Mar 24, 2015

Rest in peace, my wonderful grandmother

My beloved grandma, Ann Albertson, passed away today at the age of 101. This is a reworking of a post I published about her in honor of her 100th birthday.

My grandma was a strong, strong woman. She remained sharp as a tack even as she became a centenarian. She'd talk about which politicians were idiots, which crime novels were worth reading. Her vision went out, so she took to spending hours listening to mystery novels on tape. Her hearing weakened, but if you called her up and she couldn't quite make out your name (Debbie? Peggy?), she'd figure it through logic: "Wait, tell me who your mother is, dear. If her name's easier to hear, I'll have you figured out."

I loved my grandma. She's the only grandparent I've ever had and the only one I've ever needed. She was smart as hell and loved to read, which had a big effect on me as a kid. When she was a little girl, her parents would catch her staying up past her bedtime, reading books in her window by streetlight.

My grandma, looking adorable as a child throughout the 1910s. Is she feeding that horse spaghetti?
But being born in 1913 means the Depression hit by the time she was 16. My grandma was born into a working class family, so when things got bad, she took a job to help support her parents and younger siblings. She actually intended to drop out of high school toward this end, but the proprietor of the dimestore she worked at after school was a kind person, who promised her a full time job if she graduated first. He followed through on that offer, and after finishing school, she walked a mile to and from work every day in high heels, which her father, a carpenter, frequently needed to recap. She wouldn't stop working for the next several decades.

(left) My grandma, hanging out around 1930 (right) Standing with her mom and little sister around 1925.
(left) In the center with her sister and sis-in-law during the 1940's (right) Wearing her husband's Willow Run B-24 Bomber Plant Fire Brigade Cap during the 1940's
During the early 1940's shortly after the births of my dad (left) and uncle (right)
During World War II, my grandma worked at the Willow Run B-24 bomber plant (workplace of Rosie the Riveter) here in the city I live in, Ypsilanti. She drove all over the plant delivering parts in a little truck with six trailers attached to it in a train. She was awesome at maneuvering that crazy thing, parking and snaking it through the Byzantine labyrinth of assembly stations.

She would go on to work nights on the line at the Argus camera factory, and as a shelver for Sanders' confections. She often joked that she made more in her elderly years, collecting pensions from all her past employers, than she ever made working for one of them. It was hard work, all of it. That had a big effect on me too, as a person and as a woman in particular. Generationally speaking, the folks in my family have had kids later than average -- my grandma was 27 when she gave birth to her eldest, my dad; pretty old by 1941 standards. My dad was 40 when I was born (he does curls with 100 lb. dumbbells and has no interest in retirement, but he's a whole other story). But I always noticed, even as a little girl, that my grandma was older than most of my friends' grandparents, and yet she was by far the least old fashioned.

My grandma, seen throughout the 50's with my dad (far left) and my grandfather (far right)
My grandparents in the mid-1960's
While idealized women on TV were doting housewives, my grandma was kicking ass in an assembly line all night and then taking her three boys to the lake the next day. She was taking the swing shift at a distribution center so she could make cocoa for her son after his paper route during her scheduled meal break.

Consequently, the idea that a woman's place is somehow behind her man -- presumably because he's the breadwinner -- was pretty obsolete in her world. She brought in half the income (my grandpa worked in the Ford plant but paid alimony to a gal he married briefly in his youth, which was standard practice back then), she used her own strong arms and agile hands to support her family, and in light of what she did to provide for them, the idea of a woman satisfying herself with housework and elaborate dinner planning seemed pretty ridiculous by comparison.

Additionally, I love fashion, but I also love that my grandma didn't give a hoot about clothes. She'd always been a straight shooting, straight talking kind of lady, and she'd always cared more about a good novel than a pretty dress. And I happen to know, despite her being an endless source of hugs and 'I love you's', that she spent most of her life being tough as nails whenever she had to be. She consequently never had time or money for fancy clothes when she was younger, or patience for any of that crap when she was older. She'd rather go to Atlantic City in a pair of knit pants than get dolled up for some man (especially since my grandfather died in the late 1960's), so that's exactly what she did. In fact, when my mom once asked if she ever wanted to remarry, my grandmother remarked, "I spent 30 years as a married woman being a maid, why would I want to go back to that?"

It's discombobulating when I hear about how many elderly folks resist moving out of their old houses, because my grandma was pleased as punch to retire at age 60, sell her house and all the junk she didn't need, and settle delightedly into a modest little one bedroom apartment where she would happily devour crime fiction and plan vacations with her girlfriends for the next 40 years.

