A good friend of mine is a Catholic priest and Director of Campus Ministry at a college on the East Coast. Last year, he took a group of students to Rome and shared with me the notes, readings, and prayer intentions they were taking with them on the trip.
One of those notes has stayed in my mind ever since: "Fr. Jon does not intuitively understand the needs of women. Be succinct."
But, like, what do women need? Besides the obvious, I mean. At least one item on that list is lots and lots of Kleenex.
Change me. These words first came into my mind about a month ago after a friend shared this woman's story with me. I have nothing in common with her, but I heard and understood her desperate prayer, "Change me."
While visiting friends last weekend, I spent some time in their old claw foot bath tub, watching the pine branches brushing against the window and smelling the wonderful breakfast being prepared downstairs. Floating, I had the very same thought: My life has to change.
Meaning: I need to change the way I am within the wonderful life I already have. My house needs to be like that. It needs to be a place that people come and feel the warm embrace of friendship, within the presence of generous time. I need to re-think the way I approach my work. I need to spend time every day in my art studio. I need to replace the floating sofa that was eaten by my Yard Bear a couple of years ago.
I am aware that an unconscious process of sorting is going on in the background. Returning home from the visit, that sorting was fueled when I learned that my mother received a confirming diagnosis of dementia.I have to change. And like you, I'm not really sure what I mean by that yet. I just know that things are happening within, and I'm asking myself many, many questions.
One of those question, is, Why are you here? I mean, you, Two Kitties reader. What brings you back here? Why do you read me? What do you want to read about? Who are you? What do you look like? Those are questions I need answers to.
I want your photo emailed to me so I can keep it in an album on my desktop. Yes. I do. I can't explain it, I just know it will help me sort.
P.S. The Jacques-Louis David painting has a really interesting story behind it. You can read about it here.
Several years ago I watched a documentary on PBS about the failed Antarctic voyage of Shackleton and his crew. I was trapped in a hotel room, on a business trip, and I was kind of depressed. I hadn't heard of Shackleton, I knew nothing of the Endurance, and I was transfixed by the surviving images and video collected by Frank Hurley.
I have always remembered something from the documentary that was said, almost in passing. A mention that Shackleton's mother had banned fairy tales from the home when he was growing up. She believed that the tropes reproduced in those stories - of perfect love, happily ever after - ruined the lives of young, impressionable readers who would then spend eternity searching for that idyllic, unattainable state.
It's interesting to think about, given that hope and possibility had to be two of the drivers that made Shackleton cross miles of freezing water and ice in search of help. And hope and possibility that kept the 28 member crew alive while they waited months, not knowing if Shackleton would ever return to save them.
(with thanks to @skoski, who found the poem.)
by Lucille Clifton
babylon Once a great city in Biblical times, see Psalms 137; also used as a dismissive term in western Black cultures for “anything to which the Black consciousness represents the degenerate or oppressive state of white culture” (OED)
I hesitated - vintage Ferragamo is for old ladies - but when I tried them on? They actually looked pretty cute. I'm not going to get all emotional and age-crazy on you, right now, going on and on about how I'm now old enough to wear old lady shoes. There are plenty of other posts on that theme in the "What's On My Mind" section, if you're in the mood.
Instead, I want to share some of my thrift store wisdom with you. Because I'm so good, that people follow me at Douglas Gardens to see what I'm putting in my cart. You think I'm joking, but I'm not.
Now, the first thing I want you to do is to put two fingers up and make the "peace" sign. Now turn those fingers and point them straight at your eyeballs. That's the way I want you to approach thrifting. Like a hawk, circling in on a kill.
Next. Start in your favorite section. For me? It's shoes. I love shoes. I scan the terrain like a hawk, to see what I can see. I look at every pair, in every size. Why?
Because people don't take things to thrift stores one item at a time. They take them in boxes and bags. . So my theory is, if you find one precious jewel, chances are that there are other items in the store that day that are worth searching for. When that happens, it's like a thrift detector antenna automatically extends itself from the top of my head, boop boop boop-ing until I lock and load on my treasure.
Por ejemplo, the day I found a pair of perfect, vintage 1950's pumps, I also found four perfect, vintage 1950's cashmere swing coats from glamour Chicago department store I. Magnin. Some woman dies, and her best clothing falls into the hands of someone who doesn't see its value. The things she loved, saved, and protected all of her years wound up in a thrift store in rural Montana. But it all works out o.k., because it was obviously God's plan that I give all these vintage coats a home. I think I have about 30 vintage coats in my collection.
Shop at regular department stores and know your brands. Today I saw worn t-shirts from Old Navy selling for $5. Why would I pay $5 for a used Old Navy T-shirt when I can get a brand new one for $5? A pair of wool Nanette Lepore trousers in perfect condition? Worth $6. A blue silk blouse by Worthington? Nope. Worthington is JC Penney. Not worth $9 to me.
Know your fabrics. I can identify cashmere just by looking at it, can you?
