Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day of the First Decade of the New Millennium

Some say out with the old, in with the new.

It's been nearly three months since I posted here. Been biding my time I suppose with the cocktail-party chat of Facebook. But my friend Sharon reminded me about the blog today and so I sit down to write. It's New Year's Eve, 2009. I've just had a Cecil's poppy seed hamitashin with a glass of milk (Oh Lord, one of my favorite local snacks) and I've got on the Oklahoma/Stanford Sun Bowl. It's in El Paso, Texas, my birthplace. I love Stanford's running back, Gerhardt, and he's had a good game. Stanford's coach I don't love so much. Guy goes ballistic on the sidelines, like too many other big-time coaches these days.

I've been thinking of taking a trip to El Paso, so it's fun to see it as backdrop to this college game. I haven't been back since I was five, since my dad and our family were transferred to Oklahoma in the Sixties, before Dad left for Vietnam. I remember some things about this spot in Texas: the heat, of course; the mountains nearby; the snake pits; the way my family felt during the five years we were stationed there. Recently my mom spoke venomously about the place, running it down hard and shaking her head over our time there. She got so worked up I finally had to say "Hey, that's my birthplace you're running down." She looked at me and said, "Why, you have no attachment to that place, do you? You probably don't even remember it." "Yeah, sure I do," I said with a little more force than I expected. Lately I've been pondering my mom's remarks and their effects on me. She'll be extra careful when she thinks there is an issue to tip-toe around--but the rest of us don't. And then she'll be strident about some things that a few of us happen to hold dear to our hearts. I can't write it off completely to her getting older, though she did just turn 70. I guess I can recognize my growing intolerance for her biting words because I'm getting older. Recently, in my bedside journal, I wrote: "I need to learn how to assert myself more without the fear of damaging my relationships." I was thinking of this one relationship in particular. . . .

Wow, what a tough year: 2009. My husband lost his job earlier in the year when the small business he worked for closed its doors. I've been tracking this recession by his street-stumping in sales now for Canon. Hardly anyone is buying much right now, business-to-business. It took him three months to close a big deal, and even then he wasn't lowest bidder. I've tracked in other ways, too. My own organization had deep budget cuts in June and I had to lay off three of our staffers. I was feeling this holiday like I could sleep for weeks and then realized I've been sleeping fitfully for over 90 days and 90 nights. One of our intern candidates dropped out because she couldn't secure a student loan for last fall. Our high-earning, lawyer-neighbor across the street was laid off and tried to start up a neighborhood blog. I think it was a futile attempt because as managing attorney he was always working, or playing golf on Saturdays, so none of us really knew him well enough. I see now that he is back to work again.

I lost two dear friends in the fall. My colleague Will and my elderly mentor and friend, Marilyn. I still get teary when I think long about both of them. I learned a great deal from Will and Marilyn and I always felt they had my best interests at heart. They seemed to know what was dear to me and what I was striving for and weren't afraid to gently redirect me if they thought it might help. I went to them for advice. The strength of their advice and my trust in it doesn't limit me now that they are gone. I think it has prompted me to seek out wisdom more now than before. Marilyn ran the children's division for the Wilder Foundation, working her way up to vice-president of this esteemed social service organization. She was a good conversationalist and an astute leader and I always looked forward to conversations with her. She seemed like a character right out of Cynthia Rylant's children's books: strictly Norwegian, tiny, stooped, with a double-stacked bun of wrapped gray hair on the top of her head, light as a bird's nest but disproportionate to her small frame. We just lunched with her widow, Owen, and he said he misses most her companionship. He said that it isn't the silence in the house because much of their later years Marilyn and he lived quiet lives. But as he worked on his stocks downstairs and she worked on her many correspondences upstairs, he had a feeling of safety and comfort.

In so many ways I wish I could wipe the slate clean and begin 2010 anew. But it's in the memory of these friends that I know we all carry things forward. I feel optismtic about so much to come. Megan will graduate from college in the spring. Tim turns sixteen. We'll have a new design manager at work. Our sales are up and we have really good books in the hopper. This summer, I'll return for a week of writing at Mallard Island in Rainy Lake. I have high hopes for the eradication of those slimy slugs in my gardens. I'll maybe travel south. I'll think about asserting myself more in small ways--or large. Watch out. I may be asking you for advice on that.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

All the excitement

These two few days are full of sports hype--the excitement of the Minnesota/Wisconsin football matchup, the Vikings/Packers game, and the single-game playoff today between the Twins and the Tigers. But it's raining and cold, and I am the third person in my family to get sick with the flu. Oh wretched Jesus, or oh merciful jesus, or so help me god I AM going to get an early flu shot next year. My son Tim was confirmed with the H1N1 virus last week. I tended him as carefully as I could, running cool baths, rubbing his head and shoulders while he lay feverishly on my lap, all two-hundred pounds of him in a cold sweat. He was, like me, calculating in his sickness. "I think I feel better," he'd say, and then "I could probably go to school tomorrow," and then, an hour later, "I feel a lot worse now." When the sore throat morphed over to nausea and pains in his stomach, I rubbed his back while he lay stretched out, head limp on his hands. "Why do I feel better when you rub my back?" he asked. His temp got as high as 105 and we were both scared. But he is almost better and back to school today, where 225 kids were also out sick. He hasn't eaten much so I hope he makes it through the day okay. I heard from my friend that General Mills expected 30% of their workforce to be out sick this week.

Kind of strange to watch the hype of Monday Night Football with all the accoutrements of this sick household. Half-eaten bowls of red jello, glasses of apple juice, all the layers we've been wearing strewn about our couches and sick-beds: socks, cardigans, sweatpants. All of them we pull on and then off, and on again. Such a contrast to the bright-toothed, tight-bellied, sparkly NFL cheerleaders and the football players with the tight butts showcased in their white football pants.

Tim and I went to the Highland Park Library Saturday, so sick we were of TV, and he got two sci-fi titles and I got:

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Wrobleski
All the Small Living Things, Stegner
Jaques and Julie, a Pepin/Child cookbook
and Sew Easy, the essential guide to getting started

The last I got because it has all the projects printed on fold-out card stock, which are tucked into a case on the left; inside the case on the right is the guidebook, and it feels like I'm playing with paperdolls when I go through it. Turns out I can't look at the cookbook at all, not one bit, because I can't hold down any food. Even the scrumptious country tart looks unappealing to me.

Which reminds me, at West Publishing one of our secretaries was always battling weight and then she got the severe flu and was out a full seven days. And when she came back and we asked her how she felt she said she lost 10 pounds, and that was a good thing for her.

