Sunday, April 10, 2016

Reading, (a)Loud



I am a LOUD reader.
No, I don't read aloud.  Well, not usually (we'll get into that in a minute...) but when I read, to myself, I am loud.  My head is inside a newspaper, but my voice is on the other side of the room.  Like a parishioner at a southern Baptist church,  out of my mouth come a a whole lot of "uh HUH's!" and "AMEN's!" and quite a few unintelligible "mmh, mmh, mmph's!"  It's involuntary.  I can't help it.  In fact, most of the time, I don't even realize I'm doing it.




Until, that is, someone else is in the room with me and then it can't be ignored.  I'm overcome with emotion.  I'm living the story I hold in my hands.  And while I am completely immersed, those around me are bound to know how I feel about these stories they can't see.  It's hard to ignore someone gasp, grunt, moan, and even let out an "I cannot BE-lieve it!" in what is usually a fairly quiet setting.

Growing up I spent a lot of time lost in the world of books.  Whether I was in the library or in the bathtub or on a long car ride, I have always been able to get completely inside of a well written story. Heck, I can even loose my way in a poorly written but extremely suspenseful or romantic or adventurous or comical story.  In many of these cases, it would be no surprise to those who know me to somehow (finally) get my attention and have me raise my head only to find the story played out on my face:  tears, anger, fear.  I felt it all from the words on the page.

This translated into my adult life while reading the newspaper.  About three years ago, RK purchased a subscription to the New York Times, Sunday issue for my birthday.  Best.  Gift.  Ever.  I read it end to end, every single page.  It usually takes me about a week.  And in that week, I ride the rollercoaster of national and international news as if the stories are actually happening to me at that moment.  The sighs, the tears, the "ohmygosh!'s" are all there, every week.  It was actually RK who pointed this "loud" readership out to me.  It wasn't that he'd ask me what I was reading about, it was just him giggling after I emoted.  I would look up at him and say, "what?" and he would describe all the sounds coming from my corner of the room.  So, I would proceed to draw him into the drama.  I had to tell him all about what I had been reading, what I had learned about the people in Syria, or the transgendered youth in New Orleans, or the Indian transplant cabdriver in Iran, or the woman who lost her child, or...on and on and on...

And that is where the (sometimes i DO) read aloud comes into this story.  I started reading the stories to RK because I didn't think he'd get around to reading them himself.  I had told him so much, I thought, I may as well just read the actual article to him at that point.  I was in it at the moment!  I couldn't help but take on the story as if I was now reporting it to my audience.

{The irony of this is that I do NOT like being read to.  AT ALL.  It dates back to my days in kindergarten.  By the time I entered those hallowed halls, I could already read.  And, as most people know, it's very common for an elementary school teacher to read to her students...
Most kids love it!
It drove me crazy.
I can absolutely love an author!
I would never go to a reading.
I don't do books on tape.
If RK tries to read something to me, I completely zone out.}

It is here I must admit, this reading aloud thing, I may get it from my father:  
My dad is awake before anyone else in the house.  By the time the rest of us crawl out of bed and wash our face, he's already read the entire daily news;  he has categorized the paper into sections for each of us (sports for RK, calendar and funnies for me, travel section for mom) and before we can dig in, coffee and toast at the ready, eyes finally open, excited to read...my Pop proceeds to tell us, in semi-remembered details, every single story he's sure we're going to enjoy!


I usually drift off and can't stop myself from slowly looking down at the paper in front of me and begin to read.

What is it about getting lost in the words that just doesn't translate if someone else, other than my own mind, takes over that page...?






Wednesday, April 6, 2016

This Election Cycle

President Obama recently spoke at the Toner Prize Ceremony, held for Excellence in Political Reporting.  It recognizes the best national or local political reporting in any medium or on any platform—print, broadcast or online.  This is just a small excerpt from that speech.
 "As I’ve said in recent weeks, I know I’m not the only one who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail right now.  The divisive and often vulgar rhetoric that's aimed at everybody, but often is focused on the vulnerable or women or minorities.   The sometimes well-intentioned but I think misguided attempts to shut down that speech.  The violent reaction that we see, as well as the deafening silence from too many of our leaders in the coarsening of the debate.  The sense that facts don’t matter, that they're not relevant.  That what matters is how much attention you can generate.  A sense that this is a game as opposed to the most precious gift our Founders gave us -- this collective enterprise of self-government.   
And so it's worth asking ourselves what each of us -- as politicians or journalists, but most of all, as citizens -- may have done to contribute to this atmosphere in our politics.  I was going to call is "carnival atmosphere," but that implies fun.  And I think it’s the kind of question Robin would have asked all of us.  As I said a few weeks ago, some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, but all of us are responsible for reversing it. 
I say this not because of some vague notion of “political correctness,” which seems to be increasingly an excuse to just say offensive things or lie out loud.  I say this not out of nostalgia, because politics in America has always been tough.  Anybody who doubts that should take a look at what Adams and Jefferson and some of our other Founders said about each other.  I say this because what we're seeing right now does corrode our democracy and our society.  And I'm not one who's faint of heart.  I come from Chicago. Harold Washington once explained that "politics ain't beanbag."  It's always been rough and tumble. 
But when our elected officials and our political campaign become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what's true and what's not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations.  It threatens the values of respect and tolerance that we teach our children and that are the source of America’s strength.  It frays the habits of the heart that underpin any civilized society -- because how we operate is not just based on laws, it's based on habits and customs and restraint and respect.  It creates this vacuum where baseless assertions go unchallenged, and evidence is optional.  And as we're seeing, it allows hostility in one corner of our politics to infect our broader society.  And that, in turn, tarnishes the American brand.
     The number one question I am getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, what is happening in America -- about our politics.  And it's not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics; it is that they understand America is the place where you can't afford completely crazy politics.  For some countries where this kind of rhetoric may not have the same ramifications, people expect, they understand, they care about America, the most powerful nation on Earth, functioning effectively, and its government being able to make sound decisions.  
So we are all invested in making this system work.  We are all responsible for its success.  And it's not just for the United States that this matters.  It matters for the planet." 

