Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Stationary Flâneur

I.  Here's what I was working on at Craft-n-Chat-n-Snack [Sewing] Group last night: 
my usual, sewing things on other things. 

These are quite small---each about 2 inches square.

The squares aren't for anything, and I don't plan them, per se; I just cut up some fabric and start sewing.
Of course I choose everything about them, so that's not random at all: 
I am the organizing principle [there must be a name for that role], and they come out looking like me, same as handwriting does.

They're how I see life, I suppose: 
patterns emerge––just try and stop them–– and there's some pleasure in playing with that. 
(Unless they're cancerous or something--though Augustine said even a rotting body is beautiful, if you can see it dispassionately,  (manifesting as it does the organizing principle of God, as he would name it, and I know what he means, though I would name it nature.)

II. The Room

It's been a month since Mz moved out, and it's been a little weird, but pretty much OK. The sadness and shock came before, I guess. I'm even feeding myself real food again (not just fast food). Mz had brought me some nice groceries from her workplace, which helped jump start that.

This morning I'm sitting in her old room. It took a month, but it's finally done. It's nice, especially in the morning sun and uncluttered as it is--something that will disappear the moment I start sewing in it. (Hm... maybe I won't--I could keep sewing in the kitchen.)
 (Btw, I'm taking photos with my broken camera---the only part that's actually broken is the view screen, but I'm finding if I shoot from several different angles, it usually gets what I want.)

I did not envision the yellow-brown-orange colors for this room at all. I was thinking blue. The organizing principle here is not my choice of colors but of friends. 

Once I swore I would never talk about furniture, but....
The brown rug's from Laura, and my home-owner pal painted the walls years ago.   
While I was in Milwaukee, Jill dropped off the desk and narrow chest of drawers (for sewing supplies), and my auntie gave me an old orange-y rag rug of hers (from Pier 1)--you can just see it along the bottom.

All I chose was the white window paint.
Well, I also found the Ikea chair in the alley years ago.

This is the first time in the thirteen years I've lived in this house that I've had a room facing the street instead of the alley and yard next door. 
I love it. 

It's noisy outside--as I write this, a woman is walking past talking so loudly on her phone I can hear her conversation through the closed windows-- but the raging druggy neighbors are long gone, so it's mostly the jumble of humanity I like to be able to see outside my window. 

It's the lazy person's flânerie: instead of strolling idly, I can sit idly in place and watch the patterns form as the world strolls by me. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Back (Rabbit, After)

I'm back from Milwaukee, where my auntie knitted a green back for the Rabbit's waistcoat.
I finally have my first completed Before–During–After sequence--scroll right for the full trio:

I've been s-l-o-w to catch onto the power of Doing Things with people, considering Sitting-and-Talking the perfect activity. 
But it's not, for a lot of people, and my auntie is a Do-er. 

Belatedly I started planning activities for us--like she used to do when I was little--and it's been brilliant. 

And she & bink got me out of reading in bed to see the lunar eclipse, which was wild.  Did you all see it? 
I like to think of so many people looking up at the Moon at once.

Back to work: Lincoln is getting its final once-over, and this week I'm on to Andrew Jackson.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bear 'Bye

Bear waves good-bye:  we are off to Milwaukee with bink to see my beloved auntie, my standard bearer of practical good cheer.

I love this bear. Can you see? it looks perpetually amazed.

Stuffed animal repair tip
10 minutes in a mesh bag in the dryer (on low or air-dry) fluffs up matted fur.

I biked to the Thrift Store for a bag of polyfill (handy thing about sorting donations---you know where stuff is) to restuff the bear yesterday.

Looking online at stuffing options, I might go for wool again (though then the toy's not deep-washable, but surface cleaning should suffice for toys that aren't mauled by babies or pets), 
or some of the organic options, like corn- or bamboo-fiber fluff, 
but they are expensive. . .
like, $12–20 for enough to stuff this bear.
Bear itself is some artificial fabric.

This fabric + fiber rescue is strictly a nickle-and-dime operation. 

Off we go on the road trip.
Have a great weekend everybody!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Bare Room

The windows in my new room won't be done until the homeowner finishes glazing them, but I'm done with my scraping and painting (so shiny, so new), so I'm ready to move in. 
And Jill is giving me a desk for my sewing machine!

