Category Archives: families

Sunset Blvd

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sunset from Rocky Butte in Portland

Last night, I found myself in possession of a few unscheduled hours between my work shift and a play date at the club. I went to Starbucks, first, for an iced coffee and a protein box, and I’d intended on staying there the full three hours, but there was this guy. Super creepy, mumbling in Russian, standing at the condiment counter. He stared at me, started to approach, hung back, and eventually flicked sugar packets at me, all while murmuring in Russian. Lets just say, my hackles were definitely up. When I’d made up my mind to do something, he left. I took a deep breath and could relax enough to eat my snack and start actually reading my book, instead of just hiding behind it.

Then a large group of political signature-capturers came in. I remembered these folks from a date at the same Starbucks many months ago. I knew they’d get loud.

So I decided to make to drive up to Rocky Butte and watch the sunset.

Rocky Butte is a lookout point high above Portland, mostly known for being a makeout spot. But the views of Portland, Vancouver, and the Cascade mountains are breathtaking, and I’d never seen the sun set from there.

It was worth the time.

Choosing to skip the regular lookout spot, I parked my SUV near a boulder and sat on the tailgate. I watched the city lights come on and the river take on a luminescent glow. It was hazy and simple and so lovely. I tried to clear my mind, to let go of the creep Starbucks dude and the anticipation of my date. To stop the ache for N and the worry over my kids and my mom. To ignore the muscle soreness from my workout, and just focus on being.

And memories flitted past.

My relationship with N isn’t the first long-distance relationship I’ve been in. Jason and I were long distance at the very start and I remember crying on his shoulder the first time he left for his military training in Arizona. It was sunset, then, and we promised each other we would be that old couple who still help hands and watched the sun rise and set together whenever we could. In the months that followed, I would get letters from him about the desert sunsets, once, even a gorgeous postcard of cactus and mountains silhouetted purple against a fire-red sky. Later, when we had cell phones, I would get pictures from his day and his travels “Still watching sunsets. I love you.” and I would send him the same.

We’ve watched the sun set from just south of the Canadian border to just North of Mexico. We’ve watched the Pacific Ocean turn dusky blue as the sun rose behind us, and rosy pink as the sun set in front of us. In Carlsbad, California the cliffs turn a blinding gold color in the dying light. At the top of Larch Mountain, in the Columba River Gorge, you are surrounded by the Cascade Range and the mountains turn pink as a periwinkle mist rises from the valleys. In Tucson, Arizona we watched the desert sky turn a bleached blue color as the sun just faded out. We were teenagers, then, and just engaged to one another. With our children, we’ve watched sunsets turn the Pacific silver and gold after days spent playing in the sand at Lincoln City or Seaside or Fort Stevens. We watched one magical sunset from a rooftop pool in Anaheim, and as soon as dark had settled, we watched the fireworks over Disneyland.

I’ve watched countless sunrises over Mount Hood, including the one on the morning my father breathed his last breath. I remember the golden light of a warm September morning filtering through the maple tree as I said goodbye. I’ve watched the oil fields of Oklahoma turn russet, the oil drills looking like strange sci-fi bugs in stark contrast to the bright sky. I roller-bladed through a cotton-candy sunset on the boardwalk in Long Beach, California, thinking of Jason and knowing he was watching the same sun set just a few miles south of me, at the Marine Corps base where he was stationed at the time. In Japan, I faced the ocean and experienced the novelty of the sun setting opposite the beach, something I’ve never experience before. I watched the sun set from the Tokyo airport, knowing it was headed around the world to my home in Portland, and that I would meet it again, shortly after sunrise there.

So many memories, so many pins on the map. Ever increasing reminders of the smallness of our world… That we all have the sun and moon and stars in common. hat no matter how far apart we are, we can watch the same sun set and rise, day after day, and still feel connected.

 

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The week-ish in review

It’s been a bit of a week.

I’ve been feeling very down. Much of it s work stuff that I can’t talk about here and friend stuff that I also can’t share. I had an online friend threatening suicide for several days and now… nothing. I’ve not seen a post from them in a couple days and I’m terribly worried but I have no way of contacting them so I don’t fucking know anything. I’ve had another friend check herself into the psych ward and I have so much respect and love for her strength and spirit and, well, everything. It was all I could do to visit her a couple of times, but I’m glad I went. And I walked down the sunlit halls of the hospital with a sense of deja-vu, to a different hospital but the same time of year, last year.

It hit me when I heard the steel doors close behind me, after visiting hours were over and I was politely but firmly ushered out.