Don't be afraid to buy something for "re-purpose" purposes. A friend bought a great suit jacket just for it's vintage bakelite buttons. Today I found a gorgeous men's Scottish cashmere sweater with a tiny hole in it. I don't care about the hole because I'm going to use the cashmere. I plan to make myself a gorgeous "Origami" wrap from this free pattern that I saw on Creative Kismet.
Before you check out, go through your cart and sort it again. Is it rare? Do you have a place in your house or an immediate purpose for the item? If you leave it here, and it's gone tomorrow, will you regret not buying it? If it's clothing, does it fit you? Will you wear it? If you won't wear it, is it worth keeping as a 'museum' piece? If not? Put it back.
What's your best thrift score of all time?
Coyote. I love his natural "camo!"
M. upgraded my digital camera at Christmas, but this was the first weekend I've really had time to play with it. I'm shooting with a Panasonic Lumix FZ35 - 12 megapixels and 18x zoom.
We took a long walk in fresh snow this afternoon - and there was nature. The heron shot is amazing - he did me a favor by standing like a statue until I got my stuff together.
At the beginning of this year, I started keeping a food journal over at livestrong.com A very handy platform for the internet obsessed. I exercise regularly, and actually work pretty hard at both cardio and strength training, but I never lose much weight.
"They" tell you that your metabolism slows down after menopause - I've read that women burn 500 calories less each month after the change. Let me tell you - it's really more like 500 calories less each day. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I'm strong and healthy, but I still want to see my muscles, know what I'm saying?
So, I bit the bullet, got on a scale, and set a goal of 1500 (net) calories each day, with a maximum of 150 grams of carbohydrates. (This was the carb/calorie goal my doctor set for me two years ago so I just went back to it.) I continued with exercise program and hoped for the best.
After one month? I haven't lost hardly anything. But I've learned an incredible amount by keeping a food journal:
- I have inappropriate feelings for Lance Armstrong. He's the last, shirtless, thing I see when I log in my calories at the end of the day, and, well...I've decided to break up with him and take my food and fitness journal over to dailyburn.com
- I need to take my medicines. My doctor prescribes a diuretic and a pill for the insulin resistance that was brought on by an ovarian condition I have. Taking the ovaries out didn't take the problem away, even if I wanted to imagine it was so. Within two days of taking my medicines, I noticed my heart rate dropped twenty bpm during workouts, and I was two pounds lighter.
- Most days, I don't eat enough and I very rarely feel like eating. On average, I finish the day on about 800 calories, and about half of that comes from the milk I put in my coffee.
I could see the 'not eating' pattern right away in the journal, and so I spent the rest of the month thinking about the drivers.
- I hate my food. I don't want to eat the foods, namely meat, that keep me within the carbohydrate guidelines I'm supposed to follow. Chicken breast is healthy, but when I bite into it, I'm thinking, "I'm eating a bird! I'm eating a bird!!" Eggs make me sick. Cheese I can do, but then...large amounts of cheese aren't really very healthy. I don't want anything processed (but I don't want to make anything, either. See below.) Watching Food, Inc. did not help at all.
- In a city, I could figure this out with vegetables. But the selection in my rural grocery store is pitiful. Pitiful. There is a sign above the door that says, "Welcome to Freshness"; my sister and I laugh because everything in there is pretty old and pretty expensive. (The only exceptions are the red meat and the wine.) I play a little game with the manager and turn all the past-due expiration dates to where everyone can see them. The closest decent grocery is a forty minute drive from my house. There are no CSA boxes, salad bars, healthy prepared soups, salads, or entrees at a local whole foods market. Zero convenience.This is hard on me, after years in Scotland where I could buy wonderful produce one block from my door.
- Planning meals is really important - for keeping a healthy diet and organizing my drive time to grocery stores. But when it comes down to it, I feel like everything relies on me - planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, exercising, plus just doing my job. And planning and preparing meals when the store is far away and you can't rely on ingredients being fresh or available is a whole different ballgame. Forget organic. Two weeks ago, I couldn't even find a grapefruit for a Moroccan salad I wanted to make. So, the only things I feel like I can drop are the "taking care of me"-type activities. And that's a whole different therapy moment in and of itself. How did that happen? I was never that way when I was single. It's crazy.
- And so, I wind up making up the calorie deficit with whatever is at hand. I say yes to eating at restaurants that serve sh*tty food I really don't enjoy, just because I don't have to cook. I make things with ingredients I have on hand, namely dry staples, often cookies. And the process of baking is something I really enjoy. And then I balance that out with some cottage cheese, maybe a protein shake, and a spinach salad. It's not good.And it's a kind of stress eating. The days my husband was stressed out, or my work wasn't going very well, the desire to eat chocolate was overwhelming.
I had a chance to catch up with an old friend HW last month, and she's lost 70-some pounds since the last time we saw one another. Naturally, we wound up talking about food, and how easy it is for women to decide not to care for themselves when there are so many other pressing family needs.
