m wood pen

freelance illustrator: have pen, will travel

back to front: notes from a year.

12.13.11 calgon, take me away!

this will come as no surprise, but there’s a lot to do, especially at this time of year.

i’m laughing as i type this, as my daughters and i (and occasionally my son, or sweet dear college gals who stray into our hokey web) have a new totally cheesy christmas prep tradition: a total absorption of lifetime channel holiday movies!  that gem of an opening sentence, we counted, was spouted a minimum of twenty-seven times in the movie starring daphne zuniga, ‘on strike for christmas’….!  what a memory to keepsake for a….lifetime.

not that we’re done with ‘white christmas’, ‘love actually’, ‘miracle on 34th street’, ‘the family stone’, ‘young at heart’, ‘it’s a wonderful life’ and the great roll call of our absolute favorite, iconic “get in the spirit of things” movies.  the dvd and vcr (that’s the humongous tape-eater machine that baby noel once got his finger stuck in) are going pretty much nonstop from thanksgiving til santa flies down the chimney.  but, for some kookie idea (which this house has unlimited quantities of), we stumbled onto lifetime a few years ago, and now seemingly can’t stop!

the hilarity builds as we comb through the list of titles patiently waiting on our dvr line up….first pick is typically one that has a recognizable ‘star’ name attached to it…but, take my word for it, it’s no guarantee that it’s going to be a good movie.  sometimes the intrigue of the title alone will lure us in…”twelve men of christmas” was last year’s favorite, although the one whose name escapes me starring, i think, jamie gertz as a petty criminal or mob girls moll who has to spend christmas with the undercover cop’s family (earnestly headed by tyne daly) is a family favorite.  this year, “dear santa” (despite the set design & wardrobe) is tying with “the road to christmas” (starring ms. jennifer grey, madly hitching a ride to get to aspen in time for her wedding…prompting corey to cry out, “somebody put baby in the corner!” during an emotional scene) for most riveting and pulling the most heart strings.

the truth of it is, we’re not sure what’s more enjoyable: watching these movies or lobbing wisecracks at the television.  the other night, i suggested to the kids that we pitch this idea as a reality show: a camera filming us as we dissect lifetime christmas movies, one by one.  i mean it: we crack ourselves up!  what zingers!  call it a bonding experience, especially in the house of sarcasm and wisecracks…and anything that helps keep the glue going, the memories etching and the deep laughter rolling is okay with me.

we really can’t stop, and at this point, with the momentum building, happily look forward to popping the corn, throwing on our jammies, wrapping up a busy day of shopping, wrapping, baking, creating (children giving hand-made gifts this year…you know, that economy…), plugging in the christmas tree lights, and aiming that almighty clicker towards the magic machine that will bring us some insane, video-quality, questionable acting, implausible plots, inexplicable insertion of hockey scenes (i’m certain that these are all shot low-budget in canada), often unpleasant set designs, most often very unpleasant hair & wardrobe selections, heart-warming gaffes, gallons of syrupy emotions, predictable like clockwork, and always, without a doubt, that ever-wonderful, always longed for, as ridiculous as it sounds, twinkle-belling, snow-falling, eyes-sparkling, voices singing, hearts-leaping….happy ending.

12.4.11  i’ve done the unthinkable.

while my plump, rolled, ready sunday new york times sits in it’s blue bag wrap on the other side of the house, i spent an inordinate amount of time this morning reading the nyt online.

i feel sort of sick about it, actually.

it happened by accident, i swear.  i was up early, tiptoeing off to the kitchen to make my very strong cup of coffee, being especially quiet so as not to wake my special sleepover guests last night.  a busy day and night kept me pretty much away from home for the entire 15 hour saturday, and my dog and cat were so bereft when i finally got home last night, i relaxed the no pets in my bed embargo and tossed them both atop the covers.

so, like toddlers who you hope will just sleep a little longer, savoring my time to just ‘be’, the still before the storm of letting them out, filling their bowls with kibble, i grabbed my coffee, threw a wool sweater on and crawled back into bed with my laptop and a stack of work to be done.  efficient, and cozy all at once, and as i type, hours later, astro and chin chin are still cuddled up to me fast asleep!

so my plan, as i said, was to work.  a bit of research for an illustration came first, and then some follow up work on a few articles that i have to write this week were the big finish to my very productive early sunday morning itinerary.

i should have known better.  flipping on my macbook and clicking on safari and guess what? it’s got that name for a reason!  off i went on an adventure when i spotted a nyt (it’s my home page) article about chelsea clinton embracing her public persona despite trying really hard for 31 years to ignore it….4 pages of that, and i was off and running.  more articles, the arts, a dab of political unrest, a kind of sad piece by dominique browning that prompted me to click onto her blog to find something a little more hopeful…i really couldn’t stop.

despite how sad i am that this is so easy to do, so pleasurable, to click from one piece to the next, to tap into world after world, mind after mind, image after image….it’s so good and here i am, with a sickening acceptance that this universe is now passing firmly and decisively into a norm that has nothing to do with all of the wonderful things that surrounded my entire life.  and i’m one of the masses who have embraced the incredible of invention and progress, guilty pleasure as it is.

last night i watched ‘that touch of mink’ with my birthday buddy.  we share the exact same birthday as well as the exact same insane love of hollywood, film and most notably, doris day.  to round off our great evening that included watching ‘the descendants’ (loved it), dining on lobster-stuffed black and white ravioli (insanely good), and exchanging news and presents, we popped in that beloved movie and savored in a world of cary grant wooing our favorite gal in a world surrounded by dial up phones, automats, pan american airplanes with really wide seats, curlers (okay, it’s not like any of us are going to miss those), men standing up when a lady entered the room, manners, morals and mischief.

thank goodness for film.  at this point, on the tip of turning fifty-two, i see what it is to experience the extinction of worlds.  i’m evolved, i have evolved, i get it, i can keep up with just about everything as it slides along on the big conveyor belt of progress and invention, but it doesn’t mean that i don’t think it was better before.  that grass is greener cliche rings true for me when i dip my mind into this nostalgic place, especially after coming clean about reading nearly an entire news PAPER on my laptop.  am i part of the masses that exact change, sometimes, without really having a say?

but i do want a say.  spotting a post that my friend shared (yes, i went over to facebook too…) added to my woes.  apparently, the post office cuts are prompting a slower delivery of first class mail.  what’s next?  no mail at all?  no stamps?  no envelopes, no dreamy cursive from a lover with earnest proclamations?  no chunky scratchy thank you notes from my little nephew arriving in a laboriously hand addressed envelope?

what is going on that none of us, or not enough of us, are supporting the things that we love?

clearly, i’m as bad as the next guy over this new york times online gaffe.  trust me, i’m never doing it again, i’m sticking with my big newspaper, despite it’s rattling and turning my fingertips a bit inky.  i read just yesterday the obituary of a fellow who, for decades, served as the layout designer for the nyt, responsible for the bold headings on the special sections that the paper introduced in the 80s.  i mean, people spend a lot of time working, writing, designing, editing, traveling, reporting.

why is it fair that any of us expect to get all of this stuff for free?  or not to appreciate the way it looks and feels to actually hold something tangible in our hands?

so, as i step off of my soapbox, officially step up and out for the day, i’ve decided a few things.  i am going to go rogue.  my christmas shopping will all be done locally.  sorry kids, revise your lists.  now, local might mean a town besides the one i’m in, for obvious reasons…but i want to keep things old fashioned.  i will find little shops, real people, face to face merry greetings, pay little volunteer children to wrap an occasional present, toss my coins into the salvation army buckets, buy plenty of real books from the list of local indie booksellers i’ve just printed out.  sorry tom hanks, f-o-x, but in my world, it’s meg ryan and the little shop around the corner who’s going to get my money.

i’m going to smile at strangers, hear the jingle of bells as i shop doors open and close, watch how happy the hunting and gathering of all of us spreads this unspeakable joy, of being alive, of sharing this magic, very real, very present moment.  i’m going to buy a fresh few sheets of stamps from my nice friendly post office, send christmas cards and new years wishes far and wide, hand written, heart felt, and hope, just hope, that especially now, at christmas time, we all just slow down.  appreciate.  don’t be in such a mad rush for the next thing because before you know it, everything familiar will be gone.

11.28.11 a funny thing happens when your internet magic disappears for four days.  you read the new york times on the day it arrives, you notice that the vintage school house lights in your kitchen need dusting, and you spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating the meaning of life.

well, not just the meaning, because, i mean, what does it mean, anyway?  i suppose i can say that i did contemplate what does it mean to live, and what does it mean to embellish and appreciate life…that is more like my kind of thinking.

well, in all of this ambling around my house with very little to do (you know, no internet…no life!), it occurred to me that i had committed to show a series of my work at a festive local wine thing, hosted by a friend of mine.  oops.

dashing around the place, i felt that familiar tug of last minute energy coursing through me, and combined with my world wide wise weary contemplation, realized that i knew exactly what i had to create, that very moment.

out came the canvas, paints, brushes, towels.  music cranked, later substituted for oh make me so happy classic old and new holiday or romance or travel or whatever movies, i spent three days straight whipping out my passion for travel, my longing for simplicity, my hope for partnership, my itch to roam, my need for shelter, my guts for just letting go….all splashed in vivid color atop these cute little 8×10 stretched canvas blank slates.

after all, that is what life is, or at least, begins as: just a blank slate, waiting for the satisfying squish of the paint tube, the soft then rapid splashes and strokes of color, what is it going to be?  what will it look like?  how will i feel as that canvas gets layered and layered and layered in life?

maybe that’s what it means to live.  just.  live.

11.22.11 just this morning i was thinking about thanks.  it’s a popular concept this week, totally the trendy thing to do.  but, i’m a rebel and follow my own path, and live radically committed to giving thanks every day of the year.  call me crazy!

recently, i’ve been doing a little research about what actually went down at the very first thanksgiving.  without youtube and twitter lending a hand on the accuracy, much less, clothing styles, of the folks from the mayflower and their native american “friends”, i’ve had to dig a bit, and with the sage wisdom of age, know that i have to do my own interpretation from the often jaded, smoothed over text i’ve found floating about.

the reason for this research?  it’s not boredom, that’s for sure.  i have so much to do that my head is threatening to do it’s linda blair best.  no, it’s that i’ve come up with the ridiculous idea of making that thanksgiving board game for my family to play this thursday.  granted, most of the ‘children’ will be swilling prosecco & red stripe rather than the bubbly ginger ale and shirley temples of yesteryear, but we do still have a few tots in the group, and a solid board game, among rounds of ‘charades’ and ‘murder’ are de riguer for the wood family gathering.  and selfishly, i really can’t bear another moment playing ‘apples to apples’….!  (SO not a fan….)

ever interested in history, i figured that it would be both fun and educational to gather news of the real deal, the real players, the fashion of the day, housing, huts, what was life like, where did the pilgrims come from anyway?  i have to laugh, all of those hours spent watching disney movies when my children were young caused some muddled thinking…i kept expecting to find pocahontas in the googling, but i guess the key player that i have to include in my board game is actually squanto.  who knew?

so, i have a lot to do, and a snarky, affectionate comment from my daughter regarding the huge, blank poster board and stacks of notes and markers strewn all over the coffee table reminded me that the deadline is looming.  brilliantly, i’ve now decided that, with the research done, i’ll pull in my three pilgrim artist offspring to help me draw the scenery, cut out the stand up pilgrim and indian game characters, and fill in all of the question cards with me.  family bonding!

so, back to giving thanks.  reading about this brave motley crew of initially peaceful invaders, the feast really was a moment of thanks for two disparate groups of people.  total strangers who’d lent one another a helping hand when most needed.  deerskin for warmth, crops to nourish, trust and community.  sure, the moment passed and we all know what happened and that’s a whole other twisted, sad, totally unfair story, but for the moment, it’s about the very first thanksgiving and so i’ll keep my board game from getting too political and harpy.

i look at my life, i look at my struggles, i look at the hills and valleys of both my experiences and of the gathering little mountains that my own children have had to navigate.  life is filled with these moments…they’re, unfortunately, totally unavoidable.  (trust me, i’ve tried).  and a gathering of this pilgrim/indian ‘family’, a moment caught in time, not unlike our own families here: life imitates art, i mean, life.  you’re all together one day, clasping hands and giving thanks for the bounty, and the next, well, stuff happens and the players change and the divisions form and woah, you get what i mean.

so, just because of that, because we know: things change, that often, life can be really, really hard…that this day is especially poignant.  gather your people, celebrate your harvest, stuff that turkey (though the original pilgrims were more likely to gorge on a nice plump deer), candy those yams, smother that pumpkin pie with toxic redi-whip, and take it all in.  these, for today, for now, for this moment, are your people, this is your bounty, this life and this love will provide.

11.19.11 a morning coffee standing on my deck, feeling as though i was being watched.  squinting to make out the various browns and olive greens of my pasture and beyond, i spied a beautiful, ripe deer, nestled in the tall grass, just sleeping in, looking my way.

11.18.11 the wind has whipped up a frenzy of dry, chilled air, and it’s time to lay the fire for the duration.  inside, soulful reds and sparkling silver fly across my canvas, objectifying freedom, wanderlust & love.

11.13.11 usually it comes in the quiet, though not always.  but this morning, while standing out on my deck with a fabulous cup of coffee, taking in the dry wind, the blowing leaves, the crisp, crunch and soft howl of autumn, i felt it.  that old black magic that i love so well?  why, to be inspired, of course.  to feel the nugget of an idea, for my moments of “oh, yes!”, to feel the wheels spinning and flipping around in my being, to go go gomez!

so this morning, “it” is a kickstart to this cliche ‘most wonderful time of the year’, my neutral expression ripped itself up immediately into a smile.  thinking, yes, we’re around the bend, the, is it six, weeks from now until christmas.  amazing stuff, how everything aims towards this melodiously magic when twinkle lights, hearty feasts and merry making drive so much of what we do.

as thanksgiving is the first stop on the train, i thought a bit about what my thanks are for.  recently, i was given the challenge to make this the best year ever.  and i plan to do just that, one moment at a time.  last year was a bit of a rotten egg, well, not entirely, but i did lose my resolve along the way every now and then and for that, i’ve chided myself to keep the old chin up and make the wonders, feel the glory, taste the satisfaction every single day.  aiming my sights high to appreciate every bit of what comes my way, i stood there in the morning moments already feeling my heart do that grinchy growing thing, and began to feel it bursting inside of me.

life really is what we make it, the saying is true.  so with my hand firmly on the helm, i’m stepping into the thankful part with gusto, even determining to illustrate and build my very own thanksgiving board game to play with our family after the bloody mary’s and before the turkey and stuffing.  why?  because as each day nets us another, i am nostalgic as hell, and think that, rather than go to those traditions of shopping a day too early, i’d rather recreate and understand what it is this day actually symbolizes.  complete with pilgrim hats, bonnets and fierce indian head garb, we’ll be digesting fascinating facts of what went down centuries ago when two opposing neighbors decided to share a feast.  so, happy trails and all that: it’s time to get my holiday tunes cranking and google “history of thanksgiving”.  i’ve got a game to design!

11.10.11 i’ve been playing hooky and am still smiling…cut loose from most of my daily chore list, i leapt into only hilarity, adventure & pleasure.

sitting back at the helm, i feel my brain stretching a bit, a creative powerhouse heading my way, channeling through my soul and spirit, ready to pop out of my fingertips.  let’s see what i come up with, shall we?

in other news, or is it the same…i had a kookie project which required me to illustrate some city street scenes from a birds eye view.  at first, i didn’t think i could do it, i mean, how does all of this look from a slightly angled flopping bird’s perspective? i was too lazy to stand up on a ladder, or clambor up to the loft to peer down at my daughter or the dog for an actual subject to study, so i just started to draw.  i guess i used my imagination, and voila, suddenly forms that made familiar sense began to appear out of the tip of my pen.  how cool is that?

which made me think, huh, just like ‘that’, i can conjure up a whole new reality, an entirely different way to look at something that’s already there.  but smudging and moving and tipping my view, all in my noggin, without having to move an inch, i’m already living in a vast, different, wonderful world.

