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Place is Space Imbued With Meaning

Much of my life has been spent struggling with notions of place and home. And I’m still figuring it out. As a kid I knew something was off with my dysfunctional family. As a teenager I tried to create my own safe place which led to a lot of flailing and failing. At least they were life lessons I learned from. Everything shifted, yet again, with motherhood. I have been determined to extend a bubble of comfort and love around my son at all times. As he has gotten older I’ve attempted to balance that bubble with his need for independence, especially as someone who faces the unique challenges of autism. I’m proud he’s a decent, empathetic human. And a competent cook who does his own laundry, tackles other household chores and gets around via public transit. But he can’t/won’t learn everything from me. He’s at an age where some lessons are better delivered by neutral non-parental units. Just this week he went on a community field trip with his school program, to do comparison shopping at three area grocery stores. That ties into his consumer economics course next semester. I’m thrilled he has access to these resources (and wish they were available to more young people). It’s the holiday season which always makes me wistful. And our home is a cozy cheery nest, like it is every year, but it’s hard to say how many more years we’ll be living together like this as he is a young adult. Whatever happens I’ll continue to treasure our time together.

Five Good Things:

Another busy Saturday ahead of us but for now there’s a large cat draped over my shins, the Netflix fireplace on the TV, and our adorable Christmas tree nearby. If I take my glasses off and squint at it the lights have the best bokeh.


High Spiritual Pressure

Earlier in the Fall I told my son Netflix had made a live action movie adaptation of Bleach. He had never watched the original anime series (which is based on the manga) and declared he would check it out before watching the movie. He proceeded to watch every single episode. From all 26 seasons. The episodes are short but still, doing the math on that makes me hurt.

How about Five Good Things for this Wednesday?

This coming weekend we plan to take care of the kiddo’s passport renewal. A co-worker casually mentioned something about his hair color - concern about it needing to be a “natural” color for the passport photo - so I did a quick search. And turned up a page with a disturbing feature image. It’s weird out there, folks.

The weekend after next I’ll be selling photo magnets, cards, photo puzzles, framed and loose prints at the Strange Girls Winter’s Night Market. Saturday, December 15th from 4-9pm at Artspace Jackson Flats in NE Minneapolis. Come by and say hi!

Haircut time

Shortness of Breath

Resting over the long holiday break wasn’t enough. I was getting back into the swing of things last when I was knocked on my ass by illness. And it’s lingering. Energy and focus are in such short supply it’s taken me nearly a week to write this brief post. But I’m trying to keep my chin up. So let’s have Five Good Things:

  • My son’s state ID finally arrived in the mail so we can renew his passport for our upcoming trip. First I’m taking him for a haircut and a beard trim before snapping his passport photo. That’s an image he’s going to have to live with for a full decade. And in it he will have blue hair. I wasn’t sure what we should select for hair color on the passport form so I went with other.
  • Mesmerizing art from the other Nick Cave.
  • Well this is a heck of a thing: Pearl Jam announces $10.8 million to combat homelessness.
  • Not quite a good thing, but I’m relieved I’m not the only one irritated by this trend: “How Restaurants Got So Loud: Fashionable minimalism replaced plush opulence. That’s a recipe for commotion.”
  • Better restaurant sonic emissions: “Annoyed by Restaurant Playlists, a Master Musician Made His Own -
    How Ryuichi Sakamoto assembled the soundtrack for Kajitsu, in Murray Hill, and what it says about the sounds we hear (or should) while we eat.”

