Friday, December 14, 2018

Studio Visit for the Win! Sunday Zen

Update: This is from a few days ago. You have one more chance to visit Laurie Eisenhardt's studio in Royal Oak, tomorrow, on Saturday the 15th.

Beautiful Sunday morning, sun-filled and cold. Yesterday was my last craft/art show of the year and tonight we light the menorah next to a decked out Christmas tree. This week I may manage to send a couple cookie boxes out, for the first time in a few years -- and in a couple weeks, we'll travel to Pennsylvania to be with my side of the family. Aside from down-trodding run-of-the-mill illness, the year seems to be wrapping up nicely!

This morning I paid a magical visit to Laurie Eisenhardt's ceramics studio. I seriously second-guessed myself about going: a long drive, I felt crummy, tired from yesterday's show, and I already had presents mostly squared away, so what did I think I was doing? Basking, as it turned out. A sign on the front door guided visitors to follow the hay path around the side of the house, up to the studio. The first thing you see are her tiles climbing the walls around the painted studio door, in iridescent tendrils.

Inside, music played, wall-vase heads sprouted leaves and berries.  A short table stuffed into one corner offered up ripe strawberries, glazed chocolate cookies. The studio's bounty of inventory was clear evidence of an established, highly functioning studio -- though it appeared neater, more spare than it had any business being. All chaos doubtlessly laying in wait behind the sheets lining the small, light-filled rooms. But visible, tiles everywhere: girls with tree crowns, leaping cheshires, grazing stags, miraculously scaled fish, shallow women-bowls with vegetables dancing in their skirts. Night skies with fortunes, sleeping moons, and star-babies. Lively and quiet; playful & mysterious. I was sucked in by the delight in her artwork.

Over the past few months, I have repeatedly come back to how joy resides in tools, through the promise of their -- and thus, our -- potential. And it's why old-school hardware stores and boutiquey kitchen stores leave me with the same happy glow: Ohhh, the things I could do! Even, it seems, when my fix-it levels are vastly overrated. Somehow it never occurred to me to view art purchases in the same way. Not *exactly* the same -- years of drinking coffee from gorgeous mugs have not morphed into spontaneous skill at the potter's wheel -- but in a broader sense, in surrounding yourself with loved art, you are supporting potential realized. You have signed on for someone else's creative journey. If you are a repeat customer, you are watching how their work evolves; you connect with some pieces more than others, some paths they explore, you gaze at from the roadside; but others feel familiar, or tantalizing, and in you jump.

When I was looking at Laurie's work and deliberating, I felt the uplift of consumerism, potentially acquiring art I liked, which also feels guilty and frivolous -- but why exactly should it be so?* But I also knew that whatever I brought home to have on my walls, would boost me whenever I took the time to appreciate it anew. Both for the inherent joy in the work itself, and in the knowledge that this tile began as potential, to which the artist committed herself. Our artwork isn't similar. Our skills and talents are different. But on that broadest making level, what a nourishing thing to have beautiful work around you that is physical proof of others committing to their vision and bringing that vision home.

*I mean, aside from the obvious indication of level(s) of privilege and ease.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Favorite Uncaptured Photo

Our daughter scrambled up my side of the bed and pounced on a nondescript sleep mask. "Ohhhh Moooooommy" she cooed,"This is TOO SMALL for you!" She held it against her xylophone shirt. "THIS! is JUST MY SIZE!"

"Oh honey, that's not a bra-"

"It IS--" she slid back down the comforter "-- and it's just FOR ME!" she ran into her room and slammed the door. Was she humming? She may have been humming. She had pig tails and little salmon pink grosgrain bow barrettes and her tiny person glasses with plastic flower beads on each temple. And now, as she proudly rounded the corner again, she wore fuzzy navy pants plus one shiny black sleep mask that was doing its best impression of a bustier. It did remarkably well, but for the nose bridge smack in the middle of her chest.* Rick and I were shaking with laughter, how could we not? Her eyes twinkled. "Wanna take a picture?" she asked, very sweetly.

