A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Life as Pictures: Time Lapse

(Image description: crossed leg in the front with a blurred black and white knitted project at the bottom end of the picture. Tan clogs on the bottom right. Black driveway with a cut off big wheel at the top.)

It’s warm again! So strange and so sudden, but I suppose it’s technically spring. I’m acutely aware that I take the same kinds of pictures, but really they are mostly a vehicle to jog my writing brain. This image represents what I did over our first spring weekend. And, as I sat outside I remembered what it was for me exactly a year ago…sitting outside in the same exceptionally flimsy chair. I’m not sure if I was knitting quite yet…if I was capable of it a week-ish out from returning from the hospital. It was overcast and rainy last year with a definite chill that I loved at the time. I felt alive then. This year it just feels surreal. The last year seems a little wasted in a way, as though we were all in stasis or something. My husband commented that we can’t even say nothing serious happened, as I almost died. But, here I am…spring again in an vaguely uncomfortable chair knitting and watching my kids do something that doesn’t make me feel like I’m a horrible parent.

(Image description: snow on the ground. Mostly the back of a young girl with her face obscured. Wearing a pink hat with the top cut off by the end of the picture. She’s holding an orange saucer sled that appears red and shadowed. A young boy with obscured face and blue had sitting on a green saucer sled. A man to the right standing with only the legs and boots visible.)

It’s strange because there were a good amount of new things this past year. I worked hard to have new things, but those new things do not include clothing that fits. I managed to find a pair of sweatpants I could tolerate and a sweater I don’t remember buying. My husband took the kids sledding a bunch…because he’s an excellent parent. This was the first and only time I’d been. I wish I could say it was a profound experience. It was cute, but…sigh…not every activity or new-for-me thing with the kids is this precious moment I will hold until my last breath. I feel guilty that I’m not in love with every moment. I feel guilty that every other parent in pandemic-land has figured something out that I can’t seem to manage. I don’t do anything noteworthy or special with my kids. We are getting through, and that’s probably the most I can say.

If I’m honest, the best moments are when my kids are playing Lego together and leaving me alone to sit and watch them tinker. And, periodically comes the call of “Mommy” before they tell me a story I have trouble following. Or, those moments when my son does something silly that’s just him, and follows it up with telling me that he loves me. I love those moments when Warrior Queen squishes me on the sofa while I read or something…totally un-newsworthy life event. I don’t know. I just don’t really plan stuff, and it bothers me. Frankly, I’m not really in a place to plan stuff. I used to, but it’s been forever since I’ve been able to. But, if I’m honest, the planning was taking the kids to the library after school for some activity I knew they’d like. And, while they were liking that activity, I’d have my huge ass blanket out that I was crocheting. My planning consisted of volunteering at an assisted living and food bank with the kids. They really used to love doing that, especially the tasks at the food bank. My kids are good helpers. I miss those days. They will return again, I suppose.

(Image description: shadowed interior picture. Young girl holding a white imaginary structure in front of her face.)

Warrior Queen is into Lego now. She made a “cruise ship.” We are hoping to take one for our first family trip…eventually. My husband and I used to cruise all the time; it’s our favorite vacation. It’s perfect for our low-key, don’t like to plan shit personalities. Part of me can’t wait to get away, and the other part of me is kinda an anxious wreck about the prospect. When did I become such a mess about things that aren’t a big deal?

I’m feeling unsettled, which isn’t every moment, but it’s a problem this week. I’d had such high hopes a few days ago, but they kind of fizzled for me. I’m finally in a position to start up with a second campaign. I’ve been so eager for that to start, and now that it’s here, I feel like I can’t quite get my act in gear. I’m sure I’d feel better if I wrote a story, but I can’t focus for that either. I’d been doing well the past couple of weeks; writing a micro story or two a week. As much as I know it would benefit me, I’m just sluggish and flat. The last time I was feeling like this I increased my medication, which helped. I really don’t want to have to do that again. I’m not quite at the level I was before, but I’m starting to feel it again, which is disappointing. After so many years of barely taking anything, I’ll be going into territory of a significant level…or significant in my own mind. That’s quite disappointing. I suppose it’s better than needing a second medication to help me manage, and I need what I need. I just hate the way medication makes me feel sometimes, but I also hate the way I’m feeling now, so…

The weather is getting better, so maybe I should start taking walks again. That helped a few months ago when winter hadn’t quite become miserable. I don’t think I’ll enjoy outside the way I did then, but I probably need to get out of the house. I probably need a lot of things.

