Monday, June 13, 2022

Oh, Happy Day

the performance of this song rocked my little world.  i've always loved this song, or at least the feeling of it.  i don't think i ever actually knew the words.  but to watch this group sing it and the group of people listening to it, absolutely living it, well, i dare you to stay still...

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Mirror From Church Street

 We've landed on the other side.  We are on the other side of the country; we are on the other side of a life lived in California; I, personally, feel I'm on the other side of even understanding what's next.  We've flipped it all.  I've tried to take it step by step and not get emotional or too sad or too happy or too anything because every feeling is temporary and I'm aiming solely for temperate.  So far, it seems to be working.  I'm treating the whole move like I'm getting the best of all worlds.  What could be better?  Again, so far so good.

One month ago, on the California end, after these four guys loaded all our boxes, furniture and 50 years of memories into a van and drove away, we never heard from anyone again.  We had pretty much decided our stuff was gone.  And, while we weren't horribly upset (again, taking things as they come...), we did feel we were owed an explanation.  One never came.  But, our stuff finally did, a little over two weeks after we arrived.  The day these two young boys and a man named Misha, released our boxes into this house, RK and I sat down on the couch and readily passed out.  You might think that strange, as we hadn't done any obvious physical work that day, but the tension we'd been holding onto for weeks now was palpable.  So, when the relief of the whole thing being 'over' kicked in, we could do nothing but fall asleep.

Slowly, we're unpacking boxes.  It's not slow because of thought or comfort or we're taking it all in, but it's going slowly because we didn't actually bring any real furniture with us.  When we unpack a box, we don't have a shelf or a cupboard or desk to put things on.  Maybe we didn't think that through.  I'm also used to the life of second hand furniture, where I used to visit the thrift store daily, or walk home and see great furniture on the street corner.  Now, as new homeowners, we're aiming for a little more grown-up vibe.  I don't know that it'll happen, but it's what we're after.  In the meantime, I'm unpacking what we did actually bring.  

I have repeatedly said during this move, 'if anything breaks, it's OK, it's just stuff!'  I joke that I have so much stuff, the breakage would actually be doing me a favor.  So, after opening box after box, everything in tact, this broken mirror was a surprise.  Not a shock, but a kind of deep breath memory surprise.  This mirror collection of mine is large:  Some came from flea markets, some from family, some I don't even remember where they come from anymore, but some come with a story tied to a time, a time that extends much further than me.

For me, this mirror belonged to our neighbor in San Francisco, who we never got to know but to wave and say 'hello' when we saw her.  Then, recognize as she struggled with what we assumed was a pretty serious illness, coming home one day with a shaved head and a winding scar on her skull from front to back.  She quickly went from friendly to fragile.  We never passed each other on the sidewalk again, but we could see she had help.  We would see her from across the street, out our third floor window, as someone carefully guided her from the car to her front door.  And then, suddenly, she was gone.  

One day, walking past her home, there was another woman in the garage standing amongst stacks of boxes and I stopped to talk with her.  She told me my neighbor had been her mother and she had passed away.  They grew up in that house on Church Street.  There were three girls in her family, she told me, and a family that lived two doors down had three boys of similar age.  The running family routine was to try and set them all up, for years.  It was sweet to hear they were all still friends.  Her parents were Russian Jews, very involved in the community, professional matchmakers, they held movie nights for young people to meet.  There was actually a closet inside the house, stacked with all the old film reels, she was planning on donating to the community.  She told me she was getting her parents house ready to have an estate sale.  We talked for quite awhile about how that feels, what you keep, what you let go of, how it feels to hold their things when they're not longer here.  I told her I would come to the sale because I'd like to support her, and have something to remember her mom by and then she'd know something of her family stayed on Church Street.  She invited me to come in with her at that moment:  She thought the sale might get crazy and crowded and wouldn't it be nice to walk through it together now?  I agreed and followed beside her as she told me more family stories.  Eventually, we turned a corner and entered a small dressing room and I saw this mirror hanging on the wall.  Maybe I mentioned I collect mirrors, I don't remember, but, for her, this mirror held a thousand memories of childhood.  She told me about being a little girl, watching her mom get dressed for those movie nights and seeing both their reflections in that mirror stuck with her.  She took it off the wall, handed it over to me and said 'thank you'.  