"YES!!!-" I said and ran to find my phone
and "NOOOOOO!!!" Rick said, "DO NOT TAKE THAT PICTURE!!!"

and I found my phone, but she was already putting a t-shirt on, and now all that was really apparent was the nose nub and general bunchiness. I returned to my "Not a bra" stance and set about reclaiming it, so it didn't get swallowed into child world before the next time I needed to use it. Three y.o. was crestfallen, disbelieving. "You! YOU GO TO CARTERS AND YOU BUY ME A BRA!!" I sorried and sorried and said they don't make bras for little girls, it's only when one gets older and has a bigger body. She slumped on her crib-turned-to-bed, hung her little pig tailed head. And obviously, we are not ready for her to grow up and progress along those lines; and she has no idea whatsoever about the reality behind the wanting of the things, but I do respect this sense of entitlement, Mommy has these things, and I shall have them, too. Why would I not?

*I mean, really, how many objects can adequately stand in for other entirely unrelated ones? This, though is a game 3 y.o. plays pretty much constantly. But our adult brains just aren't as flexible.

Friday, October 19, 2018

It's a Card Partayyyyyyy! And the Groundhog Needs No Invitation

Busy Busy Busy! Fall has come, along with some nasty, flu-ish thing. Aside from scheduling myself to sell in the somewhat-outdoors tomorrow (insulated garage), I timed it pretty well, haha. Rick was able to watch our sweetie for most of yesterday and all of today, making extended nap times and dubious home remedies possible. Hopefully the illness ends with me! 3 y.o. definitely sounds nasal-y, but she often does, but is also rambunctious as ever. I'll be layered like an onion tomorrow, and hope that the rain mostly holds off.

If you're not out doors all day, it sounds like a lovely day for a meander! I'm excited to take part for the first time in the Westside Arthop, a free local event, where you can check out 16 venues, with a varying number of artists selling their wares. I'll be at 800 Mount Vernon with two other artists; one door down from another venue and one block away from the most populated venue (featuring the work of 12 artists at Gretchen's House, where I believe this event was first staged). Full artist and artist host map here.

Amongst a robust show docket, I still got to experience some play time.

1. Here are three new card designs, inspired by our daughter's drawings + her words about them:

They have a different feel from some of my other designs, I think, so we'll see how they do! The green ones *just* finished drying, so their first outing will be to the Westside Arthop tomorrow. After this event, I think I'll deliver some to the yummy El Harissa market, which I'm very happy to have carry my cards.

2. I dropped off a nice batch of small cards to Nicola's Books. May they sell happily and well!
including the new "Thank You" card, also here
3. Thank you, Everyone who stopped by to browse and visit at the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale, at the end of September! All you groovy, cool, and odd folks -- fellow vendors and friends & customers -- made some long days seem shorter. As did some fine music and the discovery of a new favorite brew.

Show favorite? The groundhog.
I sold this vociferous fellow more frequently than any other print. Quite often, it spurred stories of animal deck occupations, and frequently, an older male relative who was being driven crazy by them. Purchases were contemplated, but would Bill find it funny OR would it send it him over the edge? Not for me to say. Either way, I'll also have this one at my table tomorrow... Consider yourself invited.

Happy Weekend, All.
M a/k/a Cakeasaurus

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Whatever the question, the answer is DADDY

"Put your toys away, it's dinner time." On different days I could have been saying this to a child or an adult in my house, but here I'm being called out by the wise ass bartender. I have some shrimp summer rolls to balance out a pint of sour, but am fiddling with an Instagram post, or rather my sad typing skills. I'm hunched over my phone unless I catch myself; I'm close-to-doomed posture-wise. Old Tribe Called Quest is playing and I can't resist answering that Yes, I can, kick it. Dweeby, all of it. At least I'm out.

Anyway, we are, yet again, in the midst of major transitions:

A.) The girl starts pre-school next week, three afternoons. Suddenly she won't be seeing her primary babysitter -- lovely and capable, she brought her ukelele with today, to play "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and show my daughter a couple simple chords. So sweet, it made my heart hurt. But by golly, the girl is ready for an expanded world! More people, more activities. She wakes up, asking what we're going to be doing for the day. "But where will we go??" Well. As fun as I have sometimes thought myself to be, I'm not entirely up to the role of constant entertainer.

