The Rhythm of Your Heartbeat

Please fix your nails, lady.

One December afternoon.

Kind, thoughtful people send me scrap yarn by the bagful for the cat blanket project. I can’t thank those enough – or, in some cases, at all, since I have no idea who they are or were. Every year, though, donations arrive with unfinished projects, piles of knitting needles and crochet hooks, notions, patterns, shopping lists; these are the last effects of a stitcher. This year, packages like this arrived twice: once, from a very elderly hoarder I didn’t know, but the second time, the late stitcher was a friend and mentor. She was a much better knitter than I will ever be, and her unfinished projects were daunting. I put them away for another, braver day. Yesterday was that day. It was also Christmas Day, and Christmas cheer might’ve had something to do with it.

My craft room has been disastrous since these donations arrived. Yesterday, I took out a giant homemade knitting bag full of unfinished throw blanket and laid it out on my dining room table to look at it. If I thought I could finish it, I was determined to try. If I could not, I’d tear out the stitches and reuse the yarn, but I was trying to avoid that. After a few minutes’ examination, I realized to my relief the blanket was crocheted. I didn’t know my friend crocheted, so that came as a surprise. My friend was right-handed. I am left-handed, and that matters. I was unable to figure out what stitches she was using or how she had made the very pretty dual colored pattern. Pete said, “If you can finish it, why don’t you give it to her granddaughters?” That was the encouragement I needed, and I decided I would, if not finish the blanket at her degree of skill, finish it to the best of my ability. In retrospect, a strong holiday cocktail might have boosted my confidence.

The blanket was about 7′ long with fringe on both ends. I worked out how she did that, but not why. She had started a row with single crochet. Her stitches slanted right. Mine slanted left. I couldn’t do anything about that, but on the second row, I figured out a solution to the problem that blended my stitches with hers and made the two edges a closer match. No match would be perfect, but this was pretty good.

It was Christmas Night. I texted my friend’s daughter, who is also my lifelong friend Trout, to say the blanket was finished and did she want it? At that moment, her niece was plopping gooey green slime into her hands, so my timing was somewhat off. Trout burst into tears and we agreed to meet up next weekend.

A couple of weeks ago, Paulie Gonzalez and I renewed the blog’s domain name for three years. As a writer and artist, I am not sure where I’m going or what I’d like to be doing, but finishing the work of a beloved stitcher gave me a feeling of satisfaction I haven’t felt before, and this brings us to the photograph above. Here, I declare defeat.

Buoyed by yesterday’s success, I pulled a bunch of sweater panels out of a garbage bag and found my nemesis at the bottom: a zipper. As bad signs go, that one said “Bates Motel.” The bag contained no pattern and no clue how the panels should be assembled. Worse: one of the panels stopped a few inches in. I laid this out on the dining room table and waved the white flag: these cream-colored panels were beyond my ken. After that, I spent two hours pulling out stitches and rolling the yarn into balls. Two hours. Come to think of it, a refreshing adult beverage might’ve helped with that, too.

Three years offers a lot of possibility. I might finish yarny stuff, garden or string words together. I might think the funny thoughts in public places or say serious stuff where someone might hear me. The future is wide open.

 

Strange How the Night Moves

Summer has arrived.

Seriously, that's a lot of food.

My garden is producing herbs and vegetables and herbs and vegetables. Abbondanza!

A week ago and a half ago, there was a commotion in my office and a co-worker walked toward my desk with tears in her eyes. I’ve seen this before, but I mumbled, “Why are you crying?” She delivered news and I stood at my desk for a long time, until I sat down and stayed there. If you’ve worked in an office for any length of time, you’ve participated in a scene like this. In this office, some of my co-workers have worked together for thirty and forty years; I’ve been in this department for twenty-odd years. My friend Anne, with whom I’d had a rollicking lunch a week earlier, died unexpectedly. Anne, who appeared on PIC as Mary, often stopped me in my tracks with hilarious and sensible chatter, and unusual requests. I am sorry now I didn’t write down more of our wild conversations because she was truly an original.

Dude, large pepper, standard size kale.

Vegetables: possibly actual size, depending upon what you’re viewing this on.

This morning, Anne was on my mind when I was up in the attic. In the middle of cleaning cat boxes, I looked up and found the glittery hula hoop Anne gave me following my first hip surgery. I’ve always been terrible with hula hoops, so when Anne turned up with one before my stitches dissolved and said, “Practice,” I almost died laughing.