But right now the room's just a drying room for this bearskin:

Cleaning used stuffed animals is key, and I'm experimenting...
The ones I've picked up so far are mostly from the '90s, filled with synthetics that wash & dry well,
but inside this older bear was shredded, felt-like wool: 
in soapy water, it became a sodden lump.

The humidity has been relentless this month (87 % this morning);
this leaden bear was never going to dry. 

My time has come for Lessons in Bear Repair.
I opened this one up and took out the stuffing, and I'm researching what's best to replace it with.

Update:  A good overview of Toy Stuffing

A commenter notes:
Polyester fiberfill is listed in the US Toxic Substances Control Act as a toxic material whose toxicity is considered “inert” unless swallowed or breathed in – even just a few fibers. 
Babies and pets chew and suck on polyfil toys all the time, and once toys are torn open or seams ripped, the tiny fibers get in lungs and stomachs very quickly. " 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spinning Space Monkey

Esther finished spinning her wool on a spindle into this pile of yarn (below, on her knee). She said the widths vary so much it's hard to knit, but the results at last night's Sewing look terrific.

 The space monkey's astronaut outfit proceeds, and, with the help of the Sewing Group, monkey now has a name: 
Lieutenant Monkey Tom Portay. 
(Much remains to be done, however, to make Lt. Portay space-safe.)

Happy Fall Equinox! 
You can see the elm tree outside the window is starting to change color, and this morning I saw a flock of Canada geese flying south.
Fall is my favorite season, so I'm fine with that.

It's also still Yom Kippur until sunset today, which, though I'm not Jewish, I like a lot:
 a block of time to practice forgiveness.
It's like the  Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (aka confession), but more active---maybe more like Steps 3 and 9 of the 12 steps programs: 
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves", and
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others".

And your reward, besides a fresh start, is... noodle kugel!
So, tonite's the night I'm finally going to make Crow's rice pudding, which is basically sweet noodle kugel, US Southern style.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Excelsior: Working with What Is

I. Half a Million Views: Thank you! 

I was trying to catch when the stats counter ticked over to 500,000 "pageviews all time history", but I missed it, and today l'astronave  registers 500,275 pageviews. Still. Cool!

I don't think that counts this blog's first years---blog turns eight in a couple weeks. And it definitely doesn't accurately reflect the number of readers:
to begin with, at least half those views must be the result of me thinking, "I can't believe I wrote that word, must sign in and change it NOW."

Still, it's a neat number, and it pleases me. 
It's also a marker of how the times change: 
I'd never have been so blasé about anywhere near HALF A MILLION views before 2003, the year Google bought Blogger and I started my first blog, the now defunct Flightless Parrots
 Now we're used to these enormous numbers on the Internet, eh?

But I am not blasé about saying thank you! to everyone here, past, present, and future. 
I love communicating this way, it means a lot to me, and I especially appreciate you all who let me know, one way or another, that you're out there, here, as it were.

II.  Negativity as Fuel

I might get therapy-ish here for a while, since I've started my midlife tune-up...
I've been thinking more about what it means to be the daughter of a narcissistic mother (that is, someone who couldn't see other people, which caused a lot of pain and confusion for her and for the other people, including me) . . . and where I go from here.

I figure, if a person's got scars from life (and who doesn't?), then they (I, we) just do--that's our landscape.
What I want, what I need, isn't a way to remove the lumps and bumps, it's a road map around and through that landscape. 

You've got to work with who you are, right?

A movie I find comfort and support in is Silver Linings Playbook because it's about working with what is the case, not what you wish were the case.

The main character Pat (Bradley Cooper) trying to put his fucked-up life back together after a bipolar explosion of his. 
His motto is excelsior. *
I found this misspelled quote of his, explaining what excelsior means to him, and I thought it'd be fitting if I just fixed it up rather than making a new perfect one:

[Link to a favorite scene.

Pat's dance partner Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) turns Pat's father's logic on him--she reasons with him on his terms--funny, and another example of how to be effective by working with the landscape you find yourself in, whether you like it or not.]

III. Find Your Peculiar Satisfaction

Temple Grandin is another cheering (to me) and useful example and teacher. 
I think of her advice to parents of kids who have autism, like she does, which is to focus on the kid's strengths not their deficits, and to accept that the kid might never get satisfaction from neuro-normative things you want them to, like hugging you, but that doesn't mean that kid won't find satisfaction in life: 
it's about finding the right, the fitting, satisfying thing.

