Wednesday, November 30, 2011


the darkness is relentless these days. i seem to have gone into a kind of hibernation. hunkering down. waiting for a winter that doesn't seem to come. i even saw buds on some dandelions today. kind of a hopeful sign, but also kind of not. dandelions on the last day of november? isn't that just wrong?

i'll be back soon. i've got blog swag to share.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

get out there and meet someone new

after my recent paradigm shift, i've been thinking about ways to be more active in my local surroundings. because previously, when i haven't found the human interaction i felt i needed in my everyday life, i turned to the blogosphere for such things. (easy now, i'm not abandoning that!) but husband has long teased me that i should find creative people in my area and hang out with them.

late last week, i stumbled onto the brooklyn brainery website and through it, found the society for the advancement of social studies and i longed for there to be such organizations in my area - somewhere to hang out with interesting people, to learn something esoteric, to teach about something i love (like blogging? or how to go about a 365 photo project?). and on facebook, i lamented that if there were to be such a thing in my area, i'd have to start it.

after more than a decade of closing myself off in order not to feel that feeling of rejection from the at times cold culture around me, i screwed up my courage and went to the library. i go to the library all the time, so it's not that bit that required courage. i knew that one of the women who works there is involved in the local "culture house," and i decided that i'd talk to her and share my ideas with her and ask how i could get involved. just out of the blue. like that. opening myself to rejection and everything.

and guess what? she was totally cool about it! she gave me her card and invited me to their january meeting where they will elect a new board and discuss the coming year. she said there are also possibilities for such activities through the library and not only through the local culture house (they managed to get their hands on the quaint old city hall building in our little town). and so last night, i sent her a mail with some ideas. and i'll talk to her some more on thursday. and i'm feeling pretty excited about it.

sometimes you just have to dare to get out there and meet someone new.

Monday, November 21, 2011

evangelists on my doorstep

two kindly-looking ladies with a bible and a pamphlet in their hands just knocked at my door. they came to sell me a future - one that is apparently laid out for me in the bible. and here i was, thinking it was a historical document, not a crystal ball. i didn't really let them stick around to fill me in (tho' i wouldn't have  minded knowing the next date of the rapture, since i never did figure out what to wear to the last two).

call me crazy, but i just find belief to be a very personal thing and not really something i want to share with strangers who knock on my door out of the blue. it seems to me that a whole lot of objectionable stuff is going on in the world in the name of religion and the bible and gods of all ilks.

but i do believe that god or a higher force or whatever you'd like to call it, is found all around us, in glorious skies and the sun breaking through the clouds and beautiful silhouettes of trees against a foggy horizon. it's there that i find god.

that's what i should have told them.

instead, i told them i was american and had had enough religion to last a lifetime...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

what will you do with your weekend?

i'm no longer speaking to our car. we're supposed to be going to an 80th birthday party, but car troubles are preventing it. and that makes me quite sad. 80 is such an achievement! and i know it will be quite the event and i'm sad to miss it. this is the second time our jutlandish car has let us down when it was time to go to copenhagen - i'm beginning to wonder if it has something against the place. hmm...

yesterday, i visited the most fabulous leather store and stocked up on supplies for making iPad and laptop covers, so i'll comfort myself by using my day wisely.

i read this post and began to dream about there being something like the brooklyn brainery in my area. if there's going to be, i'll have to start it. i could also get into the idea of a society for the advancement of social studies in my neighborhood. i mean, an organization whose motto is: "all the history you knew but forgot, and all the booze you need to forget it again." has got to be good.

happy weekend, one and all...and if you want to read something interesting about the neanderthal genome, go here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

the truth about reality

the truth about all of this truth thing is that what i've been writing this week isn't really different from what i usually write. because with me, you tend to get the truth...if i'm in a bad mood, have a headache, am happy or sad, frustrated, ecstatic - i don't hide these things very well. but, just as a map can't truly depict a place, you can never write everything. and let's face it, no one would want to read it if you did. so we all pick the highlights and sometimes the lowlights. it's just how it is. and it's what i love about the genre of blog - it's really whatever you want it to be. i think i just got a little tired of all of the in-your-face, groomed, styled and curated perfection i was seeing out there.

