The List

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 42
Women grocery shopping in 1989, according to Wikipedia. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

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 …

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. Between the documentary series and Quiltfolk, there is zero wiggle room. For anything. Less than zero. I keep trying to make that not true.
  5. I feel different, guys.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.)
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Love,
Mary

Life Change, or ‘Washing My Clothes In My Robe’

posted in: Confessions | 21
It just looks like heaven. Heaven! Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

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.

Fake news.

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.

Tired Kid

posted in: Confessions | 12
See? Tired kid. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Oh, hello, hello!

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.

And she’s out.

Fight, Fight, Fight

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life, Luv | 13
Take that. And that. And this. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

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?

‘Verushka, Make Me Dinner!’

posted in: Confessions, Family | 16
Ladies and gentlemen, Verushka. (Fake home assistant device and photo by Marianne Fons.)

 

 

I vehemently oppose the “home assistant” device.

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 …

Verushka.

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.

Alone.

TSA Cookies: They’re Great!

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 16
It’s almost as if they’re exiting the scanner. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Hilarious things happen to me.

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.

Summer Killjoy

posted in: Confessions | 58
Postcard, “Swifts Beach on a hot summer day, Wareham, Mass.” c. 1945. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

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.”

Anyone else?

Nick Fixed It

posted in: Confessions | 17
Men at work. Image: Texas iron worker. Wikipedia.

 

 

Nick fixes things.

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.

I’m always fixing, fixing, trying to fix, too.

Hotel Beer

posted in: Confessions, Travel | 9
I was never a fan. Then came Tuesday. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Where in the world is Mary Fons?

Louisiana, and all the time.

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.

 

 

Let Me Tell You About Car Pie

posted in: Confessions, Quiltfolk, Story, Tips, Travel | 21
Thatta girl! Photo: Meg Cox, bless her heart.

 

 

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 very hungry 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.

There wasn’t time to do anything but enjoy it.

Free Quilt

posted in: Confessions, Work | 40
This is a perfect quilt. Display in Cherokee Heritage Center, Oklahoma. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

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.

The Kitten, The Clock

posted in: Confessions, Luv, New York City | 48
This is an actual kitten, not a puppet. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

 

So I have this kitten puppet.

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?

Limbo, With Helium

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 16
This photo is captioned, “1971 Jamaica Vacation” and I love everything about it. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

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 at all. 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 Have Become a Sleep Mask Person

posted in: Confessions | 14
It’s from Paris! Photo: Wikipedia.

 

 

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.

 

*Nick is back. I am glad.  

The First-Ever PaperGirl Pledge Drive

posted in: Confessions, Pendennis | 28
Just think: If this were Philip and I get donations, I could buy him a fancy house! Image: Wikipedia.

 

I’ve thought a lot about this.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. I work hard on PaperGirl — and I’m not going anywhere.
  3. 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

Frozen Dinners, But I’m Good

posted in: Confessions | 22
Not one of the dinners I got, thankfully. But still. Image: Wikipedia.

 

As a single, thirty-something woman with no children, living in downtown Chicago as I do, I am careful about the stories I tell about myself and the stories I tell to myself.

There’s a tired narrative about my demographic that really makes the rounds. This socially-constructed, media-fabricated archetype of women “like me” shows up a lot in TV shows, movies, advertisements, and general popular culture. The narrative tells us that the typical single, thirty-something, childless (some prefer “child-free”) city gal is sad about her (obviously sad) situation. Sure, she’s got a nice handbag, but she’s lonely. She’s got a cute haircut, but she’s hapless. She’s a woman in a perpetual state of longing and dissatisfaction. This is the trope of the single woman. She gets gum in her hair; her boss is a jerk; she and her girlfriends talk about men, pinot grigio, and the Bahamas; she and her friends go to the Bahamas to drink pinot grigio and meet men; she makes terrible choices with every man she meets, in the Bahamas or otherwise; her life is one long string of bad dates and pizza delivery, etc., etc., etc.

