Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mr. Boo Radley


Mr. Boo passed away early Saturday morning, December 15, 2007. It was unexpected and happened very quickly. We are overcome by his absence in our lives.

Mr. Boo had a very interesting life for a cat. He was found in the backyard of my friend David’s rental house in Cape Girardeau, MO. David was also an animal lover but already had several so he gave me a call. I was in no position to adopt an animal being only 21 and still in college. David promised that I just had to come see him. Yeah, right. Boo was sleeping in a box in the bathroom and when David cracked the door open he looked up at me with his beautiful big eyes and I was hooked. Luckily, my roommate Celine was also an animal lover with a large dog living in our apartment so she was very understanding. The dog and cat were less understanding of each other.

Mr. Boo took a little while to warm up to me but we soon bonded. I think he was upset with the name I chose, which shall not be mentioned here. Mark actually re-named him Boo Radley which was fitting and much more appropriate. We were only separated for one summer in 1996 while I spent 9 weeks in an archaeology field school in KY and he spent the same time in IA with Mark and his family. Mr. Boo was spoiled that summer and that is where he got his signature round belly. It was in late summer 1996 that Mark and I got engaged and moved to New Jersey to start our life together.

Mr. Boo was special, not just because he helped me to navigate the adult world, gave me support when I needed it and always provided unconditional love as pets are so good at. He was also a superstar. He provided hours of entertainment as Mark and I concocted stories about what he did while we were out of the house. He often had affairs with top celebrities and went to the best parties. He was also a businessman, opening his House of Velvet (although he never divulged what kind of business this was exactly). His name was also perfect for inserting in songs which we did on a daily basis. In fact, I still catch myself doing it and that is the hardest thing to stop.

So – sing a song with Boo’s name in it and remember him for us.

We love you, Boo baby.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Weddings and Funerals

As I am contemplating what to write for my year-in-review I am charged with the nagging realization that my usual letter/laundry list/monthly breakdown is hollow and doesn't come close to describing what we actually experienced in 2007. I have been internally connecting the dots of several experiences throughout the year and thinking a lot about what it all means. For me it all comes down to weddings and funerals.

As many of you know, I can be obsessive about weddings. I believe it comes from two sources. One, I love crafting and a wedding is chock-a-block full of crafty details. I love setting projects for myself with limitations on budget, theme or materials and weddings fit perfectly with this. Two, while I have never regretted my marriage I often regret my wedding. Don't get me wrong, I think it was lovely and I am forever grateful to my loving parents for funding and planning the event, and it was fun. But what I love most about weddings is what they say about the couple and this I think was missing in mine. This is mostly due to the timing. I was young and my ideas about life and interests were not fully formed and therefore could not be translated into a proper wedding theme. We also planned the wedding from a distance while juggling art school and our first full-time working adult lives. I was frankly too concerned with paying the bills and trying to find a job in my field to really wrap my head around this once-in-a-lifetime event. So, my obsession with weddings is mostly about creating a mental re-do of my own. Well, 2007 brought us two exciting wedding experiences and I don't have to tell you I was totally over-the-top excited about it. And they really were awesome, perfect reflections of each couple and so full of crafty goodness. And, even better, they finally helped me let go of my wedding obsession. For good. Really.

Mark's brother Michael was married in Rockport, TX on May 26th. Norma (the bride) did an amazing job coordinating the affair and I don't know how she does it with graduate school and two kids. (This is another rumination for another time: This year I have realized that so many people accomplish so much more than me with the same hours in the day, I really need to step it up.) I love getting another girl in the family and two adorable nephews to boot so I was very excited about celebrating this new chapter. It was also during this week in TX I came to realize that after 10 years of marriage I still don't know Mark's family very well. This is of course due to the practical obstacles of distance, time and money to visit but it's also more than that. It is my reluctance to stake my part in that family, to really make the leap of sharing who I was and connecting to who they are. I always feel like I don't want to disrupt their patterns or traditions or "make a fuss". Well, family is all about making a fuss and if you want to bond you have to make the effort. So, I feel like I made a good start, and certainly ending up at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night for last minute wedding craft supplies with Norma and my mother-in-law Pat is just the thing of which memories are made. Also good for creating new epic family stories: Mark's brother Tim and Pat rockin' out to AC/DC. I wish I had more pictures, especially of the supa-cool basket I decorated and the ring pillows Pat made. The photographer was excellent too, I am so jealous of the pictures they have.

My cousin Briana was married just a week later in Seattle, so I did some jet-setting this year. My cousin - too much to talk about here but let me just say: she is a year younger than me and we grew up as close as sisters. Leaving her was the worst part of moving away in 1989. The funny thing is we still have more in common as adults than many of my friends and it makes me even more upset that we don't live close. So, I planned to spend the week before the wedding getting to know her fiancé and helping with last minute details. I taught her about the glories of the glue gun and was in craft heaven all week. But, I also realized that no matter how hard I try I will never be able to capture what we had as kids and letting that go has been a 2007 revelation. The wedding went off without a hitch and perfectly reflected their personalities. It included potted herb centerpieces, blue wedding shoes and The Beatles. See what I mean about weddings with personality? My brother Steve officiated and I believe he was born to do that, funny and thoughtful and gracious. He, my actual sibling, is also someone to whom I wish I lived closer, and still had that sense of closeness. Actually, the relationship between Briana and Steve is the one I wish I had with him, and her for that matter. Jealous again, I guess. To tell you the truth, I have been holding on to this idea that "if only" I could move back there I could re-capture the feeling of family. What I've come to realize this year is there is no way to go back and by focusing on what was, I have missed out on what is. I have missed out on making real connections in the places I have lived and being a part of those communities in a really meaningful way.

