Thursday, March 31, 2011

Old Friends

I love it when my worlds collide, and it's been happening a lot this week.

Tonight I was able to finally experience live the photography of Deb Sussex, who I first met in a winter camping week at Widji 31 years ago. I can't believe how great it was to see her agin, having lost touch so many years ago, and to see her beautiful work glowing on the Open Eye gallery wall was amazing (do see it, if you can, it's up all weekend and selling fast!)

I was able to talk to my beautiful artist friends Nance and Mary, who I have also not seen in a long time, and learn about exciting adventures in their lives and their families.

Best of all, I was able to hug and laugh with and talk with my amazing friend Nine, and her stunningly impressive daughter Hannah. Nine has held the title of "best friend" since I first met her that same week at Widji. Over the years we've walked in the snow, written long letters, seen each other when we can, and though we don't communicate nearly often enough, have been in each others' hearts. I was reminded as we talked just how well she knows me, and how much we can easily just pick things up. And I was so happy she could talk to Patrick and see my beautiful, spirited little girl (who is just as at home as she can be on the Open Eye stage).

A mutual friend once wrote me "Nine is a witch who uses her powers for good to show people how to love," and it's true. Seeing the beautiful smile on my friend's face as we walked in the door and as she immediately ran over to hug us was one of the best parts of my year so far.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Raising a Reader

For as long as I can remember, reading has been an integral part of my life. My mother swore I was reading by age 2, and I honestly can't remember a time that I didn't have at least one book going. To this day, I have a bad habit of trying to hurry through things so I have more time to read.

I've tried hard not to let the importance of reading in my life unduly influence Beatrix. Though there is nothing that I would like more than for her to love reading as much as I do, and though we've tried to make books important by having lots of them around, by taking her to bookstores and libraries, and by reading to her, I've tried not to push it too hard. She has a lot of other experiences in her life (like music and circus) that I did not have, and it's important to me that she finds her own interest and passions.

Recently, though, she's seemed to have a real interest in books. She's been very interested in having me read them to her, and in "reading" them herself (which generally involves holding them open and looking at them, sometimes describing the story to me). It's been a banner week for books, in which she got one new book at Common Good Books, a couple more at the Red Balloon (where a bunny was visiting, so now she forever thinks that all bookstores have bunnies and I am afraid to take her to Wild Rumpus), and then some more today at Half Price and from the library. Her favorite book off all time is a theatre book she got from Kelly at Play by Play Books, which is too old for her but that she reads every day anyway.

I love that my daughter is learning to love books and reading, but I'm also pleased at another message here — that we generally get books from local places that we know and love, that can help us find stories that we will treasure, where we feel at home and where we can even sprawl out on the floor with a bunny or two. I think those lessons are as important as learning to read.

But I really can't wait until the times that all three of us can spend a rainy Saturday afternoon sprawled out on various couches together, reading. Bliss.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Home and the Heart

Some little known things about me and my complicated relationship to our two houses:

1358 Summit
- Is the house I grew up in. My parents bought it in the mid-1960s (1965?) from a man named Jesse Brown, who was an early flipper. When they bought it — for $20,000! — he had "improved" everything with coats of viscous green paint.
- It was built in 1916 for a couple to retire in, thus is less extravagant than you would expect it to be.
- My room for much of my childhood was the maid's room, done in psychedelic pink and orange with a mirrored wall. It was so small I had to have an extra short bed, and beads instead of a door to my closet. It's why I'm so short.
- My mother took off all the doorknobs to paint the doors when I was around 4. Over the years they never got put on (nor did the doors really get painted), and to this day you have to wander around with a doorknob on a shank to get in and out of rooms.
- The addition was put on when I was in high school, and the pool when I went to college. Thanks, mom.

627 Ashland
- Was purchased as a HUD house for $58,000 in 1993. Sadly, I've refinanced since then.
- Was built in 1886 by Sarah T. Chapin, whose occupation was listed as "widow." It was the first home she actually owned, having gotten the money to build the house from land speculation. She lived here with her two daughters, with her son living about a block away. There's a ton of information about the family at the MHS, and our friend Walt (who we first met when they lived down the block) turns out to be a relation.
- We're slowly getting to finish the renovation work throughout. Most of it is sweat equity, though the roof and furnace that we put in last year (and the windows the winter before) were done by contractors.
- The intricate gingerbread on the front porch had all been hidden under a rotting wood enclosure.

Some general house things about living with me:
- I hate fluorescent lights. Loathe them. It may be the only thing I agree with the GOP on. Though I understand energy savings I really don't think I can live with this, and am breathlessly hoping for an alternative, soon.
- I tend to have NPR on in every room of the house, and just float through the radio waves.
- I'm picky about cleaning, and far prefer the rag and bucket method of cleaning everything. Which often means it doesn't get done. I'm also kind of nutty about separating the recycling.
- I've recently realized I am a very good painter, much like realizing I was a good writer in college.
- I let magazines stack up so I can go through them to pull articles, then stack up the articles and never read them again.
- The bulk of our house seems to be devoted to books.

