Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cathedrals & Churches III

I want to provide a couple more church previews for TravisThe first two posts are from December 2013 and January this year.

Although he certainly gets around, these two images are in churches reasonably close to one another and close to home for both Travis and me.

Stained Glass Window
Church of the Holy Spirit
Saint Paul, MN


This church features several windows dedicated to invocations and titles of the Virgin Mary.


The vast church space engages the natural light of the sun drawing one’s eyes heavenward. The use of different toned woods adds to the simple elegance of space and light.
Church of Saint Henry
Monticello, MN

I am taken with both of these images.
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

What if I Did?

I only write because I enjoy writing, and I don't generally enjoy writing about reality.  That's why I planned to ignore the writing prompt Walter and myself were given to write about our best guess of the events in our parents life that lead to our conception.  I did however remember a story told by both my mother and father that took place shortly after, and decided I did want to write that.  So here it is.


Waiting in line at the border crossing, she was relieved their day trip was coming to an end.  Was it really just a day?  She was still getting to know her new husband, and finding out that many of the ridiculous things he said weren't just the drugs talking.  She was seeing the world with more clarity then she would have liked, having herself given them up for the pregnancy.

"That's too bad," she said realizing his story had come to a brief halt, waiting for acknowledgement that she was listening.  She wasn't, but had heard this story before.  The fact that she didn't believe his version of events became a moot point several retellings ago.

The car rolled forward, and she spared a glance at the ashtray.  Relief that the trip was coming to an end warred with her nervousness about the pipe inside.  That was the real reason he invited her on the day trip to Canada; pot was cheap here.  She'd have been using it with him if she could, but it still irked her that the fool thought he was going to bring some back with his pregnant wife in the car.  Or maybe because his pregnant wife was in the car?  She shook her head, glancing again to the pull out ashtray…

"Dink, dink," her train of thought broken by a man in uniform tapping on the driver side window.  "Hello," her husband greeted in a friendly tone as he rolled down the window, the knot in her stomach relaxing just a little.

One thing she knew for sure was that their feelings toward the authorities were very different.  She believed that they were mostly decent people, with more power than she was comfortable being around.  He, on the other hand, thought they were all crooked.  If she could count on anything, it was a fake smile that would quickly have them on their way.

"Is everyone in the car a U.S. Citizen?" he began without any preamble.
"Anything to declare?"
"How long was your stay?"
"Oh, a few hours; maybe four."
"Do you have any fruits or vegetables with you?"
"Do you have any illegal substances, drugs, or drug paraphernalia?"

There was a pause, long enough to cause her to look over at him, knot tightening.

"What if I did?"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Before I was Born ...

Our current writing instructor gave us this homework in Class 2; "Write a story about what you imagine, or know, your mother and father's life was like before you were conceived. Include dialogue and a turn of events in your parents' lives which could have occurred to clear the way for your conception." I chose to write a poem, calling it, "I was just a Glint in Dad’s Eye."

“Mom … I’m four years younger than your marriage?”

“Artificial birth control.”

Just married,
Mom and Dad
lived with Dad’s parents.

“Mom thinks we should move in.”
“Not in my dream marriage.”
“Mom thinks we should … “
“We can afford our own place;
You know we can.”
“Mom thinks we should … “
“It doesn’t feel good to me.”
“We can buy our own
sooner that way;
we save more … besides
Mom thinks we should.”
“Well … I suppose.”

“Mom thinks we should … “
 … “Well, I suppose.”

“Move in with them”
“Spend Thanksgiving with her”
( and Christmas … and … )
Go out Less
“Go to church more”
“Come in earlier when we do go out
“Spend less on clothes”
“Get better paying jobs”
“Get a better, maybe new, automobile”

Finally …

“Start a family”

Black clouds
      molten words

“What … did … you … tell … her?”

A half guilty grin;
a “Who me?” look;
used frequently,
applied deliberately.

Mom loved
Mom hated
that look.
Dad knew.

“A lie; we’re trying.”

She flew at him;
desperate, angry,
grateful, passionate,
both of them nearly
forgetting the
artificial birth control.

Life changed then.

