These Assholes

I’m already running late for work, but I wish people in this family could communicate, calmly, in an effective manner.

Also, my sister-in-law is having her baby and I only know because I texted her to wish her a happy birthday and my brother shot back a picture.

My parents hadn’t bothered to tell me.

My brother hadn’t bothered to tell me.

Also, I’m kind of done inviting them to public places.

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I’m Trying

Of course all of The Butcher’s awesome friends came out to help them load the truck. And of course The Butcher packed it all like life is just three dimensional Tetris and he is the world champion at it.

I have a kind of half-articulated belief that we are ourselves and also ways for some ancestral impulse or facet to work out some need or desire of its own.

Sometimes I suspect that my nephew is my grandpa, come back to have parents who could nurture him.

I know that sounds bananas. And I don’t think it’s as straight-up as reincarnation. I don’t think my nephew is my grandpa. It’s more like I think the part of my grandpa that could have benefited from good parents is in there, too, getting now what he needed then.

Being able to easily love my dad and being able to be easily loved by him.

I’m trying not to be too sad. But Phoenix is a long way.

The Ghost

The Pout

So, as reported, The Butcher is back in town to move his family to Phoenix.

I don’t know if that’s necessary backstory or not.

Last night I let the dog out. As he was coming in, the cat went out. For the night, because I was going to bed.

In the middle of the night, I woke up because the dog was being restless and making weird noises. I listened for a minute to see if it seemed like he needed something, but no, he was just pacing around the house.

I then felt something jump up on the bed and walk around. I could feel the bed depressing. The cat, I thought. And then I was wide awake because I knew the cat was outside. I was like, did I leave the front door open? Is a window open? How is the cat back in the house? And I’m staring into the darkness, trying to get a look at the cat at my feet, but it’s dark and I don’t have my glasses on and I’m using this eye gel at night that makes everything even blurrier.

Basically, I see nothing.

But the house is quiet. It doesn’t sound like a door or window are open. Outside sounds are not louder than they should be.

So, I shut my eyes and try to convince myself that I’m having some kind of weird experience analogous to old hag–where even though I think I’m awake, I’m actually still dreaming–but where instead of sensing another person in the room with me, crawling on top of me, I sense a cat?

Like, even as I type this, I think that seems like the most plausible explanation. It’s some kind of mild form of old hag.

But I’m laying there in the dark and I feel the cat walking up the bed, right at my side, like a cat would do if its about to curl in the warm space of your curved back. And I figure it has to be the cat, got back in the house some way that I will just deal with in the morning.

So, there she is, heavy against the small of my back, and I reach down to pet her, just to let her know I know she’s there and… and this is the really weird part, which I still can’t decide means it was a kind of old hag experience or if it really was a ghost… there’s nothing there. My hand does not find a cat where my hand should find a cat.

But I could still feel the warmth on my back. I could still feel the bed sagging down in that one spot.

Anyway, the Butcher’s back and I suspect the orange cat is, too. At least for a night.

The Move

Everyone arrives today–The Butcher, my parents–to help The Butcher and his family move to Arizona. I feel like a skipping stone out across the water, hoping that, if I just concentrate on the far shore, I’ll make it, trying not to think about sinking.

We lived together, on and off, until I was forty, forty-one? Thirty-two years, if I’m counting correctly.

You just get used to having a person around after that long. To not needing plans or topics of conversation.

I’m going to miss them so much.

The Swatch Grew Again

I’m trying to be better about not making my afghans giant monsters. I may still want a big border for this one. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, look at my turquoise gradient!

I really love the textures of the different yarns. I mean, sure, it’s because I’m not very consistent as a spinner, but it looks nice all worked up.

Oops, The Swatch Grew

It’s so much fun to see the colors of the yarn play out. And the things that don’t have a lot of color changes have fun textures.

I don’t think I’m a writer anymore. I said that to some friends this weekend and it was such a relief to just say it outloud.

I mean, I don’t know for how long that will remain true, but it’s true for now.

