Friday, December 25, 2009

new look, new leaf?

Christmas Day, supposing it signals new beginnings and rebirth, seems to have born with it a foot or more of tundra slop that has to be shoveled. Shovel, shovel, toil and trouble. The adults of the household are feeling somewhat broke down after hoisting hundreds of pounds of icewater and snow. The smaller snow-blowers just sit n spin in this stuff -- you have to muck it out by hand. Thank God and baby Jesus that the snow tapered off earlier than expected. And yet it was, is, beautiful - while I was shoveling out the neighbor's car, the snow came down in thick, fat wet flakes, obscuring the distance. The breeze was fresh and surprisingly warm, more like the air after a rain shower. Later, when H and I built the snowman, a colder wind from the north picked up and bit our fingers as we patted and pounded the snowman into shape. We gave him two stick hands thrust into the air in mock disgust -- "Can you believe this weather?!" A straight mouth of chagrin, and a large cold carrot nose. But he has a scarf too, poor thing. It was dangerous to stand under the pines near the front door -- large, heavy clumps of icy-wet snow slid from the boughs unexpectedly, clobbering the hapless shoveler.Freezing, but fun.

I have to remind myself occasionally that narratively speaking, the Christ child's problem would have been desert nights, not blizzards out of the northwest. Another missing picture might be Mary breastfeeding, as she would most surely have done (though a certain Reverend friend of mine disputes the virgin in most of her particulars.) Here we see infant Jesus, wrapped "burrito style" as they say in prenatal classes (no evidence of that anywhere but contemporary illustrations, though scholarly works most likely prove something similar), suckling away at his mother's teat while the animals chew and moo and poop nearby in the stable -- hay when fresh is clean and warm, not necessarily comfy unless you're truly exhausted, easy to muck out after the moist mess of childbirth. Who attended the birth? Did Jesus just slip into the world after a few delicate virginal pushes? I doubt it -- God's work seems to me to be difficult and painful in the best of circumstances. Joseph probably had to help some, though with such a crowd in Bethlehem a midwife wouldn't have been too tough to find (assuming a lot of things that I don't know for fact.) At any rate, no chipped ice or numbing drugs for little Mary. And here's the baby, still rather sticky and smelly, probably some social proscription against touching him or his mother in their contaminated state (think mikvahs). Except for the glaring issue of a certain star, unrecorded and utterly out of place, blazing forth above the stable like one of those giant stadium lamps over a night game of baseball. Look out! Something definitely going on here. It can't be this poor couple with the new baby though, because who cares about babies in this day and age? Unwanted infants were routinely thrown into the streets to perish unremarked. It's not the animals, not the goats or the camels; certainly not the rough structure sheltering them. Where is the mystery and wonder this new star portends? Did Jesus glow? Did his mother retell the words of the angel to anyone who would listen? Or did the narrative require three kings "of Orient are" to kick the plot along?

I remember when they brought my son to me all clean and neatly wrapped, after the C-section. He cried until he heard my voice, then calmly curled against my shoulder, his eyes nearsightedly resting on my chin. There were others in the room, though I barely remember who they were and couldn't have cared -- my husband in his surgical shower cap, perhaps my parents, a couple of friends including the woman who took the first picture of H and I together. If there had been hay, and cattle lowing, I wouldn't have noticed. A few hours later, they moved his crib into my room in the hospital despite the fact that it meant little rest for me, simply because he couldn't stand to be parted from me -- he cried and cried, until I held him. So be it, I thought. Better learn how to wrap the little bundle properly.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

still on hiatus

This blog is getting to be an increasingly dusty corner in my realm of self-expression. Not for lack of thoughts so much perhaps as surfeit of lived experience -- it's been a tense, busy and to some degree dramatic few months in my life, intertwined with the lives of others. Plus the old laptop has more or less succumbed to the clogged arteries of its maxed-out memory, with attendant browser issues, and I finally swapped it with the aged Compaq that has languished in our bedroom for some time, on which I'm typing now. The Compaq's capabilities are sadly dated, but after dumping the accumulated video games installed by my spouse for our six-year-old (the machine's main purpose for years now), I find it at least boots up in under a minute, and achieves internet in an acceptable timeframe as well. Waiting 20 minutes for the laptop to go live was a big deterrent per blogging, particularly since it also had a tendency to freeze up randomly. Poor old laptop. And my day job hardly gives me time or mental space in which to ruminate.

So the Confessional has been closed for repairs, pending major rennovations. And the number of sins I choose to confess dwindles in proportion to the likelihood that these sins are real rather than imagined. The day's minutiae doesn't fascinate as it once did (and I confess, Facebook has been more than adequate as chronicle of inconsequential trivia.) Plus the Confessional seems a little dowdy to me now in some way -- can't quite define this yet. The Usual Suspects don't entertain and inspire me as they once did, but it's not as if I've been taking all my cues from the Economist either. The splitting of blog themes onto multiple discreet platforms didn't help, in the end -- I thought I'd please my readers by removing the church gossip to another realm, but thereafter became less inclined to commit my church thoughts directly unto print. The poetry and visual art blogs are seeing a bit more action, though output is in short bursts of intensity.

Much has changed, and yet there are many constants exhausted of their nuance.

I'll check in again when I care a little more for this product, or find a new motive.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


There are all sorts of strange smells lingering in eddies around the house. Smells, like humidity, seem to collect in my son's room at the northeast corner of the house. I air out his room more than any other, now that cold weather has arrived. Tonight, the odor of frying pork chops (like wood smoke) somehow took rest in his bedroom. In the hall, it was brussels sprouts. And here, in the sewing room, I can smell the ginger-orange bar soap from my son's bath. Strange -- makes me wonder how the seeming migration of scents might be related to time. Does air move about the house in a particular respiratory pattern, taking along on a river current the stages of household activity and their residue?

The pork chop smell made me nervous at first -- I opened first the front door, then his window, to see if the neighbor was running his smoker (we've spent beautiful summer and autumn nights in our closed-up house, with grumpy faces, lamenting the downhill flow of wood smoke into our windows at night.) My husband asked at first if something was burning. It's fading though, along with the brussels sprouts odor (husband scalded a pan of them earlier this evening, phew.)

Just lately I'm noticing too the way smells linger in my hair, and in between my fingers even after careful soaping. I imagine how a dog might reconstruct my day...

Friday, November 27, 2009


I've had one of my worst bouts of existential myopia over the past two months or so, perhaps it's letting up now. Somehow it took quite a while for all the great gifts I've lately received, from the people I love, to add up; attentions, sincere compliments, professional regard, affection. It's easy to become obsessed with what one doesn't have -- with the state of not-having. Easy to stare hypnotized into that deep black pit of longing, even though somewhere on the edge of consciousness you know that your not-having may be temporary, may not be your fault, may be what's best for you even. Wednesday morning (very early) I seemed finally to lighten up -- felt some hope, renewed energy, enough love in me to want to spread it around. No particular cause for this "new leaf turning" however -- I stayed up until midnight Tuesday running some preliminary numbers on our stewardship campaign at church, and wasn't surprised by the results -- as I predicted, less than we'd like but enough to keep us hopeful. And emailing those numbers to the office somehow felt better than it should have on its own.

I wound up emailing and texting a few people at one, two o'clock in the morning, to wish them an early holiday blessing and to thank them for their presence and friendship. Tried to cheer my coworkers, who have many similar issues to contend with right now; felt a need to embrace those I might have neglected in the midst of depression. And Wednesday was a good day, from beginning to end. For no real reason. Just was.

I was asked why, and why again, by a certain friend. After all, my buzz was pretty pronounced. I tried to explain, but had not much of substance to offer. "Clouds of cardinals," I said. "Flocks of hope." Blessings.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

it really has been a while

I'm looking back over old material, cleaning up the blogs, and wind up revising the poem about Dean's illness. This was not so long ago -- I weep now, to think of it. I haven't talked to him much since he was truly back on his feet, still in recovery though. I need to and should. But it was hard, incredibly hard, during those days and weeks of waiting. And I'm waiting still, for too much.

resisting the urge

To lay my thoughts for the night on anyone's doorstep. Despite a fierce urge to reach out and connect with anyone, though apparently everyone is out on the town for the night. Or watching TV. Doing Saturday night stuff. Tomorrow will be all about church, laundry, housekeeping. A birthday party. Dreading the dentist appointment with my kid on Monday. Etc. Tonight I'm drinking, I'm winding up my creativity for the evening, and wishing I had something going on -- wishing I had someone to talk to. But I'm not going to start emailing people, not when today has been super-slow that way -- I'm not going to be the pathetic Jen in the middle of the night for anyone in particular. I'm going to hang out and get drunk for another hour or so, and maybe finalize my plans for Sunday School tomorrow morning (incongruous, yes). And see if anyone surfaces to bid me goodnight. Sitting in the dark, illuminated only by the light of the Laptop Confessional...

