Thursday, December 23, 2010

let down

Henri Cartier-Bresson--Romania 1975
My endless circle of giving has been interrupted.  I was felled by a virulent stomach flu Monday and Tuesday.  So instead of buying coffees and gas and groceries for strangers, I was being cared for by the best man I know.  Inside my aching body I was so grateful for the kindness of my husband, who held my head and rubbed my back and emptied my vomit bucket (!) and came back from the store to tell me that he and E had bought soup for a guy at the grocery store.   The next day they put money in the bell ringer's bucket and I've got some serious catching up to do.  But for now, I'm glad to be back.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


As a kid, I was a big time label girl.  Nearly anything with the Guess label on it was delicious to me.  Even puke-colored jeans, or ugly T-shirts that we found on the sale racks.  Because we never bought anything that wasn't on the sale rack.  Anything.  When I saw something with that ridiculous triangle hanging amidst the sale rack, I was elated.

I've been wondering lately if this devotion to brand was something I acquired because my parents were SO immune to it.  They could not ever see spending $50 for a pair of jeans that, to their eyes, were exactly the same as the $14.99 pairs.  Or was I simply seduced by the marketing of wet looking girls with sand on their perfect thighs and their bosoms busting out of femmed-up cowboy shirts?

I was in Hollister today, looking around for my E who has never had anything from the store, but is still wildly attracted by the aura surrounding it.  Who can blame her?  I stood there in the island hut, with its white shutters and plank floors, looking at all the super-soft T-shirts and sweatshirts, the aroma of coconut drifting all around me, and I wanted to buy the whole effing store.

But I left empty-handed.  Can you believe it?  My very own credit card like a gorgeous wet-looking girl nestled in my wallet, and I walked away.  Good God, have I grown up?  Am I that parent--the one who balks at the $50 hoodies and the skanky-looking models?  Yes, I am.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

circles go round and round

Last week, I met a friend for coffee.  While standing in line, a complete stranger gave us $15 worth of credit at the cafe.  We laughed and ordered extra tall lattes.  The next day, the same friend called me to say that another stranger in front of her at Starbucks had payed for her coffee anonymously.  I was talking this over with the Mister and we decided we try to initiate our own little mini-holiday inside this big holiday month:  For the five days before Christmas Day, our family will commit to doing at least one random act of kindness for somebody out in the world.  Whether it's buying the groceries for the person behind us in line, or giving someone a coffee, or filling up somebody's tank of gas, we will set aside some cash and dole it out for these anonymous good deeds.  Just like the guy whose $15 gift is reminding us to pay it forward, hopefully the circle will keep going round and round.  I'll try to post here how we spend our random kindness December 19-24.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

apt advice

Though sometimes Keri Smith's own success makes her seem overexposed, I'm not sure I can get enough of this list.  See if you agree.

Secrets of the Self Employed (or How to be an Amazing [insert profession here])

1. Don’t worry about marks while you are in school. No one will ever ask you what school you went to or what your marks were when you leave it. (this pertains to the field of illustration).

2. You are always working for yourself, even when you work for others. Sometimes it feels like you are just the hired hand (and some clients can be really challenging to work with). But there is always some way to turn an illustration job into something exciting for you. Some ideas: experiment with a new technique (or a new color palette), use it as an opportunity to learn about a new topic, rebel against the job in tiny ways (do some roughs just for yourself in which you insert subversive material).

3. There are no actual rules for how to become a successful [insert profession here]. Make your own path.

4. It will help you to create a social network of other self-employed people.

5. Move your body every day. There are many health reasons for this, but it also helps you to work on ideas subconsciously. Ideas and solutions will come in when you least expect them but (almost always after a minimum of one hour of walking). There are new studies that suggest increased oxygen to the brain is a greater source for creativity than “creative brain exercises”. I have found this to be true for myself.

6. Goof off on a regular basis.

7. If you want to work on your art, work on your life. All those personality traits that aren’t working for you will come back to haunt you in your career (i.e. assertiveness, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation.) It’s all connected.

