Wednesday, September 28, 2016

All the Fuck you signs (thinking of Catcher in the Rye)

Caring for people is both my job and my work.

I love the way that sounds

I didn't say it, or think it up.

My old lover and boss Jonathan did.

He said a lot of deep shit, which is what made me love him.

He had one of those magnetic personalities and a wit so sharp and devastating you could not help but be riveted to everything he said.

I was won over to the notion of service, way before I met Jonthan Feldman, in 1987.

I had been a bleeding heart liberal for many years before that, but when I spent time with a grown up that was both an intellectual and a do-gooder, who was not religious, my mind was blown.

I am dangerously susceptible to having my mind blown.

I love intelligent people.

If you are a good talker, witty, and funny, your chances with me are good.



I used to be much more hardcore.

I worked in the most dangerous sort of Domestic Violence program, with mandated women, who had lovers that were rapists and violent offenders.

I got a big rush from the success I had as a group facilitator.

I loved to be popular with the clients.

I loved to spout a bunch of trauma informed support and advocacy and make people love me the way I loved Jonathan.

When I got pregnant with Freyja, I could not longer listen to the stories of these mandated women.

I could not listen to them rattle off the details of their neglect and abuse of their minor children.

I could not, not judge.

So I bailed, and went back to caring for children.

Most of the people I care for now are healthy.

Their trauma is tiny.

Their hearts and minds are bubble wrapped and safe from harm.

Today I had a child that is going through a big family change.

The child is very angry.

Today it came out as




"Your are a dirty diaper, you are mean, you're a just a SKIP, I am SKIPPING YOU!"

I did everything right.

I redirected, I gave space, I offered choices, and when none of that was working, I moved the other children away, to a safe space and offered the child space to vent and scream and be angry.

The child followed me, because despite being POOP, I am also the safe person, and the person that can take the heaping pile of anger, as it builds up, and up, and up.

Then I catch when the pile topples.

Here is the thing with managing anger and big feelings, it is a delicate balance, because it can spiral and turn into abuse.

I had other children to consider, and so I called the parent to come pick up, when there was no clear stopping point coming.

By the time the parent arrived, the child was eating, asking me for seconds, delighted with the food.

It was hard.

Earlier in the morning there was a knock on the door.

It was a little old man, so I stepped outside to talk, locking the door behind me, which surely looked unfriendly to my visitor.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm Ron, I live in that white house, and I need to apologize, I put a note on that blonde lady's car and I feel bad, I asked her not to park there, because I used to have people leaving needles..."

"It's ok Ron, I am sure she understood your frustration, no big deal!"

"It's a big deal to me! I am working a 12 step program and I need to make amends!"

Ron proceeded to pull out a little cotton purse, and explain to me that he is bipolar, "I am manic depressive", and that sewing calms his nerves.

He gave me the purse for Ms. Teresa.

He told me that the lord is looking out for me, and that he is praying for me.

I thanked him for the bag.

It was nicely sewn, beautiful straight stitches.

I felt a bit gutted by Ron, with his sun hat, the huge jagged scar across his neck, his manic depression, and his prayer, and remorse.

Yesterday when I work up and checked my messages there was one from a stranger, that simply said "Fuck U"

Upon digging around on Facebook, I learned that the sender is a Jugalo and into monster trucks.

I blocked her, but then later in the day unblocked her and sent a reply that said

"Who are you, and why fuck me?"

I got no response.

All of the demands of the day, and the screaming and the weird external stuff made me decide to send the child home today.

I have to evaluate what is best.

All the time.

All the time, I have to make sure I am doing my best and giving the most, and sometimes that means giving up temporarily.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

a little off kilter

"50 words for every haiku"

was what my friend B said.

I have no idea who is keeping score, but I am mostly a straight shooter, mostly.

The cart was slow as fuck, and luckily the punk rock kid was working.

He and I share the same musical taste and can rock out during the doldrums.