Read Obama's speech in full, or watch the video.  It's moving, it's clear (though you may not feel it concise), he makes points I wish I had articulated and he gives me hope that there are leaders in the world like him that will continue to speak out, even if they don't always have a podium.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Linky Like That



It's happening to me all the time... I find a topic I love and I can't let go...so, instead of writing one great piece about one great thing, I have to store them up and share them all at the same time.  It's the love/hate thing about the interwebs, the overwhelming world of information at your fingertips.  It's more than I can keep up with, more than I can write about and too much to not share.  So, here i go again, letting loose on a whole lotta links:

I'm not a fan of video games, unless you count pac man, but who counts pac man anymore?  Until I read about Yarny, I didn't think X-box games could possibly have a soul.  I've been shown the way.

When you read about someone doing something positive and they're just in their prime, well, it gives me hope for the world...as many articles on Upworthy do.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of working with incarcerated youth.  I'm impressed by the authors that work in jails for writing programs.  And I have a good friend that started a theatre company that is now working with women behind bars.  I find it redeeming and positive and a step in the right direction, which is why I enjoyed this article about a man who owns a company and has hired past inmates for the last 14 years.

I love the band Arcade Fire and I love New Orleans and I, too, was moved by the death of David Bowie, as I think he was a genius artist and a really good person, and if you're wondering how all those things come together then you should watch this short, but powerful, little video.

I've written about Libraries and my love for them, as well as for the books themselves, the power of reading, and even a library card itself, many, many times on this blog.  I recently posted on my Instagram my love for my local LA libraries who allowed me to return my late books without a fine!! Finally, this week, I was introduced to the Human Library which may just be the absolute basis of all great library love, human contact.  I cannot wait to start checking them out...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Links I Can't Let Go Of


When I land on a website that I can't get enough of, I can't stop looking at,  I do a very bad computer-owner 'thing':  I don't close the web browser.  I don't close the tabs.  I probably keep refreshing the page and all it's info.  But I can't look away and I want to be reminded every time I open my computer, I must do something with this information.  I must share this information.  I must not lose this information.  So, without further ado, some things I've been obsessing over recently:

I love birds.  Now, I love them even more...

I also now totally understand why the ever clever Sibella Court  called her book such.

And loving birds, nature, the outdoors and a ring I've owned for years that has the H. Stern quote, "And so she comes to dream herself a tree", I've finally found my most comforting way out of this body.

While I'm here, though, I do tend to struggle with always being busy but thinking I'm not getting enough done, or thinking how I should be a minimalist because all my collections are getting in my way of being more successful.  Sure, we own the Marie Kondo book about clutter and my husband has even come to use her name as a mantra "what would marie kondo do?" or "let's marie kondo this place!"  and I get it and I'm willing to try it and I do apply a very clear statement of hers to our things: "does this (particular thing) bring joy?"  but I was happier when I found this other kind of decluttering.  It seems more up my alley.  And it has more swear words (which I like!).

I've found myself looking and listening to the words of artists and speakers and dreamers alike, many of whom have blogs and weekly newsletters, to get my soothe or my grand think on.  Here's two of my favorites:  Mark Manson & Austin Kleon.  Their websites are great and choc-full of lots of good stuff, but it's their weekly (or bi weekly) newsy emails that I really enjoy.  All the juice, condensed.

It never occurred to me that Bill Gates would keep a blog, as well.  And, damn, it's good!

I love the internet.  It's ridiculously fabulous sometimes.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Don't just Control, Collect

Reading the news this week about all the shootings by young people, one as young as 11 shooting an 8 year old over wanting to see her puppy and being told "no,"  I'm at a loss.  There is nothing more to say.  The insanity has reached it's peak.  So, if you haven't watched this trilogy that John Oliver did on The Daily Show, you should...


Monday, June 1, 2015

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up, Next



When I was 5 years old, I knew clear as day what I wanted to be when I grew up:  An Actress.

When I turned 10, I filled out a questionnaire and answered: A Teacher.

By the time I was 15, I was most definitely headed back into the acting world.

As I entered my 20's, I was turning the corner and gunning to be a international college recruiter.

Then 25 moved me into the world of business, running a wholesale jewelry company and manning my sister's retail store.

The year of 30 was filled with possibility because I'd been doing so many varied things, I had choices, I had dreams, I had a ton of opportunities to do a ton of different things.  I didn't chose just one, I chose them all!

By the age of 35, I realized all of them were possible to keep up with, if I just did them all in little bits and pieces.  So, I was acting, I was teaching elementary school, I had my own greeting card company, I worked at a retail store, I organized closets, and advised on international studies.  I was doing it all and not doing much of any of it.  I was scattered and spread a bit thin, but I kept going because I couldn't choose just one and really wasn't sure anymore what I wanted to be when I grew up...

At 40, I thought I should at least feel more grown up.  I had become an artist who had had a number of solo shows, sold work and taught workshops, I owned a business, and people came to me as a professional...but I was still doing many jobs, a little at a time.  I couldn't decide exactly what I wanted to be...and I thought that just meant I hadn't really grown up yet.

This year I turned 45 and I'm at a loss when someone asks me that seemingly grown-up question 'what do you do?' (it's no longer, 'what do you want to do when you grow up?') Which random job should I mention?  Should I bring up the fact that I'm slowly and sort of painfully letting go of the greeting card company I've had for the last 10 years?  Do I mention that I'm back to helping my sister run her business?  That I have a studio where I still do artwork but nobody really sees it?  That I teach workshops sporadically?  That I co-host every event my sister holds from LA to France?

