Insonmnia is in the details. . . God probably is too, but definitely insomnia.

Wow -- I hadn't even considered that I might need to upgrade my deodorant. That's just how preoccupied I am with the million little things I need to remember to do. Because here we are once again: that magic time when I emerge from my studio, blinking in the light, and turn my legion insecurity demons loose on the city of Chicago. . .

That's right, it's show time! It's always a pleasure to see people interact with my work (after interacting with it by myself for so long).

Sometimes when I'm holed up in my studio, I wonder whether anyone will care about what I'm making or not. So far, I've been terribly lucky to find enough people who care to keep me from having to get a job as a checker at Target.

And I thank you all, friends! This history does not, however, seem to be able to silence my insecurities. So I'm just going to take a deep breath, wedge everything into the van (including the little table from Aunt Lillie's store which I always keep in my booth for good luck, even though the drawer sticks) and . . . .

We're Off!

The Diver--thanks, Wesley Anderegg!

This year it feels especially scary (it's the economy, stupid . . . who would be crazy enough to try to sell art when even Citibank can't seem to stay in business?) and it's enough to make you wonder if being a checker at Target might not give you a better night's sleep. One of my friends kindly pointed out that surely people need art more, when all the news seems to be bad news. But whether there turns out to be water in the bucket or not at the end of our dive, my #1 salesman and I will have a marvelous time screaming together all the way down.

We'll eat at our favorite Chicago restaurants

where I will blab-blab-blab about the funny funny people and either marvel at our sales or marvel at our lack of sales.

(Do you know someone actually asked me once "how much for the frame without the little stitched-thingy? Yes, they said "stitched-thingy." You have to laugh.)

We'll take our extensive collection of Hinckley Christmas cd's

and sing all the way through Wisconsin. And we'll just enjoy the ride.

Because Chicago in December is always "lovely weather for a sleighride together,"

and we always manage to have f-u-n.

If you're in Chicagoland, come see us in booth 1049 at the Merchandise Mart. If you're not, come back and see me here when I return, December 9.

I'm sure I'll have a good story . . . and hopefully some money for Hannah's tuition . . . but almost certainly, a good story.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Today my little girl who is riding on the bluebird of happiness and singing a duet is singing a Thanksgiving song. Since I have the job of deciding which hymns we sing at church each Sunday, I've been choosing Thanksgiving songs all month and I have loved singing
every one.

I read once that it is physiologically impossible to feel gratitude and anxiety at the same time. I'm not sure whether that's true or not -- I have an amazing physiological ability to feel anxiety, but I have put this to the test a time or two and believe there may be some truth to it. I think it's a skill I should work on. I'd gratefully swap my anxiety for gratitude, and I actually have a lot more to be grateful for than to be anxious about. I just have to make the effort to think about it that way.

Two of my little pumpkins won't be coming home for Thanksgiving this year (that's a first, and I admit I'm feeling a little blue about it) because, times being what they are, we had to choose our airline tickets a little more wisely than in years past. But I'm certain that they each will find a wonderful -- albeit different -- Thanksgiving somewhere else. And even though our 401k has recently downsized to a 201k, I'm grateful that we'll have the means to see them in less than a month for Christmas.

I will, however, still be setting out our traditional placecards for Thanksgiving dinner. Chelsea and Hannah drew them a number of years ago and I've grown quite attached to them -- I think they will help ease my "familysickness" a little when I'm getting things ready tomorrow.

Now that we're all here, I think we should go around the blog-table and each tell something that we're grateful for.

I'll go first:


That's right. I'm grateful for everything, and if there's anything I'm actually not that grateful for, I'm going to think about it another day and try to adjust my attitude a little.

Okay . . . who wants to go next?

Oh! Am I still the only one here? Well all right then, I guess I'm grateful for that too.

More pie for me!



I'm referring only to the part of the commercial where the person knocks themselves in the head, not to actually drinking V-8, which I would never do. Serious texture problem. And I would certainly never choose V-8 over french fries, no matter how good their advertising might be . . . who would? If you would, you have my apologies and my sympathy. In my world, fries are already a vegetable and when Ronald Reagan gave us permission to call ketchup a vegetable too -- well it was just the best moment I can ever remember for a republican! Thanks again, Mr. President!

