Thursday, September 5, 2013

Keepsake Book-Box Workshop

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

worrying for worryings sake

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ask myself that every day.
What if?

these days, i love that question.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Day of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Remember The Birds

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Life Is In The Age Of The Beholder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 3, 2013

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

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

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

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

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

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

I keep a Flicker site current and curated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, March 15, 2013

Move That: Wherein change is uncertain

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just Keep Singing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Piano: a most sentimental happening

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