I appreciate her blunt honesty. For instance, a mother told her that it seemed as if her son would miss his computer more than he would miss her.
And Grandin said, yes, that's right, he would: the computer is a far better avenue to his satisfaction.**

So--finding the map to one's satisfaction---that reminds me of the Cicero quote I posted a while ago:
Hold fast your peculiarity [but do no harm].

For me, just lately, that's sewing clothes for stuffed animals. I felt a little foolish, childish, about that, but I figure, so what? 
It gives me comfort, it challenges my brain (like squaring a circle), and it's fun, and maybe through that, it could even be useful. 

Tonite is my sewing group, and I'm taking my space monkey and some silvery material I just got to work on its astronaut suit.

*Checking excelsior's etymology,  I find a funny tie-in to sewing and fabric and stuff: 
Excelsior's also a trade name for "thin shavings of soft wood used for stuffing cushions, etc.," first recorded 1868, American English.

Also called wood wool, it was a common teddy-bear stuffing

**I paraphrased Grandin above, but she writes a little bit about such things here, on her website, that also includes "1950’s Methods For Teaching Social Skills That Worked for Me".

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why are you important to take care of?

That's my counseling assignment. The counselor said, 
"Go home and write about why I'm important to take care of."

I told her I needed her to write that in the form of a doctor's order so I felt I really should do it, and also that I had permission to do it. 
I have it on a piece of paper with her signature.

One of the main reasons I'd decided to try counseling, I told her, was just to practice asking for help. I grew up taking care of my mother and not myself, and not even asking for help for myself. 
I also told her that recently I'd gone to the grocery store and just could not figure out what to buy to feed myself, and I had turned around and walked out without buying any food at all, now that I'm just cooking [or not] for me alone again.

"Why don't you deserve to be fed too?" she asked.

These simple, obvious, therapy-style questions can just flummox me. 
Why didn't she ask instead why I thought Lincoln didn't let the South secede? I have a lot to say about that, and it doesn't leave me feeling like a stuffed animal with the stuffing knocked out.

Still, I do secretly like those sort of therapy questions, and they give me hope that I can and will take care of myself better. 

sleeping on a stone couch

I love this picture bink took of me napping yesterday near the mini-golf sculpture course. My hair color matches the stone!

I might take it to my first counseling session this morning (though I'd have to take this laptop to show her).

If the psychologist were to be at all Jungian-y, we could talk about what happens in fairy tales when people fall asleep on magic stone furniture....

But I expect she is more about life skills, DBT, and that sort of modern approach, which is probably what I need;
I don't need more metaphors, which I can spin myself all day long, I need some traction.

Actually, I'm in a bit of that pre-first-appointment panic:
Why again am I'm doing this?

I said "midlife tuneup", and that's the general idea, . . . but what a lot this vehicle has been through at midlife. 
On the surface, I'm worried about the dings and dents of job hunting -- needing to find work, after I'm done editing the president books at Christmastime. I need practical help, career counseling for people with gray hair.

But under the hood---wow, what a tangle of wires wrapped in electrical tape. Like, you know, I suppose I might just mention my mother's suicide? Stuff like that.

I have gathered Show and Tell, because that's my favorite way to present myself. 
I'm taking the watercolors I did of my mother's life a couple years ago that I had to stop doing because I couldn't breathe; 
a b&w photo of me as a little kid drawing with total concentration at the kitchen table; 
the picture of Capt. Kirk that hangs in my bathroom;
the rescue rabbit in the samurai waistcoat I made this weekend. What is this rescue and recovery of discarded wounded treasure, my own and others', about? Is the stone couch a portal to someplace? Where?

I must go now.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Soft Samurai (Rabbit, During)

Today is bink's birthday, and we're going the the country to play mini-golf at a course hand-made by an artist and sculptor,
so this is brief, 
but I'm soooo excited to show you the rabbit's evolving outfit, made from a crewel embroidery cushion-cover from the Thrift Store [shown in previous post].

I cut out the crewelwork grapes and their surrounding foliage and fruits (a pomegrante!), and last evening I stitched (for hours) pink edges all the way round:

It has instantly become my favorite creation ever (of the moment), even undone. You can see the waistcoat's only pinned together, and it needs a back, but that will be relatively simple .

It looks to me like samurai armor. (Hm, almost everything I do lately turns into decorative, soft armor.)

