Author Archives: mags

on grief, and celebrating life

*i started writing this post months ago and never finished it. instead of starting over, i’ve decided to just finish the post today and publish it as is. grief is an ongoing process and i feel like i spent much of 2022 grieving. it’s 2023 now and while i know i can’t magically be “done” grieving, i want to move past the actively thinking about it and feeling it all the time phase. today is the day of nita’s memorial gathering and hopefully that will help move the process along.

today is all souls day or day of the dead, november 2nd. i haven’t traditionally been someone who has observed this day, but this year i’m feeling the call.

my boy sticker in his younger days

the first part of 2022 was consumed with the grief of losing my dear sweet feline familiar sticker. stencil and i are mostly adjusted now, though i do think he’s pretty lonely without his brother around. but i’ve made the decision to not get another cat right now. so stencil and i have gotten into a more codependent rhythm. he’s 14 and sleeps a lot in the daylight hours, but i’ve been working on making him come to bed with me at night, blocking off the hallway door so to limit his ability to howl at all the neighborhood cats at the front door all night long. it works for the most part until about 5am when he gets hungry and starts trying to wake me up, so i’ve had to start going to bed earlier to ensure a decent amount of sleep before that happens. (these animals run our lives!) but i miss my sticker boy every day and can hardly believe it’s been nearly a year he’s been gone.

what nita looked like around the time i met her

but another death is more recent, and since i’m actively still in the process of going through her earthly belongings, the grief is ongoing. my dear friend nita, who was also my employer for many years, printing t-shirts and selling collectibles on ebay, and was also somewhat of an art mentor to me (though i’m not sure she really knew that), died in early september. she was found dead in her home, having slumped out of her wheelchair in her kitchen, onto the floor. she had multiple health issues going on, including congestive heart failure and uncontrollable diabetes, had been in and out of the hospital several times over the past few years, and frankly had really been suffering with her diminished health and lack of mobility. so it wasn’t exactly a surprise when friends found her there after not being able to get in touch with her for 24 hours. but she had managed to rebound each time after getting out of the hospital in recent years so i guess we all thought she’d do the same again this time. sadly, she did not. she was stubborn and committed to dying in her house, not in a hospital or nursing home; and so she did.

nita had no living blood kin that we know of. she had a legal will that left everything to an old friend of hers. but we also found a handwritten will of sorts – “the list” as she titled it herself – that specified about 20 people to receive very specific things of hers, and then another 25 or so to have the opportunity to claim something from her estate that would be of personal interest to them. the list was dated in january 2022, so recent enough that we, her friends and caretakers, felt like we should honor it, and thankfully her heir and executor also agreed.

tracking down all these folks became an obsession for me, as a way to honor my friend and her wishes. nita used facebook a lot and so that became a way to find some of the folks i didn’t know; i was able to reach a good amount of them by simply sending them a facebook message. but some never responded or even saw my message, and others weren’t amongst her facebook friend list… so then i had to start going through her belongings to try to find phone numbers. we poured through endless notebooks that nita used to make lists, sketch out art pieces, and jot down her thoughts. we had her iphone but for many months we didn’t know the passcode to get into it to get to her contacts app. amazingly, finally, we discovered one of the last times she was in the hospital she gave the code to one of her dear high school friends who was part of the caretaking team and we were finally able to have access to it. i found many more phone numbers though still not all. her phones had given her a lot of trouble in recent years and i think her contacts list was not all there. i gave it my best effort but there were still a few folks i wasn’t able to reach; i can only hope someone else via word of mouth was able to notify them about her death.

i did delegate some of the phone calls out to other folks, but i made a lot of them myself. making those calls was hard, but was also a gift, as i got to hear all kinds of stories about nita and the many ways that people were connected to her in her lifetime. if you know me then you know talking on the phone is not really my jam, but i was glad for these conversations to help move our collective grief along and to flesh out more of the story of nita’s life that i didn’t really know the details of.

nita was an artist and a collector of vintage toys, ephemera, books, graphics, advertising memorabilia, and anything circus, western, magic, comics/cartoons, pop art, folk art, and new orleans, amongst other things. her art was a mixture of screenprinting, painting, and collage/assemblage (she usually just chose the term “mixed media” when describing her work), using both original and appropriated imagery from the past as well as physical objects. for much of her life she printed t-shirts to make a living, serving a mix of commercial clients as well as collaborating with other artists and friends, and printing her own designs.

i didn’t know much about her childhood before her death – she rarely ever spoke to me of her family of origin – but i keep discovering bits and pieces, the more i go through her things. i found her birth certificate and was surprised to learn she was born in birmingham, alabama in 1948. some notes on her phone indicate her family lived in fort lauderdale, florida from ages 1-6, but then her mother left her father, tearing her away from him, which was a significant early trauma for nita. i’m not sure where they went next but she mentions staying a lot on her grandmother’s farm in rural mississippi, outside meridian. this is where her love of horses and other animals probably started. eventually she ended up in new orleans and attended riverdale high school in jefferson and then studied art at the john mccrady art school in the french quarter, later taking more classes in art and photography at tulane.

in the 70s she and her then-partner bronwyn alfano started p.a.s. studio – port allen sisters studio, as they were living near baton rouge in port allen after fleeing new orleans due to an abusive male partner of bronwyn’s. (the above newspaper clipping is from the lsu reveille in 1974. nita and bronwyn did an interview about being lesbians, publicly coming out, which was a very radical act for the time. though nita never mentioned this to me she was clearly very proud of it as i found numerous copies of this newspaper cut out folded up in her various wallets and notebooks.)

via p.a.s. studios, they printed lesbian-feminist t-shirts and stickers and posters of their own design. in 1976 when they moved back to new orleans onto carondelet street, they added some creative friends and renamed themselves the new orleans wimmin’s graphics collective, keeping many of the same designs from p.a.s. but expanding their offerings. she and many of her friends were part of the second wave feminist/lgbt community that thrived in new orleans in the 70s and 80s, including the lesbian-feminist commune atlantis. nita would go on to print under the name zatso tees as well as scream printing in the 80s and 90s. (i worked with nita in the 90s as her printing assistant.)

alongside her screen printing business she also did personal artwork, which usually involved old photographs, often of herself as a child and/or members of her family or friends and lovers, and appropriated graphics from vintage advertising, toys or ephemera. she loved everything circus, western, space, and animals, often drawing from the 50s time period of her childhood. one of my favorite pieces she did was of her father, who owned a gulf gas station in fort lauderdale, florida. i found a postcard that was advertising his gas station, with presumably him in the photo; she used that as the basis for the piece, inserting a retro toy car with driver graphic into it, representing her. it’s titled “dad taught me to drive.” this piece sums up nita in so many ways, including her sense of humor. but also, most importantly, her love for her father and the melancholy associated with the memory of being torn away from him at such an early age by her mother.

