Wallpaper, Hang It All

posted in: Art, Paean, Tips | 11
1024px-Carberry_Tower_-_Monarch_Double_Bedroom
Not my bedroom. BUT IT COULD BE. Image: Wikipedia.

 

I want to hang wallpaper.

Correction: I want a professional wallpaper person to hang wallpaper for me. I love the way wallpaper looks. It’s like fabric, right? Printed cloth for the walls. I’ve shopped and found some I like very much; it’s now a matter of getting it ordered and installed.

My love for wallpaper runs deep. Out on Meadowlark Farm, when I was a small, small person, I ran through room after room of tiny floral prints on all the various wallpapers of our farmhouse. (I do recall one wallpaper featured a big paisley, though; forgive my parents for decorating a house on a budget, in the mid-1970s.)

The kitchen got a buttercream yellow wallpaper; the upstairs bedroom got navy blue wallpaper with tiny pink rosebuds and leaves. There was another, paler blue in the living room, and I remember fiddling with the seams that ran down the wall. Thought I don’t specifically remember getting in trouble for picking the peeling paper, that obviously must’ve happened.

Wallpaper makes me think of my mom.

I believe she and my dad hung the wallpaper together out on the farm, but I wasn’t around yet to see either of them papering any walls. When it comes to Mom and wallpaper, my mental image involves her alone: not with Dad. I see Mom scraping wallpaper off the walls of our new, not-yet-inhabitable house in town after Dad left us for the last time and we left him for good. I’m just sure she scraped wallpaper by herself, standing up on a ladder; I’ll have to ask my mother if she hung new paper after she was done. Sometimes, you can’t remember these things.

I can tell you, however, that if she didn’t hang paper, she painted. And then she went off to make money to feed our family. We had support from our friends and Gramma, but when I think about my mom during the time of the divorce and our move into town from being out in the country, I picture my mother scraping wallpaper on a ladder in a bare room. Then I see the whole house, and how wonderful she made it by the end.

Hm.

When I started this post, I only wanted to write about how I want wallpaper in my condo, how I have wanted to put some up for a couple years, now. I wanted to ask if anyone in the Chicago area could recommend an honest/speedy paper-hanger.

My intention wasn’t to talk about my childhood, or the pain of my parents’ divorce, or the memory I have of a very lean and scary time when Mom had the weight of the world on her shoulders and my father disappeared in a cloud of confusion and angst. It wasn’t my intention to write about any of that; I just wanted to talk about the wonders of wallpaper.

(Maybe I did.)

PaperGirl Mailbag: Marshall Field’s Lace.

posted in: PaperGirl Mailbag | 6
Sherry's lace, via my scanner.
Sherry’s lace, via my scanner.

 

Not all the ideas I have are good. I’m not always cool, not always winning. There was the time I took a shower in New Orleans and didn’t put on new jeans and my underpants fell out of my pants in front of everyone. And when I wiped out at the pizza place in the Portland airport and flinged* wine all over the whole world, that was lame. But sometimes… Sometimes I hit gold.

The PaperGirl mailbox. Now there was a great idea.

You people just need to get out of town, okay? Just get out. Get right on out of town with yourselves. I have with me now a stack of the most incredible, awesome, fabulous letters you have ever seen in your life. Phyllis, Mark, Dottie, Joan, Karen (Kater!!), Catherine, Annabelle, L—, and Lindsey (we’ll get to you in the next PaperGirl Mailbag post, missy) you all just have to get out of town with these letters! I waited till I had a moment’s peace and then I sat back in the good recliner that I only use for very special occasions and read each letter with great relish. I had a glass of prosecco while I did it and I even used a letter opener so as not to ruin anything, anything. For the record, there may be no gesture in the world that communicates “I am a grown-up” more fully than opening a letter with a letter opener. Well, opening a letter with a letter opener and then taking a sip of prosecco. I hardly recognized myself!

All the letters are extraordinary. Tonight, I must highlight the one that came from Sherry, in Indiana. When I opened the letter, there was a piece of beautiful lace inside. Here’s what the letter said.

Hey, Mary!

P.O. box at the Merchandise Mart? I love Chicago, too, and all the connections with Marshall Field, architecture, noise, energy, stuff.

Here is my Box Warming gift for you: lace cut from a 4-yard length obtained for Ethel Field’s wedding dress in 1891. (Marshall’s daughter.) The newspaper account says her dress was tulle, but what do they know??

Daisy Cornick, and old family friend of my parents and one-time floorwalker in the fabric department of Marshall Field’s State Street store fetched it when she worked there as a young woman. After my girls were born and a couple of years before she died in the early ’60s, she gave it to me along with other lace pieces — narrow trim, and shorter lengths — for their wedding dresses. Such a sweet gesture, but too gorgeous and fragile and historical to use. Aside from small pieces used for trim or embellishment, it’s been tucked in a box in my studio for cdecades, waiting for the perfect reason to whack off a piece and share!

Was any of the lace used for her dress? I don’t know. But the story is true. And fun.

Thanks for the PaperGirl blog!

Love,
Sherry B.

And then there was a little p.s., hand-written, about how Sherry has met my mom and how we have acquaintances in common because of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

Sherry, thank you. I’m going to take this to my Micro/Macro fibers class next week! Or at least I’ll keep it with the other incredible textile bits I have been getting (along with their stories) from readers like you. I mentioned the idea of a PaperGirl Retreat someday (and I’m really letting my mind wander on that, by the way); but maybe there will be a PaperGirl Museum before long.

I’m saving all the letters and everyone who writes will get a hand-written note back. That’s a promise. I love hand-written correspondence!

*Nope. Not a real word, unless you’re me, in the Portland airport several months ago, turfing out with wine.

That’s My Dad.

posted in: Day In The Life, Family | 1
From R-L: Dad, Me. Photo: My Aunt Leesa.
From L-R: Dad, Me. Photo: My Aunt Leesa.

I was going through the dumb iPhoto album on this dumb laptop, looking for a dumb picture that apparently is in my old laptop’s dumb iPhoto album, though it’s likely it could be in either my dumb desktop iPhoto album or my old desktop iPhoto album, which is also dumb. I have sworn that when this laptop dies, I am switching to a Windows Surface thing. Seriously, I am doing that. The Mac cloud has failed me too many times and Steve Jobs is dead. These are facts, and I never found that picture I was looking for.

Another fact: that guy up there is my dad, and this was a picture that I didn’t mean to find. There aren’t many pictures of my dad on any of my computers. There are barely any on the Internet; I found two. Now there are three.

Dad and Jane were traveling through California while I was visiting my favorite Auntie in Sacramento some months ago. I got nervous when the prospect of them dropping by came up; I hadn’t seen my dad in over five years. But I agreed. What was I gonna do? Say no? No, because that just isn’t my style, even if my stomach hurt terribly that morning and I bit my thumb cuticle on my left hand till I drew blood.

