Little Girl, Big Book.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 0
She's actually looking up at Grandma for a chocolate shake, but let's say it's a shelf of books. Photo: John Trainor, courtesy Wikipedia.
She’s actually looking up at Grandma for a chocolate shake, but let’s say it’s a shelf of books. Photo: John Trainor, courtesy Wikipedia.

My neighborhood is the South Loop (that’s the bottom of the Loop Loop) but I’m a block over from Printer’s Row. Printer’s Row is a short stretch of Dearborn St. that many years ago was the heart of the Chicago robust publishing and printing industry.

Not much is left of that era; most everything is pretty condo buildings and storefront business and restaurants — but there is Sandmeyer’s Books. It’s a snuggly, warm bookshop and though I have promised myself that I cannot, shall not buy any more books until I read all the books I have, I should go give Sandmeyer’s Books some money because I don’t want it to go away. I’ll go there tomorrow and let you know what I buy.

Claus and I passed by the bookshop today and smiled when we saw the most adorable child in the Milky Way. She was maybe four. Cute little cap with blonde hair poking out. Nice warm jacket. And she had a book in a Sandmeyer’s Bookstore bag clutched to her chest. I was enchanted. Kids with books, man; they could steal my purse and I’d tell them to go have fun and be careful. In a very friendly-not-weird way, I stopped and said “Well, hello there! Did you get a book today?”

The girl looked up at me with big blue eyes. Her nanny said, “She found a ten-dollar bill on the street.”

If I found ten bucks on the street, I would freak out. I said to the little girl that that was really cool and very lucky. And she wanted a book, eh? Her nanny nodded and told me the little girl was going to give the rest of the money to her mommy and daddy. Yeah, right.

“And what book did you get little Miss?” I asked.

Her nanny helped produce the book. It was Home for a Bunny, a Big Little Golden Book by Margaret Wise Brown. A favorite of mine as a child and for my sisters, too. I told the little girl she had made a excellent choice. Claus and I waved goodbye and headed home, past old Dearborn Station, which was a passenger train hub from 1885 to 1971. Many, many people arrived in Chicago through that station; plenty of them bought their first book in this city.

Atlanta Uber-alis.

posted in: Day In The Life, Work 0
Would that it were pink. Photo: Thomas R Machnitzki, courtesy Wikipedia.
Would that it were pink. Photo: Thomas R Machnitzki, courtesy Wikipedia.

I touched down in Atlanta this morning and had to find a way to get across town — way across. Here’s a travel riddle for you: There are 25 miles between an airport and a gig and getting a lift from a pal is not an option. What do you do? Do you rent a car? Take a taxi? A shuttle service? A limo service, hm? Nope, in 2016, you order an Uber.

Uber is a company that has created the perfect way to order a taxi. You tap a button on your smartphone that pings where you are, then you tap out where you want to go. You hit, “Request Uber” and a bubble pops up that tells you exactly how long it will be before your taxi picks you up (usually it’s two to four minutes.) You can watch on the map where your car is in real time. Your ride arrives to your exact spot on the globe, you verify each other by name — riders should check the license plate numbers, too — and you’re on your way. Oh, and there’s no cash; the Uber app keeps your credit/debit card number and the ride is charged after you get out of the car. I love this service.

You can order a regular taxi, a fancy black SUV — maybe even a limo — or you can order an UberX. UberX cars are driven by anyone with a car and the ability to meet Uber’s strict requirements for signing on as a driver. When you order an UberX, you don’t get an actual taxi: you’re getting picked up in Dan’s Ford Taurus, say, or Shonna’s Toyota Camry. UberX is cheaper than a taxi and way cheaper than a limo. Here’s the solution to the riddle: a “real” taxi to the convention center today would’ve cost me $100; shuttle service, $80. An UberX ride? Thirty-six bucks. I placed my order.

As my driver drove up, I waved. He stopped the car and got out and I was about to say, “Hey, I’m your Uber” when Glenn — his name was Glenn — who was already helping me with his suitcase, said under his breath, “We work together. Don’t get in the backseat, get in the front.”