“dad taught me to drive”
the advertising postcard Nita based the piece on, of her father’s gas station

sometimes her pieces were relatively simple like this, a composite of the postcard and the retro car/driver graphic, printed onto canvas in black and white, and then hand painted in bright colors. but sometimes her pieces were much more elaborate, especially the circus themed ones.

“life’s a carnival, only for some”

“life’s a carnival, only for some” is one of her more complicated pieces. the main part is a similar formula to the previously mentioned piece – a composite graphic taken from old circus board game covers, posters, books and other toys, printed onto a piece of wood in black and white, then hand-painted. but then on this one she adds the boy and girl cut-outs that attach and fold out from the sides, as well as the baton that hangs from the bottom and the bar that protrudes away from the surface of the piece, with small cut out pieces dangling from it. it’s quite elaborate. (also, as a printer, she did editions of her prints and then often made multiples of the finished pieces. this one is labeled 1/20 but i’m not sure how many finished versions of this piece she made.) i don’t know when she first made this, but i do know she was working on versions of this piece in the recent decade.

“stella the bearded lady”
“freaks: airline hwy sideshow outside new orleans 1967. what we called ourselves in the 60s”

adjacent to circus/carnival themes were sideshows. she wrote in an artist statement for one of her shows at hanson gallery on royal street in the 90s: “these people were different. like us, in some ways. we felt a bond, to say that i am proud to be different.” (by “us” she meant lesbians, or lgbtq+ people.) “stella the bearded lady” and “freaks” were two pieces that were in that art show that were based on photos bronwyn took in the 60s-70s at sideshows in the new orleans area.

“dreams of dale”

nita also loved vintage western stuff, particularly cowgirl imagery, and stars like dale evans who were popular in her childhood years. the young girl in the photograph standing in front of a vintage automobile in her piece “dreams of dale” is a dear friend/ex-lover of hers. the girl is in a cowgirl hat, surrounded by images of evans, various cowgirl outfits, a horse, and a magazine cover with evans on it.

“dyke: womon identified”

i found this piece going through her things. i’m not sure if she ever finished a version of this as i don’t remember ever seeing it when she was alive, but it was buried underneath piles of things, folded in half, which i assume means she wasn’t happy with it or never finished it. it is “signed” as nita did, but the edition is not noted. regardless, it’s one of my favorite things i’ve found at her house. it’s unframed and on canvas. the picture – the original of which i also found in the house – is of nita as a young child with one of her younger cousins, likely at her grandmother’s farm in mississippi. (nita in the red.) this may have been one of the pieces she worked on for a cowgirl art show that she contributed to in the 90s. proudly identifying as a dyke is one of the many things nita and i had in common and bonded over.

lavaun and nita

nita had many significant relationships in her life but it was lavaun who was the love of her life. they traveled in overlapping activist and social circles in new orleans and had met earlier in their lives, but re-met again in the early 90s and instantly fell in love. they had a few happy years together before lavaun’s illness finally claimed her – she died of complications due to AIDS in 1996. nita made many, many art pieces celebrating lavaun in their time together and in the years after. i don’t have pictures of many of them but here are a few.

“she never lost her dignity”
not a great photograph of the piece, and i don’t know the title, but this is one of many pieces nita made about lavaun’s life using photographs and text in a screenprinted collage

even up to her death, nita was working on artwork and hoping to get back to a physical shape where she could print and make more art again. one of her last pieces was a carnival game themed construction piece that she sold to a friend.

“carnival/spin a prize or spin a value” (2021)

i wish i had one photo that showed the whole thing but i never saw it all finished to take a pic and these photos were on nita’s facebook profile so i’m guessing she took them herself. but you get the idea. it was quite an elaborate construction, a freestanding table of sorts with the spinners on the sides and all the prizes in the middle. though she could no longer screenprint due to her physical disabilities, she used color and black and white copies of scanned imagery as a stand-in. she worked on this for a long time and had a second one in process at the time of her death that she didn’t finish.

there’s so much more of her work i want to share but i don’t have pictures of much of it. i’m hoping over time that i can get folks who own nita’s work to take photos so we can make a memorial web page with all her art on it, to remember her by. she was a significant artist and deserves to be remembered and celebrated beyond her immediate circle of friends.

nita was one in a million. i’m honored to have been her friend and one of the dozens of caretakers she assembled around her in these last years of many physical and health challenges. like most of the caretaking team, we all had our own lives and went in and out of being able to give nita our time. i personally now wish i’d given her more of my time. but i know we all did the best we could under the circumstances, and nita was not an easy patient to work with. she was stubborn to her core and determined to not die in a hospital or nursing home or other facility. she wanted to die at home, surrounded by all her things, her precious collections and memories. and so, in the end, she did. she did it her way. i only pray she did not suffer in her final moments.