the truth is that despite living in an old house which needs lots of work, we have a pretty good life. and although all of the changes we've been through in past year and a half have been stressful and even worrying at times, we're happy with where we're at and the decisions that have brought us here. on a still evening, when we step outside and breathe in the fresh air and hear the sounds of birds in the trees or the crunching of a horse, life seems pretty much to be exactly as it should be.

that's not to say that it can't be improved. yes, we should have less stuff. yes, we should have a place to put it all away. yes, i should waste less time in front of the computer and spend more time in the garden. i should procrastinate less and sew more. i should more consistently believe in the things i'm working on and in my abilities. i should watch fewer crappy television shows. but it's a process. and nothing happens overnight. but all of that messy process is where life is lived - in the contradictions, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the happiness and the unhappiness and the moments of feeling like a heroic parent in comparison to those crazy people on toddlers & tiaras or that awful show about the insanely expensive themed child parties.

as one of my favorite russian writers, andrei bitov, wrote, "unreality is a condition of life." so i think i'll just chill about it. hang out with the cool bloggy people who seem real (you know who you are) and try to avoid all that curated perfection for awhile.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

things i want to remember

    Malynne Sternstein will lie to her students, she’ll overwhelm them with reading, she’ll assign texts that some, including her own teaching assistants, believe are simply too hard for undergraduates. She’ll also employ, what she calls, “radical friendliness ... I’m almost too friendly for it to be authentic; it too must be questioned.”
    For Sternstein, Associate Professor in Slavic Languages and Literature, these are all tactics in her broad effort to cultivate an atmosphere of learning.
    “I really want the classroom to be a safe place, a safe place to have conflict.”
    And creating that place, Sternstein says, so often begins by creating “the upset.”
    A scholar of Czech literature, who has authored a book on the Czech historical avant-gardes, Czechs of Chicagoland, and articles on such topics as iconic language, gender and citizenship in the arts, Sternstein’s scholarly work explores the intersection between art and literature, film and politics.
    She teaches classes on Vladimir Nabokov, the modern central European novel, kitsch and the Czech artist Jan Svankmaher. She also teaches the popular class, “Critical Methodology Theory: From Adorno to Zizek,” a foundational class in the Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities that she chaired for several years.
    In the “Critical Methodology Theory” class, she often will choose the most difficult, most obscure texts.
    Sternstein will choose an obscure text by the Lacanian psychoanalyst, Slavoj Zizek, rather than one of his more popular, perhaps accessible works. “If you teach a well-known text, some students will already have a cocktail-conversation answer ready. They come into the class with preconceptions about the text. It’s very hard to dislodge.” Sternstein wants texts that students may not know, so they have to read and react.
    Of her penchant for lying, she says, “I will ask questions that are fundamentally wrong.” It’s another way to provoke her students. In a recent discussion about Lolita, she asked, “Was Lolita a compassionate individual?” That’s the wrong question, Sternstein said. “Lolita is just a character in a book. The book is about language. I just wanted to get them to call me on it.”
    At the beginning of her Nabokov class, she informed students, “I am going to lie at times. A student quickly responded. “Are you lying now?” “That was a good sign,” Sternstein said. “I could tell it was going to be a good class.”
    Sternstein says she has no teaching model inspired by a high school or college teacher, but rather her pedagogical strategy is a reaction to her own frustration with the belief that “there is a right answer.” Sternstein felt that so often that right answer was simply about learning how restate what the instructor was saying.
    Her own approach evolved gradually. While teaching “Human Being and Citizen,” Sternstein’s teaching assistant challenged her, openly questioning her decision to assign History of Sexuality, by Michel Foucault, as part of a broader discussion of Genesis. The TA argued that the students, mostly first-years, were too young, that they were inexperienced readers who wouldn’t understand the text. To her surprise, Sternstein found that she wasn’t threatened by the challenge, but rather exhilarated.
    Sternstein also found she didn’t mind assigning texts that are considered “too hard.” “If they understand Foucault on sexuality in Eden, that’s fantastic. But even if they misunderstand it, that’s fine.” In teaching a difficult paragraph on, say, Lacan, which most students struggle to understand, she found that working together as a group helped students understand the passage.
    Another watershed moment for Sternstein came when she discovered the value of “hot moments.” The most dramatic example of this was early in her career at Chicago when she was teaching a Richard Wright essay in a Humanities core course. The class had proceeded calmly to that point. “It was staid,” she recalled. Two students were dominating a discussion of race. Finally, a student, who had never talked in the class, grew so agitated by the political correctness of the discussion that he entered the fray. He raised his voice. He stood up on his chair, and said, “It’s impossible to move forward when you can still feel the shackles on your ankles.”
    This was a dramatic, tense moment. But following that, the student became an engaged interlocutor, and the whole atmosphere of the classroom changed. There was, she recognized, a great benefit to the “hot moment.”
    For Sternstein, teaching also is exciting because it’s a chance to make new discoveries. “I’ve read Lolita more than 10 times,” she said. “But every time we read it in class, someone finds a trifle. They’ll notice something in a certain way. This can be an ecstatic moment for me.”

