Sunday, March 30, 2008

A. Poulain

At exactly 12 midnight the credits rolled on "Amelie," of which I finally caught the second half; the tape was stopped in the player two or more weeks ago. That happy/sad accordion music during the credits always makes me tear up a little.

Or, the tearing might be caused this time by the fact that everything between my right upper rear molar and the hinge of my jaw is slightly swollen and sore to numbness. As though I were recovering from the dentist, though in fact I haven't been yet -- my appointment is on Wednesday, when they'll take xrays, and then presumably schedule me in at the oral surgeon's. I have a complicated impaction of a wisdom tooth, a sort of ticking time bomb that the dentists have been glad to let alone over the years, due to its nearness to both my molar (a dead one, with a crown) and my sinus. They'll probably pull the damned molar to let the wisdom tooth descend. (Extractions like that are cheap, ironically -- I've put a lot of money into that molar, with the root canal and the crown and all.) I'm on antibiotics now. The rotten thing is probably infecting my jaw. What a trial.

12:11. I'm supposed to have been writing checks for work all this time, something I didn't do earlier because of the Open House and Community Meal. But "Amelie" distracted me, so now I'll have to find something else to keep me awake while I finish. Maybe an ice pack.

Tomorrow (today) -- another unknown experience awaits. A "training" session with the synod, supposedly to prepare me to be a delegate of my church at the annual synod assembly. Like secret rites -- initiations, a test! Will I pass, with my puffy face?

Outside the wind is knocking the bamboo windchime into the corner of the house. My husband, who handily prepared enough chicken-with-dumplings tonight to feed an army at church, is snoring deservedly in the bedroom. My son sleeps too, exhausted by the day's events. And I am typing one-handed instead of writing checks, while my other (left) hand presses a bag of frozen peas in a washcloth to the right side of my face. Sounds pathetic! But I think I'm happy.

Friday, March 28, 2008

48 hours

I have a friend who to my knowledge has not gone an hour in my presence without receiving a cell phone call, during the past six months.
I have a friend who got pretty excited earlier this evening because he can now use our office wireless network to surf the net in full color using his telephone -- during meetings.
I myself cannot recall the last time I went 24 hours without checking my email. I'm serious -- neither illness, nor vacation days, nor dark of midnight can keep me from my appointed rounds.
And if I have to go more than 48 hours without receiving email communication from one of my close pals, I start to worry. Was it something I texted? Did I misunderstand her last IM? Did I inadvertantly refer to him as "sugar-britches" in my last office email?

How much communication is "enough?" Can I ever be satisfied?

I click the button: Check Email.
"You have no new messages." Shit! Again!
Sometimes my spouse gets really irritated, when he returns to the livingroom from wherever and discovers me AWOL -- sitting in my sewing room in front of the laptop. He hates email. HATES it. To my knowledge he has never read my blog. (Good thing.) The first time I sent him a text message, he couldn't figure out how to open it. The second time, he called me to say DON'T CALL ME I'M AT A CONFERENCE. "Shut off your ringer if you're worried about it," I said. "I figured you'd be switched off, I just wanted to leave you the list of stuff to get at Target." HOW DO I SHUT OFF THE RINGER? He asks.
Isn't that charming?

Fortunately I am not as enamoured of my cell phone as I am the computer. Unfortunately, all this focus on email in my relationships leaves me feeling oddly neglected. I bet I get more electronic emoticons, nudges, exclamation points and the like in one week than hugs in a whole month. That's pathetic! I'm actually very huggable! But the people I love, most of 'em, would probably describe me as "articulate."


Thursday, March 27, 2008

am I addicted to email?
Of course I am. It's behavioral psychology, stupid. It's behavioral psychology, stupid. It's behavioral psychology, and I find you very attractive. It's behavioral psychology, stupid. It's behavioral psychology...
Apparently, because sometimes I check it before I drink my coffee in the morning.,20812,1647308,00.html

"Dealing with Email Addiction:
According to Lewis, email addiction has less to do with curbing an obsession than it does with proper time and email management. She offers the following tips to help people deal with "email addiction:"
Organize: Use folders provided in most free email services such as AOL to file messages appropriately. Simple drag and drop technology allows you to file your messages by category, and can help avoid repetitive communication.
Use the away message: If you feel compelled to answer every email as it comes in, use your away message to let people know that you have stepped away from email for the day (or night), and will respond when you return.
Follow the Rule of Three: If you have emailed back and forth with the same person on the same topic more than three times, it is time to pick up the phone and have a conversation.
For more information on email addiction, as well as more complete national and regional survey results from AOL's Email Addiction survey, visit or"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

art and the space between us

"The alternation between substance and nothing, between tangible hands and a void, between words printed and the blank page, between musical notes played and silence, is the aesthetic embodiment of the breath-stopping dread we feel between life and death."

