Posts Tagged ‘Rob’

Rob is much improved

Rob is much improved today, so clearly my strategy of leaving him with a quiet house while I went to drink medicinal whiskey was the appropriate choice.  He’s still horribly congested but is starting to be able to breathe through his nose. Although he says he doesn’t get quite enough oxygen that way.

I mostly hung out and was quiet today, aside from making soup.  See! I am a good caregiver. I made him soup. And toast.

And then I went out to dinner with friends. But he was fine, really.

Two more days as a bachelorette

This is just a quick note to say that I miss Rob. He’s been away for the last week, helping some friends of ours move to Minneapolis. We’ve talked almost every day but he won’t be home until Wednesday.

Bachelorette life is not all it’s cracked up to be. le sigh…

On being at home, Rob, and outings.

Today was the first day when I truly felt like I was back in Portland. Granted, I was back yesterday and actually saw people I knew even, but it still felt like I was acclimating.

Today I slept in with my sweetie. Then headed off to run errands on the bicycle. Everytime I’m come back from a trip away I feel so much… release when I get on the bike for the first time. I think it is related to a sense of empowerment. With the bike, I’m able to get around under my own power and not reliant on trying to figure out transit in an alien city.  There’s a level of comfort which is nicely reinforced by the endorphins of exercise.

So today I biked down to the post office to mail off some packages and inquire about a P.O. Box. From there I went down to Powell’s where I signed copies of Shades of Milk and Honey, which was fun, and had my picture taken. It’s a totally ridiculous and fun promo thing they are doing.  Basically, when you leave the Gold Room and head toward the Rose room, on the Mezzanine there’s this guy with a camera and a greenscreen. You get your photo taken and they send you a copy. Way better than posing across the street especially since they put my name “on” the marquis.

From there off to visit my friend -e- briefly at Malloys where we made plans to meet up later for drinks. The rest of the afternoon I spent at Central Library researching the WIP. I need to thank Pauline, the reference librarian, who pointing me in the direction specific books in the 975s which was very helpful.

-e- and I had drinks at Secret Society which is fast becoming my favorite bar in Portland. I had a Jasmine Cocktail and a Sazerac. Bizarrely, there was another puppeteer sitting at the bar so I had a moment where the puppetry radar went off in my brain and we had a quick and lovely conversation about “OMG puppets!” and then went back to hanging out with the folks we’d actually arrived with.

All in all a delightful day.

Finished the trailer and thank you caffeine

One of the useful side effects of having a caffeine intolerance is that it doesn’t take very much to help me with pulling an all-nighter. As you might guess, Rob and I wound up staying up through the night to finish the trailer for Shades of Milk and Honey. He’s going to be at the winery all week and the studio wasn’t available today.

So… it was do or die. Through a variety of circumstance ranging from corrupted uploads to paying work coming in, which always supersedes a freebie, to export errors we’d cut it really close. Still, we had no expectation when we went down there that we’d stay up all night.

We left around 9:20 this morning and my writers group meets not far from the editing suite, so I’ve arrived about forty-five minutes early to have coffee and breakfast.

I ordered a half-caff latte. Shocking, I know.

It really is silly that it sounds like a total wimpy beverage and will in fact leave me a little wired. I have no complaints about this. The bike ride also helped, but I’m going straight home and to bed.

Home at last, on time, with all my belongings

I have arrived safely home, with my luggage and the contents of my luggage intact. And only twenty-four hours after I’d planned to get here.

The cats are frantic with loneliness and Marlowe is doing a great deal of chasing invisible demons to prove his affection for me.  Rob is still away at IPNC so I’m just going to go to bed and let the cats hog his side.

A date with my husband

I’m heading off to NYC and then up to Boston for Readercon. Looking at my calendar between now and September it looks like the longest stretch of time that I’m home is twelve days.

So tonight, even though I had stuff to do, Rob and I went on a date. We went up to Ohana Hawaiian restaurant where my husband ordered spam musabi as an appetizer. I do not understand this snack.

