Thursday, July 31, 2008

One year since the bridge collapse: 8/1/08

Tomorrow at about 6pm churches all over the area will ring their bells and the community will observe a moment of silence in remembrance of those killed and injured during the collapse of the 35W Bridge last summer.
It's difficult to view these images, and the many other pictures and videos that documented this terrible happening. I still feel the shock of this wound to the community and the landscape, here at the river's edge, the birthplace of the city. I still feel misgivings about the wisdom of erecting a new bridge so quickly on the old site -- only a seven-foot gap now remains to be closed and final steps are being taken to finish the bridge as quickly as possible. The last estimate I heard was that they would re-open the highway this month. It seems to me to be an afront to the lives lost and the lives crippled, especially given the ongoing controversy over local and national infrastructure. I had naively hoped someone would consider rerouting the freeway entirely, by turning highway 280 into a 35W bypass permanently. It was obvious soon after the collapse that no one had seriously consider any such alternative.
I watched the papers for a long time afterward, tracking the numbers of dead and missing as news filtered in. One story I never saw in print, but surmised from other stories written and obscured in the middle of the paper, was the terrible tragedy of a young woman and her infant daughter. They were on the bridge section that fell into the water, on the side that flipped many cars onto their backs in the river. Both were reported missing and considered lost from early on, but one man also trapped in the river reported that a young woman appeared on the floating deck crying for her lost child; she pleaded for someone to help her get the baby from the car, then jumped back into the river, probably to try again to retrieve the child. The report of the recovery of their bodies was never printed, to my knowledge, thought they were found later in the month and services were observed for them. Given the media's ability to narrow down the number of people involved as quickly as they did, it seems clear that the young woman drowned trying to rescue her daughter. I imagine the story was kept clear of the papers at the family's request.
The site of those drownings is the site upon which they want to celebrate the rapid rebuilding of another automobile thruway. No memorial signage or moment of silence can offset the injustice of commerce and construction on a gravesite, to my way of thinking. People will argue that it's happened countless times before. But I'm against a big monument to 9-11 as well; it's a wound, it's a scar and it tells a story that needs to be felt and remembered and considered, rather than plastered over and beautified, modified to hide all that's still wrong and rotten about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. Here in Minneapolis, I wish we had more confidence as a society, and more class -- characteristics that would allow us to make sacrifices for the remembrance of those untimely lost.
Sacrifices like a slightly slower commute.

Monday, July 28, 2008

groovy little blog

Led to this searching Google images for "Really Rosie," the Maurice Sendak/Carole King animated special from 1975. (A fond remembrance.)

(Be careful though, per Google. This classic animation has, like so many other cool, cute kids' show items, been appropriated by amateur pornographers. People who turn kids' cartoons into porn ought to get their computer privileges revoked for life -- every time I do a YouTube search for something my own kid requests, I have to carefully screen all the results for bullshit-infected copyright infringement. I bet they think of themselves as artists too. Morons.)

Milk in the batter!

"Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! Stir it! Make it! Mix it! Bake it!"

In the children's book (and animation) "In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak, a young boy tumbles headlong out of his bed in a dream and lands in a giant bowl of cake mix. Three gigantic chefs, identical triplet clones of Oliver Hardy, sieze the bowl and have at it with wooden spoons while they chant and stir. "Milk in the batter!" The poor kid Mickey gets covered in batter and hauled off to the oven. Mickey escapes later, but yesterday when I sat down with my son and watched the cartoon version of the book from 1970, I suddenly recalled seeing the same show myself on TV as a girl about my son's age. I remembered my panicked empathy for poor Mickey then -- it sure looked like a nightmare to me! -- help! Somebody save that naked little boy!

My kid thinks it's funny, in that way one laughs at something that scares you just a little, but is too interesting to look away from. And actually that's how I'm feeling about this week -- "Milk in the batter!" Ah! Ah! Help, I'm drowning in sticky cake mix! In "a cesspool of detail" as I put it to someone earlier this evening. Too many events and tasks in the works this week. And the roaring chefs' refrain stuck in my head along with all that anxiety -- "Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter!"

I have to find some mechanism for escape, like Mickey, who pops out of the oven and yells "I'm not the milk and the milk's not me! God bless milk and God bless ME!!"

Friday, July 25, 2008

the trouble with unicorns

"The trouble with unicorns" is that it sounds much better than "The trouble with drinking," which is the real reason I'm awake. Awake and wishing I had deployed better sense after drink #2. Ah yes, Psycho Suzi's -- home of the sweet, tasty multi-booze whatevers that come in cute carafes with cherries and little plastic monkeys on top. I should have brought my monkeys home with me -- there were three of them. Not only would they have perched atop my laptop screen and mocked me deservingly as I typed, but I could have sewn them down to something later on. Drat. But I guess I was too busy thinking about the bike trip home. A long trip, by normal reckoning, since I was being extra careful. And holding my skirt down with one hand, having forgotten to don my leggings before embarking. Which turned out to be not such a big deal, and more comfortable besides. Assuming I didn't offend anyone.