I am slightly concerned that I fucked up my writing mojo with this antidepressant, but I feel so much better on it that I kind of don’t care.

I more feel like the grief just isn’t worth it.

The Swatch

Honestly, how am I supposed to be interested in doing anything but working on this afghan? Look at that swatch!

I want to see how all the other yarn does. It’s so beautiful.

Fiber Festival!

The fiber festival in Dickson is a lot different than the one in Murfreesboro. For one, there are a ton more men, both staffing the booths and buying things.

But also, it’s a lot less fancy in ways that are hard to put my finger on, but that I like. And all the fiber people I’ve met are just so wonderful and generous with their time and their knowledge.

I’ve been thinking about the gender dynamic some and I have a couple of theories. One, this is a really hands-on thing. If you’re into woodworking, your wife can put you to work making all kinds of stuff and then, if you want to see if what you’re doing is going to work for the purpose you made it for, you need to be able to do the thing the machine is supposed to help you with. Also, a lot of people at Dickson are farmers who are selling their own animal’s products.

But the other thing is something I hadn’t really given much thought to–true household division of labor sits at the intersection of urbanity and class. This isn’t to say that country folks don’t have gender stereotypes or whatever, but that, even though there’s men’s work and women’s work, all work has to get done and a lot of couple do a lot of “helping.” He “helps” with the dishes. She “helps” feed the animals.

You need either the ability to hire help or the proximity of goods and services to truly sever the domestic and the public spheres. When the household well-being depends on work being completed, everyone has to do the work.

Anyway, look at everything I got!

If you’re noticing a color theme, it’s because I once again laid out everything I have for The Professor’s afghan and decided I need more neutrals.

If you want pops of color, you need to have something for them to pop against.

I’m also in the middle of trying to get some more of the llama clean and usable in ways that don’t suck. I’ve been picking through some of the browner stuff, just to give myself another neutral.

Ha ha. you can see the big sticks and stuff I need to get out of there, but I really love how it looks like a sandstorm or something. It’s outside drying as we speak, then I’ll hopefully have some time today to pick those big chunks out and comb it a bit.

I’m having such fun with this, but I’m kind of at the point where I’m wondering if I have enough yarn or too much yarn or what.

I need to do a swatch, but I am somewhat concerned that, if I start crocheting on this, I’ll lose interest in the shit I have on the hook now.

Take Care

I’ve slowly been working myself toward a new philosophy of taking care of myself. That phrase “taking care of yourself” sucks, as it seems solely to mean “exercise.”

What I mean by it is something different. I mean it in the sense of easing one’s way. Like, when the old hymn says “God will take care of you. Through every day, o’er all the way.” God’s not making you jog. He’s not your personal trainer. He’s easing your burden. He’s doing loving things for you.

So, I’ve started asking myself this question: What can I do today to make Tomorrow Betsy’s life a little easier? Sometimes this means taking the time to notice when I’m low on something and putting it on my grocery list rather than going to the grocery store and trying to remember what I need when I’m there. Sometimes it means I sweep today instead of putting it off until tomorrow. Or making sure I get gas before the light comes on.

Trying to make sure my needs are met before it becomes annoying that they’re not.

And, y’all, it’s really pleasant.

Luxury

I turned 45 yesterday. I did exactly what I wanted to do with a day off in the middle of the week. I got my hair cut. I had lunch with my sister-in-law and my nephew. I picked more llama fiber and spun up more llama yarn.

I feel really lucky.

Some days, I get to do exactly what I want to do.

A Little More Llama in My Life

Tomorrow I turn 45. I have been wondering if I’ve done what I wanted with my life, like, am I wasting this one brief gift? And I’m kind of of the opinion that I don’t know. I think the things I wanted for my life were small and safe and that I have accidentally stumbled into something better, something that I couldn’t have imagined for myself.

I also feel like this all is a waste of time, to be honest. So, I’m not going to feel bad if the ways I burn time are less socially acceptable than the ways others burn time.

I’m content. I’m often delighted.