We washed up, and dished through Sticky Fingers and bullshitted through a bit of Small Faces, and when it was time to leave, he hugged me goodbye and that was that.

I met up with a friend for grocery shopping and coffee.

I wanted to go to the hippie Co-op.

I wanted the fir scented soap.

I wanted the hippies and the cob building and the kombuche and the bins of bulk food.

What a shitty weird week.

I have no idea why it even felt that way.

My friend's dog had eaten garbage and peed around.

My dog had done no such thing.

I had no reason to complain.

My mother is sick.

She is scaring me by being sick.

Most people who are 48 are scared when their mothers get sick, because their mothers are old people, but my mother is not old. 

My mother is youngish, ish.

My mother scares me, because if something happened to her it would be too strange and complicated and hard.

That is one of the very odd things that the children of teen parents have to deal with, young parents that are oddly and complicatedly connected to you.

So my husband went shopping for cough medicine and dropped it off, while I drank coffee and tried to explain the complexities of my inner life, without seeming like too big of a self involved asshole. 

My trans friend R said that everything felt like s/he should not be bothered by the things that were bothering him/her, and I wanted to drive over and make a blanket fort in his studio and hug him for hours, except that would be weird because we are not really huggers. 

I mean I am not.

I am more of a laundress.

A washer of dishes.

An ironer of linens.

So it was that kind of terrible day, with complicated feels and zero blanket forts and sick mothers, and shitting dogs and tipless food carts, and husbands that purchase cold meds.

Friday, September 16, 2016


I have been getting out a little more often lately, with my kids getting older and me feeling a bit more spry.

I was going to meet a couple of gals for happy hour, then my friend Dan posted pictures of BBQ from The People's Pig and I turn a U-turn and opted for DINNER!

Platter, smoked leg of lamb, St Louis dry rubbed ribs, cheese grits, potato salad, mild BBQ Sauce, in the background smoked fried chicken, smoked corn, cornbread, collard greens
Margaritas at the Wayside, I had grapefruit, my companion had a traditional

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I have to watch my classism.

Like all isms, it can just slip right out.

My preschool is in a sleepy little neighborhood, right on the edge of unincorporated Portland, right where the rural meets the low rent urban.

Where the sidewalk ends, literally.

Twenty years ago this part of town, just five miles from my urban home, was another world,  Aunt Ruth lived out this way, and it felt rural, rough and a little unsafe.

Gentrification has brought the city fast and furiously, and the neighbors are not any happier about it than I am about New Yorkers moving in and tearing down old houses in inner SE.

The preschool is beautiful.

It has been lovingly and thoughtfully remodeled.

The yard is clean and fenced with charming cedar fencing.

It looks classy and tasteful.

Our neighbor has three monster trucks and an RV with a tarp.

He frequently places free things in front of his ramshackle ranch house.

He stands outside with his companions saying "FUCK" and "GOD DAMN IT!"

His children skateboard in the street.

He is terrible, deeply and personally disturbed by people parking on the shoulder of the road.

He is terribly, deeply and personally disturbed by me parking in front of the school, rather than in the driveway.

Several times a week he accosts one of my preschool parents and rants and raves at them about the street parking.

He tells them he OWNS the grass across from his house.

He does not.

His understanding of ownership comes from when the city added sewer service to the part of town, and charged all the residents to hook it up.

In his mind, that gives him ownership.

He is a scary man, a bully, with unwashed hair, and a scowl.

He made two of my mothers cry.

Yesterday, in an ill conceived moment of friendliness I greeted him, on my way inside.

He was standing on the street in his bathrobe.

"Why don't you park in your driveway?"

"Because I don't want to be trapped in the driveway at the end of the day, while parents are chatting and strapping their children in to carseats."


Our circular conversation went on and on until,

"I will park where I want on this PUBLIC STREET!"

came out of my mouth.

I turned on my heels and left him stewing.

I never park in front of his house, and no one else does either.

