Wednesday, June 27, 2012

R.I.P. Nora Ephron, 1941-2012

"People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened. My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you that? It's a lovely store, and in a week it'll be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Soon, it'll be just a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person, will probably think it's a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know because that's the sort of thing I'm always saying. But the truth is... I'm heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right." 

from You've Got Mail, probably the most blogged movie on this blog. 

Filmmaker Nora Ephron has died at 71 (CBS News)
Writer and Filmmaker with a genius for Humor (NYT obit.)

Blogged, here: 

Sarah Louise Goes off her Rocker on Politics
Vacation Rocks 

Wow. There are a lot of posts where I just use quotes from the movie as titles, etc. I just took a tour through my blog. A lot has changed. Well, some things have stayed the same. I still dislike summer.  

If you want to watch some great Nora Ephron movies, I recommend "You've Got Mail," "Julie & Julia," and "When Harry Met Sally." 

Her latest books, I hate my neck and I remember nothing, are WONDERFUL. They are essays about growing older, sure, but they are also about the history of cooking in America, Nora's salad years...I learned here that Craig Claiborne is the reason Americans eat more than just iceberg lettuce. 

I haven't read Nora's other books, but I put a whole bunch on hold last night as soon as I heard the news, to beat the rush.

Things I found while rummaging around: early comments from Helen (hi!), mentions of the boy when he was just another guy at work, mentions of Gerald Ford's death (something the boy also blogged about, I discovered earlier this year when I did my "Google vetting before the first date"). And a lot of old history, things I had forgotten about. 

Bonus: I had written about two books, one that I had forgotten the title (I had actually been thinking recently, what was that book?): Washed Up, which is about beach flotsam (it's really good) and one I forgot about reading:  An Alphabetical Life, about working in bookstores. 


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Desert Bloggers: in a liminal place

It seems we are all experiencing a little bit of liminality. So in an effort to aggregate some of the great posts written in the past few days on this topic, here you go:

Kristin Tennant: Halfway to Normal: "The Practice of Being Inbetween"

Sara Zarr "Press Pause."

Drew Tatusko: Notes from Off Center "In between suffering and faith"

And you have my collage project, below.

February...or that shortest longest month

This February was a long month for me. It was a month of waiting. Would I get into that midwestern school and at long last start the course towards my PhD?

(Spoiler alert: I did not.) (Which made me all the more grateful for this project.)

I think I have to blame Lilly for this one: she is all about creating projects, often during Lent. Since this month would be a time of waiting, a time of hoping, I decided I needed a project. Something tangible. I love making collages and I had been making them more often since I realized making them was something I used to love doing. So my assignment, should I accept it, was this: to make a collage every morning for the month of February. I could only use new magazine clippings, since part of this project was reducing my stash of magazines. As I read the book Yarn Harlot, I realize all crafters have our stashes. There ARE some magazines I will never cut up. But then there are the magazines that I buy willy nilly, with the sole purpose of cutting them into these:

(Yes, this is the product of my month of collages.) I started February 2nd, but since this was a leap year, I would still have 28 collages at the end of the month, whether I got into grad school or not.

Collages may not be your thing. Find something that is. But make it manageable, and preferably tangible. One poem per day. One blog post per day. The key is to set a short time period. Few of us can make a collage every morning until the end of time. But the discipline of one a day, for a short period, helps the focus, helps with the desert, helps with the waiting for what may come.

Here are a few of my favorites: 

 not officially part of the set, but a precurser that inspired the project
 First one.
 I made use of strips of color, like the aquamarine from a Tiffany ad on the right edge of this collage.
 (detail) I liked using words like stitches to "mend" a seam.

 Did this one on the day I woke up to the news that Whitney Houston had died.
 an early one, with spinning thoughts in my head concerning my new relationship.

 Left side: diptych
 Right side: diptych

I did a few with Emma Stone as the "face"/background.