Mom wanted power
over everyone, anyone,
like Grandma wielded
over Dad.
They worked harder,
   saved more deliberately,
      and quit using artificial birth control.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

These People can Write!

“That was really good,” I said walking down the hall to the door.

“Yes; I wish I had prepared something,” Benjamin replied wistfully. “Even a rewrite of an older piece … .”



Thus I learned how the second meeting of our Winter Quarter’s writing class affected Benjamin. The class spent its evening reading and providing feedback. The attendees provided a printed story to each member of the class, read aloud and participated in a conversation about it. The class provided comments, feedback, suggested revisions and the like to make the stories even better. 

“Wow.” “Really good!” and “Wonderful.” are not helpful comments, but I found myself responding that way. Consider:

Student1. She thought about not coming back because everyone here is such a wonderful writer and she is not. She wrote:
  1. A poem about a difficult divorce, introduced with individual attribute words like smart, confident, strong and righteous, segueing to an image of a beautiful buried wooden chest, with a lock of hardened steel, its original beauty is marred by rounded edges and wood that is no longer high gloss. She completes the poem with more individual attributes like broken, sad and loveless.
  2. A memory from childhood, with her standing lookout for a group of boys, the first time they had let her play with them, stationed on the school steps, where students were forbidden to be. The final words,
    “ … wet my pants.”
Student2. Another woman who claimed to not write much, or well. She wrote, in semi-poetic form, about her “little white lie” claiming proficiency in Spanish becoming larger and of a different color. She introduced the conflict early with, “Being proficient is not the same as being fluent. Right?”

Student3. An older man, married several times. His story of gambling and coverup by claiming to be birding grabbed us immediately. He realized, he wrote, he needed field research in birding to bolster his cover. His first time, he saw a white-tailed deer study him to be sure he’s not a threat and, through binoculars, a newborn goose poke his way through the shell to become newborn. He felt he had hit the “birdie jackpot.” When some real birders came across him, he excitedly told them what he had witnessed. In his excitement he realized he was, “behaving like a … birder.”

Student4. A young woman who wrote:
  1.  At age 16, she woke up from back surgery in a semi private room, in pain, with her dad in the room, on the floor like a discarded towel, wishing for nothing more than to be able to take her place.
  2. She suffers from a long distance relationship that is not going well. She uses images of cold coffee cups on the window ledge, airless wind chime, and the imprint of his body in her bed. She called the piece, “Lies I’ve told myself.”
“After further review,” I stand by my unhelpful commentary. Students in the Adult Education writing classes Benjamin and I have taken have written some good material. I have not, however, experienced so much good writing coming from so few people before; I eagerly wait to see what’s next.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Riding in Style

A good pair of over-the-ear headphones has always been part of my winter strategy when I was using public transportation.

  1. They let me escape the hubbub going on around me.
  2. They work like earmuffs.
  3. I do need 'a' pair of headphones, if not a good pair of headphones.
  4. They can even help me avoid some interaction with other travelers when I'm not in the mood for conversation. (like on my way to work)

I found all of that in this pair for $20.
Panasonic RP-HTX7 Stereo Headphones (Black)

  1. They adjust to a wide range of head sizes.
  2. The ear cups are fairly cushy.
  3. They have a decent cord, which is only on one side.
  4. At $20, I don't need to worry about a detachable cord in case the original breaks.
  5. I even like the style.

You couldn't ask for more for $20.  Unfortunately, I forgot I can't stand the economy level of sound quality.  It wore on me, so I bought these.

They're entry level as far as audiophile head phones go, but I was able to get a "like new" pair for $100.
Audio Technica ATHM50RD Pro DJ Headphones - Red

  1. They're made of more sturdy materials.
  2. For this price, I would really like a replaceable cable.
  3. The sound is much better than the first pair, but still not as good as a $300 pair. (which is to be expected)
  4. They do fold into two very nice positions for travel.
  5. I think they're even more stylish, if a little too flashy.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Another Opportunity ... to write, to learn, to learn to write

"Suddenly, I have a lot to do," I said.

"Well, like what!" Benjamin asked, sounding just a little incredulous.

