Sunday, February 28, 2010


Tonight: pasta for dinner, two separate sauces. His: marinara with meat; hers: four cheese alfredo with mushrooms. We let the pups have a strand or two from each of our bowls, and I pointed out how they'd be the only ones to taste both dishes, that we refused to eat what the other was having. Ryan grinned and said, "I'm morelly opposed to mushrooms." Wah-wah.

Tonight: watching Clash of the Dinosaurs on Discovery. One of my when-I-grow-up professions was a paleontologist.

We've begun discussing taking a cooking class together.

Three nights this week: knitting group, book club, poetry group. How full my heart, so much good company, (so much good food!).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

424: knit, knit, knit

Last night, I *finally* made it to Wednesday night knitting club, where I got to see Julia for the second time (our first was nearly a year ago, making cheese with the homesteading girls), and I got to officially meet Martha (whose work I've looooong admired, especially those fantastic gauze scarves!), and Sarah and Anna and Jess... These ladies are incredibly talented, which is good, because it will nudge me out of my comfort zone and into some wonderful projects I've been ogling for much too long.

For now, my first attempt at something new:

I made my first baby booties, though this moniker is a bit deceptive. Instead, I wound up with something more like toddler slippers, which is what I've rechristened these quick garter stitch slip-ons I mailed to my godson Christian. Together, the slippers took less than two hours to make.

Yarn: off-white kitchen cotton
Needles: size 8, bamboo
Pattern: Glamour-Baby's First Booties (free, Lion Brand website)

Of course, I have been informed, that Cookie Monster had to first wear the booties before Christian could and five minutes after donning the slippers, he slid on his little tuckus on the slick kitchen linoleum. Whoops.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

423: small calamities

It's strange the way losing someone in an unjustifiable way can conversely allow peace to descend upon your otherwise murky life. The loss causes reflection, forces you to consider that life, allows you to extract all of the good things and buoys you up. You think of your own life, think of what is important, what warrants upset and what can go by the wayside.

When, a week ago, my lowness might have caused the small things to keel me over, now, instead, it becomes little amusements, still the shrug, but, after all, they're only small calamities.

Above: a coughing fit caused a blood vessel to burst in my eye. As the Mayo Clinic explains, it is not dangerous but sure does look "hurty," as Meryl put it when she first spotted my strange red streaks. I shrugged and said I probably got some Burt's Bees in it, but clearly, once I finally got a look-see myself, this wasn't the case. Ryan told me I looked like I had strawberry in my eye. Someone else, who probably would prefer I did not name her, claimed a cough like that would cause her to pee her pants; this caused me to laugh, which made me ribs ache. The cough really was awfully dramatic, apparently, with all sorts of residual troubles.

Our other major breakage comes in the form of a window: Ryan came home a few nights ago to shattered glass and a chilly kitchen. He tells me not to blame it on one dog in particular, but we all know that it was our dear Zephyr, the charging rhino, whose fond nickname, after all, is the bowling ball, and we know he spotted something absolutely delicious or curious (or bland) and had his own coughing fit, bark-bark-bark-bark, lept onto the window and smash. Fortunately, both dogs are fine: no blood, no scratches, just a pile of broken window. By the time I got home, Ryan had gotten all the glass into a box, we swept it away, and shoved insulation to await the new window. (Last window broken was completely my fault when I killed a yellow jacket by throwing a book at it. Whoops.) Ryan and I decided we ought to stuff leftover insulation in all of our windows so they'll match. We'd be warmer, but oh-so-ghetto.

Monday, February 22, 2010


This song was sung at the funeral, which is so undeniably heartbreaking. (Also played: a drum circle / a capella version of "Welcome Home.")

When Ryan and I got married, we had my father's Irish folk band play us down the aisle.

We meant to go to Ireland for our honeymoon, but that was the summer of the passport ridiculousness, and we ended up going to Alaska, which was blissfully wonderful too.

Now I find myself longing for a place I've never been to. Longing for green hills, for sheep, for little cottages, for the cliched Ireland, I suppose.