Bonus, to be filed under shrug: Live-Action Cowboy Bebop Is Coming To Netflix. That could go horribly wrong, Ghost in the Shell style. And yesterday I learned about juniper lattes and snickerdoodle flavored hummus. These things are making me feel some type of way. Also yesterday we had our first substantial snowstorm of the season. Before it hit I got us out of the house in the morning for donuts, and to pick out a tree. Glam Doll was a ghost town and we were the only tree shoppers at the lot. Back home we moved the BBQ grill and a few other outdoor items into the garage. Sadly a couple of ceramic planters were already frozen to the ground. Oops. But our tree is up and trimmed, the boy agreed to watch a movie with me, I baked some delicious bread and I’ve been reading the latest in the Invisible Library series. A decent weekend, despite the constant need for cold meds.

frozen edges

Colliding With the Holidaze

This long holiday weekend was good for my well-being. Having very few family members? Well, that makes the holidays more and also less complicated. Lonely, sure. But right now? It’s Sunday night and I see posts from friends who are very slowly making their way home from out of state family gatherings. While I’m relaxing at home, waiting for Doctor Who to start. I’ve mostly stuck around the house. Got more sleep than usual. Did some reading. Starting doing 100 squats a day. Loads of cooking and creating. Lots of thinking. More podcast listening. Happened upon this older episode of The Moth, with a story from Flash Rosenberg about her father reminded me of my own.

He taught me somehow to be aware of how to look in unusual places to find out what I know.

My introverted father has a rich inner life. For years he’s been documenting his vivid and sometimes lucid dreams for me, which I appreciate. Reading them in his teeny tiny handwriting makes me feel more connected to him. I started transcribing them a while back but need to get on top of that.

Five more good things:

Bright and early Saturday morning we did what everyone enjoys most. Hung out at the DMV! Apparently there’s a huge backlog for renewals of state ID for the under 21 crowd. My kiddo went in for a simple address change September 1st. But they’ve only worked their way through August 13th. So I ponied up $20 to “fast track” his ID, so that we can renew his passport for our upcoming trip.

Dad's Dreams

Clapping Is Not Mandatory

As a single working parent one of my evergreen struggles has been with consuming versus creating. So many ideas floating around in my head. I want to create all the things! Or realize more of them, at least. But I just haven’t got it in me. Sure, I can swing the occasional side hustle, if I force myself into turbo mode. But after putting the bulk of my energy and focus into work all day then taking care of the household in the evening it can be tough to have any juice left over. It’s too easy to sit back and allow myself to be entertained. And there is entertainment/edutainment galore out there. That problem has only gotten worse, actually, with all the highly specialized avenues and so much of it feels like it was made JUST FOR ME.

Five far too entertaining things:

  • Recently I devoured Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries: “a fantastic story about what it means to be human: Murderbot tries to steer clear of exasperating humans, but keeps getting pulled into trouble.” I am Murderbot.
  • Stopped by the MIA for their free third Thursdays series. It was too bananas to get into the Egypt exhibit (thankfully I saw it preview weekend) but while there some bold work by a Philadelphia painter caught my eye. Somehow I hadn’t heard of Bob Thompson before.

    Thematically, Thompson was inspired by the dichotomy of good and evil as well as the relationship between men and nature.

    Right up my alley. And it reminded me somewhat of current artist Stacey Rozich, whose work I adore. And may have tattooed on me one of these days.

  • There’s so much buzz about the Coen Brothers new movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. My son was baffled when I mentioned it is on Netflix now but also playing in theaters, on a limited release run. The preview was compelling enough I plan to watch it tonight but the kid is not on board.
  • Digging the new Surviving Y2K podcast. In 1999 I worked in IT for a huge insurance company, QA testing for the Y2K problem. Professionally and socially I was surrounded by developers and other IT types so I was in the know and not too worried about it. But I was also 25, single, heavily pregnant and full of anxiety. I didn’t need any additional stress about the end times. This morning I tried explaining Y2K to my now 19yo son but his eyes glazed over.
  • Last night the Allusionist’s Live fall 2018 tour was on its last stop, which happened to be here! Not only did we sell out the venue, we outdid the tour stops in Chicago and LA for turnout. Take that larger metropolises! It was a lovely evening. Helen Zaltzman and her husband Martin Austwick were just as charming live as they are recorded. I adore her style of edutainment. And the venue - The James J Hill Library - was magnificent. The material covered was largely the same as in the most recent episode “Allusionist 89. WPM” a story of feats of speed and endurance, of record-breakers, of champions… Typing champions”

Speaking of podcasts and creativity, I submitted a story to the Longest Shortest Time’s Hillary Frank but I’d nearly forgotten about. Until I received this email:

Hello from Penguin Random House Audio. I’m the producer working with Hillary Frank on the audiobook edition of Weird Parenting Wins.

