Last time we spoke I told you I’d return to finish the tale of my smartphone situation. A long holiday with the family, some mid-level personal drama, and the problem, I suspect, of subconsciously not actually wanting to return to the topic kept me from it; I apologize for dragging my feet. But in the second half of my post, I planned to examine the existential despair that visited me upon activating my new iPhone and when you don’t feel like writing about existential despair, it’s my opinion that you ought to run with that as long as possible. You’ll be brooding soon enough; no need to rush things.
The short of it is this:
When fired up my new iPhone, Apple automatically populated the thing with contact information for dozens of people from the past six of my nine lives. I didn’t want that. I didn’t expect it. So that flood of fossilized information knocked me off my block, hard. There were old, old contacts in my new, new device, some so old as to be unrecognizable unless I concentrated very hard, and this gave me a headache and the existential despair I previously mentioned. Mona? Who the hell was Mo — oh dear God! Without Steve Jobs working his dark arts from beyond the grave, I’d have never thought of that person again as long as I lived, which would have been lovely. But no, Apple plopped her in my life without so much as a how-dee-do (on a Tuesday morning no less) and I was sucked into a downtown nightclub in 2010, going full idiot with Mona and her roided-out boyfriend whose name I blessedly do not remember because I didn’t put his name in my phone,Apple. I have myself to thank for that, I suppose.
There were a couple industry contacts that turned my stomach. If you don’t make a few adversaries over the course of 12 years in your field, you should probably take more risks. I have several adversaries. What I want is water under the bridge; what I don’t want are my adversaries’ phone numbers or every text message between us from the start of our relationship through to the bitter end, which Apple has graciously kept safe and sound in the cloud all these years, unbeknownst to my Android-using self.
But it was all there. And there were others.
Apple: Would you like to contact your ex-husband? Me: What?! No! Apple: Because we have his phone number and email add— Me: Oh my god … Apple: We saved it for you! See? Me: I’d like you to get very far away from me now. Apple: Wait! Where are you going? We also have the number for the cafe you used to work at! It closed three years ago but if you need the number, it’s right here!
All that mess notwithstanding, I gotta say: I love my phone. I’m glad I switched. And as humiliating as it is, I confess to waiting a whole extra week to receive my device because last month Apple announced the iPhone could now come a brand-new color — a very groovy alligator green — and … and … I wanted my phone in that new color, okay?? I did! I wanted the alligator green! And I don’t care who knows that I love my shiny, alligator green iPhone! I love the facial recognition function! I know Android phones have that too but I like the smiley face that pops up on my stupid iPhone when the robot inside of it gazes up at me, alright?? I love the tapback feature on iMessage! I love the way you can shoot lasers out of text messages! It’s amazing!
Me: Mary, you sheep! You worm! You don’t even like green! Apple: But you did though! Like 10 years ago!
Eric and I were onboard with masks early in the pandemic.
In fact, before face masks became widely available, I constructed a whole pile of janky ones out of vacuum cleaner bags and twist ties. I even made a YouTube video about it but took it down after a few days because I occasionally practice good judgement. Those runty little masks were made in a panic and looked like it. Sure, they were kinda punk rock and would have been better than nothing, but they were not fit to broadcast on the internet. Soon after I unpublished my video, tutorials on how to properly construct fabric facemasks from a pattern — the audacity — flooded the YouTubes, so I was extra relieved that I had yanked my video. In many areas of my life, my enthusiasm greatly outpaces my attention to detail. I’m aware.
Anyway, Eric and I committed to wearing boring, normal, well-constructed masks. We loathed them as much as anyone. But it all changed on that fateful day two summers ago when my veneer popped off my left tooth.
I was munching caramel corn, watching the Avengers avenge and bit down on what I thought was a kernel with lots of carmel on it, just a particularly crunchy piece. But after a moment, I sensed something strange … Was that cool air on my left front tooth? No, that wouldn’t make sense. I ate another piece of popcorn.
When the cool air feeling didn’t go away, I ran my tongue over my front teeth. Huh. My left tooth felt … rougher than the right one. It didn’t hurt or anything, but something was off. I put my finger on it. Oh dear. Oh no, no, no. Definitely rough. Could it be … oh dear God!
Like a bottle rocket had gone off on my side of the couch, I shot over to the mirror in our entryway. I stuck my nose up to the glass. I bared my teeth. The right front tooth looked normal, but the left tooth looked very, very wrong.
Instead of a tooth I could be proud of, I was looking at a shrunken little monkey’s paw tooth. Right there in the front of my face, on the left, yellowish and slightly filed down, was my permanent incisor with the accursed fluoride mark, same as it ever was, exposed after years of concealment. The veneer had broken off my left front tooth — and I had eaten it.
“Eric!” I screamed, “My veneer! My veneer came off! My veneer!!! It’s happening!!!”
Eric dashed over. He took me by the shoulders and turned me so I was facing him. “Hey, hey, it’s okay,” he said. “Are you hurt? Let me see.”
“Hm-mmn!” I shook my head and pressed my lips together. My head was bowed so low my chin was touching my chest. Have you ever wailed with your mouth shut? It’s kind of hard to do, but it is possible.
Eric smiled, but not in a mean way; I was clearly going through something. But once he confirmed that I wasn’t in pain, and heard me mumble through my closed mouth that I had a monkey’s paw tooth and was dying, he could see the humor in the situation.
“Let me see,” he said, chuckling. “It’s probably not as bad as you think. It’s okay. Show me.”
With the doleful look of a dog who has been caught getting into the garbage, I raised my head. I pulled back my upper lip and braced myself to see my husband look at me in horror. But he only hugged me and began to laugh quietly.
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It turns out that the teeth I have under my veneers aren’t withered, decaying brown stumps. They’re slightly smaller than they were when they came in, but not by much. They’re yellowish, but not because they’re unhealthy; they’re fine. But the fluoride marks are still prominent, and I stand by this. The veneers are warranted. I made an appointment at the dentist to get them replaced — I was sure the right one was about to go as well — but when I learned they couldn’t get me in right away, my despair returned. Eric still loved me but how could I go outside and talk to people?? How could I face them, disfigured and diminished as I was?
Then I remembered: face masks. No one but the dentist would see my monkey’s paw tooth because no one would be seeing my teeth at all. In fact, no one but Eric had seen my teeth in months.
After years of fear at the prospect of a veneer breaking off, it happened, but it happened during a global pandemic. I hadn’t counted on that one, but there it was. The pandemic is bad, don’t misunderstand me. But last summer, I was able to literally cover my mouth with a face mask to hide my dental shame and that was a gift.
I don’t remember how old I was when my permanent teeth came in, but I watched in horror as they did.
Aside from the trauma of losing all the damn teeth out of my head — can we all appreciate how bizarre that is? — my two front teeth arrived with weird marks on them. I remember being told these harmless whitish marks were calcium deposits, but that’s not correct. I’ll have to confirm it with my dentist, but I believe my teeth were discolored by the fluoride in the water I drank as a kid. My two sisters drank the same water and both of them have a couple tiny spots on one or two bottom teeth, but they didn’t get big ones on their incisors like I did. Do not assume that I was being dramatic when I wailed about my emerging situation. Once they had fully emerged, classmates whispered about my weird teeth and little kids were not shy in asking what was wrong with them/me. I was embarrassed and ashamed.
If my mother hadn’t appreciated how hard it was for me and saved up enough money to get me veneers when I was a freshman in high school, things would have been very different for our family. Rather than a vivacious, standard-issue teenager, I’d have spent four years covering my face with long, dyed-black hair. I’d have listened to Morrissey and Kate Bush exclusively, and I’d have smoked a pack of clove cigarettes every day and hated absolutely everyone except my poet boyfriend who I was in love with, okay, and who loved me for me, Mom, despite the cursed teeth that are obviously your fault and I will never, ever, ever smile again! You can’t make me! I hate this family!
In other words, I would have been the coolest goth chick in the known universe. But I still would have hated my teeth.
The veneers I got in high school lasted about 10 years. At some point in my twenties, my dentist in Chicago recommended we replace them and he did not have to tell me twice. From the moment the first set was cemented down, I have lived in fear that one or both of my veneers will pop off my teeth while I’m eating an apple (or something.) And when — not if — they do, I’ll surely find my teeth have rotted away underneath, and I’ll have to get them yanked out entirely and replaced with implants that have to be screwed into my gums and this will be painful and horrible. I will die with two metal stubs where my front two teeth should be because I will not be able to afford having them fixed, for in this nightmare scenario I have somehow become poor and destitute. Children will run screaming from me when I attempt to smile at them and when I try to speak, the only thing that comes out is a creepy whistle sound. I’ll be a scary, toothless, metal-stubbed mute washerwoman, shuffling along the alleyways of Chicago, hiding my toothless shame. This dental anxiety is and will always be in the back of my mind.
Eric and I were on the couch watching a movie when it happened. Not the washerwoman part: the busted veneer part.
It was summertime, and we were having a snack. We weren’t eating apples. We were eating caramel popcorn and you can just stop right there. I know as well as anyone with dental work that caramel popcorn is and will always be forbidden.
Well, I’m a rebel. A caramel-corn-loving, doomed, dentally malformed rebel who lives in fear. And that terrible day in July, this rebel was forced to face that fear. And it sucked.
*Tune in next time for Part Two of the story, in which I discover what my front tooth looks like after 20+ years of being concealed and how the pandemic was kind of okay for a few days.
Before the pandemic began, I had clothes that could be considered “outside” clothes.
