Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our home burned down, just before my 5th birthday.

It was a pink trailer, in a park in Sherwood, Oregon.

We weren't at home at the time thank goodness.

My brother and I were at my grandparents house, and my mother was at a rehearsal for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and my father was working the night-shift at Dammasch State Hospital, where the play was set, which was just a coincidence.

My parents came to pick us up the next day, and told me about the fire.

I remember thinking that this surely must be a joke, that it could not possibly be true.

This is one of the few memories I have of my parents together.

My birthday is January 12th, just after Christmas.

We lost everything in the fire.

I was most upset about my Christmas gifts, notably a Mrs. Beasley doll, just like the one that Buffy, on Family Affair had.

Later the firemen would give me a brand new one.

I still have her.

The fire destroyed everything, except for my mother's hope chest, which was later sanded down and used for a toy chest.  Her wedding china, a set with pink roses and silver trim, from Wards, was inside.

My brother has the china. 

As the following Christmas rolled around, I had a grave concern that we would not be able to have a tree, since our ornaments had burned the year before.

I'd made a giant paper Santa at school, which I hung up in the living-room with scotch-tape.

By this time, we were living in the same trailer park, again, this time in a larger trailer, that was yellow, and had three bedrooms.

My mother in all of her infinite resourcefulness, set about making decorations for the spindly noble fir, that we cut in the woods.

This being Oregon, we had our pick of trees, but our taste is for spindly noble firs with spaced branches, and it remains so.

We covered dixie cups with foil, to make silver bells, we strung popcorn and cranberries and my mother painted balsa-wood ornaments from a paint by numbers kit.

The bells and the berries are long gone, but I still have little hand painted the wooden shoes.

I made paper chains from construction paper and taped them around the windows.

My mother made stockings out of green felt, writing our names in glitter, stuck on Elmer's glue.

Santa found our house, and filled our stockings and left loot under the tree.

Today I bought a tall skinny tree from my neighbor, as I always do and we will decorate it with my collection of ornaments from my 6th year forward, and some things Rolf and I bought from Germany and things friends have gifted me, and a few strings of cranberries for good measure. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I went to see my doctor today, because it is my day off, and I had owed her a visit since summer.

She broke her leg badly in summer and had to postpone a surgery that I had thought I would have, but have since sort of changed my mind.

She phoned me yesterday and suggested I come in.

Linda has been my doctor since 1999, and she is pretty unusual for a surgeon and medical doctor.

Today, for instance, she was wearing those LL Bean style rain bootlets, the ones with the rubber toes and leather ankles, with a long floral dress, and green woolen socks.  I could see the socks, because the dress had a dramatic slit, on one side.  It was a sort of slinky number, something you might wear to a garden cocktail party in 1988.

How ARE you?! 

Man, am I ever a sucker for people that appear to care about me.

I told her I was much, much better, now, with my new low stress job, that doesn't include HR, or bookkeeping.

Linda laughs a lot, and swears, and has a very messy office, all of which makes me feel comfortable, but Mark hates her.

Two years ago, I had a little surgery with her, to remove a polyp, and Mark was completely freaked out, trying to talk me into rescheduling with someone else, right in the pre-opt bed.

She is totally WEIRD, you can't let someone that weird put you under!

The anethesiologist will put me under, she will be doing the surgery! 

That might be WORSE. 

l i k e her.  She always remembers little details about me, and she laughs a lot. 

Linda is a radical feminist doctor, that preforms abortions, and has a little side business, treating people like me, with complicated female problems, and nervous constitutions.  Her office looks like a Home Beautiful spread from the 80's, with wicker, and inspirational quotes and antiques, you hardly notice the doctor officey element.  
Her files are a mess.  I have considered offering to clean the place up more than once, but thought better of it.  

I told her about the terrible sinus problems I had been experiencing since late September, and she looked in my ears, and tapped on my forehead.  

I told her about the amoxicillin from the nurse practitioner at Zoom Care. 

HA! Ha ha ha! Oh, those clowns, ha ha ha. That is not strong enough to kick a true sinus infection. 

She wrote me a prescription for something stronger, and suggested drinking fenugreek tea to thin the mucus. 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Elephant meat

I woke up this morning thinking of Beechnut baby food.

When I was a child, too old to eat baby food, but young enough to still be charming, I loved the jarred meat, in all of it's graypink fineness,  and my grandmother would buy me the tiny jars, for a treat. 

The label pictured a jaunty cartoon elephant, wearing blue overalls and a striped train conductor hat.

One hand was thrown up, as if waving. 

I thought that the jar contained elephant meat, which my grandmother thought was funny. 

So when we went shopping, I would ask for elephant meat, and she would oblige by buying it, and then feeding it to me with a small silver spoon, even though I was much too old. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I can peel an apple in one long strip, almost perfectly, with a paring knife.

This is something I watched my grandmother do hundreds of times, seated, peeling away, creating springy piles of peelings.

When I think of her, this is often the picture that pops into my head.

Grandma seated in a rocking chair wearing an apron, handing out thin slices to children gathered around her.

My grandparents cared for many children, for many years.

They ran an emergency foster home, and would accept the most profoundly special needs children.

Growing up, I thought it was completely normal to have children arrive in the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, with nothing.

When I was a small child, the house was full, sometimes with teenagers, and sometimes with children my age, and usually at least one baby.

When the children arrived during the day, they looked scared and lonely and sometimes battered.

They were unkempt and often unruly.

My grandmother would write their names and dates of birth in her gray blank book.

She didn't do a whole lot of talking.

Sometimes she washed the children, or treated them for lice.

Sometimes she fed them, even if it wasn't a meal time.

She was a straightforward, no nonsense and practical woman, that kept new crib mattresses in the rafters of the barn, and barrels of children's clothing in the basement.

I liked the babies best, and the teenagers least.

The children my age were sometimes nice to play with.

Sometimes they were scary, or terribly damaged.

Joan, who had been burned from the chin down, with scars that looked like a doll that had melted.