i miss you, nita. and i loved you dearly, even though i fear i wasn’t always great at letting you know that. i have so much to be thankful for, grateful for, about our time spent together. all those years sweating our asses off in your screenprinting shop in your basement on algiers point; all those trips to thrift city on carrollton and lunches at parkway bakery back in the 90s when it was still just a corner store; all the t-shirt designs of mine that you shepherded me though making separations and screens for each color, and printing at no charge so i could sell them to fund things like trips to the march on washington in d.c. in 1993, or for the lesbian avengers as a fundraiser so we could make stickers and do our direct actions around town; all those beers we drank together at charlene’s, talking politics; all the time spent at jefferson flea market or quality flower shop when it went out of business, or krauss when it closed, mining for treasures we could resell via magicmonkey collectibles on ebay or craigslist.

so many memories over the 30+ years we knew each other. you didn’t know it but i thought of you as my dyke mom, an older dyke who took me under her wing and mentored me not only as a printer and an artist but as a dyke and a human being. i will forever be in your debt and will strive to be as kind and generous as you always were to me and everyone around you. your spirit and life lessons will always live on via me and the army of lovers and friends you collected over your lifetime.

i don’t know what it will look like but i know i will be making art about nita in the future. and i already know the title of at least one piece:

nita loves everybody; nita is love.

spring… and patience

i never checked back here after i wrote that last post about sticker’s passing, so thank you to those of you who replied in the comments. i just now saw them. stencil is still howling in the mornings, staring out the window/door, but he is otherwise doing fine. we are both still grieving in our own ways and together. it will just take some time. i know folks keep suggesting i get another cat or a kitten or do some fostering but i don’t think either stencil or i are quite ready for that yet. maybe down the line…

i’ve had to start picking up some overnight pet sits, which i really didn’t want to do anymore – both for myself and for stencil – but my finances require it. unfortunately my pet biz is just not in a place where i can survive without doing some and the demand continues to be high because there are so few petsitters who do overnights, but i’m trying to limit it to one or two a month so i have time to recuperate in between and stencil isn’t left alone for too long. so far he seems to be doing ok with it. (i’m already booked up w/my limit of overnights through june! so grateful for my clients!) i would much prefer having more cat sits or dog sits that didn’t require me to spend the night but in this business you have to kinda just take what comes and be flexible. i will continue to work towards a time when i don’t have to do overnights.

so, yes, back to patience. i tweeted the other day that the month of march is trying to teach me patience and i’m failing miserably. it’s been a rough month of feeling in limbo. i’ve vague-posted a few times on facebook and i’ve told some folks in person what’s going on but haven’t wanted to speak about it publicly on social media cuz i guess it all just doesn’t feel real to me yet and i’ve been afraid to jinx it. but i’m about to pay my rent and my landlords swear the work will get done this week before the 1st so i guess i can go ahead and talk about it. maybe talking about it will help move it along. (please send some energy in my direction to make it so!)

new paint job on the house i’ve rented in for 11 years

i’ve lived in the same 500 square foot one bedroom rear apartment for 11 years now. i really love the house, the location, the neighborhood, and don’t want to move but have been feeling stagnant in my life and like i need a big change and i frankly need more space. i’ve needed more space almost as long as i’ve lived here but have somehow managed to make it work all this time. hurricane ida and the aftermath made me realize how isolated i feel back here, how limiting not having a front door/street access is, how much i missed having a crosswind! as often happens with traumatic experiences, it also made me reevaluate my life and realize how unhappy i’d been recently with my life in general. how i’d always dreamed of more and, well, it’s later than you think.. so better get to it! so i got into therapy (online), started addressing some things, visualized what i wanted my new life to look like, wrote it all down, made a vision board of sorts, and started to make movements in that direction and act as if it was going to happen. and wouldn’t you know? things started happening.

backing up for a minute…. several years back, the former tenant of my place (who became a friend and was one of my cat clients before she moved away to atlanta) had told me she once had a conversation with my landlady about knocking the door down that separates my apartment from the front two rooms of this shotgun structure. it never happened but she said my landlady sounded open to the idea in order to keep her as a tenant. she ended up moving into a bigger place and i ended up in the tiny apartment, but that’s been in the back of my head for years now. the timing never worked out that the apartment next door was empty long enough for me to have that conversation with my landlady, though. and i never felt like i was in a financial place where i could take on any additional rent, which would of course be necessary to get more space. (one of the reasons i’ve stayed here so long is that the rent has been very cheap.)

well i’m still not really in that financial place now but given these changes i was looking to make, i decided when the last tenants moved out mid february to jump and hope that the net would appear, cuz it was time. i reached out to my landlady, who loves me and wants to keep me as a tenant cuz i’ve never been late on the rent and have helped her take care of this house over the years, and broached the subject. i don’t want to get in to all the details here, but, long story short, over many weeks time and some back and forth, we were able to negotiate something that worked for both of us, for me to assume the rest of my side of the house, starting april 1st! yay!

from the front door looking in at my new living room and second (yellow) room

and so began the month of march, my month of waiting for something to happen. waiting for the locks to be changed so that what will soon be my front door will have a new lock and key. waiting for the doorway that had been cut between the two sides of the house to get blocked up, to return it to two shotgun apartments. waiting for the door at the end of my hallway to be unsealed from the other side (not pictured, but in the yellow room) so i could get through to the other two rooms… but only after the other two things happen, so i’m not exposed and can secure my apartment. a handyman was hired to do all the interior painting and fixes on the other side, and he will be doing the work necessary to open my side up, as well. i thought he might do the work to get my apartment situated first… but sadly, that has not been the case.

looking towards my new front door through the living room

and so i continue to wait. the handyman does not keep regular hours and comes and goes randomly. nice guy, and seems to be doing good work, but clearly he has multiple jobs going on at the same time and this one is not his priority. he doesn’t have a crew, works alone, so it’s slow-going. he has replaced the locks on the other side and fixed those doors so they are secure. but the lock on my side gave him some trouble so it has not been resolved and i no longer have access to those rooms until it is. nothing has happened to seal up the doorway between the sides or unsealing the door in my hallway.

