Only Chance Is Giving Up

Annual report time!

To recap: this quirky business 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 – sent me yarn in large boxes; other agencies/organizations asked for yarny help. So! You trusted me with art supplies. This is what I did with them in 2014, in 2015, in 2016.

After last year, my priorities shifted. In February, a friend mentioned he wasn’t writing his dissertation because when he was at home, he couldn’t finish anything. I thought, ‘Every night, I sit on the couch and work on my projects.’ He said he could never take online classes because he needed the in-person pressure to get work done. I thought, ‘Sometimes I’d rather chew off my foot than go to class.’ The further thought occurred that taking online classes at the unnamed university where I work would mean sitting on the couch at night and reading about art. How bad could that be? If this worked out, it had real potential. I might actually finish a freaking degree.

To test this theory last summer, I took a class called Feminist Practices, read interesting stuff, saw an absolutely great movie, wrote a whole bunch and panicked each time I didn’t understand the technology. In the end, I got an A, and registered for two more classes for the fall semester, in which I also earned As. As you might imagine, this cut into my crocheting time in a big way. That turned out to be genius when the cat shelter I’ve been sending blankets and toys to had so many extra they were sent to a different shelter, where – hooray! – they were needed. The shelter sent a thank you note!

Don't bust an ankle.

Sometimes we plan, and our plans like concrete crumble. Or cheese, but cheese that crumbles.

What did I actually accomplish? This year, I sent 25 blankets and 35 toys to the cat shelter in NY State. Thank you for trusting me with yarn! Cats will be warm and have toys! Since I seem to have overwhelmed the tiny shelter, I will look around this year to find a local group that needs blankets and toys.

Last year, I joined the felt-tip army for PostcardsToVoters.org’s Democratic Get Out the Vote campaigns. As I said in last year’s book report:

[2018] was a crucial year in the history of our country and I started writing postcards to overcome my despair. Writing each postcard was an act of desperate hope in the beginning, and then the candidates I was writing for began to win races. I won’t lie. I needed them to win. I needed them to win enough that I wrote 405 postcards last year, putting a crimp in my 2018 crocheting schedule and making my hands, which don’t work well on a good day, feel like reheated crap.

Good news, Poor Impulsives! My hands now work a little better. Though I have been limited for a couple of decades now to writing no more than a sentence at a time by hand, writing a sentence at a time is brilliant for writing postcards! In 2019, I wrote 2,330 #postcardstovoters. My favorite campaigns were for Vote By Mail efforts in Florida because I’m goddamn sick and tired of reading accounts of overarmed assholes turning up at polling places to intimidate participants in participatory democracy.

If you happen to be disgusted with current events and inspired to spend more time at the post office, go to Postcards To Voters and enlist in a resistance effort with real results. The presidential election of 2020 is the single most important election of our lives. Now is the time to find your preferred form of activism and push.

Seriously, now is the time. A year from now, show me your annual report.

 

 

Of A Rag Doll Dance

Three is a magic number. Yes, it is!

Happy New Year! And no one is happier than decorative cabbages, the ingenues of the winter landscape world. They’re full of natural beauty, even without mascara. Oh, to be 23 again!

Change is in the air! I’m bringing all my annual projects to their conclusions and sending out packages, so the blog’s annual report should come sooner than later. My studies will shift this year, as I’m planning to focus on core requirements for a degree, as opposed to studying anything I fucking wanted to, and there might be math. I am very bad at math and, when other people talk about numbers, I hear, “Meow meow meow – meow – meow!” That’s also why I’ve had an accountant do my taxes since the eighties and try to never talk to him. He is nice, though! Should I mail him tuna?

In other news, our living arrangements may change since my father-in-law is 90 and stubborn and his wife may be terrible. Plenty of people would say I am terrible, so your mileage may vary.

I might be terrible, we cannot be sure. That does not mean other people are not engaged in other kinds of terriblosity we cannot see from a distance; in this case, from two states away. Do I have reading glasses for that?

No, the other way!

This is perpendicular to my house. Also to my street. And several of my squirrels.

