There comes a time in any blog’s serialized tale of woe that it must break the bonds of the narrative to announce a big, fat, juicy fabric stash sale. I’ll give you alllll the details in just a sec. First, let me tell you why I’m about to sell off a huge chunk of my personal fabric stash because many of you may be thinking that either I’m giving up quilting or I have been hit on the head by a coconut. Neither are even remotely true!
I am selling off a large portion of my personal fabric stash … because I moving to a pet-friendly apartment! Yes! It’s the best thing ever! The only downside is that the space I’m moving to is way smaller than where I’m at now. Stuff’s about to get real, y’all. So …
***If you don’t want to read the reason/story behind why I’m doing this and just want to know how to get the fabric, skip ahead to “How This Will Work”!***
Announcing the fabric sale means speeding ahead in the story of my recent major depression, but honestly, it’s kind of a relief to take a break. It may be interesting, but by its very nature, it’s a real drag. So like, can we all just roll around in fabric for a while? Great!
The good news is that the breakdown story concludes with multiple happy endings, and this new dog-friendly living space is one of them for sure.
After the veto of Philip Larkin, so many of you encouraged me to find a new place to live — and you were right. I started looking at condos a couple months ago and found a perfect unit in a 10-floor building a few blocks north of downtown. It was love at first click. This condo checked all my boxes: puppy approved, in a vintage building in a safe neighborhood, with generally good vibes — everything I was looking for. The listing said the seller was “very motivated”, which made sense because the unit had been on the market for half a year. There’s nothing deeply flawed about it; it’s just that with no parking space, a narrow kitchen, and in need of a serious paint job, it makes it a hard sell for a lot of people. But the place was out of my price range by a lot. It was going to take a whole lot of “motivation” to get that number down enough for me to even think about making an offer.
But then one day, I got an alert that the price dropped. Cool, but it was still too expensive for me to seriously consider it. Then, about a month later, the price dropped again. Woah. We were entering the realm of possibility, now. Could this actually happen?? I contacted the realtor my family has worked with in the past and asked her if she had time for a chat. She did, and chatting commenced.
The process was agonizingly slow for weeks and then everything began moving fast. I scraped together all my savings and my IRA monies for a downpayment. After considerable drama, I applied for and got a decent mortgage loan. I crunched the numbers over and over. By renting the place I’m in now, I can pay my mortgage and my HOA fees at the new place. My realtor and I made our offer. The seller countered. We countered back. And then the answer came: Our offer was accepted. At this news, there was much squeaking and hand-flapping and I may have done several laps around my current apartment. Inspections were ordered. Appraisals, too. Checks were handed over. And just yesterday, the closing date is confirmed: March 29th, 2019. That would be next Friday, and I’m not freaking out at all.
Now that you know what’s going on, it’s time to talk about this fabric. You’ve waited so patiently.
The new, totally fabulous place is a one-bedroom. My current place is a two-bedroom. This single-woman-in-a-two-bedroom setup has been a great luxury for me as a quilter, since that back bedroom could serve as my lil’ fabric stockroom. My stash has grown over the years because duh, but also because with so much room back there, I could just keep filling it. Every yard, every fat quarter I purchased was brought in with love and excitement and I am fond of every bit of it. Suddenly, though, I’ve got serious problems. I do not have room for this stash. The only way I could keep all this would be to store a lot of it in my new kitchen cupboards and that would be crazy. Please tell me that would be crazy. (Thank you.)
What, then, are my options for significantly reducing a fabric stash? The way I figure, there are three: get a storage unit, give it away, or sell off a bunch of it.
A storage unit is out of the question. Fabric belongs in quilts, not in grimy storage units. Besides, it’s gross to keep a horde of fabric like that all to myself just because I bought it and love it. Other quilters might love it, too, and they could put it to good use. Donating sounds good, but it’s not as easy as you think to donate fabric. The Goodwill isn’t excited about getting boxes of raw yardage, and so few schools do sewing projects anymore, I haven’t found a single school that will take fabric donations. I have several boxes to send to a local guild for use in charity quilts, but as I thought about sending it all away, I thought, “Well, wait a second, Fons. You purchased this fabric. You have taken good care of it. You have a new, scary mortgage. It’s okay to sell things. It’s not evil.” This is an important note for me and for us all, maybe? Consciously or subconsciously, there exists a certain uncomfortability about making money on a quilt or selling one’s supplies when one could give every last scrap to charity. Quilts and money have a complicated relationship, but a fabric garage sale does not make me or anyone else a bad person. Some may disagree and that’s okay. I know how much a crosstown move costs in the city of Chicago and also I would like to eat food.
