Sunday, December 28, 2008

This is difficult to see well (and for a larger version simply click the image itself) -- taken from my front steps, this is a Cooper's hawk in the pine tree a few feet away, devouring a recently-caught sparrow.
Arriving home from my in-law's on Christmas Day, I stepped out of the car and immediately noticed a small quantity of downy feathers drifting on the cold breeze. As I helped my son out of the back seat more feathers tumbled past, and I realized they seemed to be coming from our front yard. Two pine trees stand close together atop a short hill, next to our front sidewalk, and the feathers were in fact falling lazily but steadily from the nearer tree. As I came up the sidewalk, the arrangement of the branches afforded a perfect view of the hawk: easily 12 to 14 inches tall, ripping small tufts from the carcass of a songbird and utterly indifferent to my stare. I took my son in the house, pointed out the hawk to his father, grabbed my camera and came back out to get a few shots -- the hawk hadn't moved, and ignored me completely as I cursed the inadequacies of my inexpensive camera.
A beautiful bird, the hawk, and hard to resent in spite of its taste for that which I strive to attract to our backyard feeders. Last winter I stepped out the front door and saw what at first looked like blood spattered across the snow -- it turned out to be many tiny cardinal feathers, strewn widely, the result of being taken with force on the wing. A hawk will dive swiftly and silently from a height, killing the smaller bird instantly on impact as it intercepts a flight path. My spouse once saw possibly this same hawk stoop to take a squirrel in the alleyway behind our garage, appearing suddenly huge out of nowhere as it scooped up the squealing gray squirrel and flapped a short distance away to pause and eat.
They patrol the space between houses in the city, gliding silently from yard to yard in search of pigeon or rodent. We saw an enormous Broad Wing hawk coming up through the trees just a few blocks away not long ago, and once I spotted a juvenile hawk sitting on the ground on the verge of a small, thick hedge, cocking his head this way and that as a group of sparrows shrilled at him from within the shrubs. He was doubtless wondering how he might get at them, there in the neighbor's front yard.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

nobody does it better: the National Anthem

Which is purely a matter of relatively-uninformed opinion -- BUT -- my husband and I spent some time listening to various YouTube renditions of Steven Tyler singing the National Anthem, and we decided his best effort shone at the 2002 Sox Home Opener. Seriously. The first time I heard him do it was at the 2004 World Series opener, the year the Sox broke the curse, and I was floored. Turns out though that he has hit that high note (for anywhere from one to three seconds) a bunch of times since 2000, and in fact, is the man you want at anything from hockey to baseball to the Indianapolis 500. He clearly takes it fairly seriously, and the 2002 version linked above has him taking special care to really sing all the notes in the melody and not just the ones we all know. Though he grandstands a little on the high note (always), he nevertheless NAILS it each time. While Tyler doesn't ever make my list of music's best voices (he can sound really weak at times), he's actually got quite the set of pipes. I honestly don't know how he hits that note without busting a vein in an eyeball -- AND, he genuinely seems to know all the lyrics!

there's more to life than this

...says Bjork, re-enchanting me from the imaginary depths of my new iPod (Turquoise!)

And, indeed, when I think of how consumed I've become over the past three years with the church and CP's vision for it, I'm inclined to reflect. Especially in light of recent events.

And today the spouse and I had a Big Talk -- final decisions were made, about whether to have another child, when I will go back to school, and what sort of work I'll be doing henceforth (or specifically, how many hours that will take.) SO I have a sense of what the future will not entail, regardless of what happens at church/work.

This simplifies things. A little bit.

But what's next: Ah, that's the big adventure. What could be next?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jonathan Hamilton's Gallery Page

Artwork by Jonathan Hamilton; I own three of his works, really terrific paintings and sculpture/assemblage works. Enjoy!

Monday, December 22, 2008


For "Too Much Information." I love being labeled with a TMI problem, since mostly I'm saddled with a reputation for the opposite. Scrivener adroitly pointed this out in his comment (below), and he's half-right -- I can be pretty "cagey" in person. But the real deal is the knowledge that, once I get started, I will not shut up. "Never complain, never explain" as the lady said, and I try hard to avoid both, at least in person. Social skills are a much less pressing issue when you run your own blog (as we all know), and here I get to blab to my heart's content, about (almost) everything and (often) nothing at all. Thank you, gentle readers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Whiney Whiner Blogs Instead of Doing Laundry

Since it's a Sunday night and no one is emailing, I'll just keep posting. Why not? Though I suppose I should work on the laundry, it's only 9 o'clock.

The husband went to bed after the Vikings lost, he's depressed (and had some wine with dinner.) The boy is likewise out, having fallen asleep on his father's lap at 6pm. Last night's bellyache turned into PukeFest at 1am, and after a few hours of that we were both exhausted. We slept in until 9am, skipping church, but surprisingly the boy didn't nap this afternoon. He ate sparingly and drank just enough today. He was smammed by the time I got home (coffee and a Target run with CW this evening.) I lifted him from my spouse's lap and carried him off to bed, and he's been quietly snoring away ever since, poor thing.

I myself have a little of whatever bug got the kid, but my problems are Downtown rather than Uptown, which I guess I prefer if pressed to choose. I'm also exhausted. But I'm not sure I'd sleep for long if I went to bed now, it's just too early. My back is still killing me, besides, so I'm not looking forward to the horizontal. I've evidently pushed my luck a bit this weekend, what with sleeping on the couch and in my kid's bed at various times for various reasons, plus other shenanigans. There are a few spots beneath my shoulders, near my spine, that feel like they should look bruised -- painful to the touch. I need a sympathetic pair of hands to set me straight, but tonight is not my night.

I hate Sunday evenings. No one writes, no one phones. And I procrastinate. Laundry, wrapping gifts, etc etc. Paperwork. Nothing gets done. I sit here and blog, because I feel chatty and social on a lonely winter night. This is Christmas week and everyone I know will be too busy to check their email, too tired at the end of the day to worry about it. I should start catching up on my Newsweeks I suppose. *sigh* Monday will come, more or less; no one's mind will be wholly on work this week, as we anticipate the long weekend, and everything that needs doing will consequently take twice as long. Wish we were having a party at the office, but nobody got it together. I suggested it, and was encouraged by the responses, but in the end I didn't have the wherewithal to set it up. And no one really cares, what with all the other obligations besides. Holidays are awful for workaholics like me. I'M A DOPE. Let's be clear on that.

oh the weather outside is frightful...

The Usual Suspects are all of them, all, bitching about the cold this week. From Canada to Texas, everyone is pissed and befuddled. Even JJ out in San Diego is sort of empathizing with her Moose, who apparently had to fly into Chicago this week. Moose joined Judy Coates-Perez and countless others as they curse and slap themselves.

So why not join the fun? Yes indeed, it is colder than a witch's tit outside, and windy besides. Last night I worked past dark at the office, and for once there was no one around by the time I wanted to leave, so I toughed it out alone. That means putting on boots, sweater number two, scarf number one, arm-warmers, long wool coat, chenille hat, hood, scarf number two, gloves. Wrap a messenger bag around the whole kit to keep it from flapping in the arctic gale. Trudge downstairs, feeling a little like that kid in "A Christmas Story" whose mom bundles him up so well that he cannot move his arms up or down. Step outside, gasp, curse, pull scarf number two up over my mouth to muffle my curses -- and off I go. Four blocks or so to the bus stop, and most of it is (no shit) uphill through a foot of unplowed, unshoveled snow. The bus stop is likewise snowed under, and at the top of a hill besides, so the wind is knifelike and shelter nonexistent. I meet a few other nondescript, bundled figures standing silently in wait. I think of those cattle on the prairie in the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the cows who were frozen to the ground, their breath literally freezing into ice that bridged the distance from their mouths to the ground, then buried under a foot of snow. Mound after mound of hairy snow, motionless, deathlike; trapped, until Pa Ingalls goes to them one by one and breaks the cast of ice from their muzzles to allow them breath. They shake off the snow and run bawling away, one by one. These folks at the bus stop remind me of those cows.

Eventually, before we are frozen like some ill-fated Everest expedition, the bus comes. My glasses instantly fog over and freeze, completely occluded, as I climb aboard. I let them slide down my nose, meeting the top of the now-damp and funky scarf number two. "Free rides until 8pm" the driver says. I know it's because of some event downtown (a crazy parade they do in all weather, every night through Christmas, called Holidazzle.) But I'd like to think it's to encourage the frozen poor to jump on the bus, instead of walking up Central Avenue on a freezing Minnesota night.

the Playlist

Which, by the way, I can't listen to while posting -- is a Blogger-promoted widget called iLike. The encyclopedia of music accessible when designing the Playlist seems pretty broad, but one of my many friends with esoteric tastes could probably prove me wrong. The list currently posted is just an array of titles I'm enjoying lately -- this week, this year, etc. Some are truncated excerpts, and that might be an indication that I have to pay to play on some service (maybe Rhapsody) -- we'll see, I apologize for that. But my favorite song of the year plays in its entirety -- "Thinking About Tomorrow" by Beth Orton.