I recently read an article in The New Yorker on grief that I found particularly compelling. It reminds me much of my favorite television show (Six Feet Under), which would often tackle the ritual of hushing up grief, having that separate room in the funeral hall where the bereaved can sob in private. I felt humbled by my tears at Callen's service; I would wipe them quickly with the edges of my wool coat, hoping former students wouldn't notice. But why not? Why not baldly cry at a loss such as this? Why not let grief be the messy thing that it is? We process in a myriad of ways, and I think it's best we allow ourselves the luxury of facing grief in the best way we know how.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I see small miracles now.

Oh, low and quiet: yesterday, after the funeral, I convinced Ryan to go on a walk in the woods with me and the pups. He isn't a great fan of Hay Creek in winter, mainly because after they paved over our dirt trails, he's felt the popular push, particularly with the snowmobiles, of which we saw too many, though I pointed out there are parallel trails without motorized traffic.

But there was this moment when Ryan and the dogs continued on the trail, somehow knowing I needed a quiet pace of my own. I breathed, I listened to the creak of branches against branch, I knew he was up there somewhere, and I whispered that strange hello.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Today is a gift. Every day is a gift.

This morning Ryan accompanied me to Callen's funeral, and finally, my eyes are no longer those ridiculously damp spots; I understand now why these services are touted to allow us to make peace with passing. The service was incredible: we arrived half an hour early and had to park blocks away; we found seats in the last row in the fellowship hall as opposed to the chapel, which was packed (and thus, couldn't hear some of the quieter spoken participants, but still, the spirit was there); it began and ended with a drum circle. So many stories were told, and yes, I began with those ridiculous tears trickling down my face, but ended fully celebrating a life that touched so many, left thinking I might be able to live my own life better now, in ways that can honor a person so good.

His girlfriend was a student of mine too, both in the chorus of the musicals and also in the creative writing class I taught at the high school. I emailed many of my poet-friends, inquiring as to what book they might give in a situation such as this. I settled on Mary Jo Bang's Elegy, which is about the loss of a son to suicide and Donald Hall's Without, which is about the loss of a wife to cancer. Neither experiences parallel Callen and Rachel's situation exactly, but the methods aren't touted in the books as much as the journey of mourning. I chose these partly because they are what sprung to my own mind, partly because I thought an entire narrative as opposed to an anthology might bring more comfort as a more complete portrait of grief, and also because these read clearly. Other wonderful suggestions: the anthology The Invitation of Farewell, edited by Sandra Gilbert; Wild Iris and Averno by Louise Gluck; the anthology Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude; Rumi; Georgics of Virgil; Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced by Catherine Barnett; Incomplete Knowledge by Jeffrey Harrison; Ander Monson's VacationLand; individual poems such as "To an Athlete Dying Young," an elegy by Edna St Vincent Millay, and Dylan Thomas' "A Refusal to Mourn..." as well as the prose memoir A Year of Magical Thinking. I only wish a library could ease that ache; I would shower her with books. I thank all of you who sent suggestions; it means a lot to me to have such dear friends sending love in that way.

Other bits from the world of the internet, which have touched me in processing this loss: this video made by a friend and this heartbreaking post written by his sister.

My heart is with those close friends and family as they make peace with losing Callen.

The above image and the ones that follow were all pulled from the Facebook page memorializing Callen. Unfortunately, I don't know who the original photographers are, so I cannot credit them, but I thank those people for sharing the images with us:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Two days ago, a student I worked with in the drama department of the first high school where I taught passed away. (WCCO has a video report also.)

As any educator knows, losing a former student is incredibly sad, but when you lose one of those students you truly cared about, truly looked forward to seeing what would happen with his or her life, it can break your heart.

He's broken a lot of hearts, I am sure. This is a kid I cannot remember ever seeing angry or snotty, the way high school students can get, the kind of short fuse that comes with the territory; instead, he was that kind of calming presence, bursting with good cheer. He was the actor who would help the techies build the set, spending his weekends off with a handsaw or a paint brush. He kept rehearsals moving at a clip, joking at mishaps, picking up, never having to be scolded or chided, but instead buoying those around him, willing to take on dance steps and solos without fear. Above are images I took of him playing the Jester in Once Upon a Mattress.

