Media and Art · Personal Entries

I like liberty!

“Why don’t you guys come up for dinner?”  Karen asks.

“Oh, that would be great, ” I say.  Karen’s Dad is in town, and it will be nice to see him. ” What can I bring?”

“A ring.  You can bring a ring. ” says Karen.  “A solid gold ring, with the Bells of Canterbury on it.”

“Piece of cake,” I say.

“And I want the bells LIFE SIZED–“

“Oh honey, I was going to run to Canterbury to get you the ACTUAL bells, and mount them right on the ring for you.”

“Well,” says Karen, “that would be nice!”

I am thoughtful when designing my pretend, ridiculous jewelry.

“Or!” I say,  “Or!  Maybe the Liberty Bell, instead?  It’s closer.”

“Ohhh, I like liberty,” says Karen.

“OK, then.  I’ll go get the Liberty Bell, and I’ll mount it on a ring for you and bring it to dinner.  Anything else?”

“Yes,” says Karen, “I want the word ‘LIBERTY’ written on the ring.  On the outside.”

“No problem.  In big letters?”

“Yes, an inch high.  And, I’d also like the poem from The Statue Of Liberty inscribed on the inside of the ring.”

“The ‘bring us your poor, your huddled masses‘ poem?”  I ask.   I need to be clear about what poem it is that I’m inscribing.

“Yes.  That one.  The whole poem.  On the inside.”

“Sure!  I can totally do that!  Anything else?”

“I want all the ‘i ‘s’ dotted.  With diamonds.”

“OK.  So.   Gold, Liberty Bell, the word ‘LIBERTY,’ the huddled masses poem, diamonds for the dots over the ‘i ‘s’, by dinnertime tonight. Is that all?”

“Yes,” says Karen.  “And I’d like you to deliver it on a white horse.”

“Naked, a la Lady Godiva?”

“Yes.”  Says Karen.

“And your price range?  What’s your budget?”

“Five dollars.”

I think that’s fair.


Personal Entries

Tiaras and fake babies

Pointing to a display of rhinestone and pearl-encrusted plastic tiaras, I tell Karen,  “You know, Ima wear me one of them ti-aahh-ras when me and DaWyane get married, ’cause DaWayne  says I’m his princess. “

We’ve  stopped by AC Moore to pick up gesso, and we’re shocked to find they now have a wedding craft aisle.  The aisle is full of….. well, it’s full of really questionable items, blogosphere.  No part of your bridal attire should come from this aisle, and I don’t care that AC Moore says otherwise.  They lie.

Wistfully fingering the tiara, I confide, “We just wanna wait ’til L’il DaWayne’s  outta diapers.”

Karen nods.  Tiaras and potty-trained babies are a reasonable part of wedding plans.

“I wore a tiara when  me and Harlan got hitched,” she says.  “It was pink with real faux diamonds.”   Karen holds her hands up to her head,  gesturing to indicate that the pink faux diamonds were the size of eggs.

“Ohhhh!” I say, ” Pink diamonds?  Like JLo!”

“Yes m’am,” agrees Karen.  “They’re the classiest kind of faux diamonds.”

A  woman standing in the adjacent framing department is covertly watching us, listening, perplexed.  Poor dear.  Eavesdropping is tacky, and Karen and I are too classy to notice.

“DaWayne said he and Harlan was goin’ bowling,”  I tell Karen.  I shake my head and purse my lips,   “But they got that whole case of Budweiser, and  I just know they’re going to a titty bar.”

“I know it,” she commiserates, “I told Harlan if I find ONE MORE PAIR OF PANTIES in the pick-up truck….”  She trails off,  and I’m left wondering what Harlan’s fate will be if he’s caught packing panties ever again. It won’t be good.

My heart breaks for Karen; pretend Harlan can be a dog.  My pretend DaWayne is too much of a gentleman to bring home panties when he goes to the strip club.

We’ve moved on from the wedding department, and as we walk through the store we comment on various items we pass, speculating on how we might use them.

