What You Can Ignore And What You Cannot, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:39am


Yesterday I woke up with a shoulder so sore I said “Ow!” out loud, repeatedly, even when I wasn’t moving. I had injured it 3-4 years ago by, get this, trying to shrug on a tight leather jacket. And now the pain was back. It really hurt.

Adding ridiculousness to injury, I think I re-irritated it by lying in bed in the morning, holding my phone to read it/type. (Also I just looked up “ridiculousness” because I thought there must be a better word that I couldn’t remember, but there isn’t.)

Who gets injured by their clothes and their information devices?

I could wander off into a consideration of aging at 61, and small but painful hiccups – are they a Scroogian “blot of mustard” or a glimpse of mortality and all we do not know –but let’s not! Let’s take a determined optimistic approach to ignoring what we cannot answer! Let’s listen to the dishwasher humming and the heater blowing and be so happy it’s Saturday morning! It’s a skill, cheerfulness.

But if we are lucky, and we have the capacity to put our personal Dickensian fragments of undigested potatoes aside, maybe we should rededicate ourselves to a better world. Those things no one can ignore.

Have a good weekend everyone – good’s going to have to mean everything from clean dishes to peace on earth.

What Do You Do When You Are Cranky? Or, Saturday Morning at 9:15am


I am oddly cranky.

I suspect this is due a host of things out of my control. I prefer to solve external problems for fixes but this time I’ll have to work on my attitude. My mood? Whatever. Cranky people haven’t got enough patience to find the right words.

Totally going to have to take a long walk. Probably see about not cooking, eating out instead. Hope to confirm that I’m making progress on my long form writing project.

But I can also dream about trees. Yup, trees.

I often use my potential garden as a mood enhancer. The actual one too, of course, but right now I’m daunted by weeds. Hoeing is hard work, say the cranky. In other words, staying in the moment is great but sometimes the moment is too dang crowded and you gotta get out.

I want to plant three new trees, and I’d love for them all to be native Californians. Maybe a red alder for the back yard, to replace, although not exactly, our fallen elm. I believe these take a fuller shape when you plant one on its own. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?

Red Alder

And I’m thinking of an incense cedar for the side yard, to shade the southern side of our roof. House got HOT last summer.

Maybe a California buckeye for the front yard. Buckeyes leaf out early in spring, bloom like crazy, and then go bare. I imagine roses twining through the branches as though in a garden deserted by humans, left to revert.

Gardens are a good way to disappear the annoyances of humanity in general, if only for an hour or so.

Of course I’m not sure my tree dreams survive. The alder might kill my little lawn, the buckeye suffer from the water I need for roses. Even as I write my crankiness I’m starting to laugh at it.

What do you do to get yourself back into sorts when you are out? And have a good weekend. I’m not in such a bad way I’d forget that.

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Astonishing Celestialities Of Profound Import, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:38am


Yeah. That’s the moon. And it was in fact teeny, that’s not just the effect of my iPhone.

On the morning of the recent lunar eclipse I woke up at 4:45 am hoping to find a giant blood red moon in my back yard. Nope. I love celestial events, I will never forget last year’s super moon, it shone like a silver dinner plate right over my neighbor’s house. Or a meteor shower above the Eastern Sierra, August, 1975. I love the feeling of mystery in the universe, of being small and lost in the glorious overhead.

This, however, was not that. Thank heavens for small earthly surprises.

The hellebore bloomed early – surprise! – amid my daphne. Leslie asked for a photo, Leslie, here you go. Extra fern, no charge.

Someone also asked for a photo of my olive trees, lined up in pots on my back patio. Happy to oblige.

Here I have been both surprised and charmed by small birds who hop about in the olive branches. I see them from my sofa, I interpret them as cheerful and industrious, I assume they don’t see me at all.

Finally, one recent warm day, my aunt and I decided to take my mother out for a walk down our main street. Mom was in a wheelchair, my aunt and I took turns to push. It turns out that as Mom’s Alzheimer’s progresses, she is loses language, which makes her very anxious. She lived for human contact and conversation.

We got her some ice cream, and found ourselves near a group of pre-teen boys. They ate their ice cream and joshed each other. Mom indicated she wanted to go over to them. I was worried they’d be brusque, rude, mocking. As we wheeled up, I warned the boys, “You won’t understand what she says. My mom’s got Alzheimers. But she’ll be happy to talk to you.” The tallest boy smiled and said, “That’s OK.” The little guy at the back, hair all combed, said, “I’m happy too.”

