Saturday, September 01, 2018

road trip :: brobergs take the south 2018 :: part 3 :: the road

on our summer holiday, we drove 2,875 miles in our rented toyota sienna. that's 4,627 kilometers if those are what you relate to. no matter how you think of it, that's a lot of asphalt. luckily, the sienna was roomy, so it accommodated our suitcases and our snacks and a cooler of drinks and everyone was comfortable, so there wasn't any fighting or complaining about who was sitting where. we took turns driving, but husband did do the bulk of it.

i have found myself reflecting on the many roads we traveled and how that's true of life as well. and despite us all being in the same vehicle, traveling down the same roads, we undoubtedly each had our own experience of them. for my part, i told myself stories of the places we drove through and past.

in northeast alabama, i looked out the window at the countryside flying by. it was dotted with shabby, flimsy trailer houses with broken down vehicles and too many dogs in the yard. houses where it looked like people didn't have the energy to care about the junk on the falling-down, tacked-on porch. you could feel that life wasn't easy there, just driving past it. then there was a road in mississippi where the houses along the way were small, but built with care. they looked much more charming and kept up - with inviting porches that had chairs and plants, you could feel a sense of community and that people lived there, rooted in the place. then there was the gulf coast near mobile, alabama and on towards pensacola. the sandy beaches were beautiful, but ugly high rise buildings gave it an uninviting soulless quality.

the roads in the bywater neighborhood where we stayed in new orleans were in a very bad state of repair. but yet, i'm not sure i've ever seen a more charming place. colorful houses, long and narrow, but adorable - with shutters in contrasting colors and loads of gingerbread. each one unique, but somehow also harmonious - sort of like you would like to be as a person - your own individual style, but also playing a melodic chord - signifying belonging, yet room for individuality. what more could you ask in your road.

in savannah, we arrived in the evening at our airbnb and got turned around and started following the roads into a less prosperous neighborhood, where the main businesses seemed to be the liquor stores and greasy takeout joints on every corner. just a few blocks in the other direction was savannah's utterly charming downtown - filled with shops and cafés and restaurants. we managed to find our way to a most amazing chocolate café, where we ended our long day on the road with chocolate fondue, cheesecake and chocolate cocktails. such contrasts just a few blocks apart. the same road able to take you two very opposite directions, both literally (obviously) and metaphorically, all in the space of a just a few blocks.

all these road represent so many stories, it was a veritable cacophony, i want to go back and listen to each one. and make more of my own.

Monday, August 27, 2018

the end of the innocence

i had a discussion with my sister some weeks ago about don henley's 1989 classic the end of the innocence. go watch it, i'll wait here...

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by

When "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But i know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by man
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind

You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king

Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

But i know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us

I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say good-bye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

what was interesting is how different our memories of the song were. she finds it very political, whereas the only politics i can find is the stanza about the tired old man that we elected king (has anyone ever described reagan more aptly?). for me, that summer was the one where i had a very painful broken engagement. i was devastated and lost 17 pounds in a week, mostly in tears shed. that felt like the end of my own innocence and a real transition into adulthood. it caused my life to change course...shifting from plans to attend u.c. irvine to iowa city and the university of iowa. looking back, i think it made me less trusting of potential boyfriends for years afterwards, really ending my own romantic innocence...poisoning my own fairy tale. in other words, i found the song very much about my own situation, even though reading the lyrics now, i can clearly see that it was about one's parents splitting up. my own happily ever after had failed (thank odin now, looking back), so i sang along at the top of my lungs as i drove my little gold pontiac fiero and felt like the song was written specifically for me. especially after i met a handsome summer fling who gave me back some confidence and made those lines about the tall grass in the wind and the small town in each of us ring true. it was really more or less the anthem of the summer of 1989 for me.

for my sister, her departure for college was on the horizon and she felt the pressure of that. i think we both thought that our parents wouldn't be able to survive the empty nest, having such separate interests. so the words about daddy having to fly spoke to my sister and she felt a heavy weight of responsibility for keeping them together. and watching the video, with its odd 50s feel (aside from the shots of tattered reagan posters and ollie north), it does seem much more political that it ever seemed to me at the time. and though i was home that summer, i definitely didn't feel the same pressure my sister did to be the glue holding our parents together. in the end, their marriage held, though some part of me still wonders why when they shared so little. i suppose staying together was just what you did in their generation (speaking of the 50s).

in these times, where our entire existence is smeared in the nasty politics of our post-truth era, it does seem that our innocence has ended once and for all.

* * *

today's lack of truth has its roots in postmodernism.
i heard about this piece here on T.O.E.
and i'll admit to feeling a little guilty for all that derrida, foucault and baudrilliard i read in college.

