Sunflowers

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I’m also working on this beautiful sunflower afghan from the designer, Janie Crow. The flower part (except for the leaves) is pretty straight forward, but it has this lacy join I am so excited and nervous to try.

I also think I just about have my pattern figured out for the hand-dyed yarn, so now I’m just waiting on the pokeberries to ripen and walnut season to arrive.

After doing a bunch of research online, it seems like the thing about pokeberries is that, if you heat them up too hot in the dyeing process, you get brown, not pink or purple or red.

And, also, the trick seems to be to use just a fuck-ton of vinegar.

So, my plan is to harvest the berries and stems as they ripen (there’s color in the whole thing) and stick them in vinegar to start extracting color. Since we’re early in pokeberry season, I just have enough to fill a quart jar, but I bought a gallon jug this weekend to be ready. Once the color is exhausted from the plant material (i.e. when the stems turn white), I’m going to strain it out and put the yarn and the vinegar all back in the gallon jug. And let that sit… I haven’t decided where. Maybe in the fridge, maybe just on the counter.

In other words, just do a cold dye in an incredibly acid bath.

If it works, I’m just going to make this my go-to berry dyeing trick.

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More Colors

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Here’s everything I have so far that’s dry.

And here’s everything I did yesterday, which is still somewhat damp. That leaves the pokeweed when it’s ripe and all the walnut, when it’s in season.

My fight with the FBI, such as it is, has turned incredibly stupid and aggravating. Last year, when I asked them for the Looby bombing file, they told me it had been destroyed in ’96. Period. End of discussion.

That always nagged at me, but what could I do about it? I asked around over time trying to find anyone who might have gotten a copy of the file before ’96 or trying to find someone who could help me understand why the FBI would destroy their file on the assassination attempt of a sitting US politician.

Long story short, I finally talked to a retired US attorney about it, who simply did not believe that the files would have been destroyed. I asked for my U.S. Rep’s help.

Truncating a lot, the FBI recently sent me another letter saying files had been destroyed in ’76, but some had made it over to the National Archives.

And leaving even more out, for the sake of getting to my point of anger, the plan is for the book to come out in April of 2020. The wait time for getting a file from the National Archives that needs to be vetted for classified information is about twenty-four months.

So, if the FBI had told me there was a file at the National Archives last spring/summer when I asked them for what they had, I could have requested it and already been a year into my wait time. I would have had it by next year and had enough time to incorporate it into my book.

But by dicking me around, they’ve basically either ensured I won’t have the file in time for my book or that I’ll have to push back the pub date. Both of which suck.

I’m still hoping there may be a solution. (So fingers crossed!)

But it really pisses me off.

And the worst part is that I can’t even say that it’s some deliberate effort to sabotage my story. I truly doubt, before my Rep got involved, that my name or my project had even registered at the FBI.

They just dicked me over so fucking hard as a matter of course, as an impersonal non-deliberate side effect of how they work.

Colors

I opened the solar dyeing jars. That was unpleasant. You know what happens when you put a bunch of plant matter in water and then heat it for days? The same shit that happens when you stick a bunch of plant matter and water in an elephant and let it work its way through the system: a smell from the outskirts of hell.

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These guys live in the garage until I’ve decided they don’t smell too bad to include. The idea that I might have to overdye them with Kool-aid just to make them smell okay is cracking me up.

Anyway, in my neighborhood, it seems the easiest color to make is yellow. I keep making it almost by accident. And it got me thinking about the outfits people wore before commercial dyes, what folks’ clothes would have looked like. And I have to imagine, for the people who had to make most, if not all, their own clothes, there was probably a lot of yellow.

And it got me thinking about the colors that have magical properties. There’s an old African-American hoodoo belief that to sleep under a blue blanket will bring prophetic dreams. And to get a blue color that stays? The person who can get that for you has to seem like magic, that blanket or quilt has to seem like magic. Blue is hard to get and hard to keep, until you have indigo.