Anyway, these are the two llama yarns I’ve made so far. Once I accepted that it’s not a white, but actually a very light, sandy brown, I felt more like I knew what to do with it when adding other colors.

Also, I’m embarrassed to say that I figured out why it felt so weird to spin it. The staple length is really long. I needed to separate my hands further than usual so that I wasn’t tugging with one hand on a piece of fiber that I was holding in my other hand. That made things a lot easier. Ha ha ha.

It is nicely grabby, though, which I really like. But I also feel like the individual fibers are really distinct, which is a visual element I really like.

I pulled out all of the yarn I have done so far to take a look at where I am in terms of spinning.

I’m really happy with my blues. I’m also very happy, it turns out, with my greens. I think I’d like a little more brown. I’d also like some more light gray.

That’s probably all the yellow I need. There’s not really any gold in the inspiration piece, but I think The Professor will forgive me for putting some in.

I think my reds are fine, but I want a little more of that salmon.

And then it just needs to be me and the llama, making some really light sandy colors. I think I want my yarn ratio to be about half and half. So, I have my pops of color about done and I need to set to work on my light background colors.

I Hate Cleaning. My Beloved Hobby is Cleaning.

First of all, llama smells really good. Kind of like if a pine tree and a black jellybean had a baby. Second, that may have been too much fiber to try to process at once, but what the fuck. I’m learning.

Even after all the rinses, it was still dirty as fuck. I floundered around on the internet for hints and decided on hand picking it. This basically is where you take a little bit of fiber and pull and shake it apart until all the dirt falls out. It’s time consuming, but my fiber ended up as clean as anything I’ve bought. Even when I set the twist, which is a great time for the sin of failing to wash your fiber well beforehand to show itself, the water a little foggy, but not muddy.

The llama is weird to spin because it’s so soft. I was having a kind of sensory dissonance with it because my brain kept insisting the fiber was “muddy.” I think that’s because it feels so soft and slippery and cool?

It’s very grabby, so it drafts strangely. You have to pull firmly to get everything moving, but not so hard things pop loose. Imagine if you had two pieces of Velcro stuck together and you wanted the top piece to slide a centimeter to the right without coming off the bottom piece. You need firm, steady pressure, but not too much.

And I had all different kinds of fiber lengths, ranging from two to six inches, which was fun but also weird.

And it has a lot more of a halo (the bits of fiber that kind of stick out from the main thread) than I’m used to and I don’t know if that’s because of the picking or just a trait of the fiber or both. I’m going to have to crochet it up before I decide if the halo is scratchy or not, but at least when you touch the yarn, it’s very soft.

So, I’m hoping it’s more of an angora feel than a “the sweater you hated growing up” feel.

Llama, Llama, Red Pajamas

My fiber arrived!

Most of it’s alpaca, which I’m definitely going to need a skirting table for. But the first one and the last one are llama, which is not something people normally spin. But look at that undercoat. I have half a mind to pull it out and just skirt it on my garage floor. I’m really anxious to see how it works.

Alpacas dirt-bathe so their fiber is really dirty. Hence the importance of a skirting table. I need dirt and stuff to fall through.

But llamas don’t. So, in skirting the llama, it should be me vs. poop, second cuts, guard hairs, and any plants and seeds stuck in there. In other words, it may be more manageable for a newbie.

There’s No Cake

I have so much to do that it’s making me just want to curl up and do nothing. I have to get the invitations sent out for my parents. I need to call Jimmy John’s and talk to them about a million sandwiches. I need a new driver’s license. The dog needs medicine. I need a hair cut.

I have no idea what to do for a cake for my parents’ anniversary.

I need one extra weekday, where everything is open but I don’t have to work, but this is not that time.

Young Evil, Revisited

It’s been bugging me that the guy on the left looks so familiar to me, but I can’t place him. I think I have a guess on the identities of a lot of these guys, though. See what you think.

I think the guy on the left could be George Bright. The kid in the middle is Richard Bowling. I’m pretty sure the guy on the right is Ed Fields.

