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I Cry Sometimes (TW: self harm)

9 Aug

“It’s been a long time since you cried after.”

It really has.

I cry a lot. Movies and books make me cry. Songs. Commercials. My cats. Pictures of really cute animals. Bad things too: feelings of guilt about events five, ten, twenty years in the past. Physical pain. Fear. Loneliness. Impotent rage. Feeling trapped. Being yelled at. Exhaustion. I have cried in the parking lot of more than one job, trying to make myself get out of the car.

I also don’t cry a lot. Like I want to cry, but I can’t, because something in my brain has stopped me, so instead I get that tension in my temples that means I’m going to cry, wrinkle up my face as though I were crying, sometimes in an attempt to force something out, sob once (dry, like when you’ve thrown up everything in your stomach but your gag reflex doesn’t know that), and maybe one tear trickles out of each eye. Very disappointing. The tension never goes away. It’s like having to sneeze but never doing it, or being like two centimeters from an orgasm that you never get to have.  The relief and release and validation of actual tears never happens and I just wind up feeling silly and having a headache.

That’s happened a lot more over the last few years. Sometimes I was just too damn tired to cry, I think. A friend of mine used to joke that I only have two speeds: 80 MPH, and couch coma. I don’t know how to moderate very well, I have a tendency to overcorrect one way or another, and then next thing I know I’ve been going at 80 MPH for a thousand miles, I’m almost out of gas, and the nearest gas station is over the state line, and I have to shut off the AC and the radio and pray the fumes will get me where I’m going.

That metaphor got a little stretched, I admit, but assume that I have a tendency to get into situations where “the nearest gas station” is the next time I can stop moving without feeling like I’m going to lose literally everything, and “the AC and the radio” are anything other than the very, very, very basic staples of life*. Like a lot of people, I try to self-medicate away my depression (and, ya know, poverty) with Busy, with projects and jobs and gigs, with the feeling I have worth because I have something important going on. Meanwhile my anxiety is losing its SHIT, my body is suffering, and the only sane guy in the Central Command Zone of my brain throws up his hands and starts to shut down the non-crucial systems like “be nice to mr. biscuit,” “wash your face,” “do anything but sleep when you get home,” “make decisions,” or “cry when sad,” because there’s no energy for anything except “show up for work” and “don’t crash car” and “continue to breathe.”

I spent a lot of my life pushing myself to the point of exhaustion because I firmly believed myself to be a Lazy Bitch, and for a long I was ok with being exhausted. I was wasting all my potential anyway, so I should at least suffer for it. Then at some point (my sophomore year of college) I began to fantasize about hurting myself so I could rest. “I would rather stab myself in the leg than write this paper,” I said, which was a joke except that it wasn’t**. And then, a scarily long time later (this year), it occurred to me that thinking about driving my car into a concrete wall so I didn’t have to go to work was Not Healthy, and also probably some of that self-harm that I was always telling my friends was not healthy, and I should quit my job at the VERY least.

I’ve been having trouble crying over the last couple of years. After the situation with my grandma. Her memorial happened. I was a champion. I helped clean, I looked nice, I smiled and made a joke, it was all good. After, my family was in the guest room talking about something, and something was said (what? I don’t know anymore), and I broke. My dad noticed first and tried to catch me, so he could hug me and keep the pieces together, but I am fast and agile when I am breaking, and I power-walked out of that house, weeping like the world was ending, and just kept walking until my feet hurt too much to keep walking, because I don’t think I was wearing shoes, and then I sat down in the grass on the side of a quiet rural road and I cried and cried and cried. Eventually mr. biscuit came to find me*** and helped me back into the house, and I Started To Feel Better, because goddamn, y’all, I do not like being sad. I know how to deal with anger, with fear, with jealousy. Grief? I don’t know what to do with grief. You can’t punch grief. All you can really do is feel it or ignore it. Feeling grief is fucked up and hard, so I chose to ignore it.

I stopped crying as much and started don’tcrying a lot more, because when I started to feel sad I shut it down fast like a freak. It bled over into the rest of my life, so that I started shutting  down other things–pleasure centers, self-care, rational thought (my depression was loving this. It was like Depression Christmas. My anxiety was less enthused because I would get too tired to care, but then it got happy again because I would try to bury my guilt in activity).

