Friday, October 9, 2009

Thinking about the wanting

Did you ever want something so bad, but you just weren’t able to swing it? That’s how I feel about writing, this blog, sewing. Every time I write a post, I feel a little bit renewed. A little bit more like myself. I sit down in the evening and make a few stitches and I feel like I’m doing something. And then the days pass. The full-time-job-in-a-cube days pass. Then night comes with the stories to read, the food to eat, the dishes to do, the dog to walk, the tucking in and the tidying up…

I should take a lesson from my husband. We talked yesterday about how he’s accepted his job right now. To raise the kid. His music is on hold and he’s okay with that. He puts his two hands up, parallel, and says “I can see a trajectory,” then says “I’m probably using that word wrong.” But it’s a good word, a right word. It’s a shot in a direction. Like a flare. A message to the you that you hope to be when the crazy dies down, if the crazy dies down.

There are some times when you need to trust in the future. When you need to relax, and let what is, be, and quit fighting. It can’t be summer and winter at the same time. You can’t get sleep and write and sew and care for all at once. There is a season, turn, turn, turn.

I’m famous for stuffing a suitcase. It’s always seemed a philosophical question to me…when is a suitcase full? Can’t you always fit one more thing? I’m learning the answer. It’s full when you can’t shut it. And then you have to pull something out, do without it for a while. And maybe you won’t have everything that you want, but you’ll have everything that you need, and you’ll be lucky for the having.

Friday, September 25, 2009

In Which I Recount a Dream*

Sometimes I’m better at things when I go away for awhile and then come back again. So there, away I went. Not purposely. Well, maybe purposely. But purposefully, too.

It’s a strange thing about finding your voice. Part of it, for me, is the struggle of allowing the search. And part of it is the battle to convince yourself that it matters, one way or the other, that you do find it.

I had the most wonderful dream last night. It was a yard sale (so many of my dreams center around yard sales, the wonderful white-elephant world, those everyday portals to the subconscious). I was admiring a rustic, folk art, hewn together set of drawers. The kind of object that draws me in, that could only have been made by its maker, the kind of thing that shouts of history and story and love. It was reasonably priced ($60 dollars) but I couldn’t figure out how to ship it home, (I was on an island…less romantic than it sounds).

Who should appear but my mother. And she appears and I know that not only will she get it for me, but she will figure out how to get it to my home. And then my brother Tim is there, and I know he’s going to help. It was the feeling of being taken care of. It was the feeling of being spared regret, longing, and remorse. It was the deep feeling of comfort.

Strange and wonderful and glorious. I can count on one hand the number of good dreams I’ve had about my mother since she died. In fact, I could count them on the toes of a sloth, if you know what I mean. Good signs, people, good signs.

*Recounting dreams rates second only, on the scale of that-which-bores, to retelling (preferably in an office setting) any skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus. But this is my blog. And I get to write what I want. (See. Look at her go!)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Number One

So the decision has been made. Not a list, as I’d thought, but an un-list, so to speak. It’s my birthday soon, another opportunity to make a fresh start. To re-evaluate my last re-evaluation. And the decision was so simple, so clear, I’m embarrassed that it took a bestseller to lead me to make it. (A bestseller I read quickly, easily (part of the attraction) and half-concentratingly, and somewhat begrudgingly and judgmentally but there it sits – simply still what it is, what it was before I ever got a hold of it and, incidentally, I was drawn to read it because I watched what she had to say about muses and liked what she had to say about muses.)

So the answer.

Meditation. Quit asking the questions for a while. Shut my brain up for a while. At least twenty minutes a day, in whatever form that takes. Cross-legged and proper-like, on the floor of my tidied up living room or walking the alleys with the dog, taking a break now and then from quieting my mind to command the dog to “drop it” (then quieting my fear of what “it” might be.)Or even in the cube. Or in the car. Or in the moments between the other, more busy moments.

