Monday, January 23, 2017

Change Your Tone!!

I know I have a "unique voice."
But I can count on one hand how many people I know who can stand listening to their own voice. (That is not saying there aren't those guys who seem to love talking just to hear the sound of their own voice; but if you literally played it back to them--they'd cringe and crawl under the sofa.)
When I was in the 3rd grade, I was chosen to be in some experimental speech/voice therapy at our school. They tried for many weeks to raise the pitch of my voice by having me go up and down the do-re-mi scales until I hit one that they thought sounded pleasing. I had a deep, true contralto voice somewhere a few notes below "do." With the sort of rasping, old-chain-smoker undertones of a freckled Billie Holiday. The experimenters settled on "fa." For 20 minutes three times a week, I got to leave Ms. Foster's third grade classroom and go to the convent living room where I would sing "do-re-mi-fa" and say and sing everything at the "fa" pitch.
This was in the days when experiments on children without their parents' knowledge was just what you did and I think my mother was one of the reasons that shit stopped. When she got wind of their efforts, she rang the school up and gave them a voice lesson of her own. "You leave her voice alone--you hear??? I've got three other daughters with high-pitched, whiny voices and I don't need any more." she threatened. (That wasn't entirely true--my sisters do have soprano voices, but 'whiny' may have been an exaggeration used for effect.)

As a freelance writer, I discovered right away that people love to say that a "unique voice" was a good thing. This is horse shit. Unless you were a literary star, rank-and-file writers matched a publication's tone and audience tastes and editorial calendar openings--end of story. If you couldn't do that, they had no use for you. This was okay with me; it gave me a framework to push against and a tone I could mock.
That may have changed somewhat with the rise of the "internet content" writer, or the "blogosphere," but in practice, it's not much different than any other time where the outlying voice shouted in the wilderness or the renegades labored, unseen, in obscurity. And unpaid.
I was an outlier then and I'm an outlier now. The difference was, I could fake it a bit better then.
I'm not as compelled anymore now that I have my own "Publish" button.

Cup is Half Full--yes. Note Bandaids and Dribble.

Still when people blather those bromides about "expressing my unique voice," or "being myself," I'm nearly certain they don't mean it.
I know I will most likely never be featured in one of those "Inspirational" blogging anthologies: my politics aren't fashionable, neither is my language; it's either too vulgar, too archaic, or too verbose. Finally, my images simply don't fit into current, trendy categories such as: "Crisp + Clipped = Hipster Mod," "Mauve, Misty & Moody", "Gratitude with Groovy Gray-Tones" or "Soft-Focus 'n' Sentimental."
Yeah--I drink a lot of coffee too, but I almost never think of photographing my chipped-edged cups with my hands wrapped gratefully around them--my raggedy ass cuticles are always scabby and the lumpy scar tissue on my lips always causes a rather disgusting, not to mention, un-photogenic dribble down the side.

Yeah--my children are handsome and funny and amazing, too. But they're teenagers now and will immediately stop being funny and amazing the instant you open the camera app on your phone.
If I even think about it.
I'm usually either so overwhelmed by what's happening in front of my face that it almost never occurs to me to put a camera up between it and the thing that is happening, or I'm in my own little fantasy world where no camera can penetrate. Later, I'll think: oh, yeah--that would have been a really awesome image, but by then, it's too late. You can try and re-make it, reassemble the pieces, try and sketch it, but I'm already distracted by some metaphorical squirrel in my cerebral front yard.

And anyway, I know that they're lying about how great it is "to be totally you." They still want to shut you up if they don't happen to like or approve of "you."

So, as the lapses between my various blog entries indicate, I am increasingly quiet. Oh, sure, I love to put a funny, absurd quip out there on social media--to press a dull knife to what hurts and write obliquely about things that get on my nerves because I can't stand to defend myself anymore. But in my changing life, which is increasingly lived on a farm in rural Kentucky, which includes more art and less writing, I observe more. Listen more: to the animals on my farm (did you know geese actually snore like the Three Stooges? Honk, Snerr, Mimimi.) To the growing riot of craziness, nastiness, and discontent out there. Sometimes we don't all need to add our voice to every conversation.
Or, at least, we can start our own little conversations. With people who don't think you need to change your tone.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

5 "Thrift Store Find" DIY Craft Projects They Keep Showing, for Things You Haven't Been Able to Find at Thriftstores Since 1987.

