Scraps & Snaps

A lovely weekend was had, and a restful Monday stretches ahead. Except for Carl, anyway, who is already at the dentist, getting his teeth cleaned. But APART from the dentist for him and APART from a rather large mountain of dishes and maybe some vacuuming and cleaning for me, the day promises to be a good one.

Ok, also apart from the weather. Gray and dungeon-like today, with a “wintery mix” scheduled for approximately all day.

Ick.

My friend Mel came over on Saturday for a day of scrapbooking. We started at 9am and finished up at 5pm, which makes my 8 completed pages seem a bit paltry, but there you go. Seems neither Rome nor scrapbooks were built etc.

It’s sort of amazing how quickly scrapbooking supplies can take over any given space. We started in the dining area and eventually migrated over to the living room and, well, you see how that turned out.

I do like companionable scrap times. A chance to chat or share music or watch movies—preferably familiar, much-loved ones like Beauty and the Beast that allow for endless amounts of commentary and loving criticism.

Mel had found a recipe for a stuffed mushroom cap appetizer (lemony, spinachy, garlicy, cheesy, crispy breadcrumb crunchy) that looked delish, so we whipped up those for lunch. Not perhaps the most balanced or rational of midday meals, but they were super yummy. And there was a lot of mushroom involved in each bite, so that counts as high veg, right?

Just a chatty, yummy, artful sort of day.

I feel most at home with words and characters and ideas, but I have to admit to a certain fascination with graphic things—layouts and colors and patterns and proportions. I never feel confident about things like that and am forever asking Carl what he thinks of this layout or these patterns together. But for all my hesitancies, I really, really love design.

All of it.

I like colors on my walls and furniture nicely clustered. I am easily impressed by people who can draw or paint. I am constantly trying to express the things I love about the world on a 12×12 paper canvas, ostensibly devoted to a vacation or season or kid.

I think it just comes down to this: I like beautiful, delicious, kind-hearted things.

I like them in solitude, and I like them in friendship, and the lovely thing is that we’re always creating something. Even if it’s just a safe, regular sort of day for our kids or clients. A comfort food dinner. Order out of the chaos in one’s closet.

A scrapbook page.

It doesn’t matter.

Happy creating, everybody.

Documentary, my dear Watson

If you haven’t noticed, we’re avid documentary watchers in this house. I’ll watch them here and there—if I’m working out or scrapbooking or something like that—but I’m not an inspired picker. I tend to go with more obvious choices like the National Geographic specials and what-have-you.

I like those overly-saturated shots of coral reefs and cute baby cheetahs.

I’m cliche like that.

Carl usually finds the really good ones, and I know the unidentified They say you should never, ever bring the flat panel into the bedroom lest you disturb the sanctum of sleep or trouble the pool of tantric pleasure… but I have to tell you there are few things cozier than watching documentaries at one in the morning with a box of crackers between you and the cheese in easy reach.

So far the only downside are crumbs in the covers.

We endure.

We’re also happy to take recommendations. And in the spirit of exchange (and the Oscars this weekend—woot), here are some of our recent favs.

1. Exit Through The Gift Shop. I know I’ve mentioned this before, so apologies etc. But truly it’s the best documentary I’ve seen for a year at least. Funny, fascinating, weird world of street art. I’m not even into art, and I know nothing about graffiti, but I thoroughly enjoyed this ride.

2. The September Issue. Ok, I actually picked this one. It follows the staff at Vogue as they’re preparing, shooting, editing, and bickering over the September issue, the most important month for any fashion magazine. A fascinating look—not even at fashion—but at the people behind the empires: working, focused, creative, bickering, and sometimes ambivalent over the meaning of their work at the end of the day. It’s a good one.

3. Restrepo. So… I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we’re still in the USA’s longest war ever. Before you feel tempted to get huffy on either side of the equation, this documentary’s not especially political. It just follows a platoon of soldiers during their tour of duty in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. An amazing snapshot. Information is a good thing.

