A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Life as Pictures: Catching Up

I’m trying to prioritize things. I have a lengthy list of items that I consider important, but I have absolutely no hope of getting to all of it. It’s a little sad because I feel that if I were generally functioning better, I’d get to all of it. Most days I opt to be lazy while completing whatever meager task.

I write…then I don’t…then I write again. Interestingly, it hasn’t been a record amount of time since I last published here, but I know I’m simultaneously months overdue. So, this is me smooshing all kinds of things that I’ve wanted to mention together, but can’t otherwise figure out how to keep a consistent running record of my life.

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(Top image description: (Maybe) a 1940s era ammunitions bunker. Trapezoid cement face with the rest going into a hill. Trees on it and surrounding it. Leaves on the ground. Rusted steel door with bars and some kind of steel box welded on it. Five relatively narrow leaf covered stairs to the right. A leaf covered cement platform in front of the door and to the right of the stairs.)

(Bottom image description: Leaf covered trail heading into the distance through a tunnel of leafless trees and evergreens. Some trees have fallen on both sides of the trail. (Maybe) 1940s era munition trapezoid bunker with a cement face on the left toward the back of the image. The front is visible, but the rest goes into a hill trees on it.)

We took a walk into a nature preserve Thanksgiving week. It was a beautiful, crisp day. I haven’t been to this place for years…funny how the time goes. There are these cool structures that were used as a munition bunker during one of the World Wars, I think. Somewhere there is one that is set-up to show us nature travelers what they looked like when they were in use. I’m bummed that I have no idea where it is. I’m so curious it’s killing me. My husband was lovingly mocking me for stopping so frequently to take some kind of picture, but how can I not? These things are fucking cool.

And as we were walking, Warrior Queen was complaining that she wanted to go home…because that’s her shtick no matter what’s going on or how desperately she wanted to go to a place. And in between complaining she was snuggling and asking me and my husband to hold her hands and swing her. Ms. Feisty is in the eighty-somethingith height percentile. I…am not. She’s really getting much too tall at five-and-a-half for this exercise, but she loves it so much, so she just has to ask with her little polite plea, and my husband and I knuckle under. Every time.

Seven-and-a-half Mr. Man was miserable because he’s my kid and would also prefer to have his default be pasty white no matter the season. He’d lag behind asking the walker version of, “Are we there yet?” and bumping into my side. That was the cue for him to grab my wrist and pull it around his neck…Little Man loves the snuggles when he’s miserable. It’s now February. He’s sick with a cold and feeling okay, I suppose, but that didn’t stop him from climbing on my lap while watching television the other evening. I’ll probably get whatever he has, but I really can’t resist a good snuggle.

(Image description: (Maybe) 1940s era munitions bunker with a trapezoid cement face with graffiti. The rest goes into a hill. Surrounded by trees with several fallen trees in the front left of the picture. A trail leading up to the front, but it curves out to the right before curving back to the door. The coloring of the image itself has been edited by a phone where it’s a darker picture seemingly how a horror movie might be promoted.)

I couldn’t help myself. I was bored at some point and looking through the fancy smancy photo effects on my phone. I haven’t done it since I got it. I absolutely couldn’t resist the horror movie-esque…whatever this is. It makes me look so creative and impressive!

(Top image description: Snow covered trail, but only a thin layer of the snow. The back of a man in the center of the trail. The back of a little girl on the right and the back of a little boy on the left holding a walking stick in his right hand. All three wearing boots and winter gear. The trail is surrounded by trees.)

(Bottom image description: Snow covered trail, but only a thin layer of the snow. The back of a man in the center of the trail. The back of a little girl on the right who is squatting down and the back of a little boy on the left. All three wearing boots and winter gear. The trail is surrounded by trees.)

Same weekend we took another walk around our neighborhood area. Warrior Queen requested to take this walk; subsequently complaining of wanting to return home within five minutes. It was a musical round of complaining cats between her and her brother. We had to force him to leave the house. We have about fifty-fifty efficacy doing so. Much of the time he flat out refuses, and it’s not worth the argument. Probably the most convincing I’ve ever been with him is to discuss the importance of Vitamin D and the role the sun has on this important nutrient. But sometimes even medical/body stuff doesn’t sway him.

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This is a disjointed post. I can tell already, but it is what it is. I figure it’s better to roll with the breaks than to try to squeeze this into a single, cohesive piece.

I was up early this morning…like four in the morning early. It’s what happens when I sleep through the night and wake-up at that time. In order to fall asleep in the first place I have to exhaust myself physically and my antipsychotic is taken at night, serving as a kind of sedative. But if I have an overnight like the last one, my brain is too active to settle back down. I’m tired, but not enough. There are certain things I love about the early hour, though. The house is quiet. I get to read and see the slow glow of a sunrise. This morning I looked out the window of our office. It’s a thick, snowy scape surrounded by trees and the early morning sun peaking through. I love that. I want to note it, so that I’ll remember it again when I go back and read through my posts at some point.

(Image description: A kitchen table with various items in the background. A cut-off book on the left angled through much of the picture. The book is Children of Blood and Bone. There is a white plastic crochet hook on it. On the right there is a partial of a small plate with a green and black border holding chocolate chips. In the back of the picture is a large Disney mug of tea with the handle on the right.)

I’m in my first book group. I’d never wanted to join one for a variety of probably silly reasons. I enjoy being social, but that kind of social made me nervous. Combined with having to find the location of someone’s house, along with the pressures of having to finish a book each month. I don’t know. I just never wanted to participate in one…not that I was asked. I suppose the more accurate term is that I didn’t care to seek something like this out. A few months ago a kind of acquaintance that I probably harass with random and annoying comments periodically, invited me to her own kind of book group. I like this one because the books are written by people from marginalized groups. I’ll soon be starting my own remote prison book discussion program, so I appreciate the opportunity to read books that I’d like to use. I have the same ambitions with what I’ll be running.

It’s been going on a few months now. I was asked if I had any book recommendations…never ask me a question because I tend to overdo my response. This was no exception…like I said, probably harassing and annoying comments. I’m not so great with my social skills, so I always feel backfooted with things. I try to reign myself in, but I’m not very effective at it. Consequently I’m perpetually in extra territory, and I feel uncomfortable about it. I’m middle-aged now, so I’m pretty sure this is just me. I’m destined to be an awkward person who (fortunately) seeks the company of other awkward people. I can laugh about it among my people, but when the circle is widened, I get anxious. Anyway. The books I’ve read so far have been really good. I managed to update my book list with a few…go me. I had an oopsie this month, though. I read the March book by mistake, so this week has been a mad dash to read the February one. I might finish it by tomorrow when we meet, but at least I’m enough into it to be able to contribute in a reasonable way. It’s strange though. This is my only real social thing I do…the only thing I’ve done for years now. I usually get a lift when I sign-off after the group meets. I hadn’t expected that.

