Friday, December 31, 2010


So here it is, the last day of this big year and I am poised for the new fresh year to begin tomorrow. This year was pretty good so I think I'll keep at what I have been doing. Can't find my last list of resolutions if I even had one, usually it's a list of loose intentions, exercise more, drink less, be happier, be a better mother. I can do these things. In 2011 I want to write a bit more, sew some more, keep reading, keep learning, maybe raise some pigs, get the chicken flock to be more productive, get rid of some stuff, cook better stuff, make better work, collaborate more widely with people, finish some projects started long ago, hike more often. Eat more vegetables and less meat, write more letters, learn to use the camera better, work in the garden, grow a little food, learn to play a song on the piano and sing along to it. Keep giving blood. Keep the kitchen sink cleaner, read the magazines that I subscribe to, watch less TV. Love my loved ones a little bit more everyday and embrace the great unknown. Look up everyday and say thanks for this life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Between

Pearl went back to her dad's today for the duration of the Christmas break. I went to see a friend and drop off a little gift and then did some shopping to replenish my vegetable supply. I feel like all I have been consuming the last 10 days is alcohol, sugar, flour and animal fat. I am waiting for my gout to reappear and for my ass to sprout another ass. Oh well. In the parking lot at the local specialty food store a Volvo load of good looking enthusiastic people waved at me like crazy and for a minute I thought, do these people really know me because I have no idea who they are. I immediately thought this is early Alzheimer's, loss of recognition of people you have spent long hours in meaningful conversation with. In the store they apologized for mistaking me for someone else and I felt so relieved to not know them after all but also I felt good because they were attractive and obviously hip and they had mistaken me for one of their tribe. I stood a little taller then as I stuffed my overpriced purchases into my shopping bag hoping I wouldn't later be accused of shoplifting. It was a gorgeous day and I felt good even though the doomsayers predicted snow, I saw no evidence of it. I can't quite get down to work even though there is some to be done. I still just want to knit and sew and read and eat candy and float around between the house, my office, the chicken coop and woodpile. It's late now, the dark hours and I am up working because what else is there to do but sit and type and listen to music and think about this life I have created. All possibility and perfection like a freshly made bed that you could dive into or lay out all your things on, a vast plane of discovery. A place to line up the words that are the signs of where I want to go in the next year, words, garments, books, a space for lovemaking, journals of blank pages to contain all that I am thinking this moment and the next and the next.

Happy New Year dearest readers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Early riser

Slipping out to my office under cover of darkness while the house is asleep. I have one little letterpress job I need to print this morning for Christmas. I can hear the rain on the skylight in the vestibule which means when it gets light finally I will be installing the coop door in the rain. Oh well that's what rain gear is for. I hope the chickens enjoy their new security. I want a coffee but the sound the steamer makes would ruin this beautiful heavy silence.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Coop News

I strive to be ruthlessly efficient in all things and so recently I decided I needed to figure out who's laying and who's not laying down in coop-world. Obviously the two roosters getting eaten was a loss because I could have eaten them myself and that Brahma was huge. Put that in the regret column. The Bantam Rooster was just little and I feel sad about him but I never really saw where he went, just like the Peacock he just didn't show up for work and was never seen again. Now I have about 8/9 full size hens and 2 bantams. I get about 2 eggs most days, Chicken Betty White is the most prolific layer despite her scrawny size and erratic behavior, and she lays a white egg. I discovered yesterday during my work in the coop that one of the Barred Rocks is producing the only brown egg I have been getting. So that saves those two hens from eventual slaughter. My plan is to create a lean mean first-rate laying machine down there, if you don't lay you're soup and that's it. Grain is for layers, full stop.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Back to earth

So beyond all of my deep talk of transformation etc... I have work to do. My chicken flock is getting knocked off one by one so I am doing something about it. Off I go out to the coop to build a little aviary attachment so that the chickens can be left in while I am away here and there over the winter without fear of being devoured by raccoons and hawks.

I saw Food Inc, finally, grudgingly and so I am once again thinking about raising a few pigs and some chickens for my meat eating needs. So there, concrete news from the country that you don't have to roll your eyes about. Enlightenment is great and all but bring on the bacon.

Happy Solstice you pagan vixens.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Self Portrait

As time is not to be wasted and some sort of enlightenment seems to be the goal, I am interviewing a new state of being called clarity. I wear it like skin made from 1 part sobriety and 2 parts consciousness. I wore it out the other night on the outside of my clothes after trying it out underneath everything at home. I was not disappointed. My surprisingly brave self rose to the occasion and I found myself able to engage easily with the other humans without the aid of the usual mix of cocktails and social anxiety.

I heard once that the experience of self has no physiology. It doesn't show up on brain scans or MRI's, it has no weight or chemical make-up, it is not represented by a chromosome or spiraling model of atoms. This state of self is elusive and it is ours alone to wrestle and often it is a struggle that seems endless and insurmountable. I feel strongly, it is the one thing in our lives that we have some control over even though at times it seems we are completely powerless over it. For the past 18 months I have been experimenting with decreasing my negative thoughts about myself, my work and pretty much everything and it's astounding how over time I have trained my mind to go in new directions to leave behind old pathways in search of better avenues. The more I do it the more these pathways present themselves, everything feels open and possible.

I had a dream recently, similar to the dreams I had in college about my teeth rotting. I woke up in the morning and tried to consider what the dream was about and why it had shown up again now. I was very happy in college and my life seemed to be laid out ahead of me full of possibility and so I took the dream to mean that I am again in that same space only I am older now and while there is still uncertainty and some fear of what lays ahead I can overcome it, I can go to the dentist, I can understand my self or selves as they shift and I can pilot myself forward in the direction, I alone want to go.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like something else.

It's so weird, I am actually looking forward to the holidays. I feel myself easing into it, counting down the days. My mammoth letterpress job will get shipped off tomorrow. Through the whole process I have been finding time to knit my crazy micro sweaters and also start a new hat for Mark. I have a few presents identified for my little family and some ideas for other small offerings I want to make and give away.

This is the person I used to be, a thoughtful gift giver, a Christmas person. It feels good to be revisiting that long lost part of my self. I'm looking forward to doing a little baking for the family and decorating the house with hand-cut snowflakes. The lights are up already, I bought new LED ones, very fancy and energy efficient. I love that.

Mostly what I am noticing is that the heaviness I have felt for so long seems daily to be lifting and just when I think I'm feeling normal I feel a bit better. The more I do, the more I want to do, and in between I am able to feel at ease with what is happening around me.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have 9 minutes to make a blog post. I have to get back to printing my annual pre-christmas job. It's been going well thanks to the miracle of polymer plates and friendly technical help from my friends at Bison. It was my birthday yesterday which didn't stop me from working. I love my work, let's face it and I feel good when I get things done so that is a gift. I had a nice day, a couple of friends came over and we ate and drank, two more things that are good to do. Mark put up the Christmas lights and suddenly I feel really good about the holidays, a strange sensation as it is not always the way. So I am buzzing with love from my family and friends, enjoying my work and the sun is even shining, not too shabby. Have a good week, I know I will.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I started writing a post earlier this week about an iPhone app I had an idea for, of course it was a complete joke and I couldn't finish the post. I ran out of wit. This happens. What I did get done this week was a draft of a short story I have been trying to write for about 13 years. I meant to attend a writing retreat this summer but circumstances were against me and it didn't happen. Thanksgiving rolled around and circumstances redeemed themselves and I was able to stay home alone for 2 luscious days and write. It was indeed something to be thankful for.