And on the back, I journaled a little, either about my feelings, or about the collage, or both. It was a great exercise in craft, because I wasn't making these as art pieces, they were for my own consumption. They taught me a lot about making collages, as I had to create daily. Best of all, in the deep of a Pittsburgh winter, this project got me out of bed every morning. And, that, my friends, is worth a lot.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"I hearby bequeath...": the Sophie Kerr Post

Unless you went to Washington College [Sophie Kerr page on WC site], you've probably never heard of Sophie Kerr [Baltimore CityPaper]. No matter. (The CityPaper article linked is a great introduction.) Sophie Kerr was a romance writer in the 1930s and 40s who bequeathed her estate (over $500,000) to Washington College, my alma mater. She stipulated that the money be invested and each year, the interest would be split: half would go to bringing authors and literary speakers to the college, and half would go to a student writer. The year I graduated, I think the sum was around $20,000. I didn't win. But it did not diminish my love for this woman, who provided so much richness to the reading and writing community in Chestertown, Maryland.

So imagine my delight, when one day at work, among the antique magazines that sometimes show up at the Book Nook, our little bookstore, was this copy of Cosmopolitan, with "Fiction by...Sophie Kerr"!!! I had never read any of Sophie's works and this was just such a thrill.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Hey you guys!! My hair is finally long enough to put up in a teeny tiny ponytail. Which is wonderful since the WALLS in my apartment are hot. Thankfully, the a/c hellps...some.

But no Lego tonight, the front room was just too warm.

Earlier today I was cleaning out and found some pictures of me with long hair. These are not they, but here are a few from the same time period--Montana for my dad's 65th birthday. He turned 70 today.

 Lake Jenny
 Glacier National Park
My dad. The greatest guy I know. Happy Birthday!!

Penelope thinks about Odysseus, as she unravels her father-in-law's shroud for the nth time...

Yes. I am scared as crap that our last conversation was a joke. That the next time we talk you'll say "oh, you thought I meant x? Oh, well, I figured you'd understand I meant y."


There is a certain glee (as well as sadness)  in tearing apart a Lego house that you just put the finishing touches on this morning. It was too hot in the front room (think sauna) to complete the job, but all that remains is green, gray, and white rubble.


I'm too tired to be angry. And it's too hot to get upset. So I guess I'll eat some breakfast and draw my morning bath.

But if I was going to be angry, this is what I'd say: What right do you have? 

And I'd probably be mostly talking to the person in the mirror.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

it's a two posts kind of day

so...summer reading has begun at our library. Which means everyone and their momma is at the library, wanting to know if we have more movies, books on Engineering as a career, hair braiding books, how do you sign up for summer reading, how do you sign up for summer reading, booklists for 11-12 year old boys, books on whales, I got a special prize, how do you sign up for summer reading, are there any computers free?

My favorite questions are the dear sweet people that think we have any copies of the Hunger Games books (dream on) or that we might have the movie in. No, it JUST left the theaters. We keep up with new materials, but even we aren't that quick. 

All that PLUS a bomb scare. Yep, right in the middle of the afternoon, we get an announcement to evacuate the building. So that was fun. No, there was no bomb. But we all fussed and fretted about the fact that our purses were inside, because we didn't grab them when we were told to "evacuate immediately." Forty five minutes later, we were open again for business as usual, and I went to dinner about 10 minutes late.

I churned out a Classic Books for boys in 4th to 6th grade  book list, to go with my Classic Books for girls (same grades.) Basically, if a book was 15 or more years old and we had more than 3 copies, it got on the list. I am eternally grateful to Great Books for Boys by Kathleen Odean, but for my next book list (books that aren't so old) I'd like something that was published more recently than 1998. Looks like Great Books for Girls was revised in 2002.(Dear Ms. Odean, I would LOVE a revised edition...luv, Sarah Louise.)

I'm exhausted. I came home, ate some cheese, and have played many games of Free Cell, read Twitter, checked FaceBook, checked my mother's email about the family vacation (looks like August is a go), and basically just fretted through all of those. I think the best thing is to just push A Few Good Men into the VCR, take my bed meds, and pray for sleep. Because tomorrow will be a full day too.