The problem with this character sketch is that parts of it are true. And when they are — bad dates, gum in hair, etc. — a person can start to believe that all of the narrative is true. This is dangerous. Stereotypes are pretty much always unhelpful stories people tell about other people because we’re all trying to understand and navigate the complicated world and stereotype are simple and fast. But 2-d stories flatten our experience and cheat everyone out of connection. People are always more complicated than a stereotype. People are more fascinating and more worthy of consideration than stereotypes, even if there are truths somewhere in there.

But that’s not even the worst thing about these prevailing narratives. The really dangerous thing is when stereotypes become stories we tell ourselves, e.g., “I’m single, so I’m lonely and sad.” Or, “I’m from the bad part of town, so I’m a bad kid.” Or, “I’ve been divorced twice and my business went bankrupt, so I’m a total disaster of a human being.”

Once you start internalizing such things, it feels terrible and you start to act not like yourself but like the stereotype! And the shift can be really sneaky. You can start to “be” something you really aren’t, simply because that’s the story other people keep telling about you, as if they know.

So with me and being single, I have to be careful to not do this. Yes, I have gone on bad dates — but so what? It’s not because the world is hopeless and all men are scum. Because of the stereotype that I can fall into, it would be acceptable were I to have that attitude, but it’s not true for me. The exasperated-single-gal narrative is not the narrative I want to own. I just went on a bad date. And as for making bad choices with men, I reject that, too. I’m proud of my fearlessness in love and life and just because I’m single after having a number of great relationships isn’t because I’m crazy, my past loves were idiots, I’m unlovable, or because dating is a nightmare. Dating is really hard. But it’s also fun.

Do you see what I’m saying? Is this making sense? That whoever you are — mom, teenager, writer, lawyer, senior citizen, ex-convict, prodigal son, etc. — you have to fight against absorbing those brutal narratives?

And now are you ready for the kicker?

This whole misty-eyed cri de coeur is a set up. Something so totally, stereotypically single-gal-in-the-city, so stereotypically rom-com-sitcom-thirty-something-lonely-chick pathetic happened, I became depressed enough to open a bottle of pinot grigio and watch “When Harry Met Sally” three times in a row. Basically.

I signed up a food box delivery thing. Not a Blue Apron meal-making kit, though. (Like I have time to sauteé pre-chopped broccoli florets?) No, I did a thing that delivers fresh food on a weekly basis, ready to eat. Why, for a busy gal like me, that sounded great: organic, interesting food, delivered right to my door! I did the subscription form online, selected things like the Southwestern Veggie Bowl and the Garden Penne.

I got my meals. And I knew they were frozen dinners? But I didn’t understand that they would be frozen dinners? I mean, I ordered frozen dinners. But I didn’t process how the “frozen dinner” part of all this would make me feel. Think Schwann Man. Think Cold War. Think poke the plastic in two places, pop it in the microwave, and take it out three minutes later and have a plastic dish of (unevenly-heated) food. Organic or not, nutrient-rich or no, this is some frozen food, honey. And I’m eatin’ alone.

What’s worse is that I signed up for this thing a couple weeks ago and swear I was on the every-other-week plan, but nope. I got another delivery today and I haven’t gotten through last week’s meals, yet, because it feels kinda sad to make and eat these things. So my freezer is jammed up with frozen meals and I am trying very hard to not succumb to feeling like a block of frozen peas.

With freezer burn. In a plastic tray.

High Fashion Tempts Me Again With Ugly/Fabulous Quilt-Inspired Item

posted in: Confessions, Fashion | 37
AGGGH! Emilio Pucci patchwork mules. Image: The Outnet.

 

Y’all.

Remember this coat that I coveted MOST DEARLY? Well, high fashion is back with a slightly-ugly-but-also-totally-amazing PATCHWORK SHOE. People, it’s Pucci. Pucci! Not Gucci: Pucci. The famed 70s designer who made the flamboyant, wacky, swirly-print scarves and the disco pantsuits? That’s Pucci. Gucci is like, ladies who lunch in the Gold Coast and have three cell phones for reasons no one should probably ask about.