Three monkeys. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

The good news is that I had a great time. And got home before the sun set, in one piece; sort of a miracle considering all the construction and sealcoating going on between there and here. Loose gravel everywhere, signs and cones randomly blocking the areas adjacent to busy streets. I actually rode under one of those signs -- I'd done it sober, so I knew it was possible, though I was tempting fate a tiny bit. Had my helmet on, just in case.

So now, here I am, two cups of coffee three glasses of water two ibuprofen and a handful of snacks later, wishing I had kept it to two monkeys. From now on, this will be my measure of social-outing sensibility: how many monkeys. Something to keep in mind for next week, since I've convinced my church buddies to once again hold an all-staff meeting at Suzi's.

the trouble with rules

The trouble with rules: they are by nature exclusionary. In this case, I apologize to one or two of my friends for not realizing until a minute ago that I've had my security set too high on this blog. Which means that no one has bothered to post comments, because it required registration and understandably many folks are reluctant to have to memorize yet another password. Oops! All fixed. And to all you spammers out there, who will now start leaving phony bot-propelled comments in order to get free ad placement: fuck you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the afl-cio

In the kitchen drawer of Really Useful Things, I have one of those round rubber grippies that helps you get the lids off pickle jars and such. I mostly use it to remove the so-called twist-off caps you find on certain beer bottles and other glass-bottled beverages. This rubber grippie came courtesy of the glass, plastic and pottery workers local, here in Minneapolis; the good ol' AFL-CIO. And whenever I need my husband to hand me the thing, that's what I ask for: "Honey, could you get me the AFL-CIO please?" Because somehow, you really feel equipped when you take a whack at a stubborn jar lid using all the persuasive power of the AFL-CIO.

Sadly, the thing is looking pretty ratty these days. Jagged tears in the middle where those nasty beer-bottle caps hook their edges into the rubber. Stained, a little dirty, but still functional. It's not a thing you can patch. What will we do without it? When it finally bites the dust, how can the average rubber grippie ever compare? Perhaps it's a not-so-subtle metaphor for the faltering strength of labor unions across the country. Still I think an essential champion of the worker, but some unions are so bloated and corporate in their own thinking -- it's an exception when I hear a good story about a union contract or a mediated dispute. My husband's union mainly gives us cause to worry these days, wondering whose side they're on anyway. Their achievements in the realm of protections for the tenured profs are a thing of the past; they are way behind on protecting the rights of the adjuncts, who are just another class of freelancers given no benefits or assurances of any kind, keeping costs low.

Nevertheless, the glass, plastic and pottery workers local can forever boast the glory of the best rubber grippies in Nordeast.

burning down the house

So today I walked across the park to Cali, to get some egg rolls and cream cheese wontons (egregious calorie consumption, and me not riding the bike yet this week. Shame. Guilt. Yum.) After scuttling across Broadway, always dicey, I turned right and smelled a smell. That burnt-up-house smell. And there on the corner was the green stucco with the chain link fence, clearly gutted, with the broken windows still laying in the scorched grass. Boarded by now, yet charred holes gape from the second floor. Roof peeled back around the edges, melted flashing -- a total loss. I sort of vaguely remember the guy who lived there, a heavyweight white man who hung around in his garage; and probably ate at Cali a lot, since they are right across the alley.

I smelled that smell, and I wondered if it was or was not the smell from my dream this morning. After all, I launched up out of bed before I was fully conscious, propelled by that unmistakeable scent of wood and destruction. But it dissipated as I became aware, and left me with a sense of perfume. Meanwhile, white guy came around with a friend as I was leaving the restaurant, and woefully gave her the tour. I felt badly for him -- for the way his little green house took up all of the tiny lot on that Broadway corner, with barely six feet between the former rooms of his dwelling and the street -- what huddled shelter it might have provided him now gone. And who would build on that lot now? The City probably domained him out of as much yard as is legal -- it's a really unappealing location. Loud. And just down the street from the gas station where the clerk was shot and killed a few years ago.

The smell of burnt wood has so many variations. A home going up has a certain acrid note; the opposite of incense. Somewhere near my house there's a firepit or a smoker that they use at night half the summer, which produces volumes of cedar and hickory smoke and requires us to sleep with our windows shut. (Dammit.) But then, a campfire of pine and hardwood is a lovely, evocative thing. Crackling twigs and burnt marshmallows. The gradations are subtle. But what about those folks in California, who smell acres of woodland inferno drifting sootily across the land for weeks or even months at a time? And what else do the firemen know, can they tell what the age of a structure might be by the smell of it as it is consumed?

