an old machine that’s reeling

Shit is BROKEN.

My computer is broken. I can’t see colors on my screen. This has been like – a month now? At first I thought, OK well, at least I can still type. But the lack of colors is more debilitating than I thought. I haven’t been able to blog my (considerable amount of) sewing – and I haven’t been able to update my Etsy listings either.

Shit is BROKEN.

Our cars are broken. Ralph’s has something sort of serious – a loud clunking sound now and then – enough we’ve stuck it in the driveway until we can (afford to) fix it. So Ralph and I have both been biking a lot, yes he’s been biking to the college and all. My car – good Lord! – a broken window, busted all the way out driver’s-side. It’s been broken several days now but we are fortunately in a dry spell. That’s going to end any minute though at which point I will have to go with some plastic.

Shit is BROKEN.

My kidneys are broken. The doctor is probably going to recommend something icky as I have some part of the kidney possibly blocked off. It took about a year for me to begin to accept the pain. Now I’m trying to accept the fatigue and the nausea. The fact I’m trying to accept it means, maybe I will be there soon.

SHIT is broken.

Hutch is ill. We are hoping it is just random awfulness he (somehow!) got to sneak into his gullet. I am trying not to obsess it is something worse. He is weak and trembly and not eating food and if you know Hutch, that is weird AF.

SHIT IS BROKEN —

Most disastrous of all, our cat Hamilton is missing. Today has been one week since we saw her. Today is one week. I am sick over this. Just sick. We miss her so much.

Today despite all this I did my best to be kind, to treat my family and friends with consideration, and to attend my volunteer work.

What else can I do?

regrets, he has them

I think I touched on how the day I bought Thanksgiving groceries, I thought if NOTHING ELSE, women should get big-ass props for (so often) doing the majority of that sort of work, and it’s more work than many people realize. It ain’t just like making a little list and picking it up. Those of us who’ve done this work years in and out with everything else we do, know what’s involved.

Today was another day like that. Cooking, cleaning, corresponding, mending, washing and drying, caring for pets. Taking children to the doctor’s then taking them to lunch.

So yeah at the doctor’s. The nurse chirps as she takes vitals: “And you must be Phoenix?” & my daughter’s like, Yes. Then, “And you must be mom? Your name?” Yes, Kelly.

Quiet a polite beat, then my son says, “And I’m the brother. I’m Nels.”

(WIN)

Running more errands for the pets and the kids and the family, including another specialized treatment for my daughter’s illness. Haircuts for the kids. Food for the kids, again.

Haircuts. LAWD. So my daughter gets one gal who seems to know how to cut Phee’s stick-straight, thick chestnut-red hair. A few minutes later they’re done. Nels? He’s having trouble with his stylist. I ask him, “Do you want bangs?” He says Yes. He tells the lady what he wants. She has other ideas. I’m not able to hear him clearly and in retrospect I should have come over, listened in, and helped.

A few minutes later and many inches of his hair are on the floor. She finishes up but something’s wrong. My son’s face is a wreck. His lip trembles and his body is stiff. She’s finished and asks if he likes it. He says, “It’s okay,” in the most quiet voice I’ve ever heard him use. He gets out the chair and waits in the lobby. As he gets closer to crying he drifts further away until he’s outside; he’s like a little tweed ghost fading away. He has decided, at least for today, he does not want to cry, to make a scene in public.

We get out to the car and the doors close on the winter afternoon and it’s like,

“SHE CUT ALL MY BEAUTIFUL HAIIIIIIRRRR” 

and his head is thrown back and hot tears flow down his cheeks.

We talk about the loss and all, and yeah hair grows back and et cetera, but I’m not trying to hammer that stuff home. I mean you could choose to lecture your kid about Perspective if you want,

but when it comes down to it, it’s a loss.

So; that’s something that happened today.

there have been setbacks

I grab my son’s arm and drag him to the register. “You have my wallet, we’ve been waiting for you. You held up this nice lady,” I scold him.  The “nice lady” doesn’t hear me and/or can’t speak English but I smile at her anyway and say, Lo siento. She smiles back. Even though it’s busy as fuck in the store.