(Image description: computer generated image designed by a first grader. In black along the top says, “You are a super ninja, Mom!” The background is red. The center has a large, thickly lined blue stick figure with other lines that don’t fit an image for a person. There is a large yellow line going from the body to the upper right corner. There is a brown “X” in the upper left corner covering multi-colored computer generated balloons that are overlapping.)

This is how my soon-to-be-seven-year-old sees me because I’m his person. I feel it radiating from him all the time. My soon-to-be-five-year-old and I are close too, but it feels different. I feel like Warrior Queen connects to people better, so there isn’t quite the same urgency for my existence that Little Man seems to have. I’m not placing a value judgment on something like that. I very much crave the ways in which Warrior Queen expresses her love for me. I love when she greets me each morning. I love the way she smiles when I cup her cheeks in my palms. She leans into my grip and sighs…something I cherish much more than sledding. Little Man is different. He often does a push-pull with me, which is fine…it’s what kids do. But, while Warrior Queen just does her thing, her neurodivergent big brother uses me as a kind of stabilizing force in a way that’s hard to explain. So, when he’s playing with his Lego while I’m just sitting in the room, there is a closeness and reciprocity to that experience. I don’t always focus to appreciate it, but every so often he’ll pause what he’s doing, look up, and say he loves me. I don’t usually feel like a “super ninja,” and I’m not entirely sure what he means by it, but I have all the feels that his projects from school usually include something blue because, “he’s thinking of me.” I’m sure that impulse will fade as he gets older. I’m sure at some point I won’t provide this kind of comfort to him, but it’s something for this moment in time…also better than sledding.

My posts span days or weeks in the event anyone notices tense differences I don’t catch or something seems off. In the span of this particular post on the tail end of a tough week or so, I managed to start phonebanking for the second campaign, and that provided a lift for me. Campaign volunteering is a strange internal experience. It’s important to do, though I’m one person, so it’s hard to really get that it’s important. In many ways phonebanking stresses me out as I simultaneously enjoy it. I’d been anticipating the start of this phonebank, but hadn’t been able to settle my routine. I’m an embarrassing creature of routine, so I never feel quite right until I have them. I haven’t managed a routine for this new responsibility. I’ll be uncomfortable until that happens. I spent the early part of the week feeling the pressure of not having officially started. Once I did, I felt more grounded…so odd how that works.

Another good thing; I found replacements for the black dresses I wear practically every day. The ones I have are old and on a steady path to deteriorating. It’s been an arduous task trying to find new ones I like. That hunt ended with the delivery I received a day ago! Clothing is a really tricky thing for me these days. I try to be body positive, but I’m not really able to. I don’t think I look bad, at least not in clothing, but I haven’t been happy with the way I look for a long time. The reasons for that are complicated and sad for me, and not so much about the weight gain itself. I’ve been working on it, but I’m plateaued right now, so it’s hard to feel good. The compromise is that I try to not think about it at all. I can’t say I feel attractive in these dresses, but I like knowing I have something I like for when the old dresses will no longer work. These dresses have pockets, which makes them far superior to the originals!

Little Man lost his first tooth. He was a little freaked out by the blood and I don’t think he was expecting it to actually come out. Lessons in a difference between intellectually knowing something diverging from the reality of the matter! He’s fine, of course, and was delighted to see the somewhat crisp bill waiting for him. Times have changed…I remember receiving a quarter for lost teeth, and it seems that’s totally not what happens any longer. We were gifted a lost teeth harboring set from a friend. I was “too tired” to do the deed, so my husband ventured into Little Man’s room when he was asleep. Apparently, however, in the effort of removing the tooth from the small vile, my husband inadvertently dropped it back in without knowing…so this particular tooth fairy did not take the tooth with her…as my son noted. On the sofa the next day he was all smiles, “I guess she’s real,” and inquiring what the fairy’s gender would be before deciding that the fairy would be a she because it’s “custom.”

