We don’t have chores in our house. We do what we’re told when we’re told to do it.  If we don’t do what we’re told, we get the paddle. No amount of whining and complaining can make a difference, although we all try it.

We are lucky though because most of the time Momma does everything and this is how I think she feels like she is taking good care of us, although we would be glad to help if it made her less anxious. She’s always worried, worried, worried – about everything.


 ~August 1975~

“Gaaddamn it, get the degreaser.  Hurry up, put the Gaaddamn degreaser in.”

I don’t know what degreaser is and I’m not sure why I should put the damn stuff in. I do know it comes in a yellow bottle.  It’s tall with ridges on the outside.  I can’t always open it quick enough and I hope Momma didn’t tighten it with her grip of steel, because if she did I’ll never get it open before she yells it again. “Put the Gaaddamn degreaser in!”

Laundry is a science to Momma and she’s always rushing around as fast, as fast as she can. With ten kids the laundry takes up the whole day and she doesn’t mind reminding us every time she does it.  She starts while the sun is still light and bright without heat and takes the sheets right out from under me while I sleep.  She does the same thing to all ten of us. Sometimes it wakes me up, but sometimes not. The older kids complain about it and fight with Momma over being woken up, but I don’t care much about getting up early, because I get to help Momma if I get up early. She doesn’t like help and I have to do things just so, because laundry is important. She says, “We might not have money, but you kids aren’t walking around dirty.” There something about being poor that makes most people dirty, but not us.

“Amy Beth, where’s the damn degreaser, quit fooling around and get over here.”

I step up on a rickety old stool and grab the cool metal cup from the shelf that is hung half-crooked, the cup slides if you don’t put in the right place, it perfectly covers a ring on the shelf from the rust on the bottom of the cup.  I’m careful while pouring.  For something named degreaser, it’s very greasy.

“Just half full not all the way full, or you’ll have to start over, don’t waste it.”

We have an old-time washing machine, a wringer washer. It’s white with a red ring painted around the middle, smooth on the outside and cool to the touch.  There are two rubber rollers on top and if you don’t watch out, your hands will get the hell pinched out of them when the rollers are rolling and squeezing the water out of the clothes. That’s what Momma says.  There is a rusty stain on the underside. I’ve tried to wash it off, but it doesn’t work, it’s stuck on there, forever and ever.  The washer stays in the back room over the basement door in the floor.  I’m glad that it hides the basement door, I think bad things are down there and all the other kids tell me so too. I will not go down there unless I am forced, that has only happened once and that time I saw a man’s butt crack, Peggy said – “See! I told you – plumber’s smile!” Staring at the backside of some guy working on our water pump.  I don’t understand what that means, but I laugh and laugh so I can get the heck out of there.

Momma and I boil water on the stove for the load of whites. Sometimes we have hot water on the tap and sometimes we don’t, because we can’t always pay our bills and even if we have hot water, she yells, “That water isn’t hot enough, boil it some more, I like my whites white! And don’t touch that pot, it will burn the hell out of you.”  It takes three giant pots of water to wash the whites.  We make one pot of hot for the colored clothes, mixed with cold water.  For dark colors or when we are lazy and don’t care if we stink and our whites are dingy, we can wash in cold, which is never.

The cold water comes from the hose, which tastes like the metal ring at the end of the hose. The hose runs from around the side of the house and we prop open the screen door to keep it from pinching the water off.  This lets the flies in, but there isn’t any other way to get the hose into the back room.  Then we spend the afternoon killing flies with the pink and white flyswatter that has a long wire handle and is covered in guts. Sometimes in a pinch Momma will swat us with the flyswatter, if the paddle isn’t close enough.

I fill the washer with hose water, turn off the water and unhook the hose from the faucet and leave it lying on the ground, but far away from the house so when the water we drain from the washer comes out, it doesn’t run back on the house and rot the foundation.  I learn a lot from Momma, she explains things as she goes along and I might not understand it all, but I am good at remembering.  I have to know everything or else someone yells about something, so it’s easier to remember everything and do what I need to do right, the first time.

Momma let’s everything soak for at least 30 minutes because we are all so Gaadamn dirty.

