Monday, December 31, 2012

Flower Trio

quilled flowers tutorial HERE

paper flower ornaments tutorial HERE

rolled paper flowers tutorial HERE

I'm finding that the adhesives I have handy are insufficient. The round ornament popped open shortly after I made it. The same is true of the yellow rose.  I guess I need to dig out a hot glue gun or grab some E6000.

The more flowers I make, the more I'm inspired to create some sort of spectacle with them.  A lot of flowers in one area would make a big impact.  Perhaps I could attach them to a large piece of paper or hang them from the gazebo or make an arch like THIS or THIS

Also, it's really my goal not to buy any more paper. I'd like to use the paper I have, even if it means altering it or painting it in order to get it to match colors.  There's also the possibility of using the wallpaper samples books I have.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ever Heard of Origami?

Kusudama translates to medicine ball.  In ancient Japanese culture, the flowers were used for incense or potpourri. Now they're decorations or gifts.

These start as a 3" x 3" square, which is much too small for this big gal.  You see, I've got king kong paws that don't do well with delicate things.  The only thing that saved me was having long nails.  I guess if one didn't have dragon lady claws, you'd have to use a bone folder.

Traditionalists actually sew the folded squares together, instead of using glue or adhesive. I used Sookwang double-sided tape.

One 12" x 12" piece of paper will make three flowers, with one 3" x 3" piece of paper leftover. I'd say it took me an hour to make these three, which would leave some people wondering if I've gone mad, but strangely, it's sort of a meditative act. I've been working on these little projects and experiments in the early morning hours, when Tobe is in bed and after the animals have been fed and cuddled (and thus they're more likely not to be pestering me for food or lovin).

If you want to try your hand at one or a hundred, check out this easy tutorial: kusudama

Friday, December 28, 2012

Paper Flowers and Personalized Scrabble Board

 DIY is an acronym dear to my heart.  For years, I've dabbled in all sorts of crafts. I take it upon myself to experiment with art techniques. When I have the funds and energy, I take art classes.  Rarely do I buy the things I want. Instead, I figure out how it was made and make it myself.  Such is my intent with decorations for my upcoming wedding.    I plan to teach myself how to make paper flowers.  In my mind, these may serve in all manner of places:  gazebo decoration, aisle decoration, a kick-ass photo background. Wherever.

As such, my plan is to start teaching myself one new flower per day.  Today I followed the instructions over at the Whimsical World of Laura Bird

I also fell in love with a scrabble board decoration I saw over on the Rock and Roll Bride blog.  That couple's scrabble board has only a couple words, and they made use of the little wooden shelves that came with the game. My goal was to make as many words as possible--words that spoke of our interests. I only regret that I couldn't get the word "fish" or "fishing" in there, but what can I say? I ran out of tiles!

Stay tuned. I want to use this blog to document the creative process behind my wedding.  Who knows? Maybe it will keep me organized. Maybe it will push me beyond the mere dreaming stage, which is important, as August 10 isn't that far away.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Sweetheart

When I purchase a pair of jeans, I'm almost as pleased with the tags as I am the clothing. Such is the case with Old Navy Sweetheart brand jeans. They come with this darling sloppily sewn tag. I've been wearing the new jeans for months, and those tags have been hanging out in my junk drawer. When I got this China doll head as part of my design team package from Lisa Kettell, I knew I'd found a use for the tag. This paper clay doll head is an absolute sweetheart. Obviously, you could paint the head and be all sorts of artistic, but I like the delicate sensibility that the raw form brings. It seems fragile and old, but the material Lisa uses for these pieces is actually lightweight and tough--perfect for all sorts of applications. I envision them in magnets, jewelry, and here, I've featured one in a scrapbook page that I plan to scan and use in my art journal.

My base is a piece of Lisa Kettell scrapbook paper. It's a darling heavyweight 12 x 12 paper with fun bright stripes and a red crown. I took my color scheme from the paper. I stripped the wings off a butterfly I bought at Jo-Ann fabrics, and I glued them down with E6000. I then free-handed a dress out of silver paper. Over the top of the dress, I glued a remnant from my grandmother's sewing drawer. I also added the bit of measuring tape.

Next, I created a base for the China doll head, as it was too small on its own. I used a rub-on to create a halo behind the head. I then colored that halo in with Faber Castell Pitt Pen.