Me love Pinterest.
I know it's all a big, fantastic lie, but like every other pretty magazine catering to our fantasies before it, it makes us feel like we can achieve the same, heavily worked-over, fantastically styled, filtered, and photo-shopped perfection in our own lives. And sometimes that's enough.

But as a professional builder of ridiculous, up-cycled things, and a veteran thrifter (I can show you the scars!), some of these Pinterest DIY are just a parade of despair, false promises and dashed hopes. There's no call for that.

1. Vintage Suitcase Crafts:

 Not only is this type of vintage suitcase VERY rare at your garden variety thrift store, follow this link to see how much rather highly involved work went into it.

Or this link to the more likely outcome

2. Stuff made with old "thrift store" silverware.

Here's what you'd hope to find:

Here's what you're most likely to find:
Oh, this stainless steel crap will bend alright--most of it already has the scars of the church community center garbage disposal and some cock-toothed nursing home fight--but it ain't pretty. Never will be. Move on.

3. Shit made out of old books. 
These old books--with their worn book-cloth covers and awesome typeset pages and illustrated plates are very, very rare at your garden variety thrift stores.
Of course, you're hoping to find a charming used bookshop like this: 
But more likely this is what you will find: 

And not that there's anything wrong with some good YA novels, cheesy romance novels, or embossed-cover thrillers, but you're just not going to be making those vintage-y bookmarks with old, timeworn spines, or cute, craftsy things like that. Trust me on this one.
Unless you find a box of silverfish-infested, moldy books in someone's leaking shed, you probably won't want to tear "curious and rare" books apart for your crappy attempts at "crafty-ness".

4) Stuff made with wooden thread spools.          Seriously--what year do you think it is? When was the last time you bought a spool of thread? They haven't used wooden spools since the 1960's! These pictured here are as rare (and as expensive) as unicorn shit.  (I have a few DIY projects using Unicorn Shit...)                                  Honestly, when did any of these craft-DIY-ers go to an actual thrift store?? ( I just found a box of 15 wooden spools for $50 at a fancy schmancy antique store. The thread is so old, it's dry-rotted and absolutely useless--so those are some expensive Christmas crafts).        No wonder people would rather scroll through Pinterest than actually make the things on Pinterest.

5) Crap made from old furniture: 
First of all, it's very hard to just pop into a thrift store and find good, solid wood stuff like this:

That someone like you hasn't already mucked up trying to paint and turned into an incredibly uncomfortable bench. (I have one that I made!)

Most of what you'll find is that greasy-surfaced laminate/particle board crap that is just badly proportioned, cheaply made and if it's not already delaminating, it's just so friggin' tricky to paint. And, if you do manage to get paint to stick to it, it will look like that greasy-surfaced, cheap laminate/particle board crap that you tried to paint in some vomitous color of "Fleckstone" or other novelty type of spray paint.

Trust me on this: you will end up spending $50 dollars on the greasy-surfaced laminate crap, $50 on spray paint and a priceless amount of time and aggravation and it will end up on the curb for one of your neighbors to pick up thinking, "hey...with just a coat of paint I could make something gorgeous..." (6 weeks later you will see it five blocks away in a new vomitous shade of spray paint. That may be your form of entertainment. In which case...I have this old bed frame you can buy...)

Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for Garbage In-Garbage Out--Good Advice for Potential Hoarders

I do try to keep a relative handle on the homeostasis of my inventory and my home work and storage space. I keep things either selling or returning, and I'm trying to buy less actual inventory.

But I've lost interest in the back-breaking work that the eBay biz requires and I have hit a patch where I just can't deal with the even limited social interaction with buyers. I try to convince myself I'm buying salvage materials for my new up cycle projects, or that I won't be acquiring any new inventory when I'm up at my farm for the entire summer. All the same, I'm picking up definite vibes that this is an addict's justification and I'm starting to cross the line where the stuff is coming in faster than I can process and get it out again.

You actually can't call it "inventory" if it's not actually for sale. It is just "garbage."

