Making a cinderblock bench

I’ve been looking to build or buy some kind of patio sofa. The ones I like that would be comfortable to lie down and work on for any length of time (for me anyway) are two thousand dollars or more! Ridiculous! So I am setting out to build a sort of bench or sofa out of cinderblocks and 4×4 beams. They look way nicer in people’s photos than mine are going to be. But, thinking it through and doodling different designs, and going to the hardware store, all the logistics of getting the stuff here and mobilizing help to do that has been amazingly fun. I love building things!

Yesterday I got the cinderblocks and some primer paint. The Lowe’s dudes were somewhat difficult to deal with as always, but I finally hit on a responsible and helpful person who made one of the unhelpful ones go get a forklift and reload their brick area with cinderblocks. I could see his forklift wasn’t going to fit int he space when he came back with it loaded, because there were a couple of bags of Quikrete in the aisle behind him directly opposite the spot for the blocks, and tried to tell him without like accidentally cutting his entire dick off with my POWERFUL EVIL WOMAN WORDS but he could not accept my vision of reality so kept backing into the quikrete, then plunging forward into the floor to ceiling metal rack full of cement and bricks rattling it visibly in a way that made me retreat like, 4 aisle back so as not to be crushed when the whole thing fell. It didn’t fall and the Responsible man came back around and made him move the bags, eventually. Really what the fuck, though. Forklift guy was such a downer, there was no dealing with him.

Then another guy was made by Mr. Responsible to load some onto a cart for me and help load them into my car. Cart loading guy was another story, fairly cheerful and chatty, but it became clear as we traversed the expanses of parking lot that his talkativeness could veer way off the rails about like, corsets or girdles or something, and then even worse when he started explaining to me how the San Francisco Mayor (London Breed) was actually a yoga lady from Marin (untrue) who was also Donald Trump’s cousin and who had once yelled at him over the phone and then went to jail for it. I was like, Uhhhhh hmmmm! and nodded along only commenting when he pressed me that I had no idea who Trump’s cousins might be or anything about them. Our conversation went OK for a while but then as the brick loading into my car continued he suddenly started throwing the bricks in (on top of my scooter, which, uncool and also it chipped the bricks) and getting very loud and red faced yelling about how the Mayor had thrown some bricks right at Trump’s face because she was just so ANGRY about THROWING BRICKS! This got disturbing but he was nearly done and I didn’t want to make any waves. So, he finished up, I tipped him, and drove off thinking that it is good that he has a job. Whew.

On the other side at home it became swiftly clear to me that I could not really carry a giant brick to the back patio even once so I pressed Ada into service. She had just been saying she planned to exercise and lift weights. “Hiiiiii you know how you were going to lift weights? Well what if they were BRICKS and you could also get PAID.” Obligingly she wore some work gloves and learned how to operate a hand truck as I painted a rosy future where she becomes a falconer on some land in the mountains somewhere and needs to know how to build an aerie out of cinderblocks! (Not needed to persuade, and not persuasive, but I can’t resist spinning a line of bullshit, and who knows maybe it will someday be true!)

Today I got her dungeons and dragons group to help move the bricks onto an old sheet, spreading them out for painting. I put a layer of primer on them & then went to writing group meetup and back to the hardware store for spray paint. Who should unlock the paint for me but our friend of the story about the mayor! He was more restrained today. I got 6 colors of paint figuring we could paint the blocks all different colors.

The D&D players enjoyed the brick spray painting I think. We started out doing solid color block faces and then ended up with stripes, spots, all sorts of weird patterns. It’s going to be fun to pick which ones are most visible in the bench construction.

spray painting cinderblocks

Lowe’s is going to deliver the six 8 foot long 4x4s (when? no way to fucking know!?) and I really hope it is not the brick throwing guy driving the truck. I liked him, and was cool with his stream of consciousness, but I also ended up feeling a bit unnerved by his yelling and roughness.

OK, so, then there will be 4 blocks on either side as the base, 8 really, but the seat will be 4 times 8 inches so 32″ deep. I have a very thick cushion coming from Amazon that is 30″ deep and 70″ long, which I hope will work out OK. I haven’t worked out exactly what I want to use for the bench back, yet. The extra 10 inches of bench will have another rectangular pillow of the same thickness and then maybe a wedge bolster on either end (also not sure what will work till I build it.) And, I have two 2′ by 4′ plywood sheets also being delivered with the beams, in case I need them as the base under the foam cushions.

