Friday, November 30, 2007

And the Lace Goes to. . . .

Sometimes we just draw names (and I say "we" because The EGE and his cats often do this with little slips of paper, which is highly amusing if you're a cat person and probably kind of pathetic if you're not), and sometimes I read the comments and find the best homes that way. This time I tried to pick the destinations for the lace by the comments, and so the uterus-shaped lace goes, of course, to Sue, who's going to put it on that workshirt, and then I'm going to plead for photos of it.

And the lace goes to Elizabeth, who can use it on the bag she's making, which I also want to see in photographs.

And then Hey, Jude is getting some other lace I found in a bin marked, duh, "lace." I didn't know I had a stash of actual lace until she mentioned that she uses it all the time on her denim, and I thought, "hmmmmmm." I think you'll have fun with this!

Oh! And the t-shirt, which has not been claimed by Anonymous, is now going to Kim R., instead. So y'all please send your snail-mail addresses to me lickety-split. I'm going to the mail box today, and I'd like to send your goodies on the way to you so you can play.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Making Dreams Come True

The Ever-Gorgeous Earl is not much of a dreamer. He's a pragmatist who's been working since he was 11 years old. Until now. Now he just wrangles cats. And, honeys, let me tell you: wrangling the cats around here is a full-time job. What with The Cat Palace and Garfunkel on the front porch and the inside cats just purely delighted that he's at home with them all day long now, he spends hours a day with these spoiled beasts.

One dream he had when we met, lo! these many years ago, was to be the head football coach at Midland High School, where he played football. Being a head football coach is not about talent and experience, though. Oh, sure--that's important. But it's not as important as winning by any means necessary, and who you know, and politics. And race. There has never, ever been a black head football coach in District 5AAAAA. Never. There's been one black head basketball coach, recently, but that's an anomaly, and basketball is NOT football. The football coach in West Texas sits at the right hand of God, and God asks for advice.

So. No life as Advisor to God. Or head football coach. Two other dreams: he said he'd like to get a travel trailer or a Winnebago or something and travel around the country when he retires, with me set up to write and sew in the vehicle. To me? This sounds like pure hell. I don't like trailers (lived in one for 12 years and hated it) and I don't like constant traveling. I like to go places, and then I like to come home, and then I like to go somewhere else. I traveled too damn much growing up to want to do it constantly now, and because we never had a real home for more than a couple of months, it's REALLY important to have a Home, a place where I spend a lot of time and can come back to. Living in a trailer on the road would drive me insane.

But there's another dream. On our first trip to San Antonio, maybe 25 years ago, we walked along the river out past the usual Riverwalk, and in the shallow water, on a rock, was a pair of blue jeans. (Aren't you surprised I still remember this?) They looked like someone had been sitting on the rock and had slipped off the jeans and swam away. Like someone turning into a mermaid. He took a photograph of them, and he said that it would be cool someday for us to travel (again with the traveling! It's the biggest difference between us: I grew up traveling and like to stay put; he grew up in one place and loves to travel), with him taking photographs and me writing. At the time, the idea was that I'd write poems, as that's what I was doing. Since then, we've talked about travel writing, and then, lately, about traveling around Texas and taking photographs of artists' studios. I almost convinced an editor at Texas Monthly, but not for a regular feature, which is what I wanted to do.

So that's something we're starting to look at: ways to combine his photography and my writing about art and artists. No hurry--I think sometimes you have to think about things and put them out there and see what turns up. And something's turned up already.: Yesterday a really cool thing happened: I get to write a column for Altered Couture, a how-to one, and he gets to take the step-out photographs for it. He'll get Official Magazine Credit, which will be good for building a resume kind of thing. And it'll be really fun and an excuse to play around with taking photographs. And getting the &^%$# light fixture fixed in the sewing studio--I gave in and called, and Richard is supposed to come by when he gets a chance (they're all swamped, of course) and tell me what my options are (repair this one, get a new one, install some other kind of brighter lights)--there's no attic space above this part of the house, and I don't know what can be done to install better lighting. He'll know, though.

So that's the good news here--little baby steps toward making dreams come true. This afternoon we're off to take photos of my friend Julia's office--it's as cool as a studio, with a lot of her photographs in it, and she's a sweetie for letting us come while she's working. Plus she's a fantastic photographer and knows a ton of stuff. Then I'm going to try to get a studio visit to her brand new photography studio in her backyard. The pictures of it are fabulous--

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Altered Sweatshirt

Since I worked hard the last couple of weeks and got three articles finished and sent in, I'm spending this week stitching and altering and playing with some new ideas. Plus I've had this stack of sweatshirts and stuff waiting for me to finish them. Yesterday and this morning I finished this one:
It was one of the off-white sweatshirts I got on clearance at Old Navy last year after the holidays. I dyed it--trying for acid green but getting this green that tends more toward lime, which worked out OK here. I don't like too much blue in my green. In fact, for some reason, I'm not a fan of blue. I wonder why? I love Levi's. And blue skies. But blue clothes? I don't have anything but the jeans, a couple of tie-dyed tanks, and one brilliant turquoise skirt. Brown? Same thing--one top that goes under a jumper (the coffee one), one tank, one full skirt. And black--although there I have a couple of turtle necks. Oh! And some leggings! I ordered 4 pair of Danskin leggings Monday--they had 25% off, plus free shipping over $75. I didn't know if that $75 was before or after the 25% discount, plus I'd ordered two pair the day before. So I called and explained, and they were GREAT--combined the two orders, said the $75 was BEFORE the discount--and it ended up that I got the 4 pair for only $12 more than it was going to cost for the two pair I ordered on Sunday--and even then they'd been on clearance. So 4 pair of black Danskin leggings for $59.96. Yowza! To run in, do yoga in, wear under skirts and, when it's cold, under jeans.


Where was I? Oh! The sweatshirt. Up there are the true colors; here, with the detail shots, they didn't come out. I'm having some severe issues with lighting around here. There's a short in the ceiling fixture in the sewing studio. I can't fix it--it's an actual short--and I don't want to call Richard, the electrician who's done a ton of work around here, just to fix that: he works for a company, so he's not independent. And they charge by the hour, of course, with a one-hour minimum. Now, Richard can fix this thing in about 10 minutes, and he's said that, when I have stuff like that, I need to have a couple of things for him to do that will take closer to an hour. So I'm holding off until I figure out something else--there's a light that The EGE has been messing with. If he gets tired of messing with it, I can have Richard fix it. But you know how that goes--you can't take away the light fixture and say, oh, never mind what I asked you to do; I'm going to pay someone else to do it. Kind of rude.


So. Lighting. It sucks right now. Imagine the above colors. Here's the front:
And the back.
Nothing special--just the same shapes and stitching that I usually do on these. It's about color, about making it something I'm happy to wear. It's not real artwear. And, you know, I've been thinking about that a lot lately. What IS "artwear"? Is it any clothing or accessories that we've done anything to at all? So if we put on cool buttons, does that make it artwear? How about some trim? How about if we dye it?


I say no. I'm seeing a lot of stuff in books and magazines---there are a couple of t-shirt books that I was SO excited about until I opened them up and saw what was inside and went, "Ewwwww."--that remind me way, way too much of those horrid holiday sweatshirts, the ones with slickpaint scribbled on the front and some plaid ribbons and some buttons tacked on. You know the ones--you can find them at Goodwill by the truckload. I MADE some of those, for crying out loud.


And I'm seeing some stuff that's called wearable art or artwear that's basically pretty much the same thing--those t-shirts!


Now go look at some of Lisa Bebi's stuff in Altered Couture, the issue before this current one. The t-shirts with images on them. See the difference? One is just stuff tacked on, and the other has art--Lisa's art.


