Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Ten-Minute Birthday

What the... ?
It's -6ºF this morning---my coldest birthday morning by far, ever in my now 54 years! Usually it's cold spring weather, not cold winter weather. One weird year, it was 70º.
I must leave in ten minutes to catch the bus.

I was going to make spumoni ice-cream with the folks at work today---mash in strawberries for the red layer, almond essence in the white, and mint in the green---but I don't feel like ice-cream nor am I going to bike to the store (poor prior planning means there is no ice cream on hand), and there's no store nearby.
Also, this morning we're joining the kids downstairs for the Children's Museum guest talk about dinosaurs... 
So there isn't time.

And that's the theme of this birthday: feeling squeezed for time.
I did quit the thrift store Grant Committee (they got back to me that they saw no problem with having a grant seeker on the grant giving committee, so what's the point?), but immediately I suggested to the store managers whom I like and respect that I help set up a Social Media Plan for the store, which has none.

So, that's way more fun and fitting, but it's no less time.

I'm not complaining---it's nice to be busy after many, many years of not, but  it does make me realize (again) how much I like to have large open spaces of time, time to do nothing, and time to sleep. If I don't, I get kind of mentally backed-up.

The WONDERFUL thing about this age is that I'm pretty good at saying No to things---like, I probably would not have quit the committee so soon when I was younger---I would have thought there was something wrong with me.

I am definitely well on my way to being an Old Broad, the competent, assured kind who doesn't dither and apologize and second-guess herself. I've heard other women talk about this transformation and I'm amazed and pleased to see it happening within myself. 

A whole new kind of winged insect. Nothing so ephemeral as a butterfly---more like a winged little rhino?
Ha! again.


And now, off to the bus! Thank you all for your blog-friendships! XO--Francesca

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A James Bond Pen

This pen [below] came into the Thrift Store, I took it home to research: it's a dove gray Parker "51" with chrome trim, a pen James Bond used in You Only Live Twice, according to a comment on Pen Review.
This one has a little "Ariel" stamped on the body---possibly, then, a "vintage pen made by Ariel Kullock, a very creative collector, restorer, and maker of unique pens (original parts with replacement hoods and barrels) in Buenos Aries, Argentina (where Parker had a factory)." --Info from Pen Hero

Kullock's e-Bay site is full of amazing pen paraphenalia (and pens).

Thrift Herding sure takes me interesting places, and I love that I get to enjoy these objects without the bother of owning them. 

The other two pens I researched for the Thrift Store have both sold, the Lady Capri for $10 and the Eversharp for $25. I'm not sure yet how to price this one---they vary widely. I think I'll contact a collector.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jim, Alone

Mortmere left a link  to "Jim's Point of View" [maker unknown] in the comments of my "Welcoming Committee" (two posts down), saying, 
"The Internet really knows how to wrench your heart 
on days like these, doesn't it?"

Yes, yes it does. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

I am desolate.

R.i.p. Leonard

Happy Birthday, Zhoen! (+ roundup)

For Zhoen, ailurophile*, Pratchett reader, most faithful of blog commenters, and fellow Pisces: Happy Birthday!

* "cat lover", from ailouros, Greek for "cat". Cats of Zhoen above ^ offered as living proof.
Moving House 

I hope to spend some time this weekend getting my WordPress site customized. It's not particularly hard, it just takes time (like I put into this blog's design too, once upon a time), and I haven't had that (time), what with going to COMMITTEE MEETINGS.
Two (2!) this week!

[Ohmygod, who invented committee meetings?  The Spanish Inquisition? I've sometimes thought I wanted more Communication at work and the Thrift Store, but it turns out I would rather spend time with people with holes in their brains.]

WordPress offers more fun, bright stuff than Blogger, which feels like a Dollar Store these days. And it seems to be OK re social considerations, at least according to the Websites for Grassroots Social Justice Groups Series.

WP is owned by Automattic, founded by now-CEO Matt Mullenweg, who seems to be one of those well-meaning, open-source geeks (of course, Google's founders started out that way too), the sort who would be "on the cover of Linux Journal wearing a Fight Club T-shirt." 
[The LJ article: "Keep on Blogging in a Free World]

One For the Humanity Is Not All Bad File

Looking around on WP, I see some cool librarians' blogs, which is heartening. One posted this note from Ferguson Library director, from Christmas Eve 2014. I'm glad to see my $25 donation is going directly to Something Good:
"We are flabbergasted and heartened by the amazing support .... We have gotten hundreds of books and nearly $400,000 from over 12,000 donors. 
The library’s Board of Trustees has formed a strategic planning committee .... [ohgod, imagine the bureaucracy --F.] Our first priority is to bring in a full-time children’s librarian, which will radically enhance our ability to help the people of Ferguson, and increase monies devoted to community-focused programming.  ...
We gratefully and humbly thank all of our supporters. You are amazing!
--Scott Bonner  • Director, Ferguson Municipal Public Library
Cards and letters of support for the Ferguson Municipal Public Library District. [I sent a cardinal card exactly like the cardinal card here, lower right. Maybe it's mine!]