HW asked me a question, "If you knew you were going to die in a month, that your weight or health issues didn't matter, what would you eat? Would it really be 30 days of ice cream? Or would it be a wonderful dish you once had in France? A soup made from scratch? Focus on taste. Enjoying your food. See how you can bring that experience into your every day."
And that's where I'm at. Trying to sort out what it is I do enjoy, putting taste and the threat of death in 30 days as my criteria. One day, it was a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven. But I've been surprised how many other things have satisfied my deep hunger. Last week? A pumpkin-lemongrass soup. Last night, it was a roasted beet and arugula salad.
If you were going to die in a month, what would you eat?
I know what you're thinking and I felt the same way. But these are scrum-dilly (and I *hate* tofu) and very low in fat. Each cookie has about 75 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of protein.
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly coat a baking sheet with canola oil or nonstick spray. Puree tofu, add sugars and oil. Add extracts. Add oatmeal and stir to combine.
Combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in medium bowl and mix well. Add dry ingredients to tofu mixture in thirds, mixing after each addition until all ingredients are moist. Add raisins last.
Roll 2 T dough into a ball and set on baking sheet. Repeat for remaining dough. Wet hands and flatten cookies before baking. FLATTEN THEM TO LOOK LIKE A COOKIE. BECAUSE THERE IS NO BUTTER, THEY WILL NOT SPREAD. Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden.
Created by Scott Uehlein for Canyon Ranch.
Which one hits you the hardest? Me: Number 20. Number 19. Number 2. Number 9. Number 11.
AGAINST HESITATIONIf you stare at it long enough
And there is lightning in me still.
"Buddy is with us and fitting right in. He may be questioning the situation a bit---he watches me closely and follows me every step...He has found his blankets, and his bed beside us - slept there through the night and he is beside me now. Partner [her other dog] has accepted him and even my (suspicious of all strangers) cats are deciding he is ok. Buddy is a delight, we are lucky to have him with us. --Barb"
I just find myself surprised from time-to-time that he's not in his usual spots. (I wonder how long it will take Barb to figure out that Buddy will always be following her every step.) I worked at my desk last night until 3 a.m. and that was the first time I thought of how he would have been right there, keeping me company, while Mike and the cats slept soundly. But I'm doing fine, mostly.
Today, I put my dog in the car and though he doesn't yet know it, he's never going to see me again. I didn't want to do it, but I know it's the best thing. My work schedule has been brutal the last eighteen months. It's not been good for him, and I can see it in his spirit.
He's going to live with a wonderful lady on a ranch. He'll have friends there - two cats, another dog, and two horses. He's going to walk in the forest every day with the horses and spend the days at the stables. And his new lady is retired and won't leave him in a kennel for weeks at a time.
All the same, it's hard. His love was generous. He stayed by my feet and made sure I never felt alone. He walked me back to health after my operations, using all his strength to pull me up the hills until I could do it myself. Then, when I was finally ready, we started running, and eventually ran a 5K together (Buddy finished ahead.)
He kept me company in the art studio, happily sleeping in his bed in winter or sitting outside on the front porch in summer. And no matter what, he was always just *thrilled* to see me. That's hard to match.
It seems (to me) that the root of unhappiness in most human relationships could probably be linked to an need for appreciation. Call it "respect", call it "gratitude", it still boils down to that simple desire to know that what you do or who you are has some value in the world.
It's easy enough to remember to say 'thank you' when you've been given something really big. The problems start when we overlook the small stuff. The miracle of finding food in the refrigerator every day; the snow being removed from the driveway. A dresser full of clean, folded clothes or plenty of wood for the fireplace. We tell ourselves that this is just all part of being married, or part of our jobs, or someone else's job. We too easily forget that the things that fade into the shadows of our daily lives may take hours of someone's precious time. Your time. My time.
One of the things I appreciate the most in my life is that I have good, reliable cars. My husband helps me keep mine up. He makes sure the snow tires get on, the repairs are made, and that it stays shiny and new-looking. He laughs at me when I thank him for it, because that's just something he enjoys doing. But I remember, all too well, what it was like to be driving an unreliable car throughout college when I could least afford the cost of repairs or a cell phone. I'd take a good, reliable car over a diamond any day.
I did some reading over the weekend about the notion of gratitude and the need for appreciation in every day life. Apparently, gratitude is a mindset that can be developed. You don't need to be a particular kind of person living a particular kind of life to be appreciative of life and the gifts others share with you. You can cultivate that attitude through thoughtful response, but it takes commitment.
The guideline I use for saying 'thank you', beyond the obvious, socially required thank you's, is this: Whenever I try to convince myself that it doesn't matter if I express my appreciation, I can be sure that it really does. The commitment comes in making sure that expression of appreciation actually happens. I fall down on this more often than I care to admit. Appreciating the small stuff is harder - it's just silly to write a thank you note for all the clean underwear in your drawer. Not as silly to write in a Christmas card how much you treasure the time and love your spouse gives to you each and every day, that often goes unnoticed.
