suit sewn up in time for the Christmas program. Time to get on 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.

with toothpick and soapy water at the utility sink. and i’m pissed.

Dogshit is a mysterious phenomena. Perhaps, if explored in a macrocosmic way, it is more predictable than I’ve experienced; studied on a global chaos-theory level both the intensity, size, and regularity of dogshit deposits found in urban areas reveals a dotted-swiss pattern that loses any irregularities or in distribution and incidence. But in my studies – involuntary ones, I might add – I have yet to find any magic formula or even guestimation to help predict and avoid this particular bane of my existance. It existed in Port Townsend in mysterious, irregular manner; and despite my friend Abbi’s surprised observance she didn’t see it anywhere while visiting us, it exists here in HQX, too.

Take my parents’ yard. All my life I have been confused whether it was a Shangri-la or shits-a-lot. The yard is, due to the sixty-odd-and-up inches of rain a year in Grays Harbor, almost perennially lush and green, expansive, huddled with beautiful flowers and trees and singing leaves. Usually the kind of yard you’d like to run in, arms out and dirndl twirling, belting out song. Many a day and night we’ve piled leaves, rolled in the verdant, scented grass – greener and more vital here than anyplace I’ve been – to chew on blades while talking about nothing in particular and having nowhere to go. Then again sometimes amidst the greenery lurk foul, monstrous fecal landmines so voluminous they seem to have emerged from nothing smaller than the ratty ass of a bloated Clydesdale. One time in high school my friend Zoe (or maybe it was Shannon) brought in on her shoe so much shit from the yard that even after (unknowingly) laying down tracks on the porch, entry, kitchen and living room there was STILL enough on the shoe for the other girl (again, I can’t remember who delivered and who was sullied) to slip on a last and fatally thick track about an inch deep and two feet long somehow spread over my parents’ tasteful charcoal-and-rose living room carpet.

This season’s latest featured nugget-land is a small tab of city sidewalk at my parents’ front entrance, the entrance generally used the least. Despite a fair amount of rain this season a peppering of tiny but loathesome turds seems to always accompany this little patch, both on the concrete itself and winking from behind blade of grass or clump of lawn clipping. This afternoon, too busy feeling sick, herding children inside for an ice cream cone, trying to struggle my daughter – just having received three booster shots which are worse for a fully-sentient child who knows what it means than the two-month baby sitting chubby, cheerful, and unknowing in your arms – struggle my daughter into her hoodie, I’m afraid I wasn’t thinking about this patch of lawn. It wasn’t until later, sitting on my parents leather sofa with my foot characteristically tucked under my ass and flipping through a tattered copy of Patriot Games that I suddenly became aware someone – oh God, let it not be one of my children – someone had stepped in some foul slimy mustard-brown dog-ass concoction. Well, guess what? It wasn’t my children. Guess what else? Of course it was the foot I was sitting on.

Our recent mental flirtations on adopting a dog of our own have once again ebbed into nothingness.

Thanks to nature’s healing processes, more rest (which in turn, was accomplished by the help of others: primarily to my husband but also my mother, my brother, my friend Amy, and possibly, but doubtfully, my father), the good doctor’s good advice, and whatever is in Afrin – I am feeling much, although not all the way better. Today I was able to cope with help from aforementioned Amy (who watched Nels for a few hours this morning) and my husband worked a full day. Thank God.

"we’re doin’ it, man. this is it. we’re right in the thick of the action."

Friday the 13th, indeed.

I had modest plans today. Go to a recommended antique furniture entity – creatively named The Furniture Barn – and look for a shelf for my children’s toys. As I formulated this plan my little heart started racing because as it occurred to me that my children needed a better play area, it also occurred to me it was time to give Sophie her own room. I’d been feeling guilty seeing them sharing dresser space and closet space and having no toys of their own. On the one hand I know it’s healthy to share space and toys. However, we do have three bedrooms and it’s entirely possible to accommodate one of our children per bedroom. My sewing space will have to evolve or die.