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I just posted my first post on my trial WordPress blog:
"On Human Worth"

I didn't have enough time to futz with all the options of this new-to-me site, but the post is up, it's there, and it's readable.

And now I must dash for the bus to work!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Testing Wordpress

Due to feeling grumbly about Google [see post below], I'm thinking of changing blog hosts. I just now set up a Wordpress blog to check them out, here:
(It's free, but, alas, they charge $30/year for the ad-free option, which I didn't choose. That's one of the things that gives me pause.)

I am not moving there at this point---I want to research more. Like, who owns Wordpress anyway? Are they truly any better than Blogger/Google?

Here's my test page. The "Space Ship" needle case is made in Japan--I found it on Pinterest, that impossible-to-find-the-source site. Cute, eh? [You know l'astronave is Italian for "space ship".]

I feel unexpectedly sad at the idea of leaving Blogger, where I've blogged since the beginning (for me, 2003). Makes me feel like crying.
But I think of my Auntie Vi, who sold her car at New Year's. She told me, "Someone almost 90 has no business driving." I know it was a punch in the gut, but she would only admit to it being "an adjustment." 

Her relentless cheerfulness used to bother me--it felt almost brutal, her refusal to admit to sadness--but the older we get, the more I see the wisdom of it. 
Something needs to be done? Your choices are...

1) Do it gracefully, under your own steam
2) Don't do it (it will do you)

I kind of admire that second "do not go gentle" option, but it costs a lot. Changing blog platforms probably isn't worth it. And a small part of me feels excited to have a fresh new place to blog.

Oh, Blogger, should I quit you?

Uh-oh. Stacia's post "An Important Content Announcement for She Blogged By Night Readers" alerts me to Blogger's new Adult Content policy:

This may seem harmless enough? Well, not really---to begin with, who decides what "benefits" the public? (Would explicit Kirk/Spock slash art make the cut?) Further, Stacia points out:
"Over the last few years I’ve seen several LGBT blogs, horror movie blogs and art blogs get taken down by Blogger because of content despite Google’s policy stating that adult content was permissible. 
Some of these blogs were put back up with a splash page Content Warning imposed on them without their permission, while others were permanently shut down by Blogger. 
[That explains it: I (Fresca) was recently baffled by one of these warning pages on a blog about country living... written by a man who married his male partner--saying someone had complained to Blogger about inappropriate content.]

These experiences along with a poor interface and a hilariously rotten help system comprised of volunteers (including one guy who repeatedly harassed me off the boards and even tried to get SBBN shut down) made me leave Blogger for good."
I've wondered before if I should quit Blogger, but loyalty (read, mostly laziness + habit) always stopped me.  Maybe the time has come to move? 
To where? Can I move all my stuff?

Blogger bloggers/ readers---any thoughts?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thing Finders

                                      "Look, a thing!"

"Courage", c. 1516 (at the Chicago Art Institute)
Engraving by Marco Dente da Ravenna . . . after Giulio Pippi 

I found this image googling "Pippi Longstocking, Thing Finder." 
I never liked Pippi particularly, but I like that she is a Thing Finder, something I only recently found out. 

I used to be a Thing Finder too, back when I picked things up all the time, especially looking to find paper for collage making.
( Does it involve Courage? Maybe a little, or a disregard for social norms anyway.)

Now "Thrift Herder" better describes what I do, but the attitude is the same---a delight in and intention to seek out the oddments of life.

From Chapter Two of Pippi Longstocking, "Pippi Is a Thing Finder" :
"The whole world is full of things, and somebody has to look for them. And that's just what a Thing-Finder does," [Pippi said].
"What kind of things?" asked Annika.

"Oh, all kinds," said Pippi. "Lumps of gold, ostrich feathers, dead rats, candy snapcrackers, little tiny screws, and things like that."

Little tiny screws.... I especially love that.  
I spent this afternoon at the Thrift Store. 
Our signs are boring (or nonexistent), and I finally got around to making my first fun one--for the Craft shelves, using the cover of a beat-up vintage knitting magazine, sort of like this one. > > >

Next I 'm going make a sign for the sewing notions using this quote:
There was [a] triumphant cry from Pippi, who was holding up an empty spool of thread. 
"This seems to be my lucky day," she said. "Such a sweet, sweet little spool ... to hang around my neck for a necklace. I'll go home and make one this very minute."