Like so many of you, I tried to maintain some sense of normalcy amid the confusion and fear of those first few months. One of my strategies was to wear my outside clothes inside. I’d dress like like I was going to be seen in public, walk from the bedroom to my desk, perch on my chair and mostly meet deadlines. My desk was a tiny cafe table in the corner of the living room. Eric and I purchased it after we gave up the coworking space we had been renting downtown near the river. The table was barely big enough for my computer and keyboard but I made it work, wearing outside pants and an outside shirt. I even wore shoes for awhile.
But entropy always wins. As time passed, I stowed anything with buttons and zippers and embraced clothes that were soft and contained elastic at the waist and ankles.
That was two years ago. Today, I’m double-vaxxed and boosted. I mostly still wear my mask in public. (So weird that I sometimes forget.) Being outside is possible again. You can tell because today I’m wearing jeans with a button fly and my shirt doesn’t have a stain on the front. I put on my outside face almost every day.
It hasn’t been as fun as I thought it would be to get my outside clothes back into rotation, though, because most of my outside clothes have pockets. (None of my inside clothes have pockets.) As I hang things up, I check the pockets and it’s breaking my heart. It’s not just because the objects represent life pre-pandemic and that feels sad because the girl who last used these pockets had no idea what was on its way. That’s obviously part of it this time, but switching out warm-weather clothes for spring ones has always been painful for me. My pockets, myself: The objects people carry tell the story of their life (or at least part of a story.) It’s surprising how much you can learn about a person by going through them.
Here are the relics from my life in 2020:
lists (example: “H20, Wite-Out, Nutella, graham crackers, burrito stuff”)
used tissues (was I crying or did I just have a runny nose?)
plastic tabs for marking pages in books
awesome lipstick x 2
a wadded up five-dollar bill
a couple receipts
The lipsticks were dry but still useable. Plastic tabs will always be my #1 office supply item. I’m still on the same medication. The receipts were weird because a couple of them were from D.C. and I don’t go to D.C. anymore. I put the five-dollar bill in a drawer because I used cash in 2020 but hardly ever now. Lint is eternal.
The arrow of time only goes forward, but the arrow of time doesn’t have pockets. I’m not saying the arrow would ever turn around and go back if it had pockets, but it might slow down to catch its breath.
There comes a time in every young woman’s life when she hears the song ‘These Days’, written by Jackson Browne, first recorded by German model and actress Nico in 1967.
Maybe she first hears the track when a boy, trying very hard to impress her with how much he knows about 1960s American pop music, plays it for her at his apartment. The boy calls albums “records” even though he’s playing CDs because it’s 2002, or he’s playing the songs on Spotify because it’s 2022. After ‘These Days’ he plays something from The Velvet Underground (of course), followed by a Rolling Stones deep cut before moving onto motown. At the time, the girl — and the girl is you — doesn’t know much about American pop music except for the Beatles, so it’s all bit intimidating. But when the boy puts on a Sam Cooke record, you and the boy start making out, and after that, you know something about 1960s American pop music too.
Or maybe you heard ‘These Days’ for the first time in Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. There’s a memorable scene in which Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, with her kohl-rimmed eyes and stick-straight strawberry blonde hair pinned back in a tiny barrette, steps off a bus and walks toward her adoptive brother. For a full minute, Gwyneth moves in slow motion toward her love (played by Luke Wilson) and there is no dialogue, only soundtrack: it’s pure pathos, set to music, and the music playing is ‘These Days’ by Nico, until she reaches him.
It’s definitely possible you heard ‘These Days’ at a party. (Incidentally, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ is another well-known track on Chelsea Girl, the album — sorry, record — on which ‘These Days’ appears.) I wasn’t at the party where you first heard ‘These Days’, but I know what kind of party it was. I certainly what kind of party it wasn’t. It wasn’t a party with a beer pong table. Chelsea Girl doesn’t hang out at parties with beer pong tables. The table at the party where you first heard ‘These Days’ had wine bottles on it and someone named Sascha standing nearby expounding on Kant with modest success and, depending on how long ago it was, there were a couple of ashtrays in active rotation. Come to think of it, maybe I was at that party … I remember those ashtrays.
I intensely dislike ‘These Days’ by Nico. If I hear Jackson Browne’s unmistakable fingerpicking come through the stereo/computer and I’m in a position to do so, I’ll pop up and skip it immediately. If I’m in a situation where I can’t do that — if I’m at a party, for example — I’ll excuse myself to use the ladies’ room or make my way to the wine table to check on those ashtrays. I don’t want to hear it.
The reason I don’t want to hear it is because for me, the song reminds me of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s famous 1963 novel. There comes a time in every young woman’s life when she picks up The Bell Jar; it’s sometime after she reads Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and before The Story of O. Plath’s novel is brilliant because she was suffocating when she wrote it and when you read it, the novel all but suffocates you too. That’s how right Plath got it. I remember how the Esther, the protagonist — and the protagonist is Plath — would go for days without talking to anyone, sensing she was somehow underwater, being rolled over and over in the current of an all-encompassing sadness. Here’s how the first verse of Nico’s dumb song goes:
I’ve been out walking I don’t do too much talking These days, these days These days I seem to think a lot About the things that I forgot to do And all the times I had the chance to.
There are three more similarly suffocating verses and then it ends with this one:
I’ve stopped my dreaming I won’t do too much scheming These days, these days These days I sit on cornerstones And count the time in quarter tones to ten Please don’t confront me with my failures I had not forgotten them
I bear no ill will toward Nico. She was an Andy Warhol ‘Superstar’ by the way, and I’m an Andy fan. But her voice sounds like she’s been eating jam all day. And there’s a brief staccato section in the beyond emo string arrangement that is 1000 percent referencing Eleanor Rigby (it came out one year before) and we all know what a feel-good tune that is.
‘These Days’ is silence and suffocation and I don’t like it one bit. ‘These Days’ makes me feel bad, and I’m not fond of feeling bad. I’m particularly fond of feeling good, as a matter of fact, and I ought to be feeling good these days. In many respects, these are the best days so far.
Which this is why I’m confused that for the past several weeks, ‘These Days’ has been firmly stuck in my head.
I thought I’d mention that I’ve begun making goofy videos for the internet. I mean, they’re all chock full of fascinating facts and figures (well, at least a figure here and there for good measure) and they’re full of me, which, depending on how you feel about me, could be a terrific thing or a reason not to watch the content. Personally, it is hard for me to watch the content, but that’s because after all these years of creating on-camera vignettes for this or that purpose, I am still amazed that that is my face and that is my voice. But it is, and it is, and we now have more proof that I’m a moth to the silicon flame.
If you’re not familiar with YouTube channels — Eric was introduced only this year after I showed him — it’s pretty simple and can be a nice thing when you have interest in a person or a show on YouTube. You click on the channel (a little icon under the video screen, above the rest of the video thumbnails the channel has produced) and you click “Subscribe”. This means that when you open YouTube on your computer or device, you’ll probably see your subscription videos first in the lineup of suggested videos. If the person or show you’ve subscribed to has posted a new video, you’ll see that. (This is how my YouTube works, anyway; I hope I haven’t led you astray, though however you click it, the learning curve is tiny.)
There’s also a little bell that you can click, which means you’ll get a notification every time I upload a new video. If you like my content enough to want to get a notification the moment I post new videos, that means you really, really like me. Full disclosure: I do not have notifications set for any of my YouTube descriptions. I am allergic to alerts. They are distracting and there are just so many of them. Still, some people have told me that the Quilty videos I made for many years and the PBS show are often nice background audio for them as they work or fall asleep (I take this as a compliment) so if you’re under a deadline or you’re needing a nap, maybe you do want to know right away that I’ve posted something for you. That bell is the way.
I have come to learn that subscribers and bells — and “engagement”, which means comments and watching through to the end of a video, no pressure — are important for growing a YouTube channel, so I’m hoping to have some of all that. Perhaps you will tell your friends, neighbors, and countrymen and women that the best thing going on the internet is this scrappy 41-year-old quilt person’s YouTube channel. I have to try to get the word out somehow: It’s hard to accept that so many D-list celebrity gossip channels and channels featuring people playing blurry vintage video games, and people vlogging about absolutely nothing as they drive their car (this is all actual content) have subscriber numbers in the six digits when my channel is so tiny.
But all those folks started somewhere, right? For every popular YouTube channel, there was a first video game; a first “well, here I am in my car again,” vlog episode; a first makeup tutorial; a first mukbang … Mukbangs, by the way, are videos where people eat on camera. Like, they eat dinner, or lunch, or breakfast, and talk to you.
The internet — YouTube in particular — is a strange world, indeed. I have entered the YouTube because it’s a pandemic and it won’t be over for a very long time, I’m afraid, and I am having fun doing something new. I’ve entered it because I’m making a documentary and I need to prove to the suits that people want to watch me talk about quilts (and sometimes myself) on camera, but without doing tutorials, because I’ve done a lot of that and there’s so, so much of that already on YouTube. I’ve decided to make a channel because it’s still 2020 and all bets are off.
I hope you head over there and do the subscribe, like, watch, share thing. I’d appreciate it, and may the gods of YouTube be with us all. They can’t be all bad: Have you seen the puppy videos??
This is the 15th installment in a series of 51 posts inspired by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing it.
I’m going to take a pause from Babs and tell you about Eric. And virtual reality.
Eric, by the way, is my husband.
Yes, I did get married, as many of you have either figured out, suspected, or been told by a trusted source. Eric and I celebrated our one-year anniversary one week ago.
The story of this occurrence is so lovely, true, and massive, I’ve struggled to write about how it happened, how it’s been, and how it is. I haven’t written about it explicitly until this very moment. I’ve begun many times and stalled, because there have been events in my 40 years life that are hard to write about, not for lack of wanting to write about them, but because writing is hard, but writing well is much, much harder, and when a sublime and massive event arrives, a writer who cares wants to write about that event not just well, but sublimely. She wants to write the story so that the text itself feels as lovely as the experience was, as true as it’s been, and as massive as it continues to be.
