I Make No Promises

But I feel like a book that describes itself like this is going to be awesome:

You know all about Son House and Muddy Waters, but have you ever heard of Eraserhead Morgan? Lester “Proudfoot” Jackson? Hootin’ Jack Wilson? Probably not, because technically they never existed. The fact that they’re imaginary does not mean that their stories aren’t worth sharing. Obscure Early Bluesmen (Who Never Existed) helps to fill in the gaps left by music historians who refuse to acknowledge the important role played by fictional performers. Inside this book, you’ll find accounts of seventeen entertainers who, had they existed, may very well have had some impact on modern music.

At Full Frazzle

So, they’re going to stick a guide wire in my breast first. And then I’ll go to surgery.

I am low about it. I’m not sure why, but I both can’t talk about anything else and am so tired of talking about it. Everyone has the same questions and I only have the same answers, which means that I feel like my day is just me repeating things that I know are going to alarm people who care about me. And then I feel like I have to manage their alarm. But I also am alarmed.

And I feel kind of guilty because it’s not the worst news, right? It’s just a fast-growing, relentless tumor that’s going to require them to take a big halo of perfectly good tissue with it so that it doesn’t come back. But it could be worse. So, who am I to feel scared and uncertain?

I get so angry when people say they’re going to pray for me. I have to extricate myself from the conversation as quickly as I can, because I just want to yell “Fuck you, for knowing the right thing to do and say.” And then I feel like an asshole for even thinking it. But I’m jealous of and offended by the certainty.

When I texted my uncle to tell him that the biopsy was that it wasn’t cancer, he texted me back, “God is good.” And so I feel a little like I’m inconveniencing people by not being fine since I had good news.

And I feel like there’s something wrong with me because I can recognize a whole mountain of support from good people who love me and who I love, but today I experience it as overwhelming and it’s making me more scared. I want to turn off my phone and hide from everyone.

Though admitting it makes me feel better.

The Lavender Afghan is Done

The purple afghan from the front, with green border.

The purple afghan from the front, with green border.

This was a small enough afghan that I could have sewn it together, but I love the way the seam looks on the back.

This was a small enough afghan that I could have sewn it together, but I love the way the seam looks on the back.

And then this gives you a good idea of how the green is just a lovely hint on the front. Very pleased with how this one turned out.

And then this gives you a good idea of how the green is just a lovely hint on the front. Very pleased with how this one turned out.

Benign and Soon Gone

The surgeon is going to take it out on the 28th. My parents are going to come down.

It’s fine, but I feel discombobulated. I’m already ready for my routine back.

The dressing gown was way too small.

The Butcher thinks someone tried to take the dog, let him out the the car and walked off with him and then, in typical Sonnyboy fashion, he saw the jogger, who was more interesting than the dognapper and took off after her and her dog.

Here is the thing. When the Butcher called me, even before he said a word, I knew something terrible had happened. And I felt that terror for about fifteen minutes. And then, I felt relief and I went on about my morning. I knew he’d found the dog, even before he said so.

I have to write this book.

And finish these afghans.

I feel sad and happy. I don’t really know how to explain it.

I’m glad the dog’s back.

Things, Always Things

–This morning, a bicyclist who passed me on Lloyd was singing to himself. Sadly, I couldn’t tell what song he was singing, but it made my heart happy.

–The green with the purple of the baby blanket makes it look like some kind of old-school computer game. I’m almost done. I can’t wait to show you guys a picture.

–One thing I have my eye on in the Ferguson situation is just how many different types of people on social media are showing that picture of the unarmed kid with long hair facing a wall of armed cops with his hands up and saying “Look how the police respond to us in our own streets.” Not just black people, but a lot of white libertarian types (though probably not surprising) and a lot of young people who, I think, perceive themselves to be the same age as the kid in the picture.

It seems to me that one “problem” facing police forces these days is that non-black people of my generation and older, by and large, look at that picture and, even if we think what’s happening in that picture is outrageous, even if we think what happened to that poor dead kid is unacceptable, we think “Oh, how terrible what’s happening to them.”