This was unusual. As in Sketch Town, USA unusual. And hey, man. I’m from Chicago. You can’t hustle me. “Woah, woah,” I said, putting my hand on Glenn’s arm so he couldn’t get my suitcase further into his trunk. “What is this? I’m looking for my Uber.” Glenn said, just moving one corner of his mouth, that UberX cars weren’t allowed to pick up at the airport and the cops were looking at him.

Great. Thirty minutes in Georgia and I’m breaking laws. But I rolled the dice; I got in. Most of the time in life, you’re not going to get kidnapped and tossed in the Chattahooche. Besides, I needed to get to work.

On the way over, Glenn asked me if it would be okay if he stopped to pee (he said “pee”) and get fuel. Sure, Glenn. Besides being repelled by his hacking cough there in the front seat, I actually enjoyed the ride. We got to talking; Glenn was a world-traveler. He’d been to Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, many others. I just asked him about his big trips while I was on this small one.


“Eye-Eye, Doctor!”

posted in: Day In The Life 1
Optometrist appointment reminder postcard, c. 1935. Image: Wikipedia.
Optometrist appointment reminder postcard, c. 1935. Image: Wikipedia.

I got to go to the optometrist today. I love going to the optometrist. I always have — and I mean that in two ways: I have always loved going to the optometrist and I have always gone to the optometrist because since I was in second grade or so, I have required vision correction. Whenever I see a shorty with glasses, I get a pang. Kids under six look adorable in glasses but most of them don’t think so (I didn’t.)

The optometrist is great because there are so many interesting tools used to examine you but none of them are sharp or contain fluid. You sit down in a comfortable chair. You put your chin in a cup. The doctor comes close and shines a tiny light directly in your eye but for some reason this is not a problem. You look at letters on the wall and try to read them. Whether or not you read the letters correctly, the optometrist gives you praise: “Okay, great. Let’s look at the next one.” You don’t know if you’re right or wrong about the letters and you don’t care that much. You’re just in a quiet place with someone who cares about your eyes.

You’ll think I’m kidding, but I’m not: the sound of test lenses dropping into place as the doctor goes, “Is 1 better? Or 2? Is 3 better? Or 4? 5 better? or 4?” — that entire sequence is my favorite sound in the world. There’s something calming and drowsy about it, but it’s impossible to explain. (Probably an ASMR thing, if you’re familiar with that.) If you’ve never been to an eye doctor, you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you have been to the eye doctor, you do know, and I’ll bet you love that, too.

It took some time to tweak my slightly-changed prescription, so my optometrist and I got to chatting as I swapped out this and that contact. Did you know optometry school takes four years? It take four years after an undergrad degree. I don’t know why I was surprised; a person who works exclusively with the health of freaking eyeballs should probably study for awhile before they do that.

My right eye has felt tired, lately. I was hoping it was because I was straining to see out of it, that I needed a stronger prescription. As that is not the case, I am still mildly concerned about this. But it only happens when I wear my contacts; when I wear my glasses, I’m fine. I’m not excited about wearing my glasses all the time, so I hope this tiredness goes away. I’d like to have options, which is precisely how I felt when I was six.


Some People Get All the Cool Jobs.

posted in: Day In The Life 1
Beyonce performing in Barcelona, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia
Beyonce performing in Barcelona, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia

I was walking along yesterday, looking down at my feet and the brick sidewalk underneath them when out of the clear blue, I thought: “Someone is Beyonce’s lawyer. That’s their job. When someone asks them, ‘So, what do you do?’ that person actually says, “I’m Beyonce’s lawyer.'”

This thought kept me occupied for at least forty-five minutes. I had to go to CVS. I decided to get a hamburger. I almost went in to the library to renew my library card but decided that was too much work. But all of these activities took place in the background of my brain as I thought about someone whose job it is to be Beyonce’s lawyer. It was bitterly cold, so I had my wool hat pushed down low and my big scarf wrapped around twice and pushed up high, so all I was was a walking puffy coat with two eyes blinking out, thinking about Beyonce’s legal team.

It’s a team for sure: there’s definitely more than one lawyer servicing Beyonce. I googled “how many people on Beyonce’s legal team” but nothing turned up. There’s got to be at least twelve: two senior attorneys are in charge of contracts, probably, and they both have at least two assistants. Another guy leads the team fielding all the lawsuits against Beyonce, Inc. from serious ones to wack-a-doo ones; another pursues lawsuits Beyonce, Inc. is filing against other people (probably legit) — and they’ve got their own assistants, too. And maybe there’s just one lawyer who serves as her advisor only; Beyonce’s consigliere, whispering in her ear.

