Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#18 Smashed foam Karuba cup

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

One night, while sitting in the window of the Blue Moon, I saw something white floating way way above the streetlights. I watched it for at least 10 minutes as it dipped and swirled, and moved slowly closer to me. At times, it would almost fall, then it would get sucked up again. It seemed to be taunting me. I was intrigued.

I got distracted for a few minutes, but when I looked for it again, it was still out there. It was behaving in the same way, but much closer than it had been. I became more and more convinced it was waiting for me.

When I mentioned it to my friends, everyone joked that it was a message from god. Maybe. I had to see it. I went outside with my coffee. Almost immediately, it fell at my feet, white side up. I was kind of scared to pick it up. When I did, I began to chuckle. I attempted to take a sip of coffee, and found my cup empty. I began to laugh. Hard. Finally, someone came outside and asked me what it said. The message was clear. "God wants us to have more coffee."

Monday, April 4, 2011

#17 Flowery Express Skirt

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

In 1998, I stopped wearing pants. It made absolutely no sense. Up until then, my basic uniform was some sort of t-shirt and jeans. I didn't even want to wear a skirt for choir. I hated flowery things until I found this skirt for a couple bucks at Ragstock, and it changed my life.

I can't go back to bifurcation. I do dabble on rare occasions, but I get uneasy when my legs can't touch each other. It's hard to explain. I am always amused when people assume I am dressed up, or they ask me if I wear skirts for religious reasons. Nope. I am just not a pants person.

I loved this skirt and wore it to death. It's covered in cigarette burns, the hem has torn out of it and been repaired several times. In the early aughts, I was sitting on the sidewalk and didn't realize I had been sitting in a big gob of gum until it was much too late. I tried valiantly to save it, to no avail. I was devastated, because it was a huge symbol of the shift between what was and what is. I have never seen another one like it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

#16 Jennie's Misc Desk Stuff Box

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

Two weeks ago, my husband and I finally settled into our new place. All the things we need were finally unpacked, and it was time to banish empty boxes. In the process, I told him to break this box down, and then I started crying.

This was the last box of my things I packed when I moved out of my mom's house at eighteen. It is the perfect size for the two handfuls of tiny things I am always left with at the end of packing.

Today is my 28th birthday. Looking at the photo of that box, I'm getting all misty again. I am thinking of me at that age, how it felt to close that last, little box. I'm thinking of all the pain I didn't know was coming, at all the joy I didn't know I'd be rewarded with, in time. Ten years I traveled with this thing. Wow.

Next time we move, I will end up with a small pile of things with no home, small things I don't want to put in a huge box, and I know I will go looking for this one. I just know it. But it will be OK.

Monday, March 21, 2011

#15 Artificial Roses

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

So, I was prom queen(that's another story). My only duty as such was to crown the next prom queen. Three days before prom, I still did not have a date. I announced before lunch that if I didn't have one by the end of the day, I wasn't going. My friend Dan stepped in. He said his girlfriend was going with a freshman, so he would be my date.

Later that day, she ended up crying and screaming at me in class, because I guess the only reason she was going with a freshman was because Dan had outright refused to go to prom with her, because it was stupid. Oops. I assured her it was purely platonic. She continued to freak out, but Dan said he would stick to his word re: being my escort.

He was at an archery competition all day. By the time he was done, the flower shop was closed, so he bought me a ridiculously overpriced red rose from the gas station. While bumming around Shopko after dinner, he bought me these cause they matched my dress perfectly and he felt bad I was going to show up with only one flower.

He was a really good date. Best platonic date I ever had.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Explain My Absence

I may be away for a while. I was looking forward to really diving back in after my trip, but I came home to a sick kitty who has since died, and I am kind of a wreck, and will be for a while, I assume.
We start moving on Tuesday, so that's another factor. I'll be here, I just don't know when.

Monday, February 7, 2011

#14 Djarum Internationals Tin

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

This was given to me in 1999 by a co-worker, along with the 6 remaining cigarettes. Since I was underage, it was a pretty big deal. We were both silly, weird, artsy types, we both loved ugly vintage things. Losing touch with her is one of the only reasons I ever regretted quitting that job.

I saw her a couple years ago at Salvation Army. I recognized her immediately, and I practically ran over to say hello. Then, as I approached, I overheard part of her cell phone conversation. She was swearing a lot, complaining about the cops, and how she already had to go to court for a number of charges from what sounded like several separate incidents. As I got closer, she looked more and more tired, and more and more ragged, and it seemed like she just hadn't smiled or laughed in a long while. She smelled like a bar. I snuck away before she had even noticed my approach.