10.30.11 yesterday i was fiddling around with something, and had an acute need to watch diane lane in “under the tuscan sun”.  i dropped what i was doing, dashed to the wicker basket (appearance in a small lodge-like house with no closets calls for attractive storage devices), and began to dig, dig, dig for that dvd.


nowhere to be found, i remembered that it is spending the school year in a cute girls college apartment until june.

double drats.

so, i did two things next: take out my christmas list and wrote down “buy under the tuscan sun”, and took out my sketch pad and drew sienna, the site of “de flag trowing contest!” (the line muttered by paolo, the polish carpenter who looks uncannily like my nephew george and who leads the younger romantic duet of the plot.  romeo to the italian girls juliet.

i know, i’m off topic again, or rather, i don’t really have a strong topic, which is a bit like life, isn’t it?  aiming towards there and end up here.  try to get some work done, then insanely feel compelled to watch a movie that can’t be found!

as long as i end up drawing, i can at least create a little world to soak up for a while.  and yesterday, this is what i needed.  i’m looking at the sketch: i remember, yes, that pivotal scene in the square, then the wise words of senor martini, the aged actress who’s gripping her past, and diane lanes struggle to finally let go of all of that heavy stuff that her heart wouldn’t relinquish. yes, i know it’s not shakespeare or jane austen or hemingway, but that movie that always makes me see through a twisty, tangly pickle to a clear, yet perhaps slightly disguised, happy ending.  and of course, why not spill into my very own memory pile and savor the day i spent in sienna, ages ago.

who was that girl?  what did she hope?  what did she think would happen in her life?  and why, heavens, why, is it that god blessed those italians to be so gosh darned gorgeous?  i can just feel that sun, smell that leather and espresso and garlic, swooning all the way from the middlewest in a sea of beautiful nostalgia.

i guess i didn’t need diane lane after all, but i’m still going to grab that dvd the next time i’m out, just in case.

10.19.11 raise your classes, pop the champagne & count my wrinkles: my baby boy is 21!

10.16.11 whenever i whine about the weather, the heat, the snow, the icky mushy pre-spring gush, just remind me of this: i absolutely love autumn.  the transitional, occasional disadvantages of some aspects of this middle-western life pale in comparison to the wonders of a really good autumn.

yep, my favorite season is here, and pull out the scarves, mittens, irish wool sweaters and frye boots.  gather arm loads of firewood from the rows and rows of tidily stacked wood that surrounds the deck of my bonanza-like lodge.

strike a match, see the flames leap and curl in the woodburning stove, filling the wide open spaces of this country house with the awakening smell of a crisp, warming fire.  set a big pot on the stove, throw in the fixins’ for a tangy, well-seasoned soup.  set the coffee to percolate and pour a strong mug.  unwrap the new york times, grab a favorite book, pull out the diary, pop in a vintage movie: anything will do.  the season begins to embrace and indulge, to rest and to nourish.

10.14.11 strangely enough, i think it started with donny & marie. for real: my love for cowboys, the open plains, & the heart-twisting real luvin’ & loss twang of country music.

back in high school, a pivotal moment in my life was co-hosting the senior variety show with a pal of mine…some might recognize him as one of the sharp shooters of nightline, but back then, he was just terry.

the challenge was to come up with an opening number that was going to get the crowd rollin’ and ready for a two hour feast of the high school seniors and their top notch talent…a medley of duets (dust in the wind, can you tell the year?), riffs on the new show snl, ensemble chorale numbers all dressed up as lunch room ladies, a mirror ball sparkling disco number and a sprinkling of some lucy and desi-like comic moments.  long live variety: this was in the day of the carol burnett show, sonny & cher, the tail end of the lawrence welk show and still sniffing the dust left by dean martin, jackie gleason and lawrence welk. and a one and a two….

how to open this show in a inimitable, unforgettable way?

zooming in on the iconic moves of a very popular show at the time, we decided to mimic the inexplicable opening ice skating number performed by donny & marie from their show, named, imaginatively, “the donny and marie show”!

ice skates, right…it was the 70s!

since the theatre in the round of barrington high school didn’t have the capability of being frozen, terry and i donned roller skates…again, it was the 70s.  dressed in matching tuxedos (i can’t remember where we were going with that one…), the lights dimmed, the house hushed, the music soared, and the two of us appeared, with care as we made our way down a few steps, in a fantastical duet of “i’m a little bit country, and i’m a little bit rock and roll”, all the while whirling in loops around the stage.  the crowd went wild!

that’s entertainment!

a big fan of rock, terry took the donny role with gusto, and while i was a stranger to this thing called country, i managed to perfect the sweet little tangy twang that marie spun her early southern-inspired pieces as i sang my part of the song.  hmmm, maybe i was a natural.  well, at liking that genre, certainly not at roller skating!

fast forward a few months.  i’m a freshman in college, loving the open fields as my parents drove me west, not awfully far, to mt. vernon, iowa.  hello cornell college.  hello block plan.  hello legal drinking age and managing to enjoy the taste of beer.  again, it was iowa.

now, i knew nothing about this land that i landed in.  i picked the school for two reasons: it was in the 200 mile radius of home, a prerequisite for my parents who had 4 more kids to send to college with no extra do-re-mi for airplane rides…and the other reason: the campus looked like a sleepy new england enclave.

pre-google, pre-computer, pre-my learning that it’s sort of cool and fun to research a place before you move there, i landed smack dab into a place that had a vernacular that i’d only heard whispers about: southern accents?  farmers?  combines?  harvestore big blue tall silo thingys?  chicken fried steak? country music?

i remember the first time i spent an afternoon at joe’s international airport.  yes, it was a bar.  still is, though someone had the ridiculous idea to change it’s name.  stupid.  but, there i was, hanging out with my new friends, when one of them suggested i play some music.

no, i did not have a guitar (though boast being able to play the harmonica), but i did have some quarters.  off i went to the juke box, and plunk plunk plunk, deposited my coins and scanned through the list of songs.  and scanned.  and scanned.  and searched.  for a long time.

what is this thing that is going on, i thought.  where was journey?  reo speedwagon?  eric carmen?cat stevens & james taylor?  nowhere to be found.  instead, i read name after name that conjured up an unknown, far away land, a place where men wore large dark hats and women made pies and wiped their woes away with a kerchief.

this was all country.  merle haggard?  what?

so, it appears that i was now signed up for four years of country music, and some sort of cultural shift.  i looked slowly around the bar, taking special note of the pickled pigs feet that were the days featured bar snack.


finding only one name that i recognized, i pushed the buttons that would bring willy nelson’s comforting, not too foreign, voice to sooth my troubled soul.  walking back to my friends, i remember feeling slightly off-kilter (and it wasn’t the beer!)

fast forward, man, because that’s the fun part of looking back so far.  i see that things turned out just fine.  not only did i manage to get used to it, i learned to love it.  bring on the cheesy variety show starring barbara mandrel and the mandrel sisters (i’m not joking)…find me riding shotgun in one of many pick up trucks i’d spent time in, searching for just the right cowboy hat…dig that leather fringed jacket that still reeks of campfire.  and as my heart grew, opened, and got broken more times than i can count, guess what soothes me into healing and trying again?

yep, country music.

and so, with that kick start to luvin’ the whole thing, tonight is a really big deal.  i’m shining my nashville cowboy boots, tugging on my bootcut jeans, hitching up my big shiny buckle on my silver studded belt, throwing on a tank top & a checkered flannel….and soaking up a night with my trusted cool 16 year old sidekick for an evening with, be still my heart, keith urban.

bring it on, yes, i’m more than a little bit country, after all.

10.11.11 so today had a few surprise delightful twists: a warm handwritten note from a particularly cool client of mine (can you say wilhelmina? as a code word?); a fun kick to learn that the ginormous geometric, middle east inspired framed print of mine formerly sold by crate and barrel was used in a gorgeous room setting in the hgtv green house project…and most exciting of all: i learned how to make cole slaw from scratch.

this is no small thing.  i’m a bit of a slaw snob, always curious whenever i’m at a deli or old time diner, nyc or the deep south, heck, even iowa and the western chunk of the u.s….if slaw’s on the menu, the creamy kind, i have to get a little “souffle” cup of it and just give it a try.

the only weird part about this is that i was hankering for slaw, then undertook bringing the master chef in (my mom), and we mixed, shaved, shook, salted, sugared, savored the heck out of it, while corey was cooking our dinner.

here’s the catch: with #1 son a surprise guest via train for dinner, we threw out all stops, bought everything trader joe’s sells, and set about making a hearty batch of homemade italian sausage infused spaghetti. this, from someone who happily wears patterns over patterns with no regard for a clash, seems like a truly divine dinner…spaghetti with a side of slaw, anyone?

10.04.11  and with a nagging tug of worry, i’ve spent a few years feeling like i’m missing out on something.  nothing to shatter the earth, change the tides or dim the lights of manhattan, but still, in my world of celluloid fascination, i’d certainly accepted that i was out of the loop.  was the 1995 version of “pride and prejudice”, and most specifically, colin firths’ mr. darcy, better than the soaring, seeping, simmering, lovely technicolor keira version?  and how is it that i didn’t know the answer?  the other day, while dashing into the library to grab, yes, even more stacks of books (winter is coming, people), i spotted a poofy haired mr. firth, all period-pieced out on the cover of a dvd.  oh, right.  that’s the one.  really, well, there it was.  just egging me on: give me a try, see if i’m better than your favorite.  i dare you.

i really didn’t want to watch it.  i already do have the one that i love the most, almost can recite the lines word for word, hear the building trickle of the pianoforte climb to a string-ensemble grand finale when keira and that omg virale, silent, gorgeous mr. darcy meet, finally, on the dewy marsh between their two houses.  could i handle being wrong?  or worse, missing out on 16 years of a different, better depiction?  well, better just get it over with, dive in, open my mind, let the whole show begin.

as i marinaded some red potatoes, i heard the score begin, oh, the opening titles.  i looked up from the stove to see the screen of my television, a bit of a distance from my island, but i could make out most of the shapes.  score card for dramatic pulling in the audience: a low one.  seemed kind of juvenile.  on to mixing in some quartered artichokes, sprinkling all with some minced garlic and shaved fresh parmesan cheese and olive oil.  by the time i put the copper baking dish into the oven, i’d followed a few empire-waisted ladies about a courtyard, simpering lightly, an exchange of eyes as mr. binglsey raised a too-contemporary an eyebrow at this jane  (so not as lovely as the modern one, i’m trying, really, to like this, but i’m struggling).

next up, pound the heck out of the pork chops, stuff them with some chopped fresh figs, wrap them all up in prosciutto and tie them up with thing lines of smoked bacon, some salt and pepper, a confetti of sliced fresh basil, and lower that copper baking dish into the oven.  at this point, i found that i was actually getting a headache from the repetitive, monotone medley that threatened to be the theme of the entire film.  the dance scene, darcy meets the family, the mothers voice is so shrill i’m reaching for my advil, the musicians seem to be playing a faster tempo of, yes, that same monotone tune used previously as the background of, yes, every scene that came before.

with only the haricot vert beans left to prepare, i was reaching dangerously towards the clicker.  i’m sorry, colin.  i love you like crazy, bridget jones would be rubbish without you, but as the regal, magestic, magical, mysterious mr. darcy, smoldering all over the place for the earthy ms. knightley, who’s looking lovingly at that darling donald sutherland….well, i just can’t do it.  nope, i was right from the very start.  and happily, in the comfort of my early autumn season here in the country, can firmly say, we have a winner.

10.03.11  am in a state of shock over the largess, thoughtfulness & plucky fun in the around the corner, early birthday present that my ‘tot’ has presented to me: seems as though she’s spent her entire first paycheck from her very first job to treat us both to an evening with keith urban.  can you say: flabbergasted?  amazed?  humbled?  and very very very very very blessed?

09.29.11  i used to read a lot of e.b. white.  yes, i know he’s the clever fellow who gave us charlotte’s web and stuart little, but my e.b. white stash is more about his essays.  to me, he had an amazingly perfect set up: a new york flat from which to ponder life in manhattan, a short walk from his office at the new yorker where there was much talk and much more tap tap tapping at the typewriter, and then, the magic wand would wave and he was packing his car, and driving up north to his farm in maine.  add a dachsund, some farm animals, neighbors, signs along the way, and i would dive and drift away along with his essays, the side kick in his car, on his walks, nearby as he stood on his warm, delightful, spot on soap box comments about the state of the world. of his world.  and a world that i sorely wish still existed somewhere, in real life.  for me, firmly divided between an absolute love of the city hum, and the country calm, a moment spent with e.b. white is always bound to be perfection.

here’s a snippet:


my reminiscing this early autumn morning of my dearly enjoyable moments of e.b. are now kick started anew.  the wood burning stove is still over there waving at me: start a fire, grab a book, bask in this place.  and so, once the work is done, i will indulge.  indeed.  and falter backwards away from this o so busy place of life now to this wonderland of simple straight shooting.

09.28.11 how ironic that today, when i’m revising and prepping a new cartoon to be hoisted atop a greeting card for trader joe’s, i discover that there is absolutely no way to delay a trip to grocery shop?

granted, i knew this day was coming…i’ve been swayed by yucky rainy days to do with what we have in the larder (who says that, but i did just finish my novel set in england, circa world war two…).  last night’s attempt to make a zesty, robust jambalaya actually turned into quite a treat, having never ever in my entire life used, nor eaten, collard greens.  but, there was a can of this mysterious southern wonder sitting amongst the stewed tomatoes and spicy brown beans, and it seemed to call out to me: add me to the jambalaya, you won’t regret it.

nor did i.  wiping out the bag of plump frozen shrimp, pretty much everything else in this concoction came out of a can or a box, among them, rice a roni (not the only san francisco treat there is to love).  finding myself humming that silly jingle as i whipped up this big simmering pot of flavor sensations, i felt like i was living in that world of rations, the blitz, bomb shelters, digging about for a scrap of sustainable ingredient with which to feed a family.  life imitates art, i’ll say.

so, since the cupboard is bare, and my creativity is aimed towards paper and pen today, i will grab the tot after her work day wraps up and swing over to the best grocery store in the world, well, at least, in the u.s. (i’m sorry, i’m just partial to anything europe or the uk), and stock up for the long, delicious autumn.  trader joe’s, here i come.

09.27.11  i have made a big discovery.  it may be the most obvious thing, but still i feel compelled to state it.

the more i read, the less i want to write.  i’ve fallen helplessly into an addiction to autumn.  with this favorite season of mine comes some behavior that is clearly interfering with other aspects of my days.

it all started out innocently enough.  my tot needed a ride to the library, stocking up last weekend on some dvd’s for a post powderpuff sleepover.  who could resist that sort of an errand?  especially since the demise of blockbuster and hollywood video blasted our decades long friday tradition, started then they really were tots…a big exciting trip to the bakery for a donut, and then to choose two videotapes for the weekend’s indulgent family fun.  darn the internet, i know, i’m like a broken record, but all of this crazy technology is murdering some pretty quaint things.  sure, how cool to click the button and a menu magically appears and ooo, two million mediocre movies are there to choose from my tv screen.  rubbish, most of them.  no, we prefer the whole hand-selection process, the tangible look and think and decide, then the drive home, the anticipation of prepping dinner, or a big bowl of popcorn, everyone throwing on their cozy jammies, and then, movie time.

so, as i was saying, the good old library is there filled with world after world, free for our choosing, so off we went, gladly for the return of our friday tradition.  while waiting, i wandered over to the new fiction section, autumn shaking it’s orangey leafy self at me whispering, “good book, cozy fire, float off…”, and i left with a half dozen books!

the good thing about a big stack of books (oh yeah, the movies were great, the weekend full of perfect fun, just what we’d hoped for)…is that if you don’t like the first sentence, paragraph or chapter of one, you just put it to the bottom of the pile and grab the next one.

and so, yes, that’s the marvelous company i’ve managed to keep as an indulgent treat in between this, that and the other thing.  and as i sink into a really good book, i’m afraid it takes my interest, ability or will to write a word of my own sorely away.

i’m still new at this writing gig, but i think it’s similar to my going to the art institute, or immersing myself into someone else’s art for big doses: it drawing anything the last thing i feel like doing.  i’m also still new at grasping this creative core, yes, even after all of these years.  i study myself at times, watching for signs of when the itch will bubble up to draw something wonderfully new, or as words or an idea form, again, seemingly out of nowhere, to mull over and write about.  this stuff just happens, and it’s wild to have it for such amusing company.

but, it’s the middle of the day, and there’s work to be done, so off i go, back to the ever growing list that sits here on my desk.  and after the long day, when the house is quiet, i’ll tiptoe back over to that sturdy companion by my bed, lift it up, open the page, and dive back in.