(Image description: A colorful striped crochet afghan project close up to the stitches. The perspective is with the afghan flowing down to a pile from a lap to the floor. Some of the wood floor is visible on the right of the picture.)

In other news the afghan that’s kept me company for a deceiving couple of years now is almost finished. I’ve squared it off (I think) successfully. There is a whole section of pleating where I messed up. I’m not sure how, but it looks like I did it on purpose because of my mad crochet skills. So, I’m on the last color. Once I use up the final skein, along with some quick clean-up of strands, it will be done. I’m a little sad about it. It’s giving me some comfort imagining the moment I gift it to the people who populate its new homestead. I have a vague idea of what my next afghan will be. I think I’ll do another granny square-esque style, only square. The round turned out to be a massive pain in the ass trying to figure out how to square it off and what to do with the increases. I’ve learned some hard earned lessons, but it’s time to move on to a different design. That’s part of the charm of a new project. This one was entirely double crochet. I might try for squares that have a few different types of rows that I can repeat throughout…make it interesting with my signature random color combinations.

(Image description: A large colorful striped afghan taking up almost the entirety of a small room. The afghan has rings of various thickness with pleating in the middle. The back left of the picture has backpacks for scale. There is white carpet and the bottom of windows along the back of the room.)

This is several rows shy of the end. I have three more thinner bands of color after the pink above…then the gray square-off…this thing is huge. I’ve run out of room to stretch it out at this point. I say this took me a couple of years, but midway through I didn’t touch this it for months and months.

(Image description: Close up to the stitches of a colorful afghan project. the project itself is piled on top of itself, so it isn’t clear what the stripes would look like if it was spread out.)

It’s totally normal to have a plethora of “artistic” afghan-in-progress pictures, right? Some people can find millions of baby pictures with an assortment of, “what is this rash” ones. I play with afghan angles…

(Image description: Close up to the stitches of a colorful afghan project. the project itself is piled on top of itself, so it isn’t clear what the stripes would look like if it was spread out. The top is shadowed, so it has a kind of crocheted tunnel look to it. the top is also blurred while the bottom of the picture has a clear visual of the individual stitches.)

I also revisited my old, maybe original, art love…beading. Little Man busted a collection of shiny beads I bought him. He’s always partial to treasures, though less so now. Suddenly he wanted this string of sparkly to be made into something he could wear…okay. I dug out my bead collection because a mom likes to makes things fancy and harder work than a project needs to be.

(Top image description: A beaded necklace on a light wood table. There are round multi-colored crystal-like beads with hematite discs in between. The necklace has four sets of silver and goad “shell” bells.)

(Bottom image description: A boy from the chin to his lower chest wearing a long beaded necklace. He is wearing a blue and green plaid flannel with a green “Pirate Life/ St. Lucia” t-shirt with a scull and crossbones. The words are in a goldish-brown. The scull is white with brown bones behind it and wearing a red bandana.)

He was excited because he was able to choose bells for his necklace. He doesn’t wear it. Instead it sits on his night stand table as though it’s a presentation of sorts. Of course, Warrior Queen must have a necklace as well. Alas my collection doesn’t include things that are to her taste, but she seemed to like what I made her okay, even if it’s languishing on our kitchen counter.

(Image description: Various shapes, colors, and types of beads on a necklace. Most of the colors are in the neighborhood of golds, reds, and yellows. Some blue and black, but not a lot. Green cloth spread out underneath the necklace. The photo blurs toward the back.)

My kids are artistic as well. I like taking pictures of their work…for posterity.

Warrior Queen created a fairly accurate Pete the Cat.

(Image description: A child drawing of the head of Pete the Cat. Eyes and small triangular nose, whiskers. the face is in a box with three horizontal lines below.)

(Image description: Child watercolor of the eyes and mouth of a monster. A thin black line in the center partitions blue on the top half and purple on the bottom. Two big eyes in the middle of the paper. Round white circles with black solid spots for pupils. Three hairs going up from the center that gives the monster a kind of furrowed expression. There is a mouth with sharp triangular teeth going diagonally down from right to left in the middle of the purple section.)

(Image description: Child watercolor painting. Blue on the top right corner down to midway down the right side. Green covering the remaining background. In the middle is a red leaf rubbing that might be crayon.)

Mr. Man was only managing scribbles a year ago, but suddenly has had some truly impressive artwork. My fierce girl has always been crafty, loving color and playing with materials to make something bold and beautiful. My son never had such an interest or inclination, but now is able to follow all kinds of directions and produce some really skilled drawings and such. Some kind of switch flipped that I can’t explain. Maybe it’s because I’m more or less crafty and can kind of draw when I’m pressed, and on my mom’s side are a bunch of artist-like skills in various forms. Whatever the reason, he will bustle in from a school day insisting that I look at all of his school work for the day and whatever art piece he created. He’s especially interested in what I think of his artwork and drawings. Once I’ve taken a picture and raved about it, he stops caring about the piece. It sadly ends up destroyed in some way or drawn over…thank the heavens for smartphones with instantly wonderful picture capability. Warrior Queen, on the other hand is the junkman from the shtetel. She will never get rid of anything regardless if it’s technically trash or something that at one point was worth keeping. She hordes it all and schleps it upstairs every evening and back downstairs in the morning.

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(Image description: Unevenly cut and overlapping messy cut-outs of various food from grocery circulars on a table.)

Warrior Queen has this new game she plays. It’s very creative…as she is. The gist is that she has a store and she tends to me as the entrepreneur of the establishment helping me find food items for a party. She carefully fans out a seemingly endless number of grocery store circular cutouts on which I am to make my decisions. The feisty one has a real knack for creative play. Recently the play has become a kind of dramatic performance. Sometimes I’m the audience, and other times I’m some kind of participant. Her language skills are particularly advanced, so she has this whole thing she does with detailed scenarios and whatnot. Often there is some kind of complicated problem or mystery that she is charged to address, so she uses me as a kind of sounding board and we problem solve together. One of her “stuffies” or Barbies…because she’s suddenly become interested in them…not baby dolls, but fashionista “Barbie” characters that she gives creative names like “beautiful.” It’s always the Black dolls that are named beautiful or lovely, which makes me very happy. The White ones are given generic ones like Elsa or whatever random cartoon character that is apparently interchangeable. But, I digress. One of her toy characters will play a prank or will be trying to trick her. Others will be supporting her in her time of need, and they all team together to find something or stop the madness and trickery. But it’s not like a conversational thing. When I’m involved it’s a whole performance with exaggerated expressions and pantomime. It reminds me of my time in competitive speech in the Humorous Interpretation category.