I still don't know if it would have been cruel or kind to say hello. I didn't know if it would have made her happy or sad to see me, to acknowledge the passage of 10 years, and the changes they brought.

Friday, February 4, 2011

#13 Plastic Truck

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

I have often said that it is so much easier to make friends when you're a kid because you can just walk up to the sand box, sit down, and usually end up making a friend. You show up with a cool new truck or something, and everyone wants to talk to you.

When I moved to Oshkosh, I only had a few friends, and it was very difficult for me to reach out. I met this really cool guy at work, who seemed like a total nerd, and he seemed smart and kind, and I wanted to be his friend. But, I am shy. So I never really talked to him. Scheduling a "play date" with another grownup is awkward.

One day, we were the only people outside on break, and he handed me some chalk and asked if I would trace a chalk line around him, dead-body style. I did a really poor job. But still, we seemed like we'd mesh as friends. Somehow, he found my LJ, and read my entry about friends and sandboxes.

The first time we hung out, he showed up with two plastic trucks, and took me to the playground to play in the sand.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

#12 Hemp Bracelet

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

Robbie was a regular at the Blue Moon. He was always drawing pictures and he had a ridiculous brown hat. He was usually the first friendly face I'd run into when I came into town. He was the first person I ever had a conversation with at the Moon. It was about Cat Stevens.

One weekend, Robbie wasn't there. Rumor was that he had thrown all his possessions off a cliff and had gone to do a long-term missionary trip in Tibet. Such an odd, grandiose story! Probably all lies. But he was gone for a loooong time.

One night, Robbie Showed up out of the blue with his guitar and kick drum. When his set came up, he proceeded to play and play and nobody minded. He played for a half hour after the shop was officially closed. Everyone was teary. It was the most honest I had ever seen him play. At one point, a boy walked up to him and said he wanted Robbie to have something, that it was all he could give to thank him.

I never did get the real story from Robbie. But he did pass the boy's gift on to me, saying he was allergic to hemp.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I haven't actually run out of things.

Oh boy, no way. Far from it. my flickr stream is here: in case you want to peruse what's coming up soonish. I'm wondering which objects people would like to hear about first. Please comment and let me know if there's something you're curious about.

I have yet to upload many photos, and I have yet to photograph many things :)

I have been so excited about the present and about the future lately, it has been hard to slip into introspective nostalgia mode. Plus I am still getting over an ear infection :(

I will be working/playing in Seattle for a few days starting Sunday, and I don't want to worry about online things very much. So. I haven't given up, but I am going to be away.

Meanwhile, if you happen to have a submission done for some reason and would like to send it to me, the address is I'll need a decent photo, and approximately 200 words. I'd like your real name, but you can decide how you're credited in the post. If you send this stuff to me, you are giving me permission to use it here, and to upload your photos to my Flickr account. Just so's you know.

Have a good week or so <3

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#11 My Melody Scissors

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

These are the best scissors I have ever owned. I have had them since I was around 3. I don't know if they were technically a gift or a hand-me-down, but they were given to me by a cousin.

When I was little, I perceived these scissors as being magical in some way. They were definitely Precious, and they never got taken to school or to a friend's house. I did not share them- I knew if they got broken or lost, I wouldn't be getting more. I was in complete awe of my cousin. I assumed she must have tons of money to be able to have (and then give away) something so nice ALL THE WAY FROM JAPAN.

Remember how the world was before the internet and Ebay? Remember how things from Japan seemed really exotic? Remember how hard it was to get a hold of anything from another country unless you actually traveled there, or had friends overseas who could mail you things? Crazy, huh?

They are really quite well made for children's scissors. Note how discolored they are. See how much I used them? They're still fairly sharp. Alas, my hands are too big to maneuver them efficiently.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

#10 Blue Phone

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

When I moved into my first place, I didn't have a phone. Well, I did. But the ringer was broken. I could call out in an emergency, that was good enough for me. I used to pick up the receiver a few times a day, just for fun. Sometimes, there would actually be people calling me. It was great. I felt like Yoko Ono.

This annoyed my friends. Some more than others. Colin was in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. He was always threatening to buy me a phone. One day, I got a mysterious box in the mail. I rolled my eyes, but had to admit it was pretty cool, for a phone. It was blue like the brand new iMacs were :)

Every time I looked at it, it annoyed me. Until September 11th, 2001. On that day, if Colin hadn't called to reassure me that everything was fine, I would have freaked out a lot more. In the days following, he called me almost daily. He used all of his phone time on me, until his mom got mad.