09.25.11  okay, i admit it: i’m super glad that the tv fall line up has returned.  it was pretty much all i lived for when i was a teen, and silly me: still revvs up my adrenaline when this time of year comes along.  back in the day of rushing in to catch a show as it started, doing chores over the commercials….seems like archaic torture compared to the magic world of the dvr.  i’m liking this progress more than i can say.

but, to embrace a balanced, healthy lifestyle, i do actually wander outdoors to enjoy the welcome chill of my favorite season.  yesterday, a view of number one son leaping around on a soccer field with a deep blue lake michigan as a back drop was a fabulous treat, and further americana moments with the rest of the brood has sprinkled this weekend with more smiles than i can count.

s’mores?  autumn leaves?  burst of red, orange, olive greens?  amazingly satisfying stuff. 09.24.11 where was i?  oh, that’s right…i still have to finish part two of the amazing day on the set with matt damon story. i’d love to spin that tale this weekend, but don’t like making promises i can’t keep: there’s a plethora of projects staring me in the face, so unless it manages to magically disappear, i’ll have to save my wacky story for another day.

gladly, i do have a teensy bit of time for some americana family fun, with a splash of small town friday night lights, and a dollop of city soccer & bistro fun.  i’m off!

09.21.11  i know it probably looks like i do a lot of traveling, but truth be told, i pretty much sit at my desk most of the time.  or, wherever i find a comfy perch to sit with my pen & sketch pad…this morning as i was tidying up my files (which is weird to say, as they aren’t really files, as in, i can’t pick them up and put them into a cabinet….no, they’re just pictures on the screen of my mac that i drag around with that arrow….so weird to have the visual of the physical/tangible every time i do something like that)….wait, where was i?

oh, yes, the files.  i dug around into my architectural sketches file, the majority of them done for a certain fabulously cool retailer….logo black and white….rustic in moniker, but nothing but smooth, clean, warm and city sophisticated about this joint in actuality.  not getting my hints?  does the name crate&barrel ring a bell?

so this morning, i was enjoying a little trip around the country via my sketches.  the really great news is that my 5 framed cityscapes are apparently so popular with the throngs of c&b shoppers that they’re adding 4 more pieces to the collection.  yippee!  that makes the total 41 fewer than all 50 states.  hmmm, wonder if that could ever come to fruition, although i’m not sure what iconic buildings alaska has to boast.  might have to do a bit of googling.

but, here’s the coolest part of this mega cool client: we all know how much i adore c&b as a consumer, but on par with that, just about my favorite things to illustrate is anything architectural. in case you hadn’t noticed.  so, this cafe du monde sketch: part of my inventory of amazing places, this building was wonderful to draw.  the place is unchanged, for the most part, and images of mildred pierce (the kate winslet version, heart wrenchingly enjoyable, though i wanted to slap that hellish vita!) danced in my head as i put frame to window, hello palladio, allowed for the soft deco curves of the signage and details.  but lettering of the sign pulled me squarely into that time in the world where sitting at a counter for a cup of coffee and a fancy french donut would cost you far less than a nickel.  and speaking of french, swirling around all of this imagery is the enormously fascinating history of new orleans itself, the mingling of creole, french and it’s subsequent hard stamp in the annals of one super cool corner of this massive chock o block country.

so, a simple architectural sketch?  to me, it’s an entire all sensory experience.  beignet, anyone?

09.20.11  last night i made the most sublime, aromatic, intoxicating lobster & crab bisque…i kid you not: it was insanely delicious!  so, this morning, i find that i’m sorely missing it.  which means, naturally, that i had to sketch anything lobster.  and i couldn’t just stop there: nope.  had to go and whip up a few lobster-themed patterns in my ridiculous attempt to evoke last night’s fabulously enjoyable sensation of savoring that sea-inspired soup…take me to new england…stat!

so, you know, most of what i throw onto this blog is just stuff i make up…kind of like last nights bisque.  i did vow to post daily (yeah, my bad, so sue me, sometimes i miss a day…), and with each daily post comes a daily sketch.  just for me, for my mood, something that crosses my mind, or something i long for.  when i’m really going crazy in my very own creative cocoon, i’ll elaborate and twist, color and turn a sketch into some funky patterns, as i just did with my lobster sketches.  check out “land-o-lobster” under “fresh ink” to see what i was up to this morning over coffee.

it’s kind of funny if you think about the age-old query that one typically asks artists, in all sorts of reverie and eagerness….”monet, tell me, what inspires you?”…”michelangelo, my friend, what propels you to create such a majestic painting?”….”prey tell, mr. shakespeare, tell-eth your readers how you came upon-eth the inspiration for the character of juliet’s mother”…?

what a hoot if they’d all reply (in french, italian & old world-eth english): “last night’s dinner”!

09.09.11 two things come to mind…

one: this today’s post or whatever it’s called is bugging me.  it’s too cluttered, so i think i’ll throw all of these daily notes onto a brand new page, and call it, cleverly: archives.

the second bit of business is fabulously exciting: one day last winter my friend and i ditched our grown up life and spent the day as ‘extras’ on the set of “contagion”…staring at matt damon, free breakfast, a makeover, and $66.00 in my pocket was a total trip.

so now, i must freshen up for my close up: the movie opens today, and i’m off in moments for the red carpet…ahem…well, front row seats at the local big movie theatre, trading my regular life for this hollywood glamour if only for one night.

09.08.11  i seem to be on japanese time these days…a morning over coffee ritual of typing out a little tidbit about my day ahead is turning into a game of catch up, catch me if you can.

what do you do?  try as i might, doing the best that i can, i’ve become quite attached to this silly little blog (again, i’m not a fan of that word…)…and feel like i’m being negligent when it turns into late afternoon, just like today, when i finally have a moment.

the truth of it is i’ve been ridiculously busy, for really good reasons for the most part, and the ebb of the tide (or is it the flow?) is peeling back, giving me a glimpse into a more relaxed autumn.  which is good news…i’d like to float and feel ease again…plus my cowboy boots, cozy wool sweaters and fabulous scarves have been ignored far too long.  give me crispy mornings, cold nights, the alluring smell of a campfire, leaves a’burning.  i’m a ‘set the mood’ kind of a gal, and am tingling over the next chapter: i’m ready for a change and this next one is my absolute favorite season.

if i’m lucky, i’ll even get out of town.  the summer had me firmly planted on terra firma in my zany world here, so chock full of fun, i didn’t have a place in the world i’d have rather been.  but now that the tots are settled in their city digs & baby (lol) is spending her days in the o-so-fun (can you detect sarcasm?) world of her junior year of high school…i’m feeling that itch to roam.  guess it’s time to take out the map, charge the battery on the camera, fill the car with gas, and hit the road.

09.07.11  my brain is on extra-cyber-speed today…flying this way and that, drawing like a fiend, pen filling paper, words tearing across the page…and a thought keeps popping up front:  that goofy whole ‘secret’ thing, i realize it works. i call it something else, and i go about it a bit differently, but i’m floating in a pool of my design, figuratively.

if you build it, they will come!

09.05.11  well i am so incredibly sated, i don’t even know what to say.

i’ve been doing a lot of shopping lately.  not the kind of shopping where a bunch of gals get together and troll the malls, boulevards and chic streets, stopping for tapas and sipping prosecco.  although that doesn’t sound like torture, my shopping is all about setting two of my three up in their very own pads.

yes, it’s college, and yes, they’ve still got some learning and living to do before they’re officially hatched, but this is a big step and one that makes me feel so privileged to be invited along for.

so, the shopping is all about the tools that one needs to set up house.  and we’ve noticed, after two weekends in a row consisting of four car loads and one very big truck, that we’re of the school that practices ‘more is more’…..despite the looks, eye rolls and side glances from the observers who, inexplicably, arrive at college with two suitcases and a toothbrush.

that is so not us!

the thing of it is, home is where you hang your hat, but also where you curl up on a couch with a cozy blanket, pop in one of your favorite old movies, treat yourself to a familiar sweet easy feeling.  it’s where guests, expected or not, are offered a cool drink (or a cup of coffee), a snack, a sandwich, an omelette, a brimming bowl of soup, or a tasty homemade dinner…served in colorful, ceramic, vintage, quirky, sturdy, solid dishes.  if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the first thing you do, after sizing up your advil and vitamin supplies, is brew a nice cup of tea…with honey and settle down with a really good book.  when you feel the itch to be creative (as these kids surely show), you grab your sketch pad, pen, box stuffed full of markers, japanese & italian paper, scissors and glue.  time to study?  don’t even think about flipping the switch to those nasty overhead lights…turn the switch on those darling soft light lamps that warm the room and draw you in to focus.  ready for bed?  crawl under the layers of soft cotton, wool, the perfect pillow, textures all wafting you off to sweet, safe dreams.

the stuff that has been gathered and delivered, unpacked and set up, arranged and rearranged…setting the stage, lovingly and with immeasurable vim and vigor, to a quality, enriched, sophisticated, warm and ever-so welcoming home.

so, the shopping?  not a stitch of stuff for the old folks watching the birds fly the nest.

so why is it that i feel like i’ve lucked into the biggest loot of all?  the look of these two children as they settle in.  the sound of their voices as they call to say how happy they are.  the ping zing zap of a text, chockful of a string of big bright red emoji hearts.

nourishing and being beyond nourished.  yep, this love thing is wild.  the more you give, the more you get.

09.04.11  long day, long time a comin’.

the object has been to tenderly guide the sweet things from there to here. wow.

09.03.11  yesterday i was in the kitchen with hallie and corey…all of us in the same space but in entirely different universes, thanks to our addiction to our smarty pants iphones.

i heard corey mention, in whispered tones, “the cubs” to her fabulous pal, athena marie.  without missing a beat, i said, “9th inning.”

now, my saying this is, much less knowing this, about as bizarre as doris day joining a harley gang.

corey looked up with a stunned look on her face.  i said, again, “it’s the ninth inning.  noel’s there. i just got a text from him.”

“NOEL’S AT THE CUBS GAME?” she screamed, “i didn’t KNOW!”

okay, first of all, you may have had to be there to get how funny this little weird exchange was. we don’t really talk about sports.  ever.  (poor noel, so outnumbered in this siren-filled domain) but my point is this: our gadgets takes us out of our lives over and over again, and yet, they also pull us together, into each other’s moments.  maybe good, maybe bad, maybe both.

funny that she wasn’t really interested in the game, or the cubs, or anything, actually.  i think the teenybopper conversation was cued in to what some boy happened to have posted on fb, and control central over here had picked up on the radar.  fascinating news.  everyone’s comings and goings and now we  can see WHO THEY’RE WITH and WHAT THEY’RE EATING too.

how did i exist without this vital information before this moment in incomprehensible techno times?

just so you know, i’m as bad as the teens.  i love fb.  as you know, hallie and i created a profile for astro yesterday.  he has about 50 friends, and the requests are coming out of the woodwork: college kids, parents of my kids friends, cousins: everyone wants IN on astro’s fabulous life.

yes, i use fb, blogs, tumblr, twitter, linkedin to help earn my living which we all know i really need, what with these crazy college kids racking up the bills.  so, i’m embracing it, i really am, but i also think that i have to enforce a gadget time out every now and then.

sure, as a parent with one and almost two children living in chicago on their own, i feel pretty glad knowing they are literally a finger tap away.  but it’s just that: they get to live in the city, the tot gets to live out here in the country with me (not sure if that’s good or bad, for her!), and i worry that we’re all missing our NOW when we steer our attention too often to everything else that’s happening away from us.

so, i may incorporate this in a maternal lecture tomorrow while we’re all lugging boxes, chairs, bar stools, dishes, books (yes, nice to include those for a college students casa) and all of the knickknacks that are going to cozy up hallie’s new digs.

shut off the things.  breathe in your view.  take a walk and be open to what’s just around the corner, with no warning, no tweet to direct you, no message to fill you in before you get there.

just take a chance and be.  free.

09.02.11  so i really am out of words today: i’m not faking.  up too early, sent amazing designs off to a national baby line, fingers crossed they’ll pick some to put on jaunty, fun bibs!

then, more coffee to send a zillion submissions to a really really cool company…would love this to catch fire.  only hint: paper.  but the files were huge, so it took forever, and during my staring at the laptop while uploading lengthy wait, i decided to create a facebook profile for our dog.

the hilarity filled the hours to follow, with hallie popping in to mastermind the persona and stir up the laughs…the biggest challenge was our focus to “find his voice”!  after an hour of being ‘live’, astro already has 16 friends!

with some important work tucked in, plus a zany technologically creative break with darling daughter, i’m now ready to space plan, pack and stage the next college apartment move.  that post-graduate degree that i got sure comes in handy: amazing how the ginormous stack of stuff dangling dangerously off and around the harvest table is going to become compacted, catalogued, labelled and positioned in the giant car for sunday’s delivery.  you never know how your education is going to come in handy years later, so keep hitting those books, kids!

so, during a pause in our fb dog profile hijinx, i had a profound thought, which i shared with my partner in spoof-crime.  it’s this: that there really are people ‘out there’ who would never think to create such goofy fun, never step outside of a safe box, never waste, totally waste, three straight hours, still in our messy morning clothes, lounging around on the bed, two laptops, keys pounding away: just playing around.  being silly.  stretching past the borders of grown up or cool or sensible.  gosh, that seems kind of sad to me.  i mean: conjuring up totally dorky moments: shooting an electric spark of rip-roaring jollies to the universe…allowing ourselves to just make our own kind-o-fun.

i didn’t know, for decades, really…that not all people are like this, that i was different.  zany…and that that IS different.  who knew?

oh well, at least the apple-tree formula worked and i’ve got a bunch of kookie kids to climb aboard the wacky express with me!

so, enough procrastinating…off i go: brewing a new batch of java, cranking the music, packing and organizing and ridiculously flying through a day that i know will be worth remembering.

09.01.11 it’s september!

last night i had a crazy few hours illustrating a few buildings from cornell college’s adorable campus, a little piece of architectural new england perched atop a tree-filled hill in iowa.  (yes, iowa has hills, people).

south hall is the 19th century red brick, sturdy building where i took my very first course, naturally, english literature.  i mean, who wouldn’t want to read book after book, drink mug after mug of steaming strong coffee poured personally by my profound professors, hang around in a gorgeous classroom, and talk all day? this was going to work out just fine!

when i went to college, i had no real clue what to expect.  “love story” was the only example that my movie-obsessed life had shown me up to this point!  and sadly, i did not have ali mcgraw’s fashion sense back in 1978, far from it.

rather, i was absolutely horrified when unpacking my parents stuffed-to-the brim small mercedes, realizing that i had left my “good clothes” hanging in my sisters closet at home, and only had packed tshirts, rugby shirts, button down shirts (hello, preppie handbook, are you listening?), and jeans.

jeans was the problem.  back at home, the dress code in the diabolically confusing and cruel high school world i had just left, the rules were simple: wear “nice” outfits monday through thursday, and save your jeans for friday.  only.

so, naturally, as the girl in the bubble of naivete and stupidity, i assumed, with horror, that my college life would be now soiled by the issue of my ratty wardrobe.  i remember clutching something, and bellowing to my parents, “now they’ll all think i’m a freak.”

see, the kids that wore jeans every day at my high school were, undeniably, “the freaks”, the bad kids, the scary drug-inhaling, promiscuous ones, eating in the dark part of the lunch room, looking snaky and sneaky!  omg!!

my parents tried to calm me with the promise that “in a few weeks”, my nice clothes would arrive via greyhound or some similar archaic mode of delivery, ahh, the world before fedex & ups 2nd day air!  are you kidding me?

i wasn’t soothed or sold, but just stuck.  waving them goodbye, they zoomed back home.  i can still see that car tearing out of there, leaving me to walk back up to my dorm room to unpack and mope.

twenty four hours later, as i happily enjoyed lunch with a round table filled with my cool, chatty new friends (all wearing jeans), i looked up to see a familiar face.  what?

into the commons, mind you, four hours away from home, on a monday, walked my dad.  my dad?  and in his arms: a big fat pile of my skirts, blouses and dress slacks, personally delivered to his middle child, to save her college life in one gallant effort.  a senior vice president of the first national bank of chicago took the day off to drive eight hours, just because.

i gave him lunch, unpacked the clothes, and felt wrapped in the kind of profound love that i hope i give my kids their entire lives.

but don’t ever tell him, please: four years at cornell college in mt. vernon iowa, and i’m pretty sure i wore jeans every single day.

