Saturday, April 18, 2020

Now with 70% More Masks~~

Well it's kind of nuts to look at my last post. Fascinators! Hah! Wedding planning, haha! Oh yes, we contacted vendors, we tasted all the THINGS and, then things started getting iffy, and we said, well, hmm maybe we'll hold off on booking a honeymoon flight, which shifted to, hmm maybe we have to postpone the wedding until August, and we managed to secure some of our same vendors before most of them shut down and then the hotel shuttered itself and possibly we'll get married next Spring or Summer?

And meanwhile my hometown became the Covid-19 epicenter of Pennsylvania, as initial positives popped up in Michigan, and the viral waves crashed upon all of our shores, regardless of coast or interior. How many millions are unemployed now? How much has the death toll ticked upward? Most of us hunkered down in the mandated "shelter in place," while millions of essential workers are still out there. We all worry, we function, or adopt the outward semblance of functioning. We snap at each other, and cry jaggedly, suddenly, before stuffing a chocolate cookie in our gobs; we yoga and deep breathe, and make brittle jokes about drinking earlier; sometimes we're compassionate, grateful, and giving - or else we fold in on ourselves like collapsing tents. We pick up the ukulele, or double up on knitting, or feel compelled to rearrange all the living room furniture. We peer at pebbles, lint, anything around our feet, anything to avoid gazing upward, lest there be an insurmountable wall. What the Hell will this become?

Back at the pebble level, I'm making masks for family/hospital workers/etc. I'm onto my second pattern, having run out of elastic and iron-on interfacing from the first version. I have broken two needles, but otherwise am making some progress. Feels a little foolish, but it's better than nothing. The current pattern is cleaning me out of bias tape, so I may hop onto a third variation. Outside, a fluffy snow is sticking to bushes and trees. The birds, so newly riotous, have quieted.

The five year old is in a snit in the living room, after I vetoed her ridiculous video choice on the ipad and she tried to smack me. In the first stage of her snit, she stomped back and forth to her room, slamming her door with each trip; and either built or destroyed something mysterious inside. Now she is luxuriating in sadness, with an mournful, meandering tune. Happily, the knowledge that she would currently reject any approach from me frees me up. With no preschool for the foreseeable future, I take whatever moments I can get. In this case, I'm still co-opted, as the woeful song lyrics are pretty entertaining:

(sung breathily, with many pauses. dripping with self-pity)

"Nothing is...
fuuuuun with my Mom and Dad
I feel unloved like a girl dying in a blizzard
a room that's broken
I feel like a doctor's kit
without really the tools
I feel like a stick without a flower
I feel like...(grasping) a clay pot that won't (grasping. *SIGHHHHHH*) that won't stand UP
I feel like a lego without a tower
a button without a hollllllllllllle"

She trudges past in her Frozen 2 nightgown, head down.
Me: "Those were some pretty good sad lyrics~"
Daughter (sharply): "DON'T even TALK about it" {Door slam}.

So, we're holding steady over here.  Hope you're well, Dear Reader. Stay safe, spread sanity.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Fascinators Are Rarely the Answer

Mid-February and sleep continues to be brutal, off-and-on. The back-and-forth of it reflects the irritating classic model of shuffling progress, so. It's been long enough that as much as it *sucks*, life just has to go on and I'm mostly managing to take care of business. I delivered new cards a few weeks ago and a couple random animal characters popped into my head this afternoon (sparks for new designs). I'm a bit more irritable than I would like, as evidenced by a recent conversation with my almost- five year old:

"Mom." She has just emerged from her kiddie gymnastics class.


"I have noticed that you are very crabby in the mornings, but you get weller later on."