Though it was 15 years ago now, I clearly remember coming home with the mirror, telling RK who it belonged to, confirming all of our conjecture about our neighbor and explaining the fascinating history of this family, who we never really knew, but now carried with us in this reflection.

Today, there is a heartbreaking war raging in Ukraine, each day is infused with an extremely heavy feeling of helplessness; with these unknown, hurting people on my mind, opening this box and finding this particular piece shattered made me forget my cavalier attitude towards breakage and, instead, found me quietly crying into my coffee over the things we lose every day.


Sunday, February 13, 2022

Lives, Acknowledged

We're moving.  We're packing up our little life here in Los Angeles and moving to create a little, maybe a little bigger, life in New Hampshire.  When you pack up, you also unpack a lot of little things:  do i keep this? does this thing go in a box with that thing?  It's a lot to sort through.  So, we decided we wouldn't spend much time sorting thru any of it until we unpack on the other end.  Some things though, are hard to miss.  When you open a drawer that's been closed for a few years, you find these things and maybe you start to rifle through them just a little bit.  And maybe you get completely caught up in these things and find hours have passed as you read, sort, read some more, maybe even have a good cry over what you've 'found' again.

There are four large drawers deep in the walk in closet of our current apartment.  When we realized we couldn't have everything out on shelves or on desks or bookcases, things went into these drawers.  Now that we're moving, the drawers have to be emptied and, inevitably, I start looking through these envelopes and little boxes and catch myself going in deep.  On top of one of these envelopes, a large black envelope to be exact, is an article that is titled "A life, acknowledged" written by Richard Cohen, formerly of The Washington Post.  This article includes the story of my friend, Suzanne Hart, who was killed ten years ago in NYC.  It is a sparing, brutally honest, short piece about the people that were in the obituaries that week of December, 2011.  I can't link it here, I can't even find it online actually.  But, moments ago, when I was just trying to send him an email, I wasn't even trying to find the article online.  I had it in my hand.  I read it.  And then I read it again.  And I cried.  When I stopped crying, I decided to write him a note to tell him that I'd saved this piece and, while it wasn't particularly warm or emotional, it actually made me feel both of those things.  

Here is the email I wrote:

Dear Mr. Cohen,
I probably wrote to you back in 2011 when you first wrote this piece (12/20/11) but I don't remember if I did and, as we are packing up our whole house and moving back east again, I came across the envelope where I keep all the articles about my friend, Suzanne Hart, read it again and had a good ole sob.
I just wanted to thank you, if I hadn't previously.  It's strange to read about your best friend, a limb practically, in such detached views.  Yet, your piece made me feel that she had been seen, beyond the sensationalism.  And there was plenty of that.
Her brother, sister-in-law and I just acknowledged ten years of her being gone from our lives.  I sent them a Maya Angelou poem that I have on repeat in my head.  Though, for the three of us, at least, she's never really "gone".  We all talk to her a lot .  I met Suzanne in the sixth grade, stuck by each other like glue for the next ten years, lost touch for a bit, and then we both ended up in NYC and picked up right where we left off.  Sure, she was a 'a ray of sunshine', as the papers wrote, but truly she had a brilliantly dark sense of humor and a wicked tongue that kept us both in stitches.  They don't write that type of thing in an obit.
Another thing I came across as I was packing today was the cassette tapes I used to record answering machine messages and every friend that came thru my apartment.  On many of them, there is Suzanne, talking, laughing, smoking, living:  On one of them, she says to me, 'what are you going to do with all these recordings, molly, play them after i'm dead so you can still hear my voice?!' and she laughs and laughs. 
Yeah, Suz, I am.