So it wasn’t a list at all. Unless the list was simply one number one. Silence. Because it sounds so dang delicious.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Catch and Release

I step up to write and I think Ground it in action. I still don’t know what this blog is and that stops me, so many times, from writing anything. And then when I do write it’s the thoughts, all the thoughts, the belly button staring and the hand wringing and I wonder Who wants to read all that?

And I’m not sure of the answer. Not even sure whether the question is relevant. Shouldn’t it be What do I want to say? Shouldn’t that be the question?

I’ve been thinking a lot about art, which I always do, and looking at people I admire, mostly online. They don’t ask, they do. They don’t ponder they move. But then again, there is a place in the world for ponderers. Contemplate. Ruminate. Meditate. Masticate.

What is making art? What is writing, sewing, painting, potting? Is it an expression or a gift? Is it for yourself or for someone else. I know, I know the answer…it’s both. But how can you entertain two intentions at the same time? How can you think I write this for myself and I give it to the world -- without being attached to how the world will treat it? With whether or not it has, you know, real meaning.

All I know is that I feel better when I do….when I complete and release. And the other thing I know is that I always fight the release. Which leads me to think Release. Which leads me to post these thoughts. Whatever they mean.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Big List

I'm thinking about a big list for August. Or maybe a small list. But a list. And I'll turn 41. It's one of those birthdays that occurs every seven years. Supposedly I have all new tissue. Well, whether or not that's true, lately i've been feeling like I have all new tissue. And that's good enough for me.

Besides, everybody knows that myth creates reality.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My hands are falling asleep...

Writing when I want to. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about writing when you don’t want to, saying something when you’re just not sure, yet, what you want to say. Not writing feels, sometimes, like sitting on my own hands. Like Addie stubbornly refusing to brush her teeth. Pure willfulness that results in unhappy scuttles. The strange inclination we humans have to do things that aren’t good for us.

I tell myself it’s an issue of time. That I just don’t have the hours in a day. That my day shrinks down from all sides. That in my free moments I am too tired to think. But it’s the thinking of “I’m tired” that makes me most tired of all. And I know that when I do, do, do something that matters to me, something creative, it’s the best kind of rest I can get.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You make bathtime so much fun!

Started my "Create Big Paintings" class last Friday. Learned enough to paint this bathtub last night! What fun!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry Picking and Chamomile Harvest

Yup. We live in Portland. Yup. We pick strawberries!
Off to the jiffy john!
Eating strawberries makes a little girl tired!
And we spent the evening plucking chamomile blossoms off of flowers we found in the alley behind our house...Tea for winter!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When you fall...

If I’d been any closer, I might’ve heard the sound of your body tumbling, tumbling, ass over teakettle, softness striking cold cement. But instead I was running, running, the six endless feet to catch you when you hit the bottom. The accidents always happen when everything is so good. And things had been so good, you were saying goodbye to your Gretchen, calling out “I love you and I want to take care of you.”

Your head hit the concrete with a muffled thud, not a whack, and I was grateful. Grateful for gravity’s mercy on this one, grateful for each cement step that broke your long fall. You didn’t fall down the steps so much as fall down a step, and then another one, and another one, minutes after your Dad warned you “If you keep doing that, you’re going to fall.” To which you answered, in all of your three year old chutzpah and oblivion, “I want to fall Daddy”.

Right now, as I write this, I’m reminded of another fall down the stairs, a different type of day. Not sunshiney fresh Portland evening but the claustrophobic feeling of the Maryland house at night, the avocado walls, the avocado carpet, the lonesome flicker of the TV. My mom very sick, losing her grasp on the railing, coming barreling down the stairs in a blur of heft and confusion. I was lying on the couch (In fact, I’d had the feeling-known, really-that I should help her up the stairs but I was angry at her, angry at her for having a couple of drinks, most likely angry at her for being in the act of dying, right in front of me, every day.)