So this Christmas week, I'm going to focus on it a little bit. There are a few people I need to get in touch with - long overdue - and a few notes I need to write. More importantly, I'm going to spend time thinking about how I can assume a posture of gratitude in my every day life, starting in 2010. I challenge you to do the same.
Marina Abramovic, Cleaning the House
The Feminist Revolution.
This title and image is on the cover of Art News this month. It clicked with me - and these are my messy reflections.
Thanks to the work of women who came before me, I have a job. I have the benefit of a great education. I can run a company. I have my own bank accounts. I can work and raise children. I can choose not to have children. I can hold titles in my name. I can vote. I can go without a bra. I can travel alone. I can use my own name.
The Feminist Evolution.
I'm still supposed to be thin, and pretty. At least thinner and prettier than I am now. But now that I've gained weight, started wearing glasses and dyed my hair brown, people treat me (on first impression) as if I am intelligent. After decades of every conversation winding up focused on the size of my breasts, I don't mind the physical changes as much as you would think. But I'm supposed to want to look like I did at 25. At least part of me wishes I still did. So, given that it is impossible to reverse the passage of time, I'm left with a demand that can never be met. A constant pull-push to change; never allowed to be satisfied with any version of my physical self, at any age or stage of womanhood.
My ovaries failed me at age 36. That is the word used to describe what happened. "Failed." They didn't "malfunction," "misfire," or have a "problem". According to the medical community, they failed. And the medical community reinforces my reproductive failures over and over again. You fill out a form that says, "Zero pregnancies" and then next thing you know, you're in the doctor's office and he's asking you how many kids you have. It's a great way to find out if they are actually reading your files (they're not.) I think its actually worse when they don't believe you, and ask you over and over again just in case there was a pregnancy you've kept a secret all these years that you'd like to share. Nope.
When I was in the hospital for my hysterectomy, the Devil sent me a nurse pregnant with her first child. She talked excitedly about her baby, virtually nonstop, never paying attention to how I responded. Or what was in my chart. This woman put me in the wheelchair to roll me out the door asked me how many kids I had waiting at home. On meeting one another, women make decisions based on whether or not you have children. How many you have. How you might fit within their scheme of things. At certain times of your life, you're just not going to fit in with the women your age because you don't have kids. The point of this long story is, in 2009, if you're a woman, you're a womb.
I have a job. In fact I run a consulting business. It's been a good year for me, in spite of the recession (knock on wood). I'm not getting rich, by any means, but I am afloat and busy which is plenty in this economy. By the nature of my business, I have up and down years so I'm working as hard as I can because I know that, eventually, there will be quiet times. Since I've moved away from a major city, all my work is somewhere else and that means lots of travel. Part of me is really happy that things are going well, that I'm able to do interesting work when many people around me are losing jobs.
There is a steady chorus of disappointment accompanying me - all the things that are neglected or slipping through the cracks in my personal life because I have to be somewhere else, doing something else. And when I'm home, I'm still at my desk most of the day. I'm tired. I've been tired since May. A pat on the back and a "thanks for trying" would be great. From anyone. Even the mailman. Really great. But you're not supposed to toot your own horn. You're not supposed to want recognition for taking care of ordinary things. Modest is hottest. And anyway, so many things are left undone that I hardly deserve it.
And, of course, the housework that never goes away. My high capacity washing machine was the best $2000 we've ever spent and I love to show it to people when they come over. Betty Friedan is rolling in her grave as I say that, but it's true. You and I both know that my house is supposed to look perfect. I'm meant to change the sheets once a week, keep it vacuumed every day, and have a great, healthy meal on the table every night. Call my mother. Get a pedicure. My husband does help out, but the fact of the matter is, there is more than either one of us can do, and we're supposed to make it look effortless.
Somewhere in there, you're supposed to squeeze in all the things that make you interesting at dinner parties. The high brow novel. The arts and crafts. Attention to your spiritual center. Even if no one ever asks.
In a conversation about this post from last week, BFF D. T-W remarked that it was "depressing...like the Christmas gift-giving post from last year. You're trying to move this boulder that won't be moved." Or something like that. I didn't think of it as depressing, just honest. But you're not supposed to talk about how hard it is, right? You're supposed to make it look easy. Make the conflicts disappear.
I shouldn't publish this, and for exactly that reason, I'm going to publish it anyway. Ladies, your thoughts would help alot. Use a pseudonym, if necessary. Your email address won't show up on the comments page.
1. There are people in the world who deliberately set out to ruin your day. There aren't many, but they do exist, and I never fail to be amazed by that. No doubt I've offended many in my time, but I promise you, I've never sat and thought about how to do it. (My bad behavior finds its source in thoughtlessness, not deliberation.)
