A Moment Frozen Forever There

This is a happy story. That’s how I start telling people about what I’m doing. I say, “This is a happy story. My oldest friend died and -”

Eyes glaze over. People want to protect themselves from other people’s sorrows, and who can blame them? I can’t. We all carry about as much as we can handle. But not everything is what we expect, and some things can still be pretty goddamn funny. You may or may not remember that when I started the cat blanket project with the lovely Georg, I was a reasonably terrible knitter, but who cared? Cats don’t! The two points were to comfort shelter cats and keep yarn out of landfill. After I made dozens of knitted blankets, I learned to crochet and we were off to the races. Crocheting the same amount of space-filling fabric is much faster and I suck at it so much less. Plus, it’s a lot like performance art: no one knows what you meant to do. Maybe you meant to do that!

Here, we see two of Trout’s sweater project panels. I pulled these panels out of the bags, separated the yarn balls and cut off the strands of mohair, to which I am allergic. Probably. The jewel tones were so beautiful it was almost worth hives and possible gasping explanations to EMTs, but honestly, there are only so many times you can say, “I knew I was allergic, and I was stupid enough to go ahead anyway” before you say to yourself, “Hey, so: give that shit away.” On Friday, a friend of the family stopped by, left the engine running and took away three large bags of mohair yarn.

I knitted these panels off their needles, then crocheted borders to extend these panels into cat blanket sizes. It’s important to remember one thing:

I continue to suck as a knitter. Trout was a fine, right-handed knitter with a tight gauge, and I simply am not. I’m left-handed and haven’t knitted much in years. However, cats do not care. Thanks to Trout, cats will have two more cozy blankets. Hooray!

If you stitch, there’s a shelter near you that needs blankets. You can help even if you suck at it!

Open Up Your Loving Arms

Yesterday, I saw this.

That’s a ring around the sun. I’m sure this phenomenon has a Greek or Latin name, but I don’t know it. My friend Snake says it portends rain or snow, and that’s what I get for looking up. So, friends, if you’re in Central Jersey and it snows on you, that may be my fault.


Just Like China Cups

In ancient Poor Impulse Control history, I published an annual report in January-February-ish. The reason for this was that when your knitting and crocheting friends and relatives joined the Choir Invisible, you may have mailed me their yarn, unfinished projects and stuff I might not be able to identify. I get a lot of that. Anyhoo, I finish some projects and take others apart. I give their tools away. Of the yarn, I make blankets for animal shelters. Above, please see an image of a blanket in the process of becoming a warm, soft thing.

In 2019, when the pandemic made everyone go their own special kinds of crazy, I was sitting on a pile of scarves and hats I couldn’t mail to anyone, baby blankets hospitals would no longer accept and cat blankets. Time sort of became a blur and my usual methods of keeping track of what I sent where went straight to hell. Looking back on it, I sent dozens and dozens of hats and scarves to organizations that gave them to at risk people. I sent out cat blankets, which I remember packaging up and daring postal workers to challenge me about bales of blankets. What I can say for sure is that if you sent me yarn, I made it into something that helped someone, and thank you for trusting me.

At the beginning of 2023, my oldest friend Trout was in the hospital – had been mostly in the hospital since the previous May – where she turned wool I couldn’t crochet with into 10 blankets for the shelter in our hometown. I’d just taken maybe 25-30 to an animal shelter in the town next to mine. After Trout died, I delivered 42 blankets to the shelter in our hometown. Trout had volunteered there years before, when her health still permitted that kind of activity. The shelter workers were overjoyed to receive our handiwork. Yesterday, Lala and I delivered 24 blankets to that same shelter. That makes the running total for this year between 91-96.

Trout left behind the largest stash of yarn I’ve seen yet. I’ll make a special list of the art supplies I’ve dropped off hither and yon, and if I’m feeling especially saucy, I’ll take a picture of the only reasonably disastrous craft room with just a small percentage of her fabric and yarn piled everywhere. Twice, Pete has opened that door and muttered, “Jesus Christ.” No, Jesus has nothing to do with it.