Otherwise, Little Man returns to full-time in person school next week after a year of a wonky COVID schedule. I’m due to be vaccinated…eventually. The last year feels like time hasn’t really passed, but there are notes in the experience that clearly mark that it has. Maybe I’ll start teaching again soon; a piece of me has felt missing away from my cinderblock fishbowl. Maybe my solitary confinement program will also (finally) begin. I don’t know that I’ve ever had this experience when so much has probably changed, yet everything has been the same.

Life as Pictures…busy…busy…

I started helping an out-of-state nonprofit with reentry programming. It’s a good experience, as I haven’t had a lot of exposure with reentry program development. It’s a good amount of work, and some of the content is a challenge, but I enjoy having it on my plate. Some of what I’m doing is reformatting their current content into something more structured…something that would be similarly presented regardless of the facilitator. Other things I’m creating are for data collection and to help characterize and fulfil a grant that they were awarded, so it’s been a fun thing for me.

I’ve been phonebanking for the last month or so. I have an additional two campaigns I’m looking forward to volunteering for when the time comes. I don’t really understand election timelines, so I’m just going with it. I think I’ve settled on maintaining three campaigns at any given time. That should work for me. That’s about 150 calls a week, and if the phonebanking can’t be actualized; sometimes it can’t, then my second choice is textbanking.

I was just lamenting the other day that I miss postcarding. I used to attend a couple of groups, and they were such a good time. That seems like ions ago, well over a year. When I was sick, but didn’t know it was COVID, I was laying low anyway. Even if my kids are okay to go to school, I try to not expose my yucks to other people…good thing too, it seems. I have a couple friends I had canceled with during that time. I thought it was a nothing cold, but postponed outings anyway…they are still thanking me for that. I think back to the irresponsibility of the past administration. Them lying about the prevalence in the country could have harmed others. I didn’t feel all that sick. The subsequent pulmonary embolism out of nowhere…what a difference a year makes…

I attended a training of sorts. I’ve been wanting to take part with this prison correspondence thing with another nonprofit, but was confused about some of the mechanisms for doing so. I have an account for communication through someone else that is funded through a grant, so it was just confusing. The orientation cleared that right up; I love it when my barriers are solved with almost zero effort on my part! I have to write my mentee after a recent letter that was delivered. In the coming weeks I need to get more serious about the other correspondence nonprofit. Their work a way to provide feedback to incarcerated writers, so that their writing is seen as a kind of living connection to humanity. Additionally there might be a way to assist them with some program development as well. Not really sure about it, but maybe they might even fund some of my solitary confinement work. They are associated through a university, and since I’m an individual and can’t get funding myself, it’s good to be affiliated through other entities. It also helps for networking. I have no idea if any of that will amount to anything, but while I’m stranded from my in-person classes until at least the spring (maybe even longer than that), it’s good to have some things to work toward, as nebulous as they might be.

I’ve always been oddly crafty…not having crafty enough impulses to have an assortment of eclectic harborings in the house, but enough to use it as a default when I’m trying to think of something to do with my kids. I’m also a massive procrastinator, so there is a certain celebratory delight in finally managing to get shit to do with my kids. I’ve been ruminating for months over this funky crayon project thing a friend told me about. I now have the materials handy for when the gumption to make it happen arises…probably a time just short of all of us simultaneously losing our sanity, and me wanting to trek out into the cold never to be heard from again. The rest of the craft store order was replenishing my stock of blank story books that are usually a profound success in our parts, and I stumbled upon blank puzzles. The puzzles have odd results, but it intermittently keeps Warrior Queen busy, so I won’t complain. All the more delight is that they managed to restock a couple of the sock yarn I’d wanted. When I get around to it, I have my next knitting project set…another pair of ankle socks…huzzah!

It was one of those weeks when I was feeling down. I was struggling to get Little Man to complete his school work. My struggle isn’t because he’s difficult about it; he isn’t…not any remote iota of a challenge in that regard. I have trouble organizing my head sometimes, and heap loads upon loads of mom guilt on myself. Usually he manages to do his assignments. Usually he doesn’t do the preferred commitment for the computer programs that are paced weekly. This particular week was especially hard, and I’m not sure why. I think there was a snow day and it just threw me, even though it didn’t impact my day or schedule. My son came home from the bus on Friday showing me something he made during his computer elective, and it was everything I needed to see. Little Man has the most profoundly amazing timing more often than not. I might have teared up, and he was so proud. I’m in blue. Little Man regularly points out when something is blue because it’s my favorite color.