08.31.11  here i go again, i hear the trumpet call again…

tot #2 who stands just over 6′ is in college apartment mode. yes, i know.  i just did this for #1 son.  which means i’ve honed my skills and this one should go in half the time with only a percentage of the organizational preparation.

we’ve iphone photographed the long scratchy shopping list for big brother, and now little sister’s whirlwind week of hunting, gathering and packing will fly by without a hiccup.

that being said, i’m in on the fun and now have to run: i wouldn’t miss all of this bonding for the world.

08.30.11  “how much does it cost to fly to la guardia?  no one knows, it changes almost daily!”

the language that we speak around here incorporates as many movie quotes as possible.  it’s so fun, probably veering towards a bit much, but what do you do?  it’s how we make a point, peppering our communication with little shared bon mots that just stamp the atmosphere with a phrase straight from tinsel town’s warehouse or words.

so as i was thinking this morning about the little chill in the air, i was gladly i embracing autumn’s wink.  i’m ready for loafers, my frye boots, cozy wool sweaters and the rotation of the earth that’s going to bring me some fires in my wood burning stove and a rice krispie-like crunch to the walks i take across fallen brilliantly colored leaves.

all of this conjured up the concept and irrefutably unstoppable conundrum called change.

so, yes, first my weird mind shot to the quote from sleepless in seattle when tom hanks character discovers that his little boy has flown off to nyc to meet meg ryan’s annie at the top of the empire state building.  don’t even get me started, what a script!  and that stone-faced darling little gal with chutzpah, grilled by her bathrobed parents in a scene that draws comparison to the spanish inquisition: she’s not budging!  hilarious.

as in all of my favorite, there is a happy ending. and sunny me likes to think that life offers only the same, although, yes, i know, it doesn’t.  but to my point: here comes autumn and here comes change and here comes a new day and no, i don’t know what’s around the corner, but as a parent, looking at three amazing kids embarking on all sorts of change, the one fact that i can assure them of is this: nothing will stay the same.  ever.

and that’s okay.

a new year at high school, a new year in college, heck, for one of them, a new college: grab the mystery of each day’s unknown and see what’s hiding there for you that will stretch your mind, wow your senses, tickle your fancy and delight your imagination.

08.29.11 catch up time, better find my sonic speed mode…head stuck somewhere else but pen moving across the page nonetheless.

08.28.11  here i sit with my loveless cafe cup’o’joe during a brief visit to my trusty macbook, just time for a bit o blogging.

that word in itself is kind of weird to me, but it seems to have caught on, so i’ll go with the flow of the mod masses and embrace it.  blog.  reminds me of those old previews on tv, black and white images of people running and screaming through the streets of los angeles escaping the terror of ‘the blob’….yes, i’m old.

which is why i’m thrilled with my new crosley radio. an impulse buy, recklessly grabbing it and throwing it in the college bound city living boy’s loot at target the other day, it just looked at me and said, “take me with you.”

retro, we know is cool.  especially if it pulls you back in a micro-millisecond to other times in your life.  good old design: we can count on it to tweak the old noggin’ and take us for a swim in yesteryear.  this gem is a deep brown wood-wrapped aluminum treasure.  boasting big fat knobs (who needs a clicker with these big bad boys?), and a shining radio dial dissected by a huge pointy arrow, and omg, a spot on top to perch my iphone: the world of music and “ladies and gentlemen stay tuned for our next program” live radio?!  i’m sold.

the tune that popped on the moment i sat here was, of course, a song from doris day’s “cuttin’ capers” album, which, sorry people who think i’m cool, is a song i happen to own.  snapping my fingers and tapping my toes, the sunny gal cheered my morning with just the perfect lyrics, “they’ll be smooth sailing cuz i’m trimming my sails…”  exactly!

the morning after, the first night that #1 son slept in his new city casa, i was a bit worried that i’d wake up with a bit of the blues, fearful to peek into his torn apart room here to see the path of his departure.  well, no such luck.

instead, i find myself thrilled in every vessel and pore for this lad and the love that swaddles him, no matter where he lands his jolly, solid feet.  he’s on his way, and his first gift to me?

a text message last night, no message attached, but a photograph.  i put on my glasses to see it, and my heart just burst with crazy pride: a candle-lit table-scape showing two big bold red dinner plates, displaying browned, seasoned chicken breasts and a medley of colorful vegetables, the dachsund salt & pepper shakers, the sturdy new estate sale steak knives, shiny new forks, and a pair of tj maxx wine glasses brimming with the fruit of the vine.

the glow could be seen from there to here.

08.26.11  a day that will live in infamy…and surely make my back ache like nothing else.

although, with those three rascally strong children and their able dad, i’ll try to do my best to avoid any heavy lifting.  will busy myself with telling hilarious moving anecdotes and providing nourishment to the troops who are setting this boy up in style.

after all, i’m carrying a mighty load myself: a big old heart ’bout to burst.

08.25.11  reap what you sew, i’m grateful for the bounty and the blessings. every single moment.

08.24.11  i am certain, at this point in my week, that if and when the turks are looking for an additional “whirling dervish”, i could be hired sight unseen.

ca-raaaazy week!

the coffee can’t be strong or plentiful enough, one dynamo moment from the next it’s clearly not my time for anything but just pitch in, crack the whip, draw the space plan, coordinate the this and that and the other thing, make sure everyone’s eating, dash in and out of the city, wash 1/2 of every article of clothing that #1 son owns, then soon, the big really big move involving a huge truck stuffed to the gills: i’m a guest conductor pulling off the first major synchronized rearrangement of our lives.

yesterday i stacked up and laid out old retro kitschy sentimental quirky kitchen goodies for #1 to pick through.  living life in a certain style, we aren’t rich, but we like to have cool stuff.  the first apartment will feature a horn-handled bottle opener; bakelite handled corkscrew and ice tongs; vintage sportsman salad plates illustrated with engaging fish in action poses; an embellished restaurant ware sugar bowl; a favorite french coin plate; the dinner plate his father ‘borrowed’ from a particularly important restaurant years ago; sturdy antique beer steins; a set of demitasse cups for espresso, featuring the darling one from torino that from, at age 4, noel took his first sip of coffee.

sure, we could go to ikea and just fill up a truck with stuff.  we could also sit at home online and point and click on things to have some stranger to deliver.  we could hire some minions to deliver, assemble, arrange, set up and voila, present my son’s first home to him.


we can do what we’ve always done: roll up our sleeves and pitch in.  ingredients required: a whole bunch of heart, a measurement of memories to include a dash of europe, a shake of sentiment, several sprigs of style, an ounce of organization, a search and rescue of some pretty neat mismatched but fabulous furniture, and a potluck of donated cool goods that make the whole apartment project like a great big batch of stone soup.

and sure, i’ll be tired.  but what’s my choice?  satisfied beyond words to see the look on his face when he settles in for his first night, yes, this is what we call home.

08.23.11  baby is a junior.

no, not the baby in the corner daughter of joel grey (nice fellow who i chatted with in front of nyc’s pastis a few years ago, both of us fawning over his pomeranian)….

no, i meant my baby.

i have no intention of falling into that cliche of “i can’t believe that my youngest child is already a junior in high school: omg time is flying.” instead, i firmly grasp the concept without having to ask father time how he managed to kick in some extra triple-a batteries to fly us all through these years so quickly.  it is a statement, rather than a question whispered in disbelief.

so, now that i’ve established where i stand on all of this, i will say that this gal has seemed to me already years beyond whatever age she was at the time i’d think, “omg, she is beyond her years!”  maybe being the third in line helps one to jump a few steps.  i mean, with older siblings writing the script of what to do or not do, the youngest one, if paying attention, can clearly move ahead with fewer detours.

saying this, though, i wonder.  yes, she’s got the observational skills of a cia operative.  but beyond that, i have always seen in this gal as having a profound attitude of being ‘with it’, a surety beyond the date on her passport. the word chutzpah is an understatement.

so in my third cup of coffee, the old lady mom here not quite ready for these up at the crack of dawn mornings getting corey off to high school, i’m just grateful.  celebrating.  so far, so good. yes, my baby is a junior in high school, two wind-whippingly hilarious, dramatic, head-stretching years left where i get to sit and watch this amazing creature wrap up her official days under my watch.

back when hallie was starting kindergarten, corey was so eager to be a big school girl, too, that she asked me to take her “first day of school picture” at the front door.  grabbing her little pooh bear “pack-pack”, sleepy eyed with bed head that makes one think of elizabeth taylor during her “who’s afraid of virginia wolfe” era, she stood wide eyed and proud, smiling for the camera.

a year later, just past that oprah’s favorite thing hoopla, orders were streaming in for my boxed notecards, all of my children pitched in with packing orders and dealing with tom, our ups man. but corey had her own idea: a dynasty in the making.  setting up a desk of her own in the kitchen, this 3 year old busied herself with writing furious, urgent lines and lines of “writing” on pages and pages of paper, her play-phone tucked under her ear, casually holding her american girl doll up to her chest.  when i asked corey what she was doing, she said, “i’m nursing my baby while oprah gives me her card order.”

when it was corey’s turn for kindergarten, wow was she ready.  probably thought to herself, “it’s about damn time, people!” the deal for me was fantastic, although i was bereft to have to share my fire-cracker with some kids and the nice teacher for those few hours every day.  every morning, i’d get some work done while corey finished up her homework.  then, just when i was feeling ready for a little lunch, corey would disappear to the kitchen.  i’d hear the fridge open and close, a cabinet or two door sliding, the rattle of silverware, jars opening, the clatter of silverware dropping into the sink.  a few minutes later, she’d appear at my desk carrying two lunch bags.  one for her, one for me: a sensible, ladylike lunch break, feasting on her home cookin’, fresh daily.  then, off to school so she could go see what the other 5 year olds were up to.

yeah, i know she’s a junior.  i can feel it to my toes: she’s growing up, although it’s as if her age is sort of eventually meeting the mindset and persona that she’s always had.  i’m glad i get to watch the show, this amazing girl landed with a bang, a passion, an urgency to get out there and feel life, grab life, not take ‘no’ for an answer, nurturing and nourishing herself and the rest of us along the way.

go get ’em, baby.

08.22.11  summer is slipping from my grasp.

i’m not sure how i feel about that.  there is this magical fairy dust over the whole idea of what ‘summer’ means, brings and inspires.  for me, this particular one, it’s popping into focus not unlike the lucy/ethel sequence when they’re dealing with that crazy, superfast assembly line of pies or something.  they keep flying out of the shoot (the pies, not lucy/ethel), and one right after another passes them by, almost faster than they can think.

if i squinch my eyes, remembering the last 90 days or so, i see a blur of just lazy nice screen door slamming shut kids in kids out, let’s drive to the city for dinner, stay away from those killer bees, we’re out of food, kids come help me unload groceries, i’m going for a swim, wanna come to the movies with us tonight, mom can you give me a back rub, mom can you make breakfast for me, can i use the car, have you seen my bathing suit, can you drive me to a.m.’s, can i go up to see c. at the lake, okay how many of you want bacon or sausage, omelette or easy over or egg in the toast, mom, we don’t have anything to eat here, let’s go to the library, can i make brownies, how about a parenthood moment, omg we were up til 4 last night, time to see your cousins, is it okay if i go biking this afternoon in the forest preserve, can i use the car this morning, who’s dishes are in the sink, gramma needs help with her laptop, it’s frozen, grampa needs help with the firewood, empty the wagon,  who wants to come with me to get a manicure, somebody needs to make a trader joe’s run, did anyone feed astro, has anyone seen chinchin, don’t hang wet pool towels on the wooden chairs, please, we’re going sailing today grab your top-siders, kids time to cut the grass, mom the tractor won’t start, i have a really big deadline so you three are in charge today, mom is there enough dinner for my friends, too, can somebody please flip the laundry, sure, i’ll take some ice cream, omg what did you put in this marinara, that was the best garage sale, mom can we have a bonfire tonight, stock up the s’more center, is it okay if we have a campout this weekend?

wow.  yep, it’s a blur, but a really, really good one.  so, with school starting tomorrow for one of my three, i guess it’s asta la vista summer: see you next year.

08.21.11  sunday, days before the dreaded school year grabs a hold of my youngest tot…the countdown to 6am alarm clocks stares me in the face: omg!

this calls for a day of total indulgence, fun, the last taste of lazy summer, rounded out with a night at the movies…popcorn, diet coke, twizzlers, coming attractions, and the total escapism that beloved hollywood offers!

08.20.11  when you’re all cozy in bed, covers up to your chin, air conditioning so low that you forget for a second that it’s the end of august, then add a darkening sky, enormous crashes of thunder, menacing lightening bolts, and furious, pelting rain, i can tell you: it’s pretty impossible to muster up the energy, wherewithal and determination to crawl out of bed.

no, it’s much safer, smarter and sweeter to just roll over and dive back into those dreams, where all is floaty perfect, right?  blink away the scary stuff, tuck in tighter and feel the thud thud thud waft away as you sink back in to that lovely place.

well, like clockwork, the alarm rings, the dog barks, the cat gently puts her paw on your mouth and gingerly pushes one of her claws down to make a point…the urge for a strong cup of coffee as the prize, you step out, one foot in front of the other, shocked at the cold wood floors, but resolved to keep on keepin’ on.  this too shall pass, this sleepy woozy impossible to think straight moment will dissolve and the day will be a good one.  no matter what, despite the storms, always, always, look up, remember, believe, know: just beyond, that smiling beautiful sun is ready to swoop you up into that incomparable first embrace.

08.19.11  so i’m feeling really happy.

08.18.11  i’m conditioned to connect the end of summer with the start of the fall television line up. gosh, sometimes i’m so american.

today found me coasting on a lovely bit of writing rhythm, arriving at my destination ahead of schedule. that in itself felt terrific, especially since i’ve been a bit freakishly intimidated by the first official writing job for hire i’ve had since the summer of 1981 when i had to put together the monthly newsletter for the golf club where i was also a waitress!

now, turning to the pen, i’m back to drawing and find that my head is still swimming with the stories i’ve just delved into.

it’s funny, the whole concept of writing your life backwards.  when you know where you’ve landed, but have to see how each early step lead you from there to hear.  i think i could spend a lifetime, curious mind that i have, just listening, asking questions, finding out the why why why.  not to sound like a toddler (i wasn’t a big fan of that phase, each of the three times it arrived!), but now i really see how important that question is.

and with all of this as well, interlaced with this constant fun work that passes over my desk, i help to prep these rascals for the start of another year of school.  i wonder if they know how lucky they are: still young enough to have the full-time jobs of just sitting in a classroom, fresh paper and pen poised in their hands, asking, wondering, imploring: why, why, why?

08.17.11  if you’re sentimental like me, or always trying to tag some event with a sense of significance, pretty much every day involves crossing bridges.

not in the literal sense, thank goodness.  i love the perspective and design of them from a distance more than i do from a top a long stretch of concrete, seemingly miles above sea level, wondering it the dang thing is going to hold together until i get to the other side.  you can thank my older sister for involving me in a terrifying experience on the tampa bay bridge years ago….

no, what i mean is: leaving one side to the other.  seeing a moment as one you’ll never have again, climbing or gliding across the expanse, knowing you’ll never be on ‘this’ side again.  take a good look around, feel the earth between your toes, take a candid mind-shuttering memory shot, and move on forward.

after all, it’s just life, right?  bring on the change, show me the way.

08.16.11  yes, i still miss elvis.

you can be sure i have a lot to say about elvis presley, and i promise i will…but first…a zip up to wisconsin (where, ironically, i was when i heard he had died…more about that later)…then back here to work, then life, and then, after i’ve mulled over the whole elvis thing, i’ll type away.  pop over to my “elvis” post….i’ve got a mouthful!

08.15.11  well my escape yesterday came in the guise number two daughter begging me to bring her and best pal down to chicago’s boystown to find one of the stars of the “a-list”….if you don’t know who or what that is, that’s perfectly fine.

what matters is that i lucked into a hilarious, energy-filled night, packed with amusements, constant laughter, fab people watching, free swag and the infusion of absolute satisfaction as i watched two 16 year olds dancing amid the electric rainbow crowd watching gloria gaynor belt out that iconic tune of get up and go: i will survive.

the coolest part?  people coming up to me, total strangers, thanking me for raising my children with open minds and more than open hearts.

what a way to wrap up the weekend.