My dream leaves me with many more questions than answers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

3am eternal

Remember that song? By Snap! The folks who brought you "I've Got the Power!" The POWAH.

I digress. Already.
A dream woke me, perhaps an hour ago, and I haven't been back to sleep.
I came to so suddenly that the details of the dream, the narrative, are almost non-existent. I remember someone offering me a choice of two things -- someone's hands held before me outstretched, a different object in each. I think I was supposed to choose based on the smell of the substance proferred, though to what end I don't recall.

In the first hand was something pleasant but forgettable. In the second hand (the presenter's left) was a piece of wood. It was very fragrant, and smelled like it was burning -- a perfumed wood, not like chips one burns on the grill but more of an incense. Cedar, or pinyon? The burning aspect of the smell was so strong that it woke me abruptly with the fear that my house was in danger, though the fear wasn't part of the dream. I got out of bed and walked all around. By the time I reached the kitchen on the other end of the house I knew there was no scent to detect. Everything was fine.

The scent in the dream was still strong in the first few seconds after I awoke, but quickly disappeared. And I was left with a little soundtrack running through my head, which isn't terribly unusual -- in this case, a piece from the score for Amelie.

I wish I could say that this dream had some significance, but the little I can recall belies it. It's probably just one of those things -- a strong scent recreated by the synapses, for the synapses. Nothing I can remember encountering lately in life. Just a little phrase, a scrap, of some sensual life I've lived without my conscious self.

Monday, July 21, 2008

reflecting pool

So it's obvious to everyone by now that the church has pretty much taken over my life. Enough so that I'm starting to forget what that first rush of faith was like, and my experience of the details is very much defined by what's on my desk, the church secretary's desk.

It's not that I miss the life before the epiphany -- like life before love, or before your children, the past is without appeal -- like the pages of a pop-up book as they go by, folding flat and closed like a closet while the new life unfolds and bursts forth.

But I've been lazy about the Bible lately, lazy about prayer (such an alien confession for most of you readers, not that I mind; though I can hear some of you squirming in your seats.) I'm procrastinating my seminary app, even as JJ plows through her architecture and engineering exams; and I'm obsessing over certain items that probably only exist to distract me from the path. In short, I suppose I'm typical. Undisciplined sinner. This isn't the Catholic church, though, so nobody asks.

But I think about it all the time.

Everything I do, everything I am, is encompassed by this now. "Faith is the desperate dive from the sinking boat of human endeavor," says Max Lucado, and once you jump there's no bottom. Immersed utterly. Will I turn into a mermaid? Will I splash to the surface just as suddenly as I fell in, some day, and wonder where I've been? I don't think so. The past folds up behind you and the pages only turn from right to left, around here.

Where to now?

Friday, July 18, 2008

more on Ines Rosales

Turns out to be anise, not fennel. Duh.
There are lots of blog posts out there about the Ines Rosales crackers, a product of Spain (or so it is said.) Evidently there's also a sexy Fox News traffic reporter in NY by that name, so watch out -- she has a following. It's an interesting juxtaposition, when you Google.

way down yonder in the yonder of yonder...

way down yonder by the A & P."

The first lines of a great Lynda Barry comic strip. Remember "Ernie Pook's Commeek?" This strip was titled "Free Dog," and it's the story of a little girl who finds an old sick dog and brings it home. And her mother flips out, and the girl tries to find a home for the dog, but in the end the dog just walks off on its own. Free dog.

I have this yellowed, encrusted piece of newsprint on my bulletin board at home. It has traveled for years and years, between states even, showing intermittently on refrigerators and doors and bulletin boards near and far. I love this particular comic, and particularly, that opening line. "Way down yonder in the yonder of yonder..." This was written in 1994. I think it might have been published in the City Pages, here in Minneapolis. I should get this thing framed -- it has candle wax and cooking splatters and who knows what else stuck to it. And I'll be sad if it's ever lost. Why am I so attached to this thing? No idea.

The last line is, "And I knew how he felt about everything. Free dog. Free dog where ever you are."

PS Lynda Barry just put a new book out! In May. I hear it's the bomb.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Las Legitimas y Acreditadas

Kraft Easy Mac, Mission brand Cilantro-Lime Tortilla Triangles and a bottle of VitaWater. MMMmmm. Dinner.

On a related note, I'm a big fan of Ines Rosales' sweet olive oil crisps -- "Las legitimas y acreditadas tortas de aceite de Ines Rosales" -- sold in Lunds stores and co-ops and whatnot. A thin, crisp pastry with a little sugar and a touch of fennel. Comes in an oily white wax-papery wrapper, sold five or six to the package. I've started saving the wrappers, like Tootsie-Pop Indians, and maybe I'll do something clever with them. (See the experimental little quilt above, made from upholstery, fabric scraps, printed cotton, felt, magazine clippings and Tootsie Pop wrappers. Old item here. not so successful, but fun.)
Warning: Mission chips are liberally coated with black pepper too, and endow one with the Breath of Unbelievable Potency. Here, have a sucker. I always keep a few of them around.