Next, I adhered the Sweetheart tag and a fun game spinner. In the upper left-hand corner, I adhered a triangle of homemade painted paper and a vintage image of a heart. As finishing touches, I glued a metal heart to the figure, and I added a rub-on "S" below the crown.

Finally, because my eye was not satisfied with the limited use of yellow, I added sewing machine stitching around the perimeter with yellow thread, and I painted through punchinella with yellow acrylic paint.

For more great ideas using Lisa Kettel products, visit her blog HERE and look for other fun projects by the design team.

Look for Lisa's China doll heads and other must-have supplies HERE.

Monday, April 16, 2012

When Money Is God

Among the folds in my wallet:
36 cents, expired
license, plastic card receipts.

I was indebted
i.e American
Broke but in dinero I trust.

The money spent in situ.
was all part of the illusion.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and money
Are owned.

I don't know which to prefer,
The beauty of poverty
Or the beauty of the low interest loan.
The money spending
Or just after.

The purse is filled with nonsense
With lip print tissue.
The whisper of the money
Tickled her ear.
Self worth
Tangled in the bottom,
A linty lozenge.

Oh educated, post grad sin,
Why do you imagine paying off loans?
Do you not see how the debt
Settles in your gut
And becomes you?

I know tracks you
And the lure of debt versus net worth;
But I know, too,
The bottom line is, you are more
Than what you owe.

When the money leaves your hand,
It smells like blood
Of copper pennies pinched.

At the sight of dollar signs,
Green light buying,
Even the filthy rich
Would suggest saving.

She drove over pot-holed streets
In wing-prayer mode.
Once, a fear held her,
In that she mistook
The bald tires for penance
For dues paid before the payoff.

The world is turning.
The money must be spending.

It was lottery eve.
She was almost winning
And she always was on the verge of winning.
The money waited
In silver cages and numbered balls.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sensitivity Training

The English language is such a complicated thing. Every time I have to explain an idiomatic expression to a non-native speaker, I realize this. The language is a maze of rules that don't make sense and, of course, exceptions to the rules.

Add to that, nuance. Even when we master all the rules, there is still the fact that we are expected to use the appropriate language in the correct situations and to alter our vocabulary and its tone, depending on which company we keep.

Finally, the English language also carries with it the responsibility of being sensitive. We learn early that words hurt. This reality has resulted in all sorts of additions to the language. When we are young, many of us are taught The Golden Rule. We learn to acknowledge verbal barbs with the ditty, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

And that, of course, is utter bullshit. Most of us would rather endure those sticks and stones and a full-out beat down than words, which leave us with bruises that aren't as quick to heal and often with psychic scars.

The responsibility to be sensitive has also led us to create little sensitivity pockets in the language, which are also uncomfortable. There is political correctness, which requires that we keep up on the "right" term for any given condition. The political correctness is meant to help us avoid embarrassment and to help everyone negotiate in the world without causing more than their fair share of ire. Thus, we learn over the decades that "retard," for example, is not a good word, and we are given better words with which to replace that word. In writing, we learn to avoid sexist language, and thus women are meant to feel better because we do not use the "he" pronoun or assume that someone who works on an airplane is a stewardess. Indeed, both genders may work on an airplane, so we now have the word flight attendant.

Another sensitivity tool is the euphemism. We use certain words to protect us from harsh reality. We say that we have to go to the bathroom in order to protect those around us from the idea that we are really taking a shit. We say someone "passed away," when the reality is that someone died and is never coming back.

No matter how many tools we build into the language, it still manages to be a raw language in which we cannot hide truths and in which we, despite trying not to, hurt people we care about.
This is due to user error. I'm guilty of it. We are all guilty of it. And I'm not sure there is a cure for it. No amount of sensitivity training can fix it.

In my 37 years, the last two weeks seem to be heavy with instances of this unintentional insensitivity. To make a long story short, I learned that I was pregnant. It was not a planned pregnancy. This caused much anxiety, many tears, was the impetus of many long and complicated talks with my boyfriend. The pros and cons were carefully weighed. Yet ultimately we both concluded that we could do it. It would be tough, but we could do it. We could be good parents.