I love it when my son wants me to play with him. I love it more for the snuggles than the play itself. Little Man is affectionate, but it’s oddly delivered. When he’s playing or showing me his Lego especially, he leans up against me and kind of snuggles into me. I love the weight of him, and he gives me much less resistance with hugging in those moments. My son will hug me, certainly, but it’s not as sustained. I don’t know if it’s just him or his almost seven-year-old age, but he’s not always in the snuggly mood. If I’m honest, I’m not really sure how to play with my kids. Fortunately they don’t seem to mind. It’s enough for them that I’m on the floor in some kind of contact with them. When I throw together random Lego bricks into haphazard structures, Little Man is delighted. These times are worth the sore back from sitting for extended periods of time on the floor.

Warrior never liked puzzles other than haunting her big brother while he would work on them. Fast forward who knows how long, and Little Man has almost no interest in them, and the almost five-year-old is all about the puzzles. I don’t see her making quite the same gains as my son did when he was younger, but she is good at them. She’s so proud too…putting together her 100-piece ones over and over again. I have yet to find others that she will like. One-hundred seems too easy for her, but I don’t think we have anything else around. I keep telling myself that I need to go online and explore, but I never get around to it.

I love to see my daughter delighted by things. I snort horribly when I’m in the throws of a really intense laugh, which is not infrequent. My husband says it’s horrible, but it’s his fault. He’s hilarious. I don’t know that people realize how funny he is, but our seventeen years together has been filled with laughter above all else. I say my snorting laughter makes me quirky…or something else that makes me quirky. Warrior Queen now snorts all the time when she laughs. Sometimes it seems really forced, but I guess she wants to be just like Mommy…with the obnoxious laugh that can’t be helped. I was just telling a friend that my kids have a way of seeing my worst qualities and reimagining them into something kinda nice. Snort laughing might be one of those things. There really isn’t anything lovely about the way I laugh when I get into it, but my fierce girl sees something in me when I’m laughing at such a level, and she wants to be that way too. Nothing bad I can say about that.

I’ve successfully botched this blanket. It’s completely pleated at the ends, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to fix it. A friend mentioned stitch reductions, so that’s what I’ve been doing…after I had to unravel a massive row-and-a-half of yarn. Interestingly it isn’t that frustrating now that the rows are gone. I’d been increasing my row at the time, or I would have just left it as it was and continued to make the problem worse. I’m thinking this is a forgiving yarn; it’s soft and pliant, so maybe it will work out. It would be such a bitch to be this far into my afghan project and have it be completely ruined. I went into this with such high ideals, but working in the round on this scale is no joke. The perspective is completely skewed and hard to gauge…which is probably another fiber ware life lesson. But, I’m not ready to bail on this yet, so I’ll try for the decreases and see if I can fix this in a few rows…that will take for-ever. It wasn’t always the case, but I enjoy just having something to pull onto my lap and work on. I think part of the problem is that I just like sitting sometimes and keeping my hands busy. I hadn’t noticed, and I guess didn’t care that, big picture, it wasn’t looking right…maybe another fiber life lesson as well.

I think these things also have a way of revealing something about who we are as people, which sounds so serious for yarn and a hook. I’m really a pretty tenacious person…maybe to ridiculous proportions. As a kid school wasn’t easy…people weren’t easy…a lot wasn’t easy. I was taught and just had to embrace that the direct way to do things wasn’t the only way. In my life I seldom achieve in a direct way. I’ve had to buckle down and keep working at what I want until I achieve them, or finally have to give up when every outlet is exhausted. But, even then, much of the time the task is postponed until another avenue opens to me. Me attempting to fix my mess after neglecting the problems with it for so long is a sort of example of my predisposition for how I manage my time. This will be such a pain in the ass to fix. Part of me is leaning into just giving up on it and squirreling it away for whatever. I’m not sure what I’d do with it because it’s so large at this point. But, if I just gave up on it, I wouldn’t be me. I’m annoyed all the time by things not working out how I wanted them to, but I keep at it because I apparently can’t help myself. I may very well ultimately fail with this blanket. I’ve failed at a ton of things. On the other hand, maybe I’ll fix this…save this project. I’m enjoying the process, and if there were ever the components for something to be salvaged, it will be this.

