A Year Ago, In Germany

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 6
It’s not me, but it’s kinda me. Image: Wikipedia.

Every once in awhile, I allow myself to dip into the past and see what was what when the Earth was last in this exact(ish) spot in relation to the Sun.

That is how it works, right? If that’s wrong, my Earth-to-Sun relationship comment, then we know absolutely nothing has changed since last year, as I am forever getting things like that wrong. I know I’m supposed to be horribly embarrassed but somehow never am!

As I thought about doing a dip into the ol’ PG archives, which you should know are kept here on the internet and not in the Library of Congress YET, it dawned on me what I’d find: Germany.

This time last year, I was in Germany. I went to Berlin last winter, during my break from grad school to visit my friend Claus and the trip was … Wow. But not like, Vegas-wow. More like Band-Aid-rip-off-wow-that-hurt-wow. Ow-wow, in other words.

If you’re reading this right now, there are three possibilities regarding the unfolding of The Germany Trip here on the ol’ PG:

  1. You’ve been reading me for at least a year and you totally remember The Germany Trip and you’re making this wince face. I am making a tired face, but I was wincing a second ago.
  2. You’ve been reading me for a long time but have a selective memory, so you’ve selected to forget how I traveled thousands of miles and found myself touring a Stasi prison in January, in Berlin, as fat, wet snowflakes fell on my head … for love.
  3. You’re new! And you’re interested now for sure.

If that last one is you, boy, are you in luck! I happen to have a veritable bouquet of links for you.

Perhaps begin with this post, wherein I announced my plans for the trip. Oh, what a happy lass I was, playing in the fields of low-cost international airfares. Then read this, where I’m a week out from leaving and full of anticipation and curiosity. Then move to this post, which finds me physically safe in Germany … but emotionally perilous.

After that, it’s a domino, really; this post is pretty pathetic, tone-wise. Content-wise. Heartwise. (Or not-so-wise, I guess? Hard to say.) And this one, yikes. 

Anyway, that was pretty much exactly right now, a year ago, the Germany trip. My word but it was cold over there. Good hot chocolate, though, and I rode the bus all by myself. By the way, if either of us get too melancholy reaching into the mists of yesteryear, there’s always this post from a year ago next week, which is a script in which a woman (me) has a fight with her vacuum.

Also, what’s up with mid-January bringing “ow” to me two years in a row?

I blame the Sun.

Pendennis Picks Plays!

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 1
High school kids doing a musical. From such humble beginnings... Image: Wikipedia.
High school kids doing a musical. From such humble beginnings… Image: Wikipedia.


If you like to put on little plays in your living room, this is the blog for you, as sometimes I write little plays. Some might be more “dialogues” than plays, but it won’t matter if you really want to have some fun. Grab a buddy and go back and forth! All these scripts are what my actress friend Kristina calls “two-handers”, or plays for two people.

Here are three of my favorite scripts. One is from almost five years ago!

  1. How I Imagine the Interview for Employment Goes at This One Coffee Shop on Michigan Avenue
    If this is the way it goes, at least it will explain a few things for Lord’s sake.
  2. ‘Cynthia!’ A 10-Minute Play
    A fan favorite. And last summer, I got someone way better than Cynthia, by the way: I got Carmen!
  3. ‘I’ll Be Entertaining This Weekend’
    So… This is really funny, you guys. It’s old. And it still made me laugh. So check this one out for sure. (I am so weird.)

Mary In The Weeds

Pendennis Picks Three!

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 3
A picture of the Kosovo Ballet troupe performing "Flight towards the light" in 2013. Why not? Image: Wikipedia.
A picture of the Kosovo Ballet troupe performing “Flight towards the light” in 2013. Why not? Image: Wikipedia.


I’m afraid Doctor Faustus is not finished Fausting himself into a froth, yet — and the clock is ticking.

Since going two days without posting doesn’t feel right — but I really do need to keep turning pages and finish two big articles for the newspaper — tonight I’m going to lean on Pendennis to select from my robust archive not one, not two, but three posts he thinks are worth going back and checking out. Everyone wins!