08.14.11  it’s sunday.  i’m landlocked.  life’s got me juggling a carnival’s worth of this and that and the other thing….and it’s taking me all of my fabulous self-discipline not to fill the car with gasoline and head west.  just drive.  pedal to the metal, roll down the windows, as if i had a car old enough to have manual window handles….!  crank the tunes, program about 24 straight hours of paul and just…go.   who wants shotgun?

08.13.11  what do you do when you mountains of work to do but all you want to do is read a book?

flip a coin, be responsible?  stall  by cleaning the house, sorting old photographs, talking to the cat, running out for starbucks, looking out the window…

there are two opposing energies in my studio right now: this laptop and the myriad of magic i need to perform on it regarding work, ie making a living, ie feeding those cute kids and that tuition issue and of course rent for the fab city apartment and and and and….

meanwhile, the book that i started last night, that i can’t put down, that has me so intrigued as it invites me into total escapism of spending my day in the streets of some woman’s fictionalized paris adventure.

how on earth can i manage to dodge that elixir?

i guess i’ll channel the parent part of me which works like this: see the pretty carrot?  (book)  can you imagine how yummy this carrot is going to taste once you get to eat it?  (fantasy, escapism, paris, a romance story, etc)  wouldn’t it be more fun to really relax and savor that experience of that pretty yummy carrot by getting all of that icky pressure off of your back first?  (work, check things off of my list, sweat and toil…then flounce onto bed and read for rest of the day…ie earn it) i have to wonder: does that sort of obvious pep talk ever work on my children?

to make matters worse, there is a delicious, dark and stormy attitude that, while menacing in a way with pitched hail and flinging winds and crashing thunder outside, has turned the inside of my house into a cozy, cuddly, wonderful nest.  the whole mood screams: READ THE BOOK.

but i’m a grown up.  right?

08.12.11  it’s been a really long week.  so long, i think it actually was about 495 days long…and counting.  as i round into the afternoon with some enjoyable work awaiting me, what i know my evening will include is a chilled glass of something strong and soothing.

happy friday.

08.11.11  one of the books that i read and loved growing up was, ‘i capture the castle’, by dodie smith.

you gotta love a name like dodie….she is better know for penning ‘a hundred and one dalmations’ in case you were wondering.

but, back to this thought.  i recently watched the film version on an evening when the only thing that was going to get me feeling safe and cozy was a british bit of scenery, accents, and sensibility.  there are plenty more that fit the bill in our dvd collection (you could also call it our mood rings: our library covers pretty much any mood you might find yourself in)….but i was feeling very cassandra like, and found myself in good company for the night.

the book, as it typically goes, is better than the movie for it’s detail, descriptions and a deeper delving into the quandries and dilemmas of this funny trio of kids stuck in a dilapidated castle with their heads-in-the-clouds writer father and their seeker of universal truths stepmother.  not even interested in going into detail save to say that i love the story, the struggles, the vulnerability and overall pluckiness of the heroine.  read it.

so, today, i think of that group, and of the chaos, confusion, and conundrums that they face…that old how do i get from here, to there, age-old story.  i think plucky is the best armor for this seemingly endless stream of plot twists, orchestrating the revolving door comings and goings of a colorful and quirky cast of characters, and sorting things out to that inevitable and always longed for, happy ending.

i was recently told, “i don’t know how you do it”, which of course makes me think of the about to be released new movie with sarah jessica parker…but, back on track, there’s a simple answer to that.

how do you do it?  you just do.  you have children, so you parent. period.  you have a career, so you work.  period.  you have a really fat dog, so you take care of him.  you have people who love who need you, so you try your darndest be a good friend, period.  there is no option, and the best way to carry through times where there’s just an extra dose of commotion, transition and decision-making?  you jump in, head first, committed to the first rule of all: have a blast, enjoy each nugget of each moment, take it all in, and laugh every step of the way.

08.10.11  i am all over the map today, all without ever leaving my house.

i’ve apparently become a writer for pay, formulating the interviewer’s lens to uncover fascinating and profound tidbits about the half dozen subjects of my assignment.  might have to reach up and put on my fedora and pull out my manual typewriter to strike the right mood for success.

then, putting on another hat, i’m embarking on work in the guise of a p.r. specialist, helping to launch a dazzling, sophisticated new line of letter press notes…more about that later.

i’ve just successfully done my turn as a residential leasing agent, navigating the area lovingly known as lincoln park to land a killer apartment for number one son.  the rest of the family, and certainly the sponsors of this city living pad are lining up, fully expecting a time-share stint enjoying this spread.  best of all?  it’s smack dab across the street from the best apartment i ever had…what a view!

next up?  channeling the classics and putting on my painters garb to create some one of a kind commissioned works…i might have to put on some mozart to carry me appropriately through this extraordinarily wonderful assignment.

hmmm, what else have i been up to?  this, that and the other thing, during which i picked up an anthropologie catalogue for a moment of fantasy.  i mean, everything in that thing is drool and envy inducing magic.  looking past the model, i spied the antique settee that she was lounging on.  (wearing an outfit that probably cost more than my house), and the wheels in my mind started clicking and turning.

i’m pretty ‘with it’….a term we used to kid my mom for using way back in the 70s.  but, well, it’s the truth.  i’m fully aware of the tempo of our culture today, and am as fascinated with the gadgetry and technofusion as anyone else.  i’m not a prude, i’m a realist.  everyone’s grabbing for what they want, for what feels good, for what makes sense for the moment, gimme gimme gimme, just cuz.  right?

so empowered these crazy kids must feel.  heck, not just the kids.  the world is candy and everybody wants to get their hands on the flavor of the moment, often casting it aside the moment a prettier, or more alluring, bit of candy crosses their path.

so, this settee.  i looked at the hand-carved detail of the legs, support structure, the curve of the arms, the swooping bow of the back.  someone sat and stood and stooped for hours, days, weeks, to chip and shape wood into this awe-inspiring bit of sculpture.  the silk brocade upholstery?  you can be darn sure that this waft of brilliantly delicate textile was made by a million delicate hands forming, detailing, embroidering, fashioning it all together.

it’s a work of art.  and it’s a work of time. hard time, spent, lovingly, laboriously, intent on creating something beautiful, to last a lifetime.  lovingly.  respectfully.  worth the waitingly.

as a contrast to our crazy world of disposable everything, i felt a strong, solid pull to what this settee represents.  is there any way back to that kind of living?  is there a way to really savor, and respect, and care?  is tenderness, gentility, and even civility, a dead relic, or is there something in all of us to gather up that hope, to sprinkle out the patience, to cherish the rarity of each moment, each friendship, each bit of love that blessedly comes our way?

i’m willing to give it a try.  good things are worth the wait, quality not quantity, embrace and hold dear, think before you leap, treat others as you would treat yourself, delight in the wonders right before my eyes.

08.09.11  well, the cooking paid off.  somehow, somewhere, the nourishment flooded exactly where it needed to go, and this morning i’m savoring the taste still of the beautiful kodachrome moments that love guarantees.

08.08.11  so the words have been taken right out of my mouth, compelling me to skip an entire day.

when i was eight years old, i was assembled with my four siblings for riding lessons.  lined up, most likely in age order, taking turns to climb high atop our horse, lucy, and then cantering, walking, prancing about to the terse instructions of some hired horse professional, done up in a smart pair of jodhpurs and black boots.

my older sister was a pro, and took her turn to show the rest of us urchins how this was done.  my brother fared pretty well, managing to make it around the pasture a few times, guiding the horse a bit choppily, good enough for the purpose of the first lessons.

one, two, three, it must have been my turn.  now, i’d grown up with horses, spent plenty of saturday mornings mucking the stalls, watching the vet come along and tend to their care (i especially loved watching him dig out the gunk from their hooves with that neat hook thing), but i wasn’t really a natural when sitting up, way way up on that big black horse.

we had a half blind pony for a few years, and riding bareback on ‘moonbeam’ was something i could do over and over again.  playing ‘pioneers going west’, we’d ride that poor old thing silly, and happily, and without an ounce of fear, most likely because my toes were alway grazing the top of the grass, a really good safety net.

so, big girl riding lessons, totally unavoidable, i stepped up for my turn.  i don’t remember how tall i was, but eight years old seems pretty teeny to me.  the reach alone to get  my foot into the stirrup had to have seemed daunting enough, not to mention the dizzying heights above sea level once i was sitting way way way up on top of that english saddle.

why english?  i pondered, trying to look brave.  well, because.  period.  how i longed for the comfort of a big western saddle that cleverly came with it’s own reassuring handle!  so, okay, i was on top of that horse, and lucy, the spirited devil, was just biding her time….no doubt sensing with a menacing glee that the ‘chicken’ of the group was now ready for a little fun.

following the commands of our teacher, i managed to aim the horse off to the far corner of our pasture.  a nice, easy walk, one hoof in front of the other, things seemed to be going well.  i’m sure i even managed to relax for a minute, channeling calamity jane the gutsy western babe.

finally reaching the fence, my job next was to turn lucy around, return to the barn, relinquish the beast for my little sister’s chance at becoming an equestrian.

bam.  my neck snapped, my head lurched back, and the horse took off like a wild gypsy.  flying faster than i knew the critter could travel, she made a run for that barn and that bucket of oats. i’m sure we broke the speed of sound.

i was, of course, thrown from the saddle.  which, from this spot in life, doesn’t seem too awful. no, what happened to make this day pretty much the worst day ever was that my silly little red ked got stuck in the stirrup, so i made the return trip upside-down, one foot up, the rest of me bouncing, flinging, flunging, crashing around, dragged all the way.  helter skelter, man.

back to the barn, the crowd in a dither to release me from this purgatory, i remember just flopping solidly to the grass.  the horse went off to have a snack, and i stood up, trying not to cry. i bravely marched off to a little shady spot under a tree, watching my mom walking to find me. she offered some soothing words and a hug, and then, her soothing tone changing to something more akin to a new york bookie, offered me ten dollars to ‘get right back on that horse’, knowing, clearly, that it was now or never for this daughter of hers.  a love for horses, or a lifetime of itchy, achy, worried total lack of trust for the entire breed.

i took one look at her, shook my head, shouted out, “no!”, and ran into the house, made myself a nice lunch and turned on the tv.

sure, i’ve ridden horses since then.  plenty of times.  certainly not that particular day, maybe not that week, but as life kicked along, i’d sometimes just have to climb up on a horse, and ride.  i always put on a brave face, i always feel my heart pounding like an aggressive native drum dance, and i always manage, eventually, with plenty of praying and hoping, to have a really good time.  actually, even better than good: how about, wonderful!?

but back to today.  yes, i’m a bit out of words, and at this age, when i’m troubled and worried, the one thing i know i can do that’s going to make me feel better?  cook.  like, really cook.  like, invent something out of this world delicious, and let that labor of cutting vegetables, shaking the boxed spices into the simmering, rich colored yummies, breathe in the aroma, take myself far, far away, all the while standing firmly, solidly, happily, at my kitchen counter.

last night?  a potato-onion cream soup that had the kids rushing home from the double-feature to gulp down.  lunch today?  well, easily, my mussels soaking in a rich, red wine-infused broth with hearty piles of onions, dill pickles, garlic & goodies to slather all over sourdough bread.

and to get us to that final lap of the day, dinner tonight?  i can smell it now, that oven piping out the trumpet call of a southern spicy bbq pulled pork, promising to wrap us all into a hug of nourishing, safe goodness.

08.06.11  reach out and touch somebody’s hand

08.05.11  i don’t think i have time to write a thing this morning.  suddenly, i’ve been hired to be a writer of sorts.  and the dog keeps barking at that door, i have to get up and let him in.  (oooo, someone’s knocking at the door: i did it, more paul infused into a post!)…

now there’s a final maneuver in netting that elusive apartment for number one son; the kids are coming home from vacation this afternoon and i have to tidy the joint; now i may be meeting son, offspring, father of all, in lincoln park to lock into this apartment.

oh and i have to revise some great cool new work for an incredible client, and all the while, i was planning to write a captivating piece all about americana, road trips and summer.  i guess that will have to wait: life just got in my way!

08.04.11  oh what a beautiful morning!  that blue is gorgeous, and the temperature isn’t quite as menacing as it’s been lately. i’m counting my blessings!

so, the plans that i had today are now entirely rearranged, and that, for certain, is one a great analogy for life.  best laid plans…sometimes just get dropped into the trash!  or set aside for, yes, the proverbial rainy day.

the city will be seeing my shining face, here’s a nod to james taylor because i’m trying to wean myself from paul, not easy…but i’m trying!  but as today is all about the boys, first i’ll help a dear pal deposit a german vehicle at some obscure repair shop just this side of china, then i’ll go see about nabbing a cool city apartment for number one son, and wind up the evening in the ‘hugo’ or thereabouts hood with fantastic friends…hilarity abounds every step of the way.

if you like these vintage jerseys hanging on the line, pop over to ‘boy o boy’ in my fresh ink department to see some smashing summer patterns looking for a good home on say….anything!

08.03.11  well, let’s see how i can work paul into today’s post!

truthfully, i’m still swimming out there somewhere in the ussr, with my ticket to ride, wondering who’s out there lamenting something in the way she moves, knowing full well, it’s best to live and let die.


i know, that was a corny stretch at most, but i really haven’t shaken this electric aftershock from the concert of the century.  certainly of the weekend.  it’s all anyone’s talking about here in the city of the big shoulders.  and who knew, but i happened to own a paul “live” cd that happened to be hiding in the fancy cd changer of my car, so my cute beatle has managed to serenade me (complete with crowd roar roar roar) all the day through from then til now.

i have to just say, the day after was crazy.  here’s a fast splash kinetic chaotic montage of what the last twenty four hours has brought me.  baby, you can drive my car, cause i’m sure not behind the wheel today!

home at 1:45 am, awake until 3am or so.  who can sleep at a time like this?  alarm tap tap tap konking my eyes open at 6:15 to walk, robot like, to the coffee maker to prepare the elixir of the awake and functioning.  guzzle it down, manage to flip out a blog of semi-importance regarding the happenings at wrigley.  shower, outfit, hmmm, what to wear with my neat preppy long white shorts?  omg, throw on my new paul mccartney at wrigley field band on the run 2011 black tshirt, pair it with a cool lucky belt, birks, and hit the road.  to evanston, to lavish my niece with pancakes, dissecting her  upcoming year-long adventure in france…just around the corner.

when you are exhausted and dearly sleep-deprived, wear a concert tshirt the morning after and you will make enough friends to fill a thanksgiving table.  “had fun last night?” a roguish bearded man said as he passed by our breakfast table.  “did you have good seats?” bellowed a robust and rosy cheeked woman.  oh, duh.  they see my tshirt.  we’re bonding on this isolated land called earth among strangers and we are now one!  how funny is that?

breakfast done, home to work, nothing too exciting to report to add to this so let me get to the evening.  i’ve established i was exhausted, sated, ready to flip on some cozy clothes and just relish in the night before (snuck in another two words famous song phrase…)…but, alas, plans were made and so i had to hit the shower, again, more freshening up to do, another outfit to toss on, and off, just in the midst of a brooding menacing storm, drive off to meet a welsh friend for drinks.

now this is where the u of my ticket to ride sketch comes into the story.  u equals universe.  i really wanted to stay home, can’t you see why?  i was dog tired!  but, get up and go, i had made plans and listened to that little voice in my head that said, “get the hell out of here and follow through with your commitments”.  easy, besides, paul “live” was waiting for me in the car.

so, here’s the fast forward.  a quiet drink in a funny throw back to the 40’s bar, sort of the place you’d find in northern wisconsin a few generations ago, right?  a town away, chosen specifically to avoid the crowd of hey back slappers and how have you BEEN (as though i’ve had surgery or something)….

ducking into the joint with my trusty new yorker umbrella (cause i live outside of chicago), the first thing out of my mouth is, “i hate storms.”.  really.  again, signs that i was tired, no time for cheery salutations, i just really hate storms.

the quiet drinks, thank you universe, spun out the following, both face to face actual, and email and text virtual: nonstop group discussions and commentary about how fabulous that concert was and how much everyone wished they’d been there; the happenstance of my former in-laws of about 2 and a half seconds who i hadn’t seen in years and really like but what a small world and what a fabulous bit of luck to get this chance to reconnect, besides, there’s a storm outside; then the neighbor, the storyteller extraordinaire of the night, tossing in quiz master and interviewer, all at once; the inspiration behind my choosing the supper club like hideaway appearing virtually to put in a word about paul; several urgent text messages from number one son in michigan asking, inexplicably, at 11pm, the status of his on hold college apartment plans; and lucky bingo, an email out of the unexpected blue, an awol fisherman popping in just to say hi; my word, the night was exploding with merriment beyond words, and i soaked it all in, finding energy from my reserve tank to match the energy and zaniness and crazy wires crossed connectivity of all of my worlds colliding in this very moment.

time for goodnights, and yet still laughing over how desperately i had wanted to stay in, and thanking my lucky stars that that crazy old universe dragged me out.  the only snafu?  driving home, i expertly navigated the car around and over signs of earnest storm destruction: oh, that’s right, there was a storm, but omg, baracaded from that nastiness by a wall of fun, i missed the whole thing, but, finally coming home to settle in for a long night’s sleep, found the flood waters awaiting my arrival.

my kitchen, a mini-mississippi river, my cat looking peeved, my dog looking hungry, and clearly, my freezer, looking totally defrosted and leaking it’s head off.

oh well, there’s always tomorrow to worry about that sort of thing.  for now, i’m still pinball bouncing off of this beautiful simpatico energy of, yes, yesterday.