4. The Real Face of Jesus. This came out about a year ago and is a welcome update on the Shroud of Turin research out there. I don’t know that enjoyed is the right word, but we both put this one on our movie lists for the year.

5. The Cove. I’ve read articles now that question how skewed this documentary might be, but it sure is sad and infuriating to watch. It’s about a cove in Japan where dolphins are slaughtered every year… and the activists who are trying to bring the grisly truth to light.

6. I Have Never Forgotten You. Heartbreaking, interesting, inspiring, this one’s about Simon Wiesenthal, an Austrian-Jewish architect who survived the Holocaust and spent the rest of his life documenting and locating former Nazi soldiers and officials in order to bring them to trial. Not as fast-paced as some of the others, but a good one.

Those are the cream of our crop. We’re also eyeing up Waiting for Superman (education system in the USA), Food, Inc (if I work up the nerve), and a couple of others. It’ll be fun to see what wins at the Oscars this weekend and if we actually saw it. If you have any favorites, keep me posted.

Lilies Redux

Our get-well-soon plant is blooming. That’s the trouble with getting plants around an event—they end up being called the “anniversary plant” or the “sympathy plant” or the “thinking-of-you plant” and don’t get proper names like the rest of them.

Speaking of which, Geraldine continues to confuse. She is constantly in bloom, but I keep thinking she can’t possibly be happy. All but about four of her leaves have turned brown and fallen off. I think she needs fresh dirt, although it might be sitting three from the heat vent that’s doing it.

And I wouldn’t say I’m blooming exactly, but I had one of those ambivalent brain waves the other day—the kind where you know it’s the correct answer to a problem, but you were kind of okay with having the problem being shelved as Unsolvable.

Anyway there I was, shuffling purposefully around the abode, and I saw exactly how to fix the fatal flaw in my Lilies book. The book I retired last November.

The problem with Lilies is that it’s two books smashed into one. The plot starts with one sister and then she gets knocked out of action and the second sister comes into play. Call it heroine bait and switch. I tried to fix it by making the second sister more of a team player in the first half of the book—camouflaging the problem rather than solving it. “Too complicated,” the agent said.

The answer, I think, is to separate the Siamese.

Well, the other book wasn’t going anywhere anyway, so I popped open my old chapter by chapter outline from the Lilies book, copied and pasted into a new document, and started highlighting. Pink for all the second sister action. Green for all the places her love interest influences the plot. Blue for the tuberculosis subplot that’s no longer needed.

I was surprised by how much black ink was left.

All the book really needs are some proactive choices from the heroine from page 200-330 and a new secondary male character. If second sister is out, then so is her dishy counterpart (not to worry, my Lydia-loving friends. She gets her own book deal). And if I’ve learned anything from Jane Austen it’s that men come in pairs (Darcy & Wickham, Willoughby & Brandon, Crawford & Bertram, Elliot & Wentworth).

Enter Nathaniel Harper.

I’m sort of proud of him, because I don’t especially like the name Nathaniel. Nor am I particularly keen on his career. That being said, he seems like a pretty nice person, and hopefully a slight change-up from my usual men. Though obviously it’s a bit early to say for sure.

I don’t know.

I’m still not sold on the idea of sinking another month or two into the book. But it’s the best lead I have on actually selling a book right now (the agent said she liked the story and wanted to work with me—provided I pull the whole thing to pieces and start over).

Hmm.

Maybe will tinker. Just to see.

It can’t hurt.

Everything is Bad

Yesterday was one of those days.

Unable to get any traction with my book, I decided to reread the first 100 pages to check the flow, maybe work on taking out the 20 pages of cardboard I know are in there.

My bane tends to be unfocused conversations—when the characters take 3 pages to sort of hint at something, instead of 1 page to actually say something. Well, unfocused conversations and repeated conversations. I found my heroine wandering off to shoot billiards twice with the same person to have fairly similar, team building conversations, and I think my twins must have sat in their upstairs bedroom half a dozen times to powwow.

Foolish children.

I cut out 20 pages no problem, but then I was right back to staring blankly at my draft. So I tinkered with the opening paragraphs for 2 hours.