...thinking about skipping over to True Companion to write about the piece I started in on again this evening. Two birds on a wire, facing each other...suspended over an expanse of black water, moonlit birds, out of their nests when they should be hiding away...

I should go read the paper or something. Sheesh. Get a life. Get out of myself.

giving thanks

So yes, it's been a while. Someone asked me the other day why I haven't posted in a month or more, and haven't kept up much on any of the blogs -- and I can only say that I've been struggling with a lack of energy, with anomie on a grand scale. Of course, there have been a few bright spots, and some good days -- it's all nuance though. Nothing original. So why make my blog into a "blahg?" Better to leave off.

All that said -- it's time to ponder with intent the things for which we are grateful. I try to pray in gratitude as much as I plead for the things I want and worry about. It's often not successful, but I do try. I'm grateful for the following tonight:
- my son, remarkable creature that he is, and his continued health. It's been a struggle, the past few months, and I worry about his teeth and about our big dental appointment on Monday. But I'm grateful things haven't been worse.
- the weather, which has been seasonally acceptable for a couple of weeks now.
- for recent successes in fundraising, at church, which certainly help and will hopefully inspire more giving confidence among members.
- for my friends, for the people I love and trust. While all my primary relationships feel fraught or tangled or difficult in some way right now, still I'm glad I have these people near me.
- for wine.
- and continued, if stressful, employment in the kingdom.
- I had a whole day off today, and I actually felt inspired to get some sewing accomplished; I am very grateful for this.

I've been up to my eyeballs in it for a while now, and I'm not alone. Life in the office seems to be getting more and more intense, now that we are three instead of six, now that there are just two of us in there sorting and dealing with everything most of the time. I'm there 40 hours a week, sometimes less, often more; at least nine hours of that per week I'm alone, and it's difficult to be there alone. Not so much because it gets too busy to cope with, which happens occasionally; more so because it's depressing, to be isolated, when we're waiting for such big dreams to materialize, and trying to keep up with so much minutiae. Can't see more than a few feet in front of me, anymore, so to speak. Can't really go to anyone who understands the details, to complain, because we are all in this same boat and have been for a while.

I am grateful for the church, for my family, for love. I hope things get better.

Friday, November 6, 2009

another poseur exposed

Look! It's laptop confessional, the bitches-love-me, kids-with-guns and girlfriends version! Punks. Looks like they had a happy Halloween...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

homo sum

I was just reading FOUND Magazine, Issue #1 (reprinted with 15 new pages!) It's a collection of found notes, random signage, poignant letters, amateur fiction, and xeroxed pages from various works of fiction that celebrate the fascinating impulse to pick things up off the ground and wonder about them. Steinbeck, Lynda Barry, etc. Hilarious, ridiculous, often baffling, the content of the magazine (and the purpose of the organization) brings us around to a simple thought: homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto. "I am human; nothing human is alien to me."

As someone who once obsessively collected found notes, lists etc (someone who still regularly picks up and pockets fascinating bits of trash), I groove on this magazine. And yet...there's a reprint of an article in the back, one that originally appeared in the New York Times Magazine shortly after 9-11. In this piece the author considers the volumes, the three-inch layered accumulations, of paper that floated miles from the wreckage of the towers and came to rest in drifts all over New York. He detailed various types of documents, from inscrutible numerical printouts to hand-written memos; he explained how he took the time to track down some of the people to whom memos had been written, finding most of them alive and well, and a few with full voicemail boxes but no return call. I in turn thought about all that paper -- damp wads of it by the hundreds of thousands of pounds. I thought that, if one were in the habit of picking up loose, random notes and such, the sheer weight and tragedy of such a volume of ephemera could effectively cure one forever of the impulse. But I'm projecting, since I had sort of curative experience along those lines that put paid to my tendency, pretty much, some years back. I tried to turn my rather large collection into an art installation, sort of an exhibit, that I installed in a large display window in downtown Athens years ago. I wanted there to be an overwhelming sense that this stuff was everywhere, treasures for the amateur archeologist. I copied my letters and other originals over and over, I crumpled and folded and heaped them. I tried to age them. I taped them to the glass so they could be read, and I left this mess on view for several days (I have no idea why my boss indulged this, it was his business that had the display window, a large fish-bowl that several people could comfortably stand in.) The installation was crap, it didn't come off. I was discouraged, and in the end I recycled it all, including the originals. Never took a photo or kept a copy. I've come to regret it -- some of those pieces were real gems, especially the first letter, the piece that sort of set me off. A crumpled love note, found outside a bar in Uptown Minneapolis. A sad, sad note from someone on medication for mental illness, who had probably been drinking; writing to a girl who was apparently also on medication, and not being faithful to her man. It was a plea, the hope not just for love but a better life, written poorly and nearly illegibly by a man desperate for a chance. I don't think he ever gave it to her; or maybe he did, and she read it at the bar, and crumpled it angrily as she left, tossing it in the gutter where I later retrieved it.

Anyway, it was disturbing to once again think of the towers, and all that loss, all those obliterated individuals. It wasn't that long ago. And in a way, this disturbed feeling fit with the rest of my crappy evening -- unease, the disquiet after a sudden, unexpected blowup. My husband and I had a loud fight, in front of the kid, which was bad. The kid had a bad evening too, with us fighting and his knee acting up (I think he's having joint trouble in one knee due to a growth spurt.) The nature of the fight was both ludicrous and troubling, and while it could have blown over quickly, it accessed for my husband the constant chunk of bitterness and anger he seems to carry around -- a depth of anger that is all out of proportion to the banality of our conflicts. But I helped set it off, by raising my voice in protest, by not keeping myself in check. One of us has to.
In brief, they picked me up from work tonight, and on my way to the car I noticed someone had left abn empty booze bottle and some other trash on the church steps. I tossed my purse and tote bag in the car, and said I'd be right back -- I just wanted to throw the stuff away inside. Re-entering the church, I glanced around and saw that none of the food shelf carts had been put away for the night -- my responsibility. So in 3 or 5 minutes I quickly put away the produce and stashed the carts. I knew I had to hurry, since I was keeping them waiting. And when I went outside --- he had driven away. He wasn't there.

He's done it before, and typically he just drives around the block and comes back. He does this to make a point. He HATES waiting for me. Even if I know he's coming, when he doesn't see me standing right by the door waiting for him when he arrives, he will call my cell and tell me to come down. He has no tolerance for waiting on me. It's been so long like this that I can't even remember whether I had some bad habit years ago that earned me this hassle.

Anyway, I wait a couple of minutes, and he pulls around the corner. I walk up to the car, and I see that my kid is crying. This pisses me off. I know why -- it's because I made them wait, Ron got mad and left, and the kid got really nervous about that. It's the sort of thing that sets the kid off. So when I got in the car, I made a remark -- it was a pissy remark. Not loud, but pissy. Why is my son crying? My husband says it's because I made them wait, but I know that's indirectly a lot of bullshit -- what made the kid cry was his old man getting mad and driving off, on top of wondering what was keeping his mother. For the whole five minutes I was inside. This blame, this accusation seems so unreasonable to me and so unfair that I just go off on the husband. He interrupts and makes some (seemingly) hyperbolic statements about how I didn't tell him what was going on, I just expected him to "heel" and wait like he was "told" to do. And soforth. Next thing I know, I'm yelling about how unreasonable and somewhat dishonest he's being. And it becomes one of these things where he is just violently angry, pounding on the steering wheel and clenching his teeth and daring me to say "just one more word" while he berates and insults me. And my poor kid is in the back, sniffling, imprisoned in this shitty scenario with his stupid parents.

Ron and I didn't really speak to each other the rest of the night. As usual, he took several opportunities to talk a little smack about me to the kid, within earshot, which he knows infuriates me for how destructive and juvenile and unfair to the kid this is. As usual, he saw nothing of his own behavior, only that I was wrong. And I was, for yelling. But the five minutes shouldn't have cost us so much.