Part of the hoarding disorder is the supreme discomfort that is caused by getting rid of items.

I do not have this yet.

But I can see what's potentially ahead for me--just by seeing what's going on in my mental state.

I feel like my brain is so full right now, anything new is just pinging off my face. My brain is this tangled, dark place full of so many things, that some of the stuff down at the bottom is starting to rot. It is garbage. But my brain won't get rid of it.

It keeps going over it and turning it over and over and just picking at it: dumb things I did in the fourth grade, phone numbers of my high school friends, a moment of cowardice the summer before I went to college, the guy that everyone told me was too handsome for me, the ideas I didn't follow through on.

It's all garbage. 

Apparently my brain thinks otherwise--like it'll come in handy for something someday, or it might come back in style again, or I might lose weight and be able to fit into it again.

That almost never works with clothes; it definitely doesn't work with thoughts. Actually useful memories: where you put your car keys, how to convert liters to gallons, what you were going to do when you went into the laundry room? Those are just so muddled up with all that other shit, you can't find them.

By the way--you probably put your keys on the dryer--underneath all the junk mail.    

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Ephemera--The Beauty of the Impermanent #A2ZChallenge

Ephemera Vulgata (garden variety Mayfly)
From the Greek: Ephemeron--a short-lived insect. Members of the family Ephemeridae include dragon and damsel flies as well as may flies in the genus Ephemera.

For the rest of us: the detritus of our lives: concert tickets, bus tokens, valentine's day cards, matchbooks, packaging, coupons: objects meant to be useful for a brief period of time.

And then what?

Advocates of simplicity say it should be thrown away.

I have tried.  

But I don't think they're looking close enough.

Simply because it is not meant to be durable doesn't mean much of it isn't a tiny window into some artist's mind.

I am not ashamed to say I buy many things based on the cleverness or beauty of its packaging. I consider this a way of supporting the arts--manufacturers paid someone to design the structure, the image, the lettering. It may not be as grand and sweeping as an operatic performance, but the opera itself is ephemeral as the ticket. And no less beautiful because of it.

Still-I have become a sort of curator of ephemera: the small clever visual jokes, the quality of the material, the beauty of the text. The memory of the music from the opera.
Collaged 1957 Horse Show Program
Sarah Cannibal for Hipique

There are potential problems, of course. They do pile up.

I'm forever puzzling over what I can do with these small pieces of art:

I've been taking second hand band boxes at thrift stores and making funny little compositions: Kentucky Derby programs, horse show programs from the 1950's, wine bottle labels.
Re-purposed vintage Hat Box. Sarah Cannibal for Hipique

And even this is only packaging.
Just a box, after all.

And then there's these little labels for my up-cycled and custom clothing by Sarah Cannibal:
Label Pouch for Sarah Cannibal: Labels cut from items used; random tooth;
vintage button; a cord from puli dog

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meditations: Easter Sunday Mass, The Goodwill, and the Slow and Agonizing Death of the Myth of Quality Time that Couldn't Come Soon Enough.

Quality Time is horse shit.

The entire trite idea--from its insipid, pseudo-psycho-babbly-style name to its central philosophy--of "Quality Time" is horse shit.

I was an impatient, self-involved, artsy-fartsy teenager when all those insipid, pseudo-psycho-babblers started bandying the term about and I knew it was horse shit. They knew it was horse shit but they sold the stupid parenting books anyway!! EVERYBODY knew it was horse shit. But, much like the fantasy-land of politically-mandated communism, people still want to believe it can work. If you just get the right people in charge, if you can just apply the right amount of legislation and force and if we can just keep everyone from fleeing the can work! 

It will not.

It is horse shit.

People, children, animals, weather, opportunities, tides, horses, flowers, tomatoes and so on won't do something or have something or be something you want them to do or have or be simply because you designate a moment that you are feeling all patient and virtuous and like you have your shit together. I don't even know most of you and I ain't got time for that horse shit. You actually have to spend quite a bit of time with a horse to get the real horse shit.