My son, having wandered off with my cash just before we got rung up. LE SIGH. These days though despite misbehavior (mine! I mean) I don’t feel murderous rage. I can stop right where I stopped, which was too far. Then I can apologize. And even these episodes are rare. And when they happen I don’t loathe myself. Mostly. I just dust off and try again.

The cashier is a young white man and he’s not quite right. He’s on something. He takes a long time ringing me up, then un-ringing me because they don’t have fancy registers that can do a postpone, then ringing me back up again. “Next time you should hang on to your wallet,” he tells me as a parting shot. Like seriously I am old enough to be his mother and he’s giving me a PRO TIP on family life.

I stop, my hands full of bags and kids and my afternoon just packed with errands on a payday (for everyone else) Friday. “Thank you for the suggestion,” I say clearly, but in a completely neutral tone. I am not going to mention my internal monologue.

It’s been rough these last couple days. I’ve been swallowed up by something. Tonight my son comes in where I’m in the sewing room, where I’m finishing something up. He’s packed with suitcase and all, in a fedora and a blazer and his long blonde hair and he’s off to stay the night somewhere besides with me. He and his sister are catching up to me in height and from where I sit he has to lean down. He puts his arms around me and I start to cry. Just so you know, I cry about twice a year. So Nels says, “I’m sorry, mama. I won’t stay the night anywhere for a month after this.” (he pronounces it, monff). “No Nels,” I tell him, “You gotta go and stay any time you want, it’s important. I’ll be okay.”

I don’t feel like I’m going to be okay. I haven’t felt well the last few days. Indescribable fatigue, like tired in my blood. My faithful readers know I’ve written about this before, over the years. And I’ve sought many kinds of medical help and even made some major life changes. But still it returns. My bloodwork always comes up perfect and my physicals do too. What is wrong? I don’t know. I get sleep. I eat. I don’t get it. I don’t know where it is or what it stems from but it when it surfaces it is quite debilitating.

I’m not as rugged as I have come to expect of myself. Things are getting to me. The news of the mother who lost her children on Staten Island, the details and the whole story, it’s been like a personal nightmare I can’t shake. I keep picturing what that would feel like, the moment they were swept away. Screaming for help and no one comes to aid, doors shut and lights off, spending the night alone and tortured. Then the agonizing wait for two days, fearing the worse. I am tortured by this. You know that cry twice a year thing? Well I get this twisted up over something about as often as that, too. Something’s up, I don’t know what.

In the meantime I can meditate, cook, clean, sew. Make my husband a pot of tea and listen to my children’s hopes and dreams. I can do all that. I won’t fall off the earth.

treatment

The young man has incredibly beautiful, large blue eyes. Leonine. Red-rimmed but striking. Today after I ask if he has anything to share, he finally breaks down and talks about the violence he committed while drunk, or on drugs – I’m not sure which (it doesn’t matter). He can barely speak and by the end he is crying as overwrought as I’ve seen anyone in real life. He’s choking and crying and in almost any other place you’d have people rescuing him or shushing him or uncomfortably squirming. This is a holy place though and that doesn’t happen, now.

Still. Since this is an early Recovery setting, there is a break in the sacrosanct listening you can usually expect when there are other “old timers” (like me! Ha!) present. See, addicts in treatment are like a box of baby chicks. Certain things disturb them and they start acting up in concert, popping out of the fog of their meds and talking. After even only fourteen months of regular experience, it’s still rather predictable. Depending on what they’re exposed to, sometimes they’re angry, edgy, and disrespectful. But today they’re offering the young man encouragement, because he’s in so much distress, and maybe they’ve not learned to let someone get through it, because there is no consoling the inconsolable. Or maybe they don’t realize this is a special moment, and our Presence is all that’s required. So anyway they tell him the person he abused will forgive him, the love of family is always there. They say parents are there for you no matter what. They say all the stuff they want to believe but don’t really, deep down, know to be true.