The question that inevitably follows my fumbling answer, 'well, then, what do you want to do?' isn't any easier for me.  It's a list as long as my arm and as short as my tongue.  It's all over the board and it's all under one idea.  Or, so it seems.

If I boil it down, if I'm totally honest, if I listen to the feeling that comes up again and again, my answer is:

I want to perform.

I want to be in front of an audience waiting for my act, my speech, my version of events, my announcement, my proclamation, my explanation, my directions, or my routine.

I want to head into the studio on a regular basis and do great and important work that moves other people to hang it on their wall and communicate about the message they find in it.

I want to work with adults and kids that are heading into adulthood, whether by circumstance or age, and teach projects and life lessons and express the idea that we're all in this together and beauty can be found in a great article or in that moment when you're about to glue words over a photo.

I want to be part of a community, the way I once was as a kid.
I want to find meaning in what I'm doing.  I want to go outside myself more often than not.
I want to decide on something(s) and stick with it.  I want to commit fully and be able to put my head on the pillow and night and say, "I (do this)".

I've already got happiness, health, an amazing family, a fantastic husband and a really juicy dog...
So, when I grow up next...maybe it's time to finally realize it's not a box I'm looking to fill, but a venn diagram instead.


Monday, June 9, 2014

A Curious Wonder

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: 
It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.  
{voltaire}

This is Barbar, an artist I met in a shop, who took me to all the other shops in town to show me his work.
One thing my family may be slightly infamous for is that we clearly have a sense of wonder:   An unbelievable curiosity.  We'll talk to anyone, for any amount of time, to get their back story.  We seek out the ones whittling in the corner, or the lone soul in the shop window with just a spinning wheel and a huge bag of raw wool.

My parents represented, and were friends with, a number of artisans during our entire childhood.  This love of building things with your own hands, working in all mediums, has rubbed off on each one of my parents' five kids, as well as a huge-mongous appreciation for others who hone their craft.  We seek them out: Whether a screenprinter, a framer, a glass blower, a crystal sculptor, a weaver, a wood worker, a book binder or a woad dyer.  It's of grand interest to talk to the people who's hands are so clearly marked with their work and their know-how is something we could only hope to gain one day.  We're all trying.

My sister is doing a particularly good job during an annual trip to France.  One year we met one of the last people that know how to work a hand-run embroidery machine.




Another year, it was the woman that lived on a lavender farm and in every corner of her house, you could smell peace.  She taught us how to make soap and showed us the details of essential oil and we witnessed what life could be like if your dreams really came true.



We've met and worked with:  Woad Masters,


 Textile Experts ,


Hat makers, 

Block Printers,


Weavers,

and even Goat Farmers,
And that's just to name a few...

Every year, a different adventure. 
Every year, a new appreciation for what happens in another part of the world for a life, for living. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I've Changed.


It just occurred to me that, "I've changed" sounds like something someone says who needs forgiveness.  I'm feeling on the other radical side of the scale, someone that is not looking for forgiveness for being themselves more and more each day.

First clue I've changed:  Four years ago, I wouldn't have written something quite this revealing, choosing instead to find the sweet spot story, something that would make us all feel good at the end of it.  But those don't seem as realistic for a daily column.

I have changed.
I am nowhere near the person I was just two December 14th's ago.
Two December's ago, I hadn't a clue your best friend could die suddenly.
And I had no freaking insight to the fact that, while trying to walk in the reality of her death,
another one of your closest, oldest friends could go and do the same thing.

I feel like I've been walking a tightrope ever since.

I've changed.
I'm the most introverted extrovert I know.  And that's the first time I've come up with that totally true descriptive.  I can finally admit I don't just like time alone, I crave it like some crave caffeine or chocolate.  It feels parallel to taking a deep breath and exhaling outloud.  I guess because that's what I'm trying to do when I'm alone:  Take the deep breaths.  Cry the deep cries.  Go to the deep places I otherwise am holding at bay when I am out, when I am on, when I am working, or when I am socializing.

One thing that hasn't changed:   knowing that making time for reading good books helps.
Years ago, I was introduced to Anne Lamott by my sister with the novel, Bird by Bird.  I became obsessive about everything Lamott wrote.  Her novels and non-fiction writing grasped me by the heart, took my breath away and made me feel like somebody got me, right where I needed to be 'gotten'.  Then I read Elizabeth Gilbert's books and felt a similar twang in my gut when relating to many of the feelings written out beautifully, perfectly.  Since Suzanne and Shauna left, I dove into Joan Didion, who pretty much felt like my therapist for awhile there, and I'm now deep in a Cheryl Strayed feast of words that have me feeling sopped.  How another person could write, like a poet, for the shittiest of feelings, strange and common.

And so, tonight, while reading said good books, beautiful words, stories I relate to,  I realized, I've changed.  I've been stuck on truly committing to this thing that I love, {writing here}, in this space, fearing the futility of writing, the mere unimportance of all of it since Suzanne and Shauna died.  All topics felt too tiny.

So, I've had to change. 
I'm different. 
Different than I ever expected I could be and deciding to let that be the face of me.  This new person, raw with reality.  How I relate now.  That will just have to be the way I write.  Whatever I write about.
I'm taking life at face value.  Knowing that not knowing what comes next isn't a tiny topic.

