Friday, December 31, 2010

coming soon...

...the things I'm grateful for...

Monday, December 27, 2010

no room

Church people talk about the distractions of the season, frequently, when speaking formally of Advent. "Jesus is the reason for the season!" says the letter-board in front of LoveLines, a phone counseling and prayer room in a tiny strip mall off Central Avenue. Yep, all news of Santa's present whereabouts to the contrary. (And I realize I'm posting this after the fact. Been avoiding the subject up til now, oh well, tra la.) Yes, the shopping and the school vacations and the many inches of snow to be shoveled and the Snow Emergency parking rules and the exchange of gifts at the office, the meals to plan and cards to send and tickets to be bought... all of this seems downright obligatory and leaves little room for dialogue about the birth of Christ. I could instruct my young son on the meaning of Christmas, or debate the Virgin Birth with a Presbyterian friend of mine; I could pray more, consider the meaning of loving sacrifice, consider repentance.

At the same time, the constant warnings against "distraction" grate on my nerves a tad. I'm a church professional, and while it's not all-Jesus All the Time around the office, we certainly don't forget why we're there most days. A pastor friend of mine was overheard saying, half-jokingly, "I'm getting sick of hearing about Jesus. I wish he'd just buzz off for a while." Another pastor remarked, "Christ the Savior is born. Now, let's all get some sleep." The work of getting people focused on Christ is ALL ABOUT distractions, millions of them, sermon writing down to the wire and the phone calls and emails pertaining to nothing so vast as the Christ but all with tremendous bureaucratic pull, "the tyranny of the urgent." We in the church office find ourselves thinking, most of the time, about "the show." Two services on Christmas Eve and another the following Sunday, the Music Director on vacation that Sunday, two bulletins to proof and print, a shipment of poinsettias for the altar, guest musicians, etc etc. 

Christmas comes, and Christmas goes. In church-attendance terms, it's not as big a deal as Easter. According to the seasons of the church, we Christians are supposed to slow it down throughout Advent until we're ready for the final meditation of silent watchfulness on Christmas Eve, the candlelight services, the midnight Mass. "Joy to the World!" we sing, not on Christmas Day (since not many churches hold services that day relatively speaking), but the day after; the "First Sunday After Christmas." January is all "Sundays After Christmas," the recovery from Christmas, the drama of the flight to Egypt and the caloric hangover from the previous month's activities. Jesus grows up awfully fast over the next few weeks, and before you know it, he's twelve years old and hanging out with the profs in the Temple. And then, Bang! It's Lent. There go the swaddling cloths, here comes the Cross. By all means, let get it over with.

I'm taking a pay cut this year, we all are at the church, to help ride out what we hope is a temporary cash flow crunch. At the same time I've willingly taken on two new board appointments for the coming year, assuming other factors. My face is broken out from all the danged chocolate eating, I have the beginnings of a bladder infection and I've gained five pounds since the snow started. I find these truths to be Distracting.

My marriage is endlessly problematic, my anti-depressants only work if I remember to take them at EXACTLY the same time each day, and one of the cats keeps pooping on the basement floor. These too are Distractions.

I'm tired.

When will the baby be born again? Did I miss it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Killing time at the office, listening to the Philip Glass soundtrack for "The Hours," truly one of the most beautiful and bleak records I've heard. Probably listened to it a lot this time last year as well.

There are out there a list of blues and lavenders reflected against snowy roofs and roads that are probably known to the ghosts of the Impressionists, but few others. I'm looking out the office window, a narrow window but nice, with a tree a few feet away that I'd like to equip with a birdfeeder. I meant to sew a curtain for it, when I first moved in -- it has vertical blinds, which I despise -- but haven't quite gotten to that amid other projects.

My useful day is drawing to a close. More useful than yesterday, to be sure.

There are others with moods bouncing around my midst as well, the static of the spouse, the anxiety and Christmas angst of one friend, the post-breakup blues of another. I am not a good source of comfort today. So it goes.

We spin so not to sink.

a handy chart

momentary lapse of reason

No wonder it's been such a bad, crazy day. Winter solstice started with a total lunar eclipse, which I missed (cloudy here, though I was probably awake.) Checking the calendar I see that yes indeed, it is a full moon; this morning it passed through deep shadow, and lurked patiently around the edges of the shortest day of the year, twice veiled (again the clouds.) I don't actually set much store on the mood-changing effects of the lunar calendar, but it's a nice illustration for the week I'm having thus far. 

Today depression came back full force, though it too has been lurking around the edges for a little while, waiting for a chance to pounce I suppose. Wonder if I took my pill this morning. And I did the kinds of dumb, crazy things that I do when this mood disorder gets the best of me. As the eclipse was hitting its stride in the wee hours I was writing a whiny, drunken email to my best friend, lamenting the meaninglessness of my existence and my utter worthlessness at this point in my life. After waking up worried and offering an embarrassed apology first thing this morning, I spent the day making bad spur-of-the-moment decisions; indulged in some sexting, didn't get any work done, spent money I don't have on even more Christmas gifts, and hit the bar at 4pm. Got pissed at my bar-mate for something stupid, felt rejected and judged, ashamed and lonely, took the bus home. Texted my best friend for support, almost blew it with a suggestive comment that was poorly timed, and finally admitted to myself that this is DEPRESSION and I should be watching my behavior more closely. I was relieved to arrive home, eat dinner with my family, pull on a bathrobe and curl up with a glass of wine and "The Lord of the Rings." Drinking water and apple juice now, trying to sober up before I go to sleep (for the second night running.) Probably left both computers on in the office. A thermos of coffee half-drunk on my desk. Mail unsorted, calls unreturned. I'm lucky to have put in something close to a 12-hour day at work yesterday; storing up a tiny amount of good workplace karma that I surely squandered this afternoon.

It's all very Koyaanisqatsi of me.  

I get up and go wash my face. Resist the temptation to pour another glass of wine. My son has kicked off his covers and is curled in a fetal position that means he's cold now; I untwist his sheets and blankets and tuck him in again. Listen to my husband snoring. Listen to the ringing in my ears that means I'm still dehydrated. Try to remember what I've eaten today.

Once this depression starts to lift it will be replaced by intense anxiety. This is a cycle I'm familiar with: what have I  forgotten? and am I being a good parent? Am I forgiven? 

You are beautiful, you are valued and loved says my friend. By God, and by mere mortals too. 

This is the thought I must take to sleep with me tonight. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

attic room in high school, part 1

In Jude's season on the East, the Old World coast, there's still rain, and she posts it on her blog -- a rain video, really just rain falling on some blankets she's hung over the rail of her deck; but the sound of it! When I was in high school, I somehow got hold of a bunch of records -- LPs -- of "nature sounds." Rolling waves, gently lapping lagoon, thunderstorm, steady rain. I'd lay these on the record player sometimes at night and listen to them in the dark, in my attic bedroom -- intensely comforting.

I remember the shape of the insert-thingy that I put on the center post of the record player for 45s. I remember replacing needles. I remember the player I used somewhat later in the game that had the bad belt, the timing would slip in the middle of a record and I'd have to give the turntable a "push" to get it going again at the right tempo. I remember hearing "FM" by Steely Dan for the first time. The smell of my attic bedroom in the summertime -- my Mom grew dozens of rose bushes and I'd dry the petals for homemade potpourri, in a cardboard shirtbox on my windowsill...the room always smelled of fragrant, stale rose petals. I remember "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem... on a transistor radio. Walkman.

All this from the sound of rain.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the morning after

Soooo.... Everything is canceled due to snow this morning, even church, which feels unnatural and wrong (though I've been trying to take a Sunday off and I should be thankful, and I kind of am). The snow is piled high everywhere in drifts the size of which only match my vaguest childhood memories. THESE storms are the reason school used to close much more often. And I remember other things... tunneling snow forts in the front yard (our snow's too dry for that though I suspect), major snowball fights, staying outdoors until the wet and cold were all but paralyzing; the smell of damp hats and mittens, the particularly yucky smell of wool felt boot-liners pulled out to dry on a radiator... bread bags on our feet inside our boots.

My sister is in Texas now, and sees mostly rain -- they get the worst thunderstorms, the past few summers. My brother is in the south metro, but he may as well be on the moon, as much as I hear from him. Punk.