That period of our friendship was the closest. It's one of the parts I miss most.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#9 Green Chair Buttons

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

The Blue Moon Coffee Company in Neenah was the first place I ever felt "at home". In high school, I traveled there at least one weekend a month, once I was old enough to drive. I'd sit in the green chair if it was open, and I'd write and write and write until familiar faces started filling the room. For me, it was such an important part of the atmosphere. The atmosphere in that place was like a living thing.

Slowly, it got creakier and more stained (in those days, you could still smoke in coffee houses). The scratchy 1950's upholstery became more and more threadbare. The buttons got really loose. Two years in a coffee house had really taken their toll on that poor chair.

Sensing it was on its last legs, I sketched out the pattern of its fabric, planning to get that as my first tattoo. I snipped off a loose button when nobody was looking so I could carry a bit of it with me. I came back a month later, and the chair was gone. A friend had cut off another button for me when he saw the chair sticking out of the dumpster, so I had a pair.

They still smell like stale clove cigarettes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In case you were wondering

I took the weekend off. I decided that getting rid of roughly 10- 15 cubic feet of stuff on Saturday morning was good enough for this weekend :)

I'll see you tomorrow for another thing post. Promise.

Friday, January 14, 2011

#8 Baseball Hall Pass

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

I had a really rough time during high school. Somewhere in between the poop in my locker and a teacher inciting violence against me, I had had enough. The day my principal screamed in my face that I was "too stupid for advanced classes", I walked out. Nobody really reached out until I had been gone for more than a month. Then one day, I got a letter from my English teacher.

I won't disclose exactly what it said, but it motivated me to go through the process of finding the right psychologist who worked as an advocate for me. I went back to school. I still struggled to make myself go or care, but I felt much better knowing that *someone* in a position of authority cared about me, and saw what was going on.

His class ruined Shakespeare for me forever, but he saved my life.

He hated grackles. His hall pass was a baseball. I had autographed it at some point because I was a smartass. On the last day of school, he tracked me down and gave it to me.

He died days later, before I had a chance to tell him (or before I had grown up enough to realize) what his letter had done.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#7 Photo of Chile Powder Mixes

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

I have been on love with old National Geographic magazines for as long as I can remember. I love the colors, I love the obvious sense of humor certain photographers had. For a while in high school, I acquired and read and cut up so many of them that I started to get familiar with the photographers. I started remembering (by sight) what issues had what pictures, etc. etc.

When I moved into my first apartment, I wanted to have a clear shower curtain with photos "floating" on it. I took several of my favorite pictures, sandwiched them in clear contact paper, and safety pinned them to a clear liner. I was so proud of that shower curtain. I loved it. I had so many photos, I had to make cuts, and this one got the axe because it wasn't as pretty as some of the others when the light shone through it. I still really love the photo, and I have kept it all these years because this one is an anomaly- I have never seen it again. I have no idea what issue it's in.

The chile mixtures in the upper right and the upper middle are called "Rock 'n' Roll" and "Sputnik Mixture" respectively.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#6 Hello Kitty "Bears"

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

It is easy for me to criticize my ex boyfriend, and who he used to be. Who I assume he is right now. Over the years, I have learned a lot about way things work, and what is really important. I know now that, like me, he was just doing the best he could with what he was given. I realized that a while back. Hadn't said it out loud yet because I didn't quite believe it till yesterday.

He was so terrible to me. For a long time. I am certain some of it was intentional. But- seeing these two little plastic things reminded me that at some point, he really liked me. And it's hard to explain, but it was comforting and shaming allatonce.

It's easy when you're young to always feel like you're right. You feel your emotions so deeply, and you don't realize which problems are really molehills. All you can see is the mountain your face is getting slammed into. Until much later.

When things shatter, you find little pieces of them in the carpet or in your soul for *years* after you're sure they're all gone. Some of them are sharp and cut you open. Some of them are actually kind of beautiful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The hardest part

may prove to be something I was not counting on. I thought this whole thing was going to be hard on me because of the physical letting go.

I am starting to think that maybe the hardest part is going to be the remembering.

#5 Rock Stamp from Munich

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

After graduating high school, I went to Germany and Austria with a bunch of German Club kids (I didn't get to go when I was a sophomore).