8. What you think becomes your reality. I always had a belief that if I cleaned out my recycling bin in my studio I would get new work. And guess what, it always happened. If you think the industry is screwed and there is no work to be had, guess what you will find out there?

9. Focus on ideas instead of tools (technology). Anyone can learn to use the tools, but it is the thinkers who really impact the culture in important ways. In the end the tools don’t offer anything interesting.

10. Worrying about the competition does very little to help your career. I know it’s hard sometimes to ignore what other people are doing (we all think that others are doing better than us), but every one of us is on a different life path. We are all here to accomplish different things and even though it would seem like one person’s path is similar to yours, it is not.

11. Only work for free if you are passionate about the cause or receive something of value in return. (Be wary of people who offer your name in lights in lieu of money. Many people will tell you something is good promotion for you, often it is not and there are no guarantees when it comes to promotional value). If you are not getting something of a measurable value (i.e. printed pieces, or money) ask for something else, creative freedom. If they refuse then they may not be a good client to work for anyway.

12. Take some small risks on a regular basis. Some ideas: write some places/companies you would really like to work and let them know why you think they are great.

13. Don’t worry about whether or not you are good (good is subjective and most people are not great judges of their own work), just keep making work.

14. Ignore cool. Successful people do not try to be hip, they just do work that excites them.

15. Always come back to work that excites you. Even if you get off track for a while. Do personal work on a regular basis, show it to others. You can reinvent yourself at any time.

*Above photo evidence of E's adherence to #6

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Can you believe it?  Again, I find myself staring into the eyes of creatures made from felt.  These creatures, I'm certain, are alive.  Aren't you?

Cat:  Just be still.  They'll be gone in a moment.  
Bunny:  Shit.  My onion is upside down.  It's itching my neck.  I hate it when things touch my neck.  Seriously, guys. . . .I think I might have to move.  What happens if I blow our cover?    
Donkey:  Sigh.  

Found here, with a price only available upon request.  And only in French.  That is some handy-dandy needle work.    

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I'm here.  I really am.  I haven't forgotten you, blogland, it's just that I'm short on images and if you want in on a secret--that's usually how I start this thing.  I find an image that I like and ruminate on it and think about what I can say about it.  So let me just tell you a bit of what I've been up to:  I finished reading FREEDOM and I was totally underwhelmed.  But then, when I saw THE RIGHT STUFF (you know, Oscar-winning film about the astronauts that I somehow missed in my adolescence) I was bored to tears.  I actually was moved by the end of FREEDOM, mostly because I didn't think there was a chance in hell that Patty and Walter could end up together and happy (maybe?).  Sorry if that was a spoiler.  The best part of the book in my opinion is a couple of pages midway through when the rock n'roll character is riffing about pop culture and ipods and rebellion.  Otherwise. . .

Also, I've begun THE GREAT HOUSE by Nicole Krauss.  I'm perturbed.  But I'm persevering.  Writing is hard, no?

I shared a little with you about my adventure in felting--remember, how it fixes everything?  Well, check these out and be prepared to drop you jaw.  This is no felting for forgetting.  This is felting with some kind of crazy know-how remembering.  Really, you'll be amazed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I gotta say, I never thought I'd still get zits when I was 38 years old.  I mean, really!  When I was sixteen and trying my hardest to sell a Gap pocket T to every person in the mall, I thought that as soon as I hit twenty, acne would be a thing of the past.  My real life could begin.  

BUT, I also never could have anticipated that those blemishes would really be a very small annoyance in a life filled with fine people and things made by those people, such as the cardboard robot in the above photo.  It was made several years ago by T and it still makes me happy.  As this week of thanks begins, I'm feeling gratitude by the buckets.  Now pass the zit cream, please.    