and meanwhile, all month long there has been a different work crew painting the exterior of the house, the result of which is the pic above a few paragraphs. it looks great and i look forward to being able to enjoy that front porch! (my back porch looks nice too, see pic below.) it’s gonna be amazing to open the front door and back door and feel a breeze throughout the house! (none of the windows open in the house cuz they’ve all been painted shut.)

happy to have my back porch back

so yeah. it’s been quite a month. and april 1st is friday. is it possible to get it all squared away by then? sure. it’s really not that much work (for my side) and could be done in a day but it will take the handyman prioritizing it. i talked to my landlords today and they are just basically at the mercy of the handyman who sets his own schedule. so we all wait.

patience.

meanwhile, i already moved everything away from the door at the end of the hallway in preparation for it being opened up. (i’d used it as a storage area so there was a dresser with a ton of stuff piled up on top of it that is now just crammed into my bedroom.) so it feels like my tiny space is even more chaotic than usual. i’ve measured the new rooms (in the brief window of time that i had access to them) and drawn out a blueprint of the space to start visualizing how i might rearrange everything. but i can’t start assembling any new furniture or moving anything obviously until i have a key and the door is opened up. it’s just so frustrating.

however the universe has at least answered my desperate call for work and money, to be able to afford the new rent. i sold some art and folks were really generous in their payments. i did a 5 day overnight sit. i’ve had some other pet sits in addition to picking up one new m-w-f dog walking client. (after losing a m-f daily client, which didn’t exactly make up all the money i’d lost but is something.) and i’m fully booked with pet sits for the month of april, into may, and have a long overnight sit in june on the books. so it feels like i’ll be able to get through the next few months ok.

hopefully by then i’ll be situated in my new extra space and have one room dedicated to being my art studio, which will help me in my efforts to beef up my side income from my art. i hope to figure out a way to get the t-shirt printer back inside the house so i can get back to printing too.

it might take many months for all this to come together but this is the vision i’ve been (wo)manifesting so i can move in to the next phase of my life where my art is more a part of my every day and i don’t have to compartmentalize it quite so much in my physical (and mental) space. and hopefully all this change will also inspire me to let go of some of the excess clutter that i’ve built up over the last 11 years in the house, as i streamline and feng shui my living space.

so that’s my news. that’s what’s been taking up all my mental energy as of late. i haven’t really been going out and doing anything social as i’m trying to be financially frugal, but i look forward to a time very soon when i can actually socialize in my own home, have people over!! it has taken a lot of work to get me here and will continue to take a lot of work to follow through and make it all happen, as well as continuing to afford it. but this is my work for 2022. i knew 2022 was going to be a year of change for me. and so it is. new year, new life!

rip sticker (2008-2022)

sticker in his prime, circa 2016

if you follow me on social media, you are probably tired of hearing me emote about my cat sticker. over the past year, i chronicalled his battle with renal failure and the more recent discovery of liver cancer as a way of coping with my feelings about it, which helped me finally come to the decision to euthanize him last wednesday. i had a hard time letting go but it was the right decision; it was time. i thank all my friends and followers on facebook and instagram for allowing me the grace to overindulge my sadness and grief in their feeds.

writing has always been one of the ways i’ve processed my life and its many twists and turns. it’s one of the reasons i keep this blog, even though i write in it so sparingly and usually only about my recovery from brain surgery or non-alcoholic beer. i’m going to try to write more often about different topics, just to get shit out of my head and to keep my brain from turning to absolute mush in my middle age.

but to stay on topic here, yesterday i picked up sticker’s ashes at my vet’s office, having been delivered there by heaven’s pets.

i wasn’t prepared for how emotional i would feel seeing a tiny baggy with some of his shaved-off fur and the card with his big ole polydactyl front paw print. (i specifically asked them for a front paw print since he had those ridiculous extra toes.) i don’t really know what i will do with all these remains, though the idea of eventually incorporating them into a painting about him seems inevitable. i’m not ready for that quite yet though.

stencil and i are adjusting. i think stencil is lonely but he’s too old to subject him to a kitten in the household and i really don’t think he’d accept an older cat. (plus i really just don’t want a 2nd cat, at least not right now.) but every morning now after i feed him breakfast, he sits on his cat tree perch in the living room, staring out the window at nothing in particular, and just howls. loudly. incessantly. i kinda feel bad for the neighbors, because i’m sure they hear him, but even when i go in there and talk to him, play with him, give him treats, as soon as i leave the room, he’s back at it, meowing again. at some point he gets tired and curls up for a nap but it’s a pretty annoying 7am routine. (he doesn’t do this at other times of the day.) i don’t know if it has anything to do with missing sticker but he just started doing it, so maybe.

as for me, since wednesday i’ve done a lot of cleaning in the house. wednesday night i channeled my grief into vacuuming and rearranging the furniture in the living room a bit. i just needed a change from the position i’d just spent much of the last few weeks in nursing sticker on his window ledge behind the futon. so i moved the futon to a different wall, and the folding table that is my art table to a different spot. i’m not sure i like it but it’s nice in the short term for things to be different. today i bought another set of plastic drawers on wheels that are wide enough to accomodate a lot of my paper supplies and prints – it’s a $20 cheapie flat file hack. so the living room/studio space feels better organized now. we’ll see how it feels when i get back to actually painting again.

i also bought a new larger litterbox. well it’s not really meant to be a litterbox – it’s a long plastic bin that’s only six inches tall, probably meant for under-bed storage, but it’s basically as large as both of the smaller boxes i had for sticker and stencil before. they’d used the same litterboxes their whole lives; i would periodically scrub them out in the backyard so they lasted a long time. but stencil being an only cat now, and a senior cat, i figured i’d get him one large box that fit the same space. i hope he likes it ok. i’m thinking it will be easier to upkeep.

it’s going to take a while to get used to sticker not being here. i still sometimes expect him to be underfoot when i walk to the bathroom. but i know he’s free now from the pain of his little failing body, and i think he had a pretty good life as a pampered housecat these past 13 years. it was certainly a better life than he would have had as an outdoor feral cat, which is what he was when he was found as a baby kitten along with stencil and his other littermates on the campus of west jeff high school post hurricane gustav.

