Category Archives: Looking back

Quilt Trading

Although I don’t have a comforter, I own 2 store-bought blankets, one of which is the infamous, 70’s polyester indestructible f***ing pink blanket, reserved for outdoor movies at the Hatch Shell in Boston. The other is a more conventional cotton number that is on my bed, but before you start a gofundme for blankets, know that I am not bereft of warmth, and that I don’t need to depend on my occasional night hot flashes. What have served as my blankets and bedspreads (do people even use that word any more?) and, yes, comforters?

Quilts. Specifically, ones made by my grandmother and my mother. Most of them are at least 30 years old, but there are a few younger ones. At least one, what we used to call a car blanket, is older than me. You put it in the back of the station wagon to pad the four kids rolling around back there unbuckled on long car rides. Then we pulled over on the side of the road to eat bark in caves. Go ahead and laugh, I’m still alive and use it as a picnic and beach blanket.

My Memere passed away in 1994, and my mom is now 88 and has Alzheimer’s and has lost a lot of her sewing ability. But I still have their quilts, and by proxy pieces of their happiest moments. As a kid my Memere made us summer quilts and winter quilts. When I was a teenager, she took requests, and I asked for with one with horses, which I still have. I received a larger one as a wedding present (it’s the one on the far right in the top photo). The marriage dissolved at the 20-year mark, but the quilt is still around — a little worn in places, but it still works and still has the tiny stitches Memere lovingly sewed all those years ago. Then my mom picked up the quilting bug, and so I have a smaller fun quilt she made that folds into a pillow for those trips to see movies at the Hatch Shell. She made it after coming with us a few times when she visited. She was so excited to find the pattern. It’s a perfect annex to the pink blanket, and more recently has started to serve as a warm place to sit in my wood floor for meditation. Then when her grandson came along, she showered him with several baby quilts and then a quilt for his “big boy” bed. As a teen, he got another quilt with colors he picked  himself.

My mom found a bunch of quilt tops Memere never finished, so she started on those. Those are amazing twofers because they have the stitches and love of both. My favorite is made up of Memere’s handkerchiefs. Back in the day no respectable lady was without a handkerchief. She had many of all designs — scalloped edges, birds, flowers, and even states. After I divorced, I changed out my wedding quilt for the handkerchief one. When I moved last year, I noticed that some of the delicate handkerchiefs had holes and were worn. I told my mom, and she still had some of Memere’s handkerchiefs and sent them to me in the mail.

My preferred fiber arts activity is crocheting, which Memere also did; despite my rich legacy, sewing for me is a utilitarian skill — buttons and small holes primarily. For a good year, I looked at the quilt and then looked at the replacement handkerchiefs, felt fear in my heart and then picked up a book or the remote and told myself I’d tackle it another day. So many tiny stitches all in perfect straight lines or perfect curves! So many tiny stitches. I liked the idea of adding my stitches, but I also didn’t want poor Memere to roll in her grave when they came out all big and uneven. My mom continued to encourage me and tell me it didn’t have to be perfect, which is easy to say for people who make perfect stitches. I knew she was right, though, so I started asking her about the steps, and what I had to do. Finally, I took a deep breath and dove in. The easier part was removing the damaged handkerchiefs. A seam ripper and several episodes of Modern Family are all you really need and are quite cathartic. A little more challenging was picking new handkerchiefs, placing and pinning them and sewing around the edges. I started that last winter and just recently finished. I bought some time by declaring the summer too hot to work on a big quilt that has to be spread on your lap.

