A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Life as Pictures: a new leaf

Every once in a while I feel like I really nail this whole parenting thing. It’s not that I usually shuffle along and feel terrible, per se, but I don’t usually feel like I have something to feel especially good about, particularly with the quarantine and COVID. Our worlds are small, even with the kids in school, so I try to notice those moments when I’m struck by feelings of: hey, maybe I don’t totally shit the bed at raising humans.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it, but no idea when or in what context. I live and breathe with my stories. I exist in my head in a involved way. It’s only recently that I pursued some semblance of a professional thing with it. My favorite fiction writing is creating from random, spontaneous prompts. I envision complicated scenes or stories in my mind, and get to work transcribing them. When I teach creative writing, I try to communicate this practice to my students. I give them skills to effectively relay whatever is rolling through their minds. I mention this because I think I’ve managed something like that with my kids, and it’s a funny thing to me.

Little Man is six-and-a-half-ish and Warrior Queen is four-and-a-half-ish. Aren’t they a little young to be doing this story thing that I’ve always done…or for as long as I can remember, which is not as far back as one would think? My memory is spotty at best. I’m pretty sure I can’t remember before Kindergarten, and I maybe have four memories from that time. I have less from first grade. I can probably count the memories on one hand from my entire elementary and middle school experience. I might be able to poke the bear to retrieve more from middle school, but I’d have to work at it. Consequently, my concepts of time are different, as is my past. I remember feelings rather than events, and some of the events are emotionally charged. I’d like to say they are charged with happiness, but they aren’t. It’s not like I had a universally horrible childhood, but it was hard. Easily many had it worse than me, so I don’t like to complain about it, but I feel I should provide a context.

My stories were what got me through as a kind of escape. I was very good at it, and sometimes sad that I wasn’t existing in my mind to the degree I wanted to. And, sometimes I wonder if prodromal psychosis stuff was prevalent then…who knows…it’s all hindsight now anyway. I also think that my language processing limitations played a heavier role than I’d ever been able to admit for the longest time. Wrap all those things up and stuff them into a body, and there is the formation of an awkward and often unpleasant human who fed into a constant cycle of both not being treated well by peers and teachers, but also did not treat others particularly well. I was mean. Eventually I wasn’t so much mean as standoffish and lacking social skills. By high school I could perform a personality well enough. That mostly stretched to college where I had no real connections to people, but was able to entertain. When my sanity slipped and crumbled apart in my twenties, the outcome was having to reshape a person who never really existed. And, here I am today…raising children of my own.

A long time ago I discussed the importance that modeling is to kids, and how important it was to me that I liked the person they saw. That yields a deep dive into my values and what that might look like behaviorally. I’m reasonably okay with what they see, and that’s a separate conversation to have. When I’m with my kids, I inadvertently share what I love. I suppose it makes sense. I enjoy the things I love, so I would obviously partake of those activities in front of them. I guess I never really thought of me teaching them some of these things with any purpose…or maybe I didn’t think they’d internalize some of it. That’s where I am with the stories.

Since my kids were babies…much too young to know what I was saying, I crafted stories for them. They were random and unimportant. I forget most of the stories I create, and almost all of them don’t make it to paper. At some point with Little Man they became a bedtime routine. I start a story that he finishes. Then he starts a story that I finish. Warrior Queen is now at the stage of this process where Little Man began. It’s been a kind of cool thing to witness. They are good at stories, but I didn’t really think all that much about it…or I do, but I keep it to a shallow pondering that I assume is just a developmental thing that everyone does at this age.

It’s COVID-land. We’re home. It’s vacation. I intermittently have something productive and un-television related to do with the kids. Little Man asked me about these blank books I have the previous night, so I broke them out in the morning…with the stickers…Warrior Queen is passionate about the stickers.

My morning was spent at one end of the table drinking my first substantial mug of tea and eating my breakfast with a side of chocolate…because chocolate deserves a presence at all times of the day. Another rough night of sleeping, I mostly wanted to be left alone to read my smut when I eventually got to it, and enjoy my food and beverage. I’ve adopted an intermittent routine of sorts to read my magazine with breakfast and tea before transitioning to my other reading selections later on. I’m passionate about my routines, much like my son, so I was all about the eating and the reading. The kids were at the other end of the table story writing, and it was…amazing.

Little Man puts his entire Autistic body into telling his story. For those moments he’s existing through them, and it’s so very much like me. I don’t have the same stimming energy with my process, but his is on complete display, and it’s evident he’s wrapped up in his mind…in his story with his drawings. He periodically asks me for a spelling for something, but it’s this complicated creation that he’s composed. He eventually tells me the entire tale, but it’s much more muted than his creative process that I spent a good ten minutes witnessing.

Warrior Queen usually requests stickers with her story creations. To look at her book one would think she haphazardly peels stickers from one location, only to place them randomly on another, but that’s not what’s happening. She selects a specific sticker that communicates an idea, and as she’s articulating that idea, she places it on the page. Continuing on with her vision, she chooses another, and those stickers interact with each other in her mind in some way. Initially when she started storytelling this way, they would be one or two sentence deals, but now they have become more complex ideas. I do things like this in my mind as well with my process sometimes, but what I find even more fascinating is the similarities between Warrior Queen and her brother. I don’t mean this in the way in which she copies him. She has developed a similar process to creating stories where she is almost experiencing her creation and placing it on a page…like her brother…like me, and that’s just a very cool thing. I’m not really sure how they learned to do that or what they see in me to create worlds and stories this way, but they have. Maybe it’s just developmental? It doesn’t feel that way, and I hope I’m right because it’s just a warming thought to think my kids are like me in this way.

Not a New Year’s Resolution

I’d never really planned on them because they have always been a little trite to me in the abstract, but here I am…the second of the trite posts that I can’t help myself, but to write. The first is a gratitude post around Thanksgiving, though I’m not sure there was much gratitude in the one I wrote this year…I tried. The second one…this one is usually a reflection and hope for the next year. I feel that this year I need to write this more than just a vague want. That need stems from me feeling internally scattered, and maybe getting things out in my words will bolster me a bit…keep me from feeling as though my substance might fly away.

For a long while I didn’t spend too much time discussing my mental health stuff. Certainly there is a stigma with some of it, but I think part of my hesitancy is that I don’t want to sound as though I’m whining when my life is actually pretty good…maybe even objectively very good. But, then there is this other part of me that knows or has encountered so many people struggling. I have people in my life I can be open with, but that’s not always the case for others. So, maybe if I can communicate what my experience is, then someone else won’t feel alone or as an outsider…that’s the hope anyway.

I’m not unfamiliar with anxiety or depression. What I’m experiencing now is not nearly as arduous as what I’ve confronted at other times in my life, but I’ve also not had lives depending on me the way I do now. I’ve also never had another point in my life that I have virtually no time to myself. Usually it’s quite the contrary…endless time to myself balanced with a job I don’t like. But, at the very least I wouldn’t be struggling and also have a perpetual external demand placed on me and limited capacity for an outlet. I mention this because many of my coping mechanisms currently can’t function in the way in which I’ve always depended on them. That translates to a lesser severity anxiety/depression mix feeling more incapacitating than I might otherwise experience. I’m functioning, more or less, but the general struggle to get my head in the game has been grueling.

The presence of depression means that I’m not able to move how I would with my mania. I enjoy my mania…I miss my mania. All of that before I even touch the psychosis piece…or my learning disability and processing piece. And, for all I know I could still be rocking brain damage from the oxygen loss from the pulmonary embolism I had in March. Or maybe it’s all just existing in COVID land and the trauma we all have the shared experience of. That’s my head space, and it’s very hard for me to think clearly.

Historically I rely on tasks to occupy me and carry me along. That would mostly be my prison work. COVID means it will be on hold until spring at the earliest. I’m on blood thinners, so will I be able to be vaccinated? I guess I may or may not find out in February for my next appointment with the team that treated me in the hospital. I almost died from this COVID complication, so the prospect of relying on vaccination herd immunity for something that may or may not yield such a result is not something I don’t want to think about. But, who am I kidding? Of course, I’m thinking about it, and I don’t have the gray matter to spare.

Warrior Queen is too young to spend much time concerned about her school stuff. Little Man is in the first grade. Our district does a reasonable job with his education right now, but it’s not like a good job is possible. We have access. He’s more or less self sufficient and doesn’t give me a hard time. That’s a good thing because some days it takes virtually all of my reserves to help him with his meager schoolwork commitments.

I’m trying to avoid making this sound like a complaint. Mostly I just want to be honest because I don’t know that people feel they can be. My sleep is erratic. I recently learned that insomnia has been linked as an after COVID thing…lovely. Does that mean it will or will not resolve? No one knows…wheee! I’m grumpy with little patience most of the time, and I want to crawl out of my skin as a default state of being at the moment. I don’t know when it will change, other than it will at some point. My prison work will likely come back. I will also probably have some new things to glide into when all of this resolves…eventually…months from now. I wish it felt emotionally helpful to remind myself of such things.

I’m someone who likes projects. I crave them. I’ve written something like seventeen programs for the Department of Corrections in the last three or four years depending on how it’s tallied. There is a hold on new programming, so while I was about to write-up another one, there is no point in puzzling through it. I’ve been reserving some focus for remote solitary confinement programs, but with the approved one in the wings waiting to start at some point, I was hoping to see what barriers arise before constructing something new. When the approved program is implemented, it will probably be popular. I think I can probably get it in another couple of states when COVID restrictions ease, so at some point I’ll be quite busy. That will also be around the time I’m allowed back into the facilities. If I’m lucky, the federal literacy program thing will work out. I’m also building some other connections, so this isn’t wasted time. I can probably get at least one university to fund some of my work, especially if students are involved. That will also put me in a position to approach other institutions. There is a need for criminal justice reform stuff, I think. What I offer is someone who has access to facilities and active, successful programs. It’s important I remind myself regularly about all of this stuff because it’s been a devastating hit for me to have my years of hard work gone indefinitely.