So -- a good magazine, and a crappy night. Another beer is in order. I suppose we've all been there -- homo sum.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today I had the day off. First non-church day in perhaps two weeks or more, I lose track. I also start to lose perspective, my mind, random it's good. I sat for two hours on the piano bench and drew a colored pencil rendition of the snow and the green grass side by side on the neighbor's lawn, the green tents under the trees and the leaves on the wet pavement. Felt nice. We enjoyed the quiet of all that insulating, tender snowfall on our trip to school this morning. The kid was in a great mood, the wind had not yet turned cold. He's not worried about Halloween, or Thanksgiving. Now that he has seen the snow again, he wants boots and sleds. And even though it's melting now (and should, what insanity), it was kind of pretty. I had some silence today. I miss it terribly.

I hate having the furnace on so early in the year. But we've all had colds and flus for more than a month, we're just starting to clear up now, and it's been damned cold outside. What can you do.
The ceiling just made a loud noise -- crack! -- in response to this weird weather. The house has a cough.

I've been acting like an asshole since last Thursday, off and on -- careening into PMS and a whole lot of nonsense on my mind, stressing out over Sunday's sermon (which went fine), trying to find normal. Trying not to take everything personally, which has been almost impossible. I hope no one disowns me before I work through this little bout of assholery.

I'm out of wine too...Oh well. I hope tomorrow is a good day. Today certainly wasn't bad. Even shopping for turtlenecks for the kid was kind of fun. Even eating porkchops for supper seemed alright (I had chicken AND steak at lunch time today, long story, so I'm overlimit on my daily dead animal ration.) I'll bet there's a moon up there somewhere...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rene & Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war

I just read the news about Magritte's "Olympia" being stolen in Belgium. The article maintains that the small painting of Magritte's wife has a street value of about 1.1 mill. As if anyone would try to sell the thing -- these sorts of thefts are usually commissioned. But it's odd, in the current version of America, to think of something so romantic and fictionalized as a major art theft actually taking place, anywhere in the world. I expect looting of national treasures in Middle Eastern countries; I expect all sorts of intellectual property hassles and copyright infringement suits and countersuits. I am surprised to hear that guys with guns are still stealing paintings, back in the Old Country (no, not the Old Country Buffet you dipshits). All I can think of is Pierce Brosnan and that actress with the chin -- Renee Russo -- dancing and screwing their way through "The Thomas Crowne Affair." A movie complete with impossibly corny heist scenarios and supermodels with no spoken lines playing master forgers. (And a really enjoyable flick, by the way.)

Better still, I'm reminded of Paul Simon's great song, the title of which I purloined for this posting. It has a beautiful melody, and it is touching and intimate and had some private significance for Simon when he wrote it. "...were dining with the power elite, when they opened their bedroom door. And what do you think they found hidden away, in the cabinet cold of their hearts? The penguins, the moonglows, the orioles, and the fire sounds..."

Intimacy. On the one hand we have art thieves with guns, and on the other, we have quiet lyrics about aging and loss and art. Somewhere in between...well, not much can be real there. It's not a Newsweek scenario.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There have been two rapes in my neighborhood in the past couple of months. Two different suspects, the second of whom is still at large. The first rape was a midnight, woman walking alone scenario, but it was a violent rape; prepetrated by a local opportunist. The rape from a few days ago was a stalking rape, apparently preplanned by someone who had the opportunity to observe the victim, a man who concealed his identity. What's that mean? Local again.

Into my mind comes a vision, of a guy in a beat-up white two-door, back in the spring. He drove past my bus stop, turning off of my residential cross-street into the main road as he passed, and asked as he slowed down if I wanted a ride. He looked at me like someone who knew me. I said no, automatically; but was sufficiently creeped out by the guy. He reminded me of a man who used to sit at the park and watch us -- moms and kids playing. Riding his bicycle around and around the park, stopping repeatedly to sit at a bench and stare, just stare. I couldn't be certain these two men were one and the same, but there was a resemblance. Once, I called my husband on my cell phone and asked him to come pick us up, at the park -- I was that nervous, though the guy never attempted to speak to us. He jumped on his bike and rode off when my husband appeared. A white guy, with short sandy colored hair, glasses; about six foot to six foot two. Medium build, completely typical fellow. At all hours of the day he could be seen -- but that was a couple of years ago, and I haven't noticed him since. The description of the second rapist, as general as it is, brings him to mind.

Too many of these guys around. And what amulet, what prayer, wards them off? Vampires, people who want power, who want to suck the life out of you via their hate and their fear - I think it's only lust in the most superficial sense. Vampires, people who failed at life and have time on their hands in some cases -- the guy in the park probably has a previous conviction. Felonies make it hard to get a job. I suppose the cops look to the registered offender files at times like these, show some photos to the victim -- but a smart guy knows how to fall off the map. Or maybe he's been convicted of something else; just never a rape. Breaking and entering, as in this case -- the second rapist knew how to enter a sealed, vacant apartment to get to someone living adjascent. A smart guy. Someone who walks his dog or rides his bike a lot.

A guy with time on his hands.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

hanging on by the skin of my teeth.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's a beautiful fall day.

I was on Facebook a moment ago, and noted a comment on my friend Jeanne's status by a local writer. I haven't actually read any of this author's fictions, though I've certainly heard of them. I also dated her brother a couple of times; for this reason more than any other, I clicked the author's name and started scrolling through her Friends list. I figure her brother will be there somewhere -- a very nice man, married now I know, probably kids. Amusingly enough, this turned into an exercise in What a Small Town, or Just How Many Guys DID I Date in College? I found (between the A's and J's alone) not one but TWO other fellas I also dated -- one just a couple of times, like the brother -- and the other one a man I actually lived with and dated for years. No, I will not Friend any of these men -- there are zero reasons to do so -- and yet. I am tempted, for egotistical and administrative reasons, to go BACK to this list and finish up the alphabet. Just to see, you know? And maybe, in a very backhanded way, it's a kind of compliment -- the author being an intelligent and not unattractive brunette. Maybe I can claim a pathetic shadow of her fame, like the groupie girl who sleeps with the tour manager (not even the band.)

In other news, there is...not much news, yet, about Dean.

I spent half a day there Friday, at his wife's request, sitting by his side while she attended to some really pressing duties to herself and their child. She has been with him nearly non-stop, and has passed the point of exhaustion. I won't say how he looked, or what his condition was then, since this is a blog and I've probably divulged too much. I just sat and held his hand for hours, and sang to him, and read out loud a little and prayed a little. He surfaced a few times and seemed almost to focus on me, the nurse said she was sure he could hear me -- and I know he tracks who is in and out of his room to a degree, though he is not allowed many visitors. He gets very upset if he knows his wife has to leave for a time. After several hours she returned, and rested a little before resuming her vigil. I got her and the kid some lunch, and then went to work. I'm glad I could help. Hospitals and sick people aren't a problem for me in terms of proximity, though it's hard not to cry when you see someone you love completely dependent on machines for survival. He looks much better than my father did though. Dean is in there, he's trying to come back, trying to find level. It's staggering how much effort it must take for him to simply breathe right now.

It's a beautiful fall day. How much time will he have lost, when he finally awakes? Every few hours the nurse yelled into his ear: "Mr. ____, today is Friday the 25th of September. It's about (Noon, 2pm etc). Your friend Jennifer is here. It's raining out today..." The nurse says sedation over many days can lead to ICU psychosis, a condition resulting from lack of normal sleep cycles and REM sleep. Sedation isn't like a long nap -- it's more a constantly submerged removal from clear time and conscious perception, distinguished from rest, not complete relaxation, not deep sleep. It must be something like a nightmare, at times. But he doesn't deal well with the ventilator, so they're keeping him under. Even his waking will be hard. I hope yesterday was a better day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dean asleep

Last night, very late, I got an email from an acquaintance passed along through another, telling me that my buddy Dean had been hospitalized Thursday night in serious condition. After 36 hours of getting nowhere with phone calls and emails, my pastor pal decided to visit the hospital -- Dean worked with us until two weeks ago, when he was laid off. 36 hours is a long time without news, and pastors have the prerogative at hospitals where friends do not. It seems Dean has a staff infection, complicated by his diabetes which is very difficult to regulate. He has been on ventilation since he was admitted, but they hope to ween him off very soon and feel they have his blood chemistry under control. It's likely to be another two to three days in ICU. He's been semi-conscious at best. I was considering a visit tomorrow, but will perhaps wait and see what I can do for his family instead. They've had a difficult year, and Dean's health has been unpredictable. Thank God they are insured through his wife.