These shoes. I mean, it’s really hard on me, seeing these shoes. Let’s examine pros and cons. Cons first, in hopes I will convince myself not to buy them immediately.

CONS

  1. Just … no. The term jolie-laide comes to mind. Jolie-laide is a French term which literally translates to “beautiful-ugly.” These shoes are beautiful-ugly, straight-up.
  2. Even with a 30-percent off code — given to me because I haven’t shopped at the site lately because I am seriously not in a position to shop right now — they are going to cost a cool $240. Which isn’t as much as the velvet Log Cabin coat (on which I realize I need to do a final update.) But still. That’s some bread and even though I have a new job, it’s still part-time. Technically.**
  3. I actually loathe the mule as a shoe style. In fact, I have an unofficial No-Mule Rule. My general position on “high” heels, which I wear almost exclusively, is that as long as the toe isn’t too narrow and the pitch isn’t too dramatic — by “the pitch,” I mean the slope of the shoe’s sole from heel to toe — heels aren’t uncomfortable. I’m not wearing stilettos; I’m wearing pumps, mostly. And these shoes make me feel good, as I mentioned yesterday. But the mule … Yuck. The mule’s pitch is usually very severe and what’s more, the heel is chunky by design. I have narrow ankles but wide, strong, Norwegian milkmaid calves, so a block heel is pretty bad for my stems, you dig? That these shoes are mules is a big con, here.
  4. And there are bows! No! Why the bows?? I don’t do bows!

PROS

  1. Oh, good God! There are quilt blocks on these shoes!
  2. Pucci!
  3. I just bought them. I JUST BOUGHT THEM!!! AAAGHHHH! MY ORDER NUMBER IS 2203ZO26F1801H!!!!

I am laughing and laughing right now … Oh, you guys. I clicked on the shoes again so I could describe them for you and meditate on the dumb things and what did it say? What did the little red dot say? “Just 1 Left!” Fie! Fie, you foul demons of online retail! Wretched algorithmic spawns of Satan! I wrend my garments! I wrend my high-fashion garments and I throw my stupid mule shoe at your screen! YOU GOT ME. YOU GOT ME AND MY CREDIT CARD YOU FIENDISH FASHION SUCCUBI! (Succubi? Hm. Spell-check didn’t flag it.)

These shoes are awful. And they’re so great. And there’s free shipping.

And free returns.

I’ll let you know.

Have a great day,
Mary

**hahahaahahaha

Beware Of Almonds, GI Sisters and Brothers (Part II)

posted in: Confessions, Sicky, Story | 32
I love, love, love macarons. And almond paste. But this is my nightmare. Image: Wikipedia.

 

My post from a few days ago was a real cliffhanger — and then I kept you cliff-hanging. I’m sorry about that. There are a lot of spinning plates right now and sometimes I have to set a plate on the shelf for a second and rest my … what, fingertips? My plate-spinning stick? How does plate-spinning really work? Any actual plate-spinners out there, leave your remarks in the comments.

Also, this post has been incredibly hard to write for reasons that will soon be obvious. I’ve been dragging my feet.

Where was I, before time was up? Oh, right: Raw almonds for breakfast. If you haven’t read Part I, do that and then brace yourself for some extremely unpleasant (and personal) anatomic details.

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is a kind of shop vac: It sucks up the fluid from what you eat and drink so that the body can make solid waste. Then it holds onto … all that for a period of time and then, you know, you get rid of it. My shop vac was removed 10 years ago because it was, in the words of the surgeon who really messed up my surgery, “completely gone on the left side.”

What this means is that I don’t produce solid waste and never will again. I can eat things that are better for my condition and things that are way worse for it, but to go through a list of good vs. bad foods is a pointless exercise in many respects; what works only sometimes works and what doesn’t work for awhile suddenly isn’t so bad. But almonds are bad, full-stop. Which brings us to the second dignity-sucking feature of this tale and honestly, part of the reason I delayed in getting back to it. Let’s talk about fissures.