Recommend some tunes you like, and I'll update the playlist accordingly! I love recommendations, on music and also literary fiction. I'll try anything once, that's my motto.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


And then there are the times when, in the space of just a few hours, your outlook shifts in minute but profound ways. And nothing really changes, except the way you feel about things - your nearness to someone, your distance from someone else. It's hard to tell whether the change is for the better, or for worse -- but it's a change, and sometimes that's what's needed.

There's a stack of bills next to my laptop, cramping my holiday style. One of them is an uncomfortable credit card balance. There's a ton of snow on the roads and my son is in bed with a bellyache.

And yet, and yet, a little something happened yesterday that brightens my world a bit. Just a little something, but I'm grateful for it. It's not a solution, not a resolution of any kind, more of a distraction really. And that's just what I need at the moment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Taking Steps

So, I called the church where my grandparents were members, and where the memorials were held. They're looking up the records, and hopefully will have the burial locations, though not all churches keep or have that information. To answer Alan's question, the church bulletins did not contain the name of the funeral home in either. Nor did my grandfather's obituary, and the only obit I could find online for Grandma was listed down in Port Charlotte FL, where they lived at the time. No funeral home noted there either, and my suspicion is that they would have purchased plots in or around south Minneapolis since that's where they lived for many years.

We'll see what Trinity Lutheran Riverside has to offer. And if they know, what then? Not sure who I would ask to go with me when I visit for the first time. I don't want to be alone; but it's kind of a test to put to someone. Will they be there for me the way I might want them to be? Will I feel unselfconscious enough to have an uncensored reaction to the experience when I get there? And how will I feel?

Will it even be a place I can go? What if they weren't buried at all? What if they were cremated, and the ashes are packed in a box someplace now? Then what?

It's an odd feeling, awkward, calling strangers to ask for this information. Certainly not a first in a world chock full of family estrangement, but it's easy to imagine the unasked questions on the other end of the phone line. Once, when I was visiting Luther Seminary, I decided on the spur of the moment to ask their records department if they had any files on my father. Peter attended seminary for a short time, though it would have been called Northwestern back then I think. In trying to describe the information I was looking for (Peter was already deceased), I wound up having to explain the sordid family history to a skeptical records employee. Privacy, I suppose. She wanted to understand why I hadn't just asked my father about his seminary attendance. How could I explain that we rarely talked in a personal way; that he rarely told me his stories? Whenever I learned something personal about him, by inference, or from my mother, I would squirrel that information away in my mental museum. I never asked him to elaborate.

It's difficult to explain why I'm so willing to maintain a largely imaginary relationship, like the one I had with my father. I think about it, because it's something I do with other people as well, from time to time -- willingly carry on as though a relationship is "normal" even though the standard reinforcements are merely sporadic, even absent. Lunch, phone calls, casual conversation, tenderness. I've always been willing to let my imagination do a lot of the work in my relationships. And when I'm unhappy with a relationship, I tend to just imagine doing something about it. I suppose a person would just assume I wasn't interested. But the truth is, I don't know how to ask. I can make it happen face to face, I can draw a person out most of the time just by listening and focusing on them. But confronted with someone who waits to be asked (like me) I'm somehow at a loss.

Of course, when I do open my mouth I often say the wrong thing -- I can be rude, I don't control my tone very well, and I've often already imagined what I'd like to say which means I come off very sharp-tongued -- it's the worst phrasing that's already planted in my conscious mind, rehearsed and invested with a lot of emotion. I should try to plan out a more tactful approach, but instead I let things bottle up, and when I finally verbalize it's overkill.

Something to work on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"I've been ionized, but I'm okay now."

And it's Roethke, for the Book of Quotes. "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow."
Here's a nice retyping of the poem, "The Waking," at Possum.

New batteries, lithium, for the digital camera = more updates soon at True Companion.

Remember "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension"? With John Lithgow, Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd.
"Lithium is no longer available on credit."

This truly bizarre, disjointed but hilarious and touching sci-fi cult classic was for many years consistently ranked in my Top Ten Movies of All Time. My high school friends just HATED this flick after a while, because I rented it constantly, probably purchased it ten times over just in late return fees. But honestly, how could a girl not swoon for Peter Weller singing "Since I Don't Have You" in a smoky bar? How could one not cultivate a secret crush on the gangly nerd and Hong Kong Cavalier wannabe Jeff Goldblum - "What's that watermelon doing there?" And John Lithgow as a brilliant physicist possessed by the life-force of an alien from the eighth dimension? Priceless. Hysterical! But it's Christopher Lloyd who gets the immortal line:

"It's not my goddamned planet, monkey-boy!"

Well, here it is, five days later. I have not been altogether graceful in my conduct this week. I'm communicating badly, I'm on the nerves of at least two of the people I'm closest to, I'm behaving officiously, I'm crying at the drop of a hat...I'm also behind on a few important projects.

And tonight, I started on my quest to find out where my father's parents are buried. Without calling my ex-stepmother before I have to. Eventually I will have to, because she knows the whereabouts of my father's ashes, though she hasn't told me. It's a long story for the uninitiated, and I can fill you in if asked -- in a nutshell, I have been estranged from my father's second wife and their family for many years. This week marked the five-year anniversary of my father's death, and I'm realizing just how incomplete and inadequate the grief process has been, due in part to information withheld from me over the years. I still struggle with anger and a profound sense of helplessness as responses to a long history of conflict within that side of the family. I need to do something about it.

As awkward and odd as it may sound, I'm actually considering having a little ceremony, once I find my grandparents' graves. Moreover, I'm considering requesting a small portion of my father's ashes (a request that will doubtless cause some conflict.) Because the responsibility rests with me to appease my own need for resolution of some kind.

I don't want to approach the process angrily, as tempting as it is to do so -- neither my father nor my stepmother treated me like a family member when the time came to mourn my grandparents, with whom I was close; and the same held true when my father himself died, though that situation was complicated by problems with my husband at the time. Still -- I want to somehow return to that history and rewrite it a little. I can't make relational connections where none are wanted -- my father's children barely know me, might not even recognize me on the street, have never contacted me. If they marry or have children, I most likely won't hear of it. And there's little chance of my former stepmother and I ever desiring each other's company. But at least I could have access, in the grief of missing loved ones, to some of the rituals people need in order to move forward.

I found the bulletins from my grandparents' funerals, but no reference to interment. If I have to I can call my stepbrother out in Cambridge, with whom my relationship is a bit warmer though very inconsistent. He could tell me. But I'm reluctant to do so. I don't know how much re-opening of old wounds I'm willing to undergo here. It's a fraught process.

I have a friend who has a death anniversary this week; his mother, gone I think 11 years now. This friend is heading north to his hometown tomorrow, to help with the funeral for the father of two close friends. And, I imagine, to visit his mother's grave. I wish I could do that, though I haven't always felt this way. My friend will doubtless have an emotional weekend, and I hope the funeral is at least a good one.

What sort of ceremony would be helpful? I wonder.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

in progress

Starting (finally) my turn at the first altered book in the Round Robin. Mailing date is December 15; and I wish my digital camera were working properly, I miss it so.

At left, one of the images I'll add to the "Book of Quotes." Though I haven't quite settled on a quote yet. Isaiah? Rilke? Maybe Patricia Hampl? Rilke might work best with the wintery image, which I'll layer behind some semi-transparent snowflake paper.

One of the gals from the paper class gave me some hand-made paper she'd produced at home. The sheet contains a fair amount of dryer lint, which is AWESOME. Have to come up with a project for it, and for my other dryer findings.

winter makes people mean

So my sister was laid off on Friday.
Which means that both of the most marginally-employed people I know are now unemployed. Both of whom have worked long years in seemingly secure industries, but both are merely disposable workers -- mid-management types. My sister was already working two job to get by a year ago, and now her unemployment will suck because she still has part-time (minimum wage) work at nights, and because it's Texas. Meanwhile, CW can't even get a decent wage as a temp, and there's apparently little available in her field. So far my sister still has an apartment, where she lives with her four-year-old daughter part-time (shared custody); but if she can't clear $1200 per month, she won't be able to eat, pay rent and pay her bills. I suspect she is already in default on a credit card or two.
Obama had better have something up his sleeve for these people. For CW, and Heather, and our friend MB who is about to lose his house. All single people -- and a single person is in danger in this economy.
Winter makes the people with the money turn mean.
Merry Fucking Christmas.

a sad day

Today was a very emotional day at church. We marked the Second Sunday of Advent, meditated on Isaiah 40, and beheld the full clinical dissection of the multiple-issue trainwreck that is the roof of the sanctuary. This week we move our worship activities to another space, another church building we own, and become a two-campus congregation. After Christmas we'll decide whether to try to save the sanctuary, which will cost all the money we currently possess; or if we should tear it down, and bide our time until we can build another, or sell the property.

