Tuesday, June 27, 2017

stitches, objects and memories

ever since working on cleaning out our mother's house, i've been pondering things. the things we collect, stockpile, accumulate over a lifetime. the mundane things - bowls in which we serve dinner, glasses for milk, ceramic bulldogs, socks, tea towels...

i had some breakable glasses wrapped in the tea towel above for the trip home. the glasses are cheery ones from the 50s - with a pink check and a gold rim. i didn't notice that this tea towel had a careful hand-stitched repair of a hole until i went to iron it yesterday. and i welled up. mom must have sat down with it and carefully stitched a fine little oval-shaped patch into place. i find myself wondering when she did it. she couldn't have done it today. she's losing her words for things like needles and thread and while her fingers might remember how to make careful stitches, i'm not certain her mind could any longer make the connections necessary to do so. what made this particular towel worthy of repair? it is a nice, soft towel of the kind that are hard to find these days - the kind that actually absorbs water and which is soft enough to clean your glasses on and have them end up clean. that's part of why i used it to wrap up the glasses, i knew i would appreciate using it when i got home.

mom's house is full of objects and we donated, gave away, threw away and burned a great many of them. but there were things here and there that i wanted to save and take home - like these glasses and this tea towel. i'm not sure what to make of my choices. i don't particularly remember the glasses from my childhood. i think they are something she collected at a flea market in the years after i left home, so there aren't memories attached to them. but still, they spark joy (a factor my sister swears by after reading the marie kondo book). and it means something to have brought them home with me, across half a continent and an ocean. i feel comforted when i use them.

it is, in many ways, a situation without much comfort, this losing your mother to alzheimer's. i have been able to read about it a little bit now, but still haven't found anything that i feel like is the book i need. i think i deal mostly by avoidance. i don't call her much, because it brings it to the surface, hearing her repeat the same stories - the relocation of her cats to another zip code (as she puts it), the evil people who took her driver's license tho' she wasn't hurting anyone, the whereabouts of her (multiple!) guns - hearing her search for words and stumble around in her decreasing vocabulary. it's too raw and distressing. so i seek comfort in drinking my gin and tonic from cheery glasses she chose or fingering the mended stitches on a tea towel. and it hits me that the tea towel could have been my grandmother's and the stitches hers. and she also had alzheimer's and was eventually erased. leaving behind a mended tea towel, that i muse over at my own desk in my home in denmark, so far from where the stitches were stitched. and i wonder if objects can be repositories of memory. and if it will also happen to me...

* * *

speaking of memory and objects, matisse found joy in things as well.

* * *

an interesting piece on alzheimer's as a women's issue in the lenny letter.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

musings from somewhere over the atlantic

iceland air FI657, somewhere over the atlantic

i don’t think there’s any way to emotionally prepare for this. clearing out our childhood home. the photos, the show clothes, the memories. the realizing that there’s not much there that i wish to have or keep. the clinging. the letting go. whether to reveal to mom what we’re doing. how she will react. whether she will understand. whether i have compassion and sympathy for her. so many questions, many more than answers. and a limbo space, where i don’t know what to feel. anticipation, dread, relief, nostalgia, resentment, disappointment, sadness? all of those at once?

she’s not going to get any better. she has checked out and she’s no longer the mother i knew. if i ever knew her. can we know our mothers? can we escape them? embrace them? become them? what if we become them? shit, what if we become them?

her utter lack of ever being wrong. her hiding of her actions. her lack of attention span. her distractions. what if i’m already her? how to escape?

i look at my hands and see hers. but also mine. we are always a combination of our parents and our experiences. but who does that mean that i am? i look at my handwriting and see dad’s.

dad was smart, sarcastic, a bit too mean at times, he drank a bit too much, loved his garden, was writer and cared deeply about his town. he was funny and competitive and political and i miss him.

mom is distracted, determined, funny, loves to sing, doesn’t listen very well, was never rattled if 8 extra people showed up to thanksgiving. but i suspect mom never reached her potential. was it laziness? or did she just not know what it might be? she loved horses and instilled that love in me. she got a motorcycle license at 60 and a permit to carry at 70+. i miss that brave woman.

they both loved reading. however, i don’t have a sense of what they got out of it. i love reading too, but i don’t recall them ever recommending i read a certain book. i just read what was around the house and anything else i was interested in….from stephen king to tolstoy.

i want a tattoo of dad’s signature on the inside of my wrist. and i want to get it on this trip. i have a sudden certainty of that. on my right hand. the hand with which i write.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

taking my own temperature

i have a weird mixture of anticipation and dread. i head for the states later today. we're going to do a major tidy-up/clearing out of our childhood home (therein lies the dread) and i'm going to see the child and she's going to come home with me (therein lies the anticipation). we don't know how much to tell mom or whether to reveal to her that i'm there before we've made a good dent in the project. and i really don't know how i feel about that. it seems like i should spend time with her during the whole of the time i'm there, but on the other hand, it might agitate and upset her more to not be part of the clean-up. and if she's part of the clean-up, there won't be any clean-up. alzheimer's is a bitch.

speaking of which, i just read this piece, where researchers are beginning to think of it as type III diabetes. mom has type 2 diabetes, as did her mother before her and this makes sense to me. now, i must avoid getting diabetes myself...