08.02.11  it’s a dazed morning after a dazzling night: boy, does paul make 69 seem like a cinch.

last night as i walked the blocks from a darling (and fast service) italian restaurant on broadway, sated by two glasses of pinot grigio, a tangy dish of pasta, and riveting conversation with my sister, i thought a lot about anticipation.  yes, i know that’s carly’s song, and this is all about paul, but the feeling is universal.

i lived right around the corner from wrigley field for a decade.  stomping past on winter days, doing anything to dodge the ice-winter wind in chicago, i’m sure i barely glanced up at the place.  when i was a kid, and (literally) dragged to a cubs game with my dad, the only thing i took home with me was a sour sadness that, in lieu of stadium hot dogs and popcorn, our lunch was soggy sandwiches packed from home.  single and in the city, in later years, i’d frolic and carouse up and down sheffield and addison and orbit around this lovely, important relic without feeling much of a tremor at all.

well, let me tell you.  last night, and i don’t think it was the wine, i was floating on air.  here i was traipsing off to a building that i’d spent my whole life hanging around, with little or no fanfare. yes, i am totally aware of it’s architectural significance, and having sketched fenway for crate&barrel, i do have some home team allegiance to the structure and history of wrigley field. (omg i just remembered that i sketched the “wrigley building” for c&b too, lol)

i was throwing one foot in front of the other, merrily rolling along to an evening that was going to be incredible. amazing.  other-worldly.  this here-to-fore shall always be known as the building where paul rocked my socks off!

beyond my expectations, this guy took us on a ride, yes, to another world, but also swimmingly to an earlier world, a march through my entire life, my conscious memory of music, politics, friendship, loss, longing and that old black magic, love.

paul mccartney, my cute beatle, thank you for whooping it up in two million degree heat, prancing and crooning and head-bobbing and screaming and fire-working and pyro-technicing and lyric-ing and strumming and tickling the ivories and showing the rest of the kids what it’s like to rock and roll, royally earning that british title of yours and universal king of cool to mine.

08.01.11 my date for tonight: sir paul!

07.31.11  the new york times did the trick to whisk me around the world this morning, all without having to put on my shoes.

i have to say, i’m clearly a junkie of the electronic age of stuff, and admit to spending more time than i should on this machine wandering around the internet….but, i’m a big devotee of the world of paper.

can i just say, as a parent, is the answer to so many questions involving raising children this: “well, it’s just easier”…or “it’s faster”…or “everyone else does it”!?  i don’t think so.  the logic of the ‘with it’ sales jockeys who are trying to murder the newspaper is beyond bizarre.  okay, maybe they have a point about the forests and all that, but i say let’s use the trees for newspapers and outlaw junk mail and those obnoxious cards that fall out of my favorite magazines.

as things switch from one way to another, i find an entirely different visual landscape bombarding me and my delicate senses.  i still look at my manual typewriter every day, i have my stacks of block-colored books on my bedside table…their covers teasing me in a provocative dance every night: pick me, pick me, pick me!

so, about all of this talk of getting rid of newspapers?  come one, everyone, just slow down.  if it’s possible.  i see the world of cary grant and rosalind russell as sharp-shooting journalists who, of course, fall in love over the front page of the gum-chewing, cracker jack tap tap tap of a typewriter filled newsroom, news as soon as it happens, wired from spot to point, words formed on paper, metal type mooshed and blocked into dutiful little soldiers waiting for their ink bath so that they can slam onto the fresh virgin newsprint and with a standing salute, spread the news of the world.

why new york, rather than chicago?  oh, that’s easy.  because it’s new york.  give me the arts; the travel section; see what’s happening in business (at times, like reading mandarin chinese, i’m afraid); news of the world; the streets and salons of nyc splashed across the pages of style; weddings (why is it that reading some of those still makes me tear up?); and the piece de resistence, easily the new york times book review.  a candy shop of goodies that sit waiting, luring me, enticing me, into yet more worlds to discover.  it’s sort of never-ending, the crinkly-folded leaves of life that are a standard part of my sundays for decades.  the screen version just doesn’t do it for me.  cozy on the couch in winter, curled up in bed in autumn, stretched out on my deck in the spring, and lounging around on a beach in summer?

naw, it’s got to be the paper, the coffee, the bloody mary, the omelette, the lox and bagel, and best of all, if i’m really lucky, being able to divvy up favorite sections with a spectacled & finger-tipped smudged conspirator.

07.30.11  today finds me totally captivated by kismet & serendipity.

07.29.11  it’s friday, which in other people’s worlds mean the start of the weekend, one fun moment rolled into the next.  for me i seem to find a reason to pepper each day with work of some kind, and since my children are setting off on a little vacation with their dad, i’m feeling a bit ansy.

i might just throw all caution to the wind and….relax.

07.28.11  “well i tried to make it sunday, but i got so damned request.  so i set my sights on monday….can’t you see it in my eyes?”

yes, i’m floating off into a past revisitation this morning.  as people leave the party here on the solid (and not so solid) ground of life, i take a day or so to soak in their essence.

today it’s all about america.

when i was younger, i looked at old people with a bit of caution.  granted, ‘old’ might be my grandparents who, at 51, looked pretty cooked, wrinkled, settled and finished off.  fuddy duddy.

from my perch now, i’m really confused about how this is supposed to feel.  ask anyone my age, and you’ll probably hear protestations: ‘i’m just the same me, in a slightly altered package’…right?  because, partially, for the most part, it’s so true.  i’m just me.  listening to ‘sister golden hair’ this very minute takes me to the moment, seemingly days ago, where i spun that album over and over on my turntable, lamenting the fact that my brillo-pad like brownish hair would never, and i mean, never, resemble the golden long lovely locks that my two sisters boasted.  they also had boyfriends in high school, and i was a monk.  the song takes me there, to that ripe, raw feeling, every single time i hear it.

so, when one of the founding members and main voice of an iconic band of my youth dies, you know that the clock really is ticking.  and yet, how is that possible, when i feel 13 still?  17 always?  23, 27, 34, 41, 49….you get the drift, right?

so twisting my brain a bit here, it’s this dichotomy that’s crazy.  i’m that kid, that girl, those early versions of me, right?  but, listening to any of these tunes feels the same and so deeply different.  throw in the decades of living, loving, losing, learning, leaning, laying, lamenting. my specs help the words on this screen pop out in a stronger clarity, just as my own crazy racking up the decades of being alive has popped the emotions of these songs out in a deeper, more poignant appreciation.

we all know how i feel about wrapping my head around that weird concept of time travel and time tricks, and as much as i eschew contemplating it, i realize this morning that i’m living and breathing every single day in time warped alternate universe of my own making.

swimming in memories, reactions, puddled and swirling around me, these phantoms aren’t going anywhere, are they?  dan fogelberg, you’re sitting up front by me, and everyone else, no standees permitted.  jim croce, you and i have some talking to do: i want to know why you’ve always managed to just pinch my heart, you rascal.  that time in a bottle concept?  i’m still struggling with it.  and karen carpenter, all kidding aside, you’re beautiful and vibrant still, you never had anything to worry about.

so, just as if i’m packing up the biggest most colorful partridge-family like bus of my very own life, i put my foot down on the peddle and take us all over the edge into the great wide open spaces.  miles and miles, right?  tapping my fingers the whole way along.

07.27.11  “dear early morning storm:  thank you for setting off such a cacophony of clangs, bams, kuuurashes, batanngs, thuds & whooooshes while i was lingering over my beauty rest.  and thank your friends, hail & really scary high wind, for their enormously entertaining chorus line-like tap dance across my bedroom skylights: i found their grand finale quite stirring.”

because of the discordant chop-chop-chopping block of my final phases of dream-scapes early this morning (i lack the correct terminology but it has to do with something my son gave a speech on this spring), i feel, literally, like i’ve lived in several dimensional pizza-sliced divided up lifetimes, in only a few scant hours.

it was comparable to one gigantic reunion show of the casts of such timeless classics as ‘the mary tyler moore show’, ‘knots landing’, ‘the dating game’, ‘the brady bunch’, ‘kate and allie’, ‘the waltons’, ‘the love boat’ and all of the earliest versions of ‘gidget’, all overlapped and mixed up.

and, of course, the roundabout form of the dream, being pizza or kaleidescope-like in it’s presentation, was the spitting image of the space needle in seattle, where i’ve never been, but which was featured prominently in last night’s movie.

no matter.  the dream seemed vital, the message intense and informative, and the ‘can’t see the forest for the tree’ vibe was ever-present.  had oprah been in one of those pie-shaped vignettes, i wouldn’t have been at all surprised, as the lingering sensation i still feel is so like one of those cliched ‘aha’ moments.

somehow, with nature’s loud karate chops this morning, i existed and spun and visited and reviewed some intense moments of life in almost holographic visitation form: really not the sort of thing you want to try without having coffee first!  as is the case, so often, with wacky dreams, i can’t really remember what on earth was going on, but i do know that when i first awoke, finally and for the day, it all made really good sense.  now if only i could remember what i had discovered, then perhaps my search would be complete.

or i’d at least know what it is i’m looking for.

07.26.11  i have a lot on my mind & on my desk & in my calendar & on my kitchen counter & all over my house.

it’s a fantastically bizarre time of productivity and projects, family fun and festive frivolity. and it strikes me as odd that this is all happening in the summertime, when the living is easy….or at least, when it used to be when summer meant bare feet, tall grass, playing hide and go seek in the barn, riding horses, floating in the pool, catching fireflies, reading book after book after book…clueless about the world or the tempo of schedules or the ping of a cell or the flutter of an updated home page.  a lazy dollop of life, simmering beneath a gentle sun, a sweet country breeze and an occasional tingly bell of an ice cream truck.

mind you: this has nothing close to a complaint, but i do find that the crazy stuff that the universe is flinging at me gets my wires crossed and fizzled at times!

i have not thought of myself as an artist, or one of those creative types, for very long.  oh sure, i’ve heard it whispered around me for pretty much my whole life, but that doesn’t mean i really ‘got it’.  spending as much time with myself as i do (there’s no escaping me: i keep turning up just when i think i’ve managed to slip away), i’ve decided recently to just dive into my head to look at what makes me tick.

it turns out, those whisperers knew what they were talking about.

i get downright crabby if i’ve gone too long without sketching.  even popping this illustration of our marvelous spring break hotel in nashville onto my blog makes my fingers itch.  typically, i like to whip out a drawing per day, a sort of tonic to my artistic soul, to at least go through the motion of a doodle, of that pen pulling along paper, watching the tip swirl & shade.  what will i draw?  what shape is coming out of this movement of ink along a page?  i never really know, even if i start out thinking i do!  omg it feels so good!

so, it appears that i also get bottled up and ready to burst if i keep my floaty thoughts caught up in my brain for too long.  maybe this means i’m a writer.  well, that seems like a pretty tall order, so let’s just say i like to write, or rather, spill my thoughts out onto a diary or blog page.  i’ve never figured out if it’s because i have important, vital, compelling things to say, or if i just need to clear the mind for the next batch of stuff that it’s going to conjure up.

regardless, i’m stuck, i’m locked, i’m hooked.  it’s my drug of choice, my extracurricular activity, my lifeline, my release, my pleasure, my very own whatchamacallit, my happy place indeed.

so, as i leap about dealing with ultra-thrilling new projects, organize spectacular city fun as often as i possibly can, meet and mingle with friends old and new, deal with keeping the house running and presentable (don’t look too closely behind the big blue couch: the dog and cat shed and we’re beyond ever having any control over it), i know that the one thing i have to do to keep sane, clear, and true to me, is spit stuff out on this page, or scribble in my trusty diary that sits patiently by my bedside, or grab a pen that is always at the ready, and run it on a fresh expanse of paper.

oh pure joy, oh compulsive expression, oh energy swirling and magnifying and exploding here, there and everywhere.

07.25.11  deadline: done.  post a new page of holiday patterns on blog: did that already. clean the house: ongoing.  trader joe’s: next on my list.  drown out the noise aboard the john deere: in a bit. lazy-bones-jones night at home: the prize.

07.24.11  i can honestly say that, for much of my life, i was consumed by my own birthday.

i mean, it’s almost shameful how much time and energy, worry and fretting, i dedicated to the one day of the year where, come on people, it was all about me.  no doubt, a shrink could say, hmmm, middle child, sure to be forgotten, a shadow in the family, the caretaker, never asks for anything, and never, ever gets attention.


that wasn’t the case, well, i am smack dab in the middle, but trust me, i got plenty of attention.  i made sure of it by conjuring up fantastical stories to amaze and delight anyone silly enough to hang around me.  i honed my sense of humor to make sure that through high school, when i couldn’t get a date, i could at least get a friend.

no, i don’t know what my deal was with my birthday, maybe just thinking of some magical fairy dust of really wondrous stuff should descend on me so that i could feel the earth tremor with some sort of acknowledgement of my day of birth.  whatever!

i shared a birthday cake with my sister, who’s own day was three before mine.  every other year, i was allowed to have a party, which i’m sure were fabulous.  of course, my memory has fine tuned the ‘have not’ aspect of a party gone awry when i forgot to bring the money to pay for a bowling lane and shoes, thus, ending the party the moment it began.  poor me!

so, into adulthood, i slowly let go of assuming, hoping, dreaming, that my birthday was really the end of the world of importance.  those who know me are, i’m sure, snickering off to the sides, with stories of their own, but i can say, at this moment in time, i think i really get it.  or at least, i think i really feel it.

i’d much rather give than receive.

over the top, more is more, wrap, shop, plan, delight, surprise.  i’m much better at putting on a show than at receiving one: why did it take me so long to figure this out?

today is a kookie day, not sure what the universe was up to with this one, but the 24th of july happens to be the birthday of some mighty important people in my life.  and cooler still, they, collectively, span my entire life.  all degrees, all levels and types of love: all bottled into this elixir of experience of the me that has overlapped and intertwined with such tremendous people.  from a ginger wise-cracker in grade school; a handsome sailing rogue in college; a blonde, blue eyed first baby girl; an exotic, beyond perfect ‘true friend’: they were all born on this day, this one dynamo of a day brought them all here into my midst, and they’re all here still, and to them, my heart bursts in thanks for being lucky enough to share the ride.

sprinkled throughout the entire year, it’s everybody else whose birthdays matter to me, my people: make a wish, and know this gal is deeply grateful to be among your fine company.

07.23.11  this weekend calls for champagne!