Tonight marks the fifth anniversary of my father's passing, though his clinical death actually took place the morning of the 10th. Some time early in the morning of December 8th, between midnight and I think 2am, his heart stopped in an ambulance traveling from St. Francis to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. He was resuscitated, but never regained consciousness, having suffered an aneurysm in his brain that involved heavy bleeding. About 24 hours later doctors stopped his heart, harvested some donated organs, and so his life ended. I heard later that the lungs and kidneys were placed quickly, and live on in others, somewhere.

So I'm crying a lot today, and it's like the weather -- there's no cure, no need to try hard to comfort me, it will pass. This will pass. I miss my father, though we never knew each other like we should have, and I wish he were still around to play with his grandson. I know he would have been a terrific grandpa. He'd have done what lots of fathers do -- worked out his parenting mistakes by making it up to his grandkids. I'd have been happy to see it, too. But he's forgiven, was forgiven before he died, for not always knowing what was needed from him as a parent.

Better stop writing, or I'll start crying again. Sore eyes and a headache. :-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

speaking of Jesus Freaks

After a business meeting at the bank, CW and I stopped at Diamonds, a Northeast hangout near to the arts district. While waiting for our lattes and breakfast sandwiches to appear (and shit, I am now realizing that I have no cash as a result of this visit), a guy appeared. We'd seen the guy earlier. He'd left his bag and his coffee on a cafe table near the counter, and CW and I had rudely plopped our own junk on the table next to his in his absence. He excused himself and began collecting his articles. CW, always social, made a polite apology and friendly remark. The guy turned instead to me and asked, "Did you go to Brown?" I said Huh? And he repeated the question. I realized he meant Brown Institute here in town, and denied having attended (though I thought about it at one point, another story.) "Did you go to MCAD?" he asked. OK, now I've apparently been ID'd. I acknowledged the affirmative.

"Yeah," says the guy, "I thought I recognized you. You're Jennifer, right?" Uh-oh, I'm thinking. Did I date this guy at some point? If you've known me more than ten years, you know it's genuinely possible for me to have completely forgotten about one of the guys I actually dated. Thing is, he's not my type, which makes me wonder if I turned him down. (Also awkward.) The guy introduces himself, I introduce CW, and we all stand around for a few minutes. The name does NOT ring a bell, I'm afraid. Still awkward...when does it end...but apparently we knew each other in the illustration department in art school, waaaayyyy back in the mid-Nineties. "What are you doing now?" He wants to know. We give each other the rundown. Neither of us makes art for money. "I'm not real good at it," says the guy. He's in school to be an electrician. Underemployed, not an uncommon problem. He has settled in Northeast. He wants to know where I work. I'm careful to keep pulling CW into this conversation, keep it light. I explain my church work, and the guy's eyes light up. CW explains that she works there too, "But I'm not a Jesus Freak or anything," she says. "We're not, like, all glassy-eyed about it." Evidently this is one of those days when she feels the need to add disclaimers. Maybe she thinks the Guy is cute.

Apparently, however, the Guy is not disinterested in Jesus Freaks. He starts talking about a new church he's been attending, up in Fridley -- the Substance Church. CW and I exchange a look. We've heard of this church, which has blanketed Northeast with direct-mail postcards and glossy promo stuff. Guy says they have an awesome, "spiritual" atmosphere -- he makes that distinction between being himself "spiritual" and being "religious." He says their worship service is very cool, very (I'm going to forget the way he phrased it) engaging and moving. He makes reference to the music etc, and I get the feeling this is a black church, though I don't know that. "You want glassy-eyed," says the Guy, "Those people are definitely glassy-eyed. But it's cool."

The sandwiches arrive. Guy sort of takes this as a cue, doesn't ask me for my info or anything, says "Hey, you should come up there some time. It's nice to bump into you." He splits. I'm still trying to envision even one exchange or occasion from the past that would explain the Guy, I feel guilty for totally blanking him. As we drive off, I can just vaguely picture what his artwork might have looked like (this isn't unusual, I can erase a face from memory with ease but often an artist's name will summon up a visual reference for their work. This happened again recently in an unrelated conversation with someone in Superior WI, who as it turns out knows a number of local artists with whom I'm acquainted.)

Substance Church. Hmmm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

you can't not love them

I have stolen a moment at work for posting. It's been a while, in part because my evenings aren't leaving me with much after-dark energy these days.

I just finished writing "The Word This Week" for the church's weekly e-news letter. I haven't done one in a while. Glad to this week, though, since it's my favorite verse - Isaiah 40:1-11. It will appear on the church website eventually, maybe I'll post a link for you Jesus freaks.

I capped off the assignment by reading a Salon review of Carrie Fisher's new non-fiction, "Wishful Drinking," a new slant on Fisher's autobiographical tendencies, colored apparently by her recent resort to electro-convulsive therapy for her depression and bipolarity. There's a line from the book, a reference to her relationship with ex-husband Paul Simon: "I couldn't not love him. I apprenticed myself to the best in him, and bickered with the worst."

That nicely describes my relationship with my husband. And, to some extent, with a number of the people I love best. And maybe it is, in fact, the nature of relational love -- irresistible, self-centered, uncontrollable and hard to rationalize or recover from.

Friday, November 28, 2008

night listening

this hour a sweep of the brush in ink
black, and the wind-tunnel of forced air rush
the sound, and all in their beds
and I awake as usual, just unconscious of my limbs
in a hard chair, drink in

not-silence, defined by warm walls here
and the cold outside, the distance north and south
maps of the lives, you in your bed too under
colorless sheets,unknown habits and positions, also silent
the symphony of sleepers' breath
fogs the imagined night air, behind the white noise
of the furnace running; yours too

hushed, halted, gasped or rattling the glass with basso
snores, if I could hear them all in wave-like rhythm
on my shores
if all that presence were a blanket wrapped around me
then perhaps I'd lose myself,
and find my part

got 'im


still digesting...

My husband, disgusted with my YouTube browsing, has gone off to bed and shut the door. It's half-past the end of Thanksgiving, and none of the usual blogs have seen any action. It feels like a Sunday night here, without the Monday to look forward to -- long weekend trapped in the house, Day 2, hath commenced. No excuse not to get the laundry done I suppose...tomorrow I'll make a cheesecake, just to top off the incredible debauchery of the week, and with any luck I can hit the office on Saturday. Lots to do, given the new and improved chaos at church -- about which I won't say much here, in part to avoid problematic indiscretions and in part because my desk is such a snarl as a result that I don't much care to contemplate it. Have avoided the blog for the most part this past week, in favor of SLEEP. Sleep: when you can, you should.

Let's go look for a blog, shall we? Let's see if we can hunt up good ol' Anonymous tonight.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

no more more...

The Bunny song, a Veggie Tales classic about brain-washing at the chocolate bunny factory.

The new and improved Bunny song... a little more about consequences, a little more about over-eating, a little more moralistic in tone (and a crappy recording I'm afraid).

The Gummy Bear song (long version, in English, with jiggling buttocks.)

Crazy Frog, a phenomenon that apparently escaped me, does his Annoying Thing for the 80's. (This isn't strictly a food thing...unless you eat frog.)

Danish Bacon animation...

tryptophan purgatory

Thanksgiving has always been a food holiday. It has so little bearing on the history of the United States, based as it is on the vaguest nationalistic mythologies, that it's easiest just to count our blessings and then chow down. We gave (and received in donations) enough food at the food shelf in the past week to cover 50 or so households for the holidays -- not festive food, in some cases, but decently palatable. So it should be okay just to come home and act the pig.

My gut HURTS, I ate too much, and the funny part is that I probably consumed half of last year's volume. I waited as long as I could before I had anything, saving up my calories; but CW showed up with good bread and great cheese. I haven't seen real cheese in MONTHS. So I overdid that a tiny bit. And the pie -- two pieces. Grunt. Oink. And with the wine besides (a Valpolicelli, a Barolo), time itself has sort of stretched and warped...the day has gone on forever, all thoughts come slow, the lights seem too bright, I need an Advil. But I shouldn't go to bed yet, I'm still too full, and the memory of last night's dreaming still flickers brightly in the back of my mind -- ready to keep me from sleep.

Monday, November 24, 2008

and after

That last dream - it's not unlike a number of others recurring over the years. There have been long stretches of time when the river figured prominently in my dreams as a metaphor for life's journey -- the passage of time, and a powerful mystery; a barrier that could only be crossed successfully at great risk to one's self; and a pathway to be navigated. Broken bridges have been a recurring theme too, long long before the 35W accident -- bridges that fall and have to be crossed anyway, picking your way through the wreckage. The 35W disaster had an especially eerie tinge for me in that regard -- though my dreams weren't ever so terribly destructive in tone -- and of course that bridge is at the heart of my terrain, my landscape of experience with its twin metaphor in the unconscious mind. Each time I cross the river, here in downtown Minneapolis, on the Third Avenue bridge or the Hennepin, or the newly-rebuilt 35W bridge, I'm right on that line -- between physical reality and the realm of meaning. There's no one I love who doesn't relate to that line, the long line of the river and the intersecting cross of a bridge -- though I've only rarely been down there with CW, she doesn't go for long walks -- sooner or later they all come down there with me.