As for my son, he’s on this whole game kick. Loves them…loves them. I in equal measures detest all games for a variety of reasons. My husband can’t stand playing with me because I’d only be less competitive if I were dead. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I feel guilty when I actually manage a good strategic move to the point where I offer to donate my points or whatever to other players. I can’t help it. The guilt gets to me. My husband and I have a running joke about it, but in all seriousness he looks ready to kill me in his frustration when we actually do end up playing some kind of game as an entire family.

Mr. Man is particularly invested in Monopoly. I really can’t stand Monopoly. I’m disabled on many fronts, but some of it is hefty learning issues…like with math…and processing in general. My memory is wonky, especially following my massive case of pulmonary embolism a couple of years ago. I find Monopoly particularly overwhelming and anxiety provoking. I have trouble processing what I should do…the math involved. I don’t really get what I’m supposed to do on a strategy front. One time I played with him, and I probably lost a year off my life from the stress of trying to figure out what decisions to make over the couple hours this experience entailed. Little Man is usually the banker, and he’s just fast with everything. He’s fast to compute and make decisions…totally wiped me out with his win…as he does with virtually everyone he plays with. It’s still a long game, though. Consequently, I absolutely refuse to play. I compromise with other games that are still stressful for me, but less so. It probably makes me a terrible parent that I won’t suck it up and do this for him, but it’s a line I had to draw for my own sanity.

(Image description: Blurred Monopoly board set-up with a game in progress. Fingers coming down from the top left. Money piles along the edge of the board closest to the camera. A few properties closest to the camera and after the line of money.)

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Transitioning to another topic…

I’m excited because it’s that time again for the lobby day that I returned to just prior to going into the hospital a couple of years ago. That year was at the state house, which is an amazing experience. This nonprofit does a fantastic job with it. Last year and this it will be online, which is a bummer, but they still do well with it. In the morning I’ll listen to various speakers about poverty and homelessness in my state, along with explanations of the various legislation this organization manages. In the afternoon I’m scheduled to meet with my State Senator…who knows me fairly well as I’m a very nudgy constituent. Not sure what’s happening with my State Rep. I like her well enough. She has a powerful position in the State Legislature. She mostly votes the way I like, but she tends to hold back from advocating for most morally just causes…even easy things for the state…like gun control. She’ll sit back and hedge public comments and advocating for causes. Not thrilled about that, but it could be worse…much worse. She has a new Chief-of-Staff in the last maybe six-months. He’s nice, but I’ve found the last two to be better with follow through. I might have to call him separately to schedule a meeting with my Rep for next week. I hope not. It’s more fun to be in the spirit of it all on the same day, even if it isn’t in-person, but I’ll take what I can get.

In the meantime, it’s just onward from where I was.

I don’t really do resolutions, but I like to reflect on how I spent the last year and think about what I envision for the next.

Hmmm…what do I hope for the next year. An end to the pandemic, but that’s realistically not going to happen because too many people in this country are self-centered asshats who are incapable of doing the bare minimum of taking care of others in their communities. And, yes, I realize that the pandemic won’t actually end until the entire world is vaccinated…or worldwide infection is managed. An end to the pandemic is also out of my control; I just feel compelled to complain about it.

I hope to have my remote writing program expanded to the entire maximum facility I’m currently in, as well as the federal and out-of-state prison I have my sights on. There is an additional bonus system I’m hoping for, but I don’t want to get greedy. Along the same prison lines, in the next year I hope to see my successes for what they are…successes. I’m extraordinarily quick to second guess or dismiss my accomplishments. While I doubt I’ll stop doing that entirely, I hope to get a little better at it. I hope that I can feel good about what I’m doing…that I’m enough, even as the world may very well crumble around me.

I look forward to a new opportunity in the realm of politics. I’d told myself I would never join another Board. When I walked away from the last one I asserted it wasn’t for me. But now this new gig is on my lap and it has such potential that I’m compelled to jump in both feet like I do. It would be building something, which I love. It is also a way to join forces with other, probably, like-minded people in enough ways to make this interesting…hopefully important. And I’ll likely learn some things as well, which is always a draw for me.

I ended up joining a book club…sort of. It’s online. I’ve never joined a book club before…too much pressure, and after my hospital jaunt two years-ish ago, my brain hasn’t been able to manage things as well. I feel stronger these days, and it kinda crept up on me suddenly one day that I am. I’m able to handle text I couldn’t for the longest time. The first book was good. The second one is massive, so I’m feeling the pressure to read it. The club focuses on social justice and reading authors from marginalized communities…totally my bag. At some point my remote book discussion will happen at the same maximum. I have the same author goals, so it will be good to explore some of these writers. I have my own that I’ve read, but I won’t pretend to be an authority. The book club has mostly been my only social thing. It occurred to me during the first meeting that it was…so sad…this pandemic is brutal.

I wrote a book. It needs to be edited. I’m resigned to doing it myself. I can’t imagine I’m going to sell many, so I’m doing things as much on the cheap as I can. If I hired an editor…something I’m not even sure how to go about, I don’t feel confident I’d recoup those funds. I’m proud of what I wrote, and it gives me a little buzz every time I look at the draft. It’s formatted to look like a book now, which is such a cool thing. I never saw myself as writing a book. Mostly I thought to do so because many of my students have dreams of publishing. It’s easier for me to speak about a process I’ve experienced. I hope in the next year I get the book off and for public consumption. I’m also in the throws of a second one, which is a very different project. I hope to have that one finished as well. Neither of these books are terribly long. The second is a kind of art project in a way. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but lately I’ve had a clear picture of what I want for this thing. Thanks to a friend, I’m newly excited about it. I think it will come together well.

Since I’m already riding the writing hope train, I hope to go back to writing more fiction…maybe some poetry. I’m not much of a poet, but I enjoy it, and days when I’m not feeling mentally together enough to sustain creativity, banging out a poem can scratch that productivity itch.

In the next year I hope to be a better parent, which probably isn’t fair. It’s not that I’m a bad one, but I’m definitely not winning any awards or gold stars. But at the same time, there are moments that I’ve done well. I know I’ve done well. I hope to weigh those moments as having just as much value. My husband is the fun one. He’s the one with the activities and exciting things. That’s not my shtick. It will never be my shtick. I guess in the next year I want to see my role in my children’s lives as equally important to the fun. I know abstractly what my kids need from me. I want to see that as enough…that I don’t have to be all things…that I’m enough just as I am. As I write this my seven-year-old walked into the room, snuggled into me, scratching my shoulder (I’m a huge fan of back scratches), asking me how I slept. I’m raising him to be that kind of human. My daughter is the same way. I don’t know what their futures hold, but such moments are important.