See why I'm in this perpetual 2-house dilemma?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Practice What You Preach...

Nothing like working all night on a curriculum for a social media class to remind me that I have not updated my blog in awhile...

If you would like to come and experience Kelly Schaub and myself on the modest topic of "Mastering Social Media" on Wednesday at 4pm, check out Play by Play Books' event page here.

In the meantime, here's what I've been up to over the weekend (all of these, of course, involve Duchess Beatrix):

2 nights in a row at Ikea. We're trying to sort out our new front bedroom, and especially my wardrobes. We also got a great chair for the room (hopefully one of two), and so with their promotion tonight, got dinner free! Beatrix enjoys it, but keeps on stretching up to try to be tall enough to get into "Smaland"...

Good family time — a visit to my dad and breakfast with my mother-in-law at Good Day Cafe. Ok, the world's longest wait at Good Day and they lost our order twice, but the company was nice.

A visit to Shoe Zoo with a Living Social voucher from my dad to get Beatrix new shoes. Fell in LOVE with that store and will be going back.

Beatrix's first movie in a theatre, TANGLED at the Riverview. She was completely rapt. I cried. Damn Disney/Pixar animation gets me every time.

Some of Patrick's old friends (who I had never met) over for dinner Friday night. I tried a new recipe for a chocolate caramel pie which was a PITA but delicious.A wonderful evening of good food and wonderful conversation. I hope we see them soon!

A movie just for us — a rarity. The Kids are Alright, which we enjoyed and talked about.

Plus naps (because I think I have reached the very end of my ability to function on going on 4 years without a full night of sleep), a trip to Best Buy to recycle electronics, a visit to Ultimate Electronics (no wonder they are going out of business), some work, and some minimal cleaning. Notice no grocery shopping on that list? Oops...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big Theatre Weekend

Ok, you have no excuse to sit at home this weekend. There's SO much going on, and your taxes can wait another week, really...

Open Eye's Toy Theatre After Dark runs this weekend and next; it's always a great event, but this year is especially good, with an all ages program, a more adult-oriented program, a late night cabaret, classes, and a panel. I can't recommend it highly enough, but it's very popular and the space is small, so buy now!

If comedy is more your thing, Play by Play Books is presenting Sparky Johnson in Back to Borneo tomorrow and Saturday, plus workshops on Saturday. It looks really great, and if you tell Kelly I sent you it's Pay-What-You-Can.

I've heard great things about LIve Action Set's Seven Shot Symphony and hope to see it this weekend. Frank Theatre is doing what sounds like an amazing production of Cabaret — if you want 2-for-1 tickets for Friday's show, let me know by noon on Friday and I'll show you the secret handshake.

Plus it's Screen at Skewed Vision son Friday, Family Day at the MIA on Sunday, and much more. You'll never forgive yourself if you don't do something creative this weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sibley Bike Depot

I got a great "backstage tour" of the Sibley Bike Depot today, thanks to one of their board members, Julia Wells. Now remember, I don't have the foggiest notion of how to actually ride a bike, so the fact that I was as impressed as I was speaks volumes about what they do.

Though the Depot's mission is to "be an open, accessible space to educate and empower people to use bicycles as transportation, helping to build a sustainable environment and community," what that really means to me is "Changing the world, one bike at a time."

Seriously, check out their programs:
- a bike library that loans bikes to low-income community members
- an "earn-a-bike" program that allows people to allow people who can't afford bikes to get their own (and take care of it)
- a (FREE!) fully-equipped shop where people can work on their bikes (including special women and transgender nights)
- youth and adult rides
- a plethora of classes of all kinds
- a bike recycling program that rebuilds and resells donated bikes cheaply, and recycles items that can't be re-used

They do this all on a shoestring budget and with really involved board members (what's the last board you've seen that meets 2x a month and dedicates another 15 hours or so of month of direct service time) and volunteers.

If you're looking for a new bike, have one to donate, want to fix yours up, or simply want to see a great organization in action, I encourage you to check them out.

It may even get me to learn to ride!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cold to the Bone

Everyone's had something to say about the weather this winter. It's been dismally cold, and icy, and let's not even talk about the snow. I don't remember this much snow in one winter since I was a small child, and I almost burst into tears tonight when the MPR weatherman predicted more coming up.

The facts is, I just can't handle much more winter. The snow is hard enough, but the cold is really getting to me. I'm cold to the bone — I just can't seem to warm up, ever. By 11 or so at night I'm too cold to get anything done — I shake and my brain turns off and I crawl into bed, where I am too cold to sleep. We thought about going somewhere warm for a vacation, but that fell through. It's all freezing and hopeless and horrible.

Basically, it's a life-sucking, bone-chilling, eviscerating, soulless cold.

I know this isn't really any different than anyone else here feels right now. But it's awfully overwhelming.