When I was in 8th grade, we were in a pre-algebra class taught by the middles school math teacher, Sister Teresa. (I think it was Sister Teresa. There were a few Sister Teresas in my elementary and middle school, and it was sometimes hard to remember which one was which. At any rate, she as was a nun, and she seemed to know her math stuff.) I'd been in catholic school for pretty much my entire primary education, so nuns were old hat to me at this point. She was a good teacher, and she figured out that there were a few of us in the class that were ahead of everyone else. After maybe a month of watching us, she pulled the four or five of us aside and created lessons deeper into algrebra for us. We met in the same classroom as the rest of our class, but we were given different assignments further along in the textbook. Intead of pre-algebra, we were learning algebra, and we were doing well.
At some point in the middle of the school year, Sister Teresa disappeared from the classroom. Shingles, we were told. It was a horrible, terrible, painful disease. She couldn't possibly come back.
The rest of the school year was a succession of math teachers who never lasted more than a few weeks. The group that I was learning algebra with mustered on, using the teacher's manual as a guide. We told our successive teachers what we were doing, and as these people had no idea, they just let us teach ourselves.
In the meantime, I took the placement exams, did the interview, and otherwise kicked ass to get into St. John's for high school. It was a huge achievement. I think they only let in seven or eight kids that year, and none of the kids from my school were going. As far as I understood it, I knew algebra, but my group of advanced math students had only scratched the surface.
Fortunately, the placement exam at St. John's caught the lapses in my previous education. The summer between eighth and ninth grade, I spent taking algebra again. And my counselors recommended that I not take too much math when I first got to St. John 's because it would overwhelm me. So I ended up on a track that didn't include Calculus at all in my high school career. This it turns out, went on to screw up a few things, including my physics class. I was a straight A physics student, until we got to accelleration, where it's SOOO much easier if you know calculus. Same for a lot of price theory in microeconomics in college.
By the time I got to college, I was terrfiied of math, and I convinced myself that I wasn't very good at it. It wasn't until I totally fell in love with statistics that I got my confidence up again on things math. I put a lot of the blame of this on that Shingles outbreak on my 8th grade math teacher. I sort of developed a terror of shingles. I mean, it took my teacher out for the whole school year! It must be terrible.
Going back even further, in 1983, when I was ten years old, I caught the chicken pox. It was going around that same catholic school, and I brought it home and gave it to all of my siblings. We spent a week in itchy misery and went on our merry ways.
Fast forward to sometime last week when a rash appeared on my shoulder. Given how much yoga I do and the location of the rash, I thought it was some sort of dermatitus caused by sweat, soap, and the rubbing of an ill placed bra strap. When it didn't go away after a few days, I thought that maybe it was an allergic reaction to a suppliement that I was taking. But it was localized to the top of my shoulder, and it was growing. I was sick on Friday, sleeping from 9:00 p.m. until 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. And it got to the point that anything on it hurt.
So I yesterday, I consulted Dr. Google, looking for rashes that looked like mine; the second I got the shingles hit, I knew what was up. I called my dad for consultation, who was useless. ("It's usually on the torso, and it's usually pretty painful.") And then I got a second opinion from my godfather, who is an infectious disease specialist. The second he saw my rash, he wrote me a prescription for the anti-virals.
It's shingles. But I'm not out. It's a right pain in the ass (or shoulder, as the case may be), and it's definitely not something to treat lightly, but it's not worth runing a math career over.
Based off of that performance, a friend ask him to dj the latter part of his birthday party in late October, with about 600 people in attendance. The band was a Prince cover band, so Electroswing wasn't exactly the music to play, but Graham had something else in mind he wanted to show off: Ghetto funk. He had to work that night at his regular gig at Prohibition, and the schedule was pretty tight. The band didn't get off stage until nearly 1:00, and Graham didn't start until nearly 1:30. Fortunately, it was the day daylight savings came back, so Graham had an extra hour in there to get us moving.
It was an off the hook, insane set. We danced for hours it seemed, and every song was just perfectly meshed with the one before. He built us up and tore us down. He got down and dirty and nasty and we loved it loved it loved it. We danced and danced and danced. Even after his set was over, he plugged into the house system and popped on a prerecorded set so we could keep on dancing if we wanted to. It was an insanely awesome set, and we were still riding the high of it (and maybe something else) when we got home at 6:00 a.m. We were riding the high of it days later.
We go to this party every year. We go to Flipside every year. And maybe we go to two or three other dance-all-night sort of things in the course of the year. But our days of dancing all night are over, and if Graham's out past two a.m, it's because he's on the decks. But coming off of the high of the set, we started thinking about other dancing opportunities that didn't involve a full day of recovery.
When Graham had been in England the year before, a brand new idea was just taking off in London: Morning Gloryville. Some of the djs that Graham met in England said that the vibe at these morning dance parties was just awesome. And over the course of the year, the idea started to take off in other cities. Another version of it started in New York, called Daybreaker. The basic idea is a dance party in the early morning, mid-week. Before work, maybe after the kids are dropped off at school. Maybe that's the one day a week that you're a little late. Instead of alcohol and/or drugs, juice and coffee bars. Instead of flashing lights, the sun comes up. Instead of going to the gym, get a workout shaking your tail feathers to rocking djs.
We started talking about it for a month or two. We were brainstorming places it might work, or at least what our requirements for a place would be: natural light, fairly far from residential neighborhoods so as not to piss off anyone with the music at 6:00 a.m., a central, easy-to-find location that's not too far from either work or home. I came up with a name for a party if we have one in Houston: Wake 'n' Shake. We talked about it with some friends and people who we thought might want to get involved. We got some interest.
In the meantime, I started a 40 Days of Yoga project in January at Big Power Yoga. It's a very intense, very accountability driven project. You're requried to practice yoga six days a week for six weeks. You're also required to attend a group meeting once a week that focuses on tools that you use outside your asana practice. In addition, there's a three day cleanse during Week 4. And there's a mindful eating portion. At the end of each week, the studio checked to see if participants met their attendance obligations for the week, and if so, we were allowed to move on to the next week. About 800 people started the 40 days, and I think there were about 350 that finished. I hadn't done serious yoga since 2007, and I knew that this was a way to get me back into it seriously, because my "oh, I'll go tomorrow" method wasn't working at all.
In one of the group meetings, a guy in the meeting talked a little about djing. I talked a little about Burning Man. After the meeting was over, we found each other. He, it turns out, is a Burner. We talked about Burning Man, and then went into the "do-you-know" game. And over the course of the conversation, we discovered that he was one of the other djs that Graham had spun with at the fundraiser in August. I very casually asked if he was interested in a morning dance party idea, and he immediately said he had a location for something like that in mind. By the time Graham picked me up, I had his contact information. By the end of the week, he and Graham were in communication and actually working on the project.
In mid-February, Graham and I went to Taos for a week. We had no agenda (aside from my having to do yoga once a day, but Shree Yoga is an absolutely fantastic studio). We cooked and walked around town and went to the mountain and played with the dogs. I don't think we turned on the TV once. And we talked. For both of us, the trip was cleansing and inspiring, and we both came back from it full of energy and new ideas and motivation. It was one of the best vacations we'd ever been on.
In March, Graham joined the yoga studio, and he also caught the yoga bug. And in that time he and John had determined a date and finalized the location. They found another DJ who was as excited about the idea as they were. And the project started coming together. They launched the facebook page in late March, and the invitation to the party in early April. Graham did an interview with an awesome organization called We Play Everywhere to help promote the event. And most of the people we've talked to about the idea are pretty excited.
The event is slated to run from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m on Wednesday May 6. Boomtown Coffee is on board to provide caffine, and E-dub-a-licoius is a go for food. They're finalizing the juice vendor, but it's going to be really good too. The location is very close to downtown, and has an awesome feature that will really highlight the event. Graham aka The Grahamaphone, John Tran aka DJ Kung Fu Pimp, and JD Notic will be on the decks.
One of the things that Graham was asked during the interveiw last week was whether he'd ever been to one of these before. He said no. And the interveiwer was delighted. There aren't any rules or expectations to something so very brand new. We have no idea how many people will show up, though 100 or so have said so on Facebook and we've heard that a lot of others have heard about the event and have expressed interest. We have no idea what the population will be. Houston is a very diverse city. Who is going to come to this? We imagine that some people will come early and leave early because they have to go to work. Some people will come later, because really 6:30 is really early. Some people will be late for work. Some people might bring their kids. People may wear workout gear or what they're wearing to work or decide to dress in costume and be silly. What we absolutely know is that the people who come will be interested in trying something new. Because the likelihood is that not many people here in Houston have been to one of these either. So we can create our own and bring awesome energy and make this an amazing event that grows off of the participants in it. We know that people in this city get up early and work out. Why not have the workout be a dance?
Last night, my brother-in-law and I, much to the relief of our spouses, went to see Wilco together. Matthew is as big of a Wilco fan as I am, and being from Chicago, he's had more opportunity to see them. Graham--who has been dragged to many a Wilco show with me by default--had to work, and Claudia has passing familiarity with Wilco, but said it'd be much better if just Matthew and I went. The show was awesome, and we had an excellent time.