Thus, when the day for the scheduled ultrasound came, I was excited to see that image on the monitor. I knew that would solidify it for me that I was going to be a mother.

It was not meant to be. The screen showed nothing. The numbers said I was very pregnant, yet the uterus was empty. This meant that the baby was likely growing in my fallopian tube--an ectopic pregnancy. The tube is not a viable host for a baby. It isn't spacious enough and doesn't contain the proper hook-ups--the blood network, the connections that would allow a baby to begin to grow. It's dangerous. As the child outgrows the space, the eventual result is that the tube ruptures, and the woman bleeds out and can die if not near medical help.

So much for the beautiful moment of being introduced to my child. That moment soon was a whirlwind of being checked into the ER. From this moment on, the language failed those around me on a constant basis.

First there was the nurse who checked me in. She informed me that there were two means of medical treatment for this condition. She said that I would either need surgery, or they could give me a drug typically used in chemotherapy for cancer treatment. She said, "You would take the drug, and it would get rid of it for you."

Get rid of it. There's one of those euphemisms I was talking about. I cringed. I got teary. The English teacher in me deconstructed the sentence. The verb seemed harsh. In Spring, I get rid of clothing that no longer fits or that no longer suits my style. I put it in a garbage bag and take it to Goodwill. We get rid of things we no longer want. But I WANTED this. And then there was the matter of the pronoun. It? Stephen King writes books about It. It's true I didn't ultimately get to know the sex of my child, but mentally I had already begun to think of it as HE, and I had it in my head that HE would be tall and have brown eyes and dimples like my man.

To fast forward a bit, due to the fact that I was fairly far along and because I was already experiencing bleeding, the doctor decided to perform surgery. I went home with a hole in my belly button, two incision on my bikini line, and with no baby.

Here I admit that it was already a stressful time. My mother had just had eye surgery, and her recovery was an especially stressful one, as she had to remain face down for a week, and I needed to care for her. There was also the stress of my moving. My boyfriend and I had found a house, wherein I'd be allowed to have my dog. The weekend of the surgery, he was moving. I already felt terrible that I couldn't help because I had to care for my mother. Likewise, I felt horrible that his friends had to help out. They had to help even more when he had to leave the moving process and drive down to see me in the hospital. I admit all these things because I need to acknowledge that my sensitivity was at an all-time high. My body had been gearing up for motherhood, and the hormones were still coursing through my body, despite motherhood ending.

Despite my sensitivity, I encountered my fair share of insensitivity on the part of hospital workers and friends. Three days after surgery, a woman who worked in the billing section of the hospital called. I don't have medical insurance. She was trying to get me help with paying the bill. She suggested I apply for Medicaid. The application for Medicaid is 8 pages long. I asked for a bit of clarification. Beyond weeding out the sections that were applying for other types of help (food stamps, etc.), I was confused by the first box. The woman at the hospital clarified, "Check the box for pregnancy. Then write 'ended' and the date."

I began to cry. I knew this was business, but I wasn't ready for that one little word: ended.

Finally, one week after the surgery, my boyfriend scheduled a combination housewarming and birthday party for me. At 6 p.m. the house filled with our favorite people. There was plenty of food, and the spirits were flowing. The house was simply abuzz with laughter and conversation, as is typical at parties.

Yet one conversation was louder than any other. In the corner, one friend talked to two other female friends about trying to make a baby. This is nothing new. We've heard this conversation before. We know that the friend has to time it precisely, as she spends time overseas in the summers, and she wouldn't want to be pregnant while over there.

I tried to ignore the conversation. Suddenly my food felt heavy in my lap. That familiar lump in my throat was there. I jumped up and announced that my friend, Brenda, needed to see our new backyard RIGHT NOW.

I burst out into the yard, and the fresh air hit my hot face, and I was able to avoid crying.

"Why," I asked Brenda, "did she need to have a conversation about getting pregnant at our party when she knows we just lost a baby?"

This brings me to one of the newest lessons I've learned about the English language: so much depends on timing. How we react to something can be completely dependent on WHEN it is said. Had the friend had a conversation about pregnancy efforts a month ago, I wouldn't have blinked an eye. I would have been a good girlfriend and asked questions and added my two cents.

But the conversation came at a time when I'm still to raw. I wanted a moratorium on that subject matter. Just as I wanted a moratorium on TV commercials about babies, kids, motherhood, or families.