I rested on my laurels a bit, but those darn seasons keep coming and soon it was winter again, and I had to stare down the barrel of the actual quilting — this is the free-form thread that either follows the along with the pattern of the fabric or can just be an outline of an object like a heart. Unlike the stitches around the border of the handkerchief, which are not the focus of the quilt and can hide on the sidelines, the quilting itself is like the front and center cheerleader, at the top of the pyramid, doing a split. Did I mention I favor crocheting? But my mom kept telling me to not worry and just put the stitches anywhere and have fun. I told her I might even use bright, colored thread, just for kicks. She was delighted. On this snowy Presidents Day I took the plunge — making the initial “L” for mom and Memere’s names (Lorette and Lumina), and then I’ll spell out Memere and Mom. Wish me luck (you can already see “Memere” ain’t gonna fit in that space)!

quilting

So while the handkerchief quilt is being repaired, I put my old wedding quilt back on the bed, but it too was fraying and in a way that is not as easily repaired — “easy”! Ha! While I have a decent quantity of quilts, only those 2 fit on my queen bed. Just buy one, you might say, and I might say, after all this time, I’ve been spoiled and am a handmade quilt snob. I’m not putting any mass production quilt on my bed — it might give me hives — or heaven help us a “comforter,” which is hot and heavy, and not in a good way. What can I say? I’m a delicate snowflake flower.

Then I thought of my aunt who caught the quilting bug and does beautiful machine quilting. She laughingly declares she doesn’t have the patience for hand quilting, and after quilting the letters “L” and “M” today, I am totally in her camp. In our little quilting world, machine quilting is on the edge of blasphemous, but I’ve seen her work, and it’s stunning. I also love her passion and that she is carrying on the tradition in her own way. I thought I might commission a quilt from her.

Before I could though, my sister said she had a quilt that mom made that never really fit on her bed, and that it was actually making her sad because of mom’s decline. Was I interested? She sent me a picture.

It was perfect. It’s my mother’s Quilting Opus — made of 56 squares that feature a different quilt pattern, with fabulous names like log cabin, bear’s paw, crazy house, and windmill. So the quilt made its way to me — no hives, just gorgeous, artistic comfort.

quilt3

And the trading doesn’t stop there. My brother has a few decorative quilts my mom made to hang on the wall, and when I moved to my current apartment, he gave me one that he didn’t have room for. I’m still deciding on the perfect spot. I’m sure as we reconfigure our homes and lives, we’ll continue to trade, swap, and share the quilts.

In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of crazy quilting to do.

Photo: Left to right, my sister’s weding quilt, the handkerchief quilt, and my wedding quilt.

You Stink

In the snowflake state of Massachusetts, we legalized medicinal marijuana in 2012, and recreational marijuana in 2016. Although, I guess now we’re professionally calling it “cannabis,” and if you are a recreational user, “weed” or 420. My teen has informed me only old farts like me still call it “pot.” Whatever you call it, it’s not really my thing. The one time I tried it as a teenager, it made me laugh so hard, I annoyed myself. I didn’t like the untethered feeling it gave me, and as I was floating around, I remember thinking, god, who is laughing so much, and why doesn’t she shut up? Then I realized it was me. This was followed by a very intense case of the munchies, where mass quantities of chips were consumed. I have always had a slow metabolism. I could barely afford that level of eating then, never mind now.

Be that as it may, I have no feelings either way about other people who partake, except for one. Your habit smells like skunk. It really does. Maybe you don’t smell it because as you puff away on that weird kazoo thing, you’re leaving the potent, smelly molecules behind you. But I come along, minutes or hours later and it stinks like skunk — it’s not really clear how long the smell sticks around because when I get a big whiff of skunk, I have yet to see anyone actually smoking. It’s kind of maddening. I get hit with the intense smell, and I whip my head  around, to see if I can either 1) go in the opposite direction of you, or 2) grab that kazoo thing you are using to smoke it and throw it dramatically in the street so it will get run over.

But no. The weed is like a cloak of invisibility for you, while I have to smell skunk for several blocks. It didn’t always smell so bad. It always a distinct smell, but whatever it is they are cooking now, that crap is more intense. Look, the cars have had to lessen their smelly exhaust, and cigarette smokers have been pretty much run off, so let’s not take an olfactory step back, OK?