What shall I cry?

I'm wading through the grad school application. Let it be said that I waited until after the deadline to start this, very nearly intentionally; and still the Admissions assistant said "oh that's fine, we'll work with you." I thought this might be divine intervention, at first; but my buddy Dean says it's because the seminary has 27 applicants for every 50 available openings. Ah, yes. SO, now I'm revising my Vocational Statement. Revising and revising and revising. Because they want to know, in one or two pages, what business I have applying to seminary. And I am an expert at filling up the exact word-count limit for any assignment. Brevity is not my thing. I must work at this. Plus, the Director of Admissions says he'll consider letting me in without a bachelor's degree. But there's no place in the application to make a case for it. So, I feel I must at least reference the issue in my Vocational Statement. How come I never got a BFA? Because art school is an incredible waste of money and time -- and I should know, having wasted PLENTY of both. No, I'm not writing that.

Actually, I'm not working on it RIGHT now (obviously), because I've had about two glasses of wine and I'm sure, certain, that not only is my brevity switch set to OFF but I'm also in danger of being pointless and emotional. Not to mention prone to bad grammar and excessive punctuation. And all those unnecessary adjectives that my husband likes to complain about. I tell him hey, I'm an Artist: I'm all about description. He doesn't buy it for a second. He reads academic papers for a living and he knows self-indulgence when he sees it.

OK, I should eat something.

What shall I cry, Lord?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My house smells like onions.
I did three loads laundry this morning and hung them on the line; but if I don't get those clothes put away, pretty soon they'll smell like onions.
Hangover Man made jambalaya today, and didn't even get to eat any. A sad tale.
He went to bed at 8 o'clock.
I hope he really is Hangover Man (serves him right) and not Contagious Man.

A long time ago, an artist whose name was I think Gwen Avant created an installation for an art show I produced, which involved many many many many yellow onions, and a typewriter. The onions were in a semi-enclosed area, heaped in a corner and sort of spilling out across the floor. The typewriter, an old Selectric, was held up by a small metal stand. Next to it was an ancient Rolodex, the kind that really roll, with big blank index cards -- the viewer's task was to consider the memories or thoughts evoked by the pungent onions and their papery skins, and type those onto the index cards. An additive process, simple but enjoyable, with the smell of onions and the clacking of the typewriter keys. But I digress.

Someone to the east of us is having a big fireworks display on a Sunday night. I can feel it in the floorboards, though I can't see anything since our house is perched on the side of a hill that slopes west.

In other news...the cursor is finally working again, and I can select items in the post composer pane as well as move my cursor from sentence to sentence. It was weeks, WEEKS, where the damned thing wouldn't work in Explorer for much of anything. What's up with that? At least it's fixed. Like a bad cold that you finally shake.

Which brings us back to Hangover Man. With any luck these hangovers will become a common consequence (for the first time in his life, and him in his forties). Maybe it'll inspire him to cut down a little. I hope. That way I might get some sleep, instead of dividing my nights between comforting my recently nightmare-prone son and listening to my husband snore like a jackhammer.

Ok, time to get back to the grad school application. Where am I applying, you might ask? Click here for more info.


"The Big Show" tonight on channel 2 was, appropriately, "Big" -- the 80's film with Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins, about the 13-year-old boy who wakes up one morning to find he's a 23-year-old man. This was a favorite of mine for a short time, long ago. Now, as the mother of a young boy, my take on this picture was notably different. Laughably, maybe.

The kid makes a wish at the command of a possessed fortune-telling machine called Zoltan, a carnival relic that only works when you unplug it and kick it a few times. Creepy thing -- at any rate the kid wishes "to be big," and the next day he's 12 inches taller and a whole lot hairier, thanks to Tom Hanks and his perpetually woolly pate. "Josh" the kid doesn't want his parents to see him transformed (he's imagining serious trouble when they realize he's too old to start 7th grade in the fall). After convincing his initially freaked-out best friend to help him hide in nearby New York City, the two decide Josh only has to find the now-missing Zoltan machine and make a wish to return to his rightful size and shape. Unfortunately, the New York department of Consumer Affairs says it will take six weeks to generate a list of potential locations for Zoltan. Meanwhile, Josh visits all the NYC hot spots, including FAO Schwarz (one of the first places I landed on my inaugural trip to New York.) At Schwarz he meets an entertainment mogul who offers Josh a job testing and designing toys (a big leap of faith is required for this plot point, but this is obviously a fantasy anyway.) Working for said mogul Josh gets a taste of the big time (complete with Peter Gabriel soundtrack) and meets a girl besides. Here's where Jen the Mom starts to feel a little squicked-out.

