Me, A While Back


small stone #26
I did not look up
once today.

Today I wasn’t so hot. I got up, stretched and worked through my yoga, sat meditation, prepared my shrine and took refuge in the Three Jewels. Then I got on my knees and made a private and earnest prayer, all of my own. I made up my medicinal herbal remedy for my kidney. I spoke with civility to my children (mostly) and I brought my husband coffee. I pet the animals in my home. I put forth some correspondence, writing the ones I love.

My mind raced most of the day and I had to breathe deep many times to return to myself.

Ralph, the children and I visited the newest restaurant in Aberdeen where, as promised, we selected from a very limited opening-night menu. I was very tired and my daughter, across from me, seemed the same. Tall and willowy and her coarse-honey hair in two sprigs of pigtail.

My son sat next to me, smiling up at me, smelling good and warm in his flannel shirt. He chattered along near-incessantly, cupping a ludicrously-blue beverage in a white wine glass and freely discussing the food. He looks a lot like I did at his age. But he smiles more than I did. He’s tough. He has this wolfpup-thin little body but he’s tough.

And it feels like a long time ago I was his age. A lifetime ago.

Me, A While Back

tired tired tired

small stone #27
fresh bread
a plate, with olives

blank sky

My son is awake and he’s making soft chirping sounds. Singing to himself in the bed. He says, “Cuddle me,” and I lay down next to him. He says, “I need love. Your job is to give me love.” He’s safe and every day each day that is all that matters.

Ralph is making up coffee, hot coffee. We have good coffee no matter what, well most days. Grandfather: gone. Family: best not to talk too much about that. Thanksgiving: cancelled. But I have a home of my own and children and a partner and wee pets who count on us. Our rabbit greedily eats the beet-peelings from the night before. He knocks a parsnip top out my hand when I offer it to him!

My daughter is home from school. She’s dead-tired. She writes on her whiteboard outside her room:

unless you’re Kelly Hogaboom
Plan: take a nap / be miserable

Ralph is worried but I tell him this is a Good Thing, she has boundaries. And she knows what she needs.

I am off to do the Wednesday thing I do. People who don’t get to be with their families for Thanksgiving; who get to be lonely and in a dark place. Some of them have no hope. I can offer that if they can listen.

I am two years six months sober today and every day is a gift.

small stone #24
Nothing goes
like it’s expected to.

small stone #25
cold cold cold
the car is cold
Your hands are warm.

the loss of an elder

My grandfather is dying. He will be gone very soon. My mother is flying to be there, and with her family, first thing tomorrow. I am staying here because I cannot afford to travel. And because my life is kind of a mess. Being broke is not really the worst, it just means I have less breathing room in some ways, and that includes plane fare and food out and a rental car or whatever.

He is my last remaining grandparent.

My grandfather was one of the first people I knew. I grew up with him until I was eight. He was very loving as a grandfather, having been a hardworking (and absentee-via-the-workplace) father. He and my grandmother were married to eachother for an epoch. They loved eachother very much although they were also alcoholic wrecks in a lot of ways. But they were MY wrecks and I love them more than I can say!

We lost my grandmother almost eleven years ago, when I was just barely a parent. At the time Ralph and I were just transitioning from a two-income no-kid life so we flew down there, down to Southern California. Would you believe it, my bosses at the time gave me a lot of grief for staying away for more than two days? I have not spent one moment regretting taking that time to be with my family while my grandmother died (one week).

I remember right after my grandmother passed, on the fourth of July, going out to breakfast with my mom, my grandpa, my husband and infant daughter… maybe one of my aunts. I was amazed to be with my grandfather when he’d only a few minutes ago become a widower. That is still a pretty intense memory.

I am the only grandchild to have given him great-grandchildren. My grandfather loved that I gave my son a Swedish name as his mother was Swedish – born there.

I am going to be thinking about my grandfather a bit and writing about him.

I can feel my husband watching me, wondering how I am feeling.

Sometimes I think my present life circumstances are so overwhelming it is amazing I am functioning, and even functioning with some grace and dignity. Yes, I am a busy woman and I work hard. But there are some things I did not ask or plan for and that I cannot control or stop happening, or even slow down.

I am starting to think that when stuff like this happens, I’m *supposed* to feel overwhelmed.

“When you can do nothing, what can you do?”


I am on the bike and it is cold, and it is dark. I am wearing my new SWEATERPANTS. They are amazing because they are a poisonous green-yellow and they are wool and so warm. From the waist-up I’m cold because that’s mostly cotton. Being cold and sweating at the same time. Ugh.

I don’t miss my volunteer work for nothing, unless I’m out of town. It is so dark and my headlamp is faint and I almost hit a curb. That would have sucked! I am cold cold cold and it feels like it’s taking me forrreeeeever to get where I’m going (it’s not, though).