“You have to feel this,” said a voice in my head, and I replied (out loud) “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.”

At first not crying felt like a victory, but that was never going to be sustainable. Over the last…months? I’ve been trying to deal with my inability to cry, to process my feelings in a way that feels healthy. Much of that is just trying to make myself feel safe. A lot of really terrible shit happened to mr. biscuit and I over a short time, and while he came out of it stronger, I came out of it a giant wreck. My current life plan (working from home in a very low-stress job, staying mostly in my jammies, sitting on the porch a lot, not doing many things that require me to leave the house) is a very direct response to that. He’s taking care of me a lot–he brings in most of the money, does the gross chores, never mentions the state of the house, assures me it’s ok if I don’t want to get another job yet, doesn’t yell at video games as much because it makes me nervous–and that’s ok. I’m trying to gently re-introduce some of the things I used to love that also caused me stress, just to see if I can do them if I’m careful. If I can, great! If I can’t, it’s ok.

I used to cry after sex–not a lot, but more than what I assume is typical. I love sex^ and I love mr. biscuit, and I love having sex with him and I love feeling big feelings, and a lot of times all of that emotion would bubble up in my heart and I’d crest that first big orgasmic wave and whatever noise I was making would just become a gut-wrenching sob, and mr. biscuit would have to stop whatever he was doing and hold me until I stopped crying and calmed down. Like, this was fairly regular. I would cry (or laugh, or once I even started singing) a lot. As my brain stopped doings things that weren’t Survive, and my sex drive plummeted, so did the times I was so overcome with joy and pleasure and safety that I would weep. The other night it happened for the first time in years. I cried for what felt like hours^^ and I felt so much better afterwards.

“It’s been a while since you cried after,” he said, with a very particular smile of his that is impossible to describe except that it contains a universe of love and tenderness.

“It really has,” I agreed.
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Stage Fright Vignettes: In Which I Am A Mess

17 Jun

We start recording tonight. The Kickstarter was successful beyond our imaginings, we’ve rehearsed and prepped and planned, and in about an hour and a half we’ll get started. I spent the day half-heartedly working on some other deadlines, rehearsing some more for songs later in the week, watching trash TV (hi Riverdale, you source of delight and shame) and making myself eat more out of the knowledge that I have to eat rather than out of any appetite at all. I have to eat, ya know. If I don’t eat I’ll wind up being starving the second the nerves wear off (halfway through the second song). So I ate. A little bit.

It’s the third day of recording. Things are going so well! We got through so much in the last two days, songs we have every right to be proud of. Tonight we add instruments. I am not ready. We rehearsed for four solid hours (including the half hour I held a bag of frozen pomegranate seeds in my aching fret hand), then got in the car. My hands are shaking, and drenched in sweat. I have to struggle for every single chord; they’ve all flown out of my head. I’m going to throw up, or die, or die while throwing up, or throw up while dying.  

I have no idea what day it is, but I know I’ve been staring at the microphone in front of me like it’s going to eat my face if I look away. Fuck you, microphone. You’re not going to eat MY face. I won’t blink. I–oh shit, I definitely missed that line GODDAMNIT MICROPHONE.

I am splicing together a short promo to send to some faires, and had to bribe myself with a glass of wine for each separate video clip of myself I watched with the sound on because I hate listening to recordings of myself.

My bandmate tries to tell me everything will be fine and I tell her, in as many words, to shut the fuck up. She tries to tell me she’s really enjoying this process and is happy and proud and I sort of say “ok?” like I’ve suddenly lost the ability to speak English.

I am starving because I didn’t eat enough.

My husband tries to hug me and tell me he believes everything will turn out well and I yell at him to leave me alone and stomp off to take a very hot bath and drink wine for dinner (again).

We’re about to listen to a few tracks to see if the storm on Wednesday affected them in any real way. I’m pretty sure I’m going to burst into flames.

The sound guy, a professional musician I like and respect a lot, is telling me that he likes everything we’ve done, and I am fantasizing about a giant hedgehog appearing out of nowhere and devouring my head so I never have to play guitar in front of people ever again.