This week, last year, was when my mom tried to die.

Just. ugh.

It was when I had to tell her to put clothes on and I was taking her to the hospital. She was still in her house coat and nearly out of her head with pain from a horrific allergic reaction to a lotion she’d put on her legs. I told her she had exactly as long as it took me to put my groceries away before she was headed to my parking spot, or I was calling 911 and she was riding in an ambulance.

She chose my truck.

I made the second of many, many drives to Providence Milwaukie just past noon on that bright spring day. We’d been to the ER once the week before for the same condition, but she didn’t do the instructed aftercare correctly and the burns on her legs had gotten worse. They were hot to the touch, excruciatingly painful, and were starting to smell.

I got this down to an art form, at this point.

Hwy 212 to Hwy 224, go past Bob’s Red Mill and then turn right on (I think) Harrison. It’s the intersections with Mike’s Drive In. Follow the signs to the Emergency Department. Pull in to the turnabout in front, turn off your engine so the escaping carbon monoxide doesn’t harm the other people visiting the facility. Find a wheelchair and a nurse. Get Mom inside the building, started on check-in, and leave to park the truck in the spaces designated for emergency patients and their visitors only. Cry a little in the parking lot, text your husband, his girlfriend, and your other partner that you’re at the hospital again. Take a deep breath and a gulp of water while you wish it was gin, square your shoulders, and walk inside.

Inside, your mom looks old and broken in her wheelchair. Something is funny with her blood pressure. It’s where a normal person’s should be, which is very high for her. You have the first argument of the afternoon when the admitting nurse shrugs it off and you insist that something is wrong. They have to look at her legs, which are feverish and leaking fluid all over the chucks pad they put on the wheelchair’s footrest. She screams and moans whenever she is touched. She is babbling incoherently and you have to translate for her; she’s your mother and her language is the first you ever learned and you can still speak it even when she makes no sense to others.

They refuse to give her pain medication.

They refuse to give her food or water.

Both of these are just in case she needs surgery.

Every time the medical staff leave the room, she begs you for crackers or some sprite. She’s dizzy, having been in too much pain to eat that day.

You have to say no.

You have to be the bully.

You have to be the parent.

She cries out of the same brown eyes you face every morning in the mirror. DeBord eyes, she calls them, from the French side of the family, and you are the only child of 5 to have gotten them.

Doctors come and go. Her heart rate is too high. They begin to pump her full of drugs to stabilize her. They can’t even worry about the infected wounds on her legs because her heart is trying to give up.

You ask to speak to the dr. You tell him she can’t go home; it’s not safe; she won’t care for herself there.

They agree to admit her. They give her food and water at some point. You drink a cup of hospital coffee and realize you’ve tasted better paint thinners, and it sits heavy and full of acid in your stomach.

Your husband’s girlfriend offers to bring home pizza for the kids. Your other partner offers to bring you dinner. When he asks where you are, you tell him it’s the only fucking hospital in Milwaukie and he needs to figure it out himself.

You get your mom checked in and the ward nurse is your best friend from grade school. Stress and fatigue is giving this whole day a nightmarish cast. Somewhere in there, you’ve told your boss that you have to take family leave. Again. Your boyfriend brings you a hamburger and a chocolate shake from Burger King that tastes like cardboard and sticks in your throat. Your husband texts you that the kids are fine. You sit in the cargo area of your SUV with your boyfriend until he has determined you can drive safely. Then you drive home.

That night, your mom almost dies. Her roommate notices her acting funny and gets a nurse. Her blood pressure and pulse have dropped to terrifying levels. They tell you all of this the next day.

You spend the next 4 days arguing with your mother and the hospital staff. You live on Starbucks and snickers bars and you crochet endless green and blue granny squares. You keep your dentist appointment and find out that if you tell them your mother is in the hospital and you need them to be quick, they listen. You begin a long journey of hospital visits and wound care appointments and the crazy balance of full-time mom, full-time manager, and now full-time caretaker for an aging parent.

That was a year ago, this week. I know it because I just had my April dentist appointment a couple of days ago. And I looked at it like, holy shit, it’s been a year.

And my mom? She lived, but she lost that whole week. We were talking about it over lunch the other day. She has very few memories of that time, or of the few weeks following. And we’re starting the process of getting her into a retirement community now, because I can’t be on constant watch anymore. That awful week aged her and me both. Her memory has holes now. Her body is breaking down. I think, if I’m lucky, we might have another 5 years together, especially if she can go someplace with some extra care and services.

She doesn’t remember most of that week.

I remember every painful detail.