Monday, November 15, 2010

felting fixes everything

In full disclosure, as much as I find great joy in my textile obsession, I'm not a prescision crafter.  I cut corners (literally and metaphorically) all the time.  So, the elation I experienced when I felted a sloppily knitted bowl and saw it become a perfect specimen, was tremendous.  Felting can do for knitting what time often does to the past:  smooth over all the lumps and loose ends and make it better than you imagined.  You were beautiful.  He was handsome.  Everyone laughed and everyone danced and there was confetti falling like glitter when you first kissed.  Here's to felting!

Friday, November 12, 2010

faux fux

Do you think the above title would work for a phone sex business?  Where is my mind?  No idea, except I found myself a deal on some black faux fur at the fabric store today and I am flying high.  Immediately, I came home and started cutting.  I had the dog in mind (it was the only way I could justify such a purchase to myself) who has been napping on a nice down pillow that didn't have a cover.  Now it does!

I was covered in black faux fur pieces for most of the afternoon.  It was not easy, this beast.  But it is a luscious landing pad for one lucky pooch.

Meanwhile, some strangers invaded our house:  
Some of the Uglydolls are real and some are half-bloods, designed by the boy and made by the fur lady, who has a wee infatuation with textiles.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

it is the desert. . .

. . .and it is beautiful.  I'm not sure how you all keep yourselves distracted (clearly not the types for word searches, ahem), but I could look at and wonder about how this cactus blossom finds its precise shape for a very long time.  I know there are people out there who actually understand biology and how it is that cells speak to one another, form a plan, create a finger, toe or eyelid.  I also know there are people who prefer to think that these cells were made by God.  To me, cells are divine not because something all-powerful made them, but precisely because of their humble origins--because they spontaneously, mysteriously scrapped it together, long before anyone could see them or name them or claim them.  And they made these shapes whose beauty takes my breath away:  The outrageously long eyelashes on my little boy, the perfect thumbs on my little girl, and these bright yellow blooms on these ancient cacti.       

Monday, November 1, 2010


Well, strangers, we're coming up on the first anniversary of this blog.  How can it be?  As if on cue, to remind me of the powerful connections made in the old-fashioned world, I had such a surprise in the snail mail today from a stranger all the way in Canada.  A lovely note from a reader, who took the time to make a word search with vocabulary from DEAR STRANGERS!!  Behold: 

My friends, I deeply understand distraction; my poison happens to be fiber-related, Nicole Foucault's seems to be letter-writing & puzzle-crafting.  I don't mean to sound hokey here, and I'm afraid that I will--but, does she know how much I love the graph paper?  Did she read this post?  Is this all too much?  Thank you, Nicole Foucault! 

If anyone wants to solve the puzzle and send me the answer, I'll send the author of the first correct answer one of my fiber-related distractions.  Maybe your own birthday number pillow, comme ca?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

now there's a story idea. . .

For sale in the quite beautiful etsy shop called restless general store is a lock of brown human hair for $12.  Hmm.  I'm not sure whether I find it more strange that this is strange (vintage?) or that someone might actually buy this.  Are you making dolls?  Or are you placing it carefully on your mantel beside a well-worn pair of shears, as a new, exciting, totally unique objet d'art?  Either way, I've got a lock of blond hair I could sell you. . .

Monday, October 25, 2010

what the what?

I happened upon a piece of an interview with the writer Linda Barry the other day as I was driving home from the morning carpool.  She said that creativity, be it drawing or singing or writing, is a biological need.  I found myself chewing on that phrase for most of the day.  What are our other biological needs?  Eating, breathing, drinking, sleeping.  Are artists simultaneously so revered and reviled because we've found a way to make a living (sort of) by living?  Are we akin to the folks at the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating contest--fulfilling a biological need in an obscenely public and gluttonous sort of way?  I don't think this is what she meant.  I think she meant that the desire to tell our stories and connect to one another is as integral to our species as opposable thumbs.  Whatever she meant, I found it a little bit easier to sit my ass in the chair and do it.  Breathe, Drink, Write.  (Great book title, eh?)  I sat down to do my work and I thought--it's in me.  It's biological, for god's sake.  Like acids breaking down proteins.  Like bones connecting and twirling in their joints.  Like the thick muscle in your chest flexing itself with a rhythm it found years ago.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

twenty days. . .