But I never sent it.  In searching for Mr. Cohen's email address or where he is now (I honestly wanted to make sure he was still around before I sent this into the ether) I found more articles than I can count about what an absolute jack ass he was.  Article after article about his white-male privilege, openly racist thoughts and the sexual harassment that he displayed over and over gain.  UGH.  Each article worse than the last.  Mother Jones does a top 10 countdown of his worst moments.  I won't link it here, you can easily find it.  He's a real piece of work, retired now, but no doubt living out these traits in his real life, not just in the newspaper.  

The email, I deleted, the article I'll keep because ultimately, it's about Suzanne, not about this guy.  And when I talk to Suzanne, we can really rip this guy to shreds and no one has to read about any of it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Sigmond & Me

Apparently, I had started writing the story of meeting Sigmond...I found this post from February, that I never finished:

well, the full story is this:  i was waiting in line behind this big, tall, cool as a cucumber dude and he stepped up to the window and said to the little woman behind the counter “six minutes”  yeah? she says back? six?  “yup.  six minutes.  that’s how long it took to get from there to here.”  she smiled.  he handed her something and smiled and walked away.  i stepped up to the counter, to the same little lady and said, ‘hey, can i talk to a manager about something? really quick? i have an idea.”  she tells me to ring the bell on that little door to the side there and points to that random door you don’t really think anyone is behind, but come to find out, that’s where the whole freaking world of the p.o IS!  anyway, i rang the bell.  and the top half of the door opens and THERE IS SAID COOL CUCUMBER DUDE!  Sigmond.  I tell him I find those cases depressing and I think we could all use a bit more cheer and wouldn’t it be great if i designed some cool things for the cases and...i don’t know exactly dude, but sigmond immediately said yes.  he’d been waiting for someone to come around and treat this once beautiful goddamn worn-down federal institution like the place it used to be.  he’d been waiting for someone to agree that him pumping jazz in on saturday’s WOULD make life in the lobby better for all.  whether you like jazz or not, honestly.  

And now I have to follow it up with terrible news.  I just found out that Sigmond died in July.  I was in the post office and Robert, who I knew first, said to me as I was babbling away about how long it had been since I had done anything with the cases and I was going to get back into it, but it just hadn't been the same since Sigmond relocated to a different P.O. and Robert stopped me and said, "Molly, have you heard about Sigmond?"  Of course I hadn't!  I hadn't even heard from Sigmond since he started his long, slow move from manager of this location to retirement.  Wonderful, fulfilling retirement.  A retirement he had been dreaming of since before I met him.  He'd been talking about it for ages, but always found some new reason to stay.  I like to think when I came along and breathed some new life into this particular location, he found another tiny reason to hang on for a bit.  But we talked about his retirement, or semi-retirement, every time I swung by there.  He couldn't wait.  Sigmond had worked his butt off since he was a kid.  Now there was family & friends waiting in the wings for him to take it easy, kick his feet up and enjoy a cold one together.  There was a brief moment of talk when The Traveling Postal Club, the letter writing community scene a friend and I started there at his P.O., was cruising along that maybe we could all work together to make it a nationwide program with the USPS.  Sigmond would be our guide, he'd help train others.  This seemed like such a wonderful possibility because he was always our biggest supporter.  It started with the cases, but it grew beyond when we introduced The Traveling Postal Club.  We brought the idea to him that we might set up some tables and chairs and bring a whole bunch of mail-art materials and let people stop by and make a card.  It was a simple premise that we all took seriously and blew out on a Sunday in Atwater.  A Sunday!  Sigmond ordered a mail truck to sell stamps, we had six tables filled with materials, he hustled people in from the sidewalk and we kept the whole thing going for a full day.  It was exhilarating!  And then he let us keep doing it for months afterward in the lobby of his P.O.  Whenever we wanted, however we wanted to do it.  And he often brought his walkman and plugged in some jazz.