Red, black, and white are also tricky colors to get (and to keep) with plant materials available to most people.  Yes, madder, but look at how much skill it takes to get red out of madder if you have to do it yourself. Black is… I don’t even know. I think you could dye a lot of things for a long time to get a dark, dark, dark brown that might pass for black, but pure black naturally would be hard. And white, a clean white, requires a lot of processing as well. So, it’s no wonder you find so many charms that call for thread or yarn in those colors.

If magic is about gathering energy and expending it in directions it doesn’t normally take (think of the sailors who kept winds they needed tied in knots in yarn they kept in their pockets), then red, black, and white have a lot of energy put into them.

But I live in America, so I also can’t wander around with the dog thinking about color without thinking about race and I got to thinking about how much of a fear of the “secret” black person there has been in American popular culture. And smarter people than me have written about how “black” is seen as corrupting and spoiling.

Corruption and spoilage are both powers. And black, in color, is hard to get.

Yellow is common and easy to make.

And I feel like there’s a revelation about a facet of American racism right at the tips of my fingers that I can’t quite articulate yet.

But it’s commonly accepted that words have meanings and associations that color (ha) how we see the things those words are describing, meanings and associations pulled in from other uses of those words. So, saying that a bad person is blackhearted or has a black soul or has a dark morality or that these are dark times and then saying that person is black or has dark skin can lead us to associate that person’s skin color with all the ways we think of black as meaning bad.

So, I wonder how much to an 18th or 19th century white American, black would have also resonated as powerful (much to the eternal tragedy of black people) and yellow as common and easy to get. And I wonder how that shaped the expressions and their own understanding of their racism?

Also, speaking of black, look what black beans gave me!

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Who Am I?

I’ve just kind of been in a weird daze since Monday. I don’t regret quitting. But I do feel so sad about it. Partially because I wonder how many people will find me interesting without it.

Which also pisses me off at myself.

But it’s just been a part of my identity for so long that it’s hard to imagine what my life looks like without it.

And I know it’s early yet, but I want to acknowledge that it’s hard, and that I am not sure what my value to others is, if I don’t yell and make people hear me.

One Less Muddy Path to March

I quit the Scene today. There was a lot of weird stuff going on, but then there was some bullshit, and, well, either I mean the things I say or I don’t. And if I mean the things I say, then I don’t work for a guy I think is a dumbass lacking in good judgement.

I haven’t really processed it yet. I don’t know what it means for me. I’m sad but also relieved. But a lot sad.

I love the people at the Scene and I have so much respect for the hard work they do. And I’m going to miss the fuck out of being their peer.

My Delighted and Confused WTF?!

Okay, so yesterday there was red cabbage at Kroger. I bought a head for dyeing. I read up on how non-colorfast it is. I fretted some. But I’d already bought it, so… I mean, this is a long-term project. If the colors start to do something funky before my dyeing is done, I’ll just redye.

I split the dye bath into three and made one acidic, left one neutral, and made one basic.

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There they are. The pink is the acid, the purple the neutral, the bluish-gray is the base. That makes sense to me.

But, as I picked them up out of the water, they began to turn colors. The blue became a weird mint green. The purple became a Band-aid pink. The pink became… and I’m not even shitting you… yellow.

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Note, this photo makes the Band-aid color look almost like a pretty pink. It was not in real life. I ended up throwing it in what was left of the basic bath to turn it greenish.

Why did this happen?! Could it be something in the acrylic yarn I used to tie the skeins? Something having to do with the pots? I washed them, but the yellow was in the pot I used for tumeric.

Also, I am a mix of delighted and chagrined that I am some kind of “dyeing things yellow” savant.

I’m going to have to pick a pattern that works with these colors and also takes into account that many of them will fade. Or possibly change color over time. It needs to look good with these colors and look good with the antique versions of these colors.

Yellows

Y’all, I had a revelation yesterday. I hate crocheting figures. It’s hard and I hold my hook wrong to make it easier. I hate that, by the time you realize something isn’t quite where you want it, it’s too late, because you’ve sewn it down. And, if you don’t like it in the end, you can’t fix it. You just have to make another one. But I didn’t like making the first one! Now I’m suckered in to doing it twice?!

