What I did today.

I just blurred my eyes and deleted, deleted, deleted.  It was easy, actually.

:)

What did you do today?

Another three-thought post.

Look! I’m French.

You have no idea how long it took me to translate all of that.

Okay, you’re right, I didn’t do it. According to my stats (can’t a girl love her stats?) someone accessed my blog via Google’s translation option. I really like to think that someone is reading the French translation of my blog. I like to think that Nanette from Bordeaux, qui n’est parle pas anglais, is sitting at her desk with a warmed croissant and probably a cat purring in her lap, browsing the unremarkable contents of my blog with fading interest. She lets out a yawn–which sounds the same in French as it does in English–closes her laptop, and carries on with the rest of her day.

Nanette. Is it weird that I just invented a reader? What if she is real?

Well, onward ever upward. After much excited internal debating as to what I would spend my Economic Stimulus check on (Would I get a new computer? An electric guitar? Computer accessories? A plane ticket?) I have finally arrived at something: I will buy a new exhaust system for my car. It’s really not optional at this point, and unfortunately my stimulus check won’t even cover all of the repairs. And unfortunately, it’s not as fun as all of those other things I was dreaming about, but I guess that’s part of being an adult, isn’t it. Maybe in that way it is actually more exciting than those other things. Show me another catastrophe–I can take it!

I pulled one of last summer’s mix CDs back into the rotation today and heard the song that has long since become my breakup anthem for all breakups past and future. Sit down, Kelly Clarkson, this is Liz Janes. Take a lesson.

“Tremble at the hope of my true love’s promise/you are not my true love. His promise is not dependent upon my belief/but upon his word only. His word is so true/oh why did I ever choose you? You are killing all of my wonder.”

Well, I love that. It’s better than any bitterness–it’s hope, but with an edge. Why did I ever choose you, when I’ve got someone so much better? It isn’t spiteful, but it’s honest. Ex-boyfriends, you never really stood a chance in this competition. Yeah! Listen to it: Wonderkiller, by Liz Janes.

A fourth, disparate thought would be too much for one day, so here I’ll end it. Enjoy your Lost finale tonight!

An open note to Craig Thompson.

To Craig Thompson, author and illustrator of Blankets, I have a few things to say. First of all, well done, really. The first time I read this book I read all 582 pages in a single sitting while my friend and host slept into the afternoon. This was in San Francisco, the day after Thanksgiving, 2005. Your book had already been in print for a couple years by then, and I was embarrassed at the time that I had waited so long to read it. You draw the way I wish I could. Just last night I spent a half hour copying your ears into my sketchbook (I always have trouble with ears). Maybe you’re my favorite illustrator, even, I’m not sure yet. I love the way you draw yourself as a child. I love the way you draw Wisconsin.

This time I checked your book out of the library. This time, unlike that day after Thanksgiving, I read your book one chapter at a time, with days in between. There was sadness, just like the first time I read, but the sadness that time had come in a wave at the very end, whereas this time the sadness lapped and licked at my ankles throughout the entire reading experience (even the days in between). I think you meant for there to be sadness, didn’t you?

Here is the one objection that I feel I need to make, Craig. On page 533 your character says, “It [Christianity] denies the beauty of being human, and it ignores all these gaps that need to be filled in by the individual.” I’ll have to say that I whole-heartedly disagree with you on those points, and maybe it will serve as inspiration for future posts here. But for now, how is this? I went to art school and worked from nude models and never once felt guilt over it, and have never ever felt that the humanness of body or spirit was belittled or made profane by an active faith. Even my mother, who rolled her eyes whenever my artist siblings and I spoke of our figure classes, never made me feel sinful for studying the human figure in this way. Maybe the members of your church told you that art is a sin and a distraction, and shame on your Sunday School teacher who said you would never draw in heaven but only spend all of your time in song, but they were wrong. I feel like you experienced one corner of the Christian world when there are certainly other corners which celebrate creativity and artfulness and the individuality that feeds and is fed by those things. I’m not clicking my tongue here and saying “It’s a pity you lost your faith.” I’m just thinking, how sad that in your experience the church severed itself from your creativity, because in doing so they cut off an incredibly talented limb. Keep drawing pictures, please.