"There is the writing assignment she just gave us; the book she gave us to read; the thinking she asked us to do about our list(s). The writing contest we spoke about at dinner; my two weekly  volunteer tasks at the Basilica."

"Hmmm," he said, seeming to comprehend.

I had not even mentioned the new task for Travis, unrelated to our work together at the Basilica, that I had agreed to undertake. "And I don't have this week's blog post finished," I thundered, slapping my hand at the car's steering wheel, as if he had not yet comprehended my horrible workload to my satisfaction. ( Yes, I was whining a bit; guilty. )

"Well," he suggested, mid-wifing the post you are reading, "you could write about our new writing class, instructor, students and/or assignment."
  •  For this quarter's class, we are at still another school in the Minneapolis district. ( It has been kind of fun just exploring the city as we've had classes all around it ... six classes in six different schools. )
  • The class is titled, "Creating a Writing Life," and is led by a physically small woman with both an engaging smile and a Fine Arts degree from Hamline. The biography/resume posted for her says she, " ... has published poetry in several literary journals and has led several writing classes for Minneapolis Community Education and for private groups. She has worked as a journalist for 20 years and as a professional community organizer for 11 years." She told us she has been teaching this class for ten years; I liked her right away.
  • There are thirteen students, five of the masculine persuasion. Three of the males are the three oldest people in the class.
  • I retired from working at a Help Desk, a job I enjoyed immensely. Benjamin continues to work at the same Help Desk and also enjoys it. One of our fellow students works at an IT job that she cannot stand.
  • After introductions, among the first things Ms Cottle had us do is list five ( or so ) major decisions we've made that had an impact on our lives. Then, five lies we've told, with a similar impact.
  • After sharing these lists, for about fifteen minutes, we wrote about one of the major decisions, and shared as much as we wanted with everyone. Our homework is to finish the story, in a length of one to two pages, and bring it, with enough copies to give everyone, next week to read and get feedback. Most of all class time from here on out will be reading and getting comments from our fellow students. She also wants us to be reading, together, a book titled, "Memory Keeper's Daughter."
 One of the other students got some good, specific comments on his piece, comments of the type that Benjamin and I have come to expect when taking such a class. This student was overwhelmed, "I've taken 5 or 6 of these, and have never gotten the kind of help you all have provided tonight! Thanks very much!"

Stay tuned.
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

What Will I Wear?

It's February, so Convergence is only five months away.  I'm currently dealing with whether or not I have a room reserved.  My current status is "stand by".  Since I'm on the subject, I'm thinking about a costume.  It's good to start early, because of shipping and such.

Last year I purchased a pretty cool one for under $100.  It really got noticed, even though most people didn't know who I was supposed to be.  It looks different when not on a female mannequin.  I still have it, and plan to wear it a least a little this time too.

This year I'm thinking Rumpelstiltskin.  I can't think of a cooler costume, so imagine my surprise when I can't find a ready-made costume for him online.  The downside is I'll have to spend a little more; work a little harder.  The upside is I'll probably be the only person with such a costume there.  The question is, how much are we talking?

The great thing about Rumpelstiltskin is that, even though he has a very unique look, he doesn't always have the exact same look.  I can make a costume with the kind of things he wears, and still be very recognizable.

His eyes are black with varying amounts of gold.  Sometimes there's almost no gold.  I already have a pair of black contacts, so that should be good.  The rest of his makeup should be pretty easy, and cost about $25.

I found this pair of pants for $40 that will go with whatever he wears.

This wig will do, and it's $15.  I will have to add some coloring, and mousse.  We're already at $80, and we still have a ways to go.

Now here's where real decisions need to be made.  He either wears expensive looking "regency" style dress clothes, or he wears crocodile leather.  I think I could have something like the vest and sleeves made from faux crocodile leather for about $100.  I've priced the material at $25, and I know a cheap tailor.  Mine doesn't have to be as detailed.

On the other hand, the regency style dress clothes can be purchased, but I can't find a vest like that for under $100.  A decent shirt can be had for $20.

My next step will be to check a couple of places that rent costumes.  I might be able to rent the wig, pants, shirt, and vest.  If that can be done, I
bet it will be $100 or less.