I’ve learned wisdom can come from just about anyplace, and I don’t give less credence to people based on their circumstances. But my thoughts: you can’t get clean or sober based on what your family thinks or whether they let you use them as a punching bag or whether they don’t return your calls. You can’t rehearse the remorse and guilt ad infinitim either without playing with the Relapse thing. And you can’t get clean and sober because you “owe” it to someone. Jack shit on that account. But I stay silent because even though I’m chairing this little get together, I’m not especially needed at the moment.

A few minutes later, incredibly, a young woman M. tells a story of triumph. She’s got it all figured out and she and her ex-husband are going to have a life together and fix everything between them since he’s been clean two years. Another woman asks if she’s afraid, saying, “My boyfriend and I only did heroin together the last four years.” “I’m not afraid,” M. says, lifting her head up. “What am I afraid of? Love? We’re going to be that cute old couple that drives around on casino tours in an RV with a little dog.” Of everyone tonight, she’s the spookiest to listen to. She’s not scared enough, I don’t think. I could be wrong though.

I’m thinking of how much suffering I’m exposed to. It’s quite phenomenal. The human capacity to suffer is incredible. We will take it to such extremes, until we are angry and pinched and flee only to the corners that cosign our bullshit, or the chemicals that give us release, but soon those things aren’t even enough.

Then there are those in limbo. I’m thinking of a woman who came into Recovery sad and frightened but now she’s angry. She’s angry she can’t drink but she’s angry about other shit too. I can see it as clear as I can see through a still pond. She sits in the group and won’t share and smiles but the look in her eyes is crazy-anger. She’s ballooned up in weight and her eyes bulge like someone squeezed her around the middle. But she won’t share. “I’m just here to listen.”

Last night another woman eight months sober broke down crying after many months of “not sharing”. She’s one of those women who’s incredibly beautiful, she did more drugs than I’ve seen and was hauled off to jail and evicted and she’s tough as nails and stunningly lovely. And I sat four inches away and let her cry, it was beautiful and I hope she comes back for more healing. It’s this kind of crying… I can’t describe it. It’s not that congested, angry crying. It’s like watching a river flow, watching a freshet. It’s sorrow, sure, but it’s also a very real moment because someone is breaking down and being themselves, and being broken, and doing this with another human being. It’s one of the most spiritual things I’ve seen and one of the most spiritual things I’ve experienced.

When I was scared I stayed scared until someone could help me, and I did as was suggested and I never got to the angry part. I’m not angry I can’t drink. Well, I can drink. For me, to drink alcohol would make as much sense as drinking Drano. There were many years I drank and thought it did me little harm, and maybe that it helped, and that it was my prerogative. But I was incorrect. It did harm me.

Back to treatment. It meant a lot to me tonight that this young man J. recognized me from last Wednesday, and his face lit up when he saw me. Wednesday I’d made a joke at the end of our meeting, as I’d noticed he had “DGAF” written on his knuckles. Just before we broke the group up I said, “J., I hope it’s not true that you DGAF. I hope you do GAF.” His face went from inanimate to a surprised smile and his eyes came alive. Anyway when he saw me tonight he was glad to see me. He’s one of those who cuts me right to the heart, because at 35 many of these I work with are children. I am often capable of seeing the child in any addict or alcoholic but the ones who are so young, it’s like I want to breastfeed them.

Oh and when I leave tonight a young man C. says, “I like your style.” That’s pretty cool.

I could write pages and pages more just on the last couple days alone. It could be overwhelming if I let it. It helps to write.

One of the most amazing things I’ve learned is I haven’t met the the addict or alcoholic who doesn’t hurt so bad for what he or she did to other people. Not the one and I’ve literally heard thousands of testimonies. It is incredible. It is a blessing. My faith in the beauty of humankind and of God is unshakable.

I’ve also learned to be entirely at home with other human beings.