None of that helps me now, though. I’m doing my political stuff. It’s important, but it also requires consistent and reliable blocks of uninterrupted time I don’t have. And, while I enjoy these political things, it doesn’t feed me in the way I need in this struggling moment in time. I’ve done little else but reflect on the last year, so what do I need from the next, at least in the short term?

I’d been vaguely planning to write a book about my prison work. I’ve published excerpts about what I’m thinking it will be like in my other blog. In my mind I wanted to be at a certain programming level before beginning that project. I was on the cusp of that point just before COVID, so…that’s on hold. I’m not really a book writer. It’s a pretty massive undertaking for me. I toil with short things. I’ve been writing more consistently the past six-ish weeks or so, which I’m endlessly delighted about. I’m partaking in a couple of short/micro story contests. I’d like to write more fiction. I struggle to sit down to write more fiction even though I love it. Then it occurred to me that I can legitimately write a story under 500 words. The past week I broke out my box of prompts and wrote three stories.

That isn’t the entire picture. I follow someone on Twitter who will self-publish a collection of short stories soon. Something like that never occurred to me, but now that it has, I think I’m going to go for it. I dug through my darkened file reserves and opened a document of various short stories…maybe I’ll include some essays and poems too. For whatever reason, people seem to like my poetry. Much like my afghans, it’s comforting to have something that I can tinker with little bit by little bit, and eventually I’ll have a book. Though, truth be told, I’m struggling to envision people paying to read things I write, but nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess…story of my life.

I need to make sure I’m doing my needle craft. I’m better about my afghan because I have it sitting on the floor next to me and my computer. I spend so much of a day sitting here sometimes, it’s more in my mind to work on it. That’s helpful. I should probably make more of an effort to find the yarn I want for another scarf and some socks. I really did enjoy those projects, and I need to enjoy things.

I’m sure there will be more savory moments, but I guess I want to mark an explicit priority to recognize them when they happen…like when I’m listening to my latest musical obsession on the computer while I crochet my increasingly massive afghan. At some point Little Man enters the room wanting the song he likes. I barter that he must finally get dressed before that can happen. Eventually he complies with another dozen instances of me nagging him. The annoyance decreased as he steps to me in his underwear to scratch my back because of how much I love having my back scratched. Clothing on he presses into me and we watch the video for the song he loves. At some point Warrior Queen stumbles in and sits on my lap that is covered by my stitching. I’m snuggled against two children listening to music while I crochet, and it’s a wonderful moment. I want to have more instances when I recognize those kind of small moments when they happen. No matter how irritable and frazzled I am, I want to be able to pause and stretch those instances for the wonders that they are. That’s been a struggle for a while now. It will continue to be a struggle, but I want to succeed in appreciating such value more times than I don’t. I want to record them in these online files because I want to feel them long after the the excerpt of time has passed. One day I’ll read through these random months and years, and I want to be transported back to the feel of my kids resting against me while my fingers move on their practiced impulse. I want to remember that even though I’m not really happy, and can’t seem to control it; I’m loved. I feel the love in every minutia of a burrowed body.

Before the hospital I was really great about stretching many days a week. For whatever reason I’ve not been able to get my act together to stretch lately. I’m middle-aged. Stretching is super important now. My routine is maybe five minutes. I don’t know what the barrier is because I love doing it. I love how I feel after. Getting started to do anything has always been a problem for me…transitions, in general, are a struggle. More than most everything else, stretching has been an insurmountable task completion that I don’t really understand, yet can’t seem to correct.

I need to get back into calling Congress weekly as well. Up until about two months ago I was super consistent. Lately it’s been hard for me to make the calls. Or, if I make the calls, it isn’t all of them. I’m in touch regularly enough with my State Senator; I hound the poor guy on Facebook all the time to the point that he periodically invites me to things. If I catch something in the moment that requires specific action…like calling or emailing my Governor or something, I can usually swing that. But, the ongoing contact has been slipping, and it doesn’t make me happy.

And, then there are the hopeful things I want to pan out. I may or may not have met a friend in my town that has the same political values as me, beyond party affiliation. We would like our town’s Democratic Party to take on certain things. I don’t have the wherewithal to head something like that, but I can definitely support it. He has the ambition to lead that kind of effort, so maybe it will turn into something. A side note, I’ve reached the age when I meet accomplished professionals that are ten years my junior…such a strange thing. I’m not so old, but I guess I’m no longer the spry spring chicken I was. And, some of that is me existing with my kids at home. My world shrank in some ways, and expanded in others, while time does this funny thing that’s hard to describe and explain.

I read a lot, and I mean A LOT…total smut these days, but very well written smut. I’ve found some authors I adore in the process. I usually have a range of things I read based on my attention span, which is a wispy thin hair these days. Consequently my higher brow, more sophisticated and more challenging of a read books cannot happen. I miss my nonfiction stuff, but can’t attend to it still. I ended up renewing my Smithsonian magazine subscription, which I haven’t had for years now. I finally received my first issue, which is full of random information goodness. I suppose that feels like progress to me. With all of my learning and probably complicated with my mental health stuff, it feels good to feel like I can return to nonfiction text, even if it’s in a limited capacity. Anything moving in the right direction is a good direction no matter how minuscule that momentum is. I looked at the Table of Contents, and didn’t know where to start, so I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any.

And, as much as I’m not a fan of outside, I think I need to try to get out more…get some fresh air. I don’t leave the house anymore unless it’s to drop-off Warrior Queen at school. But, I can feel my world getting so small. I miss my friends and the semblance of a social life I’d managed, but I’m crawling inward, I think. Lately it’s been a hardship to reach out to others altogether. I’m doing it, I suppose. If I know someone who is having a challenging time, I try to make the effort, but it takes quite a bit out of me to do it. It’s worth the effort, though. I remember when I was depressed in my twenties. I was particularly low and I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t have depression friends…people who would reach out to me no matter how I pushed them away. I’ve always been good at pushing people away, so I try to fight for others even if I’m not so terribly close to someone. I remember the desperation at the time and there was no one and no where to go until I met my husband. Nothing good happens from that kind of suffering.

That probably circles back to small things. I can do small things, and hope it’s enough for someone out there. I think, however, is that I need to start doing a better job at paying attention to myself as well. Intellectually I take notice of my life’s components; sometimes when they are happening. I recognize my dysregulation, even if I’m powerless to do anything about it. I think I need to spend the next year not letting myself get to an extreme before I’m willing to nurture myself. Maybe that will make a difference, not waiting for the bottom to completely fall away.

Asking for help too, though that’s probably not something I can tackle in the next year. It’s too hard. I’ll put a pin in that one and hope to work on it at some point.

What I really want for the next year is out of my control. I want a normal to be more…normal…maybe that will happen, and maybe it won’t. I’m hopeful to return to some normalcy where I can feel good about the tasks I take-on without it feeling like a need to regulate endless and unrelenting anxiety. The new year is poised to bring on a good deal of change on my end…for my whole family. It isn’t bad change, just change. I don’t do well with change as a general statement. I abstractly recognize I’ll be fine, but emotionally I don’t do all that well. I can’t control any of that…the change or the feeling surrounding the anticipation of it, but maybe I can control what I look forward to and what I focus on. It won’t take the nerves, sadness, or anything else away, but maybe it will keep me from sinking or staying in an emotional place I don’t want to be. So, while in the next year I hope for the things outside of myself to improve, maybe in my direct world I’ll try to focus on the progress, and the good. I’ll feel what I feel, but try to let go of the things weighing on me. I’ll try to identify what I need in any given moment or segment of time, and do my best to chase it. I can’t…or shouldn’t hope for things that are outside of what I can impact or control, so circling back to recognition of the things I can. So, while I wait for normal to be a more normal thing…eventually, I’ll take care of me a little more…a little better. I won’t pressure myself to be a way that I’ve come to unrealistically demand of myself. I’m proud of my drive and what I’ve accomplished, but at some point it becomes a torment, so I need to be practical with the entire process. If the world isn’t forcing the pressures on me, then I shouldn’t be either. Ambition is good, but it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of my peace…maybe in the next 365 that peace will feed the ambition that I haven’t been able to achieve in the distraction of misery.

Life as Pictures: Comfortable with Imperfect, but not really

I’ve probably made it moderately clear that I have my hand in (probably) too many things. I’m a strange one. I muddle through life thinking that I don’t do much with my time unless a friend happens to correct my madness or I make a list. It’s helpful to make a list. It’s kinda like when I have to periodically do a bio for something. Even when I shorthand describe what I do…or have done, I usually take a step back and even manage to impress myself with my hot shit status. I lost one of my life’s all-time closest friends a couple of years ago, and that’s how he described me when I managed my latest credential. He was proud of me, even though it was never something very impressive in my eyes. I come from a high achieving family…another credential is more of an expectation than something spectacular. As is, my own achievements are more acceptable than anything registering some kind of wow factor.

For most of my adult life I’ve been involved in all kinds of social community service things…as many as I could swing with full-time work. Political activism has been new since 2016…I’m a little ashamed it’s taken me so long to be involved, but I suppose it’s better late than never. I’d never phonebanked before or anything like that, but the more I put myself out there, the more things seem less scary. I’ve been phone and text banking for a while now thanks to an activist friend I met on social media. She hooks me up with all kinds of things. If not getting me directly connected with a campaign, she points me in the right direction with organizations…like the Human Rights Campaign. Not everything pans out as a regular gig, but I usually manage something consistent with a side of other things. With COVID that’s taken a hit, like with postcarding, and with the slog of things, I haven’t been as active as I really wanted to be, but I guess I’ve been taking some part.