* * *

the problem is way deeper than trump. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

a new manifesto

when did my world and my thoughts become smaller? when did i replace deep conversations with gossip and snark? did the internet do this to me? was it all the cynical (but oh-so-amusing) gifs? is it my true nature? i don't think so. most decidedly it is not me. i love to think and discuss and share things that make me think and discuss. how did that stop? when did it stop? when was it taken over by pettiness and yes, small-minded nastiness? that's not who i am and more importantly, not what i want. i want to be open and share ideas and not have hidden agendas or look for them or assume they're there and drive myself crazy looking for them. i want to go through life expecting the best of others, not being bogged down by suspicions and doubt. i want to share ideas and have my ideas made better by those with whom i share. i want to laugh and joke lightheartedly. i want to make awesome things together with awesome people. i want to be inspired by those around me. i want them to push me to be better, more creative and funnier. i want to tread paths i haven't tread before. see new things, experience new things, look with openness and curiosity upon the world. to meet everyone i encounter with a light heart and curiosity. i want to skip through my days again, loving what i do and spending time with people who matter to me and give me energy. i want to be in touch with myself, bodily and spiritually. i want to open my heart and my mind. i want to be grateful and express it. i want to appreciate those around me who make me laugh and think and sing and who lighten my heart. and my heart will be lightened if i'm open and curious. i want to live and laugh and love. and feel light and buoyant and prosperous and generous of spirit. and i want to radiate all of that. i feel the glow from within already now...

Thursday, August 09, 2018

what if the water is fine?

my most recurring dream scenario over many, many years is of falling into dirty, brackish water that i fear greatly until i'm in it and discover it's not as bad as it looks. every time, i can swim, or touch bottom, or it's much more shallow than it appears and not nearly as muddy as it seems it will be and i don't get stuck and tangled up in those plants. it hit me today from something a colleague said, that we choose our path, balancing precariously on the edge of that nasty-looking water, worrying about falling in or we give ourselves over and jump in and see what it's really like. and there's a very good chance that it's not as bad as it appears. and maybe we make it worse ourselves, for ourselves, by imagining how bad it will be. and trying to make cynical, sarcastic jokes about it. and maybe we should stop that and look for the good. because there is a lot of good. and maybe, just maybe, it will all be ok if we just relax and be grateful and positive and give ourselves over instead of resisting with cynical sarcasm. and by we, i mean me. and it may not be easy, but i'm going to try. just maybe that water is fine.

* * *

linguistic delight - book reviews from prison.

* * *

why mall of america doesn't die.

* * *

please, dear odin, let him run.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

road trip :: brobergs take the south 2018 :: part 2 :: school bus graveyard

alongside a georgia highway, we were looking for a stand to buy peaches when we came across an amazing sight - a line of graffiti-clad old school buses.

it was part of an auto mechanic shop and we went up and asked if we could have a look. a rather crotchety man with a heavy southern drawl directed us back out to the highway and a path you could take to walk up along the row. he very sternly warned that we shouldn't try to go beyond the row of buses or climb on them in any way. we assured him we wouldn't.

it would have been impossible to do so anyway, as they're very well blocked-off in between. there are multiple warnings to stay off, so it's not the most welcoming place.

there are some cool old cars up on top as well - i suppose to add discouragement for climbing them.

i don't know the story of it, as i think it's primarily a working mechanic & junk yard and only incidentally a bus graveyard, but it seems like proper graffiti artists were involved in painting the buses. at least some of them.

the starkest warning was one about snakes. i'll admit that worked on me and i didn't want to get too close to the buses.

it's quite a large area and it would have been cool if they'd had an observation tower you could climb up to get a better view.

i couldn't help but include this shot of this really cute guy i saw there. gotta love that scruffy beard.

Friday, August 03, 2018

road trip :: brobergs take the south 2018 :: part 1

we had a family road trip in the southern united states this summer. we visited 6 states none of us had ever been in before - tennessee, alabama, mississippi, louisiana, florida and south carolina.  the others hadn't been in georgia before, but i had. and technically, i flew through miami in 1988, but that doesn't really count as being in the state. this time, we visited beaches and the state capital, so it must count. i expected to have heavy exposure to trumpanzees, but we didn't actually speak to a single one. that surprised me quite a bit, but then i saw this piece in the nytimes - it seems we followed that blue route through the south, perhaps guided by some subliminal survival instinct. or maybe we just didn't really talk to enough people along the gulf coast. but we also ran into a surprising amount who vocally volunteered their embarrassment at the mangled apricot hellbeast.

a quick list of impressions/lessons/thoughts:

~ two weeks was just the right amount of time, even tho' we did have our occasional flagging moments. at the end, i was both longing to go home and wishing we still had a few more days and that's exactly how it should be.