If I look at it that way, most of what I make is not artwear. The Journal Skirts are, but I'm not making those any more. I might say the jeans were, but they didn't really have a coherent idea for me, a theme, if you will. A Subject. This is just my opinion, mind you--I know that most artwear--high end, designer stuff--doesn't have images, text, a theme, a subject. It's just one-of-a-kind garments or whatever. But then you have to ask yourself: what's the difference between "artwear" and everything else, including the sweatshirts with rickrack around the neckline? Something to think about. I sure have been, and I'm going to see what I can do that pushes me more towards garments that meet my own criteria for artwear. We'll see how that goes.

Hey, DB!

If you really want the t-shirt, please send me an e-mail. If not, I'll pick someone else on Friday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Altered Jacket #2

Man. These jackets take me forEVER to do. All that stitching. But they sure are fun when they're finished. I wore the purple one out today--had to go for the Lovely Annual GYN Exam, O Joy. Always a lot of fun, let me tell you. Since we've known Dr. Mendez forever, he lets Earl come in and watch the whole spectacle. Isn't that special?



[Note to self: never mention ANYTHING to this man. He is thorough, and should you suggest, oh, any kind of little issue you might have, anywhere Down There, from stem to stern, he's going to check it out. With gloves on. Forcefully. I tried to dissuade him, telling him I'd had a colonoscopy just last summer, thank you very much, and he said--I swear this is true!--"Oh, well, I'm here already." I told him I hated him very much. And then he said--and I canNOT believe I'm telling you this, but it just shows you what I have to go through in my pathetic little life.
Wait. Picture the posture I am in, and picture what he's currently doing to me. Picture Laurie (his nurse) and The EGE watching. There are bright lights. I am in pain, OK? And he pauses during these festivities and says, "Um. And you're orange here, too! When did that happen?" Laurie mumurs, "I was waiting for him to notice." The EGE finds this absolutely hilarious. And I said, "That's it! I'm not bringing him with me any more."
Because, while they sent me in the room to get undressed? They were out in the hall discussing tennis and tennis-related injuries, and I had to yell, "Hey! You guys! I'm getting cold in here already! Let's get a move on!" Famous last words. And while he's doing the exam? He gets a call on his cell phone from someone who's setting up a double-elimination tournament, and he leaves the phone on while he's doing the breast exam. Jesus.


And then--after it was all, mercifully, over--I nagged him. Again--this is an ongoing thing--about removing a mole from my face. He had so far refused, even though he's done surgery on my head, with no ill effects (I had to nag him forever about that, too--he keeps saying he's not a dermatologist, and I keep saying he's taken a scalpel to my internal organs; what's a little bit of skin?) And even though Laurie, his Medical Professional (meaning she does everything for him), wants him to remove one from her face, too. So I whinged at him big time, and he finally relented, with copious sighing and eye rolling. I am quite pleased, as this means I don't have to battle with yet another wack-ass dermatologist (the last time I tried to get this procedure done, I was so irritated at this woman that, to placate me, she didn't charge me a co-pay, and I went home and turned her in to my insurance company for fraud). Plus he went out and told Laurie he'd do her face, too, and now she loves me more than chocolate. Always a good thing, as she's The One in Charge of the Office.


So. Dr. Mendez is a mensch.
For a treat, and as a reward for my not kicking anyone in the exam room, we went to the knitting shop to look for a needle holder for needle felting. They didn't have one, but the Knitting Ladies went nuts over the jacket (and my hair and make-up and etc.) and said I looked just like an elf.




Now, having Midland Knitting Ladies say you look like an elf might not be a compliment for most 51-year-old women, but it works for me. I've never been a raving beauty, with the face and the breasts and--




--oh! BREASTS! A Story: at Starbucks last night, there were these two couples. Well, there were more than two--there was this other couple, 50-ish, that had obviously met there for their first date. They were Explaining Themselves, you know, like you have to do, and telling each other amusing but telling stories--you know, where you tell a story that seems it's just an amusing tale but it's really a Cautionary Tale about "What I'm Really Like," to kind of to give the other person a clue, you know? Like the woman kept telling stories that let her say, "I can take care of myself" and then mention her gun. Yes. It IS West Texas, you know. Part of the Dating Ritual is comparing firepower.




Snort. I mean GUN firepower. Quit it!




But the other two couples--they met there. Couple #1 came in and ordered tea to go with their entire Chinese Take-out, which they unwrapped and spread out on the table and ate, with gusto. And then Couple #2 came in, and things got interesting. Woman #2 had Breasts (you wondered about the tie-in, didn't you?). The EGE noticed them right off. I was stitching, and he leaned over and said, "She bought those." And I was all like, "What? More Chinese? What?) And then I looked up and couldn't see how he could tell. She had on a black sweater that was unzipped quite a long ways, but you could see why, as the breasts were quite nice, on display like that. But not huge, so I wasn't sure how The EGE could tell they were Purchased Breasts.




"Because they're perfect," he explained.




"Ah. I see."




But I didn't believe him, as I would think, personally, that if I were going to buy some, I would get them larger. You know, get my money's worth. If I'm going through major surgery, I want mammoth breasts. Traffic-stopping breasts. National Landmark Breasts. Or else what's the point? (Point! Hee!)




Maybe she was just naturally perfect.




Then she stood up and demonstrated to Couple #1 (and these are all people in their 40's, I would guess. Not kids.) that she "went both ways," as she said: her zipper zipped up as well as down. And she demonstrated this, adding that, while Woman #1 (a very quiet, mousy woman) would have had on a cute camisole underneath, she had nothing. Indeed. She did not. I was quite transfixed.




And Man #1, who was also transfixed and stunningly interested in every morsel of information that dropped from her lips, asked something about whether she was satisfied, to which she responded that, yes, she was, but she had more to do: she was going to have her wings clipped and her saddlebags removed.




Whoa. This sounds like some kind of marking and branding procedure performed by someone with The Pony Express.




And I leaned over to The EGE and said, "Points. You were right." I hate when he's right.




She went on to explain that she has those bat wings under her arms and is going to have those removed and then is going to have her saddlebags removed, as well, to which The EGE said, sotto voce, "Try not eating so much and getting a little exercise." The man is merciless. But observant.




Anyway. The breasts were quite nice. As was the sweater. I won't be buying either, though.




Black is so not my color.




Anyway. So never a raving beauty. But then that was never my main motivation. When I was teaching English, sometimes students would try to sweet talk me out of work, you know, "Oh, Ms. Freeman-Zachery, you look so nice today!" And I would always shake my head ruefully and say, "Oh, that's so not the way to go." And then someone--someone who'd been paying attention during the previous months of class--would pipe up and say, "And ever so funny, too. My God, I'm laughing so hard I can hardly breathe!"




Those were the ones who got the A+.




So I'm an elf. Not such a bad thing to be, I don't think. I told The Knitting Ladies not to hold their breaths about the whole Santa Claus connection because I really don't have an in with the guy.




ANYWAY. Here's Jacket #2. Remember, these were cream cotton fleece jackets on clearance at Old Navy. I tie-dyed them (one's purple, one's orange, one's green, and one's pink) and am slowly, slowly altering them. This is my Voodoo Cafe Jacket. Here's the front:
Fat-Boy Moe (shhhh! don't tell him I said that) is checking it out (hoping it's got cheese in the pockets)
And the back:

The voodoo doll pin I stitched on:


The stitching detail:

A beaded heart:

So there you have it. My jacket and more than you ever wanted to know about My Day. I can't believe I tell you these things, but it just amuses me so much that I can't resist. What fun is a good story if you keep it to yourself? Duh.