I walk up the hill. I am on edge. A large dog, a goddamned HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, steps into the road ahead, a silhouette. When I pass the darkened yard he’s receded into I let out a long, surrendered breath, the fear of sharp-teeth and violent attack. But: nothing.

I pass by. Cars out with their lights and thinking of their warmth, presumably they have heaters, and I am cheered.

small stone #23
I awaken from a short sleep,
A child, singing in the bathroom.
Not my child!
Grandpa, Wendy Jean

so i made this awesome pair of wool sweater pants, colorway=mustard

My mom, son and I are in the car and there’s some tension. Difficult subject matter. Not even something I’ve written about in this space. OTHER, difficult, stuff. My son and my mother are ganging up on me. I’ m not too upset. But, I gotta remember to take those deep breaths.

We’re bringing a plate of barbecue dinner to a friend. “How did you rate?” my mom asks my friend as we pull up to the coffeestand window to make the delivery. What my mom means is, What Did My Friend Do to deserve my homecooking.

My mom doesn’t like to cook and shop much any more. She likes to spend time with my kids, and putter about her house painting. She is like a little hobbit in there, although she ventures out to eat at the pub or go to the hardware store. We try to bring my mom a plate of dinner a few times a week. A few days ago: a delicious chili flavored with too much tabasco, deliciously piquant. To compensate for the heat: a cornbread sweet enough to be cake.

I’m thinking about my mom because she’s about to go through some rough stuff. Her father lies in a hospital, languishing. He’s probably going to go home for hospice care. It probably won’t be long. I know my mom can afford to get down there and I’m pretty sure she’ll go. I wish I could be there too. In fact it hurts not to be able to go. I like to be there for the big stuff, if people let me. I try not to think about the fact I won’t be there. It is too painful to think about.

My grandpa used to call me “Rotten Peach”. He brings it up whenever I see him.

Grandpa, Wendy Jean

Life goes on. Scrubbing pots and pans and making hot coffee. We let Bun-Bun the rabbit out most times we are home. He is a MANIAC, I am not even kidding that all he wants to do is eat treats. He has his regular food but he comes crashing into the kitchen and will straight-up jump directly into the garbage can to find delicious things. He is a monster and I am not joking. I hold him against my chest and put my face in his fur and feel like crying. He is so perfect and soft and smells so lovely and is such a peaceable thing.

Tomorrow we’ve a series of appointments – then Nels and I are heading out to Phoenix’s school to cook bread pudding with the kids at Phee’s school.

Life is a little sharp around the edges but I take a lot of comfort in participating in the human race.

no joke, but I

found out my grandfather, my last remaining grandparent, has cancer. Inoperable. He’s going to pass sooner rather than later and I won’t be able to be there. Traveling is not an option, expense-wise.

I am so tired from what-all else it’s hard to absorb. I do know I can be there for my mom. She’s going to need it.

I’ve had good support today and a lot of help.

Logging off for tonight.

small stone #19
Ice on the grass
Tiny crystals.
“It snowed!” You say upon awakening.
I explain the difference between snow and frost.
You dismiss me, saying:
“It’s the same. Because I can make a snowball with either.”

tying cherry knots, smiling, doing party favors

Today at the orthodontist my son got perfect marks for his brushing and flossing. I am definitely in that “sky is falling” headspace because when the staff called me back to talk to me about his braces (they’re being removed here in a couple months) I had all these thoughts of some new horror to face, but instead it was all good news.

So you should know I’m going to straight-up bitch and complain for a few paragraphs. You may not want to watch. I’m serious. Just a lot of complaining. Yarp.

So. Life is feeling cold and inhospitable. I’m tired of having an old, broken, dog hair-infused coat. And either wearing that or being cold. I’m sad AF that I’ve only managed to put $300 aside for Christmas. I had this whole excellent plan about a specific special thing to buy Ralph and instead we had to eat a bunch of the money I put by. I’m tired of not having a car, because the fella I paid a lot to fix my car fucked it up. And I’m tired of riding in my husband’s car that has no heater. My days mostly consist of moving small bits of cash here and there and borrowing different vehicles to do the things I need to do for my family. And some of those things are things that give me a great deal of anxiety.

I spoke to someone close to me recently and requested they not speak to my children a certain way. This person responded by un-friending me online and, now, giving me the silent treatment. I’m not angry, and I don’t regret making the request I did. But I am right on that verge of being angry. So then I’m worried I won’t forgive this person for not being there, while we’re going through the shit. My hurt is reasonable; my anger, is not. Did you know – I am more terrified of forming resentments than almost anything! Luckily I know it is in my power to not stand idly by. I have a choice in how I accept my life’s circumstances.