Anyway - running through the woods along the river is therefore an easy dream to parse. I am in the woods these days -- sometimes gladly, sometimes fearfully, but it's difficult to see where I'm headed. There's still the reassuring geography -- I know where I am in relation to the river, after all -- but I fear at times what I used to love, a walk in the woods, the static unknown depth of a thick landscape and the meditative path, one foot in front of the other, no thoughts for what's ahead or behind. In this dream I'm on that happy path of exploration and discovery until the way becomes dark, and a danger appears, and the path becomes a trap. Recuperative solitude becomes vulnerable isolation.

Still, it doesn't end too badly in this case. And generally they don't, these dreams. They're often instructive. And God knows this is a time when I can use some instructions.

dreaming again

I dreamt I was riding a bicycle, and it didn't belong to me. It was the property of CW's mother, who (CW assured me) would probably report it stolen even though she knew it was being used by me. But I decided to take my chances and went for a ride, CW and I parting ways as the sun sank towards 4 o-clock. Peddling up a steep hill towards a bridge that crossed the river, I remembered that CW roomed in a house nearby. (A yellow house with white trim.) "The river is right in my back yard," she was always saying, and I decided to find out whether this was true. I turned left before crossing the river, and coasted down a long drive into a parking lot that adjoined an alleyway. The river was on my right. I left the bike, and began walking up the alley, parallel to the river. The alleyway narrowed to a walking trail, and soon I was climbing through thick brush on the steeply-terraced back yards of the houses on my left. "It's not really in her back yard," I thought, as I looked up toward her house, then down the slope towards the river, noticing the paved alleyway continuing along below me, an alleyway and a fenced barrier between it and the water.

I went exploring. The woodland on the slope was dense, bare of leaves in late autumn, thickets of unkempt twigs and detritus broken by occasional half-hearted attempts at landscaping. There were steep concrete stairways that led from level property down to the path; the path was many yards above the alley, and crept along the face of the slope. The time was late afternoon, getting dark. After marching around in the wilds of the back yards, trespassing, I decided to return the way I'd come before it became too dark to see my way. I began the climb back down, and soon jogged along the walking trail again, still a narrow path hemmed in on both sides and above by branches and dead leaves. Running, in the dark now, I nearly collided with a man who was coming the opposite way. He had a flashlight. As he stepped aside he reached out his hand to stop me, grabbing my shoulder, and I realized I was in danger. He didn't speak. (He looked like the man that offered me a ride at the bus stop last night.)

Then the dream became a story, something I was reading in the newspaper, about a man who tried to rape a woman on the walking trail by the river as she jogged alone there. And then I awoke.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Altered Books and Paperama

A friend asked me a very good question yesterday after lunch: What is an "altered book?" I'd invited her to sit in on a meeting at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, with a group of artists who focus some of their talents on visual journaling, book making and altered books. An Altered Book is a commercially-bound volume (in most cases) which has been physically changed and adapted to contain an artist's vision. Books might have pages removed to create cavities for embedded objects -- you can even create a drawer in the body of a book! Painting and drawing on the pages, stamping and glueing, everything is an option. Change the cover, and use the book as the starting point for something new. That's an altered book.

Last night's meeting started with an in-depth discussion about paper: the qualities different artists look for, ways to shop for and purchase the types of paper you need, basic terminology. Some of the women there (only one man out of perhaps 30 attendees) used only recycled papers, like myself - paper that is "found," not necessarily archival, used for collage and other activities as well as drawing or painting. We scavengers didn't know a great deal about paper-making or terminology, but before the end of the two-hour session we'd absorbed quite a bit.

The meeting concluded with a swap: about ten of us came with altered books already started, and we'll spend the next 8 or 9 months swapping them "round robin" style once per month, after each artist has had a chance to add something to each book - I gave my book to Roxanne, and Brianna gave her book to me, etc - next month we'll each mail the books we've worked on to our contacts, and eventually we'll each have worked on every book started. The volumes will be photographed for documentation, and our original volumes will return to us as collaborative works, signed by each of the 8 participants. I didn't get a chance to photograph my book before I handed it over (darnit!) but I'm looking forward to watching it travel down the line. Meanwhile, I have to get started on the book entrusted to me for this month.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

in the studio

{An update on creative activities}

I love those little brackets.
So my weekend has included lots of time not spent doing laundry or scrubbing the bathroom floor (though I sweep a lot, because I like to sweep and because frequent sweeping keeps the crud from sticking to the soles of your bare feet in the morning.) Instead, I've used all my hoarded moments of relatively guilt-free pleasure on two projects: the first of hopefully three small art quilts I'll sew up before the end of the month; and an altered book that I'll take to my first-ever Altered Book Round Robin at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts tomorrow night.
(This is a Roz project, this Round Robin; learn more here.)

The quilt is as I said first of hopefully three parts, an Advent project that explores the Year B texts from Isaiah (my favorite book of the Bible) and a progression from Darkness to Light. This is the Darkness quilt, and its central image is a painful one - a starving infant in West Darfur. The backdrop is chaos, crazy-quilt-like, and the texts incorporated into the quilt are from Isaiah 64:1, and also the non-seasonal Isaiah 5:20,21,23. Plus a verse from something we recently read at church that I haven't yet sourced, "Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand." The terrible condemnation of being damned to a destiny of our own ignorance and violence. It's depressing, but that's offset by the work of it.

The book to be altered by this group of artists I'll meet tomorrow is a copy of The Ephemerides for 1940 to 1950. One of those odd old books my mother bestows upon me from time to time, full of outdated information but well-bound; a book crying out to be played with and painted on. I don't feel like posting any photos tonight (I'd have to use my phone for the quilt) but will do so soon.

I'm glad I planned this weekend's creative time into my agenda, though my husband probably feels I've been a little lazy around the house. Fortunately H. likes to help me sew, and I can be creative and give him attention at the same time. He also likes to play on my laptop, which is in the sewing room, so we are at least near one another enough to make me feel I'm not totally self-centered and self-indulgant.

And all this means that the studio/sewing room/dressing room that contains darned near all of my worldy goods (notwithstanding books, art and furniture), which I just cleaned up last week, is now adrift in rubber stamps and inkpads, scraps of fabric, various printouts of Bible verses and instructional texts, and all the usual accumulations besides -- utility bills, dirty socks, etc. I'm not actually a pig; I'm a decent housekeeper. But this room isn't for company anyway.

Friday, November 14, 2008

the problem with being in love with one's work

What a week. I've been running in place non-stop, with the exception of a break over breakfast with BC this morning, and I feel like I've accomplished very little. Too much on my plate.

Moreover, and moreover again, I'm starting to feel some serious anxiety about my work. It's secure, which is more than can be said for the jobs of many. But I'm starting to think I should get out, while the getting is good. Not because I'm in imminent danger -- at least not in the same sense as my previous job, and in fact, it's more the opposite. I'm in over my head with love for the place, on multiple levels, and I think this will wind up being a source of hurt for me.

I've been at the church three years, during which time it's been non-stop change, most of it good. I've put myself at the center of the operation, and I've put the church at my center as well, so much so that my physical and emotional commitment to the place is feeling more and more like a liability. Too much potential for heartbreak. Too many ways to wind up disappointed. A commitment that is extraordinarily meaningful to me -- but I'm afraid, because what I'm commited to in the organizational sense will in the end remain defined by the tones of the times and the people in leadership -- there's no emotional safety in that. And perhaps I'm overcommitted, perhaps the relative vocational importance of my position means that I am giving much too much to the church, and to those I work for, and in the end there's no avoiding a certain lack of parity. Their reliance on me (which is considerable) isn't blind - they show their appreciation. But the church, the other staff, my boss, my friends there -- none of that will add up to the level of emotional commitment and attachment I'm at -- and that's nobody's fault but mine. If anything changes, if my boss decides to leave or the congregation suffers some serious setback or the finances become an issue (as they may well, and soon), I am going to get hurt. Something will happen to crack this love affair in two, I just know it. There are some major uncertainties affecting the church now, more than we thought there could be at this stage of growth. I'm worried.

So I lay in bed and cry at nearly-three in the morning, thinking I should start looking for a job, and wondering too if CW could somehow get my job and be able to stay in town instead of moving home indefinitely. Wondering if they'd hire her, if she'd take it. Of course, if all that happened I would have to back away from the church to some significant degree as a member too, at least for a while -- because of my role there, and because I'm too much associated with that role, and because it would be hard not to want to stay in the middle of things. It's a little like the urge to leave a romantic relationship, when you realize that you've put so much at stake that the only way to be safe is to break up before the other person leaves you -- not that they seem to want to, but you never know. You never know when the trap door will open.