Saturday, April 22, 2017

a collection of links i've been saving

i was rather chuffed to notice that i've surpassed 20,000 followers on pinterest.
i guess it's bound to happen when you've pinned 46,793 things.
only a few of which are duplicates.

* * *

higher self yoga, tantrum yoga, goat yoga
or have we reached peak namaste?

* * *

a deliciously biting review of a fancy paris restaurant.
some of the best writing you'll read today.

* * *

you should listen to the containers podcast.
it helped me understand globalization better.
and spoiler alert - there are ships!
the creator tells a bit about it here.
and one more piece about here.

* * *

speaking of podcasts,
i need to stop procrastinating and just make one already.

* * *

after reading about how the fda has opened up genetic testing
so companies can tell you, for example, whether you are at risk for late onset alzheimer's.
i'm thinking about having my personal genome mapped.
would you want to know?

* * *

a new carlsberg campaign revives
"probably the best beer in the world"
and features mads mikkelsen.

* * *

maritime startups. interesting.

* * *

watching girlboss on netflix.
it's a bit like new girl with a nasty, unappealing main character.
it seems the guardian agrees.
what are you binge-watching these days?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

yoga and the unquiet mind

the sound of mats and heavy cream-colored yoga blankets being spread out. yawns and deep breaths as everyone settles in, trying to let go of a busy day and be there, on the mat, in the cool, dimly-lit room. the woman next to me massages her ovaries with abandon. on the other side, someone places a purple block under her lower back and stretches out, sighing deeply. i try to do the same (minus the ovary massage part). try to land there, in the room, in the cool, in the hush, to quiet my mind and leave my day behind. a siren blares outside. i wiggle around on my mat, trying to block it out. the instructor comes in. he's my favorite for now, while my other favorite is on maternity leave. i wonder briefly if that's ok, to have a favorite in her absence. i decide it is and try to clear my mind again. it flits gaily off to my undone to-do list. then to an afternoon conversation, then back to the list. i pull it back to the room, picturing in my mind my straining arm muscles, physically trying to pull my mind back to be here. present. in this room. right now. it sticks out its tongue and flounces off, cursing the travel agency, skating over an unfinished risk assessment, pausing over powerpoint and that two hours i'll never have back.

we start with that half moon pose, lying on our backs, legs curved to the right, left one crossed over right, arms stretched out to the right. i love this pose, except when i get a muscle cramp in my back, just beneath my shoulder blade. it loosens and i realize that i've just counted to 89 without even realizing it. stupid, restless mind. i mentally strain the muscles in my arms again, dragging it back to the room, to my purple mat. telling it to stay. it does, for about two seconds, like a disobedient dog. i'm not a dog person.

i think about the dentist appointment i made, the trips ahead, my undone to-do list, that obsession we have with cake at work, how that woman beside me massaged her ovaries, what's for dinner, yesterday's productive late meeting, how awesome it is to work with creative people. so many thoughts, so loud, so active. SO not present here, in this room, in these long stretches, that my muscles are longing for, but which my restless mind is clearly rejecting.

we do that position where you sit on your knees, feet out to the sides of your posterior and lie back over a yoga bolster. i always put a block under the end of my bolster, so it's at an angle, as my neck doesn't like leaning back. it's one of my favorite positions. mostly because i can do it easily and many others cannot. it makes me feel better about how i can't bend forward and touch my knees with my nose in those folded forward positions that seem so easy for everyone else. i wonder why it's easy for me and i enjoy the stretch on the front of my thighs. it's here i can still feel the remnants of how the nerves in my left leg were affected by my back problems of a year and a half ago, but i find it interesting and not painful. it feels like i'm helping the nerves heal. and for a few minutes, i'm there, in my body. my mind stops flitting around.

