Took Me Years To Write

Yesterday, my mother went back to the hospital. She’d been out of the hospital and on a rampage for two weeks. The house is a shambles. My stepdad has been bunking in hotels. The family is exhausted and angry.

leafses

For the last two weeks, my mother tore about in the house, packing my stepdad’s stuff. She’s decided it’s over between them after 43 years. She says he’s cruel and after 43 years we know he’s not. It’s part of her mental illness in which we are all her enemies.

Yesterday, Lena, a social worker from the county, talked her way into Mom’s house while my sister Anya and I were sitting in the living room. Lena and I had made an appointment, which enraged my mother. Lena’s questions enraged my mother. Anything we said enraged my mother. Lena’s taking me aside to talk enraged my mother. Mom demanded Lena talk in Mom’s presence, but Lena and I walked away. Mom came after us  and told us we were doing the exact thing she’d told us not to do.

“Mom,” I said, “she has procedures.” Mom slammed the door. Lena initially told me she did not see enough evidence that Mom was either suicidal or homicidal. She consulted with her supervisor and told me Mom was going to the hospital, we could drive her or the police could take her. I was devastated. We went inside so Lena could deliver the news, which went very badly.

orchidses

Lena had spent hours with us and had to leave, but she gave Mom a deadline: she would let Anya and I drive Mom to the hospital, but in 45 minutes, she would call the facility, and if Mom wasn’t there, Lena would call the police. Mom was fully enraged by then and would not hear a word I said when I suggested she pack a bag.

Lena rang me from outside to say it had been determined that Mom had violated a court order, so the police would have to be involved. It was awful news but came as a relief to Anya and me that I wouldn’t have to drive her to Somerville across some of my least favorite highways while Mom said terrible things to us. Things happened quickly after that: a police officer arrived, then another, then an ambulance, then the ambulance left on another call. Meanwhile, Mom ran around frantically, packing a bag she eventually had to leave behind anyway. When she finally got into the police car and they drove away, Anya called her dad, who was waiting around the corner. This is what we have been reduced to by my mother’s mental illness: we talk all day every day about one person’s problems and spend all our time and energy coping with them.

By the time I got home from this 3 pm appointment with Lena, it was three hours later. My husband Pete had rearranged our bedroom. My cats weren’t sure I was sufficiently worshipful. I talked about what had happened for over an hour before we made dinner. My brother called and shouted for half an hour because he’s been so upset with Mom for weeks and feels powerless in California.

This morning, I woke up early and at 7 am, a social worker called to say Mom was being transferred back to the facility she was released from two weeks ago. I begged her to find a closer hospital. She promised to try. It’s been two hours. I am waiting.

orchid abode

 

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To Have Fun With Anyone

Here in the Northeast, a chill is in the air. I’m relieved to say so, since it’s late October and last week it was inexplicably over 80 degrees for a few days. You know what autumn for realz means: leaves will fall and you will eat soup. This is not a recipe, but it plays one on TV.

First: go to a farm, a farmstand or a farmers market. Talk to a farmer! Farmers are so interesting! Pick out your favorite soup vegetables, even better if they’re organic. Which vegetables? Well, ask yourself this tricky question: Hey, you, what things are delicious? Then buy those. The farmer wins!

Prepare your vegetables for roasting. You may peel things. Here, I peeled a butternut squash and a passel of apples. I chopped up the peels and fed them to the chickens. The chickens win! I quartered onions and saved the tops and peels for stock. Future Me wins! Then I added spices I like, salt, pepper, bay leaves, a cinnamon stick and fennel seeds to my vegetables, swished them all with olive oil and roasted them at 350 until the squash was fork tender. My house smelled great, so again: I win!

Oh fennel seeds, you complete me.

Dewy glam shot of roasted vegetables. Everyone loves an ensemble cast.

I let these cool, pulled out the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then I pureed my vegetables with an immersion blender. Those are fun to play with, so I win again! Then I simmered my velvety puree, added some apple juice until I was happy with the texture and seasoned until I was super happy. Happiness is good, so I win again!

 

Seriously, this is so pretty I'm almost embarrassed.