This all made me ridiculously happy. It’s fun to think about & plan and I am excited to see how it will end up. If it isn’t useful or comfortable then maybe I’ll have to buy a real couch. Ideally this will work though and it can be a comfortable spot on the patio for me to lie flat while working. And it should be big enough for me and Danny to both lie on it as we do on the living room couch!

Some ideas on self-care, interdependence, and caring for others

On self-care and care for others. I keep returning to the thought of care and interdependence. By caring for myself, I am modeling for others how to care for themselves. When I am cleaning up the environment or making some food or thinking ahead to make my lunch for the next day, I can do it while thinking of those actions as loving self care, and I can extend that to others as well (especially as a parent). That sounds simple, but in practice I don’t find it to be so easy. There is also a place in life for self indulgence: I feel bad, I had a stressful day, so therefore I will get some ice cream and huddle in the blankets and play video games. (Or, weirder than that, the idea that you go get a manicure or something….) That can be part of self-care but it shouldn’t be mistaken for all the work of care, which is 99% maintenance and chores. And who hasn’t had the thought, “Oh, god, here I am slogging through this work again, doing the dishes (or whatever) and then it will need to be done all over again!” and just brushing your teeth feels like this dreary sisyphean task. I have had very good luck practicing the work of transmuting maintenance and care, you could even call it service work, into love or doing it in a spirit of kindness to one’s self. If you have had the experience of trying to do those things, and getting abuse as a result (not doing it well enough, or right, being scorned, mocked, yelled at, or punished, for example) then it is even harder. I have to bite back my thoughts and words (Can’t you even ____?! Can’t you just???! ) A little patience is so useful. (With myself or with, well, teenagers). If a person is feeling depressed and anxious, they need more care, done in a good spirit, and to me, it honestly felt revolutionary to see that, and say outright, “You’re feeling so bad, let me take care of you, it’s ok to feel sad and ask for care from friends and family… and… we can figure out what can you do to take good care of yourself too” And then make some healthy dinner and dig them out from chaos. Because, what I’d expect myself when I was a kid was that my sad feelings and need of care would result in others being angry with me. Danny has pointed out to me over the years that my family’s ultimate insult is to call someone a baby. Don’t be a baby! What a baby! What does it mean to be a baby, in this family language? It means to need help or care. That’s a sad subtext that I want to correct.

Occasionally as an adult in the world I get a feeling of surprise care and humanity where I didn’t expect it. Like, I was moved nearly to tears when someone came round the grocery checkout and offered without fuss to put the grocery bag handles on the back of my wheelchair. She settled it carefully with the handles criss crossed just the way I do it myself, with out jolting me or doing anything strange (either she knows someone well who is a wheelchair user, or she just notices) and she made eye contact first – I can’t remember if she asked outright but we had a eye contact and body language interchange that was essentially asking and consent. True access intimacy. How rare and precious that simple interaction is. All our help and care for others should be in that spirit as well.

Web Conference

I went to half a day of Web4All, part of The Web Conference. Good talks and demos & I enjoyed meeting people! More after I go to the 2nd day of the conference tomorrow.

Meanwhile – this weekend – I hung up a section of rain gutter alongside the house & planted flowers in it. Too tired to write much. It was very satisfying to figure out how make this strange planter and hang it up properly.

Points of reference

I tried to hire someone today to take some dusty mildewed patio furniture cushions to the laundromat and wash them. I always feel very apologetic that I don’t just do this kind of work myself (though I mostly do) so I’m like, well I don’t walk super well and it’s bulky so I’d appreciate help. The woman (OK… in my mind “girl” because everyone under 30 now seems indistinguishable from a 16 year old, so I just want to protect them, the sweet babies! but must remember they are totally grownups) shows up in kind of nice office worker clothes complete with adorable little pumps, the kind with little brass chains across the front, and a pencil skirt, and she pets our cat for a bit and then we head outside.

I’m already worried it’s too messy for her to cope with. So I start putting giant cushions into a bag for her so she won’t have to touch them because I’m sensing suddenly that they are DIRTY (??) and then she screams!!!! OMG!!!! SPIDER!!!! and goes into full “eek” body language mode. I’m standing there holding the pillows like …. ????? SPIDER!!! RIGHT THERE! IT’s HUGE~!!! WATCH OUT!

OK so I flick the spider off the pillow onto the patio and she screams again and jumps back.

“I’m so sorry! I don’t… I didn’t think! I just… SPIDERS!! Do you think… there could be MORE SPIDERS. IN THERE. OH GOD I CAN’T”

“It’s OK. We can’t help our phobias. I totally understand. Will it help if I just cancel the task so it doesn’t make you look bad?”