2. On that same note, how am I supposed to respond to said offensive person(s) when it is later determined that I might be useful to them? If our last conversation, two years ago, was you telling me that I'm not worth the money I get paid, do I need to return your friendly phone call asking how I'm doing? Do I act, as you do, as if that conversation never occurred? Can I return your call just to ask you why you said that rude thing? Or would that be considered rude, on my part? If you don't do your work for me because it is "beneath you" and then later decide I can help you get a job somewhere else, what am I supposed to say, in that situation?
3. No matter how much experience you have, there will always be someone to come along and tell you that "you don't know [anything]." This was true twenty years ago when I was just getting out of school, and it is true now, that I have a Master's degree, run my own business, worked for some of the most difficult people on the planet, have lived in big cities, little cities, foreign cities, and, finally, an Indian Reservation in rural Montana. It's true now that I've been married twice, am a step-grandmother to five, and experienced more change and sadness than I could ever share with you on this blog. Even if I wrote about it every day. It was true when I had $70,000 in student debt and its true now, after it's all paid off, and I live the cash-flow life of a small business owner. But unless someone knows you well, it's difficult to smack them back with any response that captures all that life experience neatly, in one sentence.
4. In life, I think (except for God) we are truly alone. We share our lives with people, and that love and friendship - though genuine - is never exactly what you need, 100 percent of the time. The question is, why do we never stop yearning for that perfect confidant? Is that the search for God? Or just plain old self-centered emotional wandering?
Something in my life has changed - I've reached my retail saturation point. It isn't that I don't need anything, it's that I don't want anything. I don't even want to try on the things that I need. I look and can't be bothered to try it on. I look and decide I don't really need it. I look and intend to return to it later and then never do.
I went shopping on "Black Friday" with the girls and decided to look for a couple of things I really do need:
As I cruised through the stores, I put these things in my basket. After looking at the long lines at checkout, I put these things back:
These were things I did buy:
At least I replaced my wallet.
What does it all mean? Why is it worth blogging about? There must be some deeper commentary that needs to be made about consumer wants, needs, and the gap between them, but that just isn't coming to me. There is something there about buying before you think too hard - if you have to stand in line, what is truly "worth it" becomes immediately obvious.
I just don't want to Christmas shop any more. I don't want to send cookies this year, or do my special photo cards. I'm not depressed, I'm actually looking forward to the holidays, I'm just trying to think of things that will make it a good Christmas for me. Top of that list? A massage.
And that's what is on my mind this morning.
The Book of Loves, RatArt Press, Michael Henninger, 2005. Edition of 16.
One thing I observed while shredding my old journals was just how much of my life I have wasted mooning over some boy who was, quite obviously, never going to love me back.
Another thing? That you can fall out of love with someone just like that [ding!].
What's written in your Book of Love?
I've just finished a great book titled How To Put More Time In Your Life by Dru Scott, Ph.D. To prevent procrastination, Scott recommends that you identify what motivates you. The key to your motivations can be found, apparently, by making an inventory of unmet childhood needs.
What did you want in childhood that you didn't get enough of? Naturally, I assumed my list would be long. Dru Scott recommends that you imagine yourself at five years old and jot down a few things you wanted more of when you were five. The trick, according to the book, is to figure out how these early unmet needs can be turned into motivation that helps you finish what you need to do NOW.
Huh. I closed my eyes and came up with only one thing: play money. Not monopoly money. Play money. Fake, green, large-size bills to play with. With a silver, plastic, dollar-sign money clip. An image of my mother wheeling me through the grocery store and saying, "No."
Exactly how can I use play money to motivate myself to do the things I don't enjoy? Any ideas? The only thing I can think of are some stacks on my desk, turn myself into a ganster with a toy gun and some big, fake, diamonds.
Imogen Cunningham, The Unmade Bed (1957)
"That's how it always is. People would sooner weave their dreams deep into the linens than let them grow up next to them into a life without enough sun for them to ripen. When you near your end, you leave your dreams behind in small and seemingly worthless, old-fashioned things, which betray no secrets before they perish in turn. And not because they keep quiet, but because they sing their sentimental songs in a language which no one left alive can understand, for which there is no dictionary and no teacher."
--Rainer Maria Rilke, Interiors, IX
If there was a pill to cure your dreams, would you take it? I might.
Things come to me in dreams. Those dreams rattle, they exhaust, and then leave me totally changed in waking life.
Fifteen years ago this month, God spoke five words to me in a dream. I sat straight up in bed, wide awake, and understood what had happened with perfect clarity.
God still comes into my dreams, but only to introduce something I won't accept in waking life. Not often, and never with spoken words as He did in that place and time, but it has happened more than once. I believe that. I do not understand it, but I do believe it.
Usually I dream about people I love. More often than not it is a person that is still alive - just far away. I dream over and over about someone I love so much that when I wake, I'm heart-broken and tired from having to let go, not wanting to live that next day knowing they won't be with me.
The other night, I dreamed that a friend came and gently put a hand on the back of my neck. I could feel the weight of it, and the comforting presence in the room.
Has a dream ever changed the direction your life?