Oskar, who's mother had thrown him from the car window, who was blind and severely brain damaged.

I knew that I was never to comment on these things, or be unkind.

I knew that I was lucky to have a family that loved me and a brain and body that worked well.

My grandparents judged the parents of these children harshly in private. I would hear my grandmother filling my grandfather in on the newest arrival.

A 2 x 4 upside the head, would serve that creep right- you would do a dog the way he beat that baby

An alley cat would have more mothering instincts
My grandfather would leave the house in the dark, wee hours of morning, to work his job at the dairy, arriving home around 2:00.
He always came in the backdoor, removed his hat and shoes, washed up, greeted everyone and laid down on the sofa for a little rest before supper.  

How he slept in a tiny parlor filled with children, I have no idea, but no one was ever shhhhed. 

At suppertime everyone gathered around the huge round table that seats 15 comfortably and 20 if you squeeze in. 

Mealtimes are when you could really see which children were worst off, may had been in bad times for a long time. 

There were ones that would pocket food, or wolf their meal down and ask for more. 

There were the ones that were too afraid to take any food at all. 

One time the sheriff brought three children that had been picked up at the dump, out past Oregon City. 

They'd been living there for a while and they were filthy.  

Celeste, Sergy, and Harlan ( who was a three year old girl, which I thought was outrageous, since my that was my father's name!). 

Grandma was making ice cream cones, scooping one for everybody, and handing them out.  Those kids just stood there, and finally, the littlest girl stuck her hand out, palm flat, like she had no idea in the world how to take hold of the cone. 

That just about makes you sick, when a little kid caint take an ice cream cone.  That ain't right. 

That family stayed quite a while, and were eventually brought back into care three more times over the years.  

Sometimes my grandmother would tell the social workers not to bring a child back anymore.  It got to hard, to see them bounced back and forth, when she knew the birth parents were not going to be able to get it together to keep their child permanently, yet they kept right on sending them back.  

There was a photo of a toddler on my grandmother's dresser, a little boy with black hair, named Stephen John, that I knew was dead.  
He was dead and it made my grandmother terribly sad, even though he had died in the 60's long before I was born, I knew his story. 

My grandparents had fostered him, because his mother was mentally ill and couldn't care for him.  
They had him from infancy until around his second birthday, and my grandmother loved him dearly.  
He had been sent back, and died from chicken pox that hadn't been tended to.  
My grandparents paid for his coffin.

That was before you were born Heididoll, poor, poor Stephen John 

I liked to read the gray book with the names of all the children.  

Sometimes there was a little story too.
In the late 60's and 70's there were lots of teenage girls that "walked off", went out for a smoke and never came back.  

 went off with the hippies I imagine

In my mind mind I saw flower children dancing away, to some magical place.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Well you know Joanne!

I started working at a fancy European toy store, in the old Yamhill Market in 1988.

We sold all the high end stuff, that at the time you didn't see in department stores.

Brio, Playmobil, Seiff, Madame Alexander dolls, Gund stuffed animals, all kinds of fancy, beautiful stuff, that pleased me immeasurably to be around.

The store was right on the corner of 2nd and Yamhill, with windows on three sides.

I did the window dressing, which gave me a great deal of pleasure.

I had a lot of regulars, collectors and weekend fathers, buying gifts for their children.

I kept a note-box with cards, detailing which tracks their child had, and which tracks they might need, for their wooden trains.

We were a tight little family of folks, a gal named Alesha, who didn't know if she was going to be a lesbian, or not, me, a big guy named Barry,  who played in a rock band on the weekends, and worked in the warehouse and my friend Ruth, with her long braid, and serious face.

Among my regulars was a homeless man named Mr. Shirley.

He smelled terrible, and had one tooth that sort of dangled in front.

He was remarkably clever, and made puns with lightening speed.

Every single day, he would come in and shop.

He called me Joanne, and we did a bit of verbal sparing, before Ruth would grow weary of his stench and send him on his way, or spray Lysol in his wake.

Mr. Shirley was a poet, and would fill volumes of blank books, spiral notebooks and paper bags with his writing, which was sometimes not so bad, and often, just the words

preTTee pOnee 

over and over and over, filling pages.

One day I asked Mr. Shirley if he had any children, and he told me

Well, you know, Joanne! I like to think Jack Nicholson and Kurt Vonnegut are my children 

Which I thought was one of the best things anyone had ever said to me.  
Mr. Shirley had fallen in love with a diary we had in the store, that had a little embossed pony on the cover, and while I tried to just give it to him, he insisted on putting it on layaway, which consisted of giving me a few pennies every day.  

About a year into the layaway plan, Mr. Shirley stopped coming in, and I became worried, so being the nosy thing I am, I phoned up the residence hotel that he said he stayed at sometimes. 

The lady at the desk told me that he had been ill and was in and out of the hospital. 

I told her to let him know that Joanne was saving his diary for him. 

And then the store moved to the big, fancy, new mall, where they surely would not have let him in to browse and I never saw him again. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I started working a little bit, this summer, at the food cart, that belongs to a former teacher, from the hippie preschool.

I worked through August, and grew attached to the flow and energy of cooking and serving.

I'd done catering and cocktailing and occasional bartending in college, and I was always good at it, but I never took it on full-time, because I know it's hard to transition to real work, from that work.

Having walked away from real work in June, I thought, what do I have to lose, and went ahead.

In September, I opened a teeny, tiny, little school close to home, but I have continued to work on Saturdays at the cart, and by golly, I may never stop.

Sitting in the bathtub yesterday morning, I was thinking of the notion of contentment.

I was actually thinking of my grandmother, and how she had always wanted to be an undertaker, which as a child, I found appalling, but as an adult, I can sort of see the attraction.

My grandmother was a caretaker, of people, but she was not a sweet, or even gentle person, she was complicated and could have used a bit of peace and quiet, and possibly a bit of tenderness, so I can see how the idea of caring for the dead would have had it's appeal.