Years ago, before I really knew her, she asked if her daughter could join me to watch me jarring tomatoes or sauce, I don’t remember which. I lost track of time and forgot. When we next saw each other, she gave me a stern talking-to about agreeing to do something and not following through. After that, I was always careful with specifics. If I was buying Girl Scout cookies from Anne’s daughter, I delivered money on time. If we were having lunch, I was ready at noon. If we were walking through my garden and talking about plants with her daughter for a school project, I was prepared. Because Anne expected me to commit to whatever we were doing with thoughtfulness and equal enthusiasm.

In recent years, her intermittent health problems may have complicated her life, but Anne laughed about them. I sometimes found myself staring at a plate of food while Anne described some awful incident while Anne laughed and laughed. With an inch of distance from whatever annoyed or upset her, Anne made jokes and I howled.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but years ago, Anne decided we would be friends. As an IT professional, she frequently walked through my office, and we worked at making each other laugh, but one day, it was apparent to me she’d decided we’d be real friends. We got up from my cubicle, barged into my supervisor Gianna’s office and started riffing. Gianna was speechless for some time, then blurted, “What is this, a comedy show?” Encouraged, Anne and I fired off one-liners until Gianna threw us out, and she was laughing, too. I will never know why Anne decided we would be friends, but I’m grateful she did.

I will miss her very much.

Only Thing To Guide Them

Next week, Poor Impulse Control will turn a dazzling 14 years old. It’s leggy and growing like a weed, but not getting braces or babysitting for pin money. I draw the line at it dating until it’s older, but who am I to get in the way of young love?

Seriously, I see you.

I see you!

I’ve been working on the garden every few days, and it’s hard to see progress that way. The raised bed I’ve been adding sticks to now has a layer of composted manure over it, high, low and in between. Though that makes it sound deep, it’s not. I had three bags of composted manure and I tried to evenly distribute the crumbly manure over the surface I plan to plant. Picture a middle-aged Jersey chick in an orange neoprene jacket, perfect lipstick and violet gardening gloves throwing fistfuls of aged poop at a stick wall. Yeah, I did that in full view of all my neighbors, aware that some of them may have telephoto lenses.

branches

I got sticks. That’s all there is.

A few days ago, I noticed a neighbor had cut down some broken branches and zip-tied them. After work on Saturday, I grabbed my little red wagon, walked around the corner and rang the bell. An Asian man answered the door. They’re neighbors, I know the family doesn’t speak a lot of English. Suddenly flustered, I asked if those branches were extra.

Extra? Really, Tata?

Staring at me and smiling as one does at crazy people, he said yes, the branches were extra. I told him his garden was always beautiful, then I stuffed two bundles of branches into the wagon and carried the third the five miles or 150 yards back to my yard, where I started stuffing smaller branches into gaps in the berm. Eventually, my back convinced me to cut that shit out, but I still have work to do to plug gaps.

You have no idea what I’m talking about.

That’s okay.

What I’m saying is that for the last three weeks, I’ve been taking such small steps toward re-working the garden bed that on any given day I had almost nothing to say about it besides, “Where do I buy a buttload of organic potting soil?” But little by little, I’m getting ready to plant.

Today also marked the first day this year it was warm enough for me to bicycle to work. Spring is here.

How’s your lipstick?

Birds And Snakes, An Aeroplane

Slate is now inviting word nerds like you and me to diagram the Donald’s endless “sentences.”Stop laughing! That is not a sentence, it is the sound of a million primary school teachers crying in frustration.

Oooh! Mossy!

Someone else’s driveway can seem ancient, broken and glamorous. However, this is just a shady spot on a damp street.

Here at Poor Impulse Control, we have a new motto: Words. They’re not for everyone!

He Turns Down the Street

Cute little murder monster

Baby trash panda looks totally adorable when not lunging for me.

The raccoons have been gently evicted from the eaves of our house and relocated to a more rural locale. We hope for the best for them, but at least one did not have the best survival instincts. Fingers crossed, they live long, happy lives, full of delightful and mysterious leftovers. We hope so, but they couldn’t stay here. Pete found one of the babies inside the chicken run, nibbling chicken food, near very alarmed chickens, so that had to be the end of that.

 

I have one more week of American Sign Language class. Earlier this evening, I suddenly realized I’d acquired enough of the basics to tell a story. As you know, stories are my thing; being able to tell a story is kind of hip, kind of cool, kind of Charlie. Tomorrow, I’m going to tell a story in class, which would be much like tearing off my Foster Grants to reveal my superhero identity, but since I am a middle-aged person, I have zero doubt my young classmates will notice a bird, a plane, Superman.