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Now I'm home from house sitting, I can post halfway decent photos again, though I have to aim my camera blind, since I broke its viewfinder (sitting on the concrete floor of the Thrift Store with the camera in my back pocket). 

Here (below, left) is what's going to be the first page of my Needle Book, stitched by happify, and an elephant scrap stitched by me, both at my Scrappy Birthday Party (taking advantage in this cold snap of staying in a place with more space and heat than my drafty little apartment--my actual birthday's not for a couple weeks yet).

(I surprise myself how much I like little toy animals. What does this mean?)

 < happify also snapped this "snippet" at the party.

Someone recently asked me what my favorite color was.  
This is the answer. 

It makes me want to get out my watercolors again...
And here (below) is a better picture of the first quilt squares made by the Sewing Group at work. 

This is going to be crazy gorgeous when all the pieces are done and stitched together (by me on the sewing machine); the satisfaction it gives swamps any lingering resentment I have about my workplace.

The main satisfaction I feel is that the quilters assemble the pieces themselves, not following directions: they choose scraps from a pile and place them on their square anyway they want.

I have to admit, while some people thrill to this, others do not exactly love it. One woman complained, "I have no idea what I'm doing."

When I said, "Don't worry, you can't do it wrong," a different woman said disdainfully to me, "You're a dreamer."

Her daughter happened to be visiting. She rolled her eyes at me and said, "Now you know what I grew up with."

The idea that people with dementia are no longer themselves does not reflect my experience. Of course I only work with people who want to do Activities, and that's a select group, but I sure see a ton of distinct personality in each person.

Often a person's personality is buried under the disease though, and it can be slow, very slow, to surface.
I think getting to know some of the people I work with is like doing archeology---a long, even tedious process of uncovering small, disjointed bits, with little or no language to guide you in putting the pieces together. Some people are only coming into view for me now, after more than four months of working with them. 

Anyway, I don't make people quilt if they don't want to, of course. One woman who usually joins in refused yesterday, saying, "I'm a poophead today."
But she hung around, watching.

One of the men was also watching from a distance. After an hour, he came over and made a piece too, slowly placing each piece with care. (It's the one in the photo above on the far left, center row.)

"That's a handsome piece," I said. "Do you like it?

"Yes," he said.

"Do you want to make another one?"



P.S. I found the ad for peanut-butter cups I referenced in the last post, from the 1980s: "Your peanut butter is in my chocolate."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pieces of a Smashed Up Life

Sorry, these images are crap. I'm house sitting, and all I have access to are a PC laptop with a sticky track pad and a mystifying printer-- (no camera since I sat on mine and pixilated its viewing screen). And sorry, again, the layout is all messed up...
But I'm so excited, I'm showing you anyway:
these are Crazy Quilt squares made by the Sewing Group I work with.

Every member is living a dementia-damaged "smashed-up life", as one woman called it, and these are fleeting artifacts of the people themselves.

I could weep with happiness that after four months at this job, finally the conditions arose for spontaneous, organic creation:
I had set a bag of scraps from our sewing projects (baby bibs, hot pads, bear pillows) on the work table, where some people were cutting out baby bibs. I had also set a bin of fabric out, for other people to sort and fold.
And--wow--in a "your peanut butter got on my chocolate bar" moment, one of the women started arranging scraps on a piece of  denim.

(Crow sent us a whole lot of fabric, including cut-up old jeans that provide the base layer, here.)

This woman had done this sort of thing before-- when I first started work and didn't realize how the fabric of our minds--our ability to take action-- becomes like lace when we have dementia. So I had noted it but thought it was a common occurrence.  
Well, not with this group it's not (nor, I think with most folks with Alzheimer's etc.).
At any rate, I have not not able to recreate the circumstances under which this sort of free play was possible, until--unwittingly--today

It has bothered me that people who are hired to come in to lead "fine art" projects with the residents mostly offer paint-by-number kind of stuff. And yet, I end up doing that myself---it's easier to give people step-by-step direction---and most of them like it too.
It bothers me, in fact, to be so directive. I don't like giving directions. 
And yet, people with dementia need direction because their damaged brains can't provide it anymore. So I accept that direction is a gift, but I try always to give people some choice, even if it's just "red or blue?", and even if they clearly do not welcome choice. 

So, today, knowing what I now know, I snatched up this woman's pattern and I said, "Let's make a crazy quilt!"