In her life, she mostly never got to have a single thing she desired.

It was a life of sacrifice.

A life of struggle and giving.

I sometimes find myself in a similar mindset, and I try to dial back the martyrdom, because it doesn't really lead any place good.

When I was a small child, I often went to funerals with my grandmother.

She was fond of the open casket variety, which I found (and still find) barbaric.

I would fuss, and cry, because I was, and I remain a crybaby.

My grandmother would shhhhhh me and say,

It's just the body, it's just the b o d y 

Which is something religious people say, to indicate that the spirit, the essence, the person, of the person is gone, is in heaven, but even as a three year old, I was terrible at religion, and terribly concrete, and in a fit of pique said 
but where is the HEAD!? 

which prompted my mother to forbid her from taking me to funerals.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summerly Bakery and caking

I made cake for a friend's wedding.  It required a HUGE and silly amount of buttercream frosting, which I foolishly allowed the Decorette Shot lady to talk me into adding meringue to, which I never do, because I am essentially a lazy and wicked person, that likes to keep things simple, but I did this time, because I wanted it all the be PERFECT.  When you add the meringue, the frosting GROWS, like The Blob, and gets stuck in the motor of your mixer (let this be a cautionary tale!  It does yield a beautiful, shiny while frosting though.

Transporting many cupcakes

Add caption
Naked layers, five hours worth of baking and mixing, and worry. 

After much traffic and winding and worry, we arrived an hour later than I had planned for, to the wedding in the woods, and the caterers would give not one inch of space in the cool kitchen, and the florist had not left the right kind of flowers, and I was very panicked, but my dear assistant, was the voice of reason, and we just made it WORK! We frosted 60 cupcakes and a six layer cake in a HOT, dusty, lodge sort of place. 
Not perfect, but pretty, pretty.  

For the 4th of July, I made this patriotic pie. 

Also in July, I made this, goat-cheese and blackberry confection for a pie contest, that I lost. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I worked a little with my friend Marta this week. 

She has a dreamy little school at the base of Mt. Tabor and we walked with the children up the steep hillside to the tip top playground each day. 

Playing away on the cool mountain side, reminding each other that this is a volcano, you know.

Today, as we made our way down, the steep grassy path, the smallest, and dreamiest child holding my hand, someone called "HEIDI?" from one of the houses.

"it's me, Joan, Joanie, Jonathan's sister!" 

And sure enough, it was Joan, Jonathan's sister, sitting right there, on the hillside, playing with three babies. 

"Are those your grandchildren?"

My mind raced to do the math, just in case I was making a giant faux pas.

" This littlest one is my granddaughter, and I care for the other two, I have been caring for babies for fourteen years." 

Fourteen years. 

"I'm still doing preschool!"

I raised the hand of the dreamiest of all, child, to demonstrate that I belonged to that group. 

"How on earth did you recognize me?" 

"I'm wearing my glasses!"

I did a quick inventory of my appearance, and even with glasses, I look a great deal different than I did in the 80's! 

I suppose she had seen me last in 1997.

The last time I spoke to Joan, was early March of 1999.

She phoned me, to tell me that Jonathan had died. 

He had been my mentor, my friend, my lover, my everything, when I was in college. 

When I was young and idealistic and ridiculously full of myself and hope. 

He had informed my world vision profoundly, and made me want to work with children in a more focused way. 

"How are Jacob and Sara?"

"They are well, Jacob is a chef, he has two children."

The last time I saw Jacob was at a birthday party for Jonathan's father, in 1997.

He was 12, or 13, and ecstatic to see me. 

We went to a movie, we ate pizza.

We remained friends, despite me breaking up with his dad, we all had FUN. 

The first time I met Joan, was at a Seder, at her home.

I was a bosomy, blonde 19 year old, scandalizing the whole family. 

Who brings a 19 year old to a family Seder? Is what I imagined the sisters saying. 

Who knows what they actually said.

Who cares. 

I ate gefilte fish, and drank the wine.  

"I don't give a shit what anyone thinks." 

Jonathan said often. 

"Fuck them." 

I didn't attend the memorial service, never got the details, couldn't bare to deal with all of those big feelings, and I had a brand new baby. 

I don't do well with crowds, with people, with curated events.

Jonathan would have understood.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In the grass is always greener news, I put my husband on a plane for Comic Con, for work, which after two decades he finds annoying, while to me it sounds much more exciting than shuttling small people to soccer camp and making toasted cheese sandwiches and walking the dog. He has been warned not to return home without making some kind of contact with Norman Reedus for me.

Monday, July 6, 2015

We only signed up for two camps this year, because camps are expensive and Freyja is doing some traveling and my mom is in town and it seemed like a good idea.

The camps are soccer camps and she is going with her really, super good friend.

The first one was at a Catholic school in North Portland, which seemed like a no brainer, except Portland has become a traffic nightmare, and you can't drive across town in less than an hour anymore, and once my mother got lost and was a half hour late picking up.

This camp this week was attractive, because it is at a local school, just over on 15th!


So we picked up the good friend and drove to the school with the name posted on the camp sign up, and waited. 

We waited and waited and waited.

No one showed up.

At 9:46, I looked at my phone and googled the name of the school and "fields" and sure enough, there is a lone soccer field with that EXACT name, across town, in NE.

I was already moderately annoyed, because the camp never sent a confirmation, or any additional information, and that sort of lack of communication is really irritating to me.

On top of that Freyja had thrown the mother of all tantrums over putting on sunscreen, which made me want to rip out my hair.

So off we went to find this mystery soccer field.

Naturally there was no direct route, with Burnside and Sandy now being one way, and a giant delivery truck blocking Davis.

We drove and drove and finally found the place and ran to meet up with the soccer guy.

I told him what had happened and he said

"Yeah, we get that a lot."

Hmmm, perhaps a clarifying e-mail would be in order?

On the way home, I felt a twinge of guilt over getting so hot under the collar over the sunscreen, and decided to stop at Whole Foods, to buy some of the insanely overpriced juice pocket things that Freyja lives for, and I never buy, for her lunch the rest of the week.

