Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Happy Print for Happy Times, A Nudge for the Sluggish Times

Wooooooosh, there goes Summer. Well, not quite. Often when I have neglected the blog, it corresponds with a similar lack in other creative spheres. Happily that's not the case this time - several new card designs, plus a couple larger lino prints. It's contemplative time that's at a shortage, I think. And/or peace of mind. Peaceful or not, I vowed to sell at more shows this year than last. Not a high bar, as 2017 saw merely a handful -- but still, points for shaking things up a little. I applied to more -- got into more -- and then thought, well this is no good unless you have more new things to share...

Here's the latest, hot off the press:
the later yellow copies are more lemony than mustardy
I really had fun playing around with strong colors on this design. Thirsty for color, without knowing it! I enjoyed both the colors and the varying degree of inkiness. Sometimes the background is practically sodden; elsewhere, it seems the brayer has just glanced across its surface. These are not proper, spic-and-span pristinely-editioned prints.

cherry red, bouncing with energy
Milky blue vs. darker blue
Initially dismayed to misregister a few copies, I found myself returning to them. There's a certain electricity created by the misstep in printed colors. Jarring, but weirdly satisfying. Possibly moreso, due to the subject matter. The joy of tools is in their potential, to help us as makers create our world around us. The things we make are sometimes messy. Partially instructed, part improvised. Often the final forms vary greatly from our original concepts.

Likewise, these prints are as much about the process of making as they are reflections of the final design.  I look at these and think of my friend's studio -- the reward of inking linoleum blocks, laying down paper, rolling the blocks through her press; the relief of repeat and repeat and repeat; the satisfaction of doing something physical and concrete, especially during heartbreaking times, with a loved one in the hospital.

Before the carving, and the printing, the composition invited lots of juggling. Too many loved tools for them all to be included! I knew I wanted an apron, and scissors, whisk, and hammer; the spade won space through its simplicity and my fondness for gardens past. Other tools jockeyed for space. I photographed sketches and moved them around in Photoshop, returned to the drawing board.

The original word placement (now in "badge") also explains my pencil placement...
To carve or sign? Decided to carve my name for two newest prints, hmmm

Detail of the inked black block

The color block, after many shades have been tried

Detail of a sunny green, with inking plate in background
prints +child. "why are you standing up so high? I will get on the chair, too"

"Your Tools Await" is now up in my etsy shop, in milky blue & cherry red --more colors coming.  All hand printed on toothsome Rives BFK paper, measuring 12" x 18" (standard framing size).

Friday, June 15, 2018

Lunch Hour Takes a Dangerous Turn

A trio of the BigHeaded Dead, Art Institute of Chicago
Hey did you read my awesome and only post from last month, about the "Making Home" exhibit at the DIA, my subsequent Gregory Crewdson documentary watching* and brooding? Right? Right. I wrote it over several days, as it was difficult to carve out one chunk of time. Multiple saving somehow foiled by the sorry, mysterious black hole that is my glitchy, glitchy macbook pro, which Geniuses (insert copyright) nevertheless insist is healthy, robust. But, so. Obviously I have gotten over this by now, but life is busy, and clearly there are way worse things to brood over. And, were one more evolved, one would skip the brooding in any case, because life will beat it out of you anyway, why hurry this along?

So, bigger things. like guns. Today is Tuesday and my 3 year old has just paused from cramming ravioli into her mouth to ask, "What are guns?" Unh. We have already been having BI-Zarre chats about death of late, as her father took her to a memorial the weekend before last. But here we are, in Terry Gross land, not even coverage of a mass shooting or even a murder, but a director and actor interview. To be honest, I really haven't become adept at switching the radio, CDs, or TV to shield her ears, but it would seem the time to start has already passed. I still catch myself exclaiming at fellow drivers, though the backseat driver instantly provides a tonally accurate replay: "WHY DID YOU SAY: 'You've gotta be kidding me?'" Her remarkable, relentless attention is catching up with me. So. the director of Taxi Driver has just told Terry that at a certain point of his life, he just slept better with a gun under his pillow. And I internally cringed, because I can think of few things which would make me feel more threatened than having a gun nearby. Cue preschooler head swinging my way, pesto-greasy fist paused by her mouth: "What are guns?" To be exact, she actually pronounces it like gum,  as in the oddity we chew, which she also just noticed for the first time this week.

