on flo mo and inspiration

A few weeks ago, I saw Florence + the Machine live at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Months earlier, I was saying “yes” to everything, and consequently got myself entangled in weekend plans for months on end. This show was one of the things I agreed to.

the harp from Florence + the Machine

the harp from the Florence + the Machine performance

Despite the fact that my experience was probably entirely cliche, I have to admit that I was very moved by Florence Welch’s show. I love seeing live music–performance in general. But this was probably the best show I’d ever seen, and it was in large part because of Welch’s generosity (the drummer’s cool too). 

The first most striking thing about the show was that her movements (for over two hours) were effortless, but profoundly beautiful. I read somewhere that she was diagnosed with dyspraxia as a child, but now her every movement is stunning.

She wears her hair long and wavy and messy. Her all-white costume was beautiful from a structural perspective, but not typically sexy. Her face is stark and sometimes harsh and absolutely stunning. She wears very little make up. She does nothing to soften her appearance or make herself more conventionally palatable.

In doing so, she is completely extraordinary and unusual, and none of us could take our eyes off of her for the entire two hours of the show. I can’t think of any other woman, at her level of fame, that allows her face to be raw and so vulnerable in public.

We left saying she deserves to be worshiped. We left saying we saw a panty line. We left saying I”ll bet she doesn’t shave. No, she’s too busy making art to do any one uncomfortable thing that serves only the viewing pleasure of others. No doubt she pleases herself, and in doing so, she is absolutely pleasing to others.

I left wanting to spend more time creating for the sole purpose of my own viewing pleasure. I left wanting to type the words that are bubbling out of me. I left wanting to bang on the piano in rhythm. I left wanting to let there be love. I left reminded of my own unique taste, reminded that it’s all I have–whether I am loved for it or not.

a typical day (in art)

Recently, someone asked me what my typical day looks like, and while I did my best to answer the question, I felt that my response did not do justice to my life.

More recently, I found that an artist by the name of Irene Sheri* had actually captured a typical day in my life, and so I present it to you here now–an accurate portrayal of my typical day:

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red 3 red 4 red 5 red 6 red 7 red 8 red 9 red 10 red 11
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red 13  *Images from www.galleryone.com and www.world-wide-art.com

The Skeleton Twins by Craig Johnson

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are amazing in this film. They have a ton of chemistry and that probably goes back to their days together at Saturday Night Live. If you’re me, and you’re a fan of SNL, and you’re a fan of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, you’ll love watching these two together on screen. Comedy actors can really excel at drama, and you see that in The Skeleton Twins.

image from wikipedia.org

image from wikipedia.org

Before I saw the film, I was told by a trusted person that it was “good, but dark.” And, that’s true. My mind goes in a million directions when someone says “dark,” and it really wasn’t so dark as all that, but it is a heavy film. It’s about twins who are desperately struggling in their lives. They are estranged, but the reasons are unclear throughout most of the film. Toward the end, catalyst for their decade-long estrangement slowly unfolds.

The acting is great. The characters are unique and real. (Luke Wilson is really good in this too!) The plot, writing, and direction are all unique and nuanced and good. However (HOWEVER!), I don’t think the film addresses a universal truth, and that’s something I think good film should do. I left the film thinking, “Yeah, it’d be nice to have a twin that is tuned in to me in my times of suffering, a twin who holds the key to cheering me up when I am down, but I don’t have a twin, and most of us don’t have a twin.” Life is long and hard—we see that in the film. Unlike the Wiig and Hader’s struggling characters, the rest of us have to schlog through this life alone. Maybe if we’re lucky we have some parents, a sibling or two, a few close friends. But very few of us have a twin.

Somehow this film reminded me of Broken Flowers—also critically acclaimed and good in so many ways (and Jarmusch!)—but lacking, in my view, of a universal truth or experience. The films look very closely a unusual circumstances. Now, this isn’t to write the film(s) off entirely. For some people, this story (and fabulous acting) is enough. I’m finding, though, that I want my films to get at something more universal—something that is moving me and something I know is moving my fellow audience members as well.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a very Sundance-y Sundance movie, but it’s good! Sundance loves some great films, and this is one of them. First, this is indeed a movie about a dying girl. Because the title is so straightforward, I somehow thought it wouldn’t be so dark, but it was.

image from imdb.com

image from imdb.com

I also rewatched Mad Max: Fury Road this week (stay with me, it’s relevant!) and have continued to find meaning in the war boys’ concept of a “witness”—this idea of being witnessed in our acts of bravery, our acts of love, our acts of dying—all of it. It’s meaningful to me because I’ve always been so independent and only in the last few years have begun to understand the value of an invested witness.

I mention it because an important aspect of M&E&DG is that a very young man is witness to a dying girl. It’s something they stumble into, they resist, but, of course, it becomes meaningful in ways they couldn’t’ve anticipated or even previously comprehended. That kind of character growth and insight was lovely to watch, but it was also sophisticated enough that I think most audience members come away with deeper insights about what it means to connect more to “their people,” moving beyond assumptions and into really knowing another person.

