Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

I Voted For a Woman. For President. (And for The South & a lot of other things, too.)

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

I voted for a female for President today. Let me repeat that: I voted for a female for President today.

It is huge, absolutely huge, that I had the opportunity, with my daughter by my side, to vote for a woman for the highest office in the country and likely in the world. But that’s not why I voted for her.

There have been many times during this year that I wanted to write about my thoughts on the politics of this election. Every time I felt outrage or dismay, I would put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and dump it all out. But something kept me from clicking Publish. Partially, it was knowing I would probably change no minds. As the season dragged on an on, and the bar got lower and lower, I realized it was futile, because I had no idea the depths to which matters could possibly sink. I would have been writing something new every day and I am pretty sure I would have driven myself and everyone around me crazy.

Instead, I watched a bit, and read a lot. I watched friends and family tear each other apart online. There were times that I left discussions with my own parents in tears, anger, fear, or disbelief. People I loved called me a bigot and told me, publicly, that “I was not raised this way.” They way you are raised is important, and it is a powerful influence on a person. I know that I have tried hard to be true to the teachings that I received, but to weed out the ones that are outdated, deeply seated in fear, ignorance, and generations upon generations of resistance to change and a way of life that is no longer viable, realistic, kind or true.

The greatest gift (of many given to me by my parents) was the gift of education. My parents taught me to read. And once a girl can read, she learns to formulate her own ideas and think for herself. Yes, I read the Bible. I read the WHOLE bible. What a miraculous work of art it is. My parents gave me my bible. They gave my children bibles, with my blessing, despite the fact that I have left the church and will never return to Christianity. There is good in that book, despite it’s flaws, and those of its followers. And I took so many of those teachings deeply to heart. For hours during church, I ran the crocheted lace,  pink, blue, and white cross bookmark that came in my bible on confirmation day between my fingers and thought about Jesus Christ on the cross and what that meant for me, and how it could possibly save us.

But my parents also gave me The Little Engine that Could. And Go Dog, Go. (I took that one deeply to heart. I still love big dogs and little dogs and dogs of all shapes and colors, and dog parties.) And I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. As a child, that book probably affected me as much or more than anything I had read up until that point. That book is my first recollection of thinking about race, and of wondering what my part of the story was.

My grandmother later gave me her original copy of Gone With the Wind. I think that book is a rite of passage for a little white girl whose family on both sides have lived on Southern soil since before we were a United States of America. I wonder if Grandma thought it would make me privy to some great inheritance of what it means to be Southern, or if she saw Scarlett as a woman, flawed, but strong. Or most likely, knowing my bourbon-drinking, chain-smoking, card-playing, Charleston-dancing Grandma Vivian, she just thought that it was a rollicking good read. Maybe for her it was just a cultural phenomenon, like Star Wars or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

She, by the way, was born in 1907; Her mother, Ida did not at the time have the right to vote. My grandmother, as a child in Louisiana, witnessed a lynching. Her grandmother, as a child after The Battle of the Wilderness, wandered around Ellwood Manor looking for blackberries and came across a dead soldier. Both my paternal and maternal lines consist of both slave owners and confederate soldiers. My point here is that sometimes fiction is not just fiction. Sometimes, to a little girl growing up in Atlanta, it is a link to the past. Sometimes it is like reading a story about the people you know. Sometimes it is like reading about yourself; when other little girls the world over read that book, they probably thought, “what an interesting story.” When I read it, I was completely mesmerized and fascinated by the fact that it was set right here where I was born in 1972, and it was based on things that really happened here.

I will never know what my grandmother really took from that book, and boy do i wish I could have an evening to discuss that and much more with her. But what I took from reading that book, was yes, a strong female protagonist, and an example of skillful storytelling, but also my first real feelings of conflict over my families’ parts in the American history of slavery. It spurred in me an interest in the Civil War. Here was this story, based on “truth,” that discussed a battle that was fought on the very soil that I lived on today. It has become for me a lifelong interest in both family and local history and southeastern history. I started asking questions of the older folks in my family. I got a lot of answers about how we were an “old colonial family” and had grand plantations and lost everything in the war. I heard a lot about “state’s rights” and property and the like.

As I got older, though, I continued reading. I read Huckleberry Finn. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Red Badge of Courage. Beloved. Invisible Man. The Bluest Eye. The Color Purple. Their Eyes Were Watching God. I have so many more to read. So many more.

I started to figure out the right questions to ask. And i didn’t always get the right answers, or what i thought were true answers. Or I got whispered answers. When I got older, I knew to ply some of the older folks in the family with booze, and I would get more honest answers. That’s how I learned about my grandmother seeing a lynching. She had told my cousins about it when they were middle aged. She never told me a word about it.

It was the same way with reading about women. Scarlett was fascinating, because she was an agent in her own life. She was the actor, not the acted upon. (Yes, she was a white woman, a slave owner, and that is not to be excused, but she was a strong woman.) And again, i read books about strong women and interesting women. Catherine the Great. Amelia Earhart. Susan B. Anthony. Rosa Parks. The Awakening. “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” Some of the books I wrote about above were crossovers – Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Color Purple come to mind. Powerful books about feminism and race.

Growing up, i was taught to be ladylike (complete fail, obviously). And i was taught to learn to take care of myself: Change a tire, charge a battery, change a spark plug, tar a roof, etc. I was taught to respect my elders. I was expected to get an education. A college education. Looking back, i think that expectation was so that I could support myself.

But I also heard, “One day, when you have kids of your own. . . ” and that was not even seen as an expectation. It was just seen as fact. When I said, “I’m not good at math,” no one said, “You just need to work harder, that’s ridiculous. You are intelligent.” I was built up by having someone tell me, “You are a great writer.” And I think I am a good writer. But I wonder what else I could have been good at, or who else I would have been, if someone had said, “Get an education because it means ‘freedom,” or “you can be anything you want to be.” Or, “women don’t have to get married or have children.”

Those are things I never heard. I also never heard anything except, “No sex before marriage.”

This is not a criticism of the adults in my life. I understand they came to be who they are through a long line of people with strong beliefs and less access to books and diversity of thought than the one I found in my true church (the one whose chapels are libraries and whose cathedrals are lakes, trees, mountains, forests, and rivers). And i am thankful that they gave me the path to find those books and the time to think those thoughts.