Last night, for reasons better left unwritten here, I found myself feeling a kind of survivor's guilt -- I still have my job, after all. Dean is employed elsewhere as a college instructor, but it's not enough to live on. I would not have supported his lay-off, but I wasn't asked directly. I was, however, asked along with several others what staff cuts I thought we could bear in the interest balancing next year's budget. And I knew his position, while incredibly valued by me, was not essential at present. I wish things had been different. He's under incredible stress now, he and his wife, enough so that a few days of feeling extra-crappy would not have impelled him to complain to her or confide concern. Instead, he passed out at the pharmacy. I don't think he blames me for a second over the loss of his position, but I felt last night that somehow I should have done more to protect him. I should have tried to argue the case for keeping him, even though I know this would most likely have been rejected.

Not knowing how sick he was, but knowing how sick he could be (his medical history is complex and fraught with aggravated disease), I spent a chunk of the night wondering where I could have been a better friend to Dean. I've involved myself to varying degrees with his professional life and have tried pretty hard to funnel work his way, but our styles and attitudes differ enough that it's easier to be friends than partners. I've backed out of a couple of his projects over the years. I think of him as something of a mentor, a guide, though he occasionally comes to me for advice. I worry there hasn't been enough reciprocity.

What is a friend? I've loaned money to people, given it away really; I've held hands at the doctor's office, offered my couch to friends at various unhappy times, listened, advised, scolded, forgiven. But I fuck things up too, I neglect correspondence and forget to return phone calls, I get impatient, and I sometimes get too involved. I don't do worse than anyone who calls themselves a friend, I'm sure; maybe sometimes I've done better. And I try not to keep track of who owes whom and why. But in individual cases, the game is never played out.

Last night I prayed for Dean and his family. Right now he's asleep in a bed somewhere, with the requisite tubes and lights and bells, the noises of medical care, of prolongation. He's looking older than his years. What spirit moves in him, in his semi-conscious state, is hard to say. Soon, I pray, he'll awake and recover. I hope the gift he gets in exchange for all this, somehow, is a new future and new opportunities. For surely this is a low point. Surely he'll need strength. Just now, he's asleep, and I wonder what happens as each subsequent day unfolds for us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

mucking out

Yesterday I pulled myself back from a threatening cloud of depression, by gardening. It was the sight of the mammoth sunflowers that did it -- oh so glorious with their dinner-plate-sized faces turned to the blue sky of July, and oh so horrible with their twisted brown leaves and decaying centers plucked clean by birds and squirrels come September -- which is what's supposed to happen, actually, but it's such a mess. Piles of sunflower seed hulls heaping at the roots of the bachelor's buttons, forget-me-nots and zinnias, rotting leaves plastered to the soil, enormous stems broken and naked-looking. And the grass grown too long around the decorative fencing, some late weeds, and some perennials that have been waiting patiently since they were overtaken by wildflowers in the early summer -- they've been biding their time, their foliage still looks good and I realized that if I cleaned out some of the crap and excess growth elsewhere these guys could still have a good month or more left in them...

I was telling my husband how depressed I was, something I rarely do. Telling him about the anomie problem, the work problems, the disappointments and the stretched-thin faith that things will all work out -- and even as I sat on the back step and moaned (something I hate hearing myself do), those bedraggled sunflowers with their broken backs and drooping heads sort of distracted me from where I was going -- which was nowhere.

It felt good to be cutting away dead growth, scooping up the stinking hulls and trimming the long grass -- removing the decay, tidying up, dead-heading -- encouraging the bit of new growth still possible before winter comes, and giving up on that which had run its natural course. I used the clean long grass to mulch around the more delicate plants, keeping moisture in the soil during this run of dry, warm weather. I raked together the rest of the refuse and tossed handfuls into the compost pile. I had to quit after half an hour yesterday, due to a wholly unexpected and entirely blessed rain shower that lasted an hour and spoiled our grilling plans (though we made up for it by ordering Vietnamese food.) Today, after church, I drank a cup of coffee and then tackled the rest of the job, listening while my son amused himself in the "bug house," calling out to him when I found a woolly bear or a worm so he could run and see. He boasts about killing insects, but his delight in them is obvious and the only critters in danger of his non-appreciation are black ants and houseflies. Which I find acceptable.

So, this gloom still lingers in the corners of my room, still a rainless little cloud behind my glasses -- but after cleaning the bathroom and starting the laundry, too, I feel prepared to face another Monday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

a little light grumbling

The last week has shot past incredibly quickly, in part because my shit has been swamped at work given recent staffing changes that have left me more or less in charge of, well, more than I can adequately describe. And yet, since the 27th of August I have managed to squeeze in no less than three trips to the Fair (whoohoo! see Roz' blog in the sidebar for links to some great Gigapan images.) And of course, today was H's fourth day of school. He seems to be getting the hang of it now, after kind of a rough start. My brave boy. This evening, while we watched Obama, H grew tired of being shushed and went into his room. A few minutes later his hysterical laughter drew me up off my chair and I found him rolling around on his bed, reading frames of "Calvin & Hobbes" out loud to himself. A book he'd forgotten he owned. Now, all the strips about school probably make more sense to him. "Ah HA!" What a pleasure.

The new school schedule is kicking my ass as well. With 25% more work to do, I actually have less time now to do it, given the mismatch between H's schedule and the husband's most days. Too much running around -- and I've only gotten in one bike ride in the past 5 days! AAAGH. I have to start planning bike rides. I can't just leave the house on two wheels anymore. Shit. No wonder I'm tired lately.

CW just texted me. She forgot her cookie at Jimmy John's this afternoon. Now she's hungry. And she has no curtains on the windows in her room at the new place. The naked, hungry CW. Who is rooming with a church member/fellow seminarian, in the duplex home of the church Council president. A situation that gives me the willies, but hey, it's not my situation. I just hope it works out, 'cause it seems a bit like moving in with your parents. Plus a roommate, her two cats, your three cats and two dogs, your landlord's two kids under the age of 8...cozy.

Ah...tomorrow I am starting a calorie cut-back, no question. Cold weather will be here in a matter of weeks.

We're out of wine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

and then, a first day...

Tomorrow is H's first day of Kindergarten. Up until the past few days he has seemed very detached and nonchalant about it all, but like me he's been storing up his feelings on the subject, his energy, until the last moment. Not like me this go-round, since I've been nervous for more than a week about this transition (for normal, irrational motherly reasons.) But like me in that I often don't know how I feel about something until I get there, regardless of my tendency to anticipate and imagine. Anyway, H was found when I got home from work sitting on the livingroom floor, both arms wrapped around his backpack. I asked him, Are you giving your backpack a hug? And he answered No -- "I'm protecting it, I'm holding onto it TIGHTLY." I was able after a few moments to distract him with some special First Day lunch box items I'd brought. And the evening was pretty normal -- we ate dinner, looked at some shells Dean brought us from Cape Cod (including a whole smelly horseshoe crab), read a book ("Oh the Places You'll Go," a gift today from Auntie Dede).

At bedtime I remarked that we needed our sleep since tomorrow was a big day. And he said, "I hope you will pick me up after," a not-uncommon request for reassurance. And when I reiterated the dropping-off and picking-up plan, he began quietly to weep. "But I'll MISS you!" He said. He doesn't often mention it -- missing us during the day. He had an attack of the nerves. We snuggled and cuddled and pretty soon he was asleep. But tomorrow will require some delicacy. I hope teacher Barb has a knack for this sort of thing -- I hope not to wind up lingering unproductively with my weeping child, who will break my heart. And he's not used to me being the daily transporter, another factor -- his father has been doing this for years. H has until tomorrow always said his goodbyes to me at our door, before leaving with his father for daycare. So this is another dynamic stretch. He'll need me to evince a non-anxious presence, the right amount of caring and confidence. I hope I'm up to it.

He'll be okay, I know. He'll be safe there. I hope the three-day holiday weekend doesn't undo two schooldays worth of getting used to the change.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

today is my day...