Which brings me to funerals. Two to be exact. Life always does this to you, good and bad all wrapped up together. In March, Mark lost his Uncle Jim. Growing up in Iowa, Mark's father comes from a farming family and Jim has managed the family farm his entire life. Mark's pivotal childhood memories include much about life on the farm and his Uncle Jim in particular. Rooted in this rural tradition Jim was a stoic man, but a truly warmhearted man who's love of family was easy to see. He will be sorely missed.

In the fall I lost my last grandparent, my grandfather Lindley S. Wicks. In truth he had been sick for awhile and when I visited in June I had the feeling it would be the last time I saw him. I am glad I made time to visit him during that week and make sure to be close to him at the rehearsal dinner and at the wedding. There is so much I wish I could have talked to him about, I loved to ask him questions. As a public historian and time-travel enthusiast, the experience of history is endlessly fascinating to me. And my grandfather was a fascinating man who experienced much of American History. He was also a complicated man and often tailored his personality and storytelling to the listener so I am never sure how accurate those stories are. But, they are entertaining. One thing that keeps coming back to me is the idea that people in general are complicated and every relationship you have defines who you are but no one can know all parts of you. You are different for different people. Grampa's memorial was a chance to hear about how others saw him, through the eyes of his grandchildren, children, relatives, friends and co-workers. The weekend was full of stories and even a tour through the town that came to define him, visiting all of the homes my mother lived in growing up. We also visited his old photography studio and the cafe next door where he had his coffee breaks. The menu hasn't changed a bit and if you don't believe me just order the "low-cal" plate (steak, cottage cheese and a hard boiled egg). What I cherish most about both him and my Grandmother was their sense of joy and their understanding that intellectual pursuits were to be valued, that life-long learning was a worthy aspiration and the arts are not just for the rich, or the professionals, but for everyone. They were a shining example: self-publishing volumes of poetry, keeping an art studio in a shed behind their house and encouraging everyone to try their hand at something. This foundation is part of who I am today, why I work in museums, to share that philosophy and encourage as many people as possible to "try their hand at something" and never stop learning. Thanks, G&G.

In the end of 2007 I let go of what was holding me back and remembered what I love about family. I no longer obsess about the wedding that could have been and have channeled my crafty energy into non-wedding related things. I have recognized that while I can not get back the relationships I once had, I can nurture those relationships and those memories and carry then into the future. I have also come to understand we are all fundamentally influenced by the relationships we have and the key is to recognize, reflect on, and embrace all of it - both good and bad.

My goals for 2008 include making time to "try my hand at something", creating a sense of community where I live, and connecting in a more meaningful way to friends and relatives all over the country. It's time for new traditions, new stories and new histories.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This blog is a place for us to share what's happening in our lives with all of our wonderful family and friends across the country. It came out of our desire to find a solution to the dreaded yearly letter and the trees we kill while sending that thing out.

We were married in 1997 and together we have lived in MO, NJ, TN and now MD. I have also lived in AZ, WA and MI while Mark grew up in IA. We find it hard to settle down.

Meet the Family:

Mark: Hates these holiday letters and refuses to take part so I will say whatever I want. He has a blog where he showcases his latest work and sometimes designs for family and friends (this year it was the invitation and “logo” for his brother’s wedding). Visit him at www.art-mark.blogspot.com He has a passion for politics and comics so don’t get him started on either topic (unless you love a good debate). He still works at Towson University in the Community Arts Center. He loves being back in the art world after so many years in the history field. Mark just finished teaching his first course on sequential art to middle and high school students. He has also set a goal for himself to become active again in the comics world. He started in TN becoming an active member of the IndieSpinnerRack podcast forum and this past year we took advantage of our new location on the East Coast to visit comic book and small press conventions in New York, Baltimore and Bethesda. He is also quite excited to live in a city that has a comic book museum, the Geppi Entertainment Museum and could spend hours there looking at the original drawings. Oh – and he does not eat meat or dairy.

Me: I am also excited to be settled in an urban environment with mass transit, walkable neighborhoods and culture. As a museum junkie (hey, that’s how I make a livin’) I have seen most of Baltimore’s this year. I love ducking into the Walters Art Museum after work (its FREE) but my favorite so far is the American Visionary Art Museum. My passion for outsider/folk art began after visiting the American Folk Art Museum in NYC and if I ever have money to spare I would totally collect folk art. Currently, I am obsessed with the handmade movement. As a craftster myself I appreciate something handmade but in addition to that it is eco-friendly and supports local businesses. Becoming more informed about the origins of your purchases only makes sense in this global economy. That goes for food too. I haven’t eaten meat since 1995 but I am hopelessly addicted to dairy products of all kinds (that includes you, Ben & Jerry).

Mr. Boo – Named after Boo Radley of To Kill a Mockingbird fame he lives up to his name by being a little gruff but very sweet if you get to know him. (It’s only a coincidence that Boo has become slang for boyfriend, we think) He is our 14 year old cat we found while we were still dating but because he first lived with me he has never “warmed up” to Mark. Then of course he has a memory like an elephant so when he escaped years ago and Mark had to rescue him by grabbing his tail their relationship took a turn for the worse. Now he just sleeps all the time and tries to avoid both Mark and Gimpy.

Gimpy: She came to us as an injured kitten and was given the name because of her amputated tail. She deceived us all by being super sweet while sick but once recovered we realized we share a home with the devil. Being middle-aged hasn’t mellowed her a bit, but lucky for her; Mark has developed an unnatural attachment - so she stays. They are two peas in a pod and on Mark’s behalf she often stalks and beats poor Mr. Boo. Mark, of course, does not condone such behavior but she is unstoppable.