Aunt Leesa and I made muffins; the meetup was going to be brunch at her house. We made strong coffee. My auntie knows how I feel about my dad (complicated) and she knows the early story of my family (lousy, complicated) but she’s not a Ground Zero Crewmember so she’s about the best person on the planet to sit next to at brunch if you’re me and Dad’s across the table. She also grew up with the guy, so she knows when he’s, you know. Full of muffin. Which he is.

I could write a novel about how that two-hour brunch went, what with all the labyrinthine thought processes running through memory and curiosity at the same time, trying to result in conversation not emotional but still genuine, not slow-burn rage-y but not without bite. You want those who have hurt you to hear a little bite in your voice, don’t you? We all want to punish, even while we eat bacon. Especially while we eat bacon.

You know what’s weird? Writing PaperGirl.

 

Symbols, Marriage, Night.

posted in: Day In The Life | 2
There was hydrangea at my wedding. Photo: Wikipedia
There was hydrangea at my wedding. Photo: Wikipedia

I do not think marriage is a bad thing. Not only do I not think that, what a stupid thing it would be to say, to say that marriage is unequivocally bad. Some marriages are bad, some are never bad, some are bad sometimes and get better, some are great and will become bad, and sometimes — most of the time, I hear — they fluctuate between good, sorta or acutely bad, mundane, and ultimately great even if it takes awhile.

Last night I had a dream I was to remarry my ex-husband, but I decided, in secret, as I looked for my dress in a U-Haul storage facility that I couldn’t do it. It was less about him and more about me, which is frequently the case in an identity crisis.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the top five google searches people do on me is “mary fons husband” followed closely by “mary fons divorce.” I get fan letters from prison, so I wonder if “mary fons husband” is searched by hopeful guys with just a few months left inside. It’s probably just run-of-the-mill curiosity though; in early episodes on TV I wore a ring and at one point, I did not. What happened?

Speaking about my brief marriage is unwise for a number of reasons, but it happened nonetheless; it’s my life and I can tell if I want to. But I don’t want to, usually, and there are/were two people involved, one of which has not decided to put his life into words in public.

I understand my ex-husband remarried and will soon have kids. It used to be that you heard news like that from the next village over, and at least a few days late. Well, the Internet you use is your village; the Internet I use is my village and now we hear or collect news from all the villages down the road whenever we please. I wasn’t looking for that news (honestly) but there it was, shared with me by Facebook, the town crier, the gossip, the one who travels far and wide and brings back all the stuff we probably don’t need to know and usually don’t want to know.

In my dream, I realized I didn’t have to marry again — not to him, but at all, ever, if I don’t want to — and that was the first time in the dream I didn’t feel scared.

 

“Let’s Just Read.”

posted in: Family | 1
Me, not so much. Perhaps because of the story below. Photo: Wikipedia
Me, not so much. Perhaps because of the story below. Photo: Wikipedia

Starting when I was in fourth grade, my sisters, my mom and I were on our own. Divorce had axed our family and as my sisters and I picked splinters out of our hair, Mom went about basically gut-rehabbing — by herself — my Aunt Katherine and late Uncle Rodney’s house in town. The house wasn’t habitable for months and we couldn’t go back to the family farm, so we stayed with friends until we could move in. I still remember the smell of paint when we finally slept in the house on Jefferson Street. I will always love the smell of fresh paint.

Our home was constantly full of people. Rebecca was in elementary school and had her best friends over for sleepovers; I was in junior high and not a total social leper so I was able to entertain; Hannah was in high school and her crew was large and left-of-center, so there were usually interesting conversations going on in the kitchen and the backyard because the kitchen had a fridge and the backyard had a hammock.

The dinner table was big enough for us and at least three friends. But when Mom wasn’t on a business trip (I go on these same trips today, something I never anticipated and cannot imagine doing with three daughters at home)  so most of the time it was just the four of us. We talked and talked and shared all the stories from school and Mom’s trips. We laughed, we fought. Hannah did this thing where she’d steal Rebecca’s milk when Biccy wasn’t looking and it drove my little sister crazy. Again and again, Hannah would steal her milk and finally had to stop when Rebecca got big enough to successfully execute sororicide.* But there was another kind of dinner.

My family is a reading family, but we weren’t allowed to read at the table. But there would be times when Mom would call us all to dinner and all of us — Mom included — would put down whatever book we were engrossed in and loaf to the dinner table, reluctant to stop reading. Those nights, we weren’t interested in talking because we were still thinking about our books. The table would be pretty quiet. Then Mom would look at us, slurping pasta. We’d look at Mom, drinking her milk. She’d smile and whisper in a mischievous way:

“Let’s just read!”

We’d whoop and all run for our books and finish dinner together in silence, turning pages, until we were full.

*It’s true. There’s a word for murdering your sister. Share it with any fifteen-year-old in your life who has a ten-year-old sister. She’ll love it. 

I Fell Through The Ice.

posted in: Story | 2
I'm interested in the guy in the background who looks like he's about to mow down his livestock with a wood-chopping axe. 1820's illustration courtesy Wikipedia.
I’m interested in the guy in the background who looks like he’s about to mow down his livestock with a wood-chopping axe. 1820’s illustration courtesy Wikipedia.

I’m in Door County and will stay for about a week. There are many fun things to see and do up here. The last time I was at our family’s lake house there was a wedding taking place. There are no weddings going on right now because a) no one is engaged and b) hypothermia is real.

Washington Island is cold this time of year. Right now it’s five degrees outside. The Island has a year-round population of 660, which means 660 people don’t think a winter this cold and snowy is that big of a deal, though I think the number is misleading: there have to be some folks who take off for Daytona Beach for, say, the months of January and February. They’d still count as year-round, probably.

But cold and the ice make beautiful air and beautiful pictures, and that I’m here at all proves I like that air and those pictures a lot. When a bright sun shines off a subzero Lake Michigan and you’re on the puffy couch, with tea, counting swans, you don’t mind that you have to wear two coats later and pull on actual long underwear if you want to go on a walk.

Today, I fell through the ice on the lake and that was not great. When I say I “fell through the ice,” I mean that I fell through the ice. And when I say I fell through the ice, I meant that I took one step, then another step, then fell through the ice. I was not submerged. But I went down and I felt water. I was walking on the table rocks at the shore and, like an idiot, pranced over to look at a plant completely encased in ice that looked like glass and did not picture in my mind what the ground is like when it is not covered in ice, itself: big rocks with lots of spaces between them. In the summer, water is flowing around these rocks. Ergo, in winter, ice around the rocks. Ice that will surely be varying levels of thickness.

I’m okay. No blood, just sputtering. And don’t worry, I wasn’t alone. Claus was with me. When he heard the crash-splash, he ran to make sure I was okay but he didn’t come too far out on the ice. He could see I was going to make it. And I did; I made it back into the house and then I made minestrone and everything was fine.

But, for the record, I fell through the ice!

What Happens to a Resolution Deferred?

posted in: Day In The Life | 2
Phone. Holger Ellegaard, 1972. Photo: Wikipedia
Phone. Holger Ellegaard, 1972. Photo: Wikipedia

We have the Babylonians to thank for many things. They’re the ones who put 60 seconds in the minute and 60 minutes in an hour, a system called “sexagesimal” which is a word I think we can all agree is best left out of our vocabularies. We can thank the Babylonians (5500 to 3500 B.C.) for page numbers in a book. Very helpful, guys. Thank you.