But, so. Suddenly she will be off, for much longer periods than my usual babysitting breaks, and clearly now my personal growth will shoot forward, yes? Either obvious immersion in new creative projects or return to frequent writing and/or figuring out career goals for my imminent future. I think I may have the start of staycation syndrome: I will have a week off, now I can entirely fix my life.  I should dial it back a little, while still raising the bar for myself, if that makes sense. A little bit of a re-boot in the midst of everything. Because more changes are most definitely coming in the next couple years, so holy hell, I should take advantage of this now.

Obviously, too, it will be strange with her away from myself and the house for over 4 hours at a go, and three days in a row, but watching her at a school visit yesterday showed us (yet again) that while she sometimes holds back in larger kid groups, she will probably hold her own just fine. She has no problem correcting people about what she wants; and she will eat All the foods if you let her. They were alternately sharing thick banana slices. The teacher clarified for our daughter that the rule is, "we have two hands, so we can take two pieces at a time." "Oh," she gestured, "I can fit two in each hand~~"

B.) The Mommy Love is gone. Oh, it's just submerged! You say. Fine. I'm not fishing. But I'm used to the love fest, even in the midst of trying times (which there have been A LOT OF recently), but now it's Daddy this and Daddy that. There was always the puppy love, on the evenings he came home before her bedtime, he has always been a bit halo-ed, BUT. Last week:

Moments after I came home, to relieve the babysitter: "I wish DADDY was here. I just LOVE HIM SO MUCH."

"I know, but he's at work. How much do you love Mommy?"

"I LOVE DADDY SO MUCH. I just love you a little."  So this + LOTS of *Ahem* oppositional behavior = AWESOME TIMES. Possibly exceeding my patience levels. I mean, it takes all the affection to deal with someone hitting you, kicking you, and then demanding block tower time (in which, make no mistake, she will bully you about all your block decisions).

At the preschool visit yesterday, the little ones were doing "journalling," which involved them drawing pictures of their family, and telling the teacher what they wanted written about the page.     "Daddy!" she called, in syrupy tones across the room,"I drew a piiiiiiicture of you!"  The teacher prompted her about other family people to add. "There's no one else I want to draw," my daughter said. Decisively. Rick touched his forehead to my shoulder, while he shook with silent laughter. I understand this is developmentally normal. But experientially? NOT A FAN OF THIS PHASE.

This morning, she begged and pleaded for her father to get up, who was intent on sleeping in. "I want one of you to come see me in my room, I mean NOT YOU MOMMY, I mean DADDY but both of you. DADDY GET UP" I was, naturally, happy to sleep in; but eventually when Rick came to fetch me, he was followed by the little one, bellowing at me, "DON'T GET UP, MOMMY DON'T GET OUT OF BED, YOU DON'T, STAY IN BED, NOT YOU"  which really didn't inspire a rise-and-shine attitude. After I shifted to the kitchen, it was followed by more bellowing: "STOP TALKING, DON'T SPEAK!!!!" I drank coffee at the dining room table, while she ran between the kitchen and the living room. My groggy lack of interaction failed to appease, as she ran through, silently mouthing, "DON'T SPEAK" while holding her hand like a stop sign in my face. Mmmmhmmm. I may be rather old, but I will surely enjoy preschool this time around. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Life's a Carnival...Newest Print + Upcoming Shows Schedule

Hot off the presses...

Step right up, Step right up! All it takes is one fine spin and the life of your dreams is there for the taking!...Or the life of some one's dreams. Or some good dreams and some not-so-good dreams. What's definitely true is that our experiences are rich, multilayered, and only rarely consist of one flavor (i.e. joy or sadness). And we build our lives with these experiences, through willpower, skill, and the vagaries of existence...
This original carnivalesque design is a multiple linoleum block print, printed on toothsome Rives BFK paper, using rich, archival water soluble ink. Measures 12 x 12 inches, standard frame size. Open edition.

Yours for a modest price, in my Etsy shop... ORRRRRR come visit me this Saturday, at the down town Ann Arbor library! ALL PRINTS ALL THE TIME! It's their first fair solely devoted to printmaking -- with lectures and demos and all kinds of excitement. Event details here.

I am also looking forward to sell at two additional Michigan events this Fall:

BookFest, on September 19th

DIYSF -- Ferndale's 3 day street fair September 21-23rd.