At some point in the evening, Jeff Tweedy said that exactly ten years ago they'd played in the exact same room, though I think it was named after a different corporate entity. I did some mental calculations and realized I'd been to that show too!
So I went to the ever helpful setlist.fm to help me figure out which shows I've been too.
October 11, 2013: Austin, Texas, Stubbs Bar-B-Q. This was a pre-ACL show, and Graham had a gig on sixth street the same night. A friend of Graham's from high school lives in Austin and she volunteers for an organization that cleans up and recycles after concerts. So they get to go to shows for free AND they get in early for prime locations. It had been raining all day, but right as the show was supposed to start, the rain started to dissapate. Graham dropped me off at the venue and introduced me to his friend, and then he went off to set up for his own show. I went to maybe the best Wilco show I've ever seen. The crowd was all me and Matthews: knew every song, loved everthing there is to love about Wilco, totally into it. I got the impression the band was totally into it too. They played 33 songs that night, and it lasted for hours. After helping to clean up (which took all of ten minutes), I walked back to my car, changed, and then went to Graham's gig totally high from the Wilco show.
May 6, 2011: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater (which is the same venue as Bayou Music Center). This was the show we went to six days after our accident. It was the first time since the accident that I smiled. This is what I wrote to the band afterwards through their website:
I don't know if this sort of letter gets to the band or not, but I wanted to thank them profusely for the show on Friday night in Houston, Texas.I was in a pretty horrible car accident on Saturday, April 30. I was hit on the side, and car rolled over two and a half times on the freeway. After the accident was over, I was banged up, my fiance was banged up and my dog was missing. Fortunately, miraculously, she somehow managed to escape the car unscathed and was returned to us about ten minutes after the accident.
The following week was surreal. We ached all over, we were baffled on how we all managed to survive, and we had to deal with the day to day crap associated with losing your car and dealing with insurance companies and the police.
On Friday, though, we got to go to the show. My fiance said that he hadn't seen me smile since the accident. And not only did I smile, I danced and sang and yelled and, to the extent my neck injury would let me, I bounced around a lot. I was joyful for the first time in a week, and I didn't once think about he sound of metal hitting metal, or the feeling having no control at all as my car rolled over and over, or the horror of thinking that my sweet puppy dog had been killed or severely injured in the crash and there was nothing I could do about it.
We left a little early, because we're still tender, and being jostled by a departing crowd would have probably hurt. But I wanted to stay and absorb the music for hours and hours and hours.
So thank you. Thank you very much for putting on such a wonderful show, and for making me so happy.
It was something I needed very badly.
Whoever gets their fan mail wrote me back within hours:
wow... we are all so relieved that you, your fiance and puppy are alright! That was great you were still able to attend the Wilco show.... it means alot to the band that they can make folks happy and forget about their troubles.
we wish you both a speedy recovery
It was my most needed Wilco show.
March 7, 2008: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. This was the first Wilco show I ever took Graham too. He'd just moved to Houston, and we were in the early part of our relationship. It was the first show of any kind that we'd been too together. Graham had been to the venue as a stagehand back in another life, so he was familiar with the venue. He'd been a big Uncle Tupelo fan, and he respected Jeff Tweedy but confessed he was bigger Son Volt fan than Wilco. I maintain that there can be enough love in the world for both. The opener was John Doe, who was outstanding and set a great tone for the night. This show was deep into the Wilco tour, so Tweedy's voice was shot when he was talking, but he managed to keep it together when he was singing. It was great. A few months later, we saw Son Volt at the Continental Club.
September 16, 2007: Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the last ACL I went to. I'd met Graham less than three weeks before, and I was still riding the high of my first Burning Man. I was technically doing ACL by myself that year, but some friends found me and I spent more time at their house than I did the festival. I did make sure to go to the Wilco set though. This is what I said about it at the time:
They gave Wilco an hour and 15 minutes when they usually give an hour. It was awesome. I know I say that every time I hear them, but dammit...I'm not the only one. Look at This blog report of the taping of their Austin City Limits television show set the night before. It's the little things with them. Like Tweedy going acoustic for "I am going to break your heart." And the big things, like the amazing guitar solos that seemed to just take over the world. And the craziness around him with drums and guitar and other noise while Jeff sings softly and calmly to the lyrics of "Via Chicago." The set was pretty heavy with Sky Blue Sky, but as always, they played a lot from various albums. I've heard "Walken" so many times live now, it surprises me it's only been released on Sky Blue Sky. I actually was sort of surprised that "The Late Greats" wasn't played because I've heard it so many times live now... I don't really know how to express how much I love hearing this band, especially with Nels Cline at guitar now. It's possibly my perfect band. I was standing there, singing along with thousands of other die hard Wilco fan and I was perfectly happy. I could have just gone to this show and I would have been fine with my ACL experience.
It was a great end to my ACL years, and hopefully we'll go back sooner or later.
October 13, 2006, San Antonio, Texas, Sunset Station. This was also a very needed show. I'd spent the summer recovering from a bad breakup, and I was just then coming out of my shell. One of the things I'd done in my recovery was determine that I would start doing things because I wanted to rather than because I was expected to. I really wanted to go see Wilco, and this was the closest show on their current tour. (It was the closest for a lot of Wilco fans: Austin and Dallas got skipped that tour too, so there were a lot of out-of-towners who made the trek to San Antonio that day.) I got off of work at 5:00 and drove three and a half hours by myself to San Antonio to go to the show. It was great. I bonded with other Wilco fans; I got close enough to the stage so I could see everything perfectly; and I had an excellent time. At this show, after a summer of sadness, I gave myself permission to be happy.
By the time of "Shot in the Arm," I was fully into the show and singing along and dancing and totally into the whole experience. I found myself, from time to time, grinning like an idiot. You know there are moments in your life where you actually acknowledge that you're feeling very happy? This show was a series of those moments.
It was a good thing for me.
September 25, 2005, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival This was a weird ACL, in that it was immediately after the Hurricane Rita evacuation, and I was meeting my new boyfriend there. There were a lot of logistical problems with a) getting out of Houston (we rocked that), b) meeting up with my boyfriend (there was a lot of flight changing), and c) dealing with the dust at ACL itself (there was no grass that year to hold it down, and there was tons and tons of wind). Nevertheless, we prevailed and saw all three days of the show AND focused on Wilco's set on the last day. It was the last set we saw that day after a pretty incredible day of music (including Bob Mould's first live performance in YEARS).
April 23, 2005, Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. Ten years ago! I went to this show by myself and had a BLAST. Since I was alone, I could wiggle my way closer to the front. The show was plagued early on with technical difficulties, but the energy was awesome. I ran into three friends from three different parts of my world that night, and we all were riding Wilco highs.
The Wilco show on Saturday night was one of the best concert events I've ever been to. From the moment that they took the stage until the house lights came on, I was riveted. The whole set was tight, despite some major technical difficulties with amps and guitars. They covered a lot of material in the two hours that they played, covering all five albums. What I thought was amazing was that I saw them at ACL in September, and this show was completely different than that set. Contrast to Modest Mouse, who had a nearly identical set in February as their ACL set.
This is probably the show where I transitioned from generally liked their music to true fan.
September 19, 2004, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival. This was my first Wilco show and my second ACL. I'd gone to ACL that year meeting up with a bunch of lawyers from my lawyer board as well as Claudia, and there was a lot of complicated scheduling that ensued. I had all of Wilco's catalog on CD at that point, but I'd never seen them live before. I was, as I described, mellow but intense.
And so, a decade plus of going to Wilco shows, and I'm not at all sick of them in the slightest. Last night's show was outstanding, and I love that the band and its fans have such an awesome rapport. I was reading a review yeterday of a Hozier show at the same venue a few nights before (and another from about a month ago, I didn't know Hozier liked Houston so much). The reviewer lamented that in our ADHD society, audiences, especially in Houston, don't have the capacity to shut the fuck up and listen to the music. This was not the same crowd. Obviously, Hozier doesn't have the 20 plus years to develop a loyal, music dorky fan base that Wilco has, but I didn't feel the notorious bad, unengaged crowd that Houston has apparently become famous for. We were on the balcony, and while I saw a few LED screens every now and then, most people were focused more on the show than on their devices. At most, people were sending out quick media updates or grabing a picture and then putting their phones away.
So about two years ago, I went to the Fresh Arts gala. It was at the Winter Street studios, and there was a bridal theme to the event. I wore a bridesmaid's dress that I'd spattered in all sorts of fun colors, and it was all and all an excellent time.
My sister Claudia was there, and after the party was over, she asked me for a ride to the next event. Since Graham was dealing with his DJing equipment, I said sure thing, hop in! Claudia and a guy named Matthew started walking with me to the car. I'd met Matthew several years before at a New Year's Eve party at Claudia's house, and we'd been facebook friends for years. But I didn't know him well. After I dropped them off at a bar, Matthew thanked me profusely, and I smiled at Claudia
Fast forward 18 months, and Claudia and Matthew eloped in Nicaragua. I'd known, of course, and I'd even suggested that country as a possible place when Matthew started looking. And I was over the moon. In the intervening time, Claudia and Matthew became Claudia and Matthew. Everyone who saw them together said "wow, this makes so much sense." They'd known each other for years, but 2013 seemed to be the right time for them to connect. By the time they got married, they had been living together for awhile, and D'arcy was as much Claudia's dog as he was Matthew's. My family adored Matthew, and he got along with every single one of us individually. I'd never in my life seen Claudia so comfortable, and I was overjoyed that she'd found Matthew.
