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Month: January 2016

Quick Like

A quick post to let you know I’m on page 62 of Jazzy and the Pirate!

This is big news.

I’ve been researching and researching and organizing research and organizing research some more.

Now I’m writing.

And I’m, like, a fifth of the way done!

That’s all.

Oh, and I’m trying to add a Like button to my posts. That way, if you like what you’ve read, but don’t feel like making a full comment, you can Like the post. Bugs still appear to be impeding this upgrade, but I will continue to work on it. Please rest assured: management is committed to improving your blog-reading experience. 🙂

 

 

I call our apartment in New Orleans our “grand baby apartment.” We never would’ve leased the apartment and begun spending half our time in the Crescent City but for the presence of our grandson in the city. Consequently, I knew I wanted a way to display photos of the boy. I also knew the boy would grow, and I would want to display newer, more recent photos. Soon I would have spent a ton of money on framing . . .  and run out of wall space.

So I devised this system involving metal rods, magnetic strips, and photos.IMG_3095

I bought the metal rods at Ace Hardware and nailed them vertically to the wall. The photos I print at Walgreens.com for pennies. I snip the metal tape into small strips and tape it to the back of the photos. (The tape has self-adhesive, but I found it wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of the photo for an extended period of time.) Then I arrange the photos on the metal rods. Once the photos are in place, you do not see the rods.

A section of the metal rods with photos attached
A section of the metal rods with photos attached

We’ve grown to two grandsons now. I never anticipated what a kick they’d get out of these photos. They sit at the table and gaze at the display, searching out themselves, their Mama, their Daddy, us.

I used two rods 'cause I knew I'd want lots of photos
I used two rods ’cause I knew I’d want lots of photos

I replaced a group of photos with new ones this week. I can’t wait for the boys to come over and find the new pictures.

Here you can see the full effect
Here you can see the full effect

Don’t know why I’ve been posting so much about my crafty projects lately, but there it is!

 

 

Boro Sack Repair

I’ve been trying this new boro sewing, which is a form of reverse patching. Unlike normal patching, the patch is on the inside of the tear and the stitching on the outside. This exposure of the repair job really appeals to me. Here are my ripped jeans repaired when I decided the rips were getting out of hand.

My ripped jeans repaired by boro
My ripped jeans repaired the boro way

Never one to let an opportunity slip by unappreciated, I next turned to a vintage burlap sack I bought from France when we first moved to New Orleans. I had stuffed the sack with an ordinary bed pillow—large—and used it as a bolster pillow on our sofa. It didn’t last long. The burlap began to shred. I was forced to give it up, though I loved the look of it. Now I saw a chance to save the sack.

Here are my supplies. I chose indigo thread because I liked the indigo with the burlap, and it matched the cut up old jeans I was using as patching. Plus, the indigo seemed kind of French to me, an appropriate companion to the French sack. The boro thread requires a large needle, not pictured. Turned out, the white thread wasn’t needed at all. A boro thimble is optional.You can see the small leather thimble in between the scissors and indigo thread. The thimble is worn on the inside of the middle finger. I love the leather thimble.

I bought the boro thread from an Etsy site on boro stitching
I bought the boro thread from an Etsy site on boro stitching

Here’s a close up of the thimble

Leather thimble worn on the inside of the middle finger
Leather thimble worn on the inside of the middle finger

Here’s the stitching up close

The stitch is a simple running stitch
Boro uses a simple running stitch

Here’s the first patch underway

The project would’ve been easier with straight pins, but I had only safety pins, which are awkward

The sack turned out to have more rips than I remembered. And it was more wrinkled from being packed away. But, what the heck—I needed a project, so I persevered.

My friend who knows about these things said the burlap was probably in dry rot
My friend who knows about these things said the burlap was probably in dry rot

I love the look of the contrast stitchesIMG_3086IMG_3085
The project took longer than I thought. I sewed for a while. Here’s the final product.