Anyway, this is the last figure I’m going to be making for a while.

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Sorry about your boobs, Venus, but I suck at figures.

In happier news, I spent the day dyeing (and finishing up the afghan for my cousin and making that thing and doing laundry). Queen Anne’s Lace smells amazing at every step of the dyeing process. It made my house smell amazing. Why that’s not the go-to for potpourri, I don’t understand. I followed up with turmeric, which smelled fine, but not as surprisingly wonderful as Queen Anne’s Lace.

Here are my four yellows–fruit tea, Queen Anne’s Lace, turmeric over Queen Anne’s Lace, and plain turmeric:

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Ha, I love how the camera can pick up the slight variations in tone between the two turmeric bundles, but has made the two lighter yellows just look like beiges. The one on the far left is actually a light gold. And the Queen Anne’s Lace is a light greenish yellow.

I don’t know if I could have gotten it darker with more plant matter (though I didn’t really have room for any more in my pot) or if I had plenty of dye, that was just the color it was. That’s the thing about natural dyes–there are a lot of variables you don’t have any control over.

On the other hand, I really love the idea that I can point to that yarn and say, this is the color I could get on this day, with these plants grown in this spot.

I want to make something unique to this spot at this time. So, that’s what these colors are.

For Solar Dyeing, You Need Sun. Just Saying, Mother Nature

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Yesterday, I rehomed all of the fruit-tea dyed yarn I didn’t like into these jars for solar dyeing. From left to right we have black tea, the last of my day lilies, willow leaves and twigs, a mystery bark I found in two big strips by the fire pit, oak bark with lichens, sumac sticks and leaves, and motherfucking privet sticks and leaves.

If anything comes of the privet, I am going to laugh and laugh. God, I hate that shit. If it turns out to be a useful dye, that would be amazing.

I also learned that sumac smells good. It’s got kind of a spicy smell. Not spicy hot but kind of like Indian food smell, like just something with a lot of different spices in it.

But then I look at the weather and we’re not going to break 90 all next week. Which is wonderful for people trying to live their lives, but it’s July in the South! I expected the sun to unmercifully beat down upon the contents of these jars.

Anyway, today I try Queen Anne’s Lace.

Twisting Makes it Beautiful

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Work has been a nightmare ball of stress. It’s no fun to think about let alone write about, but these past few weeks have just been putting one fire after another out, trying to keep others’ morale up, and hoping I’m not forgetting anything terribly important. I feel like I can’t even plan things, because I have no idea when the higher-ups are going to immediately need me to drop everything and do this other thing.

On Monday, I was at the gynecologist, just sitting on the table, naked except for a paper robe, and I started thinking about work shit, which caused me to kind of sit there in a frazzled daze, so much so that when the doctor came in to do the exam, she scared the shit out of me. Like, how do you lose track of being naked in an office building and that means that someone is going to come into the room?

But I had.

Anyway, last night, I put the tea-dyed yarn I didn’t like in a mordant bath. My first time using mordant. Everything went fine. The alum didn’t make some toxic fume that immediately gave me black lung. The pot that my dad found for me is really easy to heat up slowly and it holds heat really well, which is great and pretty much the definition of what you need a pot to do for dyeing.

I don’t really know how to tell if it worked. But everything seemed to happen like the books say it should.

So, I’m planning on solar dying these little skeins, just going out this weekend and finding various things in the yard (or up on Lloyd, due to the mowing of my road), stuffing them and the yarn in a jar, and letting the sun work on it.

Plus, I want to do some Queen Anne’s Lace this weekend, because, if they are going to start mowing regularly (getting a city councilperson has done wonders for improving city services out here), I might not get another shot at it.

And I am ready to move on the poke berries the instant they go black.

