Category Archives: Labor

bigger than a blog post, smaller than a breadbox

I haven’t been doing much creative writing lately,

because this:



is coming out in the fall and contrary to what I’d somehow fooled myself into thinking,

my work is only just begun.

More to come lovelies, I promise. all sorts of things are moving and shaking.. a website, a video, events, travel. opportunities for folks to support getting the stories in my book out into the world. For now… disjointed waitress poetry will make an attempt to return, because learning how to market a book gives me a headache, and I need to write creatively again.



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Filed under Americana, As it Turns Out There Were People In All Those Little Communities, Atomic Bomb, basic goodness, blue collar, cancer, Change, Civil Disobedience, coexistence, Colonialism, community, culture.society.anthropology., death, Deep Ecology, Desert, Family, fathoming, feminism, Food, Garden, gathering, gratitude, History, Homeland, Hope, howard zinn, journalism, Labor, love, meditation, memory, migration, motherhood, Nevada Test Site, Nuclear weapons, on writing, Peace, Peacewalk, poetry, stories, violence, watching it all go by, wendell berry

mending a pair of pants we bought because we could afford them

This morning, while my son watched children’s television in the other room,
I sat by the open window on the bed and mended a pair of corduroy work pants
sipping my coffee and letting spring wash over my skin through the screen.
As I worked to knit the button hole back together,
I noticed how few stitches had been used to assemble the belt loops,
how there were loose threads
and poor workmanship here and there
and then I pricked my finger with the needle.
while swearing and applying pressure,
i glanced at the label,
and realized that the fabric I held in my hands
had been been held by a woman, or man, or child,
in China

i read “made in china” a hundred times a day
but i don’t realize much.
i think:
then: “we can’t afford to buy things made fairly,
and “after all, i do try to buy second hand, so that helps, right?”

and there’s not much realizing after that, just an unspooling narrative of rationalization

like so much tangled thread
sure we bought the pants because we could afford them
and we could afford them because that person in China
made a few dimes
for these seams
and went home to a crowded room in a toxic city
hundreds of miles from their families
who they might see once a year.

I think about who made these pants,
and think about my seamstress great grandmother
an immigrant Eastern European woman
who fled the land of pogroms with (most of) her children
to Philadelphia
just a few years
after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
where, after her husband’s death from tuberculosis,
she made a living sewing theater curtains and
beaded bags
for wealthy women

and holding my mending by the window i think that these are not trivial connections
but literal ones
we can feel
as we bleed tiny drops of blood
into the same fabric


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, consumerism, crafty, Family, History, Labor, meditation, memory, migration, Ordinary, poetry

Fishing Family

My friend Heather’s husband Ross is headed to sea today,
or maybe yesterday or tomorrow.
They never know the exact date when he’ll ship out,
and they don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
They chop firewood
plant gardens
rebuild portions of their house
hang nets for the summer salmon season
teach their sons to climb ladders,
use tools
prepare food,
practice kindness.
They go on dates in canoes,
birth babies at home,
and snowshoe a few miles into the wilderness
to have family time
in a primitive cabin.
They volunteer in their community,
preserve hundreds of pounds of food from their garden,
and eat well.
I’m fairly certain that between the two of them,
there is nothing they could not do.
While Ross pits himself against the elements
to make their living
in the wintry Pacific a few thousand miles to the north,
Heather will keep everything going
with grace
and humor
while training to be a doula,
caring for ailing elders,
building furniture,
traveling cross country to see the grandparents,
and growing more gorgeous all the time.
Sometimes she takes the kids camping as a solo mama,
and laughs that its easier than being at home sometimes.
Depending on which fishing season it is,
she can talk to her husband daily,
or only once a week, for ten minutes,
or not even then,
but after a while,
the call inevitably comes
that he’s headed home.
Until then,
they labor through the seasons,
adding weft
and strength
to the warp of a marriage
seasoned by saltwater
and joy

my fishing family. Ross, Haven, Heather, and Liam.

my fishing family. Ross, Haven, Heather, and Liam.