i love these thoughts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the truth: too much perfume

the currents - these are out at the moment and in regular rotation
i've been posting a "scent of the day" on facebook for a couple of weeks now. it was a kind of reaction to some facebook friends who post the song that's in their head when they wake up in the morning and i thought it would be funny. i've written before about my perfume collection but i never really owned up to how much perfume i really have. in fact, until i thought about this whole truth-telling thing, i never dared to count it. but now, i have. and it's not pretty. 47 different kinds.  on the bright side i will never have to buy perfume again as long as i live.

a peek in the perfume box
it took a decade to build up this collection, but bear in mind, i spent a few years passing regularly through an airport duty free. all of it is bought in duty free. not because the prices are better (i think they're pretty similar), but because they have the best selection - at least the good ones do. it's funny, i can pass by a department store perfume counter without even being tempted, but let me loose in the duty free in copenhagen or singapore and watch out!

the large majority of this collection was acquired before i began striving for a simpler, less consumer-oriented life and i'm proud to say that 2011 is almost over and i haven't bought any perfume at all. plus, i only bought one in 2010, so i have improved. i would actually donate some of it, but i'm not sure that the second-hand shops would take partial bottles.

as those of you who are friends with me on facebook know from the daily updates, i actually use perfume on a daily basis - and i don't tend to the wear the same one for two days running. i keep an ever-rotating collection out on the shelf in the bathroom and on the shelf in the bedroom - 5-6 each place - something to suit the season and any potential mood.

there are romantic scents, power scents for difficult meetings, feminine ones and unisex ones. there are ones which are bonded inextricably with memories of certain times and places. there really are only 1 or 2 that i don't ever use...jill sander sensations and calvin klein contradiction. both of those went weird on me when i was pregnant with sabin and i haven't been able to stand them since.

i recognize that this is probably a symptom of a larger disease of the soul, but i feel it's one that's in my past. and the daily enjoyment of my previous obsessive collecting actually lives on in a positive way, so although it was pretty excessive (wasn't everything in the naughties?), it wasn't all bad.

now it's your turn...what are you a little bit obsessive about collecting?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the truth: there's too much pressure on mothers

baby sabin (and smoochie)
a friend of mine woke up very early one morning late last winter to find herself in labor. it was 4:30 or so and her second child, so she decided a leisurely shower was in order. after the shower, she pampered herself with nice-smelling lotion and dried her long, blonde hair. after it was dry, she commenced to flatten it with her flat iron. as one does, when one is about to depart for the hospital to have a baby. after carefully doing her makeup, her baby brain decided that a bit of fake tan was in order and she proceeded to apply the bronzing lotion. about halfway through, she realized that the contractions were coming with what began to smack of alarming regularity, so she called out to her husband that they needed to get going NOW. they deposited their 2 and a half year old daughter with the neighbors, who they had roused from sleep, and tore off to the hospital, where just a few hours later, they took delivery of their lovely, healthy baby boy. her husband, commemorating it on his iPhone (of course), showed her the first photo and to her horror, her mascara had run and her carefully flattened, silky hair was all a tangle. the various drips and tubes running into her arm had left spots of white in the midst of her lovely tan. and she realized that she was reeking of that smell that even the best fake tanning lotion cannot hide. in all, quite the memorable moment. when she tells it, it's so hilarious that you are falling out of your chair laughing, even tho' you might be in the midst of a rather posh bar at the time.