Glitter-covered feather boas would be perfect with the tube tops I picked up at The Walmart: L’il DaWayne was NOT good in The Walmart, I tell Karen,  “…and I told L’il DaWayne: ‘ You eat any more of them Cheetos and I’m gonna SMACK YOU!’ You gettin’ orange all over my tube tops!”

Day-glo panties made for the application of decals: “Ima put ‘PROPERTY OF DA WAYNE’ straight cross my butt,” I tell Karen.

She nods, but she’s clearly not in the mood to consider the same for her Harlan, what with all the stripper panties in the pick-up.  Now I feel badly about pointing out the panties;  panties are a sensitive subject in Harlan and Karen’s pretend marriage.

Plaster columns and pedestals: “We used to have one of them pedestals on each side the door,” I tell Karen, “and my DaWayne used to make me stand on ’em all the time, and I said ‘DA WAYNE!  I cannot be getting up and down and up and down all day!’  We got rid of ’em cause they kept falling over on the baby, but DaWayne says I’ll always be on a pedestal to him. But I don’t even know what that means..”

“Harlan says the only reason to put a woman on a pedestal is to look up her skirt,” Karen responds.

Karen is just jealous, but I’m secretly tickled that my pretend DaWayne wants to look up my skirt.

“Well, I am definitely gonna need them decal panties now!”

Personal Entries

Don’t pee on the couch

Karen and her kids, Emily and Patrick, have come down for dinner.   Karen and Emily sit down to keep me company while I finish cooking, and the boys head into the living room and the PS3.  Patrick, 12,  is the last boy to leave the kitchen.

“Hey Patrick,” I say, “don’t pee on my couch, OK?”


“Please try not to pee on the couch?”

“Miss Katie, why would I pee on the couch?”  The boy is understandably perplexed.  I’ve known him since he was a year old, and he’s never peed on anything in my house.

“I have no idea,” I tell him now, “but the bathroom is right there if you need it, OK?”

“But…why…..  Why would I pee on your couch?

I don’t know.”  I say. ” But just don’t, ok?”

His head cocked to the side and his eyebrows knitted, Patrick heads into the living room while Karen grins at me, shaking her head slowly from side to side.

In a moment Patrick returns.

“When did I pee on your couch?”  Patrick demands of me.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

Through a fit of giggles, Emily shouts at her younger brother, “JUST DON’T PEE ON THE COUCH, Patrick!”

“No, wait. ” I put up my hand to forestall another outburst from Emily.  “He was about to tell us when he peed on the couch.”

“I DIDN’T PEE ON THE COUCH!” Patrick exclaims.

“OK.  If you say so, I believe you.”

“I didn’t.”  He insists.

“That’s great!  And I really appreciate that.”

“So…why are you telling me not to pee on the couch?”

“Because it’s a leather couch, and once that smell gets into it, there is just no getting it out.  I don’t want to have to replace the couch.  It’s expensive.”

“But… why do you think I’m going to pee on the couch?”

“Patrick,” Karen puts up a hand to stop her son’s questions, and with each word clearly articulated says,   “just   do   not   pee   on   that   couch. “

“But, why would—“

“Just don’t!” Karen orders.

As Patrick leaves the kitchen, Karen, Emily and I double over in silent laughter. Each of us knows what will happen next, and almost immediately, it does.

Matt bursts into the kitchen, “Why did you tell Patrick not to pee on the couch?”

“Because I don’t want him to pee on the couch,” I explain.

No one should pee on the couch,” adds Karen.

“When did he pee on the couch?!” Matt demands.

We didn’t say he did.  We just don’t want him to pee on the couch.”

“You shouldn’t be peeing on the couch, either.” Karen informs Matt.

“I’m not going to pee on the couch,” says Matt.

“I hope not…..” But Karen sounds dubious.

“I’ve never peed on the couch!”  Insists Matt.

“You sure? ” I ask him, “You haven’t? “


“We don’t know.”

