Lots of bookshelves

As I sit down to write I’m mostly thinking about putting up more bookshelves. Neighbor Colin, who is a retired carpenter, gave me two long, long redwood boards which are at least 100 years old and have been weathering outside. We scraped them a little and hosed them off, and he split them lengthwise for me so now I have four very long and narrow shelves.

Today I plan to start sanding the boards by hand and then oil them. To avoid hurting my hands with repetitive motion, I’m figuring to sand, then oil one board, then hang it and arrange some books. Most of my books are out of boxes now, but double or triple stacked.

It’s so exciting to have them all back after their 10+ years in storage. While unpacking I felt my brain sort of waking up in different places – all my poetry books in Spanish – a ton of feminist science fiction – weird literary criticism – a huge section of the history of sexuality – all my zines and papers and letters and notebooks and other projects.

So that’s going on with me and actually generative creativity is in tension with the amount of domestic work to get the books and papers out and up — and the feeling of this enormous backlog of my own work that is a huge mess. I glimpsed entire book projects and zines that I forgot even existed – an entire Manifesto – Oh, help!

So, a little “curation” and archival ordering, a little spelunking through lost caverns, I hope will be balanced by new ideas & new writing.

Wish me luck with the sanding, as I’m a little afraid I’ll do it “wrong” by my neighbor’s judgement. He loves every piece of wood like a brother. As we were out on the sidewalk scrubbing dirt & lichen off the boards, he looked around dreamily at the painted Victorians of our street, & said, imagine if there was NO PAINT on all these, just beautiful, beautiful wood, century old virgin redwood and pine… Grain exposed… the history…

And the sins of our other neighbors, or contractors they hired in the past, have been pointed out to me: SOMEONE USED AN ORBITAL SANDER ON THAT REDWOOD!!!

How to make a coronavirus piñata

I bet you would like to BEAT COVID-19. And here is one way! Make your own coronavirus piñata and (safely socially distanced, masked, outdoors) hit the piñata until it is DEFEATED!

All the diagrams of the shape of the virus that I’ve seen have a round shape with at least 3 different sizes of “protein spikes” coming out from the middle, with each kind being a different height. Each spike has an extra bit on top like a flat top or a sort of flower shape. This is not too hard to make, but doing the “protein spikes” was a little bit of a challenge.

Here’s one model I looked at, from the CDC:

coronavirus diagram

Here’s how I made a coronavirus piñata, in some detail! I am putting in all the details, because, while I grew up making piñatas I realize a lot of people did not or they bought their piñatas from a store. It’s so much fun to make them because the multi-day process builds up anticipation.

Make a standard piñata shell over a large balloon.

(You can also use a plastic or paper grocery bag stuffed with paper or other bags to make the shape – the important thing is, you have to be able to pull all that stuff OUT of a small hole.)

You will need:

  • about 3-4 days
  • a round balloon
  • flour
  • water
  • a bowl
  • a newspaper
  • some twine or strong cord
  • somewhere to work
  • black paint
  • regular school glue
  • thick cardstock or thin cardboard, two or three pieces
  • paintbrush (or your fingers)
  • scissors
  • red, orange, and yellow rolls crepe paper (or colors of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees NOOOOOOO I’m joking. Never put your piñata in the oven. It will catch on fire. Very bad idea!

Mix a bowl of warm water and some flour to make a thin, soupy paste, beating out all the lumps. Tear some newspaper into long strips a little less wide than the space between two fingers (so that you can efficiently use your fingers to strip the paste from the newspaper).

Set up a place where you can make a mess. It helps to have either a place to hang the balloon on the cord from somewhere that puts the balloon at your working level, or, you can perch the balloon on a tray or on top of a cooking pot.

Tie the cord to the end of the balloon, leaving a long piece to hang the piñata, and about 6 inches or so on the shorter end, to build into your paper mache base.

This is going to make a big mess!

