Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the best part of the weekend:

...was the conservatory.

While my mom was at my sister's house busy playing with grandkids and building Halloween costumes, we took Vinny's mom to the conservatory and zoo. She is a woman of few words, and very shy (yes, this is who Vinny gets it from!). Keeping conversations going can take a lot of energy with these two. However...

at the conservatory, all three of us enjoyed a quiet break of flora, fauna and humid silence. The moment we walked through the doors I felt the warm air wash over me, putting my mind and body at ease. I inhaled, deeply, the heavy emerald scent of soil, growth, and exotic blossoms. I immediately felt a sense of comfort. I think plants and places of natural beauty have this effect on people...but, in the instant of one breath, I was transported back to my childhood.

I grew up in an apartment above my parents' flower shop and greenhouse. At night I would go downstairs, when the shop was closed, and spend long hours playing in the purple-blue light of grow lamps. I grew up in my very own jungle. My years as a kid are wrapped in the peppery sweet smells of chrysanthemums and wet soil where I played "jungle Barbie" in the quiet of growing leaves or wrote in my diary or whispered secrets into the floppy ears of Heidi, my cocker spaniel. Sometimes I did nothing except weave my way through all those plants and think.

And so I let the miniature world of the conservatory swallow me in this way. Arching leaf fronds, exotic patterned bromiliads, ghostly white orchids, quiet goya ponds... I breathed, slowed my pace, and opened a space within myself to be filled by my strange childhood. I let our chatter be replaced by hushed wonder. As we walked, I noticed those parts of myself that have never changed. It is a part of my brain, somewhere towards the center, that has always felt the same...the part that is half detached and dreaming...the part that wants only to quietly imagine.

Maybe that is why I write, that is why I paint...because it is through these endeavors that I most easily access this part of myself. In many ways, I did not have an easy childhood. But, lately, I've begun to notice something shift inside of me. There is a part of me that wants to accept what was once hurtful--those deep, wounded parts of myself--because I'm beginning to realize that it was some of those most painful experiences that have created the greatest beauty within me. It is the sad child that played in a jungle all her own that taught me how to be sensitive and observant and how to love. The girl that played in the jungle is the one that taught me how to be strong. Courage comes in many forms of the imagination. There are parts of me that will never change--and, for that, I'm thankful.

This past weekend was the first time we've ever spent more than a couple hours with both of our moms together...and it's interesting because I could not help but notice how absolutely alike my mom and I are in so many ways...and how absolutely alike Vinny and his mom are. This weekend has given me a new appreciation for my own mom and a better understanding of why Vinny is the way that he is. There are so many facets to understanding who we are--both internal and external. I guess it doesn't have to be so much a matter of "finding ourself" as creating ourself. Each moment building upon the next. There is beauty in that. Deeply multifaceted beauty.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

today our doorstep was graced with moms.

I want to write something...but, you see, both my mom AND my mother-in-law are here for the weekend. Together! Today we shopped and ate a lot. Presently, everyone else in the house is snoring. I guess I should go to bed too? Reluctant. It's so peaceful right now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

a few notes on choosing the perfect coffee cup.

As many of my friends know, I have a rather e x t e n s i v e coffee cup collection. Actually, we have so many coffee cups that we don't have room for any other type of glassware (except wine glasses, of course(!)... which have been demoted to a separate cabinet). Choosing the perfect cup every morning has turned into, not just a routine, but (dare I say?) a ritual. Some people light candles or say prayers...I drink coffee out of the perfect cup. It is how I start my day.

The cup I choose has everything to do with my mood. Am I sleepy? Feeling creative? Needing comfort? About to be productive? I only pick my little porcelain troll cup on extra special days when I'm feeling exceptionally imaginative. Today is a troll cup day. See the troll and the chunky little blonde girl off to the right? Yeah--I'm her--I'm the little German girl romping around in the woods and finding giants. I'm drinking out of this particular cup because I am her and the sun is out for the first time in what feels like weeks and the leaves in my woods look just like the one on the cup.

I love troll days. They are the best kind.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

thursday afternoon thoughts...

I just got done with work and, at the moment, am sitting in a coffee shop drinking a latte out of a thick, white mug. I'm sitting at a table next to the window looking at traffic and brick buildings and wonderfully strange people walking by. The most useful class I took in high school was Typing...because it allows me to tap, tap, tap at these keys while continuing to watch everything that is happening around me. Artwork, people with books and notebooks and laptops, the bar across the street, the people smoking outside of it, the monotonous grey sky...

I shouldn't be in a coffee shop right now. I should be in the bar. Drinking a Bloody Mary and smoking (even though smoking would have to be done outside--minor detail). I've been thirsty for alcohol and cigarettes for a few days now. I don't drink very often and I quit smoking, but not long enough ago to make me completely forget the desire.

I've had my sister's car all week because I've been dropping off and picking up her kids from school while she's away on a business trip. It's been nice to actually have my own transportation...but I've fallen off the exercise wagon. And, in doing so, I've noticed a sharp decline in my level of energy. I'm feeling feisty. I don't want to go home. Grey day. I need to listen to music other than my own.