but then we lie back on the mat, to feel the buzz of the intense position. and my mind runs away again. back to the list, and the alzheimer's and the travel plans and the dentist and dinner. and as i once again reach 89 in the endless unconscious count, i remember that i'm practicing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

raised by wolves

my cousin died today. he was only 57 and battling cancer. i've noticed that cancer often wins. that's far too young. he was one of dad's favorites, he had worked for the associated press and was also press secretary to a governor. those were things dad admired, and so we did too. he was only 7 years older than me. he was brutally handsome. someone so good-looking should not get cancer. when dad was dying, he came to the hospital with wine and cheese and snacks for us. we didn't know him all that well, since he'd grown up in brookings and we grew up in platte, but still, he understood what we needed in that moment when we were losing dad and so he brought it to us, instinctively. leaving us with our sorrow and the wine, not intruding, but giving us exactly what we needed. only alcohol would do. and dad would have approved. dad would not have approved of him dying so young. he would have made that tsk sound out of the side of his mouth, shaking his head and perhaps choking back a tear. he would have thought it unfair. and it is unfair. i had lunch with him (my cousin, not dad) on my way home after dad died. another cousin (once removed) joined us. and we laughed over our salads at having been raised by wolves. he wasn't sick at all then. the cancer hadn't yet come. and it was only two and half years ago. he was handsome and smart and funny and we laughed and we remembered my dad and we remembered our childhoods and we laughed some more. and he told me some about his life - how he'd married a bit late, but found love and a family at last and how happy that was. maybe it's all we can hope for...a few moments of happiness, some wine...and to be raised by wolves.

Monday, April 03, 2017

truths right now

you reach a point, perhaps very soon after you turn 50, when you start to think about the truth. and about telling it. and a list begins to pile up...and you have to get it out...

~ you don't have to like everyone.

~ and it's ok if everyone doesn't like you. life would be boring if that were the case.

~ it's great when you can have a gossipy conversation with husband on the phone about the state of the energy industry in denmark. seriously, i mean this, tho' it's hard to imagine gossip about electric and oil companies. however, it's a real thing.

~ i'm a bit jealous of a 5-floor office building with 77 meeting rooms (says she who is constantly booking meetings at the last minute and wishing there were more meeting rooms where she works).

~ it sucks when your mother is being erased by alzheimer's.

~ i'm totally cool with the no more periods part of menopause (especially as difficult as those menstrual cups proved to be), but the memory blips part is a bit disconcerting in light of the above.

~ the new s*town podcast by the folks at serial and this american life is an amazing snapshot of today's united states. and over far too soon.

* * *

spring has shown itself since i started this list a few days ago and it feels like things are shifting...not just the season. i decided to go lighter with my hair again after nearly two years of not coloring it. it feels like exactly what i needed right now - rather fabulous, actually. if i were to scan on an inner level and give a status assessment for this moment...i'd say awake, hopeful, energetic. i'm sleeping better and stressing less about the cheeto. life feels enjoyable, not hard - both at work and at home. i have an inner sense of bubbling anticipation. i don't know what it's about, but i'm looking forward to finding out.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

sunday night dinner

i think sunday night dinners are my favorites. it's then that i poke around in the corners of the refrigerator, freezer and the cupboards and throw something together. something that will likely never be duplicated, but which often is some of the most delicious food that we eat. a few leaves of kale that survived winter in the garden, the last of the leeks (also plucked from the garden today), a bag of oven-dried tomatoes from the freezer (also from the garden), and a couple of thick pork chops from pigs we raised ourselves, half a container of mascarpone. add to that a bit of butter and a glug of white wine to sauté down the leek and a package of frozen mixed beans. with some red rice from the cupboard to accompany it. it's in the oven now and i can't wait.

Friday, March 31, 2017

have you listened to shittown yet?

shittown. the new podcast from the creators of serial and this american life was released on tuesday. i've listened to it twice, so far. it seems so much like a snapshot of today. a musing on what it means to be southern, white, gay, closeted, intelligent and living among people who are not (gay or intelligent). it is a musing on the meaning of time. and life. and suicide. it's deep. complex. disturbing. compassionate and empathetic. non-judging. and tragic.

have you listened yet? if so, what do you think? i really want to talk about this with someone!

Monday, March 27, 2017

monday musings

i have a love-hate (hate, mostly) relationship with the work of lena dunham, but her fierce, feminist lenny letter is growing on me. it's a gathering of smart, honest, courageous, strong women, writing about politics, culture, the workplace and even menopause. i highly recommend subscribing, especially if you're a woman, but also if you know any women. 

in one of the many excellent podcast newsletters i get, (this one from gimlet's reply all) i learned about the vibration cooking cookbook, by vertamae smart-grosvenor. i found it available as an eBook through my library and i was paging through. it's only part cookbook (including recipes for racoon and squirrel), but mostly memoir. and in it i came across this lovely notion on the upside of being tribal. i'll admit i didn't think tribal behavior had an upside, what with the state of the world today, but this passage made me reconsider:

"when you are tribal you don't have slots for loving--you love. you can find a different kind of love for everyone. you love cousin blanche because she was your granddaddy's sister's child; "aunt" belle, even though she ain't really your blood aunt, because you feel just like she was kin to you. what i mean is, it (being tribal) gives you a big heart."

and it strikes me that these days, we are in need of bigger hearts.