and while i laughed until i cried, i think it's a symptom of the pressure on mothers today. pressure i don't think was on me ten years ago when sabin was a baby. at that time, the only pressure i recall was heavy encouragement from the danish midwives to give birth without drugs. in the end, i was so ill, that i had an emergency c-section and it's still a bit of a fog to me. but i have never felt for one second badly that i "missed out" on natural childbirth and that's the only thing i recall being given some grief over. i can tell you that after having a temperature of 40°C for a week before delivering sabin, i most definitely did not put on makeup or fix my hair.

it's also true that i made all of sabin's baby up organic veggies, whizzing them up in the blender and freezing them in ice cube trays to be doled out in baby-sized portions. but ten years ago, that was looked on as a heroic act, above and beyond the call of duty. today, it's expected and you'll be looked askance upon by your mothers' group and your neighbors if you're not doing it. you'll actually have to apologize for using jars of baby food today. bad mother.

i'm not sure if we placed this pressure on ourselves or if it's the culture at large, but i do think that all of this perfection in the blogosphere i'm swimming against the stream of this week contributes heavily to it. why on earth did it even occur to my friend to flat iron her hair, do full makeup and put on fake tan to go to the hospital to deliver her baby? is it one too many shots of perfect princesses emerging as svelte as before from the hospital just minutes after delivering twins? is it glowing reports of natural, organic home births featuring pictures of glowing, dewy, happy mothers and their swaddled babies? is it the stoicism of the 70s parents of today's young mothers - who were all natural and free of drugs (the legal ones at least) and clad in home-crocheted dresses, baby tied to them in a sling after they popped it out effortlessly (to hear them tell it)?

and not to mention the pressure to enjoy and love every minute with your child that today's mothers endure...if you don't spend every moment lovingly teaching your child to play with precisely the right toys to develop their brain, it's practically child abuse. i think there was a time when mothers' groups could be a support group of sorts, where you could discuss your breastfeeding issues and your sleepless nights, but today, there's so much pressure to report that it's all wonderful, your baby is in the 98th percentile in everything, you don't miss sleep, your nipples are fine and your partner is the perfect father. there's no safe space anymore to be real.

i don't know what it is, but i'm glad my child is ten and that i don't have to compete in today's baby race. i'm pretty sure it would been frowned upon to drag a 2 and a half year old across the atlantic and drop her off during a stopover in chicago with an uncle she hardly knew, to stay for two weeks while i went on to business meetings in seattle (because her father was away on a 3-week exercise in norway). it's quite amazing how things change in only ten years. (ok, i admit people probably frowned at that even then, but not to my face.)

all of this makes me glad that there are bloggers who happen to be mothers who are real. go read c is for capetown. it's the only way we're gonna change this and divert all of this pressure and get back to our normal lives.

Monday, November 14, 2011

the truth: it's a mess around here

one of the most disheartening things about browsing blogs, pinterest and flickr is all of the perfection and perfect styling. i don't believe that people's lives are actually so perfectly styled all the time. i do my share of cropping photos and advantageously placing things so as not to include clutter, so i'm not completely condemning it - sometimes we have a need to appear perfect, both to ourselves and to the world. but mostly, i think it's exhausting. and at times it fills me with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, because my house is full of spider webs and bits of straw on the carpet and dust on all of the surfaces.