Lately I've been having a hard time getting any writing done because every day that I set aside to do it ends up getting filled with other people's business (and sometimes my own self-made dramas). I'm no longer interested in forcing myself to write, but what I do want, more than anything, is to write. This week I made the decision to give myself over to writing--completely. My days off are becoming fewer and farther in between. I've decided to honor the commitment I've made to myself by not allowing interruptions to take over the rare moments when I could be writing without interruption. I got a cell phone before moving here and, I must admit, that the best thing about it is how easy it is to just turn it OFF.

Time keeps going by at hyper-speed. And what I'm finding is that the creative life takes incredible amounts of diligence. I knew this before...but, these days, it feels more important than ever.

This post was written for no particular reason. Damn, I love writing...even if it is just made up of rambling...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

when you're having a bad day (or when your dad calls to tells you that he recently got engaged), go to the Convention Grill

my dad almost never talks to me anymore. he was married to my mom for 33 years, but then left her not even a month before my own wedding. it was bad timing. i supported my dad's decision because i wanted him to be happy. our wedding, in many ways, became more about their divorce than our marriage. that part sucked...but life isn't always perfect. unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the end.

my dad and i used to be close. now he never calls. when i do talk to him he's too busy. did i mention that we used to be close? yeah. we were. we used to talk on the phone or in person every day. every single day. but not anymore. now i don't even know who my dad is. i don't recognize him. i don't know the person he's become. i've supported him through everything--even when it was difficult--and, my god, difficult is an understatement. life is complicated and, in the end, i just wanted to see him happy. now the divorce is final. my mom is like a new person--but in a good way. my dad is still telling half-truths and lies. he does not realize how many times i have cried over the loss of our relationship. nor does he care.

so how the fuck do i write about the day that my dad calls and says blah, blah, blah... "and, by the way, i gave j. a ring."
which is when i stammer something like, "oh wow really...blah, blah stammer, stammer"...which doesn't satisfy his need for an excited response and so i offer several congratulations and a few questions (feigning interest) about how he went about it. i'm searching desperately for some part of me that is happy for him...but in my mind there is a screaming hollowness and i want to yell into the phone that maybe i would be more excited if he hadn't dropped us like hot rocks (my sister and brother, too) in exchange for j. and that my lack of enthusiasm has nothing to do with her, but everything to do with him and i don't even know who the hell he is anymore and i haven't had a dad in a long time and everything out of his mouth has turned into just a whole load of lies and, to be quite fucking honest, i really don't want to go to his wedding and pretend that i'm happy for him and the fact that he doesn't give a shit about anything but himself and his new life and fuck my head is screaming hollow...

and for the life of me, i can't seem to care.

but, god...even trying to write about it is a lot like opening pandora's box...i don't know where to begin. and so, instead, i go to an old diner and share a chocolate malt and greasy fries and a cheeseburger with my husband and listen to old michael jackson and queen and ottis redding and lionel richie songs play on the jukebox....and, for awhile, i can't help but feel better...even good.
but somedays i wish i could tell my dad everything that i've been thinking and feeling, not just today, but for the past 3 years...except that i know if i do, my relationship with him will plunge even further into nothingness...and so,

congratulations dad.

(...whatever it's worth.)

the results are in....

ok...so the "before" photo does not exist because i have not yet trained myself to carry my camera with me at ALL times! maybe someday i will learn.

(drum roll please...)

here are the "AFTER" photos.

thank you dear punk-rock-beauty-school-boy for the nice haircut.
his hands shook despite the $900.00 pair of scissors he was using...but what can i say? my ears are still attached, my hair looks much better than it did before, and the free facial and scalp massage was divine!

today was my lucky day.

i guess i should hang out at bob's java hut more often.
The image “http://images.citysearch.com/profile/df/ca/5583840p1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

...because this is proof that the haircut was a good idea. ha!

oh, and by the way...
this is my cool jazz cat, viscosa.she wanted to get her picture taken, too.

free haircut!

i just dropped my nephew off at school and am, at the moment, sitting in a coffee shop that i've never been to before.

i was just sitting here drinking a big, fat, wonderful latte and writing an e-mail when a punk-rocker looking guy walked up to me and asked me if i would be a model and get a free haircut at his hair stylist school. ha! these are the little things that make me love living in a city. i have to be there in a half an hour. wish me luck! then again, i could use an interesting haircut. and free--hey...i'm willing to take chances!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: "Good"

I write almost every day. And almost always I end up writing about myself.

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Good." But this time, instead of writing about myself, I want to write about something that I recently came across at the bookstore.

Shelter Dogs by Traer Scott is a GOOD book. Actually, it's better than good. It is heartbreaking and real and uplifting and sad and beautiful...all at the same time. It is an honest portrait of 56 beautiful, intelligent, loving beings--all of whom are dogs. I fell in love with the book at first glance. I was in tears before finishing the first paragraph.

