Your Accent Mixing With Mine

About a month ago, I went outside to feed my chickens at the ass crack of dawn, wearing an oversized t-shirt I sleep in and flip flops and my hair pointing towards magnetic north. True story: my hair needed a trim in April and by next month, it will be tall enough and kinky enough to block radio signals to Newark Airport. DO NOT FLY. I cannot be responsible for your untimely demise! Anyhoo, so there I am in the backyard, tossing layer pellets and corn to the chickens and refilling the bird feeder, looking my absolute, middle-aged best, when a voice says, “Hello.”

I looked around wildly. This has never happened to me at sunrise before. Just beyond the fence stood the young woman who lives next door, holding a bouquet of long stem purple flowers and looking fresh and vibrant like a Kehinde Wiley painting. I looked at her, a beauty. I looked at me, an old lady who ought to know better, and all I could do was laugh at myself.

Oh the “outfits” this eggplant has seen me wear!

Last week, this young woman moved away. I already miss her. I bought boxer shorts to sleep in in her honor.

The Only Roads You’ve Known

Every so often, WordPress changes its format and I struggle to write. Not like I haven’t already struggled to write, but each time I don’t know how. The last template sucked out loud, so let’s hope this new contraption is better.

Last weekend, I jarred some underripe peaches. They were truly difficult to peel and slice. Pete and I will eat them first in November or December. They’ll taste good, but the texture will be underwhelming. The other jars contain blueberry jam. The consistency worked, but I admit getting to the right consistency was an accident. If you’re making summer berry jam and you’re not happy, throw in the towel and come back the next morning, when jam’s had a chance to think about what it’s done.

In other years, I’ve reflected on how I spend time and money during the summer preserving summer fruits and vegetables, and felt somewhat out of step with my peers. They weren’t jarring jam. They were out and about. This summer, only terrible people are out and about, and everyone’s on TikTok pretending they can fly. I mean, that’s entertaining, though not getting-elected-to-the-HOA-with-all-your-friends,-then-disbanding-the-HOA-entertaining, but what is?

Yesterday, I drove out to a farm and picked three quarts of plump blackberries. In the distance, a radio blared oldies from the eighties. Maybe I didn’t care for those songs, maybe I did – once. Summer music is like that, drifting toward you on a breeze. I crept down rows of carefully cultivated blackberry bushes, plucking here and there the ripest, blackest berries, and when I turned back, plumb berries hidden by branches and leaves revealed themselves. Nothing but sunshine played on my thoughts. Nothing but the simple ideas of washing and drying berries was in my future. For the better part of an hour, life seemed very simple. I might bake a pie.

I did bake a pie.

Maybe you’d like to bake a pie. That’s a thing, and you could do that.

Addicted to a Sugar-Coated Pill

Friends of the blog might recall that I used to write one. Wasn’t that something! I wrote and wrote for years, then I ran out of words, so I took pictures instead and let them do the talking. A few years ago, at about the same time as a memorable election, even that compromise no longer worked for me. I considered giving up the blog a few times. When we all went home to quarantine in March, I thought, ‘Here’s a chance to get my shit together and blog,’ but my job became very intense and the days blurred together. Three months whizzed by – imagine calendar pages flipping madly! – and here I am. Here’s a picture:

My fifty year romance with the United States Postal System burns brightly.

Yep, still writing for Postcards For Voters on another Vote By Mail campaign for Florida. I love those. The writing goes slowly, but the hand cramps are worth it. A few months back, I saw statistics about how Florida Democrats were enrolling in Vote By Mail in droves. Hopefully, the pandemic provided a big hint about how mailing in a ballot might be safer than turning up to vote with hundreds of your closest friends, but you never know.

When the current administration threatened to shutter my dear USPS a few months back, I bought a metric shitload of stamps. My house was full of art supplies, like these sticky-sweet greeting cards an organization I support sends out to entice donors to donate. I’ve been mailing these cards to people in zero danger of mistaking me for a nice person: my friends. Now, I’m all out of Christmas and birthday cards, and I’ve moved on to stationery hoarded by my late mother. After that, the sky’s the limit. What the hell, I might dabble in origami.

Anyhoo: buy some stamps, make art projects, mail them to other fun people. Stay home and save your own life, Poor Impulsives.

Like You’re Both Pretty Groovy

Dear The Middle Class,

Hey, it’s Ta. It’s been awhile, you’re right. We need to talk. Don your conversation poncho. This is gonna get messy.

Yesterday, the guy at work I talk to about gardening said a thing.

Me: I’m coming around to your way of thinking and might plant some peas soon.

