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Declare Independence

This is the first of what I hope to be weekly posts. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud, but I think I need to set aside the time weekly to process and plan, so I might as well do that here. In this space.

Today I signed the papers that both bind me further to the bank, yet release me from any debt or obligation owed to my ex-husband. Though we have one child yet to finish raising together, the other child will be going off to school and has not required much coordination between us anyway. Today, I signed the papers on a refinance that allowed me to finally buy him out, and claim this house as my own. I can stop pretending he will one day agree that he doesn’t actually deserve to be paid anything for the home he left in a shambles after forcing me to cohabitate with him for years after he exited the relationship – years he was unemployed and only wandering out from his room periodically to monitor my parenting, and caring for the children while I worked…as well as oh-so-generously “allowing” me to leave the house by myself at a set time every week. And I can reclaim this worn-out old house that I have recently fallen in love with for the first time. Because those memories don’t live here anymore. They visit every once in awhile. Like today, when I read an issue of “Blackout” zine in which the author recounted an abusive relationship and the emotional fallout she articulated was gutwrenchingly familiar.

But I don’t want to write about the past. It’s important to acknowledge that, yes. It’s a monumental day. For not only am I finally able to pay him off, I am also able to take a little money out to rejuvenate the house and to prepare it for it’s transition.

I ordered the cinder blocks first. Like, as soon as I had definitive word that we were closing, I ordered the cinder blocks. LOTS and LOTS of cinder blocks. I knew I wanted five beds, so I calculated and recalculated and oh my freaking god that’s a lot of cinder blocks. Cinder blocks and a ladder and a bag of sand.

And I spent my whole weekend constructing beds like I was playing with giant legos. I stacked one bed, then another…then stopped.

Right now, the yard is overgrown and lush. I have a lot of winter plants that are going to seed, and I intend to harvest the seeds, so I don’t want to disturb the beds right now. Also, I really just kind of like having jungle yard. I hope to always have a somewhat loosely-tamed wild yard. So, today I stopped and sat down on my mom-throne in my spot under the oak tree…and surveyed. And imagined. And decided to, instead of making the beds in the middle of the yard like they are now, build them on the perimeter-ish – a few feet in from fence line, garage, and walkway – in a u-shape. This would leave the very sunniest part of the middle of the yard open for other things.

Because, while I really like the practicality of the cinder blocks – they do look a little industrial. I know they will age and stain, but with the blocks in a u-shape, I can slope dirt down from the tops of the beds and plant flowers or herbs or…really anything. Covering the majority of the cinder and creating more space.

Also – it leaves more space for the dog to run.

Also – I have this grand idea of creating a seating area in the middle of the yard shaped like or with all of the colors of an artichoke – various shades of green along the border and pinks and purples and yellows in the center.

I also have this idea that I’m going to use appliances. I already have the toilet garden (which will likely become the two-toilet garden when I replace the other toilet. I’d love to use a bathtub or sink somehow as a water feature.

But those ideas are all for phase 2. Phase 1 is the cinder block border garden. Mulch around the edges and lawn in the center. Still working on getting the trees cut down and the fence replaced.

I’ve decided I want the laundry line to be visible from the fence, because yay clotheslines! But I might end up putting up a barrier that hides some of it. Ultimately – long term goal is to build a big porch on the back of the house and make a sliding door entry into the master bedroom, which will eventually be converted into a studio apartment (with said lovely porch.) But that, again, is phase 2…or 3…or actually 4 or 5.

So I am focused. Every day this weekend I woke up early and sore from the previous day’s work. It feels good. It feels real. It feels like declaring independence.

Now my work week begins. I’m not going to hold myself to these early wake-up times, but I am hoping to haul at least some blocks every day to continue to build beds. I want them all built by next Monday, when D will be coming over to magically convert a bunch of pallets and odds and ends into a chicken palace. At that point, I’ll be able to get more ladies and my goal of supplying all of my neighbors with fresh eggs on the regular can be achieved. As it is, I’m definitely not buying eggs in the grocery store for myself anymore. Or lettuce. I’m hoping to say that about a lot more vegetables this summer.

So, next weekend is that…and soil, as I’m ordering a truckload. I’m going to lay all of the twigs and mulchy leaves that are all over my yard in those beds first – mixed with a fair amount of compost and chicken poop – and pile fresh soil and more scraps over all of it. And then I can plant. I’ll be getting a later start than I had hoped, but I still have plenty of growing I can do and so many other things to maintain.

About Time

You know that thing where you are pregnant, but it’s early in the pregnancy, and you don’t want to tell anyone, because you don’t know yet if its viable. But you kind of are certain it is, and you are bursting to tell, bursting to share, bursting to start on this new, exciting phase of your life? I’m not pregnant, but it’s that thing.

The sweetest words:


I have sent the Affidavit of Divorce Pay-off to xxxx xxxx. I need to confirm that you are ok with the $xx.xx doc prep fee for the Release of Lien and the $xx.xx recording fee. Once this document is signed and recorded, the lien will no longer cloud your title and you will not have to worry about providing documentation later to other companies if you choose to refinance again or sell.

Thank you,

…and that’s all I want to say, for now. Because I’m still not 100% sure it’s viable.

It’s going to be an interesting spring.

My chickens laid 4 eggs this week, and I’m all aflutter with love for those ladies. I honestly and sincerely thanked them while I gathered up the pretty blue eggs. They just clucked, but that’s ok.