One of my regular phonebanks was the Jamie Harrison campaign…a lovely experience. There was something comforting committing to each Saturday for a couple of months. I don’t always communicate with organizers, but I did for this campaign, and there is something just…snug about tapping into these kinds of communities of workers. Like I’m part of something right and important. I’d been using this kind of stuff to help me manage my anxiety. Though I never rebounded to the levels I was at from before my hospital situation, the calls added up. I think I ended up with 800 calls made for Jamie, plus however many texts. I know there are people who do so much more than what I was capable of, but I’m not on the sidelines, and that’s important to me…and I’m with other people not on the sidelines. I happen to be especially good at phonebanking, I think. That’s surprising to me, but I guess it shouldn’t be. It’s probably my favorite campaign specific activity to do.

I’ve never bought campaign-ware, so this was an exciting purchase…though not all that flattering…unless I want a Fans Only account or a spot on pornhub. I’ve always been blessed with the girls, but after all of my pregnancy losses, the ladies became HUGE and have yet to go down. I suppose they have a little, as I can squeeze into a G-cup, but it isn’t pretty. Blessings from COVID; I haven’t had to wear a bra for eight-months. I wear this shirt around the house or when I’m going to have some political fun, but with the way the lettering is I look like my chest has its own gravitational pull. Consequently, unless something dire changes, I will not be wearing this shirt out in public.

We’ve been taking some walks around the neighborhood (Yea me!). I’m inconsistent with them still, but I’m better than I used to be. Considering my baseline was the basement, up was really the only way to go. But, it was November, and November is my favorite month. It’s the time of year when the trees are almost naked. The skies are often overcast on the cusp of rain, and the wind gust invigorating without that frigid bone chill that will be present the next month.

It’s been such a strange passage of time, probably for almost everyone. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s as though time has passed, but it doesn’t seem like it has. I’d been saying that my kids will probably be remote by Thanksgiving, and that time is this vicinity…and with the cases dramatically increasing at my son’s school, we are probably a breath away from the remote benchmark. That will be sad for him…for Warrior Queen too when it inevitably happens. I’d been anxious sending the kids to school, but there were no cases in either town by late summer. Our Governor likes to drag his feet with inaction until someone twists his arm into doing his job. Even then he’s fortunate that our Congress is more on the ball. So…here we are…about to be remote…again…it is what it is. I guess I’m grateful that my kids managed some degree of contact with civilization while it was still safe to do so.

And, then there are the random, weird days where you might have the first snow of the season that is more than a flurry. The ground isn’t frozen yet, so this won’t stick long, but it’s enough to delight the kids.

Warrior Queen was without her sometimes beloved brother for this event, but the snow she hounded me to play in the entire morning proved to occupy her for an hour. Mostly she was running through it, and it’s absolutely delightful to watch her run. Warrior Queen is fast, outrunning so many boys older and larger than her. But, the best part is that she will have this determined, serious look on her face as she sprints to nowhere…a purpose I’m sure will grace her features at other points in her life as I’m sure it does mine.

Warrior Queen is a collector. I refer to her as the junk man from the shtetl. Part of her collections consist of various containers housing the sparkly beads that she prizes from the plethora of jewelry she’s made. Sometimes she simply persists in schlepping whatever we thought we already threw in the trash months ago. That’s the thing with our kids. We can’t throw away anything, or if we do, it’s a stealthy maneuver riddled with too many failed attempts. I keep telling my husband that he can’t just ditch things in the regular trash. Inevitably one of the two cherubs will see it and manage to resurrect whatever broken object they had totally forgotten about, but suddenly can’t live without. Buying gifts is such a challenge too because we have to consider what garbage either kid will want to squirrel away for their collection. As creative as I can be, I’m never quite up to snuff when trying to guess what random object will be revered as a priceless treasure left for me to step on because of its status reserved for the middle of our most traveled house walkways.

I really enjoyed this scarf project. I didn’t think I would. Like a lot of my fiber things, it’s mostly about what would eat through my stash. I had several skeins of self-striping sock yarn I didn’t know what to do with. I’ve always found the self-striping yarn better in theory, yet always manage to collect them because I, apparently, can’t help myself…in case anyone was wondering where my kids get their junk collecting tendencies. I was quite sad to see this project end. The remaining yarn went into a pair of ankle socks (also a project I was sad to see end). I would have thought that the distance from the completion of my sock yarn scarf would allow me to stop lamenting it, but alas… I finally went online to see if it was worth buying some more random ones to make another scarf I tell myself I’ll wear, but ultimately won’t. So, what is that, the precontemplation stage? As much as I’m hedging, I know full well I’ll be buying the yarn to make another scarf…and a pair of socks. I give myself such a hard time about these things because apparently there aren’t more worthy things to torment myself about.

The socks are done. I have them exhibited in my last post, but I like this picture. I’m back to working on my giant granny square-esque afghan, which is fun, but huge at this point, and it will only get bigger. Unlike the socks and scarf, I can’t sit with it outside. But, while I can consider the fiber craft pragmatism to keep my hands busy while the kids play, argue, and whine outside; there is also a kind of sadness to the situation.

I miss taking the kids to the after school library activities. Little Man especially loves the Lego Club, and Warrior Queen at the very least just liked playing with the kids. So, while they would play, I’d sit on an uncomfortable stool and drape my afghan over my legs…a good project for the cool building. A really uneventful and small memory, but it was a time not that long ago…just before COIVD. Those were days when I didn’t feel like a terrible, neglectful parent. They were days before the blood clots stormed my lungs, almost killing me. They were the days when I was still teaching and feeling like things were good. Things are good now, I suppose; just different. Pulling out the afghan is a kind of comfort project. They always have been because I’m forever cold and it’s a way to bundle up in a colorful mass stitching away.

But, now it’s a grief project of sorts. Actually, these afghans take so long and follow me to so many places and tasks that they are life projects in a way. They become a weird piece of me…weird because I’m not really spiritual or whatever…but sometimes it feels like the life I’m living while I create each stich is woven into the very fiber. And, with this creation is an extra something, maybe an emotional communication through tactile impressions, that the eventual finished blanket will provide. Then again, it’s probably my overactive imagination. But, I do like sitting in whatever online meeting and having its weight on my lap. I listen or escape or just drift in my mind. Those moments when I’m itchy just under my skin and ready to scream, my fingers move and I’m not thinking.

Moving past precontemplation and out of desperation, I’ve been attempting to buy some more of the self-striping sock yarn I loved so much for another scarf and some socks, but literally everything is sold out. It’s unreasonable how disappointing that is for me.

Disappointments or not, phonebanking returned. I’ve become so efficient at getting through with the campaign volunteering stuff, I guess, that the Georgia Senate runoff scheduling has become very confusing. I cast a wide net because I often don’t hear back from people or organizations. I think my net is a little too wide this time, so the emails have been convoluted to track because campaigns and political entities utilize similar registration sites. I think I finally managed to figure things out…it’s only been a month.

Life is a funny thing too. I tend to be exceptionally hard on myself, as I mention often enough. I don’t have all that much time, especially for something where I can’t really have interruptions. For the general election I managed a teeny tiny amount of volunteering for the cause of voter protection in one of the target states. I’d been irrationally beating myself up because of this personal perception that I didn’t do a good job…or enough. I ended up receiving an email from that effort asking me to help out in GA. So, I’m banking for two campaigns (maybe?) and voter protection, which is fun.

I think I finally managed to figure out the technological stuff too. It’s all pretty similar, but…not. Sometimes it’s a hindrance that I can’t use my cellphone for some of this stuff. I don’t have reception or data on it, so it’s a total nonstarter as a means for any kind of task outside of texting my friends during desperate moments without cookies, which has posed a barrier from time to time. Now and again it’s been frustrating to finally manage to hear from someone only to realize that my method options are completely and irreconcilably incongruent with how they do things. And, I’m a minority with these issues, so it’s not like I can kvetch too loudly without looking obnoxious. It doesn’t happen often, but I still am pins and needles when there is a particular effort I want to take part in.

Often enough I’m just volunteering for a bunch of things that are either some kind of social cause or a specific political opportunity. I’m usually reaching out without any particular focused desire aside from a general wish to be part of a solution or movement in the right direction. Every once in a while there is this deep want. The want scares me because it’s such a hit for me emotionally when I can’t swing it for whatever reason.

None of that helps my random, yet consistent irritability that I’ve been nurturing for…What day is it? It turns me into an award winning parent who barely holds it together when I’m interrupted by inane chatter that is the nature of small children. It’s just so constant and I’m so tired…and stressed in a way that’s hard for me to quantify…or even qualify. It just is.

And, it’s such an uncontrollable thing that may or may not alleviate easily. Little Man wants a story. I’ve been rereading the same paragraph of a book I enjoy for fifteen minutes because of interruption after interruption with a side order of more interruptions. It’s the second children’s tale I’ve been asked to read. A lot of text, which makes reading aloud a challenge in this brain funk fatigue thing I’ve got going on. If I’m honest or willing to put a formal name to it, it’s probably a COVID inspired low grade depression. But, I do like the book, so I comply with only mild guttural grumbles. I liked the other text heavy story as well. Both haven’t managed off the shelves for a while. I read that one too. And, one kid snuggles up to me, periodically kissing my hair, and I just needed that in the moment without realizing. Then the other child nestled into my other side, and it’s sweet…until someone farts, which is not sweet and not what I needed. I laugh easily anyway, so of course farting is hilarious…because I’m a child myself, and that was something I needed as well. The levity didn’t last long, but I’ll take whatever moments I manage because my life is a serious of relentless moments. I want to feel better. I don’t know what it will take, or I do…normal…to rewind time…to recover…to…impossible yearnings. In the absence of all of that, I don’t know what it will take. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure it out.

Consequences and Progress

I have a friend who is a member of the Cherokee Nation and grew up on a reservation. He’s a guy that had to learn English while attending community college and served in the military. He’s a doting father and thoughtful man…considerate…accepting. He always took my shtick and accepted it despite my prickly, push away edges. That’s just him. I was a lowly philosophy undergrad while he was enrolled in the PhD program. He’s a professor now…an activist, and all around good guy. He isn’t the only person I know who has membership among the First Nations, but we know each other in a unique kind of way comparatively. I don’t think he holds the same beliefs as the statistical majority of Native Americans, but I think I understand why he holds the views he does. Thinking about the world view of Native Americans within the context of political and other dynamics is challenging for me to conceptualize in some respects.

