Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mind Your Js and Ns

"I want to make..." 
The 98-year-old woman in the Sewing Group pauses––not because she has dementia (as far as I can tell, she doesn't) but because her native Spanish is far better than her English.
"I want to make . . . conejos".

Well, it's almost Easter and that sounds like "coneys", a word I think I've read in, is it D. H. Lawrence? * 

I guess, "Rabbits? Bunnies for Easter? With ears...?"

"Yes!" she says.

So I run downstairs to the computer and print out a simple Easter bunny pattern and take it back upstairs.

I show her the pattern. "Is this right? Cojones?"

She broke into a big, long laugh.

Conejos. Bunnies.

Cojones. Balls.

The Sewing Group cut out the felt (lucky we had some), I stitched the pieces on the machine, they stuffed them, and the bunnies turned out pretty well. Tomorrow I'll bring in buttons for los ojos.

*I looked up "coney" and reading its history, I think it's Tolkien I know it from, not Lawrence.  Though it's a game-keepery kind of word, so you can see how I'd attribute it to him.

"happy not to think about it"

I'm rereading Doris Lessing's novel The Golden Notebook for the first time since I was seventeen and read it for a Comparative Lit class my first semester in college. 

Lessing is never funny on purpose, but I laughed at this:
She, a young member of the British Communist Party in early 1950s London, is sitting in bed "confused and exhausted," trying to make sense of the news out of the USSR about Stalin's brutality––"My brain kept swimming into blankness..." 
Her lover chides her ironically for trying to "make sense of the human soul", and she writes,
"And so I left it, and I was glad to, but I was nevertheless feeling guilty because I was so happy not to think about it."
I so recognize this. (Of course she doesn't leave it for long.)

Last night in my own bed I was thinking about my sewing notions and how to start assembling them into little vintage sewing kits like ones I've seen online.

I'm happy not to be thinking about human suffering for the moment, but I pray I don't start using perky pinteresty words such as upcycle or repurpose.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tales from the Thrift

Yesterday was a red letter day at the thrift store: 
I discovered on a dusty little shelf in the basement my favorite kind of donations––a stash of sewing stuff from old women (almost certainly women) of the sort who wound leftover thread around squares of cardboard; the sort who stored buttons and bobbins in pill bottles, the kind with pre-childproof caps; 
the sort who seemingly never threw out a needle or pin (watch your fingers, reaching into their sewing baskets).

There was too much to sort in one afternoon, so I took a bag home, along with some of the sewing ephemera I'd been setting aside. 

This is some of it. [scroll right > to see the whole image]

A fellow Thrift Herder suggested Julia [happify] and I should write about the Thrift Store, which could be fun. She had in mind something fanciful and fictional, but I'd prefer a drier approach, letting the thrift speak for itself as much as possible.

The thrift herders at the store are stories in themselves, too, but I'm wary of exposing other people. I've written before about deciding not to rely on other people as my material, and now I think about it again, I, almost regretfully, still feel the same.

Blogging, I'd had to decide how, and how much, to write about other people. My sister helped me ("helped" me) by asking me, a few years ago when we had a rift, to go through my blog and take out every reference to her. 

It was punitive, and I was really mad at her, but it pushed me to think about how I was using people as material.  
For some writers, that's the whole point (David Sedaris, Anne Lamott), but I decided I didn't want to go that way, tempting as it is––I just can't find any way to do it without... well, as I said, using people, even if it's for good ends. (I've been used that way in print, and I felt violated by it.)
And I'm not one of those genius writers who transform real life into art--that's a different thing altogether out of my league.

Obviously I do mention the things people say and do, but they're not my main material.  But the actual material of someone's sewing basket, that's a different story.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Movie Moment: WALL-E's Spork

It's a Two-Movie-Moments Day!

This one from WALL-E, one of my favorite movies, ever.
You know I recently turned down a freelance job writing a kids' book about garbage? Well, I'm still temped to reverse that decision because I could actually base it on this movie about a brave little trash compactor, carrying on in an Earth buried in garbage.

(WALL-E stands for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class".)

The movie came up with fellow thrift-store workers yesterday (like The Full Monty, post below)---not surprisingly:
Wall-E is a Thrift Herder and Thing Finder par excellence, and the movie includes a million little details to make Thing-Lovers squeal.

Wall-E saves junk that attract him. Here, he tries to categorize a plastic utensil. Spoon? Fork?

He ends up placing it in the middle.

Gif found at Wondrously Polished
in a post about amazing WALL-E nail art that includes the spork:

Movie Moment: Dave Watches "Flashdance"

Gee, it's been a long time since I've written a movie moment. This one came up at the Thrift Store yesterday, chatting about welding with a woman co-herder.

One of my favorite jobs, I said, was using a little blowtorch to light 6-ft.-tall altar candles (when I was part-time sacristan at the Basilica), and one of my favorite movie scenes is...

What a Feeling

In the movie The Full Monty, Dave  (Mark Addy) agrees to join his Sheffield steelworker mates--put out of work by Margaret Thatcher-- in staging on a Chippendale-style striptease show to earn some cash.
 Non-dancers, here they are trying to pick up tips by watching Flashdance.

In a brilliant bit of inter-filmic criticism, Dave comments,
"I hope she dances better than she welds."

Song: "Flashdance (What a Feeling)", Irene Cara (1983)

Why I Like It

What a human, oh-so-human feeling!
There should be a name for this---when you're watching a movie or TV show and you're outraged that they've gotten wrong some utterly inconsequential detail (that you know about).