And we can thank them for New Year’s resolutions. At the turn of the new year, the Babs had an eleven-day festival to celebrate the occasion, during which they made promises to the gods so the gods would show them favor. (Now that’s what I call accountability.) According to sources that I’m too lazy to cite, most Babylonians pledged to get out of debt.

I gave up resolutions years ago, mostly because I hate going with the flow. There’s one I flirt with each year, but as I know I cannot achieve it, I quit while I’m ahead. I resolve not to try and fix what I need to change. Want to know what I want to change?

I want to answer the phone every time I can see/hear it ring. I have a terrible phobia of talking on the phone, even to people I love. And I loathe voicemail. A week can go by before I finally enter the numbers to access my voicemail and when I do, my fingers feel like they have those little finger weights on them. “You seriously have to listen to voicemail,” I’ll say to myself, and it feels the same as when I say, “You seriously have to make a dentist appointment.” If I discover I only have three messages, I feel like I found twenty bucks on the sidewalk.

What is the root of this crippling phobia? Is it a control issue? Why am I this way? I just can’t do it. I can’t answer the phone. Text messages are the greatest invention since the telephone.

I cannot resolve to get better at this unless someone unlocks the problem. If you can do that, I’ll help you in your resolve to eat Marshmallow Fluff straight from the jar. I’ve got that down.

Yes, Girl: You Can Wear White After Labor Day

posted in: Fashion | 0
Chilean students return to school, 2011. Photo: Wikipedia
Chilean students return to school, 2011. Photo: Wikipedia

You can wear white clothes to work tomorrow. You can wear them this weekend. White pants, white jacket. White shoes. White shoes are hard to pull off, but bless your heart if you can and if you can, go for it. The idea that a person can’t wear white after Labor Day is a myth. It must be squished.

Labor Day was several weeks ago, but this comes up because I overheard a woman at the airport talking to her husband about the no-white rule. “I couldn’t believe it,” the woman said, selecting a french fry from a McDonald’s bag and popping it in her mouth. “Barb was wearing white after Labor Day.” The lady was dressed in a sweatsuit with be-pom-pommed Uggs on her feet.

The notion that it’s gauche to white after Labor Day is about 100 years old and was kind of a trick played on people by a bunch of mean girls who didn’t have to work for a living like the rest of us for heaven’s sake. Rich folk in American cities around the turn of the 20th century had things like sideboards and china; their children were given dolls and Turkish delight for Christmas; they also decided to turn “summer” into a verb. Summering meant leaving the city for the country for the hottest months of the year. August was dismal enough without having to direct the carriage through all those sweaty proletariats, after all — and those stinky factories! Best to go to Lake Geneva or the Hamptons and wait till the steaming, teeming masses cooled off.

White clothes made from lightweight material do feel cooler than clothes made from other colors. The lady in a white linen dress seems quite at home at a picnic table in June; the lady in brown crepe is clearly trying to ruin everyone’s fun. But the choice of white clothing in the time period I’ve just described was not just for the purposes of body temperature; it was a status symbol. Could you afford to summer? Could you afford an entire new wardrobe for three months out of the year every year? No? Gosh, that’s too bad, Julia. I’m sure I have a dress from last year you could — oh, actually, no: I dropped a lamb chop with mint jelly on it during the Sumnter’s garden party last July and Hilde had to throw it out. How is your mother?

Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 and it made sense to the mean girls to use the day as the cut off date for white. Anyone who wore white after Labor Day clearly wasn’t cool enough to know the rules, so they could snicker and stuff because there are rules, dummy. In the 1950s, the whole Jackie O., Dior silhouette, let’s be ladies thing perpetuated this old rule and so all of us still think it’s a thing. But it’s really not. I get upset about it because it doesn’t make sense and I love wearing white. The colors I look best in are white and black (but never together.) To cut white out of my wardrobe for the majority of the year is silly. So this is personal, you see, this archaic notion.

Tomorrow’s challenge: white pants to the office. Do it. Come on! I will if you will. Have I mentioned I work at home?

The Pendennis Observer: Dispatch No. 382

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean, Pendennis | 2
Pendennis as pretzel.
Up to no good, as usual. 

I’ve been traveling so much lately — home in DC this evening after a full week in Chicago — chances are good there are new readers to PaperGirl. I encourage people I meet at events or classes to visit and read this blog, but I still see fear in their hearts when I tell them PaperGirl isn’t about one thing but “just sort of about my life.” A gluten-free baking tutorial blog is an easier sell but what can I do? Surely some people were curious enough to visit and it seems like a good opportunity to take a moment and explain the monkey. I haven’t posted a picture of or given an update on Pendennis in some time; let’s get everyone caught up.

Some adults have an ironic connection to a childhood toy or a juvenile object and it can be cute or it can be weird. Either way, these peoples’ friends are actually happy when there’s a “thing” because it makes that person really easy to shop for. “I have no idea what to get Nancy for Christmas” is not a sentence Nancy’s friends will ever have to say because Nancy likes deer.

I don’t have a “thing” for sock monkeys; I have a thing for my sock monkey. His name is Pendennis and no, I do not sleep with him or cry hot, hot tears into his soft body. He does not come on trips with me. I haven’t had him since I was three and I do not suck on his tail. My high school art teacher made him for me when I was her teacher’s aide and Pendennis has simply been with me ever since, not because I need a stuffed animal to cope with life* but because I love him. My love is akin to the love I have for a special painting or a treasured photograph, except that I can cry hot, hot tears into his soft body. I love the monkey like I love my favorite sweater or my favorite snack. He is a comfort and we all need more of that. He went to New York. He came to DC. He’s my little guy.

But fondness springs eternal for Pendennis not just because he’s familiar: Pendennis is hilarious. I laugh out loud when I see him poking out from under a chair or twisted up like a pretzel under a pillow (see above.) I’ve been Pendennis’s personal photographer for years because I have to try and capture the joy he brings to me when I discover him in his natural habitat. This way, when I’m old and Pendennis has been chewed up by a cat, I can look at the pictures on my hologram phone and feel happy again. What’s crucial for readers to know is that I never, ever pose Pendennis. When I take a picture of him, you can be sure I am shooting what I discovered, not anything I created. The monkey needs no stylist, no art director; I simply point and shoot.

That’s the scoop on the PaperGirl mascot. And I’m glad you’re here.

*Untrue, but it sounded good up there. Also, you really need to see the stitched “Pocket Pendennis” made for me by the gorgeous and talented Margaret. Margaret, I’m looking at the PP as I type this.

Make + Love Quilts: Signed, Sealed, Delivered!

posted in: Quilting, Work | 0
If you start a Christmas quilt now, you will totally get it done.
If you start a Christmas quilt now, you will totally get it done.