Goodnight, sleep tight.
Don't let the bed bugs bite.
If they do,
hit them with a shoe.  

"Writing is making sense of life."

(Nadine Gordimer)

When I was in college, Nadine Gordimer won a literary prize. My friends, who knew that I liked books, bought me her book, in hardcover. I never read it. I don't even have it anymore. The thing is, I have always liked children's books better. Where life is still within the provinces of parents and siblings and there isn't all the complexity of romance broken up, adultery, dysfunction. Yes, Maurice Sendak brought out the demons, the Wild Things, but he still placed them in a child's world. And there are plenty of children's books with dysfunctional families. Those are the ones I tend to avoid.

My dad had a newspaper route in Bergen County, NJ, when he was a kid. He saw people go off to jail for being in the Mafia, he got great tips from those still in. He didn't understand a lot of it until later. When people ask him, "Did you see the movie the Godfather?" he says, I saw the play.

I was never abused as a child. I didn't live in squalor. But I knew people who had been abused, though I didn't piece it together until later. And I saw many people living in squalor. And my mother wanted more children. She had miscarriages and then two angel babies, children that were so premature they never left the hospital. The doctors at Georgetown let my parents hold Joy Cherene as she died. When Peter died, we got a phone call from the hospital. And I said, "Oh, rats." I was in second grade.

We all have pain. We all have sorrow. I always got mad at people who said, "I haven't suffered enough." Well, as the saying goes, "Everyone either just had a crisis, is in a crisis, or is about to have one." The happy moments are in between. The happy moments are what make the suffering have meaning. Only focusing on the squalor helps no one. But only focusing on the beauty misses the point. And there isn't really enough beauty to focus on it all the time, anyways.

A friend asked me, in follow up to an earlier post, how I got help after my mania took over. Was I hospitalized? Did my family help? I was one of the lucky ones. I did spend an afternoon in the ER, waiting for a psych evaluation. But then I was sent home, because I wasn't a danger to myself or others. I was a "rule out" for bipolar, because at that time my only symptom was depression. I started a day program that met half days. I saw people there who had it so much worse than I did, and I thought, I don't belong here! Eventually, I quit the program and my dad came to get me to take me home for Easter. This all happened before my mania (see Stanley Cup Fever, sort of.) I went home to Virginia and Easter was nothing to me. I felt nothing. The term used in psychiatric circles is "flat." It's a good descriptor, as everything had one dimension, my complete disengagement.

In Virginia, I started meeting with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. We started to work towards getting me back to myself, and ultimately, the goal was to get me back to Pittsburgh. Which happened. But when I got back to Pittsburgh, I had a bad experience with the psychiatrist that had been chosen. He didn't have me in his appointment book, I waited for hours in a dark hall, and the first thing he asked me was a question that I thought was not at all appropriate or germane to my mental health. That experience was a trigger, and coupled with the new drug cocktail I was on, I cycled into mania. Which brings you up to date with my former post.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It takes 15 minutes to destroy a house. It takes 6 days to put one up....

 ducks at work. you can tell we are waiting for a book order by how empty the shelves are.

 Um, how will the next level attach to this SMOOTH surface? 

 Seriously, it's a SMOOTH SURFACE.  But oh, look pretty rose bushes.

 Yes, this is supposed to be the next story on this building...

 OH! Ye of little faith, there is more than one way to skin a cat 
(or attach a story to the next story of a Lego building)

 Look Ma! Architectural integrity!! Oh, and check out the WORKING see-saw.

 This is how the roof attaches...

 Dormer window!


 Side angle.

So. I have now finished all of the Lego houses that I have instructions for in this particular kit. Every time I demolish a house, I feel like Penelope destroying the weaving from the day before. Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who fended off suitors while her husband was on his way home from (where did he go?). I think I'll start back with the first house. There is a new set, a beach house, but Mama does not have $50 to just throw at a new Lego kit. Tomorrow I take my car in for a new serpentine belt.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Stanley Cup Fever (sort of)

[I did not hit publish on this one lightly. I'm not proud of everything you are about to read. But I own it. It is a part of me, of who I am today.]