That “them” sentiment allows cover for a lot of police bullshit. Because it means the people with the actual social power to make the police behave aren’t always paying attention to what the police are doing. Even if, if we were, we’d think it was wrong.

We’re trained to see police tactics as mostly right and mostly in our best interest and, when we become aware of their shortcomings, we see that as a failure in an otherwise working system.

But I just don’t think that’s a majority opinion among people younger than me. There’s been a paradigm shift. In a picture with a young black person facing off against a wall of white cops, young people, it seems, mostly see themselves in the position of the young person, not in the position of the police.

I think, even in my day, a lot more young white people would have identified with the cops.

As terrible as Michael Brown’s death is, I don’t think it will be enough to spur real change in how police forces engage


–Oh, fuck. The Butcher just called and the dog got out of the car on him and now he can’t find him.


I don’t have cancer! I have a fibroadenoma, which is nothing to worry about and a phyllodes tumor, which is a fast-growing tumor that can, apparently, grow to ridiculous size and, since I can’t possibly find a place that will make me a three-cup bra, I’ll probably eventually have to have it taken out. I am waiting to hear from my primary care physician about a surgical consult and we’ll go from there.

Oh, Monday

The dog peed in my shoe. That self-same shoe broke. So… I don’t know if the pee was a warning about the shoe or the shoe was like “Fuck this shit, Phillips. I give up.”

I have a blister on my boob, near where the Band-aid was. And when I pulled the Band-aid off, my boob started bleeding. Like I’ve become one of these people with tissue paper skin or something. Last night, when I was attempting to examine the blister, I started to feel woozy and sick to my stomach. I had to sit down on the edge of the tub and let it pass. I think it’s just that this doesn’t look like or feel like my boob. The bandages that are left have ugly black bruises leaking out from them. I don’t normally have blisters. So, it’s uncanny to the point of making me feel like throwing up.

I have to write this Nashville book. No matter what the news is.

When You Can’t Do a Lot, You Do What You Can

purple afghan

This is for my cousin’s baby, due in November. These are the same squares from the Kool-aid afghan (which still sits unfinished for want of a clean sink) but with five rows instead of four. I picked these colors because that light lavender was our grandma’s favorite color and the dark purple makes it little boy-ish. I ran out of both yarns, though, so I have to go back to Haus of Yarn and hope they still have the same dye-lots. Plus, I think I’m going to connect it with gold, just to break it up a little. I want it to seem sleek and blocky, not dire.

On a Scale of 0 to 10

Sorry. I should have updated here yesterday, but I was just feeling scattered and overwhelmed. I had to alternate all day 15 minutes on the ice pack 15 minutes off. And today I still feel like my boob is the wrong shape and in my way.

So, anyway, it was cool in that I got to watch it happening on the ultrasound and it’s basically like this–imagine that my boob is a large Jello salad, shot through with thin ribbons of Cool Whip. They basically press on the side of the salad trying to see if they can get a glimpse of a pea that wasn’t supposed to be in the salad, but, hey, you’re making Jello salad and tuna salad on the same counter, shit happen. So, they press and a pea shows itself and they stick a long needle in and click click click grab samples of the pea. So, that’s how the first one went. Took a while to even find said pea.

But then they move on to the second one, which is over closer to my arm, and they press a little and what comes to the surface of the salad is not a little pea, but a great marble. Not a regular marble but an old fashioned shooter. A sun around which other marbles rotate. Oh, god, this is like the Inception of metaphors here. But it was huge. Is huge. And I realize that the ultrasound is magnified, but I mean, even just comparing it to the other thing. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time, except “Wow, that’s really easy to see.” But all afternoon, I was like, there’s a huge thing in my boob. And I’m putting ice on it.

All of this implies that it has more color than it does. Maybe it’s more like you’re looking at a piece of dark gray marble with light gray lines running through it and you come across these great holes. That’s more the impression that you get, that you’re looking into a black hole. It’s just this spot where there’s nothing that looks anything like the surrounding tissue.