After that we biked to the Roseway theater to watch Toy Story 3. The warnings that it was a) really a horror film and b) would make me cry were both accurate. Once again, Pixar proves that they understand character and story.  Also, as Rob points out, their films are beautifully edited and paced.

I’m going to go through my checklist again and then crawl into bed with my sweetie. It’ll be a week before I see him again.

If it doesn’t hurt, you aren’t doing it right.

There’s this saying in puppetry, “If it doesn’t hurt, you aren’t doing it right. Conversely, if it hurts that doesn’t necessarily mean you ARE doing it right.”

A lot of what we do involves twisting our bodies into odd positions and then holding weights over our head, while lip-syncing and singing.  There are more comfortable postures, but very little of it is the way the human body is actually designed to work.

While I always try to build ergonomic puppets the fact is that there are times when it’s just going to hurt. Even holding your arm out in front of you, without a puppet is fatiguing and will eventually hurt. Someone once asked me why more puppeteers don’t do yoga. I showed him a standard operating position and said, “Now I have to sing while holding this position with a eight pound weight over my head.”

I’m reminded of the types of pain while going to the gym.

My trainer is very good at reading body language and knows how to take me right up to the limit of what my body will do, without damage. But, there are somethings that he can’t tell without a report from me.

To help with wrist strength, he had me hold a weight under handed, supporting my forearms on my knees. Using my wrists, I lowered the weight and brought it back up. As soon as he showed me the position a voice in my brain went “Uh-oh” because I’d had a wrist injury involving that position years ago. So, I started very cautiously, with a lot of control, to see how it would feel.  It was fine. We moved up in weight. Five reps into it, I stopped because it was giving me the wrong type of pain.

This is one of the things you learn to identify as a puppeteer. There’s the pain of fatigue and there’s the pain of damage. The former you try to tune out. The latter is very, very important.

My wrist twinged for another fifteen or twenty minutes and hasn’t given me any other trouble. But let me explain why I know exactly how important it is to stop when the body is giving you that signal.

In early-2000 I was in a three-month run of Little Shop of Horrors. The largest puppet in that production weighed about 80 lbs and was well-balanced so it was easy to handle. Easy being a relative term.  It’s still heavy and you can’t breath or see, but besides that, it’s easy to work.

The weekend before we closed the show, the actor playing Seymour and I were doing our usual fight scene and he threw his punch slightly early. It was supposed to happen while the puppet was on the ground, but happened while I still had it in the air.

The puppet twisted to the side and I tried to control it. In my wrist, something popped.

“That’s not good,” I thought and adjusted my grip to finish the show. Adrenalin is useful.

Afterwards, I iced it and wrapped it. It was a two show day so I just worked in different postures to try to avoid problems. That was a Sunday. I had Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday off during which I babied my wrist. It seemed like it was just a minor ouch.

Then I got back in the puppet.The moment I put my hand back into operating position I knew I had done something very, very wrong. Of course, I did the show anyway, by shifting to positions that didn’t hurt.

I was lucky and this was a rare show with workers comp so they whisked me off to ER as soon as the show was over. The doctor didn’t listen to anything I said and kept talking about repetative use injuries, ignoring the “sharp impact” and “popping” sensation I reported.  He put me in a brace and sent me to a regular doctor the next day.  The injury had very localized swelling and only hurt in certain positions. He thought it might be a cyst.

So I was immobilized for a week and then put into physical therapy.

The physical therapy felt wrong. I kept telling the therapist that it hurt and that it didn’t seem right. I couldn’t articulate why though, just that the pain was wrong. After a month, my whining eventually got me sent to a hand specialist.

It turned out that I’d torn a ligament — though not all the way through — and that I’d been re-tearing it every day for the past month.

I wound up being in a cast for the rest of the year and in physical therapy for months after that. So now, when the pain is the wrong sort of pain, I am very clear about the need to stop.

