Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry


Hi, friends!  I wish I had a compelling reason for my lengthy absence lately but I don’t.  BUT it is a whopping 21 days until I am in the first person in my family of origin to graduate from college!

It’s spring – which came ridiculously early – and spring brings loads of heavy emotions.  The lilacs are blooming (my dad’s favorite flower) and Mother’s Day is just around the bend.  I’m wrapping up a semester of 20 credits and preparing to enter a graduate program.  It’s no wonder I’ve been tired lately, no matter how much I sleep.  My brain is either learning or processing all the time!

The lilacs aren’t as sad as usual, though.  I miss my dad, surely, but it’s a dull ache now, and only when I press on it.  My mother’s absence isn’t as sharp, either.  I count her absence by holidays more than months, and it’s been nearly a dozen since she’s made any sort of effort.  It makes it easier to really close the door.  But, as “they” say, the closing of one door opens another and so it goes here.  I’ve decided since I did much of my own rearing, I’m going to celebrate myself on Mother’s Day.  It feels hokey and funny to me, but I, at a deeper level, like the idea.  I’ve finally given myself permission to give myself a little credit for who I am and how I got here.  In many ways I’ve been my own mother, and I was often a mother to my brother and other children that lived in our house.  I read bedtime stories, said prayers, and tucked in tiny children that lived in our house.  I woke them in the mornings and sent them off to school while I stay home, in a house by myself.  All day.  When I was seven or eight.

So I welcome the coming of May.  To me late spring feels like the beginning of a new year.  And this year I’ll be a college graduate, beginning a new career, free of my mother, with the world wide open before me.  It’s a transformative spring, and I welcome that with open arms.

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Marching On

I’ve been feeling jumbled lately.  Planting on the farm is late and therefore frantic.  I put in 52 hours last week and still have an immediate to-do list dozens of items long.  My directed study is… stalled.  Our yard has exploded with plants, both wanted and unwanted.  I can’t recall, exactly, when it started feeling out of control but I’ve been wrangling seedlings, sod and weeds on the home front whenever I’m not at the farm.  Therapy has moved away from the dramatic sobbing, major leaps and enlightening epiphanies into the slow middle work of plodding forward on issues that aren’t much fun to deal with.  Writing letters to my abusers is slow, hard work no matter which way I frame it.

I sent the letter to my mom and received a discouragingly unsatisfactory letter in return.  I haven’t spoken to her since and I don’t see that changing.  Some days I’ve been pretending I don’t have a mother so I can get used to how that feels.  I wish, somewhat frantically, I could write more about this because it might help me sort through the unexpectedly crushing disappointment, confusion, and sadness.  But I can’t.  I can’t find a crack to pry the whole mess open.

It’s just so hard to accept the enormity of what happened, of what didn’t happen, of what is still happening.  I keep thinking, keep wanting to believe it surely wasn’t that bad.  Because what if it was?  How am I still standing?  Still smiling?  Still laughing at silly jokes?  How have I kept a handle on myself, kept myself from falling over the edge?  What were the trade-offs?  What did I lose while I, as a child, single-mindidly kept my life from slipping into the statistically inevitable cycles of poverty and abuse?

While my dad would always tell me, “Honey life isn’t fair and anyone who tells you differently is a liar” I just can’t get over the injustice of it all.  I know there is no satisfactory answer but still I wonder, “why?”  Why?  Why?  Why do grown adults hurt children?  I can’t get over it.  I can’t understand.  Coming to grips with my own reality, both past and present is so bloody hard.  Until therapy I could always pretend it wasn’t so bad, I did the best I could, and I came out okay.  But the truth is I didn’t come out okay.  I will struggle with some very real repercussions for the rest of my life.  And that sucks.  Especially because my struggles are so invisible.

And, fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve become involved in several research projects.  I feel entirely unqualified to do any of it and it’s rather terrifying.  I’m so scared I’m going to mess something up.  I’m managing two organic fertilizer trials on the farm (as if managing farm operations isn’t enough to keep track of) and I’m working on plant propagation research.  I’ve been funded for some of the research, which is an exciting ego boost, but the lingering doubt is still there.

Sometimes it’s all I can to do keep my feet moving deliberately forward.  Most days I wake up and just want to turn around and run, run, run.  Run somewhere safe, somewhere quiet, somewhere where the demands on me are not so intense.  I’m pretty sure I’m capable of all this but overcoming self-doubt is no easy task.