For one thing, my friend tends to support political candidates that most other Native Americans I see do not. I get why that is, and it’s really a simultaneously interesting and depressing rationale. Part of his belief system is that he doesn’t really think all that highly of Americans as a general thing…similar to some of my own rubs with people holding the power as a majority demographic when it directly impacts my own existence. So, when one politician generally lies, but half-heartedly apologizes, his vantage point is that most Americans don’t even go to that meager extent, so he accepts it as it is and moves on based on what he will assume is some kind of inevitable broken promise.

He’s a smart and informed guy. He will acknowledge concerns I express about candidates he supports, but there is this overarching shrug quality to it. I’ve spent some time thinking about this. I also think about how he isn’t really all that knowledgeable about pretty glaring issues surrounding people he supports. Some issues might not be a huge deal in the grand scheme, but some actions of people he endorses I know are highly problematic and conflict with his strong belief system. In his mind, however, I’m sure it’s a shrug and dismissal that whatever person is an American, and Americans behave like Americans.

I also consider a larger issue that he is actively living in a country and culture that continues to oppress and commit genocide against his and other tribal nations. And, I consider that if I were in such a situation where the Nazis that had systematically exterminated my ancestors were still alive and well and continuing to run the show, I probably wouldn’t be able to or care too much about immersing myself in the minutia of political dynamics. Even if the super overt genocidal policies ceased, I might be involved in reform efforts and political activism, but there is only so much I’d be able to separate from my own identity and existence from those actively and continuing to oppress me. I know we have other issues in this neighborhood with other marginalized groups, but I think this particular state of being is unique to the communities in which people like my friend belong.

I asked him some time ago where he is emotionally and intellectually with the celebration of Thanksgiving, knowing that he doesn’t always mesh with what I’ve come to understand of the statistical majority of other Native Americans. Certainly there is the respect owed of teaching and discussing the true history colonialization and genocide by settlers, but beyond this particular action, my friend focuses on the concept of gratitude, which is very much in line with his heritage and belief system as a member of the Cherokee Nation.

I have heavy things to be thankful for this year, but I’m tired of heaviness. I’m thankful for some of the same things that more than 80 million others are expressing gratitude for and all that entails. I’m thankful I’m alive to be here another day…another year…I nearly wasn’t. I feel obligated to express my nod to those very big deals, but I’m also exhausted to have that be the focused end all and be all of my thoughts.

I’m grateful that I finished the knitted socks I’ve been working on in time to celebrate the holiday, which is just an odd thing because it doesn’t actually matter that I’m wearing them for Thanksgiving. There is nothing Thanksgivingly about them, but I suppose I do love a milestone, as arbitrary as it is. I’m very proud of this project…two different remainder self-striping sock yarn skeins combined together, and they turned out much better than expected. Turning the project into ankle socks was definitely a good way to go. They are warm and imperfect, but big picture they look nice and no one but me knows of the problems that I encountered and had to fix at the end…knitting has a lot of life lessons. Now it’s onto the crocheted blanket I haven’t touched for months that continues to loiter on my shelf.

I’m thankful that although my prison work is on hold for an undetermined time yet to come, it eventually will return…I think…I hope.

I’m super stoked that my State Senator keeps inviting me to all these meetings and things. I rarely feel all that important, and this doesn’t mean that I am, but it’s cool to me that I’m seen as someone that should be asked to participate in something. More and more I’m consulted and invited to things, which is such a strange situation for me. Mostly I muddle along and do whatever, and someone contacts me or something and asks for a conversation, particularly as it pertains to prisons and criminal justice reform. I get that I know things. It really isn’t about that. I’m not sure how to describe what it is about. I suppose I’m just humbled. Humbled to be considered.

In that same arena, because everyone is remote due to COVID, I’ve been able to participate in meetings for a nonprofit that focuses on poverty and homelessness. I’m thankful I have the opportunity to be present at more of their meetings where I learn of legislation initiatives and social programming. There is no established causality for crime, but the highest correlating factors are societal exclusion and poverty, especially as it pertains to gangs. So, while I very much committed myself to directly working alongside and within a corrections system, a while ago I’d pressed myself to also work toward addressing something affiliated with those two correlating factors. Poverty was an easier one for me to attach myself to because it’s clear to see the structure and affiliations. Periodically I touch on societal exclusion, like with access to visitation, communication outside of facilities, and voting rights, but mostly my secondary issue that I focus on is poverty. I can’t say that I do a whole lot, but I like to do at least something.

My kids and I were volunteering at our town’s food bank before COVID, and while we will resume when it’s once again safe, I like knowing that I can manage something while still remaining mostly homebound. It’s really just small things, but life has taught me that committing to small things inches us forward. I don’t know where we grasped this idea that the world becomes a better place with one neat hat trick, but it seems to be the impression among too many. The reality is that we all keep our collective noses down and do our small things toward the greater good…whatever we can manage whenever we can. Over time the landscape changes and we are in a different place, ideally a better one. I have three massive crocheted blankets to attest to that kind of progress, as well as some other things I’ve managed in my work and life. It’s always stunning to me the impact of small gestures. In some ways the small human gestures linger the most.

I’m grateful for new friendships. I’m especially grateful for the friends I’ve made that have pushed me to consider my own belief system and values. And, with those thoughts I can see the gifts that they bring to me and my life. I’ve also been able to let go of things that I didn’t think I was holding onto. Healing is a powerful thing. That also is a gift.

I’m grateful that my son loves his stories. I’ve had to come to terms, accept, and try to love my neorodivergence…some days and things are easier than others. I grew up with and continue to rely on the stories I create in my mind. Little Man and I trade stories every night. One story I begin and he finishes. The other story he begins and I will end. He’s very good at it, though I’m not sure what a six-and-a-half-year-old would typically produce. I’ve always been worried about what traits of mine would pass onto the next generation. I’m less consumed by it now that it isn’t a concept anymore, but an actual person existing. But, to share these stories that are very much a piece of me is just a cool thing. I don’t know what it could possibly mean for the future, but just to have the connection is what I appreciate most. What’s even more nifty is that Warrior Queen is starting with it as well in the same way that Little Man did, so I like that I might have two children with their proclivities for storytelling like their mommy. I don’t reflect on implications beyond that. I’ve just always enjoyed seeing the things I taught demonstrated. I’ve seen it in my students, and it’s a similar experience with my kids. Whatever they do with it is theirs to own, but I like seeing that my fingerprints aren’t so quick to disappear in these small ways that may very well be irrelevant in the grand scheme to everyone but me.

So, as always, much to feel thankful for. I usually try to make some of my gratitude expressions humorous and light, but I feel I failed in that respect this year. In my life I strive to laugh as much as possible and I’m largely successful, but maybe as I’m finally resuming with my writing after too much time off, I have more unfunny things to say than funny as I reflect on the last year. I’m lighter these days, sure, but funny…? I guess my snarked quips will be reserved for the rantings to my persistent friends and the new ones I’ve recently collected. I don’t know if they will be grateful for such things, but I know I am.

A Lifetime of Miracles

When I was on the cusp of hoping for a third…one in a long line of failed early pregnancies, I’d often ask myself how many miracles are possible in a lifetime. I determined one. Little Man was my miracle.

Looking out to our backyard internally reminiscing about the early evening I’d learned I was pregnant after five ardent months of trying…two years of not so ardent attempts. I held onto the information for a couple of hours waiting for my husband to finish a task of rigging some kind of underground sprinkler system…he’s good at that kind of thing. And, then he was informed; our lives changing forever.

My first appointment at eight-ish weeks I was told definitively that I would lose the pregnancy. The doctor hailing his insight of twenty-five years of experience. The pregnancy I’d been ambivalent about for years was suddenly devastating to lose. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, my entire view of myself and the world changed.

I had to wait a week for the confirmation that I’d lose Little Man…before he was Little Man. I hoped for, but didn’t expect a miracle during one of the longest spans of time I’ve experienced. When I kept losing pregnancies after Warrior Queen’s birth, but hoped the bleeding was something benign, a part of my already accepted I’d had the one miracle I was allowed. I tried to be grateful for what I had and let go of what wasn’t meant to be. I still try; if I’m honest, the mindset is not all that successful most of the time. And, as I continue to nurse about thirty pounds of extra weight from two years of losses, my gratitude is not where I tell myself it should be.

I’ve had other miracles in my life; I’ve probably forgotten some as well. Certainly my latest miracle that I’m alive today to feel sad and struggling to find meaning like I do from time to time. On top of that is probably the miracle that sometimes my pursuit of meaning yields something definitive…as it quickly fades when I look to the next step into whatever impossible thing I want to achieve.

Professionally I’m known to work miracles, though they aren’t really miracles. Just knowledge, skill, and hard work, maybe a little luck as well.

My kids are miracles, which everyone says about their kids. I suppose there is a reason for that. To me the miracle is in that they reflect the parts of me that are frightening, but in their existence I’m able to love those pieces because of the way in which my children embody them. I’ve had a lifetime struggling to love myself…all of myself. And, as much as my children frustrate me with their quirks and need to establish their identities, seeing myself through their eyes is a gift I didn’t expect. I teach them things, but it’s what they see from me…who I am through their lens and behavior is something I didn’t see coming. I’ve always known that modeling is probably the most important thing I could do. But, I didn’t account for that fact that I’m seen in ways I didn’t realize, and I’ve had to force myself to see me through their eyes. It’s humbling and uncomfortable, but it’s also what they connect with. Things I didn’t see myself doing or behavior interpretation I didn’t consider, but that’s probably what parenting is.