"A Meditation on the Joint and It's Holy Ornaments" by Wayne L. Roosa is a very thought-provoking and inspiring piece of analysis, concerning art and also the apprehension of the Divine -- and by the way, let me clarify that by "joint" Roosa means a place where things or people meet in relation:

"At heart, the observation is that wherever a "joint" exists between the meeting of two things there arises in the human psyche a need to mark that place of encounter. Apparently the human eye is not satisfied by simple, blunt juxtapositions. Nor is the mind willing to leave such encounters alone. It must offer some "ornament," some "finish," some mediation or transition. The "joint," it seems, is too naked. It causes discontent in the human mind. The mind wants to clothe it."

"This is abundantly clear in architecture. Where the plane of a wall meets the plane of a roof, the blunt encounter feels unresolved. Without jambs and moldings, the opening of a doorway through a wall feels like a gaping hole. The great architect Louis Sullivan said that such bare-bones structures amounted to buildings that were "nude." For thousands of years the nudity of the "joint" has been clothed by the softening transition of cornice, entablature, molding, jamb, and pilaster. These mediate, reconcile, unify, negotiate. The mind likes a weaving together of the parts. Such ornaments are like the gracious hostess who softens the awkwardness between strangers at her table by naming people they know in common. In this way, she mediates the social gap between them, her words creating a transition between strangeness and friendship. Like the rows of jamb figures at the cathedral's door, her introduction allows strangers to pass with dignity through the portal into communion."

It's a long article, but worth reading, both to mine out a compelling definition of the function of art and as comment on the distance between our "selves" and God.

"In the "grounded" spiritual traditions of monotheism, to say that God is unknowable, or Mystery, is not at all the same thing as Theosophy's claim that God is "abstract." Nor is the unknowable vague, general, and self-invented. But it is also the case that to dare to say "God" does not entail the arrogant human wielding of dogmatic theology that claims to speak for God and impose his will on society. Distance and relation is a theological mystery. The artist interested in what Annie Dillard has evoked as Holy the Firm must use language that achieves a concrete precision and a rich contingency all at once. This, it seems to me, is the sort of difficult "ornament" engendered by the "joint" felt at the seam between God and our selves. In Christianity at its best, the distance between God and humans is infinite and unbridgeable, but the relation between them is immediately at hand and available."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

walking around in the dark

Do you go for walks before bed? This time of year I imagine one might have to walk down the middle of the street to make any time, but I remember doing that sort of thing as a teenager -- I worked at McDonalds over in Robbinsdale when I was 16, and because my grades were generally pretty good my parents let me be a closer; so I was often biking home at midnight (McDonalds closed earlier 20 years ago). At midnight in Robbinsdale you had no idea what was going on in North Mpls back then; it was very quiet, though there were trains. And I could ride down the middle of the road with complete disregard, which is a big deal when you're 16, I guess.

I think my aversion to cars stems somewhat from the awareness even then that without a bicycle I would not have been able to take the hours I did, at work, as a young woman -- having parents with no money could mean no job for you as well. You're brought up from an early age knowing that if you don't have a car, as a woman you face ten times more danger at night. You were beholden to guys for transportation on any date too, which created other hassles. The whole situation seemed strikingly unfair to me right off the bat, so I planned accordingly. In my twenties, when I'd go downtown for concerts at First Ave or etc, I'd often ride my bike. It was safer than bussing, particularly when I lived in Phillips. (Crossing the freeway from downtown on 11th by bike was pretty non-intimidating, whereas the walk from Chicago and 19th (just 2 blocks) could seem positively suicidal, after midnight.) Anyway, I had more money than most people I knew, when I was young, in part because I didn't have a car to feed -- and for kids anywhere, money and freedom are what it's all about. I figured out I could be free without enslaving myself to a car, or to the necessity of conformity, and that's what I did. The political advantages came later. Now it's hard for me to want to give it up. My kid is an enthusiastic bus-rider, and being married keeps me off the streets at night well enough.

But, I miss being able to just walk out the door and go somewhere, this time of night. It would worry my husband sick, even if I were just riding around the neighborhood, which is a legitimate position for him. I have to limit my excursions to the yard. Like a dog.

That's another thing -- I get heartily sick and tired of hearing men talk about the age-old evil of having their activities curtailed in any way by women -- because men are the reason women can't enjoy a whole host of otherwise harmless activities, sans armed guard. My husband may sometimes think ten years is too long to have a woman telling you how you may run your life, but I've been planning my life around the potential for male violence since I was old enough to understand the issue. And got mugged a couple times anyway. So, stow it guys. Someday when you do a better job of managing your testosterone, you can let us gals walk around carefree after dark, and receive the same courtesy in return.

Monday, March 24, 2008

spirograph score!