It's not that I can't believe a 13-year-old boy would have sex with a pretty 30-year-old woman, given the opportunity to do so. It's more the reverse: imagine what happens when poor Elizabeth Perkins realizes, at the end, that she's inspired the next ten years of adolescent lust for this kid. And holy crap, what if he were MY kid? Setting aside for the moment the six weeks of anguish poor Josh's mom goes through (we never see it) waiting for her son to return from God knows where -- if my kid told me at 13 that he had actually slept with a Woman, I think I'd turn myself in to the police as a complete failure of a parent. Right after I awoke from a dead faint. This is a realm I am in no way ready to contemplate -- my son as a sexual being. His father assures me this starts young, and I simply do not want to hear it. And this was the 80's, this movie -- Josh and his Woman are TOTALLY having unprotected sex. (Though I'm sure she's on the pill.) Good Lord. You can only hope that in the unwritten script of what happens after Josh returns home normal-sized, he simply refuses to tell his mother anything; and she spends the next ten years sending him to analysis instead.

All that having been said -- this film brings back memories of another kind. At 13 I was nothing to look at, having no natural sense of style or interest in girly-girl diversions. I was a nerd, tall and I thought plain, though looking back I see that I was simply cute by adult standards rather than attractive by the impossibly unrealistic standards of junior high. I was reading at the college level, questioning my teachers rather too often, skipping class a bit and getting spit on in the halls occasionally. But it wasn't all bad -- I had nerdy 14-year-old boyfriends, a new one every other month, and I was the undeniable queen of the art department ( a title I held into high school.) My boyfriends were generally nice guys, outcasts like me but not morons like so many of the jerks who roamed the halls (trying to look like Scott Baio.) Apart from the fact that my parents couldn't buy me nice clothes, I never really understood why I was doomed not to fit in. I frequently overstepped the bounds of a mysterious caste structure. By 16 I had an impressive thrift-store wardrobe, a perm and a hunky boyfriend who drove one of those phony hotrod-slash-pickup trucks. In fact, he asked me to marry him. I still have the ring.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

from Lenten Series 2007


Just arriving at the office after lingering too long at home this morning. Such a breezy cool morning, after an evening of violent storms that in the end did no real damage in Northeast.

As happens when I wait too long to leave on a Saturday, I was already anxious on the ride over here, worrying for no reason about leaving the guys on their own. As I was unlocking the church door, a man of indeterminate age approached me on the sidewalk. "Do you work for the church?"

Charles was obviously looking older than his years, too thin, missing teeth. He'd been here before and spoken to one of the pastors. He needed to use the phone, to borrow some money for a bus pass.

After the phone call we chatted a little. His medical condition is his biggest concern -- he has a failing liver. As the conversation progresses, we talked about platelets and esophogeal bleeding, visiting the methadone clinic around the corner, not having a roof over his head... I noticed a few things as he spoke, and surmised that he probably has AIDS, or is at least positive. So I did what I could, and then he went on.

Now I'm in my office with the music turned up. The SDA congregation that uses our church on Saturdays includes many small children, and they're always yelling, crying -- tired of church, no doubt. I'm sure parents care for them; but I get so tense with the crying, wanting to find out what's wrong and fix it, no matter how small the concern. It's easier just to turn up the music, God knows there are enough responsible adults in the building right now.

Time to start the bookkeeping. I didn't sleep well last night, because H. didn't; we all stayed in bed until 9am as a result. Another reason I'm so late. Already exhausted with this day, but I'll have to get over it -- :-) As Charles said, it could be worse.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


A morning of meetings looms. That's my excuse for lingering at home a little while longer than I should, listening to the "Amelie" soundtrack and having the sort of rainy-day feelings that this augments. I have some laundry to hang in the sunshine (gotta call Centerpoint about the dryer, good thing we have a clothes line and don't live in Eden Prairie.)

This music gets on my son's nerves after about 20 minutes, at which time he'll run to the stereo and shut it off. It's very overwrought, jangly music that catapults from ecstasy to sorrow and back again, over and over. I imagine it's too much for him. I remember being his age, and just dreading one particular album my mother liked -- the soundtrack for "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly." Specifically the theme song, with the whistling and the men grunting, and the low-pitch harmonica --- very creepy. I'd always run away or stop my ears. It was something real but unseen, frightening in that particular way that sounds can sometimes still bother me. SO I feel for the kid, and I won't play this while he is around.

If I don't get up out of this chair, I'm going to run out of time to work on my project, which is the other reason I'm dragging my feet this morning. The guys leave late, this summer session, because R's class doesn't start until 10:30. I look into next week, and see that summer is half gone, and I'm depressed -- we waited so long for it this year. I actually had a dream, Sunday morning, that we couldn't go to the Farmer's Market because it had snowed overnight.