"my very last day..." This is a paraphrase of a song my husband's stepfather used to sing to him on the last day before school started in the fall. "Today is your day, your very last day, the very last daaaayyyy of sssssuuuuuuuummmmmmmmeeeer." Which sounds meaner than it really was. But here I am, Sunday night, tired and footsore after a second trip to the Fair (and believe it or not I hope to squeeze in a third solo trip before Labor Day.) Sunday night; today's worship was in some ways much like a Monday, but tomorrow is truly the first day back at work, after a vacation (stay-cation) that was interrupted more than once by work issues. I'm feeling blue.

It could and should be a big week. We expect to hear about the first financing proposal on our real estate project, and we need to have an answer now for our largest prospective tenant. And tomorrow is the last day, the very last day, for my office mate. She wraps it all up tomorrow morning, leaving me alone with the mess. Today was my friend Dean's last day, another coworker and a good friend. His last day at church. I am blue about these changes too. Very sad. And more, it's complicated and confidentiality prevents me from writing much about it here. I'm hopeful about the future, depressed about the present, unsure how I should characterize the past two years of stress and reward and conflict and blessing.

I can picture tomorrow.

If you care, wish us luck. Send your good vibes my way.

Friday, August 28, 2009

the last few moments of peace and quiet

Today is my almost-last day of vacation. Yesterday H and I went to the Fair with friends (pictures soon) and while I had considered going again today, on my own, to sketch -- I was out for the morning, it was 2pm when I returned and by the time I got out there the guys would be on their way home. Guilt set in. Maybe I'll find an afternoon to sneak away next week. So I'm home. Laundry is drying, dishes are soaking, and I'll have to spend time in the office tomorrow to prepare for some obligations due Sunday. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary -- 12 years, or 13, I forget which. So I'll take R to dinner for sushi. I hope we have a nice time.

The afternoon is cool and damp and sunny. Breezy. It's quiet here, a luxury I enjoy richly. I spent three hours with Georgette this morning, talking about life and work and family, death and spirituality, Native Americans and many other topics it seems. (Now the phone is ringing. It's D. He wants answers, I'm sure. Work questions, work issues. His last day is Sunday, and he's preaching. I'm not ready for that right now though.) Georgette has as usual provided an important space in my day, my week, in which to be thinking and talking about everything that matters most. Georgette is my guru, though she probably wouldn't tolerate that characterization. She is, after all, also a normal human being. But older and wiser than I.

Tick tick tick. R called at 3pm to say they'd be on their way shortly. And to ask if I had done the dishes, as though I were a recalcitrant teenager. He's always bugged by my annual week at home -- even though he gets just such a week in early August to himself, during which I do not plague him with chore lists. (The phone is ringing again. This time it's CW, who probably has church questions of her own. Still not ready folks, sorry.)

Heard a car door slam, finished the dishes. Now he can just stick a cork in it!

I can hear cicadas in the trees. Construction noises down the block, birds, kids in yards. R will come home and aggressively assert dominion over the rest of the day. Not that they aren't entitled, but I resent it a little bit just now, because it's the last moment now of the last day before we resume normal scheduling. And whatever else I may be in the minds of those who see me and depend on me, I'm also someone who requires a lot more quiet and privacy than I get. I'm an introvert, really, and I can't always confine all my creativity to the hours of darkness between my child's bedtime and exhaustion. A time my husband wants a piece of from me as well, and again he's entitled. But it's been a good week, though it's gone by quickly. Good for me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Looking Into the Promised Land by Roz Stendahl.

One More DAY!

Going to the Fair tomorrow with my son and a friend who has a son H's age. Hopefully going again Friday afternoon, either alone or with Chillon, to sketch the scene and be a wandering artist for a while. And hopefully will go a THIRD time on Labor Day! Lord I can't get enough.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One More Week!


This really belongs over on the other blog, but for the sake of someone in particular I want to put it out to the slightly larger world, out there somewhere.

I was just reading elsewhere on someone else's blog about depression, and how there are times when sheer force of will just isn't enough to bring you out from under the weight of what burdens your skull. She has lots of friends, a good relationship, plenty of energy and direction -- but those aren't the answers, she's still at the bottom of the pit and needs to take steps on her own behalf, to see the doctor, to find a pill or new pills that will help ease the burden. I know a few other people who really struggle with this as well, have always, will always, and I know that isolation is dangerous.

So in thinking of my one particular friend, who is having a tough time with church shit right now and has been sort of spiraling into smaller and tighter circles of frustration and hopelessness, but who might not appreciate me addressing this directly -- let me just say, Hey Man: I will help you in any way that I can including going to the doctor with you if you want, or just listening if you want, and it shouldn't matter how or where else we know each other. I'm totally here for you. It might be time to take steps on your own (and your family's) behalf. Just let me know.


Sunday, August 16, 2009


Whew! Just had to get that off my chest. It's still something like ten days though, before the Great Minnesota Get Together gets rolling. Opening Day we'll go as a family; the day after I'm going alone to sketch the Fair, like Roz and a bunch of other folks from the monthly group. (And at this point in my Fair career, there is pleasure to be had in going it alone, with no real plan and no one's interests to tend to.)

Oh yeah, I just got back from the long weekend at Lake Mille Lacs (which I've unaccountably started wanting to spell as "Millacs," as though vacation were costing me IQ points. All that fresh air scrambling my synapses I suppose.)

It was a pretty decent three days; the latter part of Saturday was rainy (darnit) but we worked in quite a lot during the sunny hours. We stayed at Apeldoorn's Sunset Resort in Isle, on the eastern side of the lake. Our cabin had a clear view of the shore and, yes, of the lovely sunset for which the resorts are named. (We only got one sunset though -- weather was coming in on Friday night, obscuring the horizon, and last night it was dark and dreary. Thursday night's sunset was well nigh on perfect, and the three of us watched it from the end of the dock.)

We spent lots of time in Father Hennepin State Park, bird-watching, hunting for crayfish claws and pretty stones, and swimming. H. did lots of swimming, lots and lots. Ron fished a little. I spent my time watching H, beach-combing, drawing, writing, sewing a little while in the cabin, bird-watching, and wading. I don't swim much -- I don't own a suit, and never got around to picking one up before we left town. Oh well. Ron took H out on one of those little paddle boats a couple of times. H played with various kids, at the shore and in the resort's playground. The cabins were very civilized without being condo-like, and the whole thing was generally very pleasant. I'll post pictures.

One unfortunate discovery: My son reacts very strongly to mosquito bites. He gets big swollen welts that take a couple says to go away, even if he doesn't scratch. He got two bites our first day out, in spite of insect repellent, on the front and back of one ankle. His ankle swelled up so much I thought at first he had sprained it somehow. But no. Mosquitoes. Our second day at the state park, we dressed him a little more conservatively, and tried a different repellent. Plus we kept him out of the woods. Seemed to help.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

vacation anxiety?

Well. After literally years of fruitless griping, my husband has at last recognized the signs of incipient nervous breakdown and agreed to take us out of town for a few days. This is my first -- absolute first -- out of town break since my son was born nearly six years ago. I've had one other trip, sans family, for work -- which wasn't bad -- but it wasn't restful. We're going to the lake, renting a cabin for three nights, bringing the boy and a friend whilst another friend stays behind at the house to eat our food and feed our cats. What with this and other events of the week, my mind is a-reelin'.

I'm already a little freaked out by the dent this will put in my workflow, plus the necessary near-absence of Internet. I'll have the Dash, but posting by email is something I don't do much of -- maybe I'll give it a try. The Dash isn't much for webpage navigation, and who knows what kind of signal I'll be getting up at Sunset Bay. I haven't packed for a trip in so long that I know I'm gonna have to make a list. Heck, I don't even own a swimsuit!

The past two weeks at work have been incredibly stress-filled and erratic. Anomie abounds. Things are lifting a bit, and a mini-break will surely help. Last week I came home Thursday night needing to curl up in a ball for about 12 hours, which is more or less what I did, after a chick flick and a glass of wine. Actually, I think I got the 12 on Friday night. And my husband was pretty understanding -- I don't complain much, he looks for other signs of distress I think, though it's pretty unmistakeable when I've hit the wall. Part of my fit had to do with extra work on my desk at the end of the week because 3 out of 4 coworkers were headed out of town. I work 40 hours and get paid for 32 as it is -- with only 15 hours of vacation per year, compared to my supervisor's three or four weeks paid. I pointed out to my spouse that two of these coworkers probably have less money to work with than we do, but THEY find ways to get the hell out of Dodge every year. He relented.