If you sent me craft supplies, thank you. If you need to talk to me about craft supplies, let’s talk in comments.

You Can Swim the Sea

A sign says NO PARKING ANY TIME. Whimsical paint stripers have laid down NO PARKING yellow paint in front of the sign.

It’s funny what you can see when you’re not really looking. Pete was driving through our tiny town and noticed the paint stripers had striped paint where no cars were supposed to park. But no cars were supposed to park on that side of the street, which you surmise from the sign saying NO PARKING, so do not park there. But also do not park there because because the corner is nearby and you will obstruct visibility for other drivers, who also should not park there. For all of these reasons, do not park there. I don’t know how Pete failed to drive off the road, laughing.

Bright On the Water Tonight

In 2022, my life changed a lot. I retired from the unnamed university in the late spring after 35 years, the last few of which were torturous. The library system was in the clutches of a malignant narcissist and control freak, and finally, I couldn’t stand being an object any longer. I flounced off to my home and stayed there all summer, jarring peaches.

Retiring – no matter what anyone says – takes some fucking practice. Because I’d worked two, three and at one awful point four jobs most of my adult life, having free time feels like an elevator in freefall. The idea that I can just sit quietly and not berate myself for doing nothing is new, even now. Last spring, I started taking long walks around the tiny town, and almost right away realized I saw things I’d never noticed before each time I put on my sneakers. Near my house, a wisteria plant has eaten a garage. Fifteen years ago, this garage was in use. Now, no one who isn’t a lumberjack is getting inside that door. Behind me, as I took this picture, the wisteria is climbing an oak tree. One day it will interfere with Newark Airport’s flight path, and no one is going to stop it.

The other day, I woke up to a feline-based poopsplosion on two floors and because I am retired, I had time to mop. Then I had time to consider whether I’d missed spots. I then had time to advise Pete to change his socks and mop a second time. My house smelled like lemon-scented cleanliness and not pot roast and farts, like your house – unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case your house smells like kidney beans and farts. It’s December! Everyone’s house smells farty, but in any case, for a brief, shining moment, my house smelled lemony.

With Twitter descending into unmoderated Hell, I’ve joined a bunch o’ different social media sites, though I’ll probably narrow it down to one or two soon. Too much words! Too many talk! One site I can’t figure out at all. Anyhoo, the idea of writing again is one I had not considered until a couple months ago, and it seemed like if I’m going to do that, I should start here. Who am I anymore? Who is even talking? I both know and don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out at the same time.

In Me You Will Find

Well, hello there. I remember you.

The Lovely Georg, first of her name, practical joker and fiber artist beyond compare, sent yarn for the ongoing cat blanket project, promising they would be immune from the predation of porch pirates. She would explain nothing more. I asked if she’d mailed me a live skunk, but no answers were forthcoming. A few days later, I was standing on my front porch when a letter carriers appeared in a torrential downpour carrying two enormous wee wee pad boxes and knew immediately they weren’t full of pads. For one thing, I don’t have a dog. For another, the letter carrier did not struggle with the weight of the boxes. When I quit guffawing, I explained why those boxes had arrived at this destination. He was a pretty good sport about the whole affair.

I’m not going to claim to know you, but I may know two or three things about you. The pandemic changed everything for me. It changed me. We can talk about this later, but I will say I no longer have a moment to offer people who waste my time. Life is very goddamn short. Grab your purse, fellas. We’ve got places to go.

Truly Beautiful To Behold

This week, I’m trying out relaxing. It’s not in my nature. All of my adult life, I’ve had two, three and sometimes four jobs, and time to sitting quietly to mull stuff over got squeezed out of my life nearly forty years ago. That seems crazy to me, but we’re all older than we think we are. You, for instance, have forgotten that when Jimi Hendrix was your age, he’d been dead a long time, but also that’s not really important because it happened before you were born, which is ancient history. Don’t worry about it. Also: have you joined AARP?

So…come here often?