I hope to get outside more in the next year…laughable, I know. I’m not friends with the outdoors. It’s mostly that acquaintance that is tolerated, even though I know objectively they are a good egg. I hope to do better.

I hope to keep laughing with my husband. I don’t think people realize how funny he is. He tends to be reserved and straight-laced, but he has this desert dry humor. For a long time things weren’t easy. Our marriage was fine, but other things impacted it nonetheless. There is laughter once again. I love that I’m probably the only one who knows this about my favorite person in the entire world. No one makes me laugh like he does.

I’m not totally sold on this one, but I hope to go back to the twice a month gig at my town’s food pantry. It will depend on what infection rates are. Ideally, I’d be able to return with my kids. They really loved volunteering there, and they were actually helpful.

Probably the biggest hope of all of that is to practice kindness to myself… more forgiveness of things I’ve convinced myself are a wrong, but actually aren’t. I brutalize myself over things I need to let go or not worry about in the first place…and then I brutalize myself for brutalizing myself. It’s a mess. For my own sanity I need to work on this. It’s not healthy for me, and if my kids pick up on it…which they probably do because they are kids, then it’s not healthy for them to see me modeling that kind of behavior. I’m not sure where it comes from. I kinda know, but not really. But whatever the impetus, I hope to be in a better place on this front by the turn of another year.

I hope to always value the support I have around me. I don’t interact much with people these days, but I’ve met some truly fantastic people along my life’s travels. I hope they know how much I appreciate them. In the next year I want to be certain. Life is short and can be hard. It’s too short and too hard to allow those I feel connected to to not realize their importance in my life. I’m usually pretty good about this, but we are still in a pandemic, and I think this specific thing often slips through my fingers as I lose track of days and muddle through.

Belated Gratitude

It’s not that I’m ungrateful this year; I’m just especially disorganized and can’t get my shit together. I wish procrastinating was some kind of recognized sport. I’d kill at it.

I don’t know if I feel silly much this year, but I do at the moment. Too much internal serious lately, and I’m kinda sick of it.

I’m grateful to my friend who consistently buys me my favorite chocolate for Hanukkah and my birthday. I’m pretty sure I haven’t received another gift for years from anyone…which isn’t a complaint. I think I just noticed that as I write this. Is that sad? It shouldn’t be, but it sounds sad. In any case, the chocolate always comes at the best time when I’m especially craving something fancy and different. They used to have stores where I would buy this brand in heaps, but no more. Now that is sad. When my friend gifts it to me, it’s extra special now…not that I avoid scarfing it all in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

It’s hard to keep up, but I’m kinda grateful for the correspondence with the people I’m managing through Prisoner Express. I’m not exactly sure why it feels like such a cool thing on my end, but it does. I feel a little bad about that because me communicating with someone incarcerated isn’t about me. I talk about books with one person. Nothing serious or involved, but it’s fun. Not sure what my messages are doing for any of them, but it’s definitely a cool kind of thrill to get an email containing a scanned letter. Maybe in a world where I’m making myself a little too isolated, it simply feels gratifying to connect to another human.

I’m thankful that when my Kindergartener daughter put together her own school lunch after whining for thirty minutes about not wanting to eat pizza (Yeah, I don’t understand it either.). She did a pretty good job. The situation was her calling my husband’s bluff…because of course my fierce Warrior Queen did. The meal totally lacked protein, but on her own she compiled crackers, a banana, baby carrots, and half an apple leftover from the million times during the day when I’m cutting up apples. She was so proud of herself, so while I’m not sure this is totally a parenting win, I’m going to count it as such.

I’m grateful for a socially conscious seven-year-old. This morning he told me he hasn’t called Congress for a little while, so he wanted to when he came home from school today…good timing. The kids have a half-day. Before we left for the bus, he told me his list of concerns he’d like to communicate. It’s a really good list. I’m not going to get his wording right, but he wants there to be less fossil fuels for everything, less Covid deaths, less guns, and accessible transportation. The last one is something he mentions pretty consistently during these calls. I have to say I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. While I’ve definitely discussed disability issues with him, I don’t remember this particular thing coming up. It must have somehow, of course, but I don’t remember…not that me forgetting shit is a rare thing. Little Man…who’s growing right before my eyes, wants to tell Congress about having reusable items and more bike lanes. Those will be to our state congressional critters. I’ve spoken to him about the difference between local, state, and federal government; but I’m not entirely sure he gets it in terms of what box each issue type goes in. In any case…I’m really proud of him. He’s always been good about seeing others. I’m grateful that Warrior Queen hears us talking about these calls and wants to participate as well. Since she’s only five, it’s hard for her to articulate a list, but we’ll get there. I don’t want her to miss out. Last time her list was one item…vaccines…which kind of strikes me as tragic that it would be on the mind of such a young one, but that’s the world we are in.

I’m thankful my remote writing program is going as well as it is, though the data isn’t quite where I want it to be. Probably not fair of me to be so harsh with myself about it. The program is about six-months in and there have been a good deal of changes. That doesn’t include whatever is happening in the facility, this time of year especially. I’m honored to read all the writing they submit…that I’m trusted with vulnerability.

I’m grateful for the couple of walks I managed in November. I had a goal to take walks outside a couple times each week in October and November, and I totally shit the bed at it. That said, I managed to take the kids on a virtual 5K on Thanksgiving. It was pretty great, actually. I have some pictures from it with the plan to write it up here. I’ll get to it…eventually. But we also took a walk as an entire family unit somewhere I hadn’t been for years. I’ll write that up too…eventually. Little Man isn’t so much for snuggling these days. He does, but not so often like Warrior Queen. During this walk in this beautiful and still place, he kept holding my hand and pulling my arm around his shoulders. I loved it so much.

I’m thankful for the collection of friends that put-up with me. I’ve been up and down a lot for a while now. I didn’t always have friends, so I don’t take them for granted. I hope they know that.

I’m grateful for the friends who broaden my world, as I find some kind of kindred spirit.

I’m thankful for the Warrior Queen snuggles on the sofa while she watches a television program I can’t stand. She’ll periodically look at me, smile, and give me a smooch on my cheek while I’m reading. Other times she drapes an arm over me. She’s always been one for physical connection. That kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to me, but I love that it does with her.

I’m grateful that I’m connected with so many nonprofits and various social efforts that I receive really cool address labels.