But you, fresh you, I could scoop you up, hold your whole body against mine. Smell your sweat and skin as you criedhard, but not worrisome hard, into my shoulder. I’m grateful, right now, that I had the chance to comfort and cuddle, the chance to make this fall right.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hold that thought

What I want to write about is the luxury I have, on the weekends, of getting tired of her. Getting frustrated. Of the loving arguments and head butts that prepare her for the complexity of love, the security of forgiveness. Of the time we spend entwined, not playing with toys but playing with each other, making noises, laughing, poking at each other’s faces. The way her eyes communicate such purity of emotion, the joy so joyful, the sadness so dang sad.

I want to write about her vision of the future. “When I get older I’m going to have a kitty and a scooter and I’m going to eat Kimchi.” She’s so brave and definite, there is no doubt, no second guessing, she sees a picture of the world and it will wait for her, this her in the future, this surety and decisiveness, this wonderful sense of order and what will be.

What I want to write about is how brave she is, everyday, navigating this world of constantly shifting meaning, asking “What is a daydream?” and “What’s in the middle of a rock?” That there is nothing missed, no mystery unexplored, and any answer given will suffice.

What I want to write about is how this is the stuff of my life. This is what is smashed between the work and the bills and the dirty, dirty dishes and the piles of wrinkled clean laundry waiting. How each moment I am present I am thinking remember this, hold on to this, and as quickly as that thought is thought all my fears squeeze in through the door and crowd it out.

This is what I want to write.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Still here.

Here I am. My brain still feels scrambled. I hesitate to write about it, because it’s not a worrisome thing. Not a thing even, more just a confused state. Although not too confused to carry on with the every day, the teeth brushing, the work dwelling, the dish doing and the dog walking. Our strong and beautiful tomato plants still get a daily inspection and talking too, weeds get pulled, clothes get put on and taken off.

But there are these blank feelings. Like there is something amazing hiding or just on its way or smoldering. Like there is a terrific beauty right in front of my eyes, and I just can’t see it. (Which there is. Because there always is.)

I seem to be, lately, in a constant state of plotting, only the goal changes minute by minute, the plan changes with every new thought in my head. It’s like the old days at the library, line after line after line of text passing as you slide the microfiche, looking for that one headline, that one article that you need right now. And the feeling, as I search, is the same. Dizzy, heady, hopeful, impatient, and just a touch sick to my stomach.

It’s not unpleasant. It’s something, you know. It’s something. And that’s what I want. Some sort of change, some sort of corner turned, some sort of chapter put to rest, some new thing started. I can feel it. A culmination. But of what?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What I want right now

My mind has been mush lately. I have to ask myself, why am I so scared of the truth? And then, why am I so scared of being myself?

I just want to run and run and run. I want to listen to music, nice and loud, so loud that everything but my ears stops working for a while. And maybe it’s just because I grew up in the 80s but I want to stop making sense. I want to make delicious, textured, colorful no sense. So much no sense that all the no sense gets out, on the page, on the floor, on the ground.

I just want to let go. I want to stop being perceived so I have no more influences, no one to be in front of. So I can just be. I’ve always liked talking and listening better in the dark. There is so much more space. I want more space. I want less filters. I want no editor. I want nothing crafted, nothing well thought out, I want forgiveness, I want instinct and strawberries and sand and water. I want to want what I want. Without thinking it is wrong.

Friday, April 3, 2009

because susan asked!

How did the week go?
Well, I made it the whole week and as to be expected, the last days were much harder than the first. I was climbing the walls by the end of the week, taking slow, roundabout trips to the bathroom, wandering the cube aisles, randomly standing up to peer over cube wall after cube wall to look out a window (that is about 20 feet away) at the gray, gray Portland sky.

I think the bottom line is that those random trips to creative websites make me better at my job. A little bit, in fact, like looking out the window might. Only, since I don’t have any windows I look in to other lives. And those short, brief recharges give my subconscious time to work out ideas, identify problems, get some space. And then I come back to work just a little bit refreshed. And I see things I didn’t see before.

On the flip side, I think I was a little more satisfied, overall, with my life when I wasn’t looking, every day, at these websites. I wasn’t reading tutorials for yet more sewing projects, art projects, baking projects. So my heap of “wish to do” didn’t get any bigger. (Which is good, because it’s already big. Really big.)

