When God Gives You a Shady Garden

With enthusiastic endorsement and lots of much-needed help from my husband, I have my very own garden, for the very first time!

I grew up gardening and small-scale farming, so it’s not exactly “new,” but it’s been a long time (didn’t have much more than a windowsill for gardening for most of my adult life so far), and we have some challenges to overcome. We rent. Our yard is small. We don’t get as much sun as I would like. But we bought some big containers for tomatoes, dug up some patches strategically around the house where we wouldn’t have to disturb the actual lawn *too* much, and my husband built a few raised beds in areas where there was no grass anyway. He also built a small A-frame out of pallets, and we’re planting some things in fabric pots to hang on that.

We had three yards of soil delivered, and I’m pretty determined to use all of it.

Gardening in this fashion (containers and small, mixed beds) is a lot different from planting uniform row after row of the same crop, and I feel a tad out of my depth just jumping into it. We basically chose our seeds and starts based on what we want to EAT, and then I gave myself a quick crash-course in “companion planting,” charted it out, and we started shoving stuff in the dirt.

Here’s what we’ve planted so far:

Raised bed #1: broccoli raab, leeks, black carrots, parsley

Raised bed #2: rutabaga, “normal” carrots, sugar snap peas (bush), yellow chard

Raised bed #3: bell peppers, radishes, celery, basil

Around the house: strawberries, green beans (bush), zucchini, more sugar snap peas (trellised), english cucumbers, mixed leaf lettuce, nasturtiums.

In containers: tomatoes, bell peppers, peppermint, cilantro, basil, oregano, chives

On the A-frame so far we’ve used about a quarter of it to plant MORE strawberries (priorities!), and I reused all of the containers I bought starts in to start some more seeds, just waiting for them to get a little bigger and they’ll go in bags for hanging: 5-color chard, chives, thyme, basil, parsley, dill, leeks, snow peas, broccoli raab, and kale.

And I’ve got more seeds on the way or waiting to be started: dwarf sweet corn, borage, fennel, catnip, lavender, thai basil, marigolds, bibb lettuce, green onions, delicata (winter) squash, and parsnips. Extra cilantro (PRIORITIES). And a little container of pickling cucumber starts given to me by a very dear neighbor.

I also talked my husband into buying a few blueberry bushes and rhododendrons, because those will grow nicely in pots until we settle somewhere permanently.

I’ve been doing a lot of sitting and thinking in my little sprouting garden. All this business of trying to make stuff GROW really gets me thinking a lot about life, generally – and my own life in particular.

It’s easy to want to constantly do MORE – to fuss a lot, to plant more things, bigger variety, prettier gardenscaping. I have to remind myself that I have a very limited amount of time and energy these days, and that my garden doesn’t HAVE to be absolutely and perfectly maximized and optimized. It only has to be enough.

I’ve said before that when I was a young woman, I wanted to have lots of children. I imagined I’d have easy pregnancies and deliveries (like my own mother – and I did!) and envisioned having a dozen or so. I got a HUGE amount of social and cultural pushback on that idea from all sides, and so I gradually lowered my expectations over the years until I was comfortable with the idea of having “at least three.”

My first husband said he wanted “at least four.” I jumped on that. Found out a little too late that he was actually a narcissistic liar who wanted nothing of the sort. I’m STILL processing the events of that marriage (7 years before we split, 9 before the divorce was final) – but the effective end result of my decision to marry that man, and the cascade of decisions it precipitated, is that I have only two children. I will probably not have more – and I had them with a man who is NOT the best father, and IS a terrible influence.

There is a certain heaviness to accepting that I bear a lot of responsibility for this. I mean… I can say that I was lied to, that I was tricked, that I was misled – and all those things ARE true. But there are enough of my decisions in that mess, which I could have made differently and chose not to, that I don’t feel OK playing that card.

God gave me a shady garden. There is no doubt about that. Looking back at the circumstances I was born into and raised in, the idea that I would fall effortlessly into a quiet little traditional Christian marriage and go on to have lots and lots of babies in my own little slice of rural utopia is patently absurd. Practically the entire social/cultural/economic deck of cards was stacked against me.

