Yesterday She Joined the Line

It's later than you think, and where are my keys?

Tick tock, tick tock.

Lately, I feel like I get to the end of the day and wonder where the freaking time went. Did I blog? Did I make cat blankets? Did I finally make an appointment with a dentist? Maybe, maybe not. Did I place a grocery order or call my congresscritters? Did I spend enough time with each cat and all the chickens? Did I turn the composter or read a book? Take pictures for the blog or make my breakfast for tomorrow morning? I have so many questions. As I write, Wednesday snores at my right and Drusy is trying to crawl under my laptop. My left ankle is mildly sprained for the hundredth time and it’s no big deal. My job is full of weird palace intrigue, uncertainty and people I love. Two of my closest friends are ill and if my wits had an end, I’d be a mile past that with my thumb out, hoping to hitch a ride home.

It’s time for something different. A change of seasons, a change in the garden, in the animals, in me. I don’t know what will happen. For once, that’s kind of cool.

 

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Expert Texpert Choking Smoker Don’t

Today, lots of people are making Seven Layer Dip for a party celebrating a televised spectacle in which enormous grown men beat the crap out of each other and smaller white guys make a mint. Between the misogyny and the dripping testosterone, it’s bad news for women all around, but that’s nothing new. You know what is new? I’m physically able to do stuff all day again.

Come here often, sailor?

We can’t keep meeting like this.

Perhaps you remember that five years ago, I had hip replacement surgery and made recovering from it my job. I ate with healing in mind. I exercised and did physical therapy with great seriousness while telling jokes for months on end. And then, two years later, I did it again. The physical therapy place should have a wing with my name on it. I felt a million percent better and have gone on with life as if none of that ever happened. Sometimes I forget how limited my life had become, how dealing with pain sapped my energy and strength, how few things I could do in a day because arthritis in my hips made sitting, standing, lying down or anything in between exhausting.

Perhaps you remember my grandson Panky is whip-smart. He has not had it easy with school systems designed to push ordinary kids to graduation day and administrators who are scared of smart kids. One day it dawned on me he should spend time with the smartest kids and adults used to the quirkiness of smart kids. He should go to space camp. Once I thought of it, I began scheming about how I could make that happen.

I would need a part-time job. Then one came to me: the bagel place in which Pete works three days a week needed someone to bake cookies and cakes, mix compound cream cheeses and generally clean for 4.5 hours on Saturdays. I started work five weeks ago. At first, I moved through what I had to do, didn’t think much about it and suddenly, I’d been on my feet for five hours. Five hours! I didn’t know I could do that. And then I did it again the next weekend and the next.

The new, the old, the perennial.

So many intersections, so few red lights.

Apparently, I can do that now! But this weekend, I did a few different things. On Friday, I set up croissant dough, because I can! Yesterday, I did the complicated rolling and folding after working at the bagel place. I smoked eggplants in the backyard smoker. Today, Pete and I rolled out and folded pain au chocolat. I whipped up baba ghanouj. We baked off the best pain au chocolat of our illustrious careers, which is to say the last year. This afternoon, Pete and I made breakfast sausage from scratch and stuffed it into natural casings. You should see me standing atop a kitchen ladder, stuffing raw pork into a hopper. Ridiculous! But, even a year ago, I couldn’t have done all this in one day, even with good planning.

Progress in life takes different forms. In my case, progress takes the form of cookies and sausage and space camp. Five years ago, I could not have imagined it.

 

 

Deep And Crisp And Even

Annual report time!

The yarn is fuzzy, too.

Action photo of baby blanket.

This started out as the Cat Blanket Project. The Lovely Georg, Ceiling Cat Remember Her With Fishy Treats, asked friends to knit or crochet blankets for animal shelters, which I did. But then people from all over – possibly including you – send me yarn in large boxes; other agencies/organizations ask for yarny help. So! You trusted me with art supplies. This is what I did with them in 2014, in 2015, and in 2016:

cat blankets These go to Georg or to a shelter with which Georg is in contact. In 2017, I added crocheted cat toys.

baby blankets A nearby hospital has a baby blanket project. I try to make blankets early in the year or during long car trips.  I sometimes buy special yarn for this.

scarves There are a number of projects that ask for scarves. I send or deliver them all over the place. Mostly, I buy yarn for this that I think will be fun and soft to wear.

hats Several agencies ask for hats for infants, children and adults. Infant hats are quick to crochet.

lap blankets There’s a chemo facility nearby that asks for lap blankets for patients. I send these through a friend. She feels they are greatly appreciated. In 2017, lap blankets also went to veterans near the Shore.

In 2017, I stitched my fingers off!

Early in the year, I sent out 15 cat blankets and a friend donated an additional blanket. Later, 45 + 45 cat toys went to the same place. That’s 10 more blankets than I produced last year, yay!

Three baby blankets went to the hospital project. Four scarves and three hats went to a community project. I made a thick, giant rug for a very large dog belonging to a very elderly lady.

Seven lap blankets went to veterans, through new friends. Two large blankets went to the Welcome Blanket Project. Finally, early in the year, I made 36 pussy hats for the Women’s March On Washington. I totally bought out my local yarn store’s pink yarn supply!