In her introduction, Scott writes that Shelter Dogs "is a series of portraits that resulted from frustration, opportunity, and loss." She describes her many years of animal advocacy and her love for animals since she was a child, but she also admits that "in all those years of advocacy, fund-raising, and dog obsession, the one thing I never did was actually volunteer at a shelter. I tried, but every time I walked in, tears would come to my eyes the second I made eye contact with one desperate face. Everyone agreed that I just didn't' have the constitution for it. My friends suggested that I would continue to do good in other ways, but I always felt disappointed in myself." However, Scott forced herself to go back to the shelter and meet the animals with eyes wide open (read an excerpt here). And eventually her experience turned into this book.

Scott explains that, although she took many of these photographs for records and internet adoption sites, her files grew, and she began to realize that many of the dogs whose photographs where in her archives never made it out alive. She continues by saying that "despite our efforts, many dogs had to be euthanized simply to make room for the dozens more brought in every week by Animal Control. I found that no matter what, I couldn't bring myself to delete their photographs, which in some cases, were the only record of their existence. A few months later, I decided to begin creating true portraits of these dogs."

This book is dedicated not only to the author's parents and husband...but to "all the beautiful dogs in this book who were not fortunate enough to find a loving home."

Last night I layed in bed with this book until nearly 3 in the morning. Every single photograph exudes such character, personality, and a profound sense of dignity and nobleness. I spent time with each photograph looking at their eyes, their posture, their expression--and each one of them took my breath away. Diamond, Shadow, Bunker, Bonnie, Captain, Timmy, Celeste, Shady, Dumbledore, Smokey, Malaki, Hercules, Jake, Joshua, Stubbs, Bear, Sophia, Terrier, Tiger, Yogi... I wanted to snuggle into their necks, put my hand on their heads, stroke their backs, and plant big kisses on their noses. I wanted to talk with them and take them all for long walks in the woods. What I wanted to give to each and every one of them--was love. Some of the dogs in this book have since been adopted. Some never got so lucky and were, sadly, put to sleep.

Several weeks ago I applied for a job at an animal shelter. I wanted the job badly, but there were a lot of applicants, many of whom where most likely better qualified than me. But what this book has done is, well... quite possibly changed my LIFE. Or maybe, to be more precise, it has VALIDATED it. There is nothing on this planet that I love more than animals. And the tenderest place in my heart is reserved for dogs. Maybe even more precise would be to say that I WANT this book to change my life.

Abe died a year and a half ago. He was a shelter dog, too. But, more importantly, he was the love of my life.
Ever since losing him I have had a hard time even thinking about the pain and suffering of other dogs. I burst into tears at just the thought of it! Maybe I thought that if it was my job to work with animals, that I could handle the pain a little bit more easily. You can't cry every day at work. Ok...but I didn't get the job. So now what?

There's been a hole in my heart ever since Abe's been gone. Maybe that hole will always be there. When he died I quit volunteering at the shelter because it was too difficult for me. Making connections with other dogs only reminded me of what I had lost, reducing me to another puddle of tears. But what this book has reminded me is that there are dogs that need love and attention right now. I might not be able to adopt them, but I can spend time with them. I think it's time I pull myself together and use the love I had for Abe to help other animals. Really, honestly, I think it is one of my purposes in life. Why am I wasting time?

But what I really want to tell you is that Shelter Dogs is GOOD. It pays tribute to the lives of some incredibly beautiful beings...and, in doing so, I hope it will inspire you to get off your duff and do something. Why? Because there's a shelter dog that needs love--from you, from me. Scott's book is just a reminder. A powerful one. Today I'm thankful for this book. My heart needed a little cracking open--and Shelter Dogs did just that. See more of Traer Scott's dog portaits here.


Want to do something good?

In the USA:
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The Humane Society of the United States


In Canada:
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies


Humane Society of Canada


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

sore leg muscles and other thoughts....

wolfie and i have just returned from a longer walk than usual. it was because of the plaintive look she gave me this morning when i went outside to see her...and then the hyper-speed tail wagging once we got going. it is another wet, grey day. and i'm beginning to wonder if morning can be any other way. but, still, the walk was beautiful. we took a new trail that dead-ended and had to back track, then headed further into the woods and finally came out on the ridge. i love the ridge. at the trail head we met a handful of park workers--or should i say, Anu met a handful of park workers. i don't know what it is, but she is attracted to certain types of people. and she especially loves people that work in the park. but what she senses (i think) is their love of nature. she knows when she's with "her kind." and the thing is that anu is attracted to exactly the same kind of people that i am. the woods-walkers, the animal lovers, the bright-eyed people.

afterwards, we continued down the trail. when i walk this particular area i like to pretend that i am back home, in northern minnesota. maybe that's why it is my favorite trail in the first place. it feels like home. and as i walked i felt the muscles in my legs. it felt good. i could feel the lengthening and contracting as my legs lifted up and down in their forward motion. i am nowhere near "runner" status yet, but what i felt this morning was the inklings of strength. not just in my legs, but somewhere deeper, too. the best part...is that i feel myself returning.

and, my god, it feels wonderful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Running and Writing.

Today I went running for the first time in years. Actually, I alternated between running and walking. For two miles. I left the house with high ambitions to run and then keep running...right past the pain and into mindless oblivion. I used to be capable of that. I don't know how, except that it was a long time ago. Today I wanted to run until there was nothing left to get in the way of clear thinking.