After breakfast and cleanup we pile into the car and drive to Aberdeen. The kids and I park in the rain and my children hop out of the van and accompany me into the store, where: it’s happened so many times I recognize it right away. I can sense it immediately like a lion can smell a rotting kill downwind: hatred because I have small children with me. As long as I live I will never forget what this feels like. The clerk in the antique store is not happy I’m bringing in children even though they are well-behaved and I am keeping my eye on them. And bear in mind these aren’t “antiques” along the lines of Fabergé eggs, depression glass, and tiny breakables. This is mostly furniture.

I ignore the shopkeep’s vibe and start looking around. Sophie is not the problem of course; Nels is. Still, he is mostly behaving himself except for his desire to go to areas of the store where I can’t see him – sorry, buddy. After a few minutes of a well-managed shopping stroll the clerk once again looks up from her book and asks in a chilly tone, “Anything I can help you with?” I tell her I am looking for shelves. She noises in the negatory and sort of fake-looks about – pointing out a large 3-part set for $200 a pop. “I’m sorry, we really don’t have much in the way of shelves.” I thank her and keep looking. I find about a half-dozen other items easily classifying under my category, including a nicely sturdy pine set for $45. My children are still relatively good so I look around a little more – there really are some beautiful pieces. For a moment I fantasize about having my beloved Mac resting on a $450 mission-style desk. Finally I am ready to go.

I’ll spare you the further conversation with the clerk – who makes a sharp noise as my son handles the fake fruit in a bowl, then apologetically and nasally drones, “Those are busy years, aren’t they…” Let’s just say by the time the money had changed hands I really wish I hadn’t bought anything from yet another snotty-assed shopkeep in my life. Of course the woman doesn’t help me carry the bookcase to the car, but as it turns out, that’s a blessing – it ends up that this seemingly slender, modest piece of furniture does not easily fit into my large-ish van and I fuck around and adjust and take it out and put it back in and finally do some kicking – breaking a small piece of the just-purchased item! – finally getting the goddamn thing in with only the threat of tears, no actual ones manifested. Throughout this my children have buckled themselves in their seat and are watching me and I behave nicely enough.

Finally, finally the shelves are secured. “See mom, that did go well!” Sophie enthuses (responding to some grumblings I’d made as I struggled), and she and Nels repeat the mantra as we drive on to our next destination. We get to her preschool early and as we wait in the van she comes and puts her arms around me and strokes my hair. Thank you, little girl.

After our Aberdeen errands The Boy and I pick my father up to help me with some furniture moving at home. I pick him up and get to vent about the shopowner (he is sympathetic and asks about my experiences in Port Townsend – I tell him it was worse – we commiserate) and my stupid assy attempts to get the shelves in the van. I make coffee and dad and I chat about family, children, jobs, and mess about moving a large rug into Nels’ room.

This afternoon suddenly I am aware of a horrible smell in my house – very much a burnt paint / rubber smell. We recently had a new gas insert installed (which is a lovely addition, by the way) and the fumes upon installment had disappeared but are back now. This sucks as it surfaced this afternoon and putting a call into the furnace people doesn’t go over well on Friday night. But when I mentioned “headache” to the receptionist she got off the phone pronto, to get me a technician.

So right now I am currently late to a friends’ for dinner, as I sit waiting for a man to come over and tell me what I’ve been breathing today. At least Nels and Ralph are off to dinner – provided they find the place.

Here’s hoping my weekend goes a teensy bit better.

fucking off, SAHM-style

Much of my life consists of cooking and cleaning and most of the cleaning is really following along after creatures about three foot high and re-organizing, sweeping, de-cluttering, sweeping up, wiping down surfaces, and crying. Over and over. Think a parade with the horse poop-shoveler merrily right behind the horses. Except I’ve been doing it for years in a continuous loop and I’m feeding the horses the food that makes them shit.

The truth is, I give a shout-out “Amen!” daily that my duties no longer contain too much literal shit, having both children potty-trained (my son actually perfected his skills upon our move rather than the oft-predicted regression). This has actually freed up a significant amount of time in my schedule. So my (local and national) peer society tells me I’m supposed to plug a few more things into my life as well: working a job, volunteering for school functions, making crafts with kids, keeping the house even cleaner, visiting friends, taking trips to Costco to “save money”, growing my own food, working out, owning a matching and nice-looking furniture set, giving a fuck about furniture in general, doing yard work, looking sexy for my husband or the UPS dude, making a positive difference for our planet, getting a new hobby.