I've had this song in my head for days. I love this album, but I won't buy it - the music makes me sad.
Please Read The Letter
written by Jimmy PageCaught out running
My scars are a kind of road map to my body. A head-to-toe accounting of injury, accident, illness, or just plain bad luck.
Over my left eye, there is a small white scar that makes a hole in my eyebrow. Chicken pox. I remember sitting in front of the television. I remember my mother telling me that if I kept scratching the pox would scar my face forever. Aged five, I was incapable of imagining the consequences. I scratched. Each morning, I fill in the hole with a Guerlain pencil, "Blonde", and re-think the decision I made.
On my left wrist there are three. The largest two, a skin biopsy to determine the cause of a chronic case of hives. At the time, my friend Mary Anne joked that it would look like I tried to kill myself. Years later, my cat scratched me deeply just above that same scar. The hives cleared up when I moved back to the US. It kind of does look like I attempted suicide.
My right breast has a one inch scar left by a lumpectomy. The lump they removed was just about a centimeter in diameter. It's absence has changed my breast, just as the doctor told me it might, but it wasn't what I imagined. I thought he meant smaller, which would have been fine by me. Instead, my right breast spills over the side of my bra, like rising bread dough over the edge of a pan.
My belly is marked with evidence of naievete. I thought that because I didn't have children I'd be able to keep my figure. Four inches below my belly button a long scar crosses my abdomen and then, on the right side, looks up in a smirk. The skin all around it is slack and numb. Three smaller scars are its constellation - one at the belly button, one where my left ovary was located, and one toward the center. They tried. Too many times. At 3M, my first job, we had a saying, "Right the first time, saves time."
On my left knee, something I will never forget, a massive bicycle accident, aged 9. I wiped out on the pavement in front of my then-house, 961 Absequami Trail, Lake Orion, Michigan. Red Schwinn Three Speed. Just about the time it was healed over, I did it again, re-opening the wound. It would become the small, bumpy, white triangle I still see today. I didn't regain bicycle confidence until I visited Versailles in 1998.
And finally, the inside of my right ankle. A flat, white, one-inch scar left by a shoe when I nearly drowned at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Aged 11. My foot was caught on a rock and the weight of the water pushed me forward and then face down. My sister saw it and came to my rescue. Our parents, barbecuing down the river, didn't believe it happened until they saw my foot.
I'm 38, and I've never broken a bone.
Image credit: Jonathan Rosen
It's never good to come home from a business trip and find one of these in your driveway. First of all, how much does it cost to rent one of these pups? If you're thinking, "mmm...Might be better left unsaid...", then you know exactly how Mike responded when I asked the same question.
Like an idiot, I asked him if he'd driven it yet. He hadn't, and I was pretty surprised. During our remodel, he was notorious for taking the workers' machines for joy rides over the weekend and burning up all of their gas. I must have planted the seed. Not twenty minutes later, I heard the sound of the engine firing up. There must be something on the roof that needs urgent attention!
Elmer Bischoff (1960) Two Bathers
This summer, I've spent a little time looking at figurative painting, portraiture and still life. I'm trying to gather information for insight into some of the flailing I've been doing in the art studio over the last year or so.
I'm 38, and I've never, in my entire life, had any ability or interest in figurative work. Until now. All of the sudden, I want to paint portraits of people - real and imagined - and paint bodies.
I discovered Elmer Bischoff and the "Bay Area Figurative Movement" a few months ago and now I see him everywhere. And Richard Diebenkorn, Paul Wonner, James Weeks, and David Park. This is the kind of work I'd do if I could. I love the faces most of all. What appears to be blank and expressionless is, in fact, a tell-all.
Last year I resolved to acknowledge the birthday of each and every friend with something special or handmade. If you were born in the first part of January, you probably received something pretty amazing. By the end of January, something personal but rather hastily assembled. By February I had mostly given up and spent the rest of the year feeling guilty. Perhaps I should release the guilt and focus on re-gifting instead.
People do it. According to Kitty Kelley, Nancy Reagan was an enthusiastic "re-gifter" during her years in the White House. The problem with re-gifting is that, inevitably, mistakes are made. Reagan made a birthday present to her step-grandson. Cameron, of a teddy bear that had been recycled from the White House gift closet—the same bear Cameron had lost there a few months earlier.
I received a beautiful bowl from friend just after I was married - with a card to and from someone else at the bottom of the box. I might have thought nothing of it if the accompanying linens hadn't been stained and worn. There is vintage, and then there is vintage. Even stranger is the habit of putting bland, identity-less objects in storage to pad last-minute gifts. You know what I'm talking about. Dollar store coffee mugs, decorative napkins, or knick knacks you might display as 'decor' in your bathroom.
Perhaps I'm being unfair but, for me, a gift is an expression of love and care. I put quite a bit of thought into what I package up for my friends and loved ones. I do have things in storage, but only because I think of you all year long, wherever I am. If I'm shopping in San Francisco and I find something I think you'll like, I put it in a box in my closet that has your name on it.