We are seeking your help with the pronunciations of your name. If you have a minute, could you please record a voice memo and email the MP3 file to [snip] and [snip]? You can also leave a voicemail or send an email to us with the phonetic spelling. Many thanks for your help with the audiobook!

That’s pretty neat. But I don’t think I get a free copy of the book. And speaking of books, some of us Strange Girls will be putting together a zine. Stay tuned for that. Before then our next Strange Girls Night Market will be Saturday, December 15th at Artspace Jackson Flats in NE Minneapolis.

Lastly, I’m participating in the redditgifts Secret Santa 10th Annual Extravaganza! I’ve heard fun stories about it before but just listened to Endless Thread’s episode about it. It reminds me of the exchange I used to participate in with friends from an old beloved music message board (RIP MRMB). I enjoy the sleuthing involved to find out a little more about someone you don’t know or know well to get them a gift they will appreciate.

The Allusionist podcast, live in St Paul

How To Be Alone

So much unplanned weeping this weekend. Not that I always schedule my crying jags, but still. I was caught by surprise but spurred on by coverage of the California wildfires, general news reports, listening to The Moth’s Veteran’s Day Special and binge watching Bourdain. Later today CNN will be airing Anthony Bourdain’s final Parts Unknown episode. His death hit me hard. Yesterday I caught up on more episodes from past seasons. They’re all wonderful and bittersweet. Much of the focus is on family and community nearly everywhere the show is filmed. Especially the episodes from the Basque region of Spain and in the Philippines. I will always feel like an orphan and traveling only highlights that. Last month I returned from another solo trip. It was remarkable but I find it both interesting and frustrating how I’m treated in different parts of the world, as a solo woman traveler. Dublin was great but I didn’t get outside of the city at all. In Rome I received a few odd comments but it was much worse a couple hours away, in the smaller hilltop villages and coastal areas where I received outright hostile stares. I’m not sure why. My nationality and age aren’t immediately obvious. A woman venturing out in the world alone shouldn’t be met with such hostility. If I’d been a man no one would have batted an eye. Experiences like those make me feel even more like a loner weirdo (but won’t stop me from solo travel). Thankfully Lane Moore’s book is out now. When the title was announced a few months back - How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t - I immediately thought “hey, that’s the book for me!” And I was right. I’ve been reading it and listened to her on NPR’s Weekend Edition yesterday. This review gets at it: One woman’s quest for companionship in a culture progressively geared toward isolation. In the US, in particular, we are failing to maintain community. Dysfunctional families like the one I raised myself in are becoming the unfortunate norm. Which is why I’ve always been drawn to stories about others who don’t quite fit in.

Five Good Things:

  • Speaking of loner weirdos, the main characters in Can You Ever Forgive Me? should be unlikeable but the film strikes just the right balance of funny-sad. Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy played off one another perfectly.
  • I am currently car-less. My Volvo is with my trusted mechanic who, apparently, hates Volvos. Great! But I was able to work from home on Friday. And found it relaxing to have Netflix’s Moving Art episodes on in the background. Especially the Whales & Dolphins episode. Serenity now.
  • Long-time King Dude fan here but I had no idea they had a new release out! Well, newish. Came out back in August. Been enjoying Music to Make War To.
  • Managed to grab a Massive Attack/Liz Fraser ticket Thursday during the presale. The rest went on sale Friday and sold right out. So on a Sunday night in March I will be jammed into a sold out Palace Theatre, most likely with a bunch of olds (my peers).
  • It’s only Sunday and I’m already looking forward to Friday. Because of the amazing Helen Zaltzman! I have a ticket to see The Allusionist, live, in a stunning venue in St Paul. Just last month I was able to attend a live taping of her brother’s podcast, The Bugle, at the delightful Sugar Club in ef48b”>Dublin.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Bending Without Breaking