I ran into a few former West colleagues at the memorial service for Will Powers and we reminesced a bit. In the eighties, at the Kellogg Boulevard location, I sat between Roz and Lisa, back when we were assistant production editors in the college textbook division. Lisa suffered from general anxiety and the job only made it worse. She would always twist her hair when she was on the phone (we didn't have computers on our desks then so you can imagine how much we were on the telephone back then) and by lunch she had a swirling tower of red hair, twirled from base to tip like the top of a soft-serve cone. Roz would shout over the cubicles to tell Lisa to smooth down her hair. It happened often. And then Lisa had a problem with clenching her jaw too tightly, even during the day, so she wore a dental appliance to protect her teeth. She also rubbed her toes against each other too much and appeared on the elevator wearing sandals and a toe divider like the ones you might get for a pedicure. It was winter and when Roz saw the sandals and the purple toe divider she gave Lisa an exasperated "Now that's really carrying it too far, don't you think, Lisa?" Roz was about the only one who could be honest with her.

Now my head's getting a little dizzy--all this writing is the most excitement I've had for a few days. If you're a Twins fan, let's root them on this afternoon. And if you're a Tigers fan, well, my heart goes out to you. God knows your city needs this boost. But still, a win in the dome would be a perfect way to exit that marshmallow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In Memoriam

Working with Will Powers has been one of the great gifts of my career. I’m not sure publishing allows for the kind of all-encompassing skill and talent that Will brought to his work any more than other trades do (think of the gifts Will would have brought to the job had he been a professional chef, carpenter, architect, doctor—Oh, they would all have to do with the hands!) but Will’s passions were perfectly suited to our field: his passion for the book arts, of course; the pursuit of intellectual pleasure; the democracy of the word. And, it seems to me, most of all, the discovery of the best in people.

Like many editors, I am a master in the art of no. Show me your prize and I’ll find a way to reject it or tear it apart and have it completely redone. But Will was a master in the Art of Yes. Yes, the budget is tight, but we can do this. Yes, that schedule is crunched, but we can do this. Yes, that text is a conundrum of words and maps and charts and translations, but we can do this. I got so jazzed bringing a unique problem Will’s way and watching him solve it: Hey Will, looks like we’ve got an Arabic publisher interested in our English edition of the Swedish Moberg titles. What say? And then I’d receive e-mails, typed so hard and fast I could hear his fingers hitting the keyboard like an old newsroom reporter on a Smith Corona. I’d have queries and solutions and links to New York Times articles and then maybe a day or two later a sample, borrowed from the local library.

Theologian Sally McFague writes often about the “loving eye” (versus the “arrogant eye") and “to see the world as it is.” Loving it as it is. In that regard Will holds my highest admiration. Being able to see the world as it is, with loving eyes, and engaging it so thoroughly, well, it seems to me that is the Art of Yes. Even if you didn’t know Monk’s music or Marcella Hazan’s recipes or the difference between Bodoni and Baskerville, he would aim to find common ground.

I suppose for Will and me, beyond making beautiful books together, our common ground was storytelling. I’m not a great cook or a music aficionado but I love people and so did Will. I had such fun sharing stories with Will about our working-class beginnings, our travels around these States--bars and restaurants and shop floors filled with noble citizens and troubled misfits alike. I had hoped he might write his own book someday and was prodding him to think about it. It’s clear now that we don’t need that book to get what we need, what we want from his life well lived. It’s clear that his passion is all around us. It’s clear we’ll all aim to see a little more of this world with those loving eyes, with an enthusiasm for common ground, with a hope that we, too, will master the Art of Yes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Big Fall Shows

Here it is, the first day of Autumn, 2009. Our fantastic late fall weather has shifted in the last twenty-four hours and and today it is cool, overcast, still. I could build a fire in the fireplace today and it wouldn't seem out of place.

When I'm lazy I pull out my laptop and browse through things, never quite landing a serious eye on anything, catching words only briefly, lingering over pretty pictures. It's like the channel surfing of the nineties: flip, flip, flip, pause--nah, flip, flip . Sometimes I flip through the Etsy website; sometimes I flip through GearJunkie. This week I've been flipping through fall fashion pictures from all the big shows. You'd think I'd attend to my own fashion more the way I'm drawn to those fashion shots. But they are simply eye-candy, for the moment. And always, I'm a little like my German/Indian grandmother, finding fault first before I praise the entirety. The big shows are always over the top and for a sensible Midwest woman, there is always something to fault. Big gory eye makeup, weird flaps and zippers, and this year, superbly clunky shoes, gladiator-style with lifts and wraps and chunks. Gladiator mid-ankle boots, chunk bootlets, strapped, bootie stilletos. You just know that if you wore any one of them everyone on the bus would stare at you.

It's amusing how just when I'm ready to pull out my fall sweaters and wool pants, I'm catching the spring looks on the runway. In fall, they show spring. In spring, they show fall.

We do somewhat the same in the book world. It gives the buyers of this world a chance to work ahead of the consumer. This week we're working on our spring catalog; all book covers need to be done by October 15. But our fall show, the midwest regional trade show, showcases our current fall books; the publishing world is a lot more "just in time." The books are out--and came out as early as August--but this is the time we handsell the books to our trade accounts, our independent bookstore partners throughout the five-state area. We bring in authors, give away books, talk up promotional plans for the holiday season, and take orders. Pre-orders for this season look stronger for our frontlist than they did last season, despite all the conservative practices of the entire industry this year. Blue is the new black, I hear. But really, frugality is the new black. Everyone wants to get out of the red and into the black.

The big fall shows are happening everywhere, some just in time and some pushing the season ahead. Push-push. College campuses are revved up with the "prospie" tours, hoping to sell their best features to the high school juniors and seniors touring their top five choices. Even health care has its push-push, its high-selling season. November is typically open enrollment for managed health care. And just as soon as we pull off Halloween, the Christmas push-push will be on full steam ahead.

Despite all the big fall shows, the thing I tend to like about fall is that by nature it signals a slowing down, at least for a city girl like me (that is, I haven't crops to pull in, produce to put up). It might last only a few weeks, before the holiday hubabub, but the first days of fall are just made for lingering. Poets might say this is the wistfulness of fall, where we mourn another summer gone by. But I've always loved the coming of winter, the beauty of things turning and closing down for the night. We talked over drinks on Frost's patio last night and all agreed we have no trouble falling asleep at night. We're tired. We've pushed enough for the day. Clean sheets on soft skin and plump pillows and we're happy as clams. Fall is like the sweet hour before sleep comes on. Ahhh.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Summer in the City

It's as if I was on the North Dakota prairie: young, alone, wakened by flashes of a great Midwestern storm through my bedroom windows, big cracks and booms and the rain falling hard. I hit the weekday snooze alarm and then woke again, at noon.