There's an incredible amount of racket coming from the railyard tonight; and a helicopter hovering over the freeway a few miles away. It will be something to escape all this noise for even a short while.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thinking about "Lone Star"

PBS aired John Sayles' "Lone Star" (1996) on Saturday night, and I found myself thinking about it again this evening. It's a great film, and while not well known it is generally well thought-of. Starring Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena, Kris Kristofferson and a generally terrific ensemble cast, "Lone Star" is the sort of movie that elegantly explores incredibly complex social issues without attempting to oversimplify or preach a particular moral outcome.

In an interview Sayles briefly explains the intersecting themes of history and borders within the film. In the fictional Texas border town of Frontera, where the film opens on the investigation of a murder that took place 40 years earlier, no one is completely innocent. At the same time, all the major characters (with the possible exception of the dead man) are clearly just trying to find their way -- to find themselves, to understand their "place" in society and finally, to choose whether they will accept the roles assigned them: to know "which side of the line" they are on, and why. All the major moral and social barriers are transgressed here in some degree: interracial relationships, incestuous relationships, family relations, legal prohibitions. A soldier fails a drug test; one young Hispanic man is jailed and another killed for "being in the wrong place at the wrong time;" a sheriff's deputy takes the law into his own hands; immigrants defy the border patrol; blacks and Native Americans engage in both racial violence and intermarriage; a prominent citizen rejects his familial legacy; adultery is committed, and the list goes on. No one is perfect. No one can stay on his or her side of the line for long.

The film shows us the hopelessness of moral absolutism without romanticizing anarchy. The characters who are fairly or unfairly accused of "transgressing" the boundaries have all suffered in some way as a consequence. As they mature, their suffering takes on new meaning for them; they are asked to move past bitterness, or fear, and to embrace the cause of their suffering in a new way. I suppose that is what I find compelling, along with the broader themes.

Some people never mature -- they never escape the role assigned to them by chance, never even find the emotional distance with which to see themselves as having choices, however limited those choices may be. But as Sayles shows us in the film, once we see ourselves outside the social structure, and choose to sidestep social norms, we pay a price in isolation. All of the characters who transgress in this film are lonely people in some degree. They lack loving support, or close family, or intimacy; they live alone with their secrets. Secrets everyone knows, as it turns out, but even outsiders participate in a kind of collusion that allows the society to maintain predictable daily operations. Even those excluded from social acceptance honor the social contract. Until they don't.

I get caught up in the story of the film's romantic protagonists, high school sweethearts struggling to understand what has kept them apart for 20 years or more. "True love" versus a society that wants to keep the lovers apart, for good reason as it turns out. But even the ultimate proscription loses relevance over time, because things change, people change.

I tend towards relationships that kick at societal restrictions. It's not an honorable calling at all times. I've experienced consequences and isolation, and yet I'm still struggling to mature; to figure out who I am and who I want to be. "Lone Star" is full of "pillars of society" -- the cop, the teacher, the successful business person, the mayor, the military officer. None of them are innocent, none of them are quite happy in their roles. There are also parts for the rest of us: the waiters, the kids, the day laborers, the minorities, the private, the Indian, the subordinate. All of them are moving towards fulfillment in a hopeful way, and trying to escape the darkness of oppression and uncertainty. Society advances or regresses along with us.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

more on that

Click the "work in progress" photo to the right to see what I was talking about last night.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

new work

I have something in progress that I want to talk about, but I'm just so freakin tired that it will have to wait. Maybe tomorrow, with pictures.

Friday, July 31, 2009

oy, my aching feet

"The bunion, the bunion, oh, I hate the Bunion..." (Sung to the tune of "The Bunny" a la Veggie Tales.) I scheduled my surgery for December 21st. Merry Christmas! But it's that or two weeks from now, and I don't want to wear a walking cast for the rest of the summer, thereby ruining the State Fair for the year. I'd rather limp through the holidays. The walking cast is the good news: the surgeon will only break one bone, the name of which I don't know just now, rather than two. Actually, he'll chip some bone away from the joint of my first toe; plus take a wedge-shaped piece out of the right side of the bone in order to reshape and reposition the bone relative to the rest of the foot. Get it realigned over the sesamoid bones, and shorten a ligament to keep it in place. Add one small screw. If it had been worse, two broken bones, I'd need crutches and several more weeks recovery time.

My husband has until very recently been against this surgery, saying it's basically cosmetic and therefore likely to be expensive. I don't complain much about the pain, which is more or less constant; some days I wake up with it. But he finally went online and looked at some of those gnarly photos of the consequences, when the problem is left untreated. That seems to have convinced him, that and my reminder that the damned thing hurts. Yet he's not totally wrong -- even though I'm treating a legitimate deformity, and a fairly common one, the surgery is still considered elective. We'll see what insurance has to say. Doctors don't want to rush you into this -- I'd been told to wait and see six years ago, and the guy I saw Thursday (a charming and weird fellow my age who kept calling me "little lady" and "missy," I can't think why) did likewise -- "Maybe it doesn't bother you as much now as it will later. Or maybe you feel like now is a good time to get it over with. There's no rush. You can go on with it like this for a while yet." I guess now the hospital calls the insurance company, and I have to get on the quote line to see what the damage will be. Since the effing foot isn't rotting off, I suppose some sort of penalty is in order.

Penalized for my flat feet. Apparently, lack of arch support leads to this problem over time. Bones raise, shift, are pushed outward to compensate for unevenly distributed weight. They noticed the problem already when I was nine, and tried little braces on my feet at night -- the condition started cropping up after my knee surgery, when my leg muscles learned to compensate for bones that had been severed and repositioned. I'd been walking funny already for years -- "pigeon-toed" they used to call it -- and the surgery corrected this.

My femurs were cut through just above the knee, and the lower legs turned outward a few degrees, before being reset. Casts from ankle to hip all summer, my eighth year. I started the third grade on crutches, and had to be carried up and down the stairs to and from my classroom each day by our principal. A nice guy, I remember. Mr. Wagner? Perhaps. My third grade teacher's name was Ms. Alt, a name that in German, she said, meant "old." She had a bob, and dark rimmed glasses. She wore turtlenecks and long vests. This would have been 1976 I think. The year of the Bicentennial. First the wheelchair, then the crutches, and weeks of PT. In and out of the hospital. Loneliness there, bad food, crabby nurses. But I was a big celebrity with my casts, afterward, and had lots of autographs. Do people sign each other's casts anymore? Maybe you can't -- they're all made of the colored stuff now. Before, they were white plaster, and you could decorate them with felt-tipped markers. Funny the things you remember.

I hope I never go through something like that with my kid. The dental visits are bad enough.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Out of Chaos

I finished a new book arts piece tonight. Two weeks early! That must be some kind of record for me. Head over to True Companion if you'd like to take a peek.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

a few other health worries & my resolutions

I will try to stop worrying about my kid. I am worried he will get sick. He hasn't been, in a while, and I'm afraid to say that -- afraid to think it -- afraid that my growing anxiety over his good health will somehow result in an obligatory illness. It's utterly irrational. I will schedule his next filling, thereby giving myself (and him) something concrete to fret over in that department. I will try to drink less this week. Even though this is the first of several heavy-deadline weeks. I will try instead to sleep. To go to bed at a reasonably productive hour. To drink more water. These are things I will do.