It was pretty thrilling.  As anyone who's ever been to a Post Office knows, they're not an easy place to crack.  But we had Sigmond on our side, in our corner.  He wrote to the higher ups, letting them know what we were doing and how beneficial it was to the USPS.  He was always present at our events.  And he always had time to talk when they ended, walk us out to our cars, help us load up.  There was a time, in the early days of me creating/designing the P.O. cases, when I walked into the back room of the USPS.  Regular humans don't just get to cruise on back there.  But Sigmond let me walk around and look at the tools of the past, still being used:  the mail boxes, the mail sorters, the mail bags, the locked cage in the middle of the room that I guess held money?  The other employees always looked a bit startled to see me, but when they saw I was with Sigmond, they relaxed.  Whenever I finished a case, I'd walk in the back to let him know I was done and to give back the keys.  He would always walk me to my car and we'd stand and talk about the past, present and future.  I'm sure we both thought there was a lot more future.

When Sigmond left that particular location, he wasn't very good about keeping in touch.  He didn't return texts or emails like he used to.  I wrote it off to 'senioritis';  he knew retirement was close.  So, I didn't get too worked up by it.  I figured I'd keep him in the loop via these means no matter what.  Turns out, there were other things in the works.  Things we knew nothing about.  

Robert told me Sigmond was diagnosed with cancer this past May and, not even fully retired yet, passed away in July.

I'll never meet another Sigmond, but I sure am glad I met this one.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Two Personalities: Bringing it

I have always been a huge fan of Jerry Seinfeld and even more so as he's aged and grown and revealed himself to be a wonderful, giving, supportive human.

I was never a fan of David Letterman.  Luckily, as he's aged and grown he, too, has revealed himself to be a nicer, more interesting, complicated human. 

This series Letterman has created, "My Next Guest..." is full of interesting conversation; absolutely worth watching every episode.  Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars..." is another fantastic, uplifting, oddly informational series.

Watching this episode of the two of them talking about life was like watching two sides of my brain have a discussion.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


I am obsessed with my dogs.
preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.
  1. "he was obsessed with the theme of death"
    synonyms:preoccupy, be uppermost in someone's mind, prey on someone's mind, prey on, possesshauntconsumeplaguetormenthoundbedevil, take control of, take over, become an obsession with, have a hold on, engross, eat up, have a grip on, gripdominaterulecontrolbesetmonopolize 

For sure.

The weird thing is, I swore I wasn't going to be like this with "the next one", which is actually two. 
Fostering then keeping both is part of the obsession with dogs, in general.

I know it's a replacement for kids we never had and I'm the first to admit it.  I'm not embarrassed by that.  People have pets for all kinds of reasons.  As long as those reasons also include the concept of treating them with respect, keeping them healthy and loving them like crazy, I'm cool with whatever.

If you could see them curled into one another right this moment, fast asleep, deep breathing, right at my feet.... you, too, would be okay with the feeling this brings on.  This utter peacefulness.  Come on, all of us want peacefulness.  The state of the world is anything but calm and watching dogs sleep is anything but stressful.

And this picture of them, well, you will have to literally 'picture' them because if I move to get my camera right now, the whole scene will explode!  They'll both jump to attention because I moved a foot from this exact spot.

Oh, please, I'm not the only one obsessed around here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Tiny Bit of Tidy

This week has been all about "tidying up" the home office, which was really supposed to be my husband's room-of-his-own, (mind you, i do have a studio space where I work, collect, gather, and have spread out many, many, many of my collections and books and papers), but, as it's been said about me (perhaps by my husband, RK- ahem!), 'give that girl a surface and she'll cover it!' and it's true. Therefore, the desk that was meant for him (that he actually wanted to get rid of because he doesn't use) is mostly covered in MY STUFF.

I LOVE paper: quotes i've written down or a story from the newspaper, every postcard ever sent to me, a magazine image that sparks joy, something i found on the ground that looked interesting, a business card, a fortune cookie fortune, a review of something i wanted to see but never did but might get to some day...I also love books and magazines and agendas and they, too, all live on this desk in the home office. These paper bits also live in numerous notebooks I've kept and pasted into over the years and this paper, in the form of scraps and books and magazines and collages and notes, cover much of my studio, as well. If I had another room with desks and tabletops and shelves and filing drawers and flat files...well, I'd cover and fill those too.