I almost died of joy. Mom just watched the boys until her anxiety told her it was time to get moving again. I did not expect a straggle of pre-teen boys to eclipse a super moon, but I was shortsighted.

Great weekend all.

 

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The Daphne Is Blooming And My Christmas Decorations Are Still On The Floor, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:20am


I still hate housecleaning. Just needed to put that out here. Four and a half years of retirement haven’t made me a fan of household chores. Drat.

I know some of you love what some call “the domestics.” I find myself wondering, as I mop the floor, “This? Love?” But I also know that some of you have a housecleaner, which might help. I have not been able to find someone, and don’t plan to pursue it any more because it seems silly for two adults in a small house to have help when one them has free time and needs every possible opportunity to move around. Also the people we tried broke one of my benches and talked a lot on their cellphones and kept changing their schedule.

In any case, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I have been thinking about other joys to staying home. To being the one responsible.

Also by joy I don’t mean the usual warm feeling flooding our hearts. I mean the joy of a small, detailed puzzle, seeing a picture emerge out of patches. A surprise to the mind.

I was cleaning up after Christmas, an unfinished process still, and thought, “Next year I will do this with less fuss.” Now I can see the boxes of decorations, still lined up against my windows; I see the daphne blooming along the lawn. I think of last summer, when the sun shone so hot we bought not one but two sky blue patio umbrellas. We open them right outside these same windows; they shade the sofa and we hide.

What I mean to say is that from here I see the full year, each time weighted in its own value. When I worked time was unbalanced. Vacations and holidays I thought and felt one way, work another. Who could imagine next Christmas, next summer, or the next opening of the daphne?

Something else I thought recently, and put on Twitter this morning as I sidled up to writing.

The culture leads us to believe that one mythical day, when we are 35, or 28, or 42, is our “real life.” The time before then is to get ready, the time after we run in place. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I want every minute of my life to be my life. To live in the self that I am.

I admit I’m still tempted to live in the future. But at 61, why? And I can’t live in the past, it will never return, there’s nothing to envision or wait for, it happened. Already.

In some odd way having enough time to see the year as a series of equal steps places me in the moment. Future spring, let’s say, anchors me in today’s late late winter.

None of which is to say that Buddha mops the floors. Just that new ways of life bring new unpredicted rewards.

Have a wonderful, stupendous, bloom of a weekend.

 

 

Fiction That Deserves Our Time, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:26am


When you have a job, recreation is simple – it happens in the time left over.

By the way, I’ve never been one to recreate with sports or hobbies. Exercise is effort; knitting would kill me. Hotel stays are good, especially with a spa onsite, but my tastes are sadly fancy and therefore unsustainable.

I amuse myself, therefore, primarily with narrative – both printed word, and those images that flicker by which can’t quite be called television if you watch a streaming service on a laptop.

When I worked, I held these narratives to no standard at all. All the junk stories fit to consume, a motto. Supermarket romances, soap operas, thrillers, beauty pageants. No more. In retirement, anything I do as “work,” i.e., writing, has to be fun; anything I do as “fun,” i.e., consume narrative, needs to be worth my time.

All of which is naught but preamble to a few recommendations. You too might be looking for stories that deserve attention.

Books Read (Books I want to read because people in my family have thought they are good include: The Ninth House by Alice McDermott, Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain, and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent)

  1. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid (Immigration, delicate and enchanting magical realism, you can’t figure out how the book does what it does as you read, even the over-rational like me can completely immerse ourselves in the narrative)
  2. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee (Korean immigrants in Japan, over decades. A family saga, at the next level of artistry.)
  3. The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson (It’s a fantasy, but imagine Jared Diamond’s geographical masterpiece, “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” as a novel about a woman warrior who enters politics, as a tax collector, in a richly imagined land. One of the most compelling reads I’ve had in the last couple of years.)

Digital Narrative Watched (I’m going to assume you’ve all seen or at least heard of The Crown, and Frankie and Grace, so I’ll focus on somewhat lesser known shows.)