There is so much earnest work going on in this world. The storm has passed. It is hot and windy. I feel no guilt that I still sit here in night clothes at 1:00 in the afternoon. Yesterday the glass was half-empty. Today it is a quarter-full.

I seek out a daily poem and today I fell on this one, read by the poet herself, Lucille Clifton. It is a perfect post-storm, layabout-in-night-clothes-on-a-Saturday-afternoon poem.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Practicing health

I've incorporated a few new health practices. The first was prompted by my finding a lump--well, I like to call it a knot--in my right breast. It's been checked out and diagnosed as a cyst, aspirated, and I've been given a clean bill of health by the outstanding Virginia Piper Breast Center at Abbott Northwestern. There is a reason why City Pages readers voted it the best place to get a mammogram. This was the most intentional, appropriately woman-centered care I've ever received. And it was organized and efficient without seeming at all robotic or cold. They served tea in china cups and saucers and had all their display materials and literature translated into at least five languages. They even had a Spanish-language edition of Self. We got waffle-weave white robes and a warm blanket during the short wait from ultrasound to doctor's visit.

Booking an appointment at the Piper Center was my first step in practicing good self-care, good breast health. You know, in the past I am ashamed to say that I sometimes suffered from breast cancer overload. I frequently sign Walk for the Cure pledge sheets, buy raffles and wear pink ribbons, get my painful mammograms, and do my own check of the girls monthly. I sometimes wearied about all the vigilance. And then, silly and self-centered as this sounds, I find my own knot and suddenly all that advocacy and education is hugely important. You must be diligent. Early detection is one of our best defences.

I felt such solidarity with all the women in the waiting room; some I know had battled cancer; some were there, like me, with brand new issues; others, regular healthy patients, were there for their annual check-ups. Each one of us were kind and thoughtful to each other as were the nursing staff, volunteers, and physicians.

If you live in the Twin Cities, or simply want a spot with some good links, check them out at

Now, just in time to include any male readers in the crowd who might be wondering what else they can read, I also took in my first "financial health day." I must have read some recommendation along these lines and so I set aside half of Sunday to tackle some of our family budget and financial issues. I made a pot of tea and had gathered a lot of our bills and documents and planning sheets around the computer workstation. This is what I did in the course of three hours, all of which is going to save us about $200/month:

1. Canceled Netflix. School will be starting soon and we'll be too busy to watch movies so regularly.

2. Changed our cell phone family plan, reducing our minutes to better match our usage. I checked through our last three billings and then checked our home phone service and found that we have unlimited long-distance calling on the land line. Noting that both my husband and I could call our out-of-town families with our home phones (which have clearer reception anyway), I reduced our cell phone minutes by half. I kept our features the same, including the amount of text messages the kids get. Tim is just now entering text message heaven as a 15-year-old so no use worrying he'll go over his limit.

3. Called Comcast to inquire about saving money. Turns out just by calling we could save on a new "bundle" promotion. That call alone--without reducing our service--saves us $40.00/month.

4. Found a new everyday credit card with lower interest rates and no annual fees.

5. Found a separate new credit card to which I can transfer our balance for a 0% rate for 12 months. I'll aim to be diligent about paying off that balance and not use the card for anything else.

6. Secured my daughter's last year of undergraduate student loans.

So there you go. In the name of breasts and pocketbooks, my work is done for the day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Midsummer classic

Does the MLB All-Star game mean that summer is half over?

Mauer got a double and now Nathan is pitching. I love watching Joe Nathan. He has more nervous tics than an introverted teen boy on his first date. I love it when he motors his lips on an exhale, shakes his head, mutters to himself, pulls back his jersey, hikes up his belt, then fires in a perfect slider.

I think nervous tics are endearing. My favorite aunt bites on her inner cheek. My dad pushes up his eyeglasses with his middle finger. My son twists his mouth to the right when he's upset with a situation.

I parked my car up on Summit Avenue and walked in to work this morning. Summit Avenue is a bike freeway because of that long grand bike lane so I have plenty to watch between the bicyclists, the front lawn flower gardens, the turrets and balconies and wraparound porches. My colleague decided he wanted to live near Cathedral Hill when he first visited St. Paul some years ago and heard the St. Paul Cathedral bells chime on the hour. He said, "I want to live within striking distance of those bells."

And, of course, I had that nice little stroll on my way home tonight. A little bit of fresh air to bookend the workday does wonders. So did noontime yoga. And a turkey avocado sandwich and a "Pot of Pickles" from the Cheeky Monkey Deli, courtesy a colleague.

We've just lost 30% of our staff and are picking our way through a reduced operating budget on top of that. Any respite from that hard work is welcome. I spent all morning coordinating our new phones, moving office furniture, deciding on new office protocol (who will be our technology coordinator and our emergency situation liaison?). We had a design intern come in for an interview today and normally our office manager would have written up a parking pass for him but now she's gone so I had to track down the paid slips and then I didn't know what to do for a purchase order so I just wrote in "P.O. to come" and told the candidate to try to float that by the parking attendant.

Still, it's midsummer and the fall lies ahead full of promise and opportunity. Fall is the publisher's bonanza--Gift Season. We have a good deck of offerings and this afternoon talked through our big conference plans this afternoon. There will be author signings and giveaways and web marketing and special orders. It's like the opposite of back-to-school; we don't dread its coming, we anticipate it!

Is the recession on its way to being over? today says yes, according to experts they polled. Job news seems grim but personally, we're starting to spend a little more money ourselves this summer. A few more dinners out, a new tie for Ken, talk of house repairs. Nothing glamorous, but a little loosening.

I worked on my tan Sunday. I got out the Hawaiian Beach suntan oil, my book and a pink beach blanket and brought it all out to the backyard where I lay in the sun for an hour or so. I hadn't done that since vacation last summer. I left an index fingerprint of oil on a few of my paperback book pages.

Half of us at the office bike in to work regularly. Bikes are kept in each individual's office because people are afraid of their bikes being scavenged out in the unprotected bike lock area. It's nice to hear the clicking of wheels and spokes coming down our office hallways and then office doors shutting as people change from their tee-shirts and shorts to work clothes. It's a comforting summer ritual.

I haven't yet swum in a lake this summer so I say the season isn't half over but that the best is yet to come. We head to Gull Lake near Brainerd this weekend where we'll watch the boys play in the AAA state tourney for fifteen-year-olds. We'll bring our sunflower seeds and coolers of ice and Gatorade, our camp chairs, and I'll tote along the Hawaiian Beach. Might as well work on my tan while I'm cheering.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

If Jim Harrison can crank out poems so easily

why can't we?