Rapunzel, you jealous fool.

I had my first jealous dream last night. I’m actually surprised it took as long as it did to creep into my subconscious, but it found its way. It made me feel really crappy, and came along at a time that I was already beginning to question my ability to sustain a normal human relationship, so that was cool. A friend and I used to debate whether or not jealousy is a sin. I tried to make the case that it isn’t, but Galatians 5:19 makes it pretty clear: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious… hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage…” Fortunately I’ve kept my fits of rage to a minimum, but as for jealousy, it creeps up now and again. I tried to argue that jealousy can be justified, and I still think it can, but I guess there is also something very stubborn and self-interested about it. I guess it’s easier to look at it from the reverse angle–is there such a thing as healthy jealousy? Jealousy that makes you feel good? The answer to that pretty much has to be no. And I’d gladly agree to never have another jealous dream again in my life, but unfortunately I don’t have too much control over my subconscious (never quite figured out that lucid dreaming trick).

Writer friends: should my punctuation go inside or outside of the parentheses? If it boils down to a matter of preference, I think I prefer to keep it outside if the parenthetical is contained within a larger sentence, (like this). Or keep it inside if the parenthetical is a self-supporting, don’t-need-no-man-to-make-me -complete, single mother kind of sentence. (Like this.) What are the rules?

I need a haircut pretty badly, but I’ve been holding out until it’s long enough that I can donate it to Locks of Love. I’ve had it in the back of my head to do this for a few years now, but this time I’ve finally let it get to the length that it needs to be, and not a moment too soon. However, today one of my friends tipped me off to the fact that Locks of Love is actually overwhelmed with hair donations, and that much of the hair donated doesn’t get used to make wigs for children after all. I said, “No way! Hilary Swank donated her hair to Locks of Love right on the Oprah show, it must be legit!” She sent me this article. So it seems that Locks of Love, still a really wonderful organization, may very well throw my ten inches of hair into the waste bin, or, since it’s pretty healthy, might sell it to a wig company to cover their expenses. So, big whoop, I guess. If they want to sell it, why not? It will still make slightly more difference than sweeping it into the compost. I think, though, that after reading that article I will donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths instead. Which, upon visiting the website, is actually the organization that Hilary donated her hair to. My mistake.

Ascend, then, comic friends, then, Mother hen.

Last week I declared that I would be writing a post about the Ascension, which is now 11 days in the past and still, here, unwritten about. Not for lack of time, and not because I forgot about it. I just couldn’t rouse myself to the task. The message connected to the Ascension, that Christ reigns victorious, is exciting, but it is also convicting. Or at least, the message we were delivered on Ascension Sunday, which said, in simplified terms: “Jesus’ ascension to heaven (after spending 40 post-resurrection days on earth) puts him on the throne of God. He is not limited to any one physical place, as a body on earth is, but he continues his ministry–omnipresent–from there.” And then comes the convicting part: “The Ascension means that Christ ministers to others through us. As his witnesses, we are to show others that his reign of hope, healing, love, compassion, and justice has already begun. We must demonstrate this through our lives.” It’s not a passive holiday, the Ascension. Well anyway, I would probably have let it go unmentioned–I don’t have anything very insightful to add here–but I can’t stand leaving an allusion unanswered. I have also noticed that I can be very lighthearted and maybe even a tad humorous in this blog, but as soon as the topic turns to religion or faith I become immediately stiff-backed, as if I am afraid to have any fun with the matter, as if I have been convinced by ages of rigid, starch-collar, religious formalities which were actually, for the most part, absent from my religious upbringing. I think we need to take God seriously, of course, and I doubt if God minds the sobriety. But I don’t think my witness can do too much good if it gets a reputation of being boring, and readers skip past any mention of God here. God is not the dry thread that runs around my otherwise amusing life, flossing teeth perhaps. God is inextricable from all of these other parts! He is deeply entwined with my creative process, both the lighthearted and the serious. That was the original point of this Easel Ain’t Easy, after all. Time to get back, perhaps?