~ cheesecake for lunch is awesome in the moment, but come late afternoon, proves not to be such a good idea.

~ way-finding and map-reading were the biggest challenges, even in this day and age of ubiquitous gps. we didn't have a phone plan where we could roam, so we were constantly looking for wifi to help us do our route planning. in the morning, we would plan our route in google maps while on wifi and then the gps does actually follow where you are, but if you deviate from the route you planned while on wifi, the google maps app doesn't handle it well. also, husband was horrible at being the navigator if i was driving, which is weird, because he spent 18 years in the military and is otherwise good at maps. everyone stayed happier if i did the map-reading and husband did the driving. tho' even then there were a couple of kerfluffles. lesson was that maybe we should just know where we are in a general sorta way. and we did buy a big atlas of the united states. it helped out on the highways and byways, but not as much within cities.

~ several of the best things we found were quite random -  a cooling creek/waterfall (mardis mill falls) on a hot alabama day, windsor ruins off the natchez trace, which we found by talking to an older couple at another point of interest along the way, and the space museum just over the louisiana-mississippi border on the way towards biloxi.

~ we actually stuck to our budget and we didn't really deny ourselves much to do so.

~ since we were five more or less adults, we needed two hotel rooms, so we were looking for rooms on the budget end, since we were mostly looking for a good night's sleep and not a place to hang out. plus, we wanted to save our money for great coffee, fun experiences and shopping in goodwill! after a few days of disappointment in the mid-range ($65-$80/night) hotels, we looked to airbnb, and we felt much, much happier. there, we found quirky places with personality, a bit more luxury and charming hardwood floors, still in our price range. if you haven't tried it, i'd be very grateful if you used this link when you do.

~ you should stay off the interstates and get onto smaller highways and byways. we did some of this, but undoubtedly not enough. when you do hit the small highways and byways, make sure you have a full tank of gas, as gas stations can be surprisingly few and far between. we stopped at one in a small town in mississippi where it was clear we were the only white people who had passed through in a long time. that made for some amusing conversations while we waited to use the bathroom.

~ shopping at goodwill is awesome and our child is a wizard at finding the best stuff there, no matter the location. probably the best one we visited (and we tried to visit as many as we could) was the first one, south of atlanta. maybe our eyes were freshest, but i think it also had the best selection. i got an awesome t-shirt that says, "sorry i'm late, i didn't want to come." that makes me laugh.

~ there seems to be a disturbing trend in the states - one of which i was previously only peripherally aware - from barbara ehrenreichs' amazing nickle and dimed book, but never imagined i would actually encounter (which sounds more arrogant than i mean it to). when we were staying at the lower-priced hotels, it seemed like many of the other patrons were folks who seemed to be living with what they euphemistically call housing insecurity. it appeared that the hotels were full of people who probably had work, but not enough money for the deposit on an apartment, so they were forced to live on a weekly or even day-to-day basis in these hotels. i was waiting to ask for a wifi sign-in and i witnessed two young women paying their rent, peeling the fee off a roll of one dollar bills (perhaps from waitressing tips). initially, they gave the clerk, who was behind thick bullet-proof glass, since it was nearly dark, less and he said, "no, it's $63." the second girl reached down her cleavage and got a roll of her own bills out and peeled off the remainder, saying, "there goes my fun money," and rolling her eyes. i felt a little bit shocked. others stood in their doorways, smoking or chatting on the phone, obviously very at home in the hotel. it made me aware of a stark reality in my home country. and also acutely aware of my own privilege.

and on that note, i'll sign off for now. more about the trip, with actual photos, tomorrow. i'm still sorting through all of them.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

entering holiday mode

the bags aren't packed, i have a few edits to do, a brief or two, a couple of emails and a few posts to schedule, but my mind is already sliding into holiday mode. i got home around 7:30, went straight to the garden, picked zucchini, onions and one of those weird cauliflower-broccoli hybrids that seems to have happened in one of the brassica beds. i turned the zucchini in egg and bread crumbs, adding sesame seeds for a bit more healthiness and taste. i stir-fried the onions and caulicoli (i just made that name up) and flash fried a couple of pork chops. it was delicious. husband and i chatted and watched a few episodes of wyatt cenac's problem areas (comedy has turned to smart in these days of the otherwise dumbing down of the world, and it gives me a glimmer of hope). we had a g&t and we got ambitious about harvesting mirabellas, black currants and red currants before we leave.  there's also a mountain of laundry to do and the child to pick up from her week at roskilde festival (there were moments when she almost gave up, but she hung in there). but here, right now, this evening, i'm shifting...gearing down, packing in my mind, thinking about which minifigures to take and what sort of photo or audio project to give myself for the trip. i'm pondering what clothes to pack, which bags to take, what book for the plane (clearly my friend richard's halleluja canyon). do i need art supplies? a new notebook? plenty of batteries for the zoom? and how will i get along without the kittens? they'll be cared for by friends, who will stop by to feed and water them. they'll be fine. but i'll miss them. but i'm looking forward to places i've never been...birmingham, mississippi, new orleans, the gulf coast. orlando. it's going to be an awesome trip. but first, some time in the garden and a bit of hanging out with the kittens.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