FYI the app idea had to do with tracking a woman's menstrual cycle and it seemed really funny at the time. I feel so sorry for men who are clueless in the face of ever changing hormonal sands but when it got right down to it I felt pretty clueless myself so I moved on. Lucky you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crafty Update

With Christmas rapidly approaching I am channeling my inner Martha and I have resurrected an idea I had last year. I saw some tiny sweater ornaments in the Garnet Hill catalog and decided I would like to make some of my own. Of course it was too close to Christmas last year when I had this bright idea (this often happens, I get very inspired to make things when confronted with all the delicious holiday offerings and then I get overwhelmed and do none of it) and so the tiny sweater idea has been laying dormant in a zip-loc bag in my knitting basket. This weekend the idea miraculously popped into my head and I seized on it. With the weather now firmly in crap mode it's good for a semi-deranged person such as myself to have something crafty to keep my hands busy. I knitted one on Sunday while watching a Jennifer Lopez movie, it was strangely invigorating. My goal is to knit a couple of these per week until Christmas and give them as gifts. Who doesn't like a new hand-made ornament now and then? I will make some tiny hangers and letterpress a little hang tag for them with this years date. Stay tuned there are more on the way. By the way, my inner Martha drinks and swears, a lot, so don't worry that I've gone over to the white side and am over achieving in the area of the domestic arts (picture of a sink full of dishes, to follow).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Take away

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Chat Saisissant un oiseau 1939

Picasso's ghost is in town in the form of 150 pieces of the artworks he kept for himself, now belonging to the Musée Picasso de Paris. I dragged the kid to Seattle to take in the spectacle at SAM and it was spectacular. I threatened Pearl ahead of time, there was to be no whining, no asking when we could we leave, it was a museum crawl pure and simple, slow and steady, savoring every inch. I think she genuinely enjoyed it, at least she enjoyed the audio device that came with our admission.

When I started working on the Artists Way it suggested I take these art dates. I didn't, time is tight and it's hard to commit myself to such a luxurious activity. Time spent wandering through art filled galleries without husband and child isn't entirely feasible. Add to that a recent bout of anxiety it's amazing I made it at all. Anxiety is my shoes, lined up in the hall begging me to step in and experience a little fear. Thanks to Mark who is good at shaking me out of myself I went and felt okay, better than okay, I felt good.

The show was great, extensive, well paced and fascinating. What I took away from it all was the incredible willingness Picasso had to experiment with different styles and mediums. For some reason I have had it in my head that an artist needs to attach herself to one style and do that alone ad infinitum. Picasso dabbled, he made broad strokes and small scratches, he worked in clay like it was ink on paper, he documented his life and the times he lived in. He made art about love and sex and war and rape and he didn't always finish things but he always kept moving. Making, making no hesitation, no apology, moving forward, always making and this is what has inspired me the most.

My own art making process is in it's infancy and if I am not careful it will stay there. It's so easy to become self conscious, and then nothing is made. I have learned with writing the more I do it the more things emerge and that feels worthwhile, visual art is the same and slowly I am beginning to make things and to learn that nothing is precious or sacred, there are no wrong answers. Moving forward is the goal, making and trying, remaking, moving, moving always forward. Stepping back and watching to see what comes out of me is exciting, as we can do now in retrospect looking at the body of Picasso's work. Eight decades of his process, success and failure aside, the existence of the work is proof of his singular visual voice and the humanity that exists in us all.

Let it out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning to Read

Further dispatches from this slow life in the country finds my reading skills improving. As I am the proud mother of a middle school-er the topic of practice comes up often, the benefits of doing things that you naturally can do but can also do much better through practice are the topic of regular discussion, and so I have taken my own advice and am noticing certain improvements in my ability to take in and digest the written word. A friend, a writer, has been giving me books to read and I have been devouring them. I have read more this year than any other year of my entire life.

My house has always been filled with books. There are my books, the ones I have designed, and books about art and design. There are my mothers books; after she died we laid her books out on her living room floor and took turns picking the ones we each wanted. There are books on loan, (perpetual loan, as in they may never be returned to people I have now lost track of), there are books I have read and many more I have yet to read.

I just finished Lorrie Moore's book, "A Gate at the Stairs", and so not having a specific book to read I read the introduction and a few entries of Virgina Woolf's Diary, Volume 3, from my mother's collection. I observed that my mind wasn't wandering off, out of my control as it used to, slipping silently off the edge of the bed abandoning the warm covers, onto the floor, slithering into my boots being reminded of something not present in the text that my eyes were working hard to follow along with, my brain, now disengaged is onto something else, something outside, down the road and then its over, I have lost the thread and have to go back to the point where I got distracted.

I wake at 6am, 30 minutes before Pearl and manage to read in toto the introduction to the diary and absorb it, making real the life of a woman struggling to be an artist and wife. The next morning I find myself reading a type specimen pamphlet that was sent to my office from Emigre studios in California. It was a type sampler but what I hadn't realized was that it was about something, it contained actual content. Rudy VanderLans of Emigre had set out to photograph in wide format, 13 sites of the Mexican American War. He ended up designing these little typographic samplers telling the story in a style akin to early stock certificates or fruit crate labels. It was fascinating and I was transported to California circa 1840 without leaving my precious bed.

It used to take me forever to finish anything I was reading. I read slowly, I never gave it any priority. Reading was relegated to when I went to bed which is not the best time of day for me. I would read a paragraph or two and then fall asleep, it was hard to keep track of what was happening in the story, going at a snail's pace as I did. I stopped my morning writing practice a while back and began to take language in rather than spew it forth. I'll go back to writing at some point but for now I am enjoying the reading. I have come to appreciate what a practice reading is and how much better I am getting at it and how satisfied it makes me feel. I learned to read at the normal age and I read a fair amount during my youth but I went for years without reading very much. These days when I wake up before the alarm I don't feel the urge to rush out to the office to give priority to work instead I look forward to a little mind expansion before the busyness of the day takes over.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recent Work

Here's a little photo journal of a recent project. You might have to become a fan of DoubleMRanch Design on Facebook to view it. A small price to pay.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Projects

Paula cutting off the duct-tape form

So I cleaned the house and went for a walk in the sunshine and got on with things as planned and as a bonus I felt less hateful. My sister-in-law came over and wrapped me in duct tape, not once but twice. Our motivation was to make a dress form, mannequin for me. I am a tall woman which means finding clothes that fit me properly is a challenge. So we came up with this plan to make a form in tape, cut the form off and then stuff it. It went well and was a pleasant experience, everyone pitched in. I can now make some clothes and be able to fit them properly. I am not sure what to make first but it will be interesting to be able to approach the process more strategically. How we dress ourselves is integral to how we see ourselves and in the recent past I have lost my way a little, living as I do, working at home, being a mom. It's not that I don't care how I dress I just approach it in a more utilitarian way than I once did. I learned to sew watching my mother, I took home-ec in the 9th grade and I almost went into fashion design, my room mate in college was in the fashion design program. Sewing appeals to my ability to make dimensional things and to think spatially. I love fabric and yes I love the feeling you get from being complemented on your attire. Ah vanity. Here I go, stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Feeling a bit evil today. A little hateful. I have just hosed off my back patio for the umpteenth time because it was covered in peacock shit. I hate the peacock. I want to eat him, or stuff him. Actually eating would be better because then he would be gone. If I stuffed him I would then be doomed to move his almost lifelike body around my life until I drew my last breath, knowing my inability to get rid of things. I now seriously question the likely-hood that he is my mother incarnate. She was tidy and would never litter my yard with stinky piles, there is no symbolism here. He is a freeloader, a malingerer. The house is a mess and this is what's eating me. I need to clean and I don't want to. I have really been enjoying time in my office lately, working and plotting. It's been a long time since I felt this deep love for what I do and I want to engage myself fully but my domestic responsibilities are suffocating and distracting me. I made my bed today but even that task wanted more from me than I could reasonably give it. I smoothed the sheets and pulled up the duvet but I noted to my dismay a subtle imbalance in the distribution of the feathers under the coverlet. If I had more interest I would have pulled off the quilt and shaken it repeatedly, redistributing the feathers evenly throughout and returning the two to the bed so that the vast plain of bedding was evenly puffy. I am in the living room and this depression on the bed in the next room is weighing on me. The kitchen is chaotic, the dining room table is awash in mail, magazines, notes from school, tile and empty bottles of wine begging to be recycled and yet I blog. I need a wife. I need someone to come in and keep everything in order so I can do what I please, what a luxury that would be. Whining aside, I'll probably clean for the next two hours as I generally do on Thursday mornings and then I will work and take a walk and feel fine once again. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Chair similar to the one I am discussing.