There's a bit on Absolutely Fabulous that riffs on this phenomenon, but I can't find it online. Edina, I think it is, is watching some costume drama and starts ranting something along the lines of, "They didn't have those style of horse bits in the 18th century!"

Bonus Moment: Hot Stuff

Later, standing in the unemployment line, the men hear "Hot Stuff" (1975, Donna Summer, not from Flashdance) and separately they start, furtively at first, practicing their dance moves.
A lovely illustration of the way creativity can transform drudgery:

Friday, March 27, 2015

I have a lot to learn...

I just removed a post I wrote a few days ago about a daughter trying to teach her parent with Alzheimer's how to unlock a door and get somewhere on time. My point in that post was that she was being unrealistic about brain damage. 

I'm kind of shocked I was so insensitive--- all I could see was what she was doing "wrong", i.e. not scientifically realistic.

How did I miss what was really happening? 
Someone was helping her father in the best way she could figure out, at that time.
That's all; and that's a whole lot of the most important thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brain Appreciation

Do you check your e-mail when you wake up? 
It seems a bad habit, but I usually do. 

This morning I'm glad I did: there was a message from the Big Boss where I work saying I would, after all, be paid for attending the Dementia Conference a couple weekends ago.

Imagine my surprise last week when I'd submitted my hours and was told that my workplace does not pay for conference time... 

I wrote a letter of protest pointing out that since I went on work time (with their approval), I was actually losing money while becoming a more valuable employee.
I'm a little surprised they saw reason and reversed it, but they did (with a warning that it was "just this once").

Other good news: 
I'm in the middle of a second copy edit job for the children's publisher I used to work for regularly. After 6 months at my dementia job, I now have the energy (physical and mental) to do other things. I need the money (they pay much better than Activities, and, frankly, the work is easier (for me, anyway)), and I want to work with the printed word again.

It's been great! 
All my former annoyances at working with other people's words now seem piddling. In fact, while both manuscripts have been of only ...average quality, shall we say, they seem on the verge of miraculous to me---like, how many nerve connections does it take to end a sentence with a period? 

Truly I am in the throes of Brain Appreciation:
we humans could be so great! 

It is contraindicated, however, to mix belief in Human Potential with the experience of Health Care Administration.
A couple days ago I was in such a funk about work (and then about Everything), Marz said,
"If you'd stop thinking people could be great, your life would improve."

I don't agree with her, but it made me laugh, and that helps.

Off to work now. Have a great day!

{I don't know where the LOLcat's from...}

Monday, March 23, 2015


Family members, naturally, are reluctant to move their Confused Person onto the locked Memory Care unit, and some choose the assisted-living (A-L) option first.

The other day the daughter of a new A-L resident––a man with Alzheimer's–– was showing him how to use his key fob to come onto our floor, to attend an Activity.

"I'm showing him so he'll get used to it and can do it on his own," she told me.

"Knock yourself out, " I said.

No, I didn't. 
I said, "Oh, have you ever met Dr. Alzheimer?"

No, I didn't say that either.

Those among us who have dementia can, in fact, learn new things that involve "procedural memory"---like where to sit at lunch.
Or maybe how to use a key fob (not sure about that, it's pretty complex...).

Working with people with damaged brains makes me realize that it takes a staggering number of complex associations in the brain for a person (such as myself) to stand up at 7:48 AM, go out the door, and walk a few blocks to catch the bus.
Which I must do in 5 minutes, but first I have to tie my shoes, gather my stuff, finish my last swallows of coffee...

Our brains are blooming miracles!!! Even someone with Alzheimer's has complex abilities--the ability to feel compassion, for instance, to laugh at jokes, sing songs, express love... But getting through locked doors is beyond all of the people I work with.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's Fluffy

< Me at work, with fresh banana & chocolate milkshake, wearing an apron made this week by the Sewing Group, with fabric donated by the Crow.  (Thanks again, Crow!)
Conversation during yesterday's Malt Shop:

Christine (daughter of resident): "The whipping cream makes all the difference!"

Me: "Well, it should---it's all fat."

Randle (resident): "But it's fat in all the right places."

N.B. As always, I changed the names of people at work.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Fish, Two Fish

Minnows in a Net, 1952; Mariska Karasz (1898-1960); Embroidered and appliquéd linen (via)

Thank you to Orange Crate, who sent me the link, saying this piece reminded him of the scrap-quilting we're doing at work.
Wow: encouraging! 

Looking at Karasz's work, I see she was a popular and influential midcentury designer. Her stuff reminds me of 1960s Star Trek-design.

I remember when I was a kid, our neighbors had some godawful burlap-and-orange-embroidery on their walls... 
Or maybe not... It's funny how looking back, I see that some of the ugly, ubiquitous stuff of my childhood is truly cool, seen out of context ("the neighbors").

The '60s stuff, that is.

Marz has been resurrecting the '70s because of her love of Starsky, and I can't say that decade looks so great, seeing it again.  

Pale blues + orangey-browns...

< Bad example because I actually love this mug (1970) by John Clappison.

Marz has been listening to lots of 70s music too.

Can you sing "Midnight at the Oasis" off the top of your head, right now?
I sure can, though I haven't [knowingly] listened to it in decades. 

I figure that's what many of us of my generation will be singing when we get dementia----that, and "Have You Never Been Mellow" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders" and "How Deep Is Your Love".

Ohgod, and "Dont Give Up on Us, Baby" by David Soul---Starsky's own Hutch! 

Soul also appeared––in a speaking role, but looking like something out of Dr. Seuss–– in the Star Trek episode, "The Apple." >