My husband is a miracle. My younger life spanning through most of my twenties was not easy. And, though things continue to not be easy in other respects, I still carry the burdens of that earlier time. Some of these are burdens I didn’t realize existed until I forgave myself. I’m fairly intensely learning disabled, though I don’t really know how to frame the context for that kind of thing. I was insecure about it for a very long time, and carried so much shame about what I couldn’t do.

And, then there was when my mental health deteriorated in a sometimes dramatic progression in my late teens and continued as a young adult. I’ve spend decades making mistakes and having to relearn, or flatly learn things I should have already known, especially as it pertains to social skills. I’m probably at a level that is as good as it will ever be, which is mostly okay. But, I think back to meeting my husband. There was always something about him that was so very different from everyone else I met and subsequently pushed away. He’s always seen the worst of me. But, he’s always loved me for me…quirks and all because it’s me, not despite. That kind of love and acceptance is a miracle, and one I don’t take for granted.

I eventually learned to open myself up more, though I expect I’m still guarded. I learned to lean into myself with a kind of pride, and with that pride is some laughter for the things I don’t understand or can’t do. I’d like to say that my insecurities vanished with middle-age, but that isn’t remotely true. I learned the miracle of loving more for the sake of loving, and that’s prompted additional loss for me…and the moments when I ceased avoiding the feelings of my losses from a lifetime ago. The pain leaves something lively, like a memory. And, as I can feel tears streak down my face at random times recalling them, maybe for the first time I’ve felt that some of the emptiness faded. Like part of my life isn’t a void, and it’s just this opening of feeling, which is a miracle in and of itself for someone like me.

It isn’t as though I wait around for miracles. I tend to think of them as an impossibility…something fanciful and not useful to consider. Thinking back on all of the many miracles in my life that might be more miraculous in hindsight than what the experience was at the time. Mostly any recollection I might have is triggered by something tangential and vague. I brief moment. An expression. A sound. Something insubstantial in and of itself. And, if I were to attempt to catalogue all the miraculous events in my life, I’d struggle to recall them in their entirety. Maybe part of the miracle is that I can retrieve the feeling or thought when I need it most? Perhaps miracles aren’t so much a happy thing, as they are a necessary awareness and peace?

The Fox

I exercise for a good chunk of time, which often is disturbed throughout, though it’s rare that I have to completely abort the movement. So, one weekend morning I find myself elliptical paddling and reading my book as I do during these lovely life luxuries.

I hear a loud bang that sounds like a gunshot…but I live in the suburbs and while there are hunters around, my neighborhood is not one of those places to find them in the midst of their hunting activities. Any other reason for shots fired outside my home would be the understated anomaly.

It was so sudden and out of nowhere that I dismissed it as what it was and inquired if my kids dropped something or questioning a large item crashing to the ground. The kids had no idea what I was talking about, and I assumed they were lying, but had no idea why they would. Whatever…no one was crying and the house was still standing.

I move along…because that’s what I do. The doorbell rings, and I battle the collective of mosquitoes on the other side of the door to see a rather disgruntled, quiet young police officer his six feet away.

There was an injured fox near the end of its life in our narrow woods just out front that lumbered closer to our home. The mysterious fallen item was, in fact, a gun shot where the officer ended the animal’s suffering…sort of. It ended up dying under our porch soon after it was shot.

But, a door ring is excitement in our parts, so I had a Warrior Queen under my feet as I’m opening the door. She felt compelled to ask the man questions that he probably couldn’t understand because four-year-olds live in their own conversational reality.

I missed some of what the officer said as I’m swatting mosquitoes and shushing the unshushable Warrior Queen. What I did gather is that the dying/soon to be deceased animal was “somewhere” under our porch and a call was made to some nebulous town agency to (hopefully) tend to it. At some weird point the door closes and I resume my exercise while Warrior Queen chatters about the events to her brother, inevitably miscommunicating the situation as she does best. This prompts Little Man to ask me for clarification. My life is in a constant state of providing my six-year-old gruesome details to every iota of anything I don’t want to discuss.

Mid teasing out of details, the door beckons me once again, but this time I have two children at my heel along with the mosquitoes. Our sky-scrapingly tall neighbor and the officer tried to no avail to remove the fox. Both of my kids are passionate about our neighbor. Once he is on their conversational radar, there will be commentary galore about him for a week, so as I’m trying to talk to the officer…with Little Man asking questions on top of me and Warrior Queen dictating inaccurate information about what is occurring (and, of course, the mosquitoes), I learn very little, but I’m confident that our neighbor will be the focus of child conversation for the next week.

At some point we were outside to play…away from the porch sheltering a certainly dead fox. My husband and I discussing what to do because it’s a weekend. Do these state agencies responsible for fox removal report on weekends, especially a Sunday? My husband managed to find the fox our neighbor and the officer could not among piles of leaves and dark. For better or worse, as we sat out under a clouded sky, the corpse of a shot fox with, apparently, mange was laying in the open to make it easier for town retrieval. Fortunately, the kids decided that in the moment they wouldn’t nurture their whims of independence and assertiveness, so we spent virtually no time keeping them away from the carcass.

My husband wanted to bag the animal and place it in the trash that would be taken the next day. I commented that there is possibly a special location housing wildlife that meet their ends in some fashion or another. It was in those lazy discussional moments that a town truck backed into our driveway. With a brief discussion fizzling into an awkward and uninspiring finish, the woman unceremoniously carried the fox to a tarp in the back of her truck. And, there concludes some of the most exciting bits of our home isolation since I returned from the hospital.

Life as Pictures…and the award goes to…

On a good, non pandemic day I seldom feel like I’m winning parenting awards, but these days…whew, am I not feeling good about it. I’ve managed some moments here and there, though. And, while I’m not super duper in creating magical summers with nothing but a wing, prayer, glitter, and bad intentions; I here and there manage to stumble my way into a solid, non television activity.

The first full day I was home from the hospital in mid March things hadn’t quite shut in on themselves, but there were ominous rumblings of inevitability. As such, I realized that I had no supplies to entertain almost four- and six-year-olds exclusively at home indefinitely. And, when I say that I wasn’t prepared, I’ll illustrate the dyer situation by mentioning that we did not house child scissors. So, out I went and bought shit I thought the kids might like, but I really had no idea if they would. I still don’t.

Here I am five months later and I’m grateful to have bought some decent stuff. The struggle to walk through the store that day well worth having my closet peace of mind. The most popular activity I managed were beaded bracelets and necklaces, which isn’t something I totally divined. Both kids were passionate about making and hoarding them in preschool, and Warrior Queen does like to dazzle with her fashion choices. Little Man just wants whatever she has, be it a necklace or unicorn item he never expressed interest in prior to the moments that his little sister is happy with it.

We currently have pipe cleaner bracelets and fancy-shmancy necklaces galore inconveniently gathered on all kinds of flat surfaces, which frustrates my husband, but I internalize as my own personal Rocky library moment…I can practically hear the music now, and I would relish the athletic expressive accomplishment if I wasn’t confident I’d pull a hip in the process.

Stair Climb: Get Your Rocky Balboa On and See L.A. From Above Los ...
Who doesn’t salivate having such moments?

The beads were so popular that not only would they consume a good two or three hours of relatively appropriate occupation the first day, but even when I replenished supplies, the kids were requesting and busy with these damn things for a few consecutive days in hours long clips. I’m the fucking champion, friends. I have two Masters degrees, and I’ve never felt so accomplished as managing these campy crafts.

And, let me say that there is no better delight when the kids are working to bejewel each other and anyone they might happen upon…a welcome chatter from the wrestle mania that has been my existence for longer than I can stomach. Kidding aside, it’s been so internally miserable for me at times that hearing the generosity my kids have in plenty provides a light that I desperately need. While I know they have this kindness capacity, sometimes it’s hard to remember because of where my head can be all too often. I’m not really one to languish and remain in these negative spaces if I can help it, but organically it’s not something I can necessarily help. Certainly I’m experiencing the external stressors that so many of us are in this historical moment, but I also have brain stuff that rumbles on its own. I’m practiced in letting it ride through, and while I intellectually know this isn’t a weakness, I feel it as such when I least need to. It’s hard to shake childhood and adolescent perceptions of intense emotions. And, when my mental health trajectory began its pace, it’s been a process to embrace the person I’ve become. It also doesn’t help that I’m rocking some insomnia. Sleep deprivation is never a helpful experience…for anyone.

It’s an interesting thing, though. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the way we change; how life and goals change. I loved school when I was in college. LOVED it. I’d mapped my success to be a college professor, hoping to attend a PhD philosophy program. I recognize now that I didn’t want it badly enough. I work for things I want badly…not that I always achieve my goals, but I’m a pushy, persistent kind of person. My MEd was not a good experience, aggravated with the labile mood stuff that began to diagnostically hit in my late teens…then the psychotic break happened around those MEd days. And, my path was relearning all kinds of things…or learning them for the first time. I’ve never been too terrific with my social skills.

When I returned for my MSW, I thought that I would return to loving school because I was in a better life place. Not the case. I LOATHE being a student. If I needed another degree for my work, I’d suck it up and push through, but it’s not easy. My brain doesn’t allow it to be easy, even if my grades are usually reasonable.

In any case, the past couple of decades have been spent forgiving myself for things that aren’t an error. I get why these moments are so hard for me. I recognize it’s no one’s fault in terms of managing a situation that is in a big picture most definitely someone’s fault. But, it’s hard to escape the internal criticisms of personal weakness. So, when my kids are so kind…so caring on their own, I manage to feel the glow of doing something right. Little Man walking up to me talking about how he crafted something just for me with his kind Autistic brain. Telling me how much he loves me. When he offers to scratch my back saying he knows how much I love it, and Warrior Queen requests to do the same for the very same reason; maybe I’ve done something right. I do very much like a good back scratch. Warrior Queen is especially good at them.