Writing this post, I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, except that I have been overcome with emotion all day. I didn’t wear a pantsuit for Hillary when I voted, because . . . well, I’m me. I don’t own one, and that is the sort of thing I hope to never have to wear again. I didn’t wear white for the suffragists who went before me, because . . .it’s after Labor Day. I don’t own “winter whites.” I don’t even have a white tee. My wardrobe is all black, and the darkness of wine, forest, purple, plaid. And then I saw The Bitter Southerner* posted this on Instagram:

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(You can get your own at http://bittersoutherner.com/election-day-2016-a-better-south.)

I was flooded with all sorts of emotion. I am a Southern woman, a descendant of slave owners. I had relatives in the generation previous to me tell me that during the civil rights movement, they hated Martin Luther King, Jr. One of them said he was happy that he was shot. (Try to wrap your head around that one.) I have struggled with issues of race my whole life. I have struggled with religion, and the bible and the hypocrisy of the church. And I have often felt, as a woman, and especially a southern woman, that what was truly expected of me, above all else, is for me to be a reflection of my family, the people that came before me, and in particular, that I was to be a positive reflection on the men who came before me. I should “do them proud.” When it comes down to it, I think there is still a huge belief in the South that a woman is simply an extension of the men in her life. Her greatest achievement is making those men proud, being a good wife, and raising good Southern children. It is difficult to say that out loud, but it is the truth.

I am proud to be southern. I am proud of my husband and my children, and of the people that came before me, even if I disagree with them in many ways. I am proud that in many ways, I have bucked the norm. I would wager that I am the first in a very long line of my family’s generations to openly and publicly reject Christianity. If you think on the long history of Christianity, that is actually quite a feat. I reject racism. I strive towards making my world better for everyone, not just the people who are not like me. And I am probably the first mother in a line of many women in my family that is actively telling my daughter, “Get an education, because it give you the options to be anything you want to be.” I have already talked to my daughter about birth control and sex and that her body is hers alone. That she can do anything a man can do, and if she wants to do it first, she should step up. No need to let the man go first. That if she wants things, she needs to state that she wants them. And if she doesn’t want them, she needs to learn to say no to those things, too. That she needs to speak up when she sees wrongs. That what I hope for her is that she will be kind, happy, and herself. Whether that means being a wife or a mom, or a teacher, or a scientist, or an artist, or a soldier. That she can be any combination of those, all or none of those, or something completely different that my mind cannot even imagine, but that she will see in her own mind’s eye. And that when she achieves those things she wants in life, (while she is achieving them, even) she will help others achieve their dreams, too.

And that’s why, when I painted my nails blue, and wondered what to wear to the polls this morning, I didn’t pick blue for the Dems (I am decidedly an independent), or white for the suffragists, or a pantsuit for Hillary. I decided to wear my Bitter Southerner sweatshirt**. It reads, simply “SOUTH.” I was weepy, trying to explain to my son and daughter about how momentous this day feels. I felt compelled to put down in words what I was unable to speak without seeming like a crazy, choked up, overly emotional woman. I wanted them to know all the reasons that it meant so much to me to cast my ballot today. I wanted them to know the thoughts behind my welling eyes.

You have probably heard by now about the “secret” pantsuit group on Facebook. I think I was first added to it when there were less than 200,000 members. The idea of it was, “wear a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary, when you go to vote.” As of this morning when I looked, it has now grown to more than 2 million members. All of them are not women. There are men, too. But they are all there because they are voting for Hillary Clinton. They are diverse, and smart, and their stories, which i have been reading for over a week now, are compelling, moving, inspiring, and life-affirming. They are from all over the world and all different walks of life. And many of them are posting the reasons that they are voting for Hillary.

There are many of them that feel she is the perfect person for the job. (I tend to be more of the Mark Twain school of thought on politicians – Not really a huge fan of any of them.) There are many of them that are voting because she is not Donald Trump. So many different reasons, from being an immigrant to race, to feminism, to . . . you name it. Their varied reasons for it all were staggering to me. They were definitive, and they were tentative. Some of them were voting for her despite never having voted for a democrat in their life. Some of them were voting for her, despite the train wreck that healthcare in our country has created for their families and their small businesses. Some of them were voting for her despite their devout religious beliefs about abortion. They ran the breadth and depth of the human condition – They are both specific to their own experience and yet they apply to so many of us. So, millions of them have posted their reasons for voting for her.

I have been thinking of my own reasons. I wish I could ask my grandparents about their thoughts on politics. Because I wish the women who are not bothering to vote in this election knew what it was like to not have a voice. Because I hope that one day my children (and maybe my grandchildren) will read it and know that I was a thoughtful person in the midst of history, that I gnashed my teeth over this one, and wept for the future of my country.

Here are some of the reasons I am voting voted for her (there are probably many more, but these are the things I can think of right now, or have been on my mind, and especially the ones that I feel deep down in my gut.)