Today I went to the thrift store with my son, where we found a fall coat for him and a bunch of great toys -- and sewing supplies -- all for less than $20. And I scored a bag of about 20 Spirograph wheels! I suspect they are from two different sets, one newer (since there are duplicate wheels) but it's enough to keep me busy for a while. I thought this would be a good activity for my son, but in playing around with the wheels this afternoon I realized he might not have the dexterity for this yet. It's tricky! He's just 4. Fine motor skills and some strength are needed, and I had to practice a while before reclaiming the knack. Now I just have to find a way to make this useful for quilting. :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mary Magdalene Running

I stayed up to read the Bible verses for yesterday, and Easter Vigil, and for Easter Sunday (once midnight had come), out of a desire to be awake for it; for Easter to start now, for me, here in Central Standard Time, before the morning of hurrying to get ready for church. I think of Mary Magdalene walking quickly through the pre-dawn darkness to the tomb, having waited (and I suppose grieved) like the others through the Sabbath observance until the body of Christ could be tended. Who she arrives there with varies according to the Gospels, and the revelations of the angels (their phrasing and their positions) varies; but she was by all accounts on the scene from the very first word of the Resurrection.

There is plenty of literature on the shelves to choose from when it comes to Mary Magdalene, and her relationship to Jesus. It probably ought to be enough that her presence at the time of the teaching, the crucifixion and the Resurrection is recorded in the Gospels. I suppose without knowing much about it that in attempting to right some of the cultural wrongs of past interpretations of the Bible, authors will approach her from the point of view of her gender, and argue the significance of her presence through all as a woman. As the one who anointed Jesus and was to be remembered, one who stood by his cross, who came to his tomb to tend his body. I suppose it's important to raise her up, from a certain point of view, as a woman who was respected by Christ (even as she was discounted in some narratives by the other disciples.) I have one of these books, "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene," and I've skimmed it casually; but I don't really want to get sucked in to a lot of popular debate over what might be "missing" from the Bible. I'm willing to believe there was plenty of valuable material edited out in the early centuries of Christianity. I'm just not sure it matters a great deal, in the end.

Since it's a debate better carried on by people much more educated than I, I'd like to just think of her running -- delivering her message of joy and mission to the other disciples, imparting the instructions she received. Running barefoot down a road that might have led from the "garden" or burial place through or past the killing ground at Golgotha under a lightening sky; perhaps blind to the theater of her horror and grief now, deaf to the sound of her breath as she runs, thinking only of her message and the wonder of it. Does she carry a shred of disbelief in her heart? After all the miracles, it's hard to imagine doubting this greatest one. Does she grasp the reality of Christ's presence as she spoke with him? Is her innermost heart peaceful, certain in the confirmation of a literal understanding she carried with her even to the cross, the comprehension of Jesus' promise that he would be raised again? All of this as she bears the good news on her two feet, silent as she runs. Does she see anyone else on the road? Some stranger. Anyone? Do they look at her and wonder why she runs, or witness what must be the glory and determination on her face? It's something to think about.

How did she tell the story afterward, a year later and in her own words? Did she only discuss the message itself, or did she tell the sort of stories we reserve for those times that stand above all the other minutes and seconds of our lives -- smells and sights and sounds imbedded forever in detail exceeding the experiences that would come after. Did she carry away any of the linens from the tomb?

OK, no digressions into the Shroud of Turin and all that.

Was her hair really red? It doesn't seem terribly likely, though that's how she is depicted in Western art, for the most part. What was she wearing? I suppose an educated guess is possible. How did she smell? Do conversations with angels have any effect on a person physically? Does the sight of the Resurrected Christ purify ones' soul forever? I wonder. How did her feet sound as she ran down the road, into the next chapter of the Bible narrative?

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Matthew 28:1-10

28:1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
28:2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
28:3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
28:4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
28:5 But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
28:6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
28:7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you."
28:8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
28:10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

back to Desire

"Oh boy. Yikes! Back in September my husband bought me a Baby Lock, my first new sewing machine, as an anniversary gift. When I picked it out, I specifically told the sales gal that I wanted to be able to lower the feed dogs and use a free motion quilting foot. So she sold me a Crafter's Choice and a special foot, and I am just now getting around to trying it out -- and I'm doing it for the first time. Couldn't pick something easy, either -- it's an art quilt with lots of velvet front and back. Man! I had to plug in the foot pedal, since I can't take my hands off the thing for even a second if it's moving, and I'd gotten comfortable with the button control on/off. Anybody have any free-motion tips to share with a novice? It's not going too badly, after all -- I'm using a nice Sulky Blendables thread so the stitching on the front is mercifully buried in velvet -- you just get a sense of depth."