Heart murmurs and
and reckless hearts and the
heart of the matter.
Get to the heart of the matter.
What is it?
Quit yer yappin'--what is it?
Are you listening?
Those are coos you hear.
Wing flaps. My body

~PJM, July 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

4 Days into July

Summer is here in Minnesota, finally. Except it is 69 degrees and cloudy today, the 4th of July. The Twins lost to Detroit last night after 16 innings. I watched innings 9 through 13 but then fell asleep. At least I made it upstairs to bed. Tim and Ken fell asleep on the sectional couch.

The neighbors have dressed up their houses for 4th of July parties: flags are hung, the sidewalks have been edged, all the flower beds are groomed. We have neighbors on two sides with backyard pools and they draw a lot of friends and families. Yesterday, as one set of neighbors worked on their yard, their young son Sasha, whom they adopted from Russia this winter, was playing in the back with another friend. We heard a yelp and then a wail and then, "Sasha bit me!" Sasha's dad, the corporate lawyer, went running to the back and gave his four-year-old son an earful and a spanking, too. Ken and I went inside to give them some privacy; also, I thought I might get the giggles because of the YouTube video-gone-viral, "Charlie bit me."

Sarah Palin, the idiot, resigned her post as Alaska's governor. I didn't listen to one word of the press conference. Still, couldn't she have waited until July 4 to announce? What symbolism is there in July 3? Who advises her anyway? Her hubbie? Maybe she didn't want to be upstaged by our Independence Day froo-la--or Michael Jackson.

We hung a flag yesterday. Ken came home with a deluxe nylon American flag from Home Depot. And then, wanting to save money, he scrounged around in the basement for a pole, and also a pole holder he must have bought at a flea market for 10 cents. He knew it was down there somewhere. Our basement, you should know, looks like it belongs to Sanford and Son. So then he comes up from downstairs with a copper plumbing tube and some black hockey laces and his drill. He has me hold the tube in place against the picnic table while he drills holes for the flag's grommets. I'm trying gently to remind him that if he got such a nice flag at least he should give it the dignity of a good pole--with eagle top--and not jury-rig the thing. This makes him mad. I think about pulling out my West Virginny accent to emphasize my point. He reminds me he really didn't want to spend more money. I tell him the flag deserves it. Finally, with a frown on his face, he heads over to S&S Hardware and comes back with a $14 flag set, with cotton flag and pole, and eagle end cap. As we put that together, substituting the deluxe flag for the cotton one, I say to him, "You drive me nuts sometimes." He says, "It goes both ways."
When I asked him why he bought a flag, thinking it might be because of our neighbors' flag-dressing, he told me it was because of a story I had told to Megan the night before. Megan was home for a day and a night from her summer work as guide in the Boundary Waters. We all really missed each other and were gathered on the porch telling stories. I told her that one night Tim and I were talking (Tim is 15; Megan is 21; I'm 47; Ken is older than all of us) and Tim said, "Megan is a liberal." Yep, I told him. I said that I thought most people were from the ages of 17 to 22. He said, "I know, I know, she wants to change the world." I chuckled. He was thinking hard about something.

"Did I ever tell you why I got kicked out of Mr. Bakke's class in 8th grade?" I said no, then thought it remarkable I hadn't pressed him for an explanation back then. Second-child syndrome, I guess.

Tim told me the story. A girl in his class, a bossy-bossy-pants girl who was always running her mouth and giving out her opinions and criticizing others announced in class that anyone who joined the Army was stupid. That only stupid people joined the Army, that they had nothing better to do with their lives, and that our country took advantage of that. Tim said he could feel himself getting really angry. My dad joined the Air Force after a year in college. He had, in fact, run out of money, didn't have a functioning parent to guide him, and didn't know if he had other good options. My dad, however, is a very smart man. My Grandpa Teubert was drafted into the Army during WWII. He survived the Battle of the Bulge. My cousin needed funds for college; he was planning to be a firefighter when he graduated. Being one of masculine brawn and skills, he thought the Army Reserves would be a good choice for him. Six years later he was sent to Iraq for a long and brutal tour. He survived the storming of Basra. My Aunt Pat, striving to leave the backwoods small Wisconsin town of her youth, tried to join the Navy. She passed all requirements, except the one for weight. She needed to weigh over 100 pounds and she was under. So my grandma sewed silver dollar coins into the waistband of Aunt Pat's skirt and also into the lining of her hat and Aunt Pat, holding up her skirt with one hand, passed the 100-pound mark on the scale.

Tim comes from a line of military men and women. And he lives with a couple of liberal-minded citizens. He weighs these worldviews with serious consideration. He is a serious kid. The girl in his class kept talking, and no one, including the teacher, reproached her. She said, "The only reason people go into the military is so they can learn to kill people. They're stupid and they're inhuman."

Tim had had enough. He pushed himself away from the table and jumped up. "Fuck you," he said to her. "Fuck you," is all he said. The teacher asked him to leave the room. Tim did, gladly. And, in telling me the story that night, Tim looked over at me and said, "I was so mad at her it just came out. It was the worst thing I've ever said in class."

So when I asked Ken why he bought the flag he told me, "Because of the story you told about Tim last night."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hole in the Day

The great Ojibwe chiefs Hole in the Day (father and son), Bug-o-na-ghe-zhisk, were tranformative leaders here in northern Minnesota in the 1800s. There is a park named Hole-in-the-Day near Leech Lake, a few towns over from where I sit today typing. I'm in Bemidji visiting my parents before heading down to Mille Lacs for a meeting. The younger Bug-o-na-ghe-zhisk was handsome, diplomatic, charismatic, one who traveled to Washington to meet with President Lincoln as part of his work on land treaty negotiations. I'm taken with his picture, above, shot in NYC during that trip.

I'm online courtesy of the Kitchigami Hot Spot wireless network. I should be on the lake but it's cold and windy. I hope Dad and I can go out later. It's very quiet on the lake this long weekend. I woke this morning and sort of tip-toed out to the lakeshore. Just beyond the dock was a merganser--I didn't see her chicks but Mom says she's got them. Two loons cried out further in the bay. Mom's got yellow finches at her bird feeder. Down the bumpy road, yellow ladyslippers have started to wilt and fade but I see now red-and-yellow columbine in new bloom and the wild pink geraniums.

My dad was awake early reading and watching CNN in the living room on mute. They just got air conditioning in the house because, even though the lake weather can be cool and breezy it can also be unbearably hot and humid, and Mom doesn't like the heat. The lakehouse is pristine; Mom keeps out the spiders and the bugs and the rusty water from her pipes. It's a home for them, not a lake cabin, and I try not to get bummed that we can't flop around wet and barefoot and let the screen door slap and build campfires out near the beach. Mom is afraid of even contained fires in the woods and they don't have a slapping screen door.