* * *

it was about time we started to openly discuss the lies.
and you know it's bad when the wsj calls him on it. 

* * *

and because we need to think about something else:

or the future of photography?
speaking of feminism, the british library is making material from spare rib available online.
maggie may is always able to write beautifully, even about the pain of life.
look what you can find if you go dumpster diving in denmark - enough to feed an army!
and how about a writing assignment from the vinyl cafe?
this animation by kristen lepore is profound and sad.
and this one is just plain weird.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

on the young side of the old people now

as of today, i embark on a new decade. it was a great day. colleagues offering congratulations all day, good wishes pouring in on facebook and instagram and via text and email, a gathering for drinks & snacks at the end of the day that ended in thoughtful gifts, some kinda crazy gifts and much laughter. a big bouquet from husband. and a trip to louisiana, that landmark of modern art, with a friend in the evening. it was a great start to this new phase. my friend mentioned a colleague who said he was super happy when he turned 50 because he was a youngster again - being on the young side of the old people now, rather than on the old side of the middle. i like that thought. another friend said, "if you haven't grown up yet, now you don't have to." i like that as well. i'm weirdly ok with it. it's the next logical step. i started a new project today as well - i'm going to do a daily video for a whole year and put them together, one second each, thereby having a video record of my 50th year. the child gave me the idea. i think it's going to be interesting to think in video. i'll continue my daily photos as well, as that's now completely ingrained in my way of being. happy birthday to me.

Monday, March 20, 2017

monday funday

i was worried all night about the middle of the night uber i'd ordered for sabs to meet her 6 a.m. flight from newark and so i slept very restlessly. i dreamed that i had put regular gas in husband's diesel quashqai. and then i dreamed that i was reaching into a cramped space to lift out what i thought would be a kitten and i found it was a none-too-happy baby possum. scout, who hadn't been around for over a week, chose to meow plaintively at the window at a little after midnight. so when the dulcet tones of husband's north korean telephone (it's a huawei, which, i realize, is chinese, not north korean, but calling it north korean is so much funnier) called out that it was time to wake up, i wasn't ready. it felt like i'd only just gotten to sleep. plus, i didn't want to be in trouble for the gas tank thing. it wasn't the best start to a monday morning, which can be sketchy in and of itself. so i ate chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and made a pot of tea. i went to sit down at my freshly-renovated desk area to get to work and found scout sleeping in my chair. i couldn't possibly disturb him, i mean, what if he never got comfortable again? so i moved the chair over and brought in another one. let sleeping cats lie, they say, right?

* * *

some moron in the white house (there are so many), did not realize this was satire.

Friday, March 17, 2017

catalog of a day :: the natural order of things

my child is in new york city. she bought me a stick of the milk holographic highlighter, it's hard to find, but she found it at urban outfitters. you can never have too much highlighter. i spent the day at a shipyard. it was full of the acrid smell of welding, containers filled with piping, miles of wires, the clang of metal on metal and beeping cranes. i loved every minute of it. it's raining. i'm watching billions on hbo nordic. and drinking a g&t, made with...wait for it...belgian...gin. it's not bad. it's nice to be home with the cats. and husband (tho' he's at a meeting, so technically, he's not home right now.) if the photo above were a loft you could live in, i'd move there. instead, it's the upper deck of a ship that will be delivered in may. they have a bit more work to do. but look at that light. and that height to the ceiling. i could deal with both of those. tho' i'd probably need glass in the windows. i can't get enough of the marvelous vinyl café. today on the way home, husband laughed so hard at the story about the carwash that he cried and could almost not see to drive. i went to yoga three times this week. the light is returning. i am in the final days of my 40s and honestly, it feels fine. like the natural order of things.

* * *

interesting things to read: 11 non-political stories. this terrifying piece on trump's puppetmaster's plan to destroy the eu. and because you'll need to think about something light-hearted after reading that - this piece on the locations of 80s movies. and this totally amusing piece on (possibly) the world's smallest lego ship.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

things kids should do as kids

i keep seeing this piece about things that kids should do by themselves before they turn 13 circulating on facebook. and while it's all well and good that kids do their own homework and can make their own lunch (i really should have enforced that one) and set their own alarms, i feel like it's kind of a careful and tentative list and a little self-serving for the parents. and who the hell doesn't talk to the teacher when it's necessary or help with homework? that's just lazy, it seems to me.

my child is 16 now, but when i think back to the things she did before she was 13, i could add a number of things to the list:

~ fly somewhere alone. when she was 7, we sent the child to the states for the summer. of course, we paid the unaccompanied minor fee to sas, and i delivered her to the gate in copenhagen and my sister was waiting for her outside customs in chicago, but she did an 8 hour flight by herself. she had to entertain herself, excuse herself to go to the bathroom, tell the stewardesses what she wanted to drink and mess with that infernal onboard entertainment system on her own. it wasn't her first time on a plane, so she was already a routine traveler and knew how it worked, but it was still a big step. and she did it with flying colors, also flying home again on her own at the end of the summer.