Set your focus, spin the wheel, best wishes for a good Summer's end & Fall...

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. 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Chicago Art Minute

Half a week has passed since we drove out to Chicago. Our primary reason was Hamilton, which obviously doesn't need the approval of an occasional blogger. If you haven't seen it, you're already sick of the hype. Nevertheless: you'll be blown away and probably bawl.

Otherwise...Quick hits from a long weekend:

1. We were hustling along after a scrumptious dinner at Little Goat, trying to reach a screening of "Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri" on time. As usual, the directions were clear until they weren't and Rick was squinting at his apple compass, marching forward, and then halting. We passed the nasty opulence of a Trump property and rounded a corner. And were met by a cluster of "Gentlemen":

Blocky, dynamic. With just enough space between its various forms to invite goofballs like me to squeeze in for photos. But the light was low, and Rick's patience was wearing thin, and we had Frances McDormand to see. More on Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming and the journey of the Gentlemen to the AMA plaza here.

"An Elegant Woman at the Elysee Montmartre"
2. French painter, Louis Anquetin, in the Toulouse-Lautrec room of the Art Institute of Chicago. Never heard of him and was on the verge of attributing his painting to someone else. Anquetin was dismissed as a "one hit wonder" by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but Toulouse-Lautrec spoke to his importance among his circle, calling him "the glory of the [Atelier Cormon] studio"... (according to the painting museum label). Aside from befriending Toulouse-Lautrec (and sharing a studio with him), he was also friends with Vincent Van Gogh, and Emile Bernard. Together with Bernard, he developed a painting style termed cloisonnism, which the image is an example of:

"Cloi­son­nism is char­ac­ter­ized in partic­ular by strong contours and surfaces that have been barely elab­o­rated, but also by the bright colors and a bold picto­rial compo­si­tion beyond the rules of central perspec­tive."

Mishmash of other artists? Possibly. Less prominent? Definitely. He later veered away from this painting style in favor of the Rubens school, without gaining much of a following. But what a refreshing, beautiful painting. I love the bold outlines, and the decorative elements in her dress and coat, especially when considering the delicacy with which her face was painted.

3. Wonderful, tiny lives. Rick & I were trading off on daughter wrangling at the Art Institute of Chicago. We try, and mostly fail, to wander as a group, as I want to meander, linger, and share; Rick strives to keep a good, brisk pace; and the daughter wants to to climb every dias, touch all the things, befriend some guards, and kidnap a baby or at least commandeer a new walker into Ring-around-the-Rosie. So this time he mostly took her, after a brief meditation in front of "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte." I didn't get far before he called me; and I expected bullet points about a meltdown, with a consensus needed about whether to stay or go. "We're downstairs in the miniature rooms, you've got to come down here." The what? I said. At the science museum the day before, there had been another miniature "fairy castle," which had seemed somewhat cool in its ornateness, and inventiveness, but also rather twee -- not that we had a chance to really look, as the girl was momentarily fixated on cows and would not stop. More minis? "I know, I brought her down here because I thought she would like it, but they're just REALLY incredible."

I agreed to come down and wound up spending almost all the rest of my museum time in this section alone. It's not just that each diorama is exquisitely detailed; that every diminutive item carries the proportionate heft of its real world counterpart; that the room reads as authentic to its assigned period and place; or that it all speaks to an exceedingly heavy concentration of both money and fussy, fussy labor. The crowning glory is this: every room leads to hallways, or other barely glimpsed rooms, or a side garden, a night sky, rolling pastures. You are compelled to gaze in, in all directions, to see as much as you can, because there's a new bit of world beyond each room. And the tiny inhabitants may have vacated the viewing space, but there are robust lives being lived, just beyond your vision.