This summer doesn’t feel warm and breezy.  It feels overwhelming and unwieldly.  But this is always what I’ve done well – tackle the difficult things moment by moment, step by step until I succeed.  Keep marching forward, keep trying, keep moving.  Just keep moving.

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And the dam broke

I’ve rarely cried in my adult life.  Sure, I might shed a tear or two at the end of a movie and once I broke down, most unfortunately, in a staff meeting.  But although I might feel like crying, I rarely cry for more than a minute.  Crying usually triggers a switch that simply turns me off.  I often wondered about this.  For example, my father’s death left me listless and teary, but I wouldn’t really cry. I felt all kinds of difficult emotions – panic, depression, loneliness, sadness, abandonment, anger… but tears rarely accompanied these.  This made me… sad.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a good, cathartic cry.

Last Friday, in the middle of finals, I met with a professor regarding some class material I didn’t understand and some issues I was having with the class TA.  For some reason, I could barely hold it together.  After a strained and unproductive meeting, I walked out and started bawling.  I called P for a ride and waited, sobbing, tears freezing on my face.  I cried all the way home and curled up in bed and sobbed for nearly eight hours before I finally passed out, exhausted.

P was bewildered.  He’s never seen me like that, and indeed, I haven’t experienced that for an awfully long time.  “Are you stressed about finals?”, “Your professor is a jerk, don’t take him so seriously”, “What’s wrong?”, “Do you want to talk?”.  He kept a steady stream of questions going, trying to figure out what was happening.  I barely understood myself, but I knew I couldn’t articulate anything and just kept my face in my soggy pillow as the deep waves of emotion rolled over me, leaving me breathless.

I had my second counseling meeting last Thursday.  She has asked me to compile a list ways that my past still influenced my present.  As I self-consciously read her the list she listened patiently.  I wondered what we were going to do with the mess.  Indeed, looking at such a list, each item pulled out from the recesses of my mind and put on a table with all the rest, I wondered if I even had a chance at overcoming it and living a life that was not deeply tainted.

As I finished she said, “You know, you preface nearly every statement with something like, ‘this is silly, childish, ridiculous, stupid…’  You discount yourself and don’t give yourself a fair hearing.  It’s as if, in an effort to protect yourself, you hurt yourself before the other person has a chance to.  And that’s just what you say out loud.  If I had to guess, I’d bet what you say to yourself is even more critical.”

Whoa.  True, true, true.  I couldn’t speak.  She continued, “I have a challenge for you.  In the coming weeks as you catch yourself doing this, instead of ‘this is so stupid,’ just tell yourself, ‘this just is what it is.'”

So, less than 24 hours later, as I was walking into that professor’s office, feeling overwhelmed by the material and frustrated by the TA, I started to cry.  Usually a harsh river of critical commentary shut down my emotions and kept me from breaking down.  It was like pushing a big, red button that simply cut off any feelings.  It was highly effective.  But all the sudden I had no such protection.  I started to cry and the dam broke.  As I bawled into my soggy sheets that night I would almost get a handle on myself before I would remember, “it is what it is” and I would, again, be swept out to a rolling sea.

Fortunately, in the morning I felt substantially better and was able to pull myself together enough to get through finals.  But I currently feel exposed, vulnerable.  I feel like a little kid, defenseless and without proper tools to control my emotions.  But I also feel lighter and more open.  I find myself more willing to try things previously considered too risky (like talking to new people – gasp!) because I’m no longer assuming I’m going to fail before I start.

It’s a long road, but I’m glad I’m walking it.  I’ve waited  a long time for this.  I finally feel like I have the support and encouragement I need to kick this sh*t to the curb.  Not the prettiest Christmas present, but surely one of the best.

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A few thoughts for a post-election day

My first political lesson:

When I was eight years old I asked my dad what the difference was between a Democrat and a Republican.  He replied, “Democrats are for the poor people and Republicans are for the rich.”

My second:

“We don’t vote.  It doesn’t matter.  Think about it.  You cast one single vote in a sea of millions.  It does not matter.” – My mom

My third:

(edited to less, uh, colorful wording) “They’re all liars.  Every single one of them.  You can’t get into office without lying to everyone.” – My dad


“I vote to reserve my right to complain.” – My dad


The US has been a country for 234 years.  Women have been able to vote for only 90 of those years.