Some people are giving my family “privacy” while we go through the ish with sexual assault. This is kind of annoying. I wouldn’t write about it publicly if I didn’t want to share it. I am excruciatingly careful what and how much I share, for a variety of reasons. But it’s like – I’m putting myself out there precisely because I’m not going to pretend this shit doesn’t happen.

There are these “little” things that matter to me that I can’t shake. It bothers me my son orders the cheapest hamburger at the fast food place because he knows where we’re at. It hurts that I’ve been too distracted to be a good schooling mum for my daughter. I haven’t been able to pick up my shrine flowers and that is like… something I haven’t skipped since I started. I am willing to have hunger pangs and pick up those flowers. But it’s just: no, because I wouldn’t be the only one having hunger pangs if I picked them up. The fact I skipped the flowers, it weighs on me.

Life is really good and I know it is. I don’t want a rescue, either. I am not asking for someone to make me feel better. I am not longing for anything specific.

I just want that tiny bit of space to say, “Ouch.” I’ll bitch a little more, then I’ll stop.

As I read last night, “[I] no longer live in a completely hostile world.” I really don’t, and I know I don’t. The money stuff is beyond depressing, today anyway – but yet we keep getting fed, and I keep paying the bills. (Most of them.) Other people pay some bills, too. Last night a friend bought the Underbellie domain for the next year so I could keep writing there. Today we received a blog donation of $8 and – I am not kidding, $8 goes a long way so I am grateful! Donations can be hard, because it can fell like I’m supposed to “prove” I deserve it. I have to put that thought aside a time or two a day.

So: I’m struggling. The worst thing of all is, I look at my kids and I don’t feel the joy I used to. What we are going through as a family, it has taken a lot of my joy away – temporarily, yes, I know this. It’s a damn good thing I don’t live just for feeling good. Holy shit.

It’s hard on me to be the joyless Mama. Sometimes I think it’s my duty to be happy and to be loving. This isn’t a smart thought, it’s just something I can’t easily shake. When my joy is just robbed out of me I feel sad, and I think I’m letting people down. What I know is I have to sit down at my computer and admit a few things that don’t make me look all that great, but at least they’re honest. I can’t move through any of this if I don’t acknowledge it’s happening.

I lived many years not being honest, publicly or privately.

I’m not gonna roll that way again.

And, okay. I’m done complaining. Thank you for listening.

small stone #18
wet cat along the side of the highway;
second day we’ve seen her.
Driving past, my son & I both stiffen, the same thought:
we should bring her home.

mishaps, various & sundry

Second-to-last errand of the day and the kids run upstairs to find me, breathless: “Mom! The car blew up. It made a noise and green stuff and smoke came out!”

Holy Good Mother of God.

The car had been idling in the driveway and even after this BOOM is still running. I switch it off immediately and my eyes close and my head falls back, just a bit. Dollar signs dollar signs dollar signs. A neighbor pokes her head out and starts talking to me. I’m distracted and I can’t remember what I say; but I hot-foot it back inside because it isn’t like I don’t have shit to do.

I go inside and thank the kids. They are alert, ears pricked, full of questions about the car. I am overwhelmed. “Please quit talking to me about this. I need a few minutes of silence,” I tell them. I drink a quart of water. I take a deep breath.

I thank the kids again. I send Nels next door to borrow my mom’s truck so we can get to where we need to go. We’re back on the road. I make a phone call to arrange for my car to get a look-see.

I can take those deep breaths. Thank jeebus!

It’s just – that kind of scene.

More upstetting than the car, even – today I got to once again deal with, except not-deal with because the communication is so poor on their end, those in official capacities regarding my child’s sexual assault case. I cannot stress how unpleasant certain entities have been these past two months. I am at times full of fear and anger. I am worried I’m going to get this huge, huge resentment towards entities I am not responsible to, and suffer trauma over events I have no control over. I am so glad I seem to be the only one in the family acutely suffering.

Now rather than vent my spleen in a public place, and from a perspective that might not be the healthiest, may I just say I pledge to you, dear reader, that if God Forbid this kind of thing should ever come knocking on your door, I am here for you, holding watch and bearing witness, having bourne out this trouble with dignity and self-respect. I’m getting through this ish not just for my child’s sake but for my own and for countless others; that I might help some day. The empathy, I am learning. The patience. The persistence. The gratitude – at times I struggle with that.

The whole thing is so crap that sometimes I have to find meaning in it. For my own sanity.

So yeah. Today was kinda shite.

* deep breath *

small stone #7
Hot coffee, a little bitter.
A man talks to himself feverishly; laughs, rolls eyes, swipes at the air!
The others around the tables
bear his behaviors with patience.
He could be me, I’m thinking.
He’s somebody’s son, I’m thinking.
I’m overcome with sadness.

the security of being a permanent employee

“Your tears are black,” my son says in surprise, pulling away from my hug.