But I forgot...that it doesn't work that way. You need to work your way into it. Slowly. Diligently. You need to work at it. A little bit at a time. Every day. So I ran down the wooded trail, along the river, then to the lake. I ran down peopleless paths because it was drizzling and wet outside. And in between the running, I walked. And breathed like an asthmatic. I verged on frustration. Why am I so out of shape? But decided to be kind to myself. I decided that I will return to it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. I'll keep returning to it until I get better. I'll push myself a little further everyday, but I won't push too hard. Just enough. I'll keep run/ walking until one day I'm able to just run. And then I'll continue running until I can do it without so much pain. Without the asthmatic panting.

Before running, I spent the morning writing. The whole time I was out on the trail I was thinking about how running and writing are the same way for me right now. Both require great patience with myself.

without title:

Get up in the dark.
Say goodbye to husband.
Walk the dog in the rain.
Take shower.
Make coffee.
Sit down at computer and get to work.

So far today, my work has been in creating a schedule for myself that will (hopefully) insure that work actually gets done. Writing, that is. I'll admit, I'm wary of myself. I don't quite trust my promises...but this time it is different. This time I am no longer the "bread-winner" of this little 2 person family. This time I quit a job, largely, so that I would have more time to write. This time I expect more than hot-air from myself. I write. I write a lot. But, lately, I have not been writing with any specific purpose.

ok...ok...so maybe I'm scared (yes, actually, I am). I'm scared of all the same things that I have been for the past 2 1/2 years. Ug. I don't want to write that. I am so sick of hearing these thoughts that it is actually getting ridiculous. Fine. Let it be ridiculous. Because if it gets ridiculous enough...then I can set my fear down on the side of the road and forget about it. Goodbye. I've had enough of you, fear. I'm imagining myself on the side of a freeway. I'm wearing running shoes and everything is grey--the sky, the cars, the concrete, my clothes. (I think I've become a character in a children's book.) I set fear down in the gravel. I say: "Goodbye fear. I'm sick of you." And then I turn and walk away, down the side of the road. I love grey days and so I am happy to be walking away empty handed. The sky makes me want to take deep breaths. I'm wearing good shoes, fear has been neglected on the side of the freeway like so much trash (biodegradable, of course)... and I'm free to just go... I can go as far as I want...farther than ever before because I've just set down that nagging weight that's been holding me back for far too long.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: If I could stop time...

If I could stop time, I'd go ahead and do it right now. It is a Saturday morning of cold blue skies and a bright sun spilling across a landscape of fallen leaves and pine needles.

Lately, I've been noticing the faces of older women--the ones sitting in coffee shops or at bus stops, at the grocery store or walking their dogs.... I've been noticing their faces like I've been noticing my own, the way age makes subtle changes over the years, creating a map of one's life.

I look at those women and wonder: is she happy? does she have regrets? would she do anything differently if given the chance? does she have a partner? does she have children? do they love her? does she love them? does the fresh air make her smile? does she sit alone in front of a television at night? what is the most adventurous thing she's ever done? has her heart been irrepairably broken? does she work in an office, sitting inside of a cubicle every day? has she ever changed someone's life? My curiosities about the faces of these women are endless. Maybe because I wonder what they reflect of my own face? They are usually strangers, glimpses of them caught in a passing moment, causing me to continue thinking about them for days and sometimes even weeks in an attempt to unravel the story of their lives from a single expression.

I always thought that a woman should be proud of her age. And I still do. I thought that wrinkles and white hair and age were something that one should wear with confidence. To me, age is equaled to life lived--something to be celebrated. I have always found beauty in age.

I am drawn to the faces of other women because, at 31, the process of aging has snuck up on me. I didn't expect this. My naive assumptions about aging had nothing to do with these dark circles under my eyes. Everyone has always said that I look young for my age. But, these days, I think I'm starting to look exactly my age. Soon, I'm afraid that I will look older than my age. Something in my face has begun to look different to me. I don't recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror. She seems tired--the kind of tired that no amount of sleep will ever cure. She looks worn out, kind of like the woman that stood in the cold wind of the bus stop the other morning.

Looking at myself I think: Who is that woman that looks like a less beautiful version of my mom? An only slightly thinner version of my aunt? I don't understand the familial resemblances. And so I am drawn to the faces of strangers to explain this metamorphosis that seems to be taking place in my mind and taking hold of my body. I want to know where I am headed and am looking for ways to alter my course--not in wrinkles, but in quality of life.

You see, happy women age the best. Their wrinkles have a way of setting off the sparkle in their eyes. Their weathered skin has a way of reflecting long days spent outside gardening and woods-walking. Their still-strong muscles are but reminders of their active participation in each and every day of their lives.

At the age of 31 I see myself on a cusp. My aging process has, in a way, only just begun. And so I wonder: How should I live my life in a way that will age me beautifully? And what is beauty anyway? To me, beauty means happiness; beauty IS happiness. Beauty is a result of happiness. And however my body transforms with the passage of time--that is what I hope it will reflect. But it's the process of getting there that feels precarious. The map of my body and life are sometimes hard to read.