On the other hand, our garden looks lovely. I wish I could just sit out there all day in the sunshine, holding onto all the people I love, and be no more inside myself than if it were just a postcard of the scene. It's not such a big deal to be me, don't get me wrong. It's just rainy-day thoughts, on a sunny morning.

The Four Freedoms

See below for a Times review of an interesting art show in Florida: revisiting Norman Rockwell's wartime series "The Four Freedoms" with modern images by contemporary poster artists.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

house flies and game shows

There is a housefly perched near my right knee, on the edge of a drawer filled with decorative ribbons and fibers.

Now it's gone.

Where is it? As much time as I spend convincing my son that most insects are not to be feared, or killed for no reason, I am unnerved by this fly. It's in my space. It vomits on anything it perceives to be edible. It walks in everything and licks its own feet. It has habits I don't agree with. It is likely to die between a window screen and a pane of glass, smelling freedom but hopelessly trapped, and they don't tend to live long anyway. Yet, I am against it.

H. has a series of books about "Fly Guy," a pet housefly with a human friend named Buzz and an understandable predilection for garbage heaps. Fly Guy is a pretty sympathetic character, actually, in that he is smaller than most living things and vulnerable to the bad opinion of others. While H. is still responsible for a high number of ant casualties around the place, he may have grown some tolerance for houseflies -- again, not sure how I feel about this on the practical scale, but we are trying to instill some respect for living things in our child. Squashing an ant doesn't merit a time-out or anything, the way hitting someone might, but we try to present the big picture: is that nice? Was the ant hurting you, or was it minding its own business? Do we know which things are alive, and what does that mean?

Lately, H. and the husband are hooked on a new TV program double-header on Tuesday nights: "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show." Both involve complicated games with teams and contestants who are required to complete an obstacle course or a difficult stunt. The rules are usually simple enough for my four-year-old to understand, and lately he has started identifying somewhat with the competitors: the young blond woman with the kind face ("Darcy") who must pedal a child's tricycle on a treadmill, keeping the trike moving forward as long as she can before she loses speed and is drawn backwards over the edge of the treadmill into a waiting pool of icewater. This same young woman is required to don a suit made of Velcro (like an old episode of Letterman) and fling herself at a wall where an outline of a person has been stenciled on the Velcro stucco; when she hits the wall, her body position must match the outline as closely as possible. With each turn the outline changes. Tonight she couldn't do this as well as the taller, slimmer girl, and was summarily booted from the show, carried off by a gang of Japanese guys dressed as yakuza. "Poor Darcy," says my son, though he's clearly entertained.

Somewhere out there is a place called Adulthood, a place we're steering him toward as best we can. A place where maybe you shouldn't kill the housefly, and maybe it's okay to laugh at the loser; but maybe these rules change from time to time, and you can't understand why until you get to know the players. Rules we keep learning, and unlearning, as we age.

my brain works part-time

This is the time of day when my productivity takes a hit: getting on 3pm. I am the only staff person available to the public (though at least I'm not the only person in the building today), and while the lack of co-worker interruptions should be helpful, it's exchanged for phone calls and food shelf visitors etc. The real problem though is that my friends are gone for the day, my bio-rhythm starts to ebb and I'm lonely. Lonely, distractable, and prone to naps.

I don't actually nap at the office. I mentioned to someone yesterday that I really shouldn't attempt any relational inquiries after 4pm -- in other words, by like 5 o'clock I have that unresolved teenaged brain incapable of rational forethought. I might start crying over something silly, or ask you enough personal questions that you start feeling uncomfortable, or go out with a pal and drink too much. It only lasts until 8pm or 9, and then I'm back online. If I have an evening meeting I have to just drink lots of coffee and tough it out.

Today I've almost made it through my list of grindingly unpleasant tasks that must be addressed. Evidently one of them was to negotiate with my husband over whether we can go out to eat tonight.

Here's the thing: My husband will not eat outside the limits of Northeast Minneapolis/St. Anthony. He will not drive to Roseville, to downtown, to South Minneapolis, or anywhere else. He makes an exception once or twice a year to eat sushi about a mile from where I work (technically within the downtown North Loop borders, across the river.) This restriction pertains to "date" nights as well as eating with our child. There are lots of great restaurants in Minneapolis, but if they don't serve tater tots and/or fall within the aforementioned geographical restriction, he's not interested. Every once in a blue moon he'll work me in for lunch, while H. is at daycare, and we'll hit someplace nice near the office in Northeast. But blue moons are rare and unpredictable, and it's been a while. So I just spent 10 minutes trying to convince him that we had more than two options -- one being Culvers, home of the heart attack, and the other being the Perkins' on Riverside that is always crazy busy.