paper gets stacked and half-finished projects piled up. and when it gets bad enough, i go on a cleaning frenzy and tidy it all up and feel much better for a few minutes. tho' curiously, i often don't really feel that great during the cleaning frenzy, in fact, i often find that i'm fuming about all manner of little irritations while i manically clean.

probably worst of all is the "dining room." it's the main big room of the oldest part of the house (the part that's going to be torn down) and it is still (after a year) a repository of boxes of things that shouldn't be out where it's cold and damp - fabric, seasonal clothes, pretty paper, books, etc.) they actually can't be unpacked because without having the house finished, we don't have enough bookshelves or space. so it has to be the way it is. additionally, it's the only place where the dining table fits, so it also has to be there. during the summer, we eat out in our terrace and this room is only used for my sewing projects, but now that it's cold, we eat here too.

i think to an extent you become immune to it and you don't see the boxes anymore and just go about living your life, knowing that it's a sort of long-term temporary thing that you have to live with. but there are times when i look at the perfect scenes in the blogosphere and feel rather frustrated by it all. however, this is a process that we're in and it's going to take time.  deep breath.

as much as i love to cook, i'm not that big on cleaning it all up afterwards. maybe because the room itself isn't that inviting with those pink cupboards and the stained, cheap linoleum floor (why bother to try to keep it obsessively marginally clean if it doesn't show anyway). mostly, husband tidies up after dinner (he is such a keeper) and i'm grateful for both that and having a dishwasher. again, it's something that i know i have to live with - next summer the new "curry kitchen" will be in out in the end of the barn and we'll be able to stop using this uninspiring space.

but now you know what it's really like at my house.

anyway, this is the kind of truth-telling i was thinking of (not name-calling or other such nasty things - i get that out of my system on a private blog). i just don't believe that lives are styled and curated in reality the way they are in today's blogosophere.

so now, it's your turn for some truth, are you relieved or horrified?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

truth in blogging

the fog is as thick as the proverbial pea soup out there. even tho' the sun tried to break through earlier, it never fully succeeded. just stepping outside sends a chill straight through to the bones. it's really starting to be winter. i'm swaddled in multiple sweaters, there are candles burning all over the house and a steaming cup of tea keeps the chill at bay. but the weather's the perfect excuse to sit down with the iPad and check in on the blogosphere.

i flipped through loads of inspiring words and photos and it seemed as if everything was rosy out there in blogland. but then i read bee's post, where she calls for some reality. and i realized that i too miss reality in the midst of all that perfection in the blogosphere. where are the mommy bloggers who admit it's hard and that they sometimes want to scream or run away? what about the fabulous craft projects that end up looking like a pile of crap instead of a glittering tower of crocheted fabulousness? where are the simplicity people who fall off the simplicity wagon and buy a whole collection of urban decay eyeliners? what about how much time is really spent on pinterest? or facebook? where are the people who have trouble with their apple devices? (ok, now i'm just getting silly, we know they don't exist.) what about sinks of dirty dishes and that pot you just don't want to scrub? or the dirty secrets at the back of the refrigerator.

i call for a moratorium on perfection in the blogosphere and urge you to just let it all hang out. reveal the truth...that we're not composing these posts in full makeup and false eyelashes with our hair perfectly coiffed as a perfect soufflé bakes in the oven (tho' soufflés are easier than you might think). we wake up late, we give the child three chocolate sandwiches in her lunchbox because we're in a rush and all of the sandwich meats are expired, we rush out the door to deliver her to school, one flannel pajama leg stuffed into our wellie and the other flapping on the outside. we fail to brush our hair.  (with we being me.)

i'm going to do it. let it all hang out. the whole truth. for one week.

won't you join me?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

custom iPad case

eek! i had so much fun making this special iPad case featuring the old Eastern Airlines logo and colors. i love, love, love working with leather!  if you'd like to special order a leather iPad case too (it does not have to be Eastern Airlines), just send me a mail, i'd be happy to give it a whirl.