The Vikings and the Giants are playing in Detroit tomorrow -- a huge hole was ripped in the Metrodome roof this morning as the dome collapsed under the weight of last night's snow. Who's gonna show up for that game, I wonder? Fox 9 had great footage from inside the Dome of the roof falling in -- not ON anyone, thank goodness -- but all they have on their site at the moment is 5 minutes of watching the roof-walkers shoveling snow off the Teflon panels while tethered to a long wire. Those poor bastards are freezing up there too.

Soon I will have to gear up myself, and dig the car out of three-foot drifts. Sigh. Minnesota.

Yesterday was quite lovely though, from indoors. My husband paced the house in a state of near-panic much of the day muttering "We are fucked. Look at that stuff. Holy shit." But visually it was stunning. A big snowstorm like that, when the heat works and there's food in the cupboard, isn't such a bad thing. It's like having a terrible cold -- you have to lay down, there's nothing else you can do, the situation is officially out of your hands. Uncomfortable, but freeing, in a way. I'm lucky I didn't have to be anywhere.

People with emergencies, people without homes... not so lucky yesterday. But I haven't heard any terrible stories yet today. Hopefully we all made it through.

Today, the husband is huddled at the kitchen table with a backache and a hangover, correcting papers. I'm taking a break from sewing and laundry, and the boy is enjoying a bonus day of parental company with no running errands or family visits. It's a good thing, it is.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hey guess what.
watching "Elf,"
hoping for church tomorrow,
lusting after another woman's man,
full of wine,
two-time Uno winner,
totally killing the snow,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

more about that: the Sail

A sail -- it's a flag, a ship far at sea, noted with excitement or trepidation by those on shore. It is Possibility, a Beginning, it could be plague, war, or news; gifts, visitors, Change. The blank self -- the Self that only waits for what moves it, waiting for breath or breeze, impelled along the course set by a rudder that in turn is set by the stars and the weather... the Soul is a sail.

I'm drinking a glass of wine -- "7 Deadly Zins," Lodi 2008 -- which smells light and fragrant but tastes like wood smoke. Like camp fires, in fact. Even the label looks artfully "burnt." What does that have to do with the Sail? Not much, really...

Imagine the ship at sea, on a long voyage, the abstract trade route, an emigration, a slave ship, maybe a shipment of wine on its way to the Emperor's daughter where she languishes imprisoned on a Greek desert island. (Sent there by her father, to pay for the sin of disobedience, and the unforgivable, lust.) Sailors thirst, fresh water is scarce, but there are casks and casks of wine stacked carefully in the hold. Lips stained red, mending sail on a weather-becalmed ship in the middle of nowhere...

t.s. eliot.  "Ash Wednesday."
... Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Advent - the fruit of thy womb, and the Fruit of the Looms

The Tree is up -- as scheduled, erected the weekend after Thanksgiving. By order of his majesty my husband; and it will come down promptly on New Year's Day, if not a day or two sooner.  I decorated it myself, after the husband assembled it (plastic tree); while he watched football and my son lay on the couch recovering from a virus.

I have purchased chocolate Advent calendars for my Sunday School kids, and one for my son, who is seven. They, like he, once they figured out the trick of pulling open the tiny paper doors to reveal the abstemious token chocolate drops within, elected to simply open the box from the bottom and/or open as many little doors as they could find, to gobble up more of the yummy German confections. And at 9:30am this past Sunday I also gave them mini candy canes -- because I'd found an Advent lesson that derived multi-layered Christian symbolism from a simple hard candy.

We haven't talked much at all about the baby Jesus, around the house. Not even tonight, with my husband away -- in fact, the kid and I spent a solid chunk of the evening on the couch reading together the adventures of Captain Underpants. After supper, we watched "Madagascar," and ate cookies made from the store-brand instant chocolate chip cookie dough. I had a glass of wine. Then the kid took a bath, and I started this post. I assume he's getting some of the essentials at Sunday School, I just don't know how to make it a topic at home, in part because my husband is quite resistant to that. Partly because I don't have a particularly well thought out plan B. I feel a little remiss-- well, a lot remiss -- as a Christian parent.

I tried to sign my kid up for first Communion earlier this year, but we couldn't get enough other parents of children his age to make it a group. And apparently the pastor's own wife was resistant, so maybe I'm not falling down as badly as I think I am, at least in context.

In realistic terms, the story of the birth of Jesus is fraught with controversy. Biblical scholars dispute the Star. Modern theologians dispute the Virgin Birth. A variety of people apparently dispute the Flight to Egypt. And so on. And the arguments are in most cases pretty well considered. So we've verified what is, of course, entirely unverifiable. We know exactly what we don't know. History is an accumulation of words, words that seemed worth keeping and canonizing over the millennia, those sifted down through culture, those preserved by the elite. 

If I choose, as a parent, as a teacher, to retell a story that withstood at least the tests of time if not of academia, am I not a participant in culture; just like someone who tells their child of Santa Claus? And if I choose to believe that my soul (a tough concept for a first-grader right there) is redeemed (another tough concept) in part by the birth of a baby in the Middle East, am I merely sentimental?

God has spoken to me with the cross; and on the cross a man died; and somewhere, that man must have been born. He came into the earth in blood and dust and he went out the same way -- everything else is perhaps a dramatic reconstruction, but that much I know for sure. Someday, perhaps, that's what I'll tell my son. Instead of the Christmas Story.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let's see, things I could talk about.
- Five days with a sick child, something viral with a temp and a bad cough. Father and I dodged the bullet, cold comfort that.
- A friend's unbelievably stormy, variegated love life; one week, new love, next week horrible break-up, always a train wreck in progress. Why? Why? He's such a good person.
- My disappointment at not being able to steal the car and drive it without a license, now that there's snow on the ground and car #2 is parked in the garage (with not much gas.) (I've never had a license, by the way.)

Or I could talk about the sail.

Specifically, about feeling like a sail; or a bubble, or a blank sheet of paper; meaningless unless filled and impelled by outside forces.

There are a number of people who like to talk to me about their lives, and their troubles. They assume, I've noticed, that I in turn share with them the bulk of my troubles, my sorrows, my intimate vitae. Truly though, that's not the case. I know no one who knows absolutely everything; one person comes close, and no one else knows about that really, including the individual in question. It's safe to say that if I give an example from my own life of some dubious behavior, there's a better (if more damning) example that I haven't given. If I seem wise, it's because I give the impression of having learned from my mistakes, of having things in my own life under control. HA HA. Not true. And you'll never hear me say "You're the only one who knows." Or if you do, I'm probably ... fibbing. Unless you're that one person who knows pretty much everything worth knowing. But you don't know if it's you, so no harm there. You might think it's you; knowing you though, you don't think that at all. Which is why it's safe to tell you -- you will always assume there's more to me than meets the eye! So I'm never summed up, never a known quantity, never owned, never judged. That's the idea. That, and keeping out of trouble.

But what am I? If you don't tell me anything about your life, if I can't give you something worth having, what's the good of me? I am a fucking sail -- the Holy Spirit blows me from place to place and the people who bend toward my ear and ask for my time are islands in the current. If I didn't know you I wouldn't be worth knowing. Deal with it! The more I have my hand in, the emptier I become. My thrills are largely imaginary.

I'm the blanket around my kid's shoulders. I'm the shoulder my husband cries on. I'm not complaining.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh what a night

I bought two VERY tacky painted wine glasses at Pier One tonight -- red stems and bases, with tiny poinsettias on the bowl, and gold trim... They cheer me up, these tacky Christmas glasses, and I'm presently enjoying my third glass of wine. The boys are watching a movie and thrashing around on the couch -- H is feeling good for an hour or so, while the ibuprofen artificially lowers his temp to something tolerable. He has a virus, nothing major, though as always now we're watching for side effects.

They're watching "Happy Feet" on TV, the scene in which the late Brittany Murphy sings Freddie Mercury's "Somebody to Love." (I just found out that her late husband died just six months after she did, of the same causes, drug-related. In one report at the time of her death, Simon Monjack was referred to as Brittany's dealer.) Sorry - "Happy Feet" is a great movie. But we own it, so it's really not worth watching with the commercial interruptions."When she sings, it darn near breaks your heart."

"You say your prayers, though you don't care.... All the love in the world can't be wrong."

And then there's this little gem...wait for Brittany at 2:39..."Movies Kick Ass!"