I’m thankful for the afghan that I tinker with after meals or when I’m enjoying one of my plethora of tea mugs throughout the course of the day. I have a final home for the afghan in mind. I like to think of this person’s face when I give it to them. I’m very excited for when this project is done and the time comes for relinquishing it and the comfort it provides because I know the comfort will transfer to someone else…to one of my favorite people.

I’m grateful I’m here. That’s it. Just here. I almost wasn’t. I’m grateful for the vaccines…for my parents…for my husband…now for my kids. My G-d, everything I came so close to missing out on. There have been hard days since, no doubt, but I’m here.

Time Lapse

It’s horrible how unmotivated I’ve been to write, and it’s carried on for the longest time. I started this a little after school began in September…so there is some time lapse. That said, I use this site, in part, as a chronicle of my life. Sometimes I go back to read these pieces so I can rekindle a memory. Other times I think that maybe one day my kids might be interested in getting a glimpse of Mommy as she was adjusting to the kid life change.

*

The kids are both in school now, which is so strange. I remember people would tell me about this time when Little Man was a little baby, and it always seemed so far away. I’d been kinda sorta preparing for this time, but not this time specifically. I had my worky plans and I plodded along a certain trajectory that Covid completely dismantled…or it did in a way…a big way, but not a complete way like I would have expected.

I had my plans, most of which I was anxiously excited to be teaching some classes that I wouldn’t have to be creative about because of childcare needs. Covid definitely stomped all over those for the time being. Life is a funny thing, though. I’ve always had some kind of plan, but most of them were me saying yes to whatever task was sent my way. I like learning new things and seeing how things function, so even if something isn’t all that interesting on it’s face, my life philosophy has more or less always been, why not?

It occurred to me some time ago that with all of my political stuff, I’m not terribly grounded in my own local governance. I tend to focus on out of state efforts where rights are more threatened, and while that stuff is important, there really isn’t an excuse for being almost totally disengaged from my own local politics. After all, politics is very local…I know that for everyone else, but apparently not for my own neighborhood…totally unacceptable. I’m volunteering for a town council, which is fine. It brings entertainment and culture-type things to my somewhat rural area. I chose this committee thing because out of the list it’s the one thing I felt I had some degree of competence navigating. That reality has been bothering me for a while now. The bothering, however, doesn’t make me anymore competent in the needs of what’s happening.

Societal exclusion and poverty are the highest correlating factors crime/delinquency, so while I have all of this prison work that I do and focus on greatly, I also try to reach out and participate in things that focus on those two factors. Admittedly it’s a bunch of fly by night stuff. I’m not terribly connected to any one organization or effort. I was attending a town meeting to help represent my own committee and caught that they have trouble filling our housing one. There isn’t an opening now, but this month I started attending this group because they focus on the area of affordable housing. I hope to join when there is an opening, so maybe in a year?

It’s only been one meeting so far. I’m pretty sure I understand what’s going on, but it’s definitely a learning curve. It’s interesting. I can also say that this area is completely out of my wheelhouse. I have not one crumb of expertise for this, but maybe by the time I’m able to be part of this committee I’ll be more useful. In the meantime, I plan to listen…a lot…a lot a lot.

I’m not really sure what the issues is exactly, but phonebanking has required too much concentration for me to do for a while now, so I’m switched over to textbanking. No real campaigns at the moment, so I’ve been doing a weekly gig for the Equality Act through the Human Rights Campaign and the occasional assignment for voting rights through Fair Fight. Those have been going well enough; I’ve noticed that my ability to handle the different types of banking fluctuates quite a bit. I’ve had to try to tell myself that changing it up isn’t a moral failing or a absconding of responsibility. Sometimes things are just too much at any given time, and it’s perfectly acceptable for change things up as I periodically need to.

*

And things have continued to this day. My textbanking is hit or miss. I phonebanked for the Virginia gubernatorial race for the home stretch, and managed it well enough. I think I managed six or eight shifts? I can’t remember. Generally, though, I can only handle about 30 minutes of an autodialer format, so all of those shift commitments aren’t as impressive as they sound. I had a ton of guilt for a while that I didn’t do enough for that race. I just couldn’t get my act together until the end.

And while all of that was going on, my kids are doing their kid thing…enjoying school. Warrior Queen comes home from Kindergarten with all sorts of tales that I’m pretty sure didn’t happen. That’s her bag; telling stories. She isn’t lying so much as she is creating her own little world in her head. I used to do that as well, though with my psychiatric profile it probably held a different prodromal meaning, even when I was young. There is still a lot that professionals need to learn about people in my diagnostic category. But regardless, Warrior Queen is like me in that regard…loves her stories, loves her internal world. I try not to tamper with and discourage it too much. What she is doing was my primary coping skill for most of my life. Even now I use writing as a way to organize my thoughts, even when I’m writing fiction…that’s actually a thing, apparently. Any kind of writing is grounding for people with psychotic disorders. I’m don’t necessarily think Warrior Queen has inherited this part of me, at least I hope not. As proud as I am of my own accomplishments and what I’m capable of because of my neurodivergence, it would be hard to watch either of my kids travel a path similar to mine. It’s just so hard all the time. And scary as well…I’m always afraid. But in the meantime I love my daughter’s stories. They are mostly amusing…when I can follow them. Good luck getting actual information from her. Her health class has been covering “bus safety” for months now.

Not too much to say about Little Man in the second grade. He’s doing well. His brain amazes me. In some ways he’s so like me, but in other ways so not. He’s cracked open his first 1,000 piece puzzle…a Star Wars thing. He’s both into and not all that interested in Star Wars, but I guess the puzzle held some kind of appeal for him. So, he’s been tinkering with it on the floor of our living room that houses an elliptical, a random sofa, and nothing else. It’s actually kinda cool doing my exercise and having him on the floor next to me. Puzzle pieces surrounding him like some kind of oddly shaped snow angel. I’m still not sure how he can put together pieces so efficiently; his brain is an interesting place.

I still owe a gratitude post. I’m grateful for much, but I’m having trouble getting thoughts together for a reason I don’t understand. In the meantime, I’m finally publishing this piece that’s been languishing for months…I guess that’s something…

Stagnation and Process

(Image description: A close-up assortment of colorful Aaron Blabey The Bad Guys books spread throughout the image.)

Seven-year-old Little Man has been reading, which has been quite a thing. I read all the time and I’d hoped that my kids would too. I wasn’t sure how to make something like that happen, but I hoped for it anyway. I was barely literate into college, so reading wasn’t really my thing growing up. I pretended it was, but I hardly read anything. It was too hard. I could skim okay and get highlights for things, but otherwise I avoided it. My son, however, clearly doesn’t need to wade through the struggles I had.