I vote.  I vote to reserve my right to complain.  I vote because I have a hard-won right to vote, a right I should not take for granted.  I vote because it does matter, because in the last two elections the margins have been terribly slim and the consequences enormous.  I vote even though I sometimes feel disenfranchised and ignored by most politicians.

“The penalty good (wo)men suffer for not getting involved in public affairs is being ruled by evil men.” – Plato


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Some say the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest on Halloween. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been missing mi papa so much this week. Rest in peace, dad.

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Our crazy, poorly pruned lilacs are a whispy, hazy green.  The buds are breaking.  As much as I have kept a close eye on these, awaiting their sweet fragrance, I also harbor a little dread.

Lilacs were my dad’s favorite flower.  He always had little vases of them during the early spring.  It always kind of surprised me that he liked them so much – they’re so feminine and he was anything but.

Many people seem to miss their departed loved ones during the holidays.  I whizzed through the holidays without much struggle.  But early spring gets me every time.  In the winter it isn’t hard for me to believe my dad is gone.  It’s winter, life is quiet, and so much isn’t growing and alive.  But when the first buds of spring break, I am so painfully aware that he is not alive, not growing, and not here to enjoy the sweetness that bud break is sure to bring.

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Spring Hath Arrived (at least for now)

The lilacs are thinking of blooming

While the snow drops are busy actually blooming.

And some very special bulbs I worked hard to save have survived.  I almost cried from joy.

The garlic is emerging.

A small flat of lettuce has been seeded (and barricaded from marauding squirrels, rabbits, and gophers)

Alas, we’re continuing to clean up the massive tree mess

And that tree is, sadly, trying desperately to send vast amounts of water up to the shoots that are no longer there.  It’s all weeping out where we girdled it.  It makes me sad.  😦

But the birds are loving the brush piles around the yard.  Too bad we can’t keep them.

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Rest in Peace

I hope you’ve found health and happiness wherever you are.  We love you, miss you, and surely haven’t forgotten you.  We use your silly expressions almost everyday.  Stop by and visit us once in a while.

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It’s December

and I’m slowing down.  I can feel it, the deeper breaths, the moments when I can’t think of anything I have to do, the permission I’m giving myself to take some moments for me.  It’s surprised me these past few days, but it’s real.  The feeling keeps coming back.

It’s December.  Finals are right around the corner, the holidays are creeping up fast, and I feel like life should be moving at a million miles a minute.

But it’s not.  And I love it.

All (well, most) of my lab reports are done, most papers are written, all quizzes complete.  I just have finals left, and I feel pretty prepared as I’ve studied very well all semester.  We’re finally in a house of our very own and we’re not stuck in the hurry-up-and-wait world of foreclosure sales.  My niece is healthy and she’s home.  I’m not working much and I’m not submerged under the cold-weather coffee rush or office politics.  The economy is slow and there isn’t much bike work.  I miss my dad, but the grief is more familiar and less debilitating.  I miss my grandma, miss knowing she’s there on Lake Al*ice, watching her birds and doing crosswords.  But for both of them I’m grateful they aren’t worrying anymore, and I’m thankful I don’t have to worry about them, either.  I’d love to have them back and worry about them but since I can’t I’m going to enjoy the lighter load.  There has been so much to get through this past year, but I finally feel like I’ve broken through to the other side.  It feels so good.

My birthday is next week and I’ll be 28.  I don’t feel one way or the other about it, really.  I feel 28, a young 28.  I feel grounded, yet full of possibility.  I love the loftiness of school, the headiness, the dreams, and the assuredness of the young people around me.  Sure, the giggling girls and punk-ass boys drive me a little crazy (especially during “group work”) but schools are full of dreamers and expansive ideas and I, with my level-head and logic, need that sometimes.

All the loss of the past year brings the fullness of the present into brilliant relief – The wonderful people around me feel more temporary than ever, but that brings out a gratefulness, a need to enjoy the wonder of my own little life.

In the movie Shadowlands (one of my all-time favorites) the point is made that the loss of the future is part of what makes what we have right now so wonderful.  And this year that’s more real to me than ever.

The Middle

When I think of the bygone days

I think of how evening follows morn;

so many I loved were not yet dead,

so many I love were not  yet born.

– Ogden Nash

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