Fandom

I was determined to finish the little pink afghan last night, but as is its nature, it both moves very quickly and very slowly. The border has five rounds. Round one is just a single crochet. Fine. Burn through that in twenty minutes. Next round is the round that makes the loops for the ribbon to go through, also burned through that. Third round, straight double crochets.

Two rounds left. How long can that take? Fourth round–put an infinite number of stitches in each stitch. Oh, okay, then, forever.

Anyway, it made me laugh. I don’t know when I’ll be done, but I’m still hoping I can go buy ribbon this weekend because it will be done.

Okay, so on to the main point of my post. I got a lot of stuff for the project done. I had email exchanges with the SPLC, the ADL, and the women who runs the Jewish community archive here in town. I emailed the regional NAACP to find out if I need to talk to my local chapter. I emailed a guy at work to find out if digging into this story in my off-time was going to cause me problems at work. I’m developing a reading list.

I am, I’m sure, eventually going to have to interview people. But I want to have all my ducks in a row. I want to know as much as I can know before I start “Did you do this?” “Did your dad do this?”

But I now have a secondary goal. My primary goal is to say for certain who did this. But my secondary goal, which I think is almost as valuable, is to say for certain why these bombings weren’t solved.

And, as I was walking the dog this morning, a thing struck me. The law enforcement approach and, in fact, the way we still talk about racism is to view white supremacy like a gang. You at some point make a conscious decision to join. There’s some recognizable way you dress and there’s a membership to be verified. Most importantly, there’s a hierarchy that is knowable and orderly leadership which is obeyed. Therefore, if you can cut off the head–i.e. take down the leader–you can end your troubles with white supremacists, at least until a new leader rises up. From this viewpoint, running John Kasper out of town or keeping him in jail and limiting his ability to “lead his troops” makes sense.

But it didn’t stop the bombings.

And I posit that’s because white supremacy isn’t organized crime, it’s a fandom. Specifically, it’s the Confederacy fandom. So, sure, there are groups you can join to organize with fellow fans. But you can also cosplay by yourself. And some folks might want the full-on fan experience where they go to the place and do all the things with their heroes. But for others, they might just go to one thing a year and maybe watch the rest on TV. And there’s no organized hierarchy. I mean, do you know who the president of the official Star Wars fan club is? If you met him and he was like “Yeah, we’re all going to go lay wreaths at Carrie Fisher’s door, you want to come? Her daughter will be there.” you might say yes, even if you’re just a minor fan. But if he came to you and demanded you go to Fisher’s house, you might bristle. Who is he to order you around just because he belongs to an official group and you don’t?

So, if the people in Nashville who did these things are Confederacy fans, as much fun as they might have getting riled up by John Kasper and as much as he might instigate them to decide “tonight is the night!”, how does getting rid of him solve the problem of violence in the Confederacy fandom?

Obviously, it does not.

So Close!

I’m having lunch today with S., the mother of the girl I’m making the pink afghan for. The afghan is 45 rows tall (90 worked rows, because of how the crocodile stitch works) and the last I counted, I was at like 26 rows, so I thought I still has another week or two on it. But last night I counted and I was at 40! And I was like, damn it. I could have finished this before lunch if I had applied myself.

But I did not. So, as it stands, I have just finished putting on the first row of the border. The blanket is hot as fuck. They won’t have to turn the heat on in her room until it’s like 24 degrees out. But it’s really beautiful.

It also has a ribbon, but I’ve not actually purchased the ribbon yet. I’m nervous about this ribbon stuff. Not the ribbon weaving part. That I can handle. But you have to tie bows! And S. used to work for Disney! That’s like getting your PhD in bow-tying. I’m intimidated as shit. I really want a picture of it all finished or I’d hand the ribbon and the afghan to the master bow-tier and let her do it.

Where is the Start?

This bombing story is making me so sad, I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s just shit show after shit show.

But where does it start? That’s the problem I’m having trying to understand how this happened and why it remained unsolved. Does it start with Ezra Pound? Does it start with the Southern Agrarians? Does it start with the people of Whites Creek looking out over the fields next to the creek seeing the man they knew was Frank James behind a plow and waving a friendly hello? Does it start with the sound of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s boots thudding down the hall at the Maxwell House hotel as he goes to his first Klan meeting?

When is the first instance of deciding to keep poison right next to your heart for use on your enemies only to realize later that you’ve not escaped injury?

There is a reason, I think, that snake handling and strychnine drinking remain a part of some religious services. A lot of people–a lot of people–have been hanging their hopes for a long time on the belief that God has promised them they can drink the deadly thing and it will not hurt them. That they can make themselves a poison to their enemies and yet not harm their loved ones.

And if the Hattie Cotton portion of this story has taught me anything, it’s that people pay dearly for the self-poisoners’ false hopes.

Random Thoughts

–I am grateful as fuck for the women writers I know.

–I really love this little pink afghan, and I still feel like it’s going weirdly slow and weirdly fast.

–I invented a burrito casserole yesterday. I’m sure it existed before and, if I had looked it up on the internet, I would have had a recipe, but instead I just made a recipe up myself.

–This dog. He makes me happy. I should put that in my feelings journal.

–This morning I am wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with this story. But oh well. I’m also wondering if I should break down and get a subscription to newspapers.com or if I can do everything I need to do over lunches at work.

Big Project

So, I’m going to try to solve the Looby bombing or, barring that, at least better understand why it wasn’t solved. I’ve done my first FBI FOIA request. I’m reading through a redacted file right now.