So I wanted to make them something special for their wedding. Given their elopement, I didn't have any real time constraints, though I wanted to get it to them within the year. I thought about it for awhile, and then I decided that I was going to have a ton of time to myself in Taos over a week in the summer, and I could make them a quilt. I'd had so much fun the previous year making a quilt there that I could do the same this year.
In 2013, I'd gone to the quilt show with Olivia and my mom, and I found some lovely fabrics from Africa at a store called Akonye Kena. These fabrics were from Uganda and they were hand dyed. They had these lovely, rich colors, and I just fell in love with them. The fabrics came in four tone families: Sunrise - Spring light tones; Rainy - Summer bright tones; Dry - Autumn/Fall earthy tones; and Sunset - Winter rich tones. I ended up buying two jelly rolls, which had one strip of each of the 40 fabrics, and two yards of the sunset purple fabric. This fabric felt more like linen than the quilting fabric you usually find in stores, and when I bought it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.
It was solid instead of printed, but I thought that it was perfect for Claudia and Matthew. In part because Claudia is a very solid person, with few prints in her wardrobe or home. And that it was from Africa had another nice connection for them. Claudia minored in African studies in college, and Matthew spent part of his childhood in Liberia. They went to Morrocco their first Christmas together. While neither had a particular connection to Uganda, I thought they'd like the reference.
As for the pattern, I fell in love with this Simply Woven pattern at the Moda Bake shop. I liked how busy and intricate it was, and I thought it was something that I could do. It was also scalable, and I could make a slightly bigger quilt for two people to get under. Also, there's a running joke in the family that Matthew likes shapes. He is an engineering professor and spends a vast amount of time studying the shape of things. I thought that all of the shapes in this particular quilt would make him pretty happy.
My only real issue was that I didn't have enough fabric. I needed at least two more jelly rolls, and I thought I needed more of the purple. I got in touch with Akonye Kena to order the fabric, but they were out of the purple. I sent pictures of what I had and a description of what I wanted to do, and they sent me an amazing blue instead. The blue was kismet. One of the highlights of Claudia and Matthew's trip to Morocco was to Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh, which is owned by Yves St. Laurent. This particular color blue is very prominent throughout the garden, and it's a striking, memorable color. That I was able to reference the same color in the quilt was awesome, AND it turned out that the Akoyne Kena fabrics are on a 58" bolt, so I had enough purple. I could use the blue on the back.
I set off to Taos ready to make my quilt. This one was much, much more ambitious than the one I made before. I had tons of cutting and ironing and arranging to do before I could even start. And I also had to think through how much of each color I wanted to highlight.
I spent most of my time in Taos working on the quilt. I did read a little, and I cooked. I went to the farmer's market. The puppies and I took long walks every day. We went to the mountain one day. I took a spa day another. But most of the time was spent working on the quilt. While I was working on it, I used a playlist that Claudia had made for some party or another, and it was very random, but very Claudia: Lots of Leonard Cohen. Lots of Nina Simone. Lots of Los Super Seven. Some Tina Turner. Some Pixies. Some Springsteen. The Faint. Cafe Tacuva.
I also thought a lot about my Tia Ana. A lot of my sewing notions had come from her: after she'd died, her family gave most of her sewing stuff to Olivia. It was way too much for one person, so Olivia gave half of it to me. Ana was the reason we have Taos. She'd lived there from 1986 to 1999, and we spent most of the 90s coming up to visit her.
And so I sewed.
If you go to the quilt's album on Flickr, you'll get a better step-by-step rendering of how it was put together. Suffice to say, I had to sew, then press, then cut, then repeat. Over and over and over again, until I had 56 12.5" squares. It was challenging in that I hadn't done this in a year, and some of the strips were not quite 2.5" wide. But I made due and remembered that the quilt should be like their marriage, beautiful as a whole but with imperfections and flaws and wrinkles throughout. I'm so happy to report that I was able to do all of that in the week that I was in Taos.
When I got back to Houston, I went straight to my parents' house, because I knew there was a big surface I could use to assemble the pieces like a puzzle.
I put them all together, and my quilt top was done less than a month after I started it.
I took some time off to think about how to do the back. I love, love, loved the blue, but I also wanted something more interesting than the solid color. I did a search on pinterest for "pieced quilt backs" for inspriation, and thought abut it for a long while. I had a whole jelly roll left over, and I had some of the purple and a few assorted strips. Ultimately, I decided to sew all of the jelly roll strips together side by side in ascending tone of color from darker to lighter, and then I cut those into an 8 inch wide, long long strip. I sewed all of this over a few episodes of Outlander, and it turned out pretty good.
Finally, I figured out how I wanted to attach the jelly roll stripe to the blue, and I got to sewing the very last bit together. I ended up loving the back as much as I love the front.
I have a bottom-of-the line Singer sewing machine. If I could quilt a project this big on my machine (which I think is doubtful), it would take me YEARS to get it done. I spent a few weeks looking at the various maker spaces around town to see if anyone had a long arm machine. No luck. I called around, and I found out that the closest quilt shop to me, Tea Time Quilting, has a person who will do long arm quilting for a reasonable fee. In early December, I took the quilt and the back to her, and I asked her to quilt the project for me.
Last week, she called to tell me that it was done, and Saturday, January 24, I picked it up. I spent Friday and Saturday and Sunday working on binding the quilt, the very last step, and on Sunday, right before the Superbowl, I gave it to Claudia and Matthew. They both cried. And they lived happily ever after.
So if you do a 90 minute yoga class one day, the next day's 60 minute yoga class is infinitely better. Here's hoping that tomorrow's 60 minute class is that much better.
I haven't actually done yoga before Monday in about 10 months. I had a really awesome practice for a week in New Mexico about 18 months ago, and I decided that I wanted to do more yoga. But that's around the time that I hit a rut, and I didn't really do all that much pretty much worth noting at all.
Last spring, I checked out the studio I am using now, and I really liked it. But it's taken me this long to get motivated enough to use it.
When I heard about the 40 days thing, I knew that it was the type of motivation I needed to get going again. It's structured, it's goal oriented, and it offers no real excuses given that the studio's first class is at 5:15 in the morning and the last one is at 10:00 at night and there are a good 8 to 10 every day in between. It's also less than a mile for my house. I tried to do it last October, but it had already started.
Signing up was easy. And the studio has a nice phone app that makes scheduling classes very easy. We all signed up for teams last week, and a facebook page was set up for our team to support each other and share advice. There was a conference call on Sunday to go over everything, and we started on Monday.
We're supposed to go to one class a day Monday through Saturday, taking Sunday off. We're also supposed to meditate every day, starting with 5 minutes the first week and moving up to 30 by the last. I am using a phone app for that. We're also supposed to be considering mindful eating, which I'm glad to be back on. And we're supposed to go to a weekly meeting, which I'll do tomoror or Saturday. There's also a book we're supposed to read. I bought it, but I haven't gotten to it yet.
I'm pretty ok with most of this. I am not as woo woo as some people, but I certainly don't have a problem with it.
The yoga itself is a vinyasa flow, in a heated but not hot room. The studios are huge, and one of the rooms theoretically can fit 100 people. I'm not sure if I've ever been in it with that many, but a lot of people use this studio.
The only real issue is parking, but when I got there this morning, I didn't have a problem. I think that most morning people go to the 5:00 or 6:15 class. I go to the 7:00 which is too late for a lot of people, but too early for the people who don't have work committments. At any rate, that's the main class I've been going to.
I'm doing a 40 days of yoga thing right now, and there's a journaling component. I have been doing some of it on a paper journal I bought for the exercise, but what the hell. I saw that there was some sort of effort to get back to livejournal by a bunch of friends, and this seems a nice serendipidy.
At any rate, today was day two of yoga, and i'm already in pain. I know that the pain is good pain, but it's been awhile since I've taken on something like this. The last time was a barre bootcamp in late 2011. I have to get up early tomorrow for a class, having finished one less than 12 hours prior. But that's the way my schedule works these days.
I like the classes, and there's a lot of support from my particular yoga studio. Facebook groups, e-mails, a very supportive community within the practice. And I know that since I have so much yoga ahead of me, I can always throw myself into child's pose for a few minutes during every class and no one will think poorly of me.
In other stuff, we're still in the design portion of the house addition. We met with the architect last week, and we're getting closer and closer to a design that will be eventually sent to the city for permiting. We may wait a little before we start construction, though, because the price of oil dropping means that there've been a lot of layoffs in Houston latley. And the crazy busy construction boom that's been going on without end in sight over the last five years or so may finally be slowing down. We may be able to get some decent pricing on some of the construction.
Work is work, and I'm sort of in a state of shock that I've been at the same place for nearly 13 years. It seems like I just moved back to Houston. But it also seems like I've been here forever.