It's cowardly of me, but I don't want to be the one standing there with a silly look on my face when, inevitably, something happens that will remind me of the fact that I'm alone in this -- that no one in the church is charged with making sure this job doesn't break my heart except for me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

flash-to-bang time

So I've just had one of the most exhausting experiences with my child on record. And it didn't happen at the doctor's office, or at the dentist's -- it didn't happen in the Target store when he couldn't have something he felt he needed badly -- instead, it happened in the bathroom, at bath time. And I'm reminded, though it hasn't happened in a while, that the potential for my intelligent, anxious child to have a major melt-down over seemingly nothing at all is always there, always a factor.

He never forgets, this kid, and there are a variety of relatively benign, normal but unfortunate experiences that he has carried with him for longer than I can sometimes believe -- a splash of too-hot water on his foot when he was about a year old, a train ride that involved a high-pitched warning noise every time the doors would shut, a doctor visit that involved a somewhat painful procedure to treat a nasty double-ear infection.

So about a week ago when he got in the tub (a place we've seldom had any difficulty), a bug bite on his foot stung a little in the warm water. It was an unpleasant surprise, and he managed it well by keeping his foot elevated out of the water during his bath. It was still a concern for him two nights later, but by Friday everything was fine -- he sat normally for his bath, and the only problem was the lake he created on the bathroom floor by happily sloshing back and forth in the tub.

But tonight was different -- tonight was meltdown night, and he was terrified of the water. It would hurt his foot he said. It's too hot he said. I tested and re-tested it, added cold water simply to reassure him, even got him to briefly rest his "good" foot in the tub. I reminded him of what a brave, smart boy he is -- I comforted him, I did everything I could think of. But it still took fifteen or more minutes to make any progress towards his bath. Fifteen minutes of crying, wailing, me pleading with him and trying to do what's best in the long run.

Backing down was not an option, because I know that if these types of fears are given legitimacy they tend to stick far longer. But I didn't want the kid to be terrified either, wasn't going to force him. And it's a fine line, let me tell you, between getting your kid to prove to himself that he can handle his fears, and forcing him to do something that he's genuinely afraid of, thereby making things worse. I didn't think he was faking, he seldom does that. But he can work himself into a state over something like this pretty easily -- he has a short fuse for anxiety, and the flash-to- bang time for him is almost instantaneous.

In the end, I drained out most of the water after adding cold; and I coaxed him into putting the "good" foot in to rest there. He was very, very upset and afraid, and if I hadn't thought quitting would simply have led to more bathing refusals down the road, I'd have backed off. But it didn't seem wise. So I put a plastic bin, upended, into the bath water where it stuck up over the level of the water and made a platform for his "bad" foot. And there he stood, while I essentially sponge-bathed him, and praised him for being so brave, and so smart. "The box and the washcloth worked!!" He said repeatedly, smiling, reassuring himself. "It worked!" "That's right." I said. "Remember that for every problem, there's an answer. We had a problem with helping you take a bath, but we found the answer together."

Of course I had also tried showing him that the water didn't burn me, and so it wouldn't burn him. But that logic failed. "It doesn't burn Mommy," I said, "and you and I are the same." "But we're NOT the same!" wailed my five year old son, and he was of course right.

I can't stand to see him so afraid, the look on his face saying he's very frightened and worried and he wants to trust me, but he knows I can't always keep things from happening that he doesn't want -- a flu shot, his ear drops, the taste of toothpaste, trips to the doctor -- he knows I don't have quite the same values he has. So he's crying, and trying to get by, and I struggle to keep from crying myself because I'm not convinced I shouldn't just give in and hope that somehow the problem will resolve itself. But the thing is, now and again, we go through this. I know how anxious he is. And when I was a kid, a big part of my life was fear. I was anxious too, and there was always something going on to make life more difficult, to make happiness and a calm night's sleep a thing of uncertainty. I had nightmares from an early age (2 and 3) that I still remember better than any cute little birthday parties or trips to the zoo, or time spent with "mom and dad." And I don't want my boy's life to be about this kind of fear. I know he can master some of these feelings, and that this strength will be important for him as he ages. He needs to know he can be brave, and smart, and that every problem has an answer -- one he can find, one that will resolve his need to spare himself what worries him while accomplishing what needs to be done. To outsmart himself, to maintain a feeling of control -- it takes practice.

He's only five, though.

first snow

Friday marked the first snowfall of the year here in the cities. Harper and I threw on our clothes, and went outside to catch snowflakes on our tongues. He takes apparent delight in this, and I get to experience an important childhood ritual over again. Which is good for me, since I lack recall of so many, many details from that distant past.

Watching the colors fade and bleed gradually from the landscape, and the last of the maple leaves clinging stubbornly to the lower branches, I'm finally touched by the sadness my friends express much earlier in the fall season. It's the departure of the colors that weighs on me, rather than lack of sunlight though. Lack of warmth is also fairly relative to where you are, and how you're dressed. But I'll miss the colors, and it makes the sewing room that much more important to my peace of mind.

I have a project in mind, that I'll need to finish in the next two weeks. I was laying awake imagining it last night (rather than working on it, because my son napped too long yesterday and wound up staying awake deep into my normal productivity period.) I fell asleep thinking about it, and had a dream --

I dreamt that I was dreaming, and in the double dream I was struck by a certain inspiration for some text to use in the work. I remember clapping my hands triumphantly -- ha!-- and then pausing to consider the next step in the work. Some other things then happened that I won't go into just yet -- but I gained insight into another aspect of the work. And in my dream, I awoke from the dream, and realized I couldn't recall the text that had inspired my feeling of triumph. What had it been? Why couldn't I bring the inspiration forward to consciousness? So I scoured my home for information or objects that might trigger the memory, and in the process the dream changed and began to fade...

then I woke for real. I could remember part of the artistic content I'd envisioned, sleeping, but still can't remember the text that came to mind -- I can almost see it....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thick Dignity

"Thick dignity is your key to success" reads the subject line of the topmost email in today's junk pile. Now, I have better sense than to Google a phrase like "thick dignity," but I have to say there's something almost literary there -- even if it is meant to sell Viagra. Thick dignity -- simultaneously virile and righteous. Who opposes dignity, after all? Especially dignity for those previously acquainted with the supreme indignity of a less-than-righteous instrument of justice in our eternal sexual power struggle -- who is frigid, who is impotent, who gets the girl -- the subtext of every American pop radio classic. "Success" here meaning everything from pleasing the wife to scoring the blingy babe at the hotel bar, to securing your position at the company in these economically-uncertain times. "Key" being, of course, a helpful visual clue, the original Freudian allusion. "Thick dignity is the key to your success." I'm sure being female automatically disqualifies me from having any more than a symbolic interest in the product. After all, Viagra doesn't claim to save marriages. If they wanted to promote fidelity and loyalty, the drug manufacturers would perhaps instead invest in products designed to make men more comfortable while they do the things I'd really prefer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Outside the gales of November are finally blowing in earnest, and rain lashes the windows. The weather has been unusually warm (think almost a million comfortable celebrants in Chicago's Grant Park last night), and we even had t-storm warnings up north today. This wind was tossing leaves and litter last night, as we shopped after dinner, and I joked with my husband -- "It's the winds of change, sweetie" -- which got a laugh. We were excited about the election, and weren't disappointed.

In spite of gray skies I waltzed around in a pretty good mood today, feeling very hopeful and pleased with my country for a change. I realized on the bus ride in this morning that my husband and I have been married 11 years, and 8 of these years have been dominated by George W. Bush and all he hath wrought. "Love in the Time of Cholera." Without so much literary value. We drank our way through the last of the Clinton era, and watched helplessly when an academic friend (an expert on genocide) burst into tears after Bush was elected. "People are going to die!" she wailed. War, she meant. Aggression, ignorance, suffering. And she was right, too right and almost immediately. She already knew too much about the American public. We drank and cursed W, and drank some more.

Now, the marriage has aged (sometimes I'll say "matured"), and we give away as much as we dare while clinging to something of a lifestyle. We aren't sure how much of the kid's college we'll pay for. We don't dare take any financial risks in this economy, with our depreciating home and our aging auto. The drinking is more focused, and less recreational (in his case). We are each weary in our way with America and each other, immersed as we generally are in politics and social justice, coping in our different ways with uncertainty and sort of an accumulated societal despond. So Obama should be good for the sex life, right? A shot in the arse, a pepper-upper. Something new to talk about.

The wind was warm and sort of springtime crazy-like this morning, as I walked through the last of the yellowing maple leaves. The streets were damp (no rain yet, just street sweepers in a rush to clear the leaves before they clogged the storm sewers.) The sunlight was hazy, and a low gray sweep of clouds weighted the southwestern horizon. I wore a nice outfit, and marched cheerfully along, whistling some awful Enya tune and feeling generally, irrationally, head-over-heels desperately in love with the idea that Obama could truly be change, hope. A messianic figure, already posing for immortality.

once more united?