Sometime at the end of summer I realized I needed to shed a few things from my home. I know spring is often the time that people experience that need to clean and organize but I am slower on the uptake. For me fall is a time of renewal so I think this is why the urge to purge struck me. Additionally, I needed to make room for our new tenants which meant emptying out my guest room. I have been trying to absorb the overflow in several ways but there are a few things that seem to need to just go. For example, how many saddles does a person who no longer owns a horse need? I have two. One Western, from my childhood and one English, from recent times when I bought a horse in-utero after my mother died and I had some money to spare. I have tried to sell this saddle without success and now it is in my living room, being shifted from spot to spot. I want to get rid of it but there is a part of me that holds out hope that one day I will be able to use it again. It's worth a reasonable amount of money and has been barely used which should itself be a testament to exactly why I don't need it, even when I had a horse I barely used it so why should I expect to use it in my now, horseless state. I sold the horse 6 yrs ago but the dream lives on.

The other thing now occupying space in my living room is a danish modern chair that belonged to my parents, most recently to my mother. I need to quantify "recent" here. She died 13 yrs ago. This chair and one similar to it have been in my possession since then. One of the chairs is on loan to a friend. The remaining chair is functionally useless. The design is a minimal marvel, it has a lovely teak frame but the chair back itself is not supported by the frame and so sitting upright in it is impossible. The shape looks great but as soon as any weight is applied, you might as well be in a chaise lounge. Throughout my youth I recall innocent visitors to our house who were drawn to this chair were warned of it's shortcomings. Basically no one sat in it, ever. One of my mother's boyfriends attempted to fix it once, using some L-brackets to strengthen the connection between the seat and back but I had the chair recovered at some point and this work was undone rendering the chair once again fragile and useless. I must add here too that we are not small people. My entire family is tall and reasonably heavy. So I have this bloody chair in my living room and it's useless and I can't seems to part with it but I must. I feel that getting rid of it will be like giving away a bit of mother, a bit of my youth. In Smithers where I grew up we were anomalies I think. We had all this stylish, highly uncomfortable furniture, now called mid-century modern. We had a sea grass rug that covered the linoleum tile, if you spent too much time on your knees, you'd come away with deep grooves in your flesh. It was minimal and cold, unfussy and not that inviting but the parents dug it. The family couch, which needs recovering is in my office. I have a drop cloth on it and the dog sleeps there daily.

Why am I hanging onto all this stuff? I may ride again, I may not. I am certain that if I do, the horse I ride will probably have it's very own saddle. My living room is small and Mark bought me an Eame's lounge chair and ottoman for my birthday one year so I have a chair to sit in that does not throw me into a full recline or require any explanation as to how to use it or what to expect once you have sat in it. Chairs should be that way, you should just be able to sit in them without any trouble. But still there is this nagging feeling I have that I am being wasteful, getting rid of these potentially useful things. I have considered giving the saddle away, both the saddles in fact, and also this chair to a person who does upholstery and who could potentially fix it up and sell it as a useful item. But, it's a hurdle to step over to say a little good-bye to the past. Would my mother mind if I abandoned the chair? It's not her, it's an object and not even a very useful object. Probably not. Sometimes just the act of writing it all down is useful in helping me see the lunacy of what I am clinging to.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weekend Update

It's been a tough weekend in suburbia. Eddy is deeply under the weather which is very concerning. For me it raises all sorts of issues about how long can we go on looking after him if for example he began to refuse to walk. He likely just has a common cold but even the most simple ailments in the elderly can be a big problem. His weight had gotten a bit low and we had started to get that under control when he began to slow down at the table. He forgets he is eating and stops and sits staring at his food like he has no idea what to do next. He often says this, what's next? A loaded question. His usually cheery demeanor has vanished and has been replaced by a strange look of fear and concern. He doesn't feel well and he knows this but to him it must seem more dire. He won't talk much and is slow to respond when he does which drives Mark crazy.

We took a few walks over the weekend to different places as a way to calm our tired worried nerves. We went down into the deep ravine below the powerline in Abbottsford but it was an uncomfortable place to be. It's very treed and the trail is winding, they are a few ner'-do-wells who potentially hang out there so instead of feeling relaxed I felt sort of scared and vulnerable. Probably will skip walking there in the future unless we're armed. (hah) On Sunday we went up to the Dyke which was better. I ate my samosas while Mark threw the ball for the dog at the rivers edge. We walked a good distance along the trail and it felt better but we still mostly talked about Eddy, if we got off the topic Mark brought us back with his concern, saying I hope the old guy gets better.

My feeling is that he'll be okay, he might take a little while to get back to his baseline. The tough thing is with each illness he becomes more checked out. We just have to take it as it comes, we have no plans for the future beyond the next few weeks. We'll keep Eddy home until he gets better, even the routine trips to my place can be tough because the set up there is so different. So we'll visit here a bit more often and see what happens.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Image from the Cowboy Junkies show

My underpants are on inside out. It's not a big thing of course, they work just fine either way but I think their inside-outedness is indicative of other things. It's fall now and the mornings are a bit darker so looking for the tag on your black underpants is a challenge. Underpants barely even have tags these days, it is the fashion now for companies to print this telltale information directly onto the fabric which makes finding it tricky if you don't have your glasses on yet.

September has come and gone, Pearl is back at school, I am back in my routine, rising in the dark, fumbling. We've been working like maniacs on our rental renovation so the issue of whether my underpants are on correctly is a super low priority, it's not as if I put them on on the outside of my pants where the drywall guy might notice and be concerned. No one noticed them at the Cowboy Junkies concert I went to on Thursday with a dear old friend who has recently relocated here from California. We talked about the band at intermission, the 25yrs they have been together and what it might feel like to perform the same songs over and over, needing to please a loyal audience who hasn't bought one of your records since The Trinity Sessions. I thought about what it meant to be a practicing artist for a similar number of years, striving for new avenues of expression. The show was good, understated, the music emotive and dark red in hue.

Mike sits facing Margo who moves the most of the five of them but still not so much. Her head bobbing forward hiding her face but revealing the top of her head, exposing her light roots, she is over 50 now. They're his words she is giving life to, not her own. She talks about their website and the new records they are working on, a tribute to Vic Chestnut among them. Art and commerce at play as always. I wept a little for the past when I first heard this Canadian brother sister act.

When I woke up the next morning for a second, I forgot I had been to the show as I have become so used to my normal routine of being at home night after night. Waking in the morning putting on black underwear beneath yesterday's clothes in a dark room, going through my day and laying myself back down at night in the same black room. I remember that I look forward to the sameness of it, maybe the Junkies feel the same way as they play the first chords of Misguided Angel. Like slipping into a dark familiar space, knowing what to expect each time.