Yes. I know that's unrealistic.

And how do we let those around us know that we aren't in a position to handle a particular conversation?Should there be a safe word? If I say "baby balooga," and that's the international safe word for ex-nay on the baby talk, could we avoid this discomfort?

Ultimately, we walk the earth together, and though we are not necessarily responsible for the happiness or unhappiness of others, I feel we have to do our best to avoid unnecessarily hurting others.

I can't even begin to prescribe particular behaviors. Some would ask, "Well, exactly how long should we wait to talk about those things?" I have no answer. For me, I know one week is too soon for a conversation about trying to get pregnant. Conversely, I know some people are stronger and better able to negotiate in the world after trauma. My boyfriend only last weekend was curled in our bed and crying, saying, "I thought I'd have a fishing partner." Yet he did not seem to be socked in the gut the same way I was by the party conversation.

So maybe it is I who need to toughen up. That, however, is easier said than done. The surgery documents they sent me home with tell me I'm nearly healed after a week. They say I can have sex. I can lift heavy objects. They say I'll likely no longer need the hydrocodone.

But NOWHERE do those instructions say anything about the vulnerable invisible wound so prone to re-injury at the mere utterance of seemingly innocent words.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baby Bailey Baby Buggy Bumpers

Do you remember your first doll? Your favorite doll? Well, designer Lisa Kettell liked her childhood doll so much that it served as a model for the handmade, foam clay dollhead pieces she sells under the name Baby Bailey. I received one in my first design team kit, and I knew I had to make something with it.

If you know me, you know I like vintage ephemera. You probably also know that I'm somewhat intuitive. That is, one item suggests another, and another item suggests the next, and so on. So when I laid my hands on Baby Bailey, he told a story of a boy's childhood. I imagined a boy coming home from school, ditching his school work, and spending his time playing in his room or outside. Maybe he played cowboys and indians. Maybe rode an imaginary horse around the living room or yard.

I decided to make a wall hanging that such a boy might like. For my surface, I used the back cover of a vintage photo album. I then adhered a piece of Lisa Kittell's scrapbook paper. The paper has a worn leather look to it, and the script alphabet conjures practicing cursive. This led me to add a small square of brown lined paper, a wooden ruler, a piece of old book cover and its inside binding.

I looked through my stash to see what other sorts of doo-dads might suggest a boy's playthings, and I found an old broken metal horse. I adhered the horse with E6000. The horse suggested a western theme, so I looked through my old sheet music collection until I found "Night Herding Song," a cowboy's lull-a-bye. Keeping with the western theme, I added a chipboard star, to which I added a little bit of thread for the sake of authenticity.

While I knew that I wanted to work with Baby Bailey, it took me awhile to figure out how to make him stand out on my surface, which is a little more than a foot long. I painted an oval cardboard frame with Ranger crackle paint in copper. Behind the frame, I laid down a bit of tan scrapbook paper. Finally, I mounted Baby Bailey inside the frame and topped the frame with a watch face.

As finishing touches, I added big black snaps to the bottom of the wall hanging with E6000. Finally, I added the stencil B and the number 5, just to play on the primary school theme.

For more great ideas using Lisa Kettel products, visit her blog HERE and look for other fun projects by the design team.

Look for Baby Bailey Doll and other must-have supplies HERE.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Evidence of Spring Fever

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here are a few pages out of Book of Days (BOD), my daily art journal. I'm finding my new love is combining black and white images with startling color.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The endless
flight of the bird.
Disappearance into--

(gazing into it)

Boundless sky:

(toward perception)

A conclusion.
A song:

"Stars. The empty
realms. Breath
and beauty. Abyss

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tango Lessons

I really love to dance, but I don't do it often. In fact, I used to dance more in high school at my most awkward and heaviest. However, my adult life didn't lend itself to much dancing. I'd suffered a handful of heartbreaks. I'd been exposed to negative men who filled me full of nonsense about my looks. I'd been cheated on. After that, I basically tore up my dance card.

However, what I've come to understand about dance is that it doesn't really go away. It's always there waiting in the wings. Maybe you tap your foot to a rhythm. Maybe you do it at home while cleaning the house and no one's watching. Maybe you watch and admire and wait your turn because the world is filled with wallflowers.