And then suddenly the kitchen is full of  boys, all talking at once, all insisting that they have NEVER peed on my couch or any other couch, anywhere.  Ever.

“And no one said you did!”  I explain, “And we want you to keep up the good work.”

Karen sums it up for them, “Don’t pee on the couch. It should go without saying.  Now, we’ll call you when it’s time to eat.”

Muttering and confused, indignant and questioning each others’ urinary histories, the boys leave the kitchen to return to their game.

“And don’t pee on the chairs, either! ”  Emily calls out.

Really, how do people amuse themselves when they don’t have children?


Personal Entries

What do you want on your headstone?

“You sound stuffy,” says Karen, “are you coming down with something?”

“No,” I tell her, ” I was sanding back a painting, and I didn’t put on a mask—“

“And why would you? THAT would be silly!  Why wear a mask when lungs are such excellent filters?”

“Shut up, Karen.  AS I WAS SAYING, I was just going to sand it back a speck, but I ended up sanding a LOT because it really made me mad.”

“Of course.”  Says Karen.  “And…safety glasses? You had them on, right?”

“You should totally shut up. “

“So, no safety glasses either?  It would be silly to wear safety glasses when you’re using a rotary sander, because that’s what blinking and eyelashes are for!”

And it’s then that I have an epiphany.

“Can you put that on my headstone when I die?  Have them write  ‘Of COURSE I wasn’t wearing my safety equipment.‘   Because I think that about sums up my entire life.”



Dutch friends, new bling


Aquamarine and sapphire pendant, about 1 1/4 x 7/8 inches

My mom loves the Netherlands.  She loves the wide-open green flatness, the canals, the skinny city houses,  the Noordzee, and the spring flowers.  But most of all, she loves the Dutch.  There was never a Friday when she left the office without her Dutch coworkers making sure she had plans, never a moment when she didn’t feel welcomed and included.  While she’s enjoyed the people most everywhere she’s worked around the world, the Dutch became family.

After years spent living and working in The Hague,  my mom has come home for a job in San Diego.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make.  While there were many compelling reasons to move back to the States, it was so very hard for her to leave her friends; her Dutch family.

As my mom readied herself for the move to San Diego, her beautiful friend Susanne emailed–on behalf of all the Dutch friends– to ask me for ideas for a parting gift.  I suggested they take her for a tattoo, but the Dutch are way classier than me: they opted for jewelry, and ordered my Aquamarine Waterfall Pendant.

aquamarine and moonstone Waterfall Pendant

And that would have worked out just fine, if my mother wasn’t so damn full of damn opinions.  Luckily, her Dutch friends know that she’s a veritable opinion piñata.

Mom asked that I use a stone she already had  instead of the aquamarine cabochon (above) my design called for.  Her stone was a big, gorgeous, faceted aquamarine she had purchased from a British friend in The Hague  shortly before he died (we’re going to call that the new aquamarine from here on).

The challenges? The new aquamarine wasn’t interchangeable with the stone in my design, and a new design was needed to account for the stone’s unique attributes.  I did, however, need to keep with the two-stone look of the pendant I had been asked to make.

Where the original aquamarine cab in the design was all about watery relaxation, the faceted aquamarine was all sparkle and glamour, and just didn’t work well with the laid-back moonstone cabochon of the original pairing.  I opted to pair the new aquamarine with a gorgeous cornflower blue, flower-cut sapphire.

Another challenge was the cut of the new aquamarine: the stone was incredibly deep--half as deep as it was wide– and I needed my design to creatively account for that depth; to allow the face of the sapphire to be on the same plane as the face of the aqua, without looking awkward.

My  solution: A medieval-looking b0x setting,  stones set with prongs to keep them open and airy.

I hope all of my mother’s Dutch friends love what I came up with, I’m really pleased with my design, and my mom loved it.  After gasping, she declared, “I’m going to get mugged wearing this!”

And that is high praise from the Bling Jedi Master.

*Thanks Mom, for the image!