this was the irresistible kitten picture attached to their craigslist “adopt me” ad:

those crossed paws! still kills me. they always loved each other so much.

sigh.

life goes on, i guess. it’ll just be a little more lonely in our tiny house. but at least stencil and i have each other. and now i will have to spoil him even more. i’m sure he won’t mind!

dry january

gracious bakery chocolate king cake + athletic brewing dave’s american dark malt makes a nice pairing!

here we are. it’s the beginning of a new year. and in the non alcoholic beverage world, it’s dry january, which for those of us here in new orleans comes at a really inopportune time because we have just begun what will be a rather long carnival season! epiphany – the beginning of carnival – was this past thursday, and mardi gras isn’t until march 1st! and while the really debaucherous weeks of carnival are not until late february, there is still usually a large amount of social drinking that goes along with all carnival celebrations – even small king cake gatherings with family or friends. so yeah, dry january is a hard sell here.

but here i am talking about it anyways. i am mostly alcohol free these days though reserve the right to have a celebratory alcoholic beer or cocktail here or there. but i’ve decided it just doesn’t make me feel good, nor does it taste as good to me anymore, so for the most part i will stick to NA options. and since there are so many, i hardly miss it.

however, for those attempting dry january, i just thought i’d go over some of the dry january deals, sales and special promotions that have been hitting my inbox lately for NA craft beer. it’s a great opportunity to try out a wide variety of brew styles at sometimes much cheaper prices. (there are likely similar sales and discounts for NA spirits and wine but i’m not really that interested in those so i don’t keep up with those brands. you’ll have to do your own research on them.)

athletic brewing is doing 50% off the first month of new subscriptions in january, and they have a special dry january party pack of 30 beers plus some other goodies for $60 shipped to your door. (it’s a little cheaper if you are a subscription member.) i joined last year so i’d have better access to their pilot beer program (small batch, limited editions) and discounts. they have a few new pilot brews available this month too.

wellbeing brewing is offering their joys of january variety pack for $28, which is a 12-pack including 2 each of 6 of their flagship brews so you can sample a lot of what they make. (they do flat standard shipping of $10.) i really love their beer and a couple of them even made my top 10 list. they just released a limited oatmeal cookie stout that i’m looking forward to trying. (i just won a giveaway on their instagram for a 4-pack of the oatmeal cookie stout and a t-shirt!! it’s so exciting! can’t wait til it gets here!)

self care is the non-alcoholic imprint of three magnets brewery in washington state. i haven’t gotten the chance to try them yet but they’ve been putting out some really interesting sounding brews. they don’t pasteurize their beers in an effort to retain more hop flavors and aromas so there is the risk of refermentation in the cans, particularly at warmer temperatures. since i live in the south and you can’t count on cooler temperatures to last more than a day even in winter, i haven’t risked the cross country journey yet. but they’ve got a dry january variety pack that includes 6 4-packs of their various NA beers (a case!) for $75 plus shipping (free shipping for their subscription members). maybe if we get some kind of extended cold snap i’ll give them a shot.

rationALE brewing is another new one to me, from sonoma, california. they are doing 50% off if you use the code MODERATION for the month of january. i just ordered some of their rational vibes cerveza and i’ve heard amazing reviews of their citrus hazy IPA. (i chose not to try the IPA cuz chances are good i wouldn’t really like it since i’m not an IPA fan and didn’t want to waste the money.) i will give you my thoughts whenever i receive it but it’s a pretty great deal even considering shipping.

i don’t drink a lot of brewdog beers but they have 20% off all their na beers for the month of january and free shipping over $20.

bravus is one of the breweries i really want to like but have been really disappointed by repeatedly, so i stopped buying them. unclear if it’s a personal taste issue on my part or quality control issue on their part, but for whatever reasons they are no longer in my fridge. but for those who still like them or want to try them out, they are offering 10% off all orders in january with the code DRYJAN and they offer free shipping on orders of 12 or more beers.

rightside brewing just added a 10% discount for online orders when you use the code DRYJAN (valid through 1/25). they are also doing a book club, reading this naked mind by annie grace. (it’s not too late to sign up!) they also recently start offering a mocktail subscription box for those who might be interested in exploring NA beer-based mocktails and for january are offering the first hop collins mocktail box as a stand-alone purchase for $35. they always offer free shipping on 2 or more 6-packs.

atmos brewing has a january pack that includes 2 each of their different brews plus 2 hop seltzers for a total of 14 NA beverages plus an atmos t-shirt for $65 (free shipping). i’ve only tried one of their brews (kora, which is a double-hop IPA so it was not my thing) but if you are into IPAs you might want to give them a try.

barrel brothers brewing is offering 31% off for the rest of january on all their individual non-alcoholic brews when you use the code TRYDRYJANUARY. it’s a nice discount but there’s still a rather expensive shipping charge, at least to my neck of the woods. but they also still have their non-alcoholic holiday bundle up for sale on their site, which is a great deal: 6 4-packs of their various NA brews plus 20% off your next NA purchase in january, for $80, with free shipping. they are another brewery i wish i could try, particularly the dark sarcasm porter and their blonde voyage. one day.

al’s is another na beer that is on my list to try at some point. they only have the one brew – a classic craft pilsner – but they are offering free shipping on two or more six packs for the month of january. use the code ALSPALS for an additional 10% off.

i haven’t had a gruvi brew in a while – i liked them ok but not enough to keep it stocked in my fridge. but they have a dry january sampler pack for $59 that is a mix of NA beer and wine (3 4-packs of beer flavors and a 4-pack each of their bubbly rosé and dry secco) or you can get a beer-only 12-pack mix for $29.

and lastly, untitled art – who make some of the most well-crafted non-alcoholic brews on the market – have a non-alcoholic mix pack, a 12 pack for $30 containing 3 each of 4 of their brews. it’s not billed as a dry january special but their NA offerings always sell out online so if you are interested in trying them out i’d scoop it up ASAP. (shipping is $10 unless you spend more than $40.) they also sell adaptogenic and cbd sparkling waters that i really want to try.