Finishing Up the Jeans

Bet y'all thought I'd forgotten all about the jeans. Sorry about that. I actually finished them last week and got photos but just didn't get around to posting. The rest is really simple, of course--we just stitched them up. Turn them inside out, match up the edges of the legs where we ripped out the seams, and then pin them really well. Remember: Pins Are Our Friends. Oh, sure--they stab us and draw blood and get lost in the carpet. But they sure do make things work out better when we use them.
Here're the finished jeans. Sorry the photos are blurry--it was late, and I just wanted to get them done. Here's the front:
Here's the back--they're baggier than I thought they were. Ick.
Here's the patch--the whole reason I started this project, in face: to patch this big ol' rip in the knee.
There they are. I'd love to see photos of your altered jeans, too--

Ms. Anonymous

I should give more info, I guess: the Anonymous who won the last t-shirt uses the initials DB and makes this sign in her signature:
>^. .^<

Gee, I hate anonymouses--it makes it so hard to get in touch with folks! But get in touch with ME by Wednesday, please, ma'am~~

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Compassion. Oy.

As y'all know, I struggle with compassion all the time. Since I try to practice Buddhism (as a philosophy, not a religion), compassion is a really, really important thing. And I pretty much suck at it.

I have no problem with compassion for animals--I was born and raised with that, and I can feel (I'd say "literally feel," but then it'd get all vee-vee-woo-woo and you'd think I was going to come to your house and do psychic readings with your gerbils) what they feel. But people? Oh, honeys--that's a whole nother thang entirely. I try to feel compassion for all living beings, but when you're surrounded by people every day, everywhere (but especially at places like, oh, high schools and The Dreaded Wal-Mart and political gatherings) who are just trying like the dickens to fuck up their lives as quickly and thoroughly as possible? Well.

But I try. Well, when I'm not actively wishing for the abduction by aliens of my next-door neighbors, I am. And I try so very hard not to go there. I try not to wish for their heads to explode, either. Really. OK, most days I try not to wish for that.

This week we had coffee with our friend who's HIV+. I sat and stitched, just listening to him. And, OK, offering just the tiniest bit of unsolicited advice. But mostly listening. Trying to really listen and be present.

I learned to listen at Survivors of Homicide. I mean really listen. Not the stuff we usually do, where we're nodding politely and saying, "Um-hmm," and that hip thing we all say: "Right?" which is what you think the speaker would say, rather than the listener, but noh. I assume it's a line from a TV show or a movie that we've all adopted as habit. I find myself saying things and wondering what sit-com I've co-opted without even knowing it.

Anyway. Listening. It's about compassion. When you really listen, really listen, to someone telling about something they're going through, some grief or misery or pondering or dilemma--when you really listen, it's as if it's happening to you.

You know how, when you read a really good book, and you identify with the protagonist so much that if they commit a murder and feel guilty, you feel guilty, too? Or if they have an affair, you feel all sneaky and excited and guilty about that, too? Because you've paid such close attention--you've listened to them so well--that you've entered into their life and feel what the character is feeling. And you do that with listening, too, in Real Life. If we listen without commenting and without judging and without waiting for our chance to say something witty or funny or quaint, we sink into their words, their emotion, their pain, their life. And we find that we're feeling what they feel. We're not knowing it, mentally--it's not like we're hearing them and processing what they're telling us and coming up with an appropriate response. It's that we've heard them so completely and entered into their reality with them and can feel what they're feeling.

That's compassion. I remember the first time it really happened to me, in a really complete way. I've mentioned it before, about the woman whose daughter was killed. I learned to listen with her. And I felt compassion, completely. Never mind all the differences between us and what I might have thought about anything she had to say. I didn't think anything. I listened, and I learned from her. And I try to remember those lessons because, like all lessons, I have to learn them over and over again.

So I believe we learn compassion by learning to listen--really listen. I believe it's what makes us truly human: to listen to another person and to hear them them so completely that their life becomes our life, if only fleetingly. If you're Buddhist, you're saying, of course, that that's what our life has always been, anyway.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Unfuckingbelievable.

It's snowing here in Midland, Texas. Again. For the second time in three days. This is more snow that we normally get in an entire year. I have nothing else to say about it.

No. Wait. I have this: on Thanksgiving morning, I called my dad. He's doing OK. He asked if I'd been out playing in the snow.

"Noh."

"Seen it before, huh?"

We commenced (that's a thing you do here, "commence") talking about all the snow we've known in our lives, about Riverton, Wyoming, at 52 below zero. About having to be dug out of our house by other folks, being snowed in in Plentywood, Montana. About the snow in Pinedale and Casper and Burlington and Littleton. Like that. This shit may be fun for people who've only ever seen a couple of inches. But for us? Hell. We've seen snow, been buried in snow, been in snow up over our heads, had to walk through snow because the cars wouldn't start.

We live here for a reason. And that reason ain't so we can see more snow. So while all the natives are yipping and doing donuts in the parking lot, we're hunkered down, trying to ignore the reminders of what Life is Like in the Frozen Tundra of the North. And how cold can make you vulnerable in ways you don't want to think about when you're on the far side of 40.

Like that.

And that's all I have to say about it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

For Next Friday: A Little Frou-Frou-ness

As far as lace and frou-frou trim goes, this stuff is gorgeous. The trim feels like rayon--something heavy and slippery-ish. The lace--I don't know what it is, but I'm pretty sure Robin dyed it, and that means it's either cotton or some natural thing. Although it doesn't feel like cotton to me.

I don't have a clue, in other words. Doesn't it look like a uterus? I think there's a piece of Uterine Art in there, don't you?
Anyway, the lace is almost 7" wide (tall) and there're almost 8 yards of it; and the trim would fit in a square about 13" x 13". So post a comment and tell me what you'd do with this. I'm hoping you'll have a project in mind and tell us about it. I'll pick next Friday and send it out; and then, after you use it, you'll take photos, OK?

Holiday Blues

Sigh. Somehow I did OK last year. Relatively speaking: I mean, I was crying pretty much all the time anyway and totally stressed out over cleaning out my mother's house and getting it sold before the end of the year. But I thought I did OK. This year, though, doesn't look so great so far. I'm already tired of myself--the crying, the periodic sadness, the wanting-to-do-nothing-but-sleep-ness. Not eating. The freezing cold and the snow aren't helping--more than one day without the sun and I'm just a little testy. And then this morning I spent over two hours trying to find out why the drives for the memory cards for the various cameras wouldn't work any more. I called tech support and got a woman who couldn't understand me--I had to spell everything TWICE, finally doing it her way and using the whole "V as in Victor" code (try spelling my name that way. oy.), and I couldn't understand her at all and finally, just pissed at the whole world, just hung up on her. And then I got online and read about the same problem on some guy's blog and tried his solution with the help chat feature with HP and got a guy who didn't offer me the solution given to the guy on the blog but who instead sent me to a website where I had to read it all and then do the whole thing myself and THEN, to top it off, tried to sell me an extended warranty, via help chat, while I was trying to follow the instructions from the website.

So I hung up on him, too. He didn't have good grammar, anyway.

And then I followed the instructions, which Keith, who called in the middle of it, likened to spinning around five times, spitting on the floor, and tossing salt over my left shoulder. That was pretty much it--he called while I was counting off the five seconds with my finger on the power button.

But it worked, and now I can once again use the card reader slot. Very, very odd--when it happens, your computer forgets it even HAS those G: and H: and etc. drives. Very vee-vee woo-woo.