Since it's Thanksgiving week, it's good to remember these kinds of things.

But anyway, I've been knocking myself in the head and saying "Why didn't I think of that?" for about a week now. Have you ever come across something so wonderful and so obvious that you just can't believe you didn't already invent it? It happens to me quite often. I'll tell you about two specifics . . .

The first is really more of a "Why didn't I think of that a long time ago?" Because it's luckily not too late in this case (that's when I usually have my best flashes of brilliance -- after it's too late to actually do anything about it. Or I have the flash, but I put it out of my mind until I see someone have the same flash later and get rich from it. Then I smack myself in the head).

I finally decided to get a website, and it's going to launch in just a week!

It should be up by Thanksgiving, barring any unforeseen difficulties, and like most of the people who have been looking at my art for the past four years, I am now saying to myself "Why no website. Are you a moron?" Here's the announcement I'm sending out:

If you're on my list watch your mailbox, and if you're not, read it here and come on over to visit when I give you the "on air" signal. There will be a link from the blog, because that's one of my three (3) computer skills.

But the second is, alas, a revelation that has come too late. Did you know someone had written an entire novel by cutting and pasting old women's magazines from the 1950's-1960's? First of all, I didn't know anyone but me was still "doing" actual cutting and pasting anymore (I tried explaining what it was to a kid working at Kinko's the other day and I can't even describe the vacant expression I got in return) and secondly, surely no one has spent more time devouring old women's magazines than I have and if someone were going to publish a novel as a result of that hobby, surely it should be a wannabe writer like myself.

But Graham Rawle thought of it first. And what's the point of building the Watts Towers if they've already been built? Some things you just have to be the first to think of. And I didn't.

Anyway, it's an awesome book and a true labor of love. He took 5 years crafting it -- he describes the process in some detail at the end of the book. He first wrote the story, then went through and replaced every single word with a word he snipped. Some descriptions he altered to use old ad copy, resulting in wonderfully quirky images that are just amazing to read.

He had his mother help him by clipping and filing words (I thought that was quite endearing -- she probably read the same magazines the first time around) so he could fill them in later. Every page number (over 400!) was also clipped, and that may be the most miraculous thing of all because finding numbers isn't that easy. All I can say is, I know how long it takes me to find the words I want sometimes, and I truly am in awe of the love required to spend 5 years finding 400 pages of them. Graham Rawle, I salute you!

Woman's World is a fantastic read, and I believe it's now out in paperback (although I got my hardback copy on Amazon used books for under $3.00! Highway robbery! And I'm really sorry, Graham, because I would have been willing to pay much more . . . the price I paid in no way reflects my admiration for you. But what a deal!)

I should probably warn my more sensitive readers that there is cross-dressing involved. It is highly justifiable cross-dressing, but it is cross-dressing nonetheless.

If anyone else reads it, please let me know what you think. We can have blog-book-club! (say that fast three times)

I just hope to have an idea that good once in my life. Just once!

Anybody got any really great ideas they want to get rid of?


I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve . . . I have a history of losing my shirt . . .

Velveeta cheese makes me dizzy. We can just start there. If you're in my family, you're thinking "I already know that. And it's ridiculous." If you're a casual reader, you're thinking "that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. I must read more to see if she'll say anything stupider than that." I have no scientific explanation for it, I just know Velveeta cheese doesn't feel good in my head and never has. And I thought it was a good number 1 (one)

for my list of "Seven Things You Don't Know About Me." I was tagged by my friend amazing artist Anne Leuck Feldhaus, who I hope to be receiving a painting from in December -- she paints delightful dog portraits, among other things, and has been working on a portrait of Special Agent Dale Cooper for us. Can't wait, Anne (I'll post a picture when we get it)!

Before we move on to number 2, I do think we should note some of the swell and versatile things one can do with Velveeta cheese:

Yes, that's right: chopped nuts, pickle relish, mayo, worcestershire and melted Velveeta. YUM! But alas, I would need to wear a Dramamine patch to enjoy those tasty nut burgers at my next canasta party.