Tacky wine glasses. Coughing kids. Movies featuring deceased celebrities. Oh, yeah.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

things I am grateful for this year

That we got the loan and bought the school building.
That Harper's illness last spring wasn't worse.
That in the midst of one of the most exhausting years on record, I also knew great joy, great love, great friendship.
That CW has a good place to live, and a decent new job. 
That my husband is still employed, keeping a roof over our heads and food on our table.
That I've managed to fulfill at least a few of my resolutions for the year! 
That I have a terrific massage therapist helping me to stay sane.
That the election returns weren't even worse.
That I still have faith. 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Overheard at the Bakery

...where I was picking up 200 cupcakes (half carrot, half red velvet.)

"It's gonna be smack-ass busy here tomorrow!"


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And in these uptight times
hardcore funkateers
deploy the bop gun

Sunday, November 14, 2010

lost a bet with Nature

"Nature is a hanging judge." That's one of my favorite quotes, though the source (a roll of Quotes stickers, in fact) attributes it to Anonymous. Google concurs, and one of those citations characterizes this as an "old saying." Fair enough. (See, Quotes stickers are a vital source of cultural knowledge!)

Thursday's weekend forecast was every bit manifest in the snowfall of Friday night/Saturday morning, and then some. See below:

     Here are some storm highlights from Today:

*As of 1 PM CST:  The Minnesota Highway Patrol reported 300 plus crashes with 395 vehicles off the road or involved in a spin out.
*As of 4 PM CST:  Just over 65,000 Xcel Energy customers were without power in the Twin Cities, Minnesota (east and west areas) with another 10,000 customers without power across the rest of Minnesota.

   Here are some snowfall totals from the Upper Midwest as of 1 PM CST (Nov. 13, 2010):

Emmetsburg, IA:  14.0"
Eden Prairie, MN:  11.0"
Ruthven, IA:  10.5"
Mankato, MN:  10.0"
3 miles north-northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN:  9.0"

All that snow fell in just under 12 hours. The national radar image told a story of intimidating proportion: A giant convective comma of precipitation, rotating backward across Minnesota to the east, depositing inch after inch of soggy snow, Ely to Worthington. The tail end of that system to the south was a long conveyor belt of moisture sucking precip directly from the Gulf. Sadly, I can't recreate the awe-inspiring mini-hurricane NOAA image, and didn't have the presence of mind to grab it yesterday morning (though according to the NOAA website this is no small feat anyway, as it must be captured in layers and reassembled manually.) Trust Google images to give you something NOAA can't provide.

Huge tree limbs lay in the street, our lights flickered repeatedly, others lost electrical entirely -- the wet, clinging snow weighed heavily and brought down lines, stopped traffic and generally SLOWED us down a lot. But it was Saturday, thank goodness -- kids home safe, having fun with the white stuff, and relatively few folks on the roads.A snow emergency was declared, FINALLY, at around 4pm, and they sent out the plows. Even the city buses were getting bogged down, stuck at the stops, and that's saying something. I normally rely on that mode in weather like yesterday's, but it still took me an hour to travel five miles one-way.
And to think it was 65 degrees and sunny less than a week ago. You pay for pleasure around these parts. Nature is a hanging judge.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the thing about morning

The thing about morning is that I'd really prefer to be working in the studio. This is when my creative, loose, inspired mind is at its best, when I'm most able to use my mental time efficiently. Not surprisingly however, I'm at work. Definitely NOT using my time productively!

Veterans Day today, and R has the day off but H does not, which spoiled R's plans for the day -- he just assumed ALL schools were closed. H missed so much school last week though, between the conference holidays and being sick, that I refused to let him stay home this morning. It's okay, he and Daddy can go to the bookstore after school, and R can call the insurance company and also go get an oil change, things he's been meaning to accomplish. He can use his morning productively...

We walked as a family to the bus stop this morning and were promptly surprised by a pit bull and a scraggly little terrier -- the barefoot smoker in the ratty bathrobe having turned her dogs loose onto the sidewalk, from the corner duplex, to do their business -- just as kids were gathering at the corner to wait for the school bus. The dog started barking and ran over, and Ron immediately went into killer-father-bear-protection mode -- "Don't move!" yells the bathrobe lady, and R yells back "Your dog better not touch my kid or I'll kill it!" Bathrobe Lady jogs over in bare feet, cigarette dangling, and grabs the pit by it's barbed metal collar. "Sorry, sorry" she babbles, dragging the animal away (after it had given us a good sniff, it wasn't really acting dangerous and R didn't touch it.) Whereupon Crappy Terrier suddenly felt a burst of bravado and started barking and running towards us. Lordy. Nothing bad happened, in the end, and after the adrenaline wore off things were fine. H happily climbed on the bus and waved us away.

Processing time has been in short supply at work lately. Soon enough I'll be back on the big computer, getting my work done; but it seems there's hardly a moment these days wherein any creative thought can occur, on any front, given the constant motion. No time for reflection. Blogging is a start.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a different kind of saint

So. At the end of a long, manic week of doctor's appointments and school holidays, big fundraiser and an unexpected bout of over-consumption, one of our cats went missing.

Wednesday night. 36 hours is the longest Tiger's ever been gone -- three days is actually his record, but that was when he was still a feral cat, living in the woods behind our duplex in Georgia. We'd been feeding him, and his multitude of relatives, off old plates on our patio. Three days gone, and when he returned, his lip was torn from the corner of his mouth right down to his throat. I opened the patio door, and for the first time, he walked past me into the house, where he curled up behind the TV stand for another three days until he felt a bit better. We took him in for shots, and called him ours. No stitches, said our vet, won't make any difference; and for the rest of his life we jokingly referred to him as "Snagglepuss." He had about four teeth, having lost most of them in his second and third years. "Inbreeding," said our vet, "It happens." He drooled. And until we moved to Minnesota, he had seasonal allergies that would cause him to scratch himself until he bled. "Tigon the Destroyer" we called him, for some reason. More often it was "Tiger Buttskie" (again, reasons unknown.) He was a rather disgusting cat, and his pajamas never really fit him - he always seemed thin. But he was loved. He stayed with us through three moves, and even in the dead of winter Tiger couldn't stand being kept indoors more than a couple of weeks at a time. Even if he just sat on the back step for five or ten minutes, he needed to get outside regularly, otherwise he'd pace by the door and yowl his gravelly banshee best until you were quite mad. So out he want, and he always wandered farther, stayed out longer, than the other two cats.

This morning, on my way to church on my bicycle, I found him dead by the road a few blocks from the house.

He was older, at least 12 years. I had thought, maybe hoped, he could have just stayed out too late and been brought down by the deepening cold. We of course tried many many times to call him in. I think now that he probably died Wednesday or Thursday night. He had obviously tried to cross Central Avenue, the busiest street, about four blocks to our west. He was apparently headed for the golf course -- the parkway area, which makes sense -- if I were a half-wild feline, I'd head for the woods at night. But he'd been gradually losing his hearing over the past few years, and it had become quite easy to sneak up on him. A car got him. Always the fucking cars.

I stopped my bike, and turned around to look again, wishing it didn't have to be Tiger lying there. After a moment I took off my scarf, and wrapped his stiff body in it, wearing my cycling gloves. I staggered partway down the embankment away from the bus stop, and laid his body under a heap of dead weeds. I was on my way to teach Sunday School -- didn't want to call my husband, who was at home with our young son. Didn't want to put the sad carcass in my bike basket. So I left him there and went to church. Crying all the way.

By the time I left church for the day I was ready to face my family with the news. But it's still a sad time. Tiger was a good cat, and we'll miss him.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

fuckity fuck fuck

Sometimes...there are days when, on the one hand, you have lunch with a fine and spiritual and deeply valuable friend who ordains and validates the work you do and the person that you are. You confide in this person, and you are not disappointed. You confess your doubts, insecurities and stupid hang-ups. You are reminded of your skills, your talents, your value.

And on the other hand, you act like a fool around someone unattainable, you argue with your husband and you stay up way too late trying to get drunk -- though not really succeeding. You struggle with your place in life, with unrequited love and with professional development. You anguish. You overwork yourself.

you feel deeply stupid.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

... or perhaps just a tad sooner.
I love autumn, because I look best in fall fashions, fall colors, long coats and funny hats. And BOOTS. I am coveting a pair of yellow Fluevogs at the moment (blame WendyB for this, she posted a link to their website and I went surfing down yonder for the first time, now I'm panting over several pair...) My concerns about these: one, the brown heel (I'd prefer black); two, the buckles (what color are they? Silver I hope...) Never mind the price. And three, what would I wear with them?