I may change my mind as my research progresses, but right now, I’m thinking of the three bombings during Nashville’s integration as related–Hattie Cotton elementary school, the JCC, and Looby’s house. So far, for whatever reason, the JCC bombing isn’t always looped in with the other two, but I’m going to look at them as related until proven otherwise, since the guy considered to be the mastermind of the Hattie Cotton bombing was a raging, raging anti-Semite and the FBI seems never to have been unconvinced that he was somehow involved in the bombing of an Atlanta synagogue.

I figure if you have a raging anti-Semite connected to two school bombings and suspected of being connected to a synagogue bombing, when the JCC gets bombed, he should get a hard look at that bombing, too.

But it’s going to be a lot of work and I’m a little intimidated, but I feel like we’re at the last minute for witnesses. I’m not interested in bringing anyone to justice, whatever that might mean, but I do think we need to know the truth. We need to be able to say who did what.

Shame?

This morning, the dog peed in the living room. I was in the bathroom, coincidentally, also peeing and I looked over and there he was. You don’t want to learn that your living room slopes toward the bookcase that’s too heavy for you to move under these circumstances, believe me. But here we are.

I soaked what I could get up with towels, then ran a mop over it. It still smells not great, I think, but I’ll do a serious mopping of it this weekend and see where we end up.

The interesting part is that at first, he acted as if nothing was amiss, just a dude peeing in the living room, as you do. But when I appeared with my arms full of towels, he got a kind of weird look on his face and he retreated to the dining room where he watched me.

Y’all, I THINK HE UNDERSTOOD THAT I WAS MAD. I decided to roll with it. When I sat down to put my shoes on, instead of giving him his morning butt scratches, I just glared at him and put my shoes on. Then we had an uneventful walk. I didn’t push the being mad at him thing too much because I want this to be constructive for him, not scary. Plus, he’s like a goldfish. Too much mad won’t matter because he’s not going to remember what I’m mad about.

And it’s not like we haven’t gotten mad at him in the past, but I know he never got it. He was just like “I’m doing a dumbass thing.” Utter disconnect. “You’re yelling and it’s alarming! Why is this happening?”

Today, I know he was like “Oops, you’re mad about the pee.”

And let me tell you, it was really hard to stay mad after watching him make that realization, but I felt like I had to roll with it a little bit so that it would sink in.

I wanted to throw my arms around him in a huge hug, though. But man, I did not want to positively reinforce that nonsense.

Plus, I’ve never really seen Sonnyboy down. If he’s ever been sick, I’ve not noticed. Sure, sometimes I’ve seen him feeling a little puny, but he shakes it off. So, there’s an outside chance he’s not feeling well and that’s why he peed (though his nonchalant attitude while doing it doesn’t really favor that interpretation) and I don’t want to punish the sick.

If I had to guess, based on her singing last night, I think new kitty caught something and brought it in the house to eat it and Sonnyboy, in the morning, peed where she made her kill.

Is Happiness Interesting to Me?

I like to think of myself as someone who has no great enjoyment of drama. But one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about as I’m doing my feelings journal is that I don’t analyze and dwell on and poke and prod at happiness the way I do other emotions.

I think part of that is that I worry that happiness evaporates under too much scrutiny–if you think about it too hard, you come up with reasons why you shouldn’t be happy.

But my goal for this whole hard process is not just to stop metaphorically jumping at shadows in the dark, but to learn to live not scrutinizing the dark for shadows. Ha ha ha. But I don’t know if “scrutinize the light” is the way to course-correct.

The Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid came over for dinner last night. We were watching TV and it said something like “Interesting people make jokes. That’s what makes them interesting.”

And the Red-Headed Kid said, “Is that true? What about people who make jokes to mask anxiety? I don’t want to be interesting.”

The Feelings Journal

I remain surprised by how much time I have. Yesterday I cleaned out the litter boxes, took out the garbage and the recycling, framed some art, talked to my brother, talked to my parents, and still had dinner before seven and it took me forever to get home because Nashville cannot drive in the rain.

Partially, this is because I never think to turn the TV on. All last weekend, I watched a couple of episodes of Law & Order and the The Rock/Jason Statham portions of F&F7 and that was it. I prefer to listen to podcasts. I prefer someone to tell me a story, rather than show me a story.

I’m keeping a feelings journal. Yes, aside from this. That was my thought as I was doing it. Feelings journal? Please, I have a blog. I know about feelings journalling. But it is different. It still feels a little decadent to be spending so much time on myself. But I also find it really interesting. And strange.

Look at this happy dog. He recently discovered that he likes to be brushed. He especially likes his face brushed. And, as you can tell from this picture, he is made of sunshine. His feelings journal would be full of “today I felt alive and it was wonderful. Also, I pooped, and it was wonderful. And I ate and it was wonderful.” His feelings journal would be named “My Life: It’s Pretty Great.” Maybe he’d have an entry like “Carrots. Bleh.” or “It’s confusing to me that Betsy keeps putting this stinky expensive joint crap in my bowl when she knows I won’t eat it,” but they’d be very infrequent. “Kids! Did you know humans came in smaller sizes? And you can chase them and they’ll chase you? It’s wonderful.” would be much more common.

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Pink Dragon Scales

Holy fuck, you guys. This little pink afghan is so satisfying. The pattern is easy enough that you can do it while you’re half-watching all the Jason Statham and The Rock scenes from FF7–though I have so many questions, like mainly, SPOILERS, if The Rock and Elena were working together in 7 and close enough that Elena is constantly watching his daughter, then The Rock knew that she had a baby. And that never fucking came up? My friends, S&S just got a puppy (well, a month ago) and I have told everyone I know. P. and her husband just got a puppy this weekend. I had to keep myself from texting people during church over it. I told half a dozen people that the Butcher and his wife were having a baby during the period when it was supposed to be a secret and I was supposed to tell no one except the Professor.

