Ralph Cooks

10 PM: a warm oven

I remember when my husband and I used to fight a lot. In between fights, that tension we tried to ignore. Or at least I did.

Today he makes me my favorite bagels… today I think of anniversary gift after anniversary gift for him.

Ralph Cooks

Bagelz

I’m tired – my feet are tired. My back is tense. The bed calls – cool linens and warm bodies, laughter and inviting arms.

#goodnight

My Son

doing Life right

My Son's Daily How-To Booklet

Nels makes up little booklets of “how to” on how his day goes. Here’s his latest iteration – published with his permission, which is pretty cool. As you can see from the cover above, at first he wouldn’t even let me look in the book, let alone publish it here. He didn’t want photographs of the inside but he let me list the contents here:

1. Pray for this day [includes best-ever stick figure depiction of “prayer”]

2. Exercise! [another great stick figure]

3. Brush your hair & teeth [no more stick figures, guess he got tired ofd drawing them]

4. Wash your face

5. Shower

6. Eat breakfast

7. Do 5 chores

8. Listen to music

9. Play outside

AT NIGHT:

10. Watch cool movies

11. Put retainer on

***

In other news: yes, I made Nels’ “bowling-style” shirt in this photo I just took of him, before he left for a friends’ date. I don’t think I ever took pictures of it when I put it together (and when I searched on my blog, I found this piece from five years ago – #LOLsob!). It has the name “nels” monogrammed on the front left using free-motion machine-stitching. The shirt is constructed in Kaffe Fasset shot cotton, features coconut buttons from Fashion Sewing Supply, and has been washed, dried, and worn many many times since I made it:

My 10 Year Old Son, This Afternoon(Bun-Bun the rabbit’s inadvertantly-discarded raspberry at lower-right)

Today: working on a waxed canvas jacket, and prepping an awesome dinner from the Tex Mex cookbook Nels and I bought Ralph.

turn around, bright eyes

This morning the phone rang early; I answered to a small coutille shop across the country who wanted to know if I really did want their rather arcane and old-fashioned form of tracing paper. It was like: they were vetting me to see if I knew what it was for. In truth I am very happy to have found the product as, as a seamstress, my tools and fabrics are everything. And I’m going to be looking forward to that tracing paper like a huge, huge nerd.

Anyway after the brief call I hung up the phone, arose and brushed my teeth and hair, then fell back in bed.

My son was loving when he woke before I; he arose, dressed and cleaned up, and fixed himself a breakfast. Eventually he opened the door, “Mom? Do you want to get up?” Yes, yes I do.

I had trouble for the first hour I was vertically walking around. I am tapering off medicine that was prescribed to me in late May. I am feeling uncomfortable at times. I have good support. But wake-ups – a little groggy, still.

I am grateful for my family who is very patient with my limitations.

Tonight: Ralph (with a good-natured assist from Eric), busking. Today marked the official last day of the brick-and-mortar of local shop Gray’s General, which I adored. I think I was literally in there, their first five minutes being opened about two years ago. I’ve written blog posts and tutorials, hosted a class or two, and shopped for all sorts of wonderful craft this-and-that. Living where I do – with no fabric store, which is like a personal horror – Gray’s has been a well-loved experience for me. I will miss them, but I am so glad to have had them.

My daughter; looking half-grown. Today I told her to make sure to ignore any boys who were bugging her. She said, “There won’t be any kids [where we’re going].” I said, “Yeah, maybe not. But… even though you’re only twelve, men are going to start in with their stuff.” She immediately got my drift. I told her to read a book and ignore dudes who bothered her. She already knows how to do this, by the way.

A candle, lit for those in need. I told someone today, “We put other things where God belongs. We trust in things that don’t work.” Nothing is constant but that choice we have, to put our trust and our faith in something larger than ourselves and our limited understanding. This has, many times, been the only thing that has got me through.

dancing / kneeling

Today would have been my father’s 71st birthday. I miss him terribly. He taught me so much.

 

After he died I wrote his obituary – I believe I began it with his body still in the room. Re-reading it now it fucking kills me he never knew my daughter’s real name. He never knew how homeschooling would go for us. He didn’t know Ralph and I would get through some hard years and build a strong marriage.

He never saw me get sober. I don’t think my dad thought of me as an alcoholic but I know he knew I was troubled. It is only through some ministration of divinity I am not in personal agonies that he died before I could make direct amends to him.