And I realize that what I'm really looking for in the faces of strangers--is a guide. I'm looking for someone to show me how to live life fully, for someone to show me how to be my best self. And what I'm beginning to understand is that the face of every woman I see is, in her own small way, my teacher. I can gleam whatever small amounts of insights I can from the strengths and weaknesses of others. But, in my heart, I know...
...the rest is up to me.

As for the prompt of "if I could stop time...", I guess I got off track. Except maybe not. Is it the ability to stop time that helps us age the most gracefully? And if that is the case, what does it mean to stop time? Is it perhaps nothing more than appreciating the blue sky and sunshine of a Saturday morning, taking time to breathe and love and simply be?

And I can't help but wonder, what will my face say about me when I'm 37? 50? 70? 105? What do I want it to say?

*more stopping of time.
*image from www.presscluboftibet.org

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I give up too easily.

Tonight I went and stood down in the basement for a good long time. Yes, I just stood there. And looked at the pile of boxes in the corner that are creating enough visual clutter to keep me from actually making use of my studio down there. The jumble of boxes say things like "serious misl." and "Absolute CHAOS!" and "Is there ever an end to all of this junk???" and "You've gotta be fucking kidding me!!!" and "STUFF." I guess you could say that I started getting creative with my box labeling right before the big move (you know, the stuff at the end that you don't know what to do with...). Those boxes (some rather large) have been sitting in that same damp corner for the past 2 months. You'd think that, after that much time had passed, I just wouldn't need it anymore. But the truth is that I end up digging around, making an even bigger mess, every time I'm looking for something I can't find.

So I stood down there and stared at the pile and looked around at the sheer amount of stuff I have throughout the basement and thought about all the stuff I have throughout the house and imagined: "If I were moving far, far way--what would I take with me?" And then the trick is to get rid of everything else except for those items. Except, you see, it never actually works.

In the end, I failed to unpack or organize anything. I just came upstairs and sat down. Depressed. Looking at those piles made everything feel so futile. And now, several hours later, I can't remember what I wanted to paint in the first place.


and now look... my husband is making fun of me!

written in the dark hours of the morning (but blogger wouldn't let me publish it at the time)

After a night of snow that came down with swirling winds and inky dark skies, I got up this morning and walked to the window both bracing myself and hoping for snow to be on the ground. Snow. I love it. I decided yesterday that I would be stupid to ever move anywhere without real winters. I would be denying myself some of my most favorite days to the year: The First Snow; The First Morning I Wake Up To Snow; Staying Home From Work Because of a Blizzard Snow; Quiet Snow; Sparkly Snow; Colorful Snow. Snow has a way of cracking my heart wide open and allowing a huge amount of giddiness to flow through. I want to breathe deep breaths and feel the way it feels to let in color and light and fresh air. How many different names for snow do the Eskimos have? I want to learn them all.

But instead of the ground being covered in white, I've found a relatively normal fall day--blustery and grey (it didn't start snowing again until later and then continued for most of the day), with a lot fewer leaves on the trees after a night's worth of wind. I got up early to a hungry cat and a cold house. Coolness rises from the floorboards and into my legs making me shiver, making my coffee taste good.

And this morning I am thinking about all those months that I got up in the dark, early hours of the day to write in my journal. Snuggled in my robe and a blanket, with my cat curled up to my side, I would write in the glow of the lamp in the little upstairs room of our rented house until it was time to start the day. I loved those quiet, nearly-night mornings. I felt contained. Afterwards I would walk Anu, get ready, and then walk to school in the just-barely-light of the sunrise.

One thing I've always been good at is creating little worlds for myself. I used to do it as a child-- sitting in my closet, or under a pine tree, behind the rocking chair next to the bookshelf. And I guess that's never changed. There are days that I feel like a turtle carrying my world around like a shell on my back, its insides painted the colors of my imagination. Maybe that's what I like so much about early mornings and cold days spent inside or out. The colder it is, the darker it is, the fewer there are to intrude upon the fragile constructions that I surround myself with--those places where I create peace.

It's in those early mornings that I am able to hold myself in the palm of my own hand, protected. It is when I do my silent work within, welcoming the day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


mmmm...coffee. this morning as i brewed my coffee, i thought of bee. i like the way she writes about making coffee to get her through the rough spots in a day. i just returned from a walk with anu and, although i feel like my torso has gone through a meat tenderizer from being sick, it felt good to walk. and i was thankful for my relative health, no matter how shoddy it's been of late. the thing is, is that it could be worse. it could be much, much worse. and so i am thankful for all the strength my body possesses and was thankful to take a walk in the cold morning. the first real frost of the season? the roof of every house was covered in shimmery white. but, having moved from northern minnesota, it is strange that it has only now gotten this cold. needless to say, the sound of heat coming through the vents and the feel of a warm mug of coffee in my hands is all the more appreciated. this is why i can't help but love cold weather.