For your enjoyment, the monkey has selected:

  1. Pesto Recipe… From the PaperGirl Kitchen
    Wherein I talk about pesto and tell you how I make mine and possibly confuse you but it’s fun.
  2. If You Can, You Must
    A fan favorite from 2014. Still true.
  3. ‘Colleen, This One’s For You’
    A year ago next month, I met one of the sweetest ladies ever, quite by a hilarious accident. I love you, Colleen.

Pendennis would like you to note that a PaperGirl Archive Roundup like you have just been given might happen again in the next couple of days if I don’t get some of my homework done. He is very serious about this.

Think of archive posts like reruns! Sometimes they’re sort of comforting.

One Year Ago Today, Feeling Nervous and Doing It Anyway: The Larkin Quilt

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 9
Larkin, detail. I have a knot I need to fix. Don't look at it! Photo: Me.
Larkin, detail. I have a knot I need to fix. Don’t look at it! Photo: Me.


Tonight, because I am trying to take ‘er easy on the ol’ hemogoblins, a selection from the vast PaperGirl archive One year ago this very day, I wrote about my fear and love of hand quilting.

Before you click, though.

The passage of time blows my mind. I mean, I was just there, quilting that quilt, sitting in that chair, watching The Office, wondering what grad school would be like. (I got my acceptance letter in late May, so the grad school thing was a fresh development, thus I thought/dreamed/stressed about it a lot.) The calendar read June, 2016, and wow, does June, 2016 seem like a distant, different world from June 2017. There’s a lot that can hardly be recognized a year later,: personally, professionally, romantically. Politically. Things certainly look different, politically-speaking, in 2017. You may heave noticed.

My first hand-quilted quilt is one of my favorite quilts ever. It’s so bad. It looks like Sashiko, that’s how big the stitches are in some spots. But I love it so much. It’s mine and it’s my first. That’s enough. More than enough.

Your first attempt at anything won’t be “perfect”, so do it anyway. Do it imperfectly. I give you permission.


From The PaperGirl Archive: “I Met Tim Gunn!”

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 4
Tim Gunn backstage during New York Fashion Week, 2009. Image: Wikipedia.
Tim Gunn backstage during New York Fashion Week, 2009. Image: Wikipedia.


Remember when I met Tim Gunn at the Met in New York City? If you’re a new PaperGirl reader, you probably don’t know this happened at all — but it did! 

Tonight, I send you to that story because a) it’s a great one, and b) I have a paper due.

Mary Katherine

PaperGirl Throwback: “Strands.”

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 3
Combing Hair by Hashiguchi Goyo, Japan, 1920, Woodblock print, Honolulu Museum of Art. Image: Wikipedia
Combing Hair by Hashiguchi Goyo, Japan, 1920, Woodblock print, Honolulu Museum of Art. Image: Wikipedia

Jefferson City was phenomenal.

Thank you to all my new friends. What fun it was to be with you, to dig quilts with you; what fun it was for me to wear Cookie Monster onesie pajamas while serving as your keynote speaker. I fear the Facebook photos of last night’s event, as a Cookie Monster onesie from Target is not what you might consider flattering, exactly, and that thing is gonna be all over Missouri quilter Facebook pages, I suspect — but I’ve only got myself to blame. And heck, I’d do it again. There was a velcro cookie in the pocket!

I’m home in Chicago in my favorite chair. I’ve got a pile of work in front of me and an early morning. Therefore, I direct you to a post from this spring in which my dear friend Claus — I miss you terribly tonight, dear Claus, terribly, terribly, horribly — brushed my hair. Small gestures like that, they can take us into outer space.

This is the post called “Strands.”


From The PaperGirl Archive: “This Be The Flight”

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 2
Airline meal ad detail, c. 1953. Image: Wikipedia.
Airline meal ad detail, c. 1953. Image: Wikipedia.

The survey results are coming, I promise. Until then, I’ve been fascinated by some of the answers to the question, “Any PaperGirl entries stick out in your mind over the years?”

This one got several nods. In the interest of getting some sleep for heaven’s sakes, today’s post is archival. WARNING: This story involves “cute” little girls that aren’t, actually, a stern airline attendant, and farts.  And if that doesn’t make you want to check it out, surely this will:

“Gracie! Gracie! Gracie! Gracie! Gracie! Gracie. Gracie!”


"Secret Correspondence" by Carl von Bergen, Germany, 1891. Image: Wikipedia.
“Secret Correspondence” by Carl von Bergen, Germany, 1891. Image: Wikipedia.