As I pulled in a giant delivery truck pulled along side of me, blocking me, to I couldn't move, for about 15 minutes.  

I went into the store and the greeter asked me. "HOW ARE YOU TODAY?" brightly.

"I feel like punching someone in the face."

Friday, June 26, 2015

I went to Lit Hop last evening, with my friend Karen, who is down for Rolf's birthday.

I know a fair number of writerly folks, and I'd hoped to get to see more than one reading, but the night was oppressively HOT, and the friend I'd come to see was from out of town and it felt tacky to listen and dash off, so we stayed for the last reader, a bombastic fellow with black curls and a LOUD voice.

His poetry was catchy.

He may have a future in advertising.

He writes hooks.

My friend is eloquent and smart and humble and he mumbled.

Way more writer, than reader, I suppose.

I sat at the bar between my oldest childhood friend, Julia, a woman I adore, but see rarely.

She has children.

There are women for whom motherhood builds community.

For me, and maybe for Julia, motherhood has shrunk us.

Boiled us down to the barest of bones.

Tony read a poem he wrote for me.

He read it last.

It wasn't sentimental, or lovely.

It was sturdy and a little homespun, I suppose the way he may see me.

The crowd was two hours into drink, and craved bombast and volume.

My poem with it's water, trees, and small town, was a little flat.

I had to drive, so I sat soberly, sweating, my arm touching Julia's cool bicep.

A glass of water would have been welcome, but I would have lost my seat, if I got up, so I sat, blocked in by a very tall woman, who was waiting for space to walk up the stairs.

A woman, who gave not one fig about poetry, or courtesy, her pointy elbow, nearly touching my face. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Manifest like a mother

 I often say "it's proof of God's love", even though I don't believe in God in much of a way that you would think that he, or she would be proving their love to me, but one thing I do believe in with all of my heart and soul, is the power of goodness and generosity and kindness, I've seen the abundance so often in my life of all of these things not to be a stone believer.
 I belong to a couple of silly Portland groups on Facebook, and a couple of them revolve around found objects.  I am a sucker for found objects, having been poor as an underemployed church-mouse for, well forever, and when not totally broke, let us just say that austerity measures are needed to continue to live in my hella expensive home town.

I also just really like old things.

I like used things, with the exception of underwear, almost always, more than new things.
Last week was a shitshow of a week.

An emotional disaster. 

I'm feeling better, getting back to myself, but geez.

A member of the Facebook group mentioned finding a birdcage on the side of the road.

It was a real beauty, and at first I mistook it for a plant stand, which I had been on the lookout for, to get my collection of Christmas Cactus (cacti?)  off the little side phone table, they had been hogging for months. 

The very next day, the lady with the birdcage tells me she found me a plant-stand.

She finds things for people. 

I also find things for people, so it made perfect sense.

Her finding me this perfect, beautiful plant-stand made perfect sense. 

Her plant-stand went perfectly with my other found plant-stands, and by golly, it could not have been more perfect.

I met her this evening and she hugged me, in the warmest and most kind and sincere way, and I was so deeply moved and humbled and touched and lifted up. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Even though we don't have money, I'm so in love with you honey..."

So things got complicated and I quit my job.

Mark says "*&^% those guys" because he loves me.

"You are not good at doing stuff that you can't believe in"

and I say

"thank you for loving me"

and he says

"quit saying thank you, it's my job."

and then I cry and he says

"I hate it when you cry, I just want you to be happy"

 and  that makes me cry about ten times more.

Then I sing the chorus from Danny's Song and Mark says

" I will cut you a check right now, if you stop singing."

and we both laugh like crazy, because, if you don't laugh, you cry.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I scrapped the last of the fancy raspberry jam out of the Maman jar today, and immediately started to imagine what I would do with the jar.

It's a real beauty, as jam jars go, with it's embossed label along the rim and it's handsome gingham lid.

I, who am so strong, against material goods and advertising, can be sucked right in by a jar of jam and the possibilities of it when empty.

I have been this way for as long as I can remember.

A collector.

A hoarder.

An imaginer of potential.

My grandmother was that way, only not as tidy, which I suspect is what made both my mother and her sister something of minimalists.

As a child I was horrified by my mother's lack of sentimentality, these days, as she fills our house with doodads and sundry objects, I see that she probably simply lacked the time and money to accumulate a lot.

I thought about throwing it straight away, into the trash.

Be done with it!

Out of sight, out of mind, type deal, but it's sitting in my sink, soaking.

"You're growing up." 

I heard my Grandma Betty's voice in my head congratulating my feeble attempt to be less of a pack-rat.

I'm growing up, but slowly. 


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hippie Salad Hooray

We're headed to a birthday party for one of my old friends.

He is a musician and so are most of his friends.

It is a potluck and bring your instruments sort of thing.

"You better make enough food for us to have dinner, you know those fricking hippies never start on time and there is never any food. there's always that guy that shows up with like one small packet of seaweed, or some bullshit."

Is what Mark said.

He boiled eight eggs.

We made a lot of coleslaw with Moroccan herbs and dill.

I made pasta shells with sweet peas and homemade mayonnaise, Russian horseradish,capers and kale.

He bought a watermelon at the farmer's market earlier in the day.

I don't know if he intends to bring it with him, or eat it at home, tonight, after the party, while we watch a cooking show, or a movie.

That's our exciting Saturday night, most times.

Last year at this same friend's party, I brought shaved brussel sprouts with bacon and maple, mustard vinaigrette, and this stoned girl kept picking the bacon pieces out with her dirty fingers, and exclaiming


and sort of swooning and smearing it around her mouth,

Until I said

"keep your hands out of my salad!"

My friend's mother, who has known me for more than twenty years, laughed out loud, and the girl sauntered off, only to return with a friend and resume her pickery.