walking anu, she was so happy to be with me, and i with her. seems silly, but we missed each other yesterday. it might just be that she's a creature of habit; it throws her off when i don't walk her in the morning. she was all happiness and dog-smiles and leaps and running back and forth this morning. we stopped twice, side by side, to appreciate the mist hovering above the glassy surface of the lake and the riot of autumn colors flanking its edges...and again to watch 2 bucks and a doe meander slowly across the meadow in "sherwood forest." as i sit here typing, i watch a squirrel hop from rock to rock in the flower garden that has been taken over by a sea of leaves. and i love it here. can you blame me? i live in the middle of the city, skyscrapers not a mile away, and yet i stop to watch deer on our morning walk. there are days that i become afraid that someone will pinch me and i'll wake up. but it's true. i know it is. and all i have to do, really, is remind myself to savor it.

which brings me to the subject of home. i found myself thinking about that last night on my way to bed. i've always defined home as the place that is most comforting to me. and, of course, when you're sick, it is often the time that you need the most comfort. call me strange, but i define home as the place i would want to be if i were sick. looking back, i'm pretty sure that this definition began during my travels in india. while on a camel safari i got an extremely bad case of food poisoning (btw, if you're ever in india, camel safaris are highly over-rated. don't do it!). i spent 3 days riding the slowest, most ungraceful, nastiest belching camel in the world with a fever that had me thinking i was on some twisted game show where i had chosen the wrong door. seriously. needless to say, i have had an earnest dislike for camels ever since. being sick from both ends in the middle of a desert where the days are all white heat and the nights clear cold...well, i suppose it could have been beautiful had my bodily circumstances been different.

luckily, i was traveling with megan, a young, loud-mouthed but matronly nurse from new zealand, who wasted no time in taking care of me with the arsenal of medications that she carried in her backpack. by the time we got back to our guest house, my hallucinating stupor had reached its climax. all i really remember was the quilt that covered the bed and how i dreamed of my grandma. her quilts are the softest i've ever felt, and heavily scented with the rich smell of laundry softener (ask anyone in the family what they'll always remember her for... and they'll most likely say her overabundance of food and soft beds). the tink, tink, tink of a fork hitting the sides of a glass bowl as someone whipped eggs in the outdoor kitchen outside my room made me long for my grandma in a way that i never had before. for two days i dreamed that i was home. i dreamed of my grandma's kitchen and of my mom's kitchen. i dreamed of pancakes and brewing coffee and scrammbled eggs. i dreamed of soft beds and warmth and my family. i dreamed of all the things that i called home, of all the things that brought me comfort.

and ever since, my definition of home has remained the same. last night i dreamed of my old house out in the country. it felt good to be there. i miss that place. but this morning, as i opened my eyes, looked around the room, then snuggled deeper under the covers, i came to the realization that now this is my home. i've loved it here since the beginning. but it feels good to know that, if i were sick, this is exactly where i'd want to be.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Declaring war against myself.

There's been a mutiny. My body hates me and I hate my body.

It is fall. My favorite season of the year. And I've spent nearly the whole time being sick. The last couple weeks it was just a cold--sore throat, sinuses, lungs that feel like they weigh a hundred pounds. My walking has been cut sadly short because of these things...but, last night, the revolt turned serious. The Flu. Full on.

I had to call in sick to work. Actually, I had to call every single person that works at the bookstore and tell them my pathetic story just so that I could UNsuccessfully find someone to work for me. There I was standing in the kitchen, practically laying across the counter in a cold sweat, making phone call after phone call nearly in fever delirium tears and thinking "ahhh god, somebody shoot me!"

I've been in bed the entire day. A small bowl of miso soup and a handful of buttered saltines later, I still feel like shit. Oh poor, weak me. What is going on??? I realize that people no longer believe me when I say that I NEVER get sick, but it's true...or, at least, it used to be. I'd blame it on stress, but for the first time in forever I don't actually have any. Or maybe that's the problem...my body saw an opportunity to reak havoc on me--and took it!

Ugh. I haven't even had a cup of coffee today. Now THAT's bad.

The other thing that I'm wondering is exactly when my blog became a space to whine about my physical ailments? I'm sure that there was something much more interesting I was going to write about...but it seems to have escaped me. If my brain worked, maybe I'd write a poem about being trampled my a thousand horses.

As it is...it looks like I'm just gonna have to go back to bed. Too bad. Those leaves covering the lawn look so wonderful. And Anu, laying in the middle of them, looks so snuggly.

I can only hope that my next post will actually have something interesting to say.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Well, I did it.

I have hereby signed up for National Novel Writing Month...otherwise known as NaNoWritMo.

What that means is that, starting November 1st and ending Midnight November 30th, I am going to write 175 pages of something with plans to use at least some of it for my thesis.

There is something slightly sacred and a little bit ceremonial about the action of actually signing myself up. It means that I AM GOING TO TAKE MYSELF AND MY WRITING SERIOUSLY. It means that I AM GOING TO GET SOMETHING DONE! It means that I AM MAKING A PROMISE TO MYSELF and that I AM GOING TO KEEP THAT PROMISE IF IT KILLS ME!!

Anyway, dear friends, I just wanted to make an announcement out of it because that way it solidifies my commitment even further.