Occasionally there is some tiny shift, a little bit of inspiration or lightheartedness in the moment. Something out of place that causes you to stop and think. I laughed out loud at the absurdity of my inside-out underpants, as I did at the surprise sight of a woman, passed out at the concert, lying down on a bench in the mezzanine of the plush Mt Baker Theater with her too short skirt riding a little too high on her ample thigh. Sweet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Site

I am working on—have been working on—a new website for my little company. It's hell. Doing work for yourself is so difficult because it never gets priority. I am trying something new with this site and so there is a huge amount of angst and uncertainty about it. Plus, I can no longer do all my own programming (that is if I want the site to look any good) so I have to spend time communicating what I want to others and then like a horrendous client I am prone to change my mind because time passes between my work sessions and when I come back to look at what I have created, I think what on earth was I thinking. Here's the splash page and my new logo to amuse you while I grind the rest of the content out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Despite the incredibly wet weather and abounding sadness around me I am feeling pretty good. I attribute it to fruit. I was not eating enough plant matter and lately I have upped my quota, choosing fresh snacks instead of cheese and crackers. My old tenants, the bus people came for a visit from Oregon and we had a little potluck with all the neighbors. I think there were about 9 kids in the house, I was surprisingly calm as I had made sure to have a glass of wine before everyone arrived. The dinner was great and it was wonderful to catch up with everyone. That was Wednesday and on Friday the world turned upside down when one of the neighborhood dogs collided with a neighbors car on the driveway. Everything felt uncertain and dreadfully sad and we were all involved, suddenly drawn together by shared sadness and compassion for one another. Friday night was a blur but on Saturday came some relief in the form of shared tears, a release of pain for this lost dog who was a friend to us all. I wept over his body and said goodbye, petting his cold shoulder as he lay so still in his bed. A friend came to visit later that morning to check out the studio and to discuss a card I am helping design and print which memorializes his wife who recently died of cancer. We talked about the dog, and his loss and adjustment to being without a partner. I was struck again by how we are all walking along side death at all times, a slack fence line that separates the two states, brushing our hips and hands. And I eat fruit with my meals because I want to feel better, when I feel better my thoughts are less morose and death is less scary but thoughts of it don't subside. When I feel better I can accept it's presence as equal to my own life, no larger, no worse, just there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hair Piece

I ran into a woman I sort of know from a long time ago in the Co-op. She has untreated bi-polar disorder and had that look of crazed focus on her overly thin tan face. She called my name down the frozen food aisle which surprised me and invited me to a party she was planning, a blues band would be playing at 2 the following Saturday afternoon. I asked her where she lived knowing she had lost a house recently because she was unwilling to stay medicated. She told me the neighborhood and then went on to say why she was having the party. It was for healing she said, to heal the neighborhood trouble with heroin and deceit. I said I would be busy with my reno-project and she said oh no you should come, it will heal you. She had a point.

In my dreams last night I met up with her again and we exchanged scalps and hair. I took my freshly washed hair off and gave it to her and she did the same, it was as if we were passing caps between us. Try mine and I will try yours. I ran my fingers through the hair that was now on my head, knowing it was not mine and wishing I could have my clean hair back but she was still enjoying it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Planning as we go.

Mark hammering the concrete nails

I look around my place sometimes and think, "if I only had a plan". The reality is that your plans change, things happen, life changes and we must adapt. Recently my sweet tenants who had been with me a year gave notice. I was sad, they were a great young couple and loved living here but they had been given a house of their own and who in their right mind could say no to that. The hardest part of having a little rental here on my property is finding a suitable tenant. I have been pretty lucky over the 8 yrs I have offered the space for rent and have only had a few total duds. When faced with this recent challenge of finding a new tenant I went backwards and approached the person who had first rented from me 8 long years ago. She was interested but the deal was she needed more space, an office for her partner in addition to the large studio for herself. The studio was no problem, the room was there being under utilized as my guest room but the office did not exist. Instead we had a covered breezeway between the living space and studio, the result of another plan conjured long ago.

So between now and October 1st it is our project to make this outdoor space into a functional indoor space. I drew up a plan and then changed it in favor of another plan. We started on the floor yesterday and today we will purchase windows and frame up 3 walls. By Friday the plumbing and drywall will be complete and next week we will insulate and do the finishing.

I enjoy doing this work and strangely look forward to it once I get over the initial shock of what is involved and the money that suddenly needs to be spent. I was cutting wood yesterday in the rain and I found it satisfying and even comforting to have this new plan guiding me along. So maybe having one plan is not the goal, rather the ideal is to have many plans and go from one to the next joyfully executing each one.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Occasionally I feel bored and hit the dreaded "next blog" button. (yes my blog is still on blogger, so lame) I click click click until I find something interesting to read. If the blog is presented on a black background or anything with more tone to it than white or beige I won't read it, fearing the text will be burned on to my retinas forever. My eyes are sensitive, or I am sensitive about my eyes lets just say. If the blog is too busy and has some lame audio track and resembles a scrap-booked page–and by scrap-booked I mean the new trend of making one's photo albums fancy with printed fake letterpress paper, stamps and bits of ephemera which seems to have infiltrated the certain blogs–I click away. If the blog appears to be the rantings of a lunatic I avoid it. If the blog is salacious I may read it. If the blog comes with a warning of adult content, I will most definitely scour it with a fine tooth flea comb. If the blog is written by an artist I may read it, if I like the art, if not I click away faster than insert speed metaphor here. If the blog is about knitting, sewing, or cooking and does not have a black background or an audio track I will read it. If the blog belongs to a wannabe photographer living in the high desert with an audio track I won't read it, even if they keep horses. Really what it comes down to is that it's difficult to write at times and I like to see what everyone else is up to so that I can feel either superior or unworthy.

Today I felt nothing but stay tuned, this too shall pass.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Catch as Catch Can

Recently I have gotten it into my head that I want to catch a Sockeye Salmon. Last year the news was all bad, very grim information out of Canada. The Sockeye fishery was in serious trouble, the number of salmon returning from the ocean was at an all time low. This wasn't surprising to me, ocean temperatures are rising and the water is more acid making it tough on the phytoplankton which these particular fish feed on. Lo and behold this year there is a bumper crop, somehow no one predicted this, in fact the crop outnumbers the entire population of Canada. The run is estimated at 34 million so I says to myself, I want a piece of that action.

With Mark at my side we paid a visit to the local sportsman's shop. I was extra happy about this as I had asked Mark where we might go to get some info about fishing for salmon, somehow going to Sportmart in the mall seemed wrong on many levels. A malcontent mall rat is going to know nothing about what I was thirsty to learn. Off we went to the LOCAL sports store in the historic part of town, wouldn't you know it. It was nirvana. First of all there were 4 parking spaces out front so we were able to easily park Mark's giant convertible. It was a classic shop, loads of rods, guns, gear and requisite stuffed game heads.

Because I am a non book learner and am gregarious by nature I began speaking to a man who was buying some fishing gear and an employee, a youngish asian girl. He was speaking some crazy foreign fish language and I could see I was losing Mark. The girl on the other hand was clearer and had more practical advice. She gave me the low down on the fishing license we would need. Three-day tidal would do us. We would fish downstream of the railroad trestle on the Fraser, I knew where that was. The fish aren't hungry so you don't need bait, you need floss aka wool, and I have that in spades, and a weight called a bouncing betty. Mark has those.

Mark took me aside against a wall of florescent lures and pointed out that for the $40 dollars we would potentially spend to augment his ancient sockeye-less east coast fishing gear we could get a sockeye at the grocery store for a fraction of the price. I was undeterred and got the stores hours for the next 3 days so I could keep all my options open. When we got home I called my brother. He told me to buy a salmon, it was cheaper than fishing. I was shocked. Wait a second I said, you love fishing. Yes, he agreed and said that he pays about $5oo per pound when he fishes. Mark gave me two thumbs up. Ian exaggerates, but I knew there was some truth to what they were saying, bastards I thought.

The reality is that I just want to try it. It's a record year and I want to get out there and feel the excitement, it's like the Olympics. When something big comes to your town you want to chase the parade. Because this run is so huge there is a danger that the spawning grounds will be over-run and this will cause problems with eggs being safely laid and fertilized, and in 4 years we will experience a real collapse. If this does come to fruition I want to be able to look back and think about the winter we feasted on salmon that we caught ourselves.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coop Life

Chicken Betty White has me concerned. She went broody a month ago and was behaving like a real git, she's past it now but still isn't laying and two days ago she stayed out all night. The ladies are on an honor system to put themselves in at dusk before I come and lock up the coop. We have an interloping Bantam rooster in the pen currently and I think he is trying to coerce Betty to join his flock of one. Why shouldn't she? She is an outsider here, plain looking to the point of scraggly and because she is a slightly hysterical hen she has a hard time just chilling and hanging with the other hen ladies. She refuses the Brahma roosters advances, running away shrieking into the underbrush anytime he gets near her. The compact Bantam rooster is different in his approach, he hangs back and has a plastic sounding crow. He's fancy but not too intimidating and he finds his way into the pen every morning so when the hens tumble out of the coop he is the first thing they see. Betty may be smitten but I am not sure what future she can have with him. His owners will eventually trap him and return him to his miniature flock saving him from a sure death if he continues to live outdoors. Betty is a wreck. Hopefully she will start laying again and her life will sort itself out with the return to the daily routine and comfort of egg laying. Perhaps in time she will begin to own her spot in the flock and get more comfortable in her own chicken skin and with the meager contribution she makes to coop society.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Splitting in Two

Not so much blogging going on as I am at a crossroads. Now that I have a Facebook page for my company I feel I need to blog in a more focused way. There was a time when I was willing to mush it all together, the professional and personal, but I have had a rethink in the process of redesigning my website. I am thinking a lot more about writing these days than I am actually writing and it's because the content of what I want to write doesn't really fit on a blog about design so sometime soon these blogs will split in two and you, my dear followers (hold up your hands) can decide where you want to read.