Well, about a month ago, my boyfriend and I were gallery sitting. My boyfriend belongs to an art cooperative. He is one of a dozen or so artists who showcase their work in the gallery. They pay a membership fee which grants them the opportunity to have a show once or twice a year. They can sell their work without a pesky gallery owner getting a commission. They are in control.

Being a gallery docent is boring stuff. You hang out in the little office space for a 4-hour stint. If anyone comes in, you greet them, answer questions if they have them, and tally the number of people who come in on a Saturday night (a whopping 5...). To pass the time, I read notes tacked to bulletin boards, the local newspaper, and a stack of old art magazines. I looked at the current art hanging in the gallery multiple times. But then there was nothing to do.

Well, in the space between the gallery and a nearby restaurant is a long hallway where a local dance studio teaches TANGO lessons. On other occasions, I'd seen the miniature troup there giving lessons. The hallway swells with Parisian type music--the kind that sounds crackling and hollow and straight off a record needle.

I went over to the side door and watched MESMERIZED as the instructors taught tango for FREE to whoever asked for it. I was so caught up that I didn't even notice one of the instructors who had noticed me. I heard, "Do you dance?"

I mumbled and waved his attention away. I was just watching, I said. He stared straight through me. That was not the correct answer. He shook his head and grabbed my hand. For a split second, I worried that my boyfriend might be jealous of some dashing Latin dance instructor, but then I remembered this was an older, shorter black man who seemed almost grandfatherly if grandfathers tangoed.

The man walked me through basic steps and then guided me around the hallway 3 times. My job was basically to keep eye contact while backing up with the appropriate foot. That was difficult. I worried about how I looked to others. I worried about what this man might think of my soft body. I worried about bumbling steps. Inner talk threatened to drown out the beautiful music.

He said, "Want to learn one more step?" By then my heart was beating fast. Why, I wondered, would I put myself through more torture? Why embarrass myself in front of my boyfriend, who had been watching the whole time?

"Yes," I found myself saying.

The instructor showed me this sexy move where you thrust your right leg out and it crosses behind to the left. The foot barely has a chance to make contact with the floor before the left leg thrusts out and crosses behind the right. It's aggressive, violent even, and lightning quick. And the whole motion elongates you and makes you feel sleek. It's a stretch felt below the waist. And it's sexy. I blushed and laughed out loud.

I thanked the man. He gave me his card and said to come join them any Saturday night for FREE lessons. I couldn't help asking why they were free. He smiled and said, "Some things should be free." I returned to my boyfriend who had watched the entire time. I said, "Oh god! How stupid did I look? I totally botched the whole thing, right?" My boyfriend told me it was actually quite the opposite, that I looked like a natural and totally sexy.

It's not that he was lying. I think he saw a giving in to the music. I think he saw the backbone of nervousness give way to a different type of stiffness: the intentional battle of limbs during this war between two people which is inherent to the tango. I think he saw a floating away of all doubt in the name of pure joy. And THAT is sexy. And best of all, it was FREE

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On Vanity

Twice this week, I've heard the word "vain" as it relates to me. I've never thought myself vain. In fact, I've always thought myself the opposite. When I think of vanity, I think of those who love their looks. They cannot pass a mirror without looking and liking what they see. The truth is, I think it's the attentiveness, whether positive or negative, that matters in the discussion.

I look and I hate. That's problematic.

Here's an example that popped up last night: My boyfriend was doing our laundry. He'd sorted the clothes into darks and lights. I thought nothing of the first load, as they were mainly whites: his socks, underwear, and t-shirts. The colored loads, however, were a mix of both our clothes. And I was immediately aware of the tags in my clothes. Do I let him see what size I wear? I mean, he's not a moron. He's not blind. And even if he was, he knows every inch of my body like Braille.

The trouble is, I struggle with the idea that there are too many inches.

At one point during this normal domestic process, I considered cutting out the tags. Lord knows I've seen those cut out tags while thrift store shopping. I know there are an army of tag cutting women out there who feel, if the tag is gone, they are small.