How This Will Work
My lovely assistant Jazzy came over last week and we hauled out all my fabric. It was pretty crazy in here. We brought in dozens of Medium-Sized USPS Flat-Rate boxes and filled each of them with a lovely variety of fabrics from my stash. Some cuts were excruciating to part with, but I was firm in my resolve. Each box was able to hold a lot of fabric. There’s Kaffe, Tula, Moda, Art Gallery; there are prints, solids … everything. Each box is a grab bag, but don’t worry: My fabrics are awesome. Some of the boxes are filled with smaller cuts, mostly fat quarters; other boxes are filled with large cuts of serious yardage, somewhere around four yards in some cases. It’s impressive or depressing, depending on how you look at it.
But there’s more than fabric in these boxes.
My book, Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts For the 21st Century, is now out of print. There won’t be any more in all of existence once my inventory is gone. I now have five boxes of books left, and two of them have to be saved for a couple gigs later this year. When my books are gone, they gone. But I don’t have room in the new place for these boxes, either, so I autographed a whole bunch of books and Jazzy and I put one inside each box.
“Mary!” you cry, “I must have one of these boxes! I love fabric and I want your book and I want to help you live! How much??”
Each box starts at $50.00, including shipping. I’d like to explain how I got that number:
As you probably know, USPS Flat-Rate Boxes (FRBs) are prepaid. FRBs were the only way to go, otherwise Jazzy and I would be at the post office for one fafillion years and everyone in line would be murdering us — with good reason. The boxes ain’t cheap, though: A medium-sized box is around $15 bucks. But we could pack a ton heavy fabric in each box and the poundage was irrelevant. The price of the boxes also accounts for the signed book, which retails for $22. A yard of quilt shop-quality fabric hovers around $12/yard. If you pick up a medium-sized FRB, you’ll get an idea of how much yardage each box is going to contain. Once we added all that up, we decided $50 bucks looked pretty fair. All the pre-washed fabric comes directly from my smoke-free, pet-free (!) home. Oh, and I put a fun certificate of authenticity in there, too, just to be cheeky.
There are 63 boxes that will be listed on eBay tomorrow. DO NOT JUDGE ME. If folks want the boxes, just put in the bid. If no one else bids higher, the box is yours when the auction ends. If the boxes don’t sell at all, I will weep and then I will donate everything, but I have to try this first.
If you’re interested in having a fun with this, be on the lookout here in my blog and on my Facebook page tomorrow morning when I post the link to the eBay page. I’ll do it early so you can get it all loaded up if you want to bid. The eBay page will give you all the above info and more. You are welcome to ask questions in the comments and either Jazzy or I will do our best to answer. As soon as the auction is over, the boxes ship out because heaven knows I need to get them out of here before the move happens on Monday. I’m still not freaking out at all. Do you happen to have any Tums?
And if this garage sale table excites you, just wait: I’m going to be selling a few quilts, too. More on that later.
Welcome to The PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post. This is the third installment of a series examining the causes and effects of the major depressive episode I experienced in mid-January.
If you haven’t read the first and second posts in the series already, you should, since in this story, the chain of events is the point. After all, a breakdown is a breaking down of something — and things don’t tend to break down all at once. It’s a domino thing, a Rube Goldberg thing, but with sobbing and extended panic attacks.
After I got the news about Philip, the relationship I had been in for about a year ended, this time for good.
There had been a couple times over the course of the year when N. and I had decided to let it go. There were communication problems. Mistakes were made. But we were genuinely fond of each other. There was sweetness there, no question, and you may have heard that breakups are the literal worst. So, both times we called it quits we didn’t stay quit for long. After a month or so, we’d end up back at my place, ordering takeout and (re)watching episodes of Rick and Morty. It was not a perfect relationship, but it was tender enough. Pathetic, perhaps, that “tender enough” was enough at all, but we do what we do in the world.