When you have time to think, what do you think about? I think about making pasta from scratch and taking classes and when I can retire and think these thoughts every day? I think about how I can do more and be more effective for causes I care about, and how can I find time to help people learn about things that in my opinion they need to know. Obviously, I need to retire. Now, you and I have been talking about our poor impulse control since I was reasonably young and hotter than lava, and how can I square all that sexy talk with free time and track suits? Ya got me. I’ve got to rethink everything.

My baby sister, who was born when I was nearly thirty, decided last fall that she couldn’t work with the general public anymore. She up and quit her job as a bank manager. It’s not just her, or me. It’s time to re-think who we are in relation to work and time. There has never been a better time to quit your job and look for something closer to what you want to do, on terms you can live with long term.

For the time being, I’m still wrangling vendors for the unnamed university, but it’s time to imagine something else. What are you thinking about?

Hanging Around With You

Happy New Year to you and you, and possibly you, too. The world is different this year than in others, but Pete and I went for a walk on the first day of January with our cameras, as we have done for a long time. Unlike other years, I lost concentration for a moment and fell in someone’s driveway, so at least there was comic relief.

Close up picture of a decorative cabbage with several drops of water.
It’s a cabbage. People have those.

As I’m typing, a winter storm is dumping snow on locales to the south of us and it may move this way. When I went out to feed the chickens earlier, the air had a spooky quality to it I didn’t recognize. Even now, at home two years into the pandemic, new things reveal themselves. For instance, I have the nerve to turn up and call myself a blogger. Imagine the nerve!

Neon Light Street Light

Speaking for myself, the Pandemic changed a lot of things. For over a year, I seldom left my house and I was fine with that. Each excursion into the outside world was an anxiety-provoking ordeal. Eleven months ago, my insurance company pointed out to me that I hadn’t seen a doctor in 2020, and would I please cut that shit right out? Okay, I said, and started making appointments. Then Pete and I had COVID. We had mild cases, but when we had the opportunity to get vaccinated in the spring, we jumped at the chance. Even so, I mostly stayed in the house until late September and in early October, I was called into the office twice a week. I hate it. It’s awkward. The building is cold and I have to put on shoes and socks and pants, damn it. I have to put on pants.

But the Pandemic also introduced something new in my neighborhood: mutual aid with strangers.

Over a year ago and after the end of the quarantine, Pete and I and our neighbor Andie started putting books, mugs, extra Mason jars, clothing, tables, all sorts of extraneous things in boxes on the sidewalk with a sign that said FREE. People took books because everyone was spending more time at home. Some people were reluctant to take things if we were on the porch. We encouraged them to take whatever interested them, and when they did, we put out more stuff. This has been helpful as we empty my mother’s house. It’s been more than two and a half years since Mom died, and now that stepdad Tom has moved out, we are still sorting through a shocking amount of useless, stored stuff.

This morning, I was studying, then went out for short walk. The air was crisp and cool; the sunlight bright. During the time we were all at home, I would walk this same path and see lots of my neighbors had the same idea. They put out tables or rugs with unneeded objects for anyone to take. Three houses down today, I found this table, which I had not seen before. I remembered a box I’d forgotten about a couple of months ago, and time passes so strangely now. When I got home, I put out the box on the sidewalk and added five matching mugs that someone else could use. I’m going to look around this afternoon for other things to give away.

Before the Pandemic, I would have bet against most of my neighbors talking to me. Andie and I spent a lot of time on the porch this summer working from home, her more than me. New people moved in across the street and Andie declared their antics, “the best TV ever.” There’s a small boy who appears to be boneless. His father does pushups in the yard and parks his van on the lawn. The boy’s mother may have had enough of absolutely everyone and everything, and there are visiting cousins. Their friends stand in the driveway and drink until all hours and the little boy stands around with them. I’m almost sad it’s winter and this circus has been driven indoors. But who knows, maybe they’ll stay another year. These neighbors studiously avoid eye contact and do not interact with anyone outside their circle of friends. Other neighbors now seek out conversation. Last week, a neighborhood tuxedo cat was out walking a man and when the cat stopped to talk with me, so did the man. That’s never happened to me before. Andie tells me it she sees them regularly. I’m still concerned about meeting up with crazy people, but I am cautiously thinking about getting out more.