At the base of the Olympic Tower in Munich, they had this crazy machine that took a photo of you and made stickers, and one that took a photo and turned it into a stamper. We really wanted to make stickers, but the sticker machine was broken. So we went this route.

If you weren't there, you'd have a hard time figuring out what it is. It is our hands, making metal horns, and the words ROCK DE MMI. You can't even see the photo on the ink pad anymore, so I have included my miniature journal and the two decent impressions I got from the thing in the beginning.

99.99% of the artifacts from that trip are probably going to stick around for a while, but this has to go because it is beginning to leak black sludge, and no longer really works.

The journal stays.

Monday, January 10, 2011

#4 Hinge Pins

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

In 2005, after leaving my boyfriend, I moved into a beautiful apartment with a good friend. I was scared and excited. When we found out our application was approved, we went down to our favorite bar and drank $1.50 mimosa(s?).

It was in one of those buildings where it seemed fitting to play jazz, and drink too much gin, and to push all the furniture against one wall so you could paint pictures in the living room. If you were out on the balcony late at night smoking a cigarette while gazing across the courtyard, it almost felt like Europe. It was past its prime. It was haunted as hell. We loved it. Except the kitchen.

The kitchen was a glorified hallway that someone had ridiculously shoved a fridge, a sink, and a stove into. The cabinets were large and high and were covered with huge smothering white doors. The white was crushing me. It was literally in my face every second I was in that kitchen. So one day, I took the cabinet doors off and put them in our storage space.

In the overlap, while I was gone but my roommate was still there, I got a small box of things. An incense burner, some unsent letters, and these hinge pins. I'm still wondering where the other 15 or so went.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A question

How important is context? Do I need to tell you my whole story for these tidbits to make any sense?

Last night I struggled to write about that shot glass for about an hour. I kept going waaaaay over my target of 200 words. There were so many other things I wanted to tell you. I still don't feel like I got the point across. You don't know how broke "broke" was. You don't know how it broke my heart to have him not let me help him. You don't know how important it was in my personal history. Or maybe you do. If you've ever been there...

I wanted to tell you about the squealing serpentine belt, and how comforting it was because I could identify the sound of that car from blocks away, and I knew when he was making a delivery in my neighborhood. I wanted to tell you about the time we were in that car and it started gently raining, and I looked at him and laughed and just slid closer to him, out of harm's way. I felt like if it got too long, it would become too boring for anyone but myself. I felt so limited.

I am torn. Do I remove that parameter? Do I remove that parameter only when it is convenient for me? Am I writing for an audience, or myself, or what? Kurt Vonnegut always said he wrote for his sister. I spent many years writing for someone who probably didn't even know I was doing it, and most likely didn't deserve it. When I stopped writing for that person, I stopped writing. Pretty much.

So. Big questions. Today is a sunny day. I am going to absorb some of it and dwell in the present for now.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

#3 Badgers Shot Glass

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

The first summer my husband and I were dating, he was broke. There were no jobs that didn't require a car. Neither of us had a vehicle, and he had pretty much no hope of finding one in his price range.

Then, our friend decided to move to Boston, and offered to sell his POS Lumina for $100. The passenger window was broken and there were little bits of glass all over inside. It was in rough shape. But it meant we could go places that were further away than a mile or two, and not have to be home by six. It meant he could score a delivery job and actually afford to pay rent and eat without "burdening" me (he was very proud).

As shitty as that car was, it meant a lot to him/us. When it died and went to car heaven, it was hard to see it go. I wanted to save a piece of it, but everything was bolted down, of course. Except a couple things we found in the trunk .

This shot glass was one of them.

We realized weeks later that my Dr. Demento CD was still in the stereo when the car was smashed. Oops.

Friday, January 7, 2011

#2 Piece of a Picture Frame

Originally uploaded by PackRatty McRatterson

"What is that?" I said, squinting into the trash compactor, and pointing
"Some sort of picture frame," he replied. "It's two sheets of glass held together by metal photo corners. I think it's from the 40s"
"Oh MAN! I wish I'd seen that before it got crushed,"I said.
"It was cracked."
"I know how to cut glass!"

He always moved so deliberately. Spoke deliberately, too, with a gentle Georgia accent. I was sixteen, he must have been in his thirties. Not particularly handsome, but graceful. I had never seen him truly hurry, until that moment.

