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

Pendennis Picks Three: ‘I Thought You Said You Wouldn’t Blog Tonight!’

posted in: Pendennis | 5
Rita, remember this picture?? There’s me, and Ms. L., and good ol’ Pendennis. Photo: Rita Farrow.

 

Every once in awhile, I have to rely on Pendennis, my monkey sidekick, to blog for me.

For well over 10 years, I have posted to this blog, on average, with precious few sabbaticals, five times a week. Whether I’m just naturally able to do this absurd amount of content creation or 10 years of an absurd amount of content creation has made me into a person who naturally does it at this point, there are some nights that I can’t create something brand, spanking new.

It’s never — truly, literally never, ever — because I “just don’t know what to write about.” In fact, I have the opposite problem. I want to write about everything. I have to. Writing about everything is the only way I can make sense of anything, so around here, it’s open season.

The reason I rely on Pendennis  from time to time to “pick three” for me (viz., to pick three entries that strike his monkey fancy as being worth a second look or, for some, a first) is because sometimes, what I want to write about requires more thought, more craft, more focus, than I have time to give it at that moment. And, because I’d rather not blog at all than blog poorly, or post something half-baked or lame, there are times when P. just has to help, less PaperGirl goes dark for a couple days, which will never do. Three days go by and I don’t blog? Trust: I get hives. And Pendennis hates taking me into the doctor for the hives, so he’s usually willing to pick three if I look itchy.

What have you picked today, Pendennis?

(Pendennis stares, says nothing.)

Pendennis does not speak the English language (or any other language), so he can’t answer. Well, he won’t answer, let’s put it that way. But he will pick three for you tonight; you’ll see. And, because there appear to be lots of new readers all the time around here (hello, I love you, tell me your name) it’s especially exciting to have P. picking some posts from the past. Just think of all the new readers don’t know about the monkey and me!

Take it away, Pendennis. You had me at hello.

Pendennis Pick No. 1: ‘Lily’s Big Day(s) Out’
This was special. A blog reader and fan asked me for advice about her trip to Chicago with her niece. Would I give them some tips, she asked? Would I give tips?? I did more than that because how cool! I met Lily and Rita at the hotel and we had a Grand Day in Chicago. It was so cool. This is part one and this is part two. (Lily, hi!! Girl, how are you???)

Pendennis Pick No. 2: ‘I Literally Moved Your Cheese, Lindsay’
On a gig in Florida (I think?) I accidentally took the pre-sliced, pre-ordered cheese out of a bin at a Publix and bought it and definitely ate it. This is an open letter to the woman whose cheese I unwittingly stole and enjoyed. But I didn’t know I stole it! I couldn’t have enjoyed it if I knew it was contraband.

Pendennis Pick No. 3: ‘A Bird Pooped On My Head’
What else is there to say? It happened in Washington, D.C., and I remember everything about this moment. It’s nice to have the record, though.

Love,
M + P

PaperGirl Has a Post-Office Box!!!

posted in: Chicago, Paean, Pendennis, Work | 22
Actual application p. 3 — and actual address! Please send all kinds of wonderful things. Photo: Pendennis.
Actual application (p. 3) and actual address! Please send all kinds of wonderful things. Photo: Pendennis.

 

Today is a great day!

I’m writing to you from inside the grand, achingly beautiful Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Have you ever been to the Merchandise Mart? Do you know about it?

“The ‘Mart,” as it’s affectionately known in Chicago, is truly a marvel of architecture and city history. When this art deco masterpiece was built in 1930, it was the largest building in the world. The whole world! Because it comprises 4 million square feet. Four million! (When I lived in New York, Yuri and I had something like 840 in total, fyi.) The Mart had its own zip code until 2008 when some lame thing changed. This building had its own zip code!

Wanna know who built it? Why, Marshall Field & Co.! Yes, the department store guy.

(Hey, did I ever tell you that my grandparents on my father’s side met in Chicago and they would rendezvous under the Marshall Field’s clock when they had a date? They’d set a time and meet under one of the clocks at good ol’ Marshall Field’s. That’s pretty cute.)

And guess who owned the building for like half a century? The Kennedys! Yes, the Kennedys! Isn’t that interesting?? I love learning things.

The Merchandise Mart has been a place for commerce since it was built; it’s mostly wholesale showrooms for interior decorating and design and lots of offices and there’s a bunch of other stuff in here that I would love to know about but what is most exciting — perhaps the most exciting thing that has ever happened to/at the Merchandise Mart ever, in 85 historic years — is that there is now a post office box in this place that will take your PaperGirl mail!