So I spent only a little while back in bed under the covers crying and dripping snot. Not too bad, relatively speaking. Not like I wasted the whole day or anything.

I'm hoping that I'll figure out new coping strategies as we head off into the depths of winter and Holiday Hell. I've done what I can so far--booked reservations in New Orleans for Christmas, so there's that to look forward to. Tried to line up lots of work. Stocked up on latte mix. But I'm going to have to work harder, obviously. Another month and a half of this is not going to work.

I know it's grief. We know from experience with lots of grieving folks that, for some reason, about 18 months seems to be a turning point for many people. Why that is, I have no idea. And of course it's different for everyone. But I look forward, in that case, to February, which will be 18 months and will maybe mark a time when I can relax a little and let down my guard without the whole endless tape loop of my mother's last days in the hospital--confined to a net bed, restrained with straps, incontinent, asking me to take her home--starting up again in my head. Showering, riding my bicycle, waking up in the morning and lying in bed--those are the worst times. You have to be on guard just like you were warding off invaders. So I need some stronger weapons.

Crack would probably help. Also heroin.

OK, Ms. Anonymous

Whoever you are, get in touch and send me your snail mail so I can send you this t-shirt!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What's Turkey Day to a Vegetarian?

I walk into the kitchen at the house where my mother-in-law lives with her second husband (a white guy my age), her youngest son and his wife, her son who's my age and his girlfriend/common-law wife. In addition to the people who live there, there are also: two other brothers (two didn't show up this year), one with his wife and two grown daughters, the other with his girlfriend and her son, plus his own son and that son's wife and son. Are you following this so far? Then there are a handful of other nieces and nephews and our friend/brother/son Isaac, who's there from Lubbock with two of his daughters. There's no place to sit, so I kind of perch around the edges. I do try to hold the baby--the last baby I held? Was his father, lo! these many years ago. He looks exactly like his dad (this is Clay, from the wedding photos this summer) and will play with me as long as his mother's holding him. But the minute she hands him to me? Ha. It's kind of a toss-up which of us will begin to cry first. He won and got to go back to his mother, sparing us both further trauma.

So it's time to eat, and we all crowd into the kitchen for the blessing, and I see, what? On the stove? Can it be? Vegetables! A whole skillet full of stir-fried vegetables! I can't believe it: this is not a family of vegetarians. This is not, frankly, a family that really eats a lot of vegetables of any kind, as far as I know. But there it is: a whole skillet full of broccoli and snow peas and carrots and mushrooms. Ahhh! Something I can eat! I get a big scoop, and to that I add some of my own beans-and-cheese, and some of the broccoli casserole (now here's a story: years ago, after one of the brothers was divorced from the woman who had alwaysalwaysalways made the rice broccoli casserole, we were all appalled to find ourselves at Thanksgiving without said casserole. Horrors! So, for the Christmas meal, I decided to make things right. I bought tons of fresh broccoli and steamed it beautifully. And lots of brown rice, the kind that takes over an hour to steam. And so, making enough for all these people, I steamed stuff for hours and hours. And make the most beautiful--and very healthy, except for the canned cheese--casserole. And took the huge baking pan of it to my brother-in-law's house to find that three other people had made rice broccoli casserole. Yes, indeed. And they'd made theirs out of white rice and frozen broccoli, just the way everyone was used to, and so, needless to say, I brought home (and threw out, because you know I don't eat food that's been sitting out on a counter for hours and hours--re: why picky eaters with OCD don't get food poisoning) a ton of it and so never tried to cook it again. But this year? People have gotten more adventurous, and one of the sisters-in-law made the casserole with wild rice and jalapenos. Yum! I was just ahead of the curve there) and some of my mother-in-law's to-die-for dressing and gravy, carefully scooping around the giblets.


And find a place to sit at the dining room table, which is never used--everyone crowds into the den, around the television, balancing their Styrofoam plates on their laps and yelling at the Cowboys. And I begin to eat the vegetables, so happy to have something I can eat. But what's this? This is not a mushroom! Aieeeee! It's PORK! He's fried bacon and put it in the vegetables! Jesus. So I carefully pick out all the bacon and eat the rest of the vegetables, liking them much less and knowing that I'll have to drink an ocean full of water to make up for the salt in the bacon juice. And I try to eat the dressing, never mind that I know there's meat stuff in there somewhere--Zacherys believe in eating meat three times a day, and in every dish where you can possibly insert either bits of it or its juice or the leavings from the last time you fried some. It's all meat, all the time.


But I'm actually saved from eating much of anything, as one of the girlfriends has a special son, a child with multiple issues of unknown kinds and who is, in addition, spoiled rotten. So rather than making him sit down and eat like a human being, she lets him walk around, pick food off her plate, shuffle around the room making odd noises and grunting and sneezing and doing things with his nose. Now, this sounds harsh, but my brother-in-law can make the child behave perfectly well when he's left alone with him. When he's with his mother, though? Huh.


So, with the odd noises and sort of chewing lurkingness, well. I'm not the good person I should be, all understanding of differences in the ways people eat. Or, rather, I can understand: I just can't eat around them. So I gave up, threw everything in the trash, and went in the den to visit. Except one of the babies smelled funny and then started walking around, trying to stick her hands down the back of her diaper (this was a very big baby, linebacker-sized, who had previously been carrying a slab of cake in one hand and a chocolate peanut cluster in the other. Or at least what I hoped was a chocolate peanut cluster. . . .)


That's when I left. What with the snow (yes, it snowed all day yesterday. No, I do not want to talk about it) and the cold and the whole holiday-memory-sadness thing, I came home and got busy. This is what I did:
These were some Birkenstocks I got last year during the Shoe-Buying Phase I went through after my mother died (she bought tons of shoes; it took me a while to figure out why I was suddenly doing the same thing). I liked the purple flowers on the toes, and they're VERY warm, but they're pretty boring. Yesterday, in the shower, I realized--and I have no idea why I was thinking about these shoes, as I had completely forgotten I had them--that they are FELT. So of course you know what happened next:
That was fun! Then, also yesterday, I ripped out the lace you see on this lovely velvet duster given to me by Robin, of Magnolia Pearl, when we visited her studio this summer. I love the fabric, I love the color. But lace? Never mind that it's hand dyed and very lovely. It's lace. I am not a lace woman. Lace just looks silly on me. I feel about lace the way I feel about bows: cute up until you're about 12, and then you should ditch them.Sorry for the bad photo--the fabric is too close to the color of the door, and the light isn't that great in the Voodoo Lounge. And oh, face it: I was too lazy to set it up somewhere else.


Anyway, so that's the next thing I'm giving away: the lace. I'm pretty sure Robin dyed it herself, and there're over 7 yards of it. I'll post photos here in a little bit--I'm having some SD slot issues and need to go figure out what's going on.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Sweet Serial Killer

So you know here all along I've been in total denial about the whole Rabbit-Killer Cat thing. Sure, the neighbors have rabbits. Herds of rabbits (did you know that's the Official Term for a whole shitload of rabbits? "Herd"? Yeah, buddy. Plus did you know that the gestation period of rabbits is 31 days? Huh. That would explain why there are now 10 rabbits in the yard next door, whereas, oh, 6 weeks or so ago there were only like half a dozen. Yep, that would do it. OK, so tonight there are only 9. . . .)

So, yeah. I've been all hoping that those dead baby bunnies were killed by, oh, some bunny-hood disease. Rickets, maybe? I don't know. Something quick and painless and natural. Not anything like, well, a predator. A fox, say. Or an owl (we used to have one around here, you know). Or a cat.