That’s J.B. Stoner and Robert Bowling.

I have no good guess on the old guy. The middle guy could be Asa Carter, except Asa Carter didn’t have good cheekbones, except with the picture blown up this big, it looks like that may not be a cheekbone, but some kind of ink spot.

If that is Carter, then that might be Kenneth Adams next to him. Not that I’ve ever seen a good picture of Kenneth Adams.

Skip the little girl. Who knows who she is. Could the guy in the hat be Wallace Allen? Or, if I’m right about the guy on the right being Emory Burke, could Hat Guy be Homer Loomis? And then, obviously, the guy I suspect is Emory Burke.

If I’m right, then what we’re seeing in this 1954 photo is a half-hearted reunion of some of the Columbians and an early gathering of folks who would go on to be the United White Party.

It’s also a shit-ton of violent white supremacists.

“Olive”

I’m continuing to dye wool for The Professor’s afghan. This is what I got done last night. That brown is “olive.” I thought it was going to be green. On the other hand, it is a deeply lovely brown.

Shall we go back to the inspiration piece?

I’m pretty pleased with how on-track I am. I may just have to move the green I’d decided not to use back into the “use” pile and call it good. I might also try mixing some more green into the “olive” and see if that works. There’s so little green in the inspiration piece, though, that I probably won’t worry about it.

I still think my biggest danger with the afghan is that I love really bright saturated colors and I need to be careful I’m not dying up too many “accent” colors and losing the kinds of earthy neutrals The Professor is hoping will dominate the piece.

But I’m also hoping that the alpaca fleece I get works and I can just use that as the main neutral in the afghan.

Young Evil

I’m trying to find the heirs of the photographer–WC King of Chattanooga–who took the picture above. It ran in a 1958 issue of LIFE, but it was taken in December, 1954 in the aforementioned Chattanooga.

I recognize three bombers in that picture. The guys with arrows over their heads are the Bowling Brothers. The guy in the bow tie is J.B. Stoner. I’m fairly confident the guy standing to Stoner’s right is Ed Fields.

The guy on the far left looks familiar to me, but I can’t place him and I wonder if the guy on the far right is James Bagwell.

Small Things

–I read The Great God Pan this weekend and it is fantastic. It’s really fun, too, to think about how much the shift in culture since it first came out has changed how I read it.

Like, I was reading all these reviews after about how misogynistic it was and it made me laugh because, oh, oops, yes, I guess it probably is. But it’s just so obvious all these men are douchy monsters who tell themselves scary stories in order to feel justified killing a woman that it didn’t immediately occur to me that they’re the heroes.

–My dad’s friend is sending me all the fiber from her alpacas and llamas. Like five boxes worth. For free.

It’ll need extensive skirting, and I’ll have to figure out how to evaluate if it’s good or not.

But why is she willing to do this? Because otherwise they just throw it out.

This seems nuts to me, but then I was watching a video on sheep shearing and the farmer said she just tosses the wool because she can only get about $5 a piece for a fleece from the mills.

Which seems very much like there’s some kind of opportunity here. I’m willing to pay more than “free,” but I’d like to pay less than the $100 a pound alpaca roving runs. And I’m sure other fiber artists would, too.

So, someone needs to connect the people who are just tossing fiber in the trash with the people who would gladly take it off their hands.

–My whole goal for this weekend was to get my parents’ 50th Anniversary invitations sent out. I did not.

Memphis

Can a person look both fabulous and frumpy at the same time? Yes.

So, I went to Memphis to see Lost Delta Found, a book I acquired a million years ago, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. It was incredible. Every part of it.

First, I somehow picked exactly the right things to wear. I was so comfortable all night. And the sparkly eye shadow was so much fun. I even put some sparkles on my bottom lashes, though I don’t know if it was obvious to anyone but me. My hair came close enough to doing what I wanted. And, in general, at least it looked like I had tried to do something with it. But please note how one half my head is full of delicious soft waves and the other half is full of frizz that is slightly less pronounced than usual.

