My recent projects

I just finished my first quilt of the year! It’s just a simple hexagon baby quilt–but it feels so good to finish a project. I learned a few tricks with my sewing machine with this process and some important details about fabric marking chalk that frustrated me terribly, but it’s done now and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

IMG_0187

I also worked on some jewelry storage for my bedroom–

IMG_0184.JPG

I think it turned out pretty good. I sewed antique lace to a fabric backing inside the frames. Here is a closer image:

IMG_0189.JPG

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Unsound

The funeral was a grueling affair. My father was wheeled in by his brother and parked in the front row beside me. He never lifted his head—he just stared at his knees through the whole service. There weren’t very many people in attendance. Family members numbered the most. Mom has—had—a really big family. The preacher droned on and on about how wonderful Mom was and people sniffled in the rows behind me. I couldn’t cry. I had already cried all of the liquid from my body and was left dry. Everyone looked at me strangely. They asked me “are you okay?” I didn’t have the voice to answer, but a quick nod usually sufficed.

The police officer said he was drunk—the guy who hit their car. Dad’s back was broken and he would never walk again, but I think his spirit was shattered. The only thing he had said since he woke up was “it should have been me” and he had cried until the nurse sedated him.

I stayed with Grandma Jo. A social worker came to see us about two weeks after it happened and Grandma Jo told her about my nightmares. I told them it was nothing, shrugging it off. Grandma Jo told her I saw my mother in my dreams and the woman nodded sagely.

“Of course she’ll dream about her. That’s perfectly normal.”

I was wondering why I was in the room if both of them were only going to talk about me, not to me. But I didn’t care enough to bother pointing it out. I sat silently through the entire meeting, waiting for the lady to leave.

The next day I went back to school. Even the mean girls left me alone (for a few days at least). The teachers were ingratiating and it set my teeth on edge. Nobody could talk about death or what it meant to die. Even the people who thought they had the answers seemed very uncomfortable around me. I lived in a fog of uncomfortable silences and meaningless platitudes.

When my dad got out of the hospital, we moved back to our single-wide just off the college campus. My dad still rarely spoke and was learning to get around in his wheelchair. He couldn’t reach the kitchen cupboards so I would take down anything I thought he would need for the day and put it on the counter. I made my own lunches, walked to school, came home, did homework and dishes and laundry and fell into bed every night exhausted. My world had shrunk into a very small void.

Getting my dad to go grocery shopping with me was very difficult. We had to ride the bus and he refused to go to the nearest store because that’s the one he used to work at. He only wanted to deal with people who would ignore him, not the ones who plied him with insipid smiles and insightful trifles like: “nowhere to go but up” and “Eva would want you to live your life”.

I was walking home from school one day ruminating on how to make some money so I could buy peanut butter without dealing with my dad. I stopped and perused the college billboard for “help wanted”. I was thinking I could babysit or mow lawns or something when a sign grabbed my attention. It read: Is ESP real? Do you have deja vu a lot? Can you read minds? Please volunteer for an experiment this Saturday in the Tobias Lab Room 119. Drop in any time between 10 am and 2 pm. Must be 18 years of age to participate. ID required. $50 upon completion of experiment.

I walked the rest of the way home with my mind racing. How could I lie about my age? I was tall and well built and most people thought I was a college student but how could I get an ID? I contemplated stealing a college girl’s but thought better of it after realizingmy face wouldn’t match the picture. I entered the rundown mobile home feeling defeated.

“Hey dad, I’m home!” I yelled as I dropped my backpack and trudged to the kitchen. There was no response, and I didn’t expect one. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and as I stood chewing, my eyes rested on mom’s purse slung over the pantry doorknob. She hadn’t taken it with her that awful night. I stood there and remembered all the times people had told me that I looked like her. We were called clones and sisters many times. I dumped the contents out onto the counter. A lip gloss, some change, a few receipts, her keys and a wallet rolled out. I opened it to reveal a driver’s license with an unflattering picture of my mother. I thought it would work if I wore some makeup and maybe one of her outfits. My stomach fluttered in anticipation.

Saturday morning was sunny and bright. I had picked out a very mature outfit. Tan slacks, a black and white blouse, and the sensible black shoes Grandma Jo had bought me for the funeral. I topped it off with a string of fake pearls and my hair in a bun like Mom had worn it a million times. I put on a little too much eye makeup and her lip gloss. The final touch was Mom’s purse slung over my shoulder.

“Bye, Dad!” I yelled as I rushed out the front door. I didn’t want him to see me dressed like that and carrying her purse. He might ask questions.