Right now, at this moment, I feel a gravitational pull to clarity, one thing or the other. Black or white, not gray. I'm really a little sick of the gray. We all live in the gray all the time, it seems. Can't be expecting wisdom to come down completely on one side or the other.

My dad and mom have a storm scanner set up in the second bedroom to warn them of oncoming bad weather but I'd rather just go out to the dock and look up at the sky. I rather resent the loud bleeping of the weather watcher; I'd rather the loud screeching of the loons. Technology intrudes on nature.

And I can't expect work not to blur into home and home to stay separate from work. I text on my cell phone at my son's game and I take calls from home when I'm at the office.

Blending makes things easier, I suppose. It's the only way to juggle our multiplex lives. If I take a stand on separation--THERE WILL BE NO TEXTING AT THE TABLE!--I get the stink eye. If I tell myself, today I will not check Outlook, today I will not check Outlook, it seems a trap, like I'm a bulemic, fasting all day only to pig out come 9:00 pm, because sure enough I'll make it through a lovely day of gardening, and biking, and G&Ts on the porch, and then I get into bed, bring up the laptop to the top of my lap, and click into work.

Can I tell you something? Last Friday my husband and I went to a backyard party. It was lovely, at first. A blending of families from our son's hockey team and a few neighbors, and the younger kids. The teen boys all gathered at another house to watch the NHL draft. We were friends with some of the gathered, not so much with others. We shared really good homemade salads and grilled chicken with aioli and some beers. We played that ball-golf game that people make with PVC pipe and rope. And then at the end of the night the conversation of a few couples turned racist. It was a small comment or two but I can't say "a little racist" because that's like saying "a litte pregnant." You are or you're not and they were. Are. And so my husband and I looked over at each other and left. And we felt uncomfortable about it through the next morning. About not saying anything, I suppose. About feeling complicit. And I thought, "I'm blending my values and politics and belief systems into a wider circle of people and I don't really know who they are and what they believe."

I do believe that blending in is a part of life; we all assimilate one way or another. We blend the old and the new. We blend the strange with the familiar. And we all bring to our lives our own beliefs and preferences (and fetishes and extremes) and through them alter our surroundings to fit. Too much one way and we lose control; too much the other and we lose serendipity and the charm of an arms-wide-open view.

I'm about to learn the wisdom of chiefs Hole in the Day thanks to a work assignment. I know my small examples here pale to their struggles: between traditional life and customs and the new white immigrants. Between life and death. I imagine that their best diplomacy was that precarious blend of clarity and compromise, between a strongly held belief system and what they did/we must do to survive in this world.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Traveling Pants

I'm in Philadelphia for a university press conference, where book professionals and vendors get together to share ideas, horror stories, martinis, crowded elevators, visions of the future. It's the last night of a three-day affair and I'm bushed. I'd go for a walk to get something other than artificial air but I have one more reception and collegial dinner and I'm storing up energy for that.

I'm never quite satisfied with what I pack for a business trip. I don't have it down to a science, like some people. Some of my Boundary Waters canoe trip packing has helped me out some. The primary goals for a week on trail aren't so different. You want to be light, but prepared for weather. It's good to have ease of comfort and clothes that are versatile. A quick-dry top, for instance, can double as a swimsuit tank.

No matter my intentions for packing light and easy for business, I always have two problems: too many shoes and too much to iron. The shoes are definitely a woman thing. Shoes for walking, shoes for a dress, flats with jeans. Yada yada.

I did land on a really versatile lightweight suit and the pants carry over well to evening. They're black, well-fitted, tailored. I looked around the reception room last night and counted over 36 women wearing black tailored pants: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

I love my friend Lisa's Facebook updates when she travels: "looking forward to a big featherbed, a nice quiet dinner, some alone time with cable TV in my hotel room." I would say that's a sisterhood, too, especially for busy moms. I brought toenail polish on this trip because I pictured just such a night of "me time."

Sometimes I think creepy things about hotel security--like what if there were remote cameras in the rooms, with central monitoring stations not unlike security in casinos or the Houston control room for NASA. I chuckle to think what the sisterhood of travel might reveal through the cameras and the responses by my imagined voyeurs:
"Damn, how can that girl read through so many magazines in one night? Did you see her eat that whole chocolate bar? Why do women always pick that IN TREATMENT on HBO when there is so much else?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A pox on PowerPoint Creator

Notice how I only find time to post on Sundays? And I'm procrastinating because I'm preparing my PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow morning. I like PowerPoint about as much as I like WalMart. It's cheap, low-end, and everywhere.

In fact I'm feeling like one big Luddite today. It seems all my technology is pressing down on me. For instance, I'd like to go for a run/walk tonight with my little I-pod Shuffle but my son lost his ear plugs for his I-Pod Mini and so keeps using mine and I'd go get them but then I have to go through this whole routine of wiping down the little white ear buttons with rubbing alcohol because, well this is gross, but because he has what we call here "sweet potato ears."

And I'd load up some new songs for both him and myself except our home Mac needs an OSX update and without it we can't use I-Tunes. Or Netflix. Or online banking through TCF. Except for the life of me I forgot my Mac user name and password and somehow didn't write it down.

Our small digital camera is out of batteries, too, and doesn't take a charge. It has a few nice pictures from Oslo on it. When those batteries ran out in Oslo, Megan and I both decided the price of Norwegian batteries was too high so I took a dozen or so other photos on my cell phone, which I'd load up on to Facebook but I can't do that on this laptop (I need a work IT professional to install the photo uploader) and I keep forgetting to bring the cord into work.

And speaking of my phone, I just opened my AT&T bill and saw that they charged me $57 more than usual because, apparently, my phone keeps attempting to auto-sync by wireless and it's racking up the minutes doing so.

They're doing all kinds of sewer work in my Highland neighborhood and every day that repair work trips off the power in our block. I come home to 13 blinking digital clocks--on the stove, on the coffeemaker, on the undercabinet radio, on the alarm clocks--and it's one big fat metaphor for my Life in the Digital Age, everything yelling out for attention.

Ken and I stopped by Korte's to pick up some coffee beans and potato chips (he needed the first for the morning; we had some good French onion dip left over from our Friday night party) and on the rack in front of the register were the magazines of the week: "The Tweet Smell of Success" and "If you're over 5o, you can't ignore Facebook anymore." Geez, what happened to celebrity snooping and UFO spotting? And then, the credit card machine broke down at our register and we didn't have cash.