07.22.11  just last night, i was told that i’m incredibly self-disciplined.  you know, that little virtual generalissimo inside that orders you around, makes sure you get things done, report to work, get that drawing revised for cool new client, etc.

last night, the kids and i watched ‘inglorious basterds’ again, and i think i have military precision, tactical reconnaissance, espionage, covert operations, aliases, and, obviously, triumph over evil, on the brain today.

as the final scene in the paris theatre played, i leapt to my feet in a standing ovation of pure joy, watching all of those unspeakably horrible nazis die by bullet, bomb or flame.  i’m sorry, i really don’t believe in violence of any kind, and even nodded to my 16 year old, explaining that it’s not totally polite to cheer a victory cry during a scene of such slaughter….but, i can’t help it.  it feels good, even if in celluloid virtual reality, to see those rotten stinkbugs die.

i have wandered off topic again, except that when i typed the work generalissimo, of course it reminded me of world war 2, then the movie, and then, i had to tell that little anecdote.

so, am i really self-disciplined?  yes, i’d say, for the most part: i get things done.  luckily, the things that need to be ‘gotten done’ are pretty enjoyable to me.  i love my work, i love the challenge of orchestrating new projects, and i love the satisfaction of a finished product that has my illustrations on it.

as i said in reply to this comment: i have to discipline myself because these kids are still hungry, still in college, and don’t even get me started about the amount of food our dog eats!  i have to work.  not sure if it’s a character strength, or just out of necessity, but i guess it’s true.

but here’s a confession.  today i showed no self-discipline whatsoever.  it’s almost shameless!

a storm lulled all of us into hitting the snooze button on those darned alarms, so i was the “early riser” at 10:30….in the morning!  then, inexplicably, i prepared a breakfast feast that could rival what the country buffet people serve tourists.  planning to dash in to work once the spread was prepared, i decided to hang out with my fuzzy eyed, crazy haired just out of bed by noon children plus very special guest, referred to from this point on as second son.  i love my people, and love the chatter and laughs, how could i possibly tear myself away from that moment?

so, literally, as i sat down to work, corey popped in reminding me that she needed a ride to her pal’s house.  ok, 2 minutes of self-discipline so far, as the clock approached 1 o’clock!  the drive was pleasant, and as luck would have it, a nearby, very attractive house was hosting an estate sale.  well….hmmmmm……

turned the car into the driveway, lured hallie and gramma into the car, and hit the pavement to zoom back down the road to feast on the vintage goodies that stretched from room to room. prizes for all!

an hour later, maybe more, i’ve lost all track of time this week, i got back home to work.  then realized i was really hungry.  and needed some more coffee.  can you even believe this?

3:30 in the afternoon, on a friday that has a closing time at 5 sharp so i can get ready for a birthday dinner party for a very important greek girl, is when i’ve just sat down to work.  self-disciplined?  clearly not today, when my brain is elsewhere, my distraction quotient is at it’s highest in a few years, and where, oh why not, life is just floating softly, bubbley-by, and sweeping me along in it’s lovely, surprising current.

07.21.11  i get asked to do all kinds of things.

last year i had an epiphany (that is just really fun to say), and during my sorting things out, embraced my inner yes.  what that means?  let go of my control, baby.  follow the bouncing ball to new heights, hop on the raft and take that bend in the stream even without a map, if asked to headline an indian sari fashion show, leap at the chance….despite the inner voice screaming “no way!”.

so, yesterday i was asked to do a few things.  one of them was, draw footprints in the snow.  of course, i said yes: my not so secret new client is revved up about the work i’m doing for them, but we need to art direct the final piece a bit.  at this point in a project, there is no ‘no’ in my vocabulary.  if they asked me to scale my red barn and leap off while wearing clown shoes, i’d do it.   come on: i’m a single mom (bla bla bla), these kids are hungry (especially last night when the littlest one requested that, near midnight, i return home from my fantastic evening out with ‘even just one cookie’), and most of all, i really, really, really love this client.

so, between you and me, drawing footprints in snow is pretty much the same as drawing footprints in sand.  just imagine the placement of one foot after another, no, not in a straight line!  but left, right, left, right…and add a bit of a meandering pace and curve to it.  make it  a lovely looking walk, as in, the walk you take on a crisp autumn day with your little rosy cheeked children, as opposed to a mathematically orchestrated marching walk of the military.

it’s just little stretched out oval open circle-like loops….one step at a time.

so these footprints, the whole concept got stuck in my brain a bit this morning.  here’s why.  the snow comes, the boots trudge through it, the footprints and their shadows cast a pattern to catch the eye: there’s proof that you really took that walk, right?  so then, the snow melts, the evidence is gone, but the walk was real.    it’s that whole ridiculous tree falling in the forest pickle, and that hurts-my-head to think about concept in the sandra bullock-keanu reeves “kate, i’ll be there” movie that messes up my reality and that time-travel-trickery that is central to the plot.  frankly, the absolute best and only redeeming thing about that movie is it’s introducing me to one of the cute beatle’s most deeply romantic songs, ever.

anyway, i do much better with tangibles.  which is why i will never understand how the stock market works.  please, i don’t even want to know.

but i do know this: footprints in the snow are real but only ever-lasting in memory.  footprints, that dainty little trail, they stop and start, they sometimes appear magically out of nowhere, and then, end as suddenly without warning.  this is what i was thinking, that these remind me of my people, of the people, of my relationships, of my moments in time with every single human being in my entire life, these lacy trails, almost like spiderwebs, all patterning and stitched around my mind and memory.  a totally intangible subject that i sort of created a visual structure of.  seems kind of profound, and also kind of simple.  i’m just covered in them.

but back to that yes.  i was asked a few more things yesterday… wear a black dress & come see paul mccartney at wrigley field.

um, that would be, absolutely, a yes.

07.20.11  back to this whole confusion about dates issue: i wonder, why does it even matter?

yes, i guess people, institutions, governments, entire countries plan ahead, but all of this shows me how languidly & loosely i live my life.

maybe because it’s summer and the kids are here, never needing a ride to school.  that usually tips me off as to what day of the week it is at least.  but more than that, the work that i do happens whenever it happens.  i spent the entire last weekend drawing, scanning, watercoloring, drinking coffee, changing music stations to suit my mood, and then drawing again.  barely any communication with the outside world.  really.  and now, here i am, plunk in the middle of the week, about to spend a second day in the city, more of the college transition situation, which makes today and tomorrow feel like a weekend.

you see?  i’m all topsy-turvy.  the point of all of this see-sawing is that, to me, in my life, just for me, i don’t really think that i care, or it matters, if it’s a monday, sunday or any day in-between.  and i hardly care at all what number the calendar people associate with a given day.  and, truth be told, unless it’s the 6th of december, or the put your thumb in the pie and pull out a plumb other important birthdays throughout the year, i don’t really know or need to know or care what monthly label has been assigned.

i feel a bit radical with all of this, but i really started to feel like i was a loser or a communist by not knowing what the date was the other day….was that just last night?  then i realize, of course, it’s not that i’m bad, i’m just different.  more of my artistic kookie stuff coming through (took long enough), feeling more and more non-conformist although i have been known to wear and love top-siders and crisp white cotton bermuda shorts!

it’s more about flow than lock in, easily about ease and natural ebb and tide, than order in the court.  call me lucky, call me quirky, but the solo work that i do with a pen, an idea, and a bit of wit, right here in the middle of my life, is absolutely the only way i would want to live….one creative moment to the next, a wave of family fun that sweeps us through a day of moments, an exciting new project that i’ll gladly trade weekend leisure to dive into: all that matters is the flow, the ease, the enjoyment, the challenge, the time to rest, the playing leaping dash all seriousness aside and have a blast.

the date?  oh, that’s easy.  it’s just, the now.

07.19.11  good news: i know what today’s date is, and upfront, i want to apologize for that little temper-fit from last night regarding the messed up dates.  something tells me that the hellish humidity and mercury-busting heatwave was making my brain a bit noodle-y.

a fine solid sleep and my best friend, mr. really strong java, have delivered a perky, positive persona to me today.  couldn’t be happier.

so this day, with a bit of work first thing in the morning, calls for some poignant nostalgia.  as soon as we get our act together (this expression always makes me think of vaudeville and compels me to speak in a james cagney sort of a voice-over)….noel and i are setting off for the city in search of (drumroll please…) his first apartment.  how cool is that?

soon to be a city college boy, to pair up with his sister who is already a city college girl (and sorry, hal, your first apartment is uber exciting but you found it online via the university with absolutely no help, lunch, pounding pavement, etc. with me and so i still sort of consider it a dorm), he’s set his sights to live off campus, smack dab in the middle of the exciting, cool world of lincoln park.

now, back to me.  1982 and trekking about with my very cool mom to do same.  the overlaps of parenting are constant, some good and some wretched, but this day of traversing those sidewalks and street corners and ghosts of cafes, bars, restaurants that have revolving door-ed through the decades to be reincarnated into new lively haunts for this decades inhabitants just send shivers of delight through me.  the whole thing is pretty darn cool.

something tells me i have a lot to say on the subject, so perhaps, if i can get a moment’s rest this summer from all of the crazy goings-on, i’ll “enlarge on this subject” (yes, another over-used expression that i despise), and turn it into a big old really long winding road of a blog post.

in the meantime, i’m ready to watch my first baby step out into the big wonderful world of city life.

07.18.11  well i have no idea where the day went!  inexplicably, i sat down to wrap up my day at my trusty laptop, and planned to outfox the invisible powers that be that drive me to this blog every single day.

yes, in a slight of hand, a play of time, i was going to sneak on here one hour before the ‘next day’ with my post…after all, in nyc, one of my favorite places on earth, it’s already tuesday.  who was i really cheating, right?

i’ll admit, today was a blur.  chock-ful-o-fun, happy moments followed by productive moments headlined by important exciting moments reading an email from V.I.C. (very important client) with a thumbs up….then the domestic dance of dealing with my fabulous children, throw in some intense birthday shopping, several cups of coffee, whipping up an invented dinner creation to sate our appetites as we howled through yet another “most shocking ever” installment of the bachelorette.  add a few very enjoyable personal phone conversations (i rarely use the phone, saving my voice in case broadway ever calls and needs a stand in).  clearly, a day bursting with busy fun each and every moment.

so back to my plan to sneak on a little early to cover tuesday’s stint at blogging, oh clever me.

i stared at the screen, looked at those skis, read the date, and had a bit of a brain fuzz…hmmm.

after trying to lure my daughters into my room to watch a vintage donny osmond video with me (and failing, they’re too happy giggling in the kitchen and ignoring their weird mom), i got their attention finally by asking, loudly and often, “what’s the date today?”  each time, their answer totally unsatisfying, i’d ask again.  five times.

oh.  are you kidding me?

as it turns out, today has, all day, every minute of it, been july 18th.  not the 17th.  which means, in an hour (and already, in nyc), it’s the 19th.  which means, my plan is foiled.  so this, meanderingly confusing dither about my day and some numbers, will cover only an hour of it’s official duty, and then i’ll be back in the saddle, first thing in the morning, to post something fresh, interesting and important, for tuesday, july 19th.  here i was, thinking i was so clever…

and the snowshoes?  wonder what on earth i’m doing posting those cute numbers on a day that is so hot the trees weep for a cool breeze?  it’s code.  it’s really great news.  dream list: cross off another one.  they said yes.

07.17.11   i have a funny job.  yesterday, sunny saturday, nearly 95 degrees.  the world was out, as they will be today, playing in summer’s enticing sparkling playground.  my mind thinks of one million other things that i could be doing on this fine sunday morning out and about in the deep blue of the lake or the soft blue of the sky, and all greens, browns, red, yellows, purples, oranges of the matter squished between the two.

so, why aren’t i off splashing around today?

because i have a much better pile of goodies on my desk, all accompanied, inexplicably, with a blasting repertoire of christmas music, the air conditioning set at about 42 degrees so i can recreate the ‘mood’ that inspires me to conjure up a delightful illustrated world to present to a V.I.C. (very important client, in case my code confuses you) on monday morning.

trust me: i’m in my glory, i’m having a ball, a dizzying factory of fun as pen tears across paper, color rolls on, scanner blinks into action, my sketches wink back at me from my macbook screen (thank you noel for finally pushing me into this machine), and i flip and fold and tidy up the whole world of my creation.  one of the best summer days in ages….

can somebody pass the cocoa?

07.16.11   i grew up with a dad who’d make a chore list, pop it on the fridge, then race my brothers and sisters to put my initials on the less-horrific offerings for indentured servitude labor.  and of course, i whip up some mighty fine chore lists for my kids now, too.

the whole list thing works for me.  groceries.  ideas. bills to pay.  christmas cards to send.  guests to invite to a party.  supplies to furnish a college dorm or, this time around, college apartments.

there’s one list that i’ve been carrying around in my head, and well, some of those old dog-eared diaries of mine, that is getting most of my attention these days.  it doesn’t have a name, but i guess i could call it my list of dreams, or the things i dream about experiencing.  as in, what does this feel like, what will i feel like if i make this happen?

it’s a long list, and some would say, kind of a ridiculously impossible to achieve list.  i ran across one version of it yesterday morning after some particularly fantastic news, and just had to laugh.  yep, this type-written, folded in two, sort of stained from some coffee in the 90s list was smiling back at me.  reaching for a red pen, i decided to tick off the things that have happened so far.  surprisingly, delightfully, i made quite a few check marks.

i’m not sure what it is about dreams, or really, hopes and ambitions.  to me, they’re the carrot dangled in front of a rabbit’s nose…the candy luring the tot to climb into the car…the catnip to entice me to reach beyond my little universe and aim as high as i can.  in life, in parenting, in love, in work.

i’m not sure i actually set out specifically in each realm, to control and maneuver straight to the target.  i’m more of a meanderer.  following each shiny penny to wherever it leads me, sure enough, this serpentine journey brings me around the bend, hither and yon, and lands me smack dab in the middle of the moment where i see, omg, i did it.  this came true.  the universe has delivered just what i was hoping for, only some of the time, i even forget i was hoping!

just like the harlequin-draped juggler from a carnival, the plates spin for me in those various categories of my life.  one may fall, one may stop it’s rotation, and one may be spinning in a perfectly balanced triumphant rhythm.

today, this juggler feels the smooth clear happy unfettered perfection, if only for a moment, that taste of look at what my life is, sweet, unbelievable, magic.

07.15.11  today i’m on top of the world, spinning in a beautiful moment of watching my wishes come true

07.14.11  look, i’m not a fan of murder, nor, after reading the biographies of both henry VIII and his wives, of death by guillotine.  however, history is history and i can’t do a darned thing about it.  so let’s focus on the positive!

today is bastille day, a national holiday in france and a pretty good reason the whole world over (or at least in my mason) to celebrate all things french.

i used to own a big beautiful french flag…which i can’t find.  maybe it ran away with my old stars & stripes, both vanished!  so i can’t festoon my house with my alliance francaise…quel damage.  what i will do today, while i pitter and patter around some fantastic work (including a new potential client so exciting i could chew off all of my fingers and toes!) is this:

play only french music, pop the fantastically zany french film ‘8 women’ as work background entertainment, put on my french sailor blue & white striped shirt, perfect with my white shorts…dig up a pair of espadrilles (yes, i know they’re spanish in origin but europe is all a mixed pot so i’m sure there was french influence in their design)….and prepare with a flourish a lovely french dinner for one, with a glass of bubbling magic champagne.  voila!

i’m half french, my mother a purebred.  her people came from france, stopped over in canada for a few hundred years (long enough to fill an entire montreal, quebec phone book with their name), and were hearty stock.  hysterically, we grew up with whispers of french magnificence being whispered into our ears: my mom is terrific at marketing her roots, while referring to my dad’s people from england and ireland in disparaging terms (can you say, shanty irish? omg!).

whatever.  i’m a mutt and that’s great news for me: more to celebrate, more to embrace, and more places to call home.  (i’m going to insert italian in my ancestry just because i want to).

today it’s all about france, ah, lovely lovely france.  a bientot!

07.13.11   when i was 21, my heart leapt when a flower delivery service jalopy pulled into the driveway.  omg!  the doorbell rang, i ran down to take the long white box tied with a black bow… opening the fragrant-smelling cardboard, spotting, of course, a dozen deep red roses & a small jewelry box hiding diamond earrings, that swarthy latin lover!

at 31, mother’s day with one sweet baby and soon another one (let’s call them root canal & wisdom tooth, just for fun), i was given a lovely sweet hand-wrapped box carefully carrying a beautiful gold necklace by a young earnest irishman.  be still my heart!

at 41 (see the pattern, folks?), i’d say that what would get my swoon-on was the night i was escorted to a small table at a french restaurant that was secretly prepared for my arrival by a handsome cowboy, festooned with flowers, sweet sentiments, a shiny little gift in a wooden hand-made box. oh joy!

at 51?  as frank sang, the days of wine and roses?  sure, occasionally,  that sort of romantic fluff comes along, but it seems like the substance of my life is summed up in how gleeful, appreciative and light-headed i feel at this very moment!  the delivery that has just arrived, via two very big important trucks?  a new generator!  adios power-outages, sayonara food left to rot in my freezer, ciao bambino to loss of internet!  these are the days, my friend.  lucky, clearly unspoiled, ridiculously pragmatic me.  swoon!