My mind is all over spring. All I can think of lately is when can I start when can I start when can I start planting and growing things. Soon. Soon. Soon.


In my 45th year, I will buy my house, fix it up a bit, and plant a garden. Because what’s been stopping me from doing those things all of these years, anyway?

Oh. And I’ll be sending my eldest child off to college.

Oh yeah. That’s what’s been stopping me. And not without good reason. I had other gardens to tend to. Other beings to nurture.

I told Kate “I have had a recurring theme in my dreams where I discover a hidden room in a house I’ve lived in for a long time.”

…I feel as though I’ve discovered that room in my waking life.

Go Slow


Took a sick day today, as I spent most of the work day yesterday feeling poorly & wanted to give myself time to recover. Feeling better, but still tired – in that in between sick and well in which I feel guilty for not being at work but also feeling thankful that I have sick time that allows me to recover fully before returning, as so many don’t.

So I got some rest. Planted violets and jasmine in already-upturned dirt. Tended to the plants and the chickens and the cats and the dog. Sat still. Felt the air without needing to shroud myself in blankets to stave off the chills.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a small renovation plan for my house. I have lots of feelings about this, and transience, and I might have already expressed these thoughts, but my memory is poor and anyway I’m still processing, so I might repeat myself.

I have a lot of feelings about “settling” in Texas. I feel that the reason I ended up and ultimately stayed here was due more to a number of bad decisions. Therefore, I have always resisted calling myself a Texan. If people ask me where I’m from, I still say Chicago – even though I’ve lived in Texas more than half my life.

And this house – the setting of so many truly heartbreaking moments, and at the same time a symbol of my own determination to provide stability for my children when everything else in my life was falling apart. And I have had to fight for this house at times. Our struggles have been fewer than many, but greater than some. And it seems, for now at least, I’ve “won.” And I’m getting to reward myself by lining my next with little feathers to ensure I stay warm through the winter and cool through the summer.

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I was expressing concern about my ability to do a good job with some of the DIY projects I have planned, like tiling my floor. I was thinking about hiring someone to do the work for me – and I still might. I’m still deciding. My friend responded “Anyone can do good work on anything if they just go slow.”

So…what am I rushing for? Shouldn’t I let the joy of learning something new and doing a good job be one of the benefits of this project?

I mean, for crying out loud, I kept one entire whole human being alive into adulthood so far. It took 18 years to do that, but I think I can probably apply the patience and skill it took to do that to a perfectly acceptable tile job. One slab at a time.

**I just realized I’m totally guilty of the dreaded VERTICAL VIDEO SYNDROME.

Out Of Touch

This week’s Menu

Thoughts on the verge of a schedule change

It’s been an introspective weekend. I have two more weeks of my early morning start time at work before my schedule becomes vaguely more reasonable for me. I will no longer be starting and ending work before/after dark. Though I suppose that would have changed regardless of my schedule change due to the steadily lengthening days, it was a strange quarter. I let go of a lot of things. Re-evaluated a lot of things. Stepped away from scheduling and cluttering to clarify direction and begin to draw a map.

Now I have a map in hand. It’s fairly well-detailed. I have the direction defined and the vehicle. I also have the fuel. I just need…I’m just waiting on the green light. Busying myself with the things I CAN do while I wait wait wait for the word on all I WANT to do.

So…I wait. And scheme.

Regarding the clarification of direction, I started a couple of projects last year that didn’t go exactly as I had planned. The Zine and the Zine Library both seem to be floundering. Wanting my attention. For different reasons.

The zine…that is The Chicago Issue of Oyster Lexicon (Issue 2) that is about a year overdue (I laughed as I typed that, because, srsly, it wouldn’t be a zine if the intro didn’t start with “Sorry this issue is so late.”) – I’m good with that. This is an important issue. The process of inventing a process is all part of the process. I have several components and they will all come together when they are ready to come together. It could very well be that the D issue moves much more quickly. Truth be told, I’m thinking about the full 26-letter alphabet and I’m not sure if I’ll get to “Z” if I don’t start getting some issues out faster. But that kind of pressure isn’t why I’m doing the zine. And I’m not really doing it for anyone but me. And if I need to take a year to write about Chicago this time. As opposed to the other times I’ve written about Chicago. If I want to briefly summarize those years in cut-up form, or in fragments. Unrelated and disrupted shards of broken time. Then so be it. I’m sure this isn’t the last time I will try to piece those years together, and frankly I don’t think I have the insight to do them justice…though it’s funny I once thought I did have the insight to do so – must have been 20-25 years or so ago. Four years out from the events that unfolded, and I felt I had sufficiently processed them to write about them. Who knows? Maybe I was. Maybe I’m de-evolving emotionally.

Today I sat down to write with the Zine and Chicago in mind and I brainstormed a soundtrack. I had thought about the mix for the Chicago issue several times before…should I just do Chicago music? Should I do music I listened to when I lived in Chicago? Some of the bands I listened to then aren’t really even available to listen to now. What I did was thought of all of the songs I most likely would have put on a mix tape during that era of my life. My mix tapes were always pretty mish-mashy, disrespectful of genre or continuity choosing to showcase my favorite tunes rather than carefully integrating or forming themes. Mostly there was a lot of randomness involved, but I did have my favorites. The playlist reflects those favorites. I’m trying to resist continuing to add to it as more spring to mind. Most of those came to me in a rush.

