Hat on Top, Coat Below


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20 Questions

(a.k.a. the September, 2005 writingwomyn collab)

where ya from, sweet thing?
Now I’m from Detroit, more or less. I grew up near Chicago. Someday I’d like to be in the mountain west–Montana or Idaho or Colorado–but that’s some years off if it happens at all.

who lives there with you?
Mr. Karen, my husband of almost 19 years. We have had guinea pigs before and might again, but right now it’s just the two of us. I would like to have a dog, but my lifestyle is not dog-friendly.

who was your childhood heroine, and why?
Mary Poppins. I loved her so much I wore the costume my mom made me pretty much year ’round for a while. I think the attraction was that she seemed to be in control of things but still managed to have fun. Also, she could fly. Flying is cool.

name three people who influenced your outlook on life.
In the order they came into my life: My dad, from whom I got my tendency to be anxious but who also encouraged me to use my brain. My husband, who has helped me become a better person than I was when we met at 15. My therapist, Sara; in the two years or so I saw her I went from two steps away from a nervous breakdown to feeling mostly good about myself and life and stuff. (I think mostly is as much as one can hope for in such a crazy world.)

recommend two books everyone should read, two albums everyone should listen to, and two movies everyone should see, and tell us why they’re so awesome.
I don’t want to tell everyone what to do, but I like this stuff–

To read: Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts, because it shows what wonderful things can come from making do. Me Talk Pretty One Day, because David Sedaris can make even unfunny things funny. (I recommend you let him read this to you for the full effect.) To listen to: Big Daddy’s Cutting Their Own Groove, because it’s impossible to hear it without at least smiling if not laughing out loud. French Harp Concertos performed by Isabelle Moretti, because they’re just so pretty. To watch: French Kiss, because … well, I can’t explain why I’ve watched this so much–Kevin Kline’s character does some awful things and Meg Ryan’s is pretty pitiful at least in the beginning, but I always feel happier after I’ve seen it. The Nightmare Before Christmas, because it’s bizarre and clever and scary and hopeful and where else can you see a giant snake eating a Christmas tree?

how did you get started keeping a journal online?
I read other people’s journals for years and always wondered if I had it in me to keep one of my own. I knew I could journal–I’ve got paper volumes going back to junior high–but I didn’t know about the online part. Then I started hanging around (online, of course) with some people who were going to JournalCon in San Francisco in 2002 and I really wanted to join them, so that was the impetus to give it a try.

your journal – is the name meaningful? why’d you call it what you did?
When a new performing arts building went up while Mr. Karen and I were at Michigan State, they installed coatrooms with special fixtures that were labeled “Hat on Top, Coat Below”, which I found very funny. Imagine what might happen without instructions: crushed hats everywhere, or people just wadding up their coats and throwing them on the floor. I added that phrase to my list of things to call my first album (also on the list: Live Bottom Systems, from the trucks I often got stuck behind when my commute took me past the concrete plant), and when I started the journal it seemed like as good a place as any to use the title since I don’t think I’m going to be making any albums. There’s an orderliness in the phrase that appeals to me–a place for everything and everything in its place. If only I had such clarity in the rest of my life.

what’s your motto/mantra/philosophy?
I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve settled on one. Right now, the top contender is “you won’t know until you try”, but some days “this too shall pass” feels more fitting.

what do you do when you’re not writing?
I work (writing web-based accounting software and assisting customers with using same). I make quilts. I travel, mostly with but also without Mr. Karen. I read other people’s writing, both online and off. I process books over at Distributed Proofreaders. I read other people’s writing, both online and off. I dance Nia. I’ve recently started knitting after a 20-year hiatus but am not sure yet if I’ll keep doing it.

where do you see yourself in five years?
Provided the universe and the economy cooperate, I’ll be living a life that looks very much like it does now–same husband, same employer, still making quilts. I like my life now, so I’ll be happy if I can continue on this same path.

if you could give your teenage self one piece of advice, what would it be, and why?
Don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking. When I add up all the mental energy I wasted doing that, I sigh deeply. I doubt the teenaged me would listen, though.

how about them dodgers?
You mean Cubs, right? And Vikings, if we’re going to talk football, too.

what are your hot button issues? human rights? animal cruelty? kids? what makes you get up and get vocal?
I’m naturally quiet, so I rarely get really vocal about anything. I open my wallet most frequently for animal-related causes.

two trains are headed toward each other. one is traveling from chicago and the other leaves los angeles at the same time. if they are both traveling at 75 miles an hour, at what time would you care if they crashed or not?
If I’m going to do the math–and I can if I have to–I’m going to need more data, like a map showing the routes the trains are taking and a schedule of stops to be made, for starters. But I don’t think that’s the intent of the question, since it doesn’t ask “what time will they crash” but “what time will you care”, to which I answer that I will care as soon as I see the headline at the bottom of Yahoo!Mail when I log in to see my messages.

name five random tidbits about yourself that we haven’t already covered.
1. I was a band geek, to the point where my first kiss happened at band camp (but not with the boy I really wanted it to). I played oboe, and because that wasn’t a good marching instrument, I also played alto sax and the bell lyre, but not at the same time.
2. In my head, I’m Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, despite never having watched any of their movies all the way through.
3. In high school, I memorized pi to 100 digits. I blame peer pressure–a handful of my closest friends were memorizing it and I wanted to fit in. Now, I can barely remember 5 digits. (3.14159…)
4. I really, really want properly capitalize these questions but also want to respect the questioner’s small caps sensibility.
5. My favorite question is “Why?”

give us a quote, a song lyric, a stanza of poetry or something similar that speaks to you.
“Life’s full of tough choices.” –Ursula in The Little Mermaid

some fluff: what’s your favorite television show and if you don’t watch it, what’s your favorite book?
I used to look forward to Gilmore Girls, but I’m not so happy with Rory dropping out of Yale so I may not like it as much this coming season.

how far would you go for a loved one? meaning: if it came down to you or them, would you sacrifice yourself for them?
I like to think I’d sacrifice myself to save Mr. Karen, but I won’t really know until I have to do it. I hope it never comes to that.

tell us one happy memory.
Floating in the ocean off Singer Island in Florida with Mr. Karen, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the little silver fish in the water and knowing we had another couple days to do whatever we wanted–no schedules, no pressure.

what is your passion?
I really like cheese. I know, you were looking for a more serious answer, weren’t you? Sorry, I’m all out of serious for today.

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