  • First and foremost, I am voting for her because I think she is the most qualified candidate. Period.
  • I am voting for all of the women that couldn’t vote for so long. For women who had no voice for thousands of years.
  • For everyone who didn’t fit the white, male, protestant mold and was therefore not allowed to vote.
  • For the grandmother who was just dropped off by her husband at a hospital and labored for twenty four hours with a breech baby
  • For the one that went to work to support her family when her husband was gambling it all away
  • For the little girl who had to wear the white tights and black patent leather mary janes and a dress with a crinoline containing a bell.
  • For the little girl who drew a picture at church and they told her they thought little girls in pictures should wear dresses, not pants
  • For the only two little girls on the boys’ baseball team
  • For every girl who was told “boys don’t like loud girls”
  • For every one who was told “children should be seen and not heard.”
  • For my first friend, who always made her Barbies kiss each other, instead of Barbie and Ken kissing, but hid it from everyone but me.
  • For every little gay kid who had to play along while we played “smear the queer.”
  • For Graham, and every other gay or lesbian or bi person i have known since.
  • For the friend whose grandfather wouldn’t stop touching her
  • Because that guy in the neighborhood always whistled at us when we rode by on our bikes
  • For the girl who was pushed into a walk-in freezer, with a hand against her neck, and fought the boy who put his hand down her pants
  • For every jerk who ever groped or thrust his hips at me on a bus or a train.
  • For the boy who took advantage of a very intoxicated just-turned-fourteen-years old girl on a trampoline
  • For every friend one of his who started calling my house the very next day
  • For every person to whom I’ve had to say using the “N” word is not okay, and especially not in front of my kids.
  • That includes the jerk from two weeks ago at the bar who thought it was okay to say about football players on tv, and also the guy two seats down from him that whistled at me as I walked by him on the way back from the bathroom. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. In 2016.
  • For every woman who has been spoken over or interrupted in a meeting
  • For the same women who spoke up, and were called Bitch.
  • For the little Iraqi girl that was in my son’s class. She was 8. She spoke no English. She didn’t need to – The horrors she had seen were apparent in her eyes.
  • For my children and their friends who want to know if some of them will be sent back to the country they came from if Trump is elected.
  • For the amazing people from all over the world that came to this country, love it, and are living right in my backyard and teaching me so much
  • For all the sweet little African American boys that I have been watching grow up and who are in my heart and my prayers as they become teens.
  • For their mothers, who are strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family.
  • For my friends who had access to birth control; for the ones who had access to safe and legal abortions.
  • For my friends who choose to live their lives in non-traditional ways and are becoming more and more open about it.
  • For the things that are important to all of us, and help us achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Love, forgiveness, charity, inclusion, independent thought, education, religious freedom, equality, art, music.

The emotions I felt this morning were more than just a woman voting for a woman. The woman voting this morning was a product of so many years of inequality and hypocrisy and misogyny, of pain and frustration, and watching others suffer. And while I am a proud American, I am an even prouder Southerner. And proudest to be a Georgian, who has had the privilege of seeing gay marriage legalized, and our first African American president, and hopefully our first female president: Three things I never thought I would see in my lifetime, much less in so few years. Three things I had the honor of sharing and discussing with my children.

I voted for her because she is the most qualified candidate. I voted against him, because of the rest of the list. Considering the political climate and the pain and division this election has caused, It was the easiest and most satisfying vote*** of my life. There was no question in my mind. This morning, at the polls, I was a Bitter Southerner voting for a bitter Better South.

 

My hand and four sympathetic kid hands, all in blue polish. 

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Me and my girl. We just voted together. (Sporting our blue polish, our peach stickers, and me in my South sweatshirt.) Yes, I let her cast the ballot. #rebel – Photos by Rollie, who didn’t want to be in the photo because he is 13 and that’s “like, so dumb.” [sigh]

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Hopefully she will never forget this. Or ever think that I regret having her and her brother. (“The” button.)

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*  You need to read Bitter Southerner, especially if you are from a long line of southerners. I am jealous I didn’t think of it first. It is amazing, like reading stories written by your own family and friends, but the smart and enlightened, funny and interesting ones. If you are born here, you will enjoy it. If you have deep roots here, you will feel it in your bones.

** Okay. I have to admit it. About the sweatshirt. I also wore it because it finally got cold here in Atlanta today, and damn it, that thing is so broken-in and well-loved, it is super comfortable.

*** Also satisfying: Voting for two local candidates I really, really believe in: Good luck to Scott Holcomb and George Chidi.

Smiling Rocks

Monday, October 17th, 2016

I was sitting on the back stoop with Brody in the backyard. I’ve sat there every nice day (and a few rainy ones) for weeks now, and not noticed these rocks to my right. I mean, I saw the rocks, they help cover the runoff from the eaves and where the grass won’t grow up near our woodpile. So, I’m sitting there watching Brody and eating a handful of almonds and then I started noticing all this . . . Seems the kids at Tiller’s backyard birthday party took a sharpie to our rocks and I didn’t even notice.

You can’t help but smile when the rocks are smiling back at you.

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Rock art by Liliana, Tristan, Tiller, and Trinity.

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and Brook, Scarlett, Leah, and Milo. . .

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And Emmy, Mia, Ingrid, Rollie, and Sydney.

One Foot In Front of the Other: And Walk, and Walk, and Walk

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I went hiking on Saturday. A couple of the people I was staying with at a cabin were hung over, and one had to write a paper. I went by myself. I like hiking by myself. No chit chat; just me and my thoughts. My plan was to walk about a half a mile to trailhead for an easy hike to a waterfall (Juney Wankey Falls). When I got to the trailhead, I realized I felt like doing something more strenuous, saw a trail that was 4.7 miles, and decided to do that one.

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So, basically, I totally screwed up. I missed the loop trail and ended up doing a much longer loop that was over 12 moderate to strenuous miles. That, combined with the hike to the trailhead, and the walk into the national park meant that I did about 18 miles total that day.

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I saw Indian Creek Falls, too.

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I realized at probably about the halfway mark that I had screwed up, but I never panicked. I knew it was a loop, and i had talked to other hikers, so I knew that they knew I had missed my lower loop and that I was worried about scaring my friends when I didn’t come back soon enough. I finally found someone at the top of Sunkota ridge who had a working cel phone, and I sent my sister a text with my location and the trail name, and when I thought I would be back. I also texted a family pet name I knew she would recognize.

I walked and walked. The people with the cel phones had been walking with me for an hour or so. When I first saw them, I had forged ahead; They were on horseback, a group of about 8 or so. (That should have been a sign. This is a group doing the same trail. They are on horseback.) The leader said, “We’ll catch you up soon.” When they finally did catch up, they said they were impressed with my pace. I do walk fast. When I caught up with them at the top of the ridge, about 5 miles uphill, one lady told me “You are amazing!” Trail people are kind. They offered me water. (I always overdo my water, because I hate the thought of running out, and I had an apple and a bag of almonds. I never worried about not making it back, or not having enough water, or being alone; Just that I had worried my friends.)

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I had water and we looked at their maps at the top of the ridge. That was when I realized I still had 8 miles to hike, but it was downhill, so i knew i wasn’t going to fall out from a stroke. I just worried about whether my knees could take 8 miles downhill. I petted the sweet horses, and thanked my Dothraki friends, and headed down. Sure enough, after about 4 miles of that, I was compensating for my hurting right knee, with odd steps and a weird gait, so then my hips and my other knee, and my ankles were all barking at me.