But what my musings have me considering now is that when you really boil it down, it was my own PRIDE that eventually said “well, if you’re not going to make it easy, I’m not going to try.”

Kinda like I’ve sat on my thumbs for years refusing to grow anything in the dirt because I didn’t have enough of it, or because the landlord might not like it, or because there wasn’t enough sunlight.

And who knows – maybe I wouldn’t have had more children, even if I’d tried; even if I’d pushed my first husband, or left him and tried with someone else. I have no way of knowing. Maybe I was only “meant” to have two. I’ve done a fair job of making peace with only having two, at any rate. But I hope to teach my own children to make their decisions a little differently. I don’t want my children to EVER look at a shady garden, or a small garden – or any kinda imperfect garden – as a reason to sit on their thumbs and not try to grow anything at all.

Worlds of Pain: Immaterial

Just yesterday I realized that I am grieving.

The thing about immaterial pain is that it can lie in waiting for many years before it is ever felt. Events that transpired a lifetime ago can yield fresh wounds when we least expect them. I have perhaps suffered more immaterial wounds and pains than material ones. I could write about a lot of things – from my childhood, from my first marriage, from my experiences with people broadly over the course of my life.

I feel too tired to go into much detail about most of that. For now I would simply say, speaking from my desire to highlight the MOST IMPORTANT lesson I’ve learned, that I’ve found NO source of pain greater than the wounds I’ve inflicted on myself, through my own choices and actions.

That’s not to say, though, that the choices and actions of others have not hurt me; they have.

It’s a common trope that American girls all have “Daddy Issues.” Well – not me. I mean, I thought I did, for a long time – because my mother told me I did – and, furthermore, that i should.

But let’s get real: my father was and is far from perfect – but how many girls end up with “Daddy Issues” because their father was too involved in their upbringing? Because their father was too protective? Because their father held them to too high a standard? And whose fathers did all this, and more, by way of leading by example?

The wise among you will not be surprised by my declaration that NO – I do not have “Daddy Issues.” I have “MOMMY Issues” – and it SHOWS.

I could write so much about that, but I will cut to the chase:

I found out nearly three years ago, the last time I saw my mother, that she had an abortion when she got pregnant again shortly after I was born. She has rationalized this in two primary ways, by saying that:

  1. it was “too soon.”
  2. that her relationship with my father was not good, she was not happy, he was bad.

Yet history also tells us that:

  1. she had the easiest pregnancies and deliveries any woman could hope for.
  2. she stayed with my father for several more years and had another child with him anyway.

My mother killed one of my siblings, for no greater reason than personal benefit and convenience.

Suddenly, I understood so much more about my relationship with my mother, and my relationship with WOMEN (namely, that they are awful).

I understand my mother’s chronic guilt – and I understand why she comes to me, alternately to tell me all about what a bad person my father is – and to beg ME for absolution for all the sins she’s never confessed in any proper capacity.

I also understand better some of the “dreams” or “visions” I had as a young child. I understand why, when I told my mother out of the blue one day, that I “always felt like I was supposed to have a little sister,” she seemed to get almost angry with me, and dismissed the idea with an uncomfortable mixture of wistfulness and disdain.

And I have come to understand that I am grieving – for a loss long and anxiously anticipated, but which I never knew, before, had ALREADY HAPPENED.

I like to believe that if my mother had truly understood the PRICE of that choice, she would not have MADE that choice. But I cannot say that this is true, necessarily.

This is the absolute center of my immaterial pain – and it is not just the grief for the loss of a sister I never knew I had – or the loss of the daughter I somehow always knew I would never have –  it is the Principle Pain of the choice, the decision, to be infected with the Jezebel Spirit, to cast down the mantle of Eve and take up instead the mantle of Lilith.

The wages of sin are DEATH. In our lives we may at any time stand and proclaim – “I am alive and well; therefore I have not sinned!” – but what folly and what hubris, to think that the death sentence would be OURS – rather than the LIFE sentence – of thinking on and atoning for the deaths which we have sown.

This is the pain of realizing that I’ve made so many of the same wrong choices – in principle, if not detail – that my mother did; out of blindness, and ignorance, and PRIDE. It is not the most acute pain I have felt – but it is the deepest, the saddest, the most “full circle.” The most tied-or-intrinsic to every other invisible, immaterial pain I have suffered.