This is tall order for her brain and the poor English language, who will quickly wonder how it got into this mess. And, because the writer who cares knows it’s possible to make the English language tell the truth about sublime and massive things — the books on her shelf prove it — it makes it easy to stall. In fact, stalling is the easiest thing to do when a person wants to put into words a sublime, massive situation because the hardest thing to do is to get it right.
I should probably just tell you what happened, event by event. I could just aim for “simple” and forget “sublime”, just build small words, one by one, and let massive take care of itself. I’ll keep at it, I promise. I can’t help but try; there are two true joys in my life and they are writing and Eric. It would be lovely to marry them well.
I cannot believe I’ve shared this news in a post that features an image of a floppy disk of Frogger from 1984.
Okay, let’s talk about this quarantine business because it’s what’s on my mind. Is it on yours? Eric and I began our official, strict, shelter-in-place, safer-at-home experience on Friday, March 13th. That day, we took a Sharpie and wrote on the old, peeling wallpaper in the hallway: “Mary + Eric’s Covid Quarantine 2020” because it was amusing to us, like we were cartoons on a cartoon desert island, carving the days on a coconut tree. And that first week, we dutifully added a hashmark on the wallpaper each day. Perhaps we stopped because it did seem sort of silly, sort of fun, but there’s nothing silly about this.
Incidentally, I’ve always believed that aside from first-responders and ethical journalists, the people that deserve protection and respect in any society are the great standup comedians. That might seem strange to some of you, but the maestros — Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt, and Michelle Wolf come to mind — witness and artfully tell the truth about human nature. When they do, we’re given access to a measure of relief, since laughing at ourselves is often the only way to get any. But not even the greats can help right now, so who are Eric and I to ironically mark days in the hall? It stopped being amusing so we stopped marking the days and now they all run together.
Anyway, about Frogger. A few months back, Eric purchased a VR headset for his PlayStation. “VR” stands for “Virtual Reality” and that thing looked ridiculous. I married Eric at City Hall four months after we met, and never once, not a single time — even through some real gnarly days in the past year — have I wondered if I made the right decision. I love the man more every day. But I do confess that when this 42-year-old person, this brilliant man, this funny Valentine of mine put that plastic contraption on his head and started swinging these two blinking wands into thin air, I stopped what I was doing and thought, “Well, you knew he was a nerd when you married him, Fons.”
When he handed the VR thing to me, I flatly refused it.
“Absolutely not,” I said. “I’m sure it’s very cool, but I am a serious person. I cannot put a plastic headset on my head and look around at things that do not exist. I support your fun, but I prefer to stay in regular reality, thank you very much.”
Headset or not, I am not a video game person, anyway. The last time I “gamed” was in 6th grade, probably, bored enough on a hot summer day in Iowa to pick up a controller on our old Nintendo. I was pretty sure I’d never “game” again. Pointless!
But because he was so into it and wanted to share the experience with me, he finally wore me down.
“Just for a second,” Eric said. “Just put it on for a second to see what it looks like. There’s a field of bunnies! You can walk around and look at everything! And there’s bunnies!”
I took the headset from him, holding it like a bag of old bananas. I put it on my head. Lo and behold, there was a navigable, digital field of shimmering bunnies that looked so real that I became dizzy and terrified and clawed it off of me.
Then came the pandemic. And around Week 2 of quarantine, after braving the long line at Trader Joe’s and seeing pictures semi trailers full of bodies parked behind New York hospitals, slipping into a different reality started to look attractive.
On top of that, Eric somehow managed to score an Oculus Quest. The Oculus Quest is one of the newest, most advanced VR contraptions on the market and it is a world away from the one he originally purchased (the one with the bunnies.) The Oculus Quest is sold out absolutely everywhere, but he just kept checking the website, I guess, and one day he got lucky. The old VR thing had a cord that had to connect to the TV and those derpy wands; the Oculus Quest is wireless and the derpy wands have been replaced with sleek controllers you hold in both hands. The headset is light and …
Y’all, I spend at least two hours a day on that thing. At least. I love it. I’m obsessed! When I finish this post, I’m going to go into the living room and put it on and play Beat Saber until I’m positively dripping with sweat.
Beat Saber is consistently ranked as the best game made so far in the VR genre. You put on the headset and suddenly you are basically in Tron. It’s not Tron, but it is this digital world — a very beautiful one, with moving set pieces and gradually changing colors and pretty, glowy things far up over your head. And suddenly you have a light saber in each hand — a light saber! — and then the music starts and it’s dancey music that (mostly) isn’t lame, and then these glowing blocks fly at you and you have to hit them before they hit you!
I’m telling you, it really, really feels like you have light sabers, because the VR thing works visually but it’s haptic, too, so when you cross your light sabers over your head, the real-life controllers in your hands actually buzz and give resistance, like you’re crossing the streams of two light sabers! I don’t know what that would actually feel like because light sabers are not real, but they feel so real in the game and it’s just amazing. It’s really amazing.
I am getting very, very good at Beat Saber. In the past month and a half, I have moved up the ranks. I went from playing games at the “Easy” level to the “Normal” level. Then I mastered all the “Hard” levels. Now I’m crushing the “Expert” levels. The final level is “Expert+” and I’ve got my work cut out for me. The higher the levels, the faster the glowing blocks fly at your head and in Expert+, they go fast enough to make me laugh. It looks impossible. But when my faith flags, I like to think of Serena Williams and how she practices every day and she perseveres and she’s one of the best tennis players to ever play the game. And I pick up my sabers and I hit glowing bricks. Hard.
Thank you for reading about how I got married and also about how I play video games, now. “I am the one who” never thought I’d do either of those things again, ever, but here we are.
If you’re reading this, I’ll bet there are some books in your house. It doesn’t matter what kind, but I’ll bet there’s more than 20. I don’t have hard data on this, but I was at an event in Indiana a few weeks ago and met a number of PaperGirl readers who were clearly book-owning people. It was a vibe.
If you’re like me, the books you’ve kept for years in your living room or den or office you’ve kept for an obvious reason: They matter. I think the books we keep are meaningful because they reflect to us and everyone else who we are — and/or maybe who we’d like to be. Our bookshelves speak volumes (I know, I know!) because they’re essentially an exhibit we’ve curated. The books on a person’s shelf say, “I’m a hopeless romantic”, or “My political views are central to who I am”, or “I’m a Christian”, or “I’m an atheist”, or “I’m an actor” or “Science fiction helps me deal with reality.” What do your books say about you? Maybe there are so many books on your bookshelves, they’re groaning under the weight of all that paper. In that case, what your books say is: “I can’t throw books out.” That’s your answer: You’re a person who can’t bear to let go of books.
The books on my shelves cover a lot of ground. I’ve got anthologies of humor writing wedged in next to a pristine set of Quiltfolk magazines, the ones I refuse to mark up, make notes in, or review incessantly so that the next issue will be better than the last. On the other shelf, I’ve got everything Camille Paglia has ever published. Next to all that is (for example) a collection of Saul Bellow letters and two or three Nabokov novels … which butt up against a tiny portion of my quilt history library. (The rest is in my basement storage unit at the moment.) To an outside observer, this quilt history/cultural fireband/chuckle fest/Lolita mix is super weird, but to anyone who knows me, the books on my shelves makes perfect sense: My library, myself. And it’s the same with you.
However mishmashed the subcategories may be, there is one prevailing genre within my shelves: Nearly everything fits into the genre of personal narrative. Personal narrative is nonfiction that comprises memoir, autobiography, diary, personal essay, and certain longform journalism. As a writer and reader, this stuff is my jam. It’s been this way since I was in high school. I don’t check novels out from the library, I don’t buy them, and I don’t read the few I still have in my possession. Why?
The way I figure, it’s unfettered reality I want — the “straight tea”, as the kids say. I’m curious about people’s direct experience being a human and if a person writes about that experience as honestly and thoughtfully as they can, I want to read that. In fact, I’m desperate to read it. Everyone has way, way more to learn than they think they do, and I know I’ll learn from people if I can access their respective alternate realities. Of course I realize that novels offer alternate realities, too, and that novels can weave reality in a lovely, different way, but I don’t want a surrogate. I don’t want a (however well-wrought) fabrication standing in between me and the story. I’m too impatient, as usual, but I’m also unapologetic about this: I want my reality uncut. Mainline me.
There are giants of the personal narrative genre. These people are my heroes. Those giants include James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, Michel de Montaigne, Zadie Smith, Christopher Hitchens, David Foster Wallace … and Vivian Gornick.
It’s that last name we’re going to spend the rest of our time with, because Vivian Gornick wrote a book I have kept on my shelf for many years and I shall always keep it on my shelf. It’s like an old, worn, freshly washed bathrobe. The other day, needing one of those, I pulled that book down and leafed through, for old times’ sake. The content I found did two things: 1) it caused me to think about the books we keep on our shelves and 2) it broke open why I can’t get a grip on this blinkin’ blog.
First things first: Vivian Gornick is a genius at writing. Her writing is efficient and elegant — think Einstein’s theory of relativity. Her sentences have zero fat. There is no ego, no flourish. She doesn’t stand for that crap. She observes everything and then she writes down the truth of it, however mundane. She writes books and essays and critical reviews and they will inspire you and also depress you if you’re a writer, because guess what? There’s only one Gornick, baby. If you want a place to start, read her memoir about her relationship with her mother, Fierce Attachments.