. . .seems like a lot more in internet time, doesn't it?  Nothing like the sound of gas burners in the pre-dawn light to break up the fall.

Twenty Ways to Not Blog for Twenty Days:
  1. Wake up at 5am, drive the bikes to a convenient location, bike into Balloon Fiesta Park, take loads of pictures for sharing, then give in to all urges to nap the rest of the weekend.
  2. Check out loads of books from the library.  One of which is The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai whose writing is like a sweet reward and compels shutting the computer earlier and earlier.
  3. Bake two loaves of banana bread every three days.
  4. Spend a decadent afternoon at the bookstore reading each and every magazine you'll never actually buy.
  5. Sew clown pants for T.
  6. Felt an array of bowls.  (Felt is a verb there, guys.)  
  7. Host sleepovers, watch Michael Clayton, Revolutionary Road, and Thirty Rock.
  8. Forget you have a blog.
  9. Remember you have a blog.  
  10. Take out the trash.
  11. Buy overpriced drapes.
  12. Return overpriced drapes.
  13. Buy cheap drapes; hang cheap drapes; hem cheap drapes.
  14. Learn the capitals of Spanish-speaking countries.
  15. Establish new rules about no screens during the week; try to lead by example.
  16. Rearrange your office.
  17. Indulge yourself in mild bouts of melancholy brought on by cool air and early dusks.
  18. Pretend you're moving to Istanbul.
  19. Play Scrabble.
  20. Believe in tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010


There were pieces from Michael Cunningham's editorial in Sunday's NYTimes that I found deeply moving.  I'm not entirely sure how much of the article I completely agree with, but this passage alone made me want to stand up and hug him:

     Here's a secret.  Many novelists, if they are pressed and if they are being honest, will admit that the finished book is a rather rough translation of the book they'd intended to write.  It's one of the heartbreaks of writing fiction.  You have, for months or years, been walking around with the idea of a novel in your mind, and in your mind it's transcendent, it's brilliantly comic and howlingly tragic, it contains everything you know and everything you can imagine, about human life on the planet earth.  It is vast and mysterious and awe-inspiring.  It is a cathedral made of fire.
     But even if the book in question turns out farily well, it's never the book that you'd hoped to write.  It's smaller than the book you'd hoped to write.  It is an object, a collection of sentences, and it does not remotely resemble a cathedral made of fire.

I had a really nice time at the New Mexico Women's Book Festival yesterday.  Thanks to everyone who was there.  I'm still puzzled by the elegant-looking woman who asked why I seem different on this blog than I did behind the podium.  Hmmm. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

are you coming?

I'll be there in the Fiction tent at the Museum of New Mexico on Sunday, October 3rd @1:30, speaking about my current work, the craft of writing in general, and maybe reading a little bit from DEAR STRANGERS.  It should be fun.  It's FREE and it benefits the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.  You know you want to come. . .  

Friday, October 1, 2010

fall fruit

I ate a pear this morning for breakfast and it tasted like fall.  We had a pear tree in our back yard when I was growing up.  The rotting pears always ended up smashed underfoot in the grass like an albino dog poop, or spilling in messy clumps from the dog's foul-smelling mouth.  This turned me off of pears for a very long time.  Then, in my twenties when I'd come home for the holidays, my father would store a beloved box of gifted pears in the garage.  Sometime mid-afternoon, bundled in his camel-colored cardigan, he'd ceremoniously make a trip to the garage and re-enter the house with two or three huge, beautiful pears.  He sliced them and presented them on a plate with the greatest of appreciation.  I couldn't resist.  Now, I love me a good, juicy pear and this morning as I ate, I wished I could cut one up for my father. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

why is graph paper


For me, a decidedly imprecise, non-mathematical person to adore graph paper the way I do gives me pause.  But then, I remember speaking to a group of people somewhere (sometimes they let me do that) and I was recalling what a brilliant metaphor math can be for fiction writing.  If you don't know what to do next, look at what's already on the page.  You're constantly trying to balance equations of the emotional or structural or narrative kind.  The hints are all there, just like they are in algebra.  There are knowns and there are unknowns.  Start with what you know and keep working until the unknowns reveal themselves.

