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...