It's party time . . . . AGAIN?! Bleh.

Yes, it's true -- I'm usually not the life of the New Year's Party....

I'm likely to shout:

Happy New Year!
Welcome to dieting . . .
budgeting . . .
attempted-self-improvement of all kinds, 
and . . . wait for it . . .


BUT -- 

That doesn't mean that somewhere under my gloomy exterior I'm not filled with good cheer and warm wishes for all!  


Small Works wishes you and yours a New Year 
filled with everything that would make it your best year ever!  

(And if that's not realistic . . . success on your diet.) 




"Swearing was invented as a compromise
between running away and fighting."

-- Peter Finley Dunne

I was not raised in a manner that allowed me to become accustomed either to saying or hearing those kinds of ...ahem....words, but it's amazing how quickly they still manage to spring from my mouth sometimes with even the slightest provocation.

A day or two ago, I spent the afternoon hanging shelves in Hannah's room -- actually, I think attempting to hang shelves would be a more accurate description, although they are still clinging to the wall through some kind of amazing grace -- and found the wall to be so wavy that I actually wondered if someone had spiked my diet Coke.

It was quite a fight. The funky wall made the otherwise brilliant design of the flush-mounting hardware almost completely useless, and therefore ingenuity was required....as well as some strong language.

By about the third time something undesirable/unexpected had popped out, Hannah and I were both laughing  hard and she decided to contribute a few expletives of her own.  While perhaps not the ideal mother/daughter bonding moment, it was memorable nonetheless. But it made me wonder why someone who loves language with an absolute burning passion would resort to words of the meanest sort when confronted with nothing more menacing than a wavy piece of drywall...

"Language is the dress of thought."

-- Samuel Johnson

When I started writing, as a child, everything was written longhand.  I still have boxes of those childish manuscripts.  It was difficult for my pen to keep up with my thoughts, and frustrating trying to chase the strings of words that ran through my mind and get them down before they disappeared from sight.

When I learned to type in high school, it was a huge leap forward.  Even though it was on a manual typewriter with a touch so stiff that I hardly had the hand strength to operate it, I suddenly felt I had a much wider net with which to pursue my ideas.

And one of the most exciting days I can remember was purchasing our first electric typewriter -- it was a transformational moment, and led me to attempt writing a novel -- one of the worst pieces of fiction ever committed to paper.  

(I have not yet been able to bring myself to destroy the manuscript, but I do admit to sometimes secretly hoping for a house fire, lest someone find it after I die and decide they'd like a good laugh.)

Now technology continues to woo me 
and enable my affair with all-things-words . . .

I had an absolutely marvelous time compiling 
a little book of poetry for Christmas gifts this year:

I'd heard about the wonders of blurb, but had been too something to try my hand at producing a book.  But -- wow!  Forget electric typewriters!  The immediate gratification of being able to publish your own book with so little effort is a heady thing indeed for someone engaged in a lifelong love affair with writing.  I've discovered a dangerous new drug . . .

If you have not tried it, let me be the pusher that gets you hooked!  (and I think I only swore once while trying to figure out the software -- so easy a Susan can do it)

If you were on my gift list this year, do not fear!  I promise not to give you something I've written every holiday for the rest of our lives.  BUT -- I do not promise I will not now have the writing career I have always dreamed of, even if only in my own mind and/or bookcase.

I feel I have a potentially powerful
new set of wings
sitting on my finger
and waiting to be released . . .

best feeling I've had
since the day I first laid my fingers
on my new electric typewriter.


Serenade No. 19, Susan M. Hinckley. 2008

"Language is a skin:
I rub my language against the other.
It is as if I had words instead of fingers,
or fingers at the tips of my words.
My language trembles with desire."

-- Roland Barthes

(Seriously . . . what the @&#% will they think of next?!)



Christmas Present.

And so another wonderful Christmas has come and gone, and here at Small Works, we feel we were blessed/spoiled out of all proportion to what we deserved . . .

First there was the spectacular weather -- any Minnesotan attending Christmas church services in a light sweater can only be grateful!  Sure a white Christmas would be nice, but there's still plenty of time for a white January, February, March, and April . . . so there were no complaints about the amazing lack of snow and cold.

Then there was the entertainment -- we like to choose a movie from OUR family-favorite archives for our Christmas Eve sing along pleasure, and this year we revisited a favorite from everyone's childhood:  Cat Ballou

There's nothing to beat a Christmas Eve spent eating oneself silly surrounded by not only the people you love, but also Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye . . . sometimes life is almost TOO good!  I may not have raised my daughters right in every respect, but they know a good movie when they see one, and can quote the important dialogue from all the best scenes.  It warms a mother's heart.

Then there were the gifts . . .  Every year since we started the Hinckley Holiday Handmade Gift Spectacular, there have been wonderful surprises, and this year was no exception.