My friend said,

"Yo, don't mess with Heidi's p r e s e n t a t i o n." 

but by then I was satisfactorily annoyed enough to leave.  I only really came to see his mother and say happy birthday. 

I don't really enjoy those kinds of parties now that I'm a cranky old lady. 

I woke up abruptly at 6:30am this morning, from a nightmare.

I dreamed that ISIS extremists had mobilized and were traveling though cities abducting young men. 

They were driving around in big square buses, carting people off and killing them.

The buses were blue and gray and shaped like the buses from the 80's.  

I was  planning to hide Maxwell, in our attic. 

I thought I could stash him in the eaves, behind the built in cupboard in my bedroom, where there isn't a back wall. 

I was concerned about him falling though the ceiling into the living-room, and whether or not the bad guys would notice that the cupboard opened right into the unfinished attic. 

I suppose I was counting on them thinking that the craftsmanship of the people that finished the attic in 1916, was better than it actually was. 

I blame NPR for this nightmare, since I listened to a story about a large group of young Somali men leaving Minnesota to join ISIS. 

I don't typically worry about terrorists, or immigrants, or the end of times type stuff.  I have no idea where this came from, but it scared the shit out of me, and my heart was pounding when I woke up.

"I think we need a panic room."

I told Mark. 

"Does Rosie need to pee? Why are you up?"

I was rooting around in that little cupboard, trying to see if I would fit, or at the very least, if I could push the kids through the opening.

In my dream, I thought I would offer myself, instead of Maxwell, but I wondered if the terrorists would think of it as a square deal.

I regretted my lack of weapons in my dream and wished for something more powerful than a baseball bat, to keep under my bed.

When I woke up, I thought about people that feel afraid all the time.

I almost never feel afraid in that way.

I frequently feel outraged, sad, depressed and disgusted by people, but I almost never feel like shooting anyone, to protect my child.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


I was cooking dinner tonight and a vivid memory, from 1993, came flooding over me, from when I was living with my boyfriend Don. 

He was working as a dishwasher at Hamburger Mary's during the day and playing bass at night, and I was working at some dead-end thing, I think I was doing data entry and teaching a preschool class on Sundays for the Quaker church.

Don was younger than me, by a year and extremely naive, having devoted his whole being to jazz music and not much else.

He also came from a nice family.

He was not what anyone would call worldly at that time.   

Don would come home with lots of colorful stories, because Mary's was a colorful gay bar and diner, the kind of place that generates a lot of FUN!

He also loved the soup that the new cook Gary made.


Don would come home and ask me to try to replicate the fabulous soup, made by Gary the morning cook.

One of these soups was a tomato with orange and basil.

I worked for weeks to try to duplicate that god damned soup, but could never quite get it to be as good as Gary's.

At some point it came up that Gary had recently got out of prison and didn't know very many people in Portland.

He came from somewhere in Idaho, or Montana, someplace small, without a lot of people around.

He was living close to us, in that shitty, narrow building that used to run along West Burnside and 26th.

A real dump.

A real roach motel.

I'd been to that building on several occasions, as it was a place that would rent to punk teens with sketchy employment.

So all the while Don is talking up Gary's cooking to me, he is also talking up my cooking to Gary!

Eventually, Gary invited us over to his place for dinner.

I brought acini di pepe with blue cheese, garlic and olive oil and arugula from our garden, and Gary was going to  make the orange soup. 

We walk down the windowless hall to Gary's place, and knock on the door. 

The door opens and a tall super muscled dude wearing Docs, red, narrow suspenders and a white T-shirt opens the door. 

His hair was slicked back and he had a hard look about him. 

When he reached out to take my pasta, I noticed he had SKIN tattooed on his wrist. 

We ate our food and bullshitted about cooking and then we left. 

On our walk home I asked Don if he'd noticed Gary's tattoo.  

At this time, Portland wasn't yet overrun with tattooed hipster, so it was mostly counter culture types and bikers, that had ink.

"Isn't that the funniest and most ironic tattoo ever?  I mean SKIN! His skin is tattooed with the word SKIN!" 

I gently explained the suspenders, the shoes and what SKIN stood for, while Don looked at me like I had killed a puppy. 


Last Saturday I learned that one of my old preschool parents had committed suicide.

It struck me hard, and I thought of this very kind and gentle fellow all week.

I'd kept in touch casually over the years and I knew he'd been struggling. 

People struggle. 

Life is a struggle.

It hurts my heart that he wasn't able to hang on. 

He was a lovely person and appeared to have many people in his life that would agree with my assessment.

I'll gather with some of them in the morning, in a bar.

My friend M will go with me, and we wont know the others, I imagine. 

We only knew him as a dad. 

As a sweet soul who was willing to help.

Willing to garden, or cook, or clean.
The first strawberries of the year are sitting on my kitchen drainboard waiting for a wash and hulling.

Rolf and Freyja picked them yesterday, on the island, in the sun, after feasting on a cupcake AND a cinnamon roll.

I told Freyja that she is the luckiest little girl in the world, to have such an indulgent Onkel, and she told me that I didn't know that they also went to The Skyline, after wading in the river, for french fries and a shared chocolate shake for dinner AND he let her stay up and drive to the airport to pick Mark up.

I was working.

My assistant was on vacation this week and what a week it was.

Good heavens. 

I went to Zoom Care on my way home.

They have this bright and shiny office on Hawthorne.

They are open until midnight, in case you need them LATE.

I was informed of this three times.

Zoom Care is Furnished with modern plastic chairs and a bamboo floor.

They have cobalt walls. 

The don't have magazines.

They do have tea.

I do enjoy a complimentary beverage, when I can get one. 

They have a receptionist named Jeffery, who has perfectly trimmed fingernails, square and strong.

Jeffery asked me if I had weekend plans and there was a sort of awkward pause.

"I can't breath through my nose, and my head hurts, my plan is to not bludgeon myself."

It seems I have a sinus and ear infection.

I was given antibiotics for possibly the first time in a decade, and I feel remarkably better already.

I hid the antibiotics from Rolf.