There were a few times when I wondered if I could make it back. I was in pain, and tired, so tired, and sweating that sweat where you actually have salt build up on your skin. I still had water. I thought, “this is bear country. If a bear tried to get me, I’d be toast. I’d give right up.” I thought about how indians had traveled those trails for hundreds of years. I saw deer and centipedes and picked a lot of ticks off my calves. I saw nothing else – no snakes, bears, elk.

I overtook an older hiker. He was about 70. Ron, from LaGrange, Georgia. He had hiked all day. Was doing some kind of 500 miles in the Smokies challenge. He knew all the trails I had seen on the Dothraki map, so he confirmed that I was on the right trail, and it would take me back to the trailhead I had started at. We drank water and I shared my almonds with him.

I told him I had to move on, that my friends might be worried and said goodbye. We walked together for a little while, but I finally moved out of his sight. I had muddy, aching feet. The air was cool and damp walking along Deep Creek, but very buggy.

I thought a lot during that hike. About how nothing much mattered except that moment. That there were people who mattered, and people who didn’t. I wished they allowed dogs in the park. I had moments where I wanted to go lay down in the cold creek water and just go to sleep. I wanted a beer. (I got one.)
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I wanted to soak my feet in the cold water and then put them up.

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I thought how mad my mom would be that I was hiking alone. I laughed at how i was both stupid and tough; stupid for getting on the wrong trail and tough for figuring out where to go and how to get home. For not giving up. I didn’t give up. I knew I had to keep going, that no one was going to fix this, or pick me up, or save me.

I thought about Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed and what it must be like to spend that much time on the trail. I think i would like it. I thought about a hot shower or a hot tub. I thought and thought – What was the answer that the trail wanted to give me to all of my questions?

It gave me peace, but no answers. If there was an answer, it was, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will get there. They have gone before you. They made it. This has all happened before.”

Addendum: I was exhausted and barely able to walk the day or two after this. (Even today, I am hobbling around. It is a delicious soreness.) I had the best beer on the screened porch and ate potatoes with abandon for dinner. And more beer. The best part of the day was probably walking around town (Bryson City) while waiting for our table and running into none other than Ron from the trail. I recognized him and we sat in Adirondack chairs outside a pizza place and compared our days. He is 70 and had done 19 miles. I told him i couldn’t believe he was not sore; i was dying. He said that he couldn’t get up out of his chair. He was camping about Deep Creek and said he was having his third beer, and a pizza, because he’s a vegetarian. I totally dug that guy. Lisa, Nessa, and Robbie all humored me while I chatted with him for like 20 minutes.

Also, I pretty much swam in dogs that night. They are the best to snuggle and give comfort when you are sore and aching.

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I need to hike more. And float down cool rivers. And sit on screened porches.

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And look at bees on flowers.

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And get dog kisses.

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And talk to strangers. And walk, and walk, and walk.

The Plain Gray Hat

Sunday, January 10th, 2016
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Remnants of a once vast collection. + one Argentinian fan.

Hats. I love’em. I used to collect them. Vintage hats in particular, but the random, really great baseball hat, here and there, too. Then I moved into a very small two bedroom/one bath bungalow with my boyfriend (now husband) and at some point, I could no longer justify the space needed to maintain a 100-200 piece hat collection.

So, on New Year’s Eve, I found out the party I was attending that night at my friend Cass’ house required hats. As in, “you need to bring funny hats.” THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER THROW ANYTHING OUT. I had hundreds of the perfect hat. I knew I would need those, even if it was 16 years down the road. Damn it.

Todd reminded me that I still had a few in a storage box in the basement. (I admit that it is also true that you kind of forget what things you have when you keep them in storage and you don’t really miss them.) I rummaged around in the basement and found the box. I opened it. I smiled involuntarily. I couldn’t help it.

Those hats.

I do remember when we moved and I put the rest of them into storage, I kept the “prettiest” one out and put it on our new shelves in the basement, along with many hardback books, photos, some artwork we’ve collected over the years, a collection of hammer heads and figurines that belonged to my grandfather, my old camera collection, and my pottery. (That stuff could be a post of its own.) The hat originally belonged to my Aunt Lessie, who was both an occasional Goat Man, and a very fashionable woman of Savannah. She also forever remains ingrained in my memory for insisting on going swimming at our neighborhood pool with us when I was probably 12 or so. She actually brought her own bathing suit. God, I wish I had that still – probably 1960s! She wore it with her swimming cap, also vintage, a plastic number with plastic flowers on it. She was well into her 70s by this point, and I think my Dad almost had a heart attack when she insisted on going off the diving board. 12-year-old me thought she was a badass. I still do.

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Aunt Lessie’s vintage hat that sits on a downstairs shelf.

She and Grandma seemed to buy many of their hats at Savannah’s Glendale hat shop. Most of their hats had the Glendale label sewn inside them.

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I love the internet. This postcard, part of the Library of Boston archives, was issued approximately 1930-1945.

Um, I guess I should admit that I also collect some postcards, but only of places that any line of my ancestors lived. (If you are interested in Georgia postcards, you can see the rest of that library’s archived Georgia postcard collection here.) I later ended up with these Aunt Lessie hats and about 10 others, plus Lisa and I split all of my grandmother Palmer’s hats. These are the only ones I kept.

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Two of my Aunt Lessie’s hats: The one on the left is Italian, and the one on the right is a weird, stiff material, with plastic flowers. I always loved the way it fit, although now I would probably not wear it often. For one thing, it looked better with my hair dyed black. I used to wear it with vintage dresses and Dad would call me Minnie Pearl.

 

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I did not inherit this hat (or her others) until after she died, but seeing photos of my grandmothers and Aunt Lessie wearing hats fueled my love for hats very early on.

My hat collection, though, really started one fateful day in Little Five Points. I believe I was skipping school that day, although I can’t quite remember the details. I was there with my friends Jenni, John, and. . .one other person, but I cannot for the life of me remember who it was. Time makes things foggy. I bought this one at a vintage store. Or it might have been Junkman’s Daughter when it was over near where Criminal Records is now. Again, fogginess.