An excerpt from something I just posted over at mycraftivity. I picked that nice plush upholstery velvet in a rose hue for the back of the Desire piece, and inserted some cotton/wool blend batting, so now I'm on my way with the quilting. I don't think I can (or want to) sew on much more applique or embellishment before I quilt it; though beading and soforth will be trickier if I want to avoid knots on the back. But the quilting is important, the lines it will add and the depth, and I can't do that well if I have to veer around all sorts of random objects. I don't think I've ever read any tips on what to do with post-quilting embellishment knots on the back; I suppose the thread can be anchored in the batting, pushed through without passing through the backing and still be stable for a bead etc. I've never tried it though. As with so many other techniques, this will be the first time for me.

But oh baby oh, you should feel the weight of it, and all that velvet. Scrumptious. It weighs a lot for something barely 20x24 inches. I still can't quite picture it finished though -- there's a ton of embroidery etc that I still want to do. I just didn't want to have to quilt over it. Man, it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to embroider text without pulling the thread through all three layers. What have I gotten myself into? I might have to cope with the threads on the back. Maybe I can find a matching floss...


WOW - Ebay has dozens of Spirograph toys on its site. I'd love to have one -- the 1967 Kenner original. I had one as a child (possibly more than one) and played with it for years. I remember the feel of the gears, the colors of the pens. I remember the trickier football-shaped gear, and the other angled gears that jumped if you weren't careful but always made thrilling swoops and curves in the intricate designs. I never thought of making a card or a book cover out of these patterns -- never saw them as something decorative. But they were magic. I've read online that the newer versions from the 80s and 90s (available on Amazon) are poor quality, flimsy things; the gears snap and jump easily off their tracks. But I feel a jolt of recognition when I see those box tops on Ebay, the cardboard cover and the funky font types. I swear my son would go nuts over something like that. They seem to be cheap. I could buy two, one for each of us. What fun!
I wish I knew with certainty the right thing to do; to think, to say, where this trouble of economics comes to bear. When two of the adults I am closest to are feeling ceaselessly crushed under the weight of worry, and no mere comfort from me can answer. Am I wrong to cling to my job, the place and people I also love, while I am still able? Am I wrong to refuse to give up my home and job and church before I must, in order to flee from a disaster that hasn't happened yet? My husband's job -- will he hold onto it, or will he be laid off. He wants to leave town, now, before the question is answered. Meanwhile, my friend can't make ends meet, regardless of how she tries or how much patchwork assistance we're able to find. Am I wrong to offer financial assistance, the little that I can, knowing my husband is so concerned about the future, knowing she feels badly about taking help? Is it wrong to ask questions, nose into it, give advice? If I give up everything I love to follow my husband to Winnipeg or some such, I'm giving her up as well. What does he think of that? How could she follow? He doesn't think of it, I'm sure. In his life, leaving everything behind is familiar, and could even seem safer to him than riding out the storm in hope of a good outcome. It's all he did as a child, get dragged from place to place. And for her, this loneliness of being desperately in need might not seem unfamiliar enough either -- being in need and feeling there's no one who will care what happens. I'm not sure it isn't part of her larger struggle in life. So shouldn't I, rather than give in to apparent circumstance, rather than lose out to psychology, shouldn't I try to hold fast? Shouldn't I try to help and comfort, knowing nothing about the future -- knowing only that it's wrong to let the bastards bring you down. I'm afraid that right now they both, in their way, are positioning themselves in front of the imaginary firing squad --

-- the unavoidable doom, the unsurvivable loss. Except that I know that even the worst can be survived. And what we face together is not the worst. It's economics, it's security and the loss of security, possibly, but we have still the things we love that are worth fighting for. So you have to fight. Don't you? Don't you have to resist, and be hopeful, and try to be smart without giving up?

Monday, March 17, 2008

another angle

It should be said that I am just an average photographer. When I took classes my proclivity veered toward darkroom effects rather than technical mastery, so I've never really understood the process as I should.

That out of the way, I'm fascinated at the moment by filth; the sort of filth revealed by early spring here in MN. Glacial layers of ice and snow gradually recede, exposing months of accumulated dirt, grit and litter. Decomposition of roadside trash has been slowed over the winter, and as I stand at various bus stops, I find my eyes drawn to the textures and artifacts.
Viewed across the landscape it's just a dirty mess, and we're always grateful for those spring rains that wash the crud into the storm drains (and thence to the river). Up close, you can crop the snowbanks and curbs down to an abstracted section for examination.

If I were a better photographer, I could extract every nuance, all the million shades of grey and brown, the little details of grit embedded in ice. Not that everyone would be equally excited by that. Still, I hope to get a few more good shots before it all washes away. What we would rather not see is always worth looking into; and beauty is composed of small details, not broad strokes.

more from the transit series

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Turn and turn, the subject once more returned to the film "Chocolat" tonight (and I had nothing to do with it). We talked about Lent and my husband pulled out the movie as I was putting the boy to bed. He only lasted half way, though, and Cathie and I stayed up past 12:30 to watch the rest and the making-of bit behind it. "We should measure ourselves by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include," says the young priest in his Easter sermon at the end. Amen.