A fissure is a tiny, usually thread-thin crack between one thing and another. A fissure is relatively (very) narrow and not jagged; it’s not a rip or a tear, exactly. You can see fissures in rocks. Hairline fractures in bones would be a good visual. Fissures can happen in body tissue, too, and when they happen, it is bad. I had a fissure at the tail (!) end of my digestive tract and that is as much as I’ll tell you in terms of anatomy because we all know what I’m talking about.

My fissure arrived in late 2013 and was diagnosed as “acute” and “chronic”. Because I no longer have my shop vac, remember, I go to the bathroom a lot during the day and through night. Way more than most people, even with my J-pouch surgeries. If you have a fissure where I had one, the last, last, last thing on the planet you want to do is go to the bathroom. And at that time, because I didn’t know I was allergic (or had a reaction to) almonds, I was typically going 8-9 times a day and as many times through the night.

The pain of my condition bent my mind. It eviscerated my will, my fortitude, my spiritual condition. I squalled like a newborn. I babbled incoherently to no one as I pep-talked myself into going back to the guillotine, aka bathroom, over and over. The cramps were terrible. I had to go. And when I went, only an acidic trickle would come and I clawed my thighs until they were scraped and raw, too. It was a dark, dark time. And I told very few people about it. I didn’t tell you much about it, did I? Why?

It was so embarrassing. And the doctors said the fissure would likely settle down, though it will probably always be there, I understand?) A surgery that can be done as a last resort, but it’s not always successful; besides, the thought of more surgery in my GI tract — anywhere, anywhere in my GI tract — sent me into further paroxysms of despair, so I did not allow myself to see surgery as an option. Also, I am tough, Midwestern, stoic. Also, I tend to isolate. I’m a writer, by nature an introvert. And you bet I was depressed, for obvious reasons. And when you’re depressed, you just … You know. Nothing.

Look, the whole reason I’m telling this story is because I don’t recall anyone ever asking me what I was eating. And I think that would’ve been good. Raw almonds can cause diarrhea. And when you’re going to the bathroom as much as I was, the fibrous skins are really, really hard on a bottom. Why didn’t anyone help me put this together?

Before anyone gets arch please remember what I have written many times over the 12+ years of this blog: My doctors, surgeons, and nurses saved my life on several occasions and, if I can find new ones, medical professionals will help me live a long time. I’m not hating on doctors. I’m just bewildered, as usual, by the chaos of it all.

Good grief, let’s wrap this up, shall we? I rarely give advice, but here’s some I feel good about:

If you know someone with a J-pouch; IBD; Crohn’s; Ulcerative Colitis; diverticulitis, or any serious affliction related to the intestines, ask us about their diet. But — and this is so important — don’t tell us what to eat or suggest we do this or that. It’s so hard to be told, even by well-meaning people, that you’re doing eating wrong. (For example: The German and the Russian both pushed yogurt on me constantly and made me feel like a failure because I didn’t consume quarts of it daily.)

Telling a person, “You should eat this” or “[X] is a magic food for the gut” is different from just asking what’s in our diet. Asking us what we eat from day to day gives us an opportunity to think about it. Maybe there is something we could do differently. I mean, it’s crazy: If I have even a touch of almond milk or eat something like I did the other day that has raw almonds in it, it’s awful. But I didn’t know for a long time.

There you have it, my suffering GI Janes and Joes. Here’s the question:

“Shh … Shh. It’s gonna be okay. Deep breath. Why don’t you tell me what you’re eating, honey. Let’s start there.”

The Backpage

posted in: Confessions | 6
“Promotional postcard of Jean, the Vitagraph Dog”, c. 1911. Courtesy Wikipedia.

 

This beautiful pup is standing in for Mary at the moment. She isn’t able to post at the moment, but she’ll be back.