He once told the owner of this house that it's "more mine than yours, because I mowed the lawn while it was bank owned!"

So clearly he is delusional.

Even so, I don't want to judge him, I just want him to leave me alone.

My clients use the driveway, and occasionally park very considerately in front of the school.

I want my rage over his shitty behavior to focus on the behavior, and not on his RV, or his trucks with the gunracks, or his lack of social skills.

It's hard.

All of that stuff turns him into a punchline for some folks.

I hope to keep it about the facts.

I got a very lovely message in my inbox this morning from an acquaintance apologizing that her daughter would not be accepting a job I had connected her with.

I was surprised, because beyond pointing her in the right direction, I had done relatively little to help, and I certainly am not one to hold a grudge, at least not over something like that, after doing HR for years and year in the child care field, I know that people come and go, and go and come back again and that is the way of our work.

She thanked me for helping.

I like helping.

My husband calls me The Concierge 

I live to connect services and people and gifts and food and jobs and need.

I like to think of myself more as a FIXER.

I see myself as Tom from the Godfather, or Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction.

Sometimes though, I realize I am a terrible know it all.

I try hard to be a good listener, but I also like results. 

One friend kvetches endlessly about first world problems, relentless tail chasing, and I long to say
in my best Three stooges voice, but instead I offer an endless supply of good ideas.

I come by my know it all, smarty pantness honestly.

Both of my parents are Fixers.


Brainiac types

All my grandparents were self sufficient and strong.

They could all do stuff, make stuff, get through things.

I was brought up to be both helpful and aloof.

To set myself apart from the ones that are falling apart.

Fall apart in private.

Keep that shit in cheque.

Waiting in the wings with a big net to catch, repair and release all the broken and lost life has to offer.

When I expressed my fatigue at being the boss, right before taking my current humble job, my friend Don said "But isn't bossing people around what you are really good at?"

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

School has always started the day after Labor Day in Oregon, just as you put your straw boaters, and white buck shoes away for winter, right up until last year, when it didn't. 

It started uncouthly the last week of August. 

Willy nilly

Out of turn.

I must have been in some kind of fit of denial, because I scheduled Freyja's orthodontist appointment for August 30th, at 10:00am as if that were a reasonable thing to do for a child that was starting MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Thank goodness I am married to Father Of The Year

He went to the orientation for middle school.

He knew damn well she would not be free at 10:00am on the 30th.

I often feel that because I nearly DIED giving birth to both of my children, and have sewn all the Halloween costumes, that it is Mark's unstated duty to deal with the first day of school.

Needless to say, we rescheduled the ortho for later in the month.

I always, always, always work early in the mornings, and September is my busy time.

So Mark does the first day of school snipe hunt.

Mark is uniquely suited to this duty because he secretly longs to be a stay at home parent.

He lives for meetings and paperwork. 

I live for coffee, and routine.

The first day of school is chaotic and messy.

I don't like to see my children upset.

This is how we handled things.

I went to work before my family woke.

Maxwell (who goes to a civilized Oregonian charter school that starts like normal people, the day after Labor Day) walked Freyja to her bus stop, waited for the LATE bus, put her on the bus and went home.

Freyja arrived late, because the bus was LATE.

   -Being a Capricorn, she had an anxiety attack over the threat of a tardy slip.

   -She then went to school all day.

   -Got on the wrong bus (the close, but no cigar bus, that dropped her about a half mile from home).

Mark called home to see how things were going, only to discover that our very babe in the woods girl had not gotten off the bus to meet her punk rock brother and his band.

Maxwell, worried sick about his missing sister, sent Zach P.  and Zak L. off toward the middle school looking for the lost girl.

Rolf, upon arriving home with Pearl Bakery bread for a celebratory snack, joined the search.

As four greasy gentlemen scoured the mean streets of East Tabor, Freyja made her way home by cutting through the park, just in time to meet her frantic father, at 5:00pm

I walked in at 6:00 to find my baby eating baguette and jam to the muffled sounds of death metal coming from the basement.