It is unethical to divulge on this blog personal details about anyone else’s life but my own. This has always been my policy, so when I sat down today to write about the breakup, I approached it with characteristic caution. My first try was awful. I labored over several too-long, intentionally vague paragraphs that made no sense because I was avoiding saying what actually happened. I deleted all that, then spent another hour writing out exactly what happened in a “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of way. Not only was it sharing personal details about N.’s life, it was exceedingly boring. He said she said? Hell no.
Then it hit me: I don’t need to tell you anything about how it happened. You already know how it happened because we all know how breakups happen. There was terrible pain. People were hurt and then made the other person hurt. There was confusion. Anger. Irritation. Fear. Harsh words. Tears. Do the details really matter?
I don’t think so. Not here, maybe, and not now.
What matters now is that one bitterly cold, windy Tuesday in early December, I was trudging past the post office in the Loop, wincing as the ice hit my cheeks, but warmed by the fact that I had a cute boyfriend and a dream dog on the way. I couldn’t know that within a matter of days, I’d have no boyfriend and my dog was already dead.
Yeah, well, Chicago winter didn’t care about any of that. Heck, the polar vortex was still a month away. Shocked and aching that two major figures in my world had been excised most cruelly, I still had to keep trudging. I still had to go to the post office, the grocery store, and home to my empty apartment, even as the tears I cried into my scarf froze on my face. That actually happened.
It was bad. But at least I had my health. I did have my health, right? Tell me I still had my health.
Thanks for reading, gang. See you next week.
It’s time for The PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post. Tonight, the continuation of the grim story I began last week. Descend into torment with me, won’t you?
But first: It was staggering to see the amount of love shown to me and the identification so many readers had with the first installment of the story. Many PaperGirl readers have experienced a major depressive episode, themselves. Many more have loved ones or friends who have. Nearly everyone is acquainted with depression somehow. How, exactly, can there still be a stigma around getting therapy or getting on (the right) meds to treat mental illness? Help me understand.
There were five events that combined to cause my nervous breakdown. The only way to illustrate the full misery is to illustrate the full misery piece by piece. When you’re having a nervous breakdown, time makes no sense — but let’s go chronologically, anyway.
It started with Philip.
If you don’t know about a little dog named Philip Larkin, click the “Philip Larkin” category tab over on the right hand side and you’ll see all the posts I’ve written about him. The story of Philip is long and it is about to get longer.
About nine months ago, a PaperGirl reader put me in contact with a Maltipoo breeder in Arkansas. This breeder was kind, certified, transparent, and above all, ethical. Filling out my Puppy Application took at least an hour to complete. I detailed the dog of my dreams, signed an agreement to be a good dog owner, and sent all that off with a not-insignificant deposit check. I was approved and put on the waiting list. The breeder said that two of her mama dogs whelp particularly small dogs, so this meant Philip’s mom would be either Ginger or Elsa.
“I think Ginger will probably have puppies toward the end of summer,” the breeder said. “You’ll be the first to know!”
But neither dog gave birth; the summer was too hot, the breeder said. No problem, I told her: I can wait. I had waited this long, hadn’t I? Besides, so much had been put in motion. Finding the breeder, getting on the waitlist, sending the deposit … Philip Larkin was getting more real every day. Soon, I wouldn’t feel so alone all the time. Soon, he would wriggle and roll and pounce on me and lick my nose with his tiny pink tongue … I’m comin’, Philip, I thought. We got this.
In November, the breeder emailed me that Ginger had given birth. There were five puppies in the litter: four girls … and one boy. This was it. That was Philip. I got the email while on a Quiltfolk trip and when I read about Ginger and the puppies to the girls in the car, we all screamed and freaked out and I flapped my hands and cried. Everyone hugged. Philip wasn’t just my dog at that point; we all wanted him.
When the breeder asked me if I’d like to see pictures of Philip as he grew, I told her that I would like that very much. It would be around eight weeks before he could come home, and this was the perfect amount of time to get things in order. I immediately began all the legwork for my petition. It hadn’t made sense to do all the stuff it before that, since a) I didn’t know if there would be a dog with this breeder; b) what if the dog wasn’t the right one, etc.; and c) I had looked at Illinois law and knew all the pieces I needed to proceed to get my companion pet in a no-dog building. I was ready for this paperwork.