I imagine it to look something like this in my brain:

(Hensley stands between cars and throws off pieces from lunch) + (why?) =  The bread tumbles quickly down into the ravine on one side of the tracks and it gives her a jolt of adrenaline.*

I sometimes wish I could graph a book.  Translate each and every sentence into a numerical value and place it on a sheet of tired, old graph paper.  I love plotting points (no pun intended) with a sharp pencil.  I even like all the unknowns.  I just don't always know how to solve for x.

*From my own algebraic work-in-progress.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

on happiness

When you have kids, you really want them to be happy.  So much so that sometimes you slip them an extra chocolate, or buy them an overpriced super-cool pair of shoes, or cuddle them long past bedtime.  But here's the thing about happiness that I've slowly realized:  it's a homegrown product.  It's difficult to acquire from a source other than your own heart or head or wherever the hell you think it's located.  So when we had a quiet (dare I say, sullen?) moment in the car this week and I wanted so badly to tell a joke, or turn in to Baskin Robbins, or say to hell with all the homework, let's just kick off our shoes and watch a million hours of TV, I refused.  I didn't try to cajole a smile or turn on the radio or even rant and rave about positive attitudes.  Because that would only bring amusement or distraction.  Instead, I let the sullen mood ride.  It hung with us in the car all the way home.  As I caught glimpses of that little face in the rear view, I winced.  I come from a long line of enablers and I have to fight the impulse to make everything all better.  But I told myself that maybe this would be a moment that he will remember.  Maybe he's hating me, or hating life or hating the hating, but whatever he's doing and thinking is all his very own.  His life is already here.  And whatever daydream he creates or tirade he composes in that moment is his alone.  When he emerged from his room later that day, a smile on his face and a bounce in his step, it was clear that the happiness was all his, too.  Homegrown.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the story of an engine

In addition to educating me about why yesterday's post was technically impossible (outputs to your USB?!--the typewriter becomes your keyboard, peeps), my dashing husband has become a finalist in the Guggenheim YouTube Play Biennial!!  Out of 23,000 entries, his is one of the 125 short-listed.  Go and observe.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

advancement in obsolescence

Since I've been having some trouble in the ass + chair department, I found myself wondering if this amazingly innovative invention could be a magic bullet, or shall we say seatbelt?  Believe it or not, folks, it's a fully operational typewriter (click, click, click) that outputs to your USB monitor.  I love it.  It's so ridiculously sentimental and simultaneously fickle.  You still long for the romance of typewriters and the long nights and hot sweats that kept them company, but you're just not quite ready to do without the excellence of the instant edit and air conditioning.  The delete and save and shrink to fit.  Just check out the video and then see how much you love it, too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


photo via
Funny that in the last post I called myself an old woman for whom time flies faster than she can fathom.  Because suddenly thanks to the Franz, I find myself wondering what in the world makes an adult?  And when do we really think of ourselves that way?  And will I ever?  Aren't we all secretly just masquerading.  Getting better at doing the things we don't really want to do and dealing with the things that scare us and disgust us, but still, really, just absolutely clueless?  I remember the first time I had to kill a roach, instead of standing on the toilet seat and screaming for some adult to come and help me.  It was a big moment.  Maybe my feelings of being trapped at age 23 have something to do with not having a truly adult skill.  I don't do surgery, or trade securities or run a business.  I don't climb telephone poles, or dissect tissue in a lab or write code upon which the world depends.