The Bad Guys series is his favorite right now, though the content is meh. It’s mostly toilet humor, but whatever. I’ll buy him a box set of five, and he chews through them all in a day. He’ll completely obsess over them, and for the following week will reread them all several times over. Toilet humor aside, I guess that’s a win? Little Man reads other things as well; things that are a marvel of his Autistic brain. When he was potty training, he wanted some anatomy books. They are essentially medical school texts with copious pictures and captions. My son will spend hours reading these captions and describe to anyone who will stand still the function of each organ he’s reading about. What’s especially cool is that he will describe things using accurate metaphors so the rest of us will understand what he’s talking about. Here and there he will compare a body system to something pertaining to prisons. That’s probably because of me and my work. It’s funny what kids will take away from things. As Warrior Queen enters Kindergarten soon, it will be interesting to see what she picks-up and how.

(Image description: Crocheted blanket random colored and thickness striped stiches in the round with a book in the center for a size reference.)

I’ve totally wrecked this blanket. I increased my rows too much and ended up with massive amounts of pleats. I’m grateful I have a friend to consult about this process, so now I’m in the throws of the arduous process of trying to fix it. I hope when all is said and done this thing looks okay. It would be devastating to spend so long doing this project to have it look shoddy.

My kids are killing each other, spending too much time in each other’s presence. It’s not so much that they aren’t getting a long as it is how they get along. They wrestle. All the time, and it’s all fun and games with Warrior Queen begging her big brother for the rough stuff before something goes amiss and the whining starts. It’s maddening, and I haven’t been in the mood to deal with it. I’ve been a little out of sorts in a way that’s completely predictable, but annoying nonetheless.

In the final days of the House race I was phonebanking for, I’d reached my limit and stopped. What started off as me not hearing back from campaign people with a link, turned into a completely exhausted shutdown. I’m not happy with myself, but I’m just at my end with it. I can’t really concentrate so well these days, and phonebanking can be a hard mental process for me, even if it’s the more low-key VPB format where I’m dialing the numbers myself. I tend to sign-on for campaigns and feel most motivated when it’s a kind of long shot or it’s important. This race was plucked from obscurity about when I stopped my volunteering. It’s some comfort that my participation is negligible with what is probably now a more robust effort to get this candidate elected. The entire race has been epic. I don’t usually buy campaign garb, but I did for this one. I wanted to always remember it for the outrageous process it’s been, and know that I was helping when it was hard to get help. I still feel guilty, but I can say that my small role existed.

Have I mentioned that my remote creative writing program started in June? This is a type of correspondence program designed for solitary confinement, though I use the term loosely. I try to focus my personal corrections work targeting populations that are otherwise unreached. When I expand this program to other states, my priority is for maximum security levels or higher. Within those facilities, my hope is to intervene with those who experience either solitary confinement or some kind of restrictive setting because they don’t function well enough to attend programs in person.

My program is going well, amazingly so. I had twenty-two enroll for the first month with eleven submit the work to receive the sentence reduction. That’s a solid participation number. Midway through the month I learned there is a waitlist twenty deep that just sort of emerged suddenly. Everyone who submitted work chose to participate in July. The enrollment for July was thirty-two. I’m in the process of getting the work submission numbers. I’d expected around fifteen; about half. I’ve received ten journals so far, and I’ve been told that another ten to fifteen are on the way. Absolutely phenomenal. I’d been feeling a little low in a mostly inexplicable way. I’d needed this kind of news. The good feels won’t last, but I’ll take whatever I can get. I’ll spend the next week or so responding to my writers. I knew my program would grow. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

I’ve submitted a proposal for a correspondence book discussion remote program. Like everywhere else I’ve reached out, there is a new programming freeze, at least for a system outsider like me. I’ve been tasked with developing programming from internal sources, so I’m not quite sure what’s happening in that respect. Lately I’ve been hearing or reading about various people or activists that do whatever big things for criminal justice reform, and I’ve felt so small and insignificant. It’s not so much about recognition for me, rather I want to have an impact in what I do, regardless if it’s my prison work, political stuff, or whatever other thing I’ve been volunteering for. I don’t feel all that accomplished most of the time. Now that I’m almost back to square one with the literacy class I’d hoped to teach and have been working toward for a good couple of years, I’m generally feeling disappointed. I tend to focus too much on what needs to be done, and almost no time living in the success I’ve had. On the one hand it keeps me driven, but on the other hand I drive myself bananas. I’m not just waiting for bad news, but waiting in general is hard and I get myself in a mindset that I’m on the cusp of missing out on everything I’ve been working toward. And, yes, I intellectually understands that this is crazy.

I’d been assuming I’d go back to in-person teaching in September. I’m not so sure that will happen with the Delta variant reaching its tentacles everywhere. I’m relieved my remote program is underway. In a way it’s small consolation, but it’s consolation nonetheless. I’m grateful to have it. I’m grateful it seems to be making a difference.

In the meantime it felt like yesterday my husband and I were lamenting how the summer would feel very long, and within a handful of weeks it will be over. Not the most memorable for the kids, I’m afraid, but it is what it is. They probably see it differently, and there hasn’t been much we could do about it. They smile a lot, laugh a lot. They love me; they hate me and love me again the way children do. And onward we go…

Life as Pictures…It helps to be creative!

I’m officially fully vaccinated…whew! For shits and giggles I took an inventory of what the year had been in terms of things I’d hoped to accomplish…almost none of it happened, by the way…at least not yet. I’d been plowing, or at least limping through the last year assuming I’ve done nothing, which (happily) isn’t the case. I managed to do some things!

That’s right, I’m a badass!

(Image description: old fashioned wonder woman Lego)

For instance, my remote creative writing program has finally started at our men’s maximum facility. I won’t see any participant work for a few weeks, but as of yesterday there were 25 people enrolled, which is such a cool thing. I expect only half will submit the prompts, but everything has to start somewhere! This program was designed for a situation where individuals are not functioning well enough to sustain in programs. This is a way for them to be engaged while also earning good-time, which is a sentence reduction incentive. My program was approved just as Covid hit and shut everything down. Consequently, I’ve been waiting over a year for this to begin. Suffice it to say; I’m pretty excited. My hope is to get this in some out of state systems, which is very much still a work in progress.

I also have a meeting this week to begin working on another prison program, which sounds really cool. I might even reengage with a reentry project I’d worked on over the past year. I might be needed to provide feedback now that things are up and running. That was a fairly involved undertaking for me. I’m glad it sounds like it’s going well.

