Give and Take

December 30, 2011

Yesterday was not only my birthday, it was Secret Santa Day! Sarah brought her coffee into the livingroom and watched as I carefully peeled tape and opened lids. When I unwrapped the first gift, from Sarah Bard, I laughed out loud at how similar it was to the package I sent her. We are all guessing, having never even laid eyes on one another. But we are all cut from the same cloth, that much we know. Because here we are. Our lives have led us to this particular crossroads. And not by accident but by choice.
It seems none of us went out and bought something for $35. Our boxes are varied- a few new things, a few made things, a few things that were previously our own. Beloved things that have made our lives better and that we now send to one another with the same hope.
And so I sip this tea, this electric bruise, and I take in a bit of Sarah Bard’s life. I am her for the first drink and then I am the woman who would drink such a fine brew, and then I am me- a bigger me!- making another cup.
And I spoon oiled chilies with garlic and dribble it on my beans and kale and thank Sarah Black for expanding me, enriching me, with more of what I did not already know. You, right up north, making a new life in a new house… you send me food that you love, something that fills your kitchen with heat and tells you you are home. I do the same. You and I now share that.

Kris… I have not received a box from you but I know it is on its way. I wish I was someone who could wait for all three to arrive before opening. But instead I tore into the ones on hand. I promise to tear into your’s too!

This Secret Santa idea started because I love giving and receiving gifts. And I have to admit that part was a total blast. But when it came time to open the package, I realized that I felt loved by the woman on the other end. I felt truly cared for. You gave me your time. You gave me your thought. I was important to you and you to me. And now we all have that much more.

Thank you friends.

My Birthday Day

December 29, 2011

What a wonderful day. And it just so happens to be my birthday.

Because I am a “Christmas Baby”, I have always felt a need to fight for my day’s time to shine. Looming on either side are the major holidays of the year. And squeezed in between, just poking out of the wrapping paper and the piles of dirty dishes, is this little day, the 29th. And so I elbow my way to the top and demand that it is special! And to make it special I plan and plot and script and pack the day full of everything good. All the things, all of the day. But this year I felt slightly annoyed to have one more thing to celebrate during this week of gatherings. And so I planned one thing for the day – dinner with my ladies – and left the rest to chance. Or rather, to circumstance.
I woke to the rain. Ok, no hike. I’ll go to yoga. After yoga I opened presents from Sarah and a card from my Gramma. $100 bucks! Right then Sarah and I decided to make a trip to Powell’s and buy books! What a treat! And something I would never do on any other day and without special birthday money to spend. I bought Jonathan Franzen’s How To Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, Denis Johnson’s Tree Of Smoke, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, Louise Erdrich’s Shadow Tag, and a sci-fi book recommended by Luke called A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge. I am in literary heaven.
Speaking of reading, I cracked open last year’s journal to see what I hoped to accomplish in my 37th year and whether or not I did it. Only two goals:

1. Stop worrying my Dad.
2. Grow-up and evolve.

I was surprised to see the first one. And the second. And I think they are actually the same goal from two perspectives. And I think I can check them off the list. Right Dad? Or maybe grown-ups don’t have to ask that question, they just fucking cross it off the god damn list. Strike. Done. New goals coming up!


December 28, 2011

You know it’s bad when you find yourself flanked by two hankies. Two red flags to ward off potential hugs.

What I’m Feeling

December 28, 2011

isn’t great.
On Christmas night my throat felt scratchy and by the next morning I was in the throws of a full fledged cold. Achy, stuffed-up, low energy. On top of that I have had a congested ear for the past month which means I basically can’t hear well on the left side, despite diligently consuming hippie sinus serum and going to bed with a hot water bottle. And then yesterday I started my cycle. Which, for me, is a notable event. I have never had a regular monthly period. Mine come every three to six months and so I am far from a seasoned pro and feel unprepared and overwhelmed by the experience.
To sum it up, on this rainy cold Portland day, I can’t hear, taste or smell. My body aches and I don’t have the energy to do anything. This morning I received a box from a store in Florida containing their holiday dress order. Not only is she returning the items against policy, she is somehow angry at me about it. And the house is messy. My hair is ugly. And I have yet to finish this damn collection. Blah, barf, spit, spew, stomp feet, drop head to hands.