This weekend I met hundreds of sweet, talented quilters at Meissner’s sew/quilt haven in Sacramento. Generous stacks of my book, Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century, went quickly, especially when you consider everyone in the shop was drooling over the newest BabyLock machines and waiting for my mom to come out of the bathroom so she could sign their first issue of Love of Quilting. 

The good news is that there are books left! I’d love to sign a copy of Make + Love for you and send it to your house/apartment/yurt. The bookstore price is $22.95, but I’ll give you for $20, plus $5 shipping and handling. Yeah, it turns out to be about the same amount of money, but it’s signed. Can’t get that on eBay! (I hope.)

The book is my first and includes 12 original scrap quilt patterns for bed-sized quilts and a lot of sparkling content. You get full instructions, tips, and various extras in the book, including this quote from Marilyn Monroe: “It’s not true I had nothing on. I had the radio on.” I’m serious, that is in my quilt book. You’ll see.

Click on the Make + Love Book tab on my website. Scroll down and you’ll find a PayPal button. You don’t need a PayPal account to buy the book. Click the button! PayPal will give me your shipping address. Please let me know who to make the book out to if the name is different from the person paying. I will get books out as soon as I can; my goal is within three (3) days of ordering, but with my travel schedule, be kind. I’ll let you know if it will be much longer than that. Books will be sent media mail.

Isn’t it nice to buy something not through Amazon? If you haven’t done that lately, give ‘er a shot.

*If you live in a country that is not the USA, I’ll happily send a book, but we have to get together on shipping. So put a note in your order when you click it to me.

When Your Arms Are In The Wrong Place.

posted in: Sicky | 1
Actual document.
Actual document.

I was in the ER recently. It happens. An amusing thing happened this time around.

The triage nurses put EKG nodes all over my chest and arms to get my ee-kay-gee-zies. A male and a female nurse worked together to stick the suction cups all over my torso — unceremoniously, I’ll have you know — and then they punched EKG buttons on a machine atop a rickety cart. They looked at the reading that came out and I saw their eyes get very wide. They looked at each other, subtly panicked.

“Wait, wait…”

“Okay, so…”

I was understandably concerned. I asked if everything was okay. I got no answer right away, but then the male nurse sighed a huge sigh of relief and turned to his colleague.

“We’ve got the left and right arm nodes on the wrong side,” he said. He turned to me. “The machine thinks your arms are on the wrong side of your body.”

When you feel bad enough to be in an ER but have no flesh wounds and have been given sufficient pain medication, you are able to cackle with delight. Arms in the wrong place?! What a hoot! I managed to slap my knee before they came to switch the nodes.

“Can I have the EKG?” I asked. “I love the idea of a machine thinking my left arm was on the right side of my body and the right arm was on the left side of my body. I mean, how often does that happen? Can I have it?”

“Uh, sure,” the nurse said, and handed it over.

EKG paper is awesome; it’s onion skin-like, and it’s nice and pink. And hey, it’s your body in pen ink. I told him I wanted to blog about this. And I did.

Making Out With a Doctor: Part II

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Story | 0
Are the pills full of something good or just made of sugar? Doctor-themed cupcakes by Clever Cupcakes of Montreal.
They rejected the idea of a beating heart — barely. Doctor-themed cupcakes by Clever Cupcakes of Montreal.

A couple moons ago, I told a story about going on a date with a doctor.  He diagnosed me with a fatty deposit when we were making out. As you can imagine, this cooled things off for me pretty quick. But there’s more to the story and when you learn the rest, you’ll see why I was cooled off before The Smooch Heard Round My Hip.

We’re at dinner. Low light, pretty dress, etc. And the doctor is talking. He’s talking a lot. He eventually asked me: “So tell me more about what you do. Knitting, right?”

I answered in an abbreviated manner because as I explained how I earn my living, he looked away at least four times. I was not yammering on. I was not entertaining myself. I was answering his question and attempting to engage in the “Let’s get to know each other” thing. Crazy to do on a date, I realize. But the doctor was eating bread and glancing around as I spoke and I hate that. I don’t like talking to people who don’t care one cc what I’m saying but also, lucky for him, I like listening to people talk about themselves way more than talking about myself. I figured out pretty quick that the best thing to do was to clam up and ask him questions about himself and get through dinner.

So I asked questions. I let his tape run. Yes, he did have interesting stories to tell and he was intelligent. Successful. A father. A widower, as I’ve just recalled. But when you spend the first forty-five minutes of a date smiling and nodding and going, “Mm, I see,” it’s tiring. It’s a drag. One can also be in danger of drinking too much wine because there’s nothing else to do with one’s mouth.

My date excuses himself to use the men’s room. The head waiter comes over and removes our first course plates.

“Did you enjoy your beet salad, Miss?”

“Oh, it was wonderful, thank you so much. Really good.”

I engaged him in a conversation about how beets are gross unless you get them on a fancy plate. He agreed; we had this instant rapport. Then he gave me a strange look. An earnest look. A conspiratorial look. He looked toward the men’s room and back to me.

“And how is your evening going?” he asked, cocking his head and squeezing his eyes at me. I, too, glanced at the men’s room. I, too, cocked my head and squeezed my eyes.

“Can I be honest?”

“Please do.”

“It’s not good. He is just talking and talking and talking. He hasn’t asked me a single thing about myself! I don’t want to go on and on, but we’re supposed to be on a date. I’m pretty bummed.”

“We give you forty minutes, tops.”

“What?”

“We’ve been watching you two since you came in because your table is right in the line of the service area. He hasn’t let you get a word in since you got here. We all feel really sorry for you. Can I bring you another Champagne? On the house, Miss.”

I looked over my left shoulder and saw two bartenders, a busboy, and another waiter at various positions near the wood paneled, chrome bar. One of the bartenders saw me looking and gave me a little wave and a cringe. My date appeared from around the corner to the restrooms and came back to the table.

“I would like a glass of Champagne,” I said to the waiter, my new BFF. “Thank you so much.” My new BFF and I shared the most awesome, subtle look. We were in cahoots now; we were allied. He asked my date if he wanted anything from the bar or if he was ready for wine with the entrees on their way. He was ready for wine, and I was ready for dessert. Yes, I know, I sold out for some smooching at the end of the date. What can I say? It had been a long week.

The last thing to say about it is that I didn’t have to fight the doctor off with a stick; neither of us pursued a second date. Maybe he thought I was a dull conversationalist, that I had nothing good to say, nothing interesting to talk about.

 

 

 

The Glamorous Life of a Deadline Quilter.

posted in: Day In The Life, Quilting | 0
My kitchen is just on the other side of this picture.
My kitchen is just on the other side of this picture. Photo: Me

Last night, until about 1:30am and this morning beginning at 6:30am, I was sewing. I was sewing two baby quilts for The Big Secret Project that will be announced soon. Last night at 12:30am, I felt the announcement bearing down on me like a train. A train covered in a patchwork quilt, with a conductor who is running the thing on a sewing machine engine. If you’re not a quilter, you don’t know that some of these puppies (?) are so powerful, they could probably power a locomotive. Especially those BabyLocks. They’re engines that can. I have four.