The Rock is never “Oh, I’d love to get together for beers but my daughter is babysitting Elena’s kid and it’s her first time babysitting and I kind of want to be around and make sure everything goes smoothly.”? She’s motherfucking kidnapped and Mr. Nobody never tells The Rock? This is his partner. They work for some elite law enforcement agency. She goes missing and no one notices? Forget even that. She’s pregnant and no one fucking notices?! What is the timeline on these movies?!

Still, I can’t decide if my favorite thing in the movie is when Jason Statham types menacingly or when he eats menacingly. Both are delightful. You know how Idris Elba did that “Win a date with me for charity” thing? Jason Statham should do a charity thing where you pay to see him make boring scenarios menacing.

Where was I? Oh, yes, this pink afghan. I want so much for it to be done. Not in a “Okay, I’m tired of this now” way, but in a “I want to drape it over something and stare at it all day,” way. Everything about it is satisfying. The front is like making a bunch of dragon scales. The yarn is really beautiful. And the back looks neat. It’s also very architectural in a way I find satisfying. Basically, step one is build the scaffolding for your scales. Step two is make your scales.

It is heavy, since each row is actually two rows on top of each other, and it’s a huge yarn hog, but man, is it beautiful.

Easter

Over on Facebook, an old friend of mine took the occasion of Easter to announce to her world that Christ is dead and he’s staying dead for her–she’s not a Christian anymore. I laughed. Just the audacity of it delighted me. I always thought she had an inner “drive through town in a convertible with both middle fingers raised” desire, but I was still surprised to see her doing it.

For the first time in my life, I’m not going to Easter services. My middle brother is up in Illinois with his family and my parents. The Butcher is with his family. I can stay home and no one will notice.

What I talked about with the therapist was that it’s not just that I think I have a lot of anger that manifests itself as anxiety, it’s that I often don’t know when I’m angry until I’m super pissed. But more than that, more upsetting to me than that, is that I don’t know how to feel happy at the same magnitude that I feel anger or upset or hurt. I would like for happiness to linger the same ways for me and to come back up when I least expect it, the way all my hurts do.

I’ve said as much here. But admitting it out loud was terrible. And yet, here I am, today, with nothing to do. I already turned in my Pith post. The dishes are done. I vacuumed. I can do anything today that would make me happy. And I don’t know what to do. Which is not to say that things don’t make me happy. But I often don’t know if something will make me happy until I do it. It’s hard for me to plan for it.

I mostly achieve happiness by working hard to avoid sorrow or upset.

You know, I also wonder if this is a problem in my writing. A lot of my stories are about women reacting to things (or sometimes men). A situation develops. The characters respond. They deal with things. That’s the central drama in a lot of my stories. A thing has happened. Can it be dealt with?

It’s hard for me to imagine how stories go when they start “They decided to do a thing. What will happen next?” Because it’s hard for me to imagine deciding things.

Anyway, after therapy and before the movie, I went out to try to find a cemetery someone told me about and I ended up on a winding road with a drop-off on the side, one of my least favorite things in the world. And yet, instead of a voice in my head screaming, “Holy shit! You can’t do this. You’re going to die.” because of what we’d talked about, I said to myself “You are fine and you can do this.” Over and over. And I did. No symptoms of panic. No panic attack.

It seems simple really. What I want is to be able to do the things I want to do and to not do the things I don’t want to do. And yet, I’m going to have to figure out how to decide what I want and don’t want.

So, I admire the decisiveness of the friend who’s just like, “You guys, Christ is dead and gone,” on Easter weekend. And her willingness to deal with the fallout that comes from deciding to do something and following through with it.

The Fate of the Furious

Okay, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Jason Statham, of course. I love that the women get to be strong and smart and add value above sex appeal to the plot. I love that we have a big blockbuster where the epitome of manhood is being a good father. I hate Scott Eastwood’s smug face. I wanted the prison escape to go on for ten more minutes. It was just so glorious.

I think the criticisms of the director not letting the camera linger long enough on the spectacle is spot-on. Like, there’s this amazing scene where we’re in a car as it goes out a window and heads toward the ground. We cut before the car hits the ground. It makes no sense. This is the rollercoaster ride you can’t do in real life–falling and hitting the ground and being destroyed. Why would you deprive your audience of the visceral thrill of experiencing it in the movie? And there are a lot of other scenes were it seems like they should be like two seconds longer, so that you can see the reactions of the other characters in the scene.

And it’s weird that, in order to keep it PG-13 we don’t get to see the deaths that are supposed to be meaningful. And physics means nothing in this movie. The whole last third, when Jason Statham isn’t on the screen, a little corner of my mind was screaming “I don’t think this is how any of this really works!” So, maybe that’s the trick of putting Jason Statham in your movie. I mean, nothing about the prison break was physics-accurate, but he was in it, so who fucking cares? But he’s off-screen and suddenly, you notice that’s not how things work.

Anyway, it was glorious. My biggest complaints were that you have to sit through Scott Eastwood and that, even though the movie was so, so long, a lot of scenes were a hair too short. But I’m all in for whatever movie The Rock does with Jason Statham.