Ken: Mine go in tomorrow.

He was looking at me side-eyed and my breath caught for a second. Yes, we’ve had an unusually mild winter after a series of unusually warm winters, but the general rule in New Jersey is: plant after Mothers Day. I’ve been planting more than a month earlier, but we’re in the first two weeks of March, and that seems different. I thought that over, and this morning, I took out my seed stash and began planting my garden.

As recently as yesterday, shoppers across the U.S. faced long lines, empty shelves and close contact with hundreds of their closest friends. Middle Class people, accustomed to picking up groceries here and there and when it was convenient, are thunderstruck that they can’t just tool around their local and fill an empty pantry they should have kept stocked all along. Their panic buying is applying pressure to underprivileged people of all sorts and the working poor especially, since store shelves are already empty when a paycheck clears. I buy toilet paper by the case because I have the attention span of a goldfish and a strong desire not to run out, so I figure into the shortages just as much as you do. Essentially, we suck for making tough lives tougher.

So here’s the thing: think down the road a month or so. You can’t stock up on fresh vegetables, and to get them, you’re going to have to grocery shop somehow, once again placing pressure on people who don’t need to be on the receiving end of your shit.

If you have property, a lawn, a yard, you need to take some responsibility for yourself and your needs. Instead of emptying grocery store shelves, get your ass to the garden store, buy some tools, seeds and organic fertilizer. Then: turn over your lawn and plant. In four weeks, you can have lettuce and spinach. In eight weeks, you can have new potatoes. Eight weeks from now is the middle of May, and approximately Mothers Day. Newsflash: you’re going to need to eat, and you’ll be able to dig up food in your yard.

If you’re about to say, “Ta darling, that’s all well and good, but I don’t really enjoy gardening and dirty under my nails makes me feel so not-Middle Class.” You know what? Fuck you. Get a shovel. Get some seeds and convince yourself you’re growing artisanal spinach, if that helps. But fucking do it. You don’t need a lawn. You need vegetables. Grow them yourself.

If you’re even thinking about saying, “Ta, you know I would but I don’t know how,” take a deep breath and a step back, because no one has time for your helplessness. It is not adorable. Open up YouTube and fucking LEARN. If you live where blizzards are still making your winter miserable, you can start seeds in growing medium so you’re ready when the weather cooperates.

Don’t argue with me. Don’t waste your time or mine. Get yourself to the garden store, stock up and plant your own food. It’s truly the least you can do to help other people in a time of pandemic.



Only Substance Is the Fog

Odd blossoms on a forsythia bush.

Evidently, it’s reading glasses season in my front yard. I guess these are ripe, but I didn’t pick them and worry about squirrels.

The classes I’m taking are a study in contrasts. One features interesting subject matter, engaged classmates and a professor who appears to be winging it. Anything could happen. I could watch my Grade Point Average rise or drop like a rock. In the other class, the subject matter is interesting some days and unfathomable on others, I have no contact with classmates and my instructor has prepared for this semester for years. My first exam in this class is later this week. Anything could happen. I could be Queen of This Here Thing or turn up in a chicken suit.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your Magic 8 Balls.

She’s Filing Her Nails While



Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.

My spring classes started a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been a piquant adventure. I’m taking a class called Youth & Work, in which the first assignment was to write about our first jobs and what we learned from it. Some of my classmates were still working their first jobs because they only just took one. Some started working when they were 14. All of them found something positive to say about a job that probably sucked and was in some way illegal. My first job was writing a weekly column in the local paper about girls’ sports in maybe 1979, and I sucked at it, and what I learned was that everyone was concerned about something, and I had no idea what that was. But I learned I shouldn’t be in the newspaper business! Will I pass this class? Film at 11!

My other class is Intro to Formal Reasoning and it’s like learning to speak another language. Do you speak a language besides English? Good for you, showoff! I’m struggling with the vocabulary, ideas and a desire to flip the bird at Aristotle, who most assuredly does not give a shit that, to me, argument forms sound like pre-teens looking for ten bucks for the mall. To make matters weirder, though the textbook’s author took great pains to update quizzes for contemporary examples, he did not screen for his white privilege, so yesterday, I wrote to the instructor to say, “Blah blah blah racist doing racism, please do not with that, kthnx!” Will I pass this class? Consult your Magic8Ball!

In about three weeks, I should have some sense of how desperate I’ll be to meet deadlines while I work a full-time job at the unnamed university while navigating the complexities of my extended families’ politics as gardening season approaches. Or I might lose my mind. Will I climb a tree? Wear plaid with checks? Glue on my slingbacks?

No one knows!


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’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?