A Quarantine Story in Fabric

Late in 2020, I lost my writing as well as podcast voice but eventually found a voice in fabric as I bought a sewing machine right as lockdown began in March 2020. PS. I’m 76 now and don’t feel a day over 96.

The “MJ” bag

The passport bag began with scans of my old passport stamps and then made into a repeat pattern digital file I could then have made into the fabric of my choice. It reminded me as I traveled only within my four walls that I had once traveled the world without fear.

The “Chaos” bag was azalea branch dipped into ink made from a French company that says it sold inks to Napoleon. Since Napoleon ended up exiled to an island, I bought these expensive inks in hopes the same would happen to our dictator. I used an azalea branch because a traditional brush was just not chaotic enough to express my sentiments.

The bleeding hearts bag began with a photograph I took of bleeding hearts in my condo complex. Since I was learning to sew and design fabrics, I made this photo into fabric with three backgrounds: yellow, red, and black.

2020 contained daily death numbers and slowly we all began to know someone who had the virus. Bleeding hearts seemed to express national as well as world grief over this pandemic.

My best friend of 60 years died in a long-term care facility as I was finishing this bag, not of COVID, but after 10 years of particularly cruel dementia that first robbed her of speech, then memory, and then any physical movement, including even opening her eyes. I was not able to visit her at all in 2020 because the facility was very strict about its COVID protocols. That I was not able to kiss her head or hold her hand in a year will haunt me forever. Over 540,000 families in the US know this haunting. It is inconceivable to me that my family members who passed in 1989, 1998, and 2001 would have had to die without any of their family members in the room. Inconceivable. So, the bleeding hearts bag shall carry her memory, and included in that memory is her loud, glass-breaking laugh. No one would have laughed louder at the sight of me at a sewing machine than my best friend, Mary Jane. ‘Domestic Arts” was simply not on my resume in 76 years. I call it the “MJ” bag because that’s what I called her when we were ourselves.

More flowers and plants can be viewed here.

Can’t Control Mitch, Filibuster, Mutant viruses, or COVID Vaccination Appointments. But, I’m back.

Some time ago, a friend said my quarantine hair reminded them of a nest of albino sparrows exploding over my head.

Since my head literally has been exploding routinely since my last post on October 6, 2020, I am happy to have a poetic version of this visual. I had a temporary reprieve on Jan 20th and I do breathe a bit deeper in general. An adult is, at last, in charge. But, inheriting NO federal program for vaccinations and mutant viruses more transmittable? Well, a mess is a mess and it is not solved overnight. My governor has always been an adult but even this phase is straining his competence.

I was told by a charming PT in a virtual appointment that in order to improve my balance I should focus not on the ground (which I routinely do) but about six feet in front of me. So, that is my mandate for 2021. Focus on six feet ahead and not an inch further.

In Massachusetts today, January 27, 2021, folks my age, 75+ are eligible to make a vaccination appointment starting Feb 1st when we are eligible to receive vaccinations. Sounds good? Yeah, it does. But, so far, out of the gate, there’s no appointments available to schedule. And, I’m good on the tech side so it’s not tech illiteracy as I’m sure other seniors are experiencing.

A woman in Florida or California or New York, I can’t remember which, but all these states are having issues with making vaccination appointments, said, “I don’t mind waiting my turn. I just want to know I have a turn.”

Yep. The two 75+ folks I know who have received the vaccine, one in Florida, one in California, both received theirs by sheer luck, not organized programs.

So, I temper my anxiety about this chaos by realizing that it is also not entirely sure what difference it makes whether I am vaccinated or not. Yes, I would be immunized myself but I would still be able to transmit the virus to others. So, actually, seeing people? This is obviously dependent on a much wider swath of people being vaccinated.

I am more quarantined today than I was in the spring of 2020. I no longer go inside anywhere. It is a bit less claustrophobic because I do grocery store pick up and unlike the spring, there are now daily available timeslots. My library is now available for pick-up of books but wasn’t in the spring, and Amazon is back to Prime 2 day delivery which was not possible in spring. So, that is my version of looking on the positive six feet ahead for this week.