Juliette Binoche is lovely, and if I were three inches shorter, she and I would share the identical figure. Short waist, big hips, and a rounded ribcage. In a few of her scenes I can absolutely feel the foundation garments she must be cinched into, in order to contrive an hourglass figure with a three-inch-wide belt around her waist -- she holds herself so carefully, and barely breathes. Ouch. Pretty, but not so comfortable.

Less romantic than Binoche or Alfred Molina (whom I adore), the conversation turned at one point to Elliot Spitzer and his $4000 transaction. C. wondered what in the world a woman could give a man that would be worth such a sum. R. speculated on prowess and possibly an all-night illusion of happiness. My theory is that he's turned on by the fact that he can drop four grand on a hooker, if he wants -- he has money, power. It's a material yearning as much or more than a physical one. R. and C. didn't seem convinced -- but they share some temperament and opinions on the subject that I don't. We all disagreed for a while on the real question -- is it What can a woman give a man that's worth so much cash, or is it What kind of man wants to spend that kind of money on such a thing? I go for the latter, and it bothers me that the inquiry might just affirm the assumptions of the premise -- that a woman can be paid for sex, and therefore her service is of quantifiable value, and any question of the man's behavior merely comes back to the "worth" of the service provided. It's a consumer society! The first question they ask is, Wow, did he actually get what he paid for?

Now, I have a weakness for the material -- shoes, clothes, art. I'm a sucker for the aesthetic, self-indulgent, always game. So I know about excess, like I know about quality. And I know it's easy not to get what you're paying for, because the ability to shop often outweighs the desirability of the thing I'm shopping for, when it comes to pleasure. I assume sex for trade is similar -- it's because you can, as the man. You want to, and you can, and you don't have to play a lot of games to get it -- like buying a soda from a machine. I don't say every woman in the sex trade is being ruthlessly exploited -- only that it's very, very likely.

I used to think something quite different, back when I advocated for legalization of the sex trade. Back when it was cool to do so, before straight white kids knew what AIDS was, before I learned about drugs. Not so black-and-white anymore.

But back to Lent, and Chocolat. I think of LeCompt with his lemon and hot water, and try to imagine a fast that lasts not three days (the longest I've ever fasted), but 40. No wonder he goes face down in the caramels and granache and bitter chocolates, at the end. Oh, what we embrace. I'm a sensualist at heart -- indulge, indulge, and save your guilt for the love you deny to others.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The charming and adorable Cathie on her 35th birthday. What can we get for her on Ebay? If Scarlett Johansen can auction off her precious time for charity (let's assume it's charity, since she seems to be employable as an actress) and make a tidy sum, I say let's auction Cathie off to the highest bidder and fly to Iceland on the proceeds. Cathie, how does that sound to you? We'll let Al parlay his frequent flyer miles for us, and spend the money on vodka while sunbathing in temperate thermal pools. We'll worry about your "date" after we come home. If we come home.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

blog thoughts

Surprise! Morning posting. No excuse except a half-drained cup of coffee and some meta-thoughts about blogging.
Traffic has picked up lately due to the link with This is good, though it happens to be a stressful time in the yang of my life -- a shaky household economy (due in part to our greedy politicians and the effects of their policies on the state's educational system.) So my new crafty pals are getting a little more than they bargained for if they link to my blog.
But --
I've noticed other women mixing their creative triumphs with their personal challenges, online, and we all benefit from the technology-enhanced sense of community and support. I'm self-conscious about my writing in some ways -- but it routinely brings me into contact with people I'd otherwise never hear from or know. Randall, my toothpick-chewing truck-driving friend from church, who doesn't seem like an internet guy but reads the church's weekly e-news letter and complimented me yesterday on a piece I published there last week. Jon, a very talented colleague who likewise reads that newsletter, initiated some much-needed dialogue with me based on that writing and I'm so glad. And Wendy from mycraftivity, who took the time to acknowledge my worries with some supportive words, though she knows me not at all. And of course, Al and JJ and others to whom my ties are strong - - I'm thankful for this blog resource, that fits with our busy lives, and allows me to say what can be hard to communicate when I'm one-on-one with someone. (I hate to sound whiney. I hate to worry people.) Thanks to all of you, people who obviously read this stuff and people who just glance at it surreptitiously from time to time. :-)

another from the transit series

I rescheduled my admissions appointment at UTS, though it might have been a mistake; so I won't get to ride the 25 tomorrow. I was too chicken-hearted to take a good shot at the 5 stop downtown the other day (I had the kid, and it was an ugly, unfriendly bus stop) but I still have lots of time to collect them all. This picture was shot at the corner of Broadway and Central, on a cold morning mere hours ago. It's raining now, spring time in MN.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

passion play

Well, after a quick trip to the optometrist and to Culver's for a burger, Cathie and I scoured Roseville (more or less) for Palm Sunday costuming supplies. I'm just a girl who can't say No -- so I set myself up to costume another drama at church. This time it's "Herod and Pilate: A Palm Sunday Chancel Drama" by Dean Seal (our Drama Minister.)