"Yeah!" she said.

So I set a piece of denim in front of the other sewers and gave them each a pile of scraps (not too many, not overwhelming). "Let's make quilt squares," I said. "Please arrange these scraps on this piece of cloth."

And everyone did.We have seven squares now--I quickly stitched them together on the sewing machine, doing a pretty poor job, but in my hectic work, it's a matter of act now or forever hold your peace.

 I hope this wasn't one-time magic, and we can make more. But even if it was just a fleeting moment, these remain like shadow prints of lace on light-sensitive paper.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Oh the collars! Oh the lapels!

Marz is doing full-immersion fandom on Starsky and Hutch, including shopping for 70's clothes in thrift stores, which is a proving hard––the fashions of that decade are not back in style (...yet? ...ever?).

I'm not watching the show myself, but from the corner of my eye I see enough to trigger memories. Mostly fun ones, luckily.

And the boys are very lovey-dovey together, which is also fun.

O tempora! O modi! *

* A Latin pun (I hope--my Latin is rusty), from Cicero's lament, "Oh the times! Oh the morals!" (O tempora o mores) to "Oh the times! Oh the fashions!"

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kicking up Dust, Stacking the Deck

I hardly recognize myself in the person who is kicking up the dust on the Thrift Store Grant-Giving Committee.
But the more I think about it, the more rigged it seems, 
so I just now sent an e-mail to the committee asking why a member of a grant-seeking organization is on the grant-awarding committee.

For some perspective, I looked up "Setting up a grant committee" and in the Community Toolbox--a partnership of the U of Kansas & community organizations-- and I found this advice:
Avoid even the appearance of "stacking the deck" on your grant committees.

I'd say that including on the grant-giving committee an active member of the organization that has always received the largest grants gives that appearance (at the very least).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tinkertoys in Real Life

I. Sometimes You Can Save Broken Things

It took four of us Thrift Herders working together to do it (five, if you count the flocked frog who watched over us), but we did it: 
the footstool with the broken-off foot ^ has been repaired, its foot replaced with a pile of Tinkertoys, and the hooked-rug cover I hand washed back in place.
I left the stool to glue overnight at the Thrift Store. I'm not sure where it's going to live. Maybe it could stay at the store as a mascot...

II. Grant Me Wisdom

The Grant Committee met for the first time last night to determine what other nonprofits get a share of the store's profits. We did not work so beautifully together...

I'm the new member and the only one who isn't part of the Old Boys Club. I sense that I walked into a set-up: 
one of the members of the committee works for the nonprofit that every year is awarded the largest grant. It seems everyone assumes we will again grant his group money.

I kept saying, "Wait a minute, am I missing something? Is there some legal or bureaucratic reason we have to award this grant?" 
[No, they admitted. But....]
"Also," I asked, "why are we doing X either? And what's this Y-thing? And, gosh, I just don't understand Z at all..."

By the end of the evening, two of the four other members were glaring at me.

And here's a funny, wonderful thing: Unintentional Consequence of Working With People With Dementia:
I didn't care!
Usually people like me, and usually I care very much a lot if they don't.

But four months of wearing what a psychologist at the Aging Conference called a "anti-personalitzation suit" has paid off.
I've been practicing pretty successfully not to take it personally when a person with cognitive impairment insults me. (A rare occurence, actually, but not as rare as in the rest of life.)

Further, I've been practicing not taking compliments personally either, because, honestly, while they're nicer to hear, and while both insults and compliments reflect truly how the giver is feeling, they're not actually good mirrors of how I am doing.

And you know what? That's kind of true in everyday life too.
Other people's reactions are often as much (or more) about them as they are a clear-eyed reflection of us. 
Shane orders soda pop
With this Grant Committee, I feel like a character in a Western-- 
some newcomer who walks into a saloon, everyone goes quiet, and he realized he's walked into some history. 
Some history that's nothing to do with him, but it is now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Banged Up a Little

"You know, you don't throw a whole life away 
just 'cause he's banged up a little." 

I thought of this line from the 2003 film Seabiscuit (about a racehorse who comes back to glory after breaking his leg) after happify showed me a lovely old footstool at the Thrift Store, wondering if its broken foot could be repaired.

Yesterday after the conference on Aging, I stopped at the store specifically to  remove the footstool's filthy  cover. 

I took it home and hand washed it, and--wow!-- you can see for yourself how bright it is. > >
It looks really modern, but it's not.

(I don't know what you call this kind of needlework. [Rug hooking! Thank you, Krista.)

I'm going to try to fix the stool's broken foot too.