Before I knew what was happening, he had hit the kill button and was down in the reservoir, digging for the metal corners. I was amazed. We weren't friends, we never really talked. We just liked to watch the garbage get smashed. I would never have expected him to just jump down in the pile of debris and dig for something so small (they're 1 1/4" on each side). I never would have even asked. This gesture was such a wonderful, chivalrous thing, I was so grateful, even though he only found three.

The next day, I came in to work, and he was gone. He'd been fired for his major violation of safety protocol.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One More Thing

I have gotten a lot of feedback in various forums today, as well as right here in this blog. I have heard so many times that I am not the only one. Just so you know- I was kind of secretly hoping this was the case. I think nobody talks about these things, and I think there is a lot of shame that comes with this kind of thing. Even if you don't have 25 cats or a house full of rotting pumpkins. I hope my crazy can make someone else feel less crazy. Some of these things, I feel so weird and ashamed about. Some posts will be sentimental like the first one, some of them will demonstrate that sometimes, I literally hang on to garbage. For now, I may be posting the easier things. In many ways this is the most revealing thing I have ever done.

I do plan on eventually opening this here thing up for submissions. It may be a while. But please- if you want to, take pictures, write a little essay (approx 200 words) and get rid of one thing.  Just one. And if it doesn't make you feel awesome, stop there. If it does, go ahead and conquer the world! But remember- you don't have to conquer the whole world. Just your house, your life. And if part of your letting go process involves submitting your bit of history here, please do hang onto it until such time as I get more organized and can handle them.

#1 Blue Glass Owl

Originally uploaded by theshiniestapple

When I was in high school, we had a foreign exchange student from Finland. She was so exotic and grown up and open. She was a breath of fresh air. It took us so long to connect, but when we did, the connection was amazing. She made me feel loved and hopeful for what the world could be outside of our small town. She could only say "hip" instead of "heep" if she lowered her voice and made a very gruff face. We had so many weird little things in common. We both wanted to name our first daughters Olivia. We both loved blue glass. I bought this for her years ago, before we lost touch, and before I had the money to send a package to Finland. I liked to buy her blue glass things that started with B. Blue Bowl. Blue Bead. Blue Bird (though yes, technically, it is an owl). I finally found her on Facebook this summer, but we haven't talked much. Every day, this little guy looks at me from the shelf above my kitchen sink. Every day he makes me miss her and wish I wasn't too chicken to reach out.

Next payday, he's going to fly to Finland.


I am horrible at the internet.


So. I've been talking about doing this for years. Documenting all the weird little things I've been holding onto for years, and then letting them go. This is it. This is the first step. I am a little scared, a little really excited.

I am not a writer. Nope. I make up words, I misuse commas. But you know what? It's OK. This really is mainly for me. For my mental health. And maybe to reach out a little. I am all for making the universe smaller, one tiny golden thread of recognition at a time.

I am a "Pack Rat". This is the euphemism. Really, I am a hoarder. Not like the people you see on the TV, I guess. I've managed to control it pretty well.  I've never owned a home, and I've always been too broke to really buy a ton of stuff. And I really have come quite far in the past couple of years. Still, I have a lot of things I haven't managed to get rid of. Things that don't serve any purpose. I am just seriously terrified of getting rid of them. To me, objects are stories. Objects are memories. I am terrified that if I do not have the thing, I will not have the memory. That is partly a BS fear. It is also partly real. People age, brains age.

When I am 80 years old, I may forget the time when I was sitting in the Blue Moon in Neenah, drinking coffee, and I got up and chased a floating piece of debris for two blocks because somehow, I was convinced it was a message from whatever force is governing this place. Somewhere I still have it, and I will tell the story fully when I find it. I will take a picture and put it here. I will tell its story, and then I will let it go. It is terrifying and exhilarating. Even thinking about throwing it away makes me tear up. Isn't that weird? Yes. I'm just glad I can now recognize this as weird. I told you I've come a long way.

In 2009, my husband and I downsized from a three bedroom, two story house with a basement to what is, essentially, a large one-bedroom apartment. With tons of closets. that are all packed full. I got rid of a lot of things. I had boxesandboxesandboxes of things I hadn't even seen in *years*.  I judged most of those possessions by asking "Can I write 150 words about you? Do I want to?". If the answer was "no", it went. If it was "yes", it got packed in a box that said "Write about me".

Would you like to guess how many times I've opened those boxes in the past year? Goose Egg.
So. This time, it's for real. I am purging more, I am taking pictures, I am documenting them.

And also, hello.