My mammal brain acknowledges that after a lot of hard work, practice, and organization, and yes, a lot of fun moments, these records sound pretty good! My lizard brain has retreated under a rock to pray for the swift coming of Zephelepod, Destroyer of Worlds, Bringer of Oblivion, Crusher of Embarrassing Moments Beneath His Mighty Cloven Hoof.

My Brain is a Liar

27 May

Yesterday was a bad day.

The last few weeks have been full of change, and much of it has been excellent change. I picked up a freelance writing gig. I quit my job, which I’ve hated for a year and a half, and I did it a few months ahead of schedule because I picked up that freelance writing gig. I drank up the courage to debut a new ren faire act. I planned two albums and launched a Kickstarter with my singing partner of six years. And then I went on a short, cheap trip to Charleston, a city I like a lot, with mr. biscuit, who I also like a lot, and between a five hour drive and two hours struggling to get around an unfamiliar city all the anxiety that I had been struggling with bubbled over like poison, and after a day spent picking fights, I started crying on the streets of Charleston because we had accidentally walked two blocks in the wrong direction on a beautiful evening in a charming, walkable city.

My new writing gig has me doing a lot of bullet-point blogs, so let’s break all this down in a style I’m becoming used to.

  • I quit my job. This is an objectively positive thing. As soon as I made the decision, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. Giving my notice brought a similar feeling of relief. I’ve been so happy since.
    • As I said, I’ve hated this job for a year and a half of the two years I’ve been working there, and been trying to find a new job for almost as long. I had finally given up on the job search, because there are only so many Almosts that I could bring myself to tolerate, but had contemplated self-harm to get out of work. More than once.
    • mr. biscuit got a big promotion at work, which came with a substantial raise that was not quite enough to replace my lost income were I to quit, but we had decided that I would leave my job at the end of July anyway and we would make it work.
    • When a friend turned me on to a freelance writing gig at her company, which I could do from home without having to talk to customers or put on shoes, we decided to push that date up.
    • My last day at my full time job is June 1st, and I’m thrilled. Between graduation and summer classes starting, I have been yelled at half a dozen times over the last three weeks and cried at work four times. I’m done. I’m so done. This place has poisoned my mind for long enough. It is time to cast it into the fire.
    • I’m also crushingly nervous. Quitting means a pretty substantial decrease in our income. That really only means that we will have to limit our spending, which a) I am bad at and b) I do not enjoy, but we’re in no danger of starving on the street or not having shoes. We haven’t had time to sit down and hash out what the new budget will look like, though, which is increasing my sense of impending doom. Objectively I know that we will be fine. mr. biscuit is making more than he ever has before, and the less miserable I am the less incentive I have to try and spend my way out of misery.
    • But still.