This sort of thing, c. 1880s.  Via

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rabbit, Before

Since I regretted not taking "before" photos of the stuffed terriers in the post below, this morning I took a "before" photo of this rabbit & the hand-embroidered pillowcase (does that look '70sish to you?) that I'm going to turn into a waistcoat, I think, to adorn it. (I'm eyeing the green and purple bunches of grapes.)

Both were rescued from the Thrift Store. The rabbit is a nicely made toy with articulated limbs, but it was filthy: 
I had to scrub gunk off its face with a toothbrush.
 And the photo doesn't show it clearly, but someone had already repaired it: you can just see the scar running up its right leg [photo left].
These weathered animals especially interest me.

I'd written a while ago about bringing home some unwanted old household embroidery scraps, and now I'm extra inspired to use them because I've discovered the astonishing sewn creations of Mr. Finch [links to his FB, with lots of photos]. He made these  butterflies from a vintage tablecloth:

He seems too English [which he is] to be Finnish, but I was not surprised to read Mr Finch said in an interview (published just yesterday), 
"I’m re-reading all the Moomin books again as an adult and realising how beautifully bittersweet and correct they are."

Rescue Terriers

[If you're looking to rescue or rehome a real fox terrier in the USA, I recommend the Wire Fox Terrier Rescue Midwest.]
I wish I'd taken before-and-after photos of this stuffed-animal rescue project of mine. 
Both of these stuffed dogs were thrift-store rejects: 
so beat up no one had bought them, and they were due to be thrown out.

 I brought them home and, first thing, washed them.

The smaller dog on the right was supposed to be a bulldog, but with an ugly bulbous nose. It looked like it'd rather be a fox terrier (a smooth-coated one). 
I performed rhinoplasty, sewed on a black felt saddle marking, tied on a bow tie, . . . and it's a dapper terrier, eh?

The dog on the left was definitely a wire-haired fox terrier, but with a most unterrier-like downhearted look. 
The addition of a pink felt tongue, a perked-up ear [with the help of a pipe cleaner], and a sweater vest [made from a cuff + buttons] restored its natural cheer.

I get a lot of comfort from doing this, being a little downhearted myself just lately, but if I keep it up, I don't know what I'm going to do with the toy animals I rescue. 
It might be fun to attach tags explaining their make-overs, and give them back to the Thrift Store to sell? Maybe for double their normal asking price of 25 cents?

This pair, though, I might just know of a terrier-loving home for.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Toy Space Monkey

I  wanted a toy space monkey real bad when I posted this photo of Polish sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem with his, five years ago. (I assume it was his?) 
[from "Chance and Order", The New Yorker, January 30, 1984.]

 But I forgot about it until I found this monkey at the Thrift Store, and it clearly wanted to be an astronaut. 
This is only the very beginning of its space suit, made so far from bits of different silver fabrics and pipe cleaners.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Life in 3-D (Outfitting the Star Trek Bear)

Sewing clothes is architectural, I'm discovering: 
I'm building structures, but using soft materials.

My auntie showed me how to sew 40 years ago, so it's not an entirely alien technology, but it's pretty foreign.  
 Puzzling over how to design a Star Trek uniform for this little plump bear (from the Thrift Store, of course), I realized how much I'm enjoying working on physical problems, and what a nice change it is from my usual wordy material.

Anyway, here's the Star Trek bear, with and without its headband. It's 4 inches (10 cm) tall.

Do you like the headband? (It's removable.) I put it there because, take your choice:

1. The bear wants to be the Karate Kid.

2.   "      "       "      "   "  David Foster Wallace.

3. Steffi Graf?

4. It has a crush on Capt. Kirk and sneaked into the laundry room and snipped a little strip off his uniform to wear in private, and when in public it tucks it in its waistband.

5. I thought its head looked a little bare.

bink just dropped by and said the gold band works best as a scarf.

It's sitting on my newly painted windowsill.
Those of you who are more familiar with physical properties may have wondered, "Does F. knows what a pain it is to paint white paint on white primer?"

"I did not. I wish I'd had the store tint one of the other a different shade, because I can't tell where I've painted, even though the paint is semi-gloss. Oh well, it looks good---I just have to go back in and patch.

UPDATE, 2017: I gave this bear to Lily, a woman (and Trekkie) who was helping care for our father in his last weeks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I primed the ugly green windowsills in my new room this morning; the semi-gloss top coat will be white too. I'm getting close to having a sewing room.