By the way, Paris Hilton has bunions.

the bunion

I will call JA's doctor and schedule a consult about my feet, a second opinion. If I like what I hear, I'll have this guy do the surgery. One foot, the right foot first. Best foot forward, or worst. I hear a little PT before and after helps a lot. It's a week of near immobility, so I have to schedule it carefully.
Here's how the surgery was first described to me (with credit to Wikipedia for the wording): "Procedures are designed and chosen to correct a variety of pathologies that may be associated with the bunion. For instance, procedures may address some combination of:
removing the abnormal bony enlargement of the first metatarsal,
realigning the first metatarsal bone relative to the adjacent metatarsal bone,
straightening the great toe relative to the first metatarsal and adjacent toes,
realigning the cartilagenous surfaces of the great toe joint,
addressing arthritic changes associated with the great toe joint,
repositioning the sesamoid bones beneath the first metatarsal bone,
shortening, lengthening, raising, or lowering the first metatarsal bone, and
correcting any abnormal bowing or misalignment within the great toe.
The age, health, lifestyle, and activity level of the patient may also play a role in the choice of procedure.
Bunion surgery can be performed under local, spinal, or general anesthetic. The trend has moved strongly toward using the less invasive local anesthesia over the years. A patient can expect a 6- to 8-week recovery period during which crutches are usually required for aid in mobility. It is much less common today as newer, more stable procedures and better forms of fixation (stabilizing the bone with screws and other hardware) are used."
That's right, hardware. I've been told that for sure one screw and maybe a rod will be required. Will this be a hassle at the airport?
Let me just say that online you will find some truly godawful pictures of bunions. My feet do not look nearly that bad in most respects. My toes are not gnarly or rotting or utterly displaced. I just have a bad painful condition, and it has long prevented me from wearing flip-flops and sandals and the like. My kid noticed it for the first time not long ago. He recognized it as a booboo, and tried to get me to explain what happened to my foot. that I'm older, and it's much more painful, insurance will finally take it seriously.
I have a pair of gorgeous Frye sandals that I am saving just to celebrate the surgery, once I'm healed.

a not so quiet afternoon

Even though my son is circling and sharking around my peripheral vision, demanding attention with his charming smile and whispering, enticing little comments -- even attempting to insert his lanky five-year-old self between me and the laptop -- I know that I have been a reasonably good mom this weekend and have earned a little time to myself. Since we returned from the pool I've been straightening up the studio, putting away the supplies from the last project (which takes almost as long as the project itself.) Plus ironing a few things in order to reduce the height of that pile, adding a few things to the dry-cleaning bag, redistributing stacks of books, putting away new supplies and new fabric that accumulated during the past month.

H. just crept not-so-quietly into the room and dropped a postcard on my lap: the Washburn A Mill explosion, an artist's rendering from 1914 or something like that. Now he's replaced it with a copy of The Lorax.

I went to the Wet Paint Annual Sidewalk Sale yesterday, in spite of a banging headache, and bought $84 worth of clearance items that looked interesting, useful, or just odd and therefore worth investigating. Dried pressed leaf skeletons and seed pods: good for making sun prints, which I'll do with the discounted sun-printing kit I also purchased. A tray of chalk pastels, some silver leaf and an applicator pen, odd papers, picture corners, clingy vinyl (good for window decor), some disks made of mica, a bunch of stencils, a hand-drill that needs bits, several brown folders and the coupe de gras, a whole role of Tygerag at a crazy low price. (I can't find anyplace in town that sells Tyvek, but that's a brand name, like Kleenex; this is the same stuff, bonded fabric paper, paintable and sewable.) I also got the kid a beetle collecting kit, and a little articulated artist's dummy, neither of which he is interested in just now.

As I opened and closed drawers, looking for space to consolidate supplies so as to make room for more, I found a bottle of fabric adhesive that had tipped over and subsequently glued itself shut; when I removed the clear, bubbly plastic glob between the bottle and the too-small cap, glue spurted out over my hands. Blah. It dried immediately, and I spent 10 minutes with soap, water and scrub brush scraping it off. My hands looked just awful -- reminding me of something I'd read about skin burns resulting from exploding meth-lab chemicals. White goop hanging in strips and chunks from my fingers. Ugh.

Ron is pulling H. back and forth across the floor in a laundry basket, yelling and laughing and scraping up the wood floor (sigh). Bought time.

There's still a bit more work to do.

The Mexicans across the alley are having a birthday party for their youngest, a 2 year old I think, and the already-bored pack of youngsters has started spilling into the alleyway. They're gazing longingly through the pines at our play gym out back (though they have a playgym of their own.) Ron met the dad, Simon, and the mom Gladys yesterday after he decided to whack the weeds down next to their garage at the same time he was doing ours. We don't chop our weeds down very often, so it's not like Ron was making some sort of point. We're kind of sloppy about that stuff, way in back, though the yard and garden closer to the house look quite neat and nice. Now the kids are jumping down our terracing. Someone's gonna get hurt. Sure enough, before I can convince my husband to go out there and caution the kids, someone falls down and bangs a knee. Now a parent herds the kids back into the yard, and it's quiet again...except for the sound of my own child pestering the life out of his father. The daddy who's trying to watch a baseball game. I should send H. to the Mexicans, but it's called party-crashing. Not so classy.

I can just possibly squeeze in a couple more minutes of book-stacking, while my son intentionally breathes his stinky breath into my husband's face. Soon enough my husband will call my name, making this hyperactive child my situation once again. At least we're ahead in the fourth.


this is what i get for going to bed at 9:30pm.

Friday, July 24, 2009

a much better day

Okay, so last night I was pretty disgusted with the state of things. But I had an email from a friend, at about 00:24 that made all the difference, and I approached today in a much-improved frame of mind. And minus any flare-ups of last night's aggravations, it's been a peaceful evening. Spent some time planting new garden decor (a gnome, a snail, a ceramic mushroom) -- offerings from the contrite husband -- and pulling weeds. Watched my kid get himself absolutely filthy playing with the sprinkler and the patch of dirt under his swing (children can use perfectly clean water as a major tool in filth-production, it's incredible.) Watched the same child derive great pleasure from the subsequent bubble bath. And so on.

The pickles are starting to come into their own...hamburger slices are ready first, I assume the whole dills aren't quite right yet. I just ate a dozen tiny, very garlicky slices extracted from their bed of dill weed and onions and mustard seeds and coriander. Pretty yummy, very crisp. But I almost wonder if there shouldn't be a point at which they stop brining -- I'd hate for them to get much saltier, for example. They are, nevertheless, sandwich-ready. MMM.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

a bullshit evening

After one okay night and one really solid night of sleeping, husband and I are not getting along again and I am apt to stay up all night just to be self-destructive. But I won't. I was just reading one of the blogs down there, Here I Am, and the lovely JJ whom I unwillingly neglected on Fourth weekend is proving as always the genius inherent in her unassuming little person. She's so funny and creative and smart and Right Now. She's living the dream, after all those years, out in San Diego. Has a cool girlfriend who doesn't beat her up or put her down. Almost done with grad school on her way to being an architect. Traveling, eating well, seeing everything. Delightful.

That's more fun than sleeping, or anything else I can think of at the moment except perhaps more drinking. But the husband far outdid me in that too this evening, consuming all but one glass of a bottle of Bogle Petit Sirah. Because he's mad. Sat on the couch and hectored me all evening as I worked with the kid on the "fun hat," a la Curious George, that H has been after me all week to help with. Telling me I was being too "artistic" and making it "all about me" instead of it being a hat the kid would want to wear. Seems like we had fun, seems the kid likes the hat, and he can wear it too, so what's the big deal? No, he didn't even compliment the kid on the hat. In a mock show of regret, he complimented me instead. "It's a nice hat sweetie, you did a good job." Fortunately the kid was mostly paying attention to Toy Story 2 the whole time.

Why's he mad? The husband is mad because I caught him in a bad mood at work today, and when my initial inquiries about making plans over the next two days made him aggressively cranky, I suspended the dialogue and refused to tell him the plans I was hoping to make. Because I knew he would bitch and moan, and if I back down he feels guilty and then he really gets unpleasant -- so rather than play that stupid game, I just said forget it, and wouldn't tell him the rest of the reason I'd called, and still won't. I don't need to make plans that badly, and I certainly don't need to endure days of bellyaching just for the privilege of heading over to St Paul for the Wet Paint Sale. So now he's just being nasty because I won't tell him, and obviously I can't win. Should never ask for a fucking thing. He told me why his day was so aggaravating, when I got home from work, and I was sympathetic to a point. Not sympathetic enough though, as he pointed out. He did me an unrelated favor earlier this evening too, for which I was thankful; but then immediately started badgering me about the reason I'd called this afternoon -- like, as a reward for me being nice, you must give me information. And I won't.

Al, if you're reading this, I apologize for not being cheerful.

Monday, July 20, 2009

more Farmer's Market pics

Vendor of over-priced of flower baskets.
Roasted corn, the smell of which is the real reason we go to the Market.
The all-beef hot dog, breakfast of champions.

in a pickle

I've been awake since 3:30am. I went to bed a little too early, and had a night frequently interrupted by the peculiarities of my family -- at one point I fled the bedroom for fear of being asphyxiated by the fumes of whatever it was that didn't agree with my husband. This with two windows open and a fan on. On at least two other occasions I was awakened by my son, who had a restless, dream-filled night himself. At 3am he was up and at my bedside: "Mommy, I dreamed about the train, and there was lots of beeping!" (Harper won't ride the lightrail because of the warning note that sounds each time the doors close. It is obnoxious, but I suppose that's the point.) So after an hour of laying in my kid's bed, waiting for him to settle down and feeling thankful that I had a reason for exiting my own bedroom, I found myself worrying over the many issues and uncertainties at work. And gave up on sleeping.