I was touched to learn that Neil Gaiman writes stories as gifts for friends. What more could you ask for on your birthday? I may try that next year.
How do you feel about regifting? Have you ever received a regift? Have you ever given one?
Some of the advice was helpful, some not.
I found this little gem while browsing the bookstore. Basically a 'how to' book for using ventriloquism in difficult situations - like during a drug intervention for your best friend. The possibilities are mind boggling.
1. Historical re-enactments of any kind.
3. Gas Station Hot Dogs.
4. Beautiful museum buildings that display bad "art" with "deep" titles. This piece is called Samsara. [eye roll] Artist's name withheld.
5. Manufactured creativity. Here is a cardboard playhouse for sale at Costco for $19.99. So your kids don't have to make their own out of an old box.
What's on your list?
Mona Hatoum, "Interior Landscape" (2007).
"Too often, people confuse power and love. They may think they are in a love relationship with another person, when in reality, they are locked in a power dynamic, wanting to gain control, manipulate, blame, or judge. Power and Love are two different things." -- Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst.
My 20th high school reunion was this past weekend. I didn't go. Some of my reasons for not attending were good ones. Maybe not as good as the excuses I used for the 10th. I wish I had attended both.
If you want to gain insight into someone's mind, lean across the table and say "high school reunion." You'll definitely get an interesting response. What comes into your mind when I say "high school reunion" to you?
The French phrase 'esprit d'escalier means 'the wit of the staircase', and usually refers to
the perfect witty response you think up after the conversation or
argument is ended.
People often wish they could improve their computer skills, or develop abs of steel. I wish for a Teflon spirit and a quicker command of the comeback line. Tessa suggested that we put together a "comeback dictionary" for me. Any suggestions?
Our cherries are ready but this year we don't have a buyer. We belong to a cooperative that agreed to an exclusive with the Monson Fruit Company.
But it's only "exclusive" if Monson wants the fruit. They can decide at the last minute that they don't need it, usually the week before harvest, and leave the entire Flathead Valley scrambling to find buyers at the last minute.
And they do. Two out of five years we've had the orchard this has happened to us - 10,000 pounds of fruit fell to the ground. But we're actually on the lucky side - we only have 150 trees. Some folks have almost 2,000.
So this will be the year everyone gets a bottle of my famous cherry vodka for Christmas. And next year, we've decided to go organic - better prices, more buyers.
The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University is showing 47 of the 500 aprons held by the Karen Anderson Collection. Anderson, now deceased, was known as the "Apron Lady" of Lynn Center, Illinois.
According to Lynnmarie's Everyday Connection, Anderson collected and mended the aprons over many years. She wrote stories about each piece or carried on the stories of the aprons donated to her collection.
I find vintage aprons so interesting. Whenever I see them in thrift stores, I snap them up and I feel like I've scored. As if I'm holding someone's life in my hands. I think for feminists of the 1960's and 1970's aprons have become a symbol of women's oppression (see the forged metal apron by artist Elizabeth Brim) but the aprons I find are often as delicate as butterfly wings. Gauzy handkerchief cotton edged with lace, as the apron above, and entirely useless as a form of protection. These were probably the aprons kept in the drawer, too precious for everyday use. That a woman would have aprons for work and aprons for show is a blog topic all by itself.
Many of the craft bloggers around my age are inspired by vintage aprons and sew them from vintage or vintage-inspired patterns. Check out the Apronista! This is amazing work and inspires sewists everywhere. With no mention of the conflict between the last generation of women, probably their mothers, who couldn't wait to cut the strings.
I've heard it said that, by blogging, these women are writing "into the wind", but this generation of stay-at-home-moms are different anyway. They've all got wildly successful websites that sell a bird's eye view of their lives as well as custom patterns, books, and self-designed fabric collections. (Not a bad deal. I own a consulting company and have no children and though my blog is, in my opinion, quite interesting as long as you've got an open mind - no one is banging down my door to publish a picture book of what I do all day.)
I'm not sure what to make of it either way, but it seems that aprons are somehow illustrative of the difference between two specific generations of women. What do you think? About aprons? About blogging "into the wind"?
I've been checking out Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project and The Happiness Project Toolbox. An interesting set of tools to move you toward good times: a group resolution kit, a list of personal commandments you can pick and choose for yourself, and my favorite - "Adult Education." Reminders of what you've already learned from life - so that you don't repeat your mistakes. I'll have to add mine: "Not everyone at work is on your side."
Here is the Manifesto Rubin created:
I agree that your body matters. It's important to balance the need to care for it with the need to enjoy life. I think it can also be helpful to act the way you feel (not on this list). Not as a performance, but as a way to get out of the groove of just being...well...bummed.
What do you think is missing from this list? What's relevant? Are any of these items just complete crap - in your opinion?
Many of the artists I work with tell me that they did not achieve commercial success until they hired professionals to photograph their work. When they can't afford it, they trade their art for professional photos.