I am in a period of intense love for her these days, and that one got me. More on the side of goodness-she's-observant! vs. internal guilt tripping. I couldn't disagree. I haven't been a monster, but I have snapped a handful of times. I apologized and said I would keep working on it. She nodded and asked after snacks, which is usually the top topic of conversation.

on more whimsical side
As I emerged from the sleep craziness, Rick & dove into wedding planning. We have managed to avoid this for quite some time (see also: 5 y.o.), but we fell for a hotel in Buffalo last summer, and after the Winter holidays, both of us were suddenly struck with OMG IT'S COMING UP WE NEED TO NAIL THIS STUFF DOWN NOW/YESTERDAY.  My parents & sister live a few states away, so they can't be super involved with the planning, but my Mom and sister skyped with me about headdress/tiaras/whathaveyou and that was simultaneously serious and fun. I was mystified how to handle this piece of it, as I feel most designs are made with long flowing locks in mind, and I am happiest with super short hair.

things briefly took a crafty turn
Gratifying to see my Mom, who can be waffly about most things in daily life, has not lost her strong opinions around fashion and style. Fortunately, they were aligned in their opinions, so the feedback honed my decisions. They categorically shut me down about a few things I felt were splendid, which paradoxically made me trust the process.
getting sucked into a fascinator at Peacock Room

"We *like* this headband," my sister began, "it's really pretty, we just feel like it competes with the dr~~"

"THIS! does not work! With THAT!" Mom broke in loudly. "NOOOOO."

There's still a surprising amount which has NOT been nailed as of this writing, but tastings have been set up, a visit is around the corner, and somehow it will all come together... I feel the freedom to be excited about it, and also to breathe again.


I returned to one of my favorite yoga classes this morning. I gazed through the glass door and saw a stage in the teacher's spot. Fabric covered, a buddha or two, unlit candles, etc. A coffee mug. Was some kind of retreat happening?

I paused while signing my name at the counter: "Oh is something different happening?"

"Some people are better with change than others," the business owner replied, none-too-helpfully.

I went in and took my normal habit (creature of habit, change-resistant) and murmured the same question to my row mate. "Ohh, there's a flyer out there, I didn't read it." I relayed the interaction I had just had and she snorted. Our instructor walked in, laid her mat out just in front of the huge stage. She had us begin to stretch and noted, "I'm NOT sitting on that. I prefer to be on the ground." Gratifying, all of us stunted, stuck-to-sameness. And what's really so wrong about clinging to a few basic, seemingly solid things, when we all know that even the most basic building blocks -- like sleep -- can be significantly, unceremoniously altered and color all our days?  

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Upside: No Need for Operation of Heavy Machinery, or Solving Caculus Problems

Next Card Linocut Design
Well Hello, 2020. You don't look so good to me, though aside from the larger scope of tremendous issues in our country, and devastating continental wildfires, I blame this outlook on a severe lack of sleep. For over a month now, 6 out of 7 sleep nights involve me suddenly waking up between 2:30-4, and then remaining awake until 5:30/6/or when the little one "wakes" us up around 7.

Usually if I have one night of poor sleep (read: 6 hours or less), my stomach hurts, my head hurts, and I'm a bit cantankerous; and really just try to get through the following day, chalk it up as a loss. But jeezus, all of these days can't be losses. This time period involved travel to Colorado for a fairytale wedding, family holidays in Pennsylvania, and canceled yoga, work outs, and the daily lessening of expectation. Is this my new reality? The insomnia is different than it had been -- it's not a matter of mind racing and worry. It's just a laying there, alert, without the wish to be so. All say that aging screws up your sleep. Before 50, though? I can't see dealing with this for another 30-40 years. I have cut down caffeine, alcohol; become more stringent about screen time before bedtime. Last night for variety I rose to putter: dishes, vinegar steam, WTF podcast with Brad Pitt & Leonardo Dicaprio. And THEN went back to bed for more quality sleeplessness. A half hour's reprieve -- ending with a very talkative alarm. The front half of my head is a mass of dull pain; I think of a rock ledge, on the verge of sliding off.  I'm beyond frustrated.

People try to help. My Mom, who doesn't track most conversations at this point (in equal parts due to partial deafness and being 91) says: "YOU HAVE SOMETHING PSYCHOLOGICAL WHICH YOU HAVEN'T DEALT WITH." And I get that position, except there's no ruminating, and the only developing anxiety that this is the new normal, which is horrible to contemplate. I get that this is small potatoes in the scheme of things, but on a daily functioning level, this is so difficult.