20170527_110923

  • I launched a Kickstarter. I’ve been singing with a friend for six+ years under the name The Voices of Virtue, and for a majority of that time we’ve been saying “man, we need to record an album.” About a month ago she sent me an email saying essentially “Let’s do this shit.” And we are doing it.
    • This led to me finally getting my shit together and launching a new renaissance festival act: SERFs, Inc., starring Lilly Bragg, Village Protest Singer. I’ve been working on a peasant revolution since my first year as a faire performer, way back in 2004, and I finally get to start using jokes and songs I’ve been hanging onto for so long. It’s amazing. It’s exhilarating. I feel very strongly about protest music, songs of revolution and social justice and the like, and I’m learning to play the guitar, and I just love it all. It feels so important and so useful, and my God these songs are so good.
    • My partner’s character is named Prudence and at the time mine was named Esperanza, and we tend to bawdy songs, so our group name made a lot more sense at the time than it does now that I’ve officially begun performing under the name Lilly, but we still do a lot of bawdy stuff, so it works out. Just not as well.
    • Our Kickstarter is going really well. I don’t know how I imagined it would go so I can’t tell you it’s exceeding my expectations, but I do know that on day six of 18, we are almost 40% funded.
    • The idea that people want to hear music that I’m making is absolutely thrilling.
    • The idea that people want to hear music that I’m making is also absolutely terrifying. I’ve been making music my whole damn life and I’m still terrified. Every single time. The amount of nerves varies, but I have never not been nervous before a performance.
    • Not once.20170527_105355
  • I went to Charleston. mr. scone plays with a volunteer street band (and has a sedately great time doing it, as is his nature), and every year they paly a festival in Charleston. This is the first year he’s been free to go, and rather than hang out at home alone all weekend, I’ve tagged along. It’s heavily subsidized by the band, Charleston is beautiful, and the weather this weekend is pretty perfect (for me, anyway; I like it warm and sunny).
    • It’s a longer drive than I anticipated. I don’t like long car trips to begin with, but in the last year or so I’ve become prone to carsickness, which was never really a problem before. That means I can’t read in the car without danger of yakking on the side of the road anymore, and mr. biscuit isn’t a very chatty person, and though he tries, he was tired and hungry and also driving, so for a lot of the drive I was at the mercy of my brain, which has been behaving Very Badly lately.
    • We got here in decent time, but since this is a budget trip we are staying in College of Charleston dorms. They’re fine. They’re dorms. They’re…whatever, they’re fine. Getting to them was a giant pain in the ass. Check in was at one building, parking at another, the rooms at a third; there are streets closed everywhere; we have only been here once like six years ago; my phone was dead; mr. biscuit refuses to use nav apps on his phone; we left home about 1:30, got to Charleston about 7:30, finally finished unpacking and parking and got back to our lodging at 10:30.
    • I’m comfortable with who I am. I like my aesthetic. Do I wish things were different about my body/face? Sure. Do I need a haircut? Yes. But in general I’m aware I’m pretty great, even when my brain hates me. Charleston is a beautiful city. It’s also a very old, very Southern city. It’s a holiday weekend in the summer, and two major cultural festivals are going on downtown. There are wealthy, beautifully put-together women everywhere. They are wearing breezy coastal tops, soft pretty makeup. Their hair is perfect. They all look lovely, in that very particular way that wealthy white Southern women look in the summer. They are small and dainty almost to a woman. The streets last night were overrun with beautiful rich white Southern young women and drunk rich white Southern frat boys. By the time we got back to the room last night I felt like a giant hulking monster. A walking tree with none of the grace or majesty of trees. A bipedal cow crossed with a sheepdog, whose makeup is always going to be shitty, whose jawline will never be perfectly sculpted, whose jeans will always be out of style.

So last night I cried on the streets of a beautiful coastal city, and then rather than go to the (outstanding) free concert across the street, or even to dinner, I buried myself in the blankets of a college dorm bed, texted a friend about my self-pity, and fell asleep with my contacts on.

I sent mr. biscuit out to hang out with his friends in the band. He insisted on staying and cuddling me until I started to get sleepy, and he brought me back some dinner and made sure I took my contacts out when he returned, even though I was too deeply asleep to eat or even remember any of that, and even though he had worked a half day while I went to breakfast with one of my besties, had driven all day, and had objectively more reason to be tired and cranky. 20170527_110935

My friend texted me back to soothe my feelings of being out of place. “Honey,” she said. “Which bitch made you cry? It’s a jeans and t-shirt festival if that’s what you want to wear. And you could come home and we’ll go to tea and talk shit about people. The option is there.” It made me laugh, and then I fell asleep.

Today is better. Today is great. I slept super well, and we went next door to get breakfast at a dinosaur-themed coffee shop where I’m currently drinking my third iced mocha of the day (this one is decaf) while he plays a gig somewhere nearby. The weather is beautiful, the city is charming–we walked around a little bit between breakfast and getting him dressed for the gig, and all the shops are nonsense for the wealthy, but the sunshine and the ocean breeze are free, and this iced mocha is in budget. I’m sitting at the window in a dinosaur coffee shop, watching people walk, drive, and bicycle past.

I feel better today.

Sometimes I wonder why I think about myself in ways that I would never think about a friend. If someone I loved was having a particularly rough day during a long and stressful series of rough days, and I heard someone say my friend was being lazy/melodramatic/stupid/ungrateful/a horrible wife/a terrible bitch, I would punch that person in the face. Metaphorically speaking. I would punch them with my impressive range of profanity and carefully crafted bitch face. So why do I let me say those things about myself?