He had been pestering me to try oil pulling and some kind of black pepper preparation, for my stuffed up nose, for two weeks.

"It's not going to get better, if you don't do the TREATMENT!" 

I let the tea he brewed me grow cold in the cup.

I watched episodes of Chopped on the IPAD.

I behaved in a manner, that made him think I was not serious about feeling better.

I told Rolf I would process the berries.

Don't worry about it. 

But I lied.

I left them on the counter and they look a little worse for it, this morning.

I may make a pastry cream to pay for my sins.

I may use it to fill a genoise cake, and cover the whole mess with the berries, as an act of contrition.

I have been the iron lady my whole life.

A woman of steel.

The anemia of the past few years has worn me down to a nub.

My naturopath looked at my blood-work and said

"your body is in a state of fighting, or exhaustion, you are functioning like someone in a coma. Adrenaline! Adrenaline! You are just running on Adrenaline"

Which made me feel remarkable for everything I do, do.

I know her intention is for me to rest. 

"Can't you go on a yoga retreat? Just GET AWAY for a couple of weeks, a month."

She doesn't know I have never rested in my entire life.

One of my employees was very insolent this week.

Mark said "FIRE HER."

Instead, I scrubbed her classroom floor on my hands and knees and changed five diapers in a row, and then went back to my work, to show her how it's done.

To demonstrate that my standards are exactly high enough. 

I am quite frequently the biggest fool in the world.

My mother used to joke, that I was like the little pig in the story, the one that would outsmart the wicked wolf, by beating him to the punch.  By having already been to the fair, and back, before the wolf had risen for the day.

I did walk into work every morning this week at 6:30am, just to prove I can't be wilted by something as silly as a long day and a stuffed up nose, and no assistant. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

hog pen shipwreck

I've been sicker than a dog all week, coughing, stuffed up nose and eye infection.

Work's been insane, so I just worked on through. 

I had high hopes of getting the housework back on track today, but I can't walk two steps without a coughing fit.

I make a lousy sick person.

I've been irritated with the kids all week too. 

Their lack of support around the house is shocking to me.  I don't ask them to do, what I would consider a whole lot, but they don't even do that little dab, without a big push.

I always helped my mother with housework, and fixed dinner on weekdays.  You can ask, her, she'll tell you so.

I saw my mother working long hours and I felt like a big jerk if I didn't help.  My bother never appeared to share that guilt.

A big part of the problem is my own damn fault.  I babied my son to pieces, and never asked him to do very much until recently. 

I wait on both of them and Mark hand and foot, as my mother's observed.  I even coddle the animals. 

I guess I thought they would learn how to do stuff through observation, but so far, no dice.

Mark's good to help, but he works long, hard hours and I don't like to leave much to him, because I know he's tired.  He also deals with all of Freyja's sport shit, that I hate, so I figure I can handle the house.

Growing up, we weren't allowed to leave the house on Saturday, until everything was done.
That meant ev er y thing- beds changed and made, all dirty laundry washed, dried, ironed, every floor mopped, every surfaced washed, every  tchotchie dusted, lawn mowed, garbage emptied.  

My mother would be up, blasting Gilbert and Sullivan, wielding a broom, vanquishing dust-bunnies, cigarette, dangling Cool Hand Luke style from the corner of her mouth.  

My brother with lollygag and drag his feet, while I worked double time, because I had places I wanted to go. His Saturdays consisted of trashing the place, with several other boys, and mine were all about getting my ass on a bus as soon as I was released from service. 

So when I come home at 5:00pm and see that neither of my children have  emptied out their lunch boxes, so I can quickly refill them, or taken out the trash, or cleaned up their after school snack, I raise a little ruckus.
This week, I have mostly left the ruckus to their father, and crawled into bed, and it shows.
This place looks like a hog-pen-that is what my grandmother might say. (It took me years to realize that non-farm people don't really get the gravity of farm references.) My father would say the wreck of the Hesperus, but pig dwelling, or shipwreck, this place looked bad. 

Mark instructed me to lie in bed, which was just plain foolish of him.  

He knew better.  

I should have known better, than think you would rest. 

My reluctant troops were mobilized and sort of half-assed it enough to where I can sort of relax.  I'll call my gal Lauren to come help me next week, when I surely will be feeling stronger. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I bought a few things for work, because I am working at a place that requires business casual, which is far afield from that clothing that hang in my closet.

I've worn jeans and hippie dresses for the past 25 years, to every job I've ever had and it's been completely acceptable, if not expected.

So I bought four new outfits, because the four things I rotate now are pretty shopworn, and winterly.

Three of the four were simply not good.

One dress a knit thing with a sort of flowery print and empire waist, was shoddily made, although I liked the design.

The second dress had weird sleeves and too much lining.

It looked like the breastplate  of a suit of amour, and made me feel stiff.

The third outfit was so so. 

The top was fine.  It was white, which is always a gamble, for someone like me, who drinks coffee while terribly near sighted, and has a tendency to spill, but it was cute (although Mark said it was "see though", by which I think he meant white, having almost always only seen me in black).
The accompanying skirt was an abomination.


Long, overly long.

Mark couldn't quit put it into words, but upon seeing it on, Rolf exclaimed,

"there is simply too much FABRIC!" 

and as usual he was completely correct.

He may have not been this correct, since the time in the early 90's when he observed that the dress I was wearing made me look like a secretary.

The lot of it is going back, except for the see-through white tee-shirt with the little bow.

To hell with clothing, I will go on with my Mao inspired peasant dress and they can avert their eyes if they don't like it!

I have few indulgences, when you get right down to it, in relation to the typical middle aged modern person. 

I don't shop.  

I don't really wear makeup, and the one lipstick I use regularly is 5 years old.

We don't have cable, and we are frugal as can be, with the exception of a few meals out per week.

We don't have debt, we don't have toys. 

All of this has a lot less to do with virtuousness, and much more to do with my neurosis regarding money.

I have a naturopath that I see several times a year. 