I think I’m hitting about a 14% on the abovementioned exploits. Mostly right now I’m (mentally) leaning back and enjoying not cleaning up shit anymore.

This could take weeks, if I want to do it properly anyway.

lovely gifts in the mail. and … ass.

In a few minutes: the family all-out for Sophie’s 5th birthday party. Yay Sophie! Yesterday she received a simply lovely birthday package from her friend Olivia (daughter to my friend Abbi):

From left to right: miso pretty gum, picture of Liv, fabulous summer fisherman hat, optical illusion book, small pewter night and dinosaur card.

Thank you, Olivia!

A few minutes ago I overheard my mom quickly turn to my dad and angrily say, “He smells like shit. Check his ass!” (referring to the dog who came in from his afternoon outside dump). And my dad kind of shrank in his chair when she yelled at him because he knew he’d have to do it. 10 minutes later and I am still laughing, laughing, laughing.

welcome to HQX. here’s a shit sandwich.

I am a nester by instinct, ability, and natural inclination. So when yesterday in late afternoon my children and I arrived in Aberdeen, met with property manager E. to our new place, I gave her my money, got the key, parked at my ‘rents house and checked out our new digs since it was – according to E. – “ready by tomorrow”, and found that upon opening the door it smelled like 12 KINDS OF ANIMAL EXCREMENT, well, I was a bit sad. And a few other feelings.

Which is how it smelled before it was cleaned and when we checked it out three weeks ago – because some trash were living there and letting an animal menagerie (which included birds, rodents, and a snake, the latter two categories presumably kept separate) shit or piss wherever, including a poor dog who my parents tell me howled and whined nonstop, poor thing. According to E. yesterday it had been “professionally cleaned, the carpet is clean and it smells good” but it was JUST AS BAD AS YOU CAN IMAGINE and my father who has lost half the senses in his body completely agreed as did anyone else I let in there (the children, telling them not to TOUCH anything). As in, I couldn’t even move my possessions in or those possessions would quickly end up smelling like a particularly vile cocktail of animal ass.

OK, breathe. It will be fine. Maybe. Today I went to see E. as soon as her office was open. The conversation did not go well and in fact got worse and worse as she was unwilling to take responsibility – “unforeseen circumstances” – WTF? – let alone apologize that a family of four counting on a move-in date of the 16th will now not have a place to move into. At this point, as much as I loved the house (sans the ass-smell), I was glad I had not signed a piece of paper with this woman. I got my money back and gave her my key. As it sits now – after a heated conversation where she told me I “need to calm down” because as you who know me know, I am just the type to be loud and crazy – she’s supposed to check the place out and sort out if and how they are going to make it liveable and if they are, when it will be ready. At this point I honestly don’t even know HOW they can get that odeur out without some major carpet tear-out, treatment, etc. perhaps including a match and kerosene. Mostly, also, E. was such a shit that I won’t cry tears if I have zero future dealings with her. Which is a shame because it’s a neat place, across the street from my parents’, I knew the guy who lived in it for years and years back in the day, and I would have loved living there. Again: minus the ass. The worst part for me in some way is that E. will probably rent to some other tenants who will take similar non-care of what will increasingly be a less beautiful old house. P.S. this happens in Grays Harbor, a fair amount.

So Ralph will be here tomorrow with a 24′ long u-haul (that’s feet, not inches) and I’ll probably have to put our shit in storage and be back to square one looking for a place. Balls.

Luckily we are not set up too shabby; camped rent-free (so far) in my parents’ large house, Ralph and I are getting along fine, and the kids are doing well. I am very stressed but I hear moving is one of the most stressful experiences to go through, so at least it’s par. Which somehow makes me feel better although I don’t feel that good.

This afternoon after my children had napped a bit (they are STILL at it) I crept up to the upstairs bedroom, set up my Mac and connected via wireless (P.S. this took three minutes) and took a deep, deep sigh of relief. With my Mac by my side, and family too I guess, things are a bit better already.