So, where to start? The pre-ceremony reception was awesome. I talked for a long time to the leader of Count Basie’s orchestra. Dom Flemon’s wife and I chatted about dresses (her dress was fantastic.) I was trying to find Robert, one of the editors of the book, but I ended up talking to a librarian and, lo, Robert appeared. I told the librarian this was a little like Sun-Tzu’s admonition to wait by the creek for the bodies of your enemies to float by. Wait by a librarian and all book people will eventually walk by.

Robert and I got seated in with the inductees and their families, because we were the book’s family. So, we were in the THIRD ROW! Y’all we sat in front of Bobby Rush! We were directly behind Duck Dunn’s family and in front of them was Joe Morganfield, Muddy Waters’ son. Holy fuck. He was so handsome.

Robert gave a lovely speech inducting the book and talked some about the history of getting it made. He said nice things about my place of employment and my editing skills and then he made me stand up so people could acknowledge me. It was nuts. So nuts and stupid. But wonderful. Sure, yes, clap for me as if I’m in the same league as everyone else. That’s not ridiculous at all.

How is this real life?

I have recently learned that there’s a Jack’s in Jackson and I really wanted that for lunch. But I was about a half an hour too early for lunch in Jackson when I left Memphis. So, I decided I would go see the Elbert Williams historical marker in Brownsville. Only, I wasn’t sure where it was.

So, I stopped at the Delta Heritage Museum and, y’all, not only did they give me great directions, they gave me their number so I could call if I got lost!

Anyway, here’s the Elbert Williams sign.

I hadn’t realized Marshall had looked into this incident. But holy fuck does it make the police trying to cart him off into the night after the Columbia Riots trials ended even more ominous.

Following the lead of the sign, I went out into the countryside to find the Taylor cemetery. I walked all around it and didn’t find a marker for Williams. I doubt there ever was one. It would have just been too dangerous.

But look here:

It’s hard to get a sense of just how huge this place is, but the big picture above is like of a third of it. And it’s really isolated. You go way out in the country. Go until it looks like there isn’t a road, go down that thing that isn’t a road until you come to a tiny round about in the middle of the graveyard.

I had a lot of thoughts about it. One was how brave the Taylor family was to put Williams in their graveyard. I didn’t see any other Williamses in their, so I don’t know if Elbert was family or why they did that for him, but it was so brave.

The other thing is that this cemetery is old, even if it’s not obvious by the stones. I think most of the graves were probably marked by wooden markers, but there are a couple of monuments to people buried in there (whose graves have been lost) who died antebellum. Like in the 1830s.

And I keep thinking about this cemetery compared with the Estes cemetery nearby and just how huge they are. And I know that cotton farming was a lot different than the half-assed farming we had going on in Middle Tennessee, that this land just held a lot more black people than over here.

But I can’t help but feel that something closer to this size is what we should be expecting at the Hermitage or at Fairvue or at Wessington. And we don’t see anything close to this.

Anyway, I guess now we’re back to real life.

What If I’m Literally Walking in Memphis in the Rain?

I’m going to see a book I acquired inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Today! I drive over today! This morning I have to pack and put my hair in pin curls and make sure my boa is stashed safely in the car. I even bought sparkly eye shadow!

It may be raining, though, which is a bummer, because my plan was to walk from the hotel to the induction site. I have an umbrella, but an umbrella, a boa, and a purse is a lot to manage.

Still, I’m very excited. And nervous. And delighted.

My Own Handspun Afghan!

That one row I was worried about with the green border looks fine! My antique moons look better than I imagined. In fact, they all look like moons. A blanket of 80 moons.

And I got some dyeing done on The Professor’s afghan.

That blue & green might not make it in (probably too bright), but I needed to practice my singles-spinning. But on the right, there’s some stuff I’m hugely excited about. The bottom is just bare fiber, no color added. The two browns are natural browns I had in my stash (and I have one more darker one I’m really excited about spinning). But check out the two on top! Can you see the tiny, tiny bits of color? A little blue, a little gold?