I managed to write a relatively short book that I plan to self-publish. It’s a collection of short stories, essays, and poems. I need to find an editor…not sure what to do with that process, but it was such a nifty thing to get my Word document into a book format. It feels real now, and I’m pretty proud of it even if no one buys it. Part of the reason why I wanted to take this on is because I tend to have students who want to or are currently writing a book. It’s hard to give advice about a process I’ve never attempted. It’s not that this has made me an expert in publishing, but the entire span of what this project has been is enlightening. I’d never seriously considered this kind of thing. I happened to have a bunch of short stories that were sitting in a dark computer file that I never got around to figuring what to do with. A guy I follow on Twitter gave me the idea that I could, in fact, publish a collection of short stories, and poof…a project is made! It’s been fun…something I think I needed the last several months.

And, of course, the phonebanking. I dropped one campaign after I became disheartened with the sudden direction they were taking…sad. She really is phenomenal with phenomenal policies. I can’t help but question her political instincts, though. I’ve found that happening often. Amazing candidates leaning into the Tea Party left that tend to not win elections and can’t manage to get anything done when they do…sigh. That leaves one candidate that I’m volunteering for. I’m also on a phonebank to help get The For the People Act through the Senate.

Then there are the other random things. I’m volunteering through my town because with all of my various political shenanigans, I’ve been feeling disconnected from my own town’s governing body. We are running an event next month. I signed up to do a task because it’s what was needed, rather than me having any connections or capability to recruit for it. It’s turning out to be a challenge. On the one hand I’m hopeful that my nibble of interest will work out. It would be super terrific if it did. On the other hand, time’s a wastin’, and I don’t relish all eggs residing in a singular basket. But, it’s not like I have all that much choice about it.

(Image description: random shaped toys organized on an olive green sofa. Toy plastic teacup in the back left. A plate of small pink and yellow square cubes with round bumpy shapes sticking from the top. A book taking up the front with a thin pink and purpose irregularly shaped tower of Lego topped with gold and read. A little girl’s cupped hands presenting the shape around the base.)

Warrior Queen and I have been having tea parties and picnics. I can’t get over how creative she is. She’s a natural story crafter and everything and anything can and will be used as a prop. For a while there were the “cupcakes” shown on the plate above. Those square blocks are usually used for math manipulatives in elementary schools, but now they are food products. I forget the purpose of the Lego she’s reverently exhibiting. It’s a flower of some sort, but I’m fairly certain it had some kind of magical property. At one point I’m pretty sure its role was as a trophy.

(Image description: bookcase in the background with children’s books. A pile of soft toys and a tiara in a pile in the back left. A pink carrying case in the back right. The body of a young girl wearing a red Spiderman t-shirt and tie-dyed pink and while leggings in the center middle of the picture. The left front has a case of yellow cubes forming sticks sitting on a box table. Also on the “table” in the center are red and green cupcake forms with multicolored multi-shaped beads filling them. The front right has a red, brown and green cubed stick standing up. Behind it a stuffed coin purse.)

And, then there was the picnic where in this instance the same blocks morphed into bananas. Sometimes we bake the beads turned cupcakes, but in this instance they were pre made. It’s a little sad when they are premade because fake bead baking is about is capable as I am with making desert products…the ultimate betrayal for my prolific sweet tooth. What I love most about Warrior Queen’s creative play is that she’s in it. Heaven forbid that I eat the banana without peeling it!

(Image description: the edge of some woods with an asphalt sidewalk on the far right curving further to the right. In the middle of the picture are a small channel of rocks sloping down to the left with young pine trees in the middle. A little girl with a helmet walking up the rocks. A young boy with a helmet and knee and elbow pads standing on the sidewalk in the middle distance looking at the little girl with a peace sign on his left hand. A pink bike is laying down in the front middle of the picture.)

My husband is an amazing human. He’s been responsible for getting bikes for the kids and teaching them to ride. Little Man required a little mommy magic to get him over that initial hurdle, but otherwise, it’s all my husband’s effort. Since then he’s been biking with them almost daily. I have a bike, but it needs to be cleaned; I have no idea how to do it. I’m also not a great biker. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a little afraid. I’ll probably get my act together at some point, but it hasn’t been a priority for me with everything else I want to get squared away at the moment now that the pandemic in my state is under control, people are vaccinated, and I’m protected. This picture was taken during the initial stages of bike learning when the kids were slow enough and stopped often enough for me to walk doggedly behind them.

(Image description: The edge of some woods camera looking down a slope into a small patch of rocks with two children holding hands. The boy wearing a helmet and knee and elbow pads is partially bent over pulling up a girl wearing elbow pads and a dress. She is bent over much further.)

Just as Warrior Queen is unbelievable with her creative play, so is Little Man. In this instance they have this thing where they “hang” off the edge of a rock “cliff” while they took turns helping each other up the “mountain.” I’m supposed to keep the camera rolling, perish the thought that I shirk that responsibility. The kids made me redo the scene when they caught my hand down for the merest fraction of seconds when I was convinced they were no longer noticing my actions. Story of my life and probably one of the few guarantees: kids will inevitably notice everything you don’t want them to.

And, with that marks the beginning of the pandemic wind down. The kids are too young to be vaccinated, so we all won’t be totally protected until mid to late fall if what we are hearing is accurate. That’s a little unsettling, but it’s good to feel movement. Obviously the world has been moving along, but I can feel it now. Good news I’d been desperate for is finally happening. And, while it it isn’t the full breadth of what I ultimately want, it’s more than I thought I’d have at this point. Add that to the things I’ve managed that I hadn’t planned on, it just goes to show that life isn’t something to be totally mapped out, and sometimes goals are the things I didn’t think to achieve. And, as much as I lamented that I wasn’t functioning well enough to play with the kids as much as I thought I should, at the very least I’m still their person to take part in their stories, and that’s a very good thing.

Life as Pictures…when life gives you sugar

(Image description: sunny, bright day looking out over a small field with flowering trees, some young evergreen, and other trees that have yet to get leaves. The ground is still yellow from winter with a little green coming in. The field recesses into the ground. The back of a boy wearing bright blue in the distance.)

We had a day to clean-up our town, which the kids were quite excited to do…They are still in the I want to help you stage. The seven-year-old Little Man was determined to make an extra trip with me to gather the trash he noticed during our walk the previous day. In the sun it was a little warm for my taste, but a nice day. It was the second day in a row where he held my hand and chatted about random things. My son is affectionate, but it’s always something done on his terms, so I’m never sure when I will be able to bask in it. He had a light and awkward grip on my fingers, but it was a comfortable feeling of closeness that he doesn’t offer elsewhere. For all the ways I feel like a terrible parent, especially over the last year, these moments I’m reminded that I’m his person…and that he’s inherently more forgiving of me than I am of myself.