For the last play at Christmas, I was encouraged to go multi-ethnic and really mix it up. The characters included Martin Luther King Junior and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the timeline was entirely abstracted, so while the shepherds looked pretty shepherd-like (old bathrobes, some good hats and very artistic crooks), the main characters wore everything from saris to kimono to contemporary African prints.

This time it's more traditional -- and given the absence of tailoring in traditional Biblical costume that's no hardship -- but I need a good bit of white for Herod, Pilate and Caiaphas -- alas, I have little to none. So, first we hit the Unique thrift store -- where we found a few robes and some terrific bed sheets for togas. Then we went over to Joanne Fabric and found some purples on sale as well as braided satin rope pulls to use as belts. Between all that, and my on-hand supply of satin scraps and old tablecloths, I should be able to whip it together. Provided my Director doesn't pull many last-minute swaps on me, as is his norm. Just Sunday he told me Jesus would wear work clothes until the crucifixion. That's fine -- saves me a costume, since our young gal playing Jesus has the pants and shirt -- but I realized later that he has added a Prelude to the script and therefore two or three more costumes for disciples. And what about the Narrator?

Nevertheless , with what I scored tonight I'm two-thirds of the way there. Just need a crown of thorns, a headdress for Caiaphas, and an alb for the priest as well. And a blue stole. Hmm.
I noticed in my research for the Magdalene that she is often depicted wrapped only in yards of her own auburn hair. What's up with that? I'll have to look into it when I get a second. It seems very sensual, but in that (and in auburn) I suppose it's intended to stand for nakedness and sin.
Oh well. Our Mary Magdalene is a very young girl, and her hair happens to be sort of bleached-auburn just now, but it isn't long; and of course, we have to clothe her. Or else she'd freeze, skinny thing that she is. I have a book sitting around, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, that I haven't read yet. Will it help in my pursuit of the Great American Novel?

passion play. An interesting juxtaposition of words that is entirely dependent on context.

Underwater World

"Can you believe how rude some people are?! I'm totally trying to tan here."

"Wow, look at the blonde. Do you think she'd go for me?"

"I bet if you distracted those folks with some dolphin moves, I could grab the pudgy one. Got any hot sauce?"

"You know Frank, after thirty years with the company, this isn't what I had in mind."

a day with the fishes

At least fifty percent of the thrill at Underwater World appears to have been the moving sidewalk.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


This is one of those points in life at which I wish I'd been a novelist. Someone born with one undeniable talent for putting images and complex emotional concepts directly into the mind of the reader. Someone with an outlet, with the respect of the establishment. I like to imagine the New York Times book review of my best-selling novel; complete with speculation about its autobiographical potential, but above suspicion as fiction, right up there with Roth or Graham Greene. And when they examine me as a person and an artist, I'll be accused of all the typical artistic excesses -- self-absorbed, self-destructive, bad with money, questionable parenting skills -- but ultimately exonerated by my own brilliance, as one who perceives the essence of human hope and frailty.

Fat chance, eh? Nope, I suspect this is not my fate. As I sit here with one leg up on the ironing board that also serves as my computer desk, I listen to the refrigerator making its mysterious ticking noises (a giant time bomb for my thighs), and hear the cats beating each other up in the living room --- my husband goes to the kitchen for nasal spray, then sticks his head in the door and frowns, wondering why I'm writing instead of sewing as I said I'd be --- and I notice that I need a shower, and hope I get one before he leaves for his 14 hours at school tomorrow. I drink from my second glass of wine, and ponder the situation.

"Your little Disneyland, this job you love at your little church and all these things that you think are important, are gonna crash down around you. This Disneyland you live in is coming to an end. I'm not a stupid guy, I can see this coming. It's all gonna come crashing down, and you'll see that I'm right."

My husband had a few on Friday night, and started in on me (for at least the fourth time, in the last week) about how he's certain to lose his job and we need to leave the country. The teaching position he has held for several years is finally supposed to become permanent next year, but tenure involves a competitive interviewing procedure and (not for the first time) he's feeling the pressure and ignominy of having to beg for his own job. Moreover, the union is negotiating a contract change with the state college system that could mean a ten thousand dollar annual pay cut for him, should he get tenure. Plus, the governor has just announced a 26 million dollar cut to state colleges that will almost surely mean layoffs, so even if it's not a hiring freeze, a newly tenured professor could still get pink slipped based on seniority. Plus, the housing market sucks so bad that if he loses his job, we would almost certainly wind up using his retirement account to either pay the mortgage or sell the house -- in less than two years the property value has dropped more than $15,000. And my job provides no health insurance, so even though we could float for six to nine months on savings and my income, the cobra costs for insurance would be bitter. In short there's a lot riding on the outcomes of the next few months.