Fusilli is still showing, but we may pull him back from that. It's something we need to figure out sooner or later. I like the puli community quite a bit, both locally and globally online. It's been a really nice support system, and Fusilli and I have bonded quite considerably with the conformation work. This isn't to say that Celosa and I haven't bonded, but he's very into it in a way she would never be.
At any rate, I have an early morning yoga class to get to.
I think the nation is doing the same thing in the wake of Furgeson and Gaza and Syria and Iraq and just all of the fucked upedness of the last week or so, and the Ice Bucket Challenge is the US equivalent to a bunch of college kids throwing water on each other in an attempt to be lighthearted and fun and forget about how awful the rest of the world is and that there's not much we can do about it.
I've been listening to the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Volume One this morning. It really is awesome.
Like everyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s, I made tapes as well.
It started when I was really young, taping songs I liked off of the radio. The beginning would always be cut off, unless the DJ announced that he or she was going to play it beforehand and I had some heads up that the song was coming. The end may or may not be faded into another song or abruptly cut off as the DJ started talking over it. Mostly Duran Duran got taped, but there were tons of other songs as well. When I was really young, I generally listened to top 40 pop on whatever call letters Q-zoo had, though for some reason, I got hooked on Psychedelic Sundays on KLOL at a fairly young age. When I got older, I moved over to the hard rock on KLOL. As far as the early mixes go, there wasn't any sort of cohesion at all in the playlist selection. The ordering was whatever order I happened to tape something. VHS tapes were similar; a friend taped various movies off of HBO for us, and I remember one particular tape had Empire Strikes Back and the Breakfast Club on it.
Like Peter Quill, I had a walkman with my music on it. Mine was the yellow sports version, with a "water tight" seal. At some point, someone gave me a discman, but it wasn't as portable, because it would skip if it was moved even a fraction of an inch. I think I still have it in a box somewhere. But that walkman, it was a workhorse. Say what you will about Sony, they made excellent products in the 80s and 90s.* That walkman went everywhere with me, and my dad had sharpied my name and phone number on the inside, just in case it ever went missing. It never did.
Do BMG and Columbia House exist anymore? I'm sure I got six tapes for a penny (plus shipping and handling and a commitment to buy more and ruined credit at a tender age) dozens of times over. I remember that the "I Love Rock And Roll" tape by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was the first tape I ever bought. But I had tons more. And I listened to so much music. At some point in the 80s, I started moving over to CDs, and I amassed quite a collection of music. Again, thanks in large part to BMG and Columbia House.
When I was in college, I started making mix tapes with purpose. They were time consuming and meticulous. I had a boom box that was dual cassette AND CD, so I could make tapes off of tapes and CDs. There was a lot more thought put into them than the early tapes. I was terrified of my CDs being stolen, so I never put them in much of a carrying case. But I could always re-make tapes. The walkman, after being dropped dozens of times, died shortly after I came back from England in the mid 90s. I think it made my first semester or two of law school, but there's only so much abuse a device can take.
But it was in law school that the mix tapes turned into art. It was a procrastination tool to the extreme. Every finals, I HAD to make a mix tape. I'd write down the songs, their times and the time left on the tape. I'd listen to the whole thing over and over again for cohesion and flow and overall completeness. Each side of the tape had to be its own complete work, but it had to flow with the other side as well. Relampago often helped me with these projects, since my stereo was near the floor, and I was sitting for hours there pulling music out of the CD racks and looking for the right songs. He was as much of a music critic as Celosa is now with Graham. I'd write down all of the songs on the label inside the cassette, and I kept most of the legal pads where I constructed the mix. I had to finish it before finals were over, but usually, it was done well before then. I'd usually study with the mix playing.
Most of the mixes were kept in the car for the most part, first in the Suburban, then in my Explorer. I had a travelling case that held something like 40 or so tapes, and it sat on the floor in front of the middle console. But sometimes I'd bring them inside to listen to. Most of the tapes were 47 minutes a side, but some were a 60 minutes. Some of the mixes were excellent, favorites that I still consider pretty good collections of music. Others were more of a time and place indicator, and listening to them would instantly remind me of that period of my life and whatever was going on then. To this day, there are some songs that I automatically assume will come after others, because I heard that song ordering so many times on the mixes.
At some point in the late 90s, CD-RWs came out, and I thought about making CD mixes. They were MUCH more time consuming on the technical side, and slightly more difficult to catch for cohesion, because the song wasn't playing all the way through as the mix was made. After the loooooooooong time it took to rip the song from a CD onto the computer, I just had to order the music in the way I thought would work, and it'd start writing. I wasn't listening throughout the selection and insertion process like I was with the tapes. In making the tapes, I'd have an idea of where the mix was going, but sometimes it didn't work when I heard one song followed by the next. There, I could just rewind and find another song that worked better. With CDs, I'd have to rewrite the whole thing. I made a few, CDs early on, but I preferred the tapes.
In late August of 1999, while I was in Washington DC for about six weeks looking for work after law school, someone broke into the Explorer and stole a pair of rollerblades that was in the back seat. And they stole all of the mix tapes. All of them. I still think about it every now and then. Who steals mixtapes? They mean absolutely NOTHING to anyone but the person who made them and maybe one or two other people. The tapes themselves aren't worth anything. But they mean a lot to the people who owned them. A year or so after that, someone else broke into my car and stole the stereo. Its replacement did not have a tapedeck, because I didn't have any tapes anymore and I was unlikely to ever have them again.
Fortunately, I'm a packrat. I still had most of the legal pads where I plotted out the mixtapes. And I embarked on a two year project to reconstruct them onto CD. Technology improved, though it still seemed like the ripping process was still painful. And in about two years, mainly when I was in Berkeley, I was able to reconstruct most of them onto CD. I even made a few mixes for CD only, mainly road trip mixes (Taos Roadtrip 2001 is a particular favorite). The CDs, like their tape predecessors before them, lived in my car in a carrying case until the Explorer crash in 2011. I'm not quite sure what happened to them after that. Their track listings are backed up on my computer.
iTunes came out in the mid-00s, and in 2005, I embarked on the great CD ripping project. All of my music is digital now. I put all of my CDs away in 2012 during the kitchen renovation, and I can't believe I'm typing that I'm vaguely considering putting them in the family garage sale we're having in a few weeks. I consider them backups now.
All of the surviving mixes have been turned into iTunes playlists. They've made it across three computers and are backed up on two external hard drives. I listen to them every now and then when I'm feeling nostalgic.
I still make playlists. Most of them are for exercise, but sometimes for long drives as well. But they seem different somehow. Dragging and dropping a piece of music into a playlist is so effortless. I don't have to worry about how much time is left. I usually do playlists on "shuffle" so song order isn't all that important. It's easy to skip to the next song if I don't feel like listening to whatever comes up. There isn't generally a narrative or theme, though some of them do have that sense of time and place that the original playlists did. I'm headed on a road trip next week, so I'm certain I'll be putting some music together for it. And maybe, for old times sake, I'll draw out the mix making process to really make it special.
*Side note: I still have the Dream Machine Cube (third one down on the list) next to my bed. It keeps perfect time (unlike the HD clock radio I got a few years ago), and until I got my ipad three years ago, I used it as my alarm. Thing has been next to my bed from 1986ish to 2014. I have no intention whatsoever of replacing it.
And there have been substantial improvements, starting with the disco fireplace project, the kitchen remodel extravaganza, and then the recent windows upgrade. But we still have a two bedroom, one bathroom house. Now with a more funky layout due to closing off a door during the kitchen renovation.
But we don't have that much more space. Last year, when I got pregnant, we really realized that while the 1940 census reported three adults and two children living in our house, a baby and a single bathroom was going to be extremely cramped. Also last year, I read an article about some Houston architects, and Graham and I really liked one of the featured designers. We thought that the excel/floorplanner design that we'd sort of come up with would work with his style, and we started stalking him on his websites and social media. In September, while I was at a job interview in another city, Graham talked to the architect to determine what steps we need. First, we'd need financing.
Two and a half years ago, we refinanced the house, and we got an idea of how much it was worth. But about 6 months ago, Noir's house, which is right across the street from ours, sold at a substantially higher number than the appraisal in 2011. We weren't shocked, as real estate prices have been going steadily up in our neighborhood at an alarming rate based on the open houses we've seen. But the higher number meant that it was extremely likely that we had enough equity in the house to actually do something towards the addition.
So we decided that after our taxes were done this year, we'd see how much of a HELOC we could get. I started that process a few weeks ago, and on Tuesday we found out we were approved. We closed this afternoon.
So, as soon as we get the funds, we'll start making appointments with designers and see what we can do with the money we now have. I suspect that the next few months are going to be extremely stressful, but ridiculously exciting. I'll get a library, Graham will get a studio. We'll have plenty of space for a baby and guests and even a parent if it comes down to needing to house family. I suspect that the design will change several dozen times over the next few months. But we're terribly excited that we can stay where we are but get more space. Storage! More bathrooms! A real closet! Space for art! An uncluttered living / dining room. And the damned washer and dryer will finally have a home.
I turned 41 years old on Friday.