So, that’s the state of the zine.

The Zine Library, on the other hand, keeps receding from my consciousness. Mostly because I lack the space now, with the giant dog crate in the way. And so many other things going on. I’m still interested in getting it going, but it requires more energy than I have right now. It’s there. It’s on my list. I’ll get to it. And I recently saw something somewhere about someone creating an online zine database, I think…so maybe I’m waiting for someone to invent that so I can just use it.

Morbidly, there’s a part of me that is waiting for Buddha the Grouch to move out so I can use his room as the zine library, but I think the garage might also do nicely. But all of that is still contingent on that aforementioned green light that I’m impatiently waiting for. So, I guess the zine library is in that same holding pattern.

Things that ARE moving forward are garden growth – I have cauliflower and broccoli and spinach and collards and lots of lettuces. I’m still waiting and hoping for brussels sprouts – I have several plants, but no sprouts as yet…I have heard the leaves are yummy and I might start nibbling on those. And I’m trying to restrain myself from getting berry bushes to plant against a fence that I’m hoping to redo, but…I’m going to hold off until after the fence is redone. But I might very well plant a pomegranate. And more Artichokes. All of the artichokes are healthy. I have dialed back my plans to have several new beds in the spring, but I do think I might try to grow some starts from seed under grow lights in the garage…if I get the green light. If not, I might get some plastic sheeting for the shelves I have and see if I can make a modified cold frame.

In the midst of all of this, I bought the last textbook for Buddha The Grouch…the last rounds of tuition for homeschool co-op, science team…improv. Lots of “lasts” this year with him. It’s sad. I will miss that guy as an every day person in my life. I’m excited to see what he does. How he grows. Who he becomes. And I still have some work to do on the other one.

So that’s me these days. Counting time and trying not to count time. Trying not to spend money I don’t have even though it’s money I might need to spend when I have it. Planning without becoming too attached to the plan in case another contingency plan is needed. Watching plants and children grow. Like usual.

Hopefully this time next week I will have more news and more action in the direction of enaction…


Lately I’ve been obsessed with music. I’m checking out CDs from the library, listening to podcasts about music and keeping track of things I want to listen to. Expanding my collection back from before my time forward through until the present. Admittedly, my musical interests have been pretty sparse these past…oh…20 years or so.

Having just rearranged my music collection, I am now slowly adding selective music to my playlists on Google Music and iTunes – depending on the device. Sprinkling in new things with old because a spoonful of nostalgia makes the modern alternative rock and roll band go down?

Speaking of nostalgia, I’m tempted to say I’m having a rough time with the zine, but the reality is I’m just doing the zine at my very special pace. The last issue seemed to come together really quickly. This issue is taking its time. And why shouldn’t it? Those years I lived in Chicago were among the most formative years of my life. I’m not even sure if I have the wisdom yet to parse together why I should have and did/didn’t learn from them. I know the main character of the story, as its told through my perspective. But how to describe me accurately and honestly? I was not perfect, but the thing is, I think I tried really hard to BE perfect. I wanted so badly to avoid the mistakes of my role models that I think I might have missed out on some fun things that I could have done. And, yet…*spoiler alert*…I’m boringly satisfied with my life. It’s difficult to write a story when you know the ending is sort of a cliche. “Young, suburban punk grows up and becomes a mom.” or “Dreamy writer chick grows up and becomes semi-jaded” or – most frightening of all – “Maybe teenage me was right all along.”

I’m just not sure what angle to take. But I guess I’ll figure it out. And, anyway – I’m in no hurry to finish the alphabet. I can sit at “C” for a good long while and not feel pressed.

If I think about it – about me at that time…what I am is somewhat removed from my surroundings. I wasn’t in a band, but I knew people who were. I didn’t get addicted to or OD on heroin, but I was close with people who did. I didn’t commit suicide. I survived. And I’m ok.

Mostly I just spent my time writing a lot of letters, anyway. Writing letters and laying out zines.

I’m having an existential crisis over the letter “c.”

In other news…Lulu news…things were a little rough last week with all of the rain and the overtime and the general cooped-uppedness. But I managed to get out to the dog park twice in the last two days. Today, we met a couple of energetic puppies that wore Lulu out. At one point, Lulu was playing with a dog on the edge of a cliff, and I felt like I was watching one of those westerns where everybody ends up in a gun battle on the top of a moving train. It’s like The Tao of Bird all over again. TOB used to like to run up to the edges of things – fast enough to where I didn’t know if he would maybe not be able to stop himself and perhaps might plunge over the edge.

So the other dog owners and I kept coaxing the dogs down off of the cliff to play, but they kept ending up back there until finally it seemed like Lulu was exhausted. She was actually doing that “Enough with you!” kind of grouchy bark at the other dogs that I’m familiar with other dogs giving to her when she’s overly-energetic and not reading cues to tone it down. Tone it down. Town it (the FUCK) down.

So we moved on, thankfully still intact. And walked a ways further before coming across rabbit dog. Rabbit dog was the perfect chase companion – darting in between trees like a rabbit to Lulu’s greyhound tendencies. The little dog was about an eighth of Lulu’s size, and still she kept up, mostly, and weaved through the underbrush with a thunderous grace.

It was nice, and it was exhausting, and she’s pretty much spent the rest of the day sleeping.

And, now that I type that…I think I’d like to spend the rest of the night sleeping…

Birthday weekend is drawing to a rapid close here, and I’m sitting here. Reflecting.