"California Living Room, 1875-79"
French provincial bedroom Louis XV -- love the inset bed
English Cottage Kitchen 1702-14

English Entrance Hall, Georgian, c. 1775

... And now back to our normally scheduled program. May our tiny little lives be light filled and many roomed~~

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Consider the Winter Camel

It's 4 degrees with a windchill to approximate -9. It's not that I haven't been outside, but I already feel a bit stir-crazy, knowing we have yet to reach the heart of winter, and not knowing how many brutal cold snaps will come our way. The girl doesn't fully fathom the ferocity of cold this week, so she periodically pulls socks on and rallies for the household: "And now! Let's go to the park!" No one here shall be pushing swings or whipping down slides anytime soon. It's a shame we don't have a nice transparent toddler version of a hamster habitrail lining the upper walls of our little ranch: we could plunk her in, and hear her endlessly scoot around from room to room. She'd burn off some energy and we'd excel  at locating her by scrabbling sound. She would, of course, call for us to join her, which would be physically impossible, but we could wave dramatically and bounce in periodically to assess her toy nesting skills: and leave small presents for her to find in different parts of the trail. Reader, do you feel better? This scenario has already had a calming effect on me. Sad to leave it!

So, here we are in this nasty Winter business, supremely lucky to be protected from its brunt. Possibly feeling in a bit of a slump, but one must remind one's self, January is often Slumptime, what with the royal Family rush of holidays preceding it*, the relative lack of sun, and --  if one ascribed meaning to the artificial construct of calendar time -- and neatly tied one's major tasks up in a bow by year's end -- one may feel especially floaty, without major projects to help order the days. Surely there are new projects to be had, and most definitely there are endless obligatory tasks to be squared off, checked off and otherwise eliminated. My friend told me over lunch that she has been writing out plans to span 2018; and asked what mine were. I fluffed about, though I have been thinking about it. But more on the level of approach versus goal setting.

*which is not meant to disparage family time, natch, only to say the packed nature, and all of the surrounding hubbub leaves one worn out. 

Regardless of where we are this January, it's time to re-up. Here's another fine year for us to invest in ourselves, each other, and our world. A fine time to consider (and buy and look at) Carson Ellis' screen print, which started out as her annual family holiday card last year:

From Carson Ellis' blog
A Handful of Items to Consider, from Someone with Shoddy Credentials:

When compelled to navel gaze,
don't ignore the negative,
but practice holding things lightly.

Make your spaces work for you. When you want to be nestled, make it so. If your space is overly stuffed, but you know you need something cleared out for sanity, give yourself that -- without the clearing process turning into a project in itself.

 Go for what you want. But don't apologize for adjusting down, when you have considered the situation. --> Insert here the video which I could not upload --> my child intently dragging a red rocking moose and random stuffed animal to our cart in IKEA last month. I noted that she had already lobbed 5 stuffed animals into the cart, which exceeded the stuffed animal limit, and that the moose going home with us was highly unlikely. After plaintively explaining that we didn't have a moose, so we had to get the moose, she frowned at it, lobbed a 6th stuffed animal in the cart, and walked away. Sometimes you think a moose is necessary, when really, a camel stuffed animal + a small bear in striped boxers will do the trick. Very few things in this life are truly essential, and focusing on those non-essentials could actually be tripping you up. Maybe what you want/need looks a little different than it did a few years ago, or last year. Maybe it's packaged differently. Some may call you fickle. That's okay: life is fickle. 

When invited to be in a parade, go for it! Special events and times come bundled with hassle. Enjoy the glitter and the exhaustion.


Whatever you're undertaking, allow yourself to be at your current level. One refreshing toddler trait is their frequent belief that they're doing GREAT at whatever is at hand. Obviously this reflects our enthusiastic encouragement - but this, too allows them to forge ahead -- and develop some real skills. Recent declarations from our shortest family member include: "I'm great at drawing!" "I'm a very good Mommy" (when she's not tossing her baby doll across the room), "I AM AN ADULT" "I'm great at jumping!" "I'm a VERY fast runner!" It's patently obvious that toddlers are works in progress, but still most people who describe adults as such are seen as a bit laaaaaaa, if not annoying. Yes, the growth rate is drastically reduced, but otherwise it still holds...

I don't need IKEA kitty drapes. but I want them.
<-- Take time to appreciate simplicity and repetition. It's easiest to be blown away by detailed, finely honed skill -- but there is wisdom and appeal to bold, pared down visuals.

Allow space for the magical. Which is not permission to let magical thinking hold sway... Also remember that sometimes theories -- including your own -- are simply that. Be open to revision.

Happy belated New Year, All! Warmest wishes during the coldest time of the year...