In my family, circumstances cannot continue as they have, so stuff is definitely going to change. For the better? For the worse? Nobody is that kind of genius. Suspense is killing you! Or me. It’s hard to tell us apart sometimes.

So Happy 2020! Are you sure you’re you?

 

 

When the Line’s Been Signed

I could probably use the exercise.

Riffraff like you and me use the side door. Also: the walk’s shorter, so I’m not sad about that.

Tomorrow is my grandson Panky’s twelfth birthday. That seems outlandish to me, but there we are. Tempis, as my grandmother Edith said through clenched teeth to dawdling children, is fugiting.

It dawned on me recently that I am approximately the same age Edith was when her husband died. She stopped traveling, stopped going to big events, shows and parties. I was 15 and couldn’t understand it. I understand it even less now. Why didn’t she wait a decent interval and go full Hello, Dolly? Surely there was a Horace Vandergelder out there waiting for fabulous her, and I’m sorry she didn’t look for him.

Panky’s a bright kid, and he doesn’t think about me much unless he’s actively trying to circumvent my house rules. I think about him a lot, in part because he might be a little too bright. A friend is plugged into the Jeopardy! hive mind, so I asked him what those folks recommended as gifts for smart kids. They came up with a few ideas, like Raspberry Pi. He’ll learn about computers by building one, and this is good because he talks ad nauseum about how his generation is all about technology. Yes, I told him I was a teen all about technology when blowdryers were brand new, but he did not seem impressed. That’s because he didn’t grow up in his grandmother’s beauty salon in the seventies, where matronly ladies sat under furniture-size hair dryers, thumbing through celebrity gossip magazines, for whole Saturday afternoons. Stylists smoked Virginia Slims and emptied cans of hairspray into mile-high coifs. It’s a miracle salons didn’t explode six days a week. Obviously, I’m anxious for Panky to outsmart our dumb history.

Twelve. Being twelve is awful. It’s one of those years of your life you’d rather forget. How do you make it better for someone else?

 

 

I Went In Seeking Clarity

You can't keep us apart. Our love will endure!

Please avoid being in this river. For one thing, it’s December in North America and you’re a mammal. For another, your submarine is backordered and prone to grounding in the shallow spots. Years ago, the river used to freeze solid and we joked that between semesters, math professors would throw themselves off this bridge and get stuck in the mud instead of drowning. After the county dredged a few times, nobody makes that joke anymore. We just hope math professors pre-ordered their submarines.

Looking Over the Edge

For over a year and probably more like two, the blog’s hosting service has sent me odd letters and charged me for disk space overages. At least a couple of times, Siobhan and I tried to figure out what the hell the hosting service was on about, but we didn’t get anywhere. Eventually, the fees started to get weird. It wasn’t a lot of money, but the letters made it sound like deleting sections of the blog was my only hope. I didn’t write a word or post many pictures, and I moped about it. Yesterday, I called up the service and asked the representative to explain it to me using very tiny words.

Permanently mothproofed!

Unlike me, some things ain’t never coming back.

Eventually, I understood that 14 years of blogging takes up 537 mb (or MB, ya got me there) of space in an account budgeted for 500. I asked for the next size up and the hosting service gave me 2000. To celebrate, here is another picture.

Such festive. So crap.

Festive crap.

So I’m back now. Took two classes this fall at the unnamed university where I’ve worked for 33 years. Last Sunday, I turned in my last assignments and now I want to do nothing but sit under a pile of cats and sip an adult beverage through a swirly straw. And blog. I’m gonna blog.

All This And No Surprises

People followed us around in grocery stores when I was little.

This picture of my mother was taken by my father in 1971, probably.

You may recall my Dad died in 2007 on April Fool’s Day, which under other circumstances would have amused him greatly. Mom and Dad didn’t like one another much and divorced while dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in middle school. Much to everyone’s surprise, including hers, Mom died a few weeks ago – on April Fool’s Day, which would have made Dad laugh and Mom reeeeeeeeally mad.