This isn't a setup for a lucid crossing over of the preschool-middle aged divide. More of a chagrined fumbling of information, tossed up into the air, while I watch for reactions, and add more topics to google in relation to childhood development. I am wearing a carefully neutral face. Well, I note, they are things that some people own. They are made to hurt or kill animals or people. How can any of this make sense?  Most of the time, police officers or soldiers have guns. But they try to use them to protect people in dangerous situation. Clearly this makes NO sense, on top of being vastly untrue in uncountable instances. But sometimes other people will have guns. She is trying hard and I'm not giving her a lot here to go on. "...And doctors! They have gums, to help people--"

"--No. Doctors NEVER use guns in their work, because shooting a gun wouldn't heal anyone and that's their whole job, to help people by healing them. Guns are very, very dangerous and police and soldiers have special training to know how to use them. When you shoot a gun at someone you really hurt them--"


"Nope, this is a HUGE owie. Some people can be fixed in the hospital from being shot, but some people DIE-"

"-and THEN they are put in a museum." This she delivers with triumphant satisfaction. For the past six months or so, she has been adamant that dead people show up in museums without fail, which I kinda get, what with all the galleries of Western portraiture and disturbingly lifelike sculptures.  I won't lie: this is one of my favorites of her kid-logic conclusions.

"Well noo, remember Daddy mentioned the cemetery? People are usually buried there. But not everyone dies from being shot. But it's a big enough owie that it changes you, being shot."

 "I could shoot a gum--"

"NO you could NOT shoot a gun, it's VERY. DANGEROUS. That's not -"

"I could put a gum in my mouth like this" and puts fingers in her mouth to demonstrate, as if it were a carrot stick or her Crayon toothbrush or the (annoying) wrong end of her spoon. And the last two bits to me solidified why to never ever have a gun in a house with children: had she even heard suicides mentioned or that specific threat? "NO, that would NEVER be something for you to do, that would give you a HUGE OWIE. This is not something for children to use."

I think that was about it for the exchange, outside of various lame attempts to follow up questions.  How does it make people hurt? What's a bullet? How does it help you to sleep better? All horrifying and mystifying, collectively speaking. Would we be talking about sex by weeks' end? Which would be a relief, by comparison. I periodically remind myself that most people don't remember things earlier than five years, but it's not like I'll suddenly be up for impromptu disquisitions on man's inhumanity to man when she turns five. I know that no parent has all the answers, and that simply acknowledging that is okay, too. But how to arm them (ha) with enough age appropriate knowledge, without scarring them? Clearly, she will need to know the world has tragedy, horrible misfortune, hatred and evil in it, but please, just not yet.

Related articles on talking with young children about gun violence offer some tips -- one sentence stories for the very young, stressing that parents do everything to keep them safe -- brief searches on talking to kids about guns at all yielded talking points for combating children's curiosity, in a household with guns.

So far, no subsequent gun talk, but this: "GROSS means yucky but ALSO is someone on the radio. GROSS is a name."

*splendidly, luxuriantly over-the-top in terms of physical setup and resulting atmospheric narratives

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Trader Joes: Now with 20% More Naps

So I had a throw-back moment of bliss yesterday afternoon. Not pre-baby, but mannnnnn. The briefest of recaps: my daughter is three. That's it. Now all those who were silent when the "OH MY GOD the TWOs" were having their say, they have now stepped up to say, "Okay the TWO's? They don't know what they were talking about it, because it's three that's the nightmare, it's fshhhhhhhewwwooo, it will knock you on your ass, seriously." I am in agreement, because about two weeks before the 3rd birthday, all the crazy-ass supreme leader tendencies jacked up ten levels, and we were, indeed, all fshhhhhhhewwwooo. As your little one grows, the frequency with which very earnest loved ones and strangers admonish you to "CHERISH EVERY MOMENT" decreases, which --lovely intent aside --  also decreases overall cortisol levels and lowers the probability of seemingly random punches.