The more people the better, I thought, because then there are more people on the planet who can say, “Oh, I’m Beyonce’s lawyer” as they take another cheese cube from the snack table. If I was the one who asked that person, “So, what do you do?” and they said, “Oh, I’m Beyonce’s lawyer,” then I would say:

“Wow! Seriously?? That’s amazing! Wow! Beyonce’s lawyer. How about that. Do you like it? I mean, that’s a really exciting job description!”

He (I don’t know why it’s a he, here, but it is) would shrug and say, “Well, it’s a job. I mean, long hours and the usual stuff like anybody else, I guess.”

My eyes would get big and I would say, “No.”

“No what?”

“You are Beyonce’s lawyer. Beyonce. You are her lawyer. That is amazing. You help Beyonce. You help her live. Beyonce is your boss. She pays you money. You have Beyonce as your boss. You’re a lawyer for her.”

The guy would stare at me and swallow his cheese cube before he was completely done chewing it. “Y-yeah, I mean… It’s definitely cool. Absolutely.” Then he would say it was nice to meet me and lift his glass as he took off. “Cheers, nice to meet you.” He would move quickly.

Then I would stab a strawberry with a toothpick and eat it, shaking my head. “Jerk,” I would think. And, just to be petulant, I’d use the same toothpick to stab another strawberry but I wouldn’t eat that one.

Meditations On My Stove.

posted in: Rant 2
Carl Sandburg's kitchen. National Carl Sandburg Historical Site. Photo by Billy Hathorn, 2012, courtesy Wikipedia.
Carl Sandburg’s kitchen. National Carl Sandburg Historical Site. Photo by Billy Hathorn, 2012, courtesy Wikipedia.


I knew I wanted to write about my stove tonight. And since I often go to ol’ WikiCommons to find an image before I begin to write anything — it shapes the thing, you see — that’s precisely what I did: I went to the Commons and searched for “stove”.

And what do I find, searching “stove” on WikiCommons? A picture of poet Carl Sandburg’s kitchen. That kitchen up there, that’s how Carl Sandburg’s kitchen looked in 1950! No wonder he was such a prolific, successful poet. All that white cabinetry and a big tub of Crisco? His life was a poem. He just wrote it down, probably in that kitchen.

Anyhow, this post is about stoves because I have a problem I need to think about, which is that I hate my stove. This is hard to say because my mother told us girls that we could never tell someone to “shut up”, and  that saying you “hate” something — definitely saying you hate someone — is to be avoided at all costs. So I’ve been resisting. I’ve been taking deep breaths. But it’s hopeless. I hate my stove.

My master bathroom and kitchen renovations were complete two years ago, but I didn’t have much time to be with it all before I did the One Year New York City Experiment. I was insane to leave my home after enduring those construction guys in my home for nine months; insane to leave the gorgeousness that was not cheap and was also sparkly new. But it seems that this is how I do things and yes, I’m as perplexed as you are.

Now I’m home. And I’m all up in my kitchen. And this stove is killing me.

There are a number of issues:

1. The oven takes forever to get to temperature. It’s so slow, I continue to think there must be something wrong with it.

2. It’s an electric range with a glass top. I do not like electric ranges, but my building doesn’t allow gas ranges. I can’t talk about it. Aside from being an inferior way to apply heat to pans, a glass top electric stove is impossible to keep clean. Am I missing something? Every drop of water shows up.

2.a. …and it’s not safe! Look, I’m a reasonably intelligent person but if I turn a stove off and come back to it ten minutes later and do not see fire, yeah, I am likely to put something on the stove. Because I need the space, okay? With my lame stove, I have no visual cue that there is still heat coming from the surface except for an anemic little dot of light that says “HOT”. So I’m in trouble, especially if I’m not paying attention and I am often not paying attention.