Now I'm all snotty myself from crying, and I wish more than anything that this hadn't happened to him, I wish I could go back two days and pull out all trees by their roots, just to keep him here, because he's the sort of person you want on this earth, the kind of person where you mean it so much when you say it isn't fair. He had a good spirit, that man. He will be sorely missed, I know.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


We spent our romantical holiday in the car, Ryan and I. We made our way across snow-crossed highways of Wisconsin to return home for the weekend, and he was kind enough to take the worst of the stretch, while I watched the snow sparkle in the headlights. We held sweaty hands across the console and listened as MPR played the greatest love songs of all time.

We had hoarfrost on the way in and glittering, drifting snow on the way back.

It was a good visit: Sue had an early birthday, we all went to dinner together last night (despite the hour and a half wait next door), I kept sleeping for twelve hours at a stretch, the dogs had a fair amount of exercise, I finished a project and made good progress on another.

My most favoritest Valentine's project is this mailbox, but here are a few others that also struck me as ones I could take on:
- bean bag game
- knit (and felted) hearts
- three heart dishcloths: lace and heart shape and my favorite, the embossed hearts
- heart garland

Saturday, February 13, 2010


We drove here early in the morning, fog settled in, a hoarfrost glittering in the trees. Twenty-four hours, and I've finished a little pair of knitted somethings I will show in a few days, have plugged away at a larger project I will show in a few weeks, and picked up supplies to make sweet stuffed creatures.

I've considered grading, changed my mind, considered again.

I've gone to bed before ten o'clock, read to escape, found myself in possession of two new books (The Vegetable Gardener's Bible and Sew Liberated), and I'm finding myself well-paced, quiet, slit-eyed with sleepiness, breathing, breathing. Trying not to upset the precarious balance.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I still feel pitted, scooped out, but I was just emailing my husband, and I said: You know, I think I see a little shaft of light, a little gleam, catching dust, making things sparkle. It's small, but it's there.

It always seems so strange to me when I feel bowed low like this, when everything is heaviness, heaviness. Part of it is my body's refusal to do what I want it to do, though I'm finding ways to be patient and realize the whole process is important and I need to be present to it and its myriad needs, and part of it is that kind of February slump. I've never been one who is taken with that pink hearted holiday; many of my earliest years with the man who became my husband were spent in the high-panic, high-stress of V-day (producing The Vagina Monologues on college campuses). So to me, February is simply the month before March, which is the month that belongs to my husband and spring break, but also has the honor of being the month where I fear I might explode for all the snow that packs us in. Winter is so ridiculously long in these parts.

One of the practices that has kept me tethered to this earth is making: I've just finished a series of [secret presents] for [someone who reads this blog], and I've found a few sewing projects I might take on over spring break. I've recently been led to the work of Ella Pederson from Amber's oakmoss blog, and I've been oohing and ahhing over her creations and the view of the world from her lens.

I brought a larger [secret present] for [another someone who reads this blog] with me to campus today; it's bulky but still fits in my canvas tote, and once I'm done with essay-writing and intern-duties, I plan to settle into the office's little nook, a wall of bookcases, a low lamp, and a love seat, and knit. Knit and breathe and think about that little ray of sunshine, the thing I pin my hope upon, my hope of getting out of this funk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I'm feeling a bit inside myself these days. My body has been uncooperative these days in repair, and I've wanted nothing more than to crawl inside and hibernate.

It's full thick and snowy February, and yesterday, my husband and I were snowed in. It takes a few country roads to get to my small town, and the district shut down their schools for the day. I made a go at getting to my own class at the university yesterday morning, but the combination of snow-slick roads, cars tipped into ditches, and my own stress level already being high that kept me home, reading student drafts, cleaning the sink's basin, knitting little objects.

I'm reading books less for immersion in my craft and more for escape: novels I can send my grandmother when I'm done, books that make me settle into home a bit more. I'm thinking about family and baking, about long walks and tabletops free of clutter.

Tonight I travel up to the Cities to take some photographs for the English program's website, and then head over to a cafe to meet a few new friends for a knitting group.

Tomorrow is a long day on campus and after, we head to Green Bay to celebrate Ryan's mother's birthday. It will be good for me to get out of town, to take a break from the same shape of things. I feel that winter blue inside of me, not the bright blue of clear skies, but that heavy fog, that swing low kind of sorrow that follows.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

414: happy birthday, jack!