I don't remember what year it was. It was 1998 or 1999.

I was back in Pittsburgh, "better" we thought, from a scary depression which had started in March, gone through April, and into May. And now I was back at work, in Pittsburgh, and it was June. The Stanley Cup Finals were about to start.

Innocuously, a co-worker at Fox Books asked me why I was still living in Pittsburgh.* And because I didn't know I was on the verge of a manic spree, I thought the reason must be my ex-boyfriend. All of a sudden, I had an obsession with all things yellow. Post-it notes, the colors on the Newsweek cover that featured Michael Jordan (my ex's hero) and before you could say "crazy like a fox," my shift was over, I was out in the rain, over to Burlington Coat Factory to buy some sneakers, because the weather was iffy and I needed shoes that I could wear if it continued raining. I was chatting up EVERYBODY as I got on a crosstown bus, brandishing my copy of Newsweek, (or was it Sports Illustrated?) telling them that tonight being the first night of the Stanley Cup finals, my ex would be so glad to see me. As I walked towards his apartment, I noticed that his roses needed pruning. I just pushed into his apartment, without even knocking. I suppose if this had happened today, I would have warned him with a text.

He was NOT happy to see me, he was on his way out the door to see someone he was dating. I convinced him to drop me off at a nearby shopping center where there was a Fox Books, not the one I worked at. I remember going into a now defunct restaurant, Abate, where I ate some pizza and watched the game. I talked up the waitress, discovered it was a good place to work, and did everything short of applying for a job. Eventually, I called a friend (this was in the days of pay phones) who came and picked me up just as the Fox Books was closing. I tried the patience of many friends that week, as I unraveled.

Eventually, a few days later, in a not so pretty way, my boss walked me out of the door of the Fox Books where I worked, and said, "don't come back until you are better." I fled again to the South Side, to my boyfriend's apartment. He wasn't home. I thought I could prune his roses. I bought blonde hair dye at a drugstore, almost got run over as I crossed the street, picked up free pamphlets about the Catholic Church in a thrift shop. I was thinking about that thrift shop today, since I no longer own a rosary and find myself a revert to the Catholic Faith. I was an adult convert in 2003, and in 2005, I was at a healing workshop where the Catholic Church was reviled and because I liked carrying my rosary beads in my pocket, they were with me. I threw away my beautiful pink rosary beads in the bathroom trash. Eventually I got rid of the other rosaries I had--one with baby blue plastic beads that a friend had given me in college and one with navy plastic beads that I chose out of Sister Bernadette's box of rosaries. Sister Bernadette was the nun who conducted my RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, how you convert to Catholicism these days.) I couldn't attend the group class because it was on Thursday night, when I worked, so she worked with me individually on Wednesday evenings.

That boyfriend got engaged later that summer, that boss came into my library a few months ago with her husband and brand new foster sons, two brothers. I couldn't tell you who won the Stanley Cup that year. But I can tell you this. The madness I experienced that week was the beginning of my sanity.

Madness is never just madness. It is a way of coping when sanity will no longer do. --Renita Weems

*(It's a vapid hobby of people who don't realize that this town is a diamond and not so much in the rough, people that have lived here all their lives and wish they were living in New York City.)

Monday, June 04, 2012

A cupcake season...

Hearts are breaking all over the place. While there are exceptions, it seems like a lot of us on Twitter and at work are lovelorn. Fortunately, I am still being simply strung along. And at the moment, I am pleased to be so...if this swoonworthy man is going to say goodbye, I hope he waits until August. I can't do heartbreak AND Summer Reading Club.*

So I'm handing out cupcakes. And I wonder, if in this season, I'm partially lovelorn so that I can be a comfort to my truly lovelorn friends. Because encouraging is one of my favorite things to do. Even when I'm in the worst of moods, telling someone they are wearing great earrings makes ME feel better.