Sometimes, when donated boxes of yarn arrive at my door, the skeins look like random leftovers from dozens of projects, but sometimes they don’t. This year, I spread out the contents of one box on the floor of my craft lair and discovered unfinished sweaters, Alpine lace, knitting needles, bobbins, threaded tapestry needles. Many things were individually wrapped in plastic bags and labeled. My impression was that a knitter’s projects stopped suddenly, and everything ended up in the box.

Thank you, you, you for trusting me.

Took Me Years To Write

Yesterday, my mother went back to the hospital. She’d been out of the hospital and on a rampage for two weeks. The house is a shambles. My stepdad has been bunking in hotels. The family is exhausted and angry.

leafses

For the last two weeks, my mother tore about in the house, packing my stepdad’s stuff. She’s decided it’s over between them after 43 years. She says he’s cruel and after 43 years we know he’s not. It’s part of her mental illness in which we are all her enemies.

Yesterday, Lena, a social worker from the county, talked her way into Mom’s house while my sister Anya and I were sitting in the living room. Lena and I had made an appointment, which enraged my mother. Lena’s questions enraged my mother. Anything we said enraged my mother. Lena’s taking me aside to talk enraged my mother. Mom demanded Lena talk in Mom’s presence, but Lena and I walked away. Mom came after us  and told us we were doing the exact thing she’d told us not to do.

“Mom,” I said, “she has procedures.” Mom slammed the door. Lena initially told me she did not see enough evidence that Mom was either suicidal or homicidal. She consulted with her supervisor and told me Mom was going to the hospital, we could drive her or the police could take her. I was devastated. We went inside so Lena could deliver the news, which went very badly.

orchidses

Lena had spent hours with us and had to leave, but she gave Mom a deadline: she would let Anya and I drive Mom to the hospital, but in 45 minutes, she would call the facility, and if Mom wasn’t there, Lena would call the police. Mom was fully enraged by then and would not hear a word I said when I suggested she pack a bag.

Lena rang me from outside to say it had been determined that Mom had violated a court order, so the police would have to be involved. It was awful news but came as a relief to Anya and me that I wouldn’t have to drive her to Somerville across some of my least favorite highways while Mom said terrible things to us. Things happened quickly after that: a police officer arrived, then another, then an ambulance, then the ambulance left on another call. Meanwhile, Mom ran around frantically, packing a bag she eventually had to leave behind anyway. When she finally got into the police car and they drove away, Anya called her dad, who was waiting around the corner. This is what we have been reduced to by my mother’s mental illness: we talk all day every day about one person’s problems and spend all our time and energy coping with them.

By the time I got home from this 3 pm appointment with Lena, it was three hours later. My husband Pete had rearranged our bedroom. My cats weren’t sure I was sufficiently worshipful. I talked about what had happened for over an hour before we made dinner. My brother called and shouted for half an hour because he’s been so upset with Mom for weeks and feels powerless in California.

This morning, I woke up early and at 7 am, a social worker called to say Mom was being transferred back to the facility she was released from two weeks ago. I begged her to find a closer hospital. She promised to try. It’s been two hours. I am waiting.

orchid abode

 

To Have Fun With Anyone

Here in the Northeast, a chill is in the air. I’m relieved to say so, since it’s late October and last week it was inexplicably over 80 degrees for a few days. You know what autumn for realz means: leaves will fall and you will eat soup. This is not a recipe, but it plays one on TV.

First: go to a farm, a farmstand or a farmers market. Talk to a farmer! Farmers are so interesting! Pick out your favorite soup vegetables, even better if they’re organic. Which vegetables? Well, ask yourself this tricky question: Hey, you, what things are delicious? Then buy those. The farmer wins!

Prepare your vegetables for roasting. You may peel things. Here, I peeled a butternut squash and a passel of apples. I chopped up the peels and fed them to the chickens. The chickens win! I quartered onions and saved the tops and peels for stock. Future Me wins! Then I added spices I like, salt, pepper, bay leaves, a cinnamon stick and fennel seeds to my vegetables, swished them all with olive oil and roasted them at 350 until the squash was fork tender. My house smelled great, so again: I win!

Oh fennel seeds, you complete me.

Dewy glam shot of roasted vegetables. Everyone loves an ensemble cast.

I let these cool, pulled out the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then I pureed my vegetables with an immersion blender. Those are fun to play with, so I win again! Then I simmered my velvety puree, added some apple juice until I was happy with the texture and seasoned until I was super happy. Happiness is good, so I win again!

 

Seriously, this is so pretty I'm almost embarrassed.

I added matchsticks of swiss cheese and a chiffonade of basil, which means I chopped them up with a sharp knife, which you can do! Everyone wins!

To summarize:

  • the farmer wins
  • the chickens win
  • future Me wins
  • I win
  • I continue to win
  • I win again
  • you win
  • everyone wins!

Finally, Pete, who is a chef and sometimes is sick of cooking, had a fine meal without having to lift a hand. Pete wins!

So: this isn’t a recipe, it’s a method. You can make yourself really good food for truly next to nothing, and besides you, a whole lot of people and critters win. Go, you!