Christmas Morning and More

December 26, 2011

I started the day off by myself, in the rocking chair in front of the window. Coffee. Nat’s present on my lap. I got an egg mobile! Later Sarah and I hiked in Forest Park before heading to farm land outside of Portland for dinner. We dined at the home of Pat and Dick, Sarah’s relatives on her Dad’s side. For the big Christmas Family Portrait, I went and stood, according to height, right in the middle of the group. Bello at my feet. There I am, smiling with ten or so strangers gathered around me. Ahh, family.

Christmas Eve Enchiladas

December 26, 2011

I love traditions. Kneeling alongside the Christmas tree on the morning of the 25th is sacred to me. Stockings, omelets, fudge, walking the beach. Fancy outfits, presents, apricot pastry roll. Kahlua and cream and pumpkin cheesecake. There are good reasons for heading home.
But this year is different. This year I hosted my own gathering in my own house. Setting down new traditions. I made four types of enchiladas, we got stoned, we got drunk, we exchanged gifts and flirted and had a delightful time. I can’t say that it felt like Christmas, but I also can’t say that it felt anything less than spectacular.

A Real Surprise!

December 23, 2011

When I got back from the post office there was a box waiting for me on my doorstep. Like I said in my previous post, my gifts will not arrive at their respective destinations until Thursday. And so when I saw the box I thought, Oh darn, one of them express mailed it to meet the deadline which obviously I should have done as well… But then I caught the sender’s name – Amelie. Amelie! What the hell? Amelie is a Filly regular who now lives on the East coast. She is also not one of the three Secret Santa ladies. Oh but she is! I guess? I don’t really know because I am not going to open the box until Thursday.

I absolutely love this. I feel like I am scooping up frosting and piling it all around me- covering and warming myself with a sweet white paste. I’m sorry but that really is how I feel.

In Santa’s Hands Now

December 23, 2011

All boxed up and ready to go. I didn’t anticipate the time it would take to get just the right thing(s) and now my gifts will not be there by Tuesday. We will have to move Secret Santa Day to Thursday, the 29th. Which is also my birthday so it’s kinda perfect.
I have to admit to being totally insecure about what I sent.

You Be The Judge

December 22, 2011

I was in the kitchen forever this morning. The hours dragged on. Jeez, this is hard work I thought. Mixing and rolling and cutting and baking and cooling and stacking. While I waited for the last batch to finish I checked my sister’s blog. Oh no way, we had the same idea! Wow, her’s look so clean.
In slow motion I felt my head rotated on its pole and my eyes fall upon the two gingerbread-men on my counter. These two were the best ones, set aside for my garbage man. I had carefully followed a recipe. I had gone the extra mile and chilled the dough. I used a soft spatula to get the frosting on. I remember thinking they were cute.

Now I thought they looked so… harried. And kinda dirty.

But lo and behold, when put to the kid test (which has been found to elicit the same results as garbage man test), her girls didn’t hesitate to declare mine the winner! And I thought, you know, I guess character goes a long way. Obviously mine have been around a long time, in all kinds of tough spots. They have life experience. Nat’s are Mitt Romney. Mine are Dennis Hopper. My sister’s girls phrased it as “yours have more frosting.” I think Dennis would agree.

Gift Exchange

December 20, 2011

This happens every year. The Christmas shopping season begins and I think, I’m not going to buy anything. Because for the rest of the year, I actually don’t buy anything. But sooner or later (usually later), I get into the swing of things. I’m out with the crowds, scanning, searching, hoping to find the prefect thing for my loved ones. And man, when I find that perfect thing, I want to give it that second! It is like packing snacks for a hike and wanting so bad to eat them on the way to the trail head.

Gifts are fun. Really fun.

I would like to do a Secret Santa type thing with some folks… interested? Three people. Send me your address (not your name!) and I will send you a gift. And it would be cool if you sent me one as well. We will open them on the Tuesday after Christmas. The 27th. Spend no more than $35. Spend less if you like. Spend nothing at all and make something cool. Basically do whatever you want.