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Forest green beret with velvet bow.

Oh, how I loved this hat. I know exactly why; If you are a girl of the eighties, the hat with a bow might ring a bell for you, too.

In middle school, when that video came out, I wanted a hat just like Madonna’s. The green beret with the velvet bow was as close as I ever got. Side note: This hat was later hijacked for at least a year by my boyfriend at the time, who wore it liberally. He also wore eyeliner, because it was 1990. My Dad loved that I was in love with a boy who wore hats with velvet bows, and eyeliner. (And he was a Yankee, no less.)

My mom must have picked up on this new obsession, because she gave me the following hat for Christmas one year when I was in high school. (Jason B. Vat 69! And the pink cassette player from middle school. Lisa, why do we not have that any longer? It was awesome.)

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Me, wearing a hat from my mom. Christmas of my Junior or Senior year, I guess? That’s Pop sitting over to the side, wearing his signature goat man outfit.

So, over the years, I collected more and more of them. Vintage stores, yard sales, estate sales. It probably got out of hand, but if you ever loved collecting, you know how that happens. I had so many people start bringing them to me, because they knew how much I loved them. Here’s a not-so-great photo of my room at home one Summer.

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I used to have a protruding clavicle!

I must have really chopped my hair and it looks like it was black at this point. (I cannot even begin to remember what it was like to have so much time on my hands that I would move home in the summer and decorate my room. Does not compute.)

I know it was college, because my sister is wearing a hat that I either stole from my friend Mike Maier, or let him draw on. I know that the artwork on the hat is his. I believe he also drew on some shoes I had, and definitely some jeans. See all the hats on the wall? They went all the way around the room, and it was not the whole collection. There are some on the bedpost over my shoulder, too. You can also see the very odd 1980s intercom system we had in our house (behind the lamp).

Side note: I had a different room in high school. My sister moved into it after I left for college and I took over her room, shown here. In my old room, I would unscrew the intercom faceplate from the wall, pull it out, hide contraband on the ledge inside with the wiring, then replace the plate and screw it back into the wall. I struggle to see how my children will ever pull anything over on Todd or me.

Remember the boy with the eyeliner and the beret?  Here is a hat he gave me for Christmas the first year we were together. We were Freshmen at UGA at that point. It was a beautiful gift. (Another beautiful gift, in the background, is the fan and silver stand that my husband brought me from Argentina a few years ago. I have a habit of picking men who are more thoughtful than I am. Opposites attract, I suppose.)

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I adored this hat and yes, I kept it all these years, despite the fact that it was too small for my large head. I just loved it. I love it still.
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Side note: It was never lost on me that the boyfriend’s purchase, while acknowledging my love of hats, was also a nod to his obsession with Perry Farrell. I mean, come on.

There was one more hat in the box.

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The gray hat.

It is not beautiful. I don’t remember buying it or someone giving it to me, although someone must have. I do remember it being a staple of my wardrobe in college, though. I wore it almost daily, backwards (the 90s, yo), and I think that it’s functionality was the reason that I wore it so much. It was lightweight enough to wear in Summer and I didn’t care if it got messed up, so I wore it while I worked at The Grill, where every time you went home and you smelled like hamburgers and french fries (with feta) and grease. At one point, I lived in a three bedroom house on Prince Ave. with my friend Mya and a rotating cast of characters, sometimes as many as 6 of us living there at one time. There was also a time when every roommate also worked at The Grill and our house completely smelled like The Grill. It makes me gag now, the thought of waking up hung over, or having to be at work at 11PM for a night shift, and unable to find clean uniforms. We’d just share dirty work shirts off the floor of our bedrooms. My bedroom one summer was actually a dining room. With a curtain to the living room and a swinging door to the kitchen. (It is amazing what you start remembering when you start typing.)

I wore that hat out.

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So, here I am, on the day before New Year’s 2016, and we are asked to wear hats to my friends’ NYE party, and I open that box, and I am flooded with memories of high school, college, music, and friends. Of being excited by things and people and culture and life. But it was that gray hat that struck me the hardest. It made me think of that first time in my life that my heart was broken, and I didn’t know yet that pain lessens over time, or that you don’t actually need other people, because either way things will be okay. I learned that, if you’re patient, things will get better. I learned how to be alone and how to get over things, and how to love myself, all around that period of time that I used to wear that hat.

When I saw it lying in the storage bin, I immediately thought of this photo of me in the hat, and my grandmother’s vintage coat (GOD, why do I get rid of things?) standing on the beach in Charleston. I was brokenhearted and had that awful feeling of wanting to run away, of fear, of not knowing I would be okay. I remember discussing it all with my friend Matt, a fellow insomniac who visited me quite often while I worked the night shift at the Grill. We made the decision to drive to Charleston as soon as I got off work at 7 a.m. We took my truck, a hand-me-down tan Nissan truck with a camper on the back that had belonged to my grandfather, with zero bells and whistles and which smelled like old dog farts, no matter what I did to alleviate the smell. We drove to Charleston and spent a cold day walking the streets, snapping photos, and then finding a cheap motel. And the next morning we drove out to the beach – Folly, I guess – and we had breakfast and then walked on the freezing beach. He took this picture without me knowing.

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The other thing I notice about this photo is that it very clearly shows my “old” nose, before the drunken face-first wall incident of my 21st birthday, or the “Memorial Day drunk driver hitting us head on in Florida on the way back from Brant and Melissa’s wedding” accident, both of which busted my nose and required surgery to fix. It looks pretty much the same now, but I can still tell the difference.

I still remember that morning on a Charleston beach, and the thoughts I was thinking, the things making me feel sad and overwhelmed. The feeling of not knowing what would happen. I was on a precipice. And it reminded me of the sadness and depression I felt just last year in 2015, on a different beach twenty-five years later, where I walked my dog at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day, and snapped this photo of myself.

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There I was that morning, on another precipice, seemingly standing at the edge of the world. I was in a similar place: Not heartbroken, but sad, lost, frustrated, and wanting to run away from all of my confused feelings. The difference was that I had already been there once before. And I didn’t really run that first time, 25 years ago, even though I had the benefit of spontaneity, no responsibilities, and a road trip. I came back from Charleston to Athens, and I learned how to deal with feeling the things that I didn’t want to feel, and I learned that no matter what, I would be okay, because I loved myself and I could take care of myself. I learned that Everything would be okay.