“Maybe if you just… like don’t say it was because of… OH GOD I’m SO SO SORRY Maybe you should say in the task THERE MIGHT BE, you know, SPIDERS OH GOD OH GOD”

“Yeah. OK let’s go back inside. I probably should have called it ‘yard work’ not ‘laundry’, now that I think about it.”

This is how I just went from helpless cripple to gaining about 9 million butch points. Go, me! I am as a rugged, backyard lumberjack, flicking spiders across the patio with the ease and panache of Bilbo Baggins on meth!

New plan, I will wash the smaller cushions and cushion covers in our washer and then figure out how to get the big cushions to the laundromat myself!

Familiarity

It’s so nice, and comforting, to be with familiar people who you’ve known a long time. They may be very different from when you knew them in other phases of your life but it’s a good feeling.

I was just saying to yatima today that I’m glad we have known each other in this time of our lives through our 40s raising children. Thinking about that a bunch tonight, in general (also because I was thinking about this kind of thing, and long relationships, knowing people for a long time, for the APAzine I am part of). I have had a very lucky time in life in general.

Today I worked more on my sidewalk tree and repotting some plants, wrote a little bit, checked up on work, went to Oakland, met up with a nice writing group, came back to Danny making a whole lot of nice food for the week. Ada came back from Eastover with abomination bunnies (melted and weirded up chocolate rabbits with like, 6 eyes and 2 heads) and Danny and I watched Game of Thrones. Fittingly for my train of thought they were all having meaningful buddy conversations. (In Winterfell just before the Enormous Horrible Battle with the Dead.)

Cautious swim and gardening

I went for a very short swim today, 15-20 minutes of slow coasting and walking back and forth in the little pool without lap lanes. Trying to keep it super low key to not re-injure myself. Somehow, I lost the waterproof ipod shuffle! ARRGH! But, meanwhile, I have a new swim cap which is just great – I thought of them as horrible but the silicone kind are very comfortable & this one keeps the water out of my ears which is unexpectedly nice.

Meanwhile, more boring news!

I’m planting some little things in the garden – Luckily I did all the weeding and cleaning out last month so it was super easy. I have some seeds planted & seedlings in pots which will get transplanted in a week or two. The container plants (mostly succulents and herbs but some flowers) are maybe 1/4 cleaned up so there is a lot of work still left to do for the spring!

Garden is roughly as follows,

Part shade but bright noon sun at side of house, long narrow strips – Vinca and violets are doing well. Mint and rosemary also not so bad. I tore out most of the nasturtiums but have some of them going up to the front porch. The african daisies that are too big for that spot are mostly gone but I’ve kept 3 of them. Considering even more drastic pruning to get them to grow very tall and narrow.

Back patio – containers are a mess but the worm bin is newly tidy and has a new batch of worms. I’m thinking about consolidating various pots of different colored aeoniums into one or two huge pots. One of them is about to have an enormous spikey flower. Parsley and oregano is going strong. Avocado trees are a bit neglected – I’m considering repotting them into the wooden barrels.

Front porch – mostly succuents. Flowers: lobelia, bachelors button seedlings, one of those solid black pansys, geraniums seem to be gathering strength. I have a tall fuschia at the bottom of the steps that maybe doesn’t get enough sun to flower so I’m thinking of moving it to the back yard.

Sidewalk tree – It has a janky assortment of salvias, a jade plant, some tiny ice plant, sickly nasturiums. Planning to clean out the leaves and trash from under there, dump in some more dirt and mulch, and maybe put hardier things there (more jade plants and aeonium, I guess). Hard to keep it watered all summer!

I wish I had a consistently sunny spot and a fruit tree, but I do love my weird random assortment of experimental plants!

It’s driller time

Setting out to drill holes in some flowerpots and old mugs I ended up dumping everything out of one of my tool bags & reorganizing it. A small tool drawer, tool bag, electronics bag, and drill + bits bag plus whatever the heck is in the garage in my scooter fixing scavenged nightstand tool drawer. No wonder I can never find the right tool.

Anyway – I read some info online on drilling through ceramic (use masking tape), thought over what the guy in Cliff’s advised me (ignore useless masking tape, pour lots of water over the thing as you drill). The tape was irritating so I went with water. It was hard to set the hollow round diamond tipped drill and get it to catch, but once it started in I could see powder building up & so sluiced it away every few seconds. I was careful not to punch the drill through the flowerpots and shatter everything. Oh, and also, because of the water but also because of having bits of glass and ceramic flying around, I did this on top of a dishtowel and then some paper towels, in the metal kitchen sink. Also wearing safety glasses on top of my glasses.