I could describe the weekend in a linear way – things I did and saw. Or in a non-linear way – things I thought and felt. If I was at my best, I would manage to fold the non-linear into the linear and find a way to describe my inner world by relating external activities. Perhaps it’s easier than I’m making it seem in my head.

The weekend began with a lovely Sunday stroll with Lulu. We’ve been enjoying Walnut Creek Park for it’s wonderful forested trails and off-leash dog-friendliness. I continue to feel extreme joy and gratitude about the fact that I finally have a dog who is predictably other-dog-and-people friendly enough to trust off-leash, and it’s wonderful to leisurely stroll in the forest while she gambols in a loose orbit around me. I have loved all of my canine companions as fully as I was able at the time that I had them. Of course, Lulu benefits by being in my life at a time that I have relatively few constraints – I work from home, the kids pretty much take care of themselves, and really all I’m interested in lately is taking long walks and spending time in the garden – both activities that she is happy to enjoy with me. But also, Lulu has the exact right temperament for me almost all of the time. She still has her moments when I just don’t want to even deal with her, but those times are fewer and further between.

Also – would you look at that face? Who could possibly not be in love with that sweet face. I mean, srsly,

Apparently, chasing that small, speedy dog around a tree for 15 minutes straight and greeting every dog we met in a playful crouch was enough to sufficiently tire Lulu out, so I brought her home and went out on a quest for houseplants, which is what I decided to gift myself with this year. I’ve run out of electronic gadgets to buy and I’m going back to the basics. And because I posted this intention on Facebook, I came home from plant shopping to find several houseplants waiting for me on my front porch – left by a friend who is leaving town and needed to rehome them. I am both thankful to her and terrified that I will kill her very well-cared for babies. Hopefully this fear will cure me of my black thumb once and for all. It was wise of me to manifest house plants, though. My penchant for murdering creatures in the chlorophyllic class notwithstanding, I’ve always wanted for greenery. My desire these days is to grow things constantly. Buddha the Grouch is always, well, grouching about the fact that whenever we leave the house or return, the first thing i do is linger over all of the things that are growing between the porch and the yard.

Right now, I’m MOST excited about the artichokes lining my walkway. And now I’m getting even more psyched about otherworldly asparagus poking up in whimsical curlicues between and around the artichokes, and a possible pair of pomegranates lining my side walkway. But that has to wait until I can get some bare root starts next week. And the one small artichoke in the backyard that I managed to plant from seed and nurture into a fairly sturdy, healthy seedling. It grows so slow!

But back to my weekend – I realized I was late for a party after plant-shopping, so I headed out to enjoy the always gentle energy of dear friends M&K. I only intended to stay for a little while, but enjoyed the conversation so much…I stayed longer than I intended, and was late arriving home to once again firmly insist that The Tao of Bird PLEASE finish the dishes.

There is this pattern of behavior TOB has been getting into, where he will procrastinate a chore until it becomes a Herculean task. Like, if he just DID the damn dishes the first day he is scheduled to do them, it would be manageable. But he puts it off, in spite of my expressed misgivings, and suddenly it’s four days later and every fucking dish in the house is dirty and he is beside himself with not knowing where to begin. This happens weekly. We are working on it. It begins with suggestions – “Hey, um…it’s your day to do the dishes. Think you can get to them soon?” which quickly turn to more adamant suggestions – “So, you need to start doing the dishes now.” which is laced with a general desire, on my part, to not have to do this AGAIN. TOB usually responds to this by, at first, brushing me off – “I’ll do them.” And every week that we go through this pattern I get increasingly dubious from the beginning. Usually at some point in the process, ToB spends an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom, which I finally got him to ADMIT was a stalling tactic.

The thing is, I can FEEL him making the wrong decision. And I don’t like for him to do that. More than wanting him to get the dishes done, I want to not have the major proportion of our interactions be me telling him to get the thing done that he should have done 4 days ago when I first started telling him to get it done, and that still hasn’t gotten done even after the routine of handing over the mobile phone and eliminating screentime is dutifully and resignedly adhered to. I KNOW it’s overwhelming to have 4 days worth of dishes staring you down. Welcome to the first 8 years of your life. Part of me wants to tell him “If you think the process of doing 4 days’ worth of dishes is overwhelming, try doing them with a clingy 2 year-old pinching at your bicep fat.”

Eventually, though, there is a breakthrough. And then it’s just about me adhering to my standards in spite of the fact that I’m just grateful that I no longer have to nag someone. He ended up powering through it in the end, so I took him out to get a burger and fries so I could spend some time talking to him before his winter break reached an end.

I stayed up late into the night dancing and writing in my journal.

Woke up on my bday, made coffee, and met with a friend who has schemes for a chicken coop made out of pallettes. We talked gardens and strategies & I’m excited about learning to build things and coming out the other end with something practical. I also learned about cold frames, and now I’m determined to build a cold frame – if not this year, then next for sure.

D is a fabulous fount of knowledge about plants and things. She is the one who suggested the bare root starts for asparagus and pomegranates, and because of her, my growing flock will have a suitable abode. It was a good meeting, and I’m glad to be learning so much from so many people.