Anyway, they leave a little titanium marker in the black spots so they can find them again. Then they tell you they’re going to do another mammogram and you think “I can’t live through another mammogram, especially not after you just shot needles into my boobs all morning, because that sucker is going to hurt, I don’t care how gentle you are.” But it doesn’t really hurt.

Not even now. Fingers crossed. On a scale of 0 to 10 of pain, I’ve been at a 0 or a .5 since the procedure and extra strength Tylenol has dealt with that just fine.

But on a discomfort scale, I would say that I’m at a 3 or 4. It’s tender. The bottom side, where they did nothing, itches, I assume just because my body finds it funny to see me attempt to gently itch my boob. I feel kind of like throwing up any time I think about the fact that I’m not going to know until Tuesday what this is. And I’m terrified of it getting infected or opening back up, even though rationally, I know none of those things are going to happen. I want to carry my boob around like a small kitten, just tucked in my elbow, for safe keeping.

Anyway, I am glad there’s the term “cancer scare” just because this time period feels like a big, traumatic thing and I’m glad to have some phrase, even if everything turns out to be benign, that acknowledges that this part fucking sucks, too.

Other, Scattered Thoughts

–I don’t blame Ramsey for trying to unseat the Supreme Court Justices. He had to know that the pendulum was somewhere near its far right apex (though exactly where was hard to judge) and so, this was either a moment too late to try for it or the last possible moment ousting them could be done. I think the only misstep he made was throwing his money into it. He should have realized that, if it was going to take hundreds of thousands of dollars to potentially unseat them, he’d missed his moment.

–I’m curious to see how this bodes for the anti-abortion amendment in the fall. I still think, in spite of everything, there’s a good chance it could pass. But Tennesseans pride themselves on being thoughtful, somewhat conservative, moderates. I’m not sure that’s how the group supporting this amendment has presented itself.

–I have longer thoughts on the danger of stripping our country’s traditional folk magic practices of all of the signifiers that make clear that it’s a.) magic and b.) potentially dangerous and repackaging it to sell it back to us as “wellness,” but I can’t quite organize them in my head yet.

–I slept like shit. Kind of a blank, restless sleep. No dreams. Just long nothingness.

Laugh With Me

My dad believes my dirty bathroom is the cause of all this. He wants me to recaulk immediately. Because, yes, aside from working and going through the medical ringer, I totally have time to recaulk my evil, time-traveling bathroom.

My uncle B. is going to pray for me, even though I’m a Democrat. At least he updated me on all the family cancers.

My aunt isn’t sure whether to tell my cousins, so she asked my mom for permission. Because my mom controls the spigots of information. Perhaps if we also put my mom in control of the spigots of evil, my bathroom wouldn’t be time traveling to try to kill me.

Also, my body is a total dick. I can’t have any pain killers except Tylenol, which doesn’t always work super-great for me, and I just had my last period two weeks ago, but my body was like “Oh, are you under a lot of stress? Can’t take the usual pain killers? How about some cramps?!” And then I assume my body gleefully danced around my evil bathroom while they both laughed like evil villains. Evilly.

My Preferences

My preference is that this be some kind of severe infection along the lines of the last one, which yes, may lead us down a strange path of “Why does Betsy get weird lymph node infections?” But at least it’s something that resolves itself.

But I have to say that, I kind of thing that my second preference is that this is what it looks like, a very small, well-defined, easily removable cancer. Because that would be terrifying and awful, but it would also be a clear path with a resolution.

I think it being something that is not yet cancerous but could be, meaning that I have to just sit here and worry, and go through this again and again, knowing that it could, at any time become cancerous and we have to catch it? That would be very, very difficult.

Cats are Weird as Hell

So, here’s where things stand on the Kool-aid afghan: I have three seams and a border left. I have the skein of yarn I need to finish it, but I need to pre-shrink the skein like I did all the others or it bodes trouble in the future, which means the Butcher needs to do the dishes so that I have a clean sink in which to soak my yarn. So, I thought I’d whoop some of the last bits of yarn together into a square which could, with what was left of the white yarn when I’m done with it, become a baby blanket for my cousin A. and her pending son.