The therapist was not easy. So, ha ha ha, going to a movie where the villain is psychologically manipulating the hero, maybe not a good thing. I don’t quite know how to talk about it or what I want to say about it. Even just two sessions in, it is helping. I know that. But it’s fucking rough.

I really want it to work, so I’m committed. But man, just damn.

I am Vengeance. I am The Night. I am Batman.

I finished the Batman cowl for my pending nephew. I still don’t get that pattern, but I have to admit that some of it is user error. I thought I did the same damn thing for both capes, but the blue one is somehow a ton fuller. I knew the gray one was going to be shorter, because of my screw-up on the blue one, but why isn’t it as drapey? That I don’t know.

And then, because I’m feeling anxious about going to the therapist this morning, I stayed up and started the crocodile stitch afghan for B., to see how it would go and how hard it’d be. It so far–unless I’m fucking up in some way I don’t yet know–is super easy, though I can see why every pattern warns you that it’s a huge yarn hog. I like the yarn B. picked out, though I’m hoping as it gets bigger, it will look less like the belt of a fertility goddess or an ode to Gene Simmons and more like a pile of rose pedals.

Otherwise, I’m going to feel very awkward about it.

The dog was not himself on our walk this morning. He stayed very close by me and didn’t run around and be ridiculous at all. I kind of felt like he might have been limping, like just a hair, in his left shoulder but, if he is, it’s so slight that, even watching him our whole walk, I couldn’t be sure.

I had planned to go see The Fate of the Furious this afternoon, but I’m sitting here telling myself that, if I just go to the therapist, I can come back home. I may make myself go anyway. I haven’t decided.

Basically, I hate two things about this: 1. everything. 2. Just feeling so fucking cliched.

Delano

In all the hubbub, I completely forgot to say–The Butcher and his wife are having a baby and they found out on Tuesday that it’s a boy. I’ve kind of had the convention of giving living things nicknames for the blog, plausible deniability if they’re ever embarrassed by what gets said here, and then switching over to real names after they’re dead–which is how/why the tiny cat became Stella and Mrs. Wigglebottom became Sadie.

But this little guy, just 8 oz. at this point (or maybe he’s gained an ounce since Tuesday! Who can say? Well, probably not a whole ounce.), isn’t born yet. And I don’t yet have a nickname for him. So, just this once, I will modify my rule and tell you that his name will be Delano Phillips. They’re still settling on a middle name. At first, it was going to be Joseph but now they’re leaning toward James. He might be Del for short or DJ or, who knows? We’ll see him and we’ll all instantly decide to call him Turtle. We don’t know.

I am over the moon. I like the Butcher’s wife and my step-niece and nephew. I’m delighted to see him making a good life for himself. I’m enjoying having the house to myself and I love when they all come over and fill it up.

Let me tell you a secret thing. I feel such a sense of deep accomplishment about this. It’s a long story and it’s ugly and sad, but the short version is that something bad happened between my brothers or among them, maybe. And it had ongoing repercussions. Our brother moved to Georgia. Then he vanished.

One day, he reappeared, on my doorstep. I hope you sense the long, unspoken terribleness between those two sentences. He had a girl with him. Their friends, they said, were trying to kill them. I gave them a half a loaf of bread, some Mt. Dew, and all my cash. I sent them to my parents.

Due to the previous badness, both brothers couldn’t reside in the same spot. If the newly resurrected brother was going to my parents, the Butcher had to go somewhere else. I told them to send him to me.

And I wanted, more than anything, to keep us from getting sucked back into that terribleness. I wanted us to find ways to have good lives, with the past in the past. In some ways, I just wanted to out-wait my family’s misfortune (in the loaded sense of the word).

I wanted to save us. And maybe that’s a terrible, co-dependent thing and maybe it was too much to take on and maybe a million things. But there was a badness I wanted to steer clear from and I wanted to drag the Butcher out of it. And we did it.

I did it.

There he is, starting his happy life. And, yes, it will be tough and they’ll have challenges and…yeah…but it’s his life to go lead. And the fact that he can do that makes me so deeply satisfied.

I had a long-term goal to make a better life for me and the Butcher while my parents and my other brother did whatever the fuck that was. And I did it.

It worked.

The Workbook

I’m slowly, very slowly, reading through The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook. I have to go slowly because it often gets my hackles up and I have to wait and see if that’s just a defense mechanism or a legitimate complaint.

I do think, though, that I do have one legitimate complaint–some of this stuff may be too “woo” for me. I know. Me. Who has a ritual to talk to her dead ancestors and the gods who might be interested every October.

But here’s the thing: if you’re doing something in a spiritual context and it’s full of woo, then that’s fine with me. I get it. In my mind, there’s Something or Some Things powerful going on in a realm we don’t really have good access to and we try to understand what’s going on over there through a series of metaphors and symbols that are, always and forever (or at least until we die), going to not quite get at it. In that way, to me, religion is like poetry. You’re using the words to make room and evoke something that can’t quite be put into words. And, so, if I said, “Frigg, work on my brain so that it’s not so fucked up,” I would expect weird shit that didn’t quite make sense. If my dead grandmother came to me in a dream and said, “Be a better mother to your inner child,” I would think that was wise, albeit confusing, advice. If some other ancient ancestor came to me and said, “You must move the negative energy out of your body,” again, probably advice I should take.

But if you are just a person–and in this case, not even a person I know. Just some person who wrote a book.–and you want to start rewiring my brain, I want science. Like, what does “energy” in the context of this book mean? Like, I have to start moving calories around my body in some way? Or is there some way I can control the electrical impulses in my nerves and rework them?