The thing is I have a home I want this project to go to. They don’t know it yet, but I’m pretty sure they would love this piece living with them. Whenever I start a project I say to myself that this will be the one I keep for myself, but something about the process speaks, and I know it would be wrong for the project to belong to me. This one already belongs to someone else…if I can fix it…I have to fix it…I hope I do. They really will love it when it’s finished…I think they will. If I kept it for myself, I’d miss all of these thoughts of the comfort this project could provide. Maybe that’s the ultimate point of it all…another life lesson found in stitching. Investing in the comfort and happiness of others in the smallest of ways make ruin worth saving.

Forward Thinking

Okay…so while thinking of all the ways in which I’m blowing it as a parent during the pandemic…because I’m nothing if not neurotic, I’m revisiting an old life goals dream. Even with a solid government pandemic plan, I’ve been in a place of needing specific things to look forward to. Eventually the prison work will return, which is one, but I also kind of crave silly things to plan for. Silly things that won’t make or break me if they never come to fruition. This isn’t a new sentiment for me. I did the same thing inching my way into the Thanksgiving 5K I walked the year before the pandemic hit. Given what happened with my own COVID experience, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk this past year. I want to make it a tradition, so my plan is to sign-up once again for the upcoming November. It really was a pretty super way to spend my morning. I knew it would be. It’s just getting over that hurdle to just do it…Nike knows what they are talking about!

Image result for wild turkeys

Turkey Trots are serious fucking business, right WBUR?

A leisurely 5K is one thing. I know I can do that pretty easily in terms of fitness. Usually the barrier is about finding my way to the event. When I was a runner, I seldom registered for races for this reason…I’m also the least competitive person anyone can ever imagine. I’m the type of person that will let everyone else pass me because I feel guilty beating someone. We live in a small town. Knowing where I’m going is a big deal. This 5K ended up being a fate, inevitable kind of thing. I even get an ugly t-shirt, and who doesn’t love an ugly t-shirt?

I’ve spent the past several years inching my way to growing a vegetable/fruit container garden and some herbs. And, make no mistake, the only thing I’ve successfully grown are dust bunnies, but maybe if I keep at it something won’t end up brown and sorry looking. Each year I get a little closer to giving it a try.

I’m thinking of growing grape or cherry tomatoes…because they are REALLY expensive for what you get. My kids scarf them down and I like them too. I’ve heard all about how fresh tomatoes are where it’s at, so it might be time to try them. Part of the delay for me is that I can’t decide what to grow. Tomatoes have been a definite decision, but I’d been thinking that it’s kind of an imperative to grow at least a few things. I enjoy my fruits and vegetables, but how many of any one thing do I really need? This is a pretty big assumption that I’m successful growing anything in the first place, of course.

I think I have some growing starter choices, though. I’m pretty sure garden stores have the pre-bush or whatever. So, I guess I’d just stick something like that in a pot? Maybe I’ll do the same experiment a college friend did, and try to grow them from seeds of tomatoes we bought in the store…because that’s the kind of shit good parents do, right? We can have two pots with each tomato version, and I can post the comparisons all up and down social media. After all, it doesn’t really count if people I barely talk to don’t give me some kind of interaction that barely counts as existing in someone else’s life.

Spinach is another one. Fresh sautéed spinach is a-mazing…also pricey at the store. That might be a cool thing to do too, and maybe it’s less likely to die than the tomatoes. I’m not sure of the yield of something like that, though. It takes a ton of spinach to get a tablespoon of it cooked. I’ll definitely have to look into that. If I have to make a decision, though, tomatoes win…hands down. It’s not even a remote controversy. I’ve been starting to embrace that I probably would be fine just focusing on tomatoes, but part of me is kind of a go big or go home kind of person. I need to get a grip. I’m more likely to kill the plant than anything else. My best option is probably making this the least tragic of a situation as possible.

I’d like to grow some chives…no idea what else. I’ve been fantasizing growing herbs longer than the produce container garden. The problem is that whenever I see a kit or a planter or whatever, it’s always a combination of herbs I don’t want. And, part of it is that I’m probably hedging on this anyway, and it keeps me from making a decision.