So the 3.0 child is 20% more awesome and nth% more trying, so it all depends on the moment over here. She talks/sings/demands through the one naptime, is exceedingly vocal about all her caprices; and is adept at trying to shift the daily narratives ("MOMMY, YOU are not COOPERATING with ME!").  It could be said I exist in parallel: I'm variously vocal about my caprices, am also crafting the daily narrative, but here we diverge -- I long for the shutdown, the quiet renewal. Would that I had a calm nap time, I would gloriously bask. The closest we ever get to naps these days are sporadic car naps, with those figuring in once every three weeks or so. I'd say the last two minutes of our ten minute drive to Trader Joe's she succumbed. Out like a light: I lifted her out of the car seat, with no stirring. Experimentally, I sat us down on a bench by the entrance and she snored softly. Her weight eased against me, her legs dangling on either side of my hips.  I closed my eyes, felt the warm spring breeze and the sun on my face, heard grocery cart clangs and people on their phones. Pat Benatar gave way to "Sussudio" to T'Pau to Soft Cell and I felt mildly shamed to fall so clearly into a target demographic -- I was alternately appalled by the cheese and delighted by old favorites, but I knew every song from its first sound.

Better than sleep? Total relaxation, without oblivion.  And this child, sleeping on me, with the freedom to just sit and feel it. I don't remember when this last occurred. And how often will it happen in the future? She woke up a couple times, looked in my face, frowned, and plunked her head back down on my chest. She was determined not to go anywhere. I caught up on bookmarked articles on my phone, nodded at passersby. We started our shopping trip after an hour, while she was still woozy with sleep, and disinclined to engage with random shoppers who wanted the boost of momentary kid time. By the time we reached the nearest park, however, she was full of vim and vinegar. She noted the park was filled with people. "I will tell them about my scooter," she said before bellowing: "KIDS!!! I HAVE...A SCOOTER!!!" The 7 year olds on the soccer field took no notice. She pursed her lips and gazed around, before spying a brother and sister at a nearby play structure. I unbuckled her scooter helmet and off she ran.

Friday, March 23, 2018

More Frosting, Hold the Confetti

This past Sunday, our daughter turned 3 years old; and we had a brunchy gathering, with scones and her first full-fledged cake-with-frosting (devil's food, cream cheese, rainbow sprinkles). She tore into presents, examined new toys, and crammed herself into the wee tent house with a small gaggle of fellow children. She took her first wheels out for a spin. We're pretty proud of our new 3 year old, and happy to have collectively made it thus far. 
 I don't remember much from being very young, myself. I know, rather than remember, that Mom always made special birthday cakes for us, and picked flowers from our backyard (blousy peonies sat outside first, with their stems in water-filled buckets, while scores of ants dropped to the cement).  I remember flashes, rather than anecdotes: the woven white vinyl slats of my changing table, sharing a room with my sister, before our parents moved one flight up and she moved across the hall; sitting on the front steps outside our house, when each concrete step took up a large expanse of the length of my legs. As a preschooler, laying in the twilight darkness of my parents' bedroom, next to my Mom, who drowsed, while I adamantly did NOT do so.
Young Mom (center, top)
Today, my Mom turns 90. At 10:45 AM, it's too early to call. She sleeps late these days, and frequently. The more recent sleep research paints a damning picture of the quality of our sleep as we grow older, so though she may be sleeping a lot, it's a far cry from toddler sleep or teen sleep. She worries, as she always has. But now, as she gets more confused about how life fits together, the worry also bears a hazy quality -- which seems appropriate, but unfair. Couldn't we strip that anxiety away, as we cease to understand what once came easily? But no, apparently not.   
Mom, with her older sister
A few weeks ago, my sister and I debated appropriate presents. But it's obviously more about what form a celebration would take, who needs anything at 90? My sister reminded Mom of her upcoming age, which was met with some manner of disbelief/dismay. As far as I can remember, she has treated her age as another burden, with a strain of "poor me" attached to it. From the privileged/ignorant vantage of relative youth, I have often wished she could feel appreciation for her good fortune in growing older, despite the hardships. The only thing to do is to court gratefulness in myself, and take it from there.