Now, take a strip of newspaper, carefully dip it into the flour and water, and use your fingers like a squeegee to strip excess paste from the newspaper. This takes a delicate touch because when the paper gets wet, it will break easily. Now lay the paper across your balloon. Repeat this until the balloon is covered with 1 layer of paper. Leave a hole near the top to put in the candy, decorations, and prizes!

Hang the piñata to dry. If you have a space heater you can put it nearby. Otherwise, it will take at least a day to dry out.

unpainted wet pinata

Wash your bowl and work surface quickly so the paste doesn’t dry into glue!

Once the shell is dry I do recommend you add one more layer. Unless your piñata is for very small children – in that case one layer might be okay.

Repeat everything to add another layer of paper!

Hang the piñata to dry again. (And, now, you can pop the balloon if it hasn’t popped already!

It does not matter if your piñata is not perfect, or it’s lumpy, or a weird shape. It will still look amazing once you cover it with paper, and you are going to break it anyway!! Don’t worry!

Look how ugly it is! But we have no worries.

lumpy looking pinata base

(I am leaving out the part where I hung the piñata outside in the sun to dry, then forgot about it. Raccoons came in the night and slashed it open, so I had to add some repairs and dry the shell again before I painted it. I recommend you skip the step with the raccoons. Again – do not worry about any little imperfections, such as a raccoon invasion, or that your virus is not a perfect sphere.)

Now you have some choices. Normally I would wrap the piñata around and around in overlapping layers of frilly crepe paper, but for this coronavirus effect, I painted the balloon shell instead. I thought black would hide any imperfections in the shape and would make the color of the protein spikes stand out more beautifully! I used washable tempera paint that cost about 3 dollars for a 16 oz container. The paint dried in a couple of hours when I hung the piñata near a space heater. Otherwise, expect it to dry overnight.

Now you are ready for the decorations!

Take your roll of crepe paper, and stick the scissors into it so that you are cutting a fringe about 1/3 of the way through several layers of paper at once. This next picture shows what that looks like, with a sneak preview of making it into a tall spike shape!

crepe-paper-spike

You can’t cut too many layers at once, just cut a few, then make some decorations, then when the fringed part ends, cut some more fringe into the roll.

To make the spikes, I had two requirements. One, they have to be strong enough hold the “flower” fringes of paper up high at two different heights. And two, I have to be able to attach them firmly to the piñata base. But how to do this? (Tape will not work!)

I happened to have thick colored cardstock in bright yellow and orange, the same color as the crepe paper I bought. But, my original plan was to use plain white cardstock or strips of a thick cardboard box, painted black. Construction paper might work if you roll it into a tube with several layers. Another idea, you could use paper or plastic straws.

So, using my cardstock (#60 thickness I happen to know) I cut out rectangles and taped them into small tubes about the size of a drinking straw. Then, cut the base of the tube 3 times to give 3 flanges to glue onto the piñata. If you look back at the photo above you can see the tube and two visible flanges.

Then, I wrapped the fringed crepe paper around the other half of the tube and taped it into place. Spread out the fringe to make the flat, carnation-like top of the protein spike for our virus!

Then glue the spike onto the piñata and hold it for a moment for the glue to stick. This took a couple of hours to make all the tall spikes, then the medium spikes.

Here is a picture of this phase of construction. In it, you can see that my shape is not perfect, the paper is very lumpy, and the paint job is not very good. None of those things mattered – You are not building something perfect; you are building a PARTY.

pinata construction phase

The most numerous spikes are the short red ones, much less work. For those I just used the base of the crepe paper, cut into flanges, and glued them directly to the piñata base.

Things got tricky because the glue does not hold quickly enough to stop the taller spikes from falling off, unless they are at the top of the sphere. So I had to keep turning the piñata and carefully propping it up, without squashing the spikes.

pinata half finished

Maybe you will think of a better way to do that! Or maybe you will have better glue!