It’s not just me who smells skunk. My friend who was a big pot head (there I said it) in college asked where the skunk was as we were walking down the Boston street. You’d think she’d know. While it’s true you can sometimes smell skunks in urban neighborhoods as they root about in the trash, they tend not to hang out on main Boston thoroughfares.

So please, cannabis users, can you please smoke or vape or whatever at home? Or if you must do it while you are walking around in public, can’t you buy edibles at those new fancy dispensaries? Although I’m just judgey enough to point out that I’d have to drink my wine from a paper bag, so you, what, don’t have to look at me imbibing? Well, I shouldn’t have to smell you partaking. Just saying.

I and all of those with noses thank you for your consideration. Cuz, seriously. You stink.

 

Nod to Elton John: This Blog Has No Title

I’ve been sitting here trying to find a pithy title to this blog. And then Elton John’s song popped in my head:  This Song Has No Title.   When I say popped, I mean up from the recesses of my adolescent brain. I haven’t thought about this song in years, but the album it’s on, Yellow Brick Road, is part of the soundtrack of my youth — it was etched into me before I understood music could do that. It was my sister’s album, and she listened to it a lot. And I loved the double album artwork, so I as I gazed at it and read the lyrics, I listened to it when she wasn’t there. As I listened to the song just now, after at least 40 years, I air pianoed in all the right places. It seems relevant still:

“And each day I learn just a little bit more
I don’t know why but I do know what for
If we’re all going somewhere let’s get there soon
Oh this song’s got no title just words and a tune”

I’m stalling. I’ve been taking a class called “White People Challenging Racism: Moving from Talk to Action,” and just so there is no misunderstanding, we’re against racism and are looking at our white privilege. The way it’s worded and in today’s Cheeto flea world, I want to confirm that it doesn’t mean we are challenging the legitimacy of racism. So all you MAGA people, move up or move on back. Preferably get a clue, but that’s probably not gonna happen. And Black folks, we’re trying to work out our white junk so we can be better allies to you and make sure our baggage fits in the overhead compartment.

And I want to talk about it, but it’s messing with my head, making me look for words, which for a writer is like being a carpenter without wood. I’m angry, sad, puzzled, tired, exposed, struggling. Where the hell is the wood?

I’m a good white person. I need you to know that, and that’s part of the problem, see? This isn’t about good white person = non-racist. I can be a good person and still have racist ideas and thoughts and assumptions. And I’m squirming and struggling against the idea like one of Pepe Le Pew’s victims. I had the great fortune of having a best friend in college who let me into her Black world. I am an empathetic person by nature. I got it, I believed it when she told me how life was for her being Black. We analyzed when she was a new lawyer at a big Boston firm. Was the interaction because she Black? a woman? Low lawyer on the ladder?

I grew up working class, from immigrants. First generation on one side, 2nd on the other. College was a goal, not a given. I worked all during college, two of those years about 30 hours a week. I graduated with tons of loans, worked in nonprofits — a professional who was not out to make money, but a difference. I did not own property until I was 37. It was in an affordable, but less desirable Boston-area town. My then husband and I didn’t have parents who could give us a down payment, so we took the money out from our 403Bs.

I know white privilege exists on a systemic level. I can’t have listened to a Black person’s experience and doubted it. Ah, so comfy, from my “less privileged” place. I didn’t have money or social standing. I’m good, I’m cool, right? I’m not like those clueless rich white people. Am I?

I defer to my alter ego Blanche, because she likes to laugh at me when I’m being stupid. She sits at the bar drinking gin and taking long contemplative drags on her ciggies.

Blanchesmoking

Poor, Blanche. She just fell off her stool, she’s laughing so hard. Luckily, she’s a tough bird. She’ll be OK. Plus, she likes laughing at me, so she wants nothing better than to get on that stool and in position for my next misstep.