A couple more avenues I can explore and the other hold-out hope is the knowledge that over and over and over again,  one's body does strange things, which appear mysteriously, and then disappear in the same manner. SUDDEN PAIN UNDERNEATH THE SHOULDER BLADE, AFFECTING ALL MOVEMENT! Persistent, solid pain, affecting 85% of movement. One day, two days, three days, four. Fifth? All hunky dory, what problem, there's no problem! It feels too wishful, to hope it'll pan out like so. But any hope is good hope, right? Life is pretty darn good otherwise. Good and loving and aggravating and absurd.

Monday, November 11, 2019

These Are the Songs of Our Lives

Dory singing/speaking whale
Intermittent weird sleeping and nightmares have continued for the child over the past few days, but also lots of impromptu singing. Primarily of the mundane narrative kind: the decision to go for all-unicorn attire (but NO unisocks, as one DOES NOT HAVE THEM, ooooooooooooonly YEEEEEELLLLLOOOOOOW -- so that will have to do*), the rejection of toast, followed by the louder insistence of avocado toast**; later, the demand for a snack laid out, whilst one's mother showers. The barest suggestion of a tune loops in and out -- up and down and over -- and the loudness is similarly variable, as she tramps from one room to the next, leaping from the much abused footstool, crashing into a doorway (which is then depicted in the next doleful song).

I cut up some strawberries, leave them on her craft table; and then am sucked in by emails before the shower. She swans into the kitchen area, to sing:

"I willllllll not eaaaaaaaaaaaaat those strawBERRRRRRRRRIEEEEEEES even-though-they-match-what-I'm-wearing...I willlllll not eaaaaaaaaEEEEEaaaaaat them~~"

I glower at my laptop and join her, singing: "BuuuuuuUUUUUUuuuut, I have CUUUUUUUUt them FOR YOUUUUUUUUU for SNACCCCCK~~"

"I can TELLLLLLLLL they are NOT SWEEEEEEEEET, so no-no-nooooooo!~~"

"You do not knoooowwww some-are-sweeter-than-others, you have to Tassssssssssste them~"

"No, and, noooooo! They are too-harrrrrrd-to-be-sweeeeeeeet~~" and she swoops the wings of her cape dramatically and twirls from the room, this time managing to avoid all doorways.

And then eventually the (barely) crooning gave way to being a frog, which made getting ready for anything a real hassle, since everything must be leapt to and vocabulary was limited to ribbit ribbit, and I really don't see how parents with multiple young children get anywhere/get anything done/retain sanity.

But! Speaking of music, we started dropping in on a morning music session held at her preschool. This has been great -- more little tastes of culture, breaks up one of our days without school, and I get to watch her classmates. This Monday, we arrived later, minutes before snack time. A grown up opened the door, carrying two stainless steel bowls, one with dried mango, the other with popcorn. "SNAAAAAACKKKK!!" a couple kids shouted, and several kids bee-lined it to kiddie seats at the long table. Others kept playing at the water table, or clay table, or with dolls. My daughter took her place and they collectively navigated serving/sharing/table manners. One of the teachers passed a boy seated at the table, "Hey, nice haircut."

"I HAD!" piped up the next boy, "I HAD! a haircut one time. And I came to school the next day! and I LIKED IT THE NEXT DAY!" Kids chorused about Zoey & Joey, the kids haircut chain that seems ridiculous until you have a young child.

"Where I go, they have a rollercoaster--"

"Me, too, yeah! And you sit in a car-"

"*I* sit in a car!-" 

My kid sits in silence. I try to stay out of it, but I can't always manage this. "Hey, that's also the place *you* go to, right?"

She sits there. And then says, grimly: "My Mom. says I can only have ONE lollipop.***"

The apple-cheeked boy across from her is astonished: "My Mom SAYS THE SAME THING!!!!!" Do the Moms know each other? Are they conspiring? The grown ups in the room snicker.