3. There’s a dial you have to turn to choose your oven setting. It’s a loose dial. If you go too fast, you blaze past BAKE to CONVECTION BAKE to WARMING OVEN to BROIL to CLEAN and all you want is to pre-heat for a batch of cinnamon rolls and now the thing is beeping at you to make a decision for heaven’s sake.

4. Too steamy.

5. If you press a button on the panel twice in a row before it resets or whatever, it goes “Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeep. Do you hear me beeeeeeeeep.”  And it’s like, chill. Chill, oven. Except wait. I have a better idea. How about you don’t chill but actually allow me to get to 375-degrees sometime this decade? That’s a much better idea.

Gritting your teeth 70% of the time you engage with your stove not a tragedy. But there is a certain discontent that comes when you buy a big-ticket item and realize you may have made a mistake. I haven’t had a car since college, but I imagine discovering you hate the car you just bought is similarly rough. It’s buyer’s remorse of a legit kind: this isn’t a blue fox fur bolero you bought while vacationing in Sedona — this is one of the largest things you own and you actually need it. And you’ll probably own it for a long time. You’ll have to clean it for a long time. It looks at you. You look at it. For years.

I have not yet told my stove to shut up. There is bread in the oven as I write this. Bill Withers said, “We can make it if we try” and no one in the history of the world has ever had buyer’s remorse where Bill Withers is concerned.

“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. 

Treasure Island!

posted in: Art, Day In The Life, Tips 0
Relevant cake pops. Photo: Wikipedia
Relevant cake pops. Photo: Wikipedia

I was up in the laundry room this evening and the joint was really hopping. I was continuing my pre-wash odyssey (I’m close) while a couple other people were laundering regular things, like underpants. After a bit, it was down to me and a pretty lady named Catherine who appeared to be in her early fifties or so. We got to chatting about what we do for a living.

Catherine has worked for many years in the children’s department of a bookstore, which means she is my new favorite person. Learning of Catherine’s job, memories of my favorite childhood books came flooding back: The Pokey Little Puppy. The Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. Anything/everything Pooh. Anything/everything Shel Silverstein. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Phantom Tollbooth. The Secret Garden. Anne of Green Gables. It felt so good to think of those books.

And then Catherine said something that instantly changed my entire winter.

“You know what I’ve been doing recently?” she said, soft-spoken and sweet like she needs to be to fit my children’s-bookstore-lady archetype. “I’ve been listening to audio recordings of children’s classics. It’s really wonderful. Treasure Island. Black Beauty. Little Women.” She smiled at me. “I’d recommend that to anyone, especially you, if you like to listen to books while you make your quilts.”

It would’ve been rude for me to run out of the laundry room at that moment so that I could get back into my living room and load up Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Hatchet, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and other A-listers in the genre. So I didn’t do that. But they’re all cued up — and while I folded three batches of fabric, I began with Treasure Island, which I have never read. I couldn’t wait.

Guess how good Treasure Island is? It was hard to break away to sit down with my computer, to be honest. Catherine and I didn’t exchange info, so unless I see her again she won’t know how much I appreciated our conversation. Maybe I’ll just go into the laundry room around this time next week and just bellow, “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” until she comes and I can tell her she is very inspiring when she washes socks.

Confession: I Leave Food Out.

posted in: Food 1


I have my limits.
I have my limits. Image: Wikipedia.


It’s important to begin this morning that if you ever have dinner (or breakfast or lunch) at my house, you will get the freshest, most delicious ingredients in the dishes I lovingly prepare. And you should have a meal at my house because I’m a fine cook, if I can do a little horn toot.

That said, I would like to say without shame that I leave food out. Within reason. Eggs, milk, chicken, and anything containing these ingredients and a few others must be tossed if they are left out of the fridge for more than an hour or so. But cheese? The kind of potato salad that doesn’t have dairy in it but just vinegar and herbs and olive oil? Half a filet mignon in a restaurant doggie bag? Eh, whatever. If perfectly good food sat out overnight because sleep was more important than KP duty, I don’t feel too good about tossing it out the next morning.