In so many ways, it is the very principle pain of the choice of Original Sin. In so many ways, it is the pain that brought me to the comprehension of the TRUTH OF Original Sin (the passing down of which, generationally, is a concept that was staunchly denied in my “religious education” as a child and young adult).

I must now choose differently than my mother chose for herself. I must choose differently than what she would choose for me. I must RENOUNCE the path that she would set before my feet, and the world she would build for my children.

And so I am also grieving the loss of my mother – although she still lives. Having a “peaceful” relationship with my mother has always required that I entertain and respect all of her ideas and never contradict or oppose them. This is no longer possible for me.

Jesus talked about how he came to sow division – and I begin to understand this better as well.

Choosing to walk this path which I have chosen may mean not having much of a relationship with my mother at all. It may mean giving up my attachments to many people I care for. I hope and I pray that this is not the case; but I will not, shall not, allow my fear (that it IS the case) to change my mind about doing what I believe is right.

Maybe that’s what all this pain is for.

Narcissists like to threaten to take themselves away from you if you don’t fall in line with their program. They threaten you with the pain of the loss of their (disordered) attachment. My ex-husband did this.

My mother does this.

I used to fear that pain.

Now I do not.

Worlds of Pain: Material

I have a high tolerance for pain.

I have learned this by experiencing a great deal of pain over the course of my life.

It’s hard to draw comparisons, having (obviously) never actually felt anyone’s pain aside from my own – but doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, and plenty of other folks have looked at me with alternating skepticism and astonishment:

“You’re obviously not in that much pain, or you’d be crying like a baby.”

or

“I know how much that hurts. I can’t believe you’re smiling and laughing right now.”

When I was a very young girl (toddler years), I experienced something I’ve never fully comprehended in any explicit sort of way. I remember it almost as though it were a dream. Thirty years later, I’m coming to grips with the fact that this could very well be the vague memory of a sexual assault – something I’ve always suspected happened to me, but have never really talked about. In fact, I spent nearly thirty years denying it to myself, coming up with all sorts of reasons why that would be “impossible” – reasons which have all fallen apart under the clarity and scrutiny of hindsight.

The thing I DO remember – clearly, starkly – is the futility of trying to fight “the monster” away, and then the PAIN. How it exploded into me, shooting through my entire body all at once, completely incongruous with the things I thought I was seeing and experiencing. It took my breath away, it paralyzed me, and my entire world dissolved, along with my frantic tears, into darkness – resolving eventually, slowly, into a haze of real and familiar surroundings.

It’s the only “dream” I’ve ever had where “the monster got me.” It’s the only “dream” I don’t remember falling asleep before slipping into. It’s the only “dream” I don’t recall waking up from. It’s the “dream” that precipitated countless other nightmares and night terrors. Nightmares wherein “monsters” would leap toward me as if to pounce on me and devour me – and in every such dream thereafter, I would wrench myself out of it at the last possible moment, sitting bolt upright in my bed – heart racing, shaking, unable and unwilling to return to sleep. Terrified of experiencing that all-consuming pain again.

I suffered from awful stomach aches for years as a young girl, on a regular basis – and I remember the thing that made me cry wasn’t so much the pain itself, but the fact that nobody believed me when I told them I was in pain – because I was too calm about it. I was accused of making it all up to get out of doing things.

I still cried, as a young girl, when I’d fall and skin my knees – or when I’d accidentally cut myself on something. Or when I took a significant and sudden impact while playing outside, or rough-housing with my brother. This was usually more because I was startled – or because seeing my own blood dripping out of my body was still novel in a scary way. The tears never lasted long – the pain was (relatively) so brief and so small.

When I was seven years old, I fell and fractured my wrist. It was a sharp, searing pain – but even that was “small” by comparison. I cried for a little while, but was quiet by the time we got to the emergency room. That was my first experience having a doctor tell me that I must be “fine” because I didn’t APPEAR to be in significant pain (even though I told him it hurt quite a bit). He seemed genuinely surprised when he saw the x-ray. I had to wear a cast for weeks.