 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

molly from the block

from Bowne & Co Stationers, nyc

i've lived on the block, up the block and actually above cocktail bars, clubs and saloons for the last 20 or so years.  I'm used to the sound of people walking by screaming drunk, the sound of people slamming their car doors, repeatedly,  or parking truly obnoxious trucks blocking my doorway.  i've lived one floor up, 3 floors up and on the ground seperated from the people by mere feet.  there was a time i thought my nyc apartment was fabulously high:  i was on equal footing with a classic big apple new york double decker bus.

then i thought, looking over half a city and over a bay into the oncoming headlights heading over the oakland bridge...i thought that was high.

both of them were much, much higher above street level than we are now.  and it's...weird.  we live in los angeles, a place most people have an opinion about.  they would either never live her or they'd love to live here. though i'd grown up in la county, i left when i was 18 and i was in the camp of 'never' land.

yet, the benefits of what comes with finally living on the ground again are creating these beyond-fantastic moments in my every - days.

the days that i wake up, walk outside with stella and sit in the sun while i have my coffee.  i watch her sniff her heart out then lay down in the grass.
the double-down days:  the days that RK and i have the same time off, and we all 3 do that together.  it feels like a vacation feels.
that heat on your skin at 8am,
the birds chirping,
the grass between your toes,
stella so happily living it up in her very own yard, it's awesome.

i think it's my cities that have gotten softer and softer but for me, feel harder and harder to take.  there's days i catch myself saying, 'ugh, there's no sun out yet, it's too gray'.  i could never survive in san francisco now.  before sf, i thought i'd live in the big apple forever.  i didn't ever long for a yard, a place to run around, 'nice' weather.  i took what nyc offered and i accepted it:  lock, stock and barrel.   when i return to that city, i still get weak in the knees.  i think i want to be back in nyc again, i say outloud that that's how i want to live, in that grand old city!

but then i open that front door to the front yard, our yard, and i breath in the warm air and i think
'i want more of this.'

thing is, i'm not really sure what that means.

does it mean less people?
i think i'd go crazy in a small place.
unless we're the only people, and our dogs.

does it mean wider spread land?
LA is as wide-spread as it gets, but my neighbors are still so close i hear them setting the table as i write this.
i think it's the land to house spread ratio, that's more where we're headed

is it a suburb?
gads, i don't think so, ...unless we redefine suburb...

i'm pretty sure it's a home in the country.  oh my gosh:  it's THAT dream.  more land, more dogs, more space to breath, more quiet.  basically the opposite idea of what i'd ever expected to want.


sheesh, give a girl a quarter yard....

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Keepsake Book-Box Workshop


If there's one thing I've grown into and truly love, it's teaching workshops.  While I enjoyed my years teaching young kids, watching their eyes light up and their projects come to fruition, it's the adults that go forth with the same emotions in the classes I teach these days that really get me excited.

The book box class is one I've taught a couple times and am still getting requests for.  It's seemingly simple, but a construction that is detailed and, for many, collaging is actually a new process.  

I really love hunting for the perfect old books and gathering the ephemera for students' kits.  It's exciting to start in and have each person gather their materials, big smile on their faces, in a entirely new way, totally unique to the way they see colors, textures, words and images.  

I'm thrilled to announce I'll be leading a workshop on this keepsake book-box at my sister's shop, French General, next month and sign ups are happening HERE now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

worrying for worryings sake



I used to think that worrying kept the bad things at bay.  
I believed that if I worried about things that were currently happening, it would make them stop.  
And if I worried about things that might happen, they would never start.  i thought worrying was your safest bet.  For as long as possible.  It kept ALL your energy on one thing, focused on the myriad of 'what ifs' that could could harness the power of stopping that 'what' from ever happening.  If I stopped concentrating, with hand-wringing stress, on the thing that I was so afraid of, it would absolutely happen.

What took me all these years to realize (and i still fall short of somedays) is that worrying about something is spending energy making the some-thing inevitable.  Worrying is also an absolute soul-sucking waste of energy.    

My mom once said, 'I spend all this time worrying I won't enjoy the party, we get there, I'm the one that doesn't want to leave."  I am my mother's daughter.

As RK says, 'will it happen? won't it? exactly.  it will or it won't.'

i've worried about my future, i've worried about my past.  i've worried about the right now, the minute before it and the minute after.
Always with the
What if?
What if?
What if?


and one day, one of my brother's said to me, 'what would happen if you didn't worry?'

I ask myself that every day.
What if?

these days, i love that question.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Day of the Week


This past Sunday,  Stella Marie put her mouth around a bee.
She loves to catch flying things.  She doesn't kill them or eat them.  She chases, she catches, she stuns and leaves 'em alone. 
The bee did the only thing it knew how to do when caught in a situation that doesn't seem like 'playing':  it stung her and waited for it all to be over.

Now, we didn't realize this right away.  My brother, nicknamed OJ (pronounced ooo-jay;  i think that came about when our nieces were little and couldn't say John, the went with the sounds instead.  at least, the sounds they could make...and it stuck), and I both, wrongly, assumed Stella hadn't been stung or she'd be reacting the way any of us would when stung:  OUCH! DAMN! UGH! OH! SHIT! i got stung, damn it burns, oh shit this hurts.  We thought she would squeal or rub her paw against her face, try to rub her muzzle.  She did nothing but spit the thing out, like she would a fly or any other flying-thing she chases, she catches, stuns and then leaves alone. 
Well, she's fine, we figured.

On the walk home from the park, and for about 20 minutes after arriving, we watched Stella quickly break down in all the worst ways. 
She became maniacally itchy.  Thought: it was instant fleas from the grassy park. 
My solution: flea comb.
She was suddenly hot. Thought: it was from all the running in the park. 
My solution:  cool bath, rinse her off.
The itching got worse.  She throws up twice in the bath.  She runs outside and now, suddenly, she's reacting in the ways we were looking for earlier and as it's slowly dawning us 'ohmygod, she's actually been stung', Stella turned around to look at us and we were looking at a totally different dog's face.