But, while I am working on it, it’s so peaceful and meditative. I’m thinking of the vision of the finished object, and also thinking with love of the event and the people I will host and how they will be astonished by the ridiculousness of this project and the ephemeral nature of ritual celebration and destruction ! We will BEAT the CORONAVIRUS! Together! With joy and love!! And from it, somehow, we will extract ABUNDANT GOOD THINGS even if those things, when not metaphors, are little bottles of hand sanitizer and chocolate bars and “crispy fruit” packets from Big Lots!

It reminds me of my favorite poem by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira about ephemeral things!

You must put all of that love into your piñata making. It is very important!

Back to construction: I think you could go faster by having one layer of the spikes be nearly flat to the surface, then the crepe-paper height layer, then only one layer of “tall” spikes on straws or other tubes. But, your finished product might lack a little bit of panache.

Once you’re done gluing, let your spikes dry for some hours. Then carefully stuff the piñata with candy or prizes and some crumpled remains of the crepe paper as filler.

Oh! It’s almost done now!! But after taking this photo I added more spikes because I noticed a big empty spot!!

me with pinata

Look how beautiful it is when finished, despite its asymmetry, my sloppy paint job, and the raccoons! So festive! (At least, it is beautiful to me, after so many hours.)

finished pinata

Hang it up, play some music, and take turns ceremoniously beating it with a stick!

youth with pinata

It turned out that the pieces of the broken piñata were the perfect shape to make attractive hats.

milo with pinata hat

liz with hat

Have a good time! And if you make your own covid-19 piñata please show me the pictures!

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my FABULOUS SON!!!!! <3

Moving house and internal geographies

At the start of the year we had no idea we’d be buying a house and moving. January 2nd we impulsively looked a house for sale down the street, loved it, scrambled to get our shit together, made an offer, and bang!!! We have a house. The move-in has been slow as I could not figure out how to manage an all at once pack and move without physically messing myself up in a zillion ways. But now we are more or less done aside from a few plants and a towel rack – then a final cleaning for the garage.

I love the new house so much – it’s a joy – and I never thought we’d be able to buy. We are now in massive debt — a weird feeling. I feel very lucky.

victorian houses and bougainvillea flowers

There is room for me to have a piano and I got a free one (a synthesizer in a nice wooden cabinet) from the local buy nothing group.

Little bits of myself are expanding or morphing as we settle in to the potential of the new space. Different habits start to surface.

Someone asked on Twitter how many times folks have moved in their life. I counted & it would be 28 times.

At Noisebridge at the start of weekly meetings when we went around for introductions Mike K. would always say “I’m not the quartermaster, or the ombudsman” (and I’d think — oh!! i’m both of those things, in this space! a good way of describing those roles) A lot of my brain does that quartermaster role. I have a whole mental map of where everything was in the old house, another of when it moved and to where and sometimes even in what kind of box (!!???) and now am creating a new geography for the new house’s contents.

So when I think “where’s my good scissors?” I get three answers, or sometimes just the location from the old house first. It feels so weird to prune the old map away!

My relation to the larger map has also changed. We are only two blocks away, but we are closer to a lively intersection (sometimes chaotic at night) and a bit further from the posh little shopping area on top of the hill. The sounds and the presence of neighbors are very different. I won’t hear the skateboarders bombing the long hill anymore or the people going up the hill with huge bags and carts of crushed cans to the recycling center on the other side. Instead I get pleasantly louder trolley noises and those late night altercations, and a few more buses (also pleasant to me) and a view of the 7-11 and gas station. After the pandemic the dance club/bar will fire up again — that should be interesting.

I notice different trees, my view of the sky is different, we get more sun (HOORAY!!!) I see the moon from the window, the hills, I can sit out on the front steps and look off far into the distance.

view of hills

From the back windows I can see a slice of downtown, and from the way the hills are shaped, get the visceral feeling of being perched halfway up one side of a valley. The old house was also perched but was smaller than everything around it, and in a position on a steep hillside that meant the range of our view was limited to the block or the houses just surrounding us. So the visible world has expanded.