Yes, she’ll be back. Like the cat … who came back the very next day. Like Jack, who learned how to “get back” in the popular song. Like an Indiana Jones-type person who, ahead of his ragtag bunch of misfit archaeologists, discovers quicksand and turns to the team with his arm outstretched to say, “Get back! Get … back.”

That’s like Mary right now. She’s every cat, every Jack, every scruffy/hot archeoloigst/college professor faced with quicksand. She’ll be back. And when she comes back, she’ll finish her story about almonds and all the other stories she has to tell. There are so many, you see. The time is the problem.

Yo, clock: Get back.

Could We Talk About Nursing?

posted in: Confessions | 118
Migrant Mother, 1936. Photo: Dorothea Lange via Wikipedia.

 

Being publicly introspective is one thing.

I’m obviously comfortable — or comfortable enough — to puzzle over my personal emotions and experiences here on the ol’ PG. This blog has existed well over a decade, after all; it must not be too painful or I wouldn’t do it. But it’s important to point out that most of the time when I write a post with question marks all over it (literally and/or figuratively) it’s that I’m confused or conflicted or just curious about something within myself, within my lived experience. I’m the interviewer and the interviewed; I’m my own judge, jury, executioner, mortician, etc. Being confused about myself or wondering about my own life is a closed circuit. Do you follow me? If not, it’s my fault, not yours. This is hard to explain.

Now, having a blog gets weirder when I’m puzzling over something that is outside of my experience, especially when that something is more controversial, say, than a broken clock. In fact, when I’m puzzling over something serious, something I have no experience with and legitimate confusion about, my general rule is to not blog about it until I have some damn sense.

But I legitimately don’t know what to think about public breastfeeding and I want to ask you about it so that I can begin to maybe work through my confusion. And it’s scary, because I take great pride in the quality of the comments on PaperGirl (and my Facebook page) and whenever something even slightly spiny comes up on the ol’ PG, I shut my eyes real tight and pray you all do the right thing and don’t “talk ugly” to each other, like Gramma Graham would say.

You have never once talked ugly. But still: Read the rest of this post, take a mo’, and then comment if you wish to comment. And I hope you do! Because I’m serious about need perspective from various peeps, especially those who have breastfed their babies on planes.

Here’s the deal:

Today on the plane back from Portland, I looked to my right and wow! I did a double-take: A woman across the aisle was nursing her infant and Mama’s breast was out. Her (lovely! natural! blessed-be!) most generous cantaloupesized right breast was present and accounted for, actively being used for what is, absolutely, an amazing, beautiful, exquisite reason. The breast was out so to feed a human being she birthed from her literal body. Miraculous! Understandable!

And yet!

Wow, that was a very naked breast in a very public place in 21st century America. And I was like, “Okay. I cannot make sense of this data at this time.” This is a foreign sensation for me, as I like to think I have a fairly strong philosophical foundation that informs how I feel about most things. This one had me stymied, friends. It really did. Some of the back-n-forth in my mind went like this:

ME: It’s indecent, showing that much naked flesh, and it’s a sex organ, right?

MYSELF: Yes, and it’s a life-giving breast! You are brainwashed by a germaphobe-run society! It’s beautiful! You’re weird, not her!

ME: Having the whole thing out in front of God and Southwest Airlines Flight 55 seems a little dramatic, though. Come on. Like, she is trying to be seen right now.

MYSELF: She’s a nursing mother! What is your deal?? Covering up what nature has so brilliantly put in place is wrong and a function of the patriarchy!

ME: Yeah, okay, sure, but good grief, Woman! Cover your boob! A little!

MYSELF: It is early.

ME: No, it’s not “early.” It’s 5:05 a.m.

MYSELF: (Pause.) But it’s beautiful!

ME: I’m going to wrap my scarf around my head and go to sleep, now.

Okay. That’s it. That is literally all I can write for you without going into some deep, armchair-psychology self-analysis about what surely are repressed feelings about not having kids or a partner at this point in my life. I’m not interested in all that. I just need some input.