I’m in a weird place right now. On the one hand I’m optimistic as fuck: I’ve quit my job without much of a backup plan and launched an all-or-nothing crowdfunding plan for a fairly ambitious recording project. On the other hand I’m nauseous and tense all the time with the fear of failure, or even worse: the fear of success followed by failure. What if this funds but I fuck up these records? What if everyone realizes I’m a fraud? What if I never finish all the things I have left to do? What if I suck?

At the darkest points I am paralyzed by fear of disappointing everyone in the world. Literally. I named my peasant revolution character after Billy Bragg, and I had a nightmare that someone told him about the act and he called me a fauxgressive shilbot*, and then a bunch of women who were involved in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1318 came and told me I am an insult to their struggle.

I am terrified. All the time.

I’m enjoying today, though. The weather is beautiful, Charleston is pretty, those mochas were delicious. I’m sure all that whole milk will catch up with me in a bit, but for now I’m well. There’s a free girls’ choir performance tomorrow, and there’s also a beach. Things will work out.

Make no mistake: I’m creative. I’m smart. I’m funny. I am capable of producing some pretty great stuff. Other people know this. I know this. Anxiety doesn’t know this. Depression doesn’t know this.

Anxiety is a liar. Depression is a liar. For all its creative power, my brain is a liar.

I’m not doing any work today. I’m going to nourish the part of my brain that isn’t a liar with sunshine and walks. And another mocha.

*HMMM I wonder where this came from

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Fairy Update

20 May

Please note the lack of fail in this update! That’s because the fairies are going well!

To be quite specific, the Red Grape Fairy is going well. I’m using it as the experimental costume and taking copious notes on what works, so that when I’m finished I can bang out the White Grape Fairy in the day or two left to me at that point. For those keeping track at home, there are 13 days before these costumes need to be finished. Three of those are performance days, at least one day must be packing and cleaning day, one day is Driving Home All Day day, one day is set aside for the Wing Making Party, and one day I’m going to the GA faire in civvies. I also lost a great deal of today to being miserable in a distinctly feminine way, and before I leave Texas I have a lot of friends I’d like to spend at least a little time with. SO THAT BEING SAID, I should stop thinking up flimsy excuses to watch 30 Rock and really buckle down, right? Right.

So let’s talk about the work I’ve been doing.

The only thing I’ve finished is the undertunic:

Much better

Much better

I use the word “finished” loosely, in that it still needs trim (to line the neckline), but that is waiting ’till I get home. Of my two sewing machines, I only brought the Battlestar Galactica (the workhorse) to Texas, and I want to use decorative stitches, which I only have on the other machine, which I’ve tentatively christened the Delicate Fucking Flower.

Since this picture, taken on Thursday, I’ve dropped the neckline about an inch, and removed the measuring tape from around my neck. I have not, however, changed my jeans.

The undertunic is made from the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator, slightly modified. To wit, I shortened the sleeves and made the side gores smaller, and  obviously modified the neckline, using a complicated process I liked to call I Drew Some Random Measurements On Tissue Paper And Then Prayed It Would Work When I Cut It Out Of Fabric:

Now I’m working on the sheer overskirt. My first attempt was a four-panel skirt of rectangles, which didn’t have the swoosh and drape I wanted and bunched at the waist, so I tore it apart and am remaking it into a six-panel skirt of trapezoids. I’m going to leave the panels unconnected on the sides and finish the edges with ribbon in the contrast color. It will go under a simple belt/waist cincher of cotton canvas covered in the matte and sheer fabric, with a bit of boning at the sides, front, and back to help it keep its shape, and some grommets at the back once I figure out where I put the Bodice/Corset Supply Box.

I’ve just finished stuffing my face with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and perhaps because of this, I’m feeling pretty optimistic. We shall see.

I made a thing, and it turned out really well

10 Apr

I’ve wanted a collared bodice for a long time. I like the way collars frame my face, and the back of the neck is an enormously awkward place to put sunscreen.

I finally got around to making one.

I’m so proud of it I could poo.

esp 2013

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On sewing successes

29 Jan

A little before Halloween 2011, my Gma (my mother’s mother) was diagnosed with brain cancer. I wrote about my her sewing machine shortly thereafter. Shortly before Christmas 2012, she died.