Her entire head was lumpy.  Her lips were swollen out to the sides.  Her eyes were puffy.  She was barely recognizable as she stumbled into the house, she even seemed to glare at us, and then laid down on her bed and passed out.  I thought I was going to pass out right along side her. 

Having my brother here was an incredible help.  It was like having an extension brain, working alongside me.  My brother is a dog whisperer and he's a very good dude to have nearby because he's also incredibly calm.  I, well, maybe not so much. 

We called around for an ER vet and zoomed Stella over there, rushed her into the doctor's arms and spent the next few hours pondering what. happens. next.

Luckily, all is well again.  She did have a terrible reaction to the bee sting.  She went into anaphylactic shock.  It was insanely scary.  It exhausted all three of us. 

The next morning, we had very little get up and go.  Stella was still on benadryl and supposed to take it easy.  The three of us sat on the couch.  Somehow, OJ and I got caught up in you tube, watching the best performance videos from all those different talent shows on T.V. while copious tears streamed down our cheeks.  Every once in awhile, one of us would look over at the other and laugh at ourselves. We knew we were bawling like babies, but felt so grown-up, crying with joy from discovering the beauty that exists in those rare second chances.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Remember The Birds


Every year, for the past five years, my older sister and I have shared a room for at least two weeks straight.  Sometimes 3.  But it's for a full month that the two of us, my mom, Kick, and our friend Mogull  leave our husbands, children, cats, dogs, and gardens and move into a 13th Century Chateau in the South of France.  It's for work, but most people don't see it that way.

We invite up to 20 women, from all over the world, to leave their comfort zones and stay here with us for one full week.  We head out each day to explore some brocante, vide greener, weaver, hat maker or lavender field.  We search for old paper, unusual smalls that no longer exist, embroidered tea towels or torchons, vintage playing cards, holy water fonts, glass bottles with medicinal names we don't know or funny hats we've never seen, and return to the chateau in the evening to aperos in the foyer and an incredible 3-course meal.  I often think about licking my plate at the end of each course, it's that good.  There's a lot of laughing, loud talking, drinking and show & tell of goods found that day. 

We tend to go to bed long after dessert and well after the last great story is told.  We head to our room where we stay up talking with Mogull and Kick until someone finally calls it quits.  Then my sister and I keep on until we can't keep our eyes open any longer or our mouths don't move to make the right words come out.  

Mornings are always an early rise.  We've got someplace to be before the crowds swarm our little find.  We watch the sun come over the nearest bright green hill knowing we'll soon be drinking a cup of hot coffee in bed that Mogull religiously brings us each morning.  The fields are yellow with wheat or yellow with sunflowers, depending on the weather that previous year.  As I sit up and look out the window at the vast expanse of the French countryside, almost instantly the perfectly delicate swallows dive down from their eve-side nests and start to dance with each other in the sky.  I've tried to capture it on video, I've tried to catch it with a still shot, but ultimately, I just remember the birds.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Life Is In The Age Of The Beholder


 Aging is a wonder for our entire lives.  It comes in different forms, of course.
A six year old is in shock and awe over each 1/4 older they get:  I'm-six and one sixteenth and by Christmas I'm gonna be six and a half! How old are you?

At 18, you can barely believe it as you graduate to the next level of adulthood.  Then you're 21 and you're thinking, No way, I'm finally 21!  And then, Ohmygosh, I'm 30!...and this is nothing like I thought it was gonna be.   And that 'thought it was gonna be' runs the gamut from 'I thought I'd be a race car driver' to 'I thought I'd be a lion tamer' to 'I thought everything would be easier'.

Then you near the next wonder and the wonder beyond that and before you know it, you're almost at that "oh-my-god-I-am-almost -(insert whatever 2-digit number now leaves you in awe)".

Now, I'd never given much stressful thought to age, wasn't even sure I had an 'anxiety' number like so many around me seemed to have.

Then, as I neared 40,
turns out,
it was 40.
------------------------

It's three years later from when I started this post.  Three years, a number of happy times, a number of disappointments and two crushing blows of sadness later, and aging has become less of a wonder and more of an interesting, if not quite balanced dance, between comfort and shock.

I've often heard women older than me lament that feeling of being invisible to anyone under 35.  Since childhood I, myself, have always been entranced by the wit, humor and intelligence of older men and women, so I thought this more of a fear than a reality.  I pooh-poohed it really.  That is, until I attended my first 16 year old's birthday party as someone who is past the 35 mark.  OMG, as the kids say.

Most of my young life, I'd been admired and thought hysterically funny by my niece and her friends.  This is not to sound self-centered, purely an observation.  We've been hanging out together since the day she arrived on earth and having always had a pretty close relationship, almost like friends more than relatives, I was considered the "Cool Aunt".  Over the years, my sister sent me every school paper my niece wrote that mentioned my name and accomplishments, every 'what I want to be when I grow up' report that had my name filling in that blank.

All through elementary and middle school, as her circle of friends grew larger, I was at the car washes, the Halloween parades, the pancake breakfasts, the birthday parties, entertaining the kids and parents alike:  The Funny Aunt, the Wacky Aunt, the Creative Aunt, the Witty Aunt!  My loving and generous niece always made time for me.  I was usually the first person she excitedly introduced as some new friend walked through the door.

Now, maybe I haven't been around as much for the last couple of years, those being her first two years of high school, new school, new friends and next thing you know, here comes 16!  Yesterday was the birthday party. 

Please believe me when I say, I hadn't necessarily anticipated giggling and laughing with her friends, throwing water-balloons, dressing up, doing impromptu dances, and getting into the general silliness we all did when she was a little girl, but I also was nowhere near ready for what I did encounter.
Yes, my incredibly sweet niece came in the door, gave me a huge hug, a big smile and skipped on out to the backyard.  And like a pied piper, or the birthday girl of the day that she was, every girl followed behind her as I watched them file into the house:  24 girls, each one more beautiful than the last, long hair, short shorts, developed bodies, tiny bikinis during the swim-party part of the party, and nary a glance of eye-contact for the first three hours of what was looking to be a very long day.