Blanche says, “You’re white, girlie. Hide behind your ‘working class, immigrant’ shield all you want. The fact is, no one has followed your sorry ass in a store, even when you had no money to spend. No one ever thought at work that you were only there because of affirmative action. Once they meet you, your coffee slurping may annoy them, but that’s just being a bad office mate. You uncomfortable? That’s sounds about right.”

Blanch takes a long drag on her ciggie and looks me in the eye as she stubs it out, “You ain’t perfect, babe, let it ride. I’ll stop laughing when you talk sense.” She downs her shot and slams it on the bar. “Or not,” her smokey, throaty laugh echoes in stale air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 for 2018, Cuz We’re All in Hurry

I usually do a top 10 or top 11, because it amuses me, but this year I just have time for 5, but I’m guessing you won’t mind. You’ve got things to do too, don’t you. I just want to say thank you for reading in 2018, thank you if you’ve been reading longer than that (check is in the mail, I swear), and thank you for continuing to read in 2019, if you are so moved. I love that two pieces I wrote eons ago continue to get readership–it cracks me up and lifts me up : Jilted by My Hairdresser—Twice and Shaving, Waxing, Electrocution: A Primer on Women’s War on Hair. I just realized they are both about hair, one flippant and one serious. So we must all have a thing about hair–hmmmm. Food for thought for 2019. Or maybe hair for thought.

Happy new year and here’s to making 2019 better than 2018. The bar is pretty low, people.

Anyway, here are the top 5 posts for 2018. I swear I’m not insulted that they aren’t all from this year. That’s cool. Really. Fine, I’ll work harder next year!

5. Wine Whine  : So I’m guessing you all like wine, and that’s why I like you. Some of you are sommeliers, and more power to you. Me? I’m a simple girl. Show me your wine rack that’s organized in a way people can decipher and no one gets hurt.

4. X-Files: The Bad Boyfriend I Can’t Leave : This one is the 2nd in the series, so I would be negligent if I didn’t  encourage you to read the first one: Christopher William Carter, You’re Grounded and then #3 X-Files, Fin. The fact that neither of those made the top 5, or the top 10 for that matter, may be an indication that it’s similar to the Star Trek movies: only the even numbered ones are any good. Whatever. If you are an X-File fan, prove it and read them! If not, you’re forgiven. There is a high probability the 2nd one is better than the other 2, but you didn’t hear that from me.

3. It’s a Cute Hamster Week : Not sure why you liked this one better than this one, which was so cute, it hurts: It’s Time for Cuteness. But maybe the cute hamster week, with the hamster hanging on is more relatable than cuteness that hurts. You can be the judge of that.

2. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: So I posted this twice, once in 2017 and again in 2018. I think that makes it a classic. (Hint: you will most likely see it in April 2019–for testing purposed only, I swear. Enjoy!

1. Alpha Flee: OK, so I’m going to pretend that the top post for 2018 is NOT a post I wrote in 2016. I’m going to be flattered you found it. Buried underneath 2.5 YEARS of OTHER FABULOUS POSTS. Did I shout? I didn’t mean to. I’m just SO EXCITED that you found it.  And now that I’ve reread it, you’re right. That is some damn good writing. So you’ve got impeccable taste. I totally knew that.

For the record, my personal favorite for 2018 was the Beocat Epic tale. Long live Sir Beocat!

Happy New Year my loves and see you in 2019.

What Do You Want an Afghan for?

When I was in high school, a bunch of friends and I were sitting around and one quietly asked, a little embarrassed, “Does anyone have a napkin?” and we’re not talking about something to wipe food from your mouth. Mishearing the request, another friend answered loudly, “What do you want an afghan for?”