My grandma, adoring her old-womanhood during the 70's and 80's
Being a doting grandmother during the 1980's
My grandma, still rocking it with her utilitarian purse and wash-and-go perm throughout the 90's
Going on cruises, vacations to Hawaii, and to various casinos with her best friend Mildred throughout the 90's and 2000's
My grandma finally moved into an assisted living center about a mile from my parents' house at the age of 99. My dad and uncle would hang out with her almost every day -- because her mind stayed clear and coherent up until the last few months of her life. About 10 years ago, she spent time in a senior rehabilitation center for a broken leg, and she complained to me that the place was full of "old ladies."

"I'm 10 years older than these women!" she said, "But they're going around in skirts and cardigans like it's the 1950's. Didn't anyone ever tell them 'You don't have to do that crap anymore?"

That broken leg fully healed, by the way. She also fully recovered from a broken arm and fractured hip, and though she developed symptoms of Type II diabetes and emphysema during her 80's, by her 90's, her doctor couldn't find any trace of them. They were gone. I suspect that the secret behind how she fully healed from these maladies, even at her age, is the same secret as to how she's lived this long: she never took anything bad personally, including pain.

As no-fuss as she was, nothing ever gnawed at her or stuck in her craw. She never bemoaned her circumstances or felt victimized by anything. She even endured the unspeakable loss of her son, my uncle Robbie, being killed in Vietnam three weeks after his deployment. And it's not that she wasn't horribly hurt by the devastation of his loss, it's just that she wasn't burdened by the tendency to assign blame or ask "Why me?" Living that way allowed her to accept every single moment with the kind of peace that great saints and mystics strive for. I love this about her, even now that she's passed. I love that the way my eyes disappear into dark little eyelash smiles when I laugh comes from my grandma and I can see it in every picture of her. I love how I can hear her in my voice when I'm getting down to business. And I love how she imbued my whole family with the strength of her loving perspective, more today than ever. ♥

Mar 13, 2015

Lumpy Space Barbie

For Christmas, Gbear asked for an "Adventure Time Barbie." By now, Gbear knows and expects that if she asks for a Barbie not made by Mattel, there's a good chance I'll make it for her. At this point, it's part of the fun.

Her favorite Adventure Time character, as has long been established, is Marceline. However, Gbear was already asking for some Marceline stuff (and spoiler alert, she was totally getting it....)

So because her request didn't specify, I took the initiative and made her a Barbie based on my own long established favorite character, Lumpy Space Princess.

Just like with the Hawkgirl Barbie I made her last year, this task took almost no actual crafting, I just found a Barbie with purple hair on Ebay for $4 (apparently, this is a Jam'n'Glam Barbie from 2001) and sourced the parts to her outfit from Ebay and Etsy. The purple trimmed silver pants came with the doll, the star on her head is a plastic diaper snap, and the amazing LSP sweater was made by Etsy seller mimundoblythe, whose selection is enormous.

MC found this beat up magenta Barbie Corvette on Etsy going for close to nothing and was inspired to buy it so LSP Barbie could have a sweet ride. The Lumpy Space Princess designs are all just stuff I found on the internet, printed out, and decopaged on there. 

Just a color printer and a jar of Modpodge, you guys. That's all it takes.

Gbear was actually more excited to open this gift than I thought she'd be! I tried and failed to get a surreptitious video of her doing LSP's voice while she played with her. There's something kind of delightful about a seven year old girl doing the voice of a valley girl alien whose actual voice is provided by an adult man. 

Mar 5, 2015

Electric Lady

This post title derives entirely from the fact that it looks like there's an electrical cord running from me to the wall in some of these. I do seem to finally have some time for blogging again, but unfortunately for us both, first I have to post this forgotten set of photos taken at some point before that fucking Christmas tree was put back in its box. 

My hair has grown out a lot since then. 

Leotard: Capezio
Supposed "over the knee boots": Random TJ Maxx clearance bin 3 years ago
Plaid skirt: Asos
Faux thigh high tights: DKNY via my friend Tara

Feb 17, 2015

High heeled snowboot

For years I've been looking for a high heeled boot that has 1.) insulation from the cold, 2.) decent, rubberized tread, and 3.) a waterproof lining.

I think I've finally found it. On Ebay I scored these Sorel brand Medina rainboots. They have actual tread on the soles, they're totally waterproof, and while I wouldn't say they're as thermally armored as some full-on Joan of Arctic snowboots, they do stand up to the cold better than a pair of Hunters, which are almost counter productive in their inability to withstand any kind of low temperature whatsoever. I popped a pair of thermal inserts into these ones and they're toasty warm now.

This seemed worth mentioning at this brutally cold winter apex. Keep warm out there.

Feb 12, 2015

Print Your Own Galaxy Cat Valentines!

It's that time of year again.

Gbear wanted cats and dogs on the Valentines she was going to pass out to her classmates this year. We Googled a few ideas and she soon became very taken with the insanity of galaxy cats -- that beloved meme in which cats sit on top of random objects (usually food) in space. So we grabbed a handful (plus one doge and a random cat in sunglasses) and added some V-day messages in Photoshop.

For the backs.