So, I’m working on the afghan, thinking about all this stuff and I started feeling this weird flipping in my belly. My first thought was “Have I forgotten something?” and then “Am I having a heart attack?” Then, finally, no, I realize, I’m excited.

I’m feeling pleasant excitement and anticipation about this wool dyeing project.

And it’s been so long that I didn’t recognize the feeling.

Learning

I very rarely crochet with wool yarn, because when you give someone a wool afghan, you’re giving them an ongoing commitment to some kind of ridiculousness. At the least, to having a big flag place to dry the fucker.

Acrylic is like “eh, whatever. Throw me in the wash. Throw me in the dryer.”

But sometimes I want to try new things. So, I’m learning about the difference between hanks and skeins and why you shouldn’t store wool in balls. (Basically, you want to give the wool room to move, so it doesn’t get misshapen.)

Also, look how beautiful it looks in hanks!

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And the broken purple is drying:

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I will twist that into a hank soon enough. And then I can marvel at its beauty, too.

In the back of my mind, even though it’s months away, I’m trying to decide what pattern I want to use for this yarn. I want something simple enough to really show off the color variations, but also not just a square, because I’ve done that before.

I think I’m just about at the end of my day lilies for the season, so I plucked the penultimate bunch last night and threw them in a jar with water. I’ll add whatever shrivels up tonight. Once I get some yarn through the mordant bath, I’ll throw a small amount in there and see what happens.

The city mowed down my Queen Anne’s Lace yesterday so I’m going to have to go up to Lloyd and get what I can. I hope they don’t mow up there before that.

And I’ve got my eye on the poke berries at the back of my driveway. I’m waiting for them to turn black and then I’m going to snag them.

I feel like a witch. It’s so much fun. And it’s letting me rest my wrist, which is not happy about last week’s failed push to finish the afghan.

Dye Thoughts

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So, of course, the two Kool-aid dyed ones look great (the two on the left) and I really like that soft yellow there next to the orange. That’s a keeper. But everything else? Not really feeling it. Some other dyepot awaits them.

That orange, though! Let’s look at it closely:

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Look at the variations! That yellowish highlight isn’t a trick of the camera. that is something in the yarn. It’s amazing.

But I was so disappointed in most of the other fruit teas (I really thought I’d get at least a variety of browns, not just pink-brown and yellow-brown) that I wanted to have a success so I did a quick breaking of this purple Kool-aid on a whole skein of yarn.

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I don’t yet have a good picture of it out of the pot, but you can see that parts of it are straight-up blue and parts of it are purple.

That may be all I can do without mordant. So, next, I need to mordant up some wool. And then I think I’m going to try the day lilies in my yard this weekend.

I’m having such a good time.

And I am slowly finishing the wedding afghan, too. It’s just less fun to take pictures of.

Home

I’m home. The dog is home. The cat stayed home, so she probably isn’t relieved to be here. Or any moreso, anyway.

I know I’ve been walking on the razor’s edge of anxiety, but I had no idea how bad it’s gotten until I saw this picture of me that my niece took:

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And my first thought was “Look how cute I look there! It’s too bad I’m so gross and ugly.”

Which, lord. You know you’re a mess when those two sentences make sense to you back to back.

It was wonderful to see everyone and I had a really nice time. But I’m also glad to be back home.

I got my P.O. Box, so now I just need to write some letters.

And I dyed some yarn yesterday! I wanted to set it in the sun and let that move the dye around the jars, but a friend got me worried that it could bleach out the dye. So, I moved everything into the oven and set the oven to 350 and let the jars sit in the oven at 350 for an hour. Then I turned the oven off and they sit there still, until I have some time to wash and hang them up.

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Never Have I Been So Happy about Poop

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I have half of my horizontal joins done! It tickles me–in a prickly way–to know I’m going to finish this afghan next week. It makes me feel like, if only I had timed it better, I could have finished it by Saturday. But I did not. And I will not. I will just be frustratingly close.

I’ve revised my feelings about the gray. I now like that it’s dark because it lets that middle part look like it’s glowing.