And I learned it all while wearing one nondescript, really nasty, trashed gray hat.

Girl in a Band: A Memoir

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band: A Memoir came out last week, and I snatched it up as my next read. Actually, Gordon read it to me. I debated buying the hardcover or the audiobook. I chose the Audible version, because a) I can listen in the car and office and b) Kim Gordon talking to me. No-brainer, really.

I liked listening to her voice. I’ve heard her talk before, but when I think of Kim Gordon’s voice, I think of her voice on stage:

I just want to know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?

Or her playful voice joking around with J. Mascis in the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke. Instead, I am immediately struck by the quiet, introspective, sweet voice reading her own story.

Gordon opens her memoir by telling the story of the last show Sonic Youth played. It’s intense. You feel the tension and pain she experiences during the momentous show. It is a compelling moment, and her vulnerability comes through immediately. I expected bombast or effortless cool (and we do get effortless cool later in the book), but what you get right out of the gate is a sad, overwhelmed, angry, heartbroken girl. A number of reviews of Girl in a Band mention that her discussion of her divorce with fellow Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore and her feelings about the affair that caused it seem petty or small. I didn’t feel that way. I felt she told her story and that was a small, but important, part of it.

As she delves into her childhood, I am repeatedly surprised by her shyness and sensitivity. I’m also surprised by her intelligence. I think of her as cool, yes, but I never took her as being super cerebral. I also didn’t realize until reading her story that she is very much an artist first and a musician second. Sonic Youth was just a side project to Gordon’s life as an artist.

I won’t spoil the book by revealing all the interesting little tidbits, but I loved hearing where she was born, where she grew up, the music she listened to as a kid, and the people and things that influenced her. I find her relationship with her brother and its influence on her fascinating. She discusses fashion, music, and art in a smart, accessible way. She met or worked with a number of interesting and influential musicians, artists, designers, and writers over the years, and I love hearing those stories, particularly mentions of meetings or friendships with bands and authors whom I admire. At times, it feels a bit like reading UsWeekly for cool people. (“They’re just like us!”)

Honestly, though, the book is lacking in some ways. I came away slightly dissatisfied, as if she’s not quite telling the whole story. She is definitely a person with a very private side. That shines through in the book, and what she omits feels almost as if it is it’s own character in the story. Maybe that is due to writing in the ruins of her marriage; Perhaps with some distance, the book would not feel quite so overshadowed by her heartbreak.

All of that being said, I loved her story. It meets me at the perfect intersection of my life: I’m going through some depression, a bit of an identity crisis, and a disillusionment with middle age and all that comes with it. Who am I? Is my life what I thought it would be 15 or 20 years ago? Am I living the American Dream? Why do I feel so lost, frustrated, and bored?

In other words, If Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have fallen apart, what hope is left for the rest of us.

Here is a female rock icon, one whom I love, admire, and put on a pedestal as one of the coolest of The Cool Girls, and yet the voice speaking to me is sad. Vulnerable. Sensitive. Disillusioned. Resigned. She writes her story down and tells it to the world. This venerable Indie Rock Goddess is a hell of a lot like me.

I think what I love most about this book is not all the punk rock insider information and not what it’s like to be a Girl in a Band. No, what I love is hearing Kim Gordon tell me what it’s like to be a girl. It’s validating to hear she experiences the same struggles: Self-doubt. Sensitivity. Being informed by place of origin. Finding outlets for emotion. Figuring out who she is in her teens and 20s. Family dynamics. The ups and downs of marriage and friendship. Job stresses. The I-Just-Got-Hit-By-The-Mack-Truck-That-Is-Motherhood experience. Family scheduling. Deciding where to settle one’s family. Guilt. Being let down by the ones we love. Heartbreak. Parental pride. Aging parents. Mental illness. Figuring out that everything is not black and white, and that there is a whole lot of gray, and we have to figure out how to survive there, and how to pick up the pieces when things change or if we lose everything and have to start over again.

The real reason I love this book? Moving forward, I can always think to myself, “Even 62-year-old Kim Gordon of Sonic fucking Youth struggles with this shit.”

Recommended for: Gordon Lovers, Sonic Youth fans, Music Junkies, Biography-Readers, Artists, Life-Examiners, Searchers.

Thrill Card

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Found: One Total Doom Carnival Official Worker Thrill Card.
doom

We have no idea.

This is 41

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

A week ago yesterday, I turned 41. It was a Tuesday. Why does it seem like birthdays always fall on Tuesdays? It fell on Tuesday. I got up at 6 am at my mom’s house, put on my Dad’s underwear*, and went to work. My own mother forgot to wish me happy birthday before I left. (No hard feelings. I don’t remember that stuff either.)

I worked all day. Got home at 5pm or so. Started my period. (HAPPY-BIRTHDAY-TO-YOU-HAVE-CRAMPS-AND-BLOOD-AND-WANT-TO-EAT-YOUR-YOUNG-AND-CHOCOLATE-ITS-AWESOME.) Turned back around and got back in the car to go to the Japanese steakhouse, because that’s what you do when you are middle-aged and it’s your birthday. I’m not saying that it didn’t taste good, but sometimes after a long day at work, you are tired and you just want to have your cramps and wine in peace without someone throwing shrimp at you or singeing your eyebrows.

It was actually really nice, and my husband gave me a lovely necklace and my kids were good. (Okay, one was kind of a jackass, but he at least contained it until the end.) So, we came home, and the kids went to bed, and then Toddler and i decided we should watch “This is 40.” I totally didn’t get what people liked about this movie. Other than Paul Rudd is cute. That wife’s voice makes me want to jump off an overpass after about ten minutes. It didn’t really matter, because I ended my birthday by promptly falling snoringly dead asleep in the middle of the movie. Todd woke me, i wiped off the drool, thought “Huh. So this is what 41 feels like,” and went upstairs to fall asleep in my own bed in order to be able to start all over again at 6 am the next day.