A woman who helped me so much, and continues to, told me soon I’d feel my heart break because so much compassion would flow in. I remain grateful and humbled by my experiences. There are too many to pray for each evening. Too many to remember in my consciousness. My god-consciousness will have to do, as much or as little as I may have.

undefeatable; not by their nature, but by your approach

Sticks & Sticks

I haul my daughter out of the house full of kids, and one parent in the back room smoking pot. I’m pissed even though I know this person is just getting by. It’s nothing personal and has nothing whatsoever to do with me. That said, in my field I do with regularity hear about the kind of stuff that goes down in homes where the adults in charge are Lotus Eaters, and heck I lived a bit of it. Are my kids in danger? Probably not much. Possibly not at all. But you’ll excuse me if I’m not always entirely sanguine about it all, 24/7. Sometimes my tolerance is a bit low. My kids are still little, remember?

Just getting by. I get it. Today I got a text from another friend, relapsed/relapsing, out drinking and/or drugging as I type this, asking for a ride earlier – I suspect, to find more substances to put in his system. Lest you think this isn’t a big deal, it is my opinion this young man may very well die a young age. Or he may never drink again and live a long fruitful life. Anything could happen. I’m thinking of him as I lie on a cold slab getting a picture of my insides. The x-ray technician and/or radiologist and I talk a bit, and pretty soon we have a few laughs. She is sweet and kind. As per usual when I leave, she wishes for things to get better. This is a lovely thing. You’d think people would get bored or apathetic but usually medical staff are kind. Usually people are kind.

Later in the day at an appointment with my specialist he laughs handsomely and tells me the latest about my kidneys. It’s not great news, but it’s much better than it could be. For this I am grateful. While he taps on the laptop I notice a striking piece of jewelry; I ask if the feature setting is an opal. He tells me it’s an elk tooth – “elk ivory”, he corrects himself. “Oh, did you take the animal down yourself?” I  ask. He tells me yes. “With your bare hands?” He laughs again. He probably thinks I’m being a jerk. But I am just irreverent at times. He looks like a stock photo picture of a handsome doctor, and I like the image of him grappling like a caveman.

Home, and in the afternoon four kids from other families streamed over at our house. Arts and crafts! One of Phee’s very off-hand dragons:

Phee Draws A Quick Dragon

The children all did a lot of drawing (Each child is so expressive! It’s cool.), and then they played this game where they said existentially-silly sentences and then laughed with much gusto. Nels was in the forerunning with, “I don’t believe in soup.” I thought that one was pretty good. And let me tell you, the kids played this game for several minutes running. I’m folding laundry now and a bit later I hear my son regale the crowd with, “I forget to close my eyes when I run into walls, because I’m allergic to semen.” So at that point I think maybe we should have a walk, play a different game.

Nels, playing Terraria in his sister’s pink robe:

Nels, Late Night, Pink Robe

Today. A pretty good day.

riverfronts & parks

I meet E. about a year ago now. A highly intelligent young man, at one time gainfully employed but when I meet him, reduced to jobless couch-surfing. E. is polite and well-mannered. But he is also depressed, angry, private, and resentful. He calls me, drunk, a little time after we’d got to know one another. This is before I knew the whole, about ten percent of alcoholics get recovery business. This is back when I thought people would get sober and stay sober. Before I knew how common relapse was. Before I knew how many people could die pretty quick instead of kinda slow (average age of alcoholics, 52). If you didn’t know already, I come from that whole, “kinda slow” crowd of family and friends. Long lives of denial then pre-cognition and ugly, ugly alcoholic behavior into retirement age or older.

Anyway a year ago E. is talking and talking and telling me he’s sure no one in our program of Recovery gives a shit about him. I remember taking slight umbrage to that statement. I told him for one thing he never talked or shared in group (“I’ll just listen today”, day after day), so some people might be letting him be private, thinking that was his preference. I also told him it was unfair for any of us to hold others accountable to anything when we haven’t made ourselves vulnerable and shared what is bugging us, within a setting of accountability. Yeah, that’s right. Because here’s the thing most people don’t want to admit, no one is responsible to read your mind. And if you’re honest in sharing your thoughts and feelings, you run the risk of having some feedback. Maybe stuff your Ego doesn’t want to hear. Imagine that.