But, I love to cook, and herbs are also pricey at the store. It would be kinda cool to feel like I’m some kind of legitimate chef or something by having fresh herbs. At the same time it wouldn’t hurt my feelings as much when the kids refuse to eat what I’ve prepared. I can bask in growing my own herbs like I deserve my own uTube channel or something about all the ways I’m awesome at…growing herbs and stuff. Herbs are hard to kill too, I think, and they will probably end up in the lawn, which would be excellent because they are green. Each year it’s become increasingly clear that we are mostly nurturing a dirt patch instead of grass. It’s all about the angle in terms of the visuals, but there is definitely a lot less lawn than when we moved in over a decade ago.

Image result for muppet chef

I bet this guy grows his own herbs… Are you holding out on me Pinterest?

It’s 2021, and maybe this will be my year to do this! I know some people who actually know something about gardening. I hope when I ask them they don’t start getting hard core on me and talking about things that will hold no meaning. I’m not advanced. I need some kind of pot or whatever…some dirt…probably. We may or may not already have some kind of tools or something. The seeds, of course. Does one buy a watering can? I’ve got the Crocs for this. Do I get a hat to bring the whole get-up together?

Image result for bee keeping hat

This is totally what I need to wear, right, Atelier Entomologica?

When all is said and done I’ll need something to document this process…good, bad, and the insect infested brown. I can post Facebook pictures of plants before they die, and I’ve upheld the expectation that everyone will think I’m not totally shitting the bed with my kids watching way too much television and me avoiding the sun like I’ll combust from the mere thought of it.

Image result for garden eating caterpillar

And, we will all rejoice in the newest member of my family. He goes by the name of Clyde and leaves the television on obnoxious volume levels all night. Hobby Farms warned me, but I didn’t listen!

Life as Pictures: Good Enough

I’ve been doing better about taking regular walks outside…kinda…sorta…It’s hit or miss, but compared to a couple of years ago, I’m a champ. I tend to take the same meagerly wooded path each time. I have some deep seated trauma stuff that’s getting triggered right now. I’m craving certain kinds of stability that just aren’t going to happen, or at least happen any time soon. It’s been good to get outside, even when the day is chilled in that winter way, but it’s still not quite into the time of the season where it’s unbearably cold and the snow makes walking more treacherous. I’ve had a medication increase that did the trick for certain brain functioning, which helps me a good deal with my ability to control things, but it’s not like they are magic pills. I still feel what I feel because numb isn’t possible. I’m tired of feeling this way. I suppose at some point I won’t. But, at the very least I’m able to be more present. Still not winning any parenting awards or anything, but it feels more in the realm of where everyone else is than the misery I was experiencing before.

My typical walk is an exceptionally quick jaunt and all of my pictures are probably the same, but I still love it.

I’m not really a photographer type person. I take pictures to remind me of things that I want to remember, and for whatever reason this small strip of woods is always something I want to note, even though I have nothing in particular to note about them most of the time. Every once in a while Warrior Queen joins me for a walk, but most of the time I’m alone. I don’t have all that much alone time, though that’s changed suddenly with a death in our lives. I appreciate the alone time, but it also means that I’m taking care of the kids by myself for a few days each week. It’s totally fine taking care of them on my own, but I tend to get anxious with anticipation leading up to the task. I’ve never done well with transitions or routine shifts. That’s all it is, so I’m mad at myself that I’m feeling the way I feel about it. Mostly I’m just tired of feeling bad, so to feel bad in this way is frustrating, I guess. I can’t help it, and I very much want to be able to.

The only noteworthy item I come across during this particular woods walk is the “murder house,” as a friend calls it. I pass this structure every time, and it just calls for a story. What I actually think is that it’s a teen project located in the back yard of this family’s home, but otherwise I don’t have information about it. But, each time I walk past it, a story prompt rises to the surface. Consequently, it’s my favorite part of these strolls.