But the cats have been living in The Cat Palace. And it's been sad. So very sad. They're miserable. And I'm miserable. And The EGE? Getting it from every direction. The cats are whinging, all like, "Attica! Attica!" rattling the bars with their little paws. And I'm all moping around, thinking about how my mother would be haunting me about the whole Caged Animal Atrocity, if only I believed in the afterlife and ghosts and haunting and stuff. Which I do not. Good for me, as my mother as a ghost would scare the ever-loving pee right out of me.

This week has been lovely here. Like about 82 degrees every day. With no clouds. No wind. It's like a nasty joke being played by Mother Nature, were she a total skanky ho, which she is not. But I'm just saying: if she were, this would be it. Make this week so heartbreakingly lovely that you'll be taken by complete surprise on Friday--that would be the day after Turkey Day--when it's supposed to s-n-o-w. Yes! Y'all, this is a sick joke. It doesn't snow here until at least January, and then it's a little apologetic, half-hearted snow, kind of like, "Oh, yeah. Winter. I forgot. Here. Have some snow. 'K now?"

But yeah. Snow on Friday. That really sucks. But it's been so lovely before then that I've been--shhhhh!--letting the cats out during the day. For the most part--well, for a large part, anyway--they've kind of hung out with us. The EGE's working on a topper for the 8-ft fence, and I sit outside and stitch and lie in the grass with the cats, who really love me this week, since I'm not currently their hated jailer and all. Plus there's the pork: About 5 pm or so, I catch them and force them back into confinement, and their Hero, The EGE, gives them warmed-up ham, which he bought just for them, seeing as how we do not do pork in this house. Although Someone--that someone not being me, as you might surmise--does upon occasion eat pork prepared for him by other people. How he does this I do not know. I'd as soon eat. . . .well, I can't fill in that blank. I can't think of anything as loathsome as pork. Oh, sure, I'd eat it before I'd eat maggots. Or poop. Or barf. But that wasn't the point, was it? What was the point, by the way? Oh! How feeding ham to the cats is a sign of how much Someone spoils them. That was it.

Anyway. So all has gone well. Tomorrow's supposed to be the first sliding-into-cold day, where we're digging in our heels and trying to avoid it, as in Hell, No! We Won't Go! but without any choice in the matter, really. So I let the cats out and am in the house, taking a break, having a cup of coffee after the interview, in the Voodoo Lounge. And I hear this WHUMP and the crackle of leaves outside the window. It's the whump of something heavy coming over the fence and landing in the leaves, and before I even turn my head, I know what it is.

It's really funny, but for the hour or so preceding this loud whump, I'd been feeling more and more unhappy, ill at ease, dissatisfied with life. I'd decided it's the whole Holiday Thang, which is tough these days. I think about my mother a lot, about my dad (doing well but falling a lot). So I'd thought that's what it was, this dis-ease. But when I heard the sound and turned my head and looked out the window and saw my lovely Larry, he of the Elvis Presley eyes, landing in the leaves holding a half-grown, fluffy, struggling bunny by the back of the neck, I knew what it was. The whole time I'd been sitting in the house, trying to work, feeling odd and out of sorts, Larry had been hunting.

My stomach clenched, and I scrambled to my feet and hissed, through the screen, "Larry!" Now, the neighbors' house is right there, like 10 ft away. And all three of them--oh. Wait. Didn't I mention? The son--the father of the baby who "owns" the rabbits--has moved back in. And, for some reason, neither he nor the husband/boyfriend of The Cat Killer (nor the actual Killer herself) seem to have a job any more. They're home all day long. Now, in Midland, Texas, the unemployment rate has just dropped to the next-to-lowest rate ever, below 3%. It's the lowest in the state. And so if you don't have a job, it's because 1) you don't want a job or 2) you're too fucking weird to get hired even at McDonald's or Dairy Queen, which will pretty much hire people who come to fill out the application while wearing a jail uniform and handcuffs or 3) you have Some Secret Job.

I'm voting for #3. I think they're filming porn over there. Yes. Why? you ask. Well, they're all there--mother, son, mother's boyfriend/husband--all day long with all the doors and windows and "curtains" (and we use that term loosely; let's be honest and say "bedsheets hanging over the windows") closed. And here's the clincher: this week they added a folding cot bed to the detritus out in the back yard. Why would you do that, put a folding bed right out there in the yard with the weeds and rabbit poop and abandoned refrigerator? Well, because it's too skanky to keep in the house, but you don't want to throw it away. And why would that be? What circumstances would lead to having a bed too horrid to keep in the house, but one necessary enough not to throw away? Filming porn, of course! You get it dirty today and don't want it in the house but will need it again tomorrow!

So. They're all home filming porn. Silent porn. And the house is Right There. And Larry is right outside the window, with a baby bunny, and I'm trying to get his attention without alerting the neighbors. And I'm hissing at him, and he turns and looks at me, all like, "Oh, hai, Officer!" And I want to reach out through the screen and and grab him around his neck and shake him, and I simultaneously want to grab him and hide him and protect him.

"Get out of there!" Whispering. He bats his eyes at me and licks his lips.

I run and get shoes and go out the front and around the side, but that's right past their house. I go around the back and hiss through the fence, "Larry! Get in here now!" I hear ominous crackling, but no Larry. I race back into the house and look out through the window. He's crouched over, chewing. Shit. Back out into the back yard, more hissing. More chewing.

Finally I give up all pretense at being unseen and race around the front of the house and grab the hose and turn on the water and squirt towards Larry to drive him into our backyard. The problem with this is that, the last time I used the hose, I didn't seat the nozzle very well. So when I turn on the water, a huge gush shoots out the connection, into my face and up my nose and down the front of my t-shirt, so instead of being stealthy in shooing Larry away from the now-dead bunny and into the backyard, I'm shooting water all over the side of the neighbors' house and squealing with the icy water up my nose and down my chest and hissing, "Shit! Shit! Shit!"

I turn off the hose and run, crouching, dripping, back around to the back yard, where Larry, my little murderer, is lying on the patio, giving me the irresistible Elvis Eyes (the ones that mean, "I love you so dearly, you're my very favorite human ever, give me some ham") and luxuriously licking his lips. I drip over and grab him up, just knowing that, at any moment, the Male Porn Star (AKA, the boyfriend/husband, someone I do NOT want to even IMAGINE naked, much less SEE running out of the house wearing nothing but a Speedo and false eyelashes) will dash out with a shotgun and try to kill Larry. Or me. Or both of us. I grab him up and hustle him back to The Cat Palace, and damn him if he doesn't start purring, telling me how much he loves me and how grateful he is that I freed him from captivity long enough for him to keep his oh-so-necessary-for-survival hunting skills from completely abandoning him--because you KNOW that's how they think. And I'm hissing at him about how this is So Not Good and how he's ripped it for everyone else, and I lock him in The Cat Palace and set about rounding up the other three cats, all of whom trust me enough to come to me, tails up, and then are shocked to find themselves snatched up and shoved into the Prison of Despair, despite having done nothing wrong, personally, and it not being anywhere NEAR 5 pm (if it had been, they wouldn't have come near me. They can tell time, of course.)

So my little plan to give them some degree of freedom, to end their agony at being caged and my misery at depriving them of the only thing they have, really, went awry. An innocent bunny is dead, lying at the side of the house. I now know that Larry, my sweet, fluffy, lovable Larry, is a true hunter: he hunts because he can't not hunt, never mind that he's getting tons of extra food plus ham and is, like all the rest of the caged cats, beginning to put on weight. Never mind that--he's a hunter. And so, as long as there are baby rabbits next door, loose among the weeds and household furniture and film props, he can't be free, even for a little while.