I’ve spent the last year being as kind as I could to this young man E., giving rides now and then, but mostly just the odd conversation or hug. He didn’t seem particularly interested in my friendship, and I respected that. And you know, a year ago I thought he was at the end of his rope, and ready to admit defeat. I was wrong. Because I’ve watched him deteriorate in a way I couldn’t have guessed at. The details are not ones I’ll go into here.

Today he calls while I’m on the way somewhere, and I can’t tell if he’s sober or not. He asks for gas money to pool so he can go to a new town and work. This request is kind of surprising as he’s never so much as directly asked for a ride but I figure maybe he’s taking advice, asking for help while sober, before drinking. Now this isn’t the kind of help I give everyone, but I have a nice little series of simple guidelines to go by when asked something like this. Don’t rob myself, don’t rob my family, then give help when asked, and whatever happens it’s none of my business. I tell him I’ll check in with my husband and I’ll call him after my appointment. He tells me he’s going to pay me back. I laugh and tell him to pay it forward. I think of how many people I’ve seen doing just that.

After I pick up some cash from Ralph I have a few minutes to think about it and I figure E. is probably drunk. A while later I meet him, with a “friend” up at the park. They’re ostensibly playing frisbee, but they’re really just waiting for money. I can tell they’ve been drinking and/or using. E.’s walk to my car is that of a doomed man. He doesn’t want to walk to my car and take money and put it in a bottle, but he has no choice. I know this. I get it. He gets to my car door. Now a few minutes before I’d been unhappy about meeting E. and a friend alone, even though we’re in a public place. I know he’s capable of assault while drinking, even if I’ve shown nothing but kindness I am not immune.

But when I see him up close every thought I had flies out my mind. His face is flushed but his whole body is too. I have never seen so much shame suffused in someone’s face. He takes the cash and he pauses and the kind of crying I’m seeing is like nothing I’ve ever seen. He looks at me and we look in one another’s eyes. I say, “Good luck.” Then, “take care.”

And I drive off.

Alcoholism is an ugly disease; also, water is wet.

***

Later in the day the kids and I take the car to get the brakes fixed. I hadn’t planned on dropping the vehicle off today, but my brake pad parts got in to the shop. I hadn’t planned, this means I hadn’t set up a ride home. The kids and I walk the two miles home. I feel okay about not bumming bus fare from their piggybanks, as they’re perfectly happy to walk, and it’s nice for me too.

Sumner Avenue is a drag to walk on, only because the highway traffic is loud and there are no significant trees to muffle the noise. The three of us pass overgrown lawns and step over mossy cracked sidewalks. Finally the riverbank, scotchbroom and dandelion and poppy and vetch.We see a harbor seal in the river, delighting the children. My kids take turns holding my hand and they put their arms around me. They’re so tall now I only have to bend a little to smell the sunshine in their hair.

Nels says, “When I get older I want my mom to buy me a housssse… with a million kitties and a baby alligator, and they all stay in different rooms and no one trespasses. And a bunch of trained wasps. And a WOLF!”

as they say in that one creepy parenting paradigm, “bummer”

Nels + Chi's Sweet Home #1, Courtesy Danger Room Comics

I have a rather large backlog of family and sewing photos, but today I found out we (likely) had a catastrophic data loss. My last ten years of writings, saved files, patterns, graphic design work, kids’ pictures and projects, music, movies, and carefully-tagged and curated photos are likely gone. And a bunch of other stuff I’ll start remembering when I’m feeling less tired.

Yeah, I’m kind of numb about the thought of this, and I figure I’m fatigued as I got up early and did quite a bit today, so I won’t think on it further. For now content yourself with what I found yesterday on our two living room chairs.

Other Chair Is Occupied (By A Manatee)

Kitty Relaxes

Back to regularly-scheduled programming soon.

going low & lately

Nels comes in the house crying; cheeks flushed from cold-weather play, head back, mouth open, tears showering like an anime cartoon. He’s wailing as one of the neighborhood boys threatened Nels’ (new, homesewn, much-beloved) hat, the boy brandishing dogshit on his shoe.