Then I went to the Thrift Store and bought eight stuffed animals (25 cents each) to sew outfits for, with the idea of giving them away. 

They have already taken up residence. They're about to get a bath...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I got a referral to a psychologist who looks like Maria Bamford!

Maria Bamford! hahahahahaha! 


I just got home from my annual check-up, which I've only done annually since I got state health care (yay!), so that's... twice (thank you, Obama and Minnesota)
and I actually saw the same doctor for the second time, which I think hasn't happened since I was a child.

I love this doc---she's my age, and when I said I wanted a referral to a counselor for a midlife tune up, she laughed merrily and said she knew a good one for me.

"Someone smart and kind?" I said.

"And funny!" she said.

OMG, smart, kind, and funny? Maybe we could date.

When I got home I googled this psychologist (PhD, much older than a child), and, as I said, she looks kinda like Maria Bamford, if MB liked outdoor winter sports. 

You know this comic? 
She does a hilarious mini–sit-com about living in her mother's basement--in Duluth (like Hutch!)-- because she's too... something-or-other to function. (Anxious? and other things.)  

So. I shall see. Next week, already!

I also got a referral to a nutritionist [re post below]... but not for a month. You know I heard that as "one more month to live on ice-cream and beer".

Other than that stuff, I seem to be healthy and well, for which I am immensely grateful. 
Really, immensely. Every day I wake up with no pain. This is so great, I hope I remember that I knew how great it was when it's no longer the case.

[ Hello, future self! Yes, I KNOW I'm lucky.]

My friend Krista took this photo ^ in a 12th century abbey Ireland this summer:

Turning the Ship About

I'm going to the doctor in 15 minutes, and I've been thinking about how to approach losing weight at midlife. It's not about looks or anything (I'm actually pretty happy with that), it's that I can literally feel it weighing on me. 
(And why not? Weight does weigh on one.)

For instance, I wouldn't want to walk the Camino again just for that one reason: I wouldn't want to carry the extra 20 pounds. (There are other reasons too.)

And yet... I also don't want to skip a beer tonight, or not put lots of milk in my coffee tomorrow morning.

Grumble, grumble. It's worrisome, any which way I look at it. 
Change is hard.
I look for comfort and cheer and useful advice.

Does it sound flippant to quote Sojourner Truth on the matter of midlife health changes? I hope not, because I'm going to:

To a friend who was impatient with Lincoln's slow movement toward ending slavery], Truth said,
Oh, wait, child! have patience! 
It takes a great while to turn about this great ship of State.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reading Level

I'm finishing up the [first] edit of the Lincoln book for teens, and I'm annoyed that I've had to restore a bunch of the unnecessarily long words and sentences I'd trimmed, to get the reading level back up. 

The publisher uses an online analyzer to determine reading level, and after I'd clarified a lot of murky and tangled sentences and rephrased hard concepts, such as "the elections were contentious due to the issue of popular sovereignty", which I figured most thirteenish year olds wouldn't get (hey, some I didn't get), the analyzer said the book was at 7.4 grade level.

Since even most adults only read at about that level, I was pleased, but the publisher's marketing dept. said I had to bring it up a grade. So, I reinserted the Latinate vocabulary, the cumbersome participial phrases, the passive verb constructions, the political science terminology, and I elongated the sentence structure...

And now it is much worse. 
It hurts me to turn it in, knowing a lot of kids will find it hard going.

Out of curiosity, I submitted a bunch of my blog posts, and the analyzer said I write at a 5.8 grade level.

Fine with me. 
I'm not trying to write with the elegance of Atget at Versailles, but I did work hard to prune the overgrown verbiage I used to produce.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"A Rich Play Life"

I can't say that I remember US mainstream culture being very lighthearted about gender roles when I was growing up, [Rocky Horror being an exception], but at least there was a little bit of play going on...

Rocker Todd Rundgren as the Venus de Milo, 1976

X-Files' Scully & Mulder (Gillian Anderson & David Duchovny) for Us Magazine, 1997, photo by Mark Seliger.

Nothing to do with this, but this afternoon I am loving listening to an entirely different Gillian & David--Gillian Welsh in performance with David Rawlings [58 min]:

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Sartorial Fox

How hard can it be to make a coat & tie for a toy fox? I thought.