I was meditating on this at mass on Easter Sunday. Or something that sort of passed for it. For most of us, Easter Sunday is a test of sheer will rather than a time of joyful communion or life-changing enlightenment and re-birth. It is, rather, a tight, anxiety-saturated church service, presented by clergy obviously treading a fine line between this being one of their Big Shows and not wanting to estrange--right off the bat anyway--a very temporarily swollen congregation full of mutinous children who have been bribed and cajoled within an inch of their lives by overtly anxious parents to look somewhat presentable for grimly self-satisfied grandparents and so apparently pre-occupy themselves with sending sulky, Snap-chat selfies to their friends or continuously asking, "Is it over yet??" in passive-aggressive stage whispers.

I realize this makes me sound like a priggish, old Church Lady.

I am not. Well. Except maybe "old."

I am old.

I have never--ever--been assured of my faith. Or my relationship with the Almighty. Or the Almighty's plan or purpose for me. I often wonder if the Almighty is just sort of winging it where I'm concerned. I often wonder at (and am a bit envious, if I'm truly honest) other believers'--of any faith (or lack thereof)--confidence that they are walking the right and just path and that their god loves them and the rest of it. But--sometimes I think I might have caught glimpses of it. I have had teeny tiny peeks at tiny moments of sheer beauty and harmony and infinite universes. But the overwhelming majority of the time, I'm just some sort of rough and slouching beast, fumbling along in the footsteps of the saints and the artists and the watchers of the heavens. I still have friends who wonder why I still bother.

I still have friends who think the things I find at the Goodwill are nothing short of miraculous. Every time they go, they say, they only find huge heaps of nasty crap. How can they possibly be expected to sift through all that fugly shit? The thought of it makes them bored, overwhelmed and a bit...icky. (And the same thing gets said for exercising, painting, writing, eating healthy--I'm just not inspired right now; when I get the time/the space/the right equipment et cetera...)
I must have uncanny good luck or a saintly tolerance for the most disgusting and distasteful things.

I most definitely do not.

I just keep showing up. Like some sort of masochist--I continue to be around for my children as they enter their obstreperous teenage years, in case they feel like talking, write awkward blogposts and absurd stories, create clumsy, experimental things, go to thrift stores, to yoga classes, to mass. Sometimes I have to force myself to go. It happens. Sometimes I just don't go and I realize I'll have to forfeit whatever treasure happens in my absence.

I do know you will never find whatever it is you're looking for if you aren't there.
You may not be there when the Hermes scarf shows up at the Goodwill. When the words suddenly take on their own lives and you fall through the rabbit hole of your own written world. When a sermon by a stuttering priest actually strikes some deep and secret chord in your heart that resonates for that moment of pure harmonious bliss. When a toddler points to a sparkly pebble and shows you the infinite Glory of the universe. These things are not guaranteed. They may never happen at all. But you most certainly may miss them if you aren't there at all. Or if you still believe "Quality Time" does not involve a huge "Quantity of Time." 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Series of Unfortunate Irritations

This subject has been written and blogged about before (and undeniably more brilliantly) in many different ways--most resonantly for me, "The Sneaky Hate Spiral" (in Allie Brosh's hapless and hilariously insightful Hyperbole and a Half), or more optimistically, playing more gently on the theme of Brosh's Hate Spiral, as "one of those days" (Brian Konzman, a Jesuit scholastic in The Jesuit Post) that present an opportunity to see the glass as half full or expand, through prayer or meditation or yoga or whatever, our capacity for patience and whatnot, or as the classic depressive cycle that is kicked off with irritation, frustration and restlessness as can be found in just about any artist's self-reflecting blog on the internet.

So I'm not covering new ground here. Although when one is slogging along, deep in the tangled undergrowth of the circuitous path of the Hate Spiral, even though you're all oh-shit-here-we-are-again, it still looks as though no one mowed the grass for like, seventeen years, and you don't recognize anything. Anyway, when you're really deep in it, you wonder if you've ever been this deep, or if this will be the time you can't find your way out, if anyone will find your body.

And part of what resonates about the name, "Sneaky Hate Spiral" is just that--it's hard to say exactly where it all starts to go horribly wrong.