I mentioned that I’m exceptionally stressed lately for no real reason other than I’m mostly a head case with relatively charming wit; I hit one of the many peaks a few weeks ago. Although I have a massive afghan I’m working on, I haven’t taken it out for a long while. I’m sure if I pulled it out, I’d go to town and be a less miserable person, but it hasn’t been speaking to me and it’s getting huge and cumbersome to hide somewhere alone to work on it. Without fail, the kids nurture their most annoying sides as soon as I’ve spread out, and it’s not a pleasant thing to find my way out from under it once I’ve managed to find the section I’m working on. I’m not sure why all of that is so terribly annoying these days, but it is. So, the afghan project is sitting on a shelf mocking me in its colorful exuberance.

I’d finished a random yellow knit scarf, and I think felt a little lost after that. That will be a strange statement to people who don’t do these kinds of needle crafts; those who do will feel seen in that statement. I learned to knit as a kid and picked it up again for (mostly) good about fifteen years ago. I’d stopped when Little Man was born for a host of uninteresting and mostly obvious reasons. I hadn’t touched it until the needles and light yellow yarn color I would never select were pushed in my hands. It felt like coming home. I finished that scarf and my hands were kind of…empty. I love to crochet, grateful I was finally able to learn when I was pregnant with Little Man, but I haven’t been feeling it. I’ve been disconcerted for so long that I think I just need to feel some kind of comforting home…in my home, which is totally bedlam at all times these days.

I’m not a big fan of self striping yarn; I feel they are a total scam. They never look right, yet I can’t seem to help myself when there is a sale. As I write this I’m wondering if there is some kind of self-help group; there has to be. I can’t be the only one who feels compelled to purchase yarn they know they won’t like in an actual project. But, support group or not, the result is the same; I have a collection of various festive, and not so festive self striping sock yarn in a bin collecting moths…maybe…on second thought they likely want to stay as far away from the foundation shaking bustle of our homestead as possible…though the spiders and ants haven’t received that particular memo.

My friends know me for my ingenious color projects in trying to chew through my yarn stash bins. While I’m probably overstating the ingenious part, the afghans almost exclusively from my remainder collection have turned out quite lovely. Returning to one of my peak cusp meltdown mentalities, I decided to dive into these horrible self striping yarns to make another scarf…because what moderately advanced knitter doesn’t love a good scarf project!

This kind of yarn always looks better in the skein than in the project, but there is something about moss stitch that is magical…probably why it’s my absolute favorite despite its simplicity. For those into the craft, this is six moss, two stockinette row in repeat. It can’t be seen, but the texture effect is ripply in depth and pretty amazing; even the back looks decent.

This project has been a blessing because when I’ve been most jittery…all the time these days, it seems, this scarfing yarn gamble has grounded me. I don’t work on it for very long, but I chip away most days, especially enjoying it when I’m outside. The beauty of the project almost distracts from the pale, translucent quality of my legs…almost.

Like I’ve found for most things, small efforts over time move things along. I’m almost finished with the second skein (Little Man indicates that the blue looks like an ocean.), and it looks better than I figured it would. Maybe that’s another life lesson on optimism and perseverance, but I’m too tired dwell on either one in a non bitchy way. In any case, blue is my favorite color, and that makes me happy…until one of my kids smacks the other. At that point it doesn’t matter because I leave the room and lock myself in the bathroom…but not before I snag some chocolate. I’m not an animal, after all.

Not everything is a successful project, however, even when I think it will be. I took the kids outside to gather nature debris to make sculptures. Total flop; not in an epic way, more like a stale fizzle.

They enjoyed the walk for the most part, which is a win of sorts, I suppose. The project itself was a resounding meh. Warrior Queen was at it longer, but shortly after she manged to glue everything down, she ripped it off and littered all the particles on the floor…but not before making sure she crumbled everything as close to dust as she could possibly manage. This was following the success of the beading. I was much too cocky.

We do a lot of reading as well…or I’ll call it “a lot” because it makes me a feel like a better parent. What’s “a lot” for this age? We read most days anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour depending on the stories selected and the motivation of one kid. It doesn’t matter which one because once the investment in half of my small brood is established, it becomes a ridiculous competition of reading, and Little Man decided he wants to reread the Bunnicula series. This situation isn’t a complaint, but I’ll mention it can be hard for me to read aloud with my language processing stuff. The insomnia can make it a challenge to see the print as it’s on the page. Much to my son’s disappointment, he finally relented that I can really only read aloud to him in the mornings and early afternoon when I’m most fresh.

Some of the stories they select are fine for the evenings, but they are older kids now…sometimes they like books with much more text…complicated text. My son is all about anatomy, so as a potty training incentive, he asked for another one of these medical books. He doesn’t always request that I read them to him, but when he’s in an obsession phase, there will be days that he’s snuggled into me while I attempt to read small print that makes me painfully aware that I probably need reading glasses at this middle-aged point. But, even with the glasses, there are words in this thing that I absolutely can’t read, but apparently he can because he corrects my mistakes of missed words and fumbling. That said, they really are interesting books…I’ve been learning all kinds of things about our blood and digestive system these days.

The other story is one of my favorites because I see me in it a little bit. I’m not really a crier, but the story chokes me up every time. Patricia Polacco is Dyslexic, and this particular book of Thank You, Mr. Falker is her story. I’ve never been diagnosed, but I recognize the struggle in a vague sense of someone who sometimes still carries the weight of not feeling particularly smart, nor having peers that were particularly nice when I was in my younger school days.

Sometimes it’s a perfect day…or at least moment when I make the effort to escape existing as the parent of “No.” I’m an excellent disciplinarian. It’s probably my begrudged true north that doesn’t always please me. I try to balance that with smiling and expressing affection, but I’m mostly a hard ass. I could pretend I’m not, or accept it and try to avoid behaving like too much of a dick. But, on these perfect days when I can get out of my head, I’m able to have a moment when I’m not saying, “No.”

One such afternoon the kids heard an ice cream truck somewhere in the distance. I took me a good five minutes after until I could hear the faint chime myself. I knew they weren’t lying about something as precious as Hello Kitty ice cream and whatever other kind of cold marvel they offer. This summer was going to be another lake beach one before COVID. That, of course, would have included exorbitant ice cream from said trucks. It’s sad that our summer is so…unremarkable, and I’m simply not creative enough or feeling good enough to make the experience as magical as I wish for the kids. And, frankly, magic for me is periodically inhale boxed brownies I finally learned to not fuck up.

My kids have good ears. I do not. My hearing is borderline in need of an aide, so when my kids announced the presence of an ice cream truck…somewhere, I managed to snag my wallet. They were so excited and happy that it was well worth the dip into their college funds to pay for it. Little Man likes to narrate events, so he asked me in is journalistic style why I was buying them ice cream, and we discussed experiencing “special things” in life. When they were almost finished with their treats, I realized I never fed them lunch.

And, sometimes my kids hover while I’m typing…or arguing about politics on social media. I’m not good at lying or being evasive, so when my son (who can read now, by the way) is looking over my shoulder, I find myself in the awkward moments of having to explain…things. Like those times when I use a Gif reminiscent of my childhood that surely will entertain other middle-aged individuals like myself. Or, those moments when I’m chaining source after source of data and documentation to an asshole that would rather spew hateful nonsense than be informed. I’m not always particularly proud of events when I’ve introduced my son to a thorough explanation about something only to have him take the information and delight in it the way he does so well. Without fail there will be observers to make his utterances all the more memorable. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I’m describing too much of the adult world. Sometimes, admittedly, the situation is amusing.

One such non serious memory lane stroll was not that long ago, but I probably aged a couple of years when it happened. I adored Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” when I was a teen. It’s hilarious and catchy. Little Man doesn’t always like the music that I do, and it’s hard to predict what will do it for him. I sent a Gif from this video to a friend that I’m sure made him chuckle. Little Man witnessed the process, so I pulled the song online. It didn’t occur to me until midway through the video that this was probably not the greatest of teachable moments, exacerbated by him singing to himself after the viewing while playing Lego, “I’m too sexy for my cat.”

And, here I continue to trudge through COVID land…laughing where I can with the help of fumbling texts and ranting online messages with friends. I feel more pronounced isolation these days. It’s hard to muster the gumption to communicate with people, but sometimes I do. And, when I connect, I’m left with the acute feeling that we are all in this madness together.

Telling Tales and Shifting Normal

I’ve been taking a couple of online classes for licenses and re-certification. None of it exceptionally challenging, but I think I’ve been minimizing how the extra workload of things to do, no matter how laid back, has been a drain on me. One of my classes is creative writing, so I’ve been writing, but haven’t been able to manage the extra effort to post on this site. That’s combined with the general drag of pandemic-land, so I haven’t been feeling at my best. My prison work, aside from mentoring an incarcerated writer, is on hold. And, it’s only recently that I’ve been able to make the gradual ease into my political stuff. I’m proud of it, but I think the classes make me feel more spent than I’ve been able to admit to myself. Big picture I’m not feeling all that capable or good about where I am with things. I make jokes about not winning parenting awards…I’m REALLY not winning parenting awards. But, as the jokes recede into the world from where they escaped, I’ve been feeling guilty and generally lousy about it. I can acknowledge that my kids are doing better than what I hear from commiserating parents, but It’s very little comfort.

This morning, however, was a reprieve from those feelings, as it produced one of the few mornings that made me feel genuinely good. Six-year-old Little Man is loving the Bunnicula series that delighted me as a kid. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m enjoying them as an adult. Chester the cat is such a delightful character. When I read them as a non-reader much older than Little Man, there weren’t as many of the stories in existence, so it’s an interesting thing to have this be a kind of statement of how time moves on. But, it’s hard for me to read them aloud, and struggling with concentration in general has resulted in Little Man having to present a kind of force to get me to pause what I’m doing to read to him. That said, all he’s had to do is say he wants to spend time with me, and I stop whatever I’m doing for him to snuggle into my side. It’s one of the few times he isn’t too rough with me. This morning, however, I had my little man burrowed into me with the four-year-old Warrior Queen cuddled on my lap. It was hard to read the first chapter of the next book, especially when I’m consistently interrupted with “Where are we,” and “What’s that word,” questions. But, this morning none of it bothered me as much as it sometimes does.