I get to tell him how mascara works.

I don’t mind my son seeing me cry, although I don’t cry often which is probably why he’s shocked. I’m less okay that he’s just overheard a heated – and let’s face it, at moments ugly – conversation between his father and I. About money. Which is really about stress, and security. Which is about Trust, which is about Faith, which is about seeing the world as it is. And now my boy, my nine-year old, he runs through the house ridding his wallet of change, and “bottling” up some maple syrup to sell. “I want to help you find money,” he tells me now. “I can shoeshine,” he tells me.

I’m still crying but at least I have the sense not to cry over this too, not to be maudlin my kid gets to go through this. I sit down on the little speaker-amp in our warm kitchen and I put my arms around him. “Little dude,” I tell him, taking a deep breath. “You have one job, and it’s to be a Little Guy. That’s your job. It isn’t your job to give us money or to try to find it. Your parents are grownups and they can handle the money stuff.” I tell him. I can feel him relax a little – thinking about the job of being a Little Guy, probably. He puffs up a bit. He can be a Little Guy.

Money trouble means you can’t keep shit all tidy. As much as you might try. I’ve got a sense of purpose and dignity though. I don’t apologize when paying for gas with change and I don’t apologize when we find ourselves in some ridiculous scenario (I could name five this last week!) – as long as I haven’t wronged someone by being there. Not-apologizing and not-blaming are the practices that keep me grateful, keep me grounded. Helping others – it keeps me grounded. Taking help when it’s offered (I could name five times this last week!) – keeps me grounded.

There is so much letting-go involved in financial and food insecurity. Faith and letting-go are part of the process, like a dance, and sometimes you get that wobble. Now I warm up the car and I take a deep breath. I gotta be careful not to get addicted to the hustle; to live my life such that if one day I don’t have to hustle, I can step gracefully into that new life. I hear people say you can get addicted to Drama and I get it. Drama keeps us distracted, tells us our Plan is a good one, or a necessary one, or that we can let ourselves go because Suffering, or all the above.

Driving off my little guy is speaking to me and I can hear him, because I can take those deep breaths. I tell him It’s okay Nels. We won’t let you down. We never have. Promise. We turn up the street and he’s relaxed fully; into a local shop selling computer scrap. Nels takes some candies from the jar and I run up, then down the stairs, leaving the box behind. I get down to my son in his little knit cap and I’m the Luckiest Woman on earth.

warts & all

Doubtless some of my readers have wondered why a few days ago I wrote about an excruciating experience in graphic emotional detail, but with little other disclosure. After a few days, and a few more developments, I am ready to share a little. Only a little, at this time.

Friday we found out that something assaultive, or more likely than not, more than one event, happened to one of our children. The discovery came as a complete shock to us and is taking an unpleasantly long time to accept. At this point, institutional and investigative entities have been employed. Because this is an incident that concerns one of our children, you can understand I don’t think the kids deserve me to sell out their privacy. Suffice to say my children and my family can benefit from support, and good, honest, safe-ass people in our lives.

One of the most agonizing aspects of this development is we do not have all the answers as to what has happened, and it may take time to get them. Also: unlike other sorrows I have gone through – like my father’s illness and death – this seems to have temporarily but painfully removed my ability to think about much else for very long. Life is suddenly surprisingly difficult – for me, at least. I can’t speak so much for the other three members of the family, who seem to be holding up well. I find myself going for many hours without being able to eat – then, like now, suddenly my appetite is back (ravenously so!). I have had two nights out of four that were just nightmarish, sleep-wise. I wished for Oblivion but I patiently waited that wish out.

I rode the bike about eight miles in a rainstorm again today for an appointment, and thankfully no one criticized me for this (just: don’t). You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do in hopes of restful sleep. (There is a lot I’m *not* willing to do, too!)

I am better off than I was Friday but I put that down to incredibly fervent prayer, and using the many types of support I have available to me.

Then there’s the “little” shit that is hard. It is frustrating that although it seems it would be easy for me to perform the tasks I normally do, I am having a great deal of trouble. Planning meals, doing the simplest of chores, let alone creative work or playtime with the kids, is almost entirely unmanageable at times. Compounding this is the fact that: doing work, within reason, is a good thing and I know it. Lying around watching Netflix and trying to blot out my brain – not so much.

One of the things I am still functional at is volunteer work. I do this – again, within reason, as I have responsibilities to myself and my family. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to me to do something useful that doesn’t just serve myself and my family. I am daily in a place of gratitude for this opportunity.

I am definitely in that One-Day-At-A-Time space. Soon I will have experience to share, and will be able to share others. But I’m patiently waiting for that to come on its own time.

Thank you for sharing this time with me.