Saturday, May 30, 2009

Even cooler

You know how I am worried that people will think my stuff is a little too weird? There's no way they'll do what this couple's guests did.

Brian & Eileen's Wedding Music Video. from LOCKDOWN projects on Vimeo.

Still, this video makes me super-happy that someone's guests did.

Thanks for sharing, Offbeat Bride!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The next quilt

I don't think that I have shown you pictures of my current craft project. It's a charm quilt, like the one I made for my younger brother and his new wife. That means that although I use the same shape over and over again, each and every fabric is completely different. It is a great way to indulge my fabric lust since I only have to but 1/8 yard increments, which come out to less than 75 cents each and can be used for several quilts.

This quilt is for my oldest brother and his new wife. It is English paper-pieced, which isn't nearly as hard as people make it out to be. Lately, I've been watching Star Trek: DS9, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the Venture Brothers while decompressing from work, school and wedding by creating these little nuggets of color.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A little grace

The meter maids have been getting fairly vigilant these days in Chicago. For those of you here who are fearing their wrath, a little bit of comfort:
Enforcement personnel are trained to discern inoperable meters in the field, and do not issue tickets if they are visibly inoperable. Motorists may park at an inoperable meter as long as the malfunction is no fault of their own, and as long as they report the meter inoperable within 24 hours. Inoperable meters may be reported to 877.242.7901 or 312.744.PARK or 311. Motorists should contest any tickets they feel are issued in error including tickets issued when parked at inoperable meters. (via)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My beloved

I told you that I'm beginning to like my new neighborhood. This is my beloved on a recent trip to one of the local Asian markets to find umeboshi vinegar to make this grain salad. I love this picture for three reasons. One is the juxtaposition of Jacob's Burberry pants (gifted to him by my brother since he would be able to wear them without a touch of irony) with the Asian signs and inscrutable foodstuffs.
The other two reasons to love this picture is the look on his face as he's trying to scrute the labels and, well, the Burberry pants. What started as a joke of me encouraging him to wear them turned into me being very . . . admiring.
I think that boy can make just about anything look good. Back off, ladies. I saw him first.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weeping pile of gratitude

Late on Saturday night, I sent out the email to the 15 women that I want to be part of my bridal brigade. Every one of them had been so excited on the phone when I asked them but I think that I have had a fear that they would look at this weirdly-shaped thing that I was handing them and ask, "So what exactly am I supposed to do with this thing?" I think I have worried that I would have to walk them through the steps of celebrating me since it is outside the traditional realm. I think I have been anxious that I'll be disappointed.

I have this same fear regarding our alternative gift registry. I am nervous that I am asking people to move too far outside of their comfort zone and so they'll balk and I'll end up with less than if I'd just chosen something ordinary. And by "less," I mean less experience, not less stuff. I don't care about stuff.

This fear is only slightly rational. I have had occasions where no one wanted to go with me on an adventure (photobooth crawl birthday party, anyone?) but I think this fear is mostly based in my insecurity about not really being known by anyone. My insecurity that people only let me tag along from time to time because I'm entertaining and slightly wise.

But it seems like my fears and insecurities are being put firmly in the corner and told to take a time-out. 40 hours after I sent the bi email out, I learned from a mole in the bridal brigade that "reply all"s have been whizzing through the internets and that "everyone is so excited!"

My mole did ask me right then, "So, what do you want out of this thing?" but she was asking out of a desire to give it to me, not out of a protest that she didn't know what to do next. I have been feeling so relieved and overwhelmed with a sense of grace because I've gotten what I want already: my friends are stepping up to the plate. They're willing to play my game of Calvin ball despite any discomfort they might feel. They're willing to try. They want to try. I haven't had to coax them at all. No one has worried that I won't like what they come up with. They believe that I love them enough to be delighted with whatever they come up with. They are not worried about my judgment or my disappointment.

I am a fairly abrasive woman with a huge sense of entitlement.

That they are acting like I am better than that - and therefore not to be feared - has reduced me, quite literally, to a weeping pile of gratitude.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A strange craving

I have been eating salads lately, which is surprising since nothing depresses me more than spring greens with a standard vinaigrette and nothing is more nutritionally useless than iceberg lettuce covered in a cream sauce. However, my friend Mark has introduced me to both arugula and finely sliced fennel. Add just a little Wensleydale cheese (with apricots), some olive oil and seasoned rice wine vinegar and I turn out to be a pretty happy camper. If there's a little mint in the house, even better.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sounds crazy, no?

My father is a good, good man.

Today he rings my cell phone and says, "I just wanted you to know that as September approaches, this is the song tha tI've been singing 14 or 15 times a day." There is then a long pause.

I know exactly what is coming.

This kind of call is fairly standard for my father. He listens to the showtunes internet radio station or his own playlist (he's very technically saavy) and when a song comes up that reminds him of one of us, he picks up the phone and lets us listen for a little while. It's sweet and I always appreciate the gesture. It's also fairly ridiculous and I think that he must do it because he likes to be mocked, in some sick sort of way.

So, in this long pause, I tease him for not actually having the song cued up as wait for the inevitable.
Tevye: Is he in bad trouble,that hero of yours?
Hodel: Yes. But he did nothing wrong. He cares nothing for himself. Everything he does is for other people.
Tevye: Yes, but if he did nothing wrong, he wouldn't be in trouble.
Hodel: Papa, how can you say that? What wrongs did Joseph do? And Abraham, and Moses? And they had troubles.
Tevye: Yes. Well... But why won't you tell me where he is now, this Joseph of yours?
Hodel: It is far, Papa. Terribly far. He is in a settlement in Siberia.
Tevye: Siberia? And he asks you to leave your father and mother and join him in that frozen wasteland and marry him there?
Hodel: No, Papa. He did not ask me to go. I want to go. I don't want him to be alone. I want to help him in his work.
Tevye: Hodel...
Hodel: Papa...
(singing)How can I hope to make you understand why I do what I do?
Why I must travel to a distant land, far from the home I love.
Once I was happily content to be as I was,where I was.
Close to the people who are close to me, here in the home I love.
Who could see that a man would come who would change the shape of my dreams?
Helpless now I stand with him,
watching older dreams grow dim.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I sang the part of Hodel in the spring musical. My parents bought 10 seats for each production night and invited all of their friends. My whole family had grown up singing along to Fiddler on the Roof in my mom's kitchen and in our van that had, of all things, a tape deck. (Also, the license plate KID VAN.) So, this was dream come true. To play the part of the singing daughter. I was a star! And "Far From the Home I Love" was my anthem. When I was in college, my friend Emily (who had been involved in the high school production) once badgered me to sing along with her cast recording (now on CD) in her dorm room for our friends because she was so proud of me.

So, when I was 21 years old and about to be married, my father increased the frequency with which he called and played the song into the tape of my answering machine. When he and I went for our dancing lessons so that we wouldn't embarass ourselves for the first dance, he brought several CDs with him, one of which was Fiddler. We listened to a few to give the instructor a sense of which would be the best rhythms of the bunch but when she fired up my anthem, Dad was a big wuss and started crying immediately. The instructor wouldn't even entertain another option. So, we danced to it at my wedding.

It is a sad song about a woman leaving behind the future she always thought she would have because she loves a man enough to follow him anywhere.

I suppose that when you place this in the context of my first marriage, it is particularly appropriate. Except, love wasn't enough once I got to Siberia. Also, to carry the metaphor a little further, the reason that my ex-husband gave for his arrest was not quite accurate.

So, today, my dad calls and in the awkward before the music starts, I think about just how much I love my dad.

But we are different people now, he and I. I do not have to leave him behind this time. In marrying Jacob, I get to retain my values and my dreams for community and social justice. I get to continue in the family business, so to speak.

I made fun of my dad just a little bit and asked whether or not it bothered him that he was making exactly the same phone call that he used to make 10 years ago. He protested a little and teased me, saying that if I didn't want him to be as excited about this wedding as he was about the last one, he didn't have to be.

Which makes me think. I worry a lot about this second marriage: that there is something wrong with me and I'm a bad chooser or that I'll hurt Jacob's feelings because I can't give him the innocence that I gave Dennis. Since my dad is a good man, he probably knows this about me.

Maybe the reason that the song wasn't already playing when he called was that he cued it up just for me. Maybe he wanted to bolster me up a little, jsut in case I needed it. Maybe he was re-reading my blog and read one of the 8 billion mentions I have made about being scared. Maybe he was just sitting back from his computer and daydreaming about dancing with me again. Even if he wasn't, I'm sure that sometimes he does.

And that is a beautiful gift.

Maybe it's time for a new anthem. This marriage is less about having found the man that I will follow and much more about having found a partner who will help me accomplish what I'm already working on because he wants the same things.

But if Dad wants to keep this anthem, that's fine with me, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The coolest.

Check out this link. There's a chance it will only work in Firefox. I'm not taking the time to check; I'm just trusting Dan.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wedding throw quilt

So, I finished the wedding quilt that I was making for a friend that I used to be close to.

It turns out that I didn't feel hurt or offended at all. It turns out that I don't need to forgive because he didn't do anything wrong. It turns out that I just feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable that my expression of enthusiasm for celebrating his marriage with this gift will seem a little over the top, like the guy jumping out of his chair cheering for the ballgame when everyone else is chatting civilly while the game just happens to be on the TV in the background.

But I've decided to steamroll through the discomfort and give him the quilt anyways. Because marriages should be celebrated, dammit! They are scary and wonderful. We spend so much energy trying to procure them and so much energy once we've achieved the married status in order to keep it functional and good. This type of energy should be supported at every turn, like the people who man the water stations at marathons.

I asked my friend if there was a piece of text that was particularly special to he and his wife. He said that "You are the Best Thing" by Ray LaMontayne was inexplicably compelling to them lately.
I took some of the lyrics and stamped them out on a canvas. I uploaded it to Spoonflower to have a yard of fabric made out of my design and then went about my jumblety business to make it into a quilt. I like the results. I have three more weddings this summer that I will do the same thing for.

Weddings are important. Any celebration that we can do to make the consequent marriages happier is worth so much more than any discomfort we might feel because of social rules.

It's nice to be in a place to be able to see the world that way.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bridal brigade

I have been thinking a lot about bridesmaids.

When Jacob and I first began planning this wedding, I was adamant: No bridesmaids! No flowergirls! Keep it simple!

Jacob is a beautiful man because he had no problem with this. You see, in those opening stages of wedding planning, all I could picture in my head was Jacob and I underneath a chuppah, promising very scary,very thrilling and very resonant things.

Really, that was it. It was like that scene in West Side Story when they meet at the party and everyone is fuzzed out except for Tony and Maria. You know the one? Well, tragic ending aside, that was me. I was Maria and this vision of a couple standing by themselves was Tony.

I was dominated by this sense that community was nice and all but it doesn't keep your marriage together. Family doesn't keep your marriage together. Friends don't keep your marriage together. And isn't that what a bridal party symbolizes? People who will support your marriage?

But only Jacob and I have the power to keep our marriage together.

The phrasing of that should be noticed. I was thinking within the fear that this marriage will turn out like my last marriage. I was viewing the institution of marriage as a medium that would affect the message of my life. As if it were marriage itself that hurt me and not the man I married. The last time I was married, none of those people could help me when my ex-husband was done putting effort into building a life with me. So, if they couldn't help me then (not for lack of trying), why pretend in this ceremony that they will be able to help me this time around? And since weddings are the common denominator of the two marriages, I felt like this wedding should be totally different from the last wedding.

But lately, I have been thinking a lot about bridesmaids.

I have been wanting to be celebrated.

I am a bridesmaid in one of my closest friend's wedding this summer. I have been to meetings with the other bridesmaids. I have been to two showers. I will go to a family dinner at the Melting Pot the evening after I graduate and before I leave the next morning to attend my cousin's wedding. I have bought one shower gift and made another. I am making a personalized wedding lap quilt for their present. I bought a watermelon-colored polyester bubble-skirt dress. I will be there the day before the wedding all day and the day of the wedding all day.

I mock the frenzy of it sometimes but I have not had one moment of resentment in my heart over any of it. There are easy things to incorporate into the rhythms of my week. I want to contribute to the happiness of Erika's marriage and this is the way she has asked me to do so.

Erika deserves to be celebrated. This is a wonderful thing that she and Brian are about to do. I don't ever want her to doubt it.

So, we shower her with gifts and lunch and manicures and Diet Doctor Pepper. We reassure her that her family is not that crazy. On that weekend, we won't let her out of our sight so that if her courage falters, we will be there to prop her up.

On Sunday, I went and represented my church it a Mission Fair at a suburban church. On the car ride out, it turns out that my partner's husband was secular Buddhist when they got married. The pastor representing a ministry at the table next to us is married to a Sikh. As we talked about interfaith marriages, I admitted that I feel a little bit of doubt every day and I hate it that I'm not rolling into this marriage with utterly committed enthusiasm and optimism. I worry because this isn't as emotionally easy as it seems to be for my other friends who have been brides. Both women assured me that this was totally normal. That as long as I feel joy every day and that Jacob makes me laugh every day and that I dream a little bit about our life together every day, it will be just fine.

I need more of that propping up in my life. Jacob is great but he has a slight bias that makes him untrustworthy (only in this area).

So, I have been thinking about bridesmaids.

Because would I do all that I am doing for Erika if I didn't have the title? Probably not. I wouldn't make room in my life for all of it if I didn't feel like I was super-special to Erika. Does that make me small and petty? Maybe just a little.

I guess my fear is that if I don't make my girlfriends wear matching dresses, they won't make room in their lives for all the little celebrations that bolster a bride and groom and remind them that this is a good decision that they're making. I want to see that all these women love me so maybe it's won't feel like such a crazy thing to believe that this man loves me.

I recently read about a bridal brigade (via Meg at A Practical Wedding, of course). The version that she wrote about was along the line of most "offbeat" brides that I've been reading about who gather up all of their friends and put them to work to pull off a wedding that is a "perfect reflection of us." I'm not too keen on being the project manager for this spiritual event, although I know that really works for some people and I totally respect their use of community. Mostly, it's because I don't want to think about any logistics at all during my wedding weekend and every one of these brides say, "We worked SO hard."

However, I think the basic concept could work for me. By asking my friends to be part of a formal group, with a name, I might make them feel special and included, which is an act that has inherent value. As I ask each one I can be honest and vulnerable about my fears of not being celebrated and having to be strong all by myself. I can give them each others' phone numbers and email addresses and set them loose. In fact, as I have been having preliminary conversations with some of them, two have already pre-empted me and asked if they could host a shower. This just might work.

In the beginning stages of this wedding planning process, I saw bridesmaids as symbolic of the community effort it takes to keep a marriage together. It's possible that I am guilty of a little wrong thinking. My marriage to Jacob is an entirely different creature than my marriage to Dennis. It's like the difference between homo sapiens and orangutans. Both use tools. Only one doesn't throw its own shit.

Likewise, both marriages start with a wedding but only one will nurture me, support me and allow me to be more fully myself than I ever would have been alone. Alone I was successful but together I get the opportunity to reciprocate that nurturing and support with someone who lets me in to the most vulnerable parts of his life.

If it takes a few (or 15) women to get me to that place, Jacob and I won't need anyone else to keep our marriage together.

I have been thinking about bridesmaids.

But I should have been thinking about bridal brigades.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An intriguing idea

Click on the image to see it's full size.
I spend my money in yarn stores and used book stores. Where do you want to spend yours?

Check out the project here.

Friday, May 08, 2009


I firmly believe that God wants us to be in relationships so that we can be fairly constantly interrupted when we start feeling like we've finally got our shit together.

I was a pretty good single person.

I am a terrible partner.

I was a pretty good single person because I was gathering a community of people around me, I was crafting regularly, I was moving towards cooking healthy meals for myself, I was full of peace and calm for the annoying habits of other people because I had enough alone time to reset my equilibrium on a regular basis.

I am a terrible partner. Except for the healthy meals part, none of that is true anymore. Especially the last bit. I am so mean to Jacob sometimes. Then, I feel bad because I've been mean and he still has to sit with me while I'm in a funk.

On Wednesday night, Jacob surprised me with tickets to see Leonard Cohen.

What a beautiful man, right?

So, he asks me before the show starts what songs of Leonard Cohen's he would know.

"None of them."

What a bitch. He pushes me a little for me to give him the benefit of the doubt and I push back, insisting that since none of Leonard Cohen's (it's always both names to me) songs is popular enough to get radio time, he probably won't know them. (Notice the slightly derisive tone for the word popular as I channel the spirit of a music snob.) Just to prove my point that I am cooler than Jacob, I rattle off the names of several titles: Everybody Knows, Famous Blue Raincoat, First We Take Manhattan, Song of Bernadette. I was in such a state that without consciously deciding to, I leave off Suzanne and Hallelujah, songs that do actually get radio time. He asks me to sing one or two and I forget how independent and brave I have become in the last six years and get a little more bitchy at the thought of singing out loud from my theater seat where people could actually hear me and judge me.

Jacob loves me anyway and lets it drop. We move on in conversation and I ask him why he loves me, even though I know it is hard for him to come up with satisfying answers on the spot. He obliges and says sweet things to me until the concert starts. Right before it does, I realize something and say, "Sometimes when we have those difficult moments, I worry that they will make you want to NOT marry me so I think that I think if I make you remind yourself why you love me, you'll remember why you wanted to marry me in the first place." After pausing to process the syntax, he kissed me and told me I was crazy, in a loving way. It's possible that this conversation happened earlier , though, now that I think about it.

What happens next amazes me for the lesson it teaches that, as humans, we can never fully redeem ourselves. We're always going to fuck it up again. First, Leonard Cohen opens with Dance Me to End of Love, which is a song that I have put on every mix I've ever made Jacob (2 so far, with more planned). Not only is it clearly a song from one partner to the other on their Jewish wedding day but the lyrics are gorgeous and appropriate right now. "Dance me through the panic, 'til I'm gathered safely in." That's the thing with Leonard Cohen. He writes like Bob Dylan so you can listen to a song 800 times and enjoy the surface imagery and the melody and then on the 801st time, a lyric will shoot you through the heart and you want to stand up and shout, "That's it! That's exactly how I'm feeling. RIGHT NOW!" I've been having those kind of moments with Dance Me to the End of Love. I first heard it as the final song of Mark and Melissa's wedding and liked it in that way you like songs because you hope that someday they'll apply to your own life. The band that first sang this song to me is the first vendor I booked for our wedding. So, after I stroked Jacob's hand when Leonard Cohen sang the word, "panic," everything in me relaxed a little. After 3 songs in a row with one song leading immediately into the next one when the applause died down, Leonard Cohen stopped and talked just a very little bit about what an honor it was for all of us to be able to gather in such a beautiful place given all the suffering in the world. Then he knelt in the middle of the stage and said,
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.

That broke me wide open. Life is so radically different for me now than it was last year at this time and ususally I don't think I do very well with the sudden (welcome) shift. Being in such an intimate relationship has made me feel so much more broken than I was able to delude myself that I was before. I realize how scared I am of starting a new marriage after the spectacular failure of my last one. I had thought I was pretty well relieved of that particular baggage. I see now that some of the bells that I have rung before in celebration are actually broken.

But ring the bells that still can ring.

Even though the full complement of celebratory emotions and impulses can't be engaged, you should still vigorously participate in those that can.

In planning this wedding, I struggle with a big, fancy event because it is not my first choice: it is Jacob's and my first choice to meet our mutual needs. This religious ceremony and community event - what should be a perfect offering to God - is a compromise and that has been so hard to wrap my soul around.

But forget your perfect offering.

If we wait until anything is perfect before we interact with God, we will be alone forever. The love God offers us is that she wants to interact with us now, even though we hurt her feelings all the time, without even meaning to.

There is a crack, a crack in everything.

What enormous reassurance that is. Everything has a crack in it, not just me. Everyone plays unintentional power games with their loved ones. Everyone doesn't measure up to their own expectations for themselves.

That's how the light gets in.

The tears streaming down me face as he sings this line tells me that it is true. God can only distract me from my narcissism when my imperfections - my cracks - remind me that what's in the mirror is not necessarily the most beautiful thing ever and that maybe I should look around a little. When I do raise my eyes from that purse-sized compact, all I can see is God, because she is so huge. And I feel so grateful to be allowed to see her beauty.

This is a moment of grace.

What did I do with that moment of grace? I fought with Jacob some more. He did such a good relationship thing and said during the intermission, "It was hard to enjoy the first half because I was trying to hard to prove that I DID know some of the songs." Great communication: non-accusatory and full of "I" statements. Plus, he was sharing with me, letting me into his vulnerable places. All my feelings of inadequacy rose to the surface and I defended myself for a little while anyway. Then, I brought up something else to fight about.

This is the human story. We are offered grace and it feels good and then we forget it immediately.

Does anyone have any spare jewelry so that I can just make the golden calf and be done with it?

A couple of days ago, I read this in The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham.
Finite beings who thirst for the infinite, desperate creatures who 'want to be God,' all-or-nothing people who go broke on perfection . . . given our limitations, and our tendency to strain against them, how do we learn to put up with ourselves? The sages and saints have not left us without some thoughts on the subject. The Desert Fathers, that marvelous group of imperfect human beings who struggle tirelessly with their own imperfections, discovered quite a bit about learning how to 'put up with ourselves.' The secret, they determined, lies in compassion, which begins with 'putting up with' others.
Because let's remember that Jacob has cracks, too. The other day he was upset in my general direction for a full 8 hours because he had forgotten that we had to get up early so I could get to class on time. But having to put up with each other in these situations makes us better at putting up with ourselves, which makes us better prepared to care for the world, all tikkun alam style. I think that's a pretty neat thing.

God keeps coming back to us. We get a second set of Commandments after Moses breaks the first. And every time I go back to Jacob after he has been unfair and every time he kisses me after I've been crazy, we are reminded that God comes back to us.

Every time.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Battle at Kruger

On my first trip to Orcas Island, I was in a kayak close to the shore and I saw a heron take off from the beach with a writhing snake in its talons. Fantastic profile against the sun. Then, an eagle swooped down out of nowhere and stole the snake from the heron.

Serious Wild Kingdom shit.

When I was in Africa, our last two days were spent in a giant game reserve and we went on several safari drives. We saw giraffe, hippos, warthogs, and elephants with gigantic penises. However, we had to settle for lion scat since the lions were nowhere to be seen.

The other night some friends were talking about great Youtube videos and we ended up watching the Christian the Lion video. It's OK. I wanted to show this one, but couldn't find it that night.

It is absolutely worth eight and a half minutes of your time.

It puts all of my animal-watching experiences to shame.

It puts everyone's animal watching experiences to shame, even professional Discovery Channel cinematographers.

It's like a Disney movie writ large.

My favorite parts are listening to the tourists in the background as they foreshadow what happens before the guy can move the camera to show it to us and, well, all of it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A strange compulsion

So, I'm laughing at this post from Meg at A Practical Wedding where she describes her compicated invitation process.

Then, I remember that I'm inexplicably excited about making yarmulkes for our wedding.

Over a hundred of them.

From thrifted men's shirts and custom-printed fabric.

And matching handkerchiefs for the women.

So, I supposed my mocking is completely inappropriate.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I have been telling people that I love them a lot lately. I throw it in at the last minute as I'm hanging up the phone. I text it at the end of a short dialogue. I say it into people's ears as I'm hugging them. I even find that after years of signing notes "Go Gently," I have switched to signing them "Love,".

It must be the wedding. This desire to pull the people who are important in close and bind them to me with expressed feelings must be a reflection of the process I am in the middle of with Jacob.

We believe that most romantic relationships need the formality of public expressions of commitment to be sustainable. Why wouldn't the same be true for platonic and familial relationships, as well. And the words, "I love you" express a commitment to care about a person's well-being and to take steps toward helping his or her well-being to be positive. They are a commitment to hurt when the other hurts and grin widely when the other succeeds. They are a commitment to entertain and to laugh.

These are good commitments.

I'm going to continue making them.