My kids are pretty rough with each other, so that’s been an ongoing frustration. It’s just play. No one is particularly bothered…until someone gets smacked the wrong way and cries or bitches to me in an excited rant…two seconds later they are back to the same thing.

They were telling stories this morning. They’ve been doing that more, probably because I tell a lot of stories myself. Our bedtime routine has shifted as I’m asked to start a couple of stories each night that my kids finish in their own way. A while ago I bought these blank books, stickers, and other craft things. I’d bought stuff because we didn’t even possess child scissors, and I could tell that it might be tough to obtain materials in the near future for kids mostly confined at home. Mostly, though, the materials are untouched, except for the smaller projects here and there…I’m exceptionally glad it occurred to me to make the purchases at the time. I remember the trip to the store. I’d only been home from the hospital a day or two. Although I was doing well, I remember how much it took from me to be able to travel the store, select items, and return home.

All these months from mid March, it was this morning that was a good time to pull some of those materials out because something told me Little Man and Warrior Queen were in a place to do more than ramble off their stories to my waiting ear. The kids probably spent a good hour creating their own books, and climbing the sofa to “read” me their stories. They were both so calm and happy that I could just look at them and greedily run my fingers through their hair or touch their faces. Little Man finished first and transferred his focus to reconstructing a puzzle he likes. He hasn’t really attended to his puzzle tasks for the longest time…just another testament to it being a different kind of time.

Since the onset of the pandemic, I haven’t had many moments like this. The time has been hard on everyone, and although I’m doing well enough, there are times like now that I’m not doing as great as I’d like. But, more importantly…in all those moments when I don’t recognize myself anymore and my kids are on a constant loop about me being mean and they don’t love me, I wanted to hold a morning that used to be ordinary.

Life as Pictures: slowing down

Time just goes in a weird sluggish way that simultaneously is rapid and dizzy. There are moments I want things to slow down; I suppose that’s my cue to pay attention. It’s hardest to pay attention when there is a lingering harsh thought or internal strife. I try to have less of those, which means a cause to reflect on the objective merits of what I’m choosing to torment myself about. I’m not totally successful in this pursuit, but the reality is it’s something I very much need to work on or I will forever be second guessing and diminishing my accomplishments. I wish I had an easy answer or an inner glow in my progress with this.

I think my biggest issue is that I have various achievement goals that are listed in small increments. As soon as I tackle something, my brain and ambition immediately squash the pride and good feelings for the focus and press of the next objective. It’s stunning how quickly my success buzz dulls as I look forward. On the one hand this is the fire for my drive, but on the other I’m probably wasting an opportunity that others have mastered. The specific skill is self-promotion, and I’m absolutely lousy at it. For as much as I discuss what I am working on, are layers of things that I don’t. And, I’m not so sure this is a good thing for me emotionally. My worky experience is quite nontraditional. I never really thought much of the amount of tasks I manage until hearing the pandemic tales of friends who have found that they get much more work done now that they are exclusively at home. I’ve been in that place for years now; I guess that’s as good an explanation as any, even if it’s not a universal thing for people. Throw young kids into the equation and maybe I’m a unicorn…or that almost exclusively volunteer gigs lowers expectations. I probably spend entirely too much time minimizing these efforts because I don’t get paid for almost everything I do. For example, can I really call what I do “work” if I’m not receiving a check?

There are certain things I focus on with my worky things, and I wonder if it is a unique approach to this kind of situation. Certainly, I’m not the only one in the game of prison programming or even writing/creative writing in prisons. I expect there are throngs of good people who do good and wondrous things. I sometimes think…wonder…if I have a befuddlingly different approach, a different focus, and just a different product. Judging by the side-eye I’ve received by creative writing folk when explaining my programs, I’m curious exactly how far off the path I’ve traveled. It’s tough because I’m very isolated with my stuff. I don’t really have the occasion to network because childcare is a thing, and it’s generally not an easy task to find people around me that do prison writing stuff. More and more it seems my state doesn’t have that robust of a situation in this arena, so I’m left to have limited conversations about running writing workshops with people lacking an entire level of understanding of what needs to happen for my work to be successful in a prison setting.

I’m starting to get more eyes into the prison creative writing world, especially as I move to get my programming in other states…places that have established efforts into the arts like creative writing. Recently I walk away from interactions with very specific questions that I can guess an answer, but I don’t know definitively. I also wonder if I were to ask what’s on my mind, would I get a real answer. That’s a quirk of mine; I ask uncomfortable questions. That said, when I ask them I don’t see them as something uncomfortable or hard to answer, as I would readily answer them myself. But, based on the responses yielded over time, I think my personal impressions and comfort level is not shared by others. And, if I’m honest, my social skills have never been totally top notch. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’m still awkward and intense, and I am probably too blunt for most people’s liking. The blessing of middle-age is the worry of it not as potent as when I was younger. I think some things in my life have been, and continue to be, too hard for me to sweat certain details. This is not to say that I don’t torment myself to ridiculous proportions about a slew of countless other things, but certain parts of myself are home now. I’ve found my circle of people who appreciate me. I suppose that’s the difference. Even in my early thirties such a situation was not the case.

But, here I am muddling through taking care of the kids in a way that is now as familiar as a second skin, even during a pandemic. And, then there is this entirely new entity that is increasingly robust, and that is my various volunteer efforts, especially the prison work. There are many moments throughout the day when I’m ignoring my kids, and I feel pretty horrible about it. But, at the same time I can step back and realize how much of the minutia of my world revolves around them. If I wanted to appease the call of the mommying aspect of my persona, I would live as someone who can’t possibly exist. Intellectually I know this, but I look around and everyone seems to be managing this parenting thing so much better than I.

But, I suppose this is what it means to slow down and step back. Am I really that terrible? How much does ignoring my kids actually consume in a day? I write, and they are watching television…I’d spent the better part of four hours leading up to this point almost exclusively in child rearing mode. And, while they are poisoning their brains with television in the other room, there is a countdown until I’m interrupted for…anything. And, heartbeats after that interruption will be another, and it probably involves snuggling. This isn’t a complaint, but a reality check for me. I need to focus on what I do rather than what I don’t.

What I do now…something mostly new to the pandemic but has now seeped into a necessary routine, I go outside with the kids most days. I’ve always been more of a fan of cloudy days when it’s cool and crisp, but I also won’t deny the time of year when leaves are newly on the trees and a light breeze through my hustled, piled hair clipped to the top of my head. It’s too bright for me to see well, but soon enough it will not only be too bright, but also unbearably humid and buggy.

There is something delightful about grass that isn’t mowed…unkempt in this way that just pulls words or a story. I like unkempt things…probably because my nature is equally unkempt…my mind a ruckus that will never conform. It has always been a comfort to me…letting things be in their chaos. One might think such a desire aligns so well to having children. I piece of me craves their chaos, even as I strive for routines.

Warrior Queen and I were taking a walk down the road. Now that my main exercise method is just about up to where it was pre-hospital and almost dying from blood clots in my lungs, I’m trying to bring in a couple of short walks during the week. It isn’t about exercise so much, as making sure that I have a chance to move outside, breath deeply, and just feel.

I love dandelions. They aren’t my favorite flower, but I do love them. I’m not really sure why, but my childlike delight in them never diminished to only to transform into the adult nuisance. As I walked I’d let my foot dust over the white poms. My feisty girl immediately proclaimed she would do the same. I cringed at her brashness of action, but I guess that’s what childhood is.

When I was in college I’d make it a point to look up and notice the clouds every day. It was one of my favorite things at the time in an otherwise troubled decade. When I graduated, I stopped looking at the clouds. Even now as I glance skyward from time to time, I fear that my age has impaired my ability to remember to take the time to tilt my head and notice. My feet and gaze always pointed forward, but remaining close to the ground.

So much of my day is marked by food, which totally isn’t pandemic new. I don’t know that I have the time to try new things, per se. My existence for over half a decade now has been staying home. In many ways my life is the same. But, there is a necessity to things now that didn’t exist before.

I don’t bake…there is a reason for that. I can follow directions well enough, but I’m still not that great at it. But, sometimes I tire of the same ol’. I’ve been dabbling with boxed brownies. They are not the best brownies I’ve ever had…I’ll leave that to professionals…and my friends who bake and consistently provide a batch for me during non pandemic days. I will, however, say that my skill has been upgraded to “not terrible,” which is really all that matters when one is stress eating while the kids are dismantling the cushions from the sofa once again. When they were little, it was cute…sort of. Now they are bigger, stacking precarious towers that they launch themselves on top of.

Then there is the matter of going through random food storage to not waste things. This was a decent creation of bits of stuff I had left, though lackluster. Warrior Queen enjoyed it, which accounts to the fact that I didn’t destroy my concoction…she preferred the Italian green beans. Little Man wouldn’t touch this…Of course, he wouldn’t. He’s weirdly picky. I hesitate actually referring to him as a picky eater because he really isn’t. I have friends with kids that are picky, and they are PICKY. There are random things Little Man refuses, but then other things that he finds delightful that don’t make sense.

Staying home during these moments is the time to bring back the foods I haven’t made for ages, but totally love. I’m a fan of soup…my husband is a fan of soup…the kids say they are a fan of soup, but only intermittently eat what I make. My split pea is something both kids bitch about before they eat two helpings.

The puzzle from Little Man’s birthday is now complete…a project that both he and my husband relished. My son is hiding, initially begging for pictures…until he decided he didn’t want them anymore. He’s the gray blob to the right. Little Man possesses the most gumption for his puzzles when I’m nagging him that it’s time for bed. Like clockwork he is famished and dinks around until I’m spitting fire. It’s only at that last hair pulling moment he decides to trek upstairs. And, then it’s my turn to dink around…washing dishes…messaging with friends online. My husband hates that I do this, but it’s the hardest thing for me to transition upstairs at night. This is a consistent thing with me…transitions. I’m lousy at them from all aspects of what they entail.