I didn't cut the tags. I stifled the anxiety. But it reared its head once again when my boyfriend came back from the laundromat. We typically fold the laundry together. I hang his shirts, fold jeans and underwear. He went to pick up a pair of my pants, and I freaked out and told him I would fold my own clothes. He raised his sexy eyebrow, pronounced me weird, and went on about his business. I couldn't have explained that I feared seeing him raise a pair of my jeans in front of him and seeing, for instance, how wide the waist is.

It's absolutely ridiculous for multiple reasons:

1.) I'm 6' tall and fairly proportionate.
2.) There are a helluva lot of women out there with bigger body problems than myself.
3.) I've always gotten my fair share of male attention, which seems to suggest that I'm not the monstrous blob my mind tells me I am.
4.) I'm in love with and loved by a man who thinks I'm sexy AS IS.

So how do I quiet this mind?

It's tough. On one hand, I am opposed to the groups out there who celebrate fat. They say fat is beautiful. I'm not saying it can't be, but I think those people need to be realistic: carrying extra weight is symptomatic of poor eating and lack of exercise and can shorten your life.

On the other hand, I think there's nothing wrong with doing a little soul exploration and trying to figure out why you feel the way you do. I don't see anything wrong with writing about it or trying to work it out via art or even counseling. In fact, there are some pretty sweet online workshops out there about the subject. I'm interested in the Body Restoration workshop offered by Brave Girls Club.

I also think it's important to take inventory of those factors that make you feel the way you do. Acknowledge them and then dismiss them. Don't wallow in them. Take charge. Find positive role models who live the way you want to live. Find women (and men) who inspire you with their positive outlook on the body.

I have a lot of these. In no particular order, let me introduce a few:

1.) My sister, Tori. She's in Hawaii right now, and one of her dream gigs down there--the job she was hoping to land (when not swimming and surfing and hiking, I might add)--was a job on site at place where they grow organic fruits and vegetables. She was really jazzed about listening to her body and eating straight off the land.

2.) My Missoula friends: Jacque, Ally, and Ici. I cannot count the number of times they talk about going for dog walks or to yoga classes or to boot camps. These are some of the strongest and happiest women I know--and their dogs are ecstatic, I'm sure!

3.) My Spokane friends, Jonquil and Michael. They both wow me with their dedication to healthy eating and exercise. They help me remember that it's a lifestyle. Slender Uma Thurman-esque legs and six (or is it eight) pack abs are not available in pill form. They're not genetic. Yes, they started with beautiful marble, but there's nothing that says you and I can't do a little chiseling of our own.

4.) My friend, Denise who shows strength each day in avoiding the pitfalls of dieting and quick fixes in favor of hard work. But she reminds me that it's normal to occasionally indulge in your favorite mac and cheese or perhaps a huckleberry milkshake.

5.) My friend Lesa battled cancer, won, and stayed strong mentally and physically throughout that ordeal and after by MOVING.

6.) The lovely Donna Greenberg inspires me to create and to do yoga.

7.) My Hollywood inspirations range from Madonna with her dedication to yoga to Adele and Kate Winslet, who both eschew the idea that their bodies are a career liability because they are not a size 0.

The point is, I need to remember that I am a work in progress. I will have good days and bad days. In fact, it might be more accurate to say I have good seasons and bad seasons. By now, I know myself well enough to know that winter is a time of hibernation. I pack on the pounds and then take them off when spring rolls around. I need to stop comparing. I am not them, but they are not me.

Finally, I want to acknowledge a couple things that came up in an art journal group I'm in.

One of the members recently completed a spread that said "I may not be perfect, but parts of me are AWESOME." I love that. I need to remember that.

Finally, my friend Gigi did a layout about her parents. One of the group members pointed out that her parents seemed to be naked (although tastefully hidden behind some artfully placed calla lilies). Gigi provided background, telling the group that she had taken the photo of her mother during a trip to Palau where they were diving. "And my mom just decided to take off her top. At 76 years old. She does that," said Gigi casually.

"My parents taught us not to be ashamed of our bodies...Nudity is natural. I'm grateful for that," said Gigi.

It's not yet 8 a.m., and I've already learned a powerful lesson.

Thank you, Gigi, and be sure to thank your mom for me too.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tossing Out the Marriage Bed

This is our second big purchase (the first being a trip we plan to take in August). For him, the reasoning is more practical. He has a bad back, and the crater on his side of the bed is either the cause or is making it worse.