I’ve been thinking a lot about transience and permanence. I’m not sure if I’ve written about this in earlier posts, but something Wendell Berry wrote in -I think it was the introduction, even, of his book of essays The Art of the Commonplace- about a sense of place. About how people who live closer to the land – people in rural areas, or other areas where you don’t have the same services and conveniences people in the city have – have to consider the entire lifecycle of every purchase. When you buy something, and you can’t just throw it in a plastic bin and put it out on the curb, you have to think about how you will dispose of the husk of that which you consume. And, specifically in terms of sense of place, your relative transience impacts the choices you make about the spaces you inhabit. If you have a home, for instance, that you intend to hand down…you will make decisions about repairs and upkeep in a way that’s different from someone who intends to flip that home or rent it out. And with all of the people who have passed through this home, that becomes evident. Which is why I”m looking for ways to make this space more cherished.. I’m putting down roots. Literally. Finally. Whether I stay here 4 years more or 20 years more, I want to leave this space better than it was when I arrived. Not for resale value, but for me.

I guess that’s what all that reclaiming was about. Perhaps why I let things go for so long. If I claim this space, don’t I also claim these circumstances? Ironically, claiming the space only serves to brighten the circumstances. More and more, my home is my spa. The things I choose to do to beautify it are my meditation. And the things I leave a mess are their own form of beauty. Like my “new” stove – purchased a year ago – which currently shows the wear and tear and disarray of a much-loved and well-used appliance.

So, I spent much of the 45th anniversary of my birth reading in the backyard while attempting to get a fire going, listening to punk rock, writing in my journal. I got into a groove of recounting life in Chicago – perhaps inspired by Kerouac, as I’ve been listening to On The Road lately. I haven’t re-read it yet. I’m sure it needs editing. I might even still cut it up and make it vague. I go back and forth. But it’s ok. The zine will get done when it gets done.

I’ve been learning the art of editing. Clearly, not of the writing in this blog, but in life. Like corn. D made a remark about how I might get some good chicken feed out of a crop, but that corn is really difficult to grow & I realized that it’s silly for me to do something so difficult my second year of gardening. Why not, instead, build my confidence with some easy spring/summer crops? Corn can wait. This made me happy. As much as I would love the outcome of corn, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the input of corn.

“It’s like kissing my kitten in the belly.” -Jack Kerouac

And dinner with S&B&C&Buddhathegrouch&Tao of Bird on my bday. Indian food. It was tasty, but I felt distracted by my words and queasy. It was nice to mix worlds. Friends meeting friends in parallel friend universes.

And then today. Today, I cooked. I cooked, and between bouts of cooking, I read zines. And played Cookie Jam. And listened to endless podcasts. And let the dog out and in and out and in again until I finally realized it’s a beautiful day and left the back door open while I cooked and listened to podcasts.

So…you know…I can’t complain. Forty-Five is mellow. Forty-five is wise. Forty-five balances movement and stillness. Forty-five is unflinching in the face of things that would have kept Thirty-Five up all night, worrying. Forty-five suits me well. There are going to be some exciting changes this year. I’m ready.


Lately whenever I get the urge to sit down and write, I can never find my journal. It starts a cycle of searching that generally involves turning around in circles in my room while also trying to keep the 100+ pound dog from thinking I’m playing with her. By the time I find the journal (if I find it) I’m no longer interested in writing whatever it was that had me looking for it in the first place. Or, if I don’t find the journal, I’ll find it later in some obvious location and I’m too baffled and annoyed by its previous absence from that place to pick up a pen (which are abundant and everpresent in my house, at least.)

Fuck it. Today I fired up the computer at the first sign that my journal was missing. Avoided the string of expletives that always seems to waft in the air whenever I”m searching for something that should really never be lost because it literally never moves from this 12×12 room unless it’s in my backpack, which sits empty at my feet. Of course, this laptop is a piece of crap, and it took its usual few minutes to wake the mice in a wheel that seem to be its catalyst for operationability…but I don’t feel as put out as I would have searching for my journal.

I keep writing things down that I want to write about later, and now that I’m sitting here, it’s all a jumble in my head. I only have a few minutes to write before I’m expecting a friend to come over. I’ve promised to make breakfast tacos for all of my nearby loved ones. One breakfast at a time. Maybe some breakfasts will involve multiple loved ones – either people who know each other or people who I think SHOULD know each other. I’m relieving myself of the stress of large gatherings in the new year. I’ve always been a fan of the potluck. Forever. From the time I had my own space to organize them until, well, last year, apparently. Maybe I will be a potluck fan again in the future. But I have this cycle with parties. I get all excited about them, and then I sit down to make a list of people to invite and in the stress over leaving ANYONE out, I invite everyone. Then I stress that everyone will actually come, so I don’t tell or remind anyone. Then I stress that no one will show up…or, worse, that one person I barely know will show up and that person will think I’m the world’s biggest loser because no one shows up. This stress is compounded by facebook, where everyone can see that I’ve invited 600+ people, and there are only 3 people there. Meaning, I have 597 imaginary friends.

It’s really too much for me. The day of the party is spent cleaning and hoping that everyone will cancel and I can just stay in bed all day, having done all of my cleaning for the week. Then, when people start arriving, I inevitably feel like I’m not spending enough time talking to any one person. I can’t actually focus or concentrate on any one coversation, so I try to avoid all conversation until there are only a few people left.

This is me. Over and over again. So, this year I’m doing small gatherings of specifically-invited people. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the result.

So, I’ve learned a few things about myself this year.