Friday, November 11, 2011

auspicious dates and constructing models of the world

i love how the interwebs go a bit mad when there's a date that has a ring to it - 11.11.11. those ones look so clean and pretty all lined up like that. so we ascribe all sorts of meaning to them. prime numbers, those 1s, so they must bring luck or change or good things somehow, if we just wish hard enough. or big enough.

again, i find myself thinking about words. and how they shape our world and most especially our model of the world - the one in each of our heads. the one we constantly work so hard to make true - finding in all of the people and actions and events around us, things which confirm that model. the model becomes bigger than reality. and it's all shaped by words and the significance we give them.

yesterday i had a moment of encountering my model of the world and especially of the culture around me and it was eye-opening. i had a lightning-like realization that my particular model was holding me back and causing me a great deal of anguish and unnecessary unhappiness, as i strive constantly to make it true. and i realized as well that i need to build a new model, but first, i had to think about where the bad one came from.

and my conclusion is that words really matter. my model is the result of a lot of things...those grim-faced women who ran over me with their big-ass prams and didn't even thinking of apologizing who i encountered in my early days in denmark. those doors that weren't held open an extra beat as i approached, but instead dropped in my face as if i were invisible. all those mornings on the train with the same people who never once said good morning or nodded an acknowledgement that we saw one another every morning. the public political rhetoric of the past decade that has demonized anyone foreign in denmark. these experiences and the words i have used to describe them have all shaped a model in my head that leaves me feeling pretty miserable at times and which hobbles me and makes me afraid to act, because i'm so loathe to encounter, once again, a situation that leaves me feeling invisible.

i've carefully constructed a barrier around me, to protect myself from such situations. and in doing so, have quite effectively blocked myself from many undoubtedly positive experiences. i realize that it's pretty exhausting, this trying to make everything and everyone fit what is essentially a negative model. so here, on 11.11.11, i've decided to tear down the old one and construct a new model. one which opens more possibilities for me. and leaves me much more open to happiness and genuine interaction with the people around me.

and just having seen my inner model of the world for what it is, just for a brief few seconds yesterday and realizing that i not only need to, but CAN change it, makes me feel immensely lighter. and somehow, tho' it's just words, 11.11.11 seems like an auspicious date to begin.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

happy birthday!

i know it's not easy being the little sister...the way totally paved for you, the parents broken in, the rules all set (and in your case, completely cast aside), but i do hope you have a great birthday! and enjoy that last year in the 30s, but don't worry, because 40 is the new 30.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

i remember light

november in denmark.  dark. dreary. cloudy. foggy. rainy. it's good to be able to remember the light (or at least browse it in iPhoto).

i think we've only seen the sun briefly through a haze of fog since november started. it's driving me mad, as i'm trying to post my next projects in the handmade holiday course and the light is just not cooperating for my photos. so. frustrating. so please hang on, my dears, i do promise there's goodness on its way!! if i could just get some decent photos of it.

i know that november is like this. it has been since my first november here. i remember being quite shocked at how dark and dreary it was. and i remember going out one evening with husband (who wasn't husband yet then) to a movie. on our bicycles. in the rain. wearing a flowy, silk j. peterman dress. that got caught in my bike chain. and i had to stand there, getting soaked in the rain, while husband (who almost didn't become husband after that) got it out of my chain. luckily i realized the weather wasn't his fault.  but ever since then november is my least favorite month.

top chicken

there are times when i begin to feel decidedly hermit-like. for example, meetings, where everyone has such a need to be heard that it results in them talking on top of one another, interrupting and generally preening to show they're the top chicken make me want to beat a fast retreat.  it's just so distant from where i am and where i want to be.

i suppose positioning is simply a biological drive we can't turn off. we constantly assess where we're at in the hierarchy and work to position ourselves more advantageously. there was a time when i was in there with those crowing the loudest, but i don't want to be there anymore. i'm coming to the realization (probably a bit late, admittedly), that you don't have to be the one making the most noise to actually be the top chicken.

but those doing all that squawking really are annoying.