Personal Entries

Physics question for you

My little blogosphere nerds! I know you’re out there, and it’s time to step up.

While playing Scrabble today, Matt asked this question:

“If someone were falling, and someone else shoved them as they fell, would it slow them down?”

Karen and I thought that, yes, it would slow them down.  I added that how much it slowed them down would depend on how far they had fallen when the shove occurred, and the total height of the fall after the shove (for instance, if there was enough distance left to fall that they were able to regain their original falling speed before impact).


A physics problem, which is a VERY NORMAL thing for me to diagram. I am CONSTANTLY diagramming out physics problems. * Object in right-most scenario is a tree.


And because diagrams ALWAYS help, I quickly drew one on our Scrabble tally sheet.  Karen commented that drawing a diagram about a physics problem was a switch, as I usually only diagram out issues of reproduction, fertility, and breasts.  Karen is often wrong, as I’ve noted on the diagram: Scrabble tallies are highlighted in blue with the final scores starred in green.  I totally beat her because she is so wrong, and I diagram much, much more than the sexy things.

I would call Jake at Chapel Hill to ask him to answer Matt’s question, but I’m a bit annoyed with Jake today.  Go ahead, ASK ME WHY and I will totally tell you.

But, blogosphere brainiacs, are we right? Would a mid-fall shove slow the faller down?  Would the amount by which the fall was slowed depend on at what point the shove occurred; how much fall was left?

Help me, Obi Wans.


*Bethany’s comment made me rethink my phrasing, so let me rephrase:

Would the shove slow the momentum of the fall? When you fall, I assume it takes a certain amount of time to get up to top speed. The shove would slow that speed, right? So that you wouldn’t hit the ground at the same speed that you would have had you not been shoved?

For example, if you fell off a skyscraper, and someone/something shoved you BUT GOOD about 15 feet from the ground, would you hit the ground less hard than had you not been shoved?

Personal Entries

Career advice

“Do you think, ” Karen asks me, “that it would be OK to fax this job application in instead of dropping it off?”

“Did they say you could?  What did they say?”

“The job listing says the application can be mailed, dropped off, or faxed.” Karen explains that the position for which she is applying is with a large organization.

“If I dropped it off, I’m not sure it would really make a difference.”

“There you go, ” I say.  “I think it’s always better to drop it off, but if you don’t have time then fax it.”

“But, I just want to make a good impression, ” says Karen.

“Well, did you put a nice lipstick kiss mark on the resume?”

“No.  No, not yet.  But, I definitely will. “

“Good,”  I say, “that always says, ‘I’m special’ to potential employers.  Or!  Or. You can scan your breasts and attach the image to your cover letter.  That’ll make an impression!”

“That’s a good idea, but I was thinking  I would paint right onto my breasts and then stamp them on the cover letter.”  Karen is a genius.

“You know what?  That is perfect.  But if you really want to make an impression, maybe you should do all three: the kiss mark, the breast scan, AND the breast stamping.  The triple threat.”

“Perfect!” Says Karen, “that’ll cover all the bases.”

For anyone needing career advice, Karen and I are here all day.


Personal Entries


Where I say “f***” many, many times, and with good reason.

The phone rang just as I noticed it on the wall.  Seeing that the call came from Karen, I answered with:


“Big enough to ride if you put a saddle on it?”  Karen asks.

I’m not good with the cockroaches, blogosphere.  I’m not rational. There are not many things in life that freak me the hell out, but cockroaches are one of them.

One cockroach meandered across my kitchen floor a week after I moved into this house–ten years ago–and I’ve had a bug service ever since.  It doesn’t matter how broke I might be, or how bug-free my house is now, one cockroach ten years ago warrants the thousands of dollars I have since spent keeping my home bug-free.  And the kicker?  That one cockroach was an oriental cockroach, a common outside bug found in woodpiles and gardens everywhere in the south.  It wasn’t even the kind of cockroach other people worry about.

“It’s F**KING ENORMOUS,” I tell Karen, now. “But at least it’s an oriental cockroach, thank God…..This is NOT acceptable.”