Okay, okay, so Gornick wrote a book a few years ago called The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. When I was teaching writing at the University of Chicago, I used this book a lot, especially in the blogging class and the storytelling class. The book is one big revelation, but perhaps the biggest, baddest one is essentially this: to write about your life, you have to craft a persona, because a persona will give you the voice you need to write the story of your life. Here’s an excerpt from the book, and I know I’m just diving in here, but I looked hard for the right passage so I hope you’ll track with me on this:
“The writing we call personal narrative is written by people who, in essence, are imagining only themselves in relation to the subject in hand. … Out of the raw material of a writer’s own undisguised being a narrator is fashioned whose existence on the page is integral to the tale being told. This narrator becomes a persona. Its tone of voice, its angle of vision, the rhythm of its sentences, what it selects to observe and what to ignore are chosen to serve the subject; yet at the same time the way the narrator — or the persona — sees things is, to the largest degree, the thing being seen.
To fashion a persona out of one’s own undisguised self is no easy thing … Yet the creation of such a persona is vital in an essay or a memoir. It is the instrument of illumination. Without it there is neither subject or story. To achieve it, the writer of memoir or essay undergoes an apprenticeship as soul-searching as any undergone by a novelist or poet: the twin struggle to know not only why one is speaking, but who is speaking.”
This blog has existed since 2005. For more than a decade, save for a few periods when I’ve gone dark — as I’ve been lately — I’ve shared my life here and I have told you the truth. I am vulnerable here. I don’t bullshit you. I respect you, I respect myself, and I tell the truth and because of that respect, I cannot write things that are fake. The times when the blog has evaporated for a spell, it’s evaporated precisely because I refuse to be inauthentic, and sometimes it’s impossible to be authentic without turfing out. Put another way: If what’s going on with me is deeply private, if it is not for public consumption, yet, if it would compromise other people, if it simply makes no discernible sense yet, or if I’m just plain too scared to tell you, I don’t know how to write PaperGirl.
PaperGirl is fun. Yes, she’s vulnerable and open. We know that. I talk about sad stuff and bad stuff and gross stuff. But she bounces back. She’s a total dork, a complete spaz. She has perspective and she knows who she is. I love PaperGirl. She’s definitely real. She’s me. She’s a part of me, anyway, which means PaperGirl is … a persona. Absolutely authentic, no fake-out, no bullshit. But a specific voice from me who can take “the raw material of [her] own undisguised being” and tell you about it using a specific “tone of voice”, “angle of vision”, and with a certain rhythm to her sentences. I don’t want to get too writer-rabbit-hole-y on you — too late — but believe me: For years and years, when it was time to sit down and write PaperGirl, I mentally and involuntarily slipped on my PaperGirl shoes, cracked my knuckles, and voila: I could write about my life.
I’m afraid that persona has left the building.
Wait, wait! I don’t mean that in some dour, gloomy way. It’s weird and yes, it is sort of sad: I liked her. I liked that goofy, chummy, weird, sensitive, earnest PaperGirl. I hung out with her a long time, and so did you, and I love you very much, and she loved you very much. But after everything that happened this past winter and everything that has happened since, I can’t get those shoes on my feets. They do not fit. I observe things constantly that I want to tell you about, every single day, but I can’t get it on the page/screen. For awhile, every time I saw something I would normally zip out to you, I’d think, “Yes. That’s it. Tonight I can blog. Yes, I have to write about that, I have to share that. I love that and they’ll love that.” But that night, I’d try to put the shoes on and … I couldn’t write in that PaperGirl voice anymore and that was hard, but even harder was that I didn’t know what voice would take its place. Or if one would. That is a very scary thing for a writer and for a person.
The good news is simply that I’ve figured all this out, and I send my regards to Vivian Gornick. And because I’ve figured it out — that it’s impossible for me to blog like I used to because I’ve outgrown the PaperGirl persona/narrator — this means I can let myself off the hook. I’m not a bad blogger, I’ve just got a concussion. I’ll always write about my life; I just have to figure out who’s doing the writing.
In conclusion: If I let myself off the hook for not being “PaperGirl”, I think I can blog. I think so. There’s an opening. Thank you for all the emails and the comments and everything. You people are amazing. I’m doing pretty good and oh man do I have so much to tell you, big things and little things. I’m bursting to tell you, but I just don’t know what the PaperGirl 2.0 voice is, yet. I’ll get her. I’ll catch her. I get back on my feet. I’ll practice.
In telling the story of my nervous breakdown at age 39, I’ve so far detailed in two separate posts the death of my dog and the breakup of my relationship. There are three more disasters to share with you because there were three more blows coming for me before the major depression reached its most gruesome stage.
Tonight, the third disaster, but a heads-up for next week: I’ll combine the other two into one last post about the wind-up. I want to get to the climax and the denouement and then I want to go back to writing about dryer lint. Those were the good old days.
All right, let’s do this. Let’s talk about my guts.
Some people get colonoscopies. People with colon disease get them a lot, maybe every couple of years. Every two years, I have to get a pouchoscopy because I don’t have a colon. Instead of a colon, I have a medically fashioned thing called a j-pouch, and if you’re interested in reading the story of my chronic illness, click the “Sicky” category and you can enjoy all that wacky content.
My insurance was canceled in 2017 (a post about that is to be found in the “Sicky” category, in fact) and the cancellation meant I could no longer see my doctors and surgeons. Because of grad school and work, it took me a long time to getting around to finding new doctors. Dragging my feet on this was bad … since I was due for a pouchoscopy. The pouchoscopy is done frequently with gimps like me because we’re at a higher risk for various bowel cancers than other folks. It’s also seriously important to check for inflammation inside my funky new body parts because inflammation could be a sign of pouchitis, which is basically Ulcerative Colitis (UC) of the j-pouch. Which would suck.
And then there’s this other thing that a pouchoscopy can reveal. A pouchoscopy can tell the doctor if you — in this case, me — might be exhibiting signs of Crohn’s Disease.
Let’s see how quick I can do this: If you have UC, it means your large intestine is eating itself alive but your small intestine is fine. With UC, you can have your entire colon removed, get an ostomy, and get a j-pouch and everything blows and it’s awful forever, but whatever. You’ve still got your small intestine and that’s something, at least.
If you have Crohn’s Disease, your large and small intestine are eating themselves alive. Crohn’s peeps undergo (often over and over and over) surgeries called “resectionings”. A resection is where a surgeon takes out a too-inflamed, too-ulcerated-to-save piece of your guts. There’s no total colectomy with Crohn’s like there is with UC, because Crohn’s folks need all the entrails they can get. Any piece could fail at any time, you know?
If a person like me, a person with zero large intestine (aka, colon) is diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, this is bad. This is the worst thing. This is the hell thing. This is the thing that wakes me up at night, the thing that makes me bite my cuticles till they bleed. If I am diagnosed with Crohn’s — whether it manifested after all my other surgeries or if I was misdiagnosed 10 years ago, doesn’t matter — then I will eventually have to undergo resectionings.
If you take away enough small intestine because you have no large intestine to take from you will eventually run out of intestine. If you run out of intestine, you can still live. But you can’t eat. You’re fed intravenously. Forever. And because you no longer sh*t, they sew up your butt. It sounds sort of funny except that it isn’t funny.
When I walk into a hospital or a GI doctor’s office, I experience PTSD from all the needles and bags and accidents and procedures and trauma and despair that I’ve known in the last decade — and that’s just when I walk in. If I’m in the doctor’s office and my doctor looks concerned about lab results or looks concerned about what I’m telling her about how I’ve been feeling, I tremble and shake. I also begin to stutter? When I’m in the GI doc’s office and things get out of hand, it’s true: I can’t get my mouth to say words. It’s weird. It’s frightening. When I have to get a pouchoscopy scheduled, I just … I don’t want to exist in my head. That’s how bad it feels. Basically, going to see my GI doctor is one of the most awful things that can happen to me, even when I get a clean (for me) bill of health.
Guess when I had an appointment to see my GI doctor? Sometime in early January, maybe? Yeah, after my dog and my boyfriend disappeared, and right before I got denied for a home loan and right before a huge fight with my family. It was sorta right in the middle of all that. And remember: This appointment to see my GI doctor was an appointment to see a new GI doctor, because I lost my insurance. New smells. New hospitals. New travel times.
The new doctor needed me to go through my medical history there in her office. From the first words, I could feel the stutter was gonna happen. My eyes started pouring hot water. Trying to “get it together” made it worse. The doctor was patient, but she needed the info in order to help me. By the time I got to the end of the story, which concluded with weird symptoms I told her I’d been having for several months, I was … not good.
“I’m concerned, with what you’re telling me about your symptoms,” she said, after clackity-clacking on her keyboard some more. She looked grave. “We need to do the pouchoscopy you should’ve had six months ago. I’m concerned about Crohn’s Disease, from what you’ve been telling — ”
And I don’t remember what came after that. Wait, I do remember: The doctor told me to go upstairs to get my blood drawn at the lab and she’d follow up with me about scheduling the pouchoscopy “as soon as possible.” I nodded and shook her hand. With a kind of fuzzy, hysterical static sound in my brain and behind my eyes, I took the paper. I went up to the lab. I got to the door. My legs didn’t work. I turned around. I left the hospital. I nearly threw up in the Uber.
All I could think of as I slumped against the car door was feeding tubes.
When I got to my house, I went up to my apartment. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t leave for a while.
This year of 2019 is pretty young, yet, but she’s old for her age.
Of the 11 or so weeks the year’s been alive, there were three or four in which I was fully out of commission. I’ve hinted around in the past few posts that something bad happened. I wrote about “the worst day of my life” a couple weeks back. Several times in several places I’ve mentioned pain in passing only to say “I’ll tell you later”, skipping stones on the surface of a deep, dark lake.