It seems endless. The bad news and tragedies. Synagogue murders in Pittsburgh. The caravan of weary asylum seekers who should be welcomed but are being vilified and reviled instead. Global politics are in the gutter with Brazil electing their own Trump-like leader. Around the world horrible people in power are testing the limits, pushing to see how much they can get away with. While citizens aren’t pushing back enough. I get it. I feel overwhelmed and powerless. The rich continue to get richer and sustain their upward trajectory by widening the gap between rich and poor. They ensure we’re all struggling to maintain what little we’ve got, and pitting us against one another. It seems to be working. I admire friends who have been out campaigning, going door to door for the candidates they believe in. I haven’t had the energy to do that but my son and I did head down to the early voting center yesterday. Beforehand we reviewed our sample ballot together and discussed the candidates. He turned 18 before election day 2017 and voted then, but this election has much higher stakes. It is pretty wild to think I have raised a child to adulthood. And that I raised one who takes his civic duties seriously. And heck, early voting is much less stressful. He’s the one who made the excellent point that he didn’t want to rush around before or after school on Tuesday. I do enjoy the excitement of the neighborhood polling place on election day but not the time crunch.

Five good non-election related things:

Early voting

Assume the Brace Position

Six flights (every single one of which was delayed) in eleven days, through many time zones - well, that may have been a bit much. Overall it was an incredible trip. Not always the most relaxing one maybe. But full of adventure. Had a feeling my return to regular life would be difficult, as it often is after a successful vacation. But this time around re-entry has been super challenging. So extra.

Vacation Fails:

  • Returned home to find the furnace acting up. The house was about 64 degrees. Called Centerpoint and was told it would be a week before it could be checked out. It’s that time of year. Thing is, the danged thing just had a tune up and a part replaced in August and was working just fine before I left.
  • Was able to work from home my first day back but that night I figured I should start my car up. It started instantly - no small feat - over the summer I had to have a Volvo software upgrade to ensure the power drain to the battery was no longer happening. But when I backed it out of the garage I realized one of the tires was flat. Real cool.
  • Always thankful for my AAA membership. They put my spare tire on for me so I could get to a nearby auto shop to patch the tire. But as soon as I got there? One of the mechanics failed to unlock my car before trying to Hulk open my trunk and snapped off the trunk handle. It is now held on to my car with duct tape. They ordered a replacement part but I don’t have time to go in to deal with this. I’ll have to make time but ugh.
  • Forgot to clean out the fridge before I left. Had to toss a bunch of rotten food into the compost.
  • Still getting used to my new point and shoot camera. Thought I had set it to shoot in raw mode. I had not. This means editing any photos from this trip, after the fact, will be trickier and result in lower quality images.
  • Underestimated how much toll roads would cost in Italy and how much everything in general in Dublin would cost.

Vacation Successes:

  • Visited with Danielle in Rome and met her fantastic fiancee Onar.
  • Other highlights included the Dublin Podcast Festival, a Vespa tour around Rome clinging to the back of an adorable man named Fabrizio, and the Monster Park in Bomarzo.
  • Rented a car and drove solo out of Rome and around Italy without major incident.
  • Used just 2.90 of 3.00GB of my international data plan for my phone, without going over.
  • Took out just the right amount of cash at the beginning of the trip. Used my last 10 euros cash for the aircoach bus ride to the Dublin airport.
  • Was able to carry on my luggage for most flights. Icelandair checked my roller bag for free on the flight from MSP to Dublin, and the flight back from Dublin to MSP and did not lose or damage it.
  • Returned home to discover the place in decent shape. My son kept on top of things while I was away. I have trained him well.