The breeder sent pictures of Philip at about six weeks. He was exquisite. Downy and sweet. His dark eyes had that new puppy, sleepy, bleary look; he still had so much growing to do! His belly was pink and I liked to think I saw a lil’ milk gut.
Toward the end of November, I handed my building manager my 26-page petition, asking for permission to obtain Philip. This petition did not have to be 26 pages but like I was going to screw this up? Hell no. That slipcovered binder had a table of contents, a cover letter, letters from my doctors, a packet of resources (e.g., vets in the area, boarding outfits, etc.), information about the breed, information from the breeder, and all the blog posts I had written about my future pet, printed off. I wanted to make sure that my condo board understood this was not an impulse thing, that getting my small, hypo-allergenic dog was something I had been longing for and planning for for at least two years. I was following the rules. I was doing the work. I was going above and beyond.
On Black Friday, I bought a dog bed. On Cyber Monday, I bought a treat jar. At night, I actually fell asleep thinking of my dog. I had been feeling so poorly over the past couple months with bathroom stuff and it was a happy place I went to in my head.
On December 6th, I got a certified, one-page letter from my building’s attorneys retained by my building that under no circumstances would I be allowed to obtain a dog for the purposes of emotional support. Unless I had a service animal license, the answer was no. Adding to the shock, the lawyer wrote that the blog posts I included in my packet showed that I had tried to get my blog readers to give me tips on how to game the system. I am still not sure what blog posts she was reading, but I guess lawyers are real busy and stuff. She just got mixed up.
My heart got shot.
That’s how it felt. Someone pulled out heavy gun, placed the barrel flush to my breast, and shot me through my heart. For a few moments, I sat there at my table. I guess it was like in the movies when a gangster is playing cards or something, and he gets shot, right there at the table, and he’s still for a moment before he topples over. I looked down at the letter in my hands. I read it again. Then I put the letter on the table. And I began to cry.
That’s how the breakdown began. It began when my dog died.
Next week: The Breakup.
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.
Peep. Peep. Peep.
Remember last week, when I told you about 1001 Afternoons in Chicago?
I’m still reading it, meting out the remaining entries in Ben Hecht’s book so that the miracle will last as long as possible.
Last week, I shared an excerpt, and for tonight’s Sunday Evening Post, I’m going to share a full entry from the book. The piece is called Confessions. It’s one of the best things I have ever read, I think. The humanity, the specificity, the simplicity — it’s remarkable, at least to me. So I typed up the piece, just for you. I like to type up or write out longhand passages of writing written by far better writers than myself. Like a painting student copies a masterwork in order to learn how to paint, copying down other people’s writing is one small thing I do as a writer. It’s an interesting exercise because guess what? Great writers also have to actually write the word “the” in lots of places. They also have to decide, finally, how a piece should end. And begin. We’re all faced with the blank page. We’re all using the same words. We’re all human — right, Ben?
Maybe you think sharing another Hecht excerpt this week is a bit lazy. “This again?!” some of you might say, though I don’t think any of you will say that because you’re not the type. The thing is, it’s been a good but super intense weekend, I’m deep in preparation for QuiltCon (!), and I’m not feeling well. And so, I can either rest on the shoulders of giants and make us all happy, or paste together something mediocre for you and make us all sad. Not a tough call, really. I’m pretty sure I’ll post again this week; my sea legs are feeling stronger.
The rain mutters in the night and the pavements like dark mirrors are alive with impressionistic cartoons of the city. The little, silent street with its darkened store windows and rain-veiled arc lamps is as lonely as a far-away train whistle.
Over the darkened stores are stone and wooden flat buildings. Here, too, the lights have gone out. People sleep. The rain falls. The gleaming pavements amuse themselves with reflections.
I have an hour to wait. From the musty smelling hallway where I stand the scene is like an old print — an old London print — that I have always meant to buy and put in a frame but have never found.