I added matchsticks of swiss cheese and a chiffonade of basil, which means I chopped them up with a sharp knife, which you can do! Everyone wins!

To summarize:

  • the farmer wins
  • the chickens win
  • future Me wins
  • I win
  • I continue to win
  • I win again
  • you win
  • everyone wins!

Finally, Pete, who is a chef and sometimes is sick of cooking, had a fine meal without having to lift a hand. Pete wins!

So: this isn’t a recipe, it’s a method. You can make yourself really good food for truly next to nothing, and besides you, a whole lot of people and critters win. Go, you!

They Fought With Expert Timing

My final exam is Tuesday night and I’ve reached a sort of saturation point. I’m having trouble telling similar ASL signs apart. I’m probably in grave danger of starting fights in the wrong bars.

wet hen.jpg

Wet hen does not seem particularly mad.

I’ve spent my Fourth of July studying, digging up potatoes and prodding the other chicken to leave the coop. Apparently, Other Chicken is trying to hatch an egg, which cannot happen without a rooster. That is the kind of help we do not need.

It’s drizzling tonight. I’m trying to be reasonable about taking and exam and not punishing myself for losing a couple of points here and there. There is literally nothing at stake for me. My career will not change. My work will not be affected. I am not going to get some dream job if I finished a degree. So I can relax and do my best, letting the chips fall where they may.

 

a chicken with a difference

Sez you, lady.

Yeah. That’s going to happen.

He Turns Down the Street

Cute little murder monster

Baby trash panda looks totally adorable when not lunging for me.

The raccoons have been gently evicted from the eaves of our house and relocated to a more rural locale. We hope for the best for them, but at least one did not have the best survival instincts. Fingers crossed, they live long, happy lives, full of delightful and mysterious leftovers. We hope so, but they couldn’t stay here. Pete found one of the babies inside the chicken run, nibbling chicken food, near very alarmed chickens, so that had to be the end of that.

 

I have one more week of American Sign Language class. Earlier this evening, I suddenly realized I’d acquired enough of the basics to tell a story. As you know, stories are my thing; being able to tell a story is kind of hip, kind of cool, kind of Charlie. Tomorrow, I’m going to tell a story in class, which would be much like tearing off my Foster Grants to reveal my superhero identity, but since I am a middle-aged person, I have zero doubt my young classmates will notice a bird, a plane, Superman.

 

Oh Bondage No More

Last week, I looked up and saw nothing but sticks.

Last week, I looked up and saw nothing but sticks.

Just about any time I’m listening to a radio station, I’m wondering where are all the women who make music. You may wonder, for example, who were the punk rock women and where’s the music. They’re here, in this one unbelievable catalog. And we are fucking lucky to have it.

Cool Down Stop Acting Crazy

My nephew comes to the house once a week to turn over the compost and do little jobs around the garden. I’d seen him walking down our street with an older guy and noted where they stopped, because even though this is a very small town an angry mob needs good directions. My nephew said this older guy is sponsoring him for Christian confirmation, but he, my nephew, is struggling with the concept of faith. His entire family goes to church every Sunday with sincerity and sheet music, so I waited patiently for him to say, “April Fool!”

We looked at each other.

We stood there.

We stood. Suddenly, I remembered I was the grownup, which was a little awkward.

The “African daisy” (Osteospermum app.) a half-hardy perennial  native to southern Africa. It comes in many colors and is a popular bedding plant. Photographed at Longwood Gardens. Photo: Bob Hosh

The “African daisy” (Osteospermum app.) a half-hardy perennial native to southern Africa. It comes in many colors and is a popular bedding plant. Photographed at Longwood Gardens.
Photo: Bob Hosh

I said, “Faith is kind of weird. It comes and goes. What matters is what you do.”

He said something much more mature than I am about collecting principles for testimony, but I am not a Christian and these are not my rituals. I know less about this than he does and more than I want to.

I uttered some platitude about how behavior is most important. By this time, I was ushering him to the door, grinning like a jack o’ lantern in a wind storm. I did not say, “Kid, I’m always in your corner. Call me for tattoos and bail money.” He will never need it.