Merry Christmas

December 26, 2007


Merry Christmas, from us…


and mom and dad…


and my silly nephews.



my new nephew

December 19, 2007

This is Kellgren Clark Jabs, born on Monday, December 17, son of Marshall’s older sister Sheunna and husband Andy.

He’s a peanut—just over 6 pounds!

I stole these pictures from Auntie Lindsay’s Facebook. I do design and layout for a living yet I can’t figure out how to make my own pictures work for a blog…




a measure of splendor

December 16, 2007

From Taha Muhammad Ali’s poem “Twigs”:

And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.


I’ve been in a fit of belated fall cleaning for a few weeks now, bagging up shirts that I constantly tugged to cover that inch of midriff but were too beautiful to not own; trashing year-old unopened Russell Stover chocolates I was too leery to taste; forcing Marshall to consider if he still needs that old Playstation. I went through books and sold a huge stack of them to Half Price for a whopping 13 dollars. As I flipped through pages, I felt an obligation to keep many of those that I purchased for literature classes. Sure, Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic, but I was bored out of my mind. Same goes for Robinson Crusoe. I didn’t see the appeal. So to Half Price books they went.

The tarantella between Me & My Stuff continued when I went home to County J for a visit. I tackled some boxes in the basement and threw 37 pounds of essays, notes, exams, and folders (mostly from high school–early college) into the recycling bin. I found a bundle of senior photos exchanged with classmates, and graduation party invitations (six and a half years old now). There were concert tickets, programs, and playbills nested in a plastic sheeth. Do I really need to keep a sheet of paper to commemorate that I played in the pit for the Sound of Music?

And did I really need to keep that shoebox of letters from pen pals I hooked up with through a pen pal service, sheets upon sheets of small talk inked with wide, elementary handwriting?

I’m a saver, a saver of stuff; I bless the stuff with meaning and then neatly tuck it away. I was reading a magazine article about a writer who rented a Dumpster one day and cleared out his entire Brooklyn brownstone basement: broken chairs, ugly heavy homeless kitchen cupboards, a Candyland with half its pieces missing, et cetera. I couldn’t believe someone could allow all that stuff to accumulate, but I realized that I’m on the same track, although my items are smaller scaled at present. The writer made the excellent point that we like to keep things for several good reasons: it has sentimental value, it’s attractive, it’s useful. But, with many of these things, the attraction fades, the function breaks, the sentimentality wanes. Yet we (well, some of us) keep this stuff because owning gives us a sense of valid existence: I possess these clothes (though never worn), these books (though never read), these bikes (though broken), these games (though never played). It’s a way of making a mark on the world, or making your life have meaning. But the writer suggests that it’s a false notion, simply because we’re not our stuff. Which makes me think of a certain guy talking about treasures of heaven & treasures of earth.

I don’t want to come off as pushy. I, for one, treasure many of my possessions, even if I infrequently use or look at them. I came across a stack of old journals in one of those basement boxes and consider them items I’ll never part with (even though they remain in that basement box). I own a pair of romantic sandals that I got in England when my family was visiting and although they dig into my flesh and I wear them three times a summer, they remain in my shoe rack and probably will for a long time. I don’t think owning stuff is bad, or even being attached to certain stuff is bad. I just think taking stock once in a while in my accumulated clutter is good for the heart. And, as cliché as this may sound, it helps me live in the present and look forward to new memories.

I just got back from my local library; I have a new shiny card tucked into my wallet, replacing the one with my maiden name from the Uptown library that I signed up for two years ago, but never used, not even once.

It’s embarrassing that I haven’t had a library card (with the intention to use it) since high school, almost seven years ago (using my college ID at Preus Library doesn’t count). I meant to get a card this summer, as the St. Louis Park library is literally across the street from our apartment. I meant to get a card this fall, when I realized all over again that there is no valid reason to buy books instead of borrow them. I’ve been meaning to get a card for the past three wintry weeks, when I found out I could read books on typography at work and get paid for doing it. And although there are a few volumes on typography I wouldn’t mind having on my shelf, I prefer something free right now.

Anyways. So I finally get to the library tonight. The librarian’s glasses perched precariously on the tip of his nose and he never cracked a smile. After I asked for a card, he asked if I’ve ever had one, and I replied no…and he exclaimed, “Never?” I didn’t go into how I meant not in the Minneapolis area…how for years I carried the bright yellow Monroe card although I rarely used it anymore…BUT, I knew all the librarians by name and they knew mine, so there! Instead, I just confirmed with a nod, so he got me that spankin’ new card, tried to clarify how Hennepin County and Minneapolis library systems are separate, although they will soon merge, and that if I register my card with Minneapolis I can use both systems, even though Minneapolis is IN Hennepin County. Whew. The return “drop” was a moving belt, like at a grocery store; there were three dozen computer stations filling the heart of this little building; there was a self-checkout station. And an express reserve pickup area. I was embarrassed that these things surprised me; I was embarrassed that this librarian knew it; I blushed when I asked how long I can check books and DVDs out for. I honestly don’t remember what the overdue fee was when I was growing up in Monroe, but I do know that I was relieved it’s thirty cents here instead of something much more expensive, although if it was something like two dollars, I wouldn’t be surprised as it would’ve been much more aligned with what I’m discovering about adult life (costly).

So, I did it. And I put a few typography books on hold. And yes, I’ll be notified by email, which is one thing I do remember setting up at libraries.

Also. Just to clarify, I actually do believe there are valid reasons for buying books instead of borrowing them. However, at this point in my life, as our bookshelf is drowning in stacks, I figured I should try a little harder to save a couple bucks.


Below is the Minneapolis Central Library, which is where I need to register my card for access to even more books. If I was blushing in St. Louis Park, I don’t know if I should show my face in here.


An old picture.

December 3, 2007

I’m currently typesetting a book on the Augustana Synod (that essentially dissolved in the 60s with the merger of the ELCA), a 400-page beast that will probably sell 2,000 copies and sit on shelves instead of open palms. However, it’s been one of my favorite projects this year, because I wanted it to look classic, reserved yet accessible. And, because there are roughly twenty old photos that made me get excited about using the clone stamp in Photoshop to make the scratches disappear. It’s like magic! There are probably about five million people who use Photoshop with much more finesse than me, but I’m content to learn in small, exciting steps.

(I told Marshall about this, and later on that evening we were with some friends and one of them said she had a great day at work because she walked down the hospital hallway with a woman who had previously been in a coma. In a flash, I simultaneously felt silly for having a great day at work because I erased scratches from old photos and felt appreciative that we are born with different gifts for a reason.)

Anyways, this is one of the halftones, and the more I looked at it the more I loved the contrast: so much dark in the center: the two suited men, the dresser, the thick frame on the wall. And surrounding them, a sea of white. I love how life naturally composes itself to be striking (I doubt if the photographer intentionally lined up the men and the objects behind them), whether it’s this, a person’s face, the Golden Ratio