Geez, I kinda feel like celebrating.


Friday, October 06, 2006

A New Beginning.

I've been trying to let it sink in ever since yesterday. We both have, actually. That is, the fact that V. just got offered a job as a web designer that will pay more than either of us ever dreamed of making our first year out of college (which, after living under the poverty line for the past umpteen years as students, doesn't mean we'll be millionaires). Having just recieved the phone call, he picked me up from work at the bookstore yesterday afternoon and told me the good news. We were sitting in our car in the coffee shop parking lot with the windows down, letting the warm fall air wash over us along with a few moments of pure relief. The light felt golden and the smiles on our faces were big. The entire drive home felt weightless with the lifting of so much stress that has accompanied the past several months. The sun and sky and smell of leaves felt concentrated. And, even today, it still does.

The first thing I did after getting home was call the flower shop to tell them I quit. Please don't think poorly of me. You see, I've never done anything like that before and even though making that phone call made my stomach twist itself into a thousand knots, nothing has ever felt so good in my entire life. The thing is that, when I moved here, I never wanted to be a florist ever again. We moved so that we could make room for change in our lives. I only took the job out of necessity and desperation...and then tried my best to maintain a positive attitude about the whole thing. The truth is that after 2 measely days, I hated it. I hated the uppity-out-do-your-neighbor attitude of Edina. I hated all the value placed on money and materialism and the way everyone that worked who there kissed so much ass instead of just being genuinly friendly...instead of, for that matter, being simply genuine. Money can be nice, but when it tips the scale and turns into "status symbol," then I just don't get it. I went home with such a sick feeling that only sunk deeper with each passing day. Ever since getting the job I have felt depression settling in like heavy little weights tied to each of my fingers, pulling me down, down, down. But I tried to ignore that feeling because there are bills to pay and sometimes you just need to suck it up and do what needs to be done.

When it comes down to it, it's just not where I wanted to be. I wanted to move on. I've wanted that from the beginning...

And now--oh my god I am so thankful--I can. There is a part of me that is reveling in the much deserved change in our lives and a part of me that is still processing the guilt I feel for quitting a job after only two days...but, when it comes down to it, I am absolutely, supremely happy.

I will have time to write. To write!!

Last night I dreamt of a huge park. There were trees along the sides of it and beyond that there were roads and houses and parked cars. But in front of me there was nothing but green, green grass and blue sky and vast open space. Oh my god, it felt so good! I stood there thinking about how incredibly liberating it would feel to run through all that grass with my arms wide open. There was so much room--to breathe and think and run! And so I did...I ran until I found myself hovering in the sky just enjoying the whole spectacular scene...and the whole while, even though I knew I was dreaming, I was completely aware that it was all just a metaphor for my life.

There has been so much stress, not just lately, but for the past SEVERAL years...and finally, finally we can rest. Both of us. God, I am so grateful I could break down into a puddle of tears.

So today V. and I began our new life. We got up early. V. left to teach class and (since I didn't have to work at the flower shop!) I took Anu for a long walk though falling leaves. When V. got home it was still early so we did something that we never get to do and went out for breakfast. We sat there in the old diner basking in the yellow glow of those perfectly poached eggs and smiled at each other. V.'s the one who said it first...when I asked him what he was thinking about, he said: "I'm thinking that this is the first day of our new life." And so we toasted to our new life with glasses of water. Then he asked me what I had been thinking about and I told him that, in my head, I was blogging about that very moment. I was wondering what it meant to be "a writer." I was thinking about how those two words looked inside of quotation marks:

"a writer"

I was thinking about how I was going to tackle my thesis and which coffee shops I might spend the most time in while writing it. I was thinking about all those dreams and passions that I've been carrying around my whole life and that I had come oh-so-close to setting aside, but now I remember them. Now I remember how much more important they are than anything else.

I'll still be working at the bookstore, nearly full time if I want to. But that's the easy part. I love it there. I am proud of V. and glad that he will be doing something he loves. I feel strange saying that we deserve this, but our lives have been damn hard for too long.

And I don't remember the last time that I felt this way...such calm. My life had turned into a constant whirling action; as though there were bits and pieces of myself stuck in a whirling wind somewhere just above my head and out of reach. I could never get all of the elements of my life to settle, making it so there was always something just far enough out of place to throw the rest of me out of balance.

I feel like I can breathe again. And it feels good. Better than good, actually.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

cat nap therapy.

These days, setting my alarm for 7am feels like sleeping in. But when it went off this morning I couldn't figure out what day it was and who the alarm was set for--me or Vinny? Finally coming to the conclusion that it is Thursday and the alarm was indeed for me, I got up only to go downstairs, put on my warmest, thickest, fuzziest robe and laid down on the couch--dangerously--with no snooze. I woke up 39 minutes later with Viscosa curled up in a tight little ball next to me and felt at least half of whatever sickness that has been plaguing me, disappear.

If only I could have another 39 minutes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Il numero di anniversario tre!