  1. The Good Place – ABC (Brilliant, funny, about moral philosophy and giant flying shrimp. Also Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto. Just watch it. Do not give up on the first season, it is masterful all the way to the end. And the first season is like Groundhog Day meets Through The Looking Glass Cheers and Veronica Mars. Obviously indescribable.)
  2. The Path – Hulu (For anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s, this portrayal of cults is unmissable. Featuring Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.)
  3. Vera – ITV  (In its 8th season, this British detective series stars the fantastic Brenda Blethyn as a single middle-aged woman who wears a rainhat like nobody’s business and calls people “Pet.” So comforting, so well-written and performed. Previous seasons can be seen on Hulu and on Acorn, a Commonwealth-produced-only streaming service.)
  4. The Deuce – HBO (Maggie Gyllenhaal is worth watching in anything, even something about 70s-era Times Square and the pornography industry.)
  5. SMILF – Showtime (Newcomer Frankie Shaw wrote and stars in this show about a single mother in Boston. Rose O’Donnell plays her mom. It’s very raw, but also funny, and Shaw is incredibly appealing as are the adorable little ones who play her son)

If you know some under-the-radar good stuff, particularly of this artistic but not impenetrable variety, please feel free to share below.

Have a wonderful weekend. So much going on in our world. I imagine my little post on fiction as mere white space to the graphic novel in which we now live. Stranger than fantasy indeed.

An Unexpected Benefit Of Style Blogging, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:20am


It’s quite possible I will not add a single piece of clothing to my wardrobe this year.

I’m not making any promises; no vows or 365-day challenge. (Dani’s doing one if you want to follow.) But when people asked me what I wanted for Christmas all I could think was that I might need a new pair of sneakers. On further consideration, I allowed as how I might want a new  t-shirt from UNIQLO this summer, and that I’d quite likely need some new underwear.

But in truth, I’m closet-satisfied.

This doesn’t mean I’ve ceased to care, or that I suddenly lost my taste for luxury – more’s the pity. I did buy myself this Alexander McQueen sweatshirt in September or thereabouts. (I neglected to grow 5 inches, lose 30 pounds and dye my hair brown, but I still look OK in it if I say so myself.)

Patterned with tiny slightly fuzzy swallows. Was it ridiculously expensive? On the one hand, yes. On the other, I wear it 3-4 times/week, at home, to yoga, out and about. And I’ve gotten compliments on it from blue-haired pierced cashiers and parking lot society women alike. Love a good demographic reach. So, maybe not pricy over time.

And my brother, he of extraordinary taste and surpassing generosity, got me a black floral printed Comme des Garçons shirt for Christmas. A work of art, one that satisfies any need I might have for a new remarkable date-night piece.

But otherwise, all I might need is a pair of these blush sneakers, if the soles of my Vince slip-ons finally give way. Or, more reasonably, these Nikes.

And a t-shirt like this. Last year I got this one, pretty, and quite cheery.

I even, when I needed new glasses, avoided high-end boutiques in favor of Warby Parker where I ordered these.

$95 dollars for the frames and $200 for progressive lenses.

Are they as edgy as my old ones? Neepers. Will I want to wear lipstick more regularly, or turquoise earrings, to compensate for the additional gray on my 61-year face? Sure, maybe. But that seemed worth the $400 not spent on imagined perfection. (I wished they were pale blue.)

What has happened here? If you follow other style bloggers who have retired from their day jobs, you may see that we all evolve. Either in response to our new circumstances, or, maybe, simply over time. Leslie has started wearing more dresses. Sue tiptoes (and wonderfully so) ever more towards Hollywood.

Me, I think I’m finding the majority of my beauty and joy in private moments, rather than self-presentation. I didn’t say I wasn’t in the mood to buy anything – boy I’d like billowy curtains for the guest room. And I’m hoping to plant two big new trees in the back yard. But I’m the one seeing, not being looked at.

My style motivation was always first about social context.

Finally, I think this blog, and all the photos I took, benefited me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. Almost my clothes now seem to work with each other. For example, as I’ve said before, the aubergine tweed Étoile Isabel Marant jacket I bought 5+ years ago just happened to go with this newer Equipment butterfly shirt. Particularly when accompanied by brown Dickers, and the blue Céline bag. More affordably, my high-waisted Madewell jeans work with all kinds of shorter tees, for a modern proportion, and I’m still quite happy to add white patent leather Birkenstocks to almost anything.

Even the pieces in this post, if I think about it, I’d wear them all together with jeans. I love the color contrast of the blush sneakers and the mustard t-shirt graphic, which reminds me of these Gucci mules.