Or where does my “inner child” live?

Or fine if “energy” and “inner child” are woo metaphors. Do you, author, know that they’re woo metaphors? I’m not sure.

But also, I may just be being defensive. The author says that a lot of anxiety is unrealized anger, or at least, starts out that way. I was thinking about that while I walked the dog this morning. And you know, that’s not quite it for me. My anxiety arose when I finally felt I was angry. Before that, before I felt it was okay for me to be angry, I was just depressed. Not “just.” I was very depressed.

But I do think that I don’t always recognize that I am angry, not right away. Or, even if I am angry, I don’t know what to do about it. And looking back on the early big anxiety attacks I had, the ones that stick in my mind, I was angry about something and didn’t know what to do with it.

So, I don’t know. It’s also taking a long time to get through it–and I’ve not even started the exercises, the “workbook” part of it; I’m just reading–because it’s bringing up a lot of feelings I’m not sure what to do with. And I’m sure my defensiveness about the book is tied with that.

Happiness

A weird thing is that my dad seems to be becoming increasingly annoyed by the fact that I don’t sell my afghans and I won’t make crocheted baby clothes for people to buy (he found a little shop where I could sell them). I don’t especially like making clothing. So, I’m not at all excited about the idea of making them to make money.

But the afghan thing is a conscious decision. Take the Baby Batman cowl I made. How much would you pay for that? I think somewhere between $30 and $15 bucks. The yarn cost me $10 (though I didn’t use it all, so let’s say it cost me $6). It took me about ten hours to make it–that’s $72.50 if I pay myself minimum wage. So, just to break even, I’d have to charge $78.50. Who would pay that?! It’s not that hard to learn to crochet yourself.

And with an afghan, it’d be even worse, unless I didn’t charge for the labor, which…I mean, that should be what you pay for. Anyone can buy yarn. When you buy an afghan, you’re not buying a pile of yarn. You’re buying an amazing amount of work you don’t want to or can’t do. That is where the value of the afghan is. To take that out, to pretend like the labor isn’t worth anything or isn’t even worth minimum wage is to lie about what it takes to make an afghan. And it devalues my work.

(Here’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about along these lines–if you went to an art gallery to buy a painting the size of a full bed, you wouldn’t think twice about paying thousands of dollars for it. But paying hundreds of dollars for a blanket is ridiculous. No matter how beautiful.)

So, I come at it from another direction. I like making these things. I think they’re beautiful, especially as I’ve improved my skills. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to have an idea and to execute it and to find that it worked how I hoped it would work. I like the repetitive nature of it and how it gives my brain a chance to unwind. I like the ideas that come bubbling up because of that.

And I like getting to a name on my list and contacting them and telling them it’s time–they’re getting an afghan. Do they have any requests?

The giving is pleasurable to me. The refusal to attach a value to it other than “I like you and I wanted to make this for you” is pleasurable to me. It’s not a commodity. It’s a gift.

I can’t figure out what makes my dad so upset about that. I think he thinks people are taking advantage of me, maybe. But I don’t feel taken advantage of.

I feel subversive–deliberately doing something that makes no sense and has no monetary value to me.

And I guess the other reason I don’t at all feel used is that most everyone I’ve made something for–even the people who’ve paid me or who’ve specifically asked for something or who’ve provided the exact yarn they want used–looks unsure when they see what I’ve done, like they can’t quite believe this is a thing that is for them.

There’s no entitlement–like, yes, you made this for me. FOR ME, because I’m so awesome and that’s just what you should do.

There’s a moment of hesitancy. And then delight.

Timely

Y’all, I’ve gotten so much done this weekend that I’m feeling somewhat confused. Errands got ran, anxiety shit got done, family got fed dinner, taxes–done, dog–washed, dishes–done, laundry–done. Friends were hung out with. Have I always had this much time? What was I wasting it on?

Anyway, I have been somewhat negligent in the showing-off department. Here’s a scrap baby blanket that I made for a secret baby:

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So, on the one hand, this is just a granny square afghan. On the other hand, all the white stitches are just single crochets. I feel like this gives the afghan a kind of polkadotted effect. And, as you’d hope, those seams pulled straighter in the wash.

And then I made this for one of my oldest friend’s toddler:

I’m also making a gray one for the secret baby, so that should be unbelievably adorable.

But can I tell you how excited I am for the next afghans? First, I’m doing this beautiful crocodile stitch afghan for my young friend, B. I’ve been studying up on how to do the stitch and watching YouTube videos, so I feel ready.

And then, and then! I’m going to try to do the vortex afghan. It requires a bunch of stitch markers and having two live rounds at the same time. And I’m nervous about the color combos. The person I’m making it for said she wanted 70s colors, which I believe I’ve done a good job of picking out. But I realize that there’s more to making something feel like it’s from the 70s than the colors. You have to use them right, too. So I have asked trusted knowledgeable friends and I’m now enjoying fretting about it a little bit.

But my theory for what makes something feel like it’s from the 70s is not just that orange (you know the orange I mean) or that avocado green (or zig zags, because I’ve got a different design picked out), but that, instead of putting contrasting colors together, you put colors next to each other on the color wheel together. And also, that you use colors predominately from one side of the color wheel with only a little of the other side. So, my color scheme is light gold, orange, dark red, and brown with avocado green and turquoise blue for accent.

Being a modern gal, my temptation would be to pair the green and blue with its complimentary color–green with red, blue with orange. But to evoke the 70s vibe, I’m going to use the green and blue together, and the red and orange together and the orange and yellow and the yellow and green and maybe, just for variety, I’ll do the blue and brown together. We’ll see.