I’ve been studying the inspiration piece and the thing is that it feels like a mostly neutral piece with pops of color, but if you look at it for a while, you see that it’s actually a lot of very, very pale color with pops of that color at full value.

So, I’m having fun trying to get colors light enough to suit me.

Score one for the blue. The pink and yellow are okay. There are parts that strike me as light enough, but I may end up mixing them with white. I really love that light gray. But how’s this for embarrassing? It took me two tries to get black! From black dye!

Another thing I’ve been thinking hard about is how to mix my colors. The whole thing I love about spinning is seeing how the colors blend and change in a strand. How can I do the thing I love most in a way that best respects the spirit of the inspiration piece?

It’s fun to think about.

More Craft Talk

Not only did I spin my singles and set the twist and have them drying so that I can do a swatch, I worked on my afghan–the one I’m making for myself.

I almost finished, too, but at the last minute, I decided I could just finish it today.

But look!

I love it so much. It looks even better in person, because you can see all the sparkles, which don’t show up here.

This is the inspiration piece that The Professor sent me for her afghan. I’m excited about trying to get some of those light colors.

You all may remember my other Bauhaus afghan. I think I’m going to go for that same construction. I’ve given a lot of thought to how I could replicate the long lines in this one, but I’m honestly not that excited about changing the underlying structure of the afghan.

Singles

I’m so far behind on all my afghans, but I’m starting to think about the afghan I promised The Professor a couple of years ago. She asked for a Bauhaus blanket and I asked if it was okay if I used handspun yarn, because I’m loving the fuck out of spinning.

She’s fine with it. But, as I’m working on the afghan I’m making for me, I realize, I can’t send an afghan made like this to Fresno, where the average night time temperature most of the year is nine thousand degrees. I’m trying to cozy my friend, not bake her.

So, my thought is that I would just make the afghan out of singles–in other words, yarn made from one strand of twisted fiber, not two (or three, but I don’t know how to do that). Due to my lack of spinning skills, this would give me a thinner yarn than I’m capable of making with two plies. Thinner should equal cooler.

So, I read up on spinning singles and how it differs from spinning for plied yarn and it seems like the main difference is that you don’t want as much twist in your yarn, because, with plied yarn, the plying takes some of the twist out.

I spent the morning experimenting with singles. Just getting my feet to move slow enough is so tricky! But I think I’m going to be very happy with it.

The Professor has sent me a picture for inspiration, so now I’m off to the store to pick up some dye.

Work From Home

If you have a big project that requires a lot of concentration or if you are waiting around for a plumber or something, working from home is a godsend.

But this just random work from home nonsense?

I hate it. I don’t have any of the stuff I need. I’m lonely. And, when I want to take a break, I have all the shit I need to do around the house just staring at me like “Um, you going to sweep or what?”

Babies Galore

My sister-in-law liked her afghan! Everyone gasped, too, which made me so happy. And she had a fancy dress made that she wore, along with flowers, so she looked like a princess.

My niece continues to be a goddamn hilarious delight. We were trying to remain calm at dinner and so I put my hands together and “ohm”ed for her. She was very confused. “Why are you calling Jesus? Why does Jesus need to calm down?”

Y’all, I know it’s obvious. I know there’s even a song “Jesus is on the Main Line,” but it had never occurred to me that prayer is a phone call to Jesus.

Also, my nephew’s wife is pregnant. My sister-in-law called to tell me because she didn’t want me to be surprised at the shower. It’s kind of a clusterfuck, but also not my problem, so I get to just be happy about it.

But they just found out and they’re six months along. It’s a boy.

So, between bouts of teasing my brother about being a grandpa, I was trying to explain to my niece that she’ll be that baby’s aunt. But she doesn’t want to be a boy aunt! She’s going to be the baby’s nephew.

And my nephew, who is awesome, told her that she can be whatever she wants to be.

Also, my mom told me she’s kind of tired of hats. I don’t know if I will recognize her without an oddly decorated hat.