I got a post box in the Merchandise Mart! For you! For us! For mail!

It’s high time this happened. I get requests for my address frequently because someone found a wonderful pencil they need to send me, for example, or because someone wants to donate to the blog (or maybe buy Pendennis lunch) but doesn’t use PayPal. Totally understandable. Also, this holiday has brought several gifts via my mother or the Iowa Quilt Museum (hi, Tammy!) and while it’s interesting to think about the journey of such things, let’s make this easier on everyone!

There is a post office much closer to my home than the one here inside the Mart and this branch has limited hours. But there is no other place worthy to receive your correspondence. I mean it. I wish you could see this place. It’s magnificent. Even the sign for the post office on the first floor is beautiful, set in an art deco frame with sconces around it, throwing this golden light upon it, saying, “Welcome, Mail!” The wide, marble floors in the gilded halls (currently draped with holiday garlands and bunting) are polished to a shine. The squeaky clean picture windows look out onto the city that I love so much, that I shall never take for granted.

So please, send me mail! Of course, yes, you may send donations if you like. The box cost $166 for the whole year if I paid it all at once, so I did. If everyone sent in a penny — wait, wait. That’s not funny. Please do not send me pennies. You don’t have to send money. Send me letters or drawings or stories or chocolate or other items of interest. I would like to start sharing your mail on the blog. (If you don’t want me to, of course I won’t — just let me know.)

The address is shown up there in the photo, but just in case you can’t see it, ahem: Mary Fons — PaperGirl, P.O. Box 3957, Chicago, IL 60654-8777. 

The photo also shows the third page of the application. I actually listed Pendennis as someone authorized to pick up the mail. Pendennis does not have fingers, nor can he take the train. But just in case, he’s official.

I’m so excited. I love mail so much. Let’s have fun with this. Let’s put the “paper” in PaperGirl.

Blog-o-Love.

"Secret Correspondence" by Carl von Bergen, Germany, 1891. Image: Wikipedia.
“Secret Correspondence” by Carl von Bergen, Germany, 1891. Image: Wikipedia.

A couple thoughts on the blog. I will employ sub-headings for organizational purposes. I’ve been working all day and don’t feel confident I can weave anything elegant right now. Thanks, sub-heading!

1. I like it when you read it. 
When I’m out teaching and speaking and dragging my suitcase around, folks come up to me and say, “I hope you don’t think I’m a stalker, but I read your blog… I have to ask: how’s your health? How are you dealing with Claus being gone? Congratulations on grad school! When do you start??” and so forth. Sometimes the person asking is sheepish in the extreme; they feel like they’re intruding. Don’t be sheepish! Actually, sheeps are cute, so be sheepish in a cute way, but know that I love that you read my blog. I write PaperGirl for you. I write it for myself, too; this is me practicing scales almost every day, trying to be a better writer like a flutist is trying to be a better flutist. This blog affords me opportunities to use the world flutist and say it in my mind: FLAU-tist. Now that’s entertainment. But yes: I love when I meet people who read the ol’ PG and you can ask me whatever you like. I reserve the right not to tell you, but I probably will tell you even more than you wanted to know.

2. The secret to a successful blog: consistency and variety.
I’m teaching my blog class at the University of Chicago in a couple weeks and have been working on my syllabus. The research is confirming what I knew already: the secret to a good blog is consistency and variety. This is what I say when I’m asked about blogging and this is what I’ll share with my students. You can’t expect to keep readers if you post once a month, then three times in a week, then three months later, then two weeks later, and so on. That’s true for any blog, be it political, mommy, foodie, or otherwise. What is also true is that variety is the spice of blogs. If I tried to be funny-ish 100% of the time or earnest 100% of the time or anxious 100% of the time or weird 100% of the time, I’d get bored, you’d get bored, and, worse even than that, we’d all be missing out on the breadth of the human experience. This is true even in a foodie blog. I want to hear about the bad meals as well as the good meals. Maybe that’s just me.

3. I still won’t advertise.
I should. I could. But I won’t. I hate those ads. I hate them so much. I hate how web ads know that I just looked at underpants on Amazon but didn’t buy them so now they want to get me to buy them someplace else. I can’t do it to you or to me, friends. PaperGirl is an oasis for me and I hope it is for you, too, just for a minute or two in your Internet life. No ads. Ever. I promise.

 

The Baby’s Coming, The Baby’s Coming!

posted in: Day In The Life, Family, Pendennis | 2
Maternal bliss in The Ladies' Home Journal, 1941. Image: Wikipedia.
Maternal bliss in The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1941. Image: Wikipedia.