You could tell. You could tell because you know me, because you’re smart, and because I am a terrible liar. So it’s time to stop dodging; I’m not fooling you and besides, there’s only one thing I want to tell you. What I want to tell you is that I had a nervous breakdown. I’m way, way better now. But I caught a case, boy.
These days, we’re to call it a “major depressive episode” and there’s no doubt it was that. But when I put a name to the ungodly thing, I prefer to use the old-fashioned term “nervous breakdown”. When a gal is twisted up in agony of the emotional kind, lost to an extended panic, unreachable even to her most faithful friends, there’s something distantly (very distantly) comforting in claiming what’s happening is a nervous breakdown. It could even be glamorous, she tries to tell herself, all smelling salts and fainting couches, powders and slaps across the face. All this thinking really does, though, is suggest that because those thoughts exist, you must not be the only person in history who has gone through it. You have sisters in the emotional failure business, in other words. Congratulations.
Part of my hesitation in telling you until now is that it’s such a long, long story. Be patient with me as I roll it out. I may not go in order, and that bothers me but there’s nothing to be done, as one of the effects of a nervous breakdown — whether encroaching, actively having its way with you, or leaving its slime trail — is a lack of focus. I have found it extraordinary difficult to focus these months and getting things straight has taken herculean efforts. Losing focus is just one of the symptoms I’ve had; no two nervous breakdowns are the same. We’re all built differently, so when our buildings collapse, they can fall any which way: One person can get off the couch but her focus is dynamited while another stays mentally present but her body might as well be dissolving in lye.
Where was I?
The first phase of the breakdown hit in early December, but as I’ve looked at everything, it’s clear(ish) to me that I was headed straight for it, or it was headed for me, all year. Or maybe it’s been five years coming, or ten. Maybe it’s in my blood. (My father could tell you that it is.) In the next post, I’ll tell you how it all went down. It’s too much for me at the moment and I’m thinking of you, too.
Tonight, I’ll close with this:
We all get sad. Some of us get very sad and stay that way. You may be low because you’re dealing with brutal life stuff. Perhaps you are generally blue. Perhaps you are sad because it’s winter and the sky is flinty and the wind has teeth. You may be someone who lives with mild depression; you may take medication for it. However or whatever depressed state you may be in, it sucks. It really, really sucks to live in a long, grey cloud. You might wonder, on bad days, “Maybe I’m having a nervous breakdown”. I’ve wondered this in the past, on bad days.
It turns out, the difference between the grey cloud and a nervous breakdown is the difference between a sneeze and metastasized lung cancer. You do not need to ever wonder if you’re having a nervous breakdown. If you are having one, you will know. You will feel as though you are being eaten alive by a sadness monster, and the color will drain out of the world — except the grey, though it crusts over into something darker. The upside, however, to being eaten alive by a sadness monster is that at least it’s a monster. Depression is an all-over ache; a nervous breakdown is getting punched in the face.
Did any of that make sense?
Some might think writing publicly about a mental disorder shows I have neither shame nor sense. You’re right, but for the wrong reason. Sharing this is not scary for me. I don’t feel nervous, or worried — or brave, for that matter. This is my life and you are my peeps. Of course I’m going to tell you about the time I had a nervous breakdown.
At this point, I think it’s best that I make a list.
A list of the reasons why this PaperGirl has been so absentee. A list of reasons why she’s struggling. Why she is internet-skulking around, looking guilty, trying not to wake anyone up when she gets home, slinking through the back door with the stealth of a teenage ninja with something to hide. Perhaps it’s time to make a list of the reasons why the woman feels as though there is something to hide. Like a grocery list, except with guilt and creeping dread. And shame! Don’t forget the shame.
And now, the reasons why I am not checking in as much these days …
I refuse to be a blogger who posts apology posts about how “it’s been so long” since she posted .. and yet, that is precisely what’s starting to happen.
I used to have myself to manage. Just the one person, and that one person was someone I’ve known for 39 years. These days I’m in charge of a staff of four, roughly. That’s four (not at all roughly but perfectly) incredible, beautiful, talented, brilliant people who count on me to steer a pretty large ship. Two ships, actually: Quiltfolk and the Big Project.
The Big Project is a 10-12 part documentary series on the history of quilting in America. The project has been greenlighted. But I’m not supposed to tell you that. But that’s what it is. If you’re a reader of this blog, you have now read this. I might even delete what you’re reading right now because I shouldn’t say this. This is a leak you’re reading. I cannot and will not mention it again until it’s okay to talk about it, but I’m telling you now because I love you and miss you and it’s the least I can do. I’m working on this film. It’s real. It’s going to be huge. Think Netflix huge, Amazon Prime huge. (*I’ve decided this message will self-destruct in 48-hours. So tell your friends and share away. Because by Monday, it’s gone. It’s real. And it’s gone.)
Between the documentary series and Quiltfolk, there is zero wiggle room. For anything. Less than zero. I keep trying to make that not true.
I feel different, guys.
My politics are starting to show and this is complicated. Part of what I have long cherished about my blog is that my readership is bipartisan. I have so seldom gone on record about political feelings because I need PaperGirl to be a place where humans with different ideas are friends and, because of that friendship, can listen to each other and find peace. (When you really listen to someone’s life story, it is impossible to hate them.) But I fear my beloved country is slouching toward tyranny and Stage IV bigotry. How can I be a good citizen and not speak of this when I have a public forum and thousands of friends who — were we all to move as friends to change the course of history for good — how can I be a good citizen and not do this? My fear is doing it poorly, carelessly. PaperGirl is not a Facebook post, dashed off after dinner, after a glass of wine, after watching the local news. No. This is PaperGirl, and you’re better than that. But I am no politician. My citizenry is secure. But my political engagement as a citizen is keeping me up at night.
When I have 30 minutes in front of the laptop and I’m not doing work, I want to email Nick. Or read something. Or watch something idiotic.
I have never done anything halfway. If I can’t do this right now, I will not insult you with half measures. “All or nothing” is a terrible binary, unless you’re me. If you’re me, it makes almost mathematically-sound sense. (I wish it didn’t.)
I plan to delete Facebook. I refuse to be a part of that business. They are watching us. They are profiting off our data. They don’t care about me, they don’t care about you. I’m concerned they don’t particularly care about our democracy. This is not conspiracy theory. The Facebook app on most mobile devices is set to collect audio. When you speak, what you say is being harvested. Ever talked about something with a friend and then saw an ad about it on Facebook? They’re literally listening to us. I’m not okay with that. So I’m not “hiding” Facebook. I’m not taking it off my browser. I’m not just deleting the app on my phone. (I haven’t had that app in two years.) I’m deleting Facebook. I’m gone, my darlings. There was a time when we were human beings without Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room-inspired internet project. I want to be that kind of human. If it means I suddenly cease to exist, I’ll let you know. By mail.
When I miss something terribly, it is better to just not look. This is my approach to places where I used to live. Pictures of people who I used to love or who are dead, now. I’m afraid to look at what I miss. So I didn’t log on for a week.
To look at me from where you are, it seems possible I am an adult person. I pay my taxes. I arrive on time, most of the time, to the places where I am expected, and I can reach things on most shelves. I brush teeth, buy a round, shake hands. Sure. All of that.
I moved into my condo seven years ago and the entire time, while I could have afforded to buy one many times over and though the space is equipped with the proper hookup valves, I have chosen not to install a washer-dryer in my unit. This is after longing and pining and wishing I had one pretty much the entire time.
The pumpkin spice latte you’ve been enjoying stalls halfway to your lips. You blink. “Mary … What are you talking about? You don’t have an in-unit washer-dryer and you want one and you could ostensibly get one? Really?” You lean in. “Mary … Tell me the truth. Are you afraid of washer-dryers?”
I roll my eyes and tell you no I’m not afraid of washer-dryers, Karen. But my eye roll is hiding my shame. The truth is that I am afraid that getting a washer-dryer will prove to me that my kitchen remodel was flawed. When I had the kitchen remodeled years ago, I asked for all open shelving. I have a galley kitchen, which means that it’s long and narrow. Even while small-ish and narrow-ish, I love it — and I knew I’d love it more if the gross, boxy cupboards were gone and replaced by fabulous open shelves running from one side of the subway tiled wall to the other. I knew it would open the space and it absolutely did. Besides, I love the dishes I have, I love my teapot, I love the beautiful wine glasses I keep polished and nice. The kitchen looks great.
But it meant that pantry items were to be put somewhere else, unless I wanted cracker boxes and spice jars and rubber-banded bags of rice out in front of God and everybody. Open shelves have a certain display quality to them and the objects I have are display worthy; the bags of pumpkin seeds, not as much. So I put all that pantry stuff in the small (small) pantry room, on a big (big) steel shelf … which covers the washer-dryer hookups. Because I thought I was fine using the building laundry room. Because I like laundry rooms. Because it’s good exercise going up four flights of stairs every time I need to do the wash. Because where am I going to put these cans of black beans??
Well, I’ll have to figure it out, because I ordered a washer-dryer combo thing. Nick helped me get just the right one. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the cracker boxes and the rice bags. But I am so, so excited about the prospect of padding over to my washing machine, opening my washer lid, and throwing in my clothes for to clean them. The unit will be delivered late this month and to celebrate its arrival I think I’m going to wash everything in sight. Besides, I like clean items!
My fear of getting a washing machine also had something to do with having a fear of being an adult. I don’t know if there’s a single sentence in the universe more adult-sounding than, “I can’t do it then, sorry — my new washer-dryer unit is being installed that afternoon.”