There are other walks I like to take close to home, but I’ve opted for super short because it’s all I can really manage. I can’t really explain what it is that I can’t manage because I do actually enjoy these moments. Maybe it’s just hard for me to get out the door, so I keep it short to avoid getting discouraged when I can’t commit to more regular longer walks? As is this is a ten minute experience. I’d like to travel to the neighborhood behind mine because it’s a really lovely experience. I used to use those paths when I was a runner. These days, however, I don’t go back there. I should, though. One day I will, but not today…or tomorrow. Just…some day.

Some pleasant winter days I manage to convince the kids to play outside. Most of the toys for them in our shed are much too young for them, but perish the thought that we get rid of anything. Before COIVD last summer my husband and I were all set to get balance bikes and maybe something else for outside play, but this is a brief era frozen in time. The kids don’t seem to mind, but I do. I feel like we’ve all been kind of languishing, even though Little Man and Warrior Queen are happy enough…considering.

Both kids have their treasures. Really it’s just a kid thing…they collect stuff…a cool rock…a nifty leaf…whatever. My cherubs equally insist I document their findings with my phone before subsequently forgetting the documentation exists. It’s helpful for me, though, I think. It’s a reminder that neither child requires anything terribly fancy to be content, so maybe I need to back off the self-loathing when we are all just trying to get through?

For all the television my kids watch, sometimes they get sick of it, which does not make me mad. I was taking a shower only to emerge to all assortments of toys littered on virtually every step. The toy debris was attending the “theater” for the production of: Watch Mommy Break Her Neck Attempting to Travel Down the Stairs.

The kitchen table is not the most comfortable place to sit, but I still find myself there a weird amount of the time. I’ve started carrying my massive afghan project from room to room. I enjoy the warmth. I enjoy the pressure and heft. I periodically stitch as I’m not distracted by kid stuff. And, sometimes I do this silly thing of having my afghan on my lap, but I’m knitting the scarf I started. A good friend was in a craft store thinking of me and bought some interesting yarn as a gift because she’s kind and thoughtful that way. Such a gesture deserves me pulling out one of my stitch books, and a new project was born! I had to unravel the thing about four times before I stopped making tragic, irreconcilable mistakes. Now it’s looking pretty good. It has texture. My tactile sense is the only one that works, so I’m a tremendous fan of texture. Unfortunately, the pictures of the piece bury that aspect of it.

So, I sit at the table. I have my afghan on my lap some of the time. I have my new scarf to the left that I intermittently pick-up to work on…It’s why I have it there, after all. I especially enjoy these projects after I’ve scarfed my dinner or whatever meal, and my husband is still eating…old habits die hard. I’m an obnoxiously fast eater. Usually the kids have sort of eaten their food, and my husband and I just sit and talk…laugh. We are good at laughing. He laughs more these days, which was predictable with him transitioning to another phase of existence, but regardless of the reason, it’s been a long time since I’ve see him this light. The kids are off doing their kid thing…or not. And, we just sit that way and chat about nothing…because a fifteen-year marriage ushers more of those inconsequential moments that are missed the most when things are harried or when he isn’t physically around. And, I have my stitch work to complete the experience.

But, whatever is happening in stereo around me, I’m at the table eating…drinking my tea…reading my magazine for a bit or stitching, and they’re really some of my best moments in any given day. I crave a lot more in my emotionally muddled head space, but I’m aware enough to just enjoy these particular times. I have them throughout the day, but I think I love the morning the best.

I hate playing games. I’m the least competitive person anyone could ever meet. I’m the kind of person that feels guilty winning…try figuring that one out. I bought Uno a while ago because I feel like it’s some kind of parenting prerequisite or something. The kids love it. Of course, they do. I hate it, but can be pestered into playing…I can be pestered into a lot of things. Some of the time when I sit down to do my kitchen-table-Mommy-fun-time, a kid wanders over and starts insisting on playing. I’ll only argue so long before I knuckle under. My son is savvy about it too. To circumvent and argument with him I often give him a choice between two activities or items. Wouldn’t you know that he does the same thing to me? I’ve decided that Uno is much less painful than Chutes and Ladders, so I play however many games he’s insisting on. Usually Warrior Queen also decides to roam on over to us to play as well. She’s an unbelievably tedious Uno player. She will have the fucking cards to play, but decides that she’d rather draw another one from the stack instead of playing her hand. So, unless I win…or her brother when he plays, the game will be an inertia.

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.

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