~ have secrets. we all need something that's our own, that we maybe share with a friend, but not necessarily our parents. a couple of summers ago, we were walking down a creek that flows behind our property and the child and her best friend were reminiscing about a time that they ran scared from some aggressive swans at a little lake that you come to, some ways down the creek. i knew they had played down there, but not that they'd had a bit of an exciting experience, nor that they had walked as far up the creek as they had. it made them strong and brave and gave them something they had together that wasn't anyone else's.

~ eat food you planted and picked yourself in a garden. our child has grown up picking strawberries, popping a warm, sweet cherry tomato, picked directly from the greenhouse into her mouth, sifting through soil after freshly-dug potatoes. she knows where food comes from and how it tastes different and much better than what you buy in the store. she has spent time helping me pick countless little tiny violets so we could make a vivid purple cordial that we mixed with fizzy water and enjoyed on a hot summer day.

~ make the child use public transport. to get to school, to get to a movie, to get to her friends, to get to a party. buy a travel card and know how to use it. to find her way to the brandy melville at sloane square in london, leading the way for a group of her friends. to get herself around london. and copenhagen. and st. petersburg. know how to read a metro map. and figure out how to get on the metro in the right direction. these are important steps to adulting.

~ eat sushi. the child should learn to eat sushi. early and often. mine started at age two and a half. and at about 4, she woke up briefly in a restaurant in manila, ate her weight in sashimi and then fell back asleep. i'm pretty proud of that.

and if i expand the age range to 15, there are a couple more...

~ be part of a major protest for a worthy cause. i will be eternally grateful to my strong female cousins for the idea that we would head for the women's march in washington, d.c. and i am so happy to have shared the experience with my 15-year-old child. now she knows the energy of half a million women and people and her father who support women on her own body and mind and psyche. it strikes me as one of my strongest parenting moments.

~ know the difference between good makeup and drugstore makeup. yes, this is a girl thing, but it's important in today's world. and some drugstore makeup is good, but you can't know which unless you've tried it and also tried the good stuff. (and yes, maybe i am justifying buying my child chanel foundation. but that doesn't make it any less important.)

* * *

very cool, evocative photos of small town america.
and he even used flash! or maybe just lit them up at night.

* * *

what a cool story. goes off to buy a metal detector.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

paradox :: soft, cuddly guns

our annual spring exhibition is fast approaching and this year's theme is paradox. i was collecting ideas on pinterest (of course) and then i came across natalie baxter's work somehow or other and suddenly felt very inspired. 

so this weekend, i dug out the sewing machine and loads of scraps from various quilts and other projects and i got down to work. making soft, cuddly guns.

i think in these politically charged times, i was drawn to creating something political. each gun will have a stick in the top (to make them easier to hang), with a flag hanging from it - kind of like those toy guns with a flag that pops out and says "pow." the flags will have words on them that are at odds with the violence of guns. words like love and peace and happy.

i made a dozen of them, but i'm not sure that i'm finished as of yet. i was discussing it with husband and he had some good ideas. perhaps a sort of soft, plush jesus icon in the middle, since the mantra of certain subsets of the land of my birth these days is "more guns, more jesus." you don't get much more paradoxical than that. and it just might be the final title of my work.

it was very good to be making something again. i had missed it. i love that i had some scraps of gold and silver from long-ago making some pants for sabin, those shiny bits are just the right touch for my soft, cuddly guns.

* * *

norwegian state broadcaster nrk implements quiz before comment policy to ensure that those leaving comments read and understood the article.
all news sites should do this.
norway for the win.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

it's the little things

finding joy in the little things...like unexpected gifts from longtime bloggy friends. thank you so much! small acts of kindness, generosity and love like this are getting me through these mad political times. the kitties think those little fabric kitties and bunnies are for them! and now all of my pagemarkers will be kitties! 

* * *

it seems i'm not the only one with post-election stress disorder.

* * *

meanwhile, in an alternate universe:
the hillarybeattrump website

* * *

i do hope gates & buffet are right about a return to a fact-based reality.

* * *

best troll of the week:
the guys who handed out russian flags to the stupid crowd
listening to the cheeto's speech at the cpac meeting.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


about right now:

~ there is a (disturbingly large) segment of the population that is wilfully, proudly dumb. that's disconcerting. people who were dumb used to want to conceal that fact. i wish they would again. i blame reagan for the fact that they no longer want to do this. and doubly so dubya. and now, we see the results of it with the current dysfunctional administration.

~ sometimes it's fun to go against your own nature and just quietly observe instead of jumping into the conversation with your own stories. or rehearsing them in your head before it's your turn and then not really listening. this is also hard. but undoubtedly good for you. and by you, i mean me.