I forgot to wear the flamingo hat.

Good news is, all my flowerpots now have drainage and I didn’t drill through anything I didn’t intend to, like my own hand or the sink itself.

Wandering around

In the morning I did some house cleaning and then worked at looking at my expenses and money to think about how to save more and all that kind of thing. Then off to Rockridge BART which I will review later. The ride over was enlivened by some kids with their aunt, going to Antioch which was going to be a long ride. I showed them Pokemon on my phone and then let them play it (they did trainer battles while I provided a running commentary) And they were just adorable – the younger one, maybe 5, was very into trains so we had discussions about which station we were at, excitement at coming out of tunnels, etc. and he liked he BART stickers (old boi, new boi) on my chair. Their aunt was nice and also hilariously trying to get them to bet her money they weren’t going to stand up for the entire hour and a half long ride. “How much do you want to bet?” “A thousand dollars” “Show me…. show me that thousand.” “A hundred dollars” “OK, show me that hundred” “5 dollars” “You’re gonna show me the five, right? Lay it down” Super charming kids.

I wandered around Rockridge & then over to my sister’s house, ate more cake, went through some piles of stuff for donating and had a fish taco & then back to the city for a party at Queerious Labs which is a new hackerspace in SOMA. Had nice conversations with people about hacking yeast to make it produce insulin, inserting genes into plants to make them glow and how you can special order send stuff off to labs to have them insert stuff with CRISPR (??!), some people having a meeting about their Julia project which uh, something LISPy that um something with AI or I couldn’t really hear and it was over my head anyway, but neat and I think it was tentatively called “Fifth”; lee’s monome and accompanying norns gadget which was extremely beautiful, and which you can program with supercollider; another sound and light project which I don’t remember the details of; icelandic sagas (!!!!!! ) me and claire being very excited to find anyone who would talk about sagas at all !!! (That giant red book with the eagle thing on the cover with all the norwegian ones! Grettirs saga! Njal’s! I enthused about Freydis and her beating her breast with a sword in battle while she was like 9 months pregnant. We then all talked about culture and dreams and how queer migration is with san francisco and the bay area in general and the sort of tech dreams people pursue or just wanting to be in a center of culture and art and creation and how to be a good home for that.(kill rock stars; no gods no masters)

On my way out of 24th St. BART going home at midnight, I was rushing to go across 24th and so were 3 other people, a young woman and 2 guys with her and they were saying “we won’t make it and she was saying “we’re gonna make it!” As I whooshed past them I said “We’re totally gonna make it” and we did. She then (a bit drunk or high, joyous, anyway) was like “SEE! SHE KNEW! SHE BELIEVED ME” and the guys were like, . . . wut ? She then veered off laughing like she was going to cross the street with me where I was about to cross mission while they were continuing down the sidewalk. “We don’t have time for this!” they told her. “I’m just saying there’s a GENDER THING” she yelled, giggling. “RIGHT!?” (turning to me again). I started laughing. Dudes faces were so confused. This girl is sick of their bullshit! hahaha! I was like, “Don’t worry, you’ll teach them how!” She high fived me as we crossed the street. “Well yes I will but i’t going to TAKE A WHILE” she yelled into the night to the dudes who were confusedly following us across Mission. “What… are you insulting us? What is this? What??” said the guy who was probably her boyfriend. “HAHAAH!” she said. “HHAHAHAAHAHAAH” i cackled uproariously, veering off to get into position for the approaching 49 bus. Argumentative whinging from both young men. “CACKLING WITCHES IN THE NIGHT, YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!” I hollered cheerfully, still doubled over in wild laughter. “WEIRD LITTLE PURPLE HAIRED CYBORG LADIES! IT’S WHAT THIS CITY IS ABOUT!” “THAT’S RIGHT!” yelled my drunk friend in our amazing consciousness raising session!!! (another high five) Giggling bystander getting on the same bus as me thru the back door: “Oh my god. Thank you for making this city fun.”

I can rest easy tonight knowing I have nobly done my part.

Re-dying some boots

I have these amazing boots in black and blue, and love them quite a lot, so much that I mail ordered the same boots in red. But the contrasting color to the red was way browner than it looked in pictures. Every time I put these boots on I just felt like, Yuck, this brown is too peachy-ochre, and I want to look at my feet & think “YAY!! I have red boots on! RED!” instead.