The orange cat has adopted that afghan. He is, right now, squeezed down as small as he can get so that all his paws and tail fit onto that tiny half-done project and he’s sleeping on it. You’ll remember that the dog tried to adopt three red squares from the big afghan, so apparently, Kool-aid and wool is just irresistible to my pets. And that baby blanket is… probably not going to be sent to an actual baby.

But the other baby blanket! So, you know how I talked about doing the Kool-aid afghan with different amounts of color? Maybe not. But anyway, I’ve decided to try it with the baby blanket. I got two different purples and each square has a different amount of each purple. I’ll show you pictures when I get more squares done. But I think it’s going to be super neat.

Also, I got flowers yesterday from “Mina.” I had thought maybe it was just nm, misunderstood, but then I got to thinking, perhaps Mina Harker? Or someone here who needs to be thanked. I don’t know that I know any Minas but, if I do, thank you.

Also, my dad is convinced that all of my health problems are caused by my dirty bathroom. Which I find hilarious, considering that my health problems include–PCOS, sleep apnea, that fungus shit in my eyeball, that infected lymph node, and now this. Four out of which started before we moved here. Which I suppose goes to show you just how powerful and dangerous my dirty bathroom is–it can go back in time and bite me in the ass.

Raise your hand if you’ll be surprised that my Phillipses and H.P. Lovecraft’s Phillipses turn out to be the same. Me, neither.

And yes, I somehow ended up apologizing to my mother so that she would stop being upset that she upset me. And yes, I know that this is ridiculous. And yes, I am going to outsource most of my talking to them to the Butcher for the next little bit. But I also want to say that a hard, weird part of this has been just how traumatic it is on them. I just feel like I’m letting everyone down. Not just them, which I know is bullshit, but I feel so bad about putting this on the other people in my department, making them pick up my slack when one of them, especially, is so new.  I just hate that I can’t be more definitive–that I need her to do x on these dates and y on these other dates. I don’t know what will come up because I don’t yet know when I’ll be gone.

Which is the other thing that’s kind of stressful–they talked to my doctor on Monday and she was like “Yes, do the biopsy!” and then they faxed her all the paperwork she needed to fill out and she hasn’t gotten it back to them. So, no biopsy scheduled yet. I just want to have a plan and institute it. The waiting around for everything to fall into place is really stressful. But in that regard, it was good to talk to my dad because he’s really familiar with hospitals and he was all “Well, if they sent the fax to her office Tuesday morning, but this is her hospital day, then she’s not going to get to the office to fill it all out until late today, if not until Wednesday morning. I don’t think she’s dropping the ball at this point. It’s more likely that it’s just bad timing.”

A Decided Lack of Ghosts

I think the thing I find most confusing about this is that I feel fine. Even the other times that they were like “Oh, it could be cancer,” in one case, I was randomly and spontaneously bleeding from every orifice and so clearly something was wrong, and in the other case, I was having trouble breathing and thought I might have pneumonia again.

But this time? I feel fine. I can’t even feel the inch-diameter thing in there they want to biopsy. If I just check in with myself, I feel fine.

And it’s such bullshit. If my body is my house, it is haunted. It has a spirit in it that wanders around crocheting afghans, writing ghost stories, and watching TV. This spirit feels like she fully inhabits the house, like there’s no closet or toe or basement or rib that is off-limits to her. So, how can there be anything potentially bad in the house without the spirit knowing it? How did I somehow not notice the marble of shit in my boob? How, even now, can I not sense it?

I have a better sense, when I step into my kitchen, whether the Butcher is somewhere in the house even if I can’t see or hear him, than I do about this thing.