Monday, November 07, 2011

in one basket

they say you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, but what if they're together with all of your bunnies?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

in which she wonders if now is all it's cracked up to be

it's very now to live in the now. to be present in your life. to be mindful - of surroundings, feelings, thoughts. in some sense, there's nowhere else we can live but in the now. but at the same time the now is elusive. because now is so fleeting. it's here right NOW and then it's gone, almost before you can enjoy it or savor it.

as much as i do things like my 365 photo project (for the second year running), which help me be more aware of my surroundings on a daily basis, i have my doubts about this trendy living in the now. i get a lot of pleasure both out of imagining the future and remembering the past. and sometimes, what's best, is to let your mind drift to one or the other, when where you are is not that engaging (think a boring, long meeting with a 54-slide powerpoint). it's really a question of imagination, isn't it?

where would stories and novels be if everyone only lived in the now? what would happen to imagination? for that matter, what IS happening to literature and imagination with all of us constantly being told we have to live in the now?

just from a standpoint of personal happiness, when i think of some of my happiest moments, they're often when i'm imagining the future...visualizing how the house will be, planning the next project, sketching out next year's garden...looking ahead gives me loads of energy. being grounded in my surroundings brings me satisfaction, but it doesn't necessarily motivate me or energize me.

i suppose it's rather against the current to be questioning this whole mindfulness/now movement. but there you have it. maybe part of why the world is where it's at is because everyone's living for today and not looking towards tomorrow. or working on imagining a better one. perhaps living in the now isn't really all it's cracked up to be...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

november sun

min jätteskugga simmar
och blir en hägring.
          - Tomas Tranströmer, Den Stora Gåtan

Thursday, November 03, 2011

work and defining oneself

i think a lot about words. and how the way they're (mis)used shapes the culture around us. as i've been working on my scandinavian welfare state book, i've encountered countless interesting linguistic turns of phrase. for example, it seems that we can no longer refer to our work as a job, it must be a career. every "course" designed to help the unemployed get back to work is called something with career - the career way, the career cannon, and the like. even if the job it leads to is cleaning hotel rooms or sitting at the cash register in a grocery store or stocking shelves in a warehouse. those are now careers. and i think it diminishes the word "career" to call every job by that name. because where does it leave us when we want to refer to work that requires years of education and work experience, built up over a long period? 

but the tendency to refer to all jobs as a career reveals something about the way culture views work. it's everything. it's THE defining feature of a person. when you meet someone new, one of the first questions is always, "what do you do?" and how they view you hinges on that question. we are our work in the eyes of others. which is why everyone needs a career and not just a job. because if i have just a job, then who am i?

i've been working very hard for several years now to NOT be my job. back when i was my job, i wasn't much of anything else. i certainly wasn't much of a mother or wife and i definitely wasn't creative or energetic, i barely remembered who i was. i was just a corporate drone, giving all of my energy to a company that ultimately didn't give a rats' ass. because companies don't care about anything. they can't. it's impossible. but in trying to be my job, i forgot who i really was. and i think that's happening to an awful lot of people.

ink spiller wrote yesterday about being a working woman and i think that's part of the problem. women came into the workplace on male presumptions, trying to fit into a male world, not accounting for their uniquely feminine strengths. however, i think it's only part of the picture, as i've seen female-dominated workplaces that are just as dysfunctional as male-dominated ones and frankly, i'd take the male-dominated kind any day (there's usually (but not always) less crying in meetings). 

i think we have to make it ok again for people to have jobs which provide them with an income, but which don't define them as humans. not every job has to be a career. sometimes it's ok to just have a job. because you find your self-definition elsewhere - in puttering around your garden, in making meaningful handmade gifts for people you love, in making dinner for your family, in daily writing or reading, in spending time with a horse, in laughing at the antics of the chickens (just to name the things i do). maybe you hunt or forage or go to taekwando or a knitting group. 

who we are is the big collection of all of the things we do. i write and i take pictures and i have begun to teach and i do research. but i also cook and plan parties and serve on boards and laugh and entertain and sew and learn new things. i am far too complex to boil it all down to one word that happens to have to do with where i work. and i suspect all of you are too. 

let's take back work. and take back ourselves in the process.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


somehow, those days with significant numbers (even if it's only a palindrome if you're american) seem like they should be especially significant, but today was just an ordinary day. the child wasn't feeling well, so we spent the morning making yarn pompons, drinking tea and playing with the baby bunnies. i did a bit of work, made some eggs and bacon (we suddenly have a lot of eggs) and then we went to see how the horse is doing. she's no longer lame, but sabin has two more weeks off from riding due to her broken finger. it got foggy on our way home. very foggy. and that was it. an ordinary day, despite the extra-ordinariness of the numbers of the date. but perhaps life is lived on the ordinary days.