High-res, print-configured versions of these are below, so you can print your own, just click 'Read More'! 

Jan 30, 2015

The Beautiful World of Rod McKuen

Poet and musician Rod McKuen died yesterday at the age of 81. This is a reworking of a tribute post we published about McKuen in 2011. We love him and we hope he rests in peace. 


Today, we celebrate Rod McKuen.

MC got this fantastic vintage t-shirt at the Getup recently. But to fully understand its sheer delightfulness, you might need a primer on just who Rod McKuen is. 

We couldn't think of a better way to honor an artist who devoted over thirty books to unabashedly celebrating the trappings of the heart and the senses than with a ridonkulous boudoir shoot.

"I have fallen in love with the world and I am aware that I have chosen the most dangerous lover of them all." - Rod McKuen
McKuen was an uncommonly popular author in the realm of poetry and his commercial success made him a pop culture icon for most of the '60s and '70s. Much of the reason for this is the fact that, to put it quite bluntly, he didn't write substantive, artistically challenging verse. His poems were more like song lyrics, which makes sense, because he was also a musician. His poetry is highly literal and largely focused on the three main audience friendly topics of love, animals, and childhood. But mostly love. Here's an example.

The lifetime I have left
I open up to you
to tread upon
and travel through.

You pave the road
I'll follow,
You build the bridge,
I'll test it first.

-Rod McKuen, Caught in the Quiet...

McKuen was more respected as a songwriter than as a poet. His cleverness was a gift, and so was the fearlessness with which he exposed his tenderest thoughts and feelings. He's not exactly Ginsberg and his poems can broad, obvious, and sentimental, but that's no reason not to love him or his work. His poetry is still deftly written, very sweet and always unpretentious.

Indeed, there really is something beautifully earnest about Rod McKuen. After all, you can't devote one entire book of poetry to cats if you're not fundamentally honest with yourself. The way he guilelessly reveals his every feeling and observation -- even when he seems to do it tritely -- is resolutely graceful in its honesty. As a person and as an artist, he is fundamentally endearing.


If you like apples
I'll carry home an orchard
If sky is to your liking
I'll bundle up the skies
of summer
so you'll never need to know
the winter evening any more

I like the fire
and so I wait for winter nights
Apples I can take or leave

-Rod McKuen, With Love...

He's also kind of a cheeky rascal.

Rome Itself

I carry
down between my legs
Rome itself,
for you love Rome
and I would drive Rome into you
or drive you into Rome.
This room your coliseum
till you board your plane,
These arms your forum,
cat's included.

Self propelled am I
between the morning
and the midnight
I glide along your groin
and earn my wings
by testing out your thighs
like some new willful Wiley Poet

My flight is not away
not to or from.
Above you, below you --
I soar around you
and perch upon your second pillow.

-Rod McKuen, Fields of Wonder

My actual expression after reading the poem above.

And as if the man weren't already lovable enough, he also adored cats.

Rod has returned to his new loves, his old loves, and the ever-constant sea. His warmth, cleverness, and honesty will be missed. 

I'll Say Goodbye

Now that the summer's come and gone I'll say good-bye.
Now that the winter's comin' on I'll say goodbye.
I'm not the first man or the last
who had a thirst to leave the past.
So while the autumn rain is falling I'll say good-bye

For every star that falls to earth a new one glows.
For every dream that fades away a new one grows.
When things are not what they would seem
you must keep following your dream.
So while my heart is still believing I'll say good-bye.

Love is a sweet thing caught a moment
and held in a golden eye.
You can borrow but never own it
after a while it says good-bye.

-Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm

 So long, cowboy. 

Jan 26, 2015

Where am I?

Hey kids, sorry about the delay, and about the fact that these pictures are a solid month old. I realized while I was uploading them that I couldn't hope to hide this fact because there's a freaking Christmas tree figure in all the shots. 

The upside is that I no longer have this inexcusable mullet. I chopped it off myself like the the head of a French aristocrat. Viva la Revolution!

Just in case you're curious, my main cause of busyness has been kicking a respectable amount of ass as a free agent. No longer stuck with my old 9-5 job, I've been hustling an okay living so far as a freelancer. I'm working hard and writing a lot and very, very happy. Also, if you need somebody to write and/or copy and style edit your press releases, professional correspondence, ad copy, web content, term papers, or anything else, shoot me an email and I'll give you my rate. :)

leotard: capezio
50s skating skirt: vintage via the getup
50s garland cardigan: vintage, had so long i can't remember
fake thigh high tights: dkny, gifted from my friend tara
glasses: ysl
shoes: steve madden
wwii u.s. air force sweetheart necklace: antique, christmas gift from mc a few years back 

 Anther day, another dur face. Taking my sweater off for a pic even though the room is cold. 

Jan 6, 2015

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year!

We spent  the stroke of midnight on New Years on our floor, as usual. We hope you have a kickass new year. :)