None of them looked the slightest bit intrigued as to who I was as I set out plates and napkins, drinks and food.  I could have been the pool cleaner for all the interest anyone showed.  I was happy to see them entertaining themselves, chatting away furiously, as if they hadn't spent nearly everyday together for the last 9 months.  I'd been told "at this age, they're either bored in five minutes or too excited to breath."  They looked excited to me.  I didn't even have to sneak away, nor did I sulk off, as I retired to the living room to eat lunch with my sister and brother-in-law.  I couldn't very well mention my surprise or feeling of slight to these two who'd seen it all.  So, I kept it to myself and wondered how I was going to break through, if at all, to this age that looked at me as not much more than 'old'.

Luckily, as we made our way to the next birthday destination, the Roller Rink, I had to take 4 girls in my car and we did talk and laugh and maybe even giggle as we made our way down the road.  Windows wide open, yelling to each other over traffic, everyone's hair but mine whipping in the wind, I started to feel part of something.  Once at the roller rink, I helped a couple girls get their feet up on four wheels and eventually got out on the floor myself!  My older sister and I reverted to our own youth and even managed to keep upright while laughing the whole time.  On the drive home, I took 4 different girls and, in a very short amount of time, we got into some serious topics.  They listened intently as we discussed things they'd only ever heard about, never met anyone who'd experienced it, and somewhere in there, we all had something in common.  They told me that they wished these things were taught at school by someone who 'gets it'. 

I finally felt like that adult.
And I was in awe.

Monday, June 3, 2013

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile


You're never fully dressed without a smile.
That was the old adage, which I fully believe in.
Back in the day, encouraging people to walk around with a smile seemed a simple enough thing to do. 
But I do think it's time for a new one, to address a serious issue.
I would begin the argument that you never fully have someone's attention while they're holding an iphone.  You can even make it work in the song,
"Whooo caaaares what you're hearing
from facebook, texts and phone
it's what you heeear from eeear to ear
and not from app to app!"

Sometimes I wonder how many passwords I have stored in my head.  Where there used to be ideas and birthdays, I now have letters and numbers that make sense to no one but me.
And then I wonder how did I get here?  (no, not here on earth...here in the technology sense)
How is it that I am so totally tuned into an on-line world?
I have passwords and usernames and different passwords and different usernames for about ten billion different online connections.  And while I am not alone, I am very much alone with these things.  I'm calling them "connections" but then why do I feel less connected each time I sign up to connect to one more thing online?

It started with blogging.  Which I faithfully did, daily, for about five years.  It gave me great joy and total serenity to write my thoughts, to share ideas and to get it all down on not-quite-literal paper (many drafts of blog posts were first fleshed out on whatever piece of paper I had handy, from airplane vomit bag to matchbook, before they were electronically executed).  Writing, to me, was like a physically-sedentary form of exercise.  I always felt satiated once a piece was drafted, then edited, completed and then posted.  Some days I wrote five posts at a time, carefully selecting them to appear throughout the week, just so I could make room for the next five stories in my head.

Then I was told by someone who enjoyed my writing that I might look into Twitter.  What would I do with only 140 characters?  I couldn't imagine, but I signed up anyway.  If that's where the people were reading these days, I would go to them.

I joined Facebook purely through years of pressure, for my greeting card business and eventually for myself, and still feel that daily, visual posts are the only way to keep it interesting.

I keep a Flicker site current and curated.

I have a website for my business.
I have a Yelp profile for people and places that clearly, desperately call out for my personal opinion (called "reviews").

I have a number of email accounts:  Some for work, some for personal, some just to sign in to online worlds with.

I opened an Etsy site, then closed it, and am in the process of starting another, totally re-invented.

I started two more blogs, photography mostly, but with an extreme amount of thought, time and layout design invested in them.
 
Then I got an Iphone, something I'd fought against for years (why did I need anything but my simple, yet working, flip phone?)... texting was already in full swing, and I've bought into it:  hook, line and sinker.

Instagram sucked me in almost, well, instantly.  First it was just a fun idea, a here and there thought, then it became an addiction that I checked into multiple times a day.  It's a continuous love/hate relationship.

After I thought I was on top of all things necessary for my business, the self-employed person's brand, self-promotion, a friend told me that the only way to be truly out-there, involved, and communicating your message is Pinterest.
So, I logged on and started a page.
 
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
If not, trust me, I feel overwhelmed enough for both of us.

And I've found, when I bring this topic up, I am not alone.  When I sit at a table with friends or family, and everyone brings out their phones and places them on the table like an extra fork, to shovel in whatever is missing in that moment, or a knife, to cut through the millisecond of silence that befalls even the most gregarious of us, I want to lament the state of interpersonal relationships in this year of 2013.  But, I can't, because my phone starts to ring, or beep, or sound like a doorbell, or the tweet of a bird, or the breaking of glass, or it's making the sound of a train, telling me someone just had a thought, just liked something of mine, just took a photo of their drink, someone just validated someone else doing something out there in the world-wide-ether, and that, in this very moment, seems to take precedent over the simple act of smiling at the person sitting right across from them.

 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Move That: Wherein change is uncertain


Moving is like pushing the curtain back, like wiping dust off a glass table and there it ALL is.  All that stuff you've been stuffing into boxes, corners, under chairs:  Objects, feelings, emotions, memories.  It's turning your life on it's head a bit and life is expecting you to just take it.