One of the best moments in the film is when the cool history professor talks about how he lost his father at a young age. He said that even after his father’s death, he’s continues to learn about him. His father’s life continues to reveal itself. It started when his dad’s friends started sharing stories after his death. It continues all the time, in unimaginable ways, even decades later. I think the point here is that learning about our dead loved ones is part of what it means to be alive and self-aware.

As for me, I continue to learn about my own grandmothers. Both my great grandmother and her daughter (my mom’s mom) were a huge part of my early childhood. My great grandma even lived with us sometimes during the winter. She just stayed. She was Swedish. She was very quiet, and she loved me.  My grandma and great grandma died within two years of each other. They were a big part of my childhood, and then, in a relatively short period of time, they were both gone.

For awhile, it was sad, but okay, and this is the natural cycle of life. And then, I got really curious about them and asked my mom and aunties lots of questions about who my grandmothers were. I began to piece together my memories with their stories.  Over time, I can see how much the course of my life has been shaped by their influence. Decades later, I’ll remember idioms and wisdom about how to grow a garden, how to love one man. They suffered and loved for decades, and don’t we all? I am a witness to it all. There is meaning where meaninglessness wants to creep in. It reminds me that I am part of something bigger, family, culture, blood, brains. They are with me in memory and in my story, and that’s what I took away from M&E&DG.

The Imitation Game directed by Morten Tyldum

The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, depicts a fascinating part of human history when war-time code encryption lead to massive breakthroughs in computing. This was thanks in no small part to the genius of Alan Turing. Understanding this history seems even more important when I think of the pervasive role of computers in my daily life: the bane and the joy.

image from google image

The history alone is deserving of a film. I would’ve loved to see even more details about how the early encryption machines worked and how the cryptologists did the work of encryption. The audience sees that they are working through a process of elimination within the limit of an 18-hour period. I’m sure that this is plenty of detail for an audience, but I was curious to know more. I also wanted to know more about how the “computer” worked–though the audience does get some idea of how the machine worked with algorithms and trial by elimination to crack the code.

In my view, Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely earned an Oscar, portraying a convincing (and interesting!) emotional transformation throughout the film. The film goes a bit awry when it forces some emotional drama and personal upheaval between Turing and Clarke, which seemed particularly forced. It follows the conventional romantic comedy pattern of connection, disagreement, and then reconnection. To be fair, Clarke and Turing’s relationship gets a bit more complicated toward the end of the film.

What’s really interesting is Turing’s emotional attachment to his childhood friend. That inner turmoil is unique and moving and, in my view, would’ve provided enough emotion to carry the film. Like the innovations in computing technology, in the relationship between Turning and Christopher, we see something new, unexpected, and complex.

blueberry, zucchini, chia seed, & walnut muffins

My refrigerator is full of zucchini—zucchini that I fully intend to cook, but don’t necessarily think I can eat, so I decided to reimagine my not-too-sweet breakfast muffin. Once school starts, I’ll want something I can easily take with me, something that is not too sweet. My solution is these muffins that are dense in seeds and nuts, which I’ll freeze and use as needed. Since they’re not very sweet, I’m fairly certain these are not a “crowd pleaser,” but they work for me.

beware the berries do explode

beware the berries do explode

Here’s what I did:

Blueberry, Zucchini, Chia Seed, & Walnut Muffins
Preheat oven at 350. Mix together dryish ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately. Then, combine the two. Lastly, fold in chunky ingredients. Spoon dough into muffin tin. I used muffin liners, but I think those are optional. Bake at 350 for 20 about minutes or until done. (Insert and remove toothpick. Muffins are done when the toothpick comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 min.

Dry ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
¾ cup oats
shredded flax (2 heaping tablespoons)
chia seeds (3 heaping tablespoons)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of light brown sugar
lightly sprinkle ground ginger and ground cloves

Wet ingredients:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup vegetable oil
1+ egg
2 cups shredded zucchini (I just blended it this time)

Chunky ingredients:
walnuts 1+ cups
blueberries 1+ cups


to love and to be loved

I am driving all over the Pacific Northwest this summer. I’m visiting my favorite people. I’m seeing famous landmarks. I’m biking, kayaking, running, and hiking. For some reason, I’ve spent half my time in wheel pose. Few things feel better than leaving Utah—pressing my foot against the gas pedal, getting my little engine up to 80 mph, and getting the heck out of town.

urdhva dhanurasana mid-summer

urdhva dhanurasana mid-summer

I try to stay optimistic about living in Utah. The mountains are beautiful, and when my schedule and weather allow, I am in them all the time. I love my job. I like teaching and practicing yoga there. When I meet people, and I tell them I am from Oregon, they always respond by saying, “Oregon is so beautiful!” I always respond by saying, “Utah is so beautiful!” Fate (to which I do not particularly ascribe) seems to want me in Utah. I, however, don’t know why. I don’t seem to fit in there.