I’ve had many a rolled/sprained ankle, pulled muscled, contusions, and all manner of lumps and bumps which hardly gave me pause.

My first taste of REAL pain since that horrible “dream” (I still think of it as a dream in spite of my suspicions to the contrary, simply because I have no actual proof that it was anything more than that – and I’m not sure I’d want such proof if it exists) was when I was 14 or 15 years old. I was bitten by a black widow spider – unknown to me at the time, but revealed later when the bite mark was discovered.

That pain was other-worldly. It began as a sensation almost as though someone was applying a vice to my shoulder, and over the course of a few hours it spread along my spine and through my entire body, intensifying until it crackled and burned like a fire being stoked, like a jolt of electricity, like a giant sheet of thick glass cracking in half inside me if I dared to move or breathe. I remember lying in bed for days, all but paralyzed by it. Eventually drifting into exhausted sleep – only to be jolted awake by the pain that exploded from my spine when I shifted.

But I didn’t cry.

As it turns out, I have some kind of genetic condition which seems to cause tooth enamel problems – which means I’ve had a lot of fillings and dental work since I was a kid. The same condition ALSO seems to impart a hefty tolerance for anesthetics and analgesics – and pretty much anything that’s commonly used to numb or dull pain.

As a child, I didn’t understand why dentists didn’t believe me when I said something hurt. They’d give me nitrous oxide through a little nose piece because they thought I was scared. Because I was calmly objecting instead of screaming in pain. (P.S. the nitrous did NOTHING for me.)

As an adult, I’ve had my wisdom teeth pulled one by one (three down, one left to go) as they’ve become abscessed and infected. That’s another special variety of all-consuming pain. The pain of having the teeth pulled while the anesthetic was already wearing off, and the pain of recovery both almost felt GOOD by comparison.

I’ve also had two root canals, and each time I’ve had to make them stop and give me more anesthetic – and both times the endodontist looked at me in disbelief and basically said “I can’t believe you can actually feel that and you aren’t screaming right now.”

Childbirth was another variety of all-encompassing pain, but perhaps the easiest to bear. It was productive and purposeful pain.

None of the doctors, nurses, or midwives involved in either of my two births believed me when I told them I was about to have a baby – based on the fact that I was smiling and laughing all the way through transition, only getting down to the “guttural roaring” business when I was actually in the process of pushing them out.

When my first son was born, the doctor tried to tell me there was no way I was dilated enough yet (“you wouldn’t be able to talk like this, you’d be in too much pain”) – until she actually checked me, and proclaimed that – wouldn’t you know it – yes I was. Then she gawked at me in disbelief as I quickly sprang up, unaided, assumed the all-fours birthing position, and squeezed out a baby in two pushes.

I seem to experience pain differently than most people. I definitely have learned to handle and process pain differently than most people. And, stubbornly, the more other people dismiss or deny my pain on the grounds that I don’t react to it strongly enough for it to be real – the more committed I become to suffering in stoic silence.

In the Summer of 2017, I was bitten by a tick, which I didn’t find for several days, and also didn’t remove properly. I fell ill almost immediately (actually, I started getting sick before I found the stupid little thing) with a whole host of bewildering symptoms. And, much more quickly than is normal, it seems, the infection made its way into my nervous system – and I found myself reliving the same kind of crackling, burning, searing pain that I experienced after my spider bite all those years ago; like a white-hot poker; like someone blowing on smoldering coals deep inside me, and feeling them pop and explode. Sometimes like an electrical shock. Sometimes like being latched onto by a small but merciless set of razor-sharp teeth.

This is pain that settles in and lasts for days or weeks at a time, slowly fading away only to pop up somewhere else along my spine, radiating into my hips, my legs, my arms, my neck.

It eases up a little over the course of the day as I force myself to move around – but I can only sleep for about five hours before I wake up to crackling pain again; too much pain to sleep. Too much pain to even keep lying in bed.

This is the only physical pain I’ve experienced, since that “dream” nearly my entire lifetime ago, that has left me sobbing helplessly because there was nothing I could do to escape from it. No position that alleviates it. No drug that dulls it (that I’m willing to take, anyway).

I was treated with antibiotics, and it went away – but came back. I’ve repeated that cycle four times now. Each time I’ve had a longer reprieve between episodes – but it always comes back, along with a handful of other symptoms.