I think I always will.

 

 


Good Kids

Last time I wrote  I talked about my doubts about being a good mom.

Then this weekend happened.

I got sick. Really sick. Couldn’t get off the couch or cook dinner or do anything sick.

Let’s backtrack a bit. We had a fun time at Powell’s Books and Voodoo Doughnuts last Wednesday. Thursday, I had my yearly checkup (get your STI screening every 6 months, kiddos!) and did… stuff? I don’t remember. Friday I woke up with allergies. NBD, right? Take my Claritin, and…

Go back to bed. I felt awful. Worse, I was feeling antisocial for no recognizable reason. So, I tried to sleep it off. Let the kids watch TV and play computer games. Somewhere, early in the morning, was a visit from the plumber. And, very early, Jason and his partner left for Kinkfest.

I slept all day. Got up in the late afternoon and ordered pizza for the kids since I had a show I was going to that evening, and I showered and got dressed. Still with a tickle in my throat, I found the theater, and my best friend, and we got seats and cocktails.

That whisky got me through the night. They were taping the show and I was terrified I’d get a coughing fit and ruin it. My group of friends and I went out for dinner, and by the end of my meal, my head was swimming. Not from the watery cocktail…

You know how it is in a dream, when the monster is coming after you? You can see it coming, running you down, but you can’t move to escape it?

That’s how this cold was.

I made it home. Tucked myself into bed with a glass of water and my flask of gin, took an extra strength prescription Sudafed and some ibuprofen. And I stayed there for the night. Got up, ate some oatmeal so I could take my brain drugs, and went back to bed. Jason left again for Kinkfest, and the kids watched TV and played computer games again all day.

I finally made it out to the couch in the late afternoon. I couldn’t even conceive of cooking, so I ordered burgers delivered and texted one of my partners, asking him to tell me I wasn’t a bad mom for ordering takeout two nights in a row. He talked me down from that, I took more drugs and went back to bed.

Sunday, I got up! And sat down on the couch. And watched an entire season of Downton Abbey while crocheting granny blocks. By late in the day, I felt well enough to shower. I got on my local grocery store’s website and figured out how to order delivery and had stuff delivered so the kids could have lunches to take to school the next day. Then we microwaved some leftovers roast beef and ate sandwiches and fruit for dinner.

That night, Daphne tucked me in.

She’s 10. She’s a sweet little soul, and a bit of a mother hen. “Ok, mom,” she said. “Do you have your water bottle? Your stuffed hedgehog and your bunny? Did you take your medicine? Good. You can rest now, and if you can’t sleep you can read or play a game on your tablet. But you need rest to get better.”

Yes, I sleep with stuffies. Don’t judge.

Both kids had spent the weekend mostly on their games and their new books and their anime shows.

But Jacob would bring me Reeses cups and leave them on my bed desk, or the table next to the couch.

Daphne picked me flowers since I was sad that I couldn’t go out.

Both of them would check in and ask if I’d eaten and taken my cold medicine.

So, yeah. I guess I’m doing ok, because I’m raising some damn fine humans there.

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The flowers my lil girl picked for me.


Good enough, I guess

There is something supremely strange about being called a great parent when I feel so clueless, like I am barely scraping by on the best of days.

“You’re a great mom,” Jason texted to me after I told him about adventuring to Powell’s Books with our kids and our son’s girlfriend.

“You’re a terrific momma,” my coworker says after I talk about a day off spent reading and playing board games.

“You’re doing good job, mom,” when someone else hears about my son’s good grades.

And I don’t see it. I see a mostly ok mom with mental and physical illnesses. One who can barely get off the couch some days and who hides in bed with her stuffed animals instead of interacting with the world. I see a mom who has two husbands and other sexual partners and a social life that purposefully excludes my children, sometimes.

I see a mom who is heavily tattooed and is beginning to seriously rock the “aging Portland dyke” aesthetic. Who has taught her kids to swear and make pervy sex jokes and feeds them doughnuts for lunch on days off. I see a mom who would rather day drink than chaperone any field trip, ever, and can only occasionally remember the names of her kids’ teachers. I shelve my lesbian comic books next to their Manga in the living room, and I allow them to read pretty much anything they want. My young daughter is obsessed with Deadpool and wants to be Glamora when she grows up.