I don't WANT to throw any of it away, but I know it's necessary to sometimes "tidy-up" as they say...
I maintain these random bits and pieces are the basis for the artwork I create. These things are the basis for my very creativity itself! And organizing, too deeply, can be a crushing blow to what may come next.

Years ago, RK suggested I sort through my thousand's of vintage photographs and organize them in some way that worked for me, without either of us fully realizing that the mere fact of organizing my old photos would never work for me. The entire joy of these photos, both owning and using them, is in the complete randomness that I come across them. I often flit through some of the same photos over and over and remember where I bought them or just marvel at the fact that I have no idea where I got them from, but they seem so familiar to me still. It turns out, I am almost never looking for something in particular. I have an idea, I recall I may have something similar to what I'm thinking about, but it is in the sifting through the piles, the files and the photos that I come up with something I didn't even know I wanted. The joy is in the lack of organization! I quickly realized this in the "sorted vintage photos" incident (we can laugh about it now). I didn't feel like looking through the category of "men" or "two men" or "women" or "babies" or "farm animals" --it took the fun and the creativity right out of it! Eventually I got rid of the dividing/organization cards and tossed the whole lot back into one big drawer. Which is now an even bigger drawer, getting bigger all the time.

I don't know why I thought I was the only one that felt this way. Reading Austin Kleon's blog entries from the past year, I realize now, it's quite a common way of conducting oneself.



As for tidying up the home-office this week, it's been a downright revelation! I've found notebooks I'd forgotten about, sketches of work I plan on actually making this year, and articles that sparked a flurry of emails last night.

I can't wait to 'tidy up' the studio next week!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Just Today

I'm making a piece of work to trade with a friend who gave me a gorgeous ring -- I decided to ask his partner for a quote he loves and I would do something around that.  He did give me a great quote, "Just Today", which my friend loves and actually wears on a ring on his hand.  I love the sentiment, as well, the idea that we'll all get by if we just take it day by day.  Concentrate on just today...  So, I made the artwork:  I sewed on the machine, I hand-stitched this juicy vintage fabric, I built these little balsa-wood structures to hold the work up and out, I finished it, adhered it, slept on it, walked back into the studio the next day and didn't love it.  I could suddenly see so clearly, it wasn't what I was after.  I immediately set to dismantling it.  

It happens.  Not often, but sometimes.  I make a piece of work, or part of a piece of work, and it just doesn't come together.  Then I'm left with bits and pieces that were worked and re-worked with total intention and love and I just  cannot throw those bits and pieces away!  So, a couple of years ago, I decided to start leaving these little pieces behind... on my chair in the court house after jury duty, on the library keyboard after some research, in the underground book vault at Pratt university, on the cork board in an elevator, on the counter at the Post Office, in a book store, on a wall at the park, and taped to the child's seat of a cart at my local grocery store.  I try to always take a photo of the piece "in the wild"-- and if I shoot it just right, you can see the message I've left for someone to find.  I've started to call them #messagesfrommolly on Instagram.

Passing by a lot of intense characters on the streets of downtown Los Angeles:  sad, crazy, tweaking, babbling, dancing with their eyes closed, screaming and then the everyday down-on-your-luck people, some days, the whole of it seem just seem intrinsically harder than others.  I leave a lot of these messages downtown in places I hope someone who needs it will find it.  The most current, left behind from the work I just dismantled:  the fabric, the leather letters, tiny shreds of thread and the message, "Just Today" -- taking it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day...I just know someone that passes it will need it and they can even take it with them.  It's why these messages go out there, rather than in the trash.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Habitual Hello's

I'm a habitual hi-er.

Hi There.
Hows it going?
Oh, hey.
Oh, hi!