I’m excited anyway.

Sleeping Beauty

Since it’s allergy season here in Nashville and also “40 one day, 80 the next” season, I was sniffling and sneezing last night, just a little bit. I took some nighttime cold medicine, hoping to knock it out. I went to bed a little before 10.

I think I got up at some point in the middle of the night to pee. And then I didn’t wake up again until I heard the dog barking at something outside at 9 a.m. this morning! All the shit I was supposed to get done this morning? Apparently not.

But here’s what I wanted to ask y’all. I have suspected that, since I started taking the crazy pills, that other drugs work different on me. Like, this scenario a year ago, I might have slept in until 7:30 or so, but today I could have kept sleeping. Soundly. I literally only woke up because of the dog. Who knows how long I might have slept?

And, in the past, when I had a headache, I would just go ahead and take three pills, even though the dose is only two, because two never worked. Now two work.

And, and I’ve had to cut way back on my sugar intake because too much sugar especially on an empty stomach makes me feel really gross, which I think may mean that something is happening different with the metformin.

I will also be asking my endocrinologist about this, but I wonder if this is common. I mean, it makes sense to me that all these things should be interconnected. But man, it also seems like it would be really fucking hard to ever really figure out what was wrong with anyone. Like, why would you treat PCOS with an anti-depressant, and yet, I can tell it’s changing a lot of things in my body.

I guess what I’m feeling is that part of having an endocrine disorder probably means that all my body chemistry is a little out of wack. And you start trying to bring any of it into wack and it’s going to affect all kinds of things.

But man, it also makes me wonder, do they ever check people with depression for endocrine disorders? Like, once your body chemistry is wonky, do they ever check to see how wonky? I mean, no one has for me. I’m just finding this stuff out as I stumble across it, but it has me thinking.

But shit, I need to go shopping.

Yesterday Was the Day

I figured a day would come when the animals might have the idea that the Butcher was not coming home. I was afraid of that day.

Yesterday, it rained in the morning, so I couldn’t walk the dog. Mistake. I came home from work and the front curtain was open, the cat food plate was on the ground and, when I tried to feed the dog, he got impatient and spilled his bowl all over the floor. Then the orange cat peed in my room. Looked straight at me while I was washing my hands and peed and then meowed at me like “fuck you, lady.” (Same cat who has been barfing hairballs on my bed for fun all week. Well, I assume. I haven’t caught the hairball barfer in action, but he’s who’s been sleeping in my bed.)

And then, and then, I turned off all the lights and went to put the dog out for the last time and barefooted I stepped in the largest pile of dog poop that has ever been pooped by a dog. It squished between my toes.

At the beginning of the evening, I was ready to ship them all up to live with the Butcher. By the end, I was ready to ship myself up to live with the Butcher and let these fools have Chaos House to themselves.

Can Ministers and Parishioners Be Friends?

I meant to talk about this yesterday, but I was so aggravated by that stupid pattern, which continues to be not much better. Like everyone else in the world, I read Hans Fiene’s article over at The Federalist about how men and women can’t be friends.

Apparently he claims he was only about 40% serious, but which 40%, you know? The part where men and women can’t be friends, I assume.

I looked him up. He’s a Missouri Synod Lutheran Minister whose church is about thirty minutes from one of the towns I grew up in. That’s pretty far north for a Missouri Synod Lutheran. If you aren’t up on the intricacies of differences between denominations, just picture in your head the cool female Lutheran minister you know. Missouri Synod is not that kind of Lutheran.

But there are some other things on his church website that I’m not sure enough about the Missouri Synod to know if it’s in line with their theological thinking or if this is just his own brand–when I read his church’s website, it seems to me that they believe in transubstantiation–that the communion bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. But Lutherans, at least none I’m familiar with (and I’m like 65% certain this was Luther’s position himself), don’t believe this. They believe a slightly different kind of mystery where the bread and wine are both still bread and wine AND the body and blood of Christ.

As someone who’s ethnically Methodist, both things seem odd to me since we go more for the metaphor–this bread and grape juice symbolize the body and blood of Christ.

And, on the one hand, this is a minor detail. On the other hand, Lutherans and Catholics have been arguing about this since, well, since Lutheranism began, pretty much. It’s one of the key disagreements.

Another thing I’m also less certain of is his church’s policy on who can take communion. Most Methodist churches and my dad explicitly have an open table, meaning it doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe. If you’re there, you can take communion. You don’t have to, of course, but you can.

Now, I have taken communion at a Missouri Synod Lutheran church before and I certainly don’t believe many, many things about their doctrine, but no one stopped me or told me I couldn’t.

On the other hand, I accidentally took communion at a Catholic mass once when I was young, from a priest who absolutely knew who I was, because I didn’t know non-Catholics weren’t supposed to take communion at a Catholic church. And I’ve always been grateful that he didn’t embarrass me by stopping me.

So, you can’t take communion at Fiene’s church unless he okays it by assuring that you’re doctrinally aligned with the congregation. And again, I’m not sure if this is the Missouri Synod stance and I just fucked up in the past by not knowing it, or if this is his own thing.

But then I read his biography. He’s not just a pastor. He’s a pastor’s son.

And then everything clicked into place. I just wanted to shout, “I see you, Rev. Fiene!”

I’m not trying to excuse him. That’s not it. But I went from being “Oh, fuck you, you weirdo dink” to “Oh no! You poor dumbass.”