Maybe five in a bad year, maybe less when I'm betterish.

I used to have a hypnotherapist, but he was insanely expensive and didn't draw blood.

I love my naturopath very much. 

She listens to me.

She pats my hands.

She tells me I matter, and that I'm meaningful. 

She worries that I work too much and rest too little. 

She tells me that she is proud of me, and knows my taste, my struggles, my strengths.

She pours me cups of tea and cares deeply about my well being.

She is like the parents I never had, and for $125 an hour, it's a bargain.

She also got me put back together last year after my iron dipped so low that my MD suggested a blood transfusion and a hysterectomy, which seemed like a terrible idea to me. 

I know tons of people that feel this way about their therapists, but I never had much luck with mental health folks, all they every wanted to do was give me sleeping pills and stuff me full of anti-depressants, that they couldn't really explain fully.

My friend Dom is a big believer in western medicine.  She is game for any kind of treatment, and I suppose that works for her.

I have never felt the slightest bit of care from a doctor in my life, in fact, I have actively felt uncared for and harmed at times.

So I opt to take vitamins and practice Emotional Freeing Technique, and do yoga sometimes and breath deeply and believe strongly in the power of having someone care about you, even if they are just pretending to for money.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Listening to A Flock of Seagulls can lead to accidental goat consumption and divorce

Maxwell has been taking drum lessons from an old friend of mine. 

My friend the jazz drummer lives way the heck out in North Portland, almost to St. Johns, which is a very long way to go at 2:30pm every Sunday, for a half hour lesson. 

He's a good drummer, that much I know for sure, and so far he seems to be a decent teacher.  Maxwell has taken to practicing once in a blue moon, even, which makes all the driving a loitering around during the lesson seem worth while (for what it's worth, we could probably sit in my friend's living room and wait, but that feels overwhelming to me, since I am not a fan of loud noise).

On a recent Sunday, it was just the three of us, Freyja being away on a trip with my mother, so I suggested that we all go to the lesson, Mark and I would speed grocery shop, then we could have a late-lunch-early-dinnerish thing after. 

I had this fantasy of eating barbecue brisket at the place near the drum lesson. 

My mouth was all set for it, as my grandfather used to say.

On the way to the lesson we encountered traffic, the result of a crash on I-5, which made us very late. 

A half hour late. 

Both Mark and Maxwell were hungry when we left the house, because I made them skip lunch, in favor of this barbecue fantasy I'd created in my head, that was to happen at 3:00pm sharp.

We dropped Maxwell off for the lesson, and went and did our shopping, and encountered even more traffic, and were quite late picking up. 

Mark and the kids all suffer from crankiness brought about by low blood sugar, or hunger.  In fact they need to eat rather often, for such slim and trim people. 

This is a very alien concept to me, who despite being quite plump, can go long periods of time without eating a bit, and feel perfectly shipshape.  In fact, I prefer not to eat all day and just have dinner (which I know is TERRIBLE and possibly makes me the worst person ever).

So here we were in the car, with me merrily thinking I was going to get my brisket, and Maxwell and Mark feeling all woozley and peaked from hunger, when we noticed the barbecue place was closed. 

There wasn't anything to speak of nearby, so off we set for Alberta St. in search of something special.

I was merry.  

I was in search of something special, they were in search of immediate sustenance.

As we drove the conversation turned to Mark playing in a band in high school and he might have mentioned playing A Flock of Seagulls cover tunes, and I might have said

"WHAT!? I wouldn't have given you to time of day!"

and he might have not been in a very festive or jovial mood and said

"Yeah, Max, Mom was really cool and alternative"

and I may have run my mouth a tiny bit, talking some good-natured smack, thinking we were joking, because I totally was and all of the sudden everyone was in a terrible mood. 

The traffic was awful and the mood was terrible and no one was laughing at my hilarious barbs, and the afternoon was just spoiled.

We did manage to find a parking spot, in an area that appeared to have a cluster of cafes, but when we got out of the car, nothing seemed to be just right.

That's when Maxwell suggested that we go into a taqueria  he'd noticed when we drove past. 

I wasn't really in the mood for tacos, since my whole vision involved having something Freyja would hate, since she wasn't around to limit my choices to tacos and pizza, but it seemed like a bad idea to push the more exotic options, at that point.

I could tell straight away that this was not going to be a good kind of hole in the wall taco place. 

This was a bad, not very clean taco place.

To make matters worse the menu was one of those wall mounted jobs, with print so small that I couldn't read it, without my glasses, which I lost when Freyja was in 1st grade.

Both Mark and Max, with their enviable vision, had already ordered, by the time I managed to ask the sullen lady at the counter for a printed menu, and then wander around searching, while she barked vague instructions from her perch behind the counter.

At that point my good humor was completely warn thin and I was furious at Mark for being such a baby about my teasing over his terrible taste in music, when he was in high school, and I was further furious at them for ordering without me and not helping with the menu problem.

I noticed one of the photos on the menu that hung far above me, looked like a soup that I often have at our neighborhood place, so I pointed at it and said,

"I just want #8"

"You want birria?"


"B I R R I A?" 


and I went to sit down.

As I joined my cranky family, it dawned on me that I had just ordered goat soup. 

Soup of goat.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I am a goat enthusiast and I was just horrified by my mistake. 

My mouth was in no manner set for goat!

"Goddamn it you guys, why didn't you help me? I couldn't read the menu and I think I accidentally ordered GOAT."  

"Let's just GO, this place is almost guaranteed to suck."

"There is no way I am leaving and giving that woman the satisfaction of thinking I didn't know what I ordered!"

"Mom, you didn't know what you ordered! You ordered goat!"

"She doesn't need to know that!"

Then the goat arrived. 

Unadorned, in a Styrofoam container.

While my family ate tacos, I sipped at my goat broth.

I got up and asked for a lime.

The woman pointed from her stool at a sad pile of juiceless limes on a sideboard, that I'd overlooked (she was not moving from her seat for love, or money, as my father might say).