For over 20 years, I've lived someplace above street level; someplace where there exists a life lived on all sides, someone on the right, someone on the left, someone above me and someone below me.  I've never questioned it, never thought it might be different.  The sound of footsteps above me or the sound of music below me, someone's TV beside me, has always felt, if not particularly enjoyable, at the very least normal.  Watching the street below me and the people living their lives on the sidewalk opposite me has been a true staple of city living.

Packing up boxes, not quite sure when they'll be opened back up is....um....stressful.  I envision it like working with a true hoarder and asking them keep? sell? donate? or... the box you'll never open again: trash?  As someone who collects and purges pretty much all year, the acts of both seem quite small until faced with everything all at the same time.  And while the voices of reason (currently:  my husband, my sister, my friend Karen, my brother-in-law) all say, just throw it in a box, don't worry about it, anything that's deep storage goes in a box first, put a few important things aside.... well, as a collector and a working artist, they ALL feel incredibly, irrationally important.  And the thought of 'deep storage' of anything makes me wish I'd never heard the word.  I don't feel like anything I own should be in any kind of storage that isn't totally accessible for when the creative ah-ha moment hits!

Moving:  It brings out the best in us, it brings out the worst in us.  It raises a lot of shit to the top.
Someone finally said the same words I'd been thinking:  Moving in your younger years seemed so cool and 'lets have a pizza' kind of times...where did those go?!  I love the idea of being in a new town, meeting new people, living so very differently than I was, or than I even thought might be.  I love knowing I have no idea what might happen in this next city. 
I do know there's no one above us
and no one below us,
and there is one person on one side of us. 
The other side of that is a yard.  A first in over 20 years.

Even with all the roiling, I'm excited for what's next.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just Keep Singing

I find myself searching for physical proof of a relationship that has existed since we were 14 years old:  Emails, letters, texts, photographs, anything that solidly screams yes, you were here just a moment ago; we loved one another.

Like my good friend the year before, my dear friend, Shauna, died suddenly and unexpectedly on January 30th.  Complications of pneumonia.  Something unforeseen befell Shauna and we lost her in an instant.  While I don't expect this space to become a running obituary of friends and family, I do recognize this feeling of paralysis must be dealt with openly so I can move forward.  As it turns out,  I've always had this notion that moving forward is the wrong thing to do, that it's outright disrespectful.  Moving on with my life feels like a slap in the face of theirs.  So, for a year, since Suzanne's death, I've barely moved...or so it seems to me.  In fact, it's been pointed out to me,  I've done more in the last year than I've done in ages, including actually moving, but I've done it with my eyes closed, or my ears plugged up, and most definitely with a wool blanket over my head.  And I'm finally realizing, I can't expect to pay any respect to anyone, living or dead, that way.


I know a lot of people say this about people they've lost but, in this case, never a truer word was said about someone:  Shauna was THE most positive, loving, giving, religious-faith driven person I've ever met.  She never had a unkind word to say, never.  She smiled in the face of a broken heart, a lost artifact, or a dirty diaper.  She strove to lift people up.  Her entire life was giving, giving, giving.  In the 30 years I've know her, she's crossed state lines to support everything I ever did, or tried to do.  Sean never missed a party; there wasn't a type of food made that she wouldn't eat; she loved red wine and salsa dancing and spoke multiple languages.  At the top of Shauna's list of things she absolutely loved and wouldn't miss a chance to do was singing.  Sean would sing at a dinner table if given the opportunity.  We sang at our high school graduation and she sang every Sunday at her church.  She actually spent a year of her life, traveling the world, singing for people.  Sometimes I wondered if she didn't make a pact with herself when she was young:  Try anything once.  I often asked her, over the years, how she stayed so intensely faithful to a god she'd never seen and she just smiled at me, with nary a judgement in her eyes or her voice, 'Oh, Mol', she'd say, 'It's in there...', as if I might get there too someday.  Shauna impacted the world one person at a time.  And then, just a little over five years ago, she changed the life of the man she met and married and together they brought life to two adorable girls.

It's the people that are left behind that suffer the brunt of it.  It's Shauna's family and friends and her two daughters who lose out, we all rationally understand this.  But, what I'm also finally coming to understand is that we're also the only ones who can keep her spirit alive, the only ones who can share her love for life, her positive attitude, that never-ending giving back to others.
And we're the ones that have to keep on singing.


Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
'cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are

You can do what you want
The opportunity's on
And if you can find a new way
You can do it today
You can make it all true
And you can make it undo
You see 
Its easy
You only need to know

Well if you want to say yes, say yes
And if you want to say no, say no
'cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are


--cat stevens
(one of shauna's very favorite songs)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Piano: a most sentimental happening

I thought this so sweet and so sad at the same time. A good friend who lived across the hall from me in NYC sent it to me. He was actually the third owner of our old piano and the one who nearly broke his back bringing it down three flights of stairs to the landing in our old building. When he sent me the link, he reminded me that even our antiquarian neighbor, Gita, used to stop and play the keys before she made the long trek upstairs to the top floor.  Piano's are a funny thing, unlike guitars, which can seem a dime a dozen, piano's seem to hold a history in it's keys.  Or maybe in that firm, upright back of theirs.

Friday, December 14, 2012

so it just is


A year ago, on this very date, I learned that one of my very best friends in the world was gone forever.  Suzanne was killed in an instant by a situation that was avoidable;  a few workmen who chose to cut corners and disregard safety measures that morning made it impossible.  For the last year I have alternatively struggled and completely avoided coming to terms with the total, unbearable emptiness left behind. 

