Thursday, June 21, 2012


The dysfunction of my family has overwhelmed me already and it's only mid-day.

We arose reasonably early, so took the opportunity to go to a park as a family before Blake opened the shop at noon. The day before, I'd discovered a rare slice of unadulterated nature in Southeast Portland, a sun-dappled place for the kids to safely explore a remarkably clear creek and try to catch crawdads. A place to fill all of our "cups" and set the tone for a peaceful day.

After that, you can imagine how frustrated I got on the ride home hearing the kids exchange confirmation to each other about how much they dislike one another, as well as a slew of other annoying behaviors, sounds, rude demands. Repeatedly, us increasingly irritated parents, calmly stated our observation/needs/requests, and other non-violent communication bullshit, yet we got nothing but resistance, obnoxiousness, and persistence of the the offending behavior. So I deteriorated into my good old fashioned shaming, threatening, and yelling. I even added a leg smack when George launched into an ear-splitting "Fucker Face!!!!"

I had offically Had It, and curled into my passenger seat for the remainder of the drive, sobbing silently. It really boggles my mind after a scene like that how one of the kids can ask, "What's wrong, Mom?" I think they think this kind of life is normal.

When we arrived at home, I decided it was better to just dive into to productive housework and not speak to anyone. Blake grabbed his bag, gave me an unanswered hug from behind as I slung dirty dishes around the sink, and shuffled the girls out with him toward work. He rightly assumed the less kids, the better. I turned around only to find Isadore's shed clothing dolloped along the clean living room, like a Hansel and Gretel trail. "Don't worry!" I shrieked to the empty room. "I'll get that for you!" And then I whisked them to her hamper, tornadoed around the bedroom creating an opposite-of-destruction effect, before crumpling to the floor for an angry, ugly cry.

I know who I get mad at on these kind of days, its not the kids or my husband--it's me. I chose this kind of life, I knew I was too young to get married, and I knew I was marrying into a dysfunctional family and that I came from my own dysfunctional family, and I just dove right in and started having babies anyway. So while I am beyond frustrated with the behaviors, shortcoming, and lack of communication skills that is the default state of our tribe of five, I am fully accountable for my part.

It's becoming clear that when all that is up in my face, I have to ground myself in some way. (The other choice is to numb myself, and, sure, I go that route sometimes, too.) If I can find one action or activity that brings my lens from the macro-mess to focus in on a micro-beauty, this day will not be wasted.

Today, I look to strawberries. I pulled this flat from my fridge and knew that if I didn't process them right then and there, I would hand them off to someone else or leave them to rot. I grabbed my strainer and kitchen knife and I washed, de-stemmed, and sorted until my cutting board and fingers were deeply pink-stained. On the stereo, Blind Melon was a perfect accompaniment; Shannon Hoon offering falsetto empathy......when life is hard you have to change...

It's not as gentle as it sounds
As though it sounded yesterday
When I heard a leaf of my life hit the ground
And as a bottle cap flew from my fingers

I don't know what I've gotten in to
But I'm glad it's now instead of sooner
This desert heat has crowded me strong
With a wish I had for winter

He died at age 28 of a cocaine overdose. So things are not so bad for me, I remind myself, as the strawberries fill the bowl.

Cooking and music might be able to turn my this around. If I can get better at slowing down, calming down, and turning toward simple things to help me process this life I'm in the thick of, maybe I can turn my collective days around, and one day feel like I've turned my life around to something more functional.

Even if my day goes to shit all over again, I will have the strawberry preserves to keep me afloat. Just for today, anyway.


Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar 

2 cups strawberries (about 1 pint), trimmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a small heavy saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring, and skim surface. Simmer mixture, stirring and skimming foam occasionally, 15 minutes, or until thickened and translucent. Remove pan from heat and cool preserves completely. Preserves keep, covered and chilled, 1 month.


  1. Where is this gem you speak of dear friendy? Cooking is my destresser but then I eat too and ugh. Wtg on the no sugar kick. That takes some serious hardwork. You are awesome<3

  2. Oh man...the strawberry/balsamic vinegar preserves are so damn good. During the summer I like to make a brown sugar vanilla ice cream with the balsamic straw preserves thrown in at the last minute with some sort of praline as well if available. I know it is no consolation, but I only have 1 kid and I regularly feel like I am going bonkers. I am grateful that Thurston gets it when I say that I need a time out. He is pretty good about respecting it. You are a great mom, struggling like all of us do, regardless of age or age at the time of having our kids. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!