I have a friend at church, a white man. He is married, a black woman married him, and they have two children, a boy and a girl. I suppose a part of me wonders how they discussed last night's election, in what terms -- how their relationship spans the history of cultural divide. Do they see things similarly and in comfortably mutual ways? Do they agree to withhold their inherited assumptions about one another, even now? Do they disagree on the significance of Obama's place in history? How do they discuss it with their children?

I have a friend at work, a white woman. She is in a relationship, with a black man, and has two nearly-grown daughters whose father is black. The elder daughter, almost 18, is in a relationship with a black man and expecting her first child. The younger daughter, age 16, has recently broken up with her boyfriend, a young Hispanic man. I did not ask them about the election this morning, though my friend and her girls were in the office. I genuinely felt uncertain as to how an inquiry would be received. I know that sometimes my friend and her boyfriend argue, about family relations and race. He feels his blackness is an issue for her relatives, she feels it is not (and would not care if it was.) How did they talk about the election at home last night? What do her daughters think about it? Is there emotion? Or are they merely pleased, and much more attuned to the impending arrival of the new baby?

Being white, I simply do not see clearly the shifting ground beneath my feet at times. I read an article on about things white people shouldn't do, now that Obama is elected. It's funny, but uncomfortably so. I recognize the truth in it. "Don't congratulate your black friends" it says. OK. I think I get that, but then I know I do not and must simply take the injunction on faith. OK. I won't. But can I talk to them about it?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

YES WE CAN! When I have a moment I'll have to find out who wrote the speech -- the very moving song and sermon delivered by the First Black President of the United States of America, Sen. Barack Obama; a speech I want to excerpt and paste over every flat surface I can get my hands on. I can't quite put into words how much hope I have invested in the abilities of that one human being, Obama; and I hope his life will be preserved, and his wisdom, as he undertakes an even more daunting task than that of getting elected.

Meanwhile, one of the most hotly contested Senate seats is coming down to the vote by vote count here in MN, between Coleman and Franken -- right now they're tied at 42% a piece, and the bottom line will take some time. I won't stay up for it. I'm exhausted. And yet, amazed at how quickly Obama wrapped this up, compared to elections past.

God bless America. This country will never be the same!

postscript (maybe)

Can't be a postscript on a blog, can there? Since it's a letter that never really ends.

I posted some artwork over on True Companion (see the links here at right). The two-page spread I finished last night is titled Now is the Time/A Bird in the Hand. Both are mixed media collages, about 6 by 8 inches in size. I wasn't able to post them as they would be viewed in my sketch journal -- Now is the Time, the leaf piece with the two birds in the center, goes on the left; A Bird in the Hand goes on the right. I'm right-handed, but conversely it's my left hand that is seen in the image -- so each knows what the other is doing, obviously (heh heh, a very small joke there.) Anyway, here's how it happened:

I started with the torn page pieces from a small-sized journal I was keeping in early 2007. I chose two pages that resonate for me now, and still -- one talked about a funeral I attended shortly before Easter 07, which came at the tail end of an alarmingly, crushingly long string of deaths that befell friends, family and acquaintances. The reverse of that page had to do with the metaphysics of NOW -- the moment of reckoning awakened to each day, the call to act, the instant of first perception and the apex of experience. Now. Kairos. Some notes about all that. I spent a late evening tearing them up, rearranging my words a little and glueing them down again. I tried to mix the two texts in order to see what revelations would come from the new juxtapositions. Word-association games, played to unlock other thoughts that might have evolved in the many months since those first words were written down. Then I layered the torn pages with a bit of tissue paper.

I fell upon the word hands, and others like communion bread, laid to rest, comforting, cellist, etc. I thought about the hands and where they factor into the moments of Now -- ritual, music, creation, communion, destruction, etc. And so a hand appeared there.

The rest happened over the next 36 hours, off and on; much of it completed while I was watching TV, talking to my son, entertaining a friend. The birds didn't make their appearance until late in the process, and the leaves were affixed during Sunday's sermon earlier in the day. A bird in the hand (and two in the bush.) The bird in the hand is NOW. It's what we have now, it's all there is. And by comparison, the 2 in the bush (leaf) cannot both be captured -- they're unattainable, what could be or might have been. Alternatives, fleeting and irrelevant.

But I didn't know that until the end -- that's the great thing about adding and reducing, layering a collage -- it's a discernment, not a map, and the message emerges on its own with time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Now is the Time

Or as a friend put it some time ago, perhaps now is always the time, and we only occasionally realize this fact -- that where we are, right now in all its complexity and chaos and uncertainty, is the moment wherein we choose or do not choose (and so, choose anyway).

And, Now is the time for the Lord to act. Kairos et tous pousais Kirios.

Based on my very limited experience of these things, this life, I think he was right -- that every moment of which we are aware is Now, and therefore all that we know collectively, we know Now -- and we know it as one, this humanity, on some level that we will or won't perceive individually. So it is as one that we act, consciously or otherwise, and so we move into one future or the other, or others still, branching off infinitely -- parallel universes of movement or indecision, audacity or apathy.

and change is inevitable, hope is inevitable. But how badly do we want it now? It's not enough to want things to "be better." You have to want it badly, with passion, and you have to act. So, if you're reading this tonight, I hope for everyone's sake that you VOTE tomorrow. It won't matter what you vote for, or against, as long as you act in accordance with your gut and heart, as long as you act out of real love for your fellow humans. Now is the time. We've all agreed to it, here in America -- we've agreed to perceive together this moment of great action, of looking as one into the future. This is it, right this minute. In 24 hours we may already know what now really means. This is one chance in a lifetime, this vote.

Pray that we act as one, to the best of our ability, and to the right end.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

38 Hours

How many minds will be made up in the next 38 hours? How many minds will change? How many voters won't know until they reach the polls which way their vote will be cast? How many have known from the moment the candidate was declared?

When the local primaries were held I took my son, age 5, to the polling place with me. He stood with me in line, watched each step of the process, and was warmly welcomed by the ladies of the voting place. He walked with me to the booth, and I explained the ballot (as best I could). Then I voted. Together, we put the ballot into the tabulator, and before we left the ladies gave him an "I Voted" sticker of his own. "Please come back!" they said, and promised special treats for kids on Election Day. Now he's excited to go back. My kid is participating.

A friend at church mentioned today that he has taken a few days off from work, including Wednesday, to give himself the treat of staying up half the night with the election. And some friends and I arranged (though it's being rescheduled now) to go out for a drink, to celebrate victory or drown our sorrows the day after. Don't worry, I've already made other plans. :-)

38 hours...what world will we live in, 62 hours from now? Which of the parallel universes will we choose?

Fall back

click these images for a larger view.

Ah, good thing I went to bed early - five year olds don't know from Daylight Savings and the extra hour means nothing to them. Here he is, the boy in question, wedged between my knees as I try to type, jabbing my morning tummy-ache with his pointy elbows. Sneezing on my keyboard! Good thing I love him so much. (He's reading over my shoulder now, perfectly understanding each word. He hugs me when he gets to the "I love him" bit.) And now he's off in his room, working on a new "machine" -- an assembly of various toys carefully fitted together to some new imaginary purpose.

I woke up thinking about snow-storms today. I miss thunder and lightning through the long winters, and rain; but sometimes a heavy snowfall makes up for it. Large groups of snowflakes drifting down slowly and steadily, blanketing the world with silence. The kind of silence I love, the kind that is the sole redeeming feature of a bad head-cold: everything muffled, all the distant crowding city noises obscured, leaving the simple nearby sounds to catch at your concentration. I find it immeasurably calming. Perversely, the perfect head-cold leaves me feeling kind of relaxed and optimistic. And so does a really great snow-storm.

On the opposite end of the environmental spectrum, I miss the ocean, the Atlantic, and the way a long vacant horizon draws all complex thought out of consciousness, leaving a similarly vacant space in the mind. A good long sit on the beach is as wonderful as a perfectly timed, uninterrupted nap. No reading, no sketchbooks, no radio. Nothing but waves and seabirds. I pinned up some photos here from my last trip to Cumberland Island, years ago - down in south Georgia, just a few minutes from Jacksonville FL -- Cumberland Island National Seashore and historic site.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

not quite Halloween yet...

Here's one for you:
Just about every night lately I dream of work, God alone knows why. This past night, I dreamt there were about a dozen men, women and children in my office -- they needed the food shelf, and I was in the middle of something so they'd parked themselves in my office to wait. There was no place to sit because they'd taken the chairs, and after a few moments of me stumbling around them trying to accomplish whatever it was, they turned off the light and disposed themselves to sleep: a man in one of the chairs, a baby in blankets on the desk, women and older children in chairs and on the floor -- everyone in their clothes and coats. The office was overflowing. So I gave up trying to do whatever it was, and began working to answer their questions - where could they find help with this and that. They were impatient, they were annoyed, they wanted service. In the middle of this, with perhaps CW or CP somewhere nearby, I realized that I couldn't breathe at all (for some reason) and needed to step out of the room to go do some serious coughing. Off I went to the bathroom, and standing in there by the door to the boss' office I thought I could hear CP sighing heavily. It took me several minutes to get over the coughing and retching and choking, and when it was done I cleaned myself up, and looked in on him -- and he looked awful, all covered up with blankets in his desk chair (and he'd grown a beard, oddly enough). He were terribly distraught, and exhausted, and kept sighing and asking why we couldn't just "be the church."