Who doesn’t love a little randomly absurd whimsy as part of their environment? I’d noticed this piece of gnome artwork for a long time now on one of my very seldom departures from my home. I don’t know who did it or why it occurred to them, but it’s marvelous. The town clean-up day was the first time I’ve had an opportunity to capture it, so I took advantage.

(Image description: bright sunny day with a close up of a hollowed out alive tree. A dirt ramp leading up to artwork of a gnome in a red hat and jacket, blue pants, black shoes, green shirt. He has a white beard, eyebrows, and hair peaking out under the hat. He’s smoking a long pipe with pink cheeks. There are four small yellow flowers next to his legs. The paining takes up the entire opening of the hollowed tree. There is real grass on either side of the opening. There are woods behind the tree.)

Warrior Queen shrieks her single volume of displeasure often enough, but it doesn’t last long. Often there is an apology, which is fine. It’s not totally necessary, but I appreciate when my kids consider other people and the way in which their behavior impacts others. She’s always been more about the snuggles than anything else, though, and she offers them readily. Snuggle is her five-year-old default. I’m sure to not take it for granted because as freely as she gives this kind of affection now, some day it won’t be this way.

Little Man’s affection is often patting my arm or militantly insisting he scratch my back because he “knows how much I love them.” My son is considerate. It’s an anomaly in my eyes when he isn’t. A more apt descriptor, however, is to claim that he’s aggressively considerate. He offers so many kindnesses; sometimes they are inconvenient or inappropriate, but he’ll insist on them regardless. A piece of me feels bad for responding in a negative way to what he perceives as a good deed that must happen. But, I suppose that’s the point. A good deed is about the recipient. And, it’s a lesson his young mind still has to learn.

(Image description: a child drawing with a crease in the center of the a white piece of paper indicating the inside of a handmade card. There are stick figures at the bottom, one taller than the other. The figures are holding hands and smiling. Above the figures are pink and red hearts in a pattern beginning with read on the far left. The pattern occurs three times. At the top in a child’s hand is written, “I love being with you.”)

My kids have a competition of sorts these days. Little Man came home one day to give me a card he made at school during “Free Draw Friday.” I, of course, immediately forgot about every annoying thing he’s ever done in his life up to that moment.

(Image description: horizontal blurred tulip art project. The project is of the beads that are melted with an iron. The flower petals are multicolored down through part of the stem. The bottom part of the stem and leaves are different shades of blue.)

My son has been on a card kick lately, but it seems that whenever he has some kind of art thing to do at school, it becomes a gift for me. He’ll march into the room and proclaim in grand words (and volume) what he constructed for me that day. I wasn’t able to get the best picture, but I loved this gift in particular. My favorite color is blue, so Little Man is sure to assert when he creates something using the color.

(Image description: a handmade card made by a child oriented horizontally when the image should be vertical. It’s heavy-handed scribbled colors with much white between the swaths of blue, purple, and aqua. There is a purple and pink heart in the upper middle of the white page. The creator didn’t indicate a meaning to the scribbles.)

Warrior Queen not to be outdone also felt compelled to create a card for me, which is no less touching. Please, children, do go on and compete in your expressions of all the ways in which you love me…

I could have sworn that I mentioned it in another post, but I love it so much I want to talk about it again. My main drug is chocolate. I fully admit I have a problem. I should probably join a self-help group about it, but alas I continue to nurture my cravings on a regular basis. Mostly I stock up on chocolate chips these days because it’s cheap and convenient. They also aren’t so good that I scarf an entire bag in a sitting. Additionally it helps to be able to nibble a little throughout the day when I feel compelled to. This trick allows me to feel like I’m eating more than I am, but make no mistake, I tend to supersize my quantities regardless, but it’s a difference between supersize and SUPERsize and stemming the damage. I don’t voice all of this in front of the kids. I have an unhealthy relationship with food, so I’m trying to avoid making that a thing with the them. They both have a passion for chocolate as well…because I’m an excellent parent who nurtures good taste in my offspring. It’s stunningly uncanny. Regardless of what’s happening in their world, they know when I have a plate of chocolate chips, and invariably one of the kids will ask for some. Most of the time they will ask for exactly two specifically to give the other away to their sibling. Every once in awhile they ask for a little more, but it’s always a number divisible by two so it can be shared.

Sometimes I’m in a room with my kids and I feel an urge to move away leaving no forwarding address. Other times there are these sweet moments that may or may not be reminiscent of earlier years. Warrior Queen hasn’t napped for the longest time, but I guess she’s been wearing herself out lately. I’ve now experienced three occasions in maybe a little over two weeks of having her fall asleep on me. Other than needing to use the restroom desperately halfway through, it’s lovely. I’ll be reading. She’s sprawled out on my lap under my blanket. At one point during the second one, she rolled over and had her cheek resting on that one spot mid chest she used to love when she was a baby. I could look down and see her marvelous cheeks and pressed lips. It was perfect. The weight of her, and she’s always so snuggly. I periodically stroked her cheek and brushed her hair out of her face. My kids slept on me for the longest time, and one day they just stopped. There was no gradual ease out of it. The habit ended, and it was sad at the time, so it’s nice to have this bonus snooze…a little like the bonus hand holding of Little Man.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a fine line between good parenting and giving up. My husband isn’t working anymore, so he’s been taking over a good deal of tasks, like bus pick-up. It figures the day that I need to step in is pouring. I love overcast days. I love the rain. I don’t like to be out in the rain, but this wasn’t bad. When it’s a freezing rain, it’s unpleasant. I should have put Warrior Queen in boots when we went to retrieve her big brother…oops…I make this mistake almost every time. My feisty girl was all showered from school…nice dress on, but the puddles were a-calling. Part of me cringed as she went through the first one, but then I stopped caring. Whatever. She’ll change her clothes for the millionth time during the day, and I will have more room under the umbrella. And, while I’m not yelling at her for getting soaked, I took some deep breaths and vaguely watched where she was going. It’s not like things are busy in the neighborhood. I have to watch and pay attention, but it’s not a constant vigilance for cars. We are far enough down that there is plenty of warning when people are coming. Besides, the bestest puddles were essentially streams at the side of the road going into the sewer. She was happy. I was given a short reprieve from hearing a loop of, “Mom,” on two second repeats. That was a pretty big win. Little Man eventually made it home and I could hear about the benefits of the rain for the small rose bushes my husband just planted.

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!

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