~ when your own mother is losing her mind, it's always interesting to listen to someone else's lightly racist mother reminisce. being able to remember is a good thing.

~ husband took a disgusting manufactured (albeit locally) plastic-wrapped cake of the sort that will be what survives a nuclear war (which these days, is closer than we might think/hope) to his meeting instead of the beautiful homemade cake that i made for him. he took the cake i made for him along, but "forgot" it in the car. the purchased cake was a joke. apparently. (tho' i fail to see the punchline if one doesn't reveal that one has actually brought a proper cake.) but i'm not bitter. or maybe i am. seriously, wtf?

~ i would feel better if we just had a few days of sunshine. i'm definitely in an end-of-winter-darkness funk. and probably have a serious vitamin d deficiency.

finding solace in poetry

i've been looking for solace in the face of the political climate. it hasn't been easy to find. but there are bright spots here and there. and one of them is the poetry of mary oliver. i've often said i'm not a poetry person, but these times call for beauty that's complex and deep and which speaks directly to a parched and wounded soul. and nothing does that like poetry. funny, i'm also not a morning person, but these two poems lauding the morning both spoke to me and soothed my soul. i even worked them into my art journal today. soul soothed. at least for the moment.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

- Mary Oliver


Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.

- Mary Oliver

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

feeling blue about old my blue room

i've been in an intense adobe premiere pro course for the past two days. my head is full and i'm quite frankly exhausted. i was searching my flickr for a photo of pretty paper to use to encourage folks to participate in an art journaling workshop this weekend and i stumbled onto photos of my old blue room. and i got a bit, well...blue about it. i miss that beautiful space. somewhere i could leave projects out and where i could have multiple projects going on at once. somewhere to light a merry fire in the wood-burning stove, listen to music and hang out with friends and drink wine. and then cyndy sent me a blog post she did about my blue room long ago, which included a SONG that she wrote about it. i swear i don't think i knew about this song before now. i think that may have been during that period when i was feeling invisible. maybe it's just that the universe knew that today i would need to both laugh and cry at the same time. thank you so much, cyndy. it was precisely what i needed.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

a beautiful mess of a weekend

what a weekend. it was full of laughter and gin and playing cards and making good food and father-daughter time and travel plans. and while we laughed about trump's remarks on a fictional swedish terror attack, we mostly stayed away from the cheeto's latest antics, for the sake of our sanity. and it was good. it was a beautiful mess of a weekend. and we all needed that.

* * *

how much do we now love the (former) swedish prime minister?
and more humo(u)r from/about sweden.

* * *

i normally don't think much of these "reduce your stress" lists,
but this one made sense.
and in these times, odin knows we need to reduce our stress.
it might have helped that it was in harvard business review.

* * *

i'm not sure what i make of this.
it seems a bit like left-leaning conspiracy theory.
but on the other hand, it also seems plausible.

* * *

i must say that i think buzz feed was right to publish the russian dossier.

* * *

dangerous and nasty. that's what we get with the cheeto president.

* * *

andrew sullivan on the madness of the cheeto.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

self-care in the age of trump

i am genuinely distressed by the trump presidency. i spent years loathing ronald reagan and the younger bush, but they seem so tame now in comparison. i think it's made even worse by the fact that obama, who was the very epitome of grace and erudition, preceded the cheeto. the contrast is stark.

my stomach is in knots, i wake up at 3 a.m., wondering what he's done now, and i'm still clenching my jaw. i can't even have the fillings i lost due to all of the grinding of my teeth fixed because i can't open my mouth wide enough for the dentist to work on me, thanks to what is beginning to look like permanent tightness in my jaw. and i realize that i need less facebook and more self-care. i need to do something other than obsessively refresh the nytimes website. it's time to take care of me.

so i snuggle with cats. make up fresh combinations in the juicer (grapes, carrots, oranges, ginger and turmeric). i got out a beloved sweater that's developed a few holes and i'm working on visible, pretty embroidered repairs. i read some of the mary oliver poetry that i bought and a jo nesbø thriller that i picked up at good will for a dollar. i put down a few ideas for what i'd like to do photographically in the coming year. i finished and put away all of the laundry (and yes, this is self-care - it feels so satisfying to know the laundry is done). i stayed in my pajamas all day. new pens. netflix (i'm almost done with season 2 of how to get away with murder). a long, hot shower. i have candles lit all around. and best of all, i took a bit of break from facebook, if only for a few hours.

i think i'll be ready to rejoin to the real world tomorrow.

how will we ever get through this?

we saw this sickening sight when we visited the national building museum two days after the inauguration funeral.
they have hosted 19 inaugural balls since the late 1800s.
as we landed yesterday in billund, the final leg of my long journey home, i listened to an inane conversation in a thick, countryside danish accent taking place behind me as i scanned the front page of the new york times i grabbed from the rack as i left paris. my eyes filled with tears as i felt very intensely that mid-atlantic feeling - the one where i feel i belong neither here nor there.