Yes. 2 hours on less than half a page.

And then it was 4 o’clock, so time to fold the laundry, get in a work out, shower, pull together some dinner (meatloaf, carrots, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Wintertime comfort), leaving me all evening to feel morose about my lack of progress.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m performance driven.

And I loathe it. I know it makes me miserable, this way of setting standards by clocking my best time EVER and then expecting every day to be similarly triumphant. It’s like dominos set too close together: push over just one and suddenly your whole sense of worth and well-being collapses. Then you fight the feeling of panic by lecturing yourself and demanding better.

The funny thing is that the very attempt to change this behavior is just an extension of the same pattern: I hate being performance driven because it makes me unhappy. I will change my behavior patterns, thereby resolving this unhappiness; I will perform better at not being performance driven.

The irony, it stings.

“You should take a break,” Carl says. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

I say I’m not trying to build Rome, I was aiming for a modest shack in the swamp, but even that’s looking pretty jacked up, and every time it rains the roof leaks and—

“Refill the tank,” he says. “Read some books. Relax.”

EVERYTHING IS BAD, I say.

We both have our phrases of self-deprecating misery when the final straw has been reached. Carl says THE UNIVERSE IS AGAINST ME. Usually when his coat falls off the hanger after a terrible day at work. I say EVERYTHING IS BAD, but it means the same thing.

Just one of those days when you have no answers.

Also known as being human.

When I was really little, I remember devoting a significant amount of my prayer life to asking God to turn me into an animal—preferably a shapeshifter, so I could keep my options open. Now I mostly want to be a super hero. Ideal powers would be laser insight into any situation, regenerating self-esteem, stretchy compassion that could cover any situation, and the ability to turn clay into gold.

Weirdly, these prayers aren’t being answered either.

Clothes, Colors, Bliss

Being self-employed or unemployed or whatever you want to call the arid waiting room of unpublished novelists—anyway it leads to a bit of a dip in one’s fashion consciousness. I like the idea of looking nice. Sometimes I even go so far as to open my closet.

Before laughing and shuffling off again in one of Carl’s old t-shirts and my flannel pajama pants.

That’s the score, people.

And I’m fine with it. That’s just standard office wear in my profession. My friend Em and I joke about this a lot because she’s an artist (sells through this fab little shop, her Etsy store, and local art fairs) and has the same uniform policy. In our world, “office party” means hanging out with a friend at home. In pajamas.

That being said, a girl likes to have the option of looking put together, and I’ve really been having fun lately catching up with the spring mags and fashions. Fashion rags are constantly crowing over the latest trends, and though I sometimes wonder how exactly denim or floral prints can be considered a new trend (sorry, MC!), my fashion sense is just patchy enough that I still enjoy reading the same articles every year.

Clothes, colors, bliss.

These are the things I’m most excited about this year:

  1. Lace and crochet—it’s everywhere! Bags, shoes, collars, overlays. I’m not much of a lace person, but suddenly it looks kind of fun to me. Little touches of it here and there could be fun. I like the overlay panels on shoes that I keep seeing around.
  2. Rattan—Not a hat person, but a big rattan beachy bag is such a summer classic I may be swayed.
  3. Sheer—I tend to avoid layering because at 5’2 I have to keep things really simple, but I can imagine a sheer, neutral top with a neutral cami underneath working for me. I love the look on other people. It might be time to give it a try.
  4. White—shirts, dresses, shorts. You only live once. And you’ll probably only get to wear it once, but hey. Why not?
  5. Sporty—my sneaker-loving soul rejoices.

Not super keen on the whole neon thing, the tribal/safari stuff, the hot pink lipstick and blue eyeshadow, but that’s ok. Different strokes for different folks.

Am looking forward to spring cleaning in my closet, and anything that makes me excited to clean is a bonus in my world. For most of us mortals, the truth is that we buy pretty sparingly each season, but it’s nice to have those little touches—the soft white t-shirt or the replacement summer bag—whatever it is that reminds us spring is coming and life is worth celebrating.