It should also be noted that I'm about to buy a plane ticket, to take my first overnight trip away from home (on business) since my son was born. Compared to my husband's three fishing trips. He won't travel with our son: he's convinced that children must be at least 6 or 7 years old before they become suitable travel companions. And because he won't take me out on dates, there's no babysitter the kid is familiar enough with to stay overnight anyhow. I have not had any out-of-town anything, business or otherwise, in five years. I have not spent one night away from my child. Needless to say, the husband is freaking out -- he'll have to be responsible for baths and bedtimes for three consecutive nights. After staying up half the night with our son last night (for no discernible reason) I can't say I'm feeling very sorry for him.

I know people with marriages every bit as nuisancy as mine can be, and most of these people are much more socially active with their partners. Short vacations or occasional weekends, date nights where the kids stay at Grandma's, concerts, road trips... and I'll bet they complain about each other just as much. *sigh* Still, it would all seem so much more tolerable if I had a real social life.

See? It's 3pm, and I'm totally hacking on my husband. CASE. IN. POINT. All I'm good for is food and drink at this stage. I have the relational skills of a houseplant.

a passionate fool am i

the thing about this Desire project (a good project gone bad, which has taken over my sewing room and required me to spend literally months learning new techniques as I go), is that i'm obsessed with it now. and isn't that always the way: the passionate head-first affair that winds itself up in an ever-tightening coil of single-minded intensity. until Blam! all that pent-up craziness, the soaring expectations and the greedy lust, fly apart from internal forces too out-of-control to contain. this project is already careening down the path of self-destruction, but i don't care! i've given it a title: "Song of Songs (Epiqumew)." and after i solve just a few more formal problems, add a little more quilting and beading, maybe just one or two more lines of'll be perfect. right?

Monday, July 7, 2008

watermelon man

Inspired by our trip to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market early Sunday morning, H. and I sewed up a quick project later that day. His drawing and writing are a little rusty (he's been the Read-O-Matic for the past few months now), so this was a good creative refresher.

He's watermelon-crazy this summer, and just as the crowd and the noise level started getting him down at the market, he spotted a Black Diamond. (In case you didn't know, that's a very dark stripe-less watermelon, very sweet.) The vendor had cut one open, a round rose of melon flesh about ten inches wide, and H. went for it with both hands. Stop! (He's still learning about food handling.) But the sight of it woke him up to the wonders of the market, and when we got home he was rewarded with a pile of juicy melon hunks. I snapped a few photos, and we printed one onto an EQ Inkjet Fabric Sheet. He also drew a little picture, of the Black Diamond, and included a nearby ant marching forward with greedy determination. That was done in colored pencil, marker and watercolor crayon right onto another fabric sheet, and we sewed both down onto his favorite green bug fabric, with a sheet of Timtex to stabilize it. H. helps me with the sewing, raising and lowering the presser foot and choosing thread color and trims. After about an hour, we had it done. Voila!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I am not large enough inside or out to contain all that this past week has entailed. Interpersonally, or just visually -- it's been a full, full day today much like the days prior. I only see the wonder of it when I stop trying to contain it all -- and just let the people and their stories, let the smells and the sounds of the places I visit, sort of flow around me and over me. To see more than what is right in front of me (demanding my attention) has been key to sanity this weekend. By just being aware of it all without trying to address any of it, I am more easily pleased. That's right, just give me pleasure, when there are too many complicators afoot.

working off an argument

It never ceases to surprise me, the lengths to which we will go to prove ourselves right in our assumptions. In the world where faith, culture, art and emotion all intertwine to form tangles of creation both beautiful and dangerous at every turning, it can be a risk-taking merely to point and say, "Look at that!"

I suppose it's been a while since anyone took a solid whack at me for my position. It came out of left field, and I felt the sting -- I never had a chance to defend myself, and it's tough to be condemned for a position you never got the chance to explain, by someone whose opinion means the world to you. It's a complicated issue I'm referring to, and I'm too tired to reconstruct the circumstances right now. Suffice it to say that some people feel so strongly about certain things that if you aren't resolutely in line with their particular extremis of thought and opinion, then you are just WRONG. And it doesn't matter what you think, or who you are to them. It's something I have to think about, to find the right intellectual handle for it, to learn from. Right now I guess I'm mainly feeling sorry for myself.

Freedom of Speech

About the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The First Amendment was written because at America's inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms.

Our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change.

When the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, it did not contain the essential freedoms now outlined in the Bill of Rights, because many of the Framers viewed their inclusion as unnecessary. However, after vigorous debate, the Bill of Rights was adopted. The first freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45 words written by James Madison that we have come to know as the First Amendment.

The Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — went into effect on Dec. 15, 1791, when the state of Virginia ratified it, giving the bill the majority of ratifying states required to protect citizens from the power of the federal government.

The First Amendment ensures that "if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein," as Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the 1943 case West Virginia v. Barnette.

For more on this subject visit

Friday, July 4, 2008

what a dream I had

I think that's the first line of a song I know, but cannot identify at the moment.