Last week, I threw caution to the wind and wore my black 3-inch heel patent-leather Aerosoles (the ones my kid picked out) to work. With my Astounding Stockings (no photo, sorry), the nude-colored ones with the criss-cross black "laces" up the front and back, stockings that always generate compliments from older men (even pastors attending clergy luncheons!) And a short skirt. Yes, I took my legs to work with me, and was not disappointed by the feedback (including some good-natured ribbing from young Mike the security contractor, who scorned my impractical shoes in a clearly admiring sort of way.) I had to finish the day in flats though -- my poor feet gave out around 2pm.

The POINT here, however, is that the Astounding Stockings would not look so good with these boots -- in fact, none of my best stockings would. What sort of hosiery (etc) should be worn with yellow leather and brown heels? I don't want to be stuck wearing jeans as the only option here... any ideas? Are these boots made for slacks only? I won't buy them if they necessitate a major wardrobe adjustment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the flurry of creation and the wind

I had an artistic deadline last week (see True Companion for the image) and now I have another show for which to finish another piece (for a total of two there on display)... and the wind is wild tonight... I will be back, when my mission is completed...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

a fall day

There are so many leaves already down and blown about that today's very warm weather seems just the slightest bit eerie. There is a stillness - I could wax on about a final intake of summer breath before winter really settles in (five months of it) - but maybe the stillness isn't so much an evident calm as an absent sound. By this I mean that in such warm weather, we're listening for summer -- for the rustling of green leaves overhead, for certain bugs and birds and the constant underlying susurrus of abundant life. Now, many of the trees are already bare or nearly so. Robins are massing for migration and many birds have started moving south. The tomatoes are ripening -- hooray! -- but the gardens are mostly spent for the season. And it's a Saturday, so my bike ride home from the office mid-day was not marked by traffic's noise or smell, so much. I coasted down long hills and allowed myself to look up to the brilliant blue sky as I went, watching the yellow-brown and orange of turned leaves on black branches slipping by above me. So, the eighty or more degrees we felt under the sun today seemed lovely, yet eerie -- like a summer gone wrong, somehow, instead of autumnal reprieve.

It was a productive day, certainly, and appealing in its particulars. Meeting with young people at church about a creative project; face-painting at the neighborhood farmer's market fall festival; laundry, and sewing at home, capped by a really scrumptious family meal of crab legs, garlic bread and coleslaw. Delicious. It's possible I'll have photos later from the face-painting session (something I do for free at occasional community events.)

In the back of my mind there's a song by Jenny Owen Youngs just rattling around -- make it a fast car...make it a clean break... the notes a series of sharps and flats, against a hectic backdrop. Underlying angst that. Yesterday was an equally beautiful but much less positive sort of day, and today's inner stillness had more to do with feeling emotionally spent and raw versus any sort of peace. So my descriptions of strange weather are a projection too.

I'm thinking of my son, who visited me with his dad at the farmer's market and had me paint him -- a tornado in the center of his forehead, by request; a hurricane on the back of one hand and a thundercloud with lightning on the back of the other. He chased the other boys, who were painted up as wizards and accident victims and pirates, threatening to strike them with his lightning and blow them away with hurricane winds. My son's instinct for the dangers of the natural world outweighing the more traditional Halloween personas...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

things not to do when I'm drinking

thinking about work
texting. anyone.
(especially while riding my bicycle home) 
talking to my husband about money.
paying insufficient attention to our gay waiter.
emailing. anyone.
more drinking.
dropping a can of mineral water and then opening it right away. oops.
talking to my husband about work.
forgetting how early I need to be up the next morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watching the sunset on Sunset Bay... making friends with the butterflies at the State Fair...It's been a summer for making fine memories.

not an update

For reasons passing understanding, Blogger isn't interested in my cutting and pasting from Word today; the Laptop seems to be feeling some inner conflict. Not unlike its owner. I had a lovely birthday, and for the most part that's an understatement. I am however much too lazy to retype the whole account... there were flowers, lots of them; and signs, lots of those too; and wine, and lobster, and a fabulous La Bete Noir at the Wilde Roast Cafe. More than this I will not say. Bless all my wonderful, beautiful friends for coming out this past week to honor my random number. I really felt the love...

And now, today, this Tuesday... I am tired. Tired! I had a hamburger for lunch and now I am tired. All the layers of experience and impressions from my walks and rides will have to wait. Descriptions of the people I've seen and the places I've been... I'm just too lazy to tell you. It's a problem sometimes, in the rest of my life as well, but no matter. I will just get back to it when the mood strikes.

Peace to you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The morning has dawned wet and sneezy, as any September birthday should. I walked my son to the bus stop and waited, chatting carefully with the other kids' parents. (I'm always sort of shy around these kinds of peer groups, no one asks any personal questions, we just stand there and make polite noises at one another.) Afterward, walking back to the house, I began to admire the wet gardens and the slightly weedy, past-their-prime beds we have installed rather randomly over the past few years. Spent some time in the back yard pulling grass from the rock garden, eliminating some overgrowth amongst the gladiolas and just generally getting my hands dirty. Damp and chilly, but a good green smell.

Afterward I took the camera out, and while snapping these photos had the privilege of spotting a female hummingbird, darting amongst the runner-bean blossoms.

Soon, I'll treat myself to a massage. And then head to work for a while, before picking up my son from school. Tonight we'll all go out for seafood. It's bound to be a good day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

America's Funniest? Home Videos

I hate to be a wet blanket, really.
But I have to say I'm disappointed with tonight's winning submission on "America's Funniest Home Videos."
First, let me state clearly that if I can avoid this show I usually do. I'd rather watch football, frankly, and that's saying a lot, since I despise football.

Tonight's $10,000 grand prize went to a family from Waite Park MN (a suburb near here). The hilarity offered up and preferred by hundreds of Americans? A video of a 6 year old with stomach flu sitting on the toilet crying "Why do I have to do this? I'll never be able to get off the toilet!? This is terrible!!" That's right folks, a woman with a crying, sick, pooping child had the presence of mind to grab a video camera and film him. Why? "Some of things coming out of his mouth were just really funny," she says. No pun intended I suppose. And then she watched it enough times to think Hey, I should send this in to AFV!


Almost as bad is the fact that my husband laughed through the whole thing. Funny to an adult, maybe, once you've lived through the experience a bunch of times and understand that in America, stomach flu generally won't kill you. Not funny to me as a Mom though.

I am a wet blanket, I admit it.

Honestly, these videos of rotten things happening to kids and old people are the primary reason I hate that show. God help those poor souls who have to pre-screen the submissions -- I'm sure they see some truly sick shit. Probably not "Faces of Death," or at least I hope not. But still.

Meanwhile, every Sunday night (and several other times a week I'm sure), we can sit in our livingrooms and yuk it up while little kids crash their bicycles, jump off broken diving boards and get scared witless by siblings or parents leaping out at them in frightening costumes. We can watch drunken senior citizens fall off folding chairs at wedding receptions, and see our idiotic neighbors attempt strange stunts like cutting the cord on a plugged-in TV set with a pair of scissors, or tricking the dog into growling savagely and biting at its own hind foot.

Videos will be judged for inclusion in shows and for prizes on the basis of their humor and/or uniqueness. Examples of videos that have been considered include those showing silly blunders at social occasions; unexpected foul-ups involving children; animal antics; slip-ups during sports or vacation activities; bloopers during plays, recitals, parades or speeches; celebrity impersonations; home music videos; natural phenomena; life's annoyances and oddball news events.

Apparently that last one was admitted under the category "animal antics." I admit, occasionally I do watch more than five minutes of the show, and sometimes I laugh at something genuinely funny, the rare video depicting only gentle humor. Sometimes, the good ones even win. Because my husband watches the show, I too have watched it, and it isn't all garbage.