The first surprise was that Lindsay opted out this year -- AHEM (not wonderful!) -- and although she bought us splendid gifts, her contribution was sorely missed and we can only hope we shamed her sufficiently to guarantee her participation next year.  In her defense, she is in school and working 3 jobs . . . so Santa gives her a pass.

Hannah made some lovely gifts, including this embroidery for Chelsea (which I believe is my favorite of her fiber pieces so far -- Hannah, you amaze!)

Electro-Fro, Hannah Hinckley, 2011

Hannah is also a self-taught embroiderer (who never even had Aunt Lillie's tutelage to get her started!)  She sews her images free-hand, creating the design as she goes, and they just keep getting better.  Talk about warming a mother's heart . . .

For Lindsay, she created a custom-designed display piece for Lindsay's agate collection (Lindsay was astounded at her thoughtfulness, and especially delighted to have this semi-secret collection given some validity -- it will no longer live in a Tupperware!)

There is ample storage, as well as a special shelf for the featured "Agate of the Month."  I'll say it again . . . everyone needs a Hannah.

I published a small book of poetry for my offering this year -- it contained poems I've written in the past 18 months or so, as well as some illustrations.

There was some debate about whether or not it truly passed the "handmade" test, but then I always get grief for my gifts flirting with being "too professional" -- I remain unapologetic.  Forget about writing the words -- just the HOURS I spent trying to be smart enough to use the software to create the book I wanted qualifies it as a true gift of self.

Russ embellished some mats for our recent family portrait with some of his signature sketchy wildlife drawings --

they don't photograph well, which I think he HOPES will keep his gifts from being on the blog, but NO. It simply wouldn't be Christmas without them, and they are always loved and welcomed by his girls.

But everyone agreed that Chels truly hit one out of the park this year with her gift:





Beautiful Photo-Initial Art for each of us!  Her presentation was lovely, her photos were not only creative but so visually appealing . . . it was truly a perfect gift.

Everything was just lovely . . . and then . . .

the cherry atop my Christmas happiness sundae!

I opened the gift from my son-in-law
(I knew he was a prize Chels, but REALLY...)

It was this enchanting old tin box bearing the word "loveliness" --

and when I looked inside . . .

It was as if I had wandered into Aunt Lillie's sewing room!  Someone's vintage sewing box full of someone's vintage sewing supplies!  And somehow he not only managed to find that and wrap it up,

but right on top was the "Sewing Susan" package of needles.  It was absolutely one of the most thoughtful gifts I could ever imagine.  It just pushed my pile-of-gift-goodness right over the top! I am now a firm believer that every man should be taught the wonders of shopping on Etsy . . . well done, Jake!  I could not love it more.

(Santa also brought me some new bi-focals, because he knew that this sewing Susan was suddenly experiencing a bit of  difficulty threading her own needles -- thanks, Santa!)

All in all, it was just a perfectly splendid day.  
Hope this finds each of you feeling exactly the same way.  

Now . . . group sigh:



Christmas is a season of wishes . . .

Wishing it would snow, or wouldn't. 

Wishing you didn't have to do so much work, 
 or wishing you could get everything done you'd like to do.

Wishing you were getting something wonderful, 

or wishing you had something perfect to give.

And on top of it all, 
always wishing to be with the ones you love.

We spent time watching a favorite Northern Exposure Christmas episode the other night, and I was reminded of how much I wish I could still turn on my TV and see things like Northern Exposure...

On this particular episode,  
Chris-in-the-Morning delivers a little holiday reflection
that I just love.  It perfectly sums up my  
Small Works Christmas wish 
for each of you. 

"It's an old legend, that on Christmas Eve at midnight, all the animals fall on their knees and speak -- praising the new born Jesus. 

"Back in the winter of '68, my Dad was doing a short term for D and D.  Mom was -- I'm not sure where Mom was.  Anyway, I was home alone on Christmas Eve and I stayed up late to see if my dog, Buddy, would talk.  He did -- at least I think he did.  I don't remember Buddy's exact words, but that's not important.  What matters is that a seven-year-old boy experienced his own personal epiphany.

"My point?  It's that Christmas reveals itself to each of us in a personal way -- be it secular or sacred.  Whatever Christmas is -- and it's many things to many people -- we all own a piece of it.  Kinda like Santa's bag, inside there's a gift for everyone.

"My Christmas wish for you tonight -- may your dog talk."

Whatever you wish for this holiday . . .

whether it be something lofty as world peace,

or practical as a new vacuum cleaner, 

my dear friends,
I hope you find it. 

In your heart or in your stocking.  

(Or maybe both.)



Humbug! . . . I mean . . . Happy Monday!

I know I've been a bit of a Scrooge so far this year... 