I fell asleep as per normal as I put my son to bed, balanced on a six-inch slice of single mattress while he settled down. I often drop off before he does, and awake at about this time.

I dreamed that he and I were alone on a small inflatable boat in an unfamiliar lake or calm inlet, and that the boat was slowly sinking. I was partially in the water, while he sat in the dry, higher portion facing me. We weren't very far from land, and I had a paddle of some kind. I had to get us to shore before the boat sank completely, or at least get close enough that I would have a chance of swimming us both to the shore successfully if we capsized. There was daylight.

Many towering rock formations protruded from the calm waters, like my idea of the Apostle islands (probably smaller), and I was rowing backwards towards the shore in such a way that I could only correct my course by looking around every few minutes. While paddling frantically I also worked to keep him still and calm, not wanting him alarmed or impatient -- hoping his four-year-old's judgement wouldn't get us into deeper trouble. Fortunately he had a rock or something he had picked up in his hands and was focused on this thing, on not losing it.

Steering somewhat blindly I noticed at least twice that without realizing it, we had come through a tight or dangerous place, or through a narrow passage that was our only option, as if guided. I was thinking (in a bare second of pause) that God must be lending a hand, and that reassured me even as the boat sank lower and lower in the dark water.

Interspersed with these scenes, towards the end, were those of another dream in which my son had painful symptoms of an ear infection. He was in the car with his father and I, and we had to get through and around some series of hindrances in order to get him home.

Finally, in the dream of the water, we managed to come safely through and around the rocks, and we gained a seawall close to the beach before the boat became completely submerged. I was able to hoist my son onto dry land before climbing up myself, and the big problem became his concern over the little rock, which he had misplaced after coming ashore. I was relieved that we'd made it without panic or injury, and grateful for the feeling that we were aided somehow by divine power.

After I awoke and staggered into the bathroom to wash my face, I relived the dream. And a line like one of Max Lucado's came to me -- 'the sinking boat of human endeavor.'

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

a wish for us

All itchy and woozy from drinking too much coffee too close to bedtime -- now I cannot sleep, though I feel pretty strung out, and some dipshit across the alley is popping off bottle rockets at 11 o'clock at night. The coffee is my fault though -- I know better than to substitute caffeine for dinner. Certain friends had complications today far exceeding mine -- one is taking a new anti-seizure med to counteract a movement disorder that keeps her awake all night, and she came in to work with an admittedly drunken demeanor. She felt so embarrassed, and apologized several times. She says her body is supposed to adjust quickly, and I hope for the sake of the other drivers that this is so.

I just heard a creepy sound, like an exhale right behind me. I think it's snoring, and accoustics. Yes, I'm jumpy.

My other friend had a headache, a sadly regular occurance, and I empathized -- I just hate that veil of discomfort and distraction that falls between one's eyes and mind, and the rest of the world, with a bad headache. So, two people trying to function normally despite a head full of goldfish. My excuses for lack of productivity weren't as good, though I did accomplish a few things today.

The house is shut up against prowlers and possible rain. I wish we had a second story, just for warm, humid nights like these -- it was always a pleasure to sleep in the fresh air. I hope it does rain, for the sake of the plants -- and maybe the brains, all of us pickling in various states of ailment.

Give me a hot tub in the yard, give me a salty margarita and quiet, quiet. Me and my friends, all soaking our bones until our cares are washed away and the days and nights begin again to count just the right number of hours in each.

Drive Carefully

The view through Chillon's windshield, taken with a cell phone: a large teddy bear stowed away on the back of a chemical tanker. This as we left Yuri's garage sale, where all sorts of unusual objects made their way into the light -- bizarre juxtapositions abounded on Friday.

I sleep, but my heart stirs...

I picked up a stand-alone interpretation of the Song of Songs at Luther Seminary the other day, which fell into my hands even as I was watching my days for a chance to dig into my Bible and refresh my memory of those verses. The particular verse (below) has now been transformed into semi-transparent strips of fabric with my handwriting superimposed over them, being sewn down upon and woven into the piece in progress. (See photos: the first is 'poem in a rubbermaid container;' the second shows a few strips laid out and partially tacked down.)
Speaking of restless hearts; looks like my son is having a busy night, in his sleep. Poor kid has probably in inherited both his mother's over-active dream life and his father's tendency to talk in his sleep. A few minutes ago I heard him casually declare some statement of fact, and when I walked into his room he appeared about to get out of bed. He saw me, and spoke my name; I said "what are you doing?" to which he answered "I don't know," and laid down again, and closed his eyes. Oh dear. Sometimes what I most want in the world is for my kid to sleep soundly.
I can smell the basement lately -- despite all the open windows, sometimes this house is too small. Especially at night, when we close everything tight. But I digress. I suppose this whole post is a digression. More to come after a busy and interesting weekend, but as someone reminded me recently, 1am is a little late to be up and around. Not sleeping, due to my restless heart.