the damage wrought by donald trump in one short week is incomprehensible. as i checked in for my flight home to denmark at washington dulles, on the floor below, people with valid green cards and visas were being turned back on the basis of their religion and nationality. on the way to the airport, my uber driver from ghana told me about how he was going to finish his master's and go back to ghana (he had been in the u.s. for 25 years and even had citizenship). in line for security and again on the train to the terminal, i had a pleasant chat with two muslim women about how sensitive the security machines are - they even picked up the little metal ends of a cord on my dress and i had to be patted down as a result. we parted ways and wished one another a pleasant journey. i didn't think to ask where they were from and i hope that they will be allowed back in if that's what they want.

i feel that much of what's happening renders me speechless - i can't find the words to express how embarrassed, mortified and powerless it all makes me feel. so i obsessively read the words of others - on facebook, on the nytimes and washington post, on blogs and such - voraciously consuming other people's words. and feeling that i no longer recognize the country of my birth. and it's only. been. one. week.

how will we ever get through this?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

standing with millions around the world

this group set off for the march around 8 this morning. we thought being at the last stop would make our journey in to D.C. easier. it did, in that we got to sit, but there were many unscheduled delays due to the sheer number of people. you'd think that D.C. would be used to this.

even just getting out when we reached our destination took ages. but the crowd was overwhelmingly chatty and positive. there was an amazing energy in the air.

escalators were all turned off, we guess that it was in the interest of safety. if the escalator was forcing people up and there was no room at the top, it would have been pretty bad.

couldn't resist a shot from the top - so. many. people.

father and daughter discussing technology
(husband was just upgraded from our original iPhone 3S to my old 6 and needed a bit of a lesson)

he's a keeper.

yes, he is.

just a little taste of the crowd. so much creativity on display - both in knitting/crocheting skills and the signs (more about those later).

i can't believe i was here today. such an amazing experience. so much positive energy. no one was angry or aggressive or even remotely making trouble. it was incredible and a little bit overwhelming. but also reassuring and empowering. and despite a bit of ugliness on a friend's facebook wall from the cheeto-supporter set, i still have hope for the future. i marched for the rights of women to choose what happens to their bodies, for equal pay, for equal rights for all, no matter their race, nationality, sexual orientation or diagnosis. for the climate. for the future. for the country of my birth. for my friends around the world, who also marched where they were. for my beautiful, intelligent, talented daughter. for my family. for me.

so great these two were there with me!! one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

i'm still processing the experience and i'm sure there is more to come.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

slacktivist no more

it's easy to be a lazy "activist" these days - just like and share a few outraged posts on facebook, tweet some smartass retort to the coming clown in chief, unfriend a few trumpets. slacktivism at its best. but after months of sleepless nights and teeth grinding, we decided we had to actually do something. so we are going to washington, d.c. to be part of the women's march this saturday. to be there and feel the energy and power of all those women (and hopefully men, since husband is coming along as well) of every shape, color, size and age, in one place will restore some of my hope. and make me feel like less of a slacktivist. i'll be there, with my husband, daughter, cousins, friends and even my favorite professor from so long ago at arizona state. it's going to be amazing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

small abstractions

today was a good day. i spent the morning with my very big lego ship and 600 people who hadn't seen it before came by to see it. they also had hot cocoa and sausages. that was good.

then i spent the afternoon being creative. we've started a thing in our local creative group called "CreaGiving" - where we teach one another a technique. today, we learned to make small abstractions using print techniques and an old hotel room card. i also used a small acorn cap as a circle stamp. in the end, we mounted the best ones on cards. i didn't mount any of my bright ones, as i want to work further on them. but i made some pink and yellow ones that i was happy enough to turn into cards.

perhaps i'll send mom a real letter using them. she does still appreciate the written word, so i will do it while i can.

those three pink ones in the foreground are mine. i'm quite happy with how they turned out. and a whole afternoon spent being creative was precisely what i needed.

* * *

this prediction of what the trump years will be like chills me to the bone.