But I can't figure out why we as a nation got so upset when a family bucking for reality-show fame faked their child's accidental launching in a homemade balloon; after all, if it had actually happened, and they'd rescued the scared crying kid after a couple minutes of him being stuck in a tree in his balloon, we might very well have voted them America's funniest family and awarded them ten grand.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Things Jen Bought

If I should confess anything these days it's the number of items (including 4 pair of boots!) I've purchased online of late. I once told a coworker that just before I found Jesus, I would stop being such a clothes horse materialist. I was wrong.

Recent history includes:
1 pair of North Face 'Janey' waterproof winter boots (brown beauties with curvy soles and laces up the back, mid-calf)

1 pair Steve Madden 'Linderr' brown suede zip-up knee-high boots - Soft sides, loose but not slouchy, perfect for transitional weather...

1 pair Earth:
Elite black patent rain boots (fleece lined!)

1 pair UGG Highkoo slouchy cuffed suede boots in Stout (yes, another pair of brown boots! But the cuffs are almost lavender...)

Also... 1 new twirling baton!!! From American Baton. It arrived via UPS at the office today, 4pm. And you know, it's like riding a bike. I can still twirl. Pictures soon maybe.

And...three packets of hand-dyed fabric from Germany. Haven't seen that yet, soon I hope...

And that's just the online shit. Nevermind the spring-green cowboy hat from Scala, or the bright red leather purse from Patina, or those Aerosoles. I'm a fucking retail ho'. And...a boot JUNKIE. I'm all about the boot-TAY. Professor, what's another word for pirate treasure?

Time to get some stuff together for consignment... unless you know a size nine-ten who likes boots?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

another America

Yesterday Sadiya, a Muslim woman, came to the food shelf with her young daughter. A neighbor drove her there. After we had bagged up her groceries, she took my arm in a tight grip and said "Thank you. You'll see me here again. I'm a single mother, I'm going to school now to be a nurse. Thank you!" The food shelf is located at the Lutheran church where I work; I was wearing a cross. But I don't think she saw me as a Qu'ran-burning Christian extremist, and I certainly didn't view her as a hate-filled Muslim extremist. Our one concession to the topic of faith was making sure there was no pork in the hot dogs. I hope America won't always be a place where food shelves are needed to keep good people like Sadiya from going hungry; but I know this is the America I believe in, the one where some day Sadiya will be the healer at my mother's side or my own, and her grown daughter will have no fear of her neighbors.

I don't understand why certain religious or political "leaders" want me to hate the other -- to hate the immigrant, the Muslim, to hate and fear people with skin darker than my own, whose beliefs are culturally dissimilar from my own. What passes for moral outrage in our country these days is often pretty sickening. Time and again though I have to defend my willingness to live in America, to my spouse, who has seen enough of the rest of the world to believe there are better, more peaceful countries in which to reside. I can't run away from the stupid people -- because of course there are stupid, bigoted, fearful, easily-influenced people in every nation. We seem to have the market cornered, here in the USA, and we might; we have the world stage and the camera crews and plenty of opportunities to show off our ignorance.

It's particularly grievous to me that Christianity has such an awful right-wing association in America. I have good friends who just assume most Christians are loud-mouthed hypocritical haters. Now, that's as foolish as assuming all Muslims were happy to see the World Trade Center fall. But it's easier to take a position than it is to take a stand. It's easier to say what we're against than what we're for. Hate speech always uses short words and short sentences, set to a primitive rhythm. It's the lizard brain, the least evolved part of ourselves, that responds to fear with aggression. The so-called "leaders" who appeal to the lizard brain in us all are themselves fearful -- they are filled with insecurity, and they crave the illusory brotherhood and the adrenaline-pumping power of mob mentality. The best way to respond to them is to use short words like "No" and "Stop" and "Not here." The mob is not my America. I'm not running away from a bunch of lizards holding signs that say "Burn the Qu'ran!" Especially if those lizards look like me, dress like me, worship where I do and vote in the next booth.

If Sadiya and I can tell the difference between love and hate, I'm sure you can figure it out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Splitting headache/virus? Check.
Angry, alienated, aggressive best friend? Check.
Likelihood of these two things making the night progressively worse? High.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Love a-Fair

So, I went to the MN State Fair twice last weekend. Not once, but twice.

Friday I took the Fair Express bus from downtown with my son, aged 6-going-on-7; who is the perfect Fair companion, since he's interested in most things, game to try almost everything else, and will happily tolerate ten minutes of any large exhibit before reminding me that where he'd really like to go is the Fun House.

We were there for about 6 hours, and had a blast.

I went back on Saturday, unbeknownst to the boy (though with his father's permission) to join the Second Annual State Fair Sketchout, an event organized by Roz Stendahl, local artist and instructor, and all-around paper-arts enthusiast. I took lots of photos for later reference, did just few on-the-spot drawings (I'm not as fast as I used to be), and generally had a nice time. Once every few years I manage to hit the Fair alone, for a third time. We'll eventually go with my husband too, on Labor Day.

Here's what I love about the State Fair, in no particular order:

1. People from every (and I mean every) walk of life, a representative sampling of the state in all its surprising diversity.
2. An incredible array of exotic, disgusting, wonderful foods -- everything from down-home Midwest church dining hall breakfasts, complete with bad coffee; up to chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick, crepes, funnel cakes, caramel-apple sundaes (a favorite of mine) and all manner of fruit smoothies; and onward to things like Alligator On A Stick, deep-fried candy bars, scotch eggs, fried green tomatoes, and the piece-de-la-resistance, the Pronto Pup. I must eat at least one at every visit, no substitute corndog will do. End of story.
3. Midway art. From early on I've been fascinated and entranced by the art of the Midway -- the painted carousels, the lurid sideshow-type banners, the neon flashing and the flapping pennants; the beautifully illustrated facades of the funhouses, the incredible backdrop murals behind older rides like the Matterhorn (though the one shown via the link is not the one at our Fair), and the painted cars of the Tilt-A-Whirl. It is a visual feast, a sumptuous junk food smorgasbord of eye-candy, and I love the nameless laborers and craftsmen who create and maintain these dinosaur contraptions (the rides and the games), with a passion.
4. The smells: Caramel, roasted corn, fried everything, manure, grill smoke, wood chips, diesel exhaust, cotton candy, sweat, grease, paint, beer, cigarettes and livestock; it's appalling, it's incredible. It's everything worth smelling, really, except maybe the cigarettes. And the porta-potties.
5. The tradition. Everybody loves the Fair, and it's the second largest, second-most-successful, not-quite-longest-running Fair in the nation. Everything from the Midway to Machinery Hill and points in between -- it's an annual pilgrimage, one I've known nearly as long as I've been alive. I remember when you could still park right on the Fair grounds, and my stepdad would yank us out of bed at 5am so we could arrive at 6am, and get the best spot. We'd have to sleep in the station wagon (all five of us) for another two hours until the church dining halls opened for breakfast. Back then, you could have a great day at the Fair for as little as $20. These days you can still have fun on $50, though you have to be in love with it in the first place, to be so easily pleased. After all, it costs $11 just to get in.

And the great thing about going there alone is that I am free to meander; to want everything and nothing, to browse, to let myself be pulled into the swarming high tide of Fair-goers at 6 o'clock pm and just flow downhill with the rest of them, held fast in the arms of a thousand strangers per half-block, headed for the Midway, waiting for the sun to go down.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Love. This.

Ripped from here.

New Shoes

That my son picked out. Because he loves high heels. Yes, that's him on the left.

UPDATED TO ADD: These are Aerosoles btw. Not your sexy brand but surprisingly comfortable, since they are in fact the highest heels I've worn this decade.

Friday, August 27, 2010

a week in review

Well, the sermon last Sunday was very well-received, even to the point of getting paid -- for the first time! And the week has had varying color, varying other successes and failures (including one rather catastrophic.)

First, it's apparent that I need to cut back on the wine consumption. My tummy is starting to take a particularly edgy tone, a sort of "I'm not going to tolerate much more of this" tone, reminding me of the bad old days in my twenties when I would wake in the morning with such a stomach ache that all I could consume was milk, and dry toast. It has every right, I've been overdoing things. Wine at lunch as well as dinner. Wine after the kid goes to bed. Wine to reduce the number of thoughts in my head.

None of this wine seems to have affected my ability to dream, however, and after enjoying some hard-earned time off here and there, I find myself filling the nights with vivid, odd, sometimes humorous dreams about coworkers, family, old bosses, old boyfriends. Bizarre plots and obscure circumstances. Crazy outfits. Off-color scenarios. (And if any grumpy, racist ex-members of my organization are reading this, why don't you just go play in traffic now.)