As is the rule with all quality longitudinal friendships, we still joke about that moment. It’s a girl thing, getting surprised by your period, which has unceremoniously snuck up on you. Some of us can studiously count the days all we want and mark our calendars, and our periods laugh at us, sitting at the bar, eyeing us on the overhead TV. And the minute it would be most inconvenient, say, while you’re at a fancy restaurant with white fabric chairs, or giving a presentation at work to mostly men, or in the car on a long trip and miles away from the next exit and any supplies, she laughs evilly while sliding off her stool to come for you. She never comes at home when you are within easy reach of your supplies, or at your friend’s house who would also have supplies, and maybe wine. Oh, no. What fun would that be?

Bitch.

So at some point in your life, as a menstruating woman, you will find yourself asking a friend, coworker, or mere acquaintance if you’re desperate enough, “Do you have a napkin/tampon/pad?”

I can’t remember if I read this on a blog or as part of a novel, but I love this story. The woman is in her late 30s, maybe early 40s and has kids. She carries around tampons in her purse, and at one point they spill out in front of a younger, female coworker, whose eyes get big at the sight of the “super” tampons. You know, because kids, later in life flow. The little girly “light days” ain’t gonna cut it. It’s been so long, that the woman has forgotten there are other types of tampons, and only realizes it though the younger woman’s big eyes.

I can relate. At 53, yes, I still need tampons. Don’t get me started, and yes, I know when — if — this damn thing ever stops, I have other troubles ahead. Maybe whatever those troubles are they don’t cost a small fortune and require a shelf of space. I suppose I can be considered “lucky.” My period no longer plays hide and seek with me; however, she prefers to slide off her bar stool every 24 days like clockwork, which she never seemed to have the time for before.

Bitch.

I’m 53, this is supposed to be getting slower, maybe even skip a month here and there. Ha, ha, ha, she says. What is inconsistent is what happens at day 24, however. Any or all of these things can happen, and it rotates randomly. Leg cramps, backache, migraines; fast, heavy, slow flows, sometimes in the same day; it’s all part of the fun. As a result, both at work and home I have a drawer full/shelf full of 3 kinds of tampons and 2 kinds of pads, and more ibuprofen than a CVS. This has been my life for years now, and like the poor hapless lady in the story, I’ve completely forgotten that periods can present in any other way. That once upon a time, before electricity, I had light, irregular flows, and even skipped a period now and then. I maybe went through a box of one size tampons every 3-4 months.

Until my younger coworker asked apologetically if I had a tampon. Like she might take my last one. “Sure!” I answered enthusiastically as I opened my bottom desk drawer, which as you can see from the picture is chock full. “Oh wow!” she said, eyes big.

tampondrawer

And I saw it through her eyes — like that women in the story. Crap. I already know it’s ridiculous to have my period at my age, but you don’t have to put a fine point on it or remind me nobody has a drawer full of tampons at their desk.

Then she got overwhelmed by the different sizes, “I don’t even know what these all are,” she said, slightly panicked. I thought how could you not know? In the tampon isle there are boxes with all sizes, marketed to us by color and names like “regular,” “super,” “super plus,” and that one grand day they were test marketing “ultra.” I was so happy and excited I bought a box and I never found them again after that. I have a bone to pick with the ever-changing, yet declining helpfulness of the color packaging, but that truly is another blog.

Maybe if your period has a little more civility, you get to have just your one box of one size, tucked away discretely among your note pads and pens and sticky notes.

She grabbed one, I believe is was a super, and ran off. And I was left staring at my drawer. Resupplying it can sometimes feel like musical chairs. Every time I restock, I think maybe it will stop, and then what will I do with all this? (Answer: donate to a woman’s shelter). But she’s sitting on the bar stool laughing at me. She’s not going to pull that trick on me for a long time — Miss every 24 days.

Oh, no, not me. I got my full drawer at work and my full shelf at home. My coworker did come again a few month later, asking for a tampon. She seemed less shocked this time, so that was good.

If my period ever does stop I was thinking I could fill the space with yarn. I make a mean afghan.

Dedicated to my dear friend Ruthy. You know why.