out of focus colors

as we close in on the summer holiday, i'm feeling a bit fuzzy to say the least. it's been a long haul, these past months. it's really hard when a job you dearly love turns sour, but it so often happens in a time of growth and disruption. i love both growth, disruption and also change, but it's been a bit ridiculous of late. when the wrong people are brought in and the good people leave and the company culture changes radically, it creates change that's not good or productive. i'm ready for a holiday. and happily, we are getting on a plane next week. it also helped that i went to an intimate and utterly blissful yin yoga class today. my mind quieted down and i saw a veritable rainbow of colors during some of the long poses. it centered me and put me, at least momentarily, in touch with my body. this color thing is really interesting. i've had flashes of synesthesia over the years, but it's really started to show itself in new ways during my recent bodywork sessions. i need to learn what the colors mean, even if it's only what they mean for me...i saw everything from rich, bright, vibrant red - it's never just one uniform color, there are nuances - to salmon to yellow and orange to green and teal to the most velvety indigo. my sense of it is that it's when i'm in touch with emotions, or more like touching them, as i wouldn't say i could articulate them. i've read some pieces about colors associated with the chakras and perhaps there's also something of that in it, when one or another is activated, but it feels more connected to some kind of emotional bedrock inside me. one which i've been probably out of touch with for far too long. if i ever was in touch with it. but i have hope, with the appearance of all these colors when i'm doing bodywork or yoga, that i can get in touch, maybe also at other times. maybe it's just a reminder that i need to live a more colorful life. but first...vacation.

Monday, June 11, 2018

midlife tuneup?

i read this long piece on doing a midlife tuneup in the nytimes today. some of it seemed a bit meh and perhaps even patronizing- exercise, eat right, get enough sleep (blah, blah, blah). although i'm skeptical of the mindfulness/life coach madness that's about in the world today, the section on mindfulness and what it does for the ageing brain seemed a bit intriguing, so i kept reading. the following section on a midlife mission statement also spoke to me (being inclined to the odd personal manifesto (hmm, that one still rings pretty true...)). i've already been actively trying to have better bedtime habits (no phone nearby being the main one, tho' i fell off that wagon after a late coffee one day last week and did NOT sleep well for a couple of nights). also, i appreciate the irony of the fact that it's currently 12:44 a.m. 1:13 a.m. and i'm still at the computer. but the last section - about building up your resilience really spoke to me. all year, i've been writing intentions in a journal and they have been optimistic and positive. it hasn't always worked and there have been some dark times of late with reorg turmoil at work and the departure of my wonderful boss, but i faithfully continue, confident it will eventually seep in. i like the advice in that section - there are several things i feel i can actually use - rewriting the story i tell myself in my head, helping others and i've already taken a stress break when i could see that a situation was going to be more negative and unproductive than i needed it to be. the stress break really helped, even if the effects don't last long enough. i also like the idea of finding my discomfort zone - as long as it doesn't involve heights, that sounds rather intriguing. and i would do well to remember the times when i came back from adversity. perhaps the best start to it all would be that good night's sleep they talked about...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

a rainy sunday afternoon

it's raining at last, after an entire month of sunshine. we've never had an entire month of sunshine in a row, so it was very welcome, but so is the rain. the rain has made me slow down - i can't be in the garden, picking strawberries or weeding or mowing or hoeing, so i'm in the plant-filled front entry with a cup of creamy coffee, a book, my journal, my camera and the kittens. i must admit it's bliss and precisely what i needed. i've been reading some more of knausgaard's small autumn essays. it's a book i've had on the nightstand for some time - you can just pick it up, read one or two as you wish, and then put it down again for some weeks. it lends itself to this slow way of reading it; each essay is shining, deep and luminous and i must get the rest of the seasons to savour as well (as you might guess, there are four volumes in all). they are small musing on single words - words like badger, war, labia - very diverse - written by knausgaard to his unborn daughter, as they awaited her. they're not exactly micro-memoirs, which i've also been pondering since hearing about them on the bittersweet life podcast, more like little perfect essayistic musings on being human. in looking for more small, perfect essays, i came across brevity, an online magazine filled with them. check it out if you're looking for something to read on a rainy sunday afternoon.