Of course, I always give it a sniff. It’s amazing to me how the nose can instantly tell if a food is off. Our tiny olfactory senses and/or our tastebuds say, “Stop. No. Don’t. Do not. That is not okay for you/us.” If warning bells don’t ring, I shrug and put it in the fridge if it’s leftovers or cheddar cheese. Half-cut apples, onions, peppers? I leave them out as soon as I cut them! They’re all in a bowl on my counter. I do not want my fridge to smell like onions. When I need the onion again, I just cut off the wizened part and go about my dicing. I always use them within a day or so. Same with apples. Dried apples are sold for four bucks a bag at Whole Foods. They are free at my house if you want some.

Mold is not okay. Sprouting things are not okay. And again, if the food object doesn’t pass the sniff test, into the garbage with it. But in this deodorized, hand-sanitized world — while there are starving children in the city of Chicago — throwing good food out is an ethical issue. We’re lucky enough to have it. We’re lucky enough to share it. Though it’s true, “we’re lucky enough to be able to throw it away” sounds lame to me.

NOTICE FOR QUILTERS! Tomorrow begins a giveaway for Small Wonders fabric! Make sure to check PaperGirl for your chance to win! Thirteen zippy quilters will get a (great) prize. 🙂

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.

How to Make a Fabric n’ Paint Chip Ornament!

posted in: Small Wonders, Tips 0
I know I'm a little biased, but the Small Wonders icons could not be better for this project. Photo: Me
I know I’m a little biased, but the Small Wonders icons could not be better for this project. Photo: Me

I made stuff! And I’d like to share the idea with you.

Christmas prep is underway; my family will descend upon the (marvelous) city and we’ve got a great cruise director in my younger sister Rebecca. She’s made the dinner reservations, the time we’ll go see Star Wars and various other activities. What’s fantastic about holiday time in my family is that it is chill. It wasn’t always that way; we used to feel pressure to do every activity together, to press all these activities (ice skating, lunch, museum) into a short time and it was stressful. A few years ago we were like, “Hey, if you want to skip the museum and just hang out and eat cookies, great!” There is no guilt about declining an outing. Do your thing. And the result is that more often than not, we actually do All The Things because we don’t want to miss out on being together.

Anywhoodle, I am trimming the tree I got the other day. The nice boy at the Ace Hardware around the corner was brawny and offered to carry it on his shoulder all the way to my elevator! He braved the cold and surely got sap on his shoulder, but I was a damsel in distress. Thanks, guy.

While I was in the Ace Hardware, I had an idea. That huge wall of paint sample cards drew me in a tractor beam. I pulled a whole bunch of Christmas-colored chips (is that word acceptable here?) and I could put pieces of fabric on them and hang them all over the tree. Of course — and I mean this, though I have a particular affinity for this fabric — the Small Wonders icons are perfect for this. You gonna cut a 4” flower and try to stick it on a paint chip? Naw, naw. So here are directions for a darling ornament that is half-free, half-from your stash. Because you have gotten the Small Wonders fabrics. I know a lot of you have because a major fabric store was out of it when the ladies in Florida went to buy it. Thanks, Santa!

How To Make a Paint Chip + Fabric Ornament

Get paint chips from the hardware store
Cut a small piece of background fabric
Cut a smaller piece of fabric with a central image
Glue the background down
Glue the “foreground” small-icon image fabric on that
Stick an ornament hook through the paint chip
Hang on a pine tree (not just any pine tree — go for the one currently in your living room)

Have fun!

Opening The Door, Part I.

posted in: Chicago 0
This, friends, is what you get when you put "flip-flop, footwear" into WikiCommons image search. Thankfully I did not find this person in my home when I opened the door.
This, friends, is what you get when you put “flip-flop, footwear” into WikiCommons image search. Thankfully I did not find this person in my home when I opened the door.

There’s much more I want to say about what I found when I entered my condo on Thursday for the first time in a year-and-a-half. For now, a list of things left behind by the tenants who lived in my condo while I was out of town:

1. One pair dusty flip-flops (women’s)
2. A nice collection of dishwashing detergents
3. Blowdryer (unisex)
4. IKEA comforter, sheets, pillowcases
5. A bunch of medical textbooks, including “The Human Brain Coloring Book” (it sounds a lot cooler than it turned out to be)
6. Guides of things to do in Chicago
7. Dust bunnies the size of flip-flops (men’s)
8. English toffee from Trader Joe’s (probably intentional, tasted fresh)
9. Small screwdriver (in bathroom)

and, among a few other things:

10. Good vibes

Enlightenment: Easy

posted in: Chicago, Paean 1
Note bouquet of flowers and candle on large box. It's the little things when your house is full of cardboard.
My living room. I’ve actually made a lot of progress, if “a lot of progress” means making my bed. Photo: Me.