To say a bit about the creative process as it stands currently, then: I’m taking a break from painting. I could go into all of the details behind this decision, but I will focus on the one that is most exciting: I’m in on the ground-floor of a very promising collaborative project. It will be a graphic narrative, and the goal is to have it viewable online once things get rolling (hopefully in an ongoing form, that is, with regular updates building on the story). Our team is a solid one, featuring one award-winning author, one acclaimed graphic designer/illustrator, and myself, a… spirited believer in graphic storytelling. And, well okay, I’ve got a few credits to my name. The plan is to get things started on a small scale, and then once it’s somewhat established, to invite more creative talent into the fold. So listen, if you are an artist or a writer, don’t be surprised if you’re asked at some point to contribute. It’s a team thing!

Finally, it’s Mothers Day, so naturally I started writing a post about my mother. However, the degree to which I love my mother requires that the post be nothing short of perfect, so I’m going to sit on it a bit, work on a few more revisions, and post it sometime in the near future. In the meantime, moms are the bombs, especially mine. I love you Mom!!!

Miniature time zones, miniature daylight savings.

I’m going to try something new for a while.  Normally I have the clock in my car set seven minutes fast.  Every morning when I drive to work the digital numbers gently suggest that I am ten minutes late, but in fact I am only three minutes late.  I do this as a means of playing mind games with myself, as if perhaps by convincing myself I am running late I will actually make it to my destination on time.  But of course, by the time I am in my car it makes no difference what time I think it is, when the fact is that I did not step out my front door any sooner or later than the actual time that I did.  (The clock on my night stand is set eleven minutes ahead, but this mind game is actually somewhat effective, because I can still make decisions of motion accordingly.  Otherwise put, I can shake a tail feather.)  Well anyway, I was on my way to a meeting today and was trying to do some quick math in my head to figure out what time it actually was, and what time I would actually arrive, when it occurred to me how unnecessary the whole charade is.  I don’t even enjoy math!  So today, yes my friends, on this very day, I set the clock in my car to the actual time! We’ll see how that works out.  It’s what we here in Wisconsin call a trial run.

Oh, you call it that in other states too?  We’re so united!

Challenging a piece of blacktop.

Today I went for my first bike ride of 2008.  I rode to the grocery store to buy some garlic bread and spaghetti sauce for dinner, and then I rode to the post office to drop off a birthday card for my mom.  Now I am not the most confident biker in the world, in fact you could say that I am clumsy and uncertain.  I am made nervous by the bike lanes, or anything else that is an established part of cyclist culture, and I’m not very good about hand signals because I fear if I take my hands (even one) off of the handle bars my face will very quickly meet the pavement.  I’m terribly out of shape.  After I hit the half mile point my body turned to me and said, “And honey, what are these?  Muscles?  Why didn’t you introduce us sooner?” And then my body and my muscles exchanged email addresses and continued their flirtation there.  I would like to start riding my bike to work, but I’m nervous.  Madison is the best city for biking (so they all say) and while this fact should put me at ease, it really makes me feel like there is this elite bicyclist in-crowd and I am not part of it.  True bicyclists can sniff out a wobbly amateur from miles away.  But I won’t be intimidated for too long, no.  It’s on, bike path.  It’s on.

An animal story.

Today the weather was gorgeous; when I got home I laid out on our deck and started to read a book but quickly dozed off with my left ring finger positioned in such a way that it hurt like the Charles Dickens when I woke up an hour later. Is that a run-on sentence? I watched a squirrel scitter across the fence which circles our back yard. When I was in middle school we had a pet squirrel. His name was Buster. One spring morning my dad was working in the back yard and these two baby squirrels ran up to his leg and wanted to play. He put them back in the woods and returned to work, but minutes later they were back. Their mother had been killed by a car (we think) and they were orphans, happy, scampery orphans without any fear of man. All of this happened while I was away at softball practice (or some similar middle school happening) and when my dad picked me up he had an ice cream pail with these two baby squirrels in it. We named them Chip and Dale, but eventually one of them died so we had to rename the surviving squirrel Buster. He became our pet. And when I say pet, I mean it. He loved us and we loved him, and we cuddled him and played with him and taught him little squirrel tricks. He was not dirty, he was not vicious, he was a friend. One day we had to let him go back into the wild. It was sad, but the right thing to do. The first night after we let him go he stayed right there in his squirrel bed. Maybe the second night too. But eventually he remembered that he was a wild creature, and he climbed up into a tree, and then he was gone. We would see him from time to time, but he wasn’t a pet anymore, and we weren’t friends of his. It was man and nature, back in the original order of things. But we would always remember him and years later some of us would write about him in our blogs.