I guess that's why I love giving out cupcakes. What's new, cupcake? Muffin much! They are so cute, they just make people smile. You can't get angry at a cupcake. Well, you could, but you'd look pretty silly. Why don't you pick on someone your own size?


I have started reading the Liturgy of the Hours. It's not the official one, but a little book that I bought at the library's bookstore, The Book Nook. And there is something about reading a bunch of prayers and some scripture and then reading those two scary words: "silent meditation." I tend to only remember every other day, and I have never done all three readings in one day, but today I got two in, Morning and Vespers. During Vespers, today (missed Midday prayers) I realized that this brave thing I was planning to do was not brave, it was selfish. It's so hard to distinguish between those two! My wanting to invite a friend to go a concert was not about my wanting to go to the concert or wanting to spend some time with my friend. It was because I figured out that my friend might have gone to a concert that we might have gone to with each other if we weren't currently on a break. My friend is going through a rough spot and I just wanted to say "ME! I'm over here!! I need your attention, NOW." Which is not true. Want attention, yes. But need? No. Those might have's sure had me tangled up, though.

Tonight on Twitter, someone said that they had gotten a bit of wisdom from the Cake Boss. I got NO wisdom from TV tonight, I shut it off to only end up reading a mediocre book that I would have tossed across the room except it belongs to the library. I've read so much better books by this author!! The piece of wisdom, it turns out, was that the light of God shines through us all. Which made me think of the song by Leonard Cohen, "Anthem," where the chorus goes, 'there is a crack, a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.' So off I trotted to Youtube to find LC singing some. He does not have a beautiful voice, but like Dylan (who was first?) the words cut to your heart. 

*Summer Reading Club: when all the kids who have been in school come to the library for reading and prizes and programs and it is madness -- just ask any Teen or Children's Librarian that you know. The only way I can describe it is two months of "Retail Christmas" except there is no Christmas at the end.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Sarah Louise forays into real estate...Lego style

A fireplace!

Cute light on the outside

a bush!

color coordinated tiles

Now I can organize 6 pages of instructions at once!

So. I'm learning a lot these days. Two of my girlfriends have BOUGHT homes, egad. I have gone mini, by building Lego houses. This one is my second home. I think I like it better than the last one, which is hard to believe, because I really liked that one. This one is cozier. More on what I've learned, later, mayhap. Now I need to get ready to do what every Pittsburgher fears, crossing a bridge. I'm okay with the North Hills. But the South Side? Are ya kidding me?? Mt. Washington?

Friday, June 01, 2012

Late night writings...

When my mind won't turn off, like the it has been the past couple of nights, I write.

The old dresser is out (of my apartment.) It's still in the foyer, to be taken for the Highland Park yard sale on Sunday. The new dresser is in. And oh does it have a story. Which I won't tell you. Maybe someday.

It is beautiful. It is the dresser I imagined when I imagined a new dresser. When I saw it at Goodwill on Wednesday, it was the dresser of my dreams. It looks a little odd in my apartment, it is almost too pretty for all my other old furniture, but the fact of the matter is, I will use it, it will be functional, and it is beautiful. The dresser I got in 1993, when I moved to Pittsburgh, the one in the foyer now, hasn't been functional for me for years. It was the wrong dresser for this apartment. But I loved it so much, it had so many good memories. Finally, I realized that it no longer worked, and memories be blast, I needed something functional. But something so BEAUTIFUL? I am humbled. No, sorry, no pictures. You can make them in your mind.

I will be spending the weekend reconstructing my apartment, as I have to dismantle my apartment every time I move furniture. That is because I have a beautiful piece of furniture that sits on the landing of my stairwell. And if you live in a third floor walk-up, as I do, well, the only way in is up. So right now, my landing is naked. All the porcelain figurines that sit on the piece of furniture are in newspaper, in boxes.

After all the drama of the past couple of days, I feel like I have nothing to say. It has all been said. It has all been done. It is time to rest, to regroup. Something shifted, and it's time to say goodbye, time to say hello.

But first, I sleep. Sweet dreams!

Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite!
If they do, hit them with a shoe!