Which, I guess, is the other hard part. My parents want to come down and… do what? As of yet, I don’t need people to do my dishes or bring us food. In fact, last night, I made this fantastic thing that was pretending to be a pilaf. I mean, I guess it was a pilaf, just at the general level of being rice cooked in stock with spices, but I highly doubt that there’s any real pilaf recipe that calls for asparagus and cashews, and yet, dear readers, I tell you, it was pretty damn good.

I don’t really need anything yet. I don’t feel bad. I’m just frightened and upset, but that’s not really something I need help with. So, I don’t know. It’s just weird.

Eyes Like Planets, Boobs Like Oceans

One interesting thing is the ways in which all these medical procedures reveal your body to be a collection of landscapes. They shoot pictures of the interiors of your eyeballs and you experience yourself as having these vase hollow yellow and red worlds in your face. They ultrasound your boobs and the pictures you see on the screen look like small seas, waves of fat and ductwork (I assume) rolling toward you and disappearing from view. It’s very beautiful.

My phone call to my parents went disastrously and so, even though everybody who texted me was like “Call if you need to talk” I just didn’t want to talk to anyone else. It’s mostly just that my mom started the phone conversation with “How was your day?” and then, after I was like “Did you not get my text? Not great.” launched into all the reasons I was grateful that they were able to do these tests that would all show that this was nothing. Which, yes, I suppose I am grateful for, but we don’t know yet that it’s nothing and I needed a minute to just be terrified and to talk through a plan of action. But it hit me like bricks that she needed me to comfort her and I just started crying hysterically, begging her to stop talking.

And I feel bad about that, because she just handed the phone over to my dad and I didn’t mean to upset her and really, really didn’t want to upset her. But I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to get terrible news and to have to deliver terrible news and have the person you’re telling respond as if you’ve just told them not terrible news.

So, that was something of a disaster.

And it also meant that I just couldn’t hear more about how it was going to be all right, because it was too close to my mom acting like everything was all right.

Anyway, I have to say something to the folks at work today so that my pending erratic schedule makes sense. And I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork.

I’m always amazed when people handle this shit with grace. Just assume from here on out until there’s some resolution that I’m either crying or about to cry. I’m not even going to fucking try to have my shit together. My shit is going to be thrown all over the sidewalk like the aftermath of an ugly breakup. Some of my shit is going to be three blocks away. You’ll see my shit in messy piles, people tripping all in it, it sticking to strangers’ shoes.

My dad said, “You know I’ve seen a lot of this with my parishioners and I can tell you that the one thing that makes a difference is a positive attitude.”

And I laughed and said, “Well, then, we’re in trouble.”

Cancer Scare

So, yeah, today didn’t go how I’d hoped. I had errands to run afterward, because I just didn’t really imagine that the news would be bad. So, I had to run errands looking like end of the world.

I don’t know what to say. This is the third time a doctor has looked at me and said, “It could be cancer,” the second time they’ve wanted to cut me open to see. Eventually, one of these days, they’re going to be right.

Anyway, I suspected the news was going to be bad when the ultrasound tech got flustered. I grew more suspicious when the doctor came in and ultrasounded me again and she turned the wand from my boob to my arm pit.

So, they want to biopsy two spots on my breast and maybe the lymph node. This will happen as soon as they can make arrangements. If it turns out that it is cancerous, they’ll make quick arrangements to cut it out.

So, well, fuck.

If you look to the left on the afghan, you can see that I'm three seams and a border short of being done. I'm also out of white yarn. Oops.  But can I just say that I love how this has turned out? I'm putting a very, very simple border on it, just something to make the edge uniform and to provide a little support to the seam. Then I have to figure out how to block it. I'm thinking--warm, sunny day, shower curtain out in the grass, wet afghan on the shower curtain. But the chance of bird poop makes me nervous.

If you look to the left on the afghan, you can see that I’m three seams and a border short of being done. I’m also out of white yarn. Oops.
But can I just say that I love how this has turned out? I’m putting a very, very simple border on it, just something to make the edge uniform and to provide a little support to the seam.
Then I have to figure out how to block it. I’m thinking–warm, sunny day, shower curtain out in the grass, wet afghan on the shower curtain. But the chance of bird poop makes me nervous.