It's not a particularly noteworthy birthday, and being in mid-May, like it always is, my birthday tends to be surrounded by tons of other events. My various family members were scattered, so Graham and I chose to have a quiet dinner out. Originally, Graham was supposed to work, but the event got moved to another night, so the evening was ours to do with as we wished.
We went to the Backstreet Cafe. I'd chosen that particular restaurant because it was featuring a seasonal artichoke menu when I made the reservation, and artichokes are among my most favorite foods. Sadly, they'd changed to a tomato menu by the time we got there. Still, I ordered a special halibut in artichoke sauce and fried green tomatoes with crab, so I was able to get some of my beloved artichokes. It was slightly disappointing, as that was the only thing I'd really planned for my birthday, but I splurged on one of my favorite Zinfandels, and I was with Graham in a nice restaurant, so it was ok.
Afterwards, we went to get ice cream and see Godzilla. A perfect 'stina movie. Lots of sight gags and opportunities for me to jump. I was sadly lacking in much Godzilla background, so I went in pretty blind, aside from knowing some of the very basic facts. We enjoyed the hell out of ourselves, and it was the first time in recent memory that we actually saw a movie the day it opened. Pleasurable, pleasurable evening.
The next day was spa day for me and the puppies. I spent two hours getting a pedicure and then my hair cut. And afterwards, we took the pooches to the dog washing place for a bath. It was a desperately needed bath, though Fusilli was a pain in the butt about it. He actually doesn't mind baths in and of themselves. He minds that Celosa is getting extra special attention by whoever is bathing her (in this case Graham), and he's not RIGHT there to supervise. He spends the whole bath whining about it and pulling to get closer to her. It's exhausting.
Later, we met my sister and her boyfriend on the lawn of the Menil and enjoyed watching the city celebrate one of the last non-hot weekends of the year.
Sunday, we lounged around the house a bit, getting the tent ready for our Flipside. And then we decided to go to the beach. Graham is decidedly not a beach person. And strangely, I don't have that many memories of going to the beach with my family. But I used to go to Galveston all the time with my best friend and her family when we were kids. We'd spend hours there, playing in the surf, walking up and down the beach, getting burnt. Since we were both pretty good swimmers, no one particularly worried about us in the water, and we were more or less on our own for hours at a time. Her mom would pack sandwiches from Antones for us to eat at lunch, and we'd get Baskin Robbins ice cream on the way home. In later years we'd spend time on the other side of the island, in Galveston Bay, at sailing camp. Almost all of my Galveston related memories are good ones.
Graham had been to Galveston a few times, but only to to the town side, and we never went near the water. As a town full of history, it's right up Graham's alley. Lots of old buildings, lots of neat things that happened in them. The last time we went, in February, I think, we ate at Guido's, which has been open around 100 years.
This time, we went past the Seawall, and we turned on the first public access we could find. I normally go past the state park, but since we weren't planning on sticking around for very long, I figured less time driving and more time on the beach itself.
The beach we found was a little ghetto. Cars were parked directly on the beach, and the seaweed was piled so high that there wasn't any sand between the cars and the water. Music was blasting from competing sound systems, and people were grilling meat stuffs, drinking beer, playing ball, playing in the sand. A few solo cup sand castles were in mid-construction, and there was some first class flirting going on between girls in bikinis and boys pretending not to notice. It wasn't yet so hot that you felt like you were baking, and the water hadn't taken that bathwater temperature that it usually has in mid-summer. It was even a pretty green-blue rather than that green-brown that a lot of people associate with Galveston.
Graham and I took our blanket and walked about a half mile up the beach, away from the cars and the crowds and the flirting. We found a space past the parking but before one of the first subdivisions of massive beach houses that are just waiting for the next hurricane to blow them away. And we laid out our blanket and continued what we'd been up to for most of this idyllic weekend. We talked.
It's so nice to be with someone with whom I have a such good rapport. We just enjoy each other's company so much that it doesn't really matter if we're in a romantic restaurant or a silly monster movie or domestic chores of washing our dogs or with my family or stuck in traffic or alone on a sandy beach on a perfect spring/summer day. We continue conversations until we can't talk anymore, and then we start new ones. If Graham had chosen how we were going to spend our weekend, he probably wouldn't have put a trip to the beach on there. But we could have been anywhere and still had an excellent, excellent time.
We hung out on the beach for about an hour or so, and after dipping our toes in the water, we walked back to the car, laughing at the kids and telling each other stories of when we were kids. We got stuck in the sand getting out, but some helpful strangers pushed us out again. Nothing really was going to mar our weekend. Our trip home was relatively uneventful, aside from a quick trip to Buc-Ees, and witnessing a very slow moving rear-ending. And then, after a quick stop at the grocery store, we headed home to Fusilli and Celosa, who told us they would have liked the beach very much.
It was a great way to start the new year.
So I was sort of reunited with an old friend yesterday.
Almost a decade ago, an exhibit opened at the Museum of Fine Arts called Inverted Utopias. It was an AMAZING exhibition on avant-garde art in Latin America that hadn't really gotten proper attention in the United States. There was art there that was so much more cutting edge and sophisticated than the contemporaneous stuff going on in Europe. And it was comprehensive. The exhibition took over the entire Law building, and I'm sure that Mari-Carmen Ramirez, the curator, could have filled another building if she'd had the space. I probably went to the exhibition at least five or six times while it was up, and I was blown away each time. I loved it.
My favorite part of the exhibition, though, was the Soto statue out in front of the Law building. This is what I said about it in 2004:
Anyhow, for the exhibition, there's a sculpture outside of the museum. It's a series rows and rows of thin yellow plastic tubes hanging about 20 feet or so from some sort of rack (I'm going to have to go and take a picture to explain it better). What's really cool about it is that every single time I pass by, people are playing in the sculpture. Old people, kids, young people, couples, families. People walk through it, letting the strands of tubing follow them. Or they stand there and sway. The sculpture moves with the people. What I love about it is that it's interactive art. There are quite a few pieces in this particular exhibit that encourage interaction, and there are some pieces where viewers have no idea that they have goofy looking smiles on their faces while they're interacting with the art. I LOVE this exhibit. I'm probably going to go see just that part of it over my lunch break.
The sculpture was one of several in different colors, called Penetrable in Yellow. The sculpture stayed in place for over a year, well after the rest of the exhibition closed. I saw the sculpture nearly every day, since I pass the museum going to and from work. Almost every time I saw it, someone was interacting with it. I loved it more and more every time I saw it. These are photos I took of the sculpture in 2004 with Relampago and Crianza.
I had heard that the artist was negotiating with the museum for the purchase of the statue as part of its permanent collection, but he died before negotiations were completed. I was devastated when the statue went away, but I would hear about it popping up in other cities, like at LACMA in LA, and I loved hearing about the reactions to the sculpture. Still, I missed it terribly. I remember telling someone back in 2004 or 2005 that inside the sculpture would be a PERFECT place to propose to me, because I couldn't imagine being happier than inside of it.
I think I was wrong, though, about the purchase. Ten years later, the Museum has brought another Penetrable to Houston. And this one is probably six or seven times the size of the last one. It takes the entirety of Cullinan Hall, and it's AMAZING. It's site specific, and the museum owns it. They had to reinforce the roof to hold something like 7 tons of steel. And it's MAGICAL. I think it opened sometime last week, and as soon as I heard about it, I told my family that we have to go. It's going to be up until September 1, but apparently it's coming back again and again, especially since it was made just for us. If you watch the brief video above, you can learn a little about how it was commissioned and how it was done. This is the only Penetrable that is intended for indoors, and it has an extra element of color. The others were solid, but this one has a gradation of yellow on top of clear tube that's just really cool. It sort of looks like an orb of color floating inside the sculpture, and when you're closer (or inside) it almost feels like a bright yellow mist. The color starts at about 8 or so feet when you're in the dead center of the sculpture, and it's higher and higher as you go out. The grid above is also similar to the out door version, but it's sooooo much higher. You can't see daylight when you look up, like you can with the others, but that's perfectly ok.
So yesterday, before we started cooking for mother's day. My mom, my dad, Olivia and a friend of hers walked over to the museum to play in the sculpture. We were in there for 45 minutes and it was glorious. I deliberately didn't bring my camera, because I knew that I'd be back, and I knew that I just wanted to experience the joy of the sculpture without feeling the need to document it. When I got to the museum, I practically ran to get to it. And there were tons of people already interacting with it. Kids, adults, all sorts of mixes of race and ethnicity and language were inside and just loving it. One kid was being led through with her eyes closed so she could experience it just from a touch perspective. Another's parent would gather up an armful of strands and then release them all at once on his kid, who giggled with excitement. A little girl, who couldn't have been more than five years old, ran out of the sculpture towards me and my mom, gave us a massive smile, and then turned around and dove back in. I stood next to a black man, dressed as if he'd come from a very fancy church, who just kept saying, "I need to get one of these." Some elderly Indian women in saris skirted the edges. And I heard at least three or four languages. Olivia and I developed a sort of OCD for untangling cords that clumped together. This mainly happened on the edges of the sculpture, I assume because they didn't have other cords holding them in their place. We sort of felt sorry for the guards who had to make sure that people don't hurt it. That's probably much easier with a painting that no one touches than it is a sculpture that is designed to be a tactile experience. Still, I never saw anyone pulling too hard or hanging from the cords, and I suspect they're pretty sturdy.