And now I have to wonder: how long will this go on? How many litters of rabbits will these people have in that yard before they smack themselves in the forehead and go, "Duh. Guess all those jokes about rabbits screwing were really true. Huh. Who'd a' thunk?" Sure, it's against the law for them to have loose rabbits in their yard (City Ordinance 6-2-12.5 says they have to be inside an enclosed building with a solid door), but The EGE doesn't want me to call and turn them in and escalate things.

Well. I've begun having Bunny Dreams. And Maxwell dreams--Larry reminds me, more than any cat, of Maxwell, who, in my dreams, comes and sits off to the side and watches me to see how I'm going to deal with the bunnies. Maxwell Did Not Hunt. It wasn't his job. He had no interest. Too messy, too boring, too predictable. Plus he lived inside and had better things to do: be with me 24 hours a day and play Lions & Tigers & Bears, which involved both of us crawling on all fours and growling and leaping out at each other from behind furniture.

Lord, I miss that cat.

Well, anyway. Such was the adventure of today. All the cats are locked away now, eating dinner. I plan to put the whole day out of my mind and pretend that it never happened. The snow will come. The cats will be snug in their Palace, under the heat lamps that The EGE has set up for them. And the bunnies will be busy screwing and taking over the planet. Revenge of the Rabbits. Where's Mothra when you need her?


Needle-Felting 101

Well, my little chickadees, in the middle of a gazillion projects, which y'all saw right here, in full color, I decided, apparently (unbeknownst to me) that I needed one MORE thing to do, something new to learn, something totally of no interest to me until I went to Houston. So I'm needle-felting. Why? I still have no idea. I think it must be the brightly-colored roving. Or maybe those fabulous felted balls from Artgirlz. Something either bright or shiny or soft--I'm a sucker that way.




So I spent Sunday working with the sweater I bought the day before at Goodwill. Remember? I told y'all about that. Here it is. It looked, when I bought it, as if it had already been washed in the machine. It was a men's x-large, but it wasn't. Very large, I mean. It was sort of medium-ish. But I dutifully washed it in the washing machine, in hot water, with liquid dish-washing detergent. And then washed it again, without the detergent, to get all the soap out. And it got very, very small. So tight that The EGE said he wished he'd had the camera when I got stuck trying to get it over my head. So I worked with it some, stretching out the armholes and the shoulders. It was way, way too tight through the shoulders and chest, still, so I cut it up the middle.
And then, when it looked too nuclear, I rounded those cuts, like this:
Then, since I don't really know if felted edges are secure or will, eventually, unravel, I stitched torn fabric strings all the way around, with a zig-zag stitch on the machine.
And then I began to needle felt it. Now, you know I'm just learning how to do this. I have no idea How It's Supposed to Be Done. I just do it.
Here're the supplies--the alpaca pieces, the roving.
So I cut out some shapes from the alpaca I bought in Houston, and I picked out some of the roving that had the same colors as the fabric string, more or less. And then I needle felted the roving through the alpaca shapes into the wool of the sweater. And because I'm so very, very sweet and thoughtful, I made this video for you so you could watch me do it. And hear me say "titty" not once, but twice! And I hate that word! Good grief. It's like "va-jay-jay." What the hell is that? Use the right words, for pete's sake! Listening to me on the video, it sounds like I need to heed my own rants. . . .Anyway, here you go:
And here are some after shots:
I'm kind of over the sweater already but still have to do something on the back. I'm pretty sure I won't wear it--wool makes me itch. Anyway, once I've done the back, then I want to do the two purses I showed you. And some more of the balls--I'm felting dots and stuff onto them, and it's fun but takes a long, long time. OK--so y'all go try this and then send me photos. And if you're an Expert at Needle Felting and have some advice, or if you know cool things to do with this, let me know!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Speaking of Summer Pierre. . .

I just ordered this calendar from her. I don't like calendars. I don't need a calendar. I probably won't use this calendar. But it's so totally cool that I couldn't resist. I mean, really: an artist's calendar. What's not to love? We should all support stuff like this. It's important, don't you think?

&, Finally, What's on My Desk

This one's not nearly as interesting, as there aren't good photos to go with. But it's interesting to me, so here goes.

First off this morning was the article I'm working on for Mark Lipinski's Quilter's Home. I sent it to Mark this morning and am working on a couple of sidebars for it.


Then there's the piece on the doll exhibits at the International Quilt Festival in Houston for Art Doll Quarterly. It's almost done. I sent in he photos the week after and just hope they'll work.


Tomorrow I interview a fabulous knitter for a piece in Belle Armoire. If you love to knit, stay tuned to that magazine. There should be more knitting-related pieces this next year.


I'm working on a proposal for the next book project. Not discussing that with anyone but my poor editor, Jessica, who I'm sure opens every e-mail from me with her hand over one eye, cringing, going, "Good grief. What now?" I do tend to nag a lot when I want something. Or even when I don't. It's such a good thing I didn't have children: I would have nagged them to death before they started kindergarten.


Then there's this 'zine idea that's been rattling around in my head forever. I know what I want to do, but I have no idea if anyone else will think it's cool. I got the coolest little 'zine from Summer Pierre, and I love it: I love the whole retro 'zine-ness of it, the feeling that she sat down and did this by hand, out of love, just because it mattered to her. Nothing slick or glossy or commercial about it. So I'm going to give it a try, I think.


We went to a Circle Supper, a UU once-a-month dinner thing, and we were talking about various things, and all the ideas ended up being attached to money: whether or not that idea was something that would make money. And I said, as I so often say to my brother-in-law, "It's not about making money. Everything doesn't have to be about making money!" Have you noticed how many of the blogs have ads on them? Isn't that a little creepy? One blog I read a while back (and promptly quit reading because, like, the first two entries I stumbled across were both about vomiting, omigod!) that supports a family of four (apparently other people--LOTS of other people--don't mind reading about someone puking), just through ads. To me, that seems a little obscene. It's like selling ad space in your journal, or inserting ads in the letters you write to your grandmother. Just creepy to me. I guess if I needed money to pay the water bill I'd feel a little differently, huh?


Anyway, so the whole idea of a 'zine. It has to make money--or at least break even--unless you can afford to do it and print it and mail it out of your own pocket. And you want it to be successful: if you're just giving it away, then you have no idea if anyone values it enough to buy it. And if it's not valuable to anyone but you, then what's the point? You could just do an art journal and put everything in it and save yourself the money on copying and mailing. So, as you can see, I have a lot of thinking to do about what a 'zine should do. For me, there's the issue of time: if I'm doing it just for love, I have to think of all the other things I could be doing. It's not like I need a forum. And it's not like the world needs another 'zine. Lord, no. What it comes down to is what it always comes down to: I want something, and I can't find it, and so I think, "Sheesh. I might as well make it myself." And I figure if I want it, others want it, too.


We'll see where this goes. For now, go hang out with Summer Pierre's blog. She'll remind you of Keri Smith, and that's always a fun thing. (Oooh! Scroll down on Keri's page to November 15th and read her rant on blogging, about it being a popularity contest. Boy, is that the truth.)

Just One T-Shirt Left

It's a large--they run regular, so just a regular-large large, you know? And if you can--and will!--wear a large I'm Living the Creative Life t-shirt, just like the one shown last week, post a comment, and I'll give this one away on Friday. Then they'll be all gone, except for the ones we wear here at the Voodoo Cafe.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

& What's on My Studio Work Table

That was so much fun yesterday that I couldn't wait to do the same thing with the studio work table,
where I piled all the projects I'm working on. Yikes--it's no wonder I often feel overwhelmed. Now, I have to admit that all of these aren't worked on all the time. In fact, a few of them haven't been worked on in a long time. Like this--
This is a short skirt, designed to be worn over leggings. I started beading on it at Starbucks last fall. It took so long to sew those damn beads with tiny holes onto the denim--you have to have a small needle to go through the eye of the beads, and pushing a small needle through denim is no fun, never mind that Becky gave me a nifty leather thimble (which I don't really know how to use--thimbles + me = not best friends).