I'm floating on the surface of things and I long to go deeper and further with my exploration. So stay tuned, things are going to change.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

And then it rained

It is raining today after countless dry weeks. I put on jeans for the first time since June and I felt okay about it. The air is a bit cooler now and soon all the brown dry grass will infect the trees and the leaves will begin their long transition as fall advances. I stayed in bed for a long time this morning finishing a book, Plainsong By Kent Haruf is a wonderful methodical story about 7 characters in a small town in the high plains of Colorado. Laying in bed with the windows open listening to the rain as I turned the final pages I felt no urgency to rise. The rain started at 6am in a loud burst and then stopped and I felt a twinge of disappointment. We need the rain. The road is dusty and the 200 now logged acres at the curve in my road looks like a hardened blood caked scar. I know with just a bit of rain the open area will green back up and treelings who hardly know they are alive will spring up and get their chance to be trees. At noon we fried eggs and made toast with the doors open letting the new dampness into the house. I made pickled eggs, a small goal I have been waiting to achieve. I like eggs but I also harbor some suspicion about them, I leave them in the nest too long and I worry I will crack open a half formed chick, a pre-historic horror. Of the 12 eggs I hard-boiled 3 of them were a little suspicious and went into the compost, at least 2 had the yolks too close to the shell wall and I deemed them poor candidates for the pickling jar. The rain started again in earnest a half hour after it's first burst and continues on. I went out in my thin cotton shirt and flip flops and cleaned the chicken house while the eggs boiled. Chicken Betty White is broody and hysterical and while she was off the nest I stole all but four of her eggs. I will go back and mark them with a pencil and then try and encourage her along. In my office now writing this and listening to sad songs and feeling perfectly melancholy, perfectly happy to have this rainy day that is busy doing it's own thing with no expectation of me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Email from my brother

I was flying by Johns Peak today in the Unik River region of north west BC, talking with the pilot Chris Hamilton a kiwi guy. He mentioned he had flown around the peak the other day and said he saw what he thought to be a bowling ball.

I put that ball on top of that peak with a helicopter in 1989. One of the boys bought it in a second hand store as a gift for our breakfast cook at the time Julie Hillier. It was purple metallic with Julie inlaid into it. I'm sure she loved it dearly but left it in camp when she went home and it was kicking around my office. I thought I would do some thing cool with it just to keep the archeologists' guessing that there was intelligent life in the region.

It was a little faded but miraculously has survived 21 years atop that mountain at 7000 ft. For future reference put the finger holes down to prevent splitting from the freeze thaw cycles.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Packing and Un-Packing

I am packing up to go home today. I will unpack when I get home and on Wednesday I will pack up again. I am getting really good at this after 8 years of this cross border affair known as my life. I seem to be always either coming or going and in the summer it compounds because in addition to the usual back and forths there are little trips here and there which of course involve packing. I am quite good at it I find and the order of it pleases me and gives me a small sense of control over things. Underpants, scarves, jeans, dresses. I have become a more efficient dresser as a result. Everything goes with everything. I can turn 5 items of clothing into 10 outfits. I am like a living magazine layout for a fun summer getaway. Ha.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Something New

I like to mix it up, and try new things. In the city I live near, Bellingham, as in many towns and cities across America, everyone is riding bikes. I yearn to be like everyone else and to be a part of this new-fangled bicycle movement. Of course, for me it's not very practical as I live 2o miles away from the city where I would be seen being a part of this scene. Recently I schemed and planned and bought myself a new snazzy bike that was made in another town near me. Very important this buying local thing, I am down with the movement. I am pretty sure the bike rack attachment I got for my car rack was probably made in China, oh well, can't bat a thousand all the time.

Mostly I ride my bike near my home in the country. It's pleasant as the roads are mostly flat and sparsely traveled. The air smells of hay and wild roses and cow manure. It's peaceful and satisfyingly pastoral. We wave at people we know as we ride the 5 miles to Everson and on the way home we can get soft serve ice cream from the local dairy and eat it as we cut across the middle school field. But somehow this wasn't enough for me. I longed to ride the streets of Bellingham.

A few weeks ago with Pearl enrolled in a summer day camp in Bellingham I brought my bike along to town. I parked the car in what I thought was a strategic location and set out on the bike. In short order I realized I had almost no idea how to get into downtown from where I was. Luckily I ran into a friend who hipped me to a path which took me past the mall near where I had parked and through a funny forgotten neighborhood to a place where I could pass under the freeway which separates downtown from where I began my journey. I rode down into town on fresh pavement and it felt good for a time. It was hot. As I rode along getting closer to town I started to become aware of the difficulties of riding a bike on streets with parked and passing cars. I soldiered on. I felt brave being so close to the street. I realized how comfortable I am passing through space inside my car. Once downtown I needed some lunch and then I needed a place to eat said lunch. I parked myself on the lawn behind the museum and ate my California rolls and thought about how I might look to passersby and museum employees. Did I look homeless? Was I breaking any loitering laws? Was it odd, a woman eating lunch in public with a bike, alone. I ate slowly enjoying the shade, struggling with my chopsticks as I always do. A whole bunch of Asian students appeared suddenly from the hill below my spot and I felt instantly self conscious about my lack of mastery of the tools I was eating with. They didn't care, they were lost in a tour taking pictures of each other and chatting away.

After lunch I continued on with my mission to participate in bicycle society. I came across a sign on the sidewalk that clearly stated no cycling here so I got back onto the street and found myself in the midst of a small drama between an angry motorist and a meter maid, I rode through it invisible to the players, one of whom was dramatically tearing up a yellow parking ticket and throwing it on the street. I stopped into a few shops, one of which I brought my bike right into and the other I locked my bike up to a stand with the other bikes and went in to look at overpriced panniers. They let me use their bike pump, that was nice.

Pretty soon it was time to go and collect Pearl and so I headed back to my starting point the way I would have had I been a car. I did take a small detour through a park trail which was okay until my mind started to wander and I entertained how foolish it might be to be alone on a trail. Would someone jump a person on a bike? Who knows. I called out to squirrel, accusing it of being a rat. It went up a tree. The path let me out onto a very busy north south road and about a block along a woman yelled at me to ride on the sidewalk. This perplexed me and I yelled back to her suggesting she was a redneck. A fine insult I thought. I eventually did get onto the sidewalk, it seemed safer and I passed a nice man holding a sign advertising spicy food. He was well dressed and smiled widely at me and wished me a good day. I returned the sentiment. I marveled quietly at how this generous fellow without knowing it had canceled out the earlier insult. I eventually got myself back to my car and got the bike loaded back up and picked up Pearl on time.