Friday, May 25, 2018

four kittens = much delight

i've been listening to the kind of podcasts that i wouldn't normally listen to - mostly because the ones i normally listen to do a lot of talking about trump and his posse of trumpanzees, and frankly, i'm over that. so i listened to some back catalog stuff from oprah's super soul podcast (the alanis morissette episode) and also the bittersweet life (start with micro and quite possibly also stop there). my mind is buzzing with ideas of things to write about, but it's quite late and while that doesn't matter so much since i'm taking the day off tomorrow, i need to let them gel until morning. but suffice it to say, i'm looking forward to writing some micro memoir pieces (as if this blog isn't already full of those), and to spending tomorrow with the kittens you see above. they were born on may 2 and they're just about to hit peak cute.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

inside of ourselves

"you never know how inside of themselves people are." i read that long ago in a barbara kingsolver novel and it's stuck with me ever since. in any given situation, you don't really know where people are coming from. maybe they've had a completely shit week. maybe it's been awesome. maybe it's been both - up and down, like any other week. maybe they've just learned they have a terminal illness. maybe their father just died. maybe their mother with alzheimer's just failed to recognize them for the first time. maybe they just lost their job. maybe they just got a new one. maybe they just learned they're pregnant. or perhaps they miscarried. maybe they're tired or have a toothache. maybe they feel lonely or sad or joyful. you just don't know. maybe the path ahead of them seems clear. or perhaps it's obscured and murky. maybe they're relieved the sun is finally shining after too many days of rain. maybe their awesome boss just quit. maybe they feel like they're in limbo. perhaps they're caught up in needless office politics. what if they have a need to be right? to be comforted? to be understood? what if they feel bewildered and alone and cast adrift? what if they are newly in love and their stomach is full of butterflies? you just don't know. you can never really know. and quite possibly they'll never really be able to tell you. but maybe what they most need from you is that you see them - really see them. no matter how inside of themselves they are.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

forgetting mother's day

i really truly normally do not care about these things, but it's gotten to me here this evening that it's mother's day and until my sister said "happy mother's day" to me here at the end of the day, no one in this house had acknowledged it. even tho' i spent the entire day with my daughter and sat and had tea and breakfast with husband. i realize i'm not his mother, but he could have encouraged the child. and she liked about a zillion people's pictures of them and their mothers, but didn't even say happy mother's day until she heard me thanking my sister for being the first one to say anything. and i'll admit that i think it bugs me more because it's everywhere on social media - warm fuzzy posts of people with their mothers, thanking their mothers, acknowledging them. i don't care about a present, as there's nothing i need, but it would have been nice if the child would have at least wished me happy mother's day and maybe brought me a coffee at some point. or posted a picture of us together and said happy mother's day on instagram or facebook. but no. i got nothing. and i have to admit that hurts more than i would have imagined it would. and i honestly wish it didn't. but there you have it. it's undoubtedly compounded by my sister being there to visit our mother and realizing for the first time that mom doesn't really know who she is. we knew that day would come, but i find it genuinely distressing to hear that that day is now. in all, not the best mother's day ever. and not the best way to end an otherwise glorious weekend.

the path ahead

so much turmoil and uncertainty in these times. the daily onslaught of revelations from the corrupt cheeto and his merry band of trumpanzees, power grabs and information vacuums at work. it seemed fitting today as i came across this gorgeous, fragrant field of canola (rapeseed), that the visible path was only visible for a little ways. who knows what lies ahead? we humans like to think we can control our outcomes, but perhaps we cannot. i think of all of the times where being pushed onto another path steered me somewhere amazing, and i wonder where i am being steered this time? i can catch glimpses of so much that's awesome, but there are roadblocks along the way. i'd like to navigate them differently than i have traditionally done, but it's hard for me to see how to do that. perhaps by following the opposite impulses. we can and do continue to grow as people, even as we age, we can learn and we can be even more amazing than we thought possible. it's just a matter of clearing the path to get there.

Friday, April 27, 2018

common threads

NOTE: i began this post a little over a year ago. it's been languishing in my drafts for that long, but i opened it again today and found it spoke to my late night mood...not least because i wonder what the me of a year ago would have written? and at this moment, as i type, i wonder what the me of today will write. let's find out...

think of three people you admire and determine the common thread. a friend did this exercise today (read: last year) (it's apparently from brené brown's book, which i haven't read, because i'm not that fond of her, tho' i may have to reconsider) and it made me curious to try it out for myself.

i think the reason this long languishing post speaks to me today is that i am feeling an acute need to look for the good in people. i've been spending far too much time feeling critical, paranoid and sarcastic of late. it's time to flip myself out of that rut by taking a look on the positive side of things.