I try not to emphasize my romantic life so much, but I am dating now, and it’s true that men in Utah don’t really look at me. And, to be fair, I don’t really look at them. The way they dress, the way they wear their hair, their hands—it all looks and feels wrong to me. And, I’m sure I’m doing all kinds of things as a woman that seem wrong to them. I’ve discussed this with friends, who all think it is a “cultural” problem. Utah men are all divorced, or religious, or violently (annoyingly) anti-religious, or too pious, or the opposite and partying way too hard. I’m none of these things.

In the past few years, this has happened several times: I cross the Idaho to Oregon border and suddenly these beautiful men start passing me on the freeway, nodding and smiling. Like, “Welcome back!” Ejc has commented that in the week I spent with her in the Pacific Northwest, I could’ve “gotten a dozen dates.” And, it’s true. So many handsome men have smiled at me, have nodded at me, have said hello, have made conversation. I look at them and think this is what men are supposed to look like. They look at me the same way.

In the Pacific Northwest, people smile and asked me for directions. I feel like I belong. I might look like I belong in Utah, but I feel invisible. And, despite trying for several years, I don’t think I fit in. I’ve come away from the first leg of this trip feeling like I seriously need to examine a few things about my life and where I live and how I am loved.


For most of my life I’ve felt relatively happy and well-adjusted—this despite a few run of the mill traumas and dysfunctions. Some of my beloved friends and close relatives, some with genius IQs and crazy good artistic abilities, have not always faired so well mentally. They struggle with addiction and various mental illnesses, i.e. depression, anxiety, a bit too much paranoia, et al. They are all wonderful and funny and great to be around and to talk to, except when they are not. They have brains they all contend with daily. I love them. They are wonderful people. The best people. Though, being around them, I’ve often wondered how I got so lucky to feel pretty good most of the time. Well, here’s the answer: I don’t.

This is a surprise to me because it’s a fairly recent discovery.  I’ve had a few dark periods in my adult life, but they were situational and could be measured in months. I was always able to improve with simple things like exercise and time. What I’m realizing, though, is that my sanity may have been a direct result of keeping my brain very very very busy. Basically, I’ve noticed that if I’m not keeping busy by practicing yoga, falling in love, playing the piano, or earning a PhD, my brain gets bored and tries to take itself to crazy town.

When I completed my PhD, I thought I was done with school forever. Now, I’m not so sure. After ten years of school, I wanted to develop other aspects of myself besides just my intellect. These days I have to practice piano, I practice yoga, I make art, and I volunteer with work that (sometimes) seems meaningful for my mental health. (Though several times in the past year I’ve been tempted to stop the volunteer thing.) Meaninglessness in everything is one of the tricks my brain plays on me, and so finding meaning in life is crucial to my happiness. Basically, I have to work at keeping this brain of mine happy. I love my brain, but I’m learning I have to give it what it needs or else it will punish me.

my (new to me) piano

my (new to me) piano

round 4: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

For years I did not like crafting. It seemed like the antithesis of art, and art was what I was after. However, that’s shifted for me in recent years when suddenly things like tying knots with sticks and stitching little squares into aida cloth has seemed strangely satisfying and important. I’ve even developed a few philosophical justifications for crafting. (And I’ve been delighted that people in my own field of study have taken up the subject as well.)

Recently a colleague,  who takes crafting above and beyond anything I will ever do, stopped by my office to talk about the stuff we’re making, and I was motivated to put together this post about my last baby blanket. I made it as a gift for my cousin’s daughter. Her son got one when he was born, but I hadn’t made one for the older daughter. My homemade blankets have imperfections (which makes them unique! which isn’t something everyone values!)), so I was delighted when my cousin’s husband mentioned that their son loved his blanket and used it all the time.

Here’s the blanket that I made for my cousin’s daughter. I’ll be using this pattern again. I think it is my best baby blanket to date.

Loops and Looms—Lavender

skein of Loops and Looms—Lavender Blues

I used four skeins of Loops and Threads: Country Loom – Lavender Blues. To start, cast on 73 stitches and knit five rows.  Then, to create the border, knit four (mark) add increase, then knit across for 63 stitches. Add another increase, (mark) and then knit the last four. In the next row, knit four (mark), add increase, and then alternate between decrease/slip, increase/knit stitch all the way across for for 63 stitches. At the end, add increase (mark), and then knit the last four stitches.

increase/decrease stitch border

increase/decrease stitch border

For the body of the blanket, continue to knit four (to the mark), increase, knit across (for 63), increase, then knit the last four. For the next row, knit four, then decrease, purl across, decrease again, and then knit the last four. Continue to alternate between knitting/increasing rows and purling/decreasing rows. Stitch to the desired length. I ended on knit stitch (with increases on each end before moving on to border).

At the very end, knit four, decrease/slip, increase/knit (for 63), then knit the last four stitches. That creates the last border edge. Then, knit the last five rows, and cast off.

finished and folded

finished and folded