I also believe in great photos, but I've been wanting to learn to do it myself. I've seen instructions for this DIY Macro Photo Studio pop-up on my internet travels, but never made time to give it a shot.
I made the photo box today, and I'm actually pretty pleased with the results. I put it together and shot about 16 photos in less than an hour. I made it with stuff I had around the studio. No money spent.
Compare this photo of "Egg Man" , taken in the DIY macro studio with the digital scan I'm using on my website. [I didn't crop the photo because I want you to see how the tissue paper lets light in on each side.]
I'm much happier with this photo. It captures the richness of the yellow, and the transparency of the encaustic wax without putting light through the wax as the scan did.
The DIY box seems to work best for small objects. I've never had good luck photographing this small piece I completed a few years ago. Lots of shiny stuff = lots of glare. The tissue seemed to cut down down on the glare, and overall, I'm pretty happy with this photo.
Moving from a big city to rural Montana has given me the opportunity to learn a few new tricks:
1. I learned to knit, but it didn't really "take." I enjoy making quick and easy projects and have no desire to advance my skills. This hat is something I enjoy making over and over again. The pile of unfinished projects in my knitting bag is actually pretty stunning. Most of them have been noted under the "Needles" category at one stage or another. Let's just say I had to drop out of my knitting group for lots of different reasons.
2. I learned to sew. I love to make soft toys. I don't have children of my own or anything. I just make them to relax and then give them away. It's weird, but there is something comforting about making something completely and utterly useless. The only thing about a soft toy that matters is whether or not it is cute. There is something about that, after a long day of trying to solve unsolve-able problems, that really helps me chill out.
3. I learned to can. I think this upsets my mother the most. She spent her entire life trying not to sew, knit, can preserves, or serve a man. But, as I've said before, the year 10,000 pounds of our cherries went unsold was the year I learned to can. No regrets.
4. I can hem my own jeans (see #2). I was never satisfied with the tailoring I was paying for in town, so I just decided that if my pants were going to be ruined - I'd be the one to do it. I'm getting better. Tonight I did a really expensive pair of jeans and they look pretty good.
5. I am doing some very low-key landscape work. I've learned that sun plants don't grow in the shade just because you want them to. My strategy is to buy it, throw it in the ground and hope for the best. So far, that's working pretty well. I also help clear brush once in awhile, since I need the exercise.
6. I have learned to put a dryer sheet under each seat in my car so the squirrels don't build nests in the air conditioning system. (They don't like the smell.) I learned that AFTER I had the nest pulled out, stick by stick, at the dealership. Twice.
Without a thought, I decided I would make my Blueberry-Lemon Tart and it was perfection on a plate. Homemade pastry with fresh lemon curd topped with the season's best berries. The lemon curd was divine - fresh squeezed lemon juice, zest, and egg yolk set to perfection. The perfect combination of tart, sweet, and smooth.The blueberries popped in your mouth and their cool juice rose up into the palate before settling back down on the flaky crust.
Her pie used cherry pie filling from the can. An unnaturally red, sour-thick glue stuck to a frozen pie crust in a tin foil pan. The kind of cherries that make your face screw up into a wince. By the end of the party, there was only one missing piece, and that piece sat on a damp paper plate, half-eaten and looking slightly radioactive.
While her boyfriend's family raved about my pie - and hers sagged in the heat - I realized what I had done. I'd broken the rules. I'd made a great pie, just because I could, without stepping outside myself and thinking of the big picture. She didn't say anything, but she didn't have to.
And that's why, to this day, I always sign up to bring chips and soda. You're not really going to hurt a friendship when you show up with a bag of Doritos.
The Defense Department recently lifted a controversial ban on photos of caskets, or "transfer cases", of soldiers killed in action. I am glad the ban was lifted. I find the quiet ceremony of care shown by the transfer teams to the fallen soldiers to be a very moving tribute. The photos always make me stop and reflect on the young life that has passed away.
Last summer we visited the Coeur d'Alene Resort for a conference. The golf course was planted with pine trees, low juniper bushes and bright red geraniums. I was really inspired by the pop of color the geraniums brought to the landscape, which is, of course, very similar to the lake, mountain and green grass views we have here. Today, I will be planting my geraniums in our garden containers and hoping for the best.
My perfect birthday started with breakfast at Echo Lake Cafe with my sister, Kari and my husband, Mike. An anonymous caller phoned in a carrot cake muffin and an order of birthday huevos rancheros, "on the house."
Everything I learned about "love" in elementary school was informed by our monthly outings to the roller rink in Pontiac, Michigan. I watched the sixth graders carefully to gather information.
This early fieldwork led me to the conclusion that, someday - once I was finally old enough to wear that stretchy gold belt with the lion head buckle- a boy would give me a Speidel Ident bracelet engraved with my name.
Maybe even the one that had a secret compartment to hold a picture of the two of us, "couples skating" to eternity.
The Speidel Ident never happened for me. Did it happen for you?