It came back about a week ago.

I haven’t cried this time. A lot of people probably don’t even know I’m in pain. If I told them, they would be surprised. They might not believe me.

But it’s REAL. It’s so very real. It’s excruciating. It’s exhausting.

Today, my husband – who suffered a back injury once upon a time which left him with some very similar pain (which also comes back in episodes, albeit for different reasons – point is, he understands) – held my face in his hands after he kissed me good morning, and said: “It’s amazing that you’re smiling right now.”

I laughed.

And as I laughed, tendrils of white-hot lightning licked their way down my neck and spine and into my ribs.

I smiled again and went back to making coffee.

I don’t know WHY it is that I bear pain so well. It’s certainly not that I don’t feel it.

I also don’t wonder “why” very often.

What I wonder – as with so many things – is “WHAT FOR?”

What is all this pain FOR? What is the purpose of this suffering?

Or maybe: to what purpose can I direct it?

The older I get, the more comfortable I become with the sorts of ideas that would seem kooky – even fanatical – to my secular/atheist friends and family.

Such as: God is preparing me for something – and that something is going to hurt. I don’t know if it will hurt me materially, physically; or if it will be an immaterial/non-physical kind of pain. Both are very real. I’ve learned a lot about bearing immaterial pain over the years by experiencing and bearing material pain – and vice versa.

Or, perhaps, this pain is simply my penance.

Perhaps it’s a little of both.

Anonymity

Dear World,

Since I’m waiting for elastic to arrive, I’ve spent the last couple days cutting fabric. I realized I could use more of what I had and make it go a lot farther if I paired a knit fabric for one side with a woven fabric for the other side. The woven layer acts as a stabilizer, which makes it easier to sew AND ensures that the final product holds its shape.

I just did a tally, and I’ve managed to scrounge up enough blanks to make just over 300 masks. I’m sure I’ll run out of good elastic before that, but I think I figured out a way to use some other elastics that I already have in fairly large quantities (foldover and beading elastic).

It occurs to me, as I share these little details about my daily goings-on in “lockdown mode,” that talking about my life in any meaningful way is probably going to effectively “doxx” me to anybody who actually knows me who might stumble across this tiny little corner of the internet.

I decided I don’t really care.

But let me be clear: if you DO know me, and you happen to happen upon this ill-advised little blog of mine and think you’ve got me figured out… just don’t be a dick about it, okay? If I wanted to talk about this stuff with a real person who will talk back to me in real-time, I’d be doing that. If you ask me about my blog, I will never admit to you that it exists, or that I have any idea what you’re talking about.

Unless I do.

XOXO

Kitty

Unplugging

Dear World,

I’ve been shoveling data into my brain, for weeks now, at a rate of speed bordering on absurdity.

People have always urged me to use my considerable brainpower for this thing or that thing (usually making money), but I’ve always preferred to stand on the sidelines and observe. Calculate. Intuit.

I can USUALLY gain a fair understanding of what will happen next in any given situation by taking this approach; by “taking in” as much as I can, clearing my internal queue, and just letting the gears turn as they will.

Most folks don’t understand this process, but it’s real – and it works. Otherwise people wouldn’t call me things like “scary,” “spooky,” “intimidating,” “witch,” etc. – ALL. THE. BLOODY. TIME. Just for knowing things that are glaringly obvious to me.

I don’t know how this one is going to go.

I find myself now in the rare position of being fundamentally incapable of discerning the truth based on the data available to me. I don’t know enough about epidemiology, biology, chemistry, world politics and economy, etc. I am left with only vague hunches and inklings, which lack cohesion.

Perhaps for the first time, in this instance, I feel well and truly absolved of mortal obligation.

It is suddenly no wonder to me that, so often, highly intelligent and worldly people end up turning to God in times of crisis.

It’s not mortal fear, it’s not an act of “just in case” desperation, of seeking grace in the face of peril and uncertainty… in my case, anyway.

It’s that I’ve been pushed to the point where FAITH is suddenly the only rational truth.