And then I woke up, and realized that all the sighing was actually my son, snoring in bed.

This is not as bad as the dream where the boss left his kids in my care for the night, and one of them fell down the basement stairs -- and suddenly he and his wife were standing in my kitchen in their pajamas, looking really upset with me, and I was in a panic because I hadn't realized until maybe two minutes earlier that the kids were even in my house. I had that one last month some time. Can you say, "overdeveloped sense of responsibility?"

Hardly anyone I know needs anything more to worry about; and at almost any time of day, should I allow myself to start dwelling on my personal conundrums, the doorbell is likely to ring -- and I'll find myself at the door with someone who needs food and has much bigger problems than mine. Though of course I don't need to walk even that far to find someone with bigger problems than mine, these days. So it seems shameful and pointless to dwell on my own stuff. You probably know the feeling. And it's all fine and Christian to put others' needs before your own, if you do it consistently -- but I don't. This afternoon CW and I were talking about my increasingly pressing need for solid emotional connections with others -- the feeling that is the opposite of loneliness. And she said that you grow out of this -- that you aren't supposed to need it all the time. I think she meant that we're all ultimately alone and doomed to face facts (my words). And I told her that I hadn't grown out of it, that it really depresses me sometimes, and she suggested drugs (which is where the boss walked in.) It's a line of dialogue that says at least as much about her, and makes me sad for her (though that might not be appropriate.) I myself feel these days that all of my primary relationships are about responsibility and caretaking, in a more pronounced way than usual. I feel terribly needy, as a result. I fantasize a lot about being loved up, being really spoiled and taken care of. Being rescued, being swept off my feet and made to feel safe. Unrealistic crap like that.

What to do. I'm irritated with myself for whining about it, but really pent up with increasing frustration and resentment. Boy, aren't I a treat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

all that glitters

Frost last night, and the ground glittered in the dark of early morning as I walked my son and husband to the car. "Look at the sparkly grass" I said, to H. He was quiet, but glancing around with that look on his face that says something interests and pleases him. As I buckled his car seat, he smiled."Sparkly car too." He said, staring at the patterned whiteness glazing the windshield.

Later, as I walked to the bus stop I saw the inevitable cascade of drooping green leaves, the last holdovers that seldom turn but maintain their summer color until the cold freezes them through -- catalpa, gingko, others. The neighbors at the corner have an enormous catalpa tree, such grand scale with leaves the size of luncheon plates and knotty branches that spiral skyward, huge flowers and absurdly large beans in the summer. In the morning stillness I could hear the giant leaves dropping to the sidewalk one at a time, with an audible "pat." In fact, the pavement around was nearly invisible for the blanket of green. So I stood underneath the tree, and tipped my head back as far as I could, so that only the sky and the branches were seen and not the horizon at all. And down they drifted, one at a time in constant rhythm, falling out of the receding perspective of the uppermost limbs, fluttering to either side of my face on the way down. And I could hear them touch ground, pat...pat...pat. As much fun as this was, I could only stay a moment. I stooped over, chose a leaf to carry away with me.

Down the road the gingkos stand, lining the numbered cross-streets, and most of them obstinately green. They too are leaf-limp and drop their pretty, wedge-shaped foliage all around. Gingko leaves grow right out of the larger limbs often times, amusingly, like ruffled sleeves on the tree. A few of the older trees had started to gold, and I picked up one of those leaves as well. Next thing I know I'm running for the bus, having lingered too long.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Day of Crap, or, How To Be a Congregational Administrator

Today is the day, and it's snowing now besides. Bah!

This morning, I dropped my son off in the Sunday School room and trotted down the hall to use the restroom. WHERE I was confronted by a terrible smell, and a sight one really doesn't expect to see outside the hospital or the bar bathroom. 15 minutes, one bottle of spray bleach and a set of rubber gloves later, my day was well underway. What am I going to do, leave it for the next hundred or so people who walk in? We don't have a constant custodial presence. Someone has to take the crap.

And take it I did -- grabbed a dozen times to field all sorts of questions that folks could probably have answered for themselves if they hadn't spotted me at the opportune moment. Plus a little complaining, since I'm also a walking suggestion box. I never get to finish a cup of coffee during Fellowship after church. What happened to the pears that so-and-so donated two weeks ago? Where are the bread knives? Who has a large-print copy of today's reading? Can I borrow your keys? Why do we have to keep the four-to-seven-year olds in a different room from the nursery? Why do we have to have two nursery attendants when sometimes there's only a few kids? Who is making the list of volunteers to watch the 4 year olds? When is the parents meeting? NONE of these subjects falls squarely in my domain, but I'm an easy target. I'm everyDAMNwhere, and that's my problem.

Today was my day to volunteer with the 4 year olds, so I didn't get much church either. With my own child in tow neededing attention and supervision, I didn't get much time to talk with my friends, or with the new visitors pointed out by my boss the pastor. And then it started to snow.

DAY OF CRAP. Let's hope it improves.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stuck in an Elevator

Hoo-whee. Today I got stuck in the elevator at work. Only for about five minutes, but I learned two important facts in the process: the emergency phone line in the elevator isn't working, and I get a little panicky when I find myself trapped in a tiny room with no apparent means of egress and no one to hear me yelping for help.

This elevator is one of the serious irritations of my life as a Congregational Administrator. I'm in charge of a million daily tasks as well as several vision pieces that pertain to our community relationships, our ministries and our arts programs. The elevator, a relatively old car that traverses just three floors, is CONSTANTLY on the fritz. I've had two door motors replaced, the switch box examined countless times, valves and connectors examined and cleaned, and etc ad nauseum. Every other week I'm on the phone with the service techs, and we bought the platinum service contract last year because we KNEW this beast would give us hell. But it's one of the reasons our new congregation chose this building over the other two, post-consolidation of our three former churches. The elevator. The beast of burden that holds us in thrall. An unreliable contraption that mystifies the most learned elevator repairmen. An essential component in our efforts to serve all those for whom stairs pose an insurmountable challenge.

And today, we had a wedding. And the younger brother of the groom was recently paralyzed from the waist down in an auto accident. He's still very much in the painful adjustment period, getting accustomed to life using a wheelchair, and he absolutely does not want people carrying him anywhere -- especially not up the front steps of a church, to his older brother's wedding, wherein he was not a groomsman. He told the groom that if the elevator wasn't working, he would not come to the church, period. And was assured that the elevator would be working fine, because the faulty door motor was just replaced four DAYS ago. So of course this same horrible beast of a contraption broke down again just 90 minutes prior to the ceremony. We pay overtime for weekend service, pretty unfair when you figure we're a church, and the damned thing is BOUND to break down on a weekend.

"Do you know how to reset the elevator?!" My boss the pastor gasps, skidding to a stop before me. Shit. I run down to the lobby, where it always jams up, and the doors are standing open with the floor of the car a few inches below the lobby floor. Now, normally, if this is the problem you can muscle the doors closed on the inside and the car will automatically descend to the basement and stop, opening the basement-side doors for you to exit. I've performed that operation a dozen times, and I'm happy to see it's just this sort of problem and not some other mystery where lights won't light up and etc. SO I jump in and shut the doors. The car dutifully descends. And then -- nothing. No doors open on the basement side. I punch the "Doors open" button. Nothing. The button doesn't even light up.

SHIT. I try prying the doors on the basement side open, to no effect. Then I pick up the emergency phone that all elevators are required to have. Only to find...NO DIAL TONE. SHIT!! This was supposedly working a few weeks ago, but given the trouble we've had with the elevator I feel guilty for not having checked it more regularly, and now it's my ass in the tank. I'm breathing fast. I cross the car and start pulling at the doors opposite the basement side, the ones I'd closed manually before. And they open up. I can see the floor of the lobby above my head, and the metal exterior doors to the elevator shaft. I rap on the metal -- "Hello up there!" I'm hoping my boss is still standing around, but no luck. I'm ready to scream and yell, ready for an all-out panic, when all of a sudden and apropos of nothing, the basement-side doors slide open. Whoosh. Ding!

I jump out, and the doors slide shut again. Given that the interior doors on the opposite side are still pried open, I know this goose is cooked. I enter the elevator room and hit the reset, but it's no good, not surprisingly. So I sprint upstairs again. I call the company, feeling pretty adrenaline-shot and pissed off, and I DEMAND they have someone come out and fix this fucker before the wedding guests arrive. And as I'm hanging up the phone, my boss the pastor comes in and explains the situation with the groom's younger brother and the wheelchair.

In the end, the service tech himself runs the car for us before and after the wedding. He can't recreate the problem, though he has successfully resuscitated the machine. He tactfully hangs around until we're sure the guests have gone.