The vintage grain sack repaired with indigo thread
The vintage sack repaired with indigo thread

Was it worth it? The sack can’t be actually used; the rips would continue to appear. But I can arrange it high atop a wooden chest in the new beach house. The floors of the house will be blue. And the accent color will be indigo. And I’m kind of into faux French things these days. Here’s my new hair do, which a friend described as a French journalist look.

I thought I looked like a spy
I thought I looked like a spy

So, I’m glad I did it. My sack will be usable until it isn’t. That, to me, is a success.

Ellen’s Amazing Adventure

Our five days of babysitting duties completed, we restarted our day with “second breakfast.” It being Carnival season and all, we chose this as our sumptuous second breakfast treat.

IMG_2760
King Cake from Cake Cafe–ours was apple and goat cheese, the cafe’s specialty

Then we hit the road to Bay St. Louis, a small town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast forty-five minutes from New Orleans where we are building a beach house (have I told you that?). We pinned down the paint palette for the outside of the house (for joy, for joy!)

Olympic Sapphire paint for the beach house
Olympic Sapphire paint for the beach house, which is a deeper indigo than this photo conveys

and we toted home wood samples for the kitchen island and kitchen table—don’t you love physical objects? There’ll be no cabinets in the house, except lower cabinets around the stove. We’ll be using a simply designed island and a table by the refrigerator, both wood.

American Cedar (bottom) and Peruvian Walnut (top) for kitchen table and kitchen island
American Cedar (left) and Peruvian Walnut (right) for kitchen table and kitchen island, respectively—unstained, clear finished. I love beautiful wood.

On our way to and from Bay St. Louis, we took Chef Menteur Highway/90 East. This route is slightly longer than the I-10 route we usually follow, but it passes Lake St. Catherine (the shallow lake between Lake Ponchartrain to the north and Lake Borgne to the south)  and the Rigolets (the strait connecting Lake St. Catherine to Lake Borgne), all of which eventually open to the Gulf. These water routes into New Orleans have shaped the city’s history, including its age of pirates and the devastating surge from Hurricane Katrina. As a result, they figure prominently in the novel I’m working on, Jazzy and the Pirate, so I was all-out, nerd-alert, goober-head excited about what I was seeing. Here’s just a taste:

The return trip home immediately past Fort Pike, the Rigolets, and Lake St. Catherine
The return trip home immediately past Fort Pike, the Rigolets, and Lake St. Catherine

As if this weren’t cool enough, I’m reading aloud about Fort Pike, the turn off for which we had just passed, and I’m making up stories that would convince the powers-that-be to let me into the by-appontment-only attraction (“I’m a famous writer working on a novel about Fort Pike” (the honey) or “I’m a blogger and I’ll talk bad about you if you don’t let me in” (the vinegar)) when I mentioned to my husband that Fort Pike might be the actual local of Carcosa from the final scene of the first season of True Detective.

If you didn’t watch True Detective, it’s gonna be hard for me to describe the eerily disturbing, grass-covered, tunnel-riddled, brick ruin used in the finale. The show’s first season was set in New Orleans, and I knew they’d used an old fort for the deranged killer’s hangout, and I was thinking it might be Fort Pike.

So I’m thumbing the phone, researching, and I correct myself, “No, that was Fort Macomb, and it’s closed to tourists because it was badly damaged by Katrina.” I relay this information at the same time my husband points left.

Yep. Fort Macomb.

Fort Macomb
Fort Macomb

My brilliant husband took a radical turn, and I ran from the car, passing along the way the dramatic evidence of why the fort was closed to the viewing public

The damaged walkway
The damaged walkway

I would’ve given anything to get to the other side where the arches and tunnels are revealed, but not being Matthew McConaughey (un, huh, I’m including a link to Matthew McConaughey for the two of you who don’t know who he is), I had to be grateful for what I could getIMG_2939

and I wasIMG_2942

We left this riveting landscape

The Irish Bayou outside New Orleans proper
The Irish Bayou outside New Orleans proper

and continued on home. Oh, and on this amazing adventure? I was wearing the jeans I mended using the Japanese Boro mending technique I’m only learning to do but am wildly excited about.

My boro repaired jeans
My boro repaired jeans

All in all, a fantastic day.