My son had his own adventures while I was away. At home, with friends and family. Then he flew to Los Angeles the morning I was flying home. He got to hang out with his father’s brother and his family for the first time in years. Now we’re both home but still acclimating to non-vacation life. Eventually I’ll go through the rest of the photos I took with my Leica. But before then we have to get ready for Halloween. And it would be nice if I stopped falling asleep before 9pm and waking up around 3am.


The Exchange of Energy

Another wild week with pre-travel jitters and bad news. I’ve made an attempt to block out a lot of the bad mojo going around, and only take in what makes me happy. But it’s tough. And I am a chronically anxious worrier. My current concern? I’m supposed to fly out today, first to Reykjavik then on to Dublin. Unfortunately the first leg of my journey has been delayed and I may not have enough time to catch my connecting flight. If I don’t make it my entire Sunday in Dublin will be thrown into disarray. I will miss afternoon tea! And now is the perfect time to explain: What is afternoon tea? No pinkies up. There are a lot of delightful tea services around Dublin. Including this vintage tea tour on a bus. But that seems like a depressing solo activity. Instead I reserved a spot for tea at the castle hotel where I’m spending two nights. I will have just traveled for a very long time and it makes sense to enjoy tea where I am about to check in. Hopefully it works out.

Five Good Things:

Speaking of cooking, we are coming to the end of Minnesota’s growing season, and my Community Supported Agriculture program. I’ll be away when my last box is delivered at work so I’m having my teammates share it. I feel like I did all right using it up over the summer. Last weekend I cooked and baked SO much, using ingredients from the farm. Felt great.

colorful vegetables

Goodnight Nobody

Life has been quite the grind lately. A lingering illness. Long days at work. A few challenging parenting moments. When I do dip a toe into the cesspool of current events I find myself flinching (I believe women) then distracting myself with less upsetting material. Five Good Things / Distractions from this week:

  • LeVar Burton. Love that man. And listening to the love fest with him on The Nod was just the thing. Warm fuzzies and hopefulness. And season three of LeVar Burton Reads is fantastic. Interesting that he selects a lot of short stories with disappointing, stupid and selfish male characters. Through this season I learned about author Rebecca Roanhorse and I’m currently devouring her book Trail of Lightning.
  • The return of Veronica Mars. I am stoked. And season three of The Good Place will be starting up again too. Thank you Kristen Bell.
  • I’m a few months late to the party but I found myself getting sucked into the Wolverine: The Long Night podcast. I lay in bed, in my dark room, binge listening to episodes wanting to know what was going to happen next. Gripping stuff.
  • Also late to the party on the band Khruangbin. Thoroughly enjoying them this morning. Thankfully I haven’t missed the boat on their live show. They are performing in Minneapolis in November.
  • Last night I watched the XTC: This Is Pop documentary. It flipped all my nostalgia switches.

In local news…the Franklin Hiawatha Encampment has been on my mind a lot. What it is:

This is a gathering of homeless Minneapolis residents, primarily of Native American descent. Some have jobs while some are unemployed. All lack access to shelter or affordable housing due to lack of shelter beds, lack of affordable housing, lack of a job, and other reasons.

A positive step today:

Minneapolis City Council approves site to relocate homeless camp. Relocation speed a concern with winter approaching.

I do worry about how long this may take, realistically, and how cold it will be before these folks have housing. This site has great info about how to help. Tonight there is a Benefit show for the Franklin Hiawatha Encampment. Cash donations are welcome.

In other local news, the Arab Film Fest kicks off tonight! Though I’m still ticked off. For the first time in 13 years, Arab Film Festival filmmakers and actors denied entrance to the U.S. The panels and discussions with the film makers are one of the highlights of the film fest but these artists won’t be able to participate.

Arab Film Fest