Paper-piecing is my favorite way to make patchwork. Paper-piecing means to sew fabric to a paper foundation and then tear the paper off the back when the block is complete. You don’t have to do patchwork this way; there is “traditional piecing” as well, but I’ll not go on about all this too much for those of you who don’t care about patchwork, though you should.

I used to be afraid of the paper-piecing technique — used in quiltmaking for at least 150 years — because the process involves some brain training. Once I got the hang of it, however, I began to look at every quilt block and think, “Okay, yeah, yeah: but how can I paper-piece it?” It’s like starving guy on a desert island who looks at everything he sees as a steak.

The drawback to paper-piecing is that your floor looks like the picture above. All those bits of paper must come off before you join all the blocks together and the more blocks you have, the more you become a badger, scrabbling at the backs of your blocks with little claws, paper going everywhere, including in your hair. At the end of the process, if the quilt is large, you have a nest. You do sit in it because it’s comfortable there on the floor.

Such is the glamorous life of a quilter who makes quilts for shows or magazines, etc. Quilting under a deadline is not fun at all. It sucks all joy from the process, though the finished product is still rewarding, but mostly because you can breathe again and pry your shoulders from your neck.

Love,
A Badger

On Being Sick & Observed

posted in: Day In The Life, Sicky | 2
She's asking for her laptop and headphones. Illus: A woman in bed in a sick-room, attended by a physician, receiving the blessing of the Madonna del Parto, 1872.
She’s asking for her laptop and headphones. Image: A woman in bed in a sick-room, attended by a physician, receiving the blessing of the Madonna del Parto, 1872.

A couple days ago I fell sick. I’ve been feeling well for a good stretch, so this was a drag on a number of levels. Living alone, such spells — when not hospital-bad — come and go and I do what I do to get well and that’s basically that. But my German friend is visiting and I am therefore not just sick but being observed being sick and I’ve been considering how this alters the sick one’s experience. I want to work in that quantum-physics phenomenon about how the behavior of something will change when being observed, but all I could find were five different names for it and something about a cat, so I’d better leave it alone.

There are three problems with having someone around when you’re ill. The first problem is that you need help but you also feel like going into a dark corner and snarling when anyone gets close, wounded animal-style. This is a conflict. The second problem is the mirror problem. When a little kid turfs out on her tricycle, it’s not the skinned knee that makes her wail; it’s the look on her parents’ faces. They panic or look really concerned and bam: the fall is now a Huge Deal, cue sobs. Being sick and observed is a little like that. Yes, my guts are mutinying; yes, I’m walking around like a ninety-year-old. But if I were alone, I’d probably just feel crappy, frustrated, and seventy-years-old. The look on my friend’s face when I shudder and sink into my easy chair makes my state way worse.

The third problem is the fixer-upper problem. Like any caring person, my friend wants very much to fix me, to fix the situation; I’ve dealt with this kind of beautiful, valued concern for years and you mustn’t think I resent it. But idea after idea (e.g., “What if you ate more yogurt?”), suggestion after suggestion (e.g., “You need to sleep eight hours; no less”), and indeed remonstration after remonstration, (e.g., “You put so much pressure on yourself, Mary” and “You travel too much,” etc.) serves to make a person feel guilty and that her behavior is the problem. If only I could find the perfect food formula, if only I would change one thing about my lifestyle, if only I would be someone else, then I would be okay — and be okay forever. Talk about pressure.

Should I live alone forever? Am I less ill if I am alone? Is any person with chronic illness or even a bad cold less ill when in solitude? This is a worthy question to consider and I’m sure I’m not the first to consider it.

It’s also true that I do not notice the gallons of tea I drink every day until someone points it out.

 

The National Archives: Not Bad

posted in: D.C., Paean, Washington | 0
German shepherd, get it? Photo: Wikipedia
All the pictures of the U.S. founding documents seemed pathetic after yesterday’s visit, so in honor of Claus, here is a photograph of a German shepherd. Photo: Wikipedia, 2006.

The National Archives here in Washington was first on my list of Next Museums To Visit, but having Claus here, a German with an interest in American politics, made it happen sooner than it probably would have. After all, I have emails to answer and everyone knows emails are more important than the Bill of Rights. So yesterday we took the train down to Penn Quarter and walked about 20 paces to the Archives building.

In case you’re not aware, there is no entry fee for most of the museums in D.C., thanks to federal funding. The museums are ours, you might say, and you can get away with saying that with more than a touch of pride because it is a remarkable thing to be able to open the doors to a building, walk up a short set of stairs, and go into a rotunda where the documents upon which your country was designed are waiting for you. Inside the Archives, in a single room, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence — all originals, mind you — are on display. Inside bulletproof cases filled with inert argon gas, these papers cease to be .jpg files online or images in your son’s American History textbook. They become living things.

I’m a crier anyway, but I cried when I walked into the rotunda. These weren’t sobs; I wasn’t freaking out or hyperventilating. But I had to blink a lot to keep warm tears in. The U.S. is a different country from the one the founding fathers had in mind — by a lot, no matter what political camp you’re in — but regardless, these are words that men wrote to assert their independence from oppression and their vision for something way better than that. We’re here because of these sheets of paper and everything (oh, everything, everything) that has come after.

When you have a visitor to your town or city, you see the place through new eyes. When you have a visitor to your country — especially when you’re with them in the capitol city — you see the place with new eyes and, at the risk of sounding super gross, a new heart.

Ladies In Waiting.

posted in: Day In The Life, Quilting, Work | 0
Me and the gals, peeking out the window, waiting for the bride. Photo: Sew Creative
Me and some of the girls, waiting for the bride. Photo: Sew Creative, Lincoln, NE

The sewing retreat in Sioux City was wonderful. My students were brilliant, new friends were made, and all the sponsors — I’m looking at you, BabyLock — were more than generous.

During the morning portion of my Log Cabin paper-piecing master class yesterday, we heard a lot of activity in the courtyard outside our classroom. We looked out to see men setting up chairs and tables for a wedding. As the morning and early afternoon went along, the wedding took shape and we followed the action between quilt blocks.

People began to arrive and music began around 2:00pm or so. When the bride was imminent, those of us in the room threw our patchwork to the side and ran to the window to see her.

Pick Your Beauty.

posted in: Tips | 2
Me, looking at mountain. Photo: Claus; adjustments by me.
Me, looking at mountain, somewhere in the American West. Photo: Claus.

 

You don’t have to be devastated by the beauty a grand, famous, “so-amazing-you-will-freak-out” landscape. Your heart may not burst out of your chest at Observation Point X, you may not burst into song when you see a big wave. You may hate Grand Canyon. You might think it’s sort of monotonous. I’m not looking to defend a person who looks at the sea lions at Ano Nuevo and says, “Whatever. Can we go to Burger King?” I am looking to defend people who respect the Titans but feel guilty when they’re not devastated by the “raw, eternal power” of them.

There were times on the road trip when we’d be driving, leave a mountain pass and bam! some HD vista would open up before us. We’d stop mid-sentence and just gape. The basin before we got to Grand Canyon was like that for me. The rolling hills, the endless blue of the sky, the ghosts of all those buffalo… That swath of earth touched me so much — felt so familiar to me — I couldn’t stop crying. It was weird.