I don’t believe he “knows” somehow, anything, now. Or that he is “with” me in some way, watching over me like those maudlin Family Circus comic strips. I believe we have been separated in some profound way and his form will never be reassembled again. “Everything dies”, and from that stark sentence springs a beauty so fierce I want to cry. From that stark sentence springs a faith that is simple and indefensible.

Sometimes I think it was my father’s gentleness, and his witness to my life that enabled me to survive so many trials. My father didn’t rescue me from so many perilous situations, but he seemed to know a lot more about me than anyone else did. I didn’t think anything I did could separate me from his love.

As he sickened and died it was my mother and I alone who stayed witness. Sometimes I think that is a bond she and I share that could also never be broken. I remember watching him in his deathbed and watching him waste away and feeling a profound, keening helplessness that was beautiful in its simplicity. I could cook or clean but nothing would change a thing. I could wait on him but he needed me less and less until he left.

I can remember the panic in my mother’s voice as my father fell into the suffocating last moments of his life, not enough oxygen. She cried out for me while holding his head to her breast. It was a horrible way to die maybe, but we do not know how exactly the body suffers, and our own time will come soon enough. There is no part of me that regrets being there. I only hope I offered him some sort of comfort, some sort of Presence, just like he’d given me.

My heart breaks to think about it. Today would have been a wonderful day to remember him in some way, besides the small slice of lemon meringue pie (his favorite) that my mother procured me. I would have liked to do more – but I was tired, preoccupied, I had a hard day of my own. I know that sometimes these milestones pass and there is only this scuffling sound and an inert sadness.

But even so: one never knows. Tonight in searching his obituary I find his Guest Book hosted by the mortuary; I had never seen these notes before. There is a glimmer of something; someone out there cares. Whatever struggles I go through, mediocre or keenly-felt, there are those who care and who are there to keep pace.

a gradual thaw

Nels and I pass the Trave-Lure in Aberdeen. “‘Aberdeen’s Finest’,” my son says, making “air-dick quotes” with his hands. I laugh – to myself – but keep quiet. I am thinking about the lives we live and how the world drives past. So many suffer and suffering doesn’t have a downtown crummy address especially; it lives in the human heart.

A moment later my boy asks, “Mom? What’s the difference between a motel, a hotel, an inn, and a cozy?” A COZY! What is this, even? And I am dying over how his voice sounds when he says the word, “cozy”. I don’t want to tell him a “cozy” is not anything in the hospitality industry, because basically I never want to hear him stop saying “cozy.”

I tell him what little I know. This leads to a frank discussion of a vacation: Nels wants one. The sun is out, first day of spring, and anything seems possible, even if it’s kind of not.

Spring. It is a little incredible to believe it is here. But it is. The buds are flowering; the air, though still cold, is changing. The sun is out and it has a favorable look.

Spring / Ocean

Nels called his father today for a favor – asking Ralph to drive out to pick up Phoenix, so we would have time to visit the “wildcats” out in Westport. Ralph didn’t know what our son meant, so asked me for the phone, to clarify. When I explained Nels meant, feral cats that live at the jetty, Ralph laughed. And of course our son took no small delight in finding, and attempting to feed, the ragtag little bunch flitting in and out of the rocks.

“This is gonna get weird. TWO cats.”

Sekrit Catz

My son reminds me that life is really good As Is. Needs no improvement, nothing to blow up bigger than it is, or try to make smaller, either.

 

yet nothing can resist it

My daughter and I hop into the pool a mere forty minutes before it’s set to close. Swim team, classes, and other lap swimmers have kept it busy, so the water has churned itself up into being cold and inhospitable. Unpleasant; but, I know after only half a length I’ll feel just fine.

Phoenix hits the water ahead of me, striking out for the other side and the shadow of the diving board. Experiencing what can only be described as a sense of bemused dismay I am stunned at how quickly she can swim, a full year since she quit swim team. She is completely confident and displays correct, if a bit choppy, technique: swinging her head to take that breath, her arms golden and sleek churning the water. Her energy makes me feel tired, but – give me a break, I still have a head cold. I follow behind and make it there, eventually. She remarks on my speed. “Give me a break,” I tell her. “I’m just learning.” Re-learning, really. But it’s been about twenty years.