The first thing I did to change the new house: hired someone to come pave over the gravel pit between the front and back so that I can get my wheelchair into the back yard and ground floor basement. (Still need small ramps built but I have temporary metal ramp to get the chair into shelter.)

Really looking forward to building a nicer little free library! Maybe shaped kinda like our house!!

Beach farm time

Our fridge is still broken. I kept going down to the bottom of the hill today to see if the appliance repair place had unbolted its door to no avail. Later in the afternoon I ran into the owner and he said his wife had been sick and he would try to come tomorrow – and that it is not the rona. I hope she will be ok – she often sits outside the shop in the sun on a folding chair and we say hello though we don’t know each others’ names.

my drawing of some shops

As I was establishing this with the repair guy on the sidewalk outside his shop I ran into Annalee and Jesse – which was hugely cheering – oh how nice it will be to really get to see friends again.

I cleaned out the shed today and put some more stuff up in the Buy Nothing group – Played Stardew Valley 1.5 with a new beach farm – I am starting to hit some new things like Willy’s new plot line.

I wrote a little in my notebook in the morning, which seems like a good sign.

Reading Walter Moseley books, one after the other, very quickly – in the middle of that binge, somewhere, John Le Carre died. I realized I’d never read his latest book so I plowed through that (barely remembering who Guillam was though it started coming back to me). Last week I also had an odd interlude for several L.M. Montgomery books – not the Anne ones but the other popular one – Emily of New Moon. Then a long after prequel about Marilla which was more successful and interesting than I had hoped – maybe showing her as just a bit non neurotypical in some way – And certainly sympathetic. (Spoiler – she helps with the Canada end of the Underground Railroad.)

We went up to the top of Bernal Hill and had a look at Jupiter and Saturn in the early evening yesterday. They were very close! Saturn looked sort of oblong through binoculars, so I guess that was the rings – I could not see Jupiter’s moons as it wasn’t dark enough and the air was kind of misty & my binocs maybe aren’t powerful enough. We took photos through a little tiny scope that clips onto your cameraphone.

Just as the sun was setting I felt comfortable. As it got darker it felt like people got louder and more excited- the crowd on the hill grew – no one crowding us and yet just the sight of everyone looking too close together and the hubbub noise turning to nonsense in my lack of auditory processing started to freak me out.

Increasingly, people I know have a relative or friend ill with COVID-19 and some people are going through having it. Several people I know (health care workers mostly) have gotten vaccinated.

I wrote up a summary of the year for the APAzine I’m part of but didn’t do the proper thing and catch up and respond to each other person’s previous zine pages. Resolving to do it better next time and really catch up after my year long hiatus.

Domestic engineering holiday

A rare occasion – I have two weeks off work, am not travelling anywhere and my mobility is really good. And yet, maybe from the pandemic or maybe general burnout, I have not had much creative drive this year. Little sparks here and there but nothing sustained. So I’m going to do house and garden projects, mostly massive decluttering and organizing. I feel a little boring and sad. Of course I’m relieved not to have gotten the rona so far — with the vaccine now in sight. Maybe some of the zine ideas in progress will start coming together. And I will try to write a post every day during the vacation, no matter how mundane my nattering!

On the weekend I cleaned out our closet. Things are now sorted nicely on the hangers. Some stuff was donated or put in boxes or into the shed. My active pairs of shoes are organized: blue jafa boots, identical red jafa boots that I hand dyed on a low bookshelf; tall jafa boots at the top of the closet with things in them to keep them upright; non-ugly sandals with some kind of orthopedic cork action in the sole; and my house crocs with arch supports stuck into them with masking tape. I still have my adorable purple brass-button-front boots (newly conditioned and polished) but haven’t tried them to see if my (always painful) feet can tolerate them again. The best shoes for horrible foot and ankle pain so far have been Naots (with Shell sole) and Jafa – pro tip – much much better than the standard rec people give (Danskos). Still in the shed: My derby fluevog boots which I can’t quite bear to get rid of, in hopes I can wear them again someday.