Each of the two runners(?) it rests on are made of one solid piece of wood, and one of the feet has broken off. So, it can't be restored completely, but it seems to me, who knows nothing about woodworking, that I could glue on a round piece of wood to make the footstool functional again, at least.

Another coworker at the store scoffed at my efforts at first, saying it wasn't worth it. Even repaired, the stool wouldn't be worth much.

But I launched into a speech about how it breaks my heart to see lovely old pieces thrown away, things people worked hard to make, and make well, things that last for decades and decades, while we settle for total crap from Ikea that barely last a few years.

He nodded at what I said, picked up the stool and looked more closely at it... (He knows about woodwork--will he come up with some ideas?)

The intensity of my feelings comes partly from having attended the talk "A Chaplain's View of Dementia" at the conference yesterday afternoon. 

The chaplain talked about how each of us has an "essence" that even dementia can't destroy. She said she jots down words to describe each resident she works with, and later, when she asks family members to tell her what their person used to be like, they use the same words.

I've experienced that too. A person may seem gone, but to me, a stranger who spends time with them with no prior expectations, they still emanate some... personality? essence? soul? 
Something identifiably theirs, even in their banged up state.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Help Me Make a Needle Book For My Birthday?

Oh, boy! A New Thing to Me: needle books = things to make that are both bookish and stitchery. 

Maybe I'll ask everyone coming to my Scrappy Birthday Party to help me make one--everyone could embellish one page of felt or something.
Hm, or I could ask you blogfriends to play along too...

Yes! OK---If you like, please make me a page for my needle book.

It should be 5 inches (12.8 cm) square, total:
including 1-inch (2.5 cm) on the left unadorned, for me to sew into a book
You can make it out of any material(s) that will hold a needle, such as felt.

Please mail it to me either by February 21 (a week from Saturday, the date of my party) or March 5 (my actual birthday).
If you don't have my address, you can e-mail me at frescadp at gmail.

Here's a cool one from Plays with Needles (thanks, for the link, Crow).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Conference Ahead

I have a busy week ahead--starting tomorrow, I'm attending a 3-day conference on Aging, plus one evening, the Thrift Store grant-giving committee meets for the first time.

Next month I'll be going to a one-day conference specifically on Alzheimer's.

Lots of interesting stuff to learn---especially about the brain, that wacky organ...
Though it looks like the conference sessions will mostly address the social end of things, not the neurological. Which is fine, since that's what I do (social stuff), but I would like to learn more of the medical/biological side too.
Things get weird with holes in the brain: not necessarily unhappy, just odd. 
"Oatmeal" nail polish.
It exists.
The other day I was painting a woman's fingernails with pink nail polish, and I said, "I wonder what the name of this polish is..."
She said, "Wholegrain oatmeal."
I was baffled until I realized she was reading the label on the cardboard box I keep the manicure kit in.
"Wholegrain oatmeal?" I said. "Is that the name of the nail polish?"
"Yep," she said. She was quite happy and enjoying the manicure, it was just this language glitch.

After 4+ months, the people I work with have become normal to me. On the face of it, our social engagement isn't too very different from casual chats at the Thrift Store (just shorter).

And of course I've gotten to know the residents very well, so I need reminding sometimes that their reality is very, very different from mine. 

Every so often they do remind me, vividly.

One morning, I had to go downstairs to pick something up, and I  invited some residents to come along, as I often do––those who like a change of scene.

A certain resident is always eager to go anywhere---(she's the one who once stuck her foot out to stop me leaving without her). 
So I didn't take much time inviting her––
I said, "Let's go downstairs," and started pushing her wheelchair.

"Wait, wait," she said. "I don't know if I can trust you."

I stopped, apologized, and introduced myself to her
, saying I was new---as I should do every single time. Then she was her usual gracious self and happily went along.

 Of course I know, in theory, that the memory of most people I work with is wiped clean every few minutes. But as long as we're together without breaks, that usually isn't very evident--I keep the Activities flowing, and people just go along with them. 
(Or a good number of people don't participate at all, but that is also predictable.)

I'm not strongly extroverted, and I do find all this outgoing work draining, and not just because it's engaging with people with dementia. Yesterday I stayed home and cleaned the house and sat on the couch doing nothing, really nothing, for a good long while.

I'll be glad to have a break from putting out social energy to go to a conference and absorb other people's words and work.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Circus Fabric

 I spent the morning unstitching the seams of an old, ripped curtain (rescued from the Thrift Store) so I can use the fabric. 
Ever since I discovered that Burt Lancaster was a circus acrobat when he was young, I've been attracted to circus art.