 

I’m pleased to report that the essay Grief: The Best I Can Do will be published in Exterminating Angel Press: The Magazine. EAP is an amazing magazine whose ethic is spreading ideas, not exclusivity. So the “already published” nature of the essay is not an issue.  In fact, the magazine encourages writers to get their work out anywhere they can, thus seeding the germinating idea in every garden possible.

Isn’t that refreshing?

In the current issue of the magazine, I particularly enjoyed the poem Turkish Coffee by Marissa Bell Toffoli. I also went back and read the essay Three Dogs and a Branch by Tim J. Myers from September. The magazine published an excerpt from THE BONE TRENCH entitled One Wrong Step and You’ve Brought on the Last Days. Thus, the magazine is near and dear to my heart.

In an aside, THE BONE TRENCH is currently being considered by an editor at a wonderful publishing house. You can read about the long journey of this novel here. My wonderful agent at the Virginia Kidd Agency is doing a fabulous job of getting it into the right hands. So send good thoughts to the editor, surrounding her with vibes that hum, “I love this manuscript! I love this manuscript! I must buy this manuscript!”

Finally, I’m a little—what? bemused? mystified?—to share that the Grief essay was picked up by a service called The Obitstream.com Daily. I learned about this via a Twitter notification. Perusing my notifications, I discovered a tweet by ObitStream.com including my Twitter name. Following this link, I found this new service that contains curated articles about grief. Who knew? It’s an ever-changing brave new world out there.

I’m hoping—fingers crossed—the popping of this publication news portends a fruitful 2016!

  1. Names of acquaintances not recently seen
  2. My temper when someone I love is being bullied
  3. Anything being transported between Memphis and New Orleans
  4. How to spell “wierd” … um, “weird”
  5. Me, driving anywhere
  6. My glasses, which I rarely wear and when I do, I take them off and on, off and on—now where are they?
  7. A race against Evangeline, whether by dog or man
  8. A fight with Godzilla
  9. Recollection of bad things that have happened to me over the years
  10. Anger at my husband
  11. Muscle tone
  12. The rule about using commas around a named thing (“my book The Bone Trench”–to comma or not?)
  13. Power on my phone
  14. Details of a dream
  15. The willpower not to eat potato chips
  16. Forgiveness towards a person who repeats the perceived offense
  17. Socks in the dryer
  18. The wisp of youthful beauty
  19. Concentration when a baby is crying
  20. A tube of lipstick
  21. Anything when the grandkids are in the house
  22. Tolerance in the face of meanness
  23. A tan
  24. Passwords
  25. Peace of mind as the gas tank runs dry
  26. Hopelessness in the face of love

 

                                                                     Happy 2016!

The Saints Dog relazing
The Saints Dog relaxing

 

Grow a Brain

One year at Christmas I took home a brain. On the drive up, we had stopped at a Cracker Barrel and amongst the clutter of all that Made in China crap, I found a brain kit. (This is a true story).

The brain kit fit my budget—less than five bucks—and the checkout line was short enough to justify the wait, so I forked over my money and bought the brain. I also bought an alligator, but that’s a different story.

When I arrived home and announced my gift, the fam was underwhelmed. I guess they expected more than a Made in China brain kit from me, the responsible, former-lawyer daughter. But life had been eating at me for a while, and I needed a distraction. My sister graciously handed over her kitchen to be used as a laboratory and my niece, who was still in college and game for anything, signed on as lab assistant. Standing at the tiled counter of my sister’s incredible kitchen, my niece and I studied the printed instructions on the back of the kit, making jokes about how this actually was brain science.

We were not dissecting the brain. If the Made in China instructions were to be believed, we would be growing it.

We secured a Ziploc disposable container from my sister—disposable because she didn’t want to reuse the container after a brain had been lodged in it—and set to work. Testing the tap water for temperature (brains are very delicate organs), we filled the container with healthful, fluoridated H2O. Then carefully, so as not to disturb the nascent brain, we lowered it into the water.