Very open breastfeeding in public. Discuss, my loves.

There’s This Thing I Like: A Look at ‘Haul’ Videos

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 6
A Dollar Tree store in Commerce, Texas. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

It wouldn’t be PaperGirl if I didn’t make a confession every few weeks, so here goes the latest:

I’ve been watching — in fact, I’ve been listening to — what are called YouTube “haul” videos.

Do you know about this haul video phenomenon? If so, are you about to tell me that haul videos have been happening since YouTube began and where have I been living? And are you telling me that you have a problem with the rock under which I live? Well, missy, I like my rock — but I am also glad to peek out of it, sometimes, so I can discover things like haul videos.

In case you are an under-rock-dweller, yourself, a “haul” video is a video made for the internet wherein a person goes shopping and then shows you, item by item, what they bought. Sometimes the haul video includes the actual shopping trip, which means the shopper/vlogger has their phone out as they go through the store and thereby records the whole experience. But for the most part, the recording of the shopping trip itself doesn’t have much more than bouncy, jerky video of the aisles and of the person’s hand reaching at things to check the price on this or that item and saying, “Ooh, this is so cute, look at this!” Often, there’s no talking at all and the trip is set to goofy music. My point is that I’m not super into those videos.

But when the shopper sits down in her house (I have only ever seen female haul videos but I’m sure there are guys who do them) and she says something like, “Okay, guys! I’m just back from [insert store here] and I’m ready to take you through the haul! Let’s open the first bag” — when that happens, I’m hooked.

Again, I don’t watch the videos so much as listen to them. I open a browser window, hit “play” on some hauling vlogger channel, and turn the sound down so that I can work on other things.

In fact … Yes, there’s a video playing on my laptop right now.

This is weird, right? Or is it not weird? It can’t be weirder than this. Or this. But maybe if I try to explain why I do this, it’ll make sense. Let’s hope.

While I have friends and loved ones aplenty; while I feel largely satisfied with the life I am making; while I do very much enjoy living alone, I would be misrepresenting myself if I said there were not times when I wished for a little company around here. (My sweet Philip Larkin; someday soon, dearest puppy, but not today.)

Part of what I like about playing these videos in the background is that they provide a lovely white noise. It’s comforting to hear a nice lady chatting about nothing — and mind you, that’s not a dig. I’m not saying what she’s doing is “nothing” or has no value; I’m saying that going through six bags of discounted craft supplies from The Dollar Tree is not anything that I need to focus on. Particularly.

And that craft things is part of this. I’ve got a specific haul video beat, you see: I’m into the crafters. Not the quilters — do quilters do haul videos?? — and not the makeup girls or the clothes shopping girls. I’m sure there are haul videos for shoe stores and things. Nah. It’s the 50-something ladies who haul from Hobby Lobby, At Home, Michael’s, and whatever those other stores are, that really make me feel … better.

Better?

We all know that I can tell you anything. But when I told my friend Nick about this, I was a little nervous. Would he think I was a total freak? Would he think … What would he think?

One morning not long ago, Nick came over to me while I was working. I had just turned on a video, namely “Arlynn’s Country Craft Corner,” which is a favorite of mine (though I really wish she had spelled everything with a ‘K’ instead of a ‘C.’) He looked over my shoulder at Arlynn as she demonstrated her signature “funky bow,” which is very nice, though for the life of me I cannot figure out why it is considered “funky.”

“I get it,” Nick said. “It’s calming. She’s just a nice lady, doing a simple thing. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed.”

“You really don’t think it’s weird that I love it so much?” I asked. I noticed how handsome he looked in his lounge-y pants and his t-shirt. He looks handsome in everything, though.

“No, I don’t think it’s weird. I think it’s sweet.”

And that’s how you go from writing a post about watching/not-watching YouTube “haul” videos to getting all dreamy about someone who has now appeared in this blog twice.

Stay tuned.