Of my siblings, I look the most like her, but not a whole lot. Our coloring is completely different, for one thing. For another, she resembled a blond Elizabeth Taylor, and I do not. Thus, it was unusual that at the funeral home viewing, with Mom laid out in the casket and everything, a mourner who has known me since I was a child approached me with trepidation, gasped and called me by my mother’s name, “…Lucy?”

“Shh!” I said, “Only you can see me.” I told her I was me, Domenica, but she didn’t let go of me for quite a while. The next day at the church service, Mom’s college friends couldn’t wait to show me a binder of pictures of their lives through the years, by which I mean the entire assembly behind me waited while I stood nervously in a doorway, glancing at pictures of my mother as a young coed, sitting in a tree.

Three days later, we all drove up to Cape Cod for the burial. In New Jersey, we left spring behind to find the end of winter in Massachusetts, for which almost no one was prepared. Mom wanted to be buried next to her mother. Her first cousin found a burial plot in the family cemetery. Next thing we knew, we were sitting and standing in a cold, wind-swept graveyard full of our ancestors and the Black, female minister from the Cape Cod church in which Mom, Daria and I were baptized before the invention of rope, when the minister certainly was neither Black nor female. But change is here, and now, and sometimes for the best.

Mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just over a year and a half ago, but a friend assured me Mom had suffered depressive and manic episodes for decades. Her depression I had seen, but I never saw manic behavior until these last few years. In her manic episodes, her sharp mind was somehow even sharper and she outwitted our efforts to get her help over and over again. Her anxiety made her postpone surgery she desperately needed, and waiting too long ultimately cost her her life. I’ve mentioned before the impact untreated mental illness has had on my life and the lives of my family members and friends. This did not have to happen. If Mom had gotten treatment for her anxiety and bipolar disorder, she might have lived to a ripe old age.

Mom was also really smart.

There’s no substitute for large hair curlers.

You might think this is a sad story, and in one way it is. Mom had a very rough childhood, and if ours was a society that invested in the physical and mental health of children, maybe Mom’s life would have been different and even healthier. On the other hand, at the funeral home, photo displays my sisters put together overnight showed a life in which my mother was smiling, active, athletic, singing, surrounded by family and friends, traveling, modeling silly outfits and dancing. Mom had a tough internal life she balanced with a life spent in happy motion.

Maybe the best thing we can do is keep moving.

I Just Can’t Handle It

 

 

It's a trap!

Pete and I found this bracelet on a garden wall on New Year’s Day, like an offering to the gods or a crow.

News happens faster than I can blog anymore. I gave up years ago in real life, but I do think about it. Can I take apart news stories and put them back together with bloggy masking tape and spit? Yeah, but I’d rather have my hands in bread dough and not have a nervous breakdown. So here we are.

Years ago, Dad died and left me homework: learn how to bake decent bread. I’ve been working my way through Dad’s cookbooks, but none has been as interesting as the late Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. Many recipes begin with a starter called a biga. If you want to bake bread tomorrow or in a few days, you gather yeast, flour, water in the right proportions, mix them and leave them on the counter overnight. The next day, if you’re not baking, you refrigerate the biga. You can freeze it if your dance card fills up and you just can’t watusi toward your loaf pans. Anyhoo, making a biga is effortless.

My daughter Miss Sasha asked me a few days ago what made a good cookbook. I said there were certain principles involved in baking and if a recipe writer asks me to depart from them, I’m immediately suspicious. Most cakes and cookies work this way: cream together butter/oil + sugar; add eggs one at a time; add flavorings; add some flour + some liquid, flour + liquid; add chunky stuff. If a recipe starts with flour in my mixing bowl, our relationship is off to a rocky start and our product will be inedible. A baker must trust a recipe writer. A recipe writer must offer directions for basic, medium and more complex recipes, let the baker work her way up and develop confidence.

Field does this. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life, but every one I study lets me produce decent loaves of bread. We eat them at home! I take them to work and foist them on my unsuspecting co-workers! When they dry out, I feed them to the chickens! I buy flour by the bale at Costco, but it’s all good. I’m not just baking bread, I’m stimulating the economy. Thank me!