A couple thoughts on the blog. I will employ sub-headings for organizational purposes. I’ve been working all day and don’t feel confident I can weave anything elegant right now. Thanks, sub-heading!

1. I like it when you read it. 
When I’m out teaching and speaking and dragging my suitcase around, folks come up to me and say, “I hope you don’t think I’m a stalker, but I read your blog… I have to ask: how’s your health? How are you dealing with Claus being gone? Congratulations on grad school! When do you start??” and so forth. Sometimes the person asking is sheepish in the extreme; they feel like they’re intruding. Don’t be sheepish! Actually, sheeps are cute, so be sheepish in a cute way, but know that I love that you read my blog. I write PaperGirl for you. I write it for myself, too; this is me practicing scales almost every day, trying to be a better writer like a flutist is trying to be a better flutist. This blog affords me opportunities to use the world flutist and say it in my mind: FLAU-tist. Now that’s entertainment. But yes: I love when I meet people who read the ol’ PG and you can ask me whatever you like. I reserve the right not to tell you, but I probably will tell you even more than you wanted to know.

2. The secret to a successful blog: consistency and variety.
I’m teaching my blog class at the University of Chicago in a couple weeks and have been working on my syllabus. The research is confirming what I knew already: the secret to a good blog is consistency and variety. This is what I say when I’m asked about blogging and this is what I’ll share with my students. You can’t expect to keep readers if you post once a month, then three times in a week, then three months later, then two weeks later, and so on. That’s true for any blog, be it political, mommy, foodie, or otherwise. What is also true is that variety is the spice of blogs. If I tried to be funny-ish 100% of the time or earnest 100% of the time or anxious 100% of the time or weird 100% of the time, I’d get bored, you’d get bored, and, worse even than that, we’d all be missing out on the breadth of the human experience. This is true even in a foodie blog. I want to hear about the bad meals as well as the good meals. Maybe that’s just me.

3. I still won’t advertise.
I should. I could. But I won’t. I hate those ads. I hate them so much. I hate how web ads know that I just looked at underpants on Amazon but didn’t buy them so now they want to get me to buy them someplace else. I can’t do it to you or to me, friends. PaperGirl is an oasis for me and I hope it is for you, too, just for a minute or two in your Internet life. No ads. Ever. I promise.


“Why’s It Called PaperGirl, Grandma?” (Archive)

posted in: PaperGirl Archive, Poetry 1
WWII propaganda poster by Fougasse; ironic appropriation by me.
WWII propaganda poster by Fougasse; ironic appropriation by me.

“Why’s it called ‘PaperGirl,’ grandma?”

“Sit on my knee, child, and I’ll tell you.”

“Can I have a another cooky first? You tell long stories.”

“Here. Anything else?”


“Good. Okay, then, PaperGirl. Well, once upon a time, long ago, I wrote a poem.”

“What was it called?”

“I’m getting to it. It was called ‘The Paper Poem,’ and it was an extended metaphor about the nature of existence being fragile like paper, but beautiful, too, like paper is beautiful.”

“What’s paper?”

“Before your time.”

“Oh. Your poem sounds cool, grandma.”

“I liked it. Other people liked it, too, and I performed it in many places all over the country.”

“Like in Bismark?”

“No, never actually in Bismark, I don’t think. Maybe. It was a long time ago. Anyway, there’s a verse where I say ‘I will be your paper girl,’ and that’s where ‘PaperGirl’ comes from.”

“What’s the verse?”

“You want to hear the whole verse?”

“Is it long?”

“No, it’s not long. It’s the second-to-last verse of the poem and it goes like this:

But if you are a paper doll, too, then I shall know you on sight,
And if you are with me, come with me tonight; I will match up our bodies
by the tears in our arms —
We will form paper barricades against matchstick harm;
I will make paper love to you for as long as I can in this shreddable world;
I will be your paper girl.

“That’s nice, grandma.”


“And you named your blog that because of that poem?”

“Yes. And PaperGirl is the name of my LLC, too. And that small island I bought. And the Beaux Arts building you like so much in Paris. And my foundation in Dubai and all the vineyards in Spain. Everything in my empire, it’s all under the PaperGirl umbrella.”

“I wanna go to the zoo and see a rhinoceros.”