But Yosemite? I don’t know. It was cool. But the camping, camaraderie, and cookstove, well, that was what was great about Yosemite for me. Yosemite is brushy pine trees and a lot of grey-white rock. Not my thing, really. The tour guides (we had three to choose from, all very useful) are full of words like “breathtaking” and “stunning” and “awe-inspiring,” but this is dangerous. One reads these things and hears about places that are “must-sees” and it creates great pressure to feel something when we get to Yosemite, or when we gaze out into Grand Canyon.

But you don’t have to be awe-inspired. You might be more inspired walking through your neighborhood at dusk on your way to the store for milk. The light might be just right, the nice lady who lives on the corner might wave from her porch. This can be more beautiful to you than a big mountain.

I say it because it took me a long time to learn that. I saw the Mona Lisa once and I just didn’t get it. I felt terrible, thought for sure there was something wrong with me. But I like so many paintings so much more, and it’s okay. I liked Zion way better than Grand Canyon. Anyhow, the unsolicited advice tonight is to not let People tell you what’s Beautiful. You decide. No pressure.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The woman in the image above finds the landscape she’s looking at to be very, very beautiful.]

How To Gain 5-6 Pounds In Three Weeks (And How To Lose It!)

posted in: Food, Tips, Travel | 0
Wait a second -- is that a hamburger down right? Still life by Clara Peeters (fl. 1601 - 1621.)
Wait a second — is that a hamburger down right? Still life by Clara Peeters (fl. 1601 – 1621.)

Ever wanted to gain something like 5-6 pounds in a hurry? Sure, we all do! Follow my simple steps below and you’ll be on your way. Be sure to read all the way to the flabby bottom to learn how to lose it, too!!!

Step 1: Sit in a car for 3-7 hours a day for three weeks.

Step 2: Tell yourself that hiking and camping are basically exercise.

Step 3: Eat lots of cashews, dates, small chunks of parmesan cheese (your favorite) and banana leather, telling yourself that none of these foods are processed and are therefore basically calorie-free. Travel with a European so that you get plenty of full-fat yogurt with muesli, even though you never eat, nor spell correctly, muesli. Eat chocolate and tell yourself that because it’s the expensive kind and you’re sharing it with someone, you’re not really eating that much.

Step 4: Consume Pringles because your travel companion has a “thing” for them and though you have not eaten a single Pringle since freshman year in college, this is a crucial step. Do you want to gain 5-6 pounds in three weeks or don’t you?? Motivation, determination. Note while eating Pringles that the slogan on the can, “Once you pop, you can’t stop” is accurate.

Step 5: Feel exceedingly happy. Feeling happy will cloud your awareness that you are on your way to gaining 5-6 pounds in three weeks.

Step 6: Repeat steps 1-6.

Now that you’ve gained 5-6 pounds in three weeks, aren’t you wondering how to lose it?? Sure, we all do! I’m here to tell you the secret to losing 5-6 pounds not in three weeks, not in two weeks, but in one week with almost zero effort! Probably! Maybe not! But this secret step will unlock your potential to lose 5-6 pounds before you know it! Here it is:

Step 1: Stop doing all those things.

Step 2: Resume your normal life, which includes walking to the store and stuff.

Now get going, and remember: your weight is in your hands! And on your hips.

The Role of the Passenger.

posted in: Travel | 0
A drawing of mine, headed into Death Valley.
A drawing of mine, headed into Death Valley.

My friend and travel companion is an accomplished philosophy professor. He’s German and has written a lot of books. We traveled 5,000 miles together, all in. We made Kant jokes and I finally learned exactly what the term “hermeneutics” meant (don’t ask me right now.) He learned quilt history, the scoop on my upcoming project — he won’t tell and neither will I, but prepare! — and all about my family, just as I learned all about his. Five-thousand miles is a lot of miles. Dollar Rent-a-Car hates us.

My friend is a good driver and drove every mile himself, as the car was rented in his name. I was the full-time passenger, then, and let me tell you: it’s an art. Here’s what you Kant do:

– talk incessantly
– sing loudly (or at all, unless your companion likes to listen to someone singing in close proximity, which is highly unlikely)
– bite your nails
– clear your throat a lot
– toot (a lot)
– eat ice all the time from your drink

My passenger self did none of those things, except for the last one; I love eating ice and I think my friend was slightly annoyed in Week Three, but it’s a minor offense compared to tooting. But aside from all that, there’s something a passenger on a long road trip has to do: you must entertain yourself. The landscapes out the window will do most of this for you, but if you like to draw, sit quietly and think while you look out the window, or read — if you don’t get carsick — you and your companion(s) will be much happier.

Above is one of the many drawings I made on the road; each is a scene from the journey. I only had a pen and a pencil and I liked the limitation, actually. I haven’t drawn so much since high school. It was one of the gifts of the trip.

Guest Post: Rebecca West’s Heartbroken Letter

posted in: Art | 0
"Marcella" by Kirchner, 1910. Image: Wikipedia
“Marcella” by Kirchner, 1910. Image: Wikipedia

Up on Washington Island we have a copy of a book edited by Shawn Usher called Letters of Note. Both Mom and I had an interest in the book; she bought it and I read it all during the week of the wedding. It’s a compendium of “letters deserving of a wider audience.”

There are scanned-in images of actual letters from actual people, e.g., Elvis to Nixon (he wanted to come over in the middle of the night), Aldous Huxley’s wife to her daughter (she administered LSD to Aldous, at his request, as he lay dying), Michaelangelo’s shopping list from 1518 (this is in Vol. II, actually, which I cannot wait to get.) There was one letter in the book that I cannot, cannot get out of my head. I found it online and I read it over and over again. If I get in big trouble for including it here, it’ll be worth it and of course I’ll delete this post.

Writer Rebecca West was in love with H.G. Wells. They eventually got back together and had a kid, but earlier in their relationship, Wells dumped her. She wrote this letter to him in 1913 and it is the most heartbreaking, beautiful piece of writing, I can hardly stand it. Take the time to read it. You will probably never forget it, especially if you’ve been in love and dumped. Most of us have been.

Dear H. G.,

During the next few days I shall either put a bullet through my head or commit something more shattering to myself than death. At any rate I shall be quite a different person. I refuse to be cheated out of my deathbed scene.

I don’t understand why you wanted me three months ago and don’t want me now. I wish I knew why that were so. It’s something I can’t understand, something I despise. And the worst of it is that if I despise you I rage because you stand between me and peace. Of course you’re quite right. I haven’t anything to give you. You have only a passion for excitement and for comfort. You don’t want any more excitement and I do not give people comfort. I never nurse them except when they’re very ill. I carry this to excess. On reflection I can imagine that the occasion on which my mother found me most helpful to live with was when I helped her out of a burning house.