Mark was seated talking Freyja down.

Rolf was serving food.

As I got up to date, I could hear that Freyja's biggest concern was over the late slip.

"Do you want me to call them? Because I will totally call them, you don't need to worry, there will be no late slip.I will burn that shit down"

"Mommy is not burning anything down"

a smile cracks

"you know I would if you needed me to though,  right?"

The mood lightens

Long haired boys emerge from the basement for bread.

Many hugs and commiserations are given. People admit to peeing of pants, getting lost, crying. 

Mark texts me, even though we are in the same room.

"middle school is OVERWHELMING!"


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Backup Pants

I gave my bosses daughter a ride home this evening.

When she got into the passenger seat, she sat on a pair of jeans.

"Oh just toss those into the backseat." I told her.

"Those are my backup pants."

She looked at me like she didn't know the importance of backup pants.

"You know, in case your pants rip."

I had been wearing my favorite pair of threadbare jeans this week and knew full well they could go at any time.

The ass had been worn through for years, covered with a series of gold zigzag thread and patches.

It was really just a matter of time before the inner thighs gave way.

Working with children had instilled the importance of backup clothing in me long ago.

I carry an outfit in my bag, and wetwipes in the car, along with water, chains, oil, jumper cables and granola bars.

I have an extra car-seat in my trunk.

And a fire extinguisher.


Hair ties.


My bag typically has underpants and leggings, snacks, and wipes, CPR mouthguard, plastic barf bag, fountain pen, change, sunblock lipbalm.

I have bailed out many children and few adults in my life.

When I got home and checked my Facebook, I saw that my hilarious, smart friend Monica had written a poem on backup dresses.

Monica rides the bus.

Her struggle is real.

It made me feel good to see that other people are out there prepared.

Once, when Mark and I were traveling to Mexico, I used the restroom in the LA airport, and some rude, nasty lady had peed all over the floor.

Unfortunately, I didn't notice this until I went to pull up my pants and noticed that my hems were WET.

Thank goodness I had backup pants, a plastic bag and wipes.

When I was a child my mother once turned my shirt backward, to take advantage of a Free color, 8X10 photo special at Grant's Variety store in Tigard.

The front of my shirt was covered in red sucker juice, but the back was perfectly clean.

There is a lovely color photo of me wearing what looks like a boatneck top, but is in reality, a backward t-shirt.

Mom may not have carried back up gear, but by golly she knew how to cope with a mess in a pinch, and that is really what this boils down to.

Cover your ass, literally. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

I went to get my roots touched up Friday, but my regular hair dresser was out.  The woman that was in, seemed offended that I wanted to wait, so I said how bad could it be to myself and sat down in her chair.
She was a bright and cheerful gal I'd seen many times in the many years that I've been coming to the salon.
A sort of second string player, waiting to get her big chance, to get off the bench.
The salon is run by a Vietnamese woman, and I have never seen another white person in there, except for folks I send, like my mom and my friend Marta.
I like them because they use a straight-razor, instead of scissors, which works well on my thick hair.
Xien the owner started coloring my hair in 1999 when Maxwell was a baby, then Kim took over, when she retired.
They both do amazing work.
The gal I saw on Friday did not do amazing work.
Instead of a fine weave of ash blonde, I had bold strips and stripes of honey yellow and Beach Barbie BLONDE.

It was not ideal.

I went home and calmed myself.

Mark said that it wasn't


Not that bad if you are trying to get a part as an aging prostitute on Barney Miller, perhaps, but in every other scenario, it was that bad.

I worked my food cart shift Saturday, feeling like each customer was silently judging me.

When I got off a bit early, I raced to the salon, and found Kim, who wordlessly sat me down and and began weaving in darker blonde sections, followed by toner.

An hour and a half later, I walked out, hair dripping wet, because I was hosting a dinner party at 6:00.

It's still a little too light for my taste, but it's much better than it was.

Thank goodness.