We finish my half-mile at my pace, and in between my lengths she darts back and forth, easily outstripping me and the other two adults in the pool. Every now and then she pulls herself up to the side of the pool, arms folded across her long and lean belly. Her eyes like tiger stripes, long inked hair framing her serene but savage beauty.

I feel this helpless sense of something after our half hour is up, when we finally emerge from the now-empty lap pool and head for a few minutes in the hot tub. I’m thinking she won’t want to come along next time, especially with me swimming as slowly as I am (still learning to breathe properly and it’s a slog). But instead of trying to beg or hint or anything I simply lean in and tell her, “Thank you for coming with me. You are an inspiration to me as a swimmer.” She replies, “Thank you.” Fifteen minutes later in the car – hair washed, lights spangling against the windshield’s rain – she says, “I want to come with you next time.”

It has been wonderful having her home – no school this week. She is resting, drawing, helping with housework, and in general being a lovely presence. The additional sleep, and the lack of a grueling school schedule, provides her with more patience for her brother than she has shown this school year. This morning: when I wake, I find her curled up in my new oversized chair, drawing quietly and waiting for our day to start. An hour later she dresses for errands including deep plum eyeshadow and her coat with a fur-lined hood; she joins Nels and I for lunch out – and takes to a hot cup of soup with precision and hunger, like a lady.

She is nearly silent when she’s not giggling at video games or a goofy cartoon movie of her brother’s choosing. She is a flower in my home. With her blue-black hair, sharp hips, and long legs, she is a reedy and dangerous exotic orchid twining up the furniture, growing before my very eyes! I have to grab her belly or pull her down on top of me on the couch to get her to giggle helplessly and then I can see it: that brief glimpse of babyhood, the only softness left to her – a gentleness under her chin, a tender oasis hiding above her slim neck.

Rain outside; but the storm, for now, has passed. A soft bed and a warm room; cats, dogs, even the rabbit sleeping now. A bit of bread and olives; a glass of hot water and Chinese herbs.

Sleep.

sweet little baby on a big white doorstep

I’m dismayed to report that stress has gotten the better of me, just a bit. It’s not that I think I should be stress-free or anything. It’s just: I’m on that roller coaster and while I can practice some self- and other-care to help me out, I can’t just magic-wand the anxiety away.

A few times this last week I’ve been slamming awake at night just minutes after falling asleep, in a panic. This used to happen nightly; but I’d had a reprieve for a few months, thank baby Jeebus. The panic dissipates slowly over a few minutes, and I fall asleep within a half hour. Then, I sleep well (I think), but then in the morning, the last couple weeks or more, every morning, I wake up and:

How will I feed the family today? Tuesday I had put aside my Singer treadle; an acquaintance had asked us to hold it and was adamant they wanted to buy it. Then, about an hour before they were to come over, they cancelled. Now this kind of thing, to them maybe it’s no big deal, but for me: food for us for the next four days, vanished. I am not angry, though – of course not. I know that caring for my family is my responsibility, not someone else’s.

Yesterday I saw my doctor for a few issues, including some “sports” injuries, and an unrelated nerve pain in my arm. He gave me medicine for the latter and said it would help with insomnia. I thought about telling him I was experiencing stress but I kept quiet on that point since we had other things to talk about. I have a follow-up with him in two months and if I’m still having troubles, I can tell him then.

There are times in my life I find it almost impossible not to be intensely preoccupied with the struggles I have. Yes, they are real but, come on – they aren’t that big a deal, when I pull back and look at my life from the perspective of the massive, infinite Universe. I am only on this planet in this body for a minute or so! Why my preoccupation? Selfishness, really.

I do what I can to find some balance. I try to eat right, to drink my five quarts daily of water, to get some exercise, to rest up, to meditate. It is at the point that even if I rest, I don’t feel very rested. I am drained and tired. But I try to rest and eat anyway, as well as I can, and I turn my thoughts to one thing that seems to ease my mind and nurture my spirit: helping others without regard for return.

And on that note, wee kitten No-No, whom we’ve fostered a little over two weeks, is going off to PAWS on Saturday to receive her vaccinations and be made viewable to the public. Surely she will be adopted her first day in public (and if not, we will pick her up and bring her here again, then bring her back on next adoption day) so on Saturday when we drop her off and I CONFESS after we kiss her black kitty lips at eleven A.M., it will likely be the last time I get to hold her.