I always knew that you would hurt me to death some day, but I hoped to choose the time and place. You’ve always been unconsciously hostile to me and I have tried to conciliate you by hacking away at my love for you, cutting it down to the little thing that was the most you wanted. I am always at a loss when I meet hostility, because I can love and I can do practically nothing else. I was the wrong sort of person for you to have to do with. You want a world of people falling over each other like puppies, people to quarrel and play with, people who rage and ache instead of people who burn. You can’t conceive a person resenting the humiliation of an emotional failure so much that they twice tried to kill themselves: that seems silly to you. I can’t conceive of a person who runs about lighting bonfires and yet nourishes a dislike of flame: that seems silly to me.

You’ve literally ruined me. I’m burned down to my foundations. I may build myself again or I may not. You say obsessions are curable. They are. But people like me swing themselves from one passion to another, and if they miss smash down somewhere where there aren’t any passions at all but only bare boards and sawdust. You have done for me utterly. You know it. That’s why you are trying to persuade yourself that I am a coarse, sprawling, boneless creature, and so it doesn’t matter. When you said, “You’ve been talking unwisely, Rebecca,” you said it with a certain brightness: you felt that you had really caught me at it. I don’t think you’re right about this. But I know you will derive immense satisfaction from thinking of me as an unbalanced young female who flopped about in your drawing-room in an unnecessary heart-attack.

That is a subtle flattery. But I hate you when you try to cheapen the things I did honestly and cleanly. You did it once before when you wrote to me of “your—much more precious than you imagine it to be—self.” That suggests that I projected a weekend at the Brighton Metropole with Horatio Bottomley. Whereas I had written to say that I loved you. You did it again on Friday when you said that what I wanted was some decent fun and that my mind had been, not exactly corrupted, but excited, by people who talked in an ugly way about things that are really beautiful. That was a vile thing to say. You once found my willingness to love you a beautiful and courageous thing. I still think it was. Your spinsterishness makes you feel that a woman desperately and hopelessly in love with a man is an indecent spectacle and a reversal of the natural order of things. But you should have been too fine to feel like that.

I would give my whole life to feel your arms round me again.

I wish you had loved me. I wish you liked me.

Yours,

Rebecca

P.S. Don’t leave me utterly alone. If I live write to me now and then. You like me enough for that. At least I pretend to myself you do.

At The Chicago Botanical Garden, Early April

Me and a little dude with a tail.
Me and a little dude with a tail, Chicago Botanical Garden, 2015. Photo: Yuri

Yuri was in Chicago over the weekend, also.

We spent time together on Monday. After work tasks were complete, he took me to the Chicago Botanical Garden to walk, to talk, and remember each other for awhile.

The Chicago Botanical Garden is a world-class joint. Hordes descend upon the place in warmer months but somehow milling among thousands of people doesn’t feel bad at the Botanical Gardens; it feels communal. English gardens, Japanese gardens, fields of field flowers, a glassy pond, sculptures big and small — if it’s green and cultivated you want, green and cultivated you shall have and there’s a great cafe for when you’re exhausted from walking and have pollen all over your shirt. It’s also free to get in.

Yuri and I walked through the grounds arm in arm. We did this because we care about each other a great deal but we were also freezing cold. Nothing has bloomed, yet; there were a few brave shoots poking up here and there, but not many. All the plants are waiting, checking final items off the pre-production list before the big launch.The greenhouses were thriving — greenhouses do that — so when we were almost too cold to be having fun, we found a greenhouse and slipped in to warm up. Tip: if you’re feeling disconnected from nature, pop yourself into a balmy, breathing greenhouse. You’ll get fixed right up.

We had fun together. We got soup and a glass of wine at the cafe. We argued. I cried. We laughed. Walking on the main promenade under the cold, grey sky, Yuri picked me up and spun me around and I hollered, “No! Don’t! Yuri, stop!” but it was okay. New York, we have both decided, seems like a dream. It’s a trite thing to say, but damned if I know how else to describe it. The East Village? Really? Manhattan? But when? I know why — passion, risk, love, adventure — but as to the how, I couldn’t tell you if you put a Rhododendron ferrugineum to my neck.

Yuri and I aren’t together, but we’ll always be together because of New York, because of Chicago, because of that day in the garden, I guess. When do you stop being connected to a soul?

That picture up top is one of a series Yuri took of me being a mom to a hunk of bronze.

Matchmakers.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Work | 0
Munitions plant worker has a date with her boyfriend. Photo: National Film Board of Canada
Munitions plant worker has a date with her boyfriend. Photo: National Film Board of Canada.

When I visit big groups of quilters to lecture or teach, it’s not uncommon for one or two of the ladies to ask me if I’m single and then, when I reply that yes, I am, they suggest that I date their son.

“Oh, he’s very sweet, very sweet,” they say, and usually something about how handsome he is. I have no doubt all these men are both, but as sincere as they are, it’s probably unlikely I’ll go on a date with one of these sons. I live in D.C., which is a long way from Omaha, say, or Pensacola. Most of the time the proud moms will sigh and say something like, “That is a problem, isn’t it?” Yesterday, this did not deter one mother.

“You are single, aren’t you, Mary? My son’s coming to pick me up after the lecture,” she said, “And you need to meet him.”

“Yes,” I laughed, “I’m single.” To humor her (good-naturedly, of course) I asked, “What’s his name?”

“Brian,” she said. “You’ll love him!”

“Well, I’m sure he’s fantastic,” I said, “but I live in DC. It’s not so convenient to date someone in St. Louis, you know.”

Without skipping a beat, she said, “Oh, he’ll move! He’ll move.”

I didn’t meet Brian. It might’ve been a little awkward, but it’s not that I avoided it; Mom and I were absolutely wiped after our third day in Missouri and we high-tailed it out of there. I should book more gigs in the D.C./Virginia area. There are many moms with many sons and no one has to move.

The Honorable Maid’s Conundrum.

posted in: Family, Fashion | 1
      That's me, second from the left. Photo: A bride and her attendants in New Ulm, Minn., in October 1974.
That’s me, second from the left. Photo: A bride and her attendants in New Ulm, Minn., in October 1974.

The engagement happened. The smash hit party for Rebecca happened. The next big event in my younger sister’s nuptials will be the wedding itself. And I need something to wear.

My sister Rebecca, who has been and always will be cooler than me by a long stretch, knows better than to put her Maid of Honor in something she has chosen herself. Being that I am her Maid of Honor, I love her for this. Because when I was married, I got swept up in the whole “let’s put girls who are different in dresses that are the same” thing, and that choice has been filed in my slim folder of regrets.

Rebecca will have no bridesmaids, just me. This fact, and the freedom she’s giving me to select my outfit have caused me a lot of brow furrowing lately. This is the most important wardrobe decision I’ve made in many years. I mean, it took me some time to decide what I’d wear on that date with the doctor, but this feels more special, somehow. (Dr. Lame-o is totally out of the picture, by the way. I’ll tell you later.)

Here’s what we know:

1. Not only would it be disgusting in the extreme to wear something that would distract from the bride on her wedding day
2. …it is impossible to wear something that would distract from a bride on her wedding day because no woman is more beautiful than a bride on her wedding day. I have seen zero exceptions to this.
3. It’s still possible to make a very wrong choice, here.