So he thinks we should trash the retirement account and bail on the US altogether, before we become victims of the recession. He is certain we are doomed, and equally certain that life in Sweden or Canada or Argentina far exceeds that of the US in terms of quality of life for someone with his education. Which may be true on some abstract, academic level; but things are tough all over, and by the way everything and everyone I love is right here, right now.

I just cannot describe how serious he is about this, or how intense and angry he gets when he's been drinking, and how hard he works me over to convince me that it's the only way we'll survive. Not being able to adequately describe this is why I'll never write the great American novel, incidentally.

The five years we lived in Georgia were personally productive, but being away from home just about killed me, that five years. It was a constant source of despair. He didn't want to come back to Minnesota -- that was me. I basically forced him to return to the Cities after he finished his doctorate, by taking a job up here five months before he was done and separating us long enough that he knew he'd have to choose between being married and taking a job in Springfield Anywhere. I just couldn't handle it. I need to be here. My family ties aren't the most rewarding, but my local friendships mean a great deal to me, and my job is second only to my son as my reason for being.

If we become like some long-ago generation of emigrants, who could only survive by fleeing the motherland, it had better not be a response to what might happen. He wants to bail before the thing he most fears comes to pass; for me, it's strictly a last resort, and only if he has secured a damned job in our next port of call. I told him last week: I won't throw away everything we have over your fear of losing it all. But he looks at me with contempt and desperation, and he assures me that my "Disneyland," my life, is marked for demolition.

A whole week of this, plus a day of laying around doing absolutely nothing, and tonight he expects a "date." What he needs is a good anti-depressant. But he hasn't gone to the doctor in ten years, and he doesn't think he's depressed anyway. He is living in fear, in absolute terror of failure, and there's not much I can do even when I'm feeling disposed to compassion. He has caused me so much fear in the past week (and the past couple of months off and on), reducing me to a curled-up ball of anxiety and anger night after night with his at-the-edge behavior, worried about him and worried for myself and my son -- I'm crying on my four-year-old's pillow while my husband sleeps.

Hey Doc, the goodies are on the house, help yourself. Compliments of your Disneyland concierge. This will all make great fiction in the hands of a better writer, and art will go on distracting us from the ugly smells, strange noises and awkward revelations of midnight blogging.

Sunday, Sunday

Wow - Nothing quite so dull as a Sunday afternoon in the late winter. The spouse is napping all afternoon, it's too cold to go outside for any length of time, the kid and I can't go far on our own since the buses are on Sunday schedule... H. needs a nap himself, and won't, so he's a little on the bored-n-crabby side (like his mom.) Once Dad is up, maybe I can sew a little. Between loads of laundry laundry.

Friday, March 7, 2008

by David Edam

Thinking About Tomorrow

Tired, but I ain't sleepin'
Thinking about some sad affair
And why I should be leavin'
'Cause some of these thoughts
Only seem to take me out of here
Yeah, these habits are so hard to break
They're the most easy to make
These habits are so hard to break
And the most easy to make
Thinking about tomorrow
Tired from all the time I spared
On what I still believe in
When none of my talk
Ever seems to get me anywhere
Yeah, these habits are so hard to break
Are the most easy to make
These habits are so hard to break
Are the most easy to make
So easy to make
So long
Bye my friend, so long
So long
Will it ever happen again?
You know that I've been waiting for you
I've been created for you
So long
You know the light ain't fading from you
Nothing could save me from you
So long...

Beth Orton

Thursday, March 6, 2008

i remember how good it smelled

I'd like to break into the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory with my son, and set up a tent for the night. Look at the stars under the glass greenhouse dome (c. 1915), listen to the birds who live blissfully unaware of the still-frigid and seemingly lifeless landscape just millimeters away. And smell the green things growing.

Seasons of the Church

It's eleven o'clock again. I'm thinking about that load of laundry in the dryer, about the nearly-completed piece of enbroidery on the sewing table; about the roughed-out costumes I need for the play rehearsal by Sunday, Cathie's birthday party on Saturday, and the weeks ahead that are telescoping toward me. All meetings are being scheduled post-Easter, and that too is a little dismaying; because I am not in a hurry for Easter, even though it means I get to wear makeup again if I want. (Because I gave up cosmetics for Lent in an attempt to address my vanity and my 40-fixation.)

