Category Archives: Ideas

A Little Inspiration from Charlie

No need to go into details, but yesterday I found out that I didn’t get an opportunity about which I was very, very excited. And so I was bummed. And I whimpered a little, and pondered the possibility that maybe the universe is telling me that I’m not so special after all, but ultimately that line of thinking didn’t go anywhere productive and so I came to a conclusion to which I’ve come several times before. And that is: To get what I want out of this world, I’m going to have to make it. Possibly from scratch. With a little help from friends.

Meanwhile, last night, Eric and I had a lovely little date at Trylon “microcinema”: we saw Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, and laughed out loud, for the many-eth time, as Charlie stuck forks into his dinner rolls and made them do the most elegant dance. Love! Now, what exactly is a microcinema, you ask? Well, this microcinema, at least, is a neighborhood theater that features “50 deluxe rocker seats and a 20 foot screen” and screens classic movies a few times a week. It’s the most enchanting space– intimate, cozy, and yet so much more romantic than your living room. You enter the space through XYandZ gallery (which at them moment is painted with an enchanting jungle theme, complete with 7-foot babboon wearing bunny ears), and are then treated to a concession stands that carries, among other things, B.T. McElrath chocolates (their salty dog chocolate bar is the tastiest 5 bucks you’ll ever spend). Oh, and popcorn with real butter! Real! Butter! There’s a great article about our lovely little local microcinema in the publication The Line.

So why exactly am I pontificating about something so simple as an itty-bitty theater that shows re-runs? Well, because I LOVE THIS SPACE. And it turns, out, Barry, the guy behind Trylon, rents it out. And remember that whole Hot Dish Storytelling Series we announced here back in oh, October of 2009? Well, it’s about time we brought it to life. We’re settled here in Minnesota now, complete with couch and dog and monthly Soup and Bread, and so… it’s time to stir things up.

So here’s the deal. The date is… February sometime (pending theater availability)…and rather than doing an entirely “open mic” approach on the first go-round, we’re going to invite 6 separate storytellers to tell true stories on a theme (Please note: There is no question that this idea is inspired by The Moth. But there ain’t no Moth in MSP yet, so…whatevs). Theme as yet undetermined, but it will probably be inspired by Valentine’s Day. So, if you have a funny/poignant/disturbing/surprising story about something related to heartbreak, heartache, or unrequited or requited love, LET US KNOW. You can email us at And that’s all for now.


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Time: Who’s Side Is It On?

My work life, right now, is pretty great. I just started a new part-time contract job with the Minnesota Historical Society to produce a daily radio feature called “MN90: Minnesota History in 90 Seconds.” It’ll include fresh, funny, interesting, disturbing, and enlightening tidbits about Minnesota history. Great for those water cooler conversations. In any case, I’m thrilled to take on this new project, and I’m also aware that it’s a huge time commitment–one that won’t allow for the sort of “wiggle room” I currently have in my schedule. Thus, it’s time to take a cold, hard look at my schedule. How well am I spending my time?

Lucky for me, my husband is good at this stuff. This morning, Eric had me hash out all of my current time commitments and ask myself which are flexible, which are not, and how much time each of those things really, truly takes to accomplish. I even took into account travel time, if you can believe it.

I won’t bore you with the details of our little session, but I will say that I find this type of self-management both incredibly challenging, and life-saving. There’s something so freeing about knowing that all my time is accounted for, and that if I just stick to the plan, everything I want to get done, will get done. This type of thing, while hardly romantic, is crucial to the sort of varied life I want to have. I simply have to have time in my life for getting my hands in the dirt, just as I need time for paying bills, cooking dinner, eating dinner, making art, transcribing hours of audio, being with good friends, etc. Who knew though that I’d need a whiteboard in order to do all that?

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What Happened to the Story Farm?

“What’s going on with the Story Farm?” a friend asked the other day, reminding me yet again that the Story Farm exists not just in Eric and my imaginations, but also in the minds of so many friends, who seem to be even more determined than we are to make it a reality.

“It’s been on hold, I guess.” Really it depends on how you define the Story Farm. We haven’t sent out seed packets in months (sorry Cassandra… yours is coming), Soup and Bread has been lingering on our “to make happen” list, and we haven’t been planning any sort of farm-based collaborative storytelling parties… so what have we been doing, exactly?