first step - sorting through the different people i admire: husband (he continues to surprise and engage me in the best of ways, after all these years), our child (she is so much her own - smart, thoughtful, funny, sarcastic, dedicated), my dad (he may be gone, but he is not forgotten and he was his own to the very end), michael barbaro (what an amazing interviewer!), glynn washington (gives so much of himself when he tells stories), trevor noah (another amazing interviewer - so smart and funny and it's perfectly ok that he's not john stewart, he is trevor noah), karl ove knausgaard (luminous writing to savor), david letterman (his netflix series - such amazing conversations). my old friend joyce who seems to have found her way back from a dark time to be living her best life. my dear friend cyndy, who told us all yesterday in a stark facebook post that she's been diagnosed with lung cancer, but communicated it in an amazing way in which the foundation of strength that her family gives her came shining through, even tho' there is so much uncertainty on her (and their) horizon. another bloggy friend from the old days, mari, who is also moving into an amazing place artistically after the death of her husband from cancer a few years ago. her renewed strength and energy shine through in her pictures these days and she seems to have found a group of supportive, artistic women who give her a power that you can practically feel warming your skin as you scroll through her instagram. it gives me energy just to see her photos.

that's many more than three. and not even the tip of the iceberg.

what do they share, these people? curious, sharp, inquiring minds jump out at me first. a sense of humor is a close second. and lastly (but definitely not least), an independence of spirit that makes them unique.

what is the lesson in this? i need even more people in my life who make me think or laugh or wish i was them - or all three.

* * *

speaking of people i admire, someone wrote a wonderful tribute to my cousin jerry, who lost his battle with cancer last year. you never know whose life you touch.

* * *

look, new podcasts

Thursday, April 26, 2018


the atlantic's podcast has a segment at the end where all of the people who were on the episode mention something they've seen or experienced or read in the past week that they classify as a "keeper." the idea appeals to me since i always refer to husband as a keeper. and the keeper of the week, i ran across just this evening - a charming little animated film, the danish poet, jointly made by canadians and norwegians in 2006 (tho' it feels very 70s somehow). it even won an oscar for best animated short film. it's both charming and thought-provoking - giving you pause to think about the amazingly unlikely chain of events that lead to your own existence. and they even take the ferry back and forth between copenhagen and oslo a couple of times. definitely a keeper.  

what do you want to keep this week?

Monday, April 23, 2018

i solemnly swear i am up to no good

i've taken to giving myself a weekly set of intentions. i write them on sunday night, occasionally adding to the list during the week, as i sit down to write a few lines outlining my day in my cool journal notebook. opposite the week's page, there's a blank page that's perfect for a little list of intentions. they're really a sort of note to myself, reminding me of how i want to approach the week. some items make the list every week. some are a bit cheesy, some strident and some a bit trite and tired, yet i seem to constantly need to be reminded of them. instead of just vaguebooking about them, i'll share this week's list:

~ carry the weekend's sunshine with me all week, no matter what the weather.
~ no obsessing over the small stuff.
~ no wasting energy in the wrong places, on the wrong people.
~ preserve my energy.
~ do activities which enhance energy.
~ spend time with interesting people who are doing amazing things.
~ learn something new.
~ read a book instead of my phone before bed.
~ work on things which make me tick; ignore (just for this week) those that do not.
~ see the possibilities.
~ stay in an authentic place.
~ stay curious. ask questions. listen, really listen.
~ take pictures with the real camera, even if you have to stop the car to do it.
~ try to see things from a different viewpoint.

i'm seldom very good at keeping these things in mind once the week unfolds. i fall right back into my old usual, judgy, sarcastic and pessimistic patterns, but i figure if i keep doing it, one day it's bound to stick. changing is hard, trusting is perilous, and going for the cynical laugh is just easier. but maybe this week, it'll stick - monday is over and i've spent time with people who are doing amazing things, spent most of the day doing an activity which enhanced my energy, been curious and asked questions (tho' i undoubtedly could have asked more) and i only obsessed over the small stuff a little bit. it would be easier to just take a page from harry potter and solemnly swear i'm up to no good. that's an intention for the week that i could keep. but i probably won't grow much if i do that, so instead, i keep putting these good thoughts out there and at least trying to follow them.