(I'd bought the tie at the Thrift Store––silk, from Milan!––but had to narrow it; even the "tail" was too wide. ["Anatomy of a Necktie"])

Four fiddly hours later [and do not look closely at the seams]: 

Sewing comes with a whole 'nother vocabulary.
The navy blue wool I'd bought was printed on one side with the word FACE. I looked it up, and as you'd guess, the face side of fabric is the "right side", facing front.
Sneax seemed to enjoy the process of getting suited up as Fox Mulder. I think he's going to live with Marz now, where there's plenty of X-Files going on.

I'm loving making clothes for toys. 
Finding toys really comforting myself, I think it'd be neat to tailor them with / for people who could use them.

Just googled around and found a book about the importance for play for adults: Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.

In an interview, the author, Stuart Brown, MD, said,
" I began thinking about the role of play in our lives while conducting a detailed study of homicidal males in Texas. What I discovered was severe play deprivation in the lives of these murderers. When I later studied highly creative and successful individuals, there was a stark contrast. Highly successful people have a rich play life."
I wonder how I might connect toys and people... Most Americans have too much stuff anyway. 
And sending toys into crisis situations isn't helpful:

An article on "how to help refugees" says aid workers are overwhelmed with donations of clothes, food, and toys––having myself sorted through donations at the Thrift Store, I know how time-consuming and jumbled it is. 

It's better to donate money to international agencies, such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent appeal for Syria.  

I suppose that like most everything I do, my toy connections will be haphazard, small scale, and personal. 
That suits me best.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Tie for the Fox (A Tale from the Thrift)

Mz asked if I'd make an outfit for the stuffed fox BeLeBe like Fox Mulder's from the X-Files

What would that outfit be? I asked, since I've watched exactly one episode.

A tie and a trench coat. 

So, I looked up Mulder's ties, and that afternoon I went to volunteer at the Thrift Store.
As I was looking at the ties there, a regular customer came up and asked me what I was doing.

I explained, and he immediately pointed to a tie:

"This one is the most like Mulder."

The fox (far right) is quite happy with his new identity so far. I also bought a small piece of fine navy wool. Trench coat to follow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Those pretty, pretty flanks.

  But, no.


Prehistoric crafting happened by streelight at Sewing Snack-n-Chat last night. > 

Expert Kellie H (hands on left) showed Esther how to twist wool into yarn on a spindle.

Watching, I was surprised how "easy" it is; 
not easy to get it right, of course, to spin uniform yarn of the thickness you want, 
but yarn making falls in there with bread- and baby-making... 

Homey things that people (women, especially) have been doing forever. 

You can do them well, or you can do them poorly, but you can probably do them.

More images and info about spindles here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Matter of an unspecified kind

Words are part of the tools of a trade, and I like learning them.

I've been stitching with friends on Tuesdays for a month now.
Last week I said, "I just like sewing stuff onto other stuff."

An accomplished fiber artist among us said, "You like appliqué."

I'm glad to know the word, but for what I am doing, I still prefer "sewing stuff onto other stuff."
I've said that my pieces (like current project above ^) look to me like soft armor, so I was amazed to look up the etymology of stuff and read its root:

 "early 14c., quilted material worn under chain mail [!]
--from Old French estoffe "quilted material, furniture, provisions"

The sense of the word "extended to material for working with in various trades (c. 1400), then "matter of an unspecified kind" (1570s). 

Matter of an unspecified kind.  
I like that phrase so much, maybe I'll add it to my blog profile.

II. Stretchy Stuff

I'm going for a bike ride this cool morning. Cool , but still sticky:
67°F;  Humidity 87%

Then it's back to Lincoln---I've finished the major revisions to the author's ms., now I'm going to find and add some quotes from people who weren't white men, of which there are currently none in the book. 

People get all het up about political correctness, but you know, it's often just a matter of telling a better story.

Telling a better story. By which I mean, here, also a "truer" story (this purporting to be some kind of history, not fiction).

Revisiting US history, I see again (again, again, again) the IDEAL of the United States is all about extending "liberty and justice for all" to all.

I hadn't realized how often Lincoln quoted this phrase from the Declaration of Independence, like it was God's truth:
"all men are created equal."

His debating partner, Stephen Douglas, said that phrase was said by white men, for white men.
True, at the time [Thomas Jefferson, I'm looking at you], 
but it's stretchy stuff, equality, and it can and should extend to everyone.
Once in a while we tug on it a little more to cover another group.
(Tho' some of us tug mightily in the other direction.)