Writing about people when one is alone under an electric lamp, and thinking about people when one stands watching the rain in the dark streets, are two different diversions. When one writes under an electric lamp one pompously marshals ideas; one remembers the things people say and do and believe in, and slowly these things replace people in one’s mind. One thinks (in the calm of one’s study): “So-and-so is a Puritan … he is viciously afraid of anything which will disturb the idealized version of himself in which he believes — and wants other people to believe … “ Yes,m one thinks So-and-so is this and So-and-so is that. And it all seems very simple. People focus into clearly outlined ideas — definitions. And one can sit back and belabor them, hamstring them, pull their noses, expose their absurdities and derive a deal of satisfaction from the process. Iconoclasm is easy and warming under an electric light in one’s study.
But in the rain at night, in the dark street staring at darkened windows, watching the curious reflections in the pavements — it is different in the rain. The night mutters and whispers.
“People,” one thinks, “tired, silent people sleeping in the dark.”
Ideas do not come so easily or so clearly. The ennobling angers which are the emotion of superiority in the iconoclast do not rise so spontaneously. And one does not say “People are this and people are that … “ No, one pauses and stares at the dark chatter of the rain and a curious silence saddens one’s mind.
Life is apart from ideas. And the things that people say and believe in and for which they die and in behalf of which they invent laws and codes — these have nothing to do with the insides of people. Puritan, hypocrite, criminal, dolt — these are paper-thin masks. It is diverting to rip them in the calm of one’s study.
Life that warms the trees into green in the summer, that sends birds circling through the air, that spreads a tender, passionate glow over even the most barren wastes — people are but one of its almost too many children. The dark, the rain, the lights, people asleep in bed, the wind, the snow that will fall tomorrow, the ice, flowers, sunlight, country roads, pavements and stars — all these are the same. Through all of them life sends its intimate and sacred breath.
One becomes aware of such curious facts in the rain at night and one’s iconoclasm, like a broken umbrella, hangs useless from one’s hand. Tomorrow these people who are now asleep will be stirring, giving vent to outrageous ideas, championing incredulous banalitiies, prostrating themselves before imbecile superstitions. Tomorrow they will rise and begin forthwith to lie, quibble, cheat, steal, four flush and kill, each and all inspired by the solacing monomania that every one of their words and gestures is a credible variant of perfection. Yes, tomorrow they will be as they were yesterday.
But in this rain at night they rest from their perfections, they lay aside for a few hours they rest from their perfections, they lay aside for a few hours their paper masks. And one can contemplate them with a curious absence of indignation or criticism. There is something warm and intimate about the vision of many people sleeping in the beds above the darkened store fronts of this little street. Their bodies have been in the world so long — almost as long as the stones out of which their houses are made. So many things have happened to them, so many debacles and monsters and horrors have swept them off their feet … and always they have kept on — persisting through floods, volcanic eruptions, plagues and wars.
Heroic and incredible people. Endlessly belaboring themselves with ideas, gods, taboos, and philosophies. Yet here they are, still in this silent little street. The world has grown old. Trees have decayed and races died out. But here above the darkened store fronts lies the perpetual miracle … People in whom life streams as naive and intimate as ever.
Yes, it is to life and not people one makes one’s obeisance. Toward life no iconoclasm is possible, for even that which is in opposition to its beauty and horror must of necessity be a part of them.
It rains. The arc lamps gleam through the monotonous downporu. One can only stand and dream … how charming people are since they are alive … how caring the rain is and the night … And how foolish arguments are … how ban al are these cerebral monsters who pose as iconoclasts and devote themselves grandiloquently and inanely to disturbing the paper masks …
I walk away from the must smelling hallway. A dog steps tranquilly out of the shadows nearby. He surveys the street and the rain with a proprietary calm.
It would be amusing to walk in the rain with a strange dong. I whistle softly and reassuringly to him. He pauses and turns his head toward me, surveying me with an air of vague discomfort. What do I want with him? … he thinks … who am I? … have I any authority? … what will happen to him if he doesn’t obey the whistle?
Thus he stands hesitating. Perhaps, too, I will give him shelter, a kindness never to be despised. A moment ago, before I whistled, this dog was tranquil and happy in the rain. Now he has changed. He turns fully around and approaches me, a slight cringe in his walk. The tranquility has left him. At the sound of my whistle he has grown suddenly tired and lonely and the night and rain no longer lure him. He has found another companionship.
And so together we walk for a distance, this dog and I, wondering about each other …