Fortunately, my trainer is smarter than that first physical therapist and listens to me when I say that something doesn’t feel right. There’s the good pain, that means you are doing it right. Then there’s the bad pain, that means you are doing it wrong. It’s important to understand the difference.

As a side note, the wrist injury happened two weeks after I met Rob.

We are car-owners again

I figure it’s about time that I confess that Rob and I purchased a car last month. The fact that I was slow to tell you and how I’m phrasing that probably tells you a lot about my feelings on the subject. I like biking everywhere and I liked the fact that we had a lifestyle that didn’t require a car. The few times we did, we’d check out a zipcar. Not everyone is that lucky.

But Rob has been working down in the Willamette Valley more frequently and there’s no viable way to commute without a car. No regular bus service. No carpools that fit a winery’s sporadic schedule.

He found a 1985 Mercedes 240D, converted to run on biodiesel or pure vegetable oil. It’s a nice vehicle and fairly low-impact.


The fascinating thing is the shift in thinking the occurred the moment we had it. Situations where I’d have happily hopped on the bike the week prior suddenly required thought. Did I want to mess with rain gear or just take the car.

I’ve finally settled into the thinking that I’ll use the car in situations where I would have checked out a Zipcar. Which mostly means if I need to haul something.

It’s still so tempting though, just sitting there and waiting for me to go places without effort.

Finally back in Portland

I got home shortly after midnight with much relief.
My flight out of Minneapolis boarded about ten minutes late, delayed first because we had no flight attendants. Their flight out of Atlanta had been delayed due to weather so they were racing to get to us.
Since this flight was also very full they offered to check luggage through to Portland, but I declined. Thank you, I wanted to arrive with my undies intact this time.
Once we were boarded, they had to hold the plane because a passenger was apparently running to us after a tight connection. Then he never arrived. The flight attendants guess was that he stopped someplace to have a smoke. Then after they shut the doors, we sat there because the ramp crew had a shift change. Sigh.
All in all though we only got home a half hour late, which given my timing on this one isn’t bad. It did put me late enough that taking the MAX home wasn’t a good option so Rob came out to get me.
People, the reason that the active zone is for loading and unloading only is that you cause a traffic jam when you park there.  It slows things down for everyone.  This one guy parked for fifteen minutes and when the traffic cop told him to move, he pulled forward fifteen feet and stopped again.  The cop pulled out his ticket book, which the fellow saw, and he pulled forward fifteen feet AGAIN and stopped. It was so childish.
Rob did finally get through the zombie hoards to fetch me and we came home. It is very, very nice to be here.

    Successfully shot the trailer

    I am fatigued.  

    We did this today.

    There’s my beloved, manning the camera in his role as director. I limited my input to art direction and occasionally movement coach.

    Interesting factoid… the table that the vase and flowers is sitting on is not a real table, although the vase and flowers are real.

    It’s a music stand.

    Well, a music stand with some strategically placed cut paper to change the silhouette into something more appropriate for the Regency.

    What actually turned out to be a bonus was that we could change the height of the table depending on what we were filming at the time.  Also, I was able to raise the “feet” of the table above the bottom edge of the shadow screen so it was visible.

    Because the light beam widens as it travels from the projector to the screen, even if you are only an inch away from the screen there’s a little well of shadow, that clips the bottom off of images. In this case it was pronounced because we also had a roll of paper on the ground as part of the screen.

    Being able to tape the “feet” to the stand  gave me the ability to get over that dark area.

    There’s still a load of work to do on the Shades of Milk and Honey trailer, but it’s all in Rob’s camp now. Me? I’m going to bed.

    Making shadow scenery for the Shades of Milk and Honey book trailer

    There’s this thing people do called a book trailer which may or may not be helpful in selling books.  I’m a visual person, and both Rob and I work in film and television so I figured, why not.  There are a lot of elements that go into the making of the Shades of Milk and Honey, but I thought I’d show you just this quick series of things for one of the shots.