And then all these skirts and overalls. They're waiting for more attention. Most of them have been started and then put aside in favor of something more interesting. I'll usually go back and work on stuff, but not always. Sometimes, esp. with clothes, I decide I don't like the way it fits or something.
There's this silk tank, with the silk pieces that I want to applique onto it. Haven't quite figured out how I want to do it, though; so it's just hanging around.
And I always have a tank in a bag with beads and thread, ready to go. I can do one of these--beading heavily around the front of the neckband--in one sitting at Starbucks. So whenever I don't want to lug some larger project, I take one of these.
This is the smaller piece I have in my bag at all times. I haven't done much on it--too many other projects that I've been working on heavily--but it's always there, just in case I find myself stuck somewhere with nothing else to work on. Like that ever actually happens. It's a photo I altered in Photoshop, printed on fabric, painted with Jacquard Textile paint, drew with Lumocolor markers around the lines where I wanted to stitch. And now I'm stitching. Oh, and it's batted and backed, too.
Then there's this voodoo doll--I finished all the stitching on the road and didn't have what I needed to finish it and haven't gotten back to it yet. But I will--soon. It's going to be very cool.
Then there are the projects I'm working on actively. There's this journal quilt, which I got stitched this morning. Now I have to stitch around the edge, to hold it together--I think I'll baste it and then hand stitch, but that will take FOREVER. And then I can add more writing and stuff. Some beading. Once I got it off the stretcher bars, it seems much less daunting.
Then the Bad Voodoo Cats. I worked on this on the road until I decided I wanted to go ahead and finish the large one, the Rainbow Serpent. I don't like having two on stretcher bars at the same time, for some reason. I like them in different stages of work.
Then the jeans we've been working on together. I've got to finish the hand stitching and then decide how much more I want to do before I sew them back up and try them out. I can do beading after they're re-sewn, if I want to go there. I don't know--I've got another pair of jeans--my favorites--that got a little hole in the crotch this week, and I've got to repair those. Look what I found to do it with!
It's an acid green micro-wale corduroy shirt. Soft and just perfect for cutting up for patches. That ugly grey thing under it? A sweater I'm going to felt here in a minute. It looks like someone's already washed it--so it may not shrink much more. I have plans for it, though--I got both of these at Goodwill yesterday. This was the only wool sweater that would fit. There were only about two others, and they were small women's sizes. Wonder if someone else in Midland is buying up the wool sweaters?
Then there's the green jacket--just like the purple one you saw last week. I've got a ways to go on it. This is the current Starbucks project--I work on it only at Starbucks. Sometimes that's an hour or so a day, and sometimes it's less. It's a lot less now that Gabriel's not here to meet us every afternoon. Since it's supposed to get cold here this week, though, we may be hanging out there more again.
When it's finished, I'll move on to the pink one. There's also an orange one. I tie-dyed them all at the same time and am moving from one to the next. They're very warm--I wear the purple one all the time; it'll be fun to have other colors. And for less than $20 each!
And then there's this top--also bought on clearance--that I dyed and am going to stitch and wear over leggings and under the jackets. Love the color--I'm waiting to go to the fabric store and see what color trims are available before I actually start the stitching. I may have to change the thread colors I planned to use.
Here's a peek at one of the next projects--there's actually a story to go with this, so I'll wait and tell it later. I've taken out the laces and am ready to get to work, though.
And another couple projects--I just discovered yesterday that the new Flip video camera will fit perfectly inside this padded bag, so I'm chomping at the bit to start felting it. That may be my next video: Needle Felting 101!
And the larger one--it's got the lining turned out of the way so it's ready to be needle-felted, too.
Here's the little needle-felting practice pin. Lots of fun--just wish I had more hours in the day. Got to get busy~~wash the wool sweater, wash the green shirt and make patches, patch my jeans, work on the other jeans. . . .why don't y'all come over, and we'll have a couple of nothing-but-stitching days? Yowza! We'll get a ton of stuff done.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What's On My Bedside Table

And in the floor of the Voodoo Lounge, and on the bed. These are the books and magazines and stuff that I'm reading now, or getting ready to read. For some reason, I thought this was interesting. It's a good exercise for me, even if all of y'all find it boring as hell. It's good to see what I've read, what I'm reading, what I plan to read next--all next to each other like this. The novels and non-fiction--I read those only at night, at bedtime. It takes forever, therefore, as I fall asleep quickly most of the time. Unless the book is fabulous, of course.



I just finished Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff, and I really enjoyed it. It's an odd story, but it's really well-written, and the characters were completely believable to me. Which is very important. I'm SUCH a picky reader.
Then I read this, recommended by Deborah. I enjoyed it, too, although I had some trouble with Burr, the boyfriend. He wasn't believable to me and was pretty two-dimensional. Still, it was one of the few books I've read in the last couple of years that kept me up until 2 am so I could finish it. That's a recommendation, indeed! Now I'm reading this. Don't know where I heard about it, but it must have been something pretty good, to get me to buy it new and in hardback. Oh! I think I read something in O magazine, which is the only non-craft-related magazine I read regularly.(Except Yoga Journal. I forgot to take photos of the two issues I'm trying to get through now. I get a little behind.) Anyway, this book is the account of a woman who became a chaplain for the Maine game warden service after her husband, a Maine state trooper, was killed in a car wreck on duty. He'd planned to go to seminary and become a Unitarian Universalist minister, something that had never crossed her mind until he was killed. Then she did it for him. Here are a couple of my favorite bits so far:





"Sometimes I think I live and work in a parallel universe. That is, I know that I live in a crass and boorish culture, a culture of shock jocks and road rage, 'reality' television and thong underwear, corruption and consumerism, mean porn and meaner theology. I know all this. And still, the world I move through is rich and beautiful, and the people I work with, especially the wardens of Maine, are decent, discerning, and good."




"'I don't want to live forever,' one of my seminary classmates proclaimed. 'I'm tired of myself already!'


"I know just what she means. Spend forever with myself? I mean, really! Look, I have quirks. I have eccentricities. I've learned, over the years, to tolerate myself well enough, but eternity is a long time to spend with someone who, for all her good qualities, talks a lot, is a compulsive knitter, and can't keep track of her car keys."





"My son Zach is the child of Unitarian Universalists, so naturally he didn't know a lot about Jesus."




Anyway. So it's a good book, and I'm liking it, even though there doesn't seem to be a real plan--it's kind of stories, collected, more than it is a book with flow. At first I was worried that she was going to fall prey to the horror of memoirists and autobiographers of giving way too much history and facts and names and dates, rather than just telling us the story of a life. But she's doing better, and I won't gritch. It's worth reading. I wonder what she'd be like if she did sermons? I don't think her job requires them, but I'm sure she was trained. I'm even pickier about sermons than I am about books. If you're doing sermons and have a captive audience, an audience filled with people who are looking to you for hope, ideals, comfort, advice--well, you'd damn well better be good, do your homework, be prepared, and have a clue about cohesion, theme, flow, summation. In short, you'd better be a good writer, a good speaker, a good listener, a good thinker. Which makes me think of something I heard on the jazz station the other day: Genius + Soul = Jazz. In that case: Genius + Soul + Compassion + Humor + Kindness + The Most Excellent Writing and Rhetorical Skills EVER = A Good Sermon-Writer.