Looking back on my Facebook posts, there was some evidence of mental itchiness from run-of-the-mill irritants--

  •        Aggressively idiotic tourist-season traffic 
  •        People throwing litter out of their cars like this was the freaking 1970's  
  •        Painful pimple on the inside of my nose and one exactly where I sit! 
  •       A lost crown that required an unanticipated series of painful and hideously expensive       trips to the dentist.      

 While all this was amusing fodder for my crazycake rants, I can see I was increasingly getting mired in the absurd, obscenity-laced batshit frosting of it all.

But there were also underlying factors and events biding their time, picking away at my self-control  pretty much the same way I pick at my cuticles.

I know enough by now to warn the husband and children when I start getting itchy like that-- that this isn't their fault. I try to give them fair warning to keep clear and not to do too much teenage rebellion stuff--at least within radius of, say, how far I can throw a sewing machine. I don't often get that memo out in time to friends and neighbors.

Exhibit A:
My Career:
I'm in the process of switching out spring and summer eBay inventory for the winter inventory. It's a long, physically tedious process. The house is full of piles of clothes waiting to be photographed, piles of clothes waiting to be cleaned and mended, piles of clothes waiting to be weighed and measured and piles of bins full of clothes waiting to be listed and shipped. Piles of winter clothes waiting to be sorted, stored or returned.
It is a grim reminder that my career took a turn a few years ago and now here I am--shining shoes and removing grease stains from clothing that I simply can't figure out how anyone can afford at retail prices. Seriously-- $250 for a tank top? And then spill wine down the front--stand in the splash radius of a cherry pie??

Speaking of which, I give you Exhibit B:

I usually don't mind laundry. I kinda like the chemistry of stain removal. Making freshly cleaned, line-dried and ironed piles of folded laundry is a kind of masochistic aroma-therapy. But then I bought this at our fancy, new neighborhood natural food market:

I have bought this brand before. But not this super-duper concentrated variety in this super-groovy, eco-friendly packaging. I was feeling pretty dang virtuous: shelling out that premium price and toting it out in my little re-usable grocery bags.

It smelled like my laundry room had been occupied by a musty hippie commune and 23 pet ferrets. The odor then wandered and filtered through the rest of the house like a nosy little-old-lady wearing dimestore toilet water and made itself right at home with what smelled like a leaky kerosene heater and threatened to stay.
Super-pissed me off.

Then this:  Chapstick. In the dryer. Left in one of the boys' pockets! Yay! Sneaky grease Stains!

Then, a whole load of red laundry had a color run accident and I was so incredibly pissed I threw the entire load in the garbage.

Then, it all sort of cascaded down:

People who do unrelated things to "create awareness." Like wearing some little ribbon on your lapel. Or doing a walkathon. Or that bunch of celebrities that climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to "create awareness" for fresh drinking water. They got to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. People in Africa still need fresh drinking water. How did a bunch of actors climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro get fresh drinking water to people? I mean, I'm aware that they need water. Everyone needs water. But the whole goofy celebrity awareness circus still does nothing. So I was eating lunch and saw this bike. This sort of makes me want to bully this person. We all know about "bullying." Is some jackass biking around going to completely change human nature? Are we going to see this person and say, "gee, I should stop being a bully?" Or: "My kid should stop being bullied?" Obviously, the answer is yes. Biking to save gasoline or to prevent traffic jams might make more sense. Climbing Mt. Kiliminjaro to pick up litter that people left on the mountain, too. I wanted to take this person's front wheel.
There were also little things like this:
A flattened cheap fork that didn't properly fit a too-deep crockery bowl. 

 Sidewalks that end for no reason:


Smug people who, completely without irony stick "Adopt don't Shop" "Who Rescued Who?" "Shop Local" "No Blood for Oil" or those self-righteous "Coexist" bumperstickers on the back of their Toyota SUVs.

Low frequency beat played so loudly in cars behind you at traffic lights, that your own car rattles.

National Geographic articles--In one issue, they can go from how horrible it is that small town culture is being abandoned to how horrible it is that small towns are expanding and causing urban sprawl; people living in rural areas are losing their "rural heritage" to how ignorant people living in isolated small towns are; people are despoiling the environment; people aren't out exploring the environment. MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!

Gnawing one's cuticles to shreds, and finding nothing but small, weird-shaped bandaids left in the medicine cabinet.