Meanwhile, I afforded myself a luxurious massage this week (and if I had one of those every week I doubt I'd need wine to get to sleep.) I always like myself so much more as I'm walking away from my therapist's office. Got stood up by the same friend who always has some last-minute conflict, whom I always forgive because he's so darned charming; and called in the reinforcements, another friend with whom I've meant to make a date, because I refused to slink away from the bar in shame. It was a very nice bar, the kind I love, with lots of woodwork and old leather seats, and old leathery gentlemen behind the bar. Mature waitresses with too much eye makeup and black aprons over crisp white shirts; and a tank of lobsters off in one corner, awaiting their fate. So we paid too much and had a nice time (2 Sidecars.)

Monday I took the kid shopping for back-to-school clothes, and we enjoyed a nice day together out at the mall. Today, I took him to the State Fair, where we rocked the place by going on all the rides that go waaaayyyy up in the sky (except for the stupid Slingshot which is undoubtedly going to kill someone sooner or later.) We ate with restraint, spent more of that money on waters and lemonades; won a few prizes, played lots of free games in the educational buildings, and generally took things as easy as we liked. Plenty of good Mommy time this week; school starts next week, and we'll be back to a much more rigid schedule after that.

Oh, and while I was making dinner on Wednesday night a Pyrex roasting pan full of yummy vegetables totally exploded when I opened the oven, damned near taking me off at the knees. I snitched a couple of unafflicted onions off the top and ate them anyway, at which time my husband casually inquired as to whether I was interested in a perforated bowel. Hey, there was nothing crunchy in those onions, and I chewed carefully. But now I'm anxiously watching for signs of peritonitis. Dammit. Doesn't help that I'm getting my period.

More things in-between happened this week as well. But a day at the Fair is solid treatment for the blues, especially when I'm with my kid (who has grown pretty game in his old age.) Tomorrow I'm hoping to sneak away by myself for a while and draw...Sunday night we are going out as a family to celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary. Lucky 13, the worst year yet in some ways, but no matter. We're having sushi and tempura, and dressing up. My kid helped me pick out a pair of high heels on Monday (which I seldom wear, since I'm already five foot ten and my husband is five-eight.) He promised to make Daddy dress up if I would wear my new heels. We'll see how that goes. (My husband rarely shifts past cargo pants and untucked button-down cotton shirts. It's the tenured prerogative.)

Yep, in spite of everything, summer seems to be winding up on a positive note. Thank you God.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's been an incredibly confusing and sometimes painful couple of weeks. Consequently, I haven't been posting much. The thing that has me twisted up in knots is simply not for public consumption, and so I shall refrain -- good friends take note, it's not worth asking, because in truth the circumstances are so personal as to be obscure in their particulars. Or in other words, I can't quite explain it all.

So, we'll lay that aside -- we'll let that one wait on the telephone table -- and instead I'll just say that I have a sermon gig tomorrow night at the Mercy Seat (and I hope I nail it because I wouldn't mind a few more opportunities like this one, even though I know they won't pay me.) And as much wine as I've had, you'd think I'd be hammered -- but apparently the huevos rancheros I had for breakfast has made me immune. So -- I'll tweak the sermon one last time, tomorrow, and all positive vibes will be greatly appreciated right around 5:30pm Central Standard time. This week's lectionary of Bible readings can be found here; and I will once again have to thank Sara Miles, for helping me focus on the blessings found right in front of me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It is dark, dark outside, the last night on the lake. Doors and window open, everyone in bed. Wind cool (for a change -- hooray!) and rain possibly moving away... quiet, quiet. This is it, the last night, and I'm typing in the dark (bad for the eyes) because that's the considerate thing to do. I've had one too many glasses of wine to be sharp, so there are undoubtedly important insights to be mined from this moment that I'll overlook. Still. The silence --- Ah! the silence! -- is a beautiful thing. I love my family, I do, but they talk talk talk. My son because he's six, and my husband because that's just how he is, constantly verbalizing.

OK - husband asleep. I close his door and turn on the overhead light. I wish for a floor lamp but you can't expect everything in a cabin by the lake. I'm easily seen from outside, I know, but it shouldn't worry me. It's a reasonably friendly environment after all.

Last night there were some pre-teen boys running around the neighborhood, making noise, goofing off, at around 2am. I was slightly annoyed, but mostly I smiled, remembering what it was like to be that in-between age and turned loose of a night. They were apparently picking on some girls in the area...maybe a family here for the week, extended family, girl cousins, the kind you might be attracted to as a young boy though there's no real danger of relational tension since you're family and you lovingly loathe one another. Pranks, and the innocent vulnerability of kids finding their way, being alone at night (scary! exhilerating!) and being "naughty," that primitive walkabout period in a young person's life. I miss those days. We were trapped, of course, thinking the answer would be to finally move away from our parents. Later, you realize that the sense of enclosure you feel is your connection to other human beings. And that you need them, even though there are times you'd rather not.

I have just eaten my second Pearson's Salted Nut Roll of the day. A wholly vacation-oriented choice. Ordinarily I don't touch the things.

So... I feel some pressure here. It's the last day of vacation, and I wonder how much revitalization I've stored away -- wonder if I'm ready to go back. Wishing I had a plan of attack, wishing I had a wall behind my back and a clear direction forward.

I hear an anguished groaning cry in the distance, which gives an air of Halloween to this night, though really it's just one of those dumb kids playing dramatis personae.

My lips are salty.

I want to say I've recovered fully from the past year and more, though it's not altogether likely. Want to be able to say that the exhaustion, demoralization, struggle, confusion, anger, longing, shame, sorrow have all materialized into something certain and destined and reconciled. Want to say that the great glorious wonder of all that is beautiful and found in my life and work is clearly present in my mind to balance those other feelings. Want to say that my questions have been answered. In a mere four nights at the lake it's damned unlikely, I'll admit, and it wouldn't make sense to stay here and wait for enlightenment even if I had the luxury.

It will have to be enough to say I walked in the sand...

last day at the lake

Drip, drip, drip. It's our last day at the lake and once again, just like last year -- rain! But that's not such a disappointment, since in fact we came here with a VERY short list of things to do -- sit on the beach, check. Walk through the woods, check. Hit the local fabric store, check. Watch our son have lots of fun, check. Drink a good wine every night, check.

Poor R's allergies are giving him the business, which is sad. And the vinyl chairs at the kitchen table are making my thighs sweat. Apart from that... no real complaints.

And it should be noted that I'm wearing my favorite synthetic-blend knee-length skirt with the big flowers on a black background, a skirt that had been hemmed and taken in several times by its previous owner before it came into my possession. Synthetic blends don't breathe terribly well (and I can't be more specific about the fabric, in part because the tag has faded and blurred to an utter blank). But it's durable, can be worn with either a blouse or a tshirt, and is the former property of a lovely, lovely old woman named Dorothy who died my second year working for the church, at the age of 94. She decided to die. She stopped eating, stopped drinking. It still took two weeks, because she walked everywhere in every kind of weather and she was TOUGH. But no one forced her to go to the hospital, because her friends understood that she wanted to die. Her final days were spent under the tender watch of a much-younger ex-con and truckdriver, a single man who lived across the hall from Dorothy, in the apartment above the furniture store. He was a recovering alcoholic. She had never been married. He cleaned her and changed her and tried not to panic, for days, while she gradually left this world. Theirs was a simple, incredible relationship.

And afterward, because she had no immediate family, I came into possession of some of her sewing supplies, and this skirt.

Meanwhile, back at the lake, the rain continues and the swimming outfits are still draped over adirondack chairs on the patio. "What would it be like to come here in the second or third week of May?" R wonders.

Monday, August 9, 2010


IN spite of the fact that my spouse is huffing and puffing around the cabin, trying to get me into the shower so we can get moving for the day... a quick post mid-vacation.

Radiation fog: What you get when the lake temperature is much colder than the air temperature. It starts some time after midnight and lasts until perhaps 8:30am. A thick mist rolls over the lakeshore and obscures the distant boats and the islands, thins the shapes of the trees to something made of organza and silk. The birds call echoingly from the dripping branches -- orioles, robins, jays, warblers -- and out in the distance the gulls complain about the fog while mergansers cluck through the shallows in search of minnows. It's beautiful, peaceful, and I wish I could get myself out of bed early enough to go for a walk before the boys awake.