I like Lent. After last year's alarming number of random deaths close to myself and the church, I was I confess a little bit scared of Lent this year. But we seem to be having a reasonable season. And so the focused nature of worship (and the extra services), the pre-Passion tension, the underlaying eagerness for spring to advance all work for me. I enjoy the general sense of having a common meditation level with my co-worshipers. I like having something to think about besides the impending Election. And my husband's job worries. An emotional focus outside those alarming conditions of personal life over which I feel little control.

Both the election and his tenure hopes combine for my husband into a constant state of near-hysteria, compounded by our plummeting property value and potential state budget cuts which affect his job security regardless of tenure. I complain about him, because he's especially tense and tired these days -- which I understand -- but mainly I'm trying to be a little sunbeam at home while focusing considerable attention on other happenings. Like Lent. Because I can't make any of those big-picture economic landmines disappear, and I think my husband has nightmares about having to lead his family through that minefield blindfolded. What can I tell him?

I tell him everything will be all right. He knows I have no reason to think so. We are balanced on opposing ends of the tightrope walker's pole, with no idea whether this acrobat has a chance of making it across. I have faith that we will make it -- I pray we will -- I know it has nothing to do with whether or not we deserve to suffer the way so many people I know are already suffering. My husband says we are just two steps away from being the working poor ourselves, and I can't argue with that. He's over-educated, and I'm just a nice person with a good resume but no degree, not even a driver's license. Everyone wants to know when we'll have another child -- I have to laugh. In all of this, Lenten denial takes on additional meaning, and value.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

God bless Rice Freeman

May she forgive me for not being able to locate the umlauts for her "e" when I type her blessed name.
Check this out:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

i love my job, i love my job

Everyone can relate to the days when your love/hate relationship with your job tips over into the stark, contrast-enhanced realms of negativity and resentment. Or so it would seem, given the feedback I've received on my short, frustrated posting from last week.

I got a terrific (hand-written!) letter today from my friend JJ in San Diego. It included a great postcard (one much like several in my collection of Mississippi River postcards) and also a xerox of an article about the new International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Nebraska. Of course the Center itself is getting lots of press in the publications, but it is evidently architecturally noteworthy as well -- something the quilting mags haven't touched on. And, as she points out, a mere 5 hours drive from the Cities! I have to find someone as obsessed as I am to do the driving tho. Maybe I should find an art/quilts guild to join, just to have someone to road-trip with.

My husband surprised me, when I mentioned this, by showing me a blurb in Newsweek about cheap airfares from Minneapolis to Iceland. JJ and I used to fantasize about trips to Iceland, and National Geographic just ran a spread on the country's economic and environmental concerns -- so you'd think the kismet would be a completed trifecta with this Newsweek blurb. But no. "I wish," was JJ's response, "Let's both quit our jobs!"

For more on how much worse it could be, see this You Tube clip of "the Original Bunny Song" by the Veggie Tales. Cathie doesn't think it's funny, 'cause it's not, but it is darkly humorous.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

retail therapy/progress is incremental

Today I accompanied Cathie out to Maplewood, on the eastern edge of the metro, to an adoption appointment. Cathie's dog rescue org adopted out a black lab to a woman in a split level ranch home, and final papers needed to be signed. After we finished there, we drove back to Minneapolis and found Colorful Quilts, a store I've only recently started tracking. It's close to me, but awkwardly situated for someone who doesn't drive, between University Ave and the St. Paul campus in a neighborhood I lived in long ago.

It turned out to be small, but well-stocked with stuff I'm anxious to get next to: lots of pretty batik fabrics, plenty of hand-dyed fabrics and silk fibers, embellishments, paint sticks and all the usual stuff (sans beads) that art quilters read about in the magazines. I found black Misty Fuse in stock as well as silk beads, Sulky Blendables threads and all the hot books you can't get from Borders. So I spent a bunch of money (big surprise), signed up for their mailing list, picked up flyers for all the little quilt shows (mainly to the south of the Cities) and had some fun. Cathie let me buy her a couple cute batiks while I was at it, and she enjoyed looking at sample quilts and chatting up the clerk, who said she recognized me. (Not sure that's accurate though -- I never get out. Besides, I'm mistaken for other women fairly often. I have that kind of face.)

I'm really using the "Desire" piece as a means to experiment, and I'm sure it will show, but I can't let that discourage me. I picked up a book on working with velvet (almost a chapbook really, part of an instructional series by Jean Littlejohn.) It expands on some nifty ideas I've seen in the magazines -- dye discharging with bleach, using soldering irons to emboss and burn velvet, etc. Not sure I'll do any of that with "Desire" since it's a little late to add a new all-over technique, but I have a fair amount of velvet left and I've developed a taste for it.

I'm finishing up the doors on the reveal. I'm not sure the whole will escape the sum of its parts, but I'm trying. I have to remember to put the trash bag over my pieces at night, or the darned cat gets up on the sewing table and flattens everything, leaving his hairs behind as an integral part of the piece. Grr.