Dead batteries.

Piles of dead batteries left in the junk drawer so you think they might be good batteries.

Live oak trees.

Mosquitoes in your bedroom at night.

Expensive clothing that gaps and pills.

Well-intentioned people telling me to "calm down" or that I'm "over-reacting." 

Has that ever worked?

Let me just say that I showed them what over-reacting really was.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Let me begin by saying I don't have OCD. 
Or, perhaps, I should say I don't have any papers to prove I do have OCD. I'm quite certain if I were to go have a mental health checkup with a psychiatrist they'd find something. A whole list of things. I already know I've got things. I don't need to pay some other crazy person 100 bucks an hour to have him tell me I've got things.
Lately, though, OCD seems like the thing to have. Like it's cute to say: "I'm so OCD!" because you like clean counters or because you sometimes have to go check and see if you locked the door. Or you think you're a "hoarder" because you buy Scotch tape in bulk and save wrapping paper and have more than three magazines on your coffee table.

I just get a little...obsessive. About things. A single word or line or phrase from something. A number. Not stepping on cracks or, conversely, stepping on ALL the cracks. An imaginary friend or the storyline in a particular daydream. Going to the Goodwill. Watching my auction sales on eBay. Yogurt. Lemons. Pickled herring. Pie.
It's never anything useful like clean counters or checking to see if I unplugged the iron. Or where I put my keys.

Then there's the other part of what to do with those spiraling thoughts:

I will not throw my keys down a storm drain.

I will not count the number of pumps on my hair conditioner. See? I don't need 5 pumps. I'm gonna do 6. Which turns into: well then I should do 8. And then, every time after that, you're doing 8. Until you have to rein it in and go back to 5 because 8 was starting to use up too much hair conditioner.

See? I do not need to avoid stepping on the cracks. But then for entire next block, you can't stop humming that line from the DEVO song. And then you have to debate whether the line from the song or the crack-stepping thing is more annoying.

I will NOT go to Goodwill.  I have to do this tedious, awful thing and I just can't go to the Goodwill. I don't even want to go to the Goodwill. 
Except this might be the day that someone left an Hermes bag or a Chanel jacket. So I will go to the Goodwill. And I will only buy something that is as good as an Hermes bag or a Chanel jacket...

I will not have pie. I will focus on something else. I do not need pie. I am not even hungry. Especially not for pie. 

It's like an itch and the more you try not to scratch it, the more it sort of whines like a mosquito in your ear: "iiiiiiitttttccccchyyyyy. I'm iiiiiitcccchy. Scrrrraaaatchhhh me...." 
Or like chapped lips: "Liiiiiiiiick em. Just liiiick em.!...For the love of god! Will someone come and lick this poor idiot's lips?????"
Sometimes they're fierce and short-lived. Sometimes they sort of limp along for years. None of them are particularly hazardous or intrusive. Well. The exercise addiction took up a lot of time. And maybe the pie.

But then! One day, they just...evaporate. Pssssssss. A lot of them tend to leave at the same time--like yammering guests at a dull party. They've been saying the same dumb things over and over and then they all just sort of look at each other, jingling their keys in their pockets, and they're all, like--"yeah, let's blow this popsicle stand."

I have tried to describe the feelings that come when obsessions finally run their course: relief, obviously, and the euphoria of freedom; but also embarrassment, exhaustion, a yawning, blank abyss where the obsession previously dwelled, and bewilderment (what the hell WAS all that about???) 
There is also a new intellectual clarity and a gratitude for the patient friends who tried to understand, stayed with me, prayed with me, and just hung on for the ride.

It's difficult to re-cultivate an obsessive habit after that. I have never re-acquired a hankering for ice cream or donuts or white wine, for instance. Even things like frozen yogurt, hush puppies and champagne became collateral damage in those skirmishes. After decades of building complex imaginary worlds, populated with rich characters, I lost the map to those particular rabbit holes when I tried to discipline myself to "be in the moment" and "be present," and all those other dull things.
So, for those of you with the useful, cute kinds of OCD--Yeah--you can come over to clean my counters. I was too busy eating pickled herring and buying fabric on eBay for a year or so. 

And sometimes, I really miss my imaginary friends.