    We’re doing the entire trailer using various forms of shadows puppetry as a nod to the popularity of silhouettes during the Regency.  Interestingly, at this point in England silhouettes were called Shades.  So you could say that the trailer is shades of Shades of Milk and Honey.

    Step one. I put masking on the overhead projector to approximate the 4:3 ratio of a standard tv screen. This is just paper and masking tape.

    Rob and I have already spent time doing pre-production on this coming up with images and a shot list. One of them calls for a piano. Am I going to make a fullsize shadow piano? No, I am not.

    What I did here was print out a picture of a fortepiano from 1805 onto cardstock and cut it out with an Exacto knife. Next, I taped scraps of paper to approximate where I wanted the door and baseboard to be.

    I returned to the computer to grab a Regency door, table and vase. Laid them out where I wanted them and printed again. Then it was just a matter of trimming them and taping them to the original piano.

    I’m working approximately 1″ to 1′ for this.

    My basement wall with a stool.

    Wait, it’ll get interesting again in a second.

    Here is the fortepiano projected onto the basement wall. The lit area is 9 feet wide. When we shoot the trailer I’ll be aiming this at a shadow screen and we’ll film from the other side. This is good enough for testing shadows.

    The stool will cast its own shadow. Why do I need a stool?

    I need the stool for an actor to sit on. The actors will actually be wearing a style of shadow mask developed by Larry Reed, but for the purposes of testing height and placement of elements, Rob doesn’t need a mask.

    We wound up moving the baseboard line a couple of times to find a spot where it didn’t interfere with the action of the hands on the “keyboard.”

    Homecoming to muffins, iris and a red hot oven

    I got in last night around 11:00 and Rob came out to the airport to greet me. I have missed him terribly. Coming home was so strange because the season turned while I was away, a fact particularly emphasized by spending the last week in snowy Grand Haven. Here cherry trees are in bloom and the apple trees in our courtyard show signs of following suit. There are daffodils by the path up to the apartment.

    In the apartment itself, Rob had two beakers of irises waiting for me. These are the flowers that we had at our wedding so very sweet. The cats were indifferent and needy in the way that only cats can pull off. Rob had also baked some of his famous chocolate tart cherry bran muffins. So tasty. And what had he baked them in?

    Our O'Keefe Merrit stove, installed

    Returning to Portland, finally

    I’m sitting in the airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan waiting for my flight home. I’ve been on the road for a month and last night Rob said the sweetest words to me. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    I’ve been gone longer than this before, but we usually know that I’ll be gone for months and you can prep for that, emotionally. This time, we thought it would be a week and a half. We do manage to talk almost every night, but a month is still a long time.

    So the fact that I will see Rob, tonight, makes me a very, very happy girl.

    Happy New Year!

    I hope your day was relaxing and pleasant.  Rob and I dealt with some apartment stuff but largely had a quiet day.

    I made black-eyed peas and collards, with Grandma’s pear relish. Rob made ozoni soup so we had a very traditional meal, albeit from two different traditions.

    Also, I just have to point out that it’s 2010, which is such a science-fictional year. It is also the year that my novel will come out, which seems like dream-land.

    On being Mrs. Kowal

    I spent the day teaching puppetry up in Fremont at James Leitch Elementary. One of the interesting things about schools is that they all have different name structures for the teachers. In some I’m Mary, usually Miss Mary, and sometimes Mrs. Kowal.Mary and Rob, just wed

    I always use the married version of the honorific when I’m filling out forms but it’s exceedingly rare to actually have someone call me “Mrs. Kowal.”  It feels a little like I’m pretending to be a grownup.

    All of this is percolating around in my head because Rob and I are celebrating our eighth anniversary this week. November 17th, 2009 we got married in Chattanooga, TN. I am as deeply in love with my husband as I was on our wedding day.

    To celebrate eight years of being Mrs. Kowal, I’m disconnecting from the outside world.  No phone, no internet.  Just Mr. Kowal and me.