At that, talk shifts abruptly. A boy announces: "152 is the biggest number in the world!"

"Or two. Maybe two," offers another.

"A thousand and one," adds my daughter. I pop over to a nearby (so very low) table to jot down some of their comments. "hey Mom!" I look up. "You're doing good, Mom!" I give her a thumbs up. The days that we both visit her classroom aren't necessarily easier than others -- but she does seem more affectionate, sweeter with me. I suspect she likes that I have entered her world for a bit, in a different way.  

* no clue on the unicorn-yellow connection
** which will not occur, yes we have no avocados
*** that they hand out at the end, right.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Skeletons, MegaShoulders, and Moody Stares at Detroit Institute of Art

We woke up to snowfall this morning. "I WILL NEED MY SNOW BOOTS!" our child exclaimed, as she lifted the deck curtain and saw the thinnest dusting on the leaf piles mouldering on our deck. I scooted her along, for today was special: her first FULL day of preschool and I was determined for us both to get as much out of it as possible. Now we are in the last few minutes of the day before I re-enter rush hour, but I find it's better to start something, even if in the very tiniest way. So, here we are. With the cold and with the cloudy, I need more museum time. I have resolved that I will actually honor this need consistently, going forward. So after a morning appointment, I was on the road to the D.I.A.

In some ways, the visit served to remind me of things I already knew.

1. I tend to love a good Parisian bar/cafe scene. The men are smoking, the women are bored, the female attire tends toward the constrictive and frou frou/confectionary.
detail of Cafe Scene in Paris (1877), Henri Gervex
Here we have the mysterious right edge, which seems to be rejected underpainting, but why was it framed to show it? The docent didn't have an answer, but thought it maybe reflected the artist's wish, "It's *part* of the painting," but I have trouble buying that.

So many things to love: the veins perfectly visible in this man's hand, the glowing cigar tips, liquid light in the glasses, the satin gloss of fabric and ribbons, the individual pools of isolation.
Painter inclusion: Gervex lighting his pipe
Visit full image here.

2. Portraiture: Degas beats out Renoir
My lack of affinity for Renoir nudes was brought home to me when I attended a solo exhibit in Philly years ago, but in this "Humble and Human" exhibit I was faced (hah) with a Renoir portrait next to a Degas. 
Woman in an Armchair (1874), Renoir
Portrait of a Woman (1877), Degas
I like that Renoir's woman seems to have some kind of interior life, but there's still too much peaches-and-cream to the skin. Degas' portrait draws me in so much more, though what can we really tell about her? She is half in darkness, the shadows render her face almost sooty and the coloring is splashy, on the darker end. I love the richness of the color, the strange brightness and sudden detail of the flowers inexplicably behind and above her. Somehow I believe in a richer interior life for this sitter, and a more storied life. Perhaps the clothing plays into it.  I'm not bothered by the artfully drooping chemise, but it does play up the appeal of the subject -- and positions her appeal at the forefront.  So I guess I'd offer the Renoir woman a cardigan (she'd probably ignore me, sigh loudly, or insist she was fine without) and ask the Degas sitter if she'd like some tea or something stronger, and see if I could draw out some stories.

3. I still don't care about Seurat or Pissarro. What else to say? They are not hurt for my lack of care.

Portrait of Postman Roulin (1877) Van Gogh

4. I love any of Van Gogh's paintings of the Postman Joseph Roulin. I don't think I can unpack it more than this, because what I like about it is what I -- and most people I think-- like about his work -- the heavy, energizing paint strokes, the vibrant colors, representations that are realistic enough to make us believe, but which then take us beyond, into a different realm.

Delicious hand-painted frame

And ALSO (one of my 4 yo.'s favorite phrases, currently): "You watch any Sponge Bob Square Pants lately? Because he's on there," The security guard gestures to Roulin. "On an episode. They have him mouthing, 'Sponge Bob Square Pants! Sponge Bob Square Pants! ' It's pretty funny...I spend a lot of time in here" With that, the guard recedes back to the far wall. And so it goes.