It's good to do things if only to get clear in your own mind whether you like them or not. It was a romantic notion this town riding but I think I am better suited to country rides and trail excursions. On the third day of Pearl's class I took my car downtown and felt okay about it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A little Inspiration

Thought it was Monday but alas that ship has sailed and so it's on to Tuesday and a little inspiration to help you along. One of my favorite books when I am working on logos of a particular nature is the above shown book from Chronicle. It's cheerful and colorful and has lots of great examples of the type of typography that will warm the cockles of your heart.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two of Me

Self portrait through the main sail

I feel I lead a strange life. I have the tendency to regress on the weekends I spend with my husband Mark at his house. I arrive late afternoon on Friday and have a few drinks, we talk like maniacs because we haven't seen each other and we drink a little more. I keep my laptop on my lap the whole time, looking at Facebook, reading a little, surfing for crap I don't need and can't afford like mini well designed module house pods that I fancy for the back of my property. mark does the cooking and has to demand I close my laptop and come to the table to eat. I do, but I eat fast and then dive back onto the couch before he gets a chance to occupy it. Occasionally I whine at him that we never go out and do anything before I pass out.

In the morning I wake early and try to get mark to wake up too. I tell him we should go and play tennis while it's still cool. Pearl is with her dad and we could just slip off to the courts for an hour but we don't. We stay in bed and do bed things and watch Looney Toons and I fall back asleep and forget all about the list of things I wanted to do at 5:30am when I first became conscious. We're up by 10 and back on our computers, searching for everything and nothing. Sometimes I write or walk the dog.

Last weekend we sailed. We took Mark's little boat from Jericho Beach all the way across English Bay to Lighthouse Park. I made sandwiches and we shared a bottle of cider. It was a picture perfect day. the wind was unusual coming out of the southwest which is why we took the course we did. We sit side by side on the boat leaning in or out, depending on the force of the wind, it's like dancing. Mark mans the tiller and the main sail while I am in charge of the jib, centerboard and cooler. A clear division of labor. We chat away as we go, about the other boats we encounter or the seabirds. Sometimes we sail very close to the enormous freighters at anchor in the Bay. We read the place names and marvel at a life at sea. We are quiet and enjoy our time in the salt air.

By Sunday night I am getting itchy and irritable. Pearl is not with us and despite how easily I drift into that state of non-responsibility I am hardwired to be a mother now. If she has been away for more than three nights I begin to have dreams about her that are filled with perilous situations. On Monday I say good-bye to Mark and it's sad, I hate leaving. Once back at home with Pearl I feel better again. We get caught up on our weekend events and make a plan for the week. Last Monday I surprised myself by cooking up a storm on her behalf. I made pizza dough from scratch, fresh pesto and the special little muffins she likes. Watching her eat a big piece of whole wheat bread slathered in pesto makes me happy and my nerve endings relax. I know my job and I am at my best when I am doing it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fish Story

The one that got away

The process of branding is fraught with difficulty. Often times, in addition to creating the brand image we are also called upon to educate the client being branded. Sometimes the client is a willing pupil. In the best case scenario, the client is visually neutral but has an understanding of the importance of a strong brand and realizes that hiring a team of professionals is the best means to that end. Of course this only happens in my dreams.

Generally the process begins with conceptual discussions, we get to know the subject of the branding on paper. We make lists about what it is, what it should be and eventually what it could be. We consider similar brands, we take the pulse of the clients visual savvy. As concepts begin to appear and float past me I attach form, color, and typography to otherwise shapeless ideas. I create visual parameters based on our findings. We do this in a timely fashion, it's possible to spend a lot of time thinking about things, discussing concepts and possibilities but eventually you have to put mouse to mouse-pad and make something concrete. Logos are by far the most challenging thing I do in large part because of the public perception about them. The most simple logos that are out there in circulation took hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours on the part of trained designers, illustrators and creative directors. Often this simplicity of form is misinterpreted as simple and easily achievable. To hone an idea down to it's very essence takes time and experience. The saddest and most frustrating thing about brand development is that there is no accounting for personal taste and sometimes the perception of a client can derail the creative process to the point of unavoidable crash. I have heard careless words spoken in a meeting throw a project irretrievably off course. I never claim to have all the answers in these situations but I have my process and I have instinct which has developed over 2 plus decades creating things that communicate ideas. Like I said it's never easy and it can often be very frustrating for both sides of the equation.

The most surprising element of the whole process is the fear that often grips a client. I have seen clients, rather than choose a brand and put it out into the world to see what comes of it, retract their mission completely and do nothing. I am an adventurer and branding is a journey. We make determinations about our audiences needs and we trim our sails and set our ideas free to be received by the larger world. Shots across the bow are to be expected and learned from. The key thing being, it is more valuable to be on the branding journey than left without a voice or visual identity, tied tightly to the dock. If the idea sinks you go back to the drawing board and plot a new course. For the most part though, once a brand lives out in the world and is seen and understood by it's audience, over time the message overtakes mere graphic structure, the language of the brand develops and word spreads.

My team and I had the pleasure of working on a branding project earlier this year. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond our control and despite our years of informed experience the branding was stopped. I was quite pleased with the logo we produced for the budget that was available. We gave a lot of thought to what this logo would stand for and the message it would relay to a waiting community. I was happy that we were able to keep the form of the logo out of the hackneyed realm of pictorials involving salmon and coastal mountains. We asserted the brand was about making the concept of urban development feel acceptable to a suspicious public. It was about process and collaboration and the environment. It was a map, a streetscene, a neighborhood quilt, a community forming itself for the public good.

It's easy to come away from these experiences bruised. With this project though I feel that we listened well and we did our homework. We understand the process of branding very well and we were all disappointed when we were not able to see the project to fruition. Our loss was not monetary but philosophical in many ways. We take what we do seriously and we know the power of our work. It's too bad this one got away.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Around the fire

Not writing much lately. Summer has paid us a visit and so I have exited my head and am inhabiting my body more fully. Work has been a little slow and I have been taking advantage of that as well instead of worrying about it. I have set up my summer living room on the porch and am happily living outside. We have sailed, gone to the public pool near Mark's, and floated in the Nooksack River in a secret location. We've been entertaining our friends. I'm thinking a bit about writing but nothing is coming to me. I am reading, but only a little. I am focused more on getting little chores taken care of each day, picking berries, feeding the chickens. It's amazing how easy it is to fill ones time with the simple tasks of life, I can barely remember how I found the time work. Today I will pick raspberries, buy 3 sacks of chicken feed and give blood. I may even do a little graphic design while the sprinkler waves back and forth, back and forth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Our childhood friend has died. My sister was there with her and her family and witnessed this most sad passing. I got the news on the way home from Eugene via Facebook of all things. I got a message that said You may like In Memory Of C___ W___. How could I like that? Four days later I visited the page and read the posts and wept. My sister told me about the service and the ladies in the church, they let her ring the bell when it was time. There was tea and tiny sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Our dead friend was cremated 126 miles from where she lived, carried there in a box built by her friends and husband. I wish that my mothers preparation had been this hands on. We have no idea how to care for the dead, it has been stripped away from us like the thin nightgown that separates life from death, here from not here. C's ashes were to be spread in the river, we did this for my mom too. A third went to Scotland, a third into the Bulkley River. I kept the final third, I wasn't ready to let all of her go. I will never forget this friend who, at almost 50 was ravaged by cancer, she will live on in that space with my mother and friends from high school who drove drunk and John Lennon. They are all out there somewhere and we must stay firmly here until it's our turn to go.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Roadtripping 2010

Enjoying Austin Powers in the Super 8 in Creswell OR.

We are back safely from our annual summer roadtrip to Oregon to visit Pearl's birthfamily. We have been 3 years running and I see no end in sight, every time we go we have more fun. This year was extra special because Becky and Tom, Pearl's birthmom and her partner of many years got married. Mere puny words can't describe how I feel about being a part of this equation. This year we met a few new cousins and reconnected with several members of Pearl's extended family. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the relationships we have with all these people but being at the wedding was different. The connection was more public. Here is this child who so clearly is Becky's flesh and blood and then there is us, her parents and guardians. At a wedding, everyone wants to know where you fit in the family. I found myself saying I am the mother of the brides oldest daughter. A mouthful, but accurate. The best reaction we got was from the weddings officiant who is also the brides, sister in law's father. He actually hugged us and shook our hands for our role there. It is inevitable that we talk about adoption in terms of early loss and eventual redemption and open adoption is not exempt from that. Becky lost a lot in the early days of this adoption but nowadays it all feels pretty good and happy. I can honestly say that I love and revere the people that Pearl came from, I honor her birthfamily and her origins.