Today is our third anniversary. It is amazing how much can happen in one year. And it is even more amazing how much a marriage can grow in the process of it all. V. gave me a card that, before I could even finish reading it, had me in big, rolling tears because he found the words to say all of it so perfectly.
After that, we went on a mini shopping excursion. Then, for the highlight, we went to our favorite pizza joint where they make the pizza exactly like they did in Italy--wood burning ovens and all. Finally, with the best intentions we set out for a movie, but ended up at a used bookstore were we wandered around like happy little book geeks for a full two hours.

It is good to be in love.

Happy anniversary Vinny! xoxoxo

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Sick again...for the 2nd time since moving. What the heck? My only guess is that it's the constant fight with allergies...allergies that I never used to have. Argh.

In more interesting news, I started work at the flower shop yesterday. Totally unexpectedly. V. dropped me off at the coffee shop, where I wait for 2 hours before starting my first job, and while I was there I decided to check my e-mail (which I don't usually even do). The boss of job #2 had sent a message confirming that I would be starting that day (yesterday). What?! Here I had been waiting for the past week and a half to hear from her when I would start and beginning to wonder if I even still had the job in the first place.

I looked like crap in my old brown pants and hooded thermal shirt. Well, crap for a first day of work anyway. Not to mention, I wasn't feeling well and I had to walk the 45 minutes between job #1 and job #2 in order to work both places without a car. I mumbled curses under my breath the whole way. It was hot. My pants were shrunk too short. My throat hurt. I felt fat. I didn't have any lipstick. There was too much traffic. My shoes felt clunky.

BUT--I will say that once I got there and actually got started...I enjoyed it a lot. Even in my sick state of body and mind. I came home with a fever and a sore throat from hell. I'm still sick and have to work again all day today (because I don't feel like I can call in sick for the 2nd day of a new job--ugh, it's not fair!).

One of my biggest worries (or more like a feeling of dread) was that the customers (excuse me, I mean "clientele") would be snobby, bitchy, and mean (since this is what the owner warned me they would be like--except she used the words "ego-tripping" and "intimidation"). They drip with money. But so far, I've found that they are as nice to me as I am to them. One couple even came back later just so that I could meet their dog. Another woman wanted my name so that I could work with her again next time.

The weirest part is just working in a flower shop again--especially one where I'm the new girl. I grew up in a flower shop. It feels like someone switched the stage out from under me and completely redid the set design, but it's basically the same play...and I'm supposed to carry on as though nothing happened while simultaniously playing a new part.

*(btw, if I owe you an e-mail or haven't visited your blog in awhile, please forgive me. i think i may be temporarily out of commision). not to mention, my computer fried while i was at work (why am i having so much bad luck in one day?)!!! this old laptop is like a grinding dinosaur and takes forever just to load a page...)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: "Skin"

It's an evening in October and my husband and I have just returned home from a brief shopping excursion to find warm, comfortable clothes at the discount store. We parked in the clean and strangely quiet underground parking ramp of the library, then rode the elevator up, before making our way outside and onto the streets of downtown Minneapolis.

As we walked, we found ourselves easily transported to the streets of Rome--caused by an equal combination of old buildings mixed with the warm smell of piss and sewage drifting up from whatever worlds exist under these roads. Being Sunday, the streets were quiet save for a few scattered wanderers and the 4 policemen checking the pulse of a man passed out in a flower bed near the corner of 5th and Nicollet. Our memories of narrow sidewalks and Roman fountains clashed with the newness of black tarred streets and shiny architecture reaching into the blue sky of this American city, but it was the smell that held our false Italy safe from interruption, both to and from the library parking ramp.

I live in the city, but I take shelter in an old house at the edge of the woods--a house that is covered in a skin of ivy the color of a ripe pomegranate, heavy with red, deep purples, and fiery gold. What is left of green is not the same as summer's, but has turned so dark that it nears translucence.

From the inside, there are deep shadows that run the lengths of every room. And today, even with the windows open to let in the warm breeze, it remains cool. We have blinds, but never need to use them, as our windows are covered in ivy, too. The light from outside has only recently turned from glowing green to a lucent scarlet. Viscosa, our little cat, hasn't left the windowsill since the transformation took place.

If it weren't for all this ivy, our house might border on painfully nondescript. But as it is, we live in a witch's cottage. The gnarled bark of old growth ivy twines it's way up the chimney, then cascades off the side door's overhang in red dripping tendrils--stretching for available space. The soft vines, with their tree frog fingers have attached themselves to the entire house, hiding the stucco, the windows, and threatening even the roof.

This house is a living thing. It is our sanctuary, but not only ours. The birds, a hundred of them, beat their wings like fragile moths as they hover then dive, breaking through the voracious growth that protects all who live here. Even at night, when I come to sit under the moon, I can hear their faint stirrings. It creates a tender effect, so achingly human. But soon, with colder weather, the leaves will drop. Our windows will fall bare to the low slanting winter light. For long months the ivy will remain dormant under ice and snow. And so, I can't help but wonder: where will the birds go? And how will it change me when they leave? I cannot explain this endless fascination that I feel towards not only these winged creatures, but the history of this house--this living, growing thing--protecting us in its fragile skin of color and tendriled vines.

The skin of others here.