Well, we’ve been making a home. In March, Eric and I packed up our cat, our loveseat,  two bookshelves and way too many books, and drove away from Northern California, land of amber-colored light, and drop-dead-gorgeous hikes, and perfect lattes, and so many people who simply “get it.” Yep, we did that. We left there. When I close my eyes and think of California, I see the view of the Claremont Hotel we had from our street in Berkeley, that stately white building nestled in the hills, romantic and bathed in orange light. Every once in awhile I do miss California.

But today I sit on the front porch of our new home, seven blocks from the Mississippi, in Minneapolis. From here, I see perennials bursting forth from our front yard–right now the purple coneflowers are in bloom, and the maroon-colored lilies, and some sweet yellow flowers that I haven’t yet identified. I’ve probably spent a hundred hours in that yard already, digging out invasives, relocating perennials, shoveling mulch, planting perennials I’ve been gifted from friends and neighbors. We’ve got a heck of a lot of lawn here, but slowly we’ve been turning it into garden, and one day, our house will be nestled behind a messy tableau of mature plants, with nary a blade of grass in sight. To tell you that I love working in our garden would be a drastic understatement. Having a piece of the earth to tend, avidly and with love, has brought a peace and satisfaction to my life that I have been craving so long I’d forgotten what to call it. The garden gives me a place to learn simple natural truths– that each plant has its preferences and its quirks, that time is as essential to growing things as water and soil. My appetite for this kind of knowledge is insatiable.

Meanwhile, our little blue house is slowly turning into more than just a  shelter. Our colorful belongings, in boxes for so long, have been finding their way onto shelves and windowsills. Drawings and photographs that just didn’t fit on the walls in our various apartments are getting the attention they deserve. Slowly, as we can afford to, we add furniture. We have a great futon in our second bedroom and guests are the whole purpose of this place, so please visit.

We got a dog recently. His name’s Wendell, and his sense of joy and abandon fills up every corner of this place. We chose Wendell over the other adorable shelter dogs because he was less interested in wrestling, and more interested in snuggling and licking our faces. Turns out he was just drugged up from his recent surgery, and he does in fact, have plenty of spunk in him. But in general he’s a floppy little guy who loves nothing more than to rest his chin on your leg, gaze upward, and be loved in a really simple way. Dogs just “get it,” don’t they?

I was walking Wendell a couple days ago, in the woods along the river, where I take him so I can feel pretend Huck Finn on a long river journey, and I was thinking about The Story Farm. We conceived of it originally as a physical place, which we still hope and plan to create in the next 5-7 years. In the nearer term, we’ve got lots of ideas about ways to integrate storytelling with community-building with food-growing. More on those soon. But since life gets busy, and since life is sometimes just as much about squeezing in trips to the grocery store as it is about making big plans, I hope to share here my thoughts on some of the less ambitious aspects of building that Farm. Things I’m learning about home, about building and fixing, about having neighbors, about taking a walk in the same place every day as the seasons change, about doing meaningful work, and finding purpose, and making a living, and being young and married and eager to learn. All of that, eventually, will grow the Story Farm, don’t you think?


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Ideas: Once Upon a Farm, Etcetera

1. Signage

  • As you drive up the long driveway to the Story Farm, there are signs: Once. Upon. A. Farm ….
  • It’s a visual way to indicate to that people arriving at the farm are entering whatever story they will tell about the farm.
  • Materials Needed: Barn wood for the signs themselves, a painter, paint, paint brushes, some kind of post to affix the signs to.

2. Coinage

  • The name of Eric’s live storytelling series is called “Once Upon a Farm …
  • There is a separate Website for it:
  • Needed: a URL, a site designer, content for the site

3. Story Packets

  • For folks who like The Story Farm idea and want to be a part of it and, at the same time, support its real-world realization, we send them monthly (quarterly?) “story packages”
  • Recipients are folks who have donated time, stuff or any amount of money to The Story Farm.
  • Inspired by a game he used to play with his Czech students of English language, Eric has long had an idea for a board game where each game created contains a unique assortment of ephemera – receipts, napkins with doodles, a comb, etc. The players’ job is to create a plausible story from all the stuff. Essentially, it’s a creativity-stimulation exercise.
  • The story packets we send to people are hand-made packets filled with ephemera. They get them in the mail and, when they do, come up with a plausible story, which they can then post on the Story Farm site. We will create a special archive of all these stories.

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