The Franz seems to mourn the loss of real adults.  People who are certain of their age and maturity.  People who no longer feel like rebels or poseurs.  They make better parents, better citizens, he told Terry Gross on Friday.  I'm not so sure.  Maybe when and if I ever become certain of my adulthood I'll see the wisdom of his words, but for now I tend to like it when I see a little bit of the kid showing through in otherwise totally adult people.  How 'bout you?  

Monday, September 6, 2010

We sat on the porch and watched the first leaves fall.  It made me catch my breath.  Am I already that old woman who can't believe how quickly the seasons change?  Yes, I am. 

We retreated to the cabin and looked at photos of the children there when they were younger.  So freakin' adorable.  So cherubic and joyous and easily carried.  And yet, I know they're just that adorable now, plus they can count change and pick-out wardrobes and do laundry and wax philosophical and build their own forts and make excellent chocolate chip cookies all by themselves.  This is the time.  This is the moment that I will soon (gosh, those seasons just change in the blink of an eye) be longing for.  When the children are still my main occupation.  They live in the house and make the house purposeful.  Here we are, they seem to speak with their mismatched socks and overgrown bangs, becoming ourselves

Monday, August 30, 2010

death by shopping

Photo: Corbis

It's a very dangerous world and I'm not even talking about the men who boarded the Amsterdam-bound airplane but suspiciously sent their luggage that contained a bottle of Pepto Bismal taped to multiple cell phones and watches on to Dulles Airport.  You can't make this stuff up.  No, I'm talking about a new study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, in which 40% of receipts were found to have the harmful BPA chemical on them.  It seeps into your skin and cannot be washed off.  Decline receipts whenever you can.  And when in doubt, just do what I do and zip yourself into a latex hooded body suit whenever you leave the house.  Honey, has my latex suit been tested for BPA?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

dear weekends, never stop coming

Weekends take on a whole different tone once school starts.  It's not totally unwelcome.  They become sweet, perfect little packages that end too soon, but are delivered each week.  We made pizzas, watched lots of the old Get Smart TV show, climbed trees, had brunch, rented the ball machine, made eggs with potatoes and green chile at 3 in the afternoon just because, slept late, grocery shopped, made cookies, and read Kiki Strike.  What could be better?  E started the Kiki Strike craze, but now she's reading the first aloud to me and T, and we are gobbling it up.  Why isn't this book everywhere?  Why isn't Kirsten Miller our friend?  It's basically espianoge and intrigue for the 8-38 year old set.  I love it.  I wish I'd had this book when I was a kid.  Forget about the website.  It's all perfect.  Happy Monday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

the block

How simple-minded my last post was.  If it were as easy as butt + chair, I'd have finished the bloody book already.  But even when the ass is in the chair, self-doubt and self-loathing and all the other hyphenated words that are responsible for my cuticles looking the way that they do can be there, too.  Every GD day--so cocky, so piece-of-cake.  Ha!

Since everyone else seems to be talking about the great American novelist, Jonathan Franzen, I'll share with you that he used to blindfold himself in his little rented office space so that he would be protected from distractions.  It's very Zorro, don't you think?  I don't really want to be blindfolded or handcuffed or tied.  I think I could still find ways to delete every other word I type.  And when it's dark, I tend to go to sleep.

Don't worry about me too much.  I am moving forward.  I do have more pages than I did last time I appeared here.  I'm just looking for that magic button.  The one you press and your whole, brilliant book comes out of the printer, page by page.  Anyone got that button?    

