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 is...in 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 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.  

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,


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....