$50 wasn’t just a great incentive for me. There was a line out the door when I arrived at 10:15. After about five minutes of waiting, a man with a clipboard started coming down the line, looking at people’s ID and writing their name down on a lined sheet. As he came closer to me my heart began to race and I rehearsed what I would say. He asked everyone the same questions: “ID?” I pulled the wallet out and flashed the driver’s license. He barely looked at it. “Name?” “Eva Ashford” I answered confidently. He asked the same questions three more times and then told everyone else that they were not going to be a part of the experiment because they had all the applicants they could pay. Sorry to waste your time and stuff like that.

We shuffled forward slowly. The double doors remained closed until a man or a woman in a lab coat came and claimed the next person in line, ushering them inside Room 119. When it was my turn, the doors opened to reveal a young man with shaggy brown hair and a space between his two front teeth. He led me to a cubicle with a desk and two chairs and motioned me to sit in the one nearest one. He sat on the opposite side of the desk and set the clipboard down.

“Just a few things to get out of the way first”, he said with a sheepish smile. “Statistical stuff for the experiment, you know. Okay. Age?”

“30” I answered quickly.

“Sex? I think I can answer that one. Married?”

“Yes.”

“Occupation?”

“Student”, I hadn’t rehearsed this many questions and started to panic a little.

“It’s never too late, right?” He smiled at me.

I just nodded my head and smiled back, feeling awkward.

“Okay, that’s all of those I need you to answer.” He opened a desk drawer and pulled out another sheet of paper and a stack of oversized playing cards. “So, the first part of this is me holding up a card with the back to you like this. You need to tell me what’s on the other side. Okay?”

I nodded my head and smiled, feeling more confident.

“Ready?”

I nodded again.

“Um, a triangle with wavy things.”

He looked back and forth between me and the card for a few seconds before saying “Yeah”. He shook himself and put on his best poker face before lifting the next card from the deck.

“A square.”

He shuffled the deck before lifting the next one.

“A star.”

I let out a small giggle. The pale form of my mother stood behind my questioner, silently laughing with me.

Posted in fiction | 2 Comments

Art 101 (or starting again after 20 years)

I’m not sure why I stopped being artistic. The last project I remember doing on my own was in the seventh grade (at least 20 years ago). I haven’t always enjoyed my time at YVCC, but my art class last quarter and one this quarter have been so much fun. I’ts also helping me get over my fear of rejection. That one fear has kept me motionless for so long, but I’m not going to let it any more.

phone2 385

I get a lot of satisfaction from creating and I plan on doing more. I’m thinking about auditing more art classes next year.

I hope everyone has a creative day!phone2 384

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Nameless Threat (Part 3)

After dinner I realized I hadn’t checked on Roger’s cat all day. I thought it would be nice to get away by myself for a few minutes but Opal invited herself along.

“I’m just dying to see what that prissy man’s house looks like.”

Better than mine, that was certain. Roger had the best taste and never had to compromise because of spouse or children. Everything was beige and tan with splashes of blue, green and burgundy. My house is decorated in blue. The kitchen is blue, the bathroom is blue, and the living room is blue. Gordon thought his “you-know-what” would fall off if flowered fabric touched our bedroom or living areas.

I found Roger’s key on my jumbled key-ring and we dived out of the frigid air, closing the door behind us. My mother-in-law started snooping immediately; leafing through piles of papers and looking at his mail.

“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”

“Look at this”, she said excitedly.

I glanced in her direction. “What? A manila envelope?” I used my best “who gives a crap” tone.

“Where is that cat?” I decided to let Opal be nosy. I’d never known Ginger to miss a feeding, most of the time food acted like a magnet on that cat. After checking the bathroom and glancing in the other rooms I told myself that she was probably sleeping under a bed and hadn’t heard me come in. My mother-in-law was on the floor with her hand under the sofa and jumped up as I walked into the living room.

“This man definitely keeps a clean house.”

“Let’s see, I put food and water out. I think I’m forgetting something. Oh, yeah, the litter box, but I can do that tomorrow. It’s all the way in the basement.” I didn’t think one night with a dirty litter box would kill her.

The next morning we awoke to a cacophonous din in the kitchen. It could only be one thing.

“Ugh, your mother is cooking.”

“Sounds more like smashing”, was Gordon’s less than humorous comment.