Big purchases are a cause for research. This begins with a casual stroll down the Costco aisle. The price tags make it a drive by. Also, there is the question of how, even if we had $1000 in our pockets, we would get a mattress home, considering that he drives a sub-compact car.

The next day, he is consulting Consumer Reports online--the Last Word on any and all items one might need to purchase. The only trouble is, the mattress is the only item they pretty much refuse to rate. Consumer Reports explained that pretty much all mattresses are constructed in a similar manner. After all, it really falls to a matter of personal taste: Do you like soft? Or do you like hard?

This question resulted in a bonafide date. We showered, dressed, and braved pre-rush hour traffic on Division to test mattresses. At the second store, we were shown our first bed: marriage bed replacement #1 (MBR1). MBR1 contained springs which were specially made so as not to make a crater. Our shiny salesman instructed us to lie down and see how it felt.

Good. It felt good. Better than the bed we have now (which contains the residue of a past marriage). It is residue free.

The shiny salesman walks us over to another bed, a bed he predicts will be too soft. We concur. It is too soft. At this point shiny salesman tells us about his wife, Katie, who has an unspecified nervous condition. She, it seems, prefers a softer bed. I begin to wonder about Katie's health. I find myself wanting to see a photo of her.

The shiny salesman walks us over to a bed made of foam and space-age gel. This bed has no springs. The salesman offers us a square of the foam to squeeze. He tells us to lie down and then completes the illusion with pillows. My man and I are flat on our backs, a bit out of our elements, considering that this is a storefront, with a group of salesmen over in the corner around a small TV watching a football game. Journey's "Open Arms" is playing overhead. This isn't the slightest bit romantic, and the salesman comes off as the waiter in search of a good tip. He leaves, comes back, leaves, comes back. Upon every return, he asks, "How's that feel?"

Eventually we end up in the best and most expensive model. This is the model I've seen on TV. It has a remote. The bed is remotely operated, with each side able to be manipulated according to its occupant's desire. You want to sit up and read while your lover sleeps? Buzzzzz. It is done. You want your legs elevated? Buzzzzzz. It is done. You want a g-spot rocking massage? Buzzzzzz. It is done. This bed has us glaze-eyed, sleepy, and strangely feeling like we should be smoking a post-coital cigarette even though there has been no coitus.

"How's that feel?" Indeed.

Alas, this bed costs as much as a new car, especially if one decides to buy mattress, box spring, and the remote-control pleasure center.

It is decided. We will buy bed number 3 of 6. We are Goldilocks. We have tried the soft beds, the medium beds, the hard beds, the spring bed, the foam beds, the non-motorized beds, and the motorized beds, and we have decided that one is....just right.

Shiny salesman leads us to the front desk. Before we know it, we are filling out paper work, deciding on delivery dates. Somewhere in there, I recognize that feeling that's been coming on more and more lately as I settle blissfully into domesticity. I've been nesting, and I know it. But what happens in a situation like this is that OTHERS--complete strangers, sales people, cashiers, waitresses, etc.--recognize that we are a solid unit. We are stable. We do normal things. We buy groceries. We eat out. We buy beds together. We make purchases that speak of a future.

Shiny salesman staples our paperwork together. He reminds us that the bed will not initially feel like the one in the showroom. He reminds us that you can break the bed in by taking your shoes off and walking around on the mattress, or you can break it in by sleeping on it. We smirk at this, as we both know there are other ways to break a bed in.

He informs us the delivery company will arrive with the bed on Thursday, and he sends us off into the evening, but not before reminding us that, technically, that's the last bed we may ever need. He reminds us that it has a 25-year warranty. He reminds us of its 90+% satisfaction rate.

We leave a bit exhausted from having tested so many beds. We leave a bit giddy. We aren't done. It is out with the old and in with the new. Why should we dress a new bed in old clothes? We shop for new bedding, visiting 3 or 4 stores until we settle on a charcoal gray quilt with intricate stitching. Operating under something akin to a sugar high, I make the bed. I cut the tags off. I stuff the pillows into shams. I smooth the wrinkles. I invite him to look at what we've made.

We both think these new blankets and this new bed will work miracles. We will sleep better than we ever have. Truth is, since we've met, we've slept better because we're at ease. We've slept better because we are in love.