There’s a way in which you can see the patriarchy working like a trap for women, like these people run around just trying to lure women into it–just be pretty, be nice, don’t challenge, etc. and you can get a man and, when you get a man, you win–and at this point, thanks to feminism, you all know how that screws women over.

But this seems to me to be a clear cut case of a man with a bear trap on his own leg trying to convince others that the natural state for men is to walk around hobbled by bear traps. There’s nothing wrong with him! No! Being emotionally crippled is what makes him manly. Look how funny and charming he is while he spouts his weird, sad ideas!

Because, damn, when I read that he was a minister’s kid and is now a minister–and that kind of minister, where he has to judge his congregation’s worthiness to be in communion with its God–I wondered if he ever had a friend, a real friend, in his whole life.

I kind of doubt it. And I think I see him trying to believe that’s just the natural state of things and not something that was done to him, even as he tries to do it to others while insisting it’s just the TRUTH of things. That’s what I see.

Directions

So, I’m making a couple of small children Batman cowls. I bought a pattern. It is…not great. I mean, the cowl is terrific so far, but the kinds of things the pattern writer thinks can be left unsaid and the things I need to have said are a lot of the same things.

Like, at one point, you do this pattern where you do six double crochets, chain one, one double crochet, chain one and then repeat the whole thing. Then the next step reads “Single crochet in each double crochet.” The pattern writer also tells you how many single crochet stitches you should end up with, but, just looking at the part of the pattern I told you about–how many single crochets would you expect to have in that section? Seven, right? But no! No. In order to get the right stitch count for the single crochets, you just do the single crochets in the clump of six double crochets and ignore the lone double crochet between clumps.

Sadly, I didn’t learn from this quirk in the pattern and it came at the end of most of my work on the cape part. So, the directions for the cape walk you through how to do all of the increases and then it gets you started on the part of the cape where it’s all straight-forward and there are no increases. And then it tells you to go on until the cape is 22 inches long. And, like, sure, if your gauge is right, that will be some set amount of rows.

But in every pattern I’ve ever worked, when the pattern tells you “eh, go until it’s x inches long” instead of “work x more rows,” it’s understood that this is a good spot for customizing the project to your needs. So, I ended up closer to 24 inches, due to me having a good time with the pattern and thinking it really didn’t matter.

But then the next step wanted me to put a row of single crochet across the length of those 22 inches and end up with 122 stitches. In other words, for me to complete the next step, I needed to have however many rows would have made up 22 inches, not just somewhere in the ballpark of 22 inches of afghan.

And by now, I had the whole cape made and the triangle parts that make it look like a bat’s wing attached at the bottom and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pull the whole thing apart because you can’t write directions. So, I just figured out how to get 122 stitches across evenly spaced.

And now that I’m doing the hood part, I’m going to be extra careful about trying to anticipate how the directions might not make sense to me.

But it did get me thinking about the problems with communication. I mean, these aren’t exactly errors in the pattern. This is just me with one set of assumptions coming at directions written by someone with another set of assumptions. We have the same hobby! We like the same things! I am DELIGHTED with how cool the pattern on the cape is. We should be on the same page.

And yet, we are not.

Thinking Thoughts and Doing Stuff

Man, I came home from work and I did laundry, cleaned out the litter box, and did a load of dishes. And I started doing the points on my Batbaby Cowl. I also ate brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes for dinner and damn, it was delicious and no one is here to have other opinions.

One thing I realized at the wedding is the extent to which my family’s bossiness is about managing anxiety. And to that extent, the amount they fear other people don’t like them is managed by being unlikable so that there is no need to fear.

At work, we’ve published a couple of books on abusers, on why they kill and whether they can be reformed. Abusers abuse because it works. It satisfies something in their brain (and I think because it also brings on soothing behaviors from others, but that’s kind of secondary to my point). It gives them a sense of order and control and power and it is very hard to get people to stop abusing. Sometimes, you can luck out and, if they abuse when they’re drunk or high, treating that addiction can end the abuse, but, in general, abusers abuse and they don’t change.

And it can be very difficult to tell if they have changed because real reform looks a lot like the honeymoon period during an abusive cycle and abusers can be very effective in their manipulations to regain access to people to abuse.

Along those same lines, abusers kill to maintain control over their victims. Which is why many murders happen when or shortly after the abused are leaving.

Since I’ve been thinking about the strength of the compulsions associated with anxiety, I wonder if there’s a compulsive component to abuse. I mean, this skirts very close to “Oh, they can’t help it. They’re just emotional/passionate/whatever.” And I don’t want to do that. The fact that abusers don’t abuse their bosses shows that it’s not wholly a compulsion.

But I was talking to friends this weekend and one of them has a strong background in brain things and she said that, as many things as can go wrong in a brain, there’s only a handful of underlying responses. Like, for instance, ADHD, anxiety, and addiction are all very different things, but they all seem to have to do with what’s happening with the serotonin and dopamine in your brain.

And if abuse allows you to regulate your serotonin levels by controlling your environment and keeping order in the people who surround you, and if the reward centers in your brain light up when you abuse because it’s cathartic and reestablishes control, I’m just saying, it makes sense to me why it’s so fucking hard to stop.

It’s not just that it works. It’s that it works and is pleasurable. Which is not something most people want to admit to themselves either about themselves or a loved one–that another’s suffering makes the abuser feel good.

Slowly Getting the Rhythm

Regardless of how much I think I do around the house, I have to admit that I’m not yet in the rhythm of doing my things and the things the Butcher used to do. I could have spent all weekend just trying to get house things done, but instead I also hung out with friends, met a puppy, and watched most of Wrestlemania.