In the process we take these very special roadtrips. We make the journey fun which I see as a metaphor for the whole process of raising Pearl. We get in the car and make a few stops along the way, we sleep in funny hotels and we are getting to know the attractions along the way. It is no longer a long uncomfortable drive through unfamiliar territory.

This year, in addition to the usual fare of hotel swimming pools, mini fridges, watching late night movies in bed, and complimentary breakfasts we stopped in for a visit at Mt St. Helen's Ape Caves which was spectacular. We toured some of the 12,000ft of underground caves formed by lava flows 2000 years ago. We stopped a lot on the way home as our driver was quite fatigued but we all remained cheerfully in holiday mode and felt happy about we had just taken part in.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Press proofs

Saw the first proofs of the 100 Years book yesterday and they looked great. Only made a few little adjustments here and there which is to be expected. I am incredibly grateful to our rep Tegan Cutler. She is so thorough and extremely conscientious about every aspect of the project. We met for about two hours and on my way out I ran into my good friend Katrina and her boys. I have not seen her enough lately. I got home around 5:30 and was happy to get a phone call from Pearl and one from Mark before settling in for a nice evening of wine and cheese with my friend Kate. The weather was perfect finally and we sat outside until almost 9 getting up a few times to corral chickens, we are after all just a couple of farm girls from Everson. All things considered it was a pretty nice day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Biting down

My tongue hurts from running it along the sharp edge of a broken molar, I can't help it. I am hoping to smooth it out to avoid the costly and painful trip to the dentist where they will grind off the tooth and replace it with a new metal base and perfect porcelain top. I woke today with a The The song in my head, "This is the Day" and it made me wonder, is this the day when things fall into place. Years ago when Pearl was little she said to Mark "you can change your mind"—"you can change your life" and he did, he fell in love with us. Pearl is an amazing child and parenting her is one of my greatest achievements, not that I am close to being finished with the task, one never is. Even my mother who is long dead informs the choices I make daily. In recent months I have put my foot down to protect Pearl and I will likely do it again. It is unpopular and I will be accused of myriad transgressions against the father but the thing is, you can change. We are here in this raft floating along and we can either fight amongst ourselves or we can focus on the beautiful foliage and wildlife that exists on the banks of this waterway that is our lives. This has nothing to do with teeth and I know that I can't possibly fix what is broken in my mouth with my soft fleshy tongue but I can entertain all the possibilities and weigh them equally and then proceed, and I can stop my tongue from seeking that rough edge. This IS the day, and this day is everyday and you can take a step forward and you can feel good, it's your choice to face up or face off, to drop in or to drop out. Open your mouth and smile and lift your paddle high don't just aimlessly drift unless drifting is what you desire.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making Friends

In my perpetual quest for a satisfying life this question has been plaguing me lately. How do you make friends in a new town? As kids, if you move to a new place you have the arena of school in which to sample the various flavors of friends. As an adult if you move with your job, the workplace offers an instant supply of personalities to connect with. Time and routine also create friendships. I have lived in Whatcom County for 16 years and have made friends in a handful of places, the library, the grocery, post-office, the farmers market, work interactions.

Mark bought his place in Abbottsford with one singular reason in mind, to be closer to me. He works at home by himself as I do. 6 years have passed and I look around this town and think how the hell do we meet people here? Don't get me wrong, I have many friends. I am not forlorn and friendless unable to connect with other humans I just want some friends here in Abbottsford, someone to play cards with on Saturday night over drinks. It presents an interesting sociological problem. How do a couple of people in their 40's make friends in a town where they don't got to church or school, or even work, not to mention that we spend a lot of time away.

I am solution oriented personality so I think what can I do. What if I put a little flyer up around the hood that read, Professional married couple seeks similar for light social activity, cards, tennis, rides in a big red car, BBQ-ing. And our phone number. Seriously what would happen? Swingers is what comes to mind for me, freaks, and other lonely misfits. So sad, I need a friend, will you be my friend? It's more complicated than all that of course, developing friends.

I walk the dog in a park near us and occasionally I see someone who looks nice and we might stop and talk about dogs. But then it's time to go and it seems so socially awkward to suddenly blurt out, I need a friend here in town. Here's my card, call me anytime. Well not anytime because I am not actually here that often but sometimes I am. I met a woman with a really fat Weimaraner and thought okay now we're getting somewhere but she lived up the coast. Thwarted I was.

Yesterday I ran into a woman who attended the same dog obedience class as we did 4 years ago when Luna was a pup. She had a little fuzzball dog called "Butters", a name some of you will recognize from the long hours you spend watching "South Park". She barely recognized me but was happy to chat once I explained who I was again. The whole time we talked I was thinking, give her your number she is funny, you could be friends. She lives in town and probably has enough friends already, that's the other thing, by this age people seem to have all the friends they can manage, why take on more?

I have 259 friends on Facebook. According to Mashable this is the optimum number any one person can hope to interact with in a meaningful way, which really means that of that 259, about 40 of them actually participate regularly in normal FB activities, posting pictures, making status updates, sharing links. I like Facebook but it is a slightly empty experience after a time and sometimes I just want to encounter a real person. But how?

At my place we have friends near and far who are happy to come over. We go to town occasionally and meet friends there for music and meals and holiday parties. When we got to Vancouver we have a mix of friends and family we routinely encounter. Occasionally some of the Vancouver people pilgrimage out to Abbottsford but it is a long drive home especially if you have been well fed and watered. Our American friends don't come to Abbottsford often, I feel it is an imposition to invite people up because of the border crossing, not everyone is comfortable with the scrutiny and frankly some people just can't cross so I don't ask.

Again, what to do? Join something? A quilting group, museum boosters, tennis or running club. It all takes time. I just want to see some nice couple who sort of resembles us in natural fibers out with a dog and at the risk of coming across as completely strange, say hey there, need a friend? Me too, here's my card.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Off to the Printer

This is the cover to the book I have just sent to the printer. I started this project about 18 months ago and the last month or so has been pretty intense. I have renewed respect for how streamlined the production process is with my corporate publishing clients. This books author, Sarah Wallace did a bang up job considering it was her first project of this magnitude. We had great photos from Seattle photographers, Meryl Schenker and Mike Urban and also historic material by Jack Carver who was a Herald photographer in the 50's and 60's. I am hoping the book will be well received by the community. I have to say I got a little buzz telling Pearl that her reward for all the long hours of me working would be getting her own copy of the book and that it would be a wonderful reminder to her of all the summers we have spent attending the fair. Not to mention how it makes real what her momma does for a living. She'll get that bit later on.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Taking the call

My dad called me today. It was slightly surprising, not the call so much as the time of the call. He usually calls at the weekend or he sends me a short email. We used to write letters, long long ago. This family friend who has cancer came up and I found it difficult not to cry a little telling him that the cancer, which started in the breast was now deep in her bones, attached like invisible leeches to her pelvis. Inoperable. He was emotional too because he knows her and he knows the other side of it too. He's a doctor and he saw the women come through the hospital, the hopeless cases, and the devastation those rogue cells left in their wake. The minor children and devoted husbands. It's nasty business and I could hear in his voice the sadness of knowing this woman was too young to fall victim to this fate and yet it happens day after day.

I can't tell if he is more emotional or if there is more to be emotional about as we get older. When my mother died I stopped trying to hold back the tears when I spoke about her and now 13 yrs later they still come, there is no letting up of this deep grief and he feels it too. His parents are dead, his brother is dead, his friends are dying. And he has the immense burden of the knowledge of a doctor with 50 years of experience watching people overcome disease and watching more fade away, succumbing to the internal webwork of mutant cells that consume their once healthy bodies and minds.

We talked a bit and then I had to go. It was good he called. I have been thinking about him a lot lately knowing I have been too busy to call and feeling guilty because one day he won't be there to answer my call and we both know it. Time slips by as he said today.