This "hi" habit has led to the following short-list:

1.  Some amazing stories.

2.  Some exhausting exchanges.

But, I can't HELP it.  Truly!  I'm sure this habit is heavily influenced by my parents who can barely walk by a human, let alone a common, domestic animal and not stop to recognize it as living being, acknowledge it profusely, and get into a conversation of some sort.

It's our way of saying, "I see you."  Each and every one of you living beings in this animal kingdom.  We are people-people.  We love people!  What we're really talking about is humans being positive and all inclusive with one another.  This is what my parents instilled in me:  It should be the norm to look at each person and think, "I see you, you are important, you are noticed.  You. Are. Here. Too."

I happen to be in Downtown LA most days, my studio is right off skid row, and I can't ignore even the most intense person walking by me:  They're clearly down on their luck and not at all in the same headspace as me, yet I can't help but look at them as I am walking by and if eye contact is made, my mouth instantly forms and emits the sound for "Hi!"  Often, a "how's it going?" tagged on the end of that, as well.  It doesn't always go over well, but it also rarely goes bad and it usually just lifts someone's spirits, which is my aim.  For those rare times it does go bad, I am always surprised.  RK, as my loving partner and protector, is always surprised at my surprise and usually has to talk me down from this as he continues to wonder why I do it so often.

Apparently, I actually invite further engagement when I make eye contact...
I suppose I do.
I didn't even know I was doing it.
It's automatic.
It's almost impossible for me to walk by people and dogs and babies and look down or look the other way.  I have to acknowledge each being.  I actually feel as if I'm being rude if I don't say hello to every single person I pass.  I am working on this.

But there is an ultimate reward: 
Many, many times that "hi" leads to things I'd never expected. 
I have had incredibly interesting conversations with people from all walks of life. 
It's gotten me into trouble almost never. 
It's gotten me numerous invites to places I might never have gone.
It's also gotten my phone number into some pretty random phones and filled my own contact list with a list of first names that just don't ring a bell anymore...
but, most definitely, the pros outweigh the cons.

Just now, as I walked back to my studio from the bathroom, I said "hi" to a complete stranger in the hallway and, right after that walked by someone's studio with the door wide open and I had to firmly tell myself not to look in:  Molly, You do NOT need to say "hi" to the people inside that room!  Yes, the door is open but open does not always mean an invitation to acknowledgement! Get ahold of yourself!

Yeah, Hi, I'm working on this... 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Even Lucy, Linus and Charlie Brown have had enough

I grew up in the 70's-80's, reading the Peanuts comics.  I went to the library every week and checked out all the books they had.  And then my mom started buying them for me and I read them over and over.

When I say "in the 70's & 80's" this in the same way that people like Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein claim about the "times" they grew up in.  Yet, they were raised (I can't say "grew up", that seems like a contradiction) within a few decades of me, a certain time, not that long ago...

When I was growing up, I believed in Peanuts comic books, I believed in the power and beauty of the library, I completely believed books could change your life, and I believed that Catholic priests were a certain type of person who would never purposely hurt anyone, and I believed as humans we all had a right to be ourselves as long as we didn't hurt someone else.  Never in that time, or in the years since then have I ever believed a man was supposed to sexually molest a child; I never believed that sexual assault was okay or the suggestion of violent sexual conduct was "locker room talk".

Even in the 70's and 80's when, I believe, the men and women alive then, including Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein (and Archbishop Bernard Francis Law and Woody Allen and Representative Mel Reynolds [D-IL],  and Senator Robert Packwood, and Bill O'Reilly, etc) were also alive, participating in society and seeing times a-changing, there were always some basics:  Treat people with respect, give everyone a chance, women are not there for your entertainment (unless they chose to get paid in entertainment, and then they are at their freaking job, so leave them the hell alone), adults should not harm children, men shouldn't grab any part of a woman's body, period.  You know, the obvious human kindness factor.

Now, 2017, this dumpster fire of current society, this crazy round of excuses, for any of them, is just that:  CRAZY.  We ALL know right from wrong, especially the men with a shit-ton of power, men who run massive companies, a major congregation, or the friggin free world!  ESPECIALLY the friggin free world.  And if they don't then why the hell do we keep giving them these positions of power?!