I also discovered that my passport fabric designed several years ago when I realized my world was narrowing at supersonic speeds, can be made into soft, snuggly throw blankets that make me smile as I read or watch TV or binge watch or rip out seams of a sewing project gone wrong. I made one for my 50+-year-old niece and one of the stamps is from a trip we made to Europe when she was 16! I made another for my grand niece for her high school graduation this spring. She has applied to colleges in the US as well as Europe. So, my gift is of hope for travel as well as memory.

This made me think I could design similar gifts for others. Most have passports and perhaps their travel starved pandemic life might enjoy a gift of a throw blanket to keep them company in the months ahead. So, I made a way to do it in my store. I sew them myself and can embroider a personal message if desired. It is not an impulse gift because it takes about a month from receipt of your stamps (Color copies) to designing the stamps into a fabric file, ordering the fabric, and then actually sewing it.

I have made other products with this fabric in my two years of learning to sew and whenever I use one of them, I remember my old confident life and it doesn’t depress me!

I can’t ask more of creativity than that. Hope you are able to look six feet ahead without vertigo wherever you are.

Hats n’ Bags and Old Friends. And, one madman.

Oh, I love hats. Always have. Today, I received two. One is from an old friend, a friendship that began when I was 23 and new to San Francisco. I used to wear hats in those days and although he has not seen me in years, he sent me a couple of hats he thought would look good on me!

The second hat is the first “750” hat from the printer. It has four colors and this was the black one!

Also, my cosmetic bag arrived from a fabric design I made of November 2020 and in particular November 3, 2020. It is a reminder to register to vote. To vote. And, if you are voting for “the madman”, a description from David Gergen, White House Advisor to multiple presidents of both parties after learning he had left Walter Reed Medical Facility to go back to the White House to infect the remaining folks who haven’t already been infected, you have problems my accessories can’t help you solve or celebrate.

You decide. I think it’s pretty cute for an ol’girl!

Meet JoAnn and The Wrap Around Family. Voices from My Bunker 2020.

Meet JoAnn this week. Her family and siblings have been caregivers to their Mom who turned 101 years old this week!

It is a break from the drumbeat of vitriol in the news to listen to how a family has responded to one another’s needs in a kind and loving way.

It is not that I am immune from the outside world as I just cut off a chunk of frozen cookie dough that appears to be about the size of Alaska.

Listen to JoAnn below by clicking on the white arrow in the lower left corner.

Voices from My Bunker 2020: The 750 Club. I have hats and enough outrage for a small village.

Now, c’mon. I want to pay $750 for federal taxes, too. So, I have started a club. I designed hats. Don’t you want to join, too? Click to hear more.

And, stay tuned because there is an embroidery feature on my sewing machine so if I can figure it out without epic bouts of swearing, I’ll make masks, too.

Here are a few of the fabric masks I have available for this week. Some of the fabric I designed so supply is limited. My sewing sweatshop is proceeding at its usual turtle pace. You’ll need to email me if interested! They are all $20. I don’t offer in my store since sometimes I only have one of them. Yeah, this is not my get-rich-quick scheme but it makes me laugh that I now make short videos for “maskers”.

My Search for Safety starts with Face Masks. The size of human heads varies inside and out.

I have been sewing face masks since April, 2020. I started with the rectangular mask with pleats that attached behind the ears with elastic.

As the months went by I realized that sometimes the elastic on my ears drove me crazy. Or, there was a bagginess around my chin or my glasses fogged up and I couldn’t see the item on the grocery shelves, if indeed it was actually there.

So, I have perused YOUTUBE for sewing templates. I tried several but have decided on one for now although I added my own twist of having adjustable elastic straps that do not go around my ears but over the crown of my head and around my neck leaving my 75-year-old Star Trek ears free. The template I used had elastic around the head and neck rather than the ears but it was not adjustable. I needed adjustable because if I’ve learned anything these past few months, human heads vary outside and inside. I tried at first using cords rather than elastic but realized that getting it on and off was going to be a hassle. If masks are a hassle, people don’t wear them. I don’t want to give them a ready-made excuse. So, the final product requires twice as much elastic as my original rectangular ones, an adjustment “barrel” that attaches to the elastic ends and moves up or down to adjust the size. For those who wear glasses, I also sew into the nose bridge a flexible metal wire.