And speaking of me, my daughter – again: Miss Sasha – wrote a book, which you can buy on Amazon. It’s called This Doesn’t Make Me An Expert, it is very interesting and full of surprises. Once chapter in particular blew me away, but they’re all good and I learned a lot reading it. You can buy it in print or in electronic form, and you should because reading is fundamental and you can’t spell fundamental without fun and mental.

I Am I Am I

Annual report time! I’ve been avoiding this for over a month because wild things have been happening. We’re having a winter without snow! My sisters and I have been fighting! The restaurant I work in part time is on the market! My office has gone full-metal weird, and in five years, it’ll be nothing but me and six Vice Presidents standing at my cubicle doorway, shouting, “MAKE MY PURCHASE ORDER BEFORE HERS!” Hahahaha – I’m on break! But let’s get this annual report into the books, shall we? To recap:

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 – sent me yarn in large boxes; other agencies/organizations asked for yarny help. So! You trusted me with art supplies. This is what I did with them in 2014, in 2015, in 2016.cornery

In 2017, I was making blankets for the animal shelters, baby blankets for the hospital, lap blankets for veterans, etc., but in 2018, things changed. The hospital developed new rules that did not allow for baby blankets. My connection to the veterans in need of lap blankets moved away. I made lap blankets for the cancer treatment center but haven’t had the chance to deliver them yet. They will make my 2019 stats super shiny! Look at me go!

I made 56 cat blankets and 58 cat toys. They’re supposed to be 1:1, but as we know I cannot count and yay extra toys!

I made piles of pussy hats that will be delivered at a time when I can account for them, in the fuuuuutuuuuuuure!

The other thing I was doing with my hands in 2018 (watch it, you!) was writing postcards for Postcards To Voters. Last year was a crucial year in the history of our country and I started writing postcards to overcome my despair. Writing each postcard was an act of desperate hope in the beginning, and then the candidates I was writing for began to win races. I won’t lie. I needed them to win. I needed them to win enough that I wrote 405 postcards last year, putting a crimp in my 2018 crocheting schedule and making my hands, which don’t work well on a good day, feel like reheated crap. For 2019, I’m going to try turning out 30 postcards a week, but we shall see how desperate I feel and how many special elections fill out the calendar. By the way, if you’re feeling desperate, you too can write postcards. It’s easy to join up and it really does matter.

In 2018, two stitchers died and their projects, tools, patterns and materials came to me. Thank you for trusting me! Tiny, tiny crochet hooks went to a friend who teaches people how to crochet lace. Some of those hooks were smaller than any my friend had ever seen, and they were certainly too tiny for me to use or even see. Seriously: they were tiny. When my friend died, projects, tools and materials came to me and they were special, because that stitcher was my friend and mentor for decades. I sent her many knitting needles on to Georg, Ceiling Cat remember her with fishy treats! I finished one project and gave it back to her family. This was really emotional for me, because it’s hard to work in the stitches of another person and think of their hands touching the same project. Nearly all of the yarn has been made into blankets that will keep people and animals warm, and all of it will eventually move on.

So: 2018 was really different from previous years: productive, but really different. I haven’t got the faintest idea if I can keep turning out more blankets for the animal shelters each year. Anyway, I will keep trying. Thank you for trusting me!

 

 

 

 

Faith And Hope And Charity

Wut?

I’ve always been afraid gravity would lose its grip on me.

Here we are in the dark of January. It’ll be another two and half to three months before we can quit thinking of murdering people who touch us with cold feet. They deserved it! No jury would convict us! COLD FEET!

But I hope you will curb your murderous urges. Spring will come soon and you’ll think you were out of your mind to take out the garbage in January wearing flip flops. Shoes were a hassle. You were just taking out the garbage and you couldn’t find your other boot. One of the cats was probably wearing it, to go with the gloves you find everywhere, migrating around the house at night like there’s some sort of glove exchange you don’t really understand. By you, I mean me, and I’ll bet my feet are cold.