Monday, June 14, 2010


A close friend of my family of origin is gravely ill. She has been battling cancer and last night I dreamt about her. She was in a lot of pain and was thrashing around. I held her in my arms and whispered into her ear, be still, be still, it's going to be okay.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No time to blog

13 consecutive days of work, and no end in sight. I am emotional and anxious with a capital A. I need an ectomy of some sort, head-ectomy, heart-ectomy. If I can just get through the next few hours I will celebrate with a few pitchers of marguerita because, as you know, alcohol helps these conditions greatly. Perhaps a few moments face down on the lawn would be helpful, will try that. BRB

Friday, June 11, 2010


I feel like I have been on a treadmill for the past few months. I am grateful for the work of course but I do get burned out. In an effort to squeeze another hour out of my day when I am at my sharpest I have been getting up to work at 5am. This means I have not been doing my usual morning writing. I don't like to complain but it is hard doing what I do at times, being creative everyday and pumping work out often leaves me feeling a little blank and heavy. Yesterday though I had a nice little reminder of something positive. After being pretty productive all day I found myself at loose ends in my office at the end of the day. I am redesigning my website and the CMS is done now, thanks to the good men at Viscocity. So I spent some time playing with the interface, I added a few images and migrated some copy and was able to think clearly about what I want to do with this new site. I realized while scanning this old bookcover from my ephemera collection that I was suddenly feeling energized. There it is, when I feel like I have nothing left to give doing a little project for myself fixes me right up. It's counter-intuitive because my reaction to exhaustion is to want to curl-up but the answer is to make something new. I had completely forgotten this.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I am calling her Betty

I love a diversion. In the middle of all the fantastic busyness in my life I was gifted a hen by a neighbor who is moving to town. On Tuesday, between designing the second pass of the Northwest Washington Fair centennial book, making an allegedly wholesome meal before attending Pearl's final band concert (another event I attended on my own—this is really the only downside of not actually living with who you are married to) I picked up the chicken. We got home from the concert around 8:15. I knew the hen would be all tucked into her coop and would be easy pickings. I rode my bike next door, burlap sack in hand. After a small amount of confusion I got the hen into the bag and rode back home. The amazing thing about chickens is they will put up a huge amount of fight, squawking and flapping until they are in a bag and then they are perfectly relaxed, like nothing stressful was happening to them. It's hard to tell if they are in a state of paralytic fear or if they have just surrendered and accepted their fate.

In the morning she seemed fairly relaxed. I opened the coop door and all the hens fell out as they normally do. I tossed them some scratch and then hung arounf to see what the new hen would do. As advertised by her previous owner, she dropped down off the roost and went straight to the nesting box where she settled in. I returned to my office and adjusted the kerning on 10 headlines when I went back to check on her and she was gone, no trace of her anywhere except for a bright white egg in amongst the usual browns. I felt bad. I took her on and now she was lost. I questioned the other hens, were you nice to her? did you include her in your daily peckings? No one said anything except for the peacock who rattled his feathers. No wonder she was gone, how scary is a peacock to the uninitiated.

Despite feeling like I had failed this small slightly rough looking hen I decided to name her Betty after Betty White as she is the only white hen in the flock. This is saying a lot, I have had 2 dozen chickens over the years and only named a few of them prior to Betty. At dusk I went down to lock in the hens and I opened the coop door just to check on everyone and there she was, roosting next to the rooster like she had been there her whole life. Smart girl, I think I am going to like this chicken.

Friday, June 4, 2010


On average I have walked down my road twice a week for the past 16 years. That's roughly 1600 trips back and forth. Part of the walk takes me past some tribal land, about 200 wooded acres. These woods create a wall to the south, blocking the light and making that stretch of my walk cooler and dim. I have sometimes ventured in to them as there is a well worn path leading south used by deer and sadly, 4-wheelers. For some reason a few residents of the road feel it is okay to ride on private lands. The woods are the home to deer, heron, eagles and beavers, there is a salmon stream that runs through them. There have been rumors of logging and development for years and I ignored all of them. Yesterday the logging rumor came true. There is little romance to this logging, there are no old growth trees there, they were probably logged in the twenties but there are mature alders which have value currently. It was sad to see the gash in the forest wall but I am also dispassionate about it. Change is inevitable in our lives, it is doubtful a Casino will suddenly appear. I worry about the creatures who call the wood home but for me it signals a new era, the landscape will be altered, it is too soon to tell how much. An 18 foot buffer has been proposed but we'll see. A perfect pristine wilderness is an illusion, the change is upon us and what can we do but adapt.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A little Work

Inspired by a 1950's cookbook cover, this is the second in a series of two posters adapted for a newspaper insert for the Bellingham Farmers Market. For the background I painted a board with green gouache, scanned it and then darkened the edge in Photoshop. The type was a little too clean for me so I printed it out and sanded off some of the surface of the letters and then rescanned it. I bet there is a way to do this in Photoshop but somehow I prefer the old school simpler technique.


The weather forecast is not good. Campers heading off for the Memorial Day weekend will be stuck inside those campers, tenters will be discouraged. I opened the bedroom window last night just a crack to let the sound of the rain drift in. It helps me sleep this heavy spring rain. I have no holiday plans beyond avoiding my office because we have become too intimate, too dependant on each other the last several weeks. I need a break. I plan to stay in my bedroom near my sewing machine and watch the rain which looks to be plentiful. June will be gray and summer will arrive sometime in the second week of July. Pearl will turn 12 and for a time we will forget about the rain, but not today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

They're Back

It started again Friday night. I woke screaming and flailing, scaring the hell out of my sweet husband. It's not even a dream that does it, it's more like a sudden awareness that I am about to be attacked. What is this energy that plays in my brain at night? I used to love going to sleep but these days I am becoming more reluctant about falling into bed. I laid down for a nap on Saturday and was visited by that uneasy feeling of death brushing past me on the couch where I lay. I have been so calm lately, feeling good and yet when I lay down and go to sleep all the anxiety seems to seep out. Will think more about this and get back to you. Right now I have 4 decades of a timeline to finish in the book I am designing on the NW Washington Fair. We had a great pre-production meeting yesterday and I feel like we are in good hands with the printer but it wasn't enough to buy me a good nights sleep. My bed was a mess when I woke up today, twisted sheets and blankets, pillows strewn, ample physical evidence of my elusive terrors at play.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weak in review

All the details are too ridiculous to type. It was a hell of a week, the highlight being the partially decomposed mole I found in my bedroom on Tuesday at bedtime. Should I clean more often, is that the message there? My thoughts are plentiful but also random and shallow, thank god for my schedule which leaves little opportunity for diversion. I designed a 288 page cookbook in 4 days, at half the normal rate, it made sense to do it in half the time. The economy still sucks so I am double booked, it keeps me eating and too busy to be depressed. I am reading a good book and my badminton skills have improved 2 fold thanks to Pearl. I posted a prayer that my dad sent me and that kept it all in perspective. I was happy most of the time even when the dog woke me up barfing at 2am. On the bright side someone ate the barf before I had a chance to clean it up. Even steven baby.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Putting out Fires

I have a lot of work at the moment and feel like I am in a full scale juggling competition, the goal being to keep everything aloft and fluid. The items being juggled include my work load, daily exercise, domestic chores, and my responsibilities as a mom. Yesterday this included playing badminton for half an hour and taking a walk with Pearl and a friend. Not so bad.

In my dream life my letterpress caught fire. I saw the smoke and immediately turned it off the press, I stuck my head in underneath the feeder board and could see the source of the flame was the little open oil reservoir. The flame licked up against the timpin and I thought about all the flammable things within it's reach. I raced out of the studio running full speed across the yard to the house where I keep my fire extinguisher, I tried to call ahead to Mark but I could not speak. I grabbed the extinguisher and turned back to the studio imagining how I would spray the white fire smothering chemical onto the press so as not to harm it. I woke up, chest heaving from the dream running.

The message of the dream; I can put out the fire. So bring it on.
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