If I’m an adult, that means I’m closer to all of this ending, and that’s the last thing I want.
So I did the laundry in the laundry room for seven years.
First of all, I’m okay. Thanks for checking on me. You’re kind and dear, and if I had the juice to go on about your kindness and dearness, it would be a juice cafe around here. Think ginger-kale-apple-lime-parsley or something equally piquant and healthful. That’s you. You’re piquant and healthful and if I had a juice cafe, I’d serve you.
Second of all, I’m traveling across a very large state for Quiltfolk’s ninth issue and I’m the editor and I’m the driver, so when I’m not on location, setting up shots and directing this and that, I’m driving to the next location. So it’s hard to do a blinking thing when I drop into another hotel room at night if that isn’t face planting into the bed.
Third of all, that picture up there doesn’t mean anything. After being away for a spell and then posting a picture of a woman with a baby, it’s possible that you might glance at the photo and see a baby think, even for a split second, “Mary Fons is pregnant!”
She is not.
But she is a baby. And she’s fussy. And she’s hungry. And she loves you.
I had a fight last night with Nick. Nick and I had a fight last night. We fought.
So I got back from Wisconsin and had 30 hours at home before I had to leave to fly to Nashville for Quiltfolk. I saw my beautiful friend Bets Ramsey down there and a fine time was had by the Quiltfolk crew working on the pattern project. The location shoot was all well and good — but I was about to find out that my otherwise fabulous Saturday would be an Airport Appreciation Day.
That’s what we say in my family when you experience what I experienced trying to get home: a delayed flight; a long while of just sitting on the tarmac; luggage that literally took 45 minutes to appear on the carousel in Chicago. The result? I got back to the far south side of Chicago too late to go to Sophie’s surprise bachelorette party on the far north side. That’s bad. I feel so rotten about it, I am now scared of Sophie. She will not be mad. She will understand; I couldn’t help it. But it was her bachelorette party. And we love each other. And I’m always out of town. And she’s getting married. So it’s like, “Yo, Fons. Where you at?”
Physically, I was in transit. Mentally, I was in anguish. Because of the party — and because of the fight.
I don’t like fighting. I don’t like the person I am in a fight. I wouldn’t say that I “fight dirty.” But I can get downright ferocious. I yell. Loudly. I also say bad words. That’s crazy to me, that I yell and curse like a sailor, but I do. In a fight, I’ll find myself YELLING at the PERSON for doing THE THING that made/makes me SO MAD, [INSERT EPITHET] — and I’ll think to myself, “Since when did you start yelling and cussin’??”
I think it was with Yuri. That was some yellin’, cussin’ love.
Anyway, I was yellin’ and cussin’ and then I hung up on him and then I was stabbing text messages in ALL CAPS, and that’s worse than YELLING but at least it’s quieter. Wow, but I was hurt. Nick hurt me. He didn’t mean to, but he didn’t … Oh, I won’t go into it here. But yes, I lashed out at him because I was hurt, I was tired, I was definitely going to miss Sophie’s party and then, because the fight was distracting me and I was crying, I actually got off on the wrong stop. It was the pits. It was all just the pits.
I don’t like to fight because I don’t like myself as a fighter.
Is that a good reason to not fight or a terrible reason?
Alexa, Echo, Google Home — I don’t care which mega-conglomerate made it or how soothe-saying the device’s (female) personality sounds: They’re no damn good.
Do you have one of these? Have you, like Nick, welcomed an unblinking, all-seeing eyeball into your home that watches you and listens to you and records your data and sells it to [insert mega-conglomerate here]??
“Alexa,” Nick will say to the cylinder that lives and breathes in the corner of his room, “What’s the temperature?”
“The temperature is 80-degrees,” Alexa “says.”
It sounds so civilized. It even sounds helpful. Alexa may be, in certain cases. I understand there are arguments to be made for folks with limited mobility; I know certain tech gadgets can assist those differently abled. But for the majority of folks out there, these things are unnecessary. Just because we can have them does not mean we should! The whole thing is dastardly. Sick, even. These devices listen to and watch people in their homes, gathering data about citizens’ private lives for Lord knows what! “They” are watching our activity online already. Isn’t one mode of home surveillance enough?
Perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, there is one home assistant I’m okay with. Have you heard of her? Her name is …
See, my mom and my stepdad and I were talking about this “home assistant” thing and got to joking around, shouting out questions to no one (and no device) in particular, asking things that couldn’t possibly be answered by Siri, Alexa, or anything without organically-grown brain matter.
“Verushka!” Mark yelled from the porch. “When did I learn to ride a bicycle?”
“Verushka!” Mom called. “What color of blue do I need in the quilt I’m working on?”
We started asking Verushka lots of questions — she didn’t answer a single one! — and while Mark and I were laughing about it, Mom, because she’s hilarious, actually fashioned a Verushka. A mini-monolith, an analog wonder, really just a cardboard box with a wifi signal drawn on with a Sharpie, Verushka is the best “home assistant” money can’t buy. She isn’t hooked up to the internet. She’s not collecting data. She’s free.
“She’s like a dog, except less expensive,” my mother said.
“She’s my new pet rock,” said Mark.
We ask Verushka all kinds of things. We ask her about the weather, but then we just look outside. We ask her if we have eggs and then, when she is silent as the grave, we ask the person closest to the fridge. We ask her about the meaning of life, obviously, but I happen to know the Siris and the Echos out there have a programmed answer for such “silly” questions. If you ask Siri, “What is the meaning of life?” she’ll say something like, “To think about questions like this” or “42.”
This is where Verushka pulls away from the pack. Because Verushka answers that question the only way a robot/invasive species should answer: She replies with silence. And in that silence, the people in the room can either talk to each other about it or, if, the woman is by herself, she can sit for awhile and think about it.
Or maybe totally normal, definitely not-hilarious things happen to me and because I’m a dweeb, I just find them hysterically funny. Does it matter, in the end? My life strikes me as funny when it’s not devastating — and that’s how I like it.
Today, after passing through the metal detector at the airport TSA screening area, I waited at the end of the scanner conveyor belt to retrieve my purse. There, sitting atop the conveyor belt at the end of the line, orphaned and forlorn and wrapped in plastic, for the third time in my life … I found a cookie!
So I took it.
And I ate it!!
I did, I did! I found a cookie at the TSA and took it and ate it! And I’ve done it before!
Listen, listen: I need you to listen!
Can we agree that there are cookies. Yes. Some cookies get wrapped in cellophane and packed into purses and bags when people go on airplane trips. Yes, well, sometimes these airplane trip cookies — I guess one time it was a brownie — get knocked out of those bags while inside the TSA conveyer belt scanner! The bag gets bumped! The cellophane-wrapped cookie falls out!
And the person who packed the cookie doesn’t realize it!
Who gets their purse off a conveyor belt and goes, “Wait, wait; let me make sure my cookie made it through.” No one does it! Only later, halfway across the country, will the person become dimly aware that a cellophane-wrapped baked good may have been lost on the journey … But when? How? Was there a cookie in her purse, the person wonders … No, it couldn’t have been …
Yes! Yes, you had a cookie! It was wrapped in cellophane and it was in your purse! It fell out in the conveyor belt! After it got bumped around in the dark for awhile, it came out! A TSA person put it on the top of the conveyor belt! It sat there for a long time, probably an hour!
And then I came through and found it! And I took it!
And then I ate it!
The thrill of this TSA cellophane-wrapped cookie is extreme. And because it keeps happening it’s a serious game for me, now, spotting and liberating a TSA treat. The liberation moment is intense because we all know there is not to be any kind of funny business in the airport. I get that; I respect that. But let’s use our heads, people. The treats I keep finding at the TSA screening area are fine. These cookies are not involved in a scheme. No one is “planting cookies” at the “airport,” and if they were, they wouldn’t be using the TSA “screening checkpoint” as their “base of operations.” The TSA cookie — or brownie, that one time — is innocent. And abandoned.
I think the cookie I got today was homemade. Seriously, I’m eating it right now. Somebody makes a good oatmeal raisin, let me tell you. Delicious! Wish I had a glass of mil —
“Mary!” you say in a sharp voice. You purse your lips and look disapprovingly at the crumbs on my blouse. “That cookie might belong to someone! You shouldn’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. You should let a TSA agent know. What if the person comes back for their cookie and it’s gone?”
I look down at the cookie in my paw and look back up at you. You see that I am confused. “But … Who would want a cookie that has been bumped around a TSA checkpoint for an hour and then placed on the top of the conveyor belt?”
You shake your head, but secretly, you want a bite.
It won’t sound good, what I would like to state for the record. Even the record won’t like it. The record may resent my statement because the record enjoys outdoor music festivals and hot dogs, but here goes nothing:
I intensely dislike the summertime. A lot.
It’s a provocative thing to say; I know I am well in the minority on this. But I am trying to set myself free. While many folks — most, it seems — will walk a mile for a hot, sunny July day; while many are taken with things like ball games and tank tops; while most look forward to the break from X or Y the summer may afford them, I renounce all these things. I have ‘nounced them before, but today I officially I renounce them.
Why? What did summer do to me today?
It’s what summer keeps doing to me: Summer makes me sweaty. And I am so tired of fluffing my hair and doing my makeup and getting all ready for my extremely demanding day only to look totally and utterly fizzled by the time I get anywhere. I am a brisk walker (surprised?) and my gait doesn’t help matters: I exert and pay the price. Just for being efficient, I pay! After a brisk walk in October, I arrive to a place looking and feeling like a woman with a purpose; briskly walking to a place in summer means I arrive looking like a woman who needs a gym towel and a bottle of Gatorade.
I don’t like it!