Honestly, I can’t tell what kind of cockroach it is.  I’m a bit demented now, and I don’t want to get close enough for the cockroach to jump at me.  Or something.  But I want it to be an oriental cockroach, and so an oriental cockroach it will be.

“I’m going to vacuum it up.  I’m going to use the tube-y thing and sneak up on it.”

I drag the vacuum out of the closet, muttering, “this is not acceptable. This is NOT F**KING ACCEPTABLE.”

“I’ll be down in just a few minutes,”  says Karen, who is to my surprise still on the phone.

Karen knows how I feel about bugs: outside bugs are good and fine, but bugs in my house are not f**king acceptable.  It’s a lot like “Snakes On A Plane.”  Snakes?  No problem.  Planes?  No problem.  The problem is, to paraphrase Samuel L., when the motherf**king snakes are on the motherf**king plane.  If the cockroach was outside, he and I could coexist peacefully in the world.

But this cockroach is high up on my wall, by the ceiling, and so I quietly pick up a chair and move it close.  Not close enough that I could be attacked, but close.  Quietly,  I click the vacuum hose onto the long wand attachment.  Quietly, I climb up on the chair and move the tip of the wand into battle position.

Flipping on the vacuum, I slam the wand tip over the cockroach while shouting, “I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU,” and the cockroach disappears up the vacuum cleaner hose.  I wiggle the hose to make sure the unacceptable f**ker isn’t hanging on in there, ready to climb back out when I turn off the suction.

“I hate you,” I tell it once more,  and I slump down upon the chair and watch the cockroach spin around and around in the canister of my vacuum cleaner. Eventually, it catches on a clump of dog hair, and is wedged against the clear canister wall.  It might not be as big as it seemed when it was trying to kill me, and it might not be an oriental cockroach.

The vacuum cleaner still running, I get down on the floor to look at the dead, dusty bug.  Over an inch and a half long, its hideous, disgusting wings are tattered, and its creepy, horrid antennae are blowing in the cyclonic wind of the canister.  It’s an American cockroach, and I’m offended.

“I hate you,” I tell it,  “you were not allowed in my house, you stupid f**king cockroach f**king…… f**ker.”

And as I calm myself down, it starts to move.  Against the spinning dust and fur inside the canister.

Hateful, horrible, disgusting, awful thing

I hate it so much.   I sit, hating it and watching it blithely explore its vacuum-prison, until Karen arrives twenty minutes later.

“IT IS STILL ALIVE!” I shout, as Karen walks in the door.  “THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.  I hate it and it’s alive in there, and I don’t want to turn off the vacuum because I don’t know what it’s going to do next, and it stuck its disgusting head up and looked around and it’s walking around in there.”

“It stuck its head up?”  Karen asks.

“YES! Its head is on a little stalky neck thing, and it’s looking around and it won’t DIE!”  With my hands I make stalky neck motions, and lift my chin up like the cockroach did.  This makes me cry.  “I want it to go away.”

The tone Karen adopts implies that  I’m becoming hysterical.  I totally am.

“OK,” she soothes.  “Alright.  Why don’t you get me a trash bag?”

“You’re gonna kill it?”

“I’ll take care of it,” she answers.

I hand her a trash bag, and she takes the vacuum outside.  Moments later, she’s back in,  cheerfully reporting on how lively the cockroach was.   She seems to admire the f**ker’s perseverance.

“Did you kill it?”  I ask.

“It’s living out its final days at the bottom of your trash can.”

I don’t quite trust it to not chew its way out of the trash bag, crawl out of the trash can, walk around the outside of my house, and come back in.  But I can’t ask more of Karen than what she has done.

“Do you think it had friends with it?”  I ask her, “do you think there are more of them in my house?”

“Nooo!” Karen assures me.  “I’m sure he was a misanthrope of cockroaches.  All the other cockroaches thought he was an asshole.  They’re probably saying, ‘Don’t go in THERE!  Lenny’s in there, and he’s a real asshole.’ “

And because I’m irrational, that makes me feel much better.