* * *

this will also scare the shit out of you.
it's about the MI6 agent who uncovered the trump-russian election interference intel.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

the end of an era

today was a fateful day. mom failed the test to keep her driver's license. and she failed it with flying colors. it's the end of an era for her. she's been driving for a good 60 years. and what a change it will be. to be able to get into the car and go somewhere has been the hallmark of her life. once upon a time, she picked up and drove herself to a new job and a new life in the black hills, moving away from her mother, her home and her job in sioux falls for the first time. on another occasion, she drove herself to a new life together with my father when he bought a little weekly newspaper in his hometown. and from there, whenever she needed to get away, she got in her car. she drove us countless miles to horse shows and a couple of times to visit her sister in oregon. she was fearless at the wheel, if distracted, the dashboard covered in glasses cases, kleenex and donut crumbs. when my sister and i fought, she stuck my sister over to her left on the broad bench seat of the old brown pickup and separated us. seat belts be damned. those were the times. and it ended ok.

she must feel devastated. i can't even imagine. even she, from within her fog, must know that that is significant. for the first time in this experience, i feel genuine sorrow for her. this changes everything. she can no longer escape. and neither can we.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

paranoia and pistols

i try to call mom and she doesn't answer the phone. i guess she's still mad at me for supposedly taking her glasses (which were found, there in her house). i also apparently took that big picture of dad that she puts in the chair with a stuffed cat and a blanket and talks to. but that too was found on her dining table. and does she express remorse for her accusations? apparently not, she experiences only the immediate joy of being reunited with her precious possessions.

was this paranoia and thinking the worst of others always there in my mother or is it the disease? and why me? because i was the last one there, visiting her? perhaps she associates me with the glasses because i was the one who found them for her, stuffed into a paper bag in their cases, just before i left, so i was imprinted on her mind along with them. or maybe, all of the furniture from her basement that has peopled my various apartments and which was freely and generously given by her, has imprinted me on her brain as the one who comes and takes things away. maybe this is why she can hurl wild accusations of her thieving daughter around. and i can't say that they don't hurt, even while i know they're not true. who is this person and who does she think i am?

it's this paranoia and thinking the worst of people that made me worry about all the guns in that house. her expired permit to carry a concealed weapon (incidentally not a photo id) was on the table in the living room, but that didn't stop her from loading two heavy bowling ball-sized bags full of guns and ammo into her car the other day (turns out she had a new permit there among her stacks of mail). i don't know what she was planning to do with them, but i had visions of her shooting her  beautiful granddaughter in a haze of paranoia one day. and it takes my breath away to even write that. that said, i have also laughed hysterically over my pistol-pakkin' mama. if you're not laughing, you're crying with this disease.

the guns are packed safely away now, so the horror scenario that flashed across my mind isn't going to happen. but undoubtedly many others will with this cruel disease. i have to grow a thicker skin.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

practicing :: it's a process

today at yoga, the instructor talked about letting go of the tension in our bodies and minds without necessarily solving anything. just releasing it. without needing to solve the underlying cause. just to get a moment of relief. and with my now bordering on chronic jaw problem and all of the unsolvable issues that have caused it (the cheeto who will soon be our president and my mother's decline), the notion of releasing the tension without a solution was a freeing one, even as i also feared that letting it go might just collapse the whole structure that is me. but i was able to do it there, for a brief moment, in class. and it felt pretty great. and i hoping that knowing it's possible, if only for a moment at a time, will help me to do it again. 

i was further reminded at yoga of how much i live my life inside my head and not in my body. like my back problem a year ago, my recent jaw pain, was a sharp wakeup call to me to live more fully in awareness of my body. to find a better balance. my clumsy efforts at knitting help. and i find myself wanting to sew something as well, as that is a good activity for mind-body interaction. from what i've been reading about alzheimer's, it can be very important, that hand-brain connection, in helping yourself avoid getting it. that and a healthy diet. a healthier diet is something that the jaw issue has forced upon me as well and here, more than a week into healthier eating (making lots of juices these days, since i still have trouble opening my mouth very wide), i'm feeling much clearer in my thinking and my clothes fit better as well! so there is some silver lining to the jaw issue. 

yoga also reminds me that i'm practicing. and that it takes time to get good at something. i spend brief moments truly in my body while i'm in class. and i need to work on carrying those moments into the rest of the time - like when i'm trying to fall asleep. or when i feel stressed in a meeting. i want to get better at grounding myself in my body, through breathing and listening to what it's telling me. so weird that it has taken this long for me to realize this. 

* * *

i liked the 2017 goals that tracy clayton (of another round podcast/buzzfeed fame) posted on twitter.

* * *

i envy this guy's knitting skills.

* * *

this woman lives without modern amenities.
but you'll never go without a cup of tea when you visit her.
"miss gallagher believes a period of silence or solitude should be encouraged in the house to help cope with the pressures of life."
maybe she's right.

* * *

if you want to be a better person, find something outside of work.

* * *

is america just a bit backward?
and is it going to get worse?

Friday, January 06, 2017

the joy of kittens

i think this batch of kittens is the one i've enjoyed the most. two of them went to their new home today and it's going to be a lot quieter around here now. it may be time to fix charlie, she'd had quite a few batches of kittens and maybe now she needs a well-deserved rest. on the other hand, she's probably the best momma kitty i've ever had. and she did make our beautiful sif, who might have ended up taking the place of my beloved and much-missed frieda, at long last.