I could have stayed there another hour and been perfectly happy. My father is a huge Cubism fan, and there's also a Braque exhibition going on in the same hall. He was sort of taken aback that Liv and I didn't want to leave the Soto to go look at other art. But we were just having a great time with the sculpture.
About the time that the sculpture left Houston, I got into an argument with someone about public art. The argument revolved around the Gates Installation that Christo and Jeanne-Claude put up for a week and a half in New York. In brief, my adversary was very dismissive of the piece, not because of what she saw, but because what she read that critics had said about it. It's a little bit out of context, but I said this:
But installations are important. Public art is important. And I firmly believe that art makes the world a better place.
I believe that Dan Havel and Dean Ruck's Inversion piece made the city of Houston a better place for the four months that it was up.
I believe that it is a national tragedy for the country of Venezuela that the public art pieces of Jesus-Rafael Soto have been destroyed under the regime of Hugo Chavez.
I believe that large scale public installations help make art accessible to more people, make art something that can be enjoyed or rejected by everyone. I believe that your disdainful opinion of the Cristo is evidence of that interaction.
I believe that support needs to go to people like Regina Silvera, William Pope L., Andrea Zittel, The Art Guys, and anyone else who does installations.
. . .I think that you don't give working stiffs enough credit, especially since most artists ARE working stiffs. People react to art. Good or bad. And they don't necessarily need anyone to tell them that it's good or bad or that they should feel a certain way about the piece. Art is interactive with the audience. Sometimes, of course, having more information about the piece can help the viewer understand the artist's perspective, but for the most part, the viewer's own prejudices, history, and preferences will most influence his or her reaction to a piece.
Installation art, in my opinion, is singularly unique in that it tends to be temporary, it tends to be fairly large and it tends to be site specific. The short duration, the scale and the location add to impact it has on the audience. These are only additional elements that the audience has to process in appreciating a piece of art, but I think that they're interesting. Installation art is obviously not your cup of tea, but it seems to me that your criticism has been of the criticism and not of the piece itself.
The argument ended civilly, and I still believe all of these things. A piece like the one that we in Houston get to play with in the next four months is so engaging, depends so much on the audience's experiences and memories and senses, and can be enjoyed by so many people. And while I share the man's opinion that I need to get one of these, I'm so glad that we all get one of these for a little while. And then we'll get it again and again and again.
I'm sure I'll be going back soon. And I'll take my husband. And probably my camera. And I'll be happy.
As I type, the last of 13 windows is being installed in my house. They're double pane vinyl windows that are replacing wooden frame single panes that were installed 85 years ago. It's been eerily quiet in the rooms that have already had the panes replaced.
In a way, my house is changing a bit. The old windows were the only color on an otherwise white house, and the new windows are white. Some trim has to be pained, and I'm thinking a nice cheery yellow or other bright color might be in order. That decision will be made this weekend at Home Depot. I'm told that I make paint color decisions, but I'm sure Graham will have opinions when push comes to shove.
This is the last major thing that is happening inside the house before the renovation. We're hopeful that will happen in the next six months, and we're pretty excited about it. We went on a home tour last month that featured additions, and the architect we've been thinking about using had a home featured in the tour. It's pretty exciting to think about, though it's also quite daunting. I started calling around the banks this week to see what we need to do about financing. We haven't started the application, but don't think it will be that time consuming. I'm of course in pins and needles over the whole thing, but I also have elaborate fantasies about storage space and a library all of my own.
But the windows! They're quite lovely, and I think that this was a good thing for a lot of reasons. Heating and cooling will be cheaper. The aforementioned quiet. And we can OPEN them! Of course, we did this later than we should have to take advantage of open window weather. But there will be a few days in May that we'll be able to have them open. It will be a lovely, lovely way to live.
For us, it was a long winter. We had several cold fronts come through, and it never really eased up until late February, into March. The azaleas were two weeks late in blooming. My tulips didn't start popping up until a week or so ago. Pollen counts are just starting to get obnoxious. For a city unused to an extra season (generally, it's summer or not-summer), it took a bit of getting used to.
But four weeks ago, we were able to pull out most of the dead stuff from the yard, right before the last major cold front of the year came through. Three weeks ago, we were able to go to the garden center and find the annuals and vegetables and other assorted items we'd need for the garden: herbs, dianthus, begonias, gladiolus bulbs, eggplant, jalapenos, tomatoes, watermelon and seedums. And we replaced the hammock! We took a bit of a break to show Fusilli in the middle of the month, but last weekend, I supplemented the items in the back yard with even more plants: ranunculus, calla lillies, more basil, an olive tree and a cardoon. This weekend, Graham added the finishing touches, resetting the brick edging around the yard.
It's beautiful here now. All of the flowers are in bloom, here and in the country. I drove to San Antonio earlier in the month, and the bluebonnets were just coming up. When I went to the ranch on Friday, though, they were everywhere, and some were growing not more than a quarter mile from the ranch. Olivia and I took the pooches to the patch for a photo shoot.
Our motivation, and it's sort of a chicken-egg thing on what drove what, is that we want to throw another dinner party in the back yard. Three years ago, we had the timpano party in the back yard and it was a smashing success. The next year we were doing wedding and kitchen renovations. And the year after that, we had a lot of that heavel going on. Since we're likely renovating the back of the house in the next six months, this is probably the best time to do it if we're going to make this happen anytime in the next few years.
We're pretty certain that this time around we're going to do an Argentinian style asado, based off of the book The Seven Fires. This is the basic description of the meal from the book and here is another one from a magazine, though I suspect we'll mess around with it a bit. As much as Graham would love to build a massive fire pit in the back yard, I suspect we'll more likely use the grill and the oven for most of the cooking, though we do have a small fire pit we can use for some things. I'm itching to try my hand at some Argentinian empanadas, and I made some excellent maduros a few nights ago for practice. We'll get copious amounts of Brazilian cheese bread. And we'll make tons of salads. We'll have enough chimicurri sauce to drizzle over a small rhinoceros. And needless to say, we'll be practically overflowing with grilled meats.
Our hope is to do this sometime this April, while the yard is nice and before it gets too hot. We're having the windows in the house replaced, though, at some point in the next two weeks, so the timing will depend on how well that goes.
It's going to be tons of fun, though.
I've been in the same office since 2003, maybe 2004. It is a pretty big coup, because it has big windows, and it's secluded. I got it because it was smaller than another office when we moved and someone with higher seniority wanted the bigger office, and I've kept it over several reorganizations and reconfigurations. There have been a few threats to move me over the years, and I know at least one person is highly annoyed that I have it and she doesn't. But I've managed to keep a pretty strong hold on it.
At any rate, in the 10 or so years that I've been in there, it's been roughly configured the same. Two or three years ago, during one of the reconfigurations, it grew by 18 inches, which was awesome. But the orientation has always been the same. This is mainly due to the shape of the desk, which is a wrap around on three sides, and there's not much I can do about that. But I've always faced the corner away from the door and the windows due to where the desk was designed for the computer. Sometimes I don't even know that it's raining because I stare at my computer for hours on end and don't glance out the coveted windows as often as I should. And people sneak up on me all the time because my back is to the door.
Yesterday, I moved everything around, so I'm now facing the door and the windows. It didn't take much to move, though I'm sure over the next week or so I'll be making small adjustments about where I keep pens or files I'm working on or whatever. I'm sure it'll take a while to get used to. And I'm sure there will be small annoyances. But on the whole, I like this so far.
I didn't spend days or week thinking about this before I did it. I just looked at my environment at some point yesterday and thought, "I could move stuff."
I think, though, it was probably a need for change in some fundamental way. In the last year, I interviewed for three jobs. I got one, didn't get two. I especially wanted the last one, because I thought it was a really good way for me to grow my skill sets in a way that wasn't too disruptive to my whole life. In no way do I dislike my job. My work is really interesting, and by and large, I like the people I work with. I'm not even as underpaid as I had been in the first decade or so of working here. But I've been literally in the same place for over a decade, and I need some change. For now, it's about three feet. And for now, that'll be a pretty major change.
I did some putzing around. Stuff I sometimes do when Graham's not here. Like thoroughly cleaned out the refrigerator. Plugged in my itunes to the big stereo in the living room. Sorted some paper work. Worked with Celosa and Fusilli on some commands. Gave the cat (Liv's cat Giblet is visiting while Liv is abroad for ten days) attention.
Then, because I'm not going to watch Olympics without Graham, I settled down in Crianza's chair to read my current book. The cat settled in on the cushion behind me, and the pooches were at my feet, chewing on some rawhide. About an hour in, my book (The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller) got unbelievably sad, to the point that tears were streaming down my face, but Celosa and Fusilli knew exactly what to do. Celosa hopped up on the side of the chair and started kissing me. Methodically, assertively, almost dominating me in the way that Celosa always kisses me. It was, as always, comforting and overwhelming. And when she hopped off, Fusilli hopped up and cleaned up my face, finding all of the salt trails on my cheeks and cleaning them up. If Celosa kisses, Fusilli hugs. And so he did. Pushing his body into me and telling me that everything was ok. The cat was a cat about the whole thing. These bodies, these little souls that understand so much. I don't really need studies to tell me how emotionally connected they are. When they felt that I was ok, they got down and resumed whatever it was they were doing before. But they never strayed far from me when I picked up the book again.