So there, even though I am tired and would rather take a very early bed time, I went ahead and told you a cozy little story about friendly forest animals. Now off to bed, all of you.

Marissa, have you missed me?

I’m getting to know some of my audience here at Easel Ain’t Easy. There are still surprises, from time to time, someone I know will reference something I blogged about and I will remember that this is out there, in the public realm, and just about anyone could read it. Which is good, don’t get me wrong, and it’s fun to have those surprises. But there are a few people whom I can always count on to read, and read with regularity, and recently one of these loyal readers called me out on the fact that I haven’t been writing lately. Well, I could counter with excuses about how busy things have been with work and art and social events, but no one wants to hear excuses, let alone read about them, so instead I’ll just jump back in, as if nothing has changed.

To this friend who reminded me that I was neglecting my duties as a blogger, I promised that my next post would be about her, so as to soothe the soul so troubled by my absence (thought I would get liberal with my syntax there, you know, stretch the atrophied writing muscle a bit). So here, M____, here it is!

M____ and I hung out one day, back when I was living in San Diego, back when she was visiting our mutual friend Sarah, back before she and I were technically friends yet. Sarah had to work one day and so M____ and I made plans to get touristy a bit while we waited for her shift to end. I happen to have a brief document of this moment in history, thanks to my now-offline blog entitled “Pacific For Now.” You will notice that I changed M____’s name at the time of writing, which was a precaution I was taking at the time due to an unrelated incident (details unimportant here.) Anyway, I later told M____ that I had blogged about her and changed her name, and she naturally wanted to know the name I changed her to. I couldn’t remember, at the time, and so here for the first time, M____ and all the rest of the world, is the post that started it all:

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Today [Marissa] and I went to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, and later to the Jenny Holzer lecture at the MCASD in La Jolla. Jenny provided some great insight into her work, and on top of that she was very humble, which is not something I tend to expect of any world-renowned artist. It was a very artful day, and the end result is that I’m jumping out of my skin to be an artist. I would love to. One of the docents at the Museum of Art talked with Marissa and I for a while and I mentioned to him that one day they might have one of my paintings at their museum, and he just kind of laughed and said that they might have a whole exhibit of my work.

I actually spent a fair part of the day painting yesterday, but there is still much work to be done. It’s been really aimless so far, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s definitely at an awkward stage. I’m taking pictures in progress, so I’ll post those here when I’m all done. And then someone can make me an offer, and be the proud owner of the first thing I’ve painted in California! What a deal! Everybody wins!

And here is what I love about blogging. A) I had completely forgotten that M____ and I went to see Jenny Holzer after the art museum. That’s something I shouldn’t forget! And now, thanks to an old blog, I won’t have to. It also triggers other memories that I hadn’t blogged about, such as when we went to dinner at the little strip mall cafe in La Jolla and flirted with the waiter and then left him Sarah’s phone number. Remembering things is fun! And B) that painting of which I so cockily predicted its sale (though I’m sure I was more ironically poking fun at myself) actually did sell last year. And someone is now the (hopefully) proud owner of not the first thing I painted in California, but so far the only thing I painted in California. If you don’t blog already, you might want to consider it. Who doesn’t get endless amusement from checking the past against the present?

Anyway, today was Ascension Sunday, and the message in church was pretty great, and later today I had a conversation with a dear friend that was similarly great, I mean, really encouraging. If I had written M____’s post yesterday I would write about these other things today, but as it is I think I’ll save them for Monday material. Knowing this, you can plan your day accordingly.

(Edit:  After publishing, it occurred to me that maybe M____ wouldn’t care to have her name included here, so I went back and took it out.  M____, if you’d prefer to have your 10 minutes of blog-fame, let me know!)

The Queasy Surgeon.

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