(2) Two. I used to think the word "disturb" was actually "disturv." I was quite old (seriously -- well past school age) by the time my brother figured this out and corrected me in that special way older brothers have -- I feel slightly humiliated to this day. Incidentally, I'm quite sure my oldest daughter made the same mistake, so I believe it is a genetic hearing problem of some kind and not my own folly. We hope this disorder will not be passed on to a third generation. But if it is, it will be corrected lovingly.

3) Three. Since we have raised the subject of horses, I may as well tell you that I was unable to ride my own horse at summer camp. (I am still terrified of riding horses. My beloved cowboy boots that I wear so proudly are really a full-quill ostrich lie. But a really attractive lie.) At summer camp I had to ride on the back of my friend Marianne's horse. I remember when we broke into a gallop, I was crying and screaming for her to stop -- being a real friend, she did not ridicule me for this around the campfire later. It was our secret. But I was not invited to ride the horses again. Whoa.

4) Four. I used to like watching "Lawrence Welk" when I was a kid -- I picked up this habit during my frequent visits to Aunt Lillie's house, where Lawrence Welk was a Saturday evening staple. I would watch it while Aunt Lillie made supper, which often involved fried Spam, incidentally, something I have not chosen to carry into my adult diet. I liked L. W. because it seemed to me that the people on it probably led lives very similar to movie musicals -- bursting into song and dance in the middle of doing the dishes or mowing the lawn. It was just a happy world -- I mean, there were bubbles floating around all the time. Who doesn't like bubbles?

5) Five. When I outgrew Lawrence Welk, I became hopelessly devoted to Saturday nights with "The Love Boat." I did not ever miss our weekly date -- I would make myself something fun for dinner (usually a turkey TV dinner -- I'm not sure why that was fun) and watch it on my mom and dad's bed, because they had the color TV. I love love loved Julie's short hair (I've almost always had short hair and short haired girls have to stick together). I have purchased "The Love Boat" on dvd and I can now tell you several things about it: it is sexist, racist, and absolutely ridiculous. But it is a good, albeit guilty, way to kill an hour on the treadmill. And the parade of faces from my childhood! It's truly a cruise down memory lane.

6) Six. I used to devour Seventeen magazine, faithfully following every beauty tip. On one memorable occasion, I tried washing my hair with raw eggs because it was supposed to make it so -- something -- and I was continually hoping for a hair upgrade. This was during one of my rare long-hair phases. The article did not tell me (and I was too dumb to figure out) that after the eggs you should use a regular shampoo. When I had rinsed out the egg, (I noticed but had no time to deal with the numerous little white clumps of ick I found when I combed my hair), I went for an appointment at the hospital for a test of some kind (heart murmur -- it was nothing). The technician was an extremely young and good looking guy who first had to smear jelly all over my chest (completely embarassing for a jr. high schooler) and then have me lay there with my gown open while he moved the little testing thingy all over. I have never been so self conscious in my life, but worst of all was the incredibly nasty smell of egg that was coming off my hair and nearly suffocating us both. I wished I had a heart problem so I could die right there. I must admit it did not stop me from trying something similarly silly with lemon juice (which resulted in pulp in my hair) shortly thereafter.

7) Seven. While we're on the subject of my jr.-high-schooler-chest (never thought I'd say that on my blog), I'll tell you about one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever. It was from an aunt I rarely saw (she lived many states away) and was a complete and rather strange surprise: a training bra. A little embarassing to open on Christmas morning, and I have no idea why she sent it. But I had been puzzling and puzzling for sometime about how to broach this topic with my mother because all my friends were already in "training" and I was sure my time had come. A sad end to the story is that shortly after that, my Aunt Lillie was measuring me to sew a new jumper with a fitted bodice. I was very excited because she was going to have to measure right over my new training bra! When she saw the measurement was 28", she laughed so hard she literally had to sit down on the floor. It was particularly injurious to my pride because I had thought my training was going extremely well.

What, done already? I guess that was seven -- to you it probably seemed like 27. Now I've got to figure out who to tag next . . . don't all raise your hands at once. There are an awful lot of people I'd like to know 7 things about. I'll have to get back to you on that.

Happy weekend!