It makes for a good story, but not a peaceful story, that's for sure... 
I'm always shocked to be reminded how many people got killed in  the American Civil War. It was by far the deadliest war the US has fought---estimates are as high as 850,000 dead, twice the US death toll of World War II, the next-deadliest war for Americans.

Laura's German boyfriend was in town last week, and I asked him if we Americans seem violent. 
Big surprise, he said yes. 

Maybe we need armor, but let it be soft, so we can stretch and bend.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Patch in Time

Oooh, perfect timing:
The amazing stitcher Jude at Spirit Cloth will be offering a free online workshop on patchwork in October.

Just yesterday I'd lugged home on my bike from the Thrift Store a bulky bag of old embroidered household odds and ends;
some of them actual ends: someone had cut off and saved the hand-embroidered ends of worn-out pillows. 

Many were unfinished pieces, some with the threaded needle still tucked into the fabric. 
That pings my heart, like an old photo of someone in a group (say, at a picnic) who just happened to glance at the camera as the shutter snapped.

I googled how to wash them, and read that Oxy-clean gets out the yellow. So I got some at the nearby K-Mart, soaked the linens, and then hand-washed them.

They did brighten up a lot, but the chemical smell is nasty. Also, the chemical removed the lingering traces of the printed embroidery pattern. Boo.
(Anyone have any old-linens laundering tips?)

I didn't know what to do with these things---they're not "art" or really saleable at the store, tattered and worn, still stained, or half-done as they mostly are. 

They're just workaday dime-store patterns––like the photo here–– common to a generation now gone, and not even particularly well-sewn. 
 I just hated to put them in the store's cloth recycling bin. 

But now I will patchwork them! in Jude's workshop.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
––J. R. R. Tolkein, Gandalf in Fellowship of the Ring (via)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When you need a bobby pin, Laura's got one in her car.

Room (During) >

Speaking of Camino [post below], at dinner on the road one night I said,
"When you need a bobby pin, you find a bobby pin. Or not."

(I hadn't brought hair supplies, but I kept finding them on the path.)

The principle applies at home too.

Laura came to see my room-in-progress yesterday, took a look at the cracked floor tiles, and said, 
"Do you want a rug? I have one in my car."


You have everything I ever need in your car, from tonic water to home furnishings.

It fits almost perfectly, as you can see, but now I'm not sure if I want bright blue walls. Well, I've got to take the rug up and finish painting the windows white first anyway.

Writing What Matters

"What actually happened is only raw material; 
what the writer makes of what happened is all that matters." 
--Vivian Gornick, memoirist [via article on writing literary memoir]
bink got feedback that her nearly done graphic retelling of the Camino was great reading for people who've walked or want to walk the route, 
but it was too much like a guidebook to be of interest to non-pilgrims. 

Did she want to rework it, after two years of work, from a literal to a literary memoir?
She did.

Her question changed from "what happened?" to something like "why does what happened matter?"

Since I walked Camino with her twice, we've talked a lot about the new version. 
I told her, "Cut me out of it."

It's a stronger story with only one main character: her. 
I gave her permission–– no, I pushed her ––to incorporate my story into hers.

That includes something very much "mine":
the poem my friend Barrett Newhall wrote about a dream of her coming death (from lung cancer) that she gave me to carry on Camino.

I'm 100% sure that Barrett, a writer herself, would agree it doesn't matter who carried the poem; 
it matters that it was carried for her to the End of the World, Finisterre, Spain. (And bink was a friend of Barrett too, just not as close.)

bink found what matters to her, and the rewrite [re-draw?] is flying along.
It's exciting to see it come to life. The main character is still walking with someone, it's just not me.
Here, from the re-worked beginning of bink's Camino graphic novel, posted on her blog My Camino Real
[you may need to scroll right to see it entire > > > ]

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Piglet Rehomes

"Rehome" is a word I know from the Wire Fox Terrier Rescue
it means to find a new home [like, for an abandoned dog].

The Piglet is very excited to be rehoming: 
today it's going to travel by post to live with a blogfriend! 

This morning the other plush companions gave the Piglet a send-off and presented it with gifts to carry in its shoulder bag (which I'd sewed for Valentine's Day). 

The bouncy ball and the almonds are for use during the journey, the magic blue stone is a present for its new person.

They also composed a Certificate of Authenticity [I was the scribe] confirming that the Piglet is real, and, while small, biggly brave.