In the course of getting my undergrad degree, I took a class in Indian Buddhism. A lot of undergrads at Iowa did because it sounded cool and fulfilled the Eastern Studies requirement. I’ve forgotten the impassioned notes I scribbled next to passages in the textbook that summer, but I remember a little about Buddha’s enlightenment. Enlightenment is the Western translation of bodhi, which means “awakening.”  Wikipedia says what the we understand enlightenment to be is “sudden insight into transcendental truth.”

I always imagined Buddha becoming enlightened in this searing, brilliant, sunshine-y moment, when he suddenly saw the world for what it is: temporal, finite, and indescribably beautiful. He saw that every single one of us is born and every single one of us must die, and every single one of us is important, and we hurt ourselves over and over and over but we don’t have to. I imagined him seeing the brilliance of roses and commuter trains and coffee cups and bad haircuts. Basically, it was all really intense and beautiful and made him the Buddha.

Being back in Chicago after all this time, after thousands and thousands of miles, I swear I know at least 1% of the enlightenment experience.

Because I walked out into the alley behind my building this morning and the oil on the cement, the rumbling el overhead and the pigeons flapping away as it came, the smell of fresh dough coming from Lou Malnati’s, the crisp pre-snow air, the Columbia kids walking to class, the beep of the parking garage security bar going up across the street, the skyscrapers to the north, painted there just for me, all that metal and glass and the whole city was there, right there, and I was no longer in exile. I saw Chicago, my real home, as it really is: alive, temporal, suffering, perfect. I never knew pigeons could vibrate.

Words can’t express my joy. God, I missed you so much. I tried to do that thing where if you tell a lie long enough it becomes true. But my heart was buried in that alley the whole time I was gone and I had just enough honesty left to come back and scrape it out. Telling the truth should be so easy — but we cover it up, roll trucks over it, let snow fall on it, bury it. For what? Appearances? Fear? Impatience, I think, in my case.

Surely, there’s something better than what I’m doing now, I said to myself last year. Surely, I thought, there’s something else to see than this. Surely, if I don’t put down roots, I won’t grow moss. If I don’t admit I love this place so much it feels like part of my body, if I lose it, or if it rejects me, it won’t hurt as much. That’s what I said when I thrashed and burned and left Chicago. But I’m home, now.

The definition of suffering in Buddhism is “being in one place and wishing you were someplace else.” For one second — and for the first time in a long time — I couldn’t possibly tell you what suffering feels like because there is nowhere, nowhere on Earth I’d rather be than here.


Small Wonders Fabric is Shipping!

Me and the Springs Creative team at Market last month. We're hot!
Me and the Springs Creative team at Market last month. We’re hot! (Brian is third from left.)

Many of the exceptionally good-looking women here at the Denver event asked when they could get their hands on Small Wonders fabric. They had wild eyes! I knew it would be soon, but I thought I’d better email Brian at Springs because he knows everything. Here’s what he said:

“For consumers, tell them to encourage their local shops to buy or you can tell them they can call the distributors like EE Schenck and Checker and they should be able to tell them a local store in their area that plans to carry it. We really just started shipping this week so it will probably be another week or so before it starts showing up in shops.”

Fabric that debuts at Market typically ships six months after shop owners and retailers place their orders. Sometimes it ships faster. But it never, ever ships the next month. Not unless it’s Mary Fons Small Wonders for Springs Creative, that is. Yes, the fine, Korean-hand, World Piece fabric will be in your local and online shops in about a week. A week! I don’t know how Springs does it, so don’t ask. Brian does leave trails of magic unicorn dust when he walks around the Springs offices… Interesting.

Small Wonders Fabric : The Story Video

posted in: Day In The Life 0

Here’s the story, you guys. Small Wonders Fabric, coming to a quilt shops and fabric stashes everywhere in November. If you’re at Quilt Market, come to booth #622 and we’ll squeak together.