But how do you celebrate a life, when details large and small are dissolving? When I was home in December, Mom woke up full of stories about her childhood home outside of Newport News, VA. She traced the town's few streets in the air, with her finger, before I gave her pen and paper. They took the trolley on these days, they went for a day at the beach, they played in the river, against their parents' wishes. This week in Pennsylvania, she asked my sister if she had always lived in our childhood home, had she been born here? The word untethering comes to mind.

Art school drawing from Mom's stash
But maybe, as usual, it simply comes back to cake, figurative and literal. A little fuss, attention paid to make the day golden, love brought to the forefront. Like any parental figure, Mom provided illustrations of what to strive for and against in my own approach to life. There's much to celebrate in a 90-year lifespan: small town girl who strikes out to go to art school in Philadelphia; one of a couple draftswomen in Newport News shipyard; hat model in local department store; seamstress at age 13, who went on to sew costumes for a ballet during college, and later, sew clothes and toys for her children. Stay-at-home mother, with endless meals and laundry done daily; who encouraged art projects and writing projects, and freely shared art supplies. Grower of gangly tomato plants with burstingly ripe tomatoes, begrudging cherry pitter of the fruits of two backyard sour cherry trees. A woman who preached confidence for her children, but who was a little more timid on her own behalf.  In the domestic sphere, however, she did take on fixing random things around the house, despite not having a strong background in it; and, in her 80's, delusionally argued with my sister about sawing down an ailing tree in the background, rather than paying a service to do so (she'd do it slowly! Chop off a branch here, a branch there, it'd be fine). Life can't be boiled down to a paragraph, but I wanted to give you a peek, anyway.

Hopefully last night's blizzard won't prevent Sister from picking up the ordered birthday cake; and a box will arrive in the mail from us, with some decorations, a sticker drawing from the girl, and presents to unwrap. We'll peer at each other through computer screens and sing off-key and usher in the new year with family.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Decoding the World, One Stall at a Time

There are no showers in here,” my daughter observed. I was squatting before her, holding her square on a toilet.

It’s true, restaurant bathrooms don’t have showers. They don’t expect you to take a shower here.” We processed this new bit together. We switched spots and she placed little hands on my waist and thigh: “I will hold you, so you don’t fall in,” I thanked her and she purred, “It’s okayyyyyy, You’re fine. I won’t let you fall in. Because you’re a sweetie.” Which is not why I refrain from letting her fall in, though it’s nice to hear: she’s in a highly contrarian phase and it’s safe to say we’re both exhausted at morning's end/ afternoon's end/day’s end. 

Afterward she chattered to a polished woman using the nearest sink. The young woman gave her a pained, tight-lipped smile, and briskly shook water from her hands before exiting. I reiterated that outside of Daddy and Mommy, who are very proud, people probably don’t want to hear about her bathroom accomplishments. “But why?? WHY?” Her response was equally as pained as the woman's expression had been; I did my best to clear matters up. 

For the moment. Because there are so many why's throughout the day, so many mysterious basics to nail down. Not to mention the larger, more complex issues which dog our existence through adulthood. I confess, I often get a kick out of some of the easy ones -- it's like I'm a tour guide, helping to decode the odd ways of a strange place. Often the question momentarily startles me, as I'm yet again brought back to a large gap in understanding some aspect of our daily life. How busily the babies/toddlers/preschoolers must puzzle together all levels of existence. Astounding. So it's nice to get the questions wherein you may simply say, "Ahh, this is a paperclip, we use it to attach papers to each other; this is a penny, we don't eat them"* vs. rambling discussions of how currency is valued, how monetary value and people's worth become linked; how governments can choose to actively grow glaring inequalities...

Obviously, these conversations are farther off, though death is already popping up (courtesy even-the-sanitized fairy tales). While I try not to sugar coat things for her, so far I have sidestepped defining "guillotine."  I know the Madeline books were written in a different time, but why include a guillotine??? Bah. Ahh that Peppito... 