 

 

 

Here’s What We’re Going to Do

My grandmother, who we called Memere (we’re 1/2 French Canadian), would say, after listening to whatever childish request we’d cooked up or if it were a rainy day and we were moping around, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And some amazing activity would ensue: cooking up cripes (that was our version of crepes), or making a dress for an off-brand Barbie, or figuring out what fun thing to do with a piece of a float that had washed up on the shore of her tiny lake cottage.

She has moved on, but her words came back to me as I have been thinking about the three ballot questions we have in Massachusetts. If you live here, I’m sure you’ve read up, or have been reading the flyers that are inundating your mailbox, or you’re getting phone calls from engaged young enthusiastic people. But you’re still not sure?

Here’s what you’re going to do. And because my Memere’s involved, at least in memory, you know you can trust this:

  1. Ballot Question 1, NO: Do you approve of a law that would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care. No on 1.

I work at a hospital that is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the nation–OK once we went down to #4, but they changed the criteria that year–and we say no. The nurses at my hospital have complete control over how many nurses they need to take care of patients who are always changing and have changing needs. One size does not fit all. Here’s is the chief nurse speaking plainly about it to one of our docs. It’s not a slick advertisement, just an iPhone video of reality.  Our chief nurse says no on 1

2. Ballot Question 2, YES: Do you approve of this proposed law that would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Yes on 2.

We’re Massachusetts, and we have lots of smart eggheads who can help clarify this. I know being smart is totally out of fashion right now.  But we can’t help ourselves. Let’s show the rest of the county how it’s done, shall we? They hate us anyway, so what do we have to lose?

3. Ballot Question 3. YES: This one is do you essentially re-approve of a law that has been in existence since 2016? This law already adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. Such grounds also include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, disability, and ancestry. A “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is defined in existing law as any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals. “Gender identity” is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Yes on 3. 

WTF? Look, whatever feelings you have about people who may be different from you. THIS LAW ALREADY EXISTS. No children, pets, or people’s silly pride had been harmed by this law.

WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? You live in Massachusetts–we’re a bunch of blue snowflakes, deal with it. If you have a problem, there are lots of other states you can be happy in. Buh-bye.

Happy voting people, and please don’t disappoint my Memere!

Image credit: National Monitor

 

 

The Doppelgänger Time Traveler

I apparently have one of those faces that is common, because throughout my life I have had friends and coworkers say randomly to me. “Hey, were you in Somerville (Rockport, Copenhagen, Fiji Islands, etc. ) this weekend? I’m sure I saw you!”

Although I do have a reputation for getting around, I don’t get around quite to that extent. So the answer is always no. When a few people first told me they thought they had seen me, I felt good because the person clearly thought about me in a positive way. If they didn’t like me, they would have just ducked and prayed to their favorite deity that I never saw them.

But as it became a more common occurrence, I just felt bad. I admit to certain ambitions that I am a unique person. Sure, it may have started with a blue dyed rat tail accompanying a short, punky haircut in the 80s, but a girl likes to think she’s different. And I have tried to evolve past that tail and, you know, be substantially different (like say it with a French or British  accent!). I have a different point of view! I see the world differently than all you people who look and think the same!

Yeah, right, dream on, girlie. Apparently I’m on every corner and at every festival.

Fine.

It happened less frequently as I got older. Maybe my doppelgängers preferred to stay home, or I became less likable in general. Even money. But then last year my son went off to college in another state. And when he was home for winter break, he said, “Oh, mom, I saw a girl at school who looked like a younger version of you.”

I was like, son of a bitch, seriously? Not only am I not as different as I thought, now I’m not different across time, space and generations? Cripes.

So there it is, folks. I’m as common as common gets across the country and across generations. But you know what? I am, what I am, and I think I’m still pretty interesting anyway, with or without the blue rat tail.

Photo credit: Celeb dopplegangers.

PS. Kavanaugh, this is not over yet. Far, far from it.