So, I woke up and kind of felt. . . a letdown. I felt old. There’s a lot more to it than suddenly turning 41 and feeling old – aging parents, bad stuff happening, marriages around me on rocky ground, a general feeling of being tired all the time, change, change, and more change, and not having DONE anything with my life – more than I can recount here. But i woke up feeling old.
(Happiest wake up feeling old song ever.)

So, I finished out my week, with this . . . oldness. . . hanging over my head. I wanted my sister to have drinks with me on Saturday. She didn’t feel like it. God, I’m so old, i can’t even get anyone to go have a drink with me on a Saturday night. So, she says, “You and Todd should go.” And todd heard her, and suddenly, he is hellbent on going to see Camper Van Beethoven that night. And i was like, okay, i guess I’ll go. And my husband, when he decides he wants something, he is damn well gonna go after it. So, he managed to procure one precious ticket, which he just about wrested from the jaws of a giant EAV possum, and we went to the Earl, thinking, well, at least you have a ticket, and if I don’t get one, you can just take a cab home. But for some reason, i got out, and I sat at the bar, and i thought it would be a good idea to hang out there while he went to the show. So, i sat there, and I only had a couple of drinks, and I talked to some guy who knew about ten people that I know, and I talked to a few folks I hadn’t seen in a long while (we used to live in the n’hood, you will remember), and then I talked to some young people from out of town on a road trip who had just been to the Clermont for the first time. One of them thought i was a Crip. This was the funniest thing i ever heard. I actually think he might have been serious. And then the show was over (never did get a ticket) and then suddenly, i was heading off to the house of a friend of my friend Terri, and then we were drinking beer in a basement and listening to records. We were all of an age, and we listened to Beastie Boys and The Pixies, and the Meat Puppets, and I had to listen to this TV on the Radio song:

No idea why i love that song so much, but it always makes me feel good to listen to it. And one of the guys there, whom I didn’t know, told me as he was leaving that he thought i was “a rocker” and maybe he was making fun of me, but I took it as a compliment.

And then there were four of us, and I’m pretty sure that Terri and Todd were completely ready to go, but me and the vinyl guy were geeking out on Bowie, and we listened to my favorite Bowie song twice in a row:

And I got home at 4 am. And then it took me like two days to recover, but it was totally worth it. I didn’t really feel old anymore. I felt tired, but not old.

So, I already had plans to go see Ty Segall with my sister on Tuesday. I have turned into a person that listens to music all day long, at home or work or in the car, but who never has the time or energy or money or babysitters to go see music live anymore. I had mentioned in passing that I loved him and wanted to see him live, and that we should go, and then she kind of twisted my arm. I don’t usually go out and see bands on school nights. It’s just too painful to stay up til 1 am, and then get up at 6 am and then . . . think . . . for a paycheck. (It’s really the getting up that’s hard – not so much the thinking.)

So, there I was, downing coffee at 8 pm on a Tuesday night, one week after my 41st birthday, in hopes of being able to stay up until 10 or 11, or whatever time these young whippersnappers go on stage these days. And then we got there, and . . . wow. It’s been a long time since i’d been to see a “current” band. I usually go see bands, and there are some young people there, but it’s mostly people in their 30s and 40s. Let’s just say that I almost cried at how good the people watching was. You know when we were 20? I am pretty sure we were stupid. We looked stupid, we acted stupid, we acted cool, we thought we were hot shit. We were not. We were stupid.

I was amazed at how they all looked so much like people i knew. People I knew in 1991. You know. When they guy I was going to see play was about five. There were people wearing shirts for bands whose albums were released before they were born. There was a guy wearing silver sequined pants. The only things different were that you couldn’t smoke inside the establishment (Terminal West, by the way, which is a GREAT venue – i thought it was nice and the sound was great, and it was a really good size. Kind of 40-Watt-sized, actually.) and that they had craft beer. In cans. Tons of craft beers in cans. And when you’re 41, it ain’t that easy to pick out what beer to order when you can’t see the cans across the bar. Also, no bottles? In my day, you drank out of bottles and chanced the glass breakage! Oh. And in my day, we just watched the damn band. I wanted to shove everyone’s iPhones down their throats, what with all the video and camera flashes. Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone. But it stayed in my pocket.

No, seriously. All I could think was Everyone. Was. So. Young.

Then I ran into this guy, and i was like, oh, awesome, you are old too, and he was like, “you’re never too old for rock and roll!” and i loved him. Also, he was like ten years older than me. And he was right. Because as soon as the music started, I was super happy, and it was loud, and it could have been 2013 or 1993 or 1963. I wasn’t tired any longer, and people were stage diving and it was so fun to watch, even though they just seemed a little . . . weak. I mean, it just seemed very safe compared to ye olden days. It bordered on polite. Someone through a beer at a guy in the band and Ty was like, “Please don’t throw things at us; we aren’t a punk band.” And he was so polite. Mom me took over a little, because i really don’t want my babies being thrown around over concrete floors, and these kids, the ones around me, who were born when I was like 20? They have moms too, and I might have gone to college with them. But then I decided that hey, my sister was there, and she’s a nurse, so we were all fine.

It was something like this, but a lot less people.

And then I let go and i rocked out. I did that awesome thing where you watch live music and you just get lost, and sometimes it’s so loud that it almost affects your vision for a few seconds. I had forgotten that if you hold an empty beer can to your chest while the music is loud that the drum and bass will make it vibrate in your hand. And I smiled. I couldn’t wipe that damn smile off my face if I had tried.

And after a while, it ended. And I was sad. But also happy.

And I did not feel old. I remembered what it was like to leave a show all sweaty and feel the cool air outside, and feel complete and total release. I remembered that I can sleep when I’m dead. Or at least the next night. I felt like I should go see more bands I love. I felt like maybe I should learn to play guitar. I felt inspired to write again, because I’m happier when I write.

When you grow up, your heart doesn’t die. It just gets really tired.

And then I was thinking tonight, I am old. I am tired. But I should write. Because I did fall asleep on the couch on my birthday. And I did rock out last night. And Saturday night. And I don’t get enough sleep. But I need to seek out the things that make me happy. I need to love them and nurture them, even if I feel too tired. You know. To keep my heart from dying.