There’s a baby on the way! Not mine, silly.

My dear friend Heather has been pregnant for about 8.5 months, which means that she is very pregnant right now. Kin-Kin (I like to call her Kin-Kin) always looks great with her curly red hair and flawless complexion, but she looks amazing pregnant. In fact, Kin-Kin looks so amazing pregnant, she should be pregnant all the time. I can hear every woman who has ever been pregnant, including Kin-Kin, laughing hysterically right now. I’m betting my sweet friend will look even more beautiful when she has that sweet little baby in her arms though, so I can accept if she rejects the suggestion of being pregnant for the rest of her life and goes for just having the kid.

And speaking of having the kid: Kin-Kin asked me if I would be willing to be second in command, if you will, when she goes into labor. My eyes got big and I said yes, yes, absolutely; I was honored she asked me. I signed a paper! On the wee baby’s birth day, I will be serving as the person in the room other than Sam, at the ready for absolutely anything she (or Sam) might need. I like to think of it as I’m Chief of Staff on Baby Day.

Me and Kin-Kin are pretty tight, but I’m also just a great candidate for this job. I’m single, for one thing, so I can take off in the dead of night and head to the hospital if need be — heck, sometimes I do just that for reasons that do not involve babies! But that hospital piece is actually hugely relevant: I have a ton of experience with Northwestern Hospital. I know how the elevators work (not all cars go to all floors), I know the food court, and I have a special way with nurses, which is to say nurses are angels and I treat them as such. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to have a baby in the Chicago Loop, you should probably give me a call. I’m like a midwife, but without any of the medical knowledge whatsoever. I can’t help you push, really, but I can get you a bagel and I can call your mother. I only ask that you name your baby “Mary” if it’s a girl and “Pendennis” if it’s a boy. Not a lot to ask. Do you want poppyseed or plain?

Heather, I’m so happy to help in any way I can when the day comes. Everything is gonna go great. I love you!!

 

The Pendennis Observer: Dispatch No. 382

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean, Pendennis | 2
Pendennis as pretzel.
Up to no good, as usual. 

I’ve been traveling so much lately — home in DC this evening after a full week in Chicago — chances are good there are new readers to PaperGirl. I encourage people I meet at events or classes to visit and read this blog, but I still see fear in their hearts when I tell them PaperGirl isn’t about one thing but “just sort of about my life.” A gluten-free baking tutorial blog is an easier sell but what can I do? Surely some people were curious enough to visit and it seems like a good opportunity to take a moment and explain the monkey. I haven’t posted a picture of or given an update on Pendennis in some time; let’s get everyone caught up.

Some adults have an ironic connection to a childhood toy or a juvenile object and it can be cute or it can be weird. Either way, these peoples’ friends are actually happy when there’s a “thing” because it makes that person really easy to shop for. “I have no idea what to get Nancy for Christmas” is not a sentence Nancy’s friends will ever have to say because Nancy likes deer.

I don’t have a “thing” for sock monkeys; I have a thing for my sock monkey. His name is Pendennis and no, I do not sleep with him or cry hot, hot tears into his soft body. He does not come on trips with me. I haven’t had him since I was three and I do not suck on his tail. My high school art teacher made him for me when I was her teacher’s aide and Pendennis has simply been with me ever since, not because I need a stuffed animal to cope with life* but because I love him. My love is akin to the love I have for a special painting or a treasured photograph, except that I can cry hot, hot tears into his soft body. I love the monkey like I love my favorite sweater or my favorite snack. He is a comfort and we all need more of that. He went to New York. He came to DC. He’s my little guy.

But fondness springs eternal for Pendennis not just because he’s familiar: Pendennis is hilarious. I laugh out loud when I see him poking out from under a chair or twisted up like a pretzel under a pillow (see above.) I’ve been Pendennis’s personal photographer for years because I have to try and capture the joy he brings to me when I discover him in his natural habitat. This way, when I’m old and Pendennis has been chewed up by a cat, I can look at the pictures on my hologram phone and feel happy again. What’s crucial for readers to know is that I never, ever pose Pendennis. When I take a picture of him, you can be sure I am shooting what I discovered, not anything I created. The monkey needs no stylist, no art director; I simply point and shoot.

That’s the scoop on the PaperGirl mascot. And I’m glad you’re here.

*Untrue, but it sounded good up there. Also, you really need to see the stitched “Pocket Pendennis” made for me by the gorgeous and talented Margaret. Margaret, I’m looking at the PP as I type this.