It’s not just vanity, either. It’s uncomfortable and irritating in a psychic way, this summertime. So much shiny cement in the city makes me upset because the glare is oppressive. People wear fewer clothes in summer and while it’s nice to have bellies and breasts and muffin tops and … backs, I don’t want to be privy to all those bodies. Must I? Must you? So much flesh on display in the summertime. So very, very much flesh.
This summer distaste has been true for awhile but today I just about had it. Am I a bad person? I want fallen leaves! I want to wear my scarf! I want to put on socks and I want to walk down the city streets, arm in arm, you know, with someone, and sort of skooch together and feel good about that. There’s no skoochin’ together in August. In August, it’s like, “Literally do not touch my skin.”
I had a sconce. It needed installing. He installed the sconce. My toilet was running; he fixed it. I didn’t even ask.
I had two heavy, mirrored shelves and I asked him to hang them. He did. He did that today, in fact, so that while he went about his work, I could fling my body into my black leather recliner and read about quilts in America. I am always, always reading about quilts in America, and because I am always, always reading about quilts in America, I have not the time nor the patience to learn how to install a light or fix a toilet or hang two heavy, mirrored shelves. But I want these things done so badly and I know I don’t know the first thing about them, so it’s incredibly frustrating.
In order to keep my house from falling apart, I hired a handyman awhile back. It did not go well; a story for another time. But if you want to get wooshy about Nick, let me share a conversation we had awhile ago while eating pizza. (Note: Nick often helps his dad out with projects, but I didn’t realize how much.) This is pretty much verbatim:
M: (Chewing.) So your dad rents these couple apartment buildings.
N: (Also chewing.) Mm-hm.
M: Well, I need a few things done around here. Does he have a handyman I could call? To hire. Like, a fix-it guy?
N: (Grins.) We are the fix-it guys.
“We are the fix-it guys.” He might as well have said, “There’s a cab waiting to take you to Barney’s for a shopping spree; make sure to get something appropriate for the opera, Mary. Because I’m flying you to the Met for opening night of Tosca tonight. I love you, darling.”
The glory of having a man help me out has attendant pain: Should I value this so much? Is this joy, this gratitude, this almost sycophantic love I feel for a man who helps me with simple things just awful?? I could learn how to hang a light. I could learn how to fix the toilet for real instead of just jiggling the handle (which, by the way, sort of works.) I felt vulnerable and stupid when I gushed over Nick today, praising him up and down for helping me to hang those mirrors today. I wasgrateful in the extreme, but … is there something wrong with me that this is the pinnacle, the zenith of love? Completing a honey-do list?
Maybe it is. Or maybe helping each other is what it’s all about. I help Nick, too.
I will say this, though it’s silly to bring up such a large/sore subject and then get out: I didn’t have a father around, you know, growing up. But before Dad left and it all went to hell with the divorce and all, my dad was amazing at fixing things. He built stuff, he designed structures, he repaired cars. He was the fix-it guy. I’m really, really not comparing Nick to anyone, least of all my dad; I’m only looking for causes. Causes and roots and reasons why.
Well, I’m back in Chicago tonight, but I’ve returned from Louisiana once again. You see, Quiltfolk’s Issue 07 features quilt culture in the exquisitely gorgeous Pelican State — now on newsstands and subscriber mailboxes everywhere! — and because we have successfully launched Quiltfolk Patterns concurrently with that issue I have visited Louisiana not once, not twice, not three, nor four times in the past few months, but five times. Five times! I’m practically looking at apartments.
Louisiana is a fine state full of fabulous people; I’m about to give you an example. But first I need to sit here a minute and dab (daub?) my forehead, which in a parallel universe is still dripping with sweat. In this (gross) parallel universe, I am literally wringing out my shirt. In a parallel universe, I am guzzling water, lemonade, iced coffee, and air conditioning condensation to rehydrate myself because the heat and humidity in Louisiana have taken my very soul and baked it and cooked it and braised it till there is nothing left. Nothing left!
What I’m trying to say is that it’s hot down in Loo’siana in the summertime. I talked to a local on Trip No. 219,920 about it.
“I don’t know, man,” I said. “I really like New Orleans, but this heat is killin’ me. I guess you guys must get used to it.”
The man just looked at me and swiped his forehead with a bandana. “No ma’am, you never get used to it. It’s just no damn good. Everyone pretty much tries to leave in the summer. What brings you to town?”
So on Tuesday, I was down there for a location shoot. I can tell you more about that later; suffice to say now, it was a very challenging day. It rained on and off. We were shooting at two different locations. The humidity was at 100 percent. I was with lovely people, but all of them were first-timers for Quiltfolk, so I was the usual mother hen, directing things and managing things, but I also was the only one on the shoot who had done this particular thing before. So it was a lot. Oh, and because flying into Shreveport costs about as much as flying to Paris, we all flew into Dallas and drove to Louisiana, which was a 4.5 hour drive that started at 6:00 a.m.
When we finally wrapped for the day, I left the girls at the car to begin check-in the 3-star hotel — which will go unnamed for reasons that will be evident — where we were staying that night before rolling out for Dallas in the wee hours (again.) When I came in the automatic doors, the girl behind the front desk did a double-take. I didn’t look disheveled: I looked like I had been swimming with alligators. All day. I tried to be chipper and perky but there was no chip, no perk. I handed over the credit card. I mumbled something about being out in the heat all day.
“Ooh!” she said. “That’s bad!”
“Well, it’s always nice to be in Louisiana,” I said, a last flicker of my humanity coming through. “Me and the crew are gonna go get some dinner and drink a couple beers. That should put us right.”
The girl stopped. “You need a beer.” Then, she called to the guy over in the breakfast nook. “Roger! You got some of those Budweisers in the fridge?”
Roger came over. “Yeah, I do. You want a couple? I got Bud and I got Bud Lite.”
I just looked at them. This was a hotel that rhymed with, you know, Smolliday Inn or Shmampton Schmin or Schmarriot Schmotel. You know? This was highly irregular — and righteously rad. I don’t even like Budweiser!
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I do want that beer. You people are angel people.”
And they sent me on my way with not one but two Buds. Which I gave to the girls. And they drank them.
At some point I’m going to describe for you what a Quiltfolk magazine location shoot is like. My first experience on a Quiltfolk location trip was as a writer on Issue 04 : Tennessee, so I didn’t have anything to do with the planning or execution of the shoot. I was just a hired gun, getting my stories, and, as a result, I remember that trip being super fun and very chill.
Once I began planning and producing the shoots, however, first as a contributing editor and now as editor in chief, that changed. The trips are still super fun, but they are the opposite of chill. There’s too much to do! There’s too little time! We must make haste and get all the stories we possibly can and have incredible experiences and record them for the people!
As I said, I’ll write up a detailed look into how the shoots work; for now, just know that things are nonstop, wall-to-wall, bananas. Very organized and buttoned-up bananas, but definitely bananas.
And speaking of bananas, I’d like to talk about food. Specifically, my relationship to food and what this has to do with going on Quiltfolk location shoots. I’ll try to do this relatively quickly, since a) I’m sleepy and b) like most people, I’ve got some heavy baggage around food and I could probably write whole books on the topic and never get very far.
The thing is this: When I’m on the road with Quiltfolk, there is no time to think about food. And that’s been my problem for a long time: I think about food more than is probably healthy.
Now, it’s not that I’m thinking about eating all the time, plotting when my next snack or meal will be, though I’ve been there. It’s more that I’m thinking about what I ate. What I should’ve eaten. What I should be eating in general and what I should not be eating in general. I think about times in my life when I ate X and didn’t eat Y; I think about times in my life when I felt attractive or times when I felt unattractive and did my food have anything to do with that? Should I do no-carb again? Is it finally time to cut out dairy? I’ve been trying to eat more plants and doing well and feeling well with that, but even if I’m finally doing the “right” thing … I’m still often thinking about food. And I know that this is a luxury, even while it traps me in my head and really makes me feel awful, sometimes. There’s so much other stuff to do and think about and other people to think about and care for. I really, really get tired of worrying about whether or not I am a “clean eater” or what magical combo of foods is going to cure my gut problems and … so on.
The good news is that it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older. I am a little more familiar with myself and my body and I’ve accepted a few things about how I look and how I will not ever look, no matter what foods I eat. So that’s an encouragement to all the gym-centric, yo-yo dieting, juice-cleansing twenty-somethings out there: It can, and often does, get better.
But the best solution I have ever found to releasing myself from all that noise in my head about food is to be so busy, so focused, so happy, so “in the zone,” so needed at every moment that thoughts of food are simply not present. Put it this way: How hungry are you when you’re being chased by a bear? My job is way more fun than being chased by a bear, but in terms of stress and how fast I’m moving? Pretty similar. I don’t have time to dwell at all on whether or not I should eat my burger with or without the bun. I’m being chased! By! A bear!
The other cool thing about being chased by a bear is that, provided you are able to escape with your life, you are veryhungry once you’re able to catch your breath. When it comes time for lunch, after I’ve been running the crew, styling shots, interviewing folks, looking ahead to our next story, driving the car hundreds of miles, calling this or that person about this or that production detail, I could eat … Well, a bear. But it’s more likely a hamburger. Or two hamburgers. Or a granola bar. And an ice cream cone. And my word, do I drink water. Water and coffee, water and coffee.
The point is that it is on these trips that I am the person that I want to be, vis a vis food: I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t when I’m not. Food is delicious fuel, full stop.