Talk to the blog.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other night and he said something about how "PEOPLE NEVER CHANGE." So I immediately said something like, "that's funny . . . I just wrote a blog post about how, actually, people can and do change. Continuously. You should read it."

He said something like, "I don't care about your blog. Can't you and I just have a conversation?"
At which point we did and it turned away from people changing and to other topics du jour. He's a fun guy to talk to because he's a button pusher and I'm just a giant keyboard of buttons waiting to be pushed. So I didn't think much more about the "I don't care about your blog" thing.

But . . . Oh dear. When I was reading the Sunday paper I came across this:

Like I said, "Oh dear." I'm afraid perhaps I've become that guy. But of course since this is my blog, and you're reading it, I'm going to take this opportunity to offer a defense. For one thing, my blog has an edit button and my mouth . . . well . . . let's just say I'd rather write an argument than have it with you in person. I'm comfortable with words when I can change them around, cross them out, and erase them until they're just right. I'm not at all comfortable with what's likely to pop out of my mouth. So that's defense part one.

Defense part two is a little more complicated. When I used to be a writer, my mind worked differently. I was continually listening, rearranging everything I heard or thought into lines that said something or sounded wonderful -- it was like having a little word puzzle going in my head all the time, pushing the words and letters around on the board -- and it was so simple to take out a pencil and jot down the creation of the moment.

When I switched to art, my mind gradually stopped pushing words around and started pushing images, but making the images into something concrete was much more difficult and certainly less immediate. I can't explain it -- I just really missed the words that had been my companions from the time I was quite a young child (I started my writing career in 2nd grade. Unfortunately it ended a year or two after I graduated from college. That's when I started my affair with fabric).

So once I knew it was out there, how could I possibly resist the allure of a blog?

As a child, I was quite used to adults taking an interest in my writing. I actually started a "poetry group" (a club, basically) with a grant from the Utah State Poetry Society.

My folder from the weekly poetry club

We met after school once a week at the homes of a variety of lovely older ladies. They seemed ancient to me at the time -- I'd like to go back now and figure out how old they actually were. To a fourth grader, it seemed like about 85. I hope it wasn't 50. Anyway, these ladies fussed over our poetry and hauled us to the society workshops and banquets and such, and it was pretty cool. I actually learned a great deal -- I could write an acceptable sonnet or villanelle by the time I left elementary school.

Once in about 5th grade, my parents were having some friends to dinner and my mother said "Susie, why don't you get your new sonnet and read it to Mr. & Mrs. Blank." So I did (I still have the original ripped right out of the composition book, but on the off chance you want to actually read it, here's a copy from the typewriter.)

Yes, I know New England isn't a state (I'm no genius but I'm not Sarah Palin) and I can think of about a dozen ways to take out a red pen and fix that sonnet, but I'm not going to start editing my elementary school writing now, am I? I don't think that would be "normal" somehow. . .

But back to the public reading at the dinner party . . . embarassing, right? For me and for poor Mr. & Mrs. Blank. Looking at it now through the lens of a mother, I realize my mom was probably just proud of me and I'm sure I've been equally annoying about my own kids -- it's what mothers do. But with my poetry, things like that happened all the time, and I'm sure everyone was quite tired of it by the time I grew up.

The point is, although I finally stopped introducing myself like this:

"I'm Susan. And I can write a sonnet!"

I'm afraid now it's switched to something like this:

"I'm Susan. And I just wrote a blog post on that. You should read it!"

When my mother read the last post (about the quilting thing) she sent me an email, thanking me for my "smart aleck remarks". She said "I've been waiting my whole life for your father to say something serious." (So I must come by it naturally?) But I didn't even think I was being a smart aleck. See? There are a lot of ways to annoy people with my blog.

So here's a blanket-blog-apology. To anyone I have, or will, annoy with my blog, I'm sorry. Thanks for reading it even when I annoy you.

But more importantly, thank you to Al Gore for inventing the internet, and to blogging for once again changing the way I think. I'm pushing words around, and it feels so good to be home in my own head. Why did I take such a long vacation?