Yesterday I put up an extra little shelf and some hooks high up in the bathroom. My nicer silk opera scarves and ties are hanging there now, with woolly or fluffier scarves still on the back of the bedroom door. There is now a sort of extra scarf ball (like a ball of mating rattlesnakes) stuffed into a bin under the bed. It is very satisfying to get out my drill, stud finder, boxes of screws and anchor thingies, stepladder, etc. — feeling handy around the house to the point of smug.

bathroom wall

Then I noticed that the fridge broke.

Then Stardew Valley 1.5 came out.

Sooooo other than cleaning out the entire fridge and folding a load of laundry with one more to go, I might not do much today other than play Stardew! The fridge repair guy is coming from the appliance shop just down the street, tomorrow morning to take a look. At the door as we discussed this he said he’d come by and I asked stupidly if he knows the address. Duh he knows where I live, we are a block away (I can see the store from our porch) and his crew has been up here 3 times already this year when the first fridge broke; plus, I am fairly memorable, as is our weird little witch house!

My beach farm is cute as hell. Laptop has some keys that stick and I cannot get Danny’s game controllers to work with it so I am starting to use some of the CJB Cheats just to spare my hands.

Please wish me luck in having anything creative come back to me at all – it’s so depressing – Dossie sent me a poem and I had absolutely nothing to send back. Will write a letter.

From the state-wide lockdown

Next two weeks are going to be intense as the wide spread of COVID-19 becomes more obvious and hospitals get overloaded. People are upset now about just staying home, and it’s going to get so much worse/more traumatic. I hope we all are able to be kind and compassionate to each other and hold space for each other. This is just the beginning.

The California state-wide lockdown started last Thursday evening. Here’s some details.

Stay home except for essential needs

Everyone is required to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job. If you go out, keep at least 6 feet of distance.

and,

The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.

Here’s the PDF of the description of critical infrastructureEssentialCriticalInfrastructureWorkers; it’s pretty interesting.

At our house, things are nearly as they usually are, since I’ve worked from home for years and have had long periods of limited ability to go out. Danny is WFH, and we like being around each other, and the (adult or nearly so) kids are with other parents right now. It’s pretty peaceful. I am not 100% feeling well (exhausted, headache, low fever hits me a couple of times a day) but also not super sick and not coughing. I’m getting lots of job interviews, which is great.

My morning routine is as follows, wake up around 6 or 7 and blearily read tumblr, twitter, or Hacker News or reddit, whatever, till I either doze a bit more or get up for coffee.

Coffee, toast and jam, hanging on the couch by the window, reading a book or reading news, going through my email and whatever slack-channel backlog happened in the night.

Meds, face wash (I have to specially deal with dry eye effects so that also means a hot compress and eyedrops) I’m trying to get dressed in the mornings rather than lurk in PJs till noon, but it’s inconsistent. Today I dressed nicely, put on some face goop (The Ordinary hyaluronic acid) and some cologne (Elizabeth W Vetiver, which miraculously doesn’t set off my allergies!). 2nd cup of coffee, turned on my day-spectrum light. Cleaned the litter box. Do some arm weights on the porch to greet the day. Tick off all the “morning things” boxes in Habitica.com.

I go through my calendar and make sure I know what’s happening today, writing it out on a little slip of paper to keep by my side. Today I have 3 short interviews, at 10, 11, and then 1pm.

Since it’s Tuesday, at noon I’ll be going out on the porch to howl like the SF Siren and loudly declare that This is a test!! The noon siren has been silent for the past few months and I miss it. Last week, when I did this I made some people walking by laugh really hard, exactly the goal!!