i’m sure there are more deals out there that i don’t know about, but this is what crossed my inbox and fb groups. if you know about anything else, please pass it on in the comments! happy NA drinking!

welcome to my blog

this is a space where i write more long form about stuff that interests me. so far mostly i’ve been writing about my recuperation from brain surgery and my obsession with non-alcoholic beer. hopefully i will add more topics.

please use the category links on the right if you are only interested in specific topics.

the na beers of 2021

what’s in my fridge right now

well as you likely noticed (or maybe no one noticed cuz i’m pretty sure no one reads this blog), at some point last year i lost steam with my non alcoholic beer reviews. i’d even made a spreadsheet and everything to keep up with all the beers i’d tried and managed to get to 70 before completely abandoning it all. (i’ve definitely tried at least a dozen more since then.)

what happened? well nothing really. i guess it just got so routine to be able to order a wide variety of na beer from various craft breweries online and have it all shipped to my door that perhaps it wasn’t as exciting as it was when i was first starting out. it also got REALLY expensive and i had to curb my habit a bit. (there was also the matter of a little hurricane called ida and its aftermath, which definitely derailed me for a few months.) but it doesn’t mean i ever stopped trying new brews or drinking my favorites, i just slowed down a bit and simultaneously stopped writing about it.

so here at the beginning of a new year, and prompted by one of my facebook na beer groups, i thought i’d do a top 10 of 2021 list. i’m not gonna rank them in order cuz that feels too hard but on the facebook group they asked for a top 5 and once i’d written it down i kept thinking of others that i thought should be on the list… so i’m just gonna go for 10.

athletic brewingcerveza athletica: i love this beer because it is smooth, light, easy drinking, malty and not hoppy, and goes great with every kind of food. to me it reads like a light amber kind of beer. abc calls it a copper. i’m really not sure why they gave it a mexican name because it does not remind me much of mexican beer (dos equis amber would be the closest but this is much better!), but whatever. i have found over the past 12 months that it is the beer i run out of fastest, that i grab for the most in the fridge, and that never disappoints me. it has even eclipsed athletic’s upside dawn as my favorite of their beers!

wellbeing brewing / 4 hands brewery – liquid rain: this collab was brewed as part of the things we don’t say IPA campaign, for a mental health/suicide prevention project called hope for the day. they call this an ipa but as with many ipas in the na world, it doesn’t taste like an ipa to me. it’s not bitter hoppy and in fact the IBU is only 10! instead it’s fruity (pineapple, peach, apricot) but not overly sweet. smooth but complex and just really unique. i was so glad they kept making this beer after the initial batch sold out as it’s been a staple in the rotation. (sadly not currently for sale on their site but i still have a few in my fridge.)

rightside brewingcitrus wheat: i love a good wheat beer and a citrus wheat even more. this one just does it for me on every count. you immediately get the citrus in the nose as soon as you pour it, and it’s got a solid malt backbone to make it smooth going down. and that color! just gorgeous. i love supporting a woman-owned brewery and a sister southerner too. (they are based outside atlanta.)

athletic brewingrainbow wall: i almost forgot about this one until i saw others putting it on their lists. rarely do i like a beer that has a bit of a bite to it but this one just worked for me. of course i loved that it donated all proceeds to an lgbtq+ group called athlete ally. and i love a blood orange beer. more of my thoughts on this beer here. really hoping they bring it back for pride month this year.

athletic brewingdave’s american dark malt: when i was drinking alcoholic beer, i always loved a dark beer. porters and stouts and black lagers were my favorites. so i was super psyched this porter turned out to be awesome. not overly sweet, a little dry, just perfectly balanced. chocolatey, hints of roasted coffee, and a low IBU = perfect for me. i think i’m on my 3rd or 4th six pack of it already. sad to see it currently out of stock.

ceria brewinggrainwave: definitely one of my staples of the year, from the brewmaster of blue moon. this non-alcoholic belgian white definitely has some blue moon vibes but isn’t a clone; it’s got its own unique thing going on. i don’t always keep it in my fridge but i sure would be delighted to find it at my fave local restaurant or bar. it pairs really nicely with all manner of food. my initial thoughts here.

mikkellerraspberry limbo: i like fruity beers but am not entirely a fan of the sour genre, so it’s hard finding one that i like or that i don’t have to cut with ginger ale. i got the opportunity to try this one thanks to NA Brews (RIP) as they sold singles and i was really glad i did. full review here but i do wish it was easier for me to get my hands on.

wellbeing brewingintrepid traveler coffee cream stout – this one is a seasonal beer only available in the winter months. this dark brew has a lot going on, including dark roasted coffee vibes (including caffeine!), cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and lactose. i have to kind of be in the right mood for it but when i am, i really love it!

wellbeing brewingvictory wheat: this beer literally got me through the hottest of the summer months. sometimes i’d bring one along with me in the car while dog walking, as it’s chock full of electrolytes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. but also, it tastes great! thirst quenching, hydrating and delicious!

athletic brewingcream ale: this one was part of athletic’s pilot brew program and so was only available for a short time. but i really loved it and wish it was available more often. smooth, malty and refreshing, it was everything a cream ale should be, just without the alcohol. hopefully they will make this one again.

there’s probably a handful more beers i could add to this list but i will stop. can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!

how did it get to be 2022 already?

it’s been a long time since I wrote in this blog. i’m still drinking NA beer and trying out new ones all the time but i guess my fascination with writing reviews about each one has dwindled. (i’ll try to get back to that this year.)

nothing remarkable has been going on with my health, which is of course good news. i meant to write a one-year craniversary post in october but never did. (i posted on facebook about it instead.)

i did start writing a hurricane ida post with a play-by-play from my vantage point inside my house but never finished it, so it sits in my drafts. i think i will keep it there as more of a journal entry for myself. it was quite an experience and the ensuing few months with a partially collapsed shed in my backyard that i looked at every day took a toll on my mental health, but i seem to have made it through. it took a while but i did get a brand new shed and things got back to normal more or less and life just went on and i didn’t write about any of it here on this blog.