I was sent this photo, among a handful of others, from our nephew Jack's first birthday.

This is the nephew with whom I spent two weeks this past June.

Our gift is coming along a little belatedly: two little board books and a stuffed bear, made completely from recycled bottles. Happy birthday, sweet Jack. Brace yourselves, Megan and Sean, for I hear Jack is already standing up to Jimmy's boisterousness. Two little Kiefer boys; I admire that sister-in-law of mine.

(On a side note: or related, in fact: I'm glad to have been able to witness Megan as a mama as I think she's got that composure and adoration, that patience and cheer she brings to her family. It's lovely to have a myriad of role models, particularly in developing a good family, so I'm lucky Ryan's sister is one of the many mamas to admire.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

413: welcome to the world, ali rebecca

Here's my friend Jen, who looks almost comical here, as if she were faking it. I mean, this girl is bitty. But there's little Alison in there, ready to come out; it isn't a pillow or a ridiculously oversized water balloon she's cradling.

(Photos from Jen's Facebook page)

Alison Rebecca Souvignier, born to Jen and Chris Souvignier on January 22, 2010, weighing nine pounds and measuring twenty-one inches.

Ali, you've got one crazy mama. Ask me later, and I'll tell you about swim team and sleepovers and snitty fights and growing old and staying friends. I'll tell you about what it was like to live two houses away and share a locker and cry at her wedding. For now, you just stay bright and beautiful.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

412: bits of randomness

- Tuesday evening I met with my girl friend Emily for dinner. I was able to natter, she was able to natter; I miss her already.
- Friday evening we drove up to Coon Rapids so Ryan could help Mike with his computer. At dinner, Mike told us another friend of theirs from college had been on the radio for putting his NFL allegiance up on Ebay. A die-hard Vikings fan, ready to donate proceeds to the MS Society.
- Remember when I was observing No Impact Week? I've discovered a good alternative to cotton make up pads; I had thought about knitting little rounds, but that yarn seems to absorb too much of the cleanser. Instead, I think I'll order myself a set of these eco-friendly, washable cloth circles.
- Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms: I discovered this in a magazine. Travel and farm work; sounds wonderful.
- I decided to keep track of my 2010 books right here, as opposed to the Good Reads list I was keeping earlier. A little less messy.
- I love this photo set of the pizza farm. Looking forward to solid spring ground for my first trip.
- Also loving the free verse project. Poetry month is coming up, and I'm in charge of book club pick: any suggestions? We have some poets and non-poets in the group, so I'm hoping for a little something to appeal to all.
- Check out the Story Farm. Lots of magic there.
- Sweet thread on Yahoo: Is it OK to run an illegal library from my locker at school? Love that fight against censorship.
- A month or so old article on New York Times on etsy business: "That Hobby Looks Like a lot of Work" What a scarf!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

411: safe in the milkweed pod

A while back, I think I mentioned The Milkweed Project, and my own humble efforts at putting together a piece for the exhibition. Well, my installation is complete, and we measured it at book club: one hundred and forty six glorious feet of fuzzy yarn on its chilly way to Sheboygan to be assembled with other bits of a milkweed pod.

I bought the yarn something like a half dozen years ago, intending to make a lap blanket for a couple's wedding. I was to be a bridesmaid. But they never married, and I made a little something else instead.

These days I'm keeping my hands busy while watching old episodes of Northern Exposure and new episodes of Ace of Cakes. I'm fully aware of how strange my new cycle of medication makes me feel: my hormones are off-the-charts, though Ryan is patiently keeping up, keeping close, making me radiate from within. Every night I whisper to whomever-is-up-there (is it whom? I can't believe I'm a comp. teacher): Don't let me forget how lucky I am.

Monday, February 1, 2010

410: braided bread

Well, I've accomplished another one from the list: baking challah, or another braided bread. You can find the recipe here, or in the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It's a heavy bread, and not nearly as delicious as the sort we bought at stands in New York City, but it's my first go at it. Soon, I'm going to try another new soup, and I'll share that as well--it's a pear and butternut squash soup, which is perfect for using up some of that leftover crated fruit.

It's been a week now, and I'm still not eating meat, so I suppose I'm tentatively declaring myself a vegetarian again. It's nice. It feels right.