The truth, for ALL OF US, is that someday we will reach the limit or the exhaustion of our mortal faculties. The truth, FOR ALL OF US, is that we will one day fall short in our understanding or ability. The truth, for all of us, is that we will eventually have to put our faith – our trust, our hope, our dependence – in SOMETHING.

There is freedom in realizing that this is true ALWAYS – and has been true always. I did not HAVE to come this far in my understanding of worldly principles and matters, I did not NEED to smack existentially into the ceiling of my earthly capacities in order to justify my ascension into the paradigm of faith.

Faith is a choice that is always valid. It is not “made valid” by or in light of worldly achievement.

I choose faith in God, and in His plan for humanity – whatever that may be.

To that end, I’m going to unplug from the broader media and focus on the people I care about.

Over the years I’ve amassed a somewhat comical collection of old laptops and mobile devices. I almost can’t turn around in my house without tripping over a device that wants to feed me all the latest to-do. All of them are going into storage. I’ll have my desktop computer, and that’s IT. No more sitting in my workshop reading the news when I could be sewing.

I’m not sticking my head in the sand or anything – there just comes a point when you have to take what you’ve gleaned and WALK AWAY.

XOXO

Kitty

Muscle Memory Musings

It amazes me how the body can remember things. I haven’t done assembly line sewing in ages, but now that I have my pattern figured out, I can almost turn my mind off while I work – or let it wander.

I bought some fabric several weeks ago to make some curtains for my kids’ loft beds, and now I’m using a little piece to make each of them a face mask. What a thing to be doing.

I’ve given a few prototypes away to people I know, and I’ve got a few leads from a neighbor for at least a couple other local ladies who want to help make masks, too – so I guess I’ll have to put a simple pattern together and send it around.

I just ordered more elastic. It’s getting hard to find!

I worry more and more about the economic and political fallout of this pandemic as I settle further into comfortable isolation. I don’t really care about having to stay home – but I’m a little spooked by the shelter in place order. I remember watching videos of what was going on in Wuhan a few weeks ago and thinking that it looked an awful lot like the leadership over there fully exploited the opportunity to flex their power.

I’m not totally confident our own government won’t do the same. Isn’t already doing the same.

Now, I hate politics. I find it entirely distasteful. And yet I always find myself dragged into it.

I’m not going to offer much in the way of political commentary here, because I think that’s best left to those who are not me – but I do keep an “eye to the stars and a finger to the winds,” so to speak, and this situation has my hackles raised.

Lots of people are worried about rent and bills right now, and I suppose I am in the now-fortunate position of having more or less CHOSEN poverty several years back. As soon as housing started to get really expensive where I live, I rounded up my brother and a couple of delightful coworkers and conscripted them as housemates. My rent burden is blessedly small. And they have been good housemates. My husband moved in with me when we got engaged – and we’ve been here since. Every time he’s suggested looking for a place of our own, I’ve hemmed and hawed over committing to a substantial increase in our housing costs. “WHAT IF SOMETHING CRAZY HAPPENS?” I said.

I’m still waiting to see how things actually shake down in terms of help for people who have lost income. We’ve certainly lost a bit – but even if we don’t qualify for any of those checks folks are hoping for, I think we’ll be OK.

It’s a funny thing (also sad) to think that for a lot of people, it would be catastrophic for them to be reduced to living within MY means – while I could comfortably tighten up my budgets quite a bit yet.

Cheers to being poor, I guess.

It builds character.

Settling In

I’m definitely sick, but my symptoms remain mostly mild. I did just cave and take some Tylenol for my headache, which I’ve had all day – but aside from that I’ve felt OK. Only a tiny bit of a fever today, flitting in and out.

I’ve got my face mask design worked out. I made one following a pattern I found on the internet for a basic surgical-style mask, and tried it on – then I yawned and it popped right down off of my nose. That won’t do. It takes just a few more square inches of fabric to make something that provides good secure coverage. I also added a moldable nose piece and a couple little pleats at the chin, to eliminate gaps and also for comfort. I think I can make a few dozen before I run out of materials.

We are now under a “shelter in place” order. I think I’m well-prepared for it, but we’ll see. I feel a little bit calmer now that they’ve told everyone to stay at home. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The kids are taking it well. It’s certainly not the worst time in history to be a natural-born homebody.