I rolled out of bed and slid my fuzzy slippers on. As I rounded the corner to the kitchen, I wished I’d stayed in bed. All of my cooking supplies were dumped in piles around the kitchen and on the counters.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m organizing your cupboards. They were a mess, dear. I can’t believe nobody taught you to keep house better than this. I’m sure your mother did, you just didn’t listen.” She was waving a saucepan at me when I decided I needed some coffee.

“Where’s the coffeepot?” Dammit, she buried my lifeline. After I cleared a space on the counter and started the coffee I surveyed the damage. My kitchen was salvageable. It’s not that my cupboards didn’t need to be cleaned I just hated my mother-in-law pointing it out. I mentally shrugged my shoulders; might as well take advantage of her digging.

I found three empty boxes in the garage and a green tote that I couldn’t remember the contents of. I drug them all in and heard the coffeepot give a final gurgle that signals its completion.

“Are you ever going to get dressed today?”

I looked up at the clock on the microwave; it was 7:45. And it was Sunday for crying out loud! I took a swig of coffee—this was going to be a long day. I drug a chair into the kitchen and took the lid off the tote.

“Come and look at this, Mom.”

It was full of stuff from the boys’ childhood. There were drawings, pictures, and miscellaneous stuff from school. I couldn’t believe I forgot about it.

“Look, Alex drew this after Sean was born.”

“Oh, and look at this!” She was holding a clay circle with handprints in it.

The more I dug the more disgusted I was with myself.

“You know, I really need to get some scrapbooks and organize some of this stuff.”

“We’ll get some while we’re shopping today.”

“Where are we going shopping?” This was the first I heard about leaving the house.

“I definitely need to get some groceries so that I can cook dinner tonight and I need to buy a new outfit.”

Gordon rounded the corner and looked confused when his mother inserted herself between him and the coffeemaker.

“There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

I was wondering when she was going to get around to this. Gordon gave me a wide-eyed look of panic, but I wasn’t going to save him.

“You need to make some phone calls about finishing off the basement. I’ll need a small kitchen and bathroom, I’m not that picky. . .”

This was going to take a while. I decided we needed some pancakes for breakfast and dumped the pile I had made back into the tote.

“Mom, it’s Sunday. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get ahold of anyone.”

He sidestepped her and poured himself a cup of coffee.

“I think we should look at some small apartments. You get a pension from Dad’s retirement, right? We’ll have to look at your budget, and see what you can afford. Have you decided whether or not you’re going to sell the house?”

“I don’t want to live by myself. Do you want me to get raped or murdered?” Her arms were crossed now, and I knew she meant business. “If you can live with your guilt.” She finished with a flourish up the stairs. I had to give her points for drama.

“She’s not living with us.” He hissed at me.

“Maybe we should look at bigger houses.”

“We just got this house paid off, I’m not going to sell it and get into another mortgage because my mother tells me to. I’m 46 years old for chrissake.”

He was angrier than I had seen him in a long time. This was great; here I was, stuck between the guilt-queen and my husband. I yelled a silent scream and heaped my plate with pancakes.

“She doesn’t drive, so we’ll have to find an apartment close by.”

Gordon set his plate down beside mine and nodded his head. We ate in silence until Opal made her appearance again. Gordon was heading out the door before I could look up.

“Where are you going?”

“To get the paper.” The door slammed behind him.

“I guess all I get is toast. That’s all I deserve anyway.”

Crap. She was off and running with the guilt machine.

“I’m not one to complain, but my son has gotten even more rude. I took care of my parents in their later years. I diapered and fed him, and what thanks do I get?”

How do you answer a question like that? I decided she didn’t need an answer and started cleaning up the mess she had created in my kitchen.

“I’m going to have a few boxes to take to the Goodwill drop-box soon. You wanna go to the mall with me?” I was waving the white flag of truce.

“I need to go to JC Penney and try on clothes.”

Immediate danger of war had been averted. Why was I thinking in newspaper headlines? And thinking of newspapers, where did Gordon disappear to? He probably wandered into the yard or something. I looked out the dining room window, trying to see the mailbox. Gordon was laying in Roger’s yard with his arm in the evergreen bushes dividing our yards. What was he doing?

I hustled out the front door.

“What are you doing?”

“Ginger got out somehow, I tried to shoo her back into the house.”

I glanced at the open back door, and began digging in the evergreen too. I touched fur in my wild groping and pulled out a hissing ball of anger. I ran through the back door with Gordon on my heels. As soon as I heard the door slam I chucked Ginger and examined the damage to my arm. If Roger knew I had let Ginger escape he may never talk to me again. My heart rate began returning to normal, and I started to wonder: How had Ginger gotten out? My instincts told me that it hadn’t been my fault.