My apologies.  It's just that there seem to be too many jobs to do and not enough of me to do them.  There have been a few small victories, however.

For instance, I feel I should report on my success at the post office:

Over $150.00 later...poor, but so very happy!

This year's receipt is perhaps even longer than last year's, but every bit as sweet.  We experienced a Christmas miracle, pulling into the post office around 10:00 Friday night only to find that there was no line at all.  We always go to the 24 hr. airport p.o. and it's usually pretty late by the time we get there, but last year we waited an hour just to park!  So to have the entire ordeal over in just under an hour was sweet indeed. 

(That great experience will probably not be a good deterrent for next year's procrastination, however.  Know thyself.)

Sweeter still was having Hannah whisk the receipt from my hand and go after it with a pair of scissors.  In her capable fingers, the dreaded receipt became this:

and then this:

It's just wonderful to have 
a snowflake genius on staff when you need one!

Still plenty to do before the big day, however . . .

Let's see if she's as good 
with a mop as she is 
with those scissors!




Sunday Scribble


image by Lee Friedlander, 1966


you have taken your piece

from the middle and now 

only edges and angles remain

hard parts, rough crust 

crumbs of myself, really

not enough to keep, I wish

you had finished, if only

you had thought

to have eaten me whole

-- smh

This poem is a Magpie Tale. 

Do us all a favor...

Visit the link and create
some Magpie fun of your own!



On Holiday -- as well as general -- IQ...

I am reminded all the time that 
I'm really not that smart . . .

I'm reading this book, for instance, that I picked up at the bookstore because it looked charming and had spent a big chunk of its life on the bestseller list.  Which means it was popular, right?   Lots of people have read it?

But I feel a bit like I have finagled an invitation to an esoteric dinner party for bookish geniuses where I have somehow managed to BS my way through the appetizers, but can't avoid the panicked feeling that there is still the main course to come. By dessert I will be hanging by my fingernails.

The bouncer is eying me suspiciously, and I am but a single recondite allusion from being asked to leave.
I feel my grasp of abstruse German philosophy is suddenly inadequate, even though until now I had not necessarily considered myself to be lacking in that particular area.  I may need a dictionary just to write this review.

It's still enormously enjoyable, of course, but sort of in the way that your first time swimming in the deep-end is -- that reckless yet heady moment where you yell "Look Mom!" while flailing your limbs and simultaneously hoping you can keep your chin above the water long enough for her to put down her magazine.  You don't want to get too far from the wall.

Hannah was telling me the other day that a doctor recently asked her when she first realized she was smarter than her teachers, and she immediately replied, "First grade."  

"Really?!" I asked.  I was impressed.  Those kinds of thoughts had not occurred to me until at least 7th grade, which only goes to show that I am usually not the smartest person in the room, even in my own house.  

(I am not tooting my own horn; for the record, I have encountered a few truly questionable teachers over the years, in classes where roughly 1/2 the students had the intellectual upper hand over the instructor.)

Would I recommend the book?  Absolutely!

Especially if you are smarter than I am.  And I once had an adorable 5 year old boy look straight at me and deadpan:  "You're not the smartest Susan I know."  (He was so cute, I couldn't even hold it against him.)

So I must not be too far above average.

Witness the fact, for instance, 
that it is now December 15 
and my packages are not yet mailed . . .

AGAIN. No one of even average intelligence -- including Miss Gibson, my 10th grade Social Studies teacher -- would make that kind of mistake year after year.

My own mother explained to me recently (looking up from her magazine -- she was busy relaxing)  that if one finishes one's Christmas preparations in October, one is able to just sit back and enjoy the wonders of the holiday season.  A revolutionary philosophical idea that I had not previously considered, or had at least failed to grasp. Obviously.

Remember this picture?  It was taken after my Christmas post office pilgrimage last year (yes, that's the receipt -- I have A LOT to mail) . . .

But hold on . . . I think that was on December 18! 

Hooray!  There's still time to improve! 

I plan to make it there by Saturday the seventeenth, so I may actually be wising up after all . . .

Baby steps, friends.  Baby steps.



Let the craziness begin....er, I mean....continue.


Now that we're halfway down the slippery slope 
to the Big Day...

 It's easy to get distracted 
from your normal responsible behavior...

Between the weather...

and the noise...

and the never-ending social engagements...

and the freezer stocking...

and the capacity-stretching...

and the toy testing...

and the photo ops...

and the reaching-out-and-touching...

and the search for the perfect gift...

and the figuring out how to pay for it 
once it's found...

and the where to hide it?!
while you're waiting for the big reveal...

I've decided the best plan is probably just 
to loosen up a little...

and enjoy what 
the season has to offer.

Yes, all of it.  

So bring it.   

(you can drop by anytime!)

Happy Mid-December-Monday Madness!

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