Off you go, now, little Piglet!

Spock, Kirk, & Abe

Zhoen asked if Lincoln ran a bar. I can't see that he did, aside from the general store where bink's drunkard relative served booze, but in googling it, I found this set up for a joke:

I'm no good at jokes and can't even begin to think of how this might go. 

[Zhoen came up with a brilliant line; it's in the comments.]

But it does remind me that Lincoln turns up on Star Trek in this awful episode, "The Savage Curtain." 
All I remember about it is that it's awful. I must rewatch it.

Btw, it seems Abraham hated the nickname Abe.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Good Day to Not Paint

Artist bink and I went paint sampling this morning---she has the best eye for subtle differences in color, and their effects:

"You don't want that; you'll feel like you're in a hospital ward.

"Believe me: prison cell. 

"Trapped in Das Boot.

So, steered away from battleship gray-bluegreens, I kept coming back to a deep, bright blue. No room I live in will never achieve such a Zen feel, but it's this center blue:

"Is it too hot & humid to paint inside?" I asked the sales guy.

"Well, it's not ideal," he said. "You could do it, but it'll add more humidity to the air."

THAT decides it. I'm waiting until Labor Day, when the temps & humidity are supposed to drop.

Until then, it's all Lincoln, all the time. I'd like to be done with this substantive edit by then, or nearabouts.

(I googled Lincoln as a color, and it's green.) 

bink 'n' Linc

bink's been doing her genealogy this summer, and she discovered a relative who worked with Lincoln. People want to find out they're somehow related to the famous, but in this case, it's the infamous.

Her relative was
William F. Berry, with whom Lincoln bought a store. Alas, Berry was a drunk, and "no more unfortunate partner than Berry could have been found." 
Lincoln's law partner and later biographer, W. Herndon, says:
 "For a while Lincoln was at one end of the store dispensing political information, Berry at the other was disposing the firm's liquors.... Lincoln's application to Shakespeare was only equaled by Berry's attention to Spiggott and Barrel."
 --from the very readable Thomas Keneally's Abraham Lincoln, Penguin, 2003 p. 21.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Room (Before)

I woke up this morning excited about fixing up my new room.
It's small –– about 7' x 11' –– but bright yet cool: 
you can't see in these photos, but leafy trees shade the windows on both sides and filter out grit from the busy street.

A smoker lived there years ago, and the residue lingers, so I'm going to enjoy washing the room right away. You can see the cracked floor needs big help too. 

It's too damp to paint though: right now, at 10 o'clock in the morning, the humidity's higher than the temp (74ºF + 79 % humidity).
And I haven't chosen a paint color yet. 

I think I'll turn it into a sewing room. 
 Art is the acceptance of solitude, Louise Bourgeois said--what better transformation of this room? And sewing is a cluttered business, I've discovered: all that thread and fabric are a real space suck.

But for now, I'm leaving it empty, to revel in the open space. We were packed in like sardines for four years. 

One thing I won't change:
Mz's the framed glossy of Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul on the set of Starsky & Hutch.

I don't care about the show itself, but something about the actors'  impossible 70's California cool  rivets me. 
What world was that? 

OK, yes, it was an illusion, but it was a real one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ultreia (Onward)

Me holding a photo ^ (out of focus in the original) from Camino four years ago, Mz with a red rain cover on her backpack, walking after a herd of cows because she liked them and wanted to go with them. 

"I was probably dehydrated or something too," she says here, as she packs the very last of her stuff to move out to her new place today.

Quite possibly---she did get sick from lack of water one day.

So, off she goes on her own way.    *wipes away a tear*

Buen Camino, Pequeño. The truth is out there. Live long and prosper. . . etc. 
There are too many ways to say goodbye.

Now go out there and act like somebody!

"Now go out there...." 
--Andy Taylor, to his boy Opie, on the Andy Griffith Show

Happy Brain

My brain is enjoying focusing on this TED Talk, this morning:
"Happy Brain: How to Overcome Our Neural Predispositions to Suffering" by Amit Sood, MD, Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic.

  He comments online:

"Research shows true compassion makes you feel happier and lowers activity in fear centers of the brain. Avoiding others might provide temporary respite, but locks us in our own hurts. Further, if we all avoided each other, then world will become a lonely and sad place.  
Feeling of loneliness is as harmful as smoking or high blood pressure."