In life, Suzanne and I had known each other since the 6th grade.  Everyone in my family knew her and hold their own memories of her growing up.  Memories that continued to be made well into our adulthood, as Suzanne and I led a fabulous and fun life in NYC.  All my friends in NY met her at one point or another, some for just a moment, and some as part of the continued circus that swirled around our days and nights.  After I made the move to SF, Suzanne came to visit throughout the years, was a huge part of my wedding, and even made sure to come out for that ever-silly bachelorette party beforehand thrown by a group of new friends, all of whom loved her.  She moved into my old apartment, lived with my old furniture, kept me up to date on all things New York:  We called, we texted, we emailed, we sent goodies in the mail... With big issues at hand, I called on Suzanne.

In the wake of her death, there has been a great disconnect that is more than difficult for me to comprehend.  Suzanne kept her own life fairly separate, in different sections.  I am lucky to be close with her brother and his girlfriend now, who I knew in NY, and who keep me sane when I think I'm loosing it over this.  But I have to keep reminding myself, I knew Suzanne in life, with life.  I don't want to continue remembering December 14th as the day we lost her;  I want to remember all the other times.

The conversations we have now aren't one-sided, but they are quieter.  The times I see her are less frequent and without others' memories of it.  It's like one of us is in exile, waiting for it to be over.
Often, that one just feels like me.


And if I go, 
while you're still here...
know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
-behind a veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar together again
-both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest and when you need me,
just whisper my name in your heart
...I will be there.
      .TC.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A day in the life

RK and I spend most of all day, every day, together, with Stella.  We work at home and we work together.  And even with this, we still chose to spend Saturdays and Sundays together.  In fact, even though when you work for yourself and work from home, the days can tend to blend, the weekend still feels like a deserved weekend.

So, on this past Sunday, RK and Stella and I got up and headed for the beach, one of our favorite Sunday dog trips.  These morning trips to the beach where RK & I walk forever, listening to the ocean, clearing our heads or coming up with the next best thing,  I still get the most pleasure from thinking of a trip to the beach as 'dog trips', a place where Stella is totally free, lets the wind run thru her hair and the ocean up her nose and doesn't stop smiling.  It makes the trip all that more fun, we're doing something super awesome for Stella and we get to enjoy her loving it.  She's the best dog ever, so we try to give back.  Yup, Stella, our dog.

Which isn't the point...

The point is that this morning, as we were headed out on this warm fuzzy beach trip, we passed an ambulance and saw our neighbor lady in the back, with her husband standing at the door, listening to the EMT.  We got about half way up the block and it occurred to us that we should turn around and see if we could help this neighbor man of ours.

This neighbor man of ours, whose name we don't yet know.

We've seen this man and his wife, who are in their 70's, about once a week over the last two years, usually while we're sitting out on the front porch of our apartment building.  Most times, we're sitting with any number of our other neighbors now good friends, who live in our building.  One frienbor (the friend-neighbor combo I just made up) has a tiny dog named Dallas.  Her dog and our Stella are these really neat dog 'friends'.  We all sit on the stoop, when the weather's nice, and drink our coffee and watch our dogs.  This neighbor man and his wife, would often pass in front of our building always on their way to either church or a meal and for a very brief moment notice the dogs and smile, maybe make a comment.  It went on that way for about six months.  One nice, sunny morning, the moment stayed a little longer and an old radio show called "Stella Dallas" was brought up.  I'd never heard of it, none of us had, but it couldn't be cuter that our dogs inspired our neighbor to finally start a conversation.  Months after that, his wife, our neighbor lady, who was also a bowler on the weekends, started pulling out dog treats every time we saw them.  This couple does not own a dog themselves, but she took it upon herself to pick up very special dog treats from the local pet store, keep them in a baggie, inside a tin, for sheer freshness.  Stella & Dallas couldn't contain themselves when this couple came around the corner heading to one of their two destinations:  Oh, how the doggie treats flowed!

Funny thing is, we never once exchanged names.  This is very unlike me:  I ask the name of the guy who bags the groceries, or the cab driver, or the guy at the coffee cart.  And yet, not once did it come up.

A few months ago, our neighbors were passing the porch just as we were coming out the door.  We called our hello's, Stella ran up to them with mad joy, and I mumbled something to the effect, 'you know stella!'  But, the strange thing was, our neighbor lady didn't seem to know Stella.  She stepped back, sort of wobbly, and was amused by the fact that Stella was so excited to see them.  Almost like she was surprised to see a dog at all.  I looked up at our neighbor man and he said very, very softly, 'She's had a stroke' and in an instant it was clear.  She wasn't herself at all, so how was she to know who we were?  We stood just for a moment more and smiled at one another.  Things had clearly changed.  They walked on in the direction headed to one of their two habitual purposes.

Most recently, they were walking past our porch, we stopped and talked and our neighbor lady really seemed like her old self again.  She seemed to recognize me, and she definitely recognized Stella this time.  I came home and told RK I thought it was all looking up for our Stella Dallas neighbors.  But, as you know, if you started this at the beginning, that isn't exactly how it seems to be going.

This morning, when we passed our neighbor man, standing at the door to the back of the ambulance with the medic, and we briefly glanced our neighbor lady on a gurney and it occurred to us to turn around to help, I couldn't stop thinking about how much time they've spent together; the things they've gone through together; the places they've been to together.

We missed our chance at helping, by the time we rounded the corner, the ambulance was closing it's doors and our neighbor man was nowhere to be seen.  We headed out on our morning, thinking and talking and absorbing the weight of life.  We spent a gorgeous morning at the beach, ran Stella until she was happily exhausted and then headed home so Ryan could go bike riding before the wind picked up.

That same afternoon, when RK called me, laying on a gurney, from the back of an ambulance and told me to meet him at General Hospital, I thought of our neighbors again.  Then, I thought of how much time RK and I spend together, how much we've been through together and how many places we've yet to go to, together.

And how it can all change in an instant.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tuesday is for voting...

Thanks for doing so...