I’m a little scared to post this. Does this even make sense? I’m nervous, I guess, because I know so many of us have baggage around food — or we have loved ones who do — and I’m in no way advocating for a thing or suggesting a thing or saying I’ve got it figured out. I’m just telling you that in that picture up there, I am literally eating a slice of pecan pie from Zingerman’s Deli in [LOCATION REDACTED] while I’m driving and it was totally okay with me. I was ravenous. I love pecan pie. I had worked my tushie off from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and eating that pie in that car with those women I was with was beautiful. I didn’t think for a second if it was “good for me,” and I didn’t consider my thighs.
It’s not always obvious. But there do come times when you know you’ve broken from something.
For example, you know you’re leaving a job you have your last day. You know you’re breaking from something. When the calendar hits that day, you’re like, “Okay. I am no longer living that particular life.” It’s pretty weird; it’s hopefully good. Another example: You finish school. Or you have your first baby. In these cases, it’s like, “Woah, I just became not a student after being one for X years” or, in the case of the baby, “Woah, I am no longer a person who does not have children.”
I know that was a lot of double negatives up there, but I’m trying to drive home the “I’ve broken from something” point more than the “I feel like I’m starting something new” point.
Well, I have broken from something. And it has to do with quilts.
The moment I decided that I wanted to make a quilt, I became part of the quilt industry. This wasn’t at the urging of my mother. The company that owned my mother’s company were the driving forces behind getting Fons The Younger into the game. I was excited to be a part of it all, make no mistake. I’m not pillorying anyone; it made sense that a Fons daughter who wanted to get into quilting would be fun to bring onboard in a public way. It was fun, most of the time. I made a lot of work I’m very proud of and I built many valuable relationships as a result of my hard work over the years alongside my mother and her former company.
Regardless, my life as a quilter has been one lived under extreme creative pressure. Every quilt I ever made, for almost 10 years, was made for public consumption. My quilt, whichever one it was, was made for a magazine; a show on TV; a show online; my book, etc., etc. I made quilts that I loved, absolutely, and I developed a certain Mary Fons aesthetic, but I only made quilts that had a deadline. I made quilts not purely for love or for fun; not purely for just giving. I made quilts for patterns or tutorials. Always, the questions: What are the learning objectives in the quilt? What fabrics did I use? Did I use a special tool?
That is now over.
I’m making the first quilt I’ve made in two years. (Grad school kept me pretty busy.) My quilt is ugly. It is gloriously, gorgeously unfit for television. It is not acceptable, this quilt. It is mine. It is not for you, and in saying that it is not for you, I hope you can understand that that is the highest honor and praise that I can give you if you are a quilter: You know how important a quilt like this is, you know how important it is to sit at a machine and stitch and let the world fall away. I am making a quilt that will never be on television. It will not be in a magazine you’ve heard of. I’m making a quilt that is simple and perfect and ugly.
I have never loved a quilt more in my life. It is perfect. May you all make a quilt not ready for prime time.
It’s wonderful. It’s a small-sized hand puppet (as opposed to a large hand puppet or a finger puppet.)
The fur is soft. The paws are perfectly shaped so that when you put the puppet on your hand and make it clap, the gesture is so darling you’ll just die. The kitten’s eyes are shiny; the ears are in the perfect place. I’m a sucker for animal hand puppets in general, but I’m telling you: This is a good one.
How did I come to have this sensational kitten puppet? Well, I bought it. When I lived in the East Village in NYC with Yuri, I passed the toy store on 9th St. and Avenue B and it was in the window display. The moment that kitty caught my eye, I went in and I bought it, partly because I loved her and partly because I was in love and partly because the person I was in love with called me “Kitten.” So this kitten puppet, which cost 13.99 plus tax, represented a lot of things when I lived in New York with Yuri three-ish years back.
Do you remember that? When I lived in New York with Yuri? I do.
In fact, I remember living in New York with Yuri every time I come across this little puppet, which happens from time to time because I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t know where to put her because — and I know this might come as a surprise to many of you — I don’t have a large puppet collection display case where I display my large puppet collection because I don’t have a large puppet collection. I have one kitten puppet. (Okay, okay: I do have a couple other puppets, and of course there’s Pendennis, but I swear I am an adult with a broken dishwasher, not an adult with a large plush toy, puppets, stuffed animal collection … and perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.)
Anyway, I am not a person who holds onto many material things. I’m not a hoarder. I’m a non-hoarder. I’m so much a non-hoarder, I have made mistakes in the past in getting rid of things too soon or without enough thought. (Remind me someday to tell you about throwing letters from my father into the fireplace.) But I’ve held onto this kitten puppet because she’s so adorable and it’s a puppet! And I might not have a puppet collection but I do advise anyone to have a puppet or two on hand for emergencies. But of course I have another reason to hang onto it.
I was Kitten. And he was Yuri. And he is far away and I am far away and that chapter is over. But it was real. And it was real important. It mattered, it changed at least two lives; it was love. Letting go of this puppet is weirdly hard for me. I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff in the past three years: Why not this little cat?
So I need some advice. I’m doing spring/post-school cleaning and I found her again, in a drawer. Before she went into the drawer she had been in a basket. Before the basket, I had her on a shelf. There’s no puppet display case and there’s no way I’m going to stow her away in a shoebox only to find her 10 years from now and have a Proust moment that destroys me completely.
Give her to a child, right? To enjoy? But what about … What about love?
Now that school’s really over, I feel like I’m taking sips from a balloon full of helium. Just sipping helium from a balloon, on and off, all day. It’s sort of pleasant and buzzy, but also I do not like it atall. Does that make sense?
Mind you, I don’t want to be back in school. I’m good on school for awhile. It’s too soon for me to miss it, you might say. And it’s not like I’m out of school and unsure what’s going to happen next. I think we all know there’s plenty happening that has been happening for awhile. Uncertainty is not my problem.
But this huge … opening has arrived. Not just in my schedule, but in my mind, too, I suppose. What do you do with an opening?
Does an opening in life make changes possible? Big ones? For instance: Is it time to devote some of my recently-acquired free time to volunteer somewhere? Start that quilt-related non-profit I’ve dreamed of for years? Perhaps I should go vegan or take up jai alai. Or squash. Maybe I should eat and play squash. Perhaps I should dye my hair a different color or sign up for tap classes. I’m feeling like any of those things are possible, in theory. That’s how open it all feels right now.
Many wise people would tell me — might tell me now — that I should just put one foot in front of the other and relax for a minute or two. But when you’re sucking helium out of a balloon, it’s hard to relax. You get a little hot. You feel funny.
I’m not sure why it happened, but it happened: I am a person who wears a sleep mask.
Not all the time — just when I sleep. And after about a year or so of sleeping with a sleep mask on, I find it almost impossible to sleep without wearing one. I need it to be dark when I sleep. I need to check out, go away, be in the state of sleep, not in the state of waking. I need darkness.
When I was a kid, sleep masks were so weird. Well, they were either weird or glamorous. You’d see them in movies, sometimes; Audrey in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, probably a lot of Bette Davis movies, etc., and that was glamourous. But there were other cultural cues that sleep masks were weird. I can’t think of any right now, but for a kid, it’s like, “Why are you putting on a blindfold at naptime??”
Oh, kid. If you only knew how badly adults need naptime and how much we want to be unavailable for comment while naptime is taking place. Blindfolds are good at communicating “I am unavailable for comment.” The sleep mask is that blindfold play — and I’m hooked.
I have a lot of eye masks/sleep masks/blindfolds. I’m becoming a connoisseur, you could say. Some are foamy. Some are silky. Some are cheaply made and don’t work very well; others are expensive but can’t work that much better than a regular old blindfold, can they?
All I know is that if I don’t “put on my eyes,” as Nick* puts it, I can’t get — or stay — asleep. Lucky for me, a sleep mask is pretty easy to get and maintain as part of my sleep hygiene.
It could be worse.
What if I needed to put on a chicken costume to fall asleep? How weird would that be? I’d have to travel with it! I’d have to get it cleaned and repaired. Every night. A chicken costume! A sleep mask doesn’t seem like a big deal, you know? When you put it that way.
I had a whole thing I was going to write. I was going to list all the reasons why a donation to PaperGirl would be helpful — I have loans to pay, I work at a startup, I’m setting up for my doggie to come some day, my health insurance nightmare, etc., etc. Then I was going to link to popular posts or posts I thought were sort of worthy of a second look, like, “See? It’s a good blog!”
I was going to relay a conversation I had with a friend where she assured me it would be okay to ask for donations and I said, “But what if they hate me!” and she said, “They won’t hate you,” and I said, “But!” and she said, “Mary? You should’ve done it a long time ago.”
You can see it all got complicated — and long — and no matter what I did, it sounded like I was nervous about asking for a donation. Which I am. Asking for things is hard. It’s maybe the hardest thing for me.
If you like this blog, I’d be grateful if you would donate a few dollars to it.* A few people did that the other day and when they did, I realized how much it helped. (I’ll be writing thank-you notes this week.)
There are just three quick things:
I could make money selling ads on this blog. I get offers all the time. But I will never run ads. Ever. I hate them. I hate them for me, I hate them for you, I hate them because they are ugly. I won’t let “them” use our relationship to sell dumb things and steal our attention away. Not here. This blog really is free. Always has been. You’ll never see an ad. I will end the blog before you see an ad next to that monkey.
I work hard on PaperGirl — and I’m not going anywhere.
If you don’t want to donate money, I have a book wish list on Amazon. That would be really fun! Getting all the books I want. A book won’t pay the electric bill, but if I can’t read good books, who needs electricity?? Some of them are cheap, some aren’t — but it’s a wish list, not a shopping cart. I mean, that Gee’s Bend book? Sheesh.
Thank you, and I’ll keep writing even if you don’t give a cent.
*The donate button is PayPal. But if you want to use the mailbox, that address is here.