The brain, no bigger than a gumball, bobbed through the water. We watched its journey. The instructions promised the brain would grow over 600%, a massive increase in brain power. The wormy contour of the brain foretold amazing results—the instructions actually used the word “magic.” Slowly, the brain sank, nestling in the corner of the container.

The full operation would take 72 hours. We did the math. Three days. We set out our tools: a pad and ink pen to record our observations and the brain’s progress. Furthermore, my lab assistant would replenish the brain solution (H20) at regular intervals and note on the pad the execution of these duties. All we had to do was wait.

*

Have you ever seen old stone steps where the middle sags like the backbone of a broken-down mule? That’s the repeated falling of footsteps, wearing away the concrete. Thoughts do that to the brain. Our brains, as we go through life, change. We are the engines of that change, running channels in our brain with our repeated thoughts. The neurons for the thoughts you gravitate towards with astounding regularity—worry, for example—grow stronger, and worry thoughts fly through your brain easier than, say, peace thoughts. It’s interactive, you see? Worrying is easier than generating peaceful thoughts, so you worry more often, for the brain is also a lazy son of a bitch.

The monks, the meditatives, the yogis who preach (preach, sister, preach) about stillness, quiet time, retreats into nature, space without thought—you can listen to them or not. But your brain is bobbing inside its bony skull, waiting for some assistance. “Come to me as a child,” Jesus said. Your brain needs your help.

*

My lab assistant’s face lit up as the brain began to grow. What had been the size of a walnut (and shaped like one, with its bifurcated, ridged halves) had grown to resemble a big fat plum. Brain growth was obviously slow. Slow as, well, Christmas.

The brain generated, protected underwater, and I could imagine it humming in support of its activity. The surface looked slimy. The brain’s nickname is ol’ gray matter, but this brain was blue. A pale, alluring blue.

My lab assistant had retreated to make gingerbread cookies or something. I lifted the Ziploc and swished the container back and forth. The brain swam from side to side, an awkward pebble rolled by the stream of life. I cradled the container in the crook of my elbow and petted the brain. It was slimy. Who knows if my touch caused damage to the newly forming brain or not. Curiosity, the cat, and all that.

Transporting the brain to the sink, I turned on the faucet and let the water run against the porcelain until it was warm, then eased back on the volume and positioned the Ziplock under the faucet. The warm water sussed in, setting the brain to dancing. I returned the brain to the kitchen counter. The brain settled down, contemplating its watery world. I recorded my ministrations.

*

The Force. Everyone recognizes the Force. “May the Force be with you.” What if the Force is a big ol’ brain? This big ol’ brain surrounds the world, and we shape it by our actions. Act kind, and the world brain cuts a kindness channel so that all future acts of kindness travel more easily. Act violent, and the same is true. Every act we take might help form the world we will live in. Maybe we all have a role to play here, on the large stage as well as the small. Maybe if I set my mind to acts of kindness, then kindness will become more a part of both me and the world.

*

The seventy-two hours done, the brain had grown to the size of a baseball. Maybe 600%, I don’t know. My time with my fam was up. My lab assistant was called to return to lecture halls and unmade dorm beds. The experiment was over.

But what to do with the brain? Later, I would learn that had I removed the brain from its Ziplock, poured out the healing water, and sealed the brain in a baggy, the brain would have returned to its original size. Then, whenever I needed to grow my brain, I could have repeated the experiment. But somehow in our haste to get the brain experiment underway, my lab assistant and I missed this information printed on the back of the card. Offered in fine print, no doubt, available only to the truly discerning.

I don’t want to describe giving up my brain. It involved a drain and a garbage bag. All that effort to nurture the brain, the care taken, the periodic checkings and the recordings, the oohing and ahhing over the little brain becoming a big brain, and it was gone. Drop a pebble in my palm, and I can fall in love with it before its jagged edges hit my skin.

*

I’ve experienced incredible healing this year. And incredible sorrow. What will the New Year bring? Will it be soaked in happiness and honey, or will it slap me upside the head? I don’t know. Here’s to each of our poor brains in their effort to grow and understand and comprehend and travel through the darkness into the light. May our actions make the world a better place.

My little brain
My little brain

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt | EllenMorrisPrewitt.com