You know that night last spring to honor Earth Hour, the effort to get people round the world to turn off their lights? I'd like to declare a project called In Praise of Analog and make it last a week. I'd like to take my pointer finger and pull the big hand toward the little hand and flip off the thin rubber band of the morning newspaper and spread the sheets across the dining room table. I'd like to talk to my mom with my ear cradled on the heavy plastic of a rotary phone receiver, winding the curly cord around my waist as I cook.

Think of the extra calories we'd burn if we had to get up to turn the TV whenever we didn't like what was on?

Monday, June 01, 2009

May it please the court

Saturday we got a letter in our mailbox about a bankruptcy proceeding for which we "may have a claim." The attorney named as trustee in the case reminds us to file with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court against my husband's former company, a small business that had valiantly stayed afloat for almost 25 years before closing its doors last December in the midst of the worst downturn its owner had ever seen. My husband and his colleagues were cold-calling firms, sending out their lowest bids, figuring how to turn a buck--a foot in the world of possible success, a foot in the world of shutdown. His boss scrambled at the end and was able to honor her commitment to pay her employees before shutting down. So we have nothing to claim and feel bad for her just seeing this document.

Imagine the number of proceedings going on in courts around the country? Imagine the number of claims in the proceedings for GM alone, which declared bankruptcy bright and early this morning. The day of declaration must seem very sad for those who have tried so hard to give it a go, but I know the day of reckoning and grief was earlier, when the leaders and management privately looked each other in the eye and said it was not going to get any better, the bottom had fallen out. As in a marriage breakdown, often you know before you know.

Another court action: in an hour or so the Minnesota Supreme Court hears arguments from Al Franken and Norm Coleman's lawyers on the vote recount. This thing has become so protracted that they ought to declare bankruptcy and get a fresh start. I'm willing to re-vote. I'd bet voter turnout would be much less than in the fall, not just because we've already voted in our president but because we might not care so much about our two Senate nominees anymore. Their near-tie is indicative of the predicament of our political system. And it seems we're heading for a statistical tie on so many fronts. Those who choose to vote (or speak up) are the most ardent participants on either side and we keep zero-balancing. Who speaks for the middle-roaders or about-to-opt-out citizens? Who is willing to rally the reluctant, draw out their passions? And if politics and religion aren't our motivators anymore, what is? Certainly not money, in these bankrupt times. (Breaking even is the new success.) Peace? Family? Love?

I for one am glad I don't have to rally the reluctant in Congress as Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayer will do this week, meeting with Democrats and Republicans in person and by phone. Can you imagine the rough spots of the phone call with Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky? Well, I would be scrambling to fill it with small talk: "How 'bout that filly Rachel Alexandra, huh?" Maybe throw in a little subliminal message: "She sure is something."

My husband is back to work now; in fact, he leaves tonight for California. In many ways he has a fresh start; in many ways he has the lead-up to his old firm's bankruptcy decision still weighing on his mind. Gotta keep digging in; gotta keep moving forward. And I'm on furlough today, paying back my debt to the public debt as an employee linked to our state budget woes. I'm not supposed to work on this unpaid day but I will, furiously. I've got my own rallying to do. Gotta keep digging; gotta keep moving forward.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good morning Sunday

I'm in the dining room, typing on the laptop. It's a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning. The neighborhood is quiet. Last week my son just finished a short film for his video production class assignment, "My Neighborhood." In it he shows a 360 degree view of our corner block and says, "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else but here."

I remember two friends of mine, some twenty years ago, talking about Sundays. The one friend, a church-going Lutheran, asked why the other never went to church. The answer was, "Because I want to reserve my Sundays." The pious friend said, "But what do you think Sundays are for?" The answer, "For reading the New York Times, what else?"

I slept in Megan's room last night because the neighbors behind us had a kick-off-the-summer pool party and they were out loud and late. Our big bedroom overlooks our backyard and the alley and everytime I was about to fall asleep I'd hear a yahoo and a splash. Meg's room, tucked under the eaves in the middle, still has all the stuff of her high-school days plus the stuff of college tucked in corners and under spaces while she's away in the Boundary Waters. There's a dried wrist corsage from a prom hanging on a jewelry hook.

I slept until eight and took a chai tea into my bedroom to watch the CBS show Sunday Morning. I've come to like Charles Osgood and for a moment almost forgot that Charles Kuralt was previously the longtime host. Remember when we learned that the iconic Kuralt had a "shadow" second family in Montana? Now there's a slice of American life. None of us are perfect--a theme played out this a.m. with their story on that British talent-show competitor Susan Boyle. I think it's completely understandable that Boyle screamed at hounding reporters last week and can just imagine her lashing them with a heavily accented, "Get out of my way you fucking bloodsuckers." I agreed with the morning reporter that I liked her even better for it.

The kid and I are alone this weekend. Ken is catching walleye up at Big Whinny; apparently they've been getting their limits. Tim asked for pancakes so I had to go up to Korte's to pick up milk, and $60.00 later I also brought back home two sacks of groceries with tonight's dinner (ribeyes) and the week's lunch fixins (bread, sliced cheese, apples). As we all say now, "Remember when we could bring home two sacks of groceries for $20.00?"

Along the way the neighborhood had come alive. My neighbor zoomed his bike around the corner wearing long tight bike shorts and matching UnderArmor fitted top. A managing attorney, he works until seven every weeknight and then Saturdays too so I bet he's glad for his Sunday. The little kids on the block had layed down their trikes and training-wheel bikes and were toddling up and down the block with their helmets on, looking like a row of cranial-protected Beanie Babies. Very funny. Maybe they felt stealth wearing their helmets doing their everyday sidewalk fun; maybe, like my son when he was young, they had sticks tucked inside their makeshift holsters like guns.

I step outside to check the plants in front and the wooden rocking chair is rocking back and forth briskly. The neighbor's tomcat is a prowler and they let him roam all night. In the morning, after his escapades, he curls up on the chair cushion but jumps off when we come out the front door each morning. I wonder if he wishes the chair wouldn't rock so hard after his leap so as to leave no trace. I can imagine him hiding behind with a paw up to stop the rocking. Sometimes my husband will sit out on the porch in the early morning and he'll call out for the cat in his high funny falsetto cat voice and the black cat (with no tail--lost it in a streetfight) will come back up the stairs and lie down on the wood floor, just out of Ken's reach.