And so that I will remember, when I’m 60, that this is what it is like to be me now. That this is my 41.

*Follow me on Twitter, and I make more sense.

I Really Wuv Ken Burns

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Well worth the short five-minute watch.

I love his 1+1=3 analogy and the thought that his work is an attempt to wake the dead. I have often thought that bringing back the dead inspires me to write, or often the desire to hold on to life, because it could be gone in a moment.

I’m heading to Chattanooga tomorrow, and it is a place where I really hear the echoes of the dead. I might be waking the dead a bit. I’m thinking of Grandma, and Uncle Charlie, and Aunt Dot, Margaret and Mary, and even little Gretchen. And Jane, sweet Jane. There is something sweet about walking where others walked and making new memories that mingle so closely with the old. Bittersweet, but mostly sweet.

Thanks for sharing, T2.

Something New, Something Me

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Todd gave me a Kindle Fire about a month ago. I already had a Kindle and loved it. I was hesitant about the Kindle Fire. I still have mixed feelings about giving up my old one. I kind of liked having a device just for reading, with no distractions. I also miss the standard Kindle electronic ink technology, which has no glare. Unfortunately, reading on a Fire is not as easy in sunlight, but it is still a nice device, easy to carry, etc. And a damn sight cheaper than an iPad, although no where as great as in iPad. Still, it allows me to watch and read and check facebook and all that Jazz. Nifty little tablet, and really. . . we live in the future, people. Why am I complaining about a lightweight book-sized computer? Because I am a spoiled American, that’s why.

I digress. So, i had this nice little green cover for my old Kindle. (Which, by the way, went to a good home already.)

I loved it. I could even read in bed when Todd was sleeping, because it had a light. Brilliantly awesome. (I know i could have read in bed with a real book and a book light, but aren’t those just for old people in movies?) I loved the green color.

So, when Todd gave me the Kindle Fire, i bought a similar cover, but since i might be watching video, i wanted to make sure that I could set it up to view streaming movies and tv. (Okay, Vampire Diaries, mostly.)

I bought this one, in purple.

I love purple. DG trivia: Favorite colors? Purple, green, and black.

I love purple. DG trivia: Favorite colors? Purple, green, and black.

So, it opens and there's your Kindle Fire.

So, it opens and there's your Kindle Fire.

And it even has a tab so you can create a standalone screen.

And it even has a tab so you can create a standalone screen.

See?

See?

So, I liked it and all, but it was. . . kind of boring. This cover said nothing about how funny, smart, awesome, and modest I am. It just said, “I like purple.” Or, at least, “I like purple more than the other colors offered.”

So, I started looking for handmade and original covers on Etsy.

BLACK HOLE.

OMG, there are so many cute ones, and I would post them all here for you to see, (Plus, my kitchen choice ideas, too!) if only Pinterest wasn’t really, really slow about developing a widget for embedding Pinterest boards on websites. You can post a Pin to a website, but not a board. I mean, come on, Pinterest. This seems like a really obvious choice for something to finish up. The people want it.

So, go stalk the cute pins on my Kindle Fire Covers Pinterest board. You can follow my pins, too. I have a Pinterest problem, i think. There were so many great options, but really, i knew it when i saw it. I ordered it.

It came in the mail yesterday. Wrapped in this:

So nice. Of course, this is after I ripped the bow off. But you get the idea.

So nice. Of course, this is after I ripped the bow off. But you get the idea.

And the wonderful lady, Cathie, who made it, sent this sweet note, too!

And the wonderful lady, Cathie, who made it, sent this sweet note, too!

And, uh, take note folks. She spelled my name correctly.

And there it was, in all its stark beauty.

And there it was, in all its stark beauty.

I have a thing for simple winter tree silhouettes.

I have a thing for simple winter tree silhouettes.

And then I opened it. Sweet leaves on the liner.

And then I opened it. Sweet leaves on the liner.

And my Kindle fit just right inside. This was great, because Cathie accomodated my desire for the Kindle and it's existing cover to fit inside this one, so she made it to my specifications.

And my Kindle fit just right inside. This was great, because Cathie accomodated my desire for the Kindle and it's existing cover to fit inside this one, so she made it to my specifications.

It looks even better with the Kindle inside. Like a great clutch.

It looks even better with the Kindle inside. Like a great clutch.


TREE Kindle Fire Cover – ARTsy Covers by Clevelandgirlie

So, the only problem? I might have to have a summery version made. Also considering a waterproof one for the pool. I feel a new Pinterest board coming on. . . .

Oh, and do you have a custom cover for yours? Post a link! I want to see them! What is your “Something Me?”

p.s. Yes, those are pictures of my desk. Where the magic happens, so to speak. Note that I shoved all the shitpiles out of the way so that it looks neat. Perhaps tomorrow a peek at the pile. . . I am sure you are all on the edge of your seats.

Photographic Black Hole for 90’s Music Lovers (of My Ilk)

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I don’t even know how I stumbled on this bunch of photos (mostly polaroids, for which i have a special weakness). It was one of those things where you click on a friend’s facebook link or Google something and find something unrelated but cool, go down a rabbit hole of interestingness, and find yourself sitting there an hour later wondering how you traveled time. Let’s just say that I finally had to cut myself off before I finished looking through them, because I had to go cook dinner. Because my kids are needy. Very needy. Why are they always asking me for things like food? Parenting is fucking hard.

The photos really, really make me wish I had taken more photos in my late teens/early 20s (but who had the money for that?), because I met lots of interesting people, and I would love to know if they really looked the way that they do in my mind today. Sure, few of my people were famous, like this guy’s, but more than the fact that it’s fun to gawk at famous rock stars (“famous,” again, to people who liked the same shit i liked), there is something about these photos as a collection that captures not just the individual faces, but the feeling of what it was like to be 20 during that time, and what people looked like to me.

It was a beautiful time for me. Terrible and beautiful. This guy captured the beautiful.

Enjoy!

p.s. He also seems to like to take some photos of some random pretty young girls, which might border on slightly creepy, and there are some photos with boobs, so if you hate boobs/cleavage, etc, you might not even want to click. You’ve been warned.
p.p.s. The boob photos and the young girl photos are not the same photos.
p.p.p.s. Oh, hell, just go look.