Just Saying

I’m not planning on having cancer tomorrow or dying of it in the future, at least not any time soon, but I want to say this here so that you can help the Butcher with it, should he need it. I want to be buried in the City Cemetery. Ideally, unembalmed in a plain box, for maximum weird and spooky noises emanating from my body as I decompose. It’s virtually impossible to be buried in the City Cemetery now, especially since I have no people in it already. I will still, should I find out death is imminent, attempt to make it happen. If I fail, stick me in the City Cemetery anyway. It might be hard to dig a grave in there under the cover of darkness, so, if you have to, cremate me and dump me in over the far wall.

Odd Absences

I was out at Traveller’s Rest yesterday because Mrs. Overton’s garden nags at the back of my mind. I need to someday take the whole house tour, but it’s expensive and I’m cheap. But two things struck me as I was out there, well, three. 1. Mrs. Overton knew how to work an herb garden. It wasn’t some slave of hers (or not totally), but her calling the shots on what was in that garden. And her first husband was a doctor. As the woman of that house, she would have sat at some interesting intersections. I think her garden reflected that. 2. The kitchen is missing. Well, almost all the old outbuildings are missing, with the exception of the weaving house, the smoke house, and a building up front that I forget what it is. But the kitchen is really noticeable in its absence because the smoke house is still there–the other building that would have been incredibly close to the house. I tried to suss out where it would have been, just using my eyes and the size of the trees. 3. In the weaving house, there was a hank of wool yarn. You can tell it’s wool as opposed to cotton because it’s got a little stiffness to it, the curve of yarn holds its shape instead of folding under its own weight. I assumed the yarn on the loom was therefore wool, but this morning that seems stupid. It could have been cotton. Now I wish I’d given it a sniff. Anyway, my point is that nm is right, there’s an odd absence of sheep in Middle Tennessee.

We talked about this with the Bell Witch. People must have had sheep, especially early on, or what did they make clothes from? Sheep would be a good use of the rocky land to Nashville’s south. But we’re not a heavily lamb-eating culture and you don’t see a lot of sheep around now. I also haven’t run across any mention of people having sheep. But the Overtons had a weaving house and they didn’t grow cotton (they appear to have been a diverse farm at first and then, when they pared down into growing one main crop, it was tobacco), so… right? What’s being woven in the weaving house, then? I wonder if this is some weird sexism problem. If women cared for the sheep and women used the sheep’s products, and if the sheep never contributed to the commercial culture of the farm, did it just not get mentioned? Kind of went without saying? Or am I just somehow failing to notice mention of sheep? I feel like I’m geared up to notice their mention, but maybe I’m not.

yarn 1 yarn 2 yarn 3

Justifications for Abuse

This week, I’ve had various chances to observe people behaving badly and other people trying to justify it. From that football player who knocked his fiancee out in an elevator to a website devoted to destroying another website (we talked about this before, but I’m not mentioning names, because I just don’t have it in me this week to argue with those assholes again) to… well, the whole fucking world.

And one thing occurs to me as I watch people argue “Well she did…”

Yes. Folks, sometimes breakfast is burned. Sometimes the kids are noisy and he’s not making any effort to keep them quiet. Sometimes the moderation is heavy-handed. Sometimes your fiancee is a drunken asshole. Yes. A million times yes. The “sins” they’ve committed that are supposed to justify the shit they get are often true. They often have done the things you accuse them of doing.

When someone is abused, though, and you start from a premise of “Well, let’s see if they really did the thing their abuser said they did. Let’s get the whole context.” then you’re starting from a premise where it’s okay in some circumstances to abuse a person. Some people can get punched by loved ones; we’re now trying to decide if you’re one of those people. Some people can get whole sites devoted to trying to destroy them and frighten their loved ones; we’re now trying to decide if you’re one of those people. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I wish we would reject the premise that there is some x that makes y okay.