*  *  *

it's been awhile since i had a blog crush, but yesterday, i spent a long time reading quite a lot of posts on spilling ink.  and i had that feeling of finding a real kindred soul.  check it out, i hope you'll enjoy it too.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

i take it all back

freehand cut feathers made of maps of south africa by peter slingsby
my mail woman with the unnaturally red hair came knocking on the door today. bearing not one but TWO packages. one a total surprise from the fabulous molly (of arbness fame) of heaven cape town and of bloggy fame in the form of oh for the love of blog and the more recent (and less sweary-y) c is for cape town.  she made feathers from one of her father's maps. for me! feathers, maps, cape town - it couldn't get any better than that. which reminds me that i have some stuff to make for some people via some facebook promise to make stuff for people.

the second package contained the beautiful stitched and felted stones i was lucky enough to snatch up last week from the fabulous lisa of lil fish studios. her work is gorgeous and unique and always beautifully packaged. me, i suck at packaging, but i do enjoy when things are nicely packaged.  i almost hated to open it up, but i couldn't wait to see my beautiful stones. they're just exquisite and this photo doesn't even come CLOSE to doing them justice.

so a big thank you to both of you for completely turning around my grumpy, ranty day.  suffice it to say, it was precisely what i needed on this day which had otherwise started on the wrong side of the bed. thank you!!

november wakes up on the wrong side of the bed

i hate to start off november with a rant, but there you have it. husband is on one of his snoring kicks and i woke up about 72 times in the night, so i'm grumpy. there's a fine mist hitting me in the face whenever i step outside to do chicken and rabbit chores. the horse is still lame. and she's getting crabby too. our washing machine is down and tho' i've called a repairman, they're extremely imprecise about when he'll show up. a rant is simply in the dark, chilly, damp autumn air.

*  *  *

i tried to cheer myself up with a little browse of my google reader via flipboard. and can i just say that those blogs where there's only a truncated feed and you can't see the whole post without clicking an extra step....i'm just not going to read those anymore. the reality of today is that people are reading on a device - an iPad, an iPhone - and it's a big pain in the ass to have to click an extra step. i know all the reasons why one would truncate the make sure the visits are counted...but really, it's just arrogant and annoying. and i'm done clicking the extra step.

*  *  *

i'm reading another bad book. elaine feinstein's biography of anna akhmatova, anna of all the russias. and it's just bad. she extrapolates all kinds of biographical details from anna's poetry, as if they're true and not art. clearly the woman couldn't be bothered to do real research - she doesn't properly explain who anyone is or their connections. she appears to have only the vaguest knowledge of the russian revolution.  it's just a bad book. luckily, it's not a novel, so i can put it down without finishing it. i'll be taking it back to the library today.

*  *  *

i no longer have any patience or time for things and people who drive me crazy. meddling. being too involved. not just letting me get on with what's ostensibly my responsibility, that stuff pisses me off. and makes me want to take a step (or two) back. this is why i'm not in the corporate world anymore.

*  *  *

another thing that's driving me crazy is how people wear stress as a badge. as if it's a good thing to be so busy that you feel totally stressed out. here's a news flash: it's not. and i'm not impressed by your bragging about how stressed you are. it doesn't mean you're important, and it may actually mean that you're stupid.

*  *  *

ok, i'm going to stop grumping now.

i'm actually very happy because handmade holiday starts today
and i'm really excited to share a lot of fun projects
with a lot of fun people.

it's not too late to join us!