Which brings us to:


the current UU World, which is in the stack, waiting to be read. It's a good resource and always has something in it that makes me think. You can find more here. Did you know that Rod Serling, of The Twilight Zone, was a UU? Huh.

Then I'll read this one, which I read years ago and liked and couldn't find in the library again. So I finally bought a used copy from amazon.com for a penny. And this one. It's a collection of columns by a columnist for the Times-Picayune. I'm interested in seeing how he handled this and how he writes. I've always wanted to write a column. Duh. Blogging is about as close to it as you can get. Without the paycheck, of course.This is one that's a compilation of pieces from NPR. My friend Wendy was listening to them and recommended them, but I don't listen to the radio and so just bought the book. I read a couple of pieces standing in the bookstore--just enough to know I wanted the book. If I buy a book new, in hardback, it means either 1) I've read enough to know I have to have it NOW or 2) I know the author and want to support them.






Then there's miscellaneous reading--morning reading, or stuff that I'll take with me to an appointment (along with the stitching) or on the road. I like to have something that sparks ideas to read in the morning--something that will make me think of something and go "Oh!" and jump up to find my notebook. Sometimes, if it's very good, I jump up and go off to start making something. That's the best way to start the day.


Then a catalog. I usually toss catalogs, along with junk mail, as soon as I walk in the door with it. Most of it is addressed to my mother, and I'm yelling, "She's dead! Enough with the junk mail!" as I drop it in the recycling bin. But I like looking at the yoga/meditation/Buddhist catalogs. I don't buy anything from them--they're way overpriced--but like the idea that, somewhere in the wide world of consumerism, there are companies that are trying to do good while they do well.

And then the magazines. Like I said, I read few that aren't craft-related. I hate all the advertising, the beauty articles that are bent on convincing us that we're not beautiful enough, not young enough, not glamorous enough. And that want us all to look a certain way and try to frighten us (as women) into believing that if we don't Follow the Rules, we'll end up alone and forlorn and ridiculed by everyone. What a lot of crap.
I'm sure you can figure out why I bought this month's National Geographic, which I haven't read but a couple of times since childhood, when my aunt and uncle gave me a subscription, back when you had to be a member to get one. So I read Oprah's two magazines, but I skip over the ads. She's just got some great columnists and contributors, and I love reading what they write (and it's often where I find writers whose books I want to read, too).



Why do I read this one? Martha Beck (columnist for O) writes for this one, too.




And this one--I find a lot of artists here, people whose work I like and whose names I collect for possible future projects. But the interiors! Aieeeeee! Show some real artists' houses and studios. Quit showing the showplaces, the houses you know came from Big Money, the ones where decorators were hired and stuff was shipped from France. Ick. Can you be any more trite and boring than that? If I see another "done" room, another planned garden, another perfect house or studio--I'm going to go paint another wall. Acid green this time, I think. Or hang more stuff on my walls. Something. I'll try to think of something subversive.
This book, for instance. Could have been so, so cool. It's by Rockport, which did my first two books. You'd think, since they have access to so many cool artists, they could have done a book showing really cool artists' spaces. These aren't bad, but see above: they're too "done." Even the ones that are supposed to be funky and tiny still look like someone went through with packing boxes and packed away every single thing I'd want to see: the scraps of paper, the half-full coffee mugs, the books open and lying face-down, the sketchbook and mugs of colored pencils, the easel. Where IS all of that? I Hate Decorated Rooms! Aieeeeeeeee.


Suki gave me this book. It's amazing. I can read it only in little pieces--it's overwhelming to try to take it all in in big gulps.



This one was interesting but could have been ever-so-much better with more photos and more information about what inspired the people who kept the sketchbooks. There was one sketchbook that was about OCD, about having to turn lights off, compulsively, for fear of fire. That could have been so fascinating, but it was all treated dryly, with no spark and no humor and not enough photos. I often wonder why some people bother to write books at all. If it's not going to live up to its potential, why do it? There's nothing worse than getting a book that you're so excited about and then reading it, hoping with each chapter that it's going to get better and then, with each chapter, becoming more and more disappointed, knowing what it could have been and seeing how far short of that it falls.


This one I found in a bookstore near the flagship Whole Foods in Austin--was it Book People? I think it must have been. We went with Wendy, and I found this book and was just entranced. It interviews people about their tattoos and why they get them. The book was too expensive, so I came home and ordered it on-line. It's amazing, although I wish there were photos in color. Because the black and white photos were taken in the people's houses, it's kind of odd--like you're seeing these unsmiling people in unflattering settings. So normal (ie, untattooed) people have to get past that to see the work, some of which is really good. What I like is hearing what people think about their tattoos--why they get them, what they mean to them, how they make them feel. A lot of tattoos seem to be about rebellion, feeling disenfranchised, wanting to speak out. (I'm sure you can guess what mine are about: a way to put color on my skin! Of course.)

Then I got a couple of drawing books by this guy--this one and one other. You know I'm trying to learn how to draw, and I thought this would be good. I love this book--it's more for someone who already draws, but it's terrific for ideas of what you can do.


Then a couple of really inspiring books. I love these.


And Keely Barham's new zine, Stray Stitches. I love Keely's work, and I couldn't wait to get this. I have to say I was disappointed, though, because it has hardly any text at all except for her felting instructions. When I get something like this, I want to read about inspiration--show me a photo of what you did, and then tell me where you got the idea for it, and how you started, and what the hard parts were and what you used. Show me works in progress. For $10 ($8 plus shipping), you get 20 pages of color copies. If you like just photos, that's a good deal. And I do love seeing what Keely's doing, so I'll probably order the next issue. But, again, it's a case of It Could Have Been So Much Better. Maybe that's just me--maybe everyone else likes just photos.


Then this one, which was way fun. It was NOT a case of Could Have Been So Much Better. It's pretty damn good just the way it is. Lots of stuff to get your brain going with ideas.

Then there's this, a compilation issue of Somerset Studio. Now, I have no problems with compilations as long as you KNOW that's what they are and aren't expecting a whole new bunch of cool stuff. In this case, it looks like (I haven't really looked at it yet) there's stuff from years ago--some pieces written by one of my past editors, for example--that I, of course, do not remember. In glancing through it, I was like, "Oh, that looks cool!" and not remembering having seen it before. So it'll be lots of fun to look at. For people like me, old stuff re-issued is almost as good as new stuff. There are good things about having a bag memory. Oh, sure, I could go in there and pull out all my back issues (and you know I have every single one), but this is soooo much less trouble.

And then this book, just out, that I can't wait to look at. I'd forgotten all about it, and when Jamie Fingal said she was sending me my copy (I have a piece in it), I thought it was about purses. Duh. It's wall pieces, small quilts, fabric hangings. I can't wait to get into this one--so of course I'm saving it, teasing myself by having it out on the bed but not looking at it.

I forgot to photograph the current issue of Craft, one of my favorites. It's always good for tons of ideas and links to artists' websites. If you haven't already, check it out. It's expensive, and at first, I refused to buy it. But then my friend Karen sent me a copy, and boy, I was hooked. I love this magazine.



And that's it, my little chickadees! Now you see why I never, ever get bored. In addtion to work, and the fabric projects, and things I want to try--I also have all these books and magazines. I'd love to go out and lie in the hammock and read all afternoon, but then I wouldn't get to go look for a tripod for my video camera (The EGE's using the one we have) or hunt for wool sweaters at Goodwill so I can try felting them (and telling you about it if I do) or run or go to Michael's, since I have a couple of 50% off coupons good for today only. Oh, my. I need more time. . . .Bet you do, too.