For a number of of the 14 months between her diagnosis and death, mr. biscuit and I cared for her while she went through treatment. She had a round and a half of radiation. The first was shortly after her diagnosis; the half, towards the end. She had monthly chemo, which she took in pill form. It never gave her any problems. Radiation made her progressively more tired and her scalp tender, but she reacted well to both treatments. To be perfectly accurate, the tumor reacted well. It didn’t do much changing for months and months, and even shrank a little, leaving her free to rebuild her strength and dexterity over and over again.

The tumor’s effects were progressive. Initially, it (probably) caused Gma to lose her balance, fall, and break her right hip. Since Gpa was already in a wheelchair due to a succession of knee injuries, this is when mr. biscuit and I entered the picture and became their caretakers. It was supposed to be a short-term thing, and indeed, Gma recovered quickly from her broken hip. She was walking again, and even driving, when something weird happened and she began to  lose control of her right foot. This was initially diagnosed as drop foot and chalked up to the back problems she’s always had, or her hip surgeries, or God know what, I don’t really remember, because it got progressively worse, traveling up her leg, and then it affected her right hand and arm. She started having painful, horrifying, seizure-like tremors in her leg that she couldn’t control or predict or stop. More than one night I wound up standing beside their bed, massaging the inside of her right leg with my big, strong hands because everybody was terrified and nobody had any idea what else we ought to be doing.

In my memory, this downturn happened within the blink of an eye. The space of a few weeks, at most. Is that true? I don’t know, and I haven’t the fortitude to dig through my social media records to more accurately reconstruct a timeline. It feels like a very short time had passed between the time she and Gpa went off for a drive on their own and the day I sat beside her at an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon that was supposed to be a routine followup, and he all of a sudden looked alarmed and said that her symptoms were indicative of something in the brain and sent us to the ER.

While we waited in the cold, very white ER, I entertained her. Impromptu jokes, clever wordplay, silly voices, teasing, riffing on the terrible night-time TV, literally whatever I could think of. No need to be modest: I was on fire. Gma, meanwhile, laughed at my antics, told me to stop making her laugh because laughing made her hip hurt, and flirted shamelessly with the young male nurse who asked her if she was warm enough (her response: “why don’t you come lay down with me and then I will be?”). I called her a shameless hussy and she seemed a proud of the label. Meanwhile, she got a CT scan. Her doctor ordered the scan to look for evidence of a stroke. Instead, they found a brain tumor. Ta-da!  And so she was transferred by ambulance to the bigger, urban hospital, about half an hour away. I followed in the car, but first I stopped at Sonic for my third dinner of the evening. I had chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, and 44 ounces of sweet tea. I wasn’t hungry, but I was starving.

From there, hospital visits and uncomfortable phone calls, MRIs, the entire family descending to sit in the waiting room for an early-morning brain surgery that revealed her brain tumor was the worst case scenario, my other grandmother succumbing to MS after fighting it to a stalemate for five decades. At some point, I bluescreened. Life became a constant battle against everything and everyone, including myself. I cried all the time. I swore even more than I usually do. I ate crap, and a ton of it, drank too much caffeine, picked fights with mr. biscuit. I also wrote like a demon, dashing out fiction in a desperate attempt to keep a grip on myself, but it’s all unreadable.

Gma got out of surgery, recovered in the hospital, went into rehab. She had lost the fine motor skills in her right hand, but worked like hell to get them back. She excelled in physical therapy and occupational therapy, perhaps because she was stubborn as hell and uninterested in her own weaknesses. By the time she left rehab, she could transfer into and out of the car and the wheelchair, write clearly enough to pay the bills out of the ancient hatbox where she kept them, tell when she was being bullshitted, all the usual.