I had a few moments at my desk once I'd placed the service call and my boss had gone -- I was dizzy, light-headed, shaky and dry-mouthed. Like I'd been in a little fender-bender. Nothing serious, residual panic. But I'm not surprised -- my history with elevators is a tiny bit fraught. And of course, the clock is still ticking -- I have the phone guys coming out on Monday. But I can tell you one thing -- I am NOT jumping in like Rambo to fix those doors ever, ever again. That's what I get for trying to be Jen the Super-Secretary.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

looking at the big sky

The sun floats in a basin of soapy clouds as seen from beneath. The wind has sculpted this early-October sky, after the rain, carving washboards and trenches into the waves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


All these beauties abound:
each piece is a work of exquisite complexity
there where they carpet the ground
and the sidewalks are charted in maps of their verity.
Littered like lost love notes spendthrift;
dazing the eye with their gift.

Each day draws to a close:
undone in the gloom of the life undermined by them.
Mercies unshackle my foes -
I'm forced to my knees by the weight of their diadem,
witlessness plundered by wisdom,
sleepwalking memories plumbed.

All these synapses blaze:
abed on a pile of books drifting and bountiful.
Waiting, naked and splayed
for the touch of a match to repel the year's cold counsel -
consumed in the dark by the beautiful
unbound by the quickening thrill.

PreMental Syndrome

So, every month like clockwork I spend a day being all introspective and morose. And then I get my period. Sorry guys, that's just how it is -- in the way that brown liquor brings out the worst in most people, hormones bring out the worst in at least some of us. This week, it brought out my capacity for loneliness and depression. Oh well, tra la la. Good thing I'm mostly over it, since this week has already been REALLY trying in terms of various communication issues at work, and if I wasn't already inclined to crawl into a hole I am certainly more likely to do so now -- though my underlying attitude has improved, so I'm also inclined to bring along a little red wine and my favorite crush. Not that either would be a GOOD idea, mind you. Just more fun.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hanging out for a birthday dinner at Pop! in Northeast; then, Saturday at the Walker.

A visit to the Walker Sculpture Garden for my son's fifth birthday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

hardly worth reading

And it's a guy I know who brings his son to Sunday School here occasionally. Who's much lonelier than me, I imagine, a single dad sharing custody with his ex, raising an 8 year old boy. He's a man very near the end of his rope, I think; a man who cries sometimes, but does everything he can to keep a roof over the kid.

There's nothing except what's in my heart that makes me feel lost.


just one person's view

"That Cuban girl who brought me low,
she had the skin so fine and limbs that rose like now;
her mouth was wide, and sweet as well,
and I'll know untold hours now dreaming of her smell...
And I feel as if I'm looking at the world from the bottom
of a well --
I'm lonely..."

Lonely, frustrated, misunderstood, taken for granted, unable to successfully feel sorry for myself because I know so many other people who have it worse. Pastor Lott, who insists on referring to me as "woman of God," reminds me on the phone this afternoon that we can't be in Christ when we're complaining. Which is certainly true. I'm ungrateful, which is crazy and shameful. But I'm lonely too, wishing there were someone listening who could tell me something new --

and here's a food shelf client at the door. Right on time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hell's a Poppin'

Read Mitch Omer's pleasant rant against Andrew Zimmern, the real-life version of Anton Ego (though without the epiphany.) Follow the links for additional backdrop. Anyone want to join me at Hell's Kitchen for breakfast?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I think I get it.

Email is 24 hours per day (for better or worse). When you sleep, people are emailing you. When they sleep, you're emailing them. It never stops -- it's a real-time measurement of the changeful order of things, on a vast spectrum from intimacy to global news. When you wake up, words and images will be waiting just for you -- it's as if you hadn't slept at all. That's at least a good chunk of why I dig it so much. Because if I didn't have to sleep, I wouldn't -- I'd be busy all the time, looking around, making connections. My computer identity - my blog, my email inboxes -- are always open for business in some sense. In the world of ideas, this is critical, this open identity -- a large net for all sorts of information, some of it very influential for you (and some not at all.) It's being alive, all the time.

:-) Neat, huh?

Some Updates:

Hi all. True Companion has been updated with excerpted pages from my summer journal. Click HERE to check out the recent artwork.
Also, I've added a new gadget: "Followers." I'm not sure this isn't self-agrandizement on a shameful scale, but I understand that some people genuinely like to belong to a community -- a cohort, if you like -- and if that's you then scroll down to the Followers link in the Sidebar. There you can add your name and optional profile to the list of folks who occasionally hang out here. Right now there are ZERO Followers -- a good place to start!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A nice link off the Voodoo Cafe

Just in case y'all were wondering.

tis a gift to be simple

"Tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where we ought to be..." I learned this song for the piano today, and now Tis stuck in my head. Ach.

I read a poem last night by Jill Alexander Essbaum, called Apologia. It appears in the current issue of Image journal - an excerpt:

Darkness, I have done dread deeds in,
Hearkening to apocalyptic heathen,
Even as I cocked my lips to yours. And I have slept
On floors. And I have crept along on all fours.
And, More. I have lived briskly in nice houses.
I have swigged whiskey in icehouses.

I have been June, July and August.
I have been riotous when I felt like I must
Or I could be. And I've hung on your tree like a ripe fig
Desiring to be plucked. And I've flung my body to your bed
Like a white bride pining to be rubbed up against.
Like a suckling child hungry in a viper's den...

It's really a worthwhile poem. Not to everyone's taste, of course, and in the end it's about guilt and about living a life worthy of repentence; and thereby, a live worth living, and faith and forgiveness. It opens with an epigram of St. Augustine: "However innocent your life may have been, no Christian ought to venture to die in any other state than that of the penitent."

Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. Humbleness and gratitude don't come without some knowledge of your misdeeds and failings. And I'm not sure you can really love without both of these. Though some days it's a real trick to feel your gratitude, feel it with enough depth that your love too has the depth you desire -- love for your fellows, or your family, or someone else. The love of someone who forgives you for being a miserable jackass, for example. As some have forgiven me and as I must forgive others.

And here's my spouse, up at 2am. Right on time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

weekend update

More has transpired this weekend than I can relate tonight - I'm too tired. And I still need time to process.
In brief, my sermon was well-written but the certain people were a little disappointed by my performance. I was very nervous, and read off the page too much, without allowing myself to sound as passionate as I felt about some of the issues presented. Other aspects of the service went really well, but there were some frustrating comments after the fact that reminded me that not everyone took an interest in being as involved in the planning as they could have been.

I went to a political rally of sorts in St. Paul sponsored by the ISAIAH coalition, and heard some moving testimony as well as some excessive yacking -- inspiring stuff on the whole, but a little lacking in the "what's next" department. Apart from recognizing the very real need to improve voter turnout in the city.

I had a damned yard sale, which actually went reasonably well but I'm not eager to repeat the act any time soon. Lots of interesting people popped by and it was an amazing cross-section of my very diverse neighborhood. But I didn't get rid of all my crap like I wanted.

And, I'm feeling an uncomfortable need for a deeper level of self-examination than I've done in while. A little accountability on the personal/spiritual/emotional fronts. At the moment, it's a lot to unpack.

So -- sigh -- more later.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Effing Yard Sale

Looking at the title line reminds me there's a town in Illinois called Effingham, and it's the halfway point on a drive to Athens GA; a good overnight stop. But, Effingham. Doesn't it just sounds like a place name in "Shrek" or something? That's total Mike Meyers humor right there. Effingham.

ANYway, tomorrow is the mot**rfu**ing yard sale and I have to get up at six. I have to drag a bunch of junk out onto my yard and hope I've priced it cheaply enough that it all GOES AWAY instead of going back down in my basement. It's been a crazy-busy day getting ready for this puny sale. And I've been with the boy all day too, trying not to be too overbearing even as I spin furiously trying to accomplish all my tasks. I'm low blood sugar right now too, so against my better judgement, I'm snacking. Still stuck at minus-ten pounds. Trying to maintain the 1200 calorie diet, though it's starting to affect my outlook. But I walked MILES today putting up signs and hauling my son around in his wagon, as well as running up and down the basement stairs 50 times. So I think I've burned some calories.

The crib, toddler bed and high chair are in the yard, waiting to be sold. I sent my husband down to the basement to grab the copy of "What to Expect the First Year," and he came up all morose. "So, we're not having another first year I guess." He's been watching this whole yard sale process from the back seat, not helping much and belching out advice occasionally. He'd like another child, but I'm pretty clear on whose job it would be to stay home with the infant; plus, he was a huge head case during our son's first six months, because he thinks sleep deprivation is harder on him than on any other human born. He's a great parent during daylight hours, but I've always been the one who had to get up at night. So I'm like, "whatever. It's not that I don't want another one, but we're NOT doing that again." He takes that personally.

I'm over-limit now on Barbara's All-Natural Cheese Puffs. Crap. And no new emails from my peeps. Drinking up my wine, feeling kinda oogie now, wondering where the alarm clock has disappeared to. At 8am, the vultures descend.