and now it’s new year’s day 2022. i first started writing this post on december 17th but didn’t finish it then. it was a week where i began the first two of many holiday cat sits while still having my full dog walking schedule. the following week i started an 8-day overnight dog sit, hopefully the last one of those i’ll ever do. (i will continue dog walking and cat sitting and doing any other petsitting which does not require me to spend the night.) there were a few more cat sits sprinkled in there. work was very hectic for those few weeks, but it was great for my bank account and now i can start to pay down the credit card i filled up with all the vet bills for sticker and stencil’s various ailments of the past several months. (they are both doing better now, thank goodness.)

if you know me then you know i don’t really love christmas. it’s not that i hate it but i think the combo of having a job that is peak busy during the holidays and being single/living alone makes it challenging. in the past i have enjoyed decorating for the holidays but for the 11 years i have lived in this tiny one bedroom rear apartment that doesn’t face the street and has no interior doors or way to keep a christmas tree away from naughty cats, i have not decorated. no one ever comes to my house so no one but me would see it, and during the holiday time i’m hardly in my house because of work so it seems a waste of time, energy and money. i enjoy other people’s decorations though. and i try to get my little rituals in – christmas eve for a few hours with one group of friends, and christmas day for a few hours with another – but aside from that, it’s just a whirlwind of a month of working where i try my best to not get sick.

sadly, i was not successful with that this year. i got really run down from my work schedule (late nights, early mornings, bad sleep, poor eating) and it remains to be seen yet (still waiting on the results of a PCR test) whether it’s omicron (covid) or not. i have symptoms that come and go but for the past week i’ve had severe fatigue, off and on runny nose, a cough and occasionally a scratchy throat, and i experience what feels like hot flashes but they don’t register as a fever with my digital forehead thermometer. oh, and i had a serious headache for a few days, which was actually the most alarming of symptoms because i just don’t get headaches… except when something is really wrong. (like when i had meningitis and discovered my brain tumors!) so i’ve taken two rapid tests, a few days apart, which both came back negative, and i went for a PCR on Thursday hoping to get the results back in time to partake in new year’s eve festivities. the results have still not come in and my symptoms have been so inconsistent it’s been hard to tell if i actually have something or am just worn out from working too much. i did end up going over to some friends’ house last night for a couple of hours but i kept my mask on even though we were outside and there was a strong breeze, and i kept my distance from everyone. i took a rapid test right before i went (negative) and felt fine when i went there but my energy waned pretty quickly and i came home around 11pm. i was in bed before midnight.

and here we are, january 1st, 2022. happy fucking new year. i want to be optimistic about what’s in store this year for all of us but it’s hard to do with omicron raging through new orleans and the country/world at the moment. but hey, mardi gras is on this year! which means we have a six day lull between the end of the christmas/new year’s holiday and the beginning of the carnival season which begins on thursday, 12th night (epiphany). bring on the king cake! the joan of arc parade is on and i guess we’re gonna go and just keep our masks on the whole time and try hard not to be in a thick crowd. not sure how mardi gras is gonna go but i think a lot of us are hoping omicron will have peaked and maybe passed for the most part by the height of carnival parade madness. more concerning is the pussyfooters’ blush ball, which i have a vip ticket for, which is on january 28th. crossing fingers!

i guess that’s enough of a longwinded post for now, to get me caught up. i’ll make a separate post about what has been percolating in my mind creatively and what i’m otherwise working on for 2022. go eat your black eyed peas and cabbage y’all!

non-brain health update

i mean, it is all about my brain, really. but i just went for my annual physical with my GP (dr. yount) who is also my GYN on monday and am overall pretty pleased with the results. it’s so convenient to get my annual PAP/STI screening at the same time as my blood work and all the other stuff. dr. yount is a one-stop shop! i hadn’t seen her since my brain surgery – in fact, she was the one who gave me the referral to get the MRI that got me on the path to the surgery at my last annual, last july. so we had a lot of catching up to do.

my BP was just a tad high 134/82 in the office – but when i check it at home, 8 times out of 10 it’s in the 120’s/80 or lower, much closer to “normal,” so she told me to just keep monitoring it. i’ve gained all the pounds i lost post-surgery but am at my usual weight, haven’t put on any extra pounds. she poked and prodded me, they took a urine sample, and lots of blood. (thankfully they found a vein on the first try!)

my lab tests all came back today and everything checks out as being within normal range except my cholesterol, which is of course borderline high. my HDL and triglycerides are actually really good though, so that helps. it’s the LDL that is bad. i think i need to make some adjustments to my diet for sure. i’ve been trying to eat better the past couple of weeks but particularly when i’m overnight dog sitting and rushing around with no spare time, i have to admit i eat pretty crappy. lots of takeout and frozen meals. this past week i stepped up the exercise, adding an evening walk in the park to my routine, which also has the added bonus of aiding in my digestion of dinner and helping me sleep better. but i’ll need to stick with it and get more vigilant with what i’m eating, for sure.

the part i’m pleased about is that my glucose and A1C were both good, both of which had been flagged last year as borderline high. i really think it had something to do with the fact that i didn’t fast last year before the exam, in fact i ate lunch right before i went there! but this year i made sure to eat breakfast really early and not have anything else but water for 8 hours before they drew blood, so i think these results are a lot more accurate. so no diabetes for me!

am i the model of health for a 53-almost-54 year old woman? no. i have pounds to lose, i have achy joints and a wonky knee, high cholesterol and blood pressure that i have to keep an eye on, and i know i’m at risk for heart disease – it runs in the family. not to mention the remaining brain tumor. but really, despite all that, i’m in pretty good overall health. i exercise daily, i drink a LOT of water, i don’t drink sugary sweet drinks, i no longer drink alcohol and don’t smoke. now if i can just figure out how to eat better on a regular basis and keep stepping up the exercise.

i swear, if there was ONE thing i could say to my younger self, to change the trajectory of my life, it would be to take better care of my body and to pay more attention to what i put into it. and to exercise more. we all just think we’re so invincible when we’re young, don’t we? but i can’t turn back the hands of time, so here i am at midlife. time to make some adjustments.