On Saturday, I went to a movie by myself and I literally ran to my car in the parking lot, searching frantically for a piece of paper so I could write down a poem. AAAHHHH!!! That felt so good! Would you like to read it? (I figure no one else is going to publish it, so what good is my blog if I can't publish it myself?) Here it is:

Wow, now I'm doing it again. "Hi, I'm Susan and I publish my poems on my blog."

But I promise never to come and read my poems at your dinner parties.


ch . . .ch . . .ch . . . ch . . . changes . . .

Disregard my complaining about fall -- we're done with fall! That's right, regardless of what the calendar may tell you, it is now WINTER in Minnesota, and every newscaster and everyone you meet in every grocery store or McDonald's line or wherever is saying the same thing: "Can you believe it? You never think it will happen and then it DOES." Same thing every year, so I'm not sure why we never think it will happen. Or why we're surprised when it does.

All I know is I was at the dog park with Cooper last Friday and he was romping around in the duckweed-filled water and having a grand old time. It was cold, but we have yet to find water too cold for Cooper. He does not seem to feel cold, pain, restraint, or remorse. Just never-ending enthusiasm.

Then I took him to the dog park on Tuesday, and the dogs were walking around ON THE LAKE. That's right -- like it had never occurred to anyone that the water had ever been liquid. That's just how we roll in Minnesota. So I guess we should get used to it.

But change is just so gosh-darn hard to process, isn't it?

We've been enduring the most insufferable senate election imaginable (it's not over yet -- too slim a margin so now we get to have a recount) and the thing about it that has driven me nuts is that Al Franken (of SNL fame) is one of the candidates and this fact has made the campaign U-G-L-Y. Because forget that he's Harvard educated, forget that he has some amazingly smart ideas (I truly believe that comedy requires great intelligence -- that's 90 percent of it) and that our incumbent senator hasn't been really stellar, forget all those things -- HE USED TO BE A COMEDIAN AND SOME OF HIS HUMOR WAS NOT "MINNESOTA NICE", as we call it here. And that has caused the campaign to be downright "Minnesota nasty". Because We Must Not Allow Al Franken To Change.

It's a little like a mother who still treats her adult children like she did when they were children. I should know, because I'm just picking my way through that particular strange minefield right now (What? My children are adults???!!!) But as much as it's true that some things never change (including people), it's also true that everything is always changing, including people.

We just better buckle up and hang on and take some Dramamine when we need it, because it's going to be a bumpy ride -- a bumpy ride like Space Mountain, because they keep the lights off so we can't see the hills. Which is probably just as well.

Here's the conversation I had with Lindsay at lunch the other day. I don't remember how we got to this point in the conversation, but for some reason I casually dropped the line that "Grandma and Grandpa (my parents) have started quilting."

L: I don't know what you mean.

S: I mean Grandma and Grandpa have started quilting.

L: I don't know what you mean.

S: I mean that Grandma and Grandpa have started making quilts. Together. It's their new hobby. They even go on ebay and buy quilt tops so they can quilt them. Together.

L: I don't know what you mean, "making quilts."

S: I mean, Grandma and Grandpa are making quilts.

L: Making quilts, like making them? Quilts? . . . Grandpa is making quilts? Grandpa. . . . making quilts . . . with his hands. Grandpa is making quilts with his hands????!!!

The conversation was something just like that. I admit, I had the same reaction when I first heard it -- in all fairness, I've been processing this information for about a month now so I'm no longer screaming "with his hands???!!!" incredulously in public places.

Sometimes perhaps we need to consult reference material to process these kinds of things.

Yes, my father is still who I thought he was.

Yes, a grandpa is still what Lindsay thinks it is.

But you may as well tell me that my parents have started globetrotting around the world together.

My mom doesn't travel. She has spent a good portion of her life unable to travel due to illness, and in fact, at some points unable to leave the house for months and months and months.

But wait a minute -- in the past ten years, they have been around the world, so many times I've actually lost count. I think 4, or maybe 5. Anyway, it's unthinkable.

Or you may as well tell me that my parents have become such dog lovers that a dog has taken over their entire world.

We only had two very ill-fated dog attempts growing up. One dog ate the living room curtains and the other ate my little sister's head. Neither situation ended well. After that my mom adopted the credo that "we aren't dog people."