Now I'm slightly more grown-up in the 2000's, and I'm still going to the library every week and checking out lots and lots of books, though, seemingly, more reflective of the time...


or, so I thought, until I found that sticker above and realized the Peanuts have understood it all along...

*this particular book was sent to me by a good friend who knows me well, but it rides along with my library books, next to my bed, on my reading table, so it's included!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Stella Marie: Her heart, Our heart

This week we took Stella Marie in for a check-up and found that she has chronic degenerative valve disease.  It's done a number on her heart, which is now severely enlarged.  We start her on medication immediately and indefinitely.

For months now, Stella has been breathing heavily and scratching incessantly at her chest.  I thought it was the heat of summer, then I thought it was the humidity, then fleas, then dermatitis, then allergies, then anxiety.  I never once thought it was one of her very important valves not working properly and therefore allowing blood to engorge her heart and make her struggle at every turn. 

The interesting part of it is the way she seems to have relaxed, her breathing regulated, and her chest itching almost stopped, all since we took her to the cardiologist.  It's as if she knows we now know.  She no longer has to send us dramatic signals to get our attention.  She has finally been heard.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On Why I Miss The Classroom

“As far as I can recall, none of the adults in my life ever once remembered to say, “Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world. The cost is high, but the blessing of being compassionate is beyond your wildest dreams. However, you’re not going to feel that a lot in seventh grade. Just hang on.” 
― Anne LamottStitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair

I felt like that adult voice.  I felt like the adult voice that completely relates, still, to that kid in 7th grade.

It occurs to me, after the last few years of searching, I should be back in a teaching role.  That, and I miss being around the wisdom and the wackiness of kids.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day

Stella, in her floral glory.  

We love a good blossom.

A tree most appreciated in the summer, a moon for the darkness to come...

Itty bitty baby ferns,

Teenage ferns,

and, it's actually a hallucinogenic, wouldn't you know!

May Day holds a lot of heavy stories, and a lot of different meanings for a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.  In researching "May Day", I now know that.

But, before I knew that...  I, on the other hand, sat on our porch, in the garden at the end of the day with our dog, Stella, and pondered the fact that we have a porch, with a yard, with a garden and, we actually have another backyard, as well, with a soon-to-be garden.  I decided to think back to the day, not that long ago, when RK and I thought, 'all we want is to able to walk out our front door to a garden, a porch, a yard.'  That seems simple now, done!  Which made me think back to allllll the times we think, 'all I want is _________' and fill in the blank.  We WANT all the time!  Okay, not all of us.  But, most of us.  Definitely those of us in a first world country where we get most everything we want all of the time but just can't see it for the next thing we want is already being wanted.

It's rare, like a bloody steak, that we actually notice the wants we wanted are now the haves we have. The little wants, the big wants, the constant wants, and the painful wants.

Stella = wanted dog / have dog
Move to LA = wanted change / got change

wants/ haves = more family time, great husband, fantastic neighbors, cars, a Sunday subscription to The New York Times, to be in Uppercase Magazine, to have a studio, to travel , blah blah blah blah.... but you get it, right?  I'm grateful (though the overuse of that word and especially the reality of that emoji, make it difficult to use these days).

And, so, on this, the arbitrary first day of an arbitrarily named month, I decided to spend my time being grateful for the haves.  The haves that might seem little now were actually once big wants. Stopping to appreciate the them is what makes them big haves.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Paradox Alley

Just three nights ago, my beautiful husband and my loving dad, sat on these two lounge chairs and stared up at the sky.  They were watching the SuperMoon together (and, no, it's true, I don't know if SuperMoon is one word with capital letters detailing the awesome, but that's how it looks in my mind!).  They talked for maybe an hour?  I'm guessing, because my mom and I were just inside sorta watching tv, and we could hear them.  Just barely.  Their voices sounded loud enough, but the doors and the tv background noise made it so it was just like the adult voice murmer in charlie brown animations.  (if you don't know what i'm talking about, go watch one immediately and you'll understand.  i like to think that those of you who do know what i'm talking about are laughing hysterically or chuckling quietly, maybe explaining to their own kids what that sound my adult life, my friends and family and I still get a lot of use out of the reference)