But to return to potty training. As I'm sure that's what you'd prefer to read about. I'm not a fan of potty humor/body humor. Never have been. I don't think I'm squeamish, but it just leaves me cold. So, I get not wanting to engage with random young folk about their bodily functions -- though I like to think pre-parent me wouldn't have been huffy about it. But I have begun to understand that to be in tune with where my daughter is turns out to demand a letting go of my attachment to some societal niceties. She may turn to stranger-you and brag about her poop, or check in about whether you have a penis; or loudly sing variations of POOP(/Y) and PEE to the tune of Annie's "Tomorrow."** And we can teach her the gradual lessons of propriety, but they won't take effect for quite some time. It still makes me cringe a little, but also laugh. It's probably good for me. A little less propriety and a little more devil-may-care can't hurt. And on balance, it beats a scream-crying fit any day of the week.

*also perfect illustrations of how even the "easy" questions beget answers leading to more questions. 
**Also, relating to propriety and boundaries, privacy still holds some mystery to her. I was in the bathroom, alone, until her appearance; she announced," I will close the door so you can have PRIVACY". She certainly closed the door, but with both of us inside. She smiled proudly at me, and twiddled the shower curtain.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Recess is Over, Leave Your snowshoes by the Door (Thanks for the break, Austin!)

Hard to believe we were basking in Texas sunlight less than two days ago. It's NOT snowing in Southeast Michigan at 10:32 AM on this Thursday, but the snow shelf on the back deck ...

We had a groovy time in the So Co corner of Austin, Texas this past week. Rick presented to and investigated local youth theater organizations; and I wrangled the girl into and out of her umbrella stroller, which is in its last days size-wise. I blamed the captive germs on our flight for the cold which bloomed in me almost immediately after arrival; I was fatigued and grumpy, but cheered by the low fifties temperatures. Also the airbnb -- how fantastic is it to pop into someone else's surroundings? This one was clearly a rental -- basically a few rooms from an Ikea store -- but WOW to be in a place that's less clinical than a hotel chain, that simultaneously retains the blessed state of no-clutter. When we walked in, ambient beats played softly. Our child gleefully disassembled the cushions from the l-shaped sofa in order to create a "bed" on the floor (naturally, in the middle of the walk space) and launched herself across the barren couchscape, giggling.

Last stop one night: Auguste & Marcel. We had just decided on calling for a car over a long(ish) walk back, but maybe one more place? It was quiet, just dark enough; we plunked ourselves down on a leather couch by the front window. This trip brought home the fact that I'd happily go out with more frequency, if people watching from a couch were guaranteed. Also recommended? "Velvet Sunrise," which I ordered despite no knowledge of velvet falernum. The cocktail was well balanced, with a nicely spiced warmth to it; I asked the lanky, Afro'ed bartender if he had created the drink. He was wistful: "Nooooooo, my brother actually.  I keep trying to make a drink with tequila because I love tequila, but I haven't come up with anything worthy to put on the menu." 

Another couch outing -- and one of the highlights of the trip -- The Continental Club. It's a tiny, old bar with a small stage, boasting a solid roster of talent. Opened in 1955, it was refurbished and restored to its 50s appearance in 1987 (interesting history here). A lot in Austin bears an updated retro feel: perky neon signs outside bespoke burger places, blocky starbursts of chrome framing tall plate glass windows, diners with throwback curbside service; a stranger you chatted with in the park a few blocks back, who pauses his truck at the stop sign to matter-of-factly ask if you need recommendations for your Austin stay. Similarly, back inside the club, it feels like another time. Not fifties, but not now. The barback has its normal spirit bottle display, but the TV is mutely set to a random Technicolor musical*.  Rick & I turn from the bar proper to scope out the rest of the room. The stage is backed with a red crushed velvet curtain, with a jazzy Continental Club sign. Small, high tables are grouped tightly in rows, with all seats facing forward; these are mostly full, and we gaze across to the far side wall, which has a raised platform of leatherette seating. 