Personal Entries

It’s always been there

Last night I dreamed of finding a small cupboard tucked into the wall under my home’s staircase.  At floor level, the cupboard’s door slid to the side to reveal a cache of painting and drawing supplies,  and a handful of wooden dowel rods needed to fix the balusters the boys have knocked loose through the years. Behind the supplies were baskets of treasures: my sons’ baby pictures, years worth of lovingly made  Mother’s Day gifts and misspelled school essays and poems.

Marveling at what I’d found –what I didn’t know I was missing –I knelt to pull out nursery school projects and charcoal pencils, wood glue and gauche. My heart swelled as I deciphered  little boy handwriting, and I laughed out loud as I sorted through everything I needed to create beautiful things, to repair what was broken.

“Oh my gosh, look at all this!”  I said to Karen, who stood behind me in my dream. “I must have put all this in here.  When did I do that? How did I not know it was here?”

From behind me, silence.  I’m the Queen of Missing The Obvious, and I expected the usual smart-a** remark Karen has had plenty of opportunities to practice making.

“Karen, ” I said, as I turned to look at her,  “how did I not know all this was here?”

“It’s always been there, ”  she said, quietly.  “You just forgot.”



Personal Entries

Simmer down now

All right, all right, I hear you.  I’m writing, I’m writing.  Jeez, people.

Where to begin?  So very, very much has happened this past year, both good and bad, and then this summer threw me for a loop. August was about regrouping; a solid month of reflecting, reevaluating, redirecting.

I needed to come to terms with my first baby going off to college, and my worries about him being alright in his new world.  Would he be happy?  What if he wasn’t?  What about the empty space he’s left?

I needed to understand that I will never completely understand the romantic relationship I left behind earlier this year.  At the time the relationship was ending,  Karen commented that people expect of others what they, themselves, are capable of.   She wasn’t referring to me, but I applied her words to myself.  I suppose I’ve naively lived under the assumption that we’re all trying to be good; trying to love well,  with honesty and kindness.  When people intentionally hurt others, my first reaction is to assume they didn’t mean to;   surely, if they knew something was hurtful, they wouldn’t do it? Sometimes, it seems,  they mean to be mean.  Sometimes they are mean because they can be, and I will never understand that.  I’ve become a tiny bit cynical,  and I think that’s a good thing.  Suddenly, I find myself with new walls, and it seems natural to expect others to earn their way in.

I’ve been worried sick about Matt going into middle school.  Given his temperament, will he be alright?  The middle school grades are kept separate for a reason:  humans of that age are insane.   Remember the movie, “Escape From New York?”   It was originally to be titled  “Escape From Middle School,” and the plane of the fictional President of the United States would crash onto an island of middle schoolers, necessitating rescue by Kurt Russell.   The producers had to rewrite the script after parents complained, saying they’d never get their kids to go to middle school if they knew what it was really like.  I’ve been worried that middle school might not bring out the best in Matt.

And then, you know, the other thing.  At the time, it felt horrible.  In retrospect?  It was really horrible.   This, like the romantic relationship, caused me to question so many things.  Were there red flags? How did I not know what this person was capable of?  How did I miss that?

Now that I write it all out for you, I realize August was not only about regrouping, but worrying.  I needed a lot of time to worry.  A whole month.

But, this evening is the start of Rosh Hashanah,  a time to reflect upon the past year,  and prepare for the new.  What perfect timing.

Tashlikh, Rosh Hashanah’s symbolic casting off the year’s sins by taking small pieces of bread from your pockets and tossing them into a stream or river, is done tomorrow afternoon.    After a day of reflecting, my little Jewish/Catholic household will make its way to the creek and toss away the old, readying ourselves for the new.

But thank you, all who have written/nagged/nudged.  It’s lovely to know my voice and work were missed, and I appreciate how you took the time to tell me so.  You rock.

L’shanah tovah! For a good year!