This is going to sound – well, who gives a shit how it sounds. What I want to say is, I am proud of my family for fostering this little kitten. She is just a little tuft of life but without our care (and the vet’s medical attention) she would have had a feral kittenhood and adult cat life, which is to say a dangerous one. As it is, in our home, she’s been well-fed, de-flea’d, and loved up almost every waking moment.

Maybe it’s precisely because times are tough, doing something I know makes a difference, it feels concrete in some way.

Some people teased me we were just adopting a kitten, not fostering it, but our foster intentions were real and still are. I am glad to let No-No have a forever home although I’m not going to lie, I will MISS HER so much.

No-No, Nighttime

Little scrap!

No-No, Nighttime

Even as I type, she prounces under my desk and swats at my feet. I reach down and she’s already purring, an anticipatory response to pleasure. I curl her up on my chest and smell her honey-fur warmth and it’s off to lie down a bit. Patience, and rest, and taking things slow.

& hoping, & planning, & praying

Today was difficult. First, I had to got to deal with a situation that has been troubling me, and take some courageous action regarding my participation (I consulted one of my spiritual advisors first). Then, someone I had eschewed online – for the sake of my own mental health – began contacting me through another medium. The former issue had me feeling trapped; the latter has me feeling invaded.

I am pretty powerless over my feelings. I can’t wish them away, and I’m no longer willing to pretend they aren’t happening. For now, I can only take helpful action, refrain from harmful action, and in the meantime – pray, meditate, and practice mindfulness. I have learned through hard-won experience that sometimes I’m not bigger than my feelings. The day I reach Enlightenment, I’ll let you know! I hope you’re not planning a party for me on that day. Alls I’m saying, you should throw me that party now. Just in case.

Payday is Wednesday, which means only one more day getting through without cash. A Twitter friend made a donation yesterday which helped a great deal. And of course, on a daily basis I get so much verbal and emotional support from friends – all of this means a great deal. I can honestly say I would not have the strength I do, and be able to help those I do, without such wonderful support.

My family, too, are inspirational. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to live with them – four of us who work hard, love one another, help one another, and play together a great deal. When I’m feeling grim they usually make me laugh. This is an incredible gift.

Nels has taken to calling me, his “little golden finch”. Today while washing his hair – he slept in until about one p.m.! No wonder my kids grow six inches a year! – he was smiling so beatifically and for so long I thought he was thinking of a video game or one of his “Little Lulu” comics. After a bit, cradling his head and pouring the water through his mermaid-tresses, I asked, “Why are you smiling?” Without missing a beat he answered, “Because I love you.”

Since today was hard I’m hoping for healing. I’m hoping for a respite, some TLC, or just a tiny break from bad shit happening so I can recover a bit. I don’t know if I’ll get this rest; it’s just my wish.

Meanwhile. Be inspired:

forever ’til the end of time

“Sometimes when I see you I feel a tiny bit strange. Then a little tiny flame ignites inside my heart. it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and I know it is extreme Love. When I see you I feel less ill.”

Nels tells me this only a few minutes after succumbing to a short bout of crying – he’d read part of a Japanese comic book where a kitten was separated from his littermate, and was struck with a sudden wrenching sorrow. His tenderness and compassion surprise me because many children his age don’t express it so openly. But then again, he has always been this way. Tonight while bathing he tells me he is sad because he crushed a moth that he inadvertently swiped at. At their young ages my children understand, or perhaps have not been programmed to forget, that all beings desire to live in safety and peace.

I tell my children I’m proud of them. Their compassion serves them well, and it will serve others well. The world is a still-suffering entity as I have much reason to know.

but they’ll never find that cure

“You are the diamond of my world,” my 11 year old daughter says to me as we get ready for bed.

I’m quiet at first because my children are often saying such niceties. Just as I’m thinking how wonderful it is to live with such demonstrative children she says,

“But you are not polished – yet.”

I ask her, “What do you mean by that?” – genuinely curious.

She pauses for so long I think she’s ignoring me. But then she responds. “Think of it like Buddhism. Like a flower that’s going to open. You are beautiful but you have not awakened the Buddha within – yet.”

I hold her close and kiss her forehead. I feel suddenly that little gap, that moment of acceptance and peace and a little bit of fatigue. I am tired and only a little bit sad but I am utterly teachable. I hold her and I ask her simply, “When will that happen for me?”

She looks at me with her tiger eyes and says slowly, as if explaining a very simple concept for the second time, “It will happen… when… it happens.”

There is not one small bit of doubt in her countenance.