“Get your coat.”

[NOTE: I’ve been asked lately why the blog is called what it is, so it seemed fair to offer this again, an entry originally posted on this date.]

A PaperGirl Compendium: Diving In.

posted in: Art, PaperGirl Archive 0
There can be no other. Leuchtturm 1917 Large Ruled Notebooks.
There can be no other. Leuchtturm 1917 Large Ruled Notebooks.

I’m not sure that it takes a village to raise a child; a few capable women can get the job done before the rest of the village wakes up. My single mom did a solid job with my sisters and me, but she had help from friends. Katy, her best friend for a long time, is the woman I refer to as “my second mom.” Katy has soothed, instructed, corrected, encouraged, congratulated, and supported me my whole life; she’s grieved with me and sorted things out with me, too. She’s not my mom; she’s my second mom — and that’s a beautiful thing.

Katy recently retired. We agree this is the beginning of an exciting time in her life. I sent her a present to mark the occasion, something I hoped could be of use: a Leuchtturm 1917 Large Ruled Notebook, a.k.a.,The Best Journal In The World. She might be compelled to write; in my view, major life transitions (really, all experiences) are best handled on paper. She might write songs in the notebook, or draw in it, or use it for grocery lists. She might not use it at all, and that’s okay, too. I just want her to have the best if she’s going to keep a journal of any kind. She deserves the best.

I’ve mentioned my journaling before, probably too much, but sending Katy a fresh Leuchtturm journal (and no, I can’t pronounce it, either) stirred me to truly make a start on a major project. I have a dream. The dream is a compendium. Here’s what that is:

compendium |kəmˈpendēəm|
noun (pl. compendiums or compendia |-dēə| ): a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, esp. in a book or other publication.
• a collection of things, esp. one systematically gathered: the program is a compendium of outtakes from our archives

A collection — a book — of detailed information about a particular subject, systematically gathered. I want to make one. On what subject, you ask? Dolphins. I have to write about dolphins.


No, the compendium would be about me. My life. As reported here, in PaperGirl, and in my offline journals (most of which are Leuchtturm 1917 Large Ruled Notebooks, you see? Ah!) Pictures, drawings, poems. Handwritten, typed, copy of all kinds, metaphorically written in blood. Metaphors. Similes. All kinds of things, but mostly words on the only subject on which I am an expert: myself. If I do it right, it could be a real slice o’ life page turner. I mean, come on. I’ve got near-death experiences, torrid love affairs, physical agony, an affinity for large cities, and countless journeys around America by plane. I’ve got an ongoing existential crisis, a thirst to make and bear witness to art, and I write silly poems for fun. It’s all here in the blog and what isn’t here is in the journals.

Hot Tip: For those of you who own a copy of my book, look at the dedication. It says, “For A.” Can you guess who “A” is?  “A” is my journal. I dedicated my book…to my book. That’s how serious I am about these things.

And so into my suitcase to go to Seattle tomorrow, I have packed all my medicine, my special snacks, my clothes, laptop cords, and two journals, one from 2009, one from 2011. I need to start digging into my material. It won’t be easy. I will cringe. I might cry. I will roll my eyes and furrow my brow.

That’s life. And it’s all there. Waiting.

PaperGirl Rides Again!

posted in: PaperGirl Archive 11
Pin for WWII Victory Girls, who were the real Rosie The Riveters, I've learned. It's not that I have a huge thing for the WWII ladies, but the images are just so great.
Pin for WWII Victory Girls, who were the real Rosie The Riveters, I’ve learned. It’s not that I have a huge thing for the WWII ladies, but the images are just so great.

Good gravy that was awful!

The server. It had problems. There had to be a migration. The migration, it had problems. I was without you. Lost. Lost at sea. Lost at sea with no peanut butter. Lost at sea with no peanut butter, no coffee.

It was horrible! And over my birthday, too! What a rip-off!

Well, anyhow, PaperGirl and the site are both back up, obviously, and I apologize for any inconvencience. If not being able to access my blog rates anywhere near an inconvenience for even a handful of people, why, I’ve made it in this world.