I haven't had the time to myself I've been hoping for yet...still hopeful.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Because my innocent, lovely son can't remember that Mommy just said "ass-over-tea-kettle" a second ago, so he's hitting the approximation.

He is sitting on the heavy wooden arm of the rustic futon frame (pardon the contradiction in terms) here in Cabin Number One, at lovely Appeldoorn's Sunset Bay Resort. The futon is folded down in the "bed" position (because he thinks that's just delightful), and he's winding down after an exciting day by watching a Backyardigans video and tipping himself backwards off the arm of the futon onto the mattress. Back-over-teacup.

We arrived and checked in at around 3pm, after a leisurely morning of getting it together, and a leisurely drive (including detours) up 65 to Mille Lacs. And now, there's thunder. The owners are driving their old tractor down into the water, trip after rattling trip past Cabin Number One, pulling up the floating dock with the water slide and the various boats and whatnot anchored nearby. It's supposed to storm tonight. Better safe than sorry. I'm surfing the wireless surprisingly available hereabouts and wondering whether I'll have a headache in the morning. Given the wine I've consumed.

Vacation has begun. Thank the Lord.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

weather, and bitching about it

Dewpoint Daze continues. Nobody won an Armpit Award at my workplace today, let me tell you. All you had to do was step outside for five or ten minutes, and the egg timer in your armpit went DING! "Deodorant, done!" No Secret, no Speedstick (and yes, I do occasionally wear my husband's pit-stick when I run out because he invariably has five or six new Speedsticks in the closet), no fancy all-natural no-aluminum smells-like-a-sunny-spring-meadow spray -- NOTHING -- stands up to this weather we're having. My office is so cold I'm getting ice cream headaches, and still -- by Noon, I'm schtinkin'. And you know what? So is EVERYBODY else. In my case, it's because I had to carry boxes and boxes of canned goods for the food shelf today, and then haul supplies from my old office to the new one. This necessitated some time outdoors in the festering heat. And in my best friend's car, which has weak air condo (and is regularly used to transport rescued dogs across state lines).

It should be noted however that body odors on others aren't generally a cause for alarm as far as I'm concerned. Exceptions include my kid needing a bath (because he's my kid); and maybe Mike Z, an especially ripe and frequently inebriated homeless guy of whom I am nevertheless fond. No, what worries me is bad breath, but that's a post for another time.

I might also add here that while normal schtinkin' is okay with me, I do NOT appreciate being sweated upon by random strangers. Or not-so-strangers. I make exception when the source of precipitation is someone I'm attracted to, otherwise....not so much.

The guy that repaired our ancient Risograph at church the other day is a good case in point. While plainly a respectable goombah in real life, this guy, we'll call him Paulie, sweat buckets all over my carpet. It's a crappy, nasty, never-shampooed office rug, I'll admit -- but it had several extra dark splotches after Paulie left, EACH time he left. It got worse each time, and I kept turning up the air conditioner for him...a little more...a little more...because the fucking Risograph was giving him such a hard time that he was literally shedding gallons of water-weight before my very eyes. One thing after another went wrong -- he fixed the first problem, only to see another appear, and then another, and then another, and five newly-installed parts later he's still dripping with bewilderment. And muttering curses under his breath. Not very under his breath, because he can see I'm not a nun, just a church secretary. He was a big galoot, and I felt badly for him, hunched over the tiny early-fifties plumbing in our restroom trying to splash a little freshness on himself and just leaving more splotches everywhere. I should have bought him a beer when he finally fixed that sucker. I'm sure he needed one. I found precipitation on the machine, on the counter, on the doorknob...oy.

I have a friend who shall remain nameless here who also sweats copiously, and likes to sweat, and works out a lot as well. The other day we jumped in his car to go get some Dairy Queen, and as I was climbing in I saw what looked like discarded clothing laying on the curbstone, wet as though it had been out in the rain the night before. In our neighborhood this is not so unusual, and I wouldn't have said anything. A needless train of thought altogether, though, since my friend said "yes, that's my clothing drying on the curb, sorry." And I said, "Dude..." I couldn't blame him for not wanting to keep that stuff in his car in a plastic bag, since it was a million degrees outside. He smelled fine, incidentally. His car though...oh, the upholstery odors, when it's a million degrees.

Please note: cigarette smoke NEVER smells good on a person. Ever. Just thought I'd throw that in, appropos of almost nothing. My friend isn't a smoker. My husband is, but there again, post for another time.

Tomorrow's forecast? More schtinkin'.

Monday, August 2, 2010

weather and wondering

The dewpoint was a bitch today. I don't altogether mind such weather under certain circumstances; though lately those situations seem well beyond my reach, and at any rate the life of the flesh is mostly denied me the past two years and more. Who needs humidity, when nudity is so rare? We've traded laziness for air conditioning, another menace of mechanization in some ways. But the broken-down A/C was no abstract concern this morning -- with temps varying so widely from space to space at work, and some of the kids at the charter school having seizure disorders which can be triggered by something as subtle as the air-temp changes from a cooled room to an muggy one. Resolved, hours later and thank God. After two glasses of wine (3?) and a third of a beer, I can honestly say that the natural world went on without me this afternoon. I had to wear a sweater, in the office.

Do birds moan? Little birds? By this I mean to say that I wonder if they express frustration or longing, or grief. I'm not just talking about some noise that pigeons make. God knows birds get upset -- I've heard the indignant alarms in the backyard trees when our cats are out, as the robins with nests high above in the pines raise their pitch to warning cries -- needless, since our cats are either too old or too timid to climb after baby birds. I've heard the helpless, anguished desperation of songbirds in futile battle against a marauding jay, pecking uselessly at the much-larger bird as it murders the sparrow young. And finches always sound kind of anxious, calling out to one another. So grief, yes. Frustration, probably -- bitching at juvenile offspring who still trail after parenting pairs complaining of hunger when they're quite capable of fending for themselves. Longing? Maybe, in the calls of male cardinals or white-throated sparrows in search of a mate. But I'm anthropomorphizing.

I wonder if birds really notice the dewpoint.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

a fine morning at the cemetery

though none I think do there embrace."

Yesterday was a good day. I think this may be in part because I left the house unusually early, around 8am, for no good reason other than I'd been up since six and didn't want to lay around as I often do. So I hopped on my bike and rode the usual route down Central towards work; and came to the Catholic Cemetery on along the way, and having the time, turned in.

Now I should try to explain that I love some cemeteries; not all, but just the oldest ones, those places with leaning stones carved with now-lost skill, their inscriptions softened and eroded by time and the acid rains. This particular graveyard is lovely, planted thickly with tall oaks which strew their acorns across the lane; I can hear them crunching under my tires. On the face of it, the entrance is narrow, and Central is a busy street, so the place is easy to miss. But the land stretches far back, several blocks, and is only bordered on the south by backyard fences; to the north and east is the rail yard devoid of buildings, for the most part. Under the oaks the light is dim and a little gray, and the weathered stones are pearlescent. The traffic sounds fade quickly as I pedal down the lane, and by the time I reach the turn-around, all I hear are birds and the quiet hissing of sprinklers where the newer plots are being watered.

I love this cemetery and others like it, because of the peacefulness there. I've never felt as though spooks or malevolent forces would be found there. The place is more like a refuge. A quiet place in the middle of the city, where souls went to their rest. The Irish immigrants and the Italians, the very occasional German Catholic; names of unknown lineage as well. And the dates, people who died before my grandparents were born. Babies whose birth and death dates were the same; beloved Mothers, Fathers. Brigid and Mary and Irene. Patrick and John and Malcolm.

I stayed about half an hour, and left the bicycle leaning against a tree. I noticed an old neglected stone, a flat one (the cheapest kind) just inches from the pavement of the lane. It was barely visible under the large trash can which contained metal bouquet holders, rusting and rain-filled. Shoving the precarious metal container to one side, I pushed at the obscuring soil, polishing the marble with the toe of my shoe: "Charles." I wandered, and gathered worn fragments of silk flowers, the tattered and weather-beaten remnants of which I've incorporated into a sewing project recently. I admired the carving of markers whose owners' names had long been erased, and noted the way older markers were assembled in stacked parts, which separate from each other over time. Stones topple occasionally from their bases, more often I suspect than they are ever interfered with by the living. Wonder what that sounds like, in the stillness.