I also think that I got a little distance from the-admiration-that-is-so-much-like-envy. (I bet the Dutch have a word for this. Or maybe the Chinese.) I read these blogs and I admire these people (And I don't even know them and that's just plain weird). But I still admire the beauty, the creativity that seems to be in their every day. And then I look at my own life and see yesterday’s dirty dishes on the counter and a stack of mail that needs to be filed and I judge. I’m stepping out of myself and looking in and thinking….really?

But then again. These people are editing their lives. It’s a whole ‘nother monster of blogs who actually write about the ugly stuff. Like the woman who blogged about the three nights it took to let her baby “cry it out”. Her blog helped me through my own “cry it out” adventure. (Well, that and a bottle of wine.) Or, more recently, this guy who wrote about how much it sucks when your kid has a cough. That helped me through Addie’s nasty-ugly virus last week.
(Okay. It’s not a blog, really, but you get the idea.)

So I can recognize that I’m buying into a picture of life. The Pottery Barn version of the stay-at-home-artist-mom. But hey, when I’m not busy feeling the difference between me and them, I’m feeling the sameness. And I’m believing that there might be a day that I escape the cube completely. Because you gotta have a picture of the life you want, before you can draw the map to get there.

(Thanks for askin' Susan!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

just to make it clear

The irony of writing about not reading blogs on my blog does not escape me. Wow. That was two nots in one sentence. I rock.

Monday, March 23, 2009

In which I ramble...

I guess the question is what will I do with myself when there is nothing to do. I’m taking a rest from other people’s blogs. A week-long rest from reading about other people, with other lives, with things that I want or don’t want, a break from the weird anonymous world of lurking. It’s only been one day, not even, and I’m already climbing the walls, so to speak, of my cube. Drawing bull after bull after bull.

Don’t get me wrong. Absorption is good. It has its time and place. But since I’ve gotten a 9 to 5, I spend quite a bit of daylight looking at blogs. Because they are a quick break. Because they are better for me than a Diet Coke, because I can surf the internet and eat chocolate at the same time.

This is a test for me, a test to see what I’ll do with time, confined time but time nonetheless. (It’s also just a way to differentiate a week. To interject some sort of different-ness to the 9 to 5 routine.) Because blogs are, in some respects, not far from TV. They are a way of feeling like you’re doing just because you are watching someone else do. The question is what will I do when there is nothing to watch.

I read a quote not too long ago; I’m sure on one of my marathon blog wanders. “Never hope more than you work.” I google it now (I’m allowed to google) and find that Rita Mae Brown said it. It’s been ringing in my head since I read it. That’s what I do when I read blogs. I read about people at home, in their art studios, in their sewing rooms, and they’re making things. And I read and I read thinking “I’ll do that…and I’ll do that.” And I don’t. And at the end of the day I’ve hoped more than I worked –albeit not the work I do for money but the work I do simply because I am in this world and taking up space.

The other day RT said we live in a world where if you don’t have a blog you don’t quite exist. He didn’t quite mean it, and I don’t quite believe it, but it is a weird world. Where everyone can have a say. Everyone can have a presence. Anyone can start a conversation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

ice cubes, old style

We've been trying to phase out the plastic in the house one slow piece at a time. So we'd gotten rid of the plastic ice cube trays which left us buying bags from the Plaid Pantry. So RT went on ebay and found this little vintage cutie.

Who knew that ice cubes could be so good? These homemade, vintage ice cubes are to convenience shop ice cubes what a good maple desk is to an Ikea build-your-own. And RT walks around clinking the cubes in his glass saying "Listen to this. You can't get ice cubes that sound like this these days." And he's right.