And I’ve been judged for a number of things. My kids swear and know about sex and drugs. They listen to Irish punk music and hardcore gansta rap in the car with me. We have deep conversations about atheism and other forms of belief, and I’ve told them it’s ok to not believe in a god, unless gramma asks. If she asks, they believe in Christianity and so do I. I’ve been in front with them about my mental illnesses and how I have to take prescription drugs to make my head work correctly and how I had my tubes tied because I had rough pregnancies and couldn’t bear the thought of having another child. I make jokes about the kink lifestyle in front of them. I lean on them a lot. They do a lot of the chores around the house, since all the adults work full time and my mother is an invalid and needs a lot of help. I get judged for working, for not volunteering at the school, for being home too much, for being home too little, for having kids, for not having kids… the list goes on and on.

But my son is the kind of guy who, in front of a half-dozen gamer teen boys, tells his girlfriend he loves her. He’ll hug me in public, and bring me peanut butter cups on my couch nest days. My daughter will fight anyone who says her life is unnatural and goes on long rants about sexism and why don’t girls’ pants have pockets. They both value nature and bring home good enough grades, and apparently both add “a unique perspective to any class discussion.”

So, maybe I’m doing ok. I still don’t feel like a good mom. But maybe, I’m good enough.


From couple to Pod, or, what happens when your husband moves his girlfriend in

Apparently, I missed a few, some I’ve edited it to add them  🙂

  • People will ask how he convinced you it was a good idea. In all honesty, it was my idea. She was already over here so much, and often slept on our couch, or in my bed with him while I slept on the couch, that around this time last year I approached Jason with the idea. “I can move my stuff out of my craft room, and then she can have that as her bedroom,” I said. He cried with happiness.
  • You realize how much crap you have in your craft room.
  • In a mad dash to get her moved in by the first of June, you stuff all that crap into an unused not-quite-hallway. You fail, and, a year later, you still have several totes of random yarn in the garage.
  • People will start asking who sleeps where.
  • You’ll find out quickly that they never tire of that question.
  • Seriously, who sleeps where? becomes a huge theme and you start wanting to throw things at the next person who asks.
  • “What about the kids?” I addressed that in a previous post, but honestly, it’s no big deal. They do learn, though, that there is always someone home and they can’t get away with as much stuff.
  • You realize, on your 2nd (or was it 3rd?) trip to the ER with your mother that having a second wife at home is super useful when you text “OMG I’m taking Mom to the hospital and I don’t have anything planned for dinner and I don’t know when I’ll be home” and she texts back “I’ll pick up pizza and make sure everyone has a normal night. You do what you need to do.” You’ll cry in the lobby with the relief of it all.
  • One of your other partners has no other response besides “But what about us?” as if your relationship with him, which, let’s be honest, had been dying for months, made a huge impact on where your husband’s partner lives. You feel hurt about how selfish that response was, but you shrug it off, since your son is failing a few classes and your mom almost died.
  • You get scared at how easy it all is. She doesn’t so much as move in as she begins occupying a space that you didn’t realize was empty.
  • You learn the joys of day-drinking in your pajamas.
  • You learn that one bathroom is not enough for five people to share, especially if the household is 3/5ths women.
  • Contractors think you and she are a lesbian couple, especially since she’s fairly femme and you’re fairly butch.
  • You start finding her socks and underwear in your laundry basket, and vice-versa.
  • You learn how nice it is to have someone to watch trashy TV with when your husband is out on a date with a different woman and the velociraptors are attacking your sense of well-being. Velociraptors do well on whisky and chocolate and Charlize Theron movies, BTW.
  • You’ll get the giggles when she is preparing food in the kitchen with your Dom and the two of them are sharing anal sex advice.
  • On that note, your children learn a whole new vocabulary. Dinnertime conversation has never been so fascinating for them.
  • A thought that starts with “what if?” ends up with the two of you on a plane to Tokyo and neither of you are sure what happened. Your husband, incidentally, stays home with the kids.
  • People are still asking who sleeps where, especially when your other partner comes home for a few weeks.
  • Everybody hears everything. Everything…
  • She’ll hear you having morning sex with your husband and get up to make coffee for everyone. When you stumble into the kitchen, she’ll hand you a cup and grin at you knowingly.
  • You’ll dub yourselves The Matriarchy and tease your husband about how he asked for this life.
  • All three of you will be continuously amazed at how well it all works. And you’ll wonder how you ever managed in the time before she came into your lives.
  • And people will still wonder where everyone sleeps.

Edit:

  • Even he wonders where he’s sleeping.
  • When your husband goofs up, there’s twice the side-eye and grief.
  • Three adults who cook well, living in one home, means you eat really well all the time. You might also need a gym membership.
  • Cuddle piles are the best thing when no one has to go out into the cold at the end of the night.