Monday, August 16, 2010

the beginning

I have to say, though I get the same angst and dread as the last day of summer drags its bare feet across the grass, that I like the way school marks a beginning.  A new year.  New classes.  New expectations.  New friends.  New problems.  It makes all things feel possible.  Including finishing a draft of book that is really barely begun by November.  I'm saying it here:  Every GD day.  Hold me to it.  In this new beginning, there must be time to work every single freakin' day, including weekends.  Hard core.  It's the only way.  Wanna write a book?  Ass + chair = book.  No other way, folks. 

beautiful photo:  Gymnastics, 1967 Gerhard Richter, found via the lovely&amazing

Friday, August 13, 2010

the power of words

If somebody says it's so, it's so.  Just like my rant about religion, here we go again.  Words create our reality.  And how about Jonathan Franzen's reality today?  I remember when I sat around a table at Columbia, all of us looking to him, our esteemed adjunct instructor, to guide us into the world of invented realities.  He was tall, sometimes grumpy, hard to impress, and passionate.  So passionate, in fact, that he made us graduate students a chart showing how, exactly, to conjugate "to lie."  It's a hand drawn gem that I still, occasionally, refer to.  If he is the great American novelist of our generation, does that mean my kids can auction that little chart for a bundle of money at Sotheby's in about forty years?      

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

my lucky stars

It's our 14th wedding anniversary.  I have a ton of images in my mind.  Recent and not so recent.  The first in my catalogue is a warm spring night circa 1991.  The Mister is playing his guitar, making up the words as he goes along, singing with abandon.  I watched his fingers as they changed from chord to chord and I fell in love.  Do you believe me?  Do I believe me?  I do now.  I know that something happened that night.  I saw something in those hands that was the sum of all his best qualities:  humor, tenderness, beauty, humility, passion.  It was maybe the first time I'd been seduced by the best of someone, not the worst.  And I thank my lucky stars, especially today, that my heart had the sense it did.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


"But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form."

steve almond via

Sunday, July 25, 2010

i never thought

I'd spend a Sunday afternoon learning to play the ukelele alonside my kids and husband.  And I never thought my teacher would be the wonderfully energetic Heidi Swedberg, aka George's fiance Susan on Seinfeld.  Thanks, Laurie! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

did you hear?

For the first time, Amazon sold more ebooks in the last quarter than real books.  180 digitals for every 100 old schools.  It's unstoppable.  Like the impending end of summer, the accumulation of dust around the edges of my baseboards, and the devastating hair that accompanies puberty.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a first

Today I made my first visit to a book club in a church.  It was a nice time.  Here's the thing I left thinking about, though.  One of the passages that inspired discussion was when Miranda realizes why Mr. Scrap did what he did:

He's afraid, she thinks.  He was afraid of Jared.  Preemptive strikes and hasty decisions all over the world.

One reader in particular really loved this and the commentary it provides on the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Others were quiet.  Very quiet.  And I wondered--which I know is ignorant, because spirituality is not politicality, but, then again the personal is political--how do people who believe in God  accept what's happening in the world?  I mean, I know there are different conceptions of God, and some are quite distant and abstract, but, really.  Are they angry at God?  Just disgusted with humanity?  And if your idea of God is like some distant, uninvolved figure, then why bother praying?  It confuses me.  But I'm a heathen.  Words created God and Allah and all the rest of them.  I bow to words.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

everything matters

While at Anthropology, shopping for doorknobs (?) I had to restrain myself from buying a certain blue and black blouse.  I was with T.  He held my hand as we exited and I said to him, but mostly to myself, "I don't need that.  I don't need that.  It's not like it will change my life.  Right?"
"Actually, Mom," he said, full of 8 year-old wisdom, "everything matters.  Like, right now, if I said it instead of and, that would change what happens in my brain, which could change what I say next and could change absolutely everything."
"Hmm," I said.  "You're right.  Maybe if I bought that blouse and wore it, I would be the victim of a case of mistaken identity and attacked.  Or be seduced by a royal prince and end up living in the hills of Portugal.  Either way, I wouldn't be here having this conversation with you.  Which would be really terrible."
"Let's go to the Apple store and see what that will change," he said.
Point taken.  But I didn't get the blouse. . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