Tomorrow, I can begin making the changes to the website I’ve long needed to make (turns out the server problem had to be handled first, bleh) and a fresh paper — PaperGirl, that is. What will we discover, friend? I’m considering observations on anything from Door County, Wisconsin, to turning [REDACTED] years old yesterday, or perhaps I’ll offer Reasons To Adore Yuri, or explain the kitten puppet I bought and named Belli. I promise no politics, no people-bashing, and no harsh language

Does that make my blog frivolous?

It does??

Welcome home, baby!

From the PaperGirl Archives: “Mary Fons, Freshman,” January 30, 2012

Dutch magazine illustration. I love those dresses so much!
Dutch magazine illustration circa 1880; artist unknown. Lord, I love those dresses!

Yuri is tending to a bit of business while he’s in town. This means I have an hour to spend with you. You look lovely this morning.

Trying to write anything right now that is not a frothy, gooey paean to the strapping young man in my life/house is useless: he’s all I can think about and our reunion has been most happy, but because I refuse to be gross, I’ve rifled through the big red binder and have a little something for you today from the PaperGirl Archive. I promise you’ll be entertained, and there’s no risk of me TMI’ing about Yuri’s perfect, uh, everything.

The entry, titled “Mary Fons, Freshman,” is dated January 30, 2012, and I chose it because it makes this post a post-within-a-post that also digs into the past for old writing. It’s so meta, I’m practically metallic. Bon-apetit!

PaperGirl, January 30, 2012 — “Mary Fons, Freshman”

And now, a report I found amongst my the boxes of things my mother delivered to me in her quest to rid the house in Iowa of questionably saved childhood artifacts.

This essay (?) was written my freshman year of high school, which means I was writing at the tender age of fourteen. I am more than a little scandalized by my flip, bratty attitude — and more than a little proud, friends. As I type this up for you, I remain indignant over the indelicate circumstances that compelled my math teacher to give the assignment. I’ve copied and formatted exactly, word-for-word, from the document itself.

Let’s do this.

“Under normal circumstances, I couldn’t give a damn about the history of mathematics, but since the students in my math class can’t seem to control their gastrol [sic] intestines, I am forced to write this report. Having encyclopedias from 1962, it makes it difficult to find an abundance of information on anything other than Lincoln, so my one and only source will be my math textbook, Transition Mathematics, (Scott, Foresman, 1992, All rights reserved.)


Do you recognize these numbers? 

0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9

You ought to, you’re a math teacher. We use numbers every day. But have you ever wondered how they came about? Well, I haven’t either, but I’ll tell you anyway. 

Long ago, the Greeks and Romans had a number system. It’s wasn’t like ours — they used the letters of their alphabet to represent numbers. The Greeks used more letters than the Romans, which is a totally pointless bit of info but is has to be a page report and I have absolutely no material at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I am one of the only ones in my class who actually completes this assignment! Anyhow, the Romans used L for fifty, C for one-hundred, D for five-hundred, and T for two. Europeans used this system from 100 B.C. to 1400 A.D.

During this time, the Hindus were hard at work on their own number system, which is the system we use today. It was called the DECIMAL SYSTEM! This system is the one that has made my life a living hell ever since preschool. I have never been good at math. If I was, I wouldn’t be having to deal with high schoolers who can’t stop farting. (Excuse the term, it’s so blue-collar.) But I digress.

The Europeans didn’t figure out the decimal system until 1202 A.D. A guy named Leonardo of Pisa, an Italian mathematician also known as Fibonacci, translated the Arabic manuscript into Latin, and that was the only reason the Europeans ever began using this system. Thus ends my report on THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR NUMBER SYSTEM. Thank you.

Now, because I still have a half a page left, I will express my opinion on this situation. It saddens to me know that my fellow classmates cannot grasp the fact that they are in high school. Maybe farting was funny in second grade, but not anymore; at least not to me, or anyone else with an I.Q. over ten. Frankly, I’m scared. Are these the leaders of tomorrow? If so, for God’s sake, kill me now.”

[end of post]

My teacher put a red X through the words damn and “living hell” and docked me 10 points. It may not surprise you that I was considered fairly nerdy in high school, though socially-speaking, I was a floater: I had nerd friends, chorus friends, partying friends, and my older sister’s supercool friends, so I wasn’t terminally nerdy. But the general consensus was that I was a good at English, nice enough, and in no way serious girlfriend material.

Today, I absolutely think farts are funny and I am one happy girlfriend. Things do change.