My favorite thing about this afghan, though, is that the motifs end up all being a little crooked. If you look carefully, you can see that many of them twist to the right. But even just the act of joining them is starting to pull them square. Washing and drying it should straighten everything out nicely. But I like watching the movement, subtle though it is, now.

I’m also accumulating things to start on my dye project. When I walk the dog, I’ve been planning what I want to try to dye and in what order. With Kool-aid dyeing, you can do enough yarn for an afghan in a day. But I’ve now done enough research to know that this will be much different. That I’ll probably get a skein a weekend done.

So, some things–like tea and turmeric–can wait. But other things that are only available now must be done now. I must be ready. So, things I think I can start with include day lilies, dock (if I’ve properly identified the thing in my yard), and Queen Anne’s Lace.

I’ve got my eye on the poke berries and I’m just waiting for them to ripen. And I’m watching the privet for the same. But I think, if necessary, I can harvest berries and freeze them. Flowers and leaves, I think, need the shortest time between harvesting and putting in the dye pot. So, I need to do those first.

I’m excited, though.

As for the dog, Christ, you do not want to have to take a two-hour emergency trip to the vet with him if you don’t have to. Not that he was bad. But it was just worse, or as bad, as I’d been letting myself think it was.

The conclusion is that we think he ate something Sunday or Monday that made him sick to his stomach. He then got diarrhea, which made him more nauseous, which gave him more diarrhea, in a terrible feed-back loop.

So, he’s taking a pill to control his nausea, a pill to repair and soothe the lining of his GI track (tract? I’ve never thought about that before. I don’t know which it is.), and a pill to help his poop coagulate. And he has to eat this special bland food, wet and dry. They want me to give him seven scoops of dry food and a can of wet food a day.

He has never, in his whole life with me, eaten seven scoops of dry food a day. He is barely interested most days in eating three. And with an upset gut?

But he’ll eat the wet food.

And, y’all, the cat loves the wet food. The bland as fuck food for the dog. She bullied him out of his bowl yesterday. This morning, I had to give her a tiny bit on a spoon to lure her away from doing it again. She prefers it over her own wet food, which is the dog’s favorite thing.

This tiny eight pound cat bullying a sick 110 lb dog out of his bland as fuck food.

Will wonders never cease?

Joining

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The join I’m using is just a simple single crochet, but through both loops, so that, unless you know what to look for, it’s hard to tell where the squares start and stop. It’ll be more obvious on the middle squares, but I think it’ll still be nice.

I’m just waiting for it to get closer to the time the vet opens so I can run the dog up there.

And I heard again from the FBI about the Looby bombing. They destroyed a bunch of relevant files in 1977, which… is not what they told me in the first letter, where they destroyed a bunch of files in 1996, but lo and behold, some files made their way to the National Archives, where I can request them. Mysteriously.

Well, maybe not that mysteriously.

In unrelated news, no, seriously, completely unrelated. cough cough. wink wink. Jim Cooper has my vote for as long as he wants it.

Trying to Work Some Miracles

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It’s not going to be done in time. Trying to cram an 8 week project into four was ambitious and, maybe, if I’d done nothing but work and crochet, I could have finished it, but what’s life without friends and dog walks and goofing around? It’s just going to take me another week to get it joined and bordered. I’m making my peace with it now.

I was worried it was going to be overly pink, because I used a ton of pink yarn because I had it left over from the peacock afghan. But I feel like it doesn’t at all look overwhelming here. I do wish I’d used a lighter gray for the background, but lesson learned. This is still nice.

Sonnyboy is having a terrible bout of diarrhea, which, ugh. I came home last night to a bunch, but he seemed okay otherwise. His appetite was fine so I fed him like normal.

But then, every hour or so, he wanted to go out.

Then I had to go to bed.

And I woke up at 4 in the morning to a noise that sounds funny when you’re a kid, but strikes terror when you’re an adult. I threw the dog back outside. I cleaned up a little. I went back to bed.