But wait a minute -- they do have a dog that they talk incessant baby talk to and that dominates their every waking moment. Has the world gone mad? Obviously.

Both of these facts make me positively gleeful. Anything is possible, and I mean anything.

Glenn & Gary McCoy

Just ask my dad's mother, who was a prolific quilter, because somewhere she is having a long, long, long belly laugh about this whole thing. She is laughing so hard she can't breathe. His father is probably just muttering something like "Well I'll be damned. He's making quilts. With his hands!!!", and some other things not suitable for print here. The kinds of things Al Franken's been in so much trouble for, now that you mention it.

I'm just going to adjust this seat belt a little tighter, check to see that my airbags are functioning. Because I can't imagine what might be next.

As for the quilts themselves, those are going to have to be seen to be believed.

And I can't wait.


Yes we can! . . . . except when we can't . . .

Edward Lear

Just when you thought you weren't good at something, you jump in and . . . . realize you're really not that good at it.

I've been at the computer all weekend (and all of Monday) working on trying to put together the raw materials for my new website, which are due in the web designer's office at the end of this week. I have put this off out of genuine fear -- I am limited to approximately three (3) computer skills, all of which have been sorely taxed by this assignment. Chelsea did take time away from law classes to talk me through Photoshop today --

(this is me calling Chelsea for help, and yes I did feel this old and technologically impaired),

which was kind of her, but don't ask me to use it again. I didn't actually learn it, and I fear I never will -- I just fumbled my way through the necessary task.

So there's nothing like being required to do something you're not good at for three days to remind you that:

a) it's fall, and you hate fall

(but you adore this illustration by Dave Cutler. Awesome, right?)

b) there are lots of things you're not good at, and that's . . . . okay
(imagine Stuart Smalley saying that one)

c) it's also okay for there to be lots of things you wish you were good at -- this is obviously not going to change because I'm definitely heading quite deeply into adulthood and I still wish a lot of the same things I've always wished. Do you?

My older sister (who I idolized, although now I think we can both laugh at this hairstyle) wanted to sing on Broadway. I hope she has not completely given up this ambition, although if she has, I will understand and continue to idolize her anyway. I, on the other hand, have always just wished I could sing. I have a brother who can (and does) REALLY sing, and now I have a daughter who can also open her mouth and have THAT SOUND come out. Something I will never understand, but at least I get to hear really good singing and feel a little bit proud now and then.

I've always wanted to be the life of the party.

Let's face it -- I'm not. And it's because I don't even like parties, so this is a particularly conflicted part of my personality I still hope to grow out of.

Morris Hirshfield

I've always wanted to paint. Big, exotic pictures. Instead I sew. Teeny, tiny pictures. I'm just not that great at painting. All of this could have something to do with my fear of and
unfulfilled desire to . . .

Draw. Now this is one I could work on, if I dared. I'll own my chickenness here.

I've also always wanted to dance.

I took lots of lessons, I tried out for my high school dance company every single year and never got in. And there was one really fat girl who got in my sophomore year (she was nice but she was really fat for a dancer and that was hard for a high school girl to compute). This should have helped me realize that there must be more to dancing than what I was doing.

I did have a brief stint in the very late 1970's as the Disco Queen of Salt Lake City,


although my best friend Sue was actually a little better than I was and usually got asked to dance first. (I'm going to say that was the blonde hair.) I do still disco dance in the mirror every morning when I'm getting dressed. No one in my family has ever seen me do this. I DO love dancing even though I'm not really good at it.

This could lead us to a bit of philosophy: If a 45 year old woman disco dances before she gets in the shower every morning and there's no one there to see it . . . does she still make a spectacle of herself?

I suppose I'll just smile . . .

(sometimes I need instructions)
and get through this computer challenge with my three (3) skills and just accept myself the way I am.

I was reading today that "true creative energy arises when the impersonal and the personal meet. To let that magic happen, the personality, with its heavy luggage, has to get out of the way."

I think that's a great idea -- check my luggage and skip away across this autumn-leaf-strewn dancefloor. No one's watching, and high school is so over. Will someone put on some Earth Wind & Fire for me please? And turn it up . . .

Let's dance.

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