5. The annual Ofrendas exhibit is always worth a visit. And this exhibit is gaining in popularity! It used to only last 3 days and now they keep it up for almost a couple weeks -- closes on November 10th. This year brought several ofrendas honoring migrants, or those who have lost their lives attempting to get here.

"Desconcido" by Joanne Coutts was especially cohesive in its vision of three migrants traversing the desert. The description card reported 1,237 migrant deaths have been recorded in Arizona since 2011.

Refugee Ancestors: Descendants United in Friendship
Note the train tracks: a little train rounds the tracks, with engine and cars labeled "A Better Life," "Oportunidad," and "Safety."

Touching tribute to Dr. Christopher Pfaendtner, who died at 60
Christopher: the Healer,  by Patricia Pfaendtner

****Unexpected Bonus****

Gentleman, Possibly of the Trivulzio Family, late 1400s
I have passed this by for years. Exceptional artistry by Bernardino dei Conti, yes (if, indeed it's by him). European paintings of privileged white men, yawn. But, wait~~! It stopped me in my tracks today. Why does it feel so modern, so fresh? I envisioned it in my vaulted cieling-ed, glass and metal skyscraper flat, himself surveying a future domain from one very white wall. New sharp frame minimal enough for him to step out beyond it.

I love his eye sockets and nose, the set of his mouth. The ridiculous out-sized shoulders and heraldic red & gold of his...tunic? What was that even called? The delicate folds of white against his skin. The gentleman's gloves which looked suitable for hawk landings, though this is probably far from true. I love that the background is so heavily painted and textured it takes on a different sheen than the rest of it. And more than all of it, I love how indifference can morph into delight, with repeated exposure to any art, how resonance ebbs and flows, highlighting the variability of our being.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Slow Start Builds to PRINTMAKING! BONANZA! this weekend

current mood, courtesy TripAdvisor
I suspect I'm in the middle of a post-holiday slump. I'd like to nap and snooze and not do much of anything. Which doesn't really jive with reality, but one can dream. Or one *could* dream, were one to rest for more than 20 minutes, at any given point of any day. The time of easy napping has long since left me.  Last Sunday was a local art event (Westside Art Hop, interesting interview with event creator here), for which I was a venue organizer --  a happy affair, with a worthy end goal of art promotion and community building. As it often does, the role of "organizer" expanded to fill any available time for a couple weeks. But the event pulled itself together well, Michigan unrolled one of its perfect Fall days, I made some new friends, and sold an encouraging amount of recent card designs.

This is the first year I took a more serious stab at Holiday cards (Judeo-Christian). In the past, whenever I trained my sights on a design for a specific purpose, my brain always faked me out with something appealing but irrelevant (Christmas, hunh? …What about a hedgehog? Or a paranoid/appropriately afraid/ armadillo?). But this time, with a little encouragement, I tried to push through. I came up with some cynical ornaments giving side-eye, and an utterly dire family bingo; sadly, neither surmounted their initial roadblocks. Rick shared the germs of ideas for Hanukah cards, two of which made it to actual production. Between sketches of angels and penguins with hobby horses, plus the 4 y.o. spitfire, I have been busy since our return from Pennsylvania at the end of August.

Some glimpses into design evolution:

original angel treetopper was mildly babushka-like
sketch plus foliage
I decided to add wing detail to the key block, but left dress details to the color blocks
how does a sheep earn its wings? This, I do not know.
the backside of the mousie design, on its last color block
More of a classic holiday card, free and swoopy.
Two variations, each one printed on three blocks

My Dreidel/Gimel (“Take all the chocolate" side of the dreidel) card was the surprise hit at Westside Art Hop, along with “Dark & Stormy.” 

Holy *!” said one future customer, “It’s the ONLY CLEVER HANUKKAH CARD EVER!”

Right !?!” replied Rick, later that night, “And it’s so weird. Because we’re such a funny people.”

So, I’m feeling good about the Hanukkah cards. I have another, which is still drying in the basement.