Monday, April 16, 2018

fragments of niceness

i spotted this art project in the heart of copenhagen last week. #fragmentsofniceness by artist kit kjølhede. the sun was shining, i'd just come from a good meeting with my favorite colleagues and i was feeling buoyant. the bright colors, the happy snippets of conversation overheard in copenhagen spoke straight to my soul. what an admirable project - with all that's bad and awful (and orange-tinged) in the world these days, this was precisely what i needed. hell, it's what we all need!

this hasn't been an easy time. a not-very-well planned or communicated reorg about six months ago created a period of limbo and inertia. in such a situation, there are always some ambitious types who take advantage of the vacuum and grab more than they should. and in the absence of clear messages, everyone makes up their own stories and runs with them. and it can create a negative, unproductive space. i believe this is compounded by the darkness of the winter months in our northern climes. but things are beginning to be brighter and it's not just welcome rays of actual sunshine, but things really are becoming clearer. maybe we can only appreciate clarity when we have been wandering in fog.

and maybe the best way to break free of the uncertainty and negativity is to focus on the positive. to laugh instead of bristling and feeling angry. to help instead of hinder. to be open instead of closed. to overhear the positive and nice things. to listen instead of refusing to hear. to seek out nice things to say. and even more importantly, to think. to make sure the inner narrative is positive and open. to say yes to life and possibilities and new challenges and to let go of what's not working. 

i'm ordering a set of these postcards from the artist to hang up to remind myself to look and listen for positivity around me. i really do believe that you attract what you are looking for. and i also admit that of late, i've been looking for ghosts and schemes and lies and games being played - and guess what, i've found all of those in great quantity. well, no more. the time for negativity is past. 

this is the season to embrace change. it's boring when everything stays the same. this is the time to seek the most amazing stories and tell them well. this is the time to let go of what's not working. and to let go of things which are working but not moving anywhere in order to move on to newer, more exciting things. hanging on to the past isn't productive or healthy. it's not how we grow and learn and evolve and become better, stronger, more capable versions of ourselves. and while this may all sound dire, it's really not. it feels like stretching long unused muscles after a winter hibernation, feeling them out once again, exposing them to the warming rays of the sun, getting to know them and put them to good use.

of course, not everything needs to change - home, husband, child, cats and garden remain the fertile ground from which to grow, they are most definitely my own very best fragments of niceness. that and my t-rex costume. everyone should have one of those. they cheer you right up.

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amazing 9-year-old slays new yorker cartoon captions.
and for a bit more low brow version, check out these shitty captions for new yorker cartoons.

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if you find yourself rolling your eyes at the crystal-obsessed, this is for you.

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and one more from the new yorker...
molly ringwald is such a good writer.

Friday, April 06, 2018

montage and the edge of madness

oh the joys of middle age. little fragments of memory loss, borne of waning hormones and days filled with too many tasks, emails and the relentless onslaught of news. names elude, words are just out of reach. and it's all terrifying in light of mom's alzheimer's. but, i console myself that it's likely not that, at least not yet. it's the times we live in - it's the relentlessness of being always online and the 24-hour news cycle. something has to fill it all, so like an eisenstein montage, it all keeps flashing before us, inundating our brains, filling them to overflow, impulses, ideas, stories, images, names flitting by, our brains can hardly sort it all. it's no wonder we can't remember things in detail. there's surely an element of wilful forgetting in it. who can take so much? the brain blocks some of it off to keep us safe and away from the edge of madness. and yet, we hang there, swinging out over the precipice, wondering if the pendulum will swing back.

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over-dramatised and badly-acted, but charming nonetheless.
but you gotta like the western girl.

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this thought-provoking piece in the new yorker
where does the mind end and the world begin?
andy clark has some thoughts on that.

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stories can change the world.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018


the temperature is rising after days (months?) of unseasonable cold. a fog moved in silently over the landscape, thickening and settling in as i drew nearer to my weekday home. it at once obscured and made the bare, black trees more noticeable, more striking in their height, their branches more numerous and intricate against the greyish white of the fog. a hush settled over the landscape, like it had been swaddled in cotton, dampening all sound, save the odd birdcall, i imagined from the cocoon of my car, similarly grey and nondescript as it sped along the road. i didn't actually hear any birds, but their calls would both carry and be muffled by the fog and i could hear them in my head. fog transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary. your imagination fills in what's hidden. i exclaimed that i found the trees magical; my friend's daughter shivered and said she found them spooky. to her they were somehow alien and foreboding. the fog the same, our stories of it different. there's a life lesson in that somewhere.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

it's mom's birthday

my mom turns 79 today. my sister went to her assisted living yesterday and did a whole shebang. mom's sister was there, there was music, there was cake - it was a celebration. reports suggest that mom enjoyed herself thoroughly, which warms my heart in these times when i wonder what her quality of life is through the fog of her alzheimer's. and i feel very far away. mostly because i am very far away. and i have some ambivalence about that - it can be good and bad, sometimes at the same time.