(To read more about their family and their work, check out some of the words and pictures here).


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, Family, Food, Garden, habitat, Labor, love, marriage, motherhood, Ordinary

ordinary friday (list)

sure signs of spring in the yard

sure signs of spring in the yard

morning snuggle
tiny boy in fleece footie pajamas
three way hug before Poppa leaves for work
morning diaper change (a wrestling match on the kitchen floor)
breakfast debate settled
pot of oatmeal and toast prepared and served to a toddler who deigns to eat them
trash out
coffee made
comfort boy after a fall
take the mail out
notice birds singing as I walk back down the driveway from the mailbox
freshly turned garden earth glistening dark in the morning dampness,
waiting for my tweaked back to mend
so i can get out there and rake out the weeds
mop the latest iteration of muddy dogprints off the kitchen floor
move laundry into the dryer
3 emails answered
pack bag for boy’s weekend with Grandma
turn the house upside down in search of his Other Rainboot, (again), fruitlessly
edit press release for client
continue the great family paperwork Filing project
remember to feed myself around 10:30,
cold oatmeal with maplesyrup and soymilk in a wooden bowl with a kid spoon
boil water for the chickpeas I soaked overnight
change the sheets
check the chickpeas
make the boy more toast
help him fix a car
flip through Gary Snyder’s Collected Works while picking up the bedroom
stare for a little while at notes I scrawled in the margins when I was 21
and then put it on the shelf
and drop to my knees to look for the Other Boot
under our bed
add oil to the car that burns oil
grocery shop for the boy’s weekend away
deal with several separate tantrums, in various locations
pass two different people crying on the sidewalk,
5 miles apart from each other
and practice tonglen
realize I’ve added too much oil to the car
research the implications of this
and schedule an appointment to have it drained and changed before work
file more paperwork
make lunch
(kale chickpea quesadillas with vegan cheese and appleslices)
visit with Ma
bundle the boy off to Grandma’s
“I be back,” he assures me from his carseat
and I am glad that I feel like laughing instead of crying
If our son is independent
if our son is compassionate
if our son knows something about fearlessness
then we have done well.
get the oil changed
recycle the mail, because it is all irrelevant
dress for work

and practice gratitude
for all of this

even when its hard

its beautiful

"Beep beep."

“Beep beep.”

tilled and ready

tilled and ready

loves kale.

loves kale.


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, doldrums, facing east, Family, Garden, Gary Snyder, gathering, gratitude, Labor, motherhood, Ordinary, photographs, poetry, spring, stories, unrepentantly unedited, waitressing, watching it all go by

making soup from what we have

photo 1

sit by an open January window
and study the healing
of the half dozen cracks and gashes
the work weekend left behind on my hands

sip lukewarm coffee
and watch a slight wind stirring in the damp boughs
of a cedar tree that is maybe a century old

think about the questions of the day
What Ought We to Do…
about potty training the toddler
about the epidemic of gun violence
and the erosion of abortion rights
How are we to love each other, best
and how long is this stomach virus contagious
when will we finish the bathroom remodel
and catch on to the violence
of American poverty

the issues of the day seem insurmountable
but are soon forgotten
in the thickening pile of months
and years

make soup from what we have
which is collard greens, black beans,
farro grains and summer tomatoes and basil, frozen in blocks
from a warmer time

make playdough
watch him knead the warm, wheat-colored lump
into dogs and sticks and gingerbread men