When we walked, he was definitely feeling like he had to poop, but everything had already cleared his system, so nothing but noises came of it.

When we got home, I grabbed my purse and went to Kroger. I came back with a shit-ton of paper towels, canned pumpkin, Pepto, and hot dogs. The dog has now had two big scoops of pumpkin and a mega dose of Pepto. He’s now sleeping more soundly than he has in a day.

Meanwhile, my boss’s bosses are coming to the office to spend the morning, so… so… I hope this works to clog the dog up, because I can’t be home with him.

I’m also pissed because the first bout came complete with corn–a lot of corn–and I have’t had anything with corn in it. And aside from the faint odor of poop, my house also smells kind of spicy, which, again, is not something I have eaten at home lately.

And yet, I can’t for the life of me figure out where he’d have picked up something spicy and corn-filled. It sounds yummy, but still! Please don’t feed my dog, neighbors.

Anyway, please keep your fingers crossed for my household today.

For Your Consideration

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I took this photo because it’s hilarious. Stop bothering dead people, door-to-door salesmen.

But I just want to point out the weird smudge standing next to the sign. I thought it was a water spot on my phone screen, but it’s clearly in the picture. It may be something on my windshield, though, so I don’t want to leap to “it’s a ghost!” conclusions, but I kind of don’t want to not leap.

My Boy

At least the dog is still happy. He still barrels out into the grass and throws himself down into a massive wiggle. He still wants to tear open every bag along the road to see if it might contain something he wants to eat.

I have to travel with him, soon, and I’m anxious about it. It’s so hot. And everything I read online is so dire. You can’t leave pets in the car for even a second or they will die, but I’m going to have to pee.

When I was little, we took our dog to California in the summer, through the desert, and he did fine. And I know we went and ate inside McDonalds while he waited in the car.

But now, if you can’t travel with another person who can wait in the running car with the air conditioning on with your pet, you must not travel or you hate animals.

I have to bring this dog with me, though, and I love him. So where’s the good advice for people like me?

My plan right now is to bring towels to hang in the windows while I’m inside somewhere, so that there’s something to block the sun. To leave early to try to be there before the heat of the day. To have plenty for him to drink. And to wet him down when we stop.

But, hey, if you have July car travel with dog advice that is different than “never go anywhere alone or you hate your dog,” I’d like to hear what’s worked for you.

Words and Me

I haven’t written a word of fiction all year. I have read, maybe, three novels. I am mildly curious if the desire will come back, but I also do think that a lot of my fiction writing was fueled by anxiety and I don’t know how to do it or if I care to do it with my anxiety more under control.

I feel a little like we’re not supposed to admit that–that getting better means losing things that used to be important–because it might dissuade others from getting help.

But I still think it was worth it.

And I think, someday, I’ll learn to work this new wiring for fiction. Or I won’t. I guess. Either is okay, I think.

A Big Project

All right, fuck it. I decided yesterday I need something big to work on that isn’t depressing or full of racists or both. I’m going to plant dye an afghan. I’m going to slowly make my dyes from things I have in everyday life or from around the neighborhood and I’m going to see what happens.

I have a friend who spends a lot of time dealing with ridiculous fabrics, so I asked her if she’d be willing to take whatever I eventually came up with, and she said yes.

I’m already ethically opposed to giving someone a wool afghan if they’re not prepared to have another pet–since the kind of washing they need is an enormous task. Here, I love you. Have some work.

So, I wasn’t going to spring “Here’s a lot of work and do it carefully or these colors will fade. Hell, these colors will probably fade anyway.” on someone who didn’t have experience with finicky things.

Anyway, so now I’m paying close attention to what things in my neighborhood I might be able to experiment with. Y’all, what if privet makes some beautiful dye? What if I find a use for that garbage plant?

Set to Drain

Y’all, I just… I’m just putting one foot in front of the other. Emails remain unread. Read emails remain unanswered. Things that need to be written remain unwritten.

I have been watching a lot of dying videos and working on this afghan.

I’m pretending like that’s something.

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