these photos of mom are from the late 1950s. she was a member of the class of 1957 (of musical fame) and these must have been shortly after her graduation, when she was working at the sioux falls argus leader. her father had been an editor there for 30+ years, so she got a job there as well, even though he died when she was 16. she was a typesetter, but i think in these photos, she was a markets reporter. there must have been several photoshoots, since she's not wearing the same clothes in all the photos, nor is her hair quite the same. i suspect she trimmed it herself. and she never really stopped doing that.

i look at these and i wonder who she was? i'm not sure we ever really know our parents, they are kind of strangers to us. what goes on their heads? what life did they have before we came along? what dreams did she have? what did she like to do? what did she think of her job? did she like it? it seems obvious she laughed at work and enjoyed it, and i'd like to believe it wasn't just for the camera. i think the cameraman was wilmer. i don't remember his last name, but i remember visiting his smoked-filled house frequently as a child. he made the most amazing photographic new year's cards every year. they weren't christmas cards, as i recall him not believing in god, which was pretty out there for someone from sioux falls in the 1970s (probably even more so today). he was a real photographer - i remember his small house in sioux falls - his wife helen's fish pond in a very eclectic back yard and stacks of photos balanced precariously on card tables in the living room. even in my childish memories, he was a real character and probably one of the first intellectuals i was exposed to. in my memory, those new year's cards were a bit surreal and dali-esque. always with a clock on them, to signify time passing. i hope there are some in a box somewhere in the house, i'd like to see them again, to see if they match my memories.

it seems appropriate to stroll through my own memories as hers fade away. i am struck by the sorrow of her becoming even more of a stranger, that who she was and who she is are ever more unreachable by me. in this last photo, i look at her hands and i see my own hands, but otherwise, i don't find myself in her. maybe i see a hint of myself in that collar bone and in the freckles on her arm. but otherwise, she is and will undoubtedly remain, a mystery to me.

happy 79th birthday mom. you are your own, to the very end.

Monday, March 19, 2018

the trolls are out

yikes, there was a post in the nytimes podcast club, asking for what annoys people about podcasts. i said many podcasters' pronunciation of qatar as "cutter" drove me crazy. it created a whole lot of discussion and much more outrage and trollishness that i would ever have imagined. one girl got a little bit unhinged and accused me of being pretentious and pseudo intellectual. um, what? i was just answering the question. the internet is awful.

i hadn't encountered such stridency in the nytimes podcast club before this.  i think it's an interesting example of the times in which we live and the increasing absence of it being ok to disagree. and also, of citing a random internet site as authority. i think i'll ask helen zolzmann of the allusionist what she thinks.

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apropos people who disappoint,
advice on how to find joy.
we could all use that.

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sam sifton (the sublime nytimes cooking writer)
recommended this
i trust his advice.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


CPH:dox, the copenhagen documentary film festival, is sending some of their films out to the provinces, and so i had the chance to see two of the films at spinderihallerne in vejle. spinderihallerne is one of the few bright spots in vejle, which otherwise rather thinks more of itself than it actually should. it's an old factory in the center of the city that's been converted to a museum, café, event and coworking space and they've done it very well.

the films i saw were maxim pozdarovkin's our new president, about the fake news about the american election IN russia. you can see a longish trailer for it here. i spent much of the screening with my mouth gaped open in horror. it's easy to understand how the russian trolls spread their insane, conspiratorial stories on our shores. what's less easy to understand is how anyone fell for it. i feel sad about russia today. i spent many years studying russian and russian culture and i think what's happening under putin does a rich and intelligent culture a real disservice.

the other film i saw was called pre-crime - about the algorithms and technology that's "helping" police departments all over the world catch criminals before they even are criminals. if you've seen person of interest, you'll realize that reality and fiction are far closer than we may like. but can you imagine being approached by the police because you landed on a computer-generated list of people who might someday commit a crime? what if you had been hanging out with the wrong crowd, but you weren't doing that anymore, what if you'd gone back to school and gotten your life in order when they came knocking? what would that do to you?

it was a very thought-provoking day, but also quite sobering. it is frightening how we all are voluntarily giving up so much information - through facebook, instagram, location-sharing and yes, even free google-owned platforms like this blog - that's sold on to those who would use it against us. it gave me thoughts of seriously living off-grid. but i think that's become quite difficult. plus, i'm such a device-geek that i would find it very hard. what if i could no longer photograph every cup of coffee or the adventures of my minifigures or share the latest things the cats are doing? but, what if that could be used against me in ways i cannot even imagine.

both films had a talk after them - the first, about fake news in general and the second about the state of surveillance in denmark. neither talk made me feel any better. but it feels really important to have the conversation. i'm glad denmark is still funding such things. this event was free. i used my whole saturday afternoon learning something new and being provoked to think and there was even free popcorn. i don't think it gets much better than that.