and continue rowing
through the thick greyness
of the doldrum days

photo 2


5 AMpThu, 31 Jan 2013 10:47:44 +000047Thursday 2009 · 10:47 am

Like Making Pancakes in a Kayak

I have been struggling lately to make sense of the difficulty I have in “staying on top of things.” Everything seems to be falling through the proverbial cracks the past few weeks (months? years?). I am trying to be a mother to a small boy who is learning he has something to say, and a wife to a husband I see on 1 or 2 weeknights and 1 weekend day per week, a keeper of a home piled with laundry, papers, dishes, and dogs that need love sometimes, and a 1400 square foot garden that requires no small amount of labor. I am trying to cook and bake good food for myself and my family. I am trying to be a provider, working outside the home four nights a week, often coming home at midnight or two am. My son wakes up between 5 am and 8 am. I am trying to be a writer (ha! ha! ha! Is how I feel about that part lately), and I am trying to also be a woman who reads fiction and newspapers, cares for her body, and has some time to see her friends and family, while juggling bills, home remodelling, car problems, and the assorted other responsibilities that come with adulthood.

Its sort of like trying to make pancakes in a kayak.
Which is theoretically possible. Little campstove balanced in front of you, bowl of batter in your lap, spatula in one hand and the paddle in the other, eyes ever vigilant for upcoming waves and eddies that might tip the balance of the boat. Sometimes you’ll need to shield the little flame under the delicately balanced skillet from the wind, to ensure that even heat continues to be applied to the pancakes. Maybe, because its fun, you are also adding sliced bannanas to the pancakes, or little bits of hazelnut or dark chocolate. Why not, right? You’re already making pancakes in a kayak. You might as well make fancycakes. Don’t forget though, you still need to paddle from point A to point B, so whip up that batter, paddle, pour, paddle, steady, paddle, garnish, paddle…

technically possible. And damn, the scenery is beautiful. You really feel lucky to be paddling down this beautiful river, its the sort of thing that’s never the same twice and other people dream of paddling this river and never get to and you feel really grateful, most days, but also kind of insane, and you wonder sometimes what’s wrong with you, why you’re finding it to be so frustrating and DIFFICULT and exhausting so much of the time.

Because you’re not just paddling the kayak… you’re trying to make pancakes in it. And also pay the bills and get the laundry done and those dishes need washing once they’re done and maybe you should pull it over to shore and run up the hill to have a glass of wine with a friend, you can sleep some other time, and it would be nice to watch a movie with your husband some evening but by the time you get the kid to sleep and talk shop you’re both nodding off on the couch.

There are a lot of days when I feel like I’m doing the bare minimum on every front. Doing too many things halfway. Strugglin, strugglin. And also, having the time of my life, and not doing half bad at it all either.

If you were here in the room with me I could look you in the eye and tell you:
I wouldn’t trade this for any other era.

photo credit: Andrea Fuentes Diaz Photography


Filed under basic goodness, Family, Labor, motherhood, watching it all go by

orderpad notes, 4.17

dim brewpub on a tuesday night
in the foreground,
the hiss of meat being slapped
on the grill
murmured Spanish
directing the assemblage of meals
the ceramic whisper of clean plates
being pulled from stacks

in the background,
the pleasant din
of people enjoying themselves
voices rising and falling
silverware clinking against plates
the weight of pint glasses coming to rest
on wooden tables

And here, in the space between,
hovering in wait
for a full caeser and a bowl of chili,
for the next request, or demand
for the end of the night
for some time to myself

I do not resent the people who eat the food
or drink the beers
but sometimes i think about asking them
if they realize
that every full pint, and every empty one
and every clean fork, and every dirty one
and every full plate, and every picked over one
is borne by these arms
my body knows the weight of that pint glass
as intimately as i know the shape of my son’s hands

I share dinnertime with certain restaurant patrons more often
than i eat that meal with my husband and my son
and while I am grateful for my job, and my coworkers,
and my kind patrons, who are many, and my good tips, which are frequent, and the lack of a bill for daycare,

i cannot help but think of something Josie said the other night
we are surrounded by food,

and yet we hunger


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, doldrums, Family, Food, Labor, Ordinary, poetry, stories, waitressing