To me they sound like my parent's martini hour, like getting iced tea ready for my aunts on the Fourth of July, like a cold glass of water after raking the leaves. I say it's slow food. He says if it was slow food we'd be chipping slivers off a block of ice. I guess you can always go slower.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

making dollies

Ever since I sold Barbies on Ebay, I've been fascinated with doll collectors. I even read a whole book about them with chapters like "Dollification" and "Innocence and Fear". I'll admit I was biased against them, or at least the obsessive collectors, who, after I listed an Ebay auction for Barbie's "Solo In The Spotlight" outfit complete with microphone, would send me detailed questions * about the state of the label (was it fully stitched on?) the shine of the dress (original sparkle?) and the condition of the microphone (mint, unused and from a smoke free home?) I'll brag here and say that I ended that Ebay write-up saying "You'll have your vintage Barbie singing Happy Birthday Mr. President in no time" which I thought (and still think) is hilarious.

What I'm trying to say is that I've always thought of dolls as a bit strange. My mother bought me a new Madame Alexander Doll every Christmas and Birthday and I was made to display them in my room. I never had a feeling for any of them. Never wanted to play with any of them. Maybe that's where my bias originated. But I don't think I'm alone in finding the whole doll thing at best curious and at worst downright creepy.

Well, now I have a little girl. And bless her heart she's turning me on to the coolness of dolls. Especially simple cloth dolls. And of course, with me, if I can make it then I can love it. So I've been having a blast making dolls for Addie and her friends. Here's the latest. Made for our neighbor for her fifth birthday. I downloaded the pattern from
here and I've been having a lot of fun with it.

Next stop. Original design mouse doll. Stay tuned!

*Ebay Doll Collector questions are loosely based on my recollections. These quotes are not verbatim and are solely intended to indicate the level of obsession typical of hardcore Barbie collectors.

Monday, February 2, 2009

walk the dog


I’m thinking about commitment. Probably because I’ve made a serious commitment to my dog. She’s a sweet thing, a little on the needy side, very high energy. Oh, and she licks and licks and licks. I’ve created a rich fictional back story for her, a doggie fairy tale we tell, where she was abandoned by the side of the road and lived for months foraging pieces of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum from underneath piles of leaves along the highway. And then she was scooped up and dropped off at the Humane Society, where she came this close to death. But she was saved at the last minute and hustled off to the New Life Shelter (I know, sounds like a religious rehab joint for dogs) where Rollie and I found her. When the dog shelter employee picked her up (her shelter name was Opal), she promptly peed all over the poor woman. We played with her. We hemmed and hawed until the doggie re-hab people kicked us out. Then we sat in the car for ten minutes, trying to drive away, before we turned around, went inside and signed the papers.

So, I want her life to be better. She just seems so confused. Her feelings are so easily hurt. She’s uncertain. (Or maybe she’s just the victim of an obsessive anthropomorphizing owner?)

I rented the Dog Whisperer and studied two episodes intently. And came to this brilliant conclusion – she needs a good long walk first thing in the morning. So I’ve made a commitment. Every morning for almost two weeks now we are out the door in the dark and off to the park. I do what the Dog Whisperer says, keep her close to me, on a short, short leash, and she hustles by my side, focused and loyal.

And I practice “calm assertiveness”. Which, incidentally, is turning out to be a good lesson all around. Who knew three-year-olds respond to calm assertive as well as dogs? And maybe I can start phasing out my “monkey howler” voice.

The plan is she’ll finally find her place in life. Quit bopping from submissive to assertive, type B to A. That she’ll be able to relax in to her role as follower, that she’ll learn to trust that we’re the uber dogs and we’ll protect her. That’s the upside.

The downside is that now I’m locked in to getting up early every morning to walk the dog. Every morning. ‘Til when? The rest of her life, right? Because if I don’t get up and walk her I have to face those disappointed brown eyes. And who wants that on their conscience all day?

Of course I’m learning from all this. Getting out in the morning is nice. Fresh air. Pinecones. Misplaced seagulls circling overhead. A well exercised dog which means less irritation (and obsessive licking) for the whole family. And I get a tiny bit of exercise and alone time every day. But I can’t help feeling a little bit of the dread that, for me, inevitably comes with commitment. Because long term promises are, ultimately, so hard to keep.