I read the email, read the paper (NYT and Strib), checked in on Facebook. Had a bowl of Life cereal and half a trail mix bar. Now here I am. Nattering. Listening to the aggressive cardinal, or whatever it is, yammering away in the back yard.

I made refrigerator pickles yesterday. We had a misadventure of sorts at the Farmer's Market on Saturday (left too late like we always do, couldn't locate a good parking spot, had trouble finding the right sized cucumbers for a decent price, narrowly escaped a parking ticket as we were leaving. Lots of whining from the spouse, who wants to write a letter to the city about the crappy parking situation down there. Good news: a terrific and cheap leather bag, and roasted corn on the cob for breakfast - YUM.) We got the dill and the cukes, but I didn't get around to locating my mason jars until yesterday after church -- and then found that many of these had gone missing, leaving me with only a handful of quart jars with rusty lids. My fault really, it's been a couple of years since I "put anything up." So, off to the co-op, where I'm thinking to pick up some soap at the same time as the jars. Except, the Co-op has stopped selling the jars. Dammit. (And earlier in the day my husband had declared this to be a day of No Driving.) SO, off to Roundy's, where I get jars, spare lids, pickling salt (forgot I needed it), more vinegar, etc etc.

(Ron stopped at Home Despot, where he picked up a new toilet paper holder to match our recently "updated" fixtures -- he then spent the entire afternoon swearing in the john, first taking an hour to pry off the old holder, then taking another hour to install the new one, which is so crooked now that the toilet paper roll doesn't spin too well. Good thing the kid was helping me in the kitchen, given the cursing and general foulness there next to the toilet.)

Anyway, spent the afternoon in the kitchen with my son, who is a handy pickling assistant and keen on anything that smacks of industry -- we were "the pickle factory" on Sunday. Mechanization is where it's at with my kid, and the key to any endeavor is to do it fast, with lots of tools. Scrubber for the cukes, sink-sprayer for the cukes, loading of the jars with dill and cukes and seeds and garlic and whatnot...lids and rings and neat rows of jars on the table, waiting for their brine. He was in heaven. Hope they turn out.

Here's a snapshot of my friend Sara and her little girl, caught out at the Northeast farmer's market (the little one, where the prices were a full buck lower on green beans.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I take my glass of port and venture out the front door to brave the steps. I don't go out at night very often, because it's seldom as quiet as I'd like -- there are the sounds of the switchyard, half a mile away, but the muffled booms and bangs and the soft clang of the reversing bell don't so much bother me, it's just industry. But there's also the seasick pitch of an argument in the distance; outdoors it seems (pity the neighbors), a strident woman's voice, half-angry, half-pleading. Occasionally obscured by the train noises. And there's a young man in a big car driving away from the neighbor's house after midnight; and the jarring percussion of a garbage can lid clapping down, of a door slammed to close it tightly. I hear the people still awake, many more of them than I think should be after midnight, and there's not much peace to find on the front steps.

My kid walks in his sleep. Just a little while ago I heard him calling me, conversationally; I found him attempting to pee in a dresser drawer. Guiding him to the toilet, he wakes and begins to whimper. I speak to him, and he shushes me. "Don't say anything!" He's alarmed at finding himself in the bathroom, but it's not the first time. He's embarrassed I think. And really he just doesn't want to be awake.

I know the feeling. But I can't lay down yet, or I'll still be laying there awake an hour from now. I have to be exhausted. Gotta hit that window.
There's not much room left in which to stay the same.

Monday, July 13, 2009

another Googled phrase in common usage

Hail Mary - I had no idea.

behind the 8 ball

Think about it: "Behind the eight-ball." What's it mean?

A few days ago I was riding my bike down Central Avenue, into the wind (which was considerably irritating.) I was on a long sidewalk/bike path on the right side of the road. As I pushed along, I realized there was something coming toward me, at a rapid clip; rolling along in the gutter. Something good-sized, about two feet in diameter. And as it passed me on the left, I realized it was...a large, inflatable Eight-Ball. The black ball with the white circle, and the 8. And I thought to myself, okay, what the hell does that mean?

And if it passes me going the opposite direction, am I behind it? Or in front of it?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The moon is very bright, and a line of some sort blew over the city as night fell, leaving the air cooler and dryer - at least for the time being. One cat is in, the other out, and if I didn't know how much it would disturb the natural order of things I'd be tempted to go out for a walk. Clouds make patterns against the sky, backlit by moonlight. If I left the house I'm sure my son would awake, and in turn wake up my husband. Left to only imagine a little escape from mind-numbing wakefulness, and sleep that won't come.

The wind comes and goes...occasionally sending delicious little shivers down my spine as it breathes through my window.

I met an old high school friend for lunch this week. Yet another result of facebook interactions -- maybe the fourth or fifth social contact of this type. But this meeting was a little more unusual in that I've had no social contact whatsoever with "R" for 20-plus years. I haven't attended reunions -- I'm not the type to initiate a conversation with someone who has been out of my life that long. And as much as I do have friendships which span that time, I also make few exceptions for the ones that have lapsed naturally. I don't try to dig people up. What's done is done. I think that's pretty normal. Nevertheless I've been contacted by a really surprising number of people from long ago, thanks to facebook, and I suppose it's time to get the hang of it.

The lunch was an interesting experiment. And a little disconcerting, stepping through the wormhole into a frame of reference that's largely faded, trying to reconstruct twenty years of living and changing, and not even talking about the real shared memories (which is hard for me to explain in retrospect --but we didn't, not at all.) There's probably a little mid-life going on there. Hard to say what I'm comfortable with in this case.

It's after 1am now. I hear a shout somewhere -- kids out late. I hear a loud noise of leaves being rustled in the yard and suspect raccoon.

With the future so very uncertain in some respects right now, it's interesting to be so aware of the past. Last year a friend at work and I were complaining about anomie. We had no idea. It's beyond any memory of normal at this point.

Ah well, time to finish rambling and go post elsewhere for a while. Or not, depending on sleep. And what dreams may come.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

making blah blah (again) over Jude Hill

The thing I love about Jude Hill's fabric work is how little it takes itself seriously, even though it is thoroughly addressed in detail and design, and is always always gorgeous. I hate to use words like "whimsical" to describe someone's artwork (it feels like a crafty putdown), but Hill's pieces are so joyful and frequently funny, so accessible (another dangerous word), that their richness almost always gives way to a pleasure that's immediate, that's based in her personal view of story and narrative. Hers is the only work I see these days that makes me want to DROP EVERYTHING and sew. And in the "art quilting" world, where computers and Lutradur and Angelina fibers are always the thing, Hill's hand-sewn, visible-stitching, raw-edged pieces are refreshingly real. Of course, I think I first read of her work in one of those art-quilting magazines (my subscriptions are all lapsing, shit.) But she's talent.

Why am I all crazy over this one woman's tiny fabric creations? It's not as if I've met her, and most likely never will. I found her work via the blog of another artist and writer I've never met, and I can't even recall from there where the chain of association first began. I suppose it's due in part to the tiny artistic corner I've got myself wedged into, "quilt art" -- and occasionally "altered books" -- areas that don't enjoy a broad shared lexicon of names and techniques, where it's hard to make friends in the real world (not too many shows of this type of thing, even with the Textile Center right here in town.) I'd curate a show for Jude Hill, if I had a real venue to do it in. I'd probably make a real goober of myself if I met her. I'm a lonely little artist, hanging out on the internet -- this is what happens. I have to laugh at myself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

quick shout-outs

Greetings! To the new returning visitor who hangs out at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library in Alexandria VA; to the new returning visitor from Venezuela; to my marketing pals at Kraft; to the one-offs from Pew Charitable Trusts and from Singapore; and to the beloved 15% of you who use Qwest or Comcast to visit me and have dropped in 50 to 100 times in the past year. Y'all are awesome! Thanks for following.

more long weekend snaps

Several more views at Lake of the Isles, MN. A day so muggy and warm that even the fish stayed home -- only the dragonflies seemed unconcerned.