Ok… first three addresses in the comment section get a gift! Or email me at

Unparalleled Company

December 18, 2011

The soundtrack is everything. My Mom paints while an old black and white film plays on the telly. I too enjoy creating while others carry on. I like words, talking, language. I like a story.
Lately I have been hooked on The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker’s fiction editor, invites contributing writers to select and read stories previously published in the magazine. Afterward they discuss the story. It is the ultimate book club without the pressure of getting the reading done or making a witty contribution to the conversation. I love to hear which stories my favorites authors select and I cherish the analytical wrap-up that follows. Deborah Treisman asks the questions I want answered and offers me a much more developed understanding of the story.

Last night I was treated to Tobias Wolff reading Emergency by Denis Johnson. I was already familiar with Johnson’s work and this story in particular but it was especially delightful to hear it through the mouth of Tobias Wolff. I laughed out loud at his delivery of Johnson’s arresting but strangely endearing story.

Lists Lists Lists

December 18, 2011

I bet you didn’t know Sarah was this cute, right? And so classy. Sometimes I let myself actually feel how much she means to me and a wash of panicky, chest tightening love floods over me. She is right up there with Mom, Dad, Gramma, Nat, Josh and Bello. Not that I’ve been making lists of favorites or anything. Well, actually, I have. It’s that time of year.

But to be honest, I am a list maker at any time of year. I love to see it all laid out and organized. Favorites, tasks, pros and cons, reasons why I feel like shit, wonders that make my life so special. Lists have helped me to let a relationship go or to decide to move. Lists let me know how my day will unfold or what pieces I still need to design. There’s the compliant that I don’t just let things unfold as they will, that I preemptively orchestrate everything. Yep. That’s how I like it.
Maybe that is one of the reasons I love this time of year. Lists are all the rage. Even my darling Sarah has joined in. Check out her holidays favorites here. Check her out in person at Luce, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Check out that awesome outfit and understand why I feel inspired despite never leaving the house.

At Home

December 16, 2011

Well, all in all that dip was short lived. Already I feel grounded in my own life and no longer yearning for the yellow hue of my sister’s home. One day was enough to remind me that I also love my house, my city and friends.

In one day I experienced and appreciated…
Suniti’s yoga class.
My bathtub.
An ex-boyfriend.
Far Park.
A dinner date.
The Rec Center.
My studio.
The future.

I feel alive! Jazzed and fizzy and anticipatory. It is so clear that I am supposed to be here.


December 15, 2011

I’m already back.
To my shabby house.
My dried fruit.
My solitude. My silence.
My next step.

I’m already missing, with cutting loneliness, my sister’s voice and the delicate, rare touch of her child.

And I can’t help but notice the emptiness, no, the simplicity, of my life. Arg. I have given myself this.
What I wouldn’t do for a little complication. A little noise.


December 12, 2011

How did this happen? My sister and I are hustlers. Peddlers. Hucksters. This is what it takes to sell a product. Even if that product is considered art, at least by us. Artists no longer have a free pass to be weird and reclusive and socially awkward. Because I could easily fall along those lines. And I know my sister could too. We are naturally private and humble and it takes so much strength and energy to be otherwise. But I would never sell dresses if I avoided contact. She would not make her mortgage by staying home. And so she signs up for the holiday fair and offers to you her effort and skill in the form of little clay food. I am impressed by her, in the same way that I am impressed by that side of myself. I am impressed because I know it is so hard for us. How do I do that? How does she? How did we get here? Because this was certainly not the original plan.
My Mom, an artist as well, tells me point blank you can’t just create a good product. You have to give yourself as well.
And so we are. Here we are. At each of these events we ask that question. Do you like what we are?