“How did she get out? I remember vividly shutting and locking the door behind me last night.”

“The door was locked. I had to dig in the planter for the spare.”

I looked around the room; nothing seemed to be disturbed. Something wasn’t right, though, I could feel it. I walked slowly around the living room, scanning for anything amiss. I walked to the bar where I had been stacking the mail and wondered if it had been this messy last night, but I couldn’t be sure. I stood there chewing my lip until Gordon asked me if anything was wrong.

“No. I guess not. I mean, well, maybe.”

He gave me a puzzled look.

“Last night I couldn’t find Ginger. I just assumed she was inside. She had been inside in the morning and I hadn’t been here all day, there was no way she could have gotten out. Right?”

“Well she obviously did. Maybe she ran outside when you opened the door.”

“Maybe.” But I didn’t think so.

“Well, Ginger’s safe now.” Gordon turned and walked outside toward the mailboxes.

I almost shut the door but hesitated when I spied Opal speed-walking up the driveway. She closed the door, clutching her robe. I assured myself she wasn’t going to have a heart attack and decided to make sure the cat had food and water.

“Oh, my goodness.” I could hear the barely concealed excitement in Opal’s hushed voice. “I bet there was a burglar in here. Maybe he’s still here, hiding in the basement. Better yet, I bet there’s a body down there. We should go look.” She threw open the door to the basement stairs.

The idea of a body laying somewhere in the house scared the pee out of me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Stream of Consciousness Assignment

My husband is much more focused than I am. He has ambitions and dreams. I don’t. Well, I dream of living in a cottage near the ocean. Not much of an ambition, but there it is. I think my dreams got dialed down about the time my children were toddlers. My locus of control was snatched from me and I have no idea how to get it back. You see, in order to raise children you must grow up in alarming ways. I was 21 when my first child was born and I had no idea what I was getting into. It didn’t matter that every older woman in my vicinity delighted in telling me that I was losing control; I didn’t believe it. Until one day the last fibers of my rope slipped from my fingers and I swam in space and time not knowing where my horizon went. I looked at my toddler, my second child, he was so angry because I had made him go to his room for punishment of a crime I no longer remembered or cared about. My intentions as a mother were simple even in the beginning–to raise my children to become perfect adults. In retrospect, it was so silly. My children are going to be the people they choose to be, not what I choose for them. But anyway, I digress. Back to me. I signed up for classes at the local Community College and loved it for about a year. I excelled in math and english; biology wasn’t for me. I learned some things about myself. I got a part time job at the local library (I love books and thought it would be a perfect fit) as a page. I didn’t mind that my only job was to put away books, I enjoyed putting them in order and placing them on the shelf back where they belong, ready to be checked out by the next customer; back where they could whisk someone out of their daily life. The other women who worked there were so unhappy in their own little lives and didn’t understand how I could only work 12 hours a week, or how I could be satisfied with placing books back on the shelf. There was one other page there; a homely young woman going to the same Community College. She did nothing. I mean nothing. She sat on a stool and browsed the internet. When I would come in the next day, everything would be just as I had left it–nobody else could put things away. But the thing that got me was that nobody noticed. Nobody said “Thank you. You do such a good job.” So I left. I quit. But I also quit school and that was a bad thing. I quit because I couldn’t see where I was going. I still can’t. My ambitions are dark, nimbus things just out of reach. I have a better job now, but I still don’t know where I am going. I work at the county courthouse in the Law Library and it’s good, but not perfect. I want to write but can’t make myself do it every day. I am still floating.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

My Craft Supplies Addiction

I have a confession. My name is Janelle, and I have a craft supplies addiction. I need an intervention–stat.

Why? I ask myself (after I get home).

I am in the process of sewing squares into strips that will make my “Winter Birds” quilt. I love this fabric and have had this quilt on my mind for at least a year. Why, then, can’t I just enjoy the process? Why did I need to go in search of new projects today? I bought 4 patterns (on sale, of course), 4 yards of fabric and felt remnants (at a craft store going out of business), and brought home a many new ideas for future craftiness (that I didn’t need). I want to make quilts, bags, dolls and doll clothes, clothing and costumes. So many ideas swirling around in my head. But to finish a project takes an act of willpower–I want to start on the new thing, pick out new fabric. It’s an illness. An addiction.

I need to quit my job.