I’m a fan.

What’s catching your eye?

Hockey Day in America

Sunday was Hockey Day in America, in case you didn’t know.

I didn’t. I thought Carl was joking when he told me Sunday morning, but I learned the error of my ways when the hockey programming began at noon. Fine by me. I knew there was a Detroit/Minnesota game on today; scrapbooking and copious cups of tea were earmarked. Snowstorm scheduled. I was prepared.

Only trouble being that you can’t schedule creativity. I tinkered with a fourth of July layout for an hour before admitting defeat. (Two periods into the first game. Carl balancing on one foot on his balance board. Break in programming to update on the coming snow storm).

Hmm.

Laptop open. Scan my usual sites.

Snow starts falling in a sudden puff of white.

Recall random memories. Waking up. Carl tells me he’s thinking about getting a gun. I ask whether it wouldn’t be easier to finally get around to putting locks on our windows. He says a shotgun. I wonder if a hand gun doesn’t make more sense. He says shotguns are better both psychologically and something about the accuracy. I say it makes no difference to me, but it will have to be under lock and key any time there’s a child in the house. I don’t really like guns.

He considers this. Maybe, he says, he’ll get a harpoon instead.

I say that sounds fantastic. Talk about your psychological edge.

… Snow is starting to accumulate now. The score is still nada zilch. Not exactly a thriller.

Decide to upload photos from the camera. It’s a pretty random assortment.

Carl is tidy even when he cooks.

We spent an evening with Carl’s rels last week.

Work never really ends in creative fields. The shape of these lower banners are different, interesting. Would look good in the next series. Carl snaps a note to self.

SCORE.

Detroit 1, Minnesota 0. “YES!” I say. I open another folder of old pictures. I haven’t looked at these in a long time. This late night photoshoot with Carl, Steve, and Joel still makes me laugh.


Score. Minnesota this time.

Booo.

Food? Carl says we’ll go out after this period since we didn’t go out yesterday for our usual Saturday evening outing. Wherever I want to go. A little outing between Detroit’s game this afternoon and Carl’s game this evening.

Hockey Day in America, people.

A laid back, cosy, sleepy day.

Cruisin’

Ah.

Nothing like a good rant to clean the pipes.

The book continues to flounder aimlessly in the early 100s, but I made a successful slow cooker mac’n’cheese yesterday. That has to count for something. I printed off the Place of Execution book and set it neatly on my not very neat desk so maybe at some point I’ll start tearing into that. Carl advises me to write essays for a while since the turn-around time is better.

I’m in sad need for something besides dangling carrots these days.

I survive on stubbornness and compliments mostly. Some of them can even be oblique. I don’t care. The very tiny, very helpful girl who works at our UPS store knows me by face now and knows that I mail and photocopy book manuscripts. She asks me if this is a new book and what it’s about and how it sounds interesting and then says she’s taking an English class in college right now and has a good teacher so it’s fun. Her teacher is writing a novel about Detroit and raves, she tells me.

I tell her that sounds really interesting.

It makes me feel absurdly better to know that someone who isn’t required by blood or friendship to think of me as a writer DOES.

Bliss.

In other news the weather has been fantastic, the snow’s melting, our Xbox broke so the zombies are no doubt getting ahead, I’m sorting through pictures to make a scrapbook of our California trip, Carl’s trying to get out of having to go to a conference in Chicago sometime in the next few weeks, and we’ve become hooked on this new BBC mini series called Downton Abbey.

It’s written by the guy who did Gosford Park, so it has a very similar, upstairs/downstairs feel. Lots of fun, though some of the issues feel decidedly more modern. Jane Austen would not have written this in the 1800s. That’s all I’m saying.

We’re only two episodes in, and I’m having a hard time cheering on any of the romantic relationships, but let me tell you I am ALL about this nouveau riche guy finally being nice to his super cute, stiff-upper-lip valet.

Oh, and I found this picture in our California folder.

I love it when animals look cranky.

One of those pictures just begging for a caption.

Happy Friday, everyone!