Because I was so tired of failing, and so deeply weary, I never really posted about last spring’s struggle to construct my bodice. It was a long and terrible struggle. I tried to work with piping, I tried to do a trick with velcro to make it a back-lacing bodice I could get into by myself. It took me a solid month and three fully constructed failures to get it mostly right, and even then I wasn’t completely happy, just out of time. I finished it with 36 hours to spare before I had to perform at Scarborough. I did some corrective work before CRF this fall, and was a lot happier with the results, though I’m still not satisfied. Errors in the construction led to more wear and tear than should be showing after only two faires. The back is sloppy. The straps are either too short or too long. I don’t even like the style anymore–I want a doublet-style bodice. It’s just not right.

We left Gma and Gpa in the care of my cousin in August, after 13 months of caring for them. We were unemployed, but a friend had a spare room in a newly purchased townhome, so we we were able to get by with a little fudging, a bit of temping, and a lot of luck. The two of us hunkered down and tried to deal with the guilt, depression, poverty, and lingering emotional trauma of the past year. I hid in bed a lot. I cried a lot. I thought fixedly of nothing, and I did it a lot. Then, in October, our luck turned. I started at Carolina, where I did really well. Around Thanksgiving, the seventeen thousand applications and resumes mr. biscuit had sent out every week finally paid off, and he got a job. I also got a job–a steady one I actually enjoy, unlike the crappy, very sporadic temp work that had kept us afloat. We stopped hibernating. We started to feel like things were going to be ok.

Things were not going so well for Gma, When the family gathered for Thanksgiving, she had trouble with complete sentences and had all but lost her hard-won ability to transfer in and out of the car. From there, her decline was rapid. She couldn’t move much, even when she was uncomfortable. She couldn’t remember words. She couldn’t tell you what was wrong, or if indeed anything was wrong. The last time I saw her, in the nursing facility that I had long since come to love, despise, and fear, she spoke maybe twice, and that to say “mhm” for yes when I asked her very specific, easy questions. When she wanted to say “no,” she would give me a very pointed look and I would laugh and say “OK, OK.”

That last time we saw her, I brought her a selection of faire costumes I had made so she could see them and touch them. I had shown her pictures, but I wanted to really show her what I’d made with the two sewing machines she had given me over the years–the one she bought for me, and the one that had been hers.  A lot of what I brought her was new: the caul I made out of gold organza, black lace, and Swarovski crystals, the black velveteen and light yellow fleece cloak I’d finished only a couple of weeks before. I brought her my hat, and when I put it on her head she smiled a bit.

I also brought her my bodice.

When I picked my bodice up off the pile to show it to her, her intake of breath was audible. It had narrow gold sleeves (also new) still attached; the gold satin of the (old) hanging sleeves reflected the overhead lights. I helped her lift up her good hand so she could feel it, rub the velveteen and the satin between her fingers. mr. biscuit laced me into it so she could see how it looked on. As she held it, I talked a little bit about my struggles to make it, but eventually I ran out of things to say and just let her hold it.

She held onto it for a very long time.

The last time I saw my Gma, she was hugging mr. biscuit goodbye. She looked at me over his shoulder and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. She died about a week later, three days before Christmas.

Later, I learned from my mom that Gma had learned to sew from her mother. They made patterns out of newspaper for the suits, prom and wedding dresses, and various commissions that they made. Gma was, I’ve been told, an excellent seamstress. The only creation of hers that I know I’ve seen is my mother’s wedding gown. The last time I saw that gown I was in high school and had no idea what I was looking at, but in my memory, it looks bespoke. Which is to say, it is beautiful, elegantly constructed, and sturdy, and though far too small for me and sort of itchy with old lace, it was a pleasure to wear. I’ve never sewn with my Gma, or my mom; only with friends, whom I pity. I am a vicious hellbeast when sewing. I swear and cry and throw things and make a gigantic mess, and I hate every second of the whole stupid process. I thought, while I was making it, that stupid bodice was going to be the final straw that drovee me insane. It didn’t, but only just. And honestly, when I was done with it, it was fine. In the end, when I could put a little bit of distance between myself and the horrific events surrounding it and its constructions, I even made it better.

I didn’t think it was beautiful until it made Gma gasp.

bodice

gma me caitie big smiles

Building the Post-Apocalyptic Avengers

6 Sep

As promised, a post about the construction of the Post-Apocalyptic Avenger costumes which mr. biscuit and I constructed. This is long and wordy and boring and FULL OF PICTURES.

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