When they were finished eating we packed up what was left of the goat, and took it home with us, for Rolf to eat in the morning.

I made up a little song about the mistaken goat, in a Styrofoam tote, and Mark apologized for being a dick about the new wave music ribbing, and Maxwell sang a little harmony and added a bit to the verse, and said that it was one of my very best songs, close in quality to "I have my cat in my hands", and we drove back to SE with very little traffic.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

enough to just about break your heart, if you let it

A woman just came to the door, asking for work.

Like a depression era drifter.

A broke down lady with blue, blue eyes and a black backpack.

She looked clean enough, said she and her daughter had just become homeless and were trying to get a motel for the night.

She didn't strike me as a junkie, or a thief, but you really never know.

Mark would not have approved of me talking to her, to giving her a $20, to telling her how sorry I was.

He doesn't like me giving people money like that. He thinks I'm a soft touch (I am).  

It's getting dark, and I don't have any work to do.

If she'd come yesterday or Saturday, she could have helped me with the garden, Maxwell wasn't worth a good goddamn on Saturday with the garden.

He spilled the cedar chips all over the sidewalk and then huffed and puffed a great deal when I asked him to sweep up.

"that's money, you are leaving on the sidewalk."

He doesn't care very much.

That is the side effect of having mostly all you need, a willingness to leave things lay.

Two weeks ago I hired a man named Walter to clean up our shameful mess of a yard.

The mower's been broken for a while and it shows.

I asked my friend John to take a look at it while we were having coffee weeks ago, now.

He tinkered around and got it going, after washing out the fuel filter with gasoline and messing around with the spark-plug, but there is something off with the idle.

John's good with fixing stuff, being an engineer, I suppose, but he wasn't keen to "spend the better part of the afternoon" trying to figure out that idle.

I had high hopes my invitation to dinner would change his mind, but it didn't.  That's when I phoned up Walter from a flier, and he said he'd come right over, and he did.

I liked Walter right away.

I liked his glasses, his horned rimmed glasses.  

Mark thinks I'm foolish for basing my decisions on things like that, but I don't care.

I treated myself to that yard work and I am happy with the results.

I almost never feel like people are going to rip me off, and they almost never have, not the ones I've dealt with directly at least.

This lady at the door, she could be up to no good.

I said, thinking of Mark and his distrust of people,

"I'm a stay at home mom.  I'm just here day and night, with my dog, so I do all the work there is to do, and I'm married, so what I don't do, he does."

I thought I was being extra crafty, letting her know someone is here most of the time.

I have my nosy neighbor looking out, next door of course.  The one that likes to look through binoculars, at everybody.

The lady hugged me when I gave her that little dab of money.

She said "your eyes are stunning, your are so pretty" and I told her hers were too, because they were, I told her that she was a beautiful person to do what she was doing for her daughter.  She had acne scars, a lovely smile,  an open face, a pretty wave to her hair.  I hope she's ok.   

When the woman left, I thought I should have offered her some food to take along.  I felt like a real creep for not doing that, but what to do?

Monday, March 30, 2015

A trick of the light

I treated myself to a facial. 

A fancy one.

An expensive one. 

My skin had been a little bumpy and the space between my eyebrows had grown a little course, in recent years.  As if I'd been in the sun a bit too long.

I also had my brows and lashes tinted, because in my old age, I can't stand to wear makeup, it feels too uncomfortable.

So I have them tinted with vegetable dye every four weeks or so, so I don't look too washed out. 

It is the one thing I sort of keep up with. 

I'm usually cheap as hell with myself, but I decided to splurge.

I don't know if I look any better, but I feel a little less haggard, so I suppose it was money well spent.

I came home and Mark was making noodles and frying lebekase.

Rolf had set the table and even remembered to put a hotpad out. 


Bowtie pasta

They had washed the dog and applied flea medicine. 

"you guys hardly need me anymore!"

"Daddy is making NOODLES!" 

I make noodles all the time, but I don't get that kind of reaction.

"You look nice, mom", Maxwell said, because he is Maxwell and knows who butters his bread. 

I look a little blotchy, and my nose is a little red from vigorous scrubbing, but I will take it.

I'm working with a bunch of women that are more made up than the social activist,hippies I typically work with. 
I feel chronically under-dressed, yet completely unmotivated to change it.

I just slog around in my usual state of unkemptness as if it's the most usual thing in the world, which it is for me.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Suddenly my tiny baby was sixteen, It felt like the blink of an eye, the way those cliches go. People who complain about teens are idiots, or maybe they have horrible teens. 
My teen is awesome, and parenting him is my joy, my pleasure, I only wish I had more to offer, a million thank you tokens to the person that makes me real
I believe, sincerely, that without him I would have just shrunk and shrunk as a person until I blew clean away one day, without notice.  A vacancy, left in my absence.
We celebrated on the day of his birth with our little family, and Onkie, and my mom. 
We ate shrimp in his honor, and exchanged modest, but meaningful gifts. 
We shared stories of his birth and infancy and early childhood. 
A roomful of people that love one teenager with precise devotion. 
Boats all pointed in the same direction of adoration.

My mother saved the day on Thursday, by hosting a small dinner.  I worked late, and never would have been able to pull everything together.  I looked worse for the wear, but I made it home by 6:00pm.

On Sunday, Freya and I made salsas and cream pies, and spiffed the joint up, to host some friends of Maxwell.  We ate a great deal of pie, and Mark's mother came for dinner.  I made too much food, as usual.  I let them have rivers of soda and chips

Maxwell inexplicably requested chocolate cream pie, after having devil's food cake for his birthday, his entire life.  This was thrilling to me, as I am a big fan of all pie, and chocolate cream pie in particular.  It reminds me of my Grandma Betty, who would make it often, and was good at fulfilling birthday "orders".  I made a vanilla cream pie too, because Maxwell has a good friend that doesn't eat chocolate, and Mark's mother is not a big fan of it either.  Both  we fabulous and decadent and lovely.