9 months!

yesterday marked 9 months since my brain surgery! in some ways it feels like a very distant memory; in others, it seems like it was yesterday.

overall, i am doing great. i am functioning more or less normally in most ways in my life, to the point that anyone who sees me out and about in the world would not ever know i had brain surgery unless i told them.

i am still struggling with a few “invisible” deficits (my throat is still a hot mess, between my frozen left vocal cord and my permanently swollen right tonsil – i sound like an old man coughing and clearing my throat all the time as these issues still make swallowing and breathing challenging at times) but they are minor in the grand scheme of things.

my eyesight has stabilized for the most part; i only have double vision first thing in the morning or really late at night when i’m really tired, on rare occasion. i still haven’t made it in to the eye doctor but hopefully a new prescription will resolve some of that.

my head – skull, really – still feels weird. waking up each morning is a daily reminder of the trauma i went through, as my head and neck always hurt for a little while – likely from the pressure having built up, from being flat all night – but once i’m up and about it goes away. from what i’m reading from others who’ve had this surgery, it really doesn’t ever get better. my head is going to feel strange for the rest of my life. i have accepted this and i try to not let it bother me but some days it’s hard to not dwell on it. it can be alarming.

my voice comes and goes. some days it is better than others. people still tell me it sounds like i’m getting closer and closer to my regular voice but to me it still sounds so strange and not me at all. the thing that bothers me most is not being able to speak loudly or yell. folks still have a hard time hearing me sometimes.

i would say my work capacity is at about maybe 2/3rds to 3/4ths of what i was able to do pre-surgery, with some limitations. (i think i learned last week that 10 days is maybe too long for overnight sitting without getting some kind of break. i managed, but i also got sick in the middle of the sit, likely due to being rundown from lack of sleep and just overdoing it.)

i might not ever get back that last 1/4 to 1/3 of my capacity, but that’s ok. i just have to adjust and be careful about taking care of myself. it’s a very strange realization to have that you might not quite be the same person you were before a major surgery, but i guess it’s a realization that many people have over the course of their lifetimes, about various kinds of surgery. and really, i’ve bounced back pretty well and i have a lot to be grateful for.

speaking of which, i’m in the middle of sending out handmade thank you cards to everyone who helped me through surgery in any way. it is a very long and laborious process, as my spreadsheet has 350+ people on it to thank! and there are a lot of folks i don’t have mailing addresses for. so if you are reading this and you don’t think i have your snail mail address, please do send it along. i will eventually ask you for it when i get to your name on my list but free free to volunteer it.

not much really to report otherwise. it’s starting to be the dead of summer here, mid july. we’ve been spared the extreme heat/humidity combo through most of june thanks to daily rain but it looks like it’s setting in now, and it is more draining to me than it ever was before. i’m grateful i only walk dogs half the day now because i don’t think i could handle much more. i literally have to come home and lie down in the AC every afternoon when i’m done to recuperate… and that’s from only 4 hours of walking.

i did manage to schedule some vacation for myself in august around my birthday though, and i’m greatly looking forward to it. i haven’t gotten out of town since december 2019 so vacation is long overdue. and great to have 10 days off work in august which is usually the most miserable month of the year.

so that’s it, that’s my update. hope everyone’s having a good summer!

mikkeller – raspberry limbo series

i think it’s been established over these almost 60 NA beer reviews i’ve done since november (!!) that i’m not the hugest fan of sours, but i’m willing to try them and under certain circumstances, i do in fact enjoy them. i just kinda have to be in the right mood and pair them with the right food. (or no food.) so this limbo series “malt beverage with raspberries” from mikkeller has been sitting in my fridge for a few months waiting for the right moment. and apparently it’s today!

i just got home from work walking dogs all morning in the heat and humidity and intermittent rain of summer in new orleans. it’s only in the mid 80s (feels like 90 with the humidity), which is frankly cool by summer standards here, but it’s still kinda gross sticky weather for physical activity. i’ve logged 10.3K steps already and it’s only midday. i drank nothing but water all morning in the car in between clients (sometimes i bring some NA brews along with but i didn’t today) so by the time i got home i was really craving something more thirst quenching, and something fruity and tangy sounded good to go with my cauliflower veggie frozen pizza that’s in the oven right now.

as you can see, it pours a pretty orange-red color – not quite the color of raspberries to me, but it’s still pretty. nice head, sparkling carbonation, fruity aroma. the first sip was a little puckering, but my palate quickly adjusted. it’s clean, crisp and packs a delicious raspberry punch. as with a lot of the sours and fruitier beers, i’m not sure it really reads “beer” to me, but i don’t care because it’s really delicious. and went nicely with my cauliflower pizza! i didn’t even feel like i wanted or needed to mix it with ginger ale, which is what i did to salvage those untitled art florida weisses that were just way too sour for me. this one is great on its own. very refreshing!

mikkeller lists this as a “flemish primitive ale” and it is of course, like all their NA beers, brewed with their proprietary mikkellensis yeast. ingredients listed on the can are: water, barley malt, hops, raspberry, and mikkellensis yeast. it clocks in at .3% abv but i can’t find any calorie/carb info anywhere on their site or on the can.

there hasn’t really been a sour that i’ve tasted so far that i felt like i would want to purchase again but i think i would buy this again if it was more readily available in the US. i dream of a day when all the NA brews i love are easily purchased somewhere close to me at retail or at my favorite bar or restaurant. i got this one from NA brews, if you are interested to try it – remember to use my code MARGARET893 for 10% off! sadly, mikkeller’s online shop ships from overseas and the shipping is $50+ so i guess until distribution is better around the US it’ll be via NA brews for me!