I don't have much in particular to say this day except it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I'm glad to have it be mine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Speaking of books

Sometimes, when people in my business complain about the declining book economy, I want to ask them when's the last time they actually bought a book. I've been making an effort to visit bookstores around the Twin Cities. It's fun to browse "offline" again and to lay down my dollars at the local businesses that keep me in business. Birchbark Books, Micawber's, Magers & Quinn. Tonight I stopped by Sixth Sense, the best used bookseller in town (not the store to help our Press's bottom line, but a nice literary stop nonetheless), and picked up The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J. R. Moehringer (2006). Reviews include:

“It would have been easy for Moehringer to drift into sentimentality about growing up fatherless. Instead, he took the hard route and wrote the heck out of the thing. Moehringer paints a portrait of his life - and the bar full of men that stepped in to do the job his father couldn't - that is vivid, alive, and painfully honest. It's also pretty darned funny.” -American Way

“A wistful study of the character - and characters - of a Long Island bar called the tradition of Joseph Mitchell and Damon Runyon.” -New York Magazine

My mother grew up in a bar, too; her parents co-owned Tibbie's in Indianford, Wisconsin, a place memorialized by Sterling North and written up here: My mom says the article, however, is full of errors. So it goes with local history. But I digress.

The thing I remember most about my mom's telling of that place is that she learned all she really needed to know about human nature sitting on the corner barstool having a Shirley Temple and waiting for my grandmother to get off her shift. Mom truly loved a lot of the regulars but then would be confused when she saw their worst sides come out (after a bad day or a stiff drink, or both). My grandma would tell her she's got to take the good with the bad, that everyone has a likeable side and an unlikeable side and that no one is perfect. I've always remembered that.

When I was in college, my husband--then boyfriend--and I worked at the Golden Frog Supper Club in Fountain City, Wisconsin, right on the main drag there along the Mississippi River. We had a lot of regulars, too, and a veteran staff of waitresses, cooks, and dishwashers. I'm sure Ken and I gave them plenty to talk and speculate about. One whiskey-voiced waitress (and there is always one like that in these joints) told me I'd look a lot prettier if I would pull my hair off my face. I had customers who always ordered the same thing: Kessler and water or brandy Manhattan sweet; crab legs with baked potato, extra sour cream or the salad bar (with a go-box when they were full--no kidding). No one really tipped very well but they were always happy when Ken or I remembered their usual orders. Our German cook took real pride in her figure and in keeping herself looking good: hair, skin, nails. It was a sad, sad day when Erna cut off two of her fingers at the knuckles in the meat slicer one evening. She quit the kitchen soon after that. Ken and I quit pretty soon after that ourselves.

So I'm looking forward to starting The Tender Bar this weekend. Seems to me it's going to be an endearing read.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On white T-shirts and lollipops

Did you have a good weekend?

Did it feel to you like today was the first day of spring?

I'm wrapping up the day with a sack of Polish chocolate candies and a shot glass full of Zubrowka, Bison Grass Vodka, both gifts from Megan, who returned home yesterday from her semester abroad. The chocolate is quite good and comes with coconut, berry, caramel, and vanilla fillings, all wrapped in gaudy red, yellow, and foil-lined wrappers so that if you walked by my writing station right now I look a bit like those women at Skinner's Pub with the spent pull-tabs in mini-hills all around their drinking glasses. The "wodka" is 40 proof and has a long blade of grass lined diagonally inside the bottle. Megan and her class of American students were studying the divided states of Europe and how Scandinavia, in particular, is handling human rights and its role in the world. Since much of the first wave of labor workers came into Norway from Poland, they spent two weeks in Krakow and Warsaw studying human rights. After spending as much as $20.00 for a six-pack of good beer in Oslo, she and her comrades were quite thrilled to find draughts at the Polish pubs for as little as a dollar and vodka to bring home that wouldn't break the bank. It's quite good and a perfect nightcap to a full weekend in May.

Did you get outside? Was your weekend as sunny and breezy and green as we had here in St. Paul? We are all sunburned and our lips got chapped, too, so we've smeared them with dabs of Vaseline from the jar. The neighbors were out in full force: garage sale-going, dog walking, neglected garden tending. We had company both days and had lots of cooking and talking and the drinking of the wine and wodka on the porch. It was my side of the family and with Megan's return to the U.S. and my not-often-seen brother also making a surprise appearance, I had my hands full.

But I also had a chance to sit outside in the company of some good friends and wear my favorite white T-shirt with no jacket. Bare arms. Felt so good. No wonder the First Lady is always eager to bare hers (never mind she's got those enviable guns). I see that I've washed my white T-shirt so much I have what looks like a little moth hole in the middle of my belly. I got out the sandals, too. My mom said if I painted my toenails to match I would look quite nice at work. It's funny what moms choose to notice and comment about. At first I resented the comment on my appearance but then I remembered that just a few hours earlier I had looked at my daughter's rough feet and thought she could use a pedicure. Is the big difference that I chose not to say anything? Do we accept our mother's close inspection or does it just drum up uncomfortable feelings? For women, is there anything we can do about this, this complicated relationship? My mother spots my daughter's feet and offers to help her soak and loofah them. Is their generational difference wide enough for my daughter to accept the comment as love--and nothing else? What is it I can do to emulate that?

The little kids at the ball game wore their old shorts and sucked lollipops while hanging upside down at the monkey bars. No one warned them about choking. We were glad to drink cokes and show our bare arms and necks to the sun, no sunscreen. Out on the field, the fifteen year olds are getting better at turning double-plays and working the strike zone. One slight kid hit a near-homer to left center and all the players on the bench yelled out "STEROIDS!" The kid was scrawnier than Pawlenty so it was a funny cheer.

I hope you had a good weekend. Maybe you'll cut some lilacs to put in a jar for your desk. Maybe you'll put on your favorite tee under your button-down or paint your toenails to show under last year's sandals, for spring's posterity. If we didn't have our weekends, how would we ever know what spring feels like?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Home again

Quiet Monday. Back from my trip to Norway and spending the day with my son. We are eating and making meals together, catching up on our news of the week, and our laundry, etc. I missed him! He's good at asking questions: What did you like best in Norway? What did you do in Norway that you wished you could do here? What are some of the things you and Megan did together? He's slow to acknowledge the moment and avoids "the big deal" conversation to "wrap up" an event. That is, if he's just played a nail-biter hockey game he doesn't want to dissect it right away and really just mumbles a few words of acknowledgment, but then later as the weekend unfolds we'll hear bits and pieces from him. So when I returned Saturday evening he wasn't all full of enthusiasm; just gave me a hug and asked if I had a good time and then stuck his nose in a book. He would fit in just fine in Norway, the land of the understated folks.