3-5 pm is my Stardew game with a crew of kids. After that, this week and last I’ve been basically going to bed early and reading as I’m tired/sick feeling and my head hurts. A little house cleaning and tidying here and there. I have joined our friend Rubin’s evening hangout over Jitsi, yesterday watching him do some sort of 3d printing project, Jarrod doing architecture work, Merlin and friend sewing masks, while I studied for systems design interviews. My Slack channels (weirdlings, disabled-techies, mozvets are the most active right now) are a beautiful lifeline.

Morning and evening I wipe down the faucets, counters, door handles etc with bleach spray for whatever that’s worth, and there is lotion by the kitchen and bathroom sinks to help with the frequent hand washing. No one is really interacting with us but Danny has been going out for minor groceries every few days and we have had food delivery and packages arrive (thank you all the workers doing this and I’m tipping nearly as much as the food cost).

Once I feel better, more gardening and organizing is on my list, and more exercise, maybe taking a little spin around the block via powerchair (we are 2 blocks from a lovely park with views of the whole city, so that is an option too)

I am grateful for our cozy house and relative security.

A lucky find, diaries, and computer fiddling

This weekend Danny and I went downtown to gawk in the aisles of Central Computers after Compupod didn’t have the external hard drive that I wanted. We combed through everything in the store just for fun. His amazing find was a tiny wireless keyboard which uses some sort of not-bluetooth protocol, and has a tiny trackpad built in, now hooked up to his Raspberry Pi which controls the projector and some lights by the bed. The interesting thing about that is he was looking it up while in the store and realized it is only available in that specific store and was probably made by the people who own it or their relatives or close connections. But it was also lovely just reading in bed and idly watching him reboot the Pi over and over as he twiddled settings on keyboard, mouse, pi, and projector and god knows what all else, including trying to control the projector through something called HDMI CEC, which barely worked and which led to much entertaining reading of forums of people cursing CEC into the ground).

I find this soothing and also extremely adorable.

Although, do you know how many fucking keyboards we have in this house?! I have at least 3 and Danny is worse. I think there are even at least 2 mini-keyboards in tiny cases and he has TWO of those artisanal wooden butterfly shaped keyboards (with cases) from Jessie and Kaya’s startup.

The other lucky find was, somewhere right around that area of downtown we saw a little pile of still-plastic-wrapped inch-and-a-half-thick Moleskin day planners. It is hard to think of something that one would pick up off the street enthusiastically in that part of SOMA but this qualified. We took all 3 of the notebooks, and I’m using one now as a simple diary.

It’s helping me feel a sense of continuity as I’ve moved away from daily blogging, and it also reminds me in a nice way of a childhood habit of writing down what I did every day. My parents started me and my sister on this with whatever printed calendar we had that year, or in little notebooks, one parent with each of us so the entries are in both our mom’s and dad’s handwriting, alternating. Then when I was around 7 I started writing some of them myself. Entries would usually be what books I’d read that day or whether I had dessert, pizza day at school, or who I played with after school. So like “Had pancakes. Read Henry Sugar. Played at horses at Chrissy’s house.” Stuff like that. I like the feeling and hope I can keep up this habit for the year.

Meanwhile my use of Habitica is still pretty good and useful. I also construct daily to do lists/schedules/shopping lists on long slips or paper or on index cards. It helps me to jot stuff down on this list as it occurs to me and to check in a few times over the course of the day. I also can see if there’s too much on the list for one day and figure out where to move errands or chores (move to a different day, put it on my calendar, put it on a more long term list, ask for help, etc.) My long term list used to be on Remember the Milk but the expense of it seemed silly after a while, so now I use Google Keep, which handily synchronizes across desktop and phone and which is free.

My 10 years old Mac Mini (Mozilla data center surplus) is still going strong, but I am upgrading it to a newer, fancier, faster Mac Mini figuring I can easily get another 10 years from it, and I want the ports, and I also have this nice new external drive so I can back up to that drive and to our Synology thingie as well. I should think harder about off site backups, maybe even as simple as taking an external drive to my storage space every once in a while.

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.