Closest to the standing/ dance area -- two spots free and clear! Have we missed something? Is it reserved? If so, there's no signage, and we are the gleefully ignorant tourists descending. We settle in, though I fret. A handful of people seated in the front-facing main section cast glances at us once, twice; one man repeatedly does so. Gaffe? Or non-local oddity? We don't have cowboy hats; I lack a glossy mane of hair which seems to be the norm for women; one or the other of us gazes at a phone. We also have too many things with us. I shuffle my bulky colder weather clothes to a smaller space and hover about the drink at my feet;  Rick drops a credit card and the circulating waitress purrs, "Y'alll are a mess~~" But no, we are allowed to be right where we are, and once the music starts, it's a great night.

Thursday night is Barfield, aka Mike Barfield, aka Barfield the Tyrant**. He's an older man in a wide brimmed cowboy hat. His shirt pools around him, his legs swim a bit in his jeans. His voice isn't super rich. And yet he's cool and assured, in command of the stage. For the first two songs, he shakes his maracas throughout, pivoting on one tiptoe to swivel his leg and hips around in a descending groove, while delivering Blues-y vocals. His voice raises to a falsetto in the traditionally lecherous "You're What's Happening" ("'re a high school honey with your shorty shorts on..." the lyrics increasingly, blatantly, obnoxious as the years pass); despite discomfort, this song is as infectious and funky as the rest.  Barfield dances, he grooves, he surveys the audience. Not a dancing crowd, this night, though many of us bop around in our chairs; a woman leans against the opposite wall, mouthing all the lyrics. In moments of heightened drama, he lifts both hands -- fluttering like hummingbirds -- toward the ceiling, like a preacher: Behold the Funk. 
 2015 interview here.

When we returned for a set on Saturday night, the entry was three times higher and the place was hopping. No chance for elevated or seated viewing this time around. And with this music, you need to stand, anyway. The cocktail waitresses were having an exhausting time of it, right arm held aloft with a full drink trays, as they were endlessly forced to recreate paths through the jostling crowd. We made it midway through a set by Tomar & the FCs and I would have been happy to listen for three hours. Ultra charismatic, high energy lead singer, beautiful backing vocals and -- again -- tight, jamming band. In between original songs they played to differing crowd demographics with strong covers of Prince (yayyyyyyyyyy!) and Shania Twain (ehhhhh). If you need more funk in your day, play this in the background (recorded at different venue).

*some kind of violent hilarity unfolds (in a saloon? bordello?) with full-dress nuns banging men over their heads with whatever's at hand (boxes, vases); chagrined gentlewomen enter the fray. They do their best to rise above feeble feminine physicality, evading harm and landing a blow, yards of silk ballooning around them. It must be an obscure one, Rick can not place it. 

***as in "The Tyrant of Texas Funk," coined by another, about him; he claimed it for himself.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

You Will Always Need a Shot. Everyone Needs a Shot.

The gift that keeps on giving
"So what's wrong with you?"

"Umm nothing is wrong. I'm just here." As directed, I'm stretched out on the floor. I am an unenthusiastic patient. My daughter frowns and looms, as much as an almost-three-year-old can.

"But," she persists, "What is wrong?" A pause. "I will be your doctor today."

I cave. "I...have a cough."

"Okayyyy. Has a dog crawled inside you?"


"Okay. Have any animals crawled into your head?"


"Okayyyyyyy. Well. I'm almost certain bees have flown in your ears~~"

"Oh my god, really!~~"

"So I will give you ear drops" puff! puff! from a tiny bottle "and give you bandages" and with that she stuck address labels from her grandparents' home across both my ears. She tucks the labels around the edges of my ear lobes.

"I don't know about this~~" It's very disorienting to have stickers over one's ears. I push myself up from the living room rug. I

"~~And you will need a shot."

"Can you please not give it on a bone? They are meant to be given into fat (or muscle?)"

She ignores me and jabs into the tops of my feet. "There you go."  

The doctor has impressive availability, and is open to alternative paths to health. Inconsistent bedside manner. Information about medical schooling currently unavailable. She is always accepting new patients.