Here’s a little movie I made about them. I’m wearing a Ruth Bader Ginsburg Protest collar designed by the artist, Stephanie Syjuco that she allowed anyone to download for FREE. I swear to you that visual artists and books have gotten me through these past seven months. It certainly hasn’t been my social skills because, in February 2020, my family celebrated my 75th birthday with a wall poster that was titled, “75 Things We Love about Pappy.” After seven months of my lockdown and being the COVID family police? I’m down to about 24 things and that’s only if they remember I used to bake a variety of cookies and make a chocolate sauce for ice cream or cocoa. Anyway, here’s my face mask update.

I always have fun fabrics, colors, and patterns but just not always the same ones used in display masks & that’s why you have to email me and I’ll send you a photo of what I have. I am the world’s least productive sweatshop: I only make two masks a day and, well… ok, it’s not every day either.

Weight Management 90 seconds at a time in 2020. Voices from My Bunker 2020

Bill Murray said that acting suited him because he only had to be good 90 seconds at a time. This would be my dream time span for weight management as I, too, am really good at it for 90 seconds at a time in September, 2020. So far, the longest month on record in my 75 years, is September 2020, and we’re only halfway through it.

I am discussing an old podcast I titled “Slippery Slope” from 2016 Art of the Diet Podcast and using the same principles to apply to 2020 and the challenges I am having with weight management four years later in the midst of a pandemic and my democracy under siege. For the first months of lockdown starting in March through May, I had lost my appetite so it wasn’t an issue. Now, it is. So, I have recorded this Voices from My Bunker 2020 on this subject as well as recording a video version and posting it to my YOUTUBE channel which I’ll embed below the audio podcast.

Weight management is a personal subject and I thought perhaps adding a visible presence might add to the connection.  I have made a playlist called “Art of the Diet” for future video posts so one could subscribe to just that rather than all the other “stuff” I publish on YOUTUBE. Let me know if you think the video adds anything to the content, will you?  Email me.

Why November won’t solve the problem.

A friend of mine texted me a photo of his empty local (Kansas) Wal-Mart gun ammunition shelves.

He joked that it was “a sign of the times”.

That same morning, I had taken a photo of a fully stocked shelf of my favorite Viva Signature paper towels. They were unavailable for months. I was delighted.

No matter who wins in November, these Kansas empty shelves speak about citizens identifying their freedom with weapons.

Election Day won’t solve this issue.

Just as election day won’t solve the mariner skills of Trump voters in a boat parade. Five boats sank.

You cannot make this s up. You really can’t.

Meet Jay. Voices from My Bunker 2020. A Journey through COVID as Husband, Father, Son, and Hotel Operations Manager.

Meet Jay, my 35-year-old neighbor. He and his wife and 4-year-old son live in my cul-de-sac and his job in hotel management often had him traveling non-stop during the week before COVID.

The pandemic had him at home for two months of April and May and he returned to work and travel in June 2020.  It was there while hearing real-life stories of people who had become ill that he realized the pressures on himself, his colleagues, as well as his guests building with each day. He began to realize that this was no simple flu or going to be over soon. “It is a natural calamity that no one has ever experienced before in their lifetime.”

His Mom, a very social and elegant woman, visited him from Bombay, India, every year and stayed for several months prior to COVID. I met her routinely on walks around our condo complex with her equally outgoing 4-year-old grandson who used to see me, wave, and prompted by his grandmother, said, “Hello, Auntie!”

Jay reports that his Mom has been in her apartment building in Bombay for six months because of COVID. She has not gone out to walk or to shop or to socialize. Nor has she allowed her many friends to visit her. She has discovered the art of socializing with Zoom. It is hard for me to even imagine the severity and impact of that restriction.

I am happy to introduce you to Jay and his journey through COVID as a father, husband, son and hotel operations manager.

Each day I try to accept Mother Nature’s invitation to “Come Closer” through my macro lens. (Invitations to come closer are not offered to 75 year olds these days!)