I’ve not only learned to garden, but I’ve learned a have a definite preference for the fall/winter garden. I enjoy having green things growing that I can pluck and eat from and not destroy. At this point in my garden, I don’t have to buy any lettuces at the store. If I want a salad, I can just gather greens of various types from my back and side yard. I also have enough collards for our traditional new years greens this year, but I might buy more just in case people drop by.

I’ve learned how to bake some things. Pretzels. Focaccia. Things my old oven would have destroyed thrive in my new oven. Or, perhaps, my new oven inspired the confidence I needed to be able to bake things. Cooking is primarily an exercise in confidence. What else could explain master chefs who make food out of foam? You just have to make people believe that it’s tasty, and it is. Well, and there is some skill involved, to be sure, but the difference between a good cook and a great cook is mostly all talk.

Speaking of cooking, I’ve also perfected my homefries. Crispy crunchy and buttery soft. This is why I’m making breakfast tacos for everyone this year. Next year, maybe I’ll bake loaves of bread…or pretzels. I’ll take the year to perfect the recipe and feed everyone at the end of the year. The secret to good homefries, by the way, is small dice on the potatoes and lots and lots of patience. You gotta cook the SHIT out of those things. That’s how they get all caramelized and crispy.

I’ve learned how to train a dog. I’m still learning. And I’ve had plenty of dogs before, but I always inherited or adopted dogs that had seemingly insurmountable obstacles to trainability, and/or I didn’t care to spend the time to train out the bad habits so I just worked around them. The dogs who suddenly decided they hated each other were always kept separate. The dog who randomly disliked certain people in a biting way was muzzled when the detested person was over. The dog who was deaf and leash aggressive was always walked late at night so we didn’t encounter other dogs. The dishes were all moved to the back of the counters when the dog who liked to swipe everything onto the floor was left alone in the house. Lulu, my current dog, is both a challenge and a refreshing change. She listens. She usually responds to praise and correction. She learns. All my life, through all of these dogs, all I’ve wanted was a dog who would be pleasant around other people and other dogs. I’ve reached the point now with Lulu where I can join the community of dog owners who hang out at off-leash parks. It’s a community I’ve never been a part of, and I always enjoy participating in new communities. It’s a whole other level of dog ownership that has eluded me, and I love it. It’s sort of like parenting. I mean…it’s not, but I get it now when people say their dogs are like their children. In my opinion, it’s the community that makes it so. It reminds me of sitting at a park on a blanket with other moms and snacks while children orbit around us all like unmapped stars. We talk about our worlds in a language that only other parents/dog owners really understand. Our fears, anxieties, and hopes – as well as the day-to-day maintenance of these creatures whose lives have been entrusted to us. It’s pretty special.

I continue to learn and be inspired by the people around me. My activist friends who tirelessly work towards change by any means necessary. My children who continue to adjust and adapt to the vicissitudes of life. My mama friends who deal with the ever-changing moods of their children. My artist friends who find ways to turn all of this into something beautiful and/or distilled into a palatable form. My gardening friends who make something from almost nothing…and then you eat it and it turns into nothing again only to continue to become something. I’m a huge fan of naturally-occurring metaphors, and growing things is inspirational.

I’m also learning to think about my future. As a parent, so much time is spent in the present. As a single parent, especially, dealing with all of the logistical challenges and barriers. I’ve often had a difficult time thinking 2 weeks in advance. I struggle to make plans and commitments while at the same time insisting on scheduling things to be sure I at least have time for them until I end up having to cancel at the last minute because I’m needed elsewhere. These responsibilities have tapered off through the years, and I’m slowly learning to envision what my life will be like when I no longer have the responsibilities that come from day-to-day parenting. I’m glad this is a slow tapering rather than a sudden adjustment I need to make, though it’s still somewhat alarming to find myself thinking of “the last birthday party”…”the last winter solstice”…etc with two kids in the house.

This year, I’ve come full circle in my relationship with relationships and/or sex. I’ve been sort of relationship/sex agnostic since my last relationship. For awhile, I thought I might try polyamory, but who the fuck has time for that? Polyamory is not “relationship light” – it’s more like “extreme relationshipping.” My problem is that I don’t want to spend any extra time worrying about one particular person in my life. Historically, I tend to focus way too much on that one person, and neglect others in my community I should be giving my time to. And, as far as sex is concerned…I was much wiser in my youth when I felt like sex just gets in the way of everything. I can’t seem to make good decisions about it. Too often, the person I want to have sex with is not the person who is best for me to spend my time with. And anyway – sex is cool and fun and everything, but from this distance it feels like a really stupid thing to form a lifetime commitment around. Much more important is having someone you can grow with and be yourself around. Maybe I’m a bit of a narcissist, but I just haven’t found very many people I enjoy being around for extended periods of time more than myself. Certainly I’ve had points in my life where having lots of sex seemed like a good idea, and I’m glad I indulged myself during those times. Now…I feel sated just having a good conversation. It’s not like I NEVER have sexual feelings, but it’s like how I feel about getting drunk. It seems like a fun idea, but then I get bored with it before I’m able to drink enough to get drunk. hahaha.

So, that’s where I am. As of now. I’m excited to see what I learn next year. Here are my goals as of now, but they are completely mutable based on whatever circumstances I find myself overcoming and/or needing to overcome:

1. Successfully grow and harvest a bumper crop of tomatoes and cucumbers and LEARN TO PICKLE AND CAN.

2. At least one more issue of the zine…hopefully 2-3.

3. Convert the garage to a plant nursery.

4. Get 4 more chickens

5. Keep moving, moving, moving. More hikes, more gardening, more cooking.

6. Step up the writing.

7. Organize photos, videos, and audio recordings

Peace and love to all in the New Year. <3 <3


For ten hours a day, four days a week, people call me and I solve their problems by instructing them on what to click and where to drag. It’s actually a lot more interesting than it sounds, and I enjoy it a lot more than I ever thought I would. I’ve never been much of a puzzle-worker. I tell my customers frequently that I’m from the “Nuke it all” school of troubleshooting when fixing my own problems, preferring to destroy and start over with that which I am unable to easily fix. So, it’s a blessing that for 40+ hours a week, I am forced to methodically isolate the cause of the issue and, just as methodically, tease out the solution. And if you think all technical issues are the same, they are not. I learn something new every, every day, and the majority of the calls I get are about things I may have never seen before – at least not exactly in the way it’s manifesting for that particular customer.

When I graduated from high school and chose not to go to college, it wasn’t necessarily my dream to be a phone tech support person. My dreams and goals have always been extremely vague and non-specific, and none of them foresaw any sort of big-deal “career” type job. I sort of figured I’d work at Kinko’s my entire life and write books or make magazines and maybe live in a trailer on a plot of land somewhere. For me, that was success. Honest and heartfelt. The thought of that still makes me feel content. There is so little I truly want or need. A place to live. Candles. Things to write on or with. Things to read. Things to eat.

My eldest son is now at the age I was when I made these plans and had these dreams. His plans and dreams are different from mine, for sure. As we eagerly await word from his favorite school, I’m looking at my life and wondering what my years post-children will be like. Will I read Erma Bombeck books on the front porch of my condo and remember what it was like when life was more chaotic? Will I sell all of my worldly possessions and hit the road in an RV? Will I buy my trailer home in the country and finally achieve my lifelong goal?

It’s an interesting phase of life that I’m creeping up slowly on. These are the days I thought about wistfully when parenting was most difficult. These are the days I will remember fondly in the future.

<3 <3

We Are All Free Now

Veggie Chili Cheese Mac on a brisk autumn day.

I have been away, but (always) here.

Words don’t seem adequate lately. I realize I have a tendency to over-express, and I long for concision. With that in mind, rather than writing the novel of my time in Chicago that the zine was starting to become, I decided to make more of a collage. Short, descriptive interludes of what my life was like then.

And perhaps that’s what this blog should be for what my life is like now.

My life at the moment is like chili cheese mac on a brisk autumn day. So easy to make, and so delicious. Around here, we have “chili week.” I make a couple of huge pots of chili (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, green pepper, jalapeno, tomatoes and beans and beans and tomatoes…seasoned with chili powder, salt, pepper, plus maple syrup and cocoa powder. cook the veggies, throw in the beans & tomatoes, season and slow cook for as long as possible. We stock the house with fritos for frito pie; macaroni for chili cheese mac; veggie dogs and buns for chili cheese dogs; and, of course, tortilla chips for nachos. I’m actually thinking about making chili enchiladas this time around. Or maybe a chili omelet? Chili potato. Hell, throw it in some queso. It’s chili all week. In celebration of chilly weather.

I’m recovering from overextending something…ligaments or joint or something…in my foot. We have these giant bur oaks on our property that drop acorns that are slightly larger than golf balls (as I typed that, one hit the roof and rolled down, loudly, into the leafy grass…making that sound that things make when they land in a pile of crisp leaves.) For as long as I can remember, we’ve called them ankle-breakers and joked about how careful we need to be to avoid stepping on them wrong because they are ALL OVER THE PLACE. So, you’d think I would know not to step on one. But it was pretty spectacular when I did…because I totally did this graceful barrel roll into the street, right back up to my feet. Ta-da! I was on my way out to a movie, so I got to rest it for a couple of hours, but I knew it was bad when I was limpy after the movie.

So, I’ve been sidelined. It healed pretty quickly past the tender phase, but it still starts to hurt after long periods of use. So it’s been week of minimal walking and maximal  hyperactive dog activity. It’s been difficult to manage her, but understandable that she is restless. I’m looking forward to re-establishing our routine.

Tonight we did about half of our usual walk. A route I have walked for many, many years. As we walked, I thought about Wendell Berry and some of his essays about the importance of being able to live in one place for long periods of time. How having a sense of place allows you to mark time against time. Like measuring the healing of an injury by the distance I am able to travel today versus the distance I was able to travel yesterday or last week. Or even marking aging by measuring the difficulty with which I travel the same distance today that I traveled much easier 10 years ago.

Those markers don’t always have to be geographical, I suppose. The same thing can happen when listening to music, and remembering songs from certain periods in your life. Or, of course, smells…or foods. Like chili.

A few months ago, I met a new friend. He is a very nice man who shares a lot of my interests and has a very relaxing way of being that I appreciate a great deal. We went to a forest together in the middle of summer and laid in a field and told each other stories about our lives, and it was very nice. In telling my stories, I was reminded that when I was the age of my eldest son, my goal in life was to live out in a trailer on some land somewhere. Just me and maybe some dogs and cats and a typewriter or something. I would be a writer, or I would run an animal sanctuary, or something. But I wouldn’t let my work define me and I wouldn’t have any men or children holding me back.

It occurred to me at that moment that my dream, aside from the not having any children holding me back part – which, I guess, is negligible, is 99% attainable at this very moment in my life.

I have now lived in this house about as long as I lived in my mother’s house growing up. If all goes well, I will be in this house another 4-6 years. After that, I’m thinking my life may be a little more transient. I have plans. I have ideas. I have vague outlines of goals, and I have dreams.

We were celebrating my return to work, my boss and I. She took me out to eat after my first night back from a month-long leave during which I was hiding myself and my children from my abusive soon-to-be-ex husband. The CPS report had come back and it was decided that my soon-to-be-ex was not a danger to my children, in spite of the fact that our flight had been predicated by him biting my then 6-year old son’s ear so hard it left marks that I could see for hours after he was returned to me. Mortified that my child had borne the first physical manifestation of emotional abuse that had gone on since shortly after he was born, regretting that I had made the decision to involve myself with such a person, and thankful that I had someone in my life who was able to provide us with safe shelter, we hid until the state told us it was safe to do otherwise. Needless to say I didn’t consider any of us safe, but at least I felt there was now a witness. There was now evidence. There was now a paper trail. 

So, my boss took me out to dinner, and I was thankful. My boss was a cheeful, chatty person. She was good-hearted but somewhat self-involved…meaning if you called her on her self-involvement, she was appropriately conciliatory. And I was thankful to have the opportunity to hear someone talk about something other than me and my “situation.”

Unfortunately, self-involved people are self-involved. I don’t think she even realizes to this day when she lost me as a friend completely, but this was the moment. Here, in the restaurant, as we celebrated my sort-of ability to be kind of not as hyper-vigilant, my boss was prattling on about her sister. Her sister who was over 20 and had never been kissed. Her sister, as my boss told me, who would NEVER get involved in an abusive relationship, because she was just too smart for that.

I stopped eating. I couldn’t even look at her. I definitely couldn’t say anything. She just kept talking. Not noticing. I endured until it was time to say goodbye. She paid the check, of course. How could someone as stupid as me be expected to pick up the tab?

It’s as simple as that, the invalidating. People wonder why abused women don’t leave their spouses, and I can think of at least 5 reasons off the top of my head, but one of them is because we are frequently made to feel like it is our fault we are in this situation in the first place, and when there are children involved, we feel obligated to make sure they don’t have to face the consequences of our own “stupidity.”

There are other reasons. There definitely were in my case. For one thing, I was not legally able to kick my husband out of my house, so for the first 3 years after he “left” me – which was about 6 years after the abuse started – while he was unemployed, I was faced with the decision of whether I should just bear the burden of him living in my home and crawling out of his room at random intervals to sneer at me, or face the possibility of losing my home and going bankrupt in the process if I moved out. Countless phone calls to lawyers that began with “We need a $1500 retainer up front” and ended with me hanging up the phone in tears, feeling completely hopeless. There was the trip to Legal Aid – for which I made too much money to qualify for assistance and too little money to pay a reduced-fee lawyer to take my case. There was the attempt at mediation that got my hopes up, because soon-to-be-ex acted as polite and accommodating as I’d ever seen him be during the proceedings, and immediately after, tore the agreement up in my face telling me it didn’t mean shit because it wasn’t a legal document.

But that mediation did one thing. It got him to move out. And him moving out was both the beginning of my new life and the beginning of a whole new set of fears and regrets that I’m sure many women who are getting out of abusive relationships are familiar with. Fears like “Now that I don’t know where he is all of the time…where the fuck is he?” (It turned out he was breaking into my house and rifling through my personal journals and paperwork. Caught in the act one day by a friend who came over to babysit the children.) And “Who will take care of the children while I’m at work now that he’s not around all of the time?” (It turned out I had an amazing group of mama friends who were more than willing to take that on for me, and for whom I will forever be grateful. Whose actions and deeds were silently and freely the kindest things I have ever experienced, and they guide me in any decision I make today when someone I love is in so much need they can’t even begin to ask for help…and whose kindness was roundly resented and threatening to my then soon-to-be-ex, and responded to with accusations and attempted retribution.) And, finally, but not insignificantly “How can I protect my children from him?” (Which I continue to worry about to this day after years and years of witnessing his manipulative behavior manifesting in his relationship with his children…behavior I can do nothing about because even when one of the children made a stand and refused to see him anymore without any prompting or encouragement from me, we were all punished with a need for expensive lawyers to extract us from the legal clusterfuck he brought down upon us.)

But it was never a straight line to these things. There were times that we got along splendidly. For a little while, we even moved back in together. I loaned him money to start a business. Hell, we had another child after he and I had been engaged in an unhealthy and abusive relationship for years. So even those logistical things above weren’t the only reasons I stayed. They were just some of them. Some of the reasons, too, were not so well justified. I felt sorry for him. I felt like he had been abandoned by his family. I felt like I couldn’t do it on my own, and that any kind of support was better than nothing. I felt like a burden to the rest of my community who had already done so much to help me. I felt like a failure, and I wanted to be able to at least pretend to have a normal family. I wanted my children to have two parents.

So I zigged before I zagged. And then finally we were done. Only we are never done. Because when you are done with someone you are still forced by law and by love to parent with, no matter how unreasonable they are…you are never done.

At least I’m smart enough to know that. And, you know what, It took a fuck of a lot of brains and grit and fortitude to make it through the rest of it. So fuck ANYONE who tells a woman who is in an abusive relationship she just isn’t smart enough. You have no fucking clue.


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