Once the clothes have soaked, Momma plugs the electric cord into the light bulb on the ceiling and then she lets me flip the switch that turns it on.  The washer makes a loud grinding noise and the whole backroom shakes. We let it agitate, that’s Momma’s word for swirling the clothes around, for 10 or 15 minutes; standing there not hearing another sound in the world except the grind of the washer.  After agitating, I take the end of the hose and screw it to a spout that comes out of the bottom of the washer, the spout is old and needs to be cleaned with “C Cleaner” which Momma says gets the calcium off.  We open the spout on the bottom and drain the dirty water outside through the hose.

I run outside to watch the water come out and make sure there are no hair or other clogs that back it up.  I hope with everything that there is no clod of hair that gets stuck. I almost throw up thinking about it having to touch it. The water flows dark and murky, making a trail down the dirt driveway.

Once the water has drained, we taking the sopping wet clothes and run them one by one through the wringer to squeeze out all the water.  I am not allowed to put them through the wringer. I am not old enough yet.  My job is to catch the clothes as they come out.  Momma doesn’t like them slapping onto the dirty floor when they come out all squished flat.

Then we rinse the flattened clothes by adding cold water from the hose into the washer and firing it up again.  One more time through the wringer and they are ready to hang on the line in the yard.  There are two lines, one short and one long, both run from the house to the barn, which doesn’t work like a barn anymore, it’s now just an old building full of junk and wasps.  It does have an outhouse on the side of it, but you can’t go to the bathroom in there anymore, it’s been sealed up tight.

Momma doesn’t talk much during laundry, she explains what she’s doing so I know how to do it on my own one day and she yells out things to do “Degreaser!” “Turn the hose on!”  “Now turn it off Gaaddamn it!”

Before we start hanging the clothes, we start another load to soak.

I’m not allowed to hang the clothes, because Momma says “You don’t hang things right, they’ll come out all wrinkled if you hang them, and I’m not spending the whole day ironing.  You’ve got to hang them so the breeze can get through them.”  I don’t even hang socks right, which are supposed to be easy.  My job is to hand things to Momma real fast so they don’t get too wrinkled sitting in the basket and then I take a metal pole and raise up the laundry on the wire.  It’s heavy to lift, but I can do it even when Mom yells at me not to.  I just laugh when she yells when we are in the yard, because she is too far away to smack me.  While she’s hanging the laundry I look for wasps and bugs that bite because I’m afraid of them.  If I see a wasp or a bee, I run in the house until it goes away.

“Get your ass back out here” Mom says, but I just pretend I can’t hear her.  I’d rather hear Momma yell than get stung by a wasp.


I had no idea that there is any other way to do laundry, in the winter we do go to the Laundromat sometimes, so I know that there are indoor washers and dryers, but I have no clue that someone could actually buy one and have it in their house.  I also have no idea that all my other friends are having their clothes washed inside their own house.  I assumed that everyone washes clothes like it’s 1950.

I’m sure it seems that Momma was mean to me, but I never saw it as mean, she had no patience for misunderstanding and if you did something wrong or ruined the load of wash, it could cost her hours of time.  I learned to cook the same way, trial by fire, get it right or get the hell out of the kitchen!  If you put too much salt or milk in something you were helping Momma make, it could mean none of us ate that day.  I understand why she felt like doing it herself was faster.  She was doing the best she could and for that I’m thankful.

Summer in Portland

It’s summer in Portland. It’s Portland.

It is summer in PORTLAND!

It’s the best time of year to be in Portland. Summer officially starts on July 5th in Portland, the rest of the country has already enjoyed sometimes a month or two of warm weather and sun. In Portland, summer starts slow and almost never gets unbearable, maybe a few days in August or September are too hot for us pasty white Pacific Northwesterners, but mostly it’s perfect and PERFECT.

Summer makes it a challenge to focus on anything, even writing, which is a place where it’s easy for me to focus. Everything slows down and speeds up all at the same time. I want to be out in it, doing, soaking up the sun and at the same time want to be relaxing in the sun. Calm and energetic all at once.

Eating summer meals, drinking summer drinks, sitting on the front stoop of our house – people watching, exercising, bike riding. Summer is here and I’m not going to let it derail me forever, but I’m not writing as much. I do think about writing, at almost every turn I have a thought, an idea, a glimmer of what’s to come through the pen and I jot it down or think on it as I ride my bike around in summer sun, but I’m not quite writing as much as I’d like.