I need to be classy, naturally. But I ain’t wearing a dun-colored St. John’s suit. I’m thirty-something, not a wizened great aunt. The ever-perfect black dress is out because it feels a) a bit severe; and b) funereal. Yellow is out because yellow is too conspicuous, for one thing, and years later someone who didn’t know my family might assume my sister’s favorite color was yellow (it isn’t) or that yellow was part of her wedding color scheme (she has none.) Here are other things other colors communicate:

RED: “Hi, I’m Mary, the Whore of Honor.”
GREEN: “Hi, I’m Mary. Yes, I look terrible in green but it seemed safe.”
BROWN: “I’m depressed. What? Oh, sorry. My name’s Mary.”
WHITE: “No, it’s a joke! Get it? Like, white wedding??”
ORANGE: “Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the Maid of Honor. I dressed my bridesmaids in orange when I got married. I’m divorced, now. I really hate the color orange. Can I get you a glass of wine?”

My rigorous thought process on all this has yielded what I believe to be the two top contenders: a pale pink or a deep navy. Right? Beautiful, conservative, classy. Yes, but it’s not that easy. My wardrobe challenge doesn’t end there. There’s the matter of style and cut. I want the dress to be architectural, but not Gaga architectural. I want it to be feminine, but not soft. The matter of “softness” was the one guideline my sister gave me. “I know you’ll pick the right thing,” she said, “But I guess… I want to be the soft one that day, you know?” Yep. So no lace, no chiffon overlays, no bows on straps or anything.

And I wanna be kinda hot. I mean… It’s a wedding. But “looking hot” lands way down on the list and one must remember the “What We Knows” listed above.

So, with vorpal sword in hand, I snicker-snack through the jungle of the Internet, seeking the perfect frock, for the perfect couple, on their perfect day. Jeeves, bring me my perfect credit card, darling.

Insane Bachelorette Story…

posted in: Chicago, Family | 2
The kid.
The kid today, right as everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

No one in my family has ever sipped a Hurricane slushy through a straw shaped like a penis. No one in my family has ever — or will ever — wear an inflatable hat. We don’t do feather boas, we don’t do party wagons, and we certainly don’t do male strippers (heh) or Jell-O shots. But the youngest Fons is getting married! What’s a bachelorette to do??

So much. So much that is not making Girls Gone Wild XXIIVI. The world is wide and beautiful. The world is grand and gay. There’s no reason any bride-to-be ever has to be sprayed with whipped cream. She never has to be carried out of the club, vomiting, with a broken high heel. This should not be the way nuptials are celebrated. I mean, girls.

Gather ’round, friends, and I’ll tell you how to throw a party for a bride. This weekend was Rebecca’s Surprise Wedding Fun Weekend. The grand plan was mine — I am maid of honor, after all — but without the logistical and financial contributions my mother and older sister made, it would not have been possible. Thank you, guys.

We picked the kid up Saturday morning, her only instructions to “dress like a lady.” At a favorite brunch spot of hers we gave her a box that contained a Visa gift card. There was a sizable amount of money on the card; we had all contributed to make the number a wowie-zowie one. “Today is a shopping spree!” we cried when she opened the box. “We have you all afternoon. You can spend that money on whatever you want — no rules or restrictions, no judgements. It’s your shopping day!” My sister was floored. Shocked. Thrilled. And, ever pragmatic, she bought a killer leather jacket and is choosing to spend the rest of the money on wedding needs.

But tonight, the piece de resistance: we rented out the historic Music Box movie house here in Chicago. We invited forty of my sister’s best friends and family. We put her name up on the marquee and booked a private screening of her favorite movie, Big Trouble In Little China.

When she walked up to the theater and saw her name in lights, that was good. When she passed the window of the lobby where all her friends were, waving to her, that was good, too. When she got into the little lounge area and saw exactly who all was there — superb. But the best moment came when Jack said, “Rebecca, wait… Did you see that?” and he pointed to Theater B where we were going watch Big Trouble. The movie title was lighted up above the door. My sister did this beautiful, involuntary convulsion and her hands went up to her head, looking like someone experiencing most pleasantly excruciating migraine headache in history. And then she said something I’ll never forget. She was so happy, so happy, and then it occurred to her. Through ugly-tears of joy, she looked at us all and squeaked out, “Are you all… Are you all going to w-w-watch it…with me???” Yes, Rebecca. Yes, we are.

It was a slam dunk weekend. And just in case you’re thinking, “Yeah, well penis-shaped sippy cups are a lot more affordable than renting out a whole damned theater, Mary Fons!” I want you to know that it was surprisingly doable. We did it on a Sunday, from 4pm-9pm. This is considered an off-peak time, so the space rental was quite reasonable. We didn’t go nuts with decorations. We didn’t order extra food or do a big cake or anything. We did have an open bar, but with 40 people — several with babies — that wasn’t too bad. All I’m saying is that with a little dough and a lot of creativity, you can do something awesome for someone you love.

And boy do we love you, Biccy.

Hat Frisbee.

posted in: Art | 0
This hat came up when I searched for a public domain image of a stocking cap. You should've seen the other ones.
This hat came up when I searched for a public domain image of a stocking cap. You should’ve seen the other ones.

On the train late this afternoon, I was out of sorts. My psyche was pulling to the right while some other part of my self was tugging on the leash to go left. This is a strange feeling but I was on a wobbly train on top of it. Good thing I had a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or I might’ve slipped through the cracks.

The train conductor announced the next stop: Smithsonian. I jerked up in my seat, seized with the desire to not go home but go there, to Smithsonianworld. Seeing some art would jerk my brain stem back into alignment for sure. I could do it fast, too; take a quick dip in the eternal pond and then get back to my day. The Smithsonian museums are all free, so you just walk right in, fill up your tank and walk back out the door. Surely a painting or some kind of strange installation would break my mini-fugue.

I decided this almost too late, however; right before the doors closed at the Smithsonian stop, that’s when I decided to execute my plan. I shot out of my seat at the last possible second — scaring the bees out of everyone, I’m sure — and jammed my body through the closing doors. I was the person that annoys everyone riding a train: the person who delays the train leaving because they’re standing in the doors. Sorry about that, comrades.

The doors released their silver jaws and I went, “Phew!” and began to walk away. Then I hear this, “Hey!” and I turn around to see my stocking cap flying through the air.

I had left my stocking cap on my seat and someone inside the train had chucked it out the doors as they closed for real. “Wow, thanks!” I called after the car as it pulled away. Someone threw my hat out for me. They saved my hat. I stood there for a second, feeling my heart get warm and my brain get right. Also, flying stocking caps = comedy.

Up at street level, I passed several museums but couldn’t go in. I couldn’t handle the Holocaust Museum, clearly; I couldn’t give proper attention to the African American museum or the Chinese art collection at another grand building I passed. I saw a Barbara Krueger exhibit advertised at the Hirschorn but no freaking way could I have handled Barbara Krueger today. I found the sculpture garden out back of the Hirschorn, though, and that was just right.

My stocking cap kept me warm as I walked among the statues.

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