I must say next to seeing Megan and enjoying the beauty of Oslo, the thing I liked best was not working. When I heard her teachers and classmates discussing the Norwegian 6-hour workday, I nearly welled up in tears. How sane! How civilized! And then there is that infamous maternity/paternity leave. All over the city I saw well-rested mothers and fathers pushing high-end strollers around the parks and cafes; with so much time off for baby care I also guessed that they also had time to develop friendships with other new parents. So much of the American new parent experience is alone--and is often an abrupt shift from the race and hoo-wa of the working experience. We work right up until we give birth and then after the celebratory visits from parents and friends we're left alone in our houses and yards to tend to and fend for a new life. We walk the sidewalks or the aisles of Target often alone. Once I remember being so tired and lonely after a trying day of feeding, changing, rocking, feeding and changing that I just stayed in my husband's green checkered robe all day, and by the time he got home from work I was a mess. What a different scene from those healthy, active, sociable parents I saw in all the parks in Oslo.

I loved learning the transit systems and how clean and dependable the trains, trams, and busses were. They ran often so that we never waited more than 7 minutes as we worked our way east, west, north, and south around the city. Imagine our light rail line times 100.

I loved seeing the Norwegians face the sun. They've had a long winter of dark and snow--record amounts of snowfall--and so with the longer sunny days they sat out on benches and chairs and on blankets on the grass with their necks jutted out and their faces opened to the sun like river turtles on rocks. Seemed everywhere I looked there was a Norwegian sitting beside me with his face up, eyes closed, and an ever-so-slight, Mona Lisa-like grin on his face. I spent a whole afternoon on my own at the Botanical Garden and after walking through the rock gardens, the Japanese Garden, and the Magnolia Grove, I layed out on the grassy knoll with a half-dozen other visitors. A Norwegian man in office clothes rode up to the area on his bike, pulled a rolled blanket out of his bike basket and opened it up onto a spot. Then he proceeded to take off all his clothes--black suitcoat, white buttoned shirt, black pants, socks and shoes--until he was down to his tight white speedo-looking undies, and layed in the sun for about half an hour. I had to chuckle looking over. Then he got up, put back on all his clothes, shook out the grass from his blanket, rolled it up and took off on his bike.

I was out hiking the hills or along the river or down the stairways to the markets every day and I've not set foot off my porch here since I've been back home. I feel tired and sluggish and a little wistful. It's beautiful out and I should be digging in my garden and flower beds. But I don't feel like being industrious just yet.

There is a Norwegian phrase that I've forgotten but that is illustrative of the Norwegian spirit, and it translates to "actively relaxing." It is an intentional spirit of relaxing, a way of planning for the day but with the goal of relaxing--and not having anything to "show" for it. They are big on day picnics that move into building and watching bonfires near the waters at night. They spend a good deal of time sitting and chatting and looking contentedly on all around them. Hours. In their underwear, too, if they like. You'd think I'd have thought more about this phrase before my trip and maybe I have. But when I saw the concept in action I think, in answer to Tim's question, that is what I want to bring back into my life here at home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Secret passwords

Tuesday and the teenage kid and I are home alone for the week; K is in Texas for business training. For the first time in our 21 years as parents, we'll have an overlapping of obligations that take us both out of town at the same time. The kid cried out, "Don't worry. I can stay home alone!" I say quickly, "It's against the law to leave a kid under 16 home alone." I have no idea if this is true but it settled him down some. "Besides," I say, "you can't cook all your own meals for a week."

"Who says I would cook? 651-488-8888. Pizza Hut is really great."

Isn't it mind-boggling how many numbers we have to remember in our lives? Used to be that our parents made us remember our phone numbers once we reached a certain age. It helped to remember the sequence of three digits, imagine the dash, followed by four digits. Drove me nuts when some smart aleck grown-up changed the rhythm of that sequence to this: XXXXX-XX. C'mon!

It was a big deal to remember my social security card number for use in college. Because by then I had already committed my bike lock combo to memory, too. 36-6-8. There, now you have it. If you ever recognize my old blue bike and have a yearning to steal something, you've got my number.

Now I have a three-page cheat sheet with all my secret passwords. And for security purposes I have to change those passes at the institution's request to prevent identity theft.

For some time I was using self-invented labels for myself as cornerstones for my passwords. When I turned forty I had the partial password 'newgirl' with some combination of symbols and numbers. When I was forty-three I felt the impulse to write stronger than ever before and so I became 'scribeXX!!' And for that year when I felt I was just trying too hard at everything I changed to 'aimlow101.' How hilarious to see my cheatsheet looking like a listing of all those MySpace IDs: dizzyup girl and brobrau and child of the korn. If hackers could detect my secret feelings--and from the look and sound of me over the years this might not be too hard to do--they could raid my bank account, my Netflix subscription, and my blog sign-in.

But now I'm just sticking with the straight stuff, some unrelated combination of letters and symbols and numbers. My feelings about life still change with the seasons but there's no need to track it through secret passwords anymore. There is no reason to be so covert about my general state of mind. I have friends. And family. And co-workers there for me. I am human, hear me roar.

Sincerely yours,


Monday, April 13, 2009

Why not start the new year with spring?

I'm off on furlough today, my unpaid holiday and debt service to my organization in this rough economy. Though I was itching to do it, I did not check my work e-mail account all day. I woke early, drank tea and browsed through the newspaper, made scrambled eggs with spinach and parmesan, ran some errands, and brought my son in his spanking new white baseball pants to catch the bus for his baseball opener. Opening day! I could tell he was nervous. He went up to brush his teeth and came back down pointing to his upper lip and saying, "I think I might have to start shaving."

I haven't written here for a year. I left this nearly daily practice to pursue a new job. I devoted all my free time to that job application and subsequent seven interviews and after having won it (the job) in May 2008 I took over on July 1. It's a big job with a lot of responsibility and has kept me running ever since. I have lots of ideas to test out, a busy and creative staff, and a challenge to pull our traditional business into the new millennium, despite this rotten economy, which began its downturn right about the time I took over as director. Timing is everything, so true.

I've been keeping a handwritten journal this past year but I found writing this blog to be a better discipline. My journal often is made of scraps of thought and lists of daily activities--not so well-formed--and my blog posts always felt more polished than that. Knowing that there might be a reader out there kept me in line and away from the self-pitying prose my journals often harbored.

But there is this thing about revealing too much of my personal life when I have a relatively public position. What can I easily write about? What lines must I not cross between the personal and the public?

I've been sharing on Facebook but, as a writer, I find it unsatisfying. My life is already filled with bits and pieces and disjointed conversations. Why would I seek more?

So quietly I aim to start back into a few things I used to enjoy so much. For instance, using my body beyond the bent S-shape of an office worker and running, hiking, dancing, gardening. (I really have been devoted to my workstation. Oi vay!) Music. Reading full-fledged novels again. And writing this blog. If you happen to stumble upon Night Editor by chance, say hello. It'll be good to connect again.