And as I write this now, it seemed to become a relevant reference.  Okay, here goes:
the adults in the Charlie Brown movies/tv shows/ specials were voiceless.  yeah, sure, they had grunts and mumbles to represent, but, really, straight up, no words were spoken or understood.  It was kinda awesome.  But we didn't even talk about it til we were teenagers, friends and family.  Even in the comic strip (of which, and this is totally off topic, i had all the compendiums!), the adult was always in the other room, out of sight, out of sound.

SO, here I sat, listening to their sounds, pierced every once in awhile with a hearty, real laugh, and I was glowing.  I actually recognized the numerous emotions going on at once!

And I knew I'd survive our newest President.  In that moment, I was aware that LOVE trumps hate.

Seems a strange connection, but the country is just emerging from this icky truth, this radical realization, the take-over of the country--
{whoops! rabbit hole.}

I was feeling gratitude and love and childhood memories were going on and I was so happy that I married a man that enjoyed my family;  that I have a family that is awesome and connected and look out for each other and yet totally disagreed when it came to this election --I'm not saying they voted for the now president-elect, but i do know they were quite adamantly not voting for HRC-- arguments ensued-- and yet, even still, my beautiful, loving, awesome life partner is able to see past that and accept my beautiful, awesome, loving family like his own because that is who we are together and that is what's important while we are on this earth:  give and give, live and let live, surround yourself with love.

I'm lucky.  I'm aware of that.  And my goal is to recognize the gratitude and the smiles and even the smallest moment of sheer happiness, to be able to move forward and give back.

Just before the moon rose, we all walked outside and watched the sun set, searching for the green flash (we've heard and some of us have even claimed, there's such a thing as a green flash right when the sun hits the horizon).  I've been coming home for 46 years.  I can feel, especially in today's world, the awesome, pure luck that this reality is.   It's these moments...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Changing the work we do

When I finally found "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, I'm pretty sure after everyone else had found, read, devoured or destroyed it, I soared on the words and thoughts and feelings. I copied down the sentences that resonated and I bought a copy for each of my three best friends.
None of them loved it like I did. I raved and swooned and gushed to each of them about how amazing it was and it was going to change their very thinking and they wouldn't be able to get it out of their heads. I was wrong. They didn't agree. And I didn't even mind. I was clear about what I got out of that book and I was thrilled it spoke to me the way it did. I actually felt bad for them, for not getting out of it the juice that I got!
I spent a lot of years feeling sheepish about what I liked. But as I've gotten older, I realize that's a waste of time. I often feel extreme about certain things: books, songs, movies, articles in the newspaper... the littlest things can make me sob or laugh out loud or dance down the street without a care who's looking. Years ago, I remember lamenting to a friend of mine that the intense lows I would feel just seemed to be excruciating when they came and he reminded me that we were the kind of people that were lucky to feel intense lows, because it allowed us to also feel the intense highs!
It used to be important to me to be one of the same: someone that liked the same fancy wine as others or read the high-brow books listed in the book review, or know the names of someone everyone seemed to know about... now, I don't care. I'm not embarrassed when I don't know something, I'm happy to learn about it. I'm not curtailed by my lack of taste, or blush at my awkward stares. I'm interested. I'm curious. I'm out there. I'm observant. And I hate pretending, in all it's forms.
So, when I read the author Miss Gilbert's facebook post recently where she came out with some pretty big news, that clearly is a major life change and she wrote that she could no longer pretend because...
"Pretending is demeaning, and it makes you weak and confused, and it's also a lot of work. I don't do that kind of work anymore."
I was extremely moved. I agree completely. I don't do that kind of work anymore either.

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 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, 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 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.