In the back of the cemetery where the oaks thin and turn to maples before the sky gradually reasserts itself, are the newer, cheaper headstones: many unadorned and flush with the grass, occasionally an older one belonging to a lost infant, markers no doubt purchased with the help of a priest after a hurried, sorrowing baptism. And then most of the dates are from the 1970s and 80s, when the vogue for money spent on the dead had begun to fade -- church funerals gradually being replaced by services held right in the funeral homes themselves. These stones are a little depressing, held down they seem by the weight of the sky itself, shelterless; like so many pavers in the courtyard before the Father's mansions.

But I do so love it there. And the sense of peace I had there lingered well into the day.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quote of the week?

"Kori was driving the motor home about two weeks ago and the entire front driver side tire tread blew off, broke the side mirror frame, bent the fender and tore half the bumper loose.
Changing it in interstate traffic on a Sunday sucked consenting diseased donkey dicks. But hey, millions of cars driving millions of miles a week, something goes to shit sooner or later."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

So in between all the time I spend arguing over the specs on new security systems, answering questions about the carpeting in room 105 and watching the rehab bill for the boiler tick its way into five figures, I get to hang out on other people's blogs. I also go to art group meetings (had a great one last night, if short and punctuated by loud claps of thunder), read magazines, and find ways of sneaking in a dining-out date or a massage pretty often. It's not such a bad life, really.

Places in Northeast where I have recently dined:

The Modern Cafe - Really my number-one spot for daily dining. And Jim the owner gives me the horn!
Mayslacks Bar and Grill - "Nobody beats Mayslacks' meat!" What else is there to say?
The Sample Room - A little bit hyped, but on the river and very nice.
Origami - Best. Sushi. Ever. But they stopped using the hot "finger towels", which is a bummer.
Perkins Restaurant. Yeah, well. The kid likes it, which is important.
LouAnn's Diner. Unremarkable in every way, but I had gift certificates.
Psycho Suzi's - My favorite bar, and the pizza's not bad either.
Elsie's Dining and Bowling Lounge - They serve everything, and it ain't half bad. The taps are good, the mixed drinks are cheap but weak. Which is fine, when you're bowling.
Plus drinks at the bar at Hell's Kitchen(though that's downtown).

Now, ask me what I spend all my money on.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

a link-heavy tribute

Oh, it's a great big world out there... full of great big people, and some little ones, and lots in between.

Look! Here's Wendy B in hot pink two-tone Versace, celebrating her love for Mr B and remarkably, possessing the shoes to go with it. How does she get the wind to blow her hair around so artfully for the camera?! And she has a little dog in tow (the one on the left) who reminds me of "Gizmo", our neighbor Juan's equally electric pup. (Juan and Camela are heading back to Long Beach to take care of Juan's ailing mom at the end of the year. I'll miss them, partly because my son is infatuated with Gizmo and partly because these two Angelinos had never even SEEN snow before they landed in our neighborhood! We caught nearly 24 inches of the white stuff at one point last winter, and Juan came over to ask "Is this NORMAL? I mean, is this okay?" He looked concerned. I love those two. I'll have to bake them a Tres Leches cake before they go.)

I had breakfast yesterday with Aneesa, who is a public school teacher moonlighting as an activist for ISAIAH, and she gave me the lowdown on our local efforts in transportation and social justice. Since my years with BikeAthens down in GA I've kept a small fire burning brightly in my heart for the needs of folks who can't or don't drive (two-thirds of the American populace in fact, including moi.) Aneesa is an inspiration; between her and the wild rice pancakes with strawberries served me at the Mill City Cafe, I walked away energized towards use of our new community center as a locus for empowering community dialogue around transit, jobs and the local economy.

And finally, I took my scruffy long-suffering self out to drinks with friend JH tonight, and we tried the new Asian/fusion place (if that's what you call it), Ginger Hop, just down the road from the new Grace Center. We talked about everything, which was a relief. He had a couple Eye Candy martinis, I experimented with the Caipirhini before reverting to Mohitos -- and we walked along the Mississippi a little while before ducking into the Aster Cafe to enjoy a glass of Bells. I'm still a little buzzed. Some people are just so funny and smart -- I'm lucky to know the fine folks I do, and to blog with them too. (See the Song of the Day blog at the sidebar).

And yesterday I had a massage and a little energy work with my friend Sally. Thank God for massage. If it weren't for Sally I think I would have lost my mind months ago.

So how can I feel blue for long, when I know such wonderful people? Thanks all!

Friday, July 23, 2010

I should be in bed

But if I stay up a little longer I'll be hungry again; and then I can drink some more too. What a fucker of a week. My word.

Good thing I have Wendy Brandes to cheer me up. Not only is she a babe, with fashion tastes both informed and adventurous, but her very existence completely absolves me of the guilt I feel when I look at the number of shoes I own. (Wish I could afford more of WB's jewelry designs, but that's not her fault). Wendy B must have a big room for her outfits, which is nothing to be ashamed of; she applies her conscience to bigger problems it would seem. My heart is warmed by the sight of her in mile-wide sailor pants, or silver sequined sneakers, or anything Versace. Thanks Wendy! Oh, by the way you can find Wendy's blog on the sidebar or catch her act on Facebook here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Posting with Toni

"Vince dint tell me his bidness til they got him put away." This from the mother of a three year old, laughing with another man on the bus who apparently knows Vince (but hasn't seen him recently). Vince writes though, evidenced by the letter in the girl's hand. "You visit him?" Asks the friend. "Much as I can" she says.

Things could be worse.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ending? beginning?

What happens now?
I spent an hour watching my kid frolic in the local wading pool this afternoon, and thought about that. Though first what I asked myself was, Why?

As of this morning, it looks like we have truly bought a building -- we're building a community center. It's mostly clean, the air conditioning is almost up and running, and if I'm lucky I will soon have access to phone and data ports. Nevermind the two weeks I've spent running back and forth between the new building and my old office -- this morning, the church held its first worship service in the multi-purpose "cafeteria" space, and it felt okay. It felt like a place we could get used to, while the new sanctuary is being constructed in the center of the building.

The process has entailed so much work, so much sacrifice in one sense or another, and no small amount of contention -- plus, the gradual wearying of seemingly every one of the church's regular volunteers. Fortunately we have many community partners in some have pitched in, here and there, to help us along the way. This week, like many others, felt like a seven-day week. Yesterday I put in another 6 hours helping with final preparations, and towards the end it was just the boss and I, moving the font, the communion table and the lectern. Hymnals, a large icon, other necessary articles. I left, feeling guilty, at around 5pm; at 9pm he was still at it, trying to get things just right. He did a certain amount of the hard work all alone in that big building; and it was his vision, really, from the start, that got us there.

Why have I worked so hard towards this end, worked almost as hard as he has? He might have seen it clearly as an attainable vision, all along; but I didn't really feel a firm conviction until we got the financing just six months ago. The year-long process before that entailed months of anomie and disheartening uncertainty, waiting and wrangling over the theoretical, trying and being rejected by one bank after another, arguing with the school district (who sold us the building) about whether we had the right to choose our own tenant partners, competing against local political interests and gentrification schemes in order to realize a dream of community empowerment and fellowship. 19 months.

I don't know what it means, really, to do something for "the glory of God." And to be honest, my motivations for continuing along this road after three years of highly changeable church employment, plus another 19 months of utterly nerve-rending transformation and effort, have changed and morphed again and again. Certainly faith has played a part; so has loyalty. And persistence -- I'm no quitter, I'm too proud to admit defeat, though the urge to cut and run has come and gone multiple times. I worked my ass off, like a woman who has the courage of her convictions. And I do believe in the vision itself. But as often I have simply followed along, have trailed along in the wake of something, someone, more clear and sure than I.

And now there it stands. Someone else's dream, made my own and well on its way to being not only a concrete reality (as now) but a realized quest. There was something more that I wanted, I realize now, and I'm not sure whether it will materialize. I've had about all the acknowledgement I'm entitled to, it's not that. What comes next? Lots of practical tasks, the list is long. Somehow it seems I still need to find the apex of this process, need to define that for myself whatever it may be...