Posted in diary | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Nameless Threat (Part 2)

We were watching my mother-in-law make her way through the small airport wearing bright pink pants and a wild shirt. She was hard to miss as she bee-lined for the counter. Two seconds later we heard the loudspeaker: “Will Mr. and Mrs. Giroux come to the front counter, your party is waiting.”

I couldn’t believe she didn’t even look around. Gordon shot me a look that I chose to ignore and we headed for the front desk.

“You’re looking well, Mother”, she should be flattered; that was the most he had spoken all morning. Instead, she was miffed when he sidestepped her hug.

“Hi, Mom, how was the flight?” I knew that would lead her into a full tirade and let Gordon off the hook for conversation.

“First of all, I wouldn’t call it flight it’s more like a butter churn and those waitresses are so rude . . .” I wasn’t going to interrupt and correct her. Gordon gave me another eyes-rolled-into-his-head look as he picked up her bags.

We waited at the front of the terminal for my husband to pull the Buick around.

“ . . . and you’ll never believe what she said to me”, my mother-in-law never waited for a response. “She said, what do you expect when you’re as old as we are? Can you believe that? Referring to me as old. Sixty-nine isn’t old.”

“Oh, there’s Gordon.”

While I threw her carry-on into the trunk, the old bag settled her fat little butt in the front seat next to Gordon. My eye began to twitch and I’d been in the vicinity of my mother-in-law for twelve minutes.

I couldn’t see my husband’s face from my vantage in the back seat, but I was sure he was driving with his eyes rolled into his head. Every time my mother-in-law came to visit, my husband turned into the most sarcastic man I have ever met. Usually so amiable, his mother begins to annoy him the moment they are in contact.

“ . . . I mean who really cares anymore, right?”

“Hey, look Mom, there’s a really nice retirement home. And the sign says they give free tours.” I love my husband; he had assured us of at least five minutes of angry silence. I lay my head back and closed my eyes.

My houseguest looked at the futon with loathing.

“This is where I’m sleeping?”

“Yes, Opal, it’s the best we could do with less than two weeks’ notice.”

“Where do the boys sleep when they come to visit?”

“In here, or on the couch.”

“You make your children sleep on the couch?” She made it sound like I made them sleep outside.

I watched her unpack her belongings, talking incessantly the entire time. The roots of her hair were gray and the rest a flat black and teased to an inch of its fuzzy life. She told me once that big hair made your butt look smaller, but looking from this angle I could have told her it didn’t work. She had always been small, about 5 feet 1 and thin until her golden years. She was shocked when her son brought home a ‘big girl’. That’s what she calls me— 5’7” is taller than most women, but not gigantic.

“How much do you think that would cost?” She was facing me now, her things very neatly put away.

“I’m sorry. How much would what cost?”

“You haven’t been listening to me again.” She had her hands on her hips now. “I think we should look into converting the basement into an apartment for me. That way, I could have a little kitchen and my own bathroom.”

Oh, my God, she thought she was going to live here. Forever. Or until she died, and with her genetic makeup that could almost be forever.

“Well, ummm, I’m not sure.”

“Gordon can call about it first thing in the morning.”

He was going to kill me, or his mother, or both. Double homicide, I could see the headlines now.

“What about Charlie?”

“What about him?”

“Well, he has a bigger house and makes more money. Maybe you’d be happier living with him?”

“Living here I can see my grandsons when they come to visit and you know I can’t stand Sarah. There’s no house big enough for the two of us, and Charlie kisses her butt so much. . .” And she was off. I could never understand why Opal hates her other daughter-in-law so much. Sure, her eldest cow tows to his wife but they both seem happy. Like my father-in-law didn’t kiss this woman’s butt, maybe they were too much alike to get along.

I decided I should pay more attention to what she was saying from now on.

“You were too young when you had Alex. I can’t believe a medical student didn’t know how to use birth control . . .” Maybe I would stick with what had worked for so long.

As the door was opened, my mother-in-law wrinkled her nose.

“What’s that smell?”

I took a deep breath, “Curry.”

“Oh, my God, he’s trying to kill me. He knows I can’t eat spicy foods. . .”

She kept muttering to herself as she descended the stairs. I took another deep breath because I love curry. I especially love my husband’s chicken with curry sauce. I love this house too, and the cooking smells add to the homey ambiance. It had been built around 1940 with two big bedrooms upstairs and one down. Alex and Sean had shared this bedroom while they were growing up and the other had been turned into an office long ago. Only one bathroom to share with that woman was going to be a problem. I love this house, but we’re going to have to move. I chuckled to myself; maybe we should just leave my mother-in-law here.

Posted in fiction, humor, mystery | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment