19 December 2008


Too busy to post something new, so here are the collected Twitter haikus of vanillagrrl, so far:

Throat December raw / Steamer jollies up the milk / Mmmm, a hot latte

Winter frost etches / Map of crystalline subway / On picture window

Cat stands on my lap / Insisting on attention / While I tweet again

Excellent haiku! / Today is your newfound friend / In the digisphere!

Eek, it's eleven! / Only three hours for work / I like the pressure

Rubbing my cold hands / together to warm them up / I will type faster

Writing about films / I have not yet seen is like / Dancing about Maine

So much work to do / For the next hundred minutes / Not allowed to tweet

15 December 2008

What would Pa Ingalls do?

Hello in there, hello!

It is too freaking cold out today for me to want to go back out, now that my child is safely ensconced at school, which is just as well because I have a ton of work right here in front of me. I'm warming up fingers and mind for painting, IFS writing, and reassembling my kid's room, not to mention packaging up stuff to send and planning dinner and sewing up seams to slim down a couple of pairs of pants. Zounds! I do need to do something physical besides painting, though. My back's all achy. Maybe I can work on all my projects and then go to the rec center for a swim and sauna. That would be a fine goal for today.

This morning I thought of Pa Ingalls when I was making my second cup of coffee, and how surprised he would likely be at how long I had been up and how little I had gotten done in that time. But I did deliver my child to school and now am hunkering down to my work. "Make hay while the sun shines," sings through my mind whenever I think of him. Today I figured that would be a nice little tool to keep in my pocket: "What Would Pa Ingalls Do?" I don't want to shame myself into anything, but I do want to feel that same sunny determination to make the most of each day we have when we're here.

Which reminds me of one of the things about the SUV-driving/McMansion-owning Evangelical Christians that troubles me the most: I fear that all the focus on things being better in the next world keeps folks from being fully invested in this one. It's such a bad setup, on so many levels. If there's revelation then there's The Rapture, which I am always amazed people really believe could happen. One guy on This American Life was talking about his experiences calling certain people when he was not certain if the Rapture had happened (and he, by extension, had been Left Behind) and when they answered he was so relieved: "Phew! The Rapture hasn't happened yet. If it had, Aunt Shirley would not have answered her phone, because she'd be in Heaven for sure." It feels like pure permission to mess things up in the here and now in some perverse way. All the good folks will go away and then it will be really bad, Hell on Earth, so who cares if things get a little crappier right now? We're like those proverbial frogs in the pot on the stove, constantly adjusting to worsening conditions, even though we know things could get really, really bad.

What inspires people to be their best selves? I know my father yearned to have that near-magical aura of competence and integrity epitomized by Charles Ingalls and Jesus, but didn't have the foundation for it. (To me the evidence for that is in how "deceitful" he always accused everyone around him of being.) In my little universe I feel I'm just now learning how to truly rely on others and to be relied upon. I'm learning how to rely on myself (I've discovered it's amazing what the always-true statement "I have a rich inner life" does for my self-confidence). I do feel people around me know I'm a little odd or something. Perhaps it's the having only one child thing, or my short fuse. But it's okay. It's a way in which we know each other, and recognize each other's limits, and no one has to fake anything or lie about anything.

Being with my family makes me want to be my best self, as does making commitments to my friends, my writing group, and others in my circle. I do like to rely and be relied upon, and to live my life in a way that is honest and true. Knowing there are people in my life and out there on Twitter doing the things I want to be doing, and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie stories, all give me something to reach for. Knowing people publish books and have babies at the same time is good, as is knowing it is possible at approximately my age to be centered and ambitious enough to be president despite all apparent obstacles.

A belated Parade of Lights update, speaking of all things Ingalls: Last weekend, the youngest and I went downtown and dressed up in costumes and walked with the Boulder History Museum folks, mostly because a neighbor is on the board and asked us if we'd like to join in. I had just seen something about our town celebrating its 150th anniversary and felt a pang of wanting to participate in that somehow. So we said yes to our neighbor. The funny part is we went to the museum before the parade and picked out our costumes but we didn't know what other people were wearing. We decided to dress as Laura and her Ma would. So on the Saturday of the parade, I felt very casual and underdressed when we arrived downtown and saw how everyone else was dressed. But looking back I felt it wasn't all bad to have us plainer folk along, either, representin' for those settlers way back when who didn't have silk dresses with petticoats.

10 December 2008

A good cause for the day, with a way to help right away

My friend sent out the following this morning:

I don't usually forward mass email campaigns but I feel very strongly about this issue. 350.org, an international climate campaign, is calling on people all over the world to take action to safeguard the survival of all countries and peoples by signing the "Survival Declaration."

They're on the ground at the UN Climate talks in Poland right now, and they need our help to put pressure on the delagates from the wealthier countries on higher ground not to forsake the island nations that have the most to lose if the oceans rise. The e-mail they sent me is below, or just go straight to their declaration here: http://www.350.org/survival

Thanks! Love, Jessica


Dear friends,

I'm writing again from the UN Climate talks in Poland, where one thing has become heartbreakingly apparent: for some people, these negotiations aren't just about numbers and compromise and diplomacy. For some people, these negotiations are about survival.

People toss around a lot of lofty words at the UN, so let me be clear. I'm not talking about "survival" as an abstract concept, or some distant problem for future generations. I'm talking about countries and peoples getting quite literally wiped off the map within decades. I'm talking about human lives and livelihoods being destroyed by the impacts of climate change here and now.

Here's the worst part: the countries facing the biggest impacts of climate change are also the countries most poorly represented here in the United Nations.
With the static of the UN and the distractions of a 24-hour news cycle, the countries fighting on the front lines of climate change struggle to get the attention they deserve. Case in point: last week 49 of the world's most vulnerable countries endorsed the 350 target that the latest science calls for. Instead of recognizing the importance of this call, some EU leaders have been backpedaling on their already weak climate commitments.
The time has come to change the conversation in Poland, to send one clear message that cuts through the static.
That's where you come in. If we come together, we can amplify the voices of the people who are most threatened by climate change.
Can you take a stand for survival by signing the pledge here? http://www.350.org/survival

Youth from around the world are spending the next 24 hours pressuring their country's UN negotiators to sign on to the very same same survival pledge--and their efforts will be made much easier if they have people like you supporting them from every corner of the earth.

We'll put your messages directly in front of world leaders by staging a high-profile delivery on the last day of the negotiations. This plan will only work if we get enough people signing on before the end of the week to make it count. With your help, we can make the "survival principle" a key message of the UN negotiations. And upon that principle, the world can build an equitable global climate agreement around science-based targets--targets like 350, the safe upper limit of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

When I landed in Poland for the UN Climate talks a week ago, I thought I knew what to expect: a few meetings, some beaurocratic backpedaling, and some frustratingly slow progress on a global climate treaty. I wasn't prepared for feeling moved, deeply, by the stories from those on the front lines of climate change. These are stories from countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu, island nations who are losing their crops and drinking water due to the ever encroaching sea. If climate change remains unchecked, by the time I retire there may be nothing left of these nations but waves.

We can prevent a climate catastrophe. The time has come for the world to stand together. Please join us.

Thanks for all that you do,

-Jon (and Bill, Jamie, Jeremy, Kelly, May, Phil, and Will and the entire 350 team)

The list

OK, time to write down those resolutions? priorities? plans? goals? impulses? all of the above_X_ for the new year.

Finish my novel. Cross everyone's paths. Let everyone run amok doing their things -- those crazy dirty tricks guys and my rock-star wanna be who can't stop herself from shouting about the food industry and her sister the chef who is trying to be three people in one, oh, and that architect, those cute, flirty folks over at the FDA, and I've been listening in on. They're onto something. Together they'll be a happening! A jam! A meltdown! A brainstorm! A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road....

Be the best partner to my sweetie. Help him in every way.

Be a good mom and a solid advocate for my daughter in school.

Be a full and present participant in my writing group at every moment.

Keep taking pictures.

Keep talking with family and friends.

Keep on eating well, and together. That is some social glue, getting together over dinner.

Remember to get outside and move around and breathe deeply every day.

Do another couple of house projects this year.

Move us forward somehow, by redecorating? Try painting and other ideas, like making built-in bookshelves, adapting window ledges to look like rock or metal or marble.

08 December 2008

Joys of the season

It's these little things we do to spur each other along, to draw each other in. One of us starts to do the Sunday crossword puzzle, and the other sidles up to help. I start a painting project that gets us to do some necessary reorganizing. My sweetie does the yard work and I come out and I come and pitch in so that it all gets done in a weekend. Then we both feel better. I vacuum the floors; my sweetie vacuums the couch. These are such little things, but they make such a difference in our life together.

05 December 2008

What if it's the collective consciousness, not the collective unconscious?

What I'm on about this week:

The Big Three's plea for cash, when what they should have done is started innovating like crazy in 1973, when we got our first inklings of problems like these. I can't believe their nerve; I've lost my compassion. I mean, those guys couldn't have shared a jet to come talk? Or proposed they conference call? Come on, where are their strategists? Where are their heads? Stuffed deep into their own pockets, searching for lint in the recesses. I swear. It just makes me want to buy a hybrid Subaru even more than I did before. Now it's spite. (Sounds like the tagline for a silly movie: "Mike Masca and the Revenge of the Blue-Masked Meanies. First it was a crusade. Now it's spite.")

The meltdown. This is the first major financial crisis in my adult life (I'm not counting my cousin-in-law's experience of being in Korea during the Asian meltdown, nor remembering President Carter's environmental speeches and resetting our thermostats two degrees lower to 66 because ours had already been at 68, back when I was 10). The financial crisis feels very much like being in the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 and being only 17 miles from the epicenter: it doesn't feel like it's over yet, even when the ground seems to have stopped rumbling and roaring. I'm still ducking under my desk and waiting for the dust to clear. It feels like it's going to be awhile.

New media: Two things caught my attention this week in this realm. First and worst, the Rocky Mountain News is up for sale. I am sad to see this. I think having a two-newspaper town is a good thing, and I like the way Westword is the little yappy dog that nips at their heels. But I also guess those guys and gals have been shopping their resumes around for a while now, knowing full well if they hang on they may go down with the ship. It's terrible to watch these ships go down, too. It is like watching another great ocean liner sink, having already seen the movie Titanic yet feeling helpless to stop it despite having all that information about what went so wrong. Do we have to recast newsgathering and dissemination as something completely different? Must we turn to grassroots support as we do for vital services like community radio? How many people who listen to community radio actually donate? Can that number be increased if the loss of that resource is threatened? Second: in a news story this week about a local man who is a key member of Obama's transition team, a graphic was embedded in the story that was a little amusing, but also rather shocking to me. (Here's the close-up, if you can't make out this key member of the team.) I was just shocked that they would completely surround an advertising graphic in a news story. Were you surprised when you saw that, too?

I keep thinking about the Spot.us independent reporting-for-pay model; what seems to me to be missing is a way to gauge a reporter's credibility. A newspaper or other institution can open that door for an individual, but it's harder for the individual to push that door open themselves. So how do you create a new, yet credible, institution that is devoted to gathering and disseminating news? Busy minds are working on this problem as we speak, but I think it's like a lot of things (e.g., the healthcare system, the gut-brain connection, and the new killer news app) in that there's plenty of room for solutions from all corners, all comers.

01 December 2008

Five gift ideas for the chronically frugal

In some ways I am profligate (I do love to eat at restaurants), but in other ways I am so frugal by upbringing and personal predilection that this new belt-tightening everyone is bracing themselves for already feels like second-nature to me. Anyway, here are a few fave frugal gift and craft ideas for when you're feeling strapped for cash but want to get creative:

1. Mix CDs. They are windows into your soul. What songs still get you going after all these years? What are you listening to this week? People love getting them, and drawing all sorts of conclusions about what is going on in your personal life based only on the songs you choose.

2. Make some refrigerator magnets. Get prints of your favorite photos and mount them on magnets that you buy from an office supply store. Often these are sold in business-card size, but you can stick two side-by-side on the back of a larger image (just peel off the backings, butt them up against one another, aligning the ends, and with scissors or a craft knife trim off any extra photo paper from around the edges).

Or with tiny, super-strong magnets, you can turn other objects into magnets. The magnets are too small and too strong to be useful on the fridge on their own, it turns out, but they set off a little brainstorm for me. I went online and ordered some neodymium disc ones, pretty small, that weren't too strong. Good magnet fodder includes tiny dolls, rocks, single earrings, buttons, and random crap I find around my house. I also use those clear pebbles decorators and florists use, which work if you can find decent ones that you can see through. They have a nice magnifying effect and look great with something glued onto the flat side. You need a strong, transparent-drying glue (it's nasty and fumacious but E-6000 is probably the best one I have found) and some fun magazine pictures, photos, or papers (origami with metallic detail works well, as do many wrapping papers). I started making so many of these I bought hole punches (a 1/2" one for the smaller pebbles, and a 1" punch for the larger ones). What's fun about them is being able to back them with anything. I gave my daughter's teacher a set of magnet pebbles I'd made by punching each of the kids' faces out of a copy of the class picture a couple of years ago.

3. If you're feeling ambitious, you could bind a book. You'll need a lot of supplies: boards, fabric or paper for covering the boards, glue, end papers, binding cord or ribbon, and the paper for the inside. You also need a vise grip and access to a drill, so this project is not for the faint of heart. But it can be so satisfying to make a personalized journal or photo album by picking out just what you think they would like and assembling it yourself.

4. Make a set of stamp-art note cards. Cut some nice thick paper or card stock in half, fold each half, and make potato stamps for printing a design on the front of each one. Cut a potato in half, and scrape away anything you don't want to print. Dip your stamp in some tempera paint and print onto a card. Make a few items of different sizes so you can mix motifs and accents.

5. Apples. Everyone loves apples. Even if the recipients don't eat them all, I once read about a study finding that one of the sexiest scents to humans is of dessicating apples. Think of it: A snack, and an aphrodisiac, all in one! Rinse them, polish them with a dishcloth, and place them into a paper bag that you decorate with some crap you've found around your house. Add a few filigrees with a colored marker, and you've just charmed the socks off some neighbor who is now mentally scrambling for what she can gift you with in return.