They want me to go to bed now. Celosa hates it when we stay up past what she thinks her bedtime is. Eventually, she goes on her own, but she doesn't like it. Fusilli will just agree to be where ever I am. Right now, she's next to my desk, hoping that this last hop on the computer was for something quick, not a long game or facebook or blog reading. The pooches are pro ipad. You interact more with a person if she has an ipad. He's on the couch in the living room, ready to move on into the bedroom if necessary, but ok with just hanging out.
I suppose I probably do still, but for some reason it's harder to get this stuff out on page. I've noticed that the last few years have been reduced to documenting the big stuff, like the wedding and the kitchen and trips and Fusilli. It's not the day-to-day like it used to be. I think in some respects, it's that facebook has supplanted the day-to-day. In other respects it's that facebook has a much wider audience, and this is linked enough to facebook that I don't feel that it's a separate sphere as much as it used to be.
So I think I'll post as I used to, and see if I can find that old rhythm again.
For the last week and a half, Graham and I have been engrossed in the Olympics. This started four years ago, when we stumbled upon a race of cross country skiing that was commented upon by Chad Salmela, a former biathalete and current coach. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport was infectious, and this year, we were actively looking forward to any sport on cross country skis. We've had a blast, but I think we'd like to get back to our regularly scheduled programming (literally) soon. It's exhausting.
Two weeks ago, I went to Seattle/Tacoma for a dear friend's wedding. Graham was supposed to go with me, but then his nightclub moved. They shut down right before Christmas, and they were supposed to reopen the day of my friend's wedding. He was supposed to dj the wedding, but ended up having to bow out all together for the re-opening of the club. Of course, at the last minute, he found out that the construction has been delayed until at least late March, but by that time, it was too late to change plans. Instead, I stayed with two other girlfriends from Houston, and we had a nice girl's weekend. I think he would have liked Seattle. A rare snowstorm hit the city while we were there, and while it was treacherous, it was also really pretty. The city was still celebrating the Superbowl win, and out friend was so happy.
Fusilli is supposed to be in a few shows in March, and I need to start working with him again on how to do this whole dog show thing. When we got him, I agreed to show him until he got his championship. In order to do that, he needs to win 12 points, and six of those points need to come from "majors" are shows with lots of pulis in them. We were a mess our first show, and we got progressively better until we finally did really well in our last one in November. We still don't have any points, but we know what we're doing a little better. But since then, we've been slacking. He's a pretty good puppy, but he's still a youngster. In his previous shows, he was able to get away with a lot because he was showing in the "puppy" category, but now that he's a year old, he's a grown-up, at least as far as the AKC is concerned. So competition is with everyone. And of course, his coat is a mess. But it's fun, in its own way, and with this and the puli group on facebook, I know the puli scene a lot better than I used to.
While Graham has been waiting for the club to finish, he's been doing odd shows. Tonight he's playing an all electroswing night here in Houston, and on Friday he's going to Austin for a monthly gig he has going there. He's sort of planning a west coast tour at some point, but those are very preliminary plans. I think he's ruled out another trip to Europe this summer, which bums him out, but at the same time, he has other projects in the fire.
I went to a yoga class on Monday, and I got a 30 day pass to this particular studio that'll run out in mid-march.It's about a mile from my house, and I walked over there on Monday to take the class. It's a huge studio, with lots of people in the class, and it's heated. I enjoyed the class I took, and I'm looking forward to others. I think that if I can get in the habit of going, it may be a good thing to add into my life. It's a heated vinyasa class, which I haven't done before. But I liked the energy, and I liked sort of being my own little person in this massive sea of people. With so many bodies, you're not the best and you're not the worst. It's been years since I've taken yoga regularly, but it sort of calls to me right now. I'll keep on going and see how far this takes me.
For the last seven years, I've been keeping track of my unread book pile in a post in Livejournal. I add books as I acquire them over the course of the year, and I cross them off as I read them. I have a Goodreads account that also keeps track of this sort of thing, but I kinda like the original.
At any rate, here's the list. It's very similar to last year's list, because I didn't read all that many books in 2013, and I tried not to buy toooo many books last year. It'll change over the course of the year, but I'm pretty good about noting when I get new books.
You will note that my mother is the source of many of my books. She almost always gives me her books when she is done with them.
( FictionCollapse )
( Non FictionCollapse )http://www.amazon.com/Outlander-Novel-D
I think that this is my least productive livejournal year in the 11 year history. I suppose it was more or less inevitable, and I shouldn't really mourn it. Facebook fills a lot of the daily chit chat that I used to post here, and I sometimes don't feel like I have the time or energy to devote to the type of posting that I want to do. Still, it's not something I'm quite ready to let go.
I do enjoy this forum, though, and I feel like I should be keeping up with it.
The year is a mixed one for me. I've been updating my Flickr account, and the dominant theme of what I have chosen to document this year has been the puppies. They're just a joy, and Fusilli has been an overwhelmingly good addition to our life. He's the first show dog I've ever had, and while I was a bit wary about the idea of showing him, I've found that I really do enjoy it. It gives me an opportunity to spend a lot of time with him, and I think that our bond is pretty intense because of it. Not to say that Celosa isn't the most amazing, most wonderful puppy in the whole world. But Fusilli and I have our thing now. And it's a good thing. We've done three shows, and he's improved every time. And with each show, we work on training, which is never a bad thing with a puppy. He's almost 11 months old now, and his cords are beginning to come in. Soon he won't look like a puppy any more. But I'm sure he'll act like it for a long time.
In the last few months--aside from work with Fusilli--I've been really, really lazy. I haven't been going to the gym as often as I should. I haven't really picked up any major projects. I've not written or crafted or taken any classes. I haven't even read that many books. The only thing I can really recall doing in the last few months is playing Candy Crush on my ipad and computer. I finished that on Sunday. I think that maybe after that last major flare up in my life, I needed some time to hit the reset button and check out for a little while. And for some reason, I am ready to come back again and start doing things again.
This year seems like it's flown by, but at the same time it seems like March (when we got Fusilli), April (when I finished school) and May (when I miscarried) were forever ago. I was walking yesterday along the route I took to school for the the first four full months of the year, and it seemed like such a long time ago that I walked that route twice a week. But at the same time, it feels like I just left Taos, but that was in August.
Next week is more or less when I would have been full term if the pregnancy had taken. My due date would have been December 28. I'm pretty much ok with the state of things, though I was hoping that I were pregnant again by now. The worst part, I think, is all the questions and assumptions from other people. I hate the "are you still trying?" or "how's the baby making going?" or "are you planning on having kids?" questions. The sympathetic hugs when I have no idea what I'm getting hugged for are almost worse. I saw this post on Crooked Timber a few weeks ago, and I could relate wholeheartedly. My circumstances are different, but I've heard a good number of the same things in the last year.
Graham's club is moving downtown early next year, and I think he'll probably be working more once that happens. He's planning a couple of out of town tours as well, and he'll be going to school. I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing with my non-working time. I suspect that we'll try to get the expansion going, finally. We're both itching for space. Graham really could use a studio space of his own, and I'd love to have a library/office/craft room. Plus, extra bathrooms would be heaven sent. We have a design in mind that would turn our two bedroom/one bathroom 1000 square foot house into a three bathroom five bedroom 1800 square foot house. ,Graham talked to a builder/architect in September, and he liked our idea and the plan. Our little corner of Houston has taken off in the real estate market in the last two years, so we're pretty sure we can get a loan for what we want to do just based on the equity of the house. It's just a question of getting everything organized for it.
This has been a singularly strange year for me and Graham, but perhaps this is the sort of thing that happens to most couples in their first year of marriage.
I suppose the best example is the most recent. At the beginning of September, someone asked Graham to dj a party in late October. Graham immediately arranged to take time off work from the club for that night, and he started working on the party. He spent hours downloading music, working out playlists, thinking through what he thought the party called for. While the host knew that Graham played primarily electro-swing, Graham wasn't sure that was the best music for this particular party. So Graham started looking for some of the music he'd heard in the U.K, while he was there this summer. He thought that it'd be a nice opportunity to show off a different sort of music to a fairly large audience. While he didn't have many details about how long he'd be playing or in what order with other artists, Graham put many hours of thought into this party. And of course, last week, the party host contacted Graham to cancel the engagement. A day or so later, Graham released all of the music he'd gathered on his Soundcloud. (It's since been taken down because Graham wasn't happy with the quality of the set, but I think he'll put it up again soon after he re-records it.)