Yesterday, I got down on the ground so that the puppy could climb all over me, and when I tried to get up, I got the hugest charlie horse. I thought I was just going to have to live on the ground or maybe roll over to the steps.

And the rest of the day, that spot was really tender.

I thought that letting a puppy climb all over me would be smelled as instant, unforgivable betrayal by Sonnyboy, but he did not seem to care in the least.

Anyway, I wish I had today off to do stuff around the house, but alas, work calls. I think I’m just going to have to do better about doing stuff in the evenings after work and also getting enough sleep.

I expected to be lonelier, but the animals won’t even let me be alone. Everyone has to sit on me or near me or sleep with me. I get chaperoned everywhere in the house.

I think once they realize that the Butcher is still around, just not sleeping here, it will be easier.

The Most Popular Dog on the Block

This morning, on our walk, we went past the mailbox that marks our turn-around spot and up the hill. There’s a place at the top of the hill I need to remember to put on my anxiety list, so we turned around there, but y’all it blew the dog’s mind. He was looking at everything, sticking his nose way up to sniff the air. I mean, we maybe went fifty, sixty yards beyond where we normally walk, but you’d have thought I took him to Hawaii.

Then, on our way back, all the AT&T trucks slowed down to wave at us. I waved back, since Sonnyboy doesn’t have hands. But I knew the waves were for him. No one remembers a woman walking alone. Everyone remembers the big friendly dog.

He’s stolen two of their trucks! Granted, he didn’t get far because he couldn’t reach the pedals, but he sat in the driver’s seats and wouldn’t let the drivers have their trucks back.

You try that as a person and you are a business’s mortal enemy. You are a menace. But you’re a dog and it’s wonderful.

Anxiety with Insight

So, I went to the therapist yesterday. She seems good. I mean, we’ll see how it goes, but so far I like her. I told her that one of the things I find so frustrating about this is that I know what my problems are. I have good smarty-pants friends. We sit around and hash and rehash stuff and try to understand it.

And I have always placed my faith in the belief that knowledge is freeing. So, as you know, it’s frustrated me a great deal that I can’t just think my way out of this or understand it into stopping. And she said that there are two broad general categories of anxiety–anxiety with insight and anxiety without. And basically, I fall into the first category of someone who has given a lot of thought to this and kind of understands how I tick.

But that wasn’t the interesting part (except to reassure me that I’m right to seek help because if this is something I could fix on my own, it would be fixed, because I’ve devoted enough mental energy to it).

No, so I was talking to her about how frustrating and scary it is to be in the middle of a panic attack and to have my rational mind saying “Everything is fine. Nothing bad is happening to you.” and have my body doing what it wants anyway, as if something bad is happening. Because it seems pretty straight forward–you’ve mistakenly thought something bad was happening. You realize your mistake. You stop responding as if something bad is happening. How hard can that be? And yet, that doesn’t work.

But she was explaining what’s actually happening in the brain and it blew my mind! The thing isn’t just that there’s a mistaken bad trigger. It’s that, in avoiding the bad thing, you make a positive connotation with the thing you do to avoid it and then, in doing the thing you do to avoid the bad thing over and over again, it reinforces in your brain how great it is to do the avoidance thing. Does this make sense?

Let me try a concrete example. I have panic attacks when I go up the stairs in my building so I take the elevator instead. I have been thinking of the “taking the elevator” part as having no intrinsic value. But no, the hundreds of times I have taken the elevator without panic have developed in my brain a pathway of positive experience. So, the panic attack serves not just to keep me from the action my brain has decided is negative, but to push me toward the soothing behavior. So, it’s not simply “You can’t take the stairs.” It’s also “Man, wouldn’t this be so much easier if you took the elevator? Isn’t the elevator awesome? No troubles on the elevator, man. Just go for the elevator. DON’T TAKE THE STAIRS MY GOD DON’T TAKE THE STAIRS. But wow, the elevator is cool.”

So, when I’m freaked out about, say, standing on the edge of a drop, my brain isn’t saying “don’t get closer or you’ll fall and die.” It’s saying, “MY GOD WOMAN, STEP BACK SO YOU DON’T DIE.” And then, when I do step back, boom, pleasure and relief.

If I’m understanding what she’s saying, the panic attack isn’t just about keeping me from doing a thing my brain has decided is negative–therefore it’s just a matter of showing my brain that the negative connotation is a mistake–it’s also about pushing me into an experience that is positive–in that it relieves my anxiety.

Now, I think I see why some people believe anxiety and OCD are similar. I do have these kinds of relieving behaviors. They’re not as extreme as “I have to check the lock exactly seven times before I can leave the house or I can’t be sure it’s really locked,” because I usually just have to do one thing once. And it’s not as noticeable as “I have to touch every lamppost or my mom will die,” because the positive action is very closely linked to the negative thing I’m avoiding.

But man, understanding that the panic attacks and the anxiety are not just about avoiding negative outcomes but shifting me toward relief is kind of blowing my mind.  Like, yeah, that makes sense with my experience and it explains why it’s so fucking hard to deal with–there are two things going on, not just one.

Anyway, there is also homework! Which I find delightful, but also, man, trying to figure out what all my triggers are…I mean, just on my walk this morning, I realized I hate walking across bridges on the greenways. And I just don’t do it. Like, I’d forgotten that I just don’t do that anymore. So, I’m going to have to do some digging to see what else I’ve just cut myself off from and then, whew, problem solved, forgotten about.