But, here I am…another day…another week…now another month. Time just goes, but then I create these moments that delays time for a sliver. I breathe. I feel. Eventually I move on.

Life as Pictures…doin’ a thing…

I do lots of things…don’t we all. It very much feels like I’m doing even more things than I was before, though I’m pretty sure that’s only because everything is so much harder, definitely slower. I’d been talking to an old friend of mine about my stuff. We talk about my stuff almost weekly. I’d been sort of sad and sort of agitated and sort of a lot of things I don’t really understand. I’ve uttered many times that I can’t do what I could. I hope to return to where I was, but who knows. He corrected me in a way that I continue to chew on. It isn’t that I can’t; I am, just slower. I suppose that’s true and it will have to satisfy me for now. Admittedly most of my limitations are the pandemic outside myself, so it’s hard to accurately reflect on my functioning and where I hope to return.

I generally try to spend my days in appreciation of whatever I can. This isn’t an awakening from almost dying. I’ve spent a lot of my life losing people in some way or another. For most of my life things have always felt temporary, so I live my life that way. If I can, I do whenever possible. I speak truths to people as well…I won’t necessarily have the opportunity again. It’s actually a neurotic paranoid tick that the people I care about regularly hear how I care and of my appreciation. Not having such sentiments launched into the universe has been some of my life’s biggest regrets. As I was spending my moments in the quiet of the ICU, I weighed something in my stomach, realizing I was spending my life as I want to…saying the things I need to say. There is relief in that.

The types of task priorities I work on are over various spans of time change depending on whatever factors. But, mostly it’s me reflecting on what I hope to get out of a day or week. I’m in constant motion, I think. All of me is…my body…my brain. It’s been that way for the longest time now. I think I mostly overwhelm people. I consistently have some project or task that I spew out in a jittery mess to any poor schmuck that happens to be around when I’m buzzing. It’s probably surprising in that context what my list focus usually is…or how little I hope to accomplish in a day…a week…maybe a month. I very much inch along in all things. My standards of accomplishment quite low…aside from keeping my kids alive.

I bitch about the outdoors more than probably anything else in my life; weird that I almost never regret sitting in it, but I drag to ridiculous proportions. Since the fall I’ve been trying to change that because the air and the elements does good things for me…for my kids. This pandemic is a change of pace, so my list has the addition of going out at least once if the day permits. I’d been focusing on building my physical stamina with the equipment in our house; pausing the walks of when I first returned from the hospital. I think this week I’ll strive to return to them in earnest. Twice a week, nothing fancy. My goal will be a ten minute stroll. That’s it. If I manage that, then I met my goal. If I do more, it’s a bonus. I learned a long time ago to do whatever I can to make sure whatever I set out to do for the day or week is pathetically easy peasy for me to achieve. It’s a psychological wonder the bump of working from a point of success and exceeding it.

Add that with taking a shower every day and having the chance to wear an amazingly awesome pair of clogs, and one might say my life is golden. I suppose there are many things to feel amazing and awesome about. I spend most of my time paying attention. I can’t say that it pulls me out of a funk or necessarily allows me to feel better holistically. But, often it keeps me in a small moment from slider deeper to where I don’t want to be. Often enough it’s the best I can hope for…remaining.

I do other things…sometimes one thing while I do another. My kids are outside with me. I’m sitting in a sometimes uncomfortable chair, and working on the second of my solitary confinement programs. This book is itty bitty, and it’s taking forever for me to get through it. It’s okay, though. Even if I’m slow, I can tell my cognition is improving. I’m no longer dizzy reading the words. I’ve progressed beyond the meaning mostly garbled. The poetry I have to read many times before I admit to myself I still don’t get it. But, the “discussion” questions I’m noting are coming with greater ease. The quality of them improving as well. It’s not that I can’t do it; I’m just slow. But, I can’t argue with a light breeze and a sunny day that quickly ushers me to the shade because I’m virtually transparent, and will break out into a rash or burn. The book I’m holding is Seasonal Velocities by Ryka Aoki. I highly recommend it.

This isn’t the cutest of pictures I took of this moment, but it’s the one that preserved the privacy of my children the most while also holding the memory for me. Little Man was gifted all kinds of things as the first usually is. While he had zero interest in most of those items, Warrior Queen clutched them as her own. Both kids, however, mostly delighted by the preoccupations of Daddy. I do not have such preoccupations. It’s funny what children absorb. Certainly I see myself in both of them, but I also see my husband which makes me love them all the more to pieces. My husband is, to a large extent, how I came to love myself…how I came to be brave in a way that wasn’t exclusive to survival. Knowing the ways in which his pieces will carry his immortality is a gift.

Little Man is mostly delighted by acorns these days…sure kid, the fucking things are coating our lawn…or what’s left of it. The grass each year disappears to uphold moss. At this point I don’t think the grubs would be interested. Little Man gallops around with his humming stims before he plants himself down somewhere and peels the husks of acorns. Eventually, he moisies over to me and collapses on my lap saying, “I love you.” Warrior Queen has her moments too. Little Man snuggles, but it’s Warrior Queen who is the snuggliest kid you could ever meet. Once she plants herself on my lap, I know I won’t be going anywhere for a while. I try to make sure I don’t stubbornly hold onto a vaguely uncomfortable bladder for that expressed reason. And, then she looks at me with expressions that are just her, and amazing to gaze upon. I melt to a puddle rolling the various Warrior Queen faces through my mind, and it still isn’t good enough. I could just look at her forever.

And, I can enjoy my husband more during these pandemic days. He needs to work for the most part, but when we go outside, he usually finds himself gravitating toward us. Inevitably a task distracts him, and it’s been an hour of all of us getting outdoors. My husband and I watch the kids, which usually translates to laughing at them about something…because that’s what awesome parents do…laugh at their kids.

Little Man has been struggling settling into a new puzzle. We have bunches of them…some probably even have all of their pieces. But, leave it to a good friend to buy the perfect gift for my kids. As someone who doesn’t always get even a halfway decent gift for people, it’s a marvel to me that EVERY gift is a huge hit with both kids. I don’t know how long it takes her to figure out what she chooses or if it just lands on her head like some divine intervention from the sky, but regardless Little Man was flapping, humming, and jumping up and down the way his Autistic self does when he is so excited he can’t contain himself. I’m not great at puzzles in the best of times, post brain damage I’m certainly not. My husband, however, is pretty good. That said, he can’t do what my son can with his amazing Autistic brain. He’ll span his eyes along the chaos and select pieces inherently knowing where they go. This puzzle is 500 pieces. It’s hard to say if he’ll finish it because he sometimes doesn’t. I don’t think it’s that the puzzle becomes too challenging. I think he just gets tired of the picture. But, my friend knows what holds his attention, so he’ll probably toil with this spread for a while yet…more than the last several sustained him.

Lego is also a thing in our world. Warrior Queen isn’t too keen on them. Frankly, it’s only a recent thing that Little Man has found his passion with them…a passion strewn all over the floor to frustrating, if not colorful, proportions. I have a sense that Warrior Queen will be a STEAM kid, much like her older brother…just a sense. I might be surprised and she will take more after my interests, even if they unfold into an entirely new realm all her own. It seems like both kids are late to what so many of my friends’ kids have been doing for years now. Certainly, Little Man constructs the Lego models, and with surprising ease and speed. Eventually, after he’s dismantled and remantled each set dozens of times, he will construct his stories. I’d say they were just “creations” as he refers to them, but they are really stories…maybe he’s more like me than I thought.

The final thing I’ll mention I did the other day. For me it’s kinda a big deal, though I suspect it doesn’t really change anything other than a mindset and the ability to contact a real person when I have questions. I bought a domain for my blog: taleoftwomommies.com, but if you are already here, then don’t bother to try it out. You will land back to the same place.

I write. Can I say I’m a writer? For whatever reason a turn of part of speech has been a challenge. If a friend or stranger were in my shoes, I’d call them a writer. Of course, they’d be one, so I don’t know what my problem is. I suspect, however, the foundation of that struggle is rooted in my plethora of learning struggles, particularly my language-based disability. I don’t have shame in it anymore, but I nurse a fear because I used to not be able to write. Eventually I graduated to the ability, but I wasn’t very good. That’s not false modesty; I have the low marks to show for it. Writing continues to be a very vulnerable thing. I still can’t say what would make me consider myself the noun instead of the verb.

I’m published; sixteen pieces if I’m recalling correctly. I’ve received financial compensation for a couple of them. Almost all the publications on teeny tiny sites with limited attention. To be fair, I made sure that I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I guess I felt embarrassed…and scared. It’s one thing to be vulnerable to strangers, but I don’t think I trust those that know me to see the work I’ve produced, for the most part. Sometimes I say something about a publication, but mostly I don’t. I’m too much of a chicken.

I’ve had this little slice of blog for my documentation five-ish years now. I suppose I’m tired of tinkering for such a paltry investment. Am I a writer yet? I don’t know, but now it’s no longer a free thing. It’s mine. I self-publish officially, I guess. I don’t plan to do anything different, but I suppose I wanted this effort to be real…like I’m acknowledging the work I’ve put into this, mostly, consistently for all this time. I recently returned to earlier posts I haven’t read for a very long time. I remember there were so many, every four days I’d publish. Those posts incredibly short when I had the moments to jot things down. Though I usually only manage twice a month now, my word count is many times over what I used to produce when comparing monthly time apples. I feel my story is more complex now as well, or that’s how it feels to me.

I’d initially started this effort to document my life with my kid, turning into kids combined with kids that will never be. I suppose in pretty much all manifestations of this site, I’ve grown…progressed…learned how to say more. And, now it’s official. I claim this body of work as my own.

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