Towards the beginning of the year, I applied for a job that opened up at my work. Between submitting the application and the interview, I found out that I was pregnant, so I wasn't entirely sure that it'd be the best timed move in the world. But it was certainly a step up, and there aren't that many steps up in my organization so I saw it through. After the interview, I had all sorts of conflicting emotions about it, and I was even more conflicted when I found out that I wasn't going to make it to the next round of interviews. (Apparently I didn't have enough "experience". I asked the HR person how I'd get more experience in this organization, and she sort of shrugged her shoulders. Later, someone asked if I'd be interested in moving to that department to get experience. I looked at the pay cut that would be involved and politely declined.) Going through the interview process, I had to think about all of the things I would do if I had the position. It was an interesting exercise that made me flex my imagination quite a bit.
In April, I found out that I was pregnant. For six weeks, Graham and I spent hours and hours talking about the baby and the changes we'd have to make in our lives. It was a weird thing to do. We knew that everything in our lives was going to change dramatically, and we slowly began to absorb this new reality. We'd just told our families about the pregnancy when we went in for our first appointment and discovered that the twins I was carrying weren't going to make it. The five minutes when I thought I'd be having twins were some of the most surreal in my life. I was terrified and confused and excited and nervous and overjoyed and all sorts of other things all at once. And then they couldn't find the heartbeats and we went through three days of hell of not knowing. Finally, at the end, nine weeks and four days into my pregnancy, all of the hopes and dreams and preparations and ideas about this little life we'd been getting ready for were suddenly moot.
In late July, I was sitting in my office minding my own business when I got a cold call from a headhunter. Some prestigious institution in another state was looking for someone like me. Was I interested? Usually I say no, but this institution and this state were attractive to me, and I held on the phone. Two phone conversations later, I was flying to Dallas to meet the headhunter. And then I was talking to the institution and then they wanted to fly me out. Lots of scheduling conflicts and work crises made it so I couldn't get there until the first week of September. But it was a good visit, and I got a good feeling from the place. There were some drawbacks, sure, but by and large, it seemed like a cool job. The whole time, I was taking the "let's just see what happens" attitude about whether I wanted it or not. It never really occurred to me that I'd be their top candidate. But after I flew out, the headhunter called to tell me I really needed to think about what my answer would be, because she was pretty sure that they wanted me. She gave me the number that she thought they'd offer me. It was a lot, but it wasn't as much as we'd thought that it'd be for that place in that state.
So Graham and I spent a full week talking about what we want and what our plans are and where we want to be. We looked at every aspect of our lives and where we thought we wanted to go. Professionally, there's no question that it would have been a step up for me, and maybe for Graham, but that was an unknown. Financially? We were uncertain. The dollars were more, but so would have been the cost of living. And our study of the cost-of-living calculators indicated that the salary bump wasn't necessarily enough to make up for the change. But it was a lot of money. Lifestyle? We live 20 minutes from anywhere we want to be. I have a 17 minute commute on the outside. Given the geography of the place we were considering, lots of time in transport was likely in our future if we moved, especially for me from home to work. Family? We have a lot of chosen family near the place we were looking at, but no blood family. Olivia moved back to Texas literally the week I got the call from the headhunter. Jose will be back to Houston in a year. My parents are likely to retire soon to the ranch, so we won't see them as often, but that's an hour and a half away. Housing? We love our house and we've been thinking through the next steps for expansion, especially after the pregnancy. Our house has bumped up in value in the last two years due to a lot of people wanting to live here, and we think we can afford construction within the year off of home equity alone. The main driver in cost of living difference, though, between the two places was housing. Real estate prices were just breathtaking, and even though we'd have plenty of cash in our pocket if we sold our house and moved, we'd never find something comparable. And kids? More money means more security for them, but at the same time, there's tons of support and resources here. There? We had no idea. Still, kids are entirely hypothetical at this point. Celosa and Fusilli? It's not as hot there in the summer and there are lots of pooch friendly places. But I'd likely be out of the house more often.
It was an agonizing week, and it was one of the hardest decisions I'd ever had to make. We'd go back and forth and back and forth. One day, I was convinced we were about to start packing. The next, I was sure that we were staying here. I'd say something out loud and then declare myself crazy for even articulating the idea of giving X up. And that worked both ways. The good news was that it didn't look like there was likely to be a bad decision, since we were so on the fence. The bad news is that there wasn't really a bad decision that clearly showed itself.
In the end, I called the headhunter and thanked her for the work but said we decided we were going to stay here. Weird, weird, weird. If asked the day that I got the call from the headhunter if I'd take it if they offered it to me, I probably would have said yes, of course. Going through the actual analysis, though, was something else entirely.
And so, as we round into the final quarter of the year, we're more or less in the same place as we were at the beginning of the year. But not really. We've had lots, lots of thinking, lots of planning. And I think we have a much better idea of what we want both individually and as a family, going forward. We really had to articulate to each other what we want and what we value, and that was a good exercise. And so, like Graham's party that never was, we come out of the preparing for major life change with great stuff to work with going forward. And when we finally do have major life change, I think we'll be much better prepared for it than we were a year ago.
Last year, I'd gotten it into my head that I was going to turn the banners from my wedding into a harlequin quilt. Problem was, I didn't know how to quilt. I didn't even know how to sew, really. I have a sewing machine, and I know the very basics of sewing, but I've never been formally taught or really done that many sewing heavy projects. So, I pinned a lot of quilts I liked to my pinterest board, and I started research. My mom had made quilts for both of my sisters when we were little, and I remember it being a very laborious project for her, but she definitely encouraged me. In December, Olivia and I discussed quilting, and we poured over patterns in various books and on the internet. In March, I signed up for a four hour quilting workshop on Living Social, and I finally put needle to fabric. I really got into it. I realized, though, that I wanted/needed to work on a smaller, easier project than the wedding quilt as my first quilt.
Anyhow, in April, I found out that I was pregnant, and I saw the baby as a good a reason as any to start a smaller quilt. So I picked out a relatively easy pattern from the Moda Bake Shop, and I found some gender neutral fabrics. And one night when Graham was at work, I started cutting. I must have run out of time or needed the dining room table or something, because I put the fabric away shortly after I was a little over halfway through.
And then I lost the pregnancy, and I wasn't particularly interested in continuing.
But when I packed to come here, I grabbed all the fabrics I had for quilting and my sewing machine and boxes of notions and way too much fabric related craft stuff. I figured I had the room in the car, and maybe I'd progress a little.
When I started yesterday, I figured I'd just get the cutting done. I don't think I realized that I was nearly done with the cutting when I stopped, which may be why I put off moving forward. Cutting is not my favorite part; I'm in a constant state of terror that I'm going to royally screw something up. But forty five minutes after I started, I was ready to start piecing all these fabrics together. It took me about half an hour to finish the first block, and I figured out a few ways of streamlining the process, and the next thing I knew, I was done with the first set of blocks! I worked for a few hours yesterday, and I finished half the blocks. I went to bed feeling very proud of myself.
This morning, I woke up not feeling all that rested. I thought that maybe I just didn't get enough sleep or maybe I overdid it with all the walking and yoga, but I'm thinking now that I'm coming down with something. I'm hopeful that I'm able to fight it off before tomorrow's journey home.
At any rate, I went to the farmer's market this morning, which was lovely. I saw a few people I'd seen over the week, mainly people from the various yoga classes. But it's clear that the farmer's market is a social hub for the community, as it was packed and everyone was spending as much time chatting as they were buying food. I wish I'd made the market last Saturday for my provisioning while I was here, but I knew that there would be two items I'd be happy to take home with me: berrywine tomatoes and fresh mushrooms. The tomatoes are just to die for, and I bought a little over a pound for $4.50. The mushrooms are an amazing delicacy. There is a French chef who has been here for decades who, legend has it, knows mushrooms better than anyone in the FDA. He's able to find chanterelles and porchni, and the next few weeks are the perfect times to find them. I bought a half pound of each, and I thought that the $17 I parted with was well worth it.
When I came home, I finished the second half of the blocks for the quilt, and I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. Everything seemed to fit together fairly well, and I didn't screw up the seaming or cutting too much, from what I could tell. I put the blocks in order, and I sewed four rows of blocks together, and I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I promised the pooches a walk, so we went into town one last time after lunch. There was some sort of arts/crafts fair going on in the plaza, but we didn't see anything that we needed/wanted.
We got home, and I started on the home stretch. There were a few areas where I needed to fill in a gap or two, but I was really pleased with how I managed to piece everything together so it fit. Only one row wasn't exactly the same lengths as the others, but I got creative, and I don't think anyone will be able to tell which row that was. Finally, I put everything together, and aside from mixing up the side borders with the top and bottom borders, it went without a hitch.
Throughout, Celosa sat underneath whatever chair I was sitting on. It bugged her no end that I'd move from the sewing machine to the cutting board to the iron, but she moved whenever I did. Fusilli spent most of his time outside on the patio, occasionally coming in to tell me that we needed to see something. And just about sunset, I was done!
Now I have to learn how to quilt. I think that this will be my next project after I finish this quilt.
After finishing the quilt top, I started straightening up to get ready to leave tomorrow. We have a long drive and I don't want to do too much packing tomorrow. But we also paused to make a last dinner, using the chanterelles, we made a pork chop and polenta with a wild mushroom sauce and a side of baby bok choy. Good stuff.
And now, we pack some more.