To any who are evolving your style right now, I highly recommend selfies. In all seriousness, seeing oneself in outfits over and over again can allow you to abstract out what makes some choices work and some choices not. The photos become your own silhouette library and color swatches, if you will, making it easier to pull yourself together quickly and happily.

If, of course, that’s what you want to do. I could never have known that breaking through my cultural barriers around “showing off,”  would lead to an interior comfort with how I move through the world. Reading that sentence, I kind of want to tell myself, “Duh.”

I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

No links in this post have been monetized.

Happy New Year in 2018, or, Saturday Morning at 7:13am


I read Bumble Ward’s blog, Miss Whistle, and I follow her on Instagram. Bumble practices a kind of yoga that focuses on love. She’ll post the words, Only Love. Often some skeptical part of me responds, “Yeah, it’s not that easy.”

There was a Facebook meme going around that asked you to post a word of good feeling that began with the first letter of your name, as wishes for the New Year. I refrained.

But on New Year’s Day my husband and I were up in San Francisco and I saw this out a window and figured, well, OK, even a Sturdy Gal knows when to bow to the universe.

From my Instagram feed, then,

I wish you all a Happy New Year. It isn’t easy, sometimes the lights go out, but it’s possible.

Full To The Brim, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:15am


Christmas has been held and had, full to the brim of my favorite humans. I hope, if you celebrate, yours was good. And that if Christmas is not your holiday, you enjoyed the empty streets left as many of us burrowed into houses full of wrapping paper.

My task for the day is getting my mother out of the hospital. It’s an odd ongoing process to care for an elderly person, particularly one with Alzheimers. Surgery sets my mom so far back it’s not worth it, even more routine hospital stays exact a toll on her abilities to think and regulate her emotions.

The American medical system, however, treats the average patient. There’s nothing offered between hospice, i.e. palliative care only, and full-on, i.e. x-rays and IV antibiotics – my mom needs an in-between care system. I try to organize it for her as best I can.

I’m not angry, or grieving, although I have been both before in my mother’s care. Just trying as calmly as possible to encourage everyone to treat Mom as who she is. And get her into her own bed.

I don’t mean to go for the easy tearjerker here. Sentiment abounds. But on her good days Mom still greets us, “Hello darling!” The words that follow might approach gibberish. So we hold on to what we know to be true, both in our thoughts and in our feelings.

Have a good weekend.

In The Still Of Christmas, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:28am


For all the counting down, the rushing to a day, my favorite part of Christmas is in fact timelessness.

By which I don’t mean the quasi-timeless – America’s historical reverence for snow-tipped pine cones, glittered Santas, sugar. I mean, literally, the way time can stop on the day. I am not sure why I feel so.

I do know that as I sit on my sofa right now, looking directly at our tree (which is kind of feeble as I experimented with gold and silver and I’m missing gaudy red glass balls), two presents (they arrived wrapped in Amazon navy and gray aspiring to be silver), and the ornament storage boxes that I need to put back into the garage, I feel my whole life take a breath.

I could speculate as to why. Maybe traditions, layers of repeated experience that they are, maybe each layer weights the one after. Tugs us from tomorrow.

Or maybe it’s the quiet to come, as for a moment my neighborhood sits down, full and happy.

But better to let you bright people muse, if you’re so inclined.

Merry Christmas to all. Much love and thanks for all you give me.

Collaborating With An Artist For Friendsmas, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:59am


As a nod to Friendsmases of years past (last year’s is here, for example), I wanted to show you the quilt I commissioned from my cousin Linda. I needed a present for a young British friend of mine and her first baby, and thought something custom-made would be really special.

The family likes black and white, and strong colors. Also animal prints. So Linda and I collaborated:). She sent me to her Pinterest page to choose a design. We both liked the Kaleidoscope. Then she pinned together what I can only call prototypes, and sent me photos, so we could decide on a color scheme.

We went from full-on black and white to bits of color.

And on to a royal blue as a backing.

Then added little subtle prints in some of the squares. BTW, this is kind of crib-sized, or pram-sized, if we’re aiming for Britishism as we always should.

I love it, and I think the family quite liked it too. I hope their new baby has fun finding animals over the years, and maybe remembers the pattern as he grows.

If you have friends or family with talent, support them. It’s so rewarding. Merry Going On Christmas, and have a wonderful weekend all.

Linda’s Etsy store is here. No compensation has been received for this post, and I purchased the quilt myself. Gladly.

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