December 11, 2011

This wil be the first time, in all my 37 years, that I will not be home for Christmas. Does the term Late Bloomer comes to mind? The wintery Santa Cruz sun, empty streets, traditional walk on the beach… these are what signify the holiday. But this year I will be in my new house. My chosen home. Sarah and I are having folks over for enchiladas and taking a long hike. Maybe we will even go out and see a Hollywood blockbuster, whatever that is these days.
My time in Missoula is a wonderful reminder that Christmas simply means getting cozy and performing rituals. And that can be done anywhere at anytime. Last night we put up the tree and loaded it with ornaments, some from my sister and my shared childhood, some from her partner Nathen’s, but most of them were new pieces that are only special to her girls. To set the tone I played Alabama’s holiday record. There is something about harmonizing southern men singing about Jesus and Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear that really signify the season. The living room took on that particular glow, with wrapping paper covering the floor and torn bits of packaging strewn here and there. What a relief, to see, to know, that tradition is of the making and is a living, breathing manifestation of one’s creativity and desire. What do I want for myself, what patterns do I wish to revisit each year, and whom do I wish to share them with? Who and what is family and home for me as I wind my way through the various landscapes of my life.


December 11, 2011

So get this. On Thursday morning Bello and I hoped on a plane bound for Missoula. I met my Mom in the terminal and together we greeted my sister… She was speechless! She expected Grammy, had a week of Grammy time all planned out, but she did not expect me. And why should she- our family is not one for surprises. In fact, now that I think about it, we are totally straight forward.
This feels really good. I am out of the studio with no way back in. Not until next Wednesday. My only job now is to hang out, bake cookies, hike the dogs and cool my feet in the snow.


December 8, 2011

I’ve started having asphyxiating attacks due to anxiety. It feels like someone is standing on my chest. I try to inhale deeply but my lungs will not fully expand. And so right away I try again and feel again that a great weight is pressing down on me. Quickly I try again, and I’m gasping and panicked and want to cry. And so I’ve started to pay close attention to the thoughts that precede the breath shortening. And I’m not surprised at what I find.

I use fear to be productive. I actually use fear to get myself going, to speed up, to make the call, to get up before dawn, to run for 30 minutes, to get back in the studio. I unleash poison-tipped barbs of anxiety and shoot them, mercilessly, toward the softest spots. They hit their mark with a sting and I’m off! I’m doing doing doing because if I stop, those fears will come true. The barb will become a spear. I keep generating fear, I keep running from fear. Around and around like a cartoon matador spearing his own rump.
But this all seems so outmoded. So mid-level executive. So 1950’s working dad. I am not that guy. Can I not be that guy?

And She Will Have . . .

December 6, 2011

I am a seasonal eater. For reals. Every Saturday I bundle up and ride to the Farmer’s Market. I buy brussel sprouts, squash, kale and broccoli. Apples if they look good. And roasted hazelnuts from the old man and his granddaughter. At home I’ll make a pot of beans and I’m set for the week.

But the fairy is not. A seasonal eater. Her diet includes but it not limited to fall’s offerings. She basically wants it all, year round. And so, after I have made my local purchases, I get online. I go to the Fairy Food Market. I buy a beef joint and cantaloupe and a baguette. She wants a whole cake but I opt for a slice instead.

Keep feeding your spirit.


December 6, 2011

When I read my last post I think, All right! We get it already! You bought a god-damn house. Can you leave it at that?

Is this blog just a poor knock-off of Annie Dillard’s American Childhood? “I’m here, now I’m here. I’m older. I don’t know about you but I’m aging over here!” Ok. So. Is it because I never had a child of my own? Instead I coddle my own ego. And obsess, in an overbearing fashion, on each achievement and failure. If I was my friend I would suggest taking up a hobby.

It’s time I left the studio.

Meet Me

December 5, 2011

Now is a good time to meet me. I’m not like I was before, when my head was in Santa Cruz and my heart scattered. I’m different now, and better. Not like before when I was overwhelmed by indecision and afraid. When I was elsewhere. I’m here now. Only here.
Everything has changed even though it looks the same. And this is a great lesson. I have spent so much time fantasizing about my future self in my future house. She and it were always out of reach. I couldn’t catch them, they were too far ahead. But my decision to marry myself to this place sped me right along. Leaving the past far behind. And the future for later.
Now I am only here. I will be here the next time you visit. And the next.
There is history in our future.
Come meet me.

Well shit. I am totally impressed. If we were in a strip poker version of twenty questions I would be stark naked. It took two days for you guys to narrow it down to … Bali. Congratulations to Zenbelly, knower of qeography, winner of a Filly tank.

This was so fun, I’ll have to think of a new one.

Voodoo Games

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