OK! I’ve never done this before but I am accustomed to dying things, so here goes! I ordered 4 colors of leather dye and some de-glazer (4 bucks per color, very cheap!). After work today I went out on the porch and tried to strip the brown dye. It didn’t seem like a lot of it came off to be honest.

On to the dyeing! The toes and heel and straps I dyed a wine color and the main uppers of the boot are now red, a somewhat different red than the other original bright red (on the… lower part of the body of the shoe, and the tongue). The triangle part on the back calf is now black.

I forgot to get sealant! After these dry overnight I’ll touch them up, condition them, and maybe the sealant will come by then. Can’t wait to see how they come out.

pair of boots

It was so soothing after staring at Firefox stuff all day on my laptop to do something concrete with my hands. The other day I remarked to Danny how it’s so good for me now that the sun is out & I am gardening a little every day. “Why?” he said, cocking a eye from his cozy blanket nest, covered in different computer parts and cables and perhaps crumbs, analyzing me like I am an alien being, which he does every time I do something like load the dishwasher efficiently or remember to brush my teeth without a technological object telling me how and when. “Why is it good for you? What makes it good?” Perhaps I will now unlock a further level of the secrets of happiness with my homely domesticity! “Uh…. I dunno? I like… dirt?! Dirt is amazing. I like getting my hands in it and seeing what it’s doing. Like being aware of the tides! ” “So like, happy bugs and worms?” “Happy mycelia of good soil fungi! I guess it’s exercise too.” But, really it may have this component of being concrete and physical, it isn’t made of words, and I also feel like I’m caring for and preserving something. Exercising craft, or creating things, and also being nurturing in some way. Well, anyway dying my boots felt like that too. I like physical labor when I am capable of it.

Oh yeah and my hands and half the porch look like a very creative murder just happened, because I’m also a huge slob.

New coffee holder for my powerchair

I had a pretty nice bottle holder for a bike that fastened onto a little bar on my powerchair, with a velcro strap, but it was not firmly fastened enough and would slew sideways. Then while it was sideways I went through a narrow doorway and scraped it right off, breaking the strap and the doohickey that attaches the strap. I’ve had my eye out for a new one for a couple of weeks.

Today I picked up the perfect thing, a bottle cage holder attaching gizmo, called a Minoura BH100 . It is super perfect – you can change the angle, it clamps on firmly and yet has a quick release. That gives some little bolt holes for fastening on a bottle cage. Perfect as this means I don’t have to try to drill holes in the frame of my chair.

I had two choices of cage, and went for the slightly less sturdy option simply because it seems a little more flexible for my metal travel mug.

Which is also perfect by the way . . . I like these 10 oz Chantal travel mugs. Not plastic, very sturdy, easy to clean, can open it with one hand by pushing the button on top and close it again with the same button so it’s ergonomic and also easy to deal with while driving your chair around.

OK, I realize that means I spent 55 bucks on fancy gear but I love always having hot tea or coffee with me. Nice while taking the bus or doing errands. Saves me buying coffee at times but other times if I’m out and buying a drink I can fill up my travel mug. Very handy!

Other stuff dangling off the chair: I have a “baggolini” that fits perfectly on one of the arms, and can be worn facing inside (I have several inches to spare between me and the arms even on the smallest Model CI – I do wish they had an even smaller narrower size.) This is going to be modified soon to have quick release buckles and better adjustability, because I need it to buckle separately with 2 straps over the arm in different places and it would be nice to be able to easily take it with me. This might benefit from expert help from someone better at sewing than me.

Underneath in the basket thing, which still rattles though I keep trying to add foam and tape to muffle the sound, I have a pouch to carry the charging cord and a spare pen and some duct tape. And also a tiny camera pouch velcroed around a slot in the undercarriage with emergency supplies (money, tampons, handkerchief, inhaler, allergy meds).

The back still puzzles me a bit. The protruding horns to hang backpack on are too shallow to fit the backpack plus shopping bags that they’re realistically going to have. So I’m thinking of trying to make them longer with sugru. The other problem in the back is that the slot for velcro for a cane holder interferes with the backpack strap action. If I have my backpack (or shopping bag or bags) hanging on the back, then put my cane through the strap, then need to get the backpack or bags off again, they get all tangled up. Ideally I’d like the cane to slot securely (while folded) just under the seat so I can reach down to grab it instead of reaching behind.