things i'd tell my 11 year old self

  1. Be nicer to everyone, including the people you're afraid of.
  2. You are not yet afraid of speed and heights--enjoy.
  3. Don't smoke those cigarettes during lunch.
  4. School is actually for learning.  You'll regret all the things you aren't bothering to learn (geography!).
  5. Please, please don't spray your bangs to stand up vertically. 
  6. You're never too young to write a book.  Crank the Depeche Mode and do it, sister.
  7. Fourth grade was the best year you'll ever have with boys.  Don't bother trying too hard.
  8. Eat healthy.  Or at least healthier than a Nutter Butter and ice cream sandwich for lunch everyday.
  9. Listen to the stories your grandfathers tell.  When they're gone, they're gone.
  10. If your parents' cars are the worst things about them, you're doing pretty good.
  11. Someday you'll have a daughter and she'll be eleven and she'll already know all of this.  She'll be wiser, braver and nicer than you.  And you'll love her more than you can imagine.
in honor of E, inspired by hula

Monday, July 12, 2010

small, unintended consequences of large corporate blips

Since we don't have cable TV, the children are always excited to spend a Friday night with Gma, who has the luxury of Disney channel, etc.  Lately, they are like zombies when we come to retrieve them.  The TV has stolen their brains and replaced them with grumpy, ungrateful sacks of rocks.  This Friday, the Mister and I had a long-awaited "date" and nearly the best part of the night was that when we went to fetch the children, they were playing a game with Gma.  Imagine that.  Smiles all around.  They were laughing and loving one another.  Comcast was on the blink.  As we walked home in the dark, they (the children) said how thankful they were for the respite.  How much fun they'd had:  eating outside, chatting, playing.  Being old fashioned.  Ahh. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

pix from the 4th

on nests

Bad news for our renegade mother.  I thought about keeping this to myself, but why?  Is a collective disappointment worse than an individual one?  The nest did not survive, nor the eggs.  Should we have moved the nest to higher ground?  Would the mother have abandoned it?  Is she still courageous, still admirable for forging her own way?  Or is this a reminder of why sometimes ignoring our own history and the wisdom compiled by our ancestors is reckless?

Strangely enough, we found another bird, stuck in our sprinkler head, like a perfect little trap.  What up, aviary nation?!?  The Mister, with the help of another chivalrous friend, managed to untangle the poor little broken bird leg and release it to the air.  I was too traumatized for photos.  Blood on the sprinkler head. . .

And, another incredible nest found to remind us of how often things go right.  This one was huge and empty, having already successfully served its purpose.  Behold:

great waters

Once again, we crossed the waters for a weekend getaway.  Special thanks to Ben Kweller for turning our van into a music machine and giving us pure joy as we crested the hill outside Taos.  This one was our favorite. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

doing the best she can

When I first saw this nest last weekend I couldn't help but feel a sense of despair for the perfect quartet of eggs.  Why?  Because the nest is built ON THE GROUND, in a clump of grass smack in the middle of a clearing where gophers, chipmunks, mice and snakes abound.  What a dumb mother bird, I thought to myself as our dog nearly keeled over with the euphoria of the nest's scent.  But upon further reflection, maybe the mama bird is doing the best she can.  Maybe she wants to outrun her own troubled youth, to do everything differently than the way her parents did.  Maybe she has seen too many eggs lost in windstorms.  Whatever the case, best of luck to you and your little ones, renegade mom!  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

twigs talking to me

Don't hang your head.  You're doing fine.

I should do more.  Forty pages is not enough.

It's the fucking forest.  You gotta see through the trees. 

I can't see anything.

'Cause you're hanging your head.

fierce nature

We had a really lovely weekend away, but came home to such sad news.  Our friends & neighbors who were expecting their baby in just a few weeks had a stillbirth on Saturday.  A beautiful baby boy was already gone when he was delivered to his capable, loving parents.  I know their hearts are broken and words are totally inadquate to describe or convey their grief, but because words are my security blanket, I brought them a copy of this book: 

If you know it, you know it is the kind of book that reminds us of the incredible capacity we have for loss and love and sorrow and strength.  Elizabeth McCracken is an author I admire, but this book made me love her.