Nels thinks the hat is ruined, he’s betrayed beyond measure that someone could be such an ass. I tell him, “Nels, it’s okay, we can fix it” (the hat seems fine). After a minute of crying and brief relief in my arms I repeat: “Hey little guy, we can fix it.” Then: “I’ll fix him,” my son announces grimly, a little blonde stormcloud stomping out the front door to what denouement I do not know.

I hear a phrase a lot lately, “When you’re ass is falling off,” usually preceding a suggestion to find some help, fast. Let this post be a tender debut of official notification, just the last day or so, I think yeah, my ass is falling off.

I have one primary complaint. Or rather, not a complaint exactly, just a scenario I have not yet made peace with: the last several days I have been in near constant pain. Usually on a scale of zero to ten it’s somewhere in the three range. Not too bad, but most the day or all day long, and frankly the whole thing is beginning to wear on me. That and, lying down to sleep and the pain is suddenly a dull agony that keeps me up. I’m plagued with bad dreams the last few nights which leave me disturbed even in the early waking hours.

Today I had my second acupuncturists’ appointment. Last week, my first experience, all was very groovy. Today I experienced a lot of pain (needles were placed in a lot of different places than last week), which I was assured wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I left about an hour later, neck bruised lightly from cupping, scented pleasantly by ginger, ear seeds taped to my ear and feeling curiously touched to have a practitioner care for me. And, might I add, feeling better.

Later on a walk with a friend and her young baby, as well as my two kiddos; memories bringing back having such a little one, while my kids squirrelled and argued with one another in the sunshine. On the trail I collected woolly bear caterpillers and a few last-ditch cattails for my son, who adores such things. The sun brilliant though the air is cold. Deep breath and trying to be of service, to help others, to take care of myself.

Tonight: a date out with my husband. My appetite, meh. I’m glad to have time with him and to talk about our respective days. He’s a loving and caring man when I’m ill. Lately I’m ill more often than he is, which is a bit novel.

Breathe in, breathe out. Rest. Repeat.

Phoenix, Platinum

i told you to be patient; i told you to be fine

Today I was up early juggling housework and ferrying my spouse to work (Happy birthday, Ralph Hogaboom!) and getting the Mercedes to the shop for some more information on the (probably) brake job. I arrived home and prepared breakfast for the kids and packed up my daughter for a two-day camping trip with my mother. I had a meeting in Aberdeen this afternoon and a few more errands (including, a friend asked me to start a knitting project for her, and I had to hunt around our somewhat sparse LYS for new needles) and so I sorted all that, then –

By the time I got home my mother, a friend, and a child I’d not yet met were on my porch. I ran about getting Phoenie ready to go and fielding unexpected (but delightful) company. And then I looked up and my girl had vanished in my mom’s minivan – in fact it had been so busy she hadn’t kissed me goodbye but once and I’d barely noticed (this kind of kills me). So anyway I took a walk with my friend and the other kiddo – who loved Nels’ company. My son in fact, is a delight especially and primarily when I have only his needs to attend to. It was nice to have a walk and talk with a friend, too.

But every day is different, and sometimes I’m ready for challenges with aplomb, and sometimes not. I don’t like to spend nights without my husband or kids. And right now I miss Phoenix so much it hurts. It will pass. I’ve been without her nights and even weeks before. As long as she’s happy where she is, I’m good – sort of logically, mentally, even emotionally. Something just aches tonight.

I know she misses me too. She called me only a few hours after we parted. She sounded fine though (“I went fishing,” her sweet little duck voice with perfect acuity). I’ll see her tomorrow afternoon. Her voice is like music to me and her body like the most familiar and welcome body I can slip into my arms and I’ve known her smell for almost a decade now and it runs through my veins.

So it’s hard to calm myself, to sleep at night without her voice while we watch films about B-movie monsters or Komodo dragons, and without her arms around my neck, and without her saying funny shit, without the sight of her and her brother and a cat (at least) all tangled in the bed in the morning. Years of memories.

Just before she left. I wanted to get a picture of her platinum/near black hair, which is fabulous. She isn’t really stricken with ennui here, I was trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get the whole business photographed well enough:

Phoenix, Platinum

Phoenix, Platinum

My little beak, I miss you so!