If my biggest complaint is that I write less in Summer, I’m going to stop thinking it’s wrong and be thankful for it.

Reading is easier in summer, light all day, enough to read, reminds me of summer book clubs when I was young. Maybe I need to get used to the seasons and get more in touch with how my writing changes in those seasons.

Maybe my writing and life in general comes in waves with the seasons. I’m not going to keep fighting it. I’m going to trust it.

Spring – rising light, new and full of energy – spring into action (when I edit and push forward new ideas)

Summer – sun, hope and growth of ideas – the dog days of summer (when I calm down and settle into reading and fun)

Fall – gray light, turning inward and melancholy – harvest (when I think and think and prepare and writing begins again)

Winter – reflection, dark and broody – the winter of discontent (when I write most)

It’s summer, it’s exactly as it should be – TIME TO GET OUT IN IT. There is time enough for everything – there always is.


Knowing who you are and communicating that to the world is essential to being in the world.

How you communicate it defines who people think you are and how people respond to you. It can even shape how you think about yourself.

Right after I was fired from my job, I wrote a manifesto and it was empowering for me to see myself on the page in TRUTH and not apologize for it. To see in myself things that maybe no one else could see, to hear from myself instead of someone else what I was worth.

How does one go about writing a Manifesto?  Take the answers to the ten good things about yourself from my be your own patriot post and put them into action.  Write about those ten good things – BE BOLD about it, although a manifesto is usually a public declaration, no one ever has to read it if you don’t want that. BE BOLD. 

Start your sentences with CONFIDENCE – I AM, I WILL, I DO, don’t use I think or I feel. A manifesto is not about thought or surface-level feeling, it’s about getting down into your gut, that visceral reaction. The thing you want to shout, or maybe at this stage just say into the mirror in your bathroom and believe just for you.

It’s about inspiration, what would you say to yourself to inspire yourself if you could actually form the words to encourage yourself.  For some it might be words you’d like to hear come from someone else’s mouth about you. However you get there doesn’t matter, but getting the words on the page in honor of yourself is a a step toward freedom, knowing yourself, putting yourself out there, believing.

It’s not about writing pages about yourself, it’s not your story, it’s short powerful sentences. Yours may end up taking a different direction form eventually. Be creative.

Someone asked me after reading my manifesto, “I’m wondering why you think you can say these things about yourself?” I replied with confidence “I believe them and I am that good.” And that was the truth. There is sometimes a small part of me that says, that’s not true and I just allow that in too. We all have doubt, it’s what we do with it that matters. TRUTH.

BE BOLD, no one else is going to be bold for you.

Be your OWN_patriot

In honor of Independence Day – I decided to send a call out to everyone – BE YOUR OWN PATRIOT!

We all have those moments when we think – is this all there is? Isn’t there something more? I’ve had those moments lately thinking about this blog. I haven’t been doing two posts a week like I said I would and sometimes I think, what’s the point?  What is the point? The point is that in a year, I’ll look back and say, well you let yourself down on that one, or I’ll look back and say, it wasn’t easy but – I did it! I started and I kept at it and it wasn’t easy, but I had the courage to continue.  Guess what? It’s up to me to recommit. To DO IT! Do I care enough about my own interests to be my own patriot?

As I sat down to write today I thought about Independence Day, how I might re-frame it as a call-to-action.

Independence Day is the day the representatives of the 13 colonies signed a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, it was the birth of American independence.

What, or who is holding you back from your own independence?

I hear people all the time say, I can’t do that, I can’t talk about myself like that, I don’t know where I want to go, I’m terrible at standing up for myself. I don’t know where I’m going. My question – IF NOT YOU? THEN WHO?  There is not a magic decision making fairy who will decide.

It’s you.

Be your own patriot.

def. a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country(YOURSELF) and it’s interests with devotion.

Can’t you give yourself a little patriotism?

Give yourself permission to think good thoughts about your interests with devotion.

Today – right now write down ten good things about you, ten good things you’ve done, or ten good things you want to do. GO! do it. and then – BELIEVE IT. and if you don’t believe it – keep doing it, everyday, until you do.

Be your own patriot. Independence is not far away.