Dark & Stormy: It’s not quite a Halloween card, but it IS a nightmare of our modern life, so I also just printed this in orange and black.

The more books you look in, the more surprises you find
Otherwise, the Art Hop was good for a few overheards (nothing outrageous). A professor, gesturing to the armadillo, said to his colleague, “…Yeah, I’m going to hang that IN MY LAB  -- though he failed to buy it, alas. I hovered in the background, wondering what is studied in his lab. A woman walked past wearing a black tee shirt, with white lettering which I thought Anne (co-author of this study) would appreciate: Not that Kind of Doctor.
If you missed Westside Art Hop, you have another chance to catch me this Fall, this Saturday at the downtown Ann Arbor Library, at the PRINTING EXTRAVAGANZA known as Wayzgoose
Printing demos, talks (including the amazing Amos Kennedy), and workshops, as well as a bevvy of printmakers, displaying and selling their wares. Come visit!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Your Regularly Scheduled Sleep Will Now Be Pre-empted by This 4 Y.O.

It has been a week of inexplicable night waking, on our daughter's part. Three AM one night, 4:30 the next. She has gotten it in her head that it would be nicer if WE were to wake HER up in the morning, which simply doesn't work, as SHE is the alarm clock. But one morning last week, Rick was up before her (due to an appointment), and murmuring low to her as she woke up, and now she is trying to change the family rhythms. She reminded us a couple times that we could wake her up the next day and we said, ohhh, hmmm, maybe, though you tend to wake up before us~~ which she dismissed. The following day, we awoke to angry crying that we had failed in our alarm clock role. Screaming and gnashing of teeth is obviously unwelcome before coffee. The parents delivered more hard-nosed messages: we would NOT be doing this. She was VERY GOOD at waking US, and this would NOT be happening. Another day. 3 AM: Mommy. Mommy! REMEMBER that you will WAKE ME UP TOMORROW MORNING. 

Mommy: It is the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT! WE have discussed this. We are NOT waking YOU up in the morning ~~

PS Daughter: Mommy! I have to TELL YOU SOMETHING~

Mommy: When you wake up, you may put on your clothes, or come snuggle with us and one of us will get up with you~~


Mommy, being Mommy, then took several hours to fall back asleep. Setting one up for a lovely day with diminished patience and waning coping skills.

Next night, 4:30 AM-- wild card!


Mommy: It's the middle of the night. What's UP?

PS: My tummy? is rumbling. And my lips are shut.

Mommy: Okay.

PS:  I think there's a cricket in my belly

Mommy: There is NOT a cricket in your belly! WE LOVE YOU GO BACK TO SLEEP

PS: Or a little animal

Mommy to Daddy: Oh my F'ing G-d

Daddy to Mommy: I'm goin' in.

And it was very good he did so, as it became apparent that the cricket anxiety was somewhat deep -- if not the cricket itself -- and it's harder than you might think to convince preschoolers of...well, anything. About 98% of the time they are pretty damn sure that they can walk into any given situation and inform everyone else of the underlying rules, any weirdo different dimension exceptions, and how all of it usually leads to them getting a treat to eat. There were no treats in this case. Luckily her stomach rumbled while he was in the room.

PS (whispering): DID YOU HEAR THAT

Daddy: Yes, and you know? My tummy rumbles A  LOT and often sounds like that. You don't have a cricket in there~~

PS (with barely restrained contempt): BUT HOW do YOU know, You're NOT A DOCTOR (quieter) I need to go to a doctor~~

Daddy: Because honey, an animal? Or an insect? If it got all the way into your tummy? It couldn't be alive anymore. It would be dead.

Remarkably, this seemed to calm her. He soothed her a bit, and she went back to sleep. And then we all...eventually...went back to sleep.

Next night, the middle: DADDDDDDDDDDY???

She had a bad dream, a large crow had tried to eat her and myself and so there was more soothing needed. Lots of *something* going on with the girl, which will doubtlessly shake itself out.  In the meantime, sleep while the sleepin's good!