What am I getting myself into?

In the last post, I mentioned the bad decisions that I was looking forward to making, now that I’m no longer an unlucky age.  They fall into four major categories:

  1. Moving Uptown – Exchanging a house in the suburbs for a place downtown (Coming 2016!)
  2. Being a Real Writer – Shifting from long-time hobby to “Could this be what’s next?”
  3. Life-Long Learning – Courses and self-study and travel and book reviews
  4. Prototyping – Making things without following the directions

Those are also the topics I’m planning to blog about, along with others as they arise.  But, at the moment, that is what’s taking up most of my free time and 90% of my attention. 

What are you most looking forward to in the next year?


Yakudoshi is a Japanese folk custom based on the belief that people are more likely to experience illness/misfortune at certain ages. For women, unlucky ages include 19 and 33, while 25 and 42 are problematic for men. In order to avoid this bad luck, it is advised to live simply and avoid major decisions during these years of life.  According to the temple where I learned about this tradition, 37 is also an age when women should be wary.

However, I dodged a bullet. Under this system, the time between conception and birth is counted as the first year of life. Which makes me 38 as of today and free to make all the bad decisions I want. (Also, not being Japanese or from Japan, this is really just a curiosity. But it provides context.)

A few years ago, I received an hourglass as a Christmas present.  A lecture I attended a few months ago casually mentioned that a person has 25,000 days to live in a typical lifetime.  And a book I was just reading mentioned the tradition of receiving a watch at retirement coming from the concept of getting back your time.  So time has been on my mind lately.  While I’m not quite counting down to 40 the way a doomsday clock might count down to the end of the world, I have been thinking about time as a finite resource.  With the realization that time will run out, it becomes a precious commodity.  And then the question begins to loom large, especially around birthdays and other milestones: What should I be doing with my time?

The answer depends on priorities and responsibilities.  Having relatively few responsibilities, I’m free to set my priorities however I see fit.  And so my new priority is to start taking my dreams seriously.  We’re born with numberless dreams and then silence them one by one, like snuffing out candles.  Today is the day I begin to relight those fires and see how brightly they burn.  I hope this blog will encourage you to dust off a few dreams of your own and see how much they still shine.

This isn’t a midlife crisis, just a reevaluation.  A course correction.  I may not make all the best decisions or always follow the “correct” path, but who does?

Be seeing you along the way!

On Blogging

An Invocation

Blogging is communication, starting a conversation
(even if, at first, you’re just talking to yourself).
If you want to make contact, you’ve got to reach out.
The world won’t come to your door.
Why should anyone listen? Or care?
Does it matter? If you share
an interest, and my words spark it,
let’s start a conversation.

When I think of an invocation, I think of Ze Frank and the invocation he recorded for the beginning of A Show. (I had to listen to that quite a few times today to get my courage up to post this.) Warts and all, let’s start this up.

Love from MN

It’s no secret that I love my state. I’ve also lived in California (four years of college and innumerable family visits), Seattle (six weeks of Clarion West), and New York (a summer internship at Tor Books), but this is where I call home.

I stopped by the Wayzata Art Experience a few weekends ago and was charmed by a number of Minnesota-shaped necklaces at one of the booths. But they weren’t quite what I was looking for. How hard could they be to make? I decided to find out.

I’m still pretty new to the whole world of crafting. I bind handmade journals from time to time and I’ve made a few dreamcatchers. I also used to make necklaces and bracelets by stringing beads on thread and wire, but nothing more complicated than that. So my approach to art in general is very much a process of trial and error.

I decided to make the MNs out of polymer clay, which I’d just stocked up on to replace what I’d initially tried to use as plumber’s putty when my basement was flooding. (See previous post.) But what does one use for a template? Paper hadn’t held up. I decided to draw out the general shape and then use the remaining tools from my jewelry-making set (long-nose pliers, needle-nose pliers, and wire cutters) to bend florist wire into an outline of the state. I would then cut around this with a craft knife.

I’m all about using what I have. Then, when I’m allowed to buy more supplies (probably not until 2015), I have a list of what would be helpful. Such as a rolling pin. Instead I used anything round that might work to flatten out the clay: thick-barreled pens, glue bottles, glue sticks. They worked well enough. And here’s what the initial results looked like.

MN Phase 1

(For whatever reason, the photo won’t turn upright. Gremlins have invaded my computer since my cat drooled on it.)

The photo also has bonus prints from a stamp I carved. More on that in a later post.

I ended up scrapping all but the first cutout and then making several more a few days later. Initially I’d intended to make necklaces, but the cutouts were a bit big, so I decided to make Christmas ornaments instead. I created hanging hardware from the same wire I’d used to create the state outline. I also added a hook on the bottom of the state to attach a dangling free-form heart. These were more difficult to make than I’d thought, but I pinched and prodded the clay into basically the right shapes, then baked the states and hearts and hardware in the oven.

They were a bit plain when they emerged, even after I’d assembled everything, and the edges were a bit rough and difficult to sand. I decided to try out some clearance rack glitter paint to liven up the state and the heart (and smooth over a few imperfections). And here’s where things stand right now.

MN Phase 2

These aren’t quite final. I need to explore a few more options for hanging the ornaments (the white ribbon isn’t my favorite), though I have a limited amount of time to do so. These will be going to family members (Shhh! That is a secret.) in a few weeks. But I’ve finished decking out the backs with “Love from MN, 2014.”

Next up, decorating the wrapping materials with a handmade MN stamp. Yup, I went a little crazy with the state theme. But stamping is something to be left for the next post. Also coming up: the art of handmade boxes, otherwise known as cartonnage.

Tabula Rasa

My basement used to be finished.

Basement Before

It was where I’d set up my (mostly unused) TV and sent my cat at night so he wouldn’t spend hours yowling outside my bedroom door. That all changed in late April when, after some impressive weeks of “blizzard, melt, blizzard, melt,” it began to rain. The ground was still frozen and completely saturated, so where was the rain to go?

I came home one afternoon to find a slow river running through a section of the carpet. The most obvious cause was water seeping in from around a pipe. After a trip to the hardware store, I filled up the cracks with plumber’s putty, vacuumed up gallons of water, and set out some fans and a dehumidifier. Problem solved.

The next morning, however, the carpet was soaked from wall to wall. I moved out all but one piece of furniture and took up the carpet and padding, hoping to find where the water was coming in. The verdict? Cracks/holes in the foundation. The solution? Drain tiling and a sump pump. But before any of the contractors would do that, I needed to de-finish the basement. To save money, I decided to do it myself.

It was a learning experience as well as an exploration of suburban archeology. In the end, my basement is dry and unfinished. A (mostly) blank slate. I decided that I wouldn’t refinish it for a few years, but what to do with it in the intervening time?

Two words: art cave.

While I enjoy writing, I’m an editor by trade, and after working all day on some of my recent projects, the last thing I want to do is come home and herd words. So I retire to my art cave, which I’m slowly building upon the old bones of the basement. Behold!


Okay, so it’s not much to behold, at least not yet. But I have plans. Some of my plans involve making things to hold my art supplies, such as this three-section box with additional dividers made out of rubber bands and paperclips.


…Of course, you can’t see the box. It’s full of/surrounded by art supplies!

I’m also supposed to be writing, this month, for the Clarion West Write-a-thon. If you’d like to sponsor me, you can do so here. My goals aren’t super ambitious, this year. Just an hour a day. But it’s difficult to convince myself to spend the hour upstairs when my art supplies are calling from downstairs…

We are always telling stories