07.12.11  with a son fresh from a root canal & a daughter packed with ice thanks to a morning spent having her wisdom teeth removed, i’m all about care taking.  not that i don’t tend to my people on a daily basis….but today it’s on call, ring the bell, here comes the chicken broth, mashed potatoes, pudding & smoothies. i only wish i could magic wand away the aches and pain now as swiftly as i used to with cuddles and bedtime stories of all those years ago.

07.11.11  how is it that time plays so many tricks?

for those of us ancients, we can recall a time when two songsters extraordinaire were legally and musically linked.  and how apropos that, on this particular stormy, rainy day all i can think about is the hold that time has on me.  que james taylor and carly simon.

first of all, how cool were they?  sure, that heroine addiction was kind of a drag, and the thought of that smiling face spending time in some den with a needle is disturbing, at best.  but, i’ll beckon my pollyanna sunshiny magic wand and gloss over that series of unfortunate events.

what i’m fascinated with today is, the passage of time.  yes, james, isn’t it a lovely ride?  sliding down, i’ll be gliding down, try not to try to hard, it’s just a lovely ride.  i’m totally with you.  sit back and let it all roll into you one moment at a time, don’t manipulate, don’t try to outfox time: it will always trounce you.  so, breathe.  let it be, don’t stare at the dial, don’t be consumed by the tick tock.

the mrs., however, that uber cool and impossibly earthily gorgeous back in the day singer/songwriter: she’s tapping her foot.  she’s checking the clock.  she’s reaching as far ahead of the moment with a gusto!  she’s chucking dollar bills at old father time saying “get a move on, already!”  yes, anticipation, is keeping me waiting, waiting, waiting.  i hear ya, carly, loud and clear.

so, this morning, i’m up to a bunch of stuff with a few revisions and a few diversions.  those rascal kids are lurking about, and there will be merriment tonight as we watch yet another disastrous episode of the bachelorette.  those hours will fly by, with a whoosh.  disappearing into relaxed drawing mode, the secret of life, all that jazz, enjoying the passage of time.

but the extra hours? leading up to something that’s coming around the bend that is driving me a bit cuckoo in the waiting room?  yep, anticipation, is making me crazy, crazy, crazy.

07.10.11  home is where the heart is, right?

which means i’ve got a heck of a lot of homes, because my heart has been so many places, chameleon-like, suiting my surroundings and setting a squatters stake more times than i can count.

i’m not talking the physical house thing, that goes without saying.  i’ve only owned three houses, and left my stamp pretty much over every single inch of them.  that, then, is a love affair of energy, little ghosts of my younger life, my new little family, the kaleidoscope of ‘guest appearances’ that helped to enhance and build our story.  those crazy loops and whirls of the rollercoaster that revved up and has now splashed us, buoyantly in our sturdy family-bonded amusement park raft, into a lovely, mellow easy country hideaway life.

but that’s now.  where we’ve settled for the time being is a pretty cool place.  it started with an impulsive, kookie vision, traveled via the internet for a ‘we think that’s a great idea’, over to several hundred pounds of drawing paper and way too much ink.  planning, excavating, pouring, unloading, hammering, wrapping up in board and batten and a mindless wild landscaping scheme.  ah, pioneer life with the modern invisible world ethernetted onto our laps.

when i built this house, literally a family affair, i knew that i had to leave another dearly beloved house in our shadows.  closing that door for the last time found me huddled, sobbing and bereft.  a jolly friend by my side, it was what it was.  time for me to go.

the good thing about choosing your next path is that you know you’re getting a prize out of it.  so, leaving should be easy, right?  well, sure, easier than if you’re booted out, but there’s still that little sigh of your little world, played out in those four walls, the sidewalk concrete baby footprints testimony to you actually having lived a life, if only for a while, smack dab where you are.

coming here was a really good idea.  all hearts leapt into the plan and the making of this house.  but the dark harry potter-like ‘he who shall not be named’ period for our old house came just after we left. the proud sturdy hedge that lined the front walk was mercilessly slaughtered; the happily painted farmhouse front door was replaced with some god-awful faux leaded glass subdivision-looking replacement.  the roof? covered with a shiny plastic coppery chunky material; the towering arbor day tree in the side yard, planted 50 years ago by my grade school friend’s big sister?  mowed down to make room for…nothing.  really, the period of the voldemort and his death-eaters made our hearts feel very, very, very heavy.  we mourned our sad house, taken over by people who just didn’t get it.

sitting cheerily (albeit with those repulsive ‘improvements’) on that sunny corner in town, we drive past often, blowing kisses and all silently remembering the ‘us’ that will always be in it.  we’ve just heard that a new little budding family has bought it, and are days from moving in.  the news brought wallops of cheer from my children and me: love is coming home to our home.

hope is an infinitesimal commodity, whether or not you hit a slump and forget for a moment or a day or a year that it really is right there, always, ready for the taking.  there is redemption, there is a new beginning (as redundant as that expression is).  there is closure (omg i hate that one too), there is acceptance, there is moving on, there is roll down the windows, hit the pedal, feel the wind fly through you as you soar on to your next adventure.

knowing that that house, our home, that we love so so so dearly, is now truly going to be loved back, our days here are powered less with guilt for leaving it in our wake, but now chock-full of appreciation for it’s shelter all of those years ago, and the safe belief that we’ve, for now, landed exactly where we belong.

07.09.11  well we all know that paul is the cute one.

yesterday i spent a few hours furiously drawing something for a poster contest.  just saying that makes me think of the early 70s when my bedroom walls were covered with posters.  lucky me that my cool parents didn’t seem to mind the pock-marked walls riddled with thumbtacks!  college walls: no problem.  after my vandalism which was necessary to shroud myself in a cocoon of graphic design of my own choosing, i’d fill the holes with toothpaste to outwit the college goons who’d inspect our dorms at the end of the year.

so, because i seem to live on the internet, i came across a call for admissions on talenthouse.com.  apparently, sir paul was offering money, a signature, lifetime fame, a house in wales, and a marriage proposal to the lucky soul who was clever enough to catch is eye with a poster design.  hey, jude, i’m in!

the truth of it, i don’t care about winning, or the prizes.  well, wouldn’t mind being the missus, because how cool would that be for my kids to brag about with their friends?  i’m always looking for a way to elevate myself in their eyes so they don’t pass me by some year as a boring bag of rubbish.

no, what compelled me to do this, spending hours yesterday morning furiously drawing, blazing beatles tunes into my brain, is that i just absolutely love this guy.  in the old seven connect-a-dots to kevin bacon game (why kevin bacon?  couldn’t the game makers have picked someone a bit more hip or iconic?), the fact that i can doodle my homage to this guy (paul, not kevin…nothing personal), scan it, shoot it up onto a website, and hope, think, impossibly, that the cute fellow who launched a million crushes might actually just look at it?

how could i pass that up?  really!

so mulling over why i care, why this matters, it occurred to me with the deep stirrings of an adolescent girl (ignore those wrinkles, people, i’m the same goof inside), those lads and paul in particular showed me all about love.  and i knew, early on, that i wanted in.  for a lifetime.

my siblings and i used to be the beatles, setting up in one of the rooms in our house, pots & pans for ringo’s drums, spare guitars for george, john and paul, and an upright vacuum for our microphone. since their were five of us, my unfortunate little brother was left to portray the role of the avid audience.  each and every time.

listen, just listen to “something in the way she moves me”…”it won’t be long yeh, yeh, till i belong to you”…”i’ll pretend that i’m kissing, the lips i am missing”…and just pour my little heart on the floor and watch it beat beat beat when i hear “i give her all my love, that’s all i do.  and if you saw my love, you’d love her too”.  wrap up the whole package, in later years, with that bouncy wings tune, “silly love songs”….i mean, come on!

it’s just the magic voice (it’s not that john’s not great, but paul just had me at hello), purring those sweet lyrics (the later druggy stuff scared me, i have selective preferential beatle-mania & wing-dom), showing me the way.  yes, i know that they weren’t penned for me, nor was i any competition for those twiggy-like gorgeous british creatures they were always posing with.  though, truthfully, i’ll never get that whole yoko thing.

my affair is with the emotions they ignited.  love sounded so good.

so, i spent half of the day drawing, scribbling, thinking, listening, remembering, longing.  an obvious ode to the ‘revolver’ album (you kids, just google it), it matched my style of furious pen on paper and it flew out with a ferocious passion.

the elusive love.  that perfection of a boy singing those plaintive words to me.  hey, i can only imagine.  right?

07.08.11  today is all about today, although in a conversation yesterday, i was mulling over what i thought my actual yesterdays were going to be all about.

sometimes, just for fun, i create insanely convoluted sentences.  it’s clear i avoid the use of uppercase letters, mostly because it’s visually cleaner without…but it also slows down my rapid fire typing.  this writing gig, it only works if i can get the words out as quickly as my mind conjures up this stuff, right?

so the thought about my yesterday, rather, what my initial vision of what my future was going to look like looks nothing, and i mean, nothing, like what my life is now.  the only element that is true to both the fantasy/imagined and the reality/actual is that i’m in both of them.

sometimes it hurts my brain and heart to think of how much i wanted to pursue a long ago dream.  it hurts mostly when i watch the oscars, sitting amidst a delicious feast, sipping a glass of champagne, cozy on my couch.  it hurts because my big fat plan for my big wonderful life included a quick departure from the midwest to l.a. whereby i would swiftly dazzle everyone with my wit, creativity and natural vibe for really good films, eventually run a major studio, and just lavish in the technicolor world of conceiving and creating movies.  easy.  i mean, it is exactly how it was going to play out. go ahead, laugh… but brandon tartikoff read my letter of self-promotion, circa 1982, and said, “that girl is going places.”

well, he was right. i was going to….chicago.  to step one step ahead, timidly, and slowly, uncertain and without a bit of vision in my sight lines.  plan one fell through the cracks, and plan live and see what happens took over, and here i am.  here i am.  here i am.

happy.  sated.  curious still.  creative always.  dazed and amazed by the three children i conjured up along the way.  thrilled and so entertained by the twists and turns that come my way, seek me out, like hot missiles zooming straight at me and i grab a hold and zoom into the experience, warmed and delighted by my family and friends who keep cheering me on, keep saying things like look at you, look: you’re going places.

it’s a funny thing.  i’m right smack dab where i started.  but why is it that i feel like i’ve roamed the world, conquered the stars, lived a thousand lives, sailed and built and danced and made the impossible a part of my existence?

sure, it looks totally unlike anything i imagined.  but you know what?  it sure feels right.

07.07.11  oh my gosh, i can’t seem to snap out of this lazy, cozy dream state this morning, despite the strong gallons of coffee i’ve guzzled down.

there’s something so lovely and floaty about summer.  which translates to not as productive or focused in my work as i could or should or would be if the conditions were different.

since we all know i work in my house (i’m not a fan of that cliche phrase, “i work from home”….i don’t even think it makes sense….), rather, i work from my laptop, sketchpad, counter top, lap (meaning, sketchpad or laptop literally on my lap, therefore, “i work from lap” which convolutes this paragraph even further!)…temptations arrive, especially in the languid summer.

how on earth can i sit at my desk, working away, while, just steps away, my house thrums hums and drums with the total constant fun of three very cool older kids (i still refer to them as ‘teens’ for shortcut purposes but clearly noel, approaching 21, is no longer a teen…), and the revolving door of a cast of supporting guest stars: their very cool, funny, curious, energetic friends.

i can’t.  i have to pop up to see what the fun is all about, or seeing a line of hungry sleepy kids sitting at the island expectantly, throw down my pen & paper and whip up a huge batch of maple smoked bacon, bagels and an omelette.

the mob of teens meanders in the lazy afternoon out to the pool, or to a matinee, or hey let’s all go to barnes & noble, how on earth can i resist the pull to go play with them too?  and forget about early to bed and early to rise: this mom is popping the popcorn and divvying up the midnight snacks when someone pops in a late night movie to all watch together on our fantastic sectional.  even the dog and cat sleep late here: we’re a bunch of night owls.

it occurred to me this morning that, while i do have self-discipline and structure in me to the point that i can run a business ‘in my house’, i absolutely have to have tons of fun while doing so.  and that’s the point: i don’t go off to an isolated office a drive or commute away to focus on work, then fight traffic in the evening to sneak a glimpse of my kids and my life from the nocturnal lens of that life.

nope, i’m right here, plunked in the middle of it: my work exists within my life which, happily and with all the sprinkles of zany and kookie on the side, consists of the people in this house at this moment on this road in this town in this state in this country in this universe in this lovely, lazy july late morning.

07.06.11  i love that i discovered that sneaky trick the other night.  sketch, snap photo w/phone, email to laptop, tidy it a bit, upload here, voila.

this morning’s magic making is happening on my deck, overlooking the pasture & the red barn.  i’ve got my strong cup o joe, barefoot stretched out and toes wiggling.  the day is clear, a bit cooler than the inferno of the last weekend, and hear the chatter of birds everywhere.

i’m not a bird watcher, maybe sort of a bird listener, but in no way am i qualified or trained to know much about them.  i know that i love the sounds that they make, am amazed at the freedom that their wings allow, and am dazzled by the colors and patterns and reflection that come sneaking from those layers of feathers.  pretty cool creatures.

the barn swallows are having a bit of a turf moment with me.  i don’t feel very threatening, but i guess from my perch of a striped butterfly chair, with glasses, a laptop, a sketch book, a menacing looking pen, and these neon hot pink j. crew shorts, they sense an invader.  so, they’re swooping past me, litte tom cruise jets from that movie with kelly mcgillis.  not sure why that movie gets lumped into fan favorites all the time, that repeated love song alone drives me crazy!  but, the swallows are circling and sailing by, closer, then farther away…a little ‘i’m watching you lady’ game that’s both amusing and a little scary.

so i don’t end up like suzanne pleshette’s character in ‘the birds’, i may grab my wares and just go down the deck to another spot.  keep the swallows happy, and keep my eyes!

happy wednesday, it’s more sketching for me with a touch of summer lazy reading for a later treat.

07.05.11  gosh, the world’s longest holiday weekend just ended, and i’m feeling bereft.

i plan to spend the entire day daydreaming about yesterday’s idyllic day sailing along the chicago shore, enjoying quippy conversation, chilled corona, and the best trout spread i’ve ever had.

even though i’m working, and tending to those cute kids (sporting the same new layer of sun & wind kissed skin), i will only be thinning of big country.

07.04.11  well here it is, the 4th of july!

i’m feeling all stars and beginnings.  after all, that’s what this day is all about, right?  the start of something new?

daring, risking life and love, battling the greats of britain by hand, land and sea.

can any many of us really imagine what that feeling is?  standing up to the big power, standing up against injustice, just say no to bullies, ride astride a horse, galloping through the night with the flickering light of the moon as your only guide.

it’s freaky scary to even consider how this country came to be.  and every single one before this.

i’m a big fan of history.  it’s an awesome red flag of things to repeat, or avoid at all costs.  to fathom the sturdy, dedicated, brave ancestors of ours carrying on this kind of commitment, their beliefs bonded and banded together in order to create a just nation, indivisible, you know the drill.  or at least i hope you do.

today is the fourth of july.  it’s the day they signed the paper, names emblazoned on a ginormous piece of parchment, laboriously scribed, the pledge of a few to lead millions.  talk about trust.  and faith.  and solidarity.

give me some of that, will you please?  take a lesson from those founding fellows: stick to something you believe in.  invoke your people to pledge allegiance to something wonderful and important.  cast aside the plumes & filigreed gold baubles and reach for something vital, pulsing, inspiring.

for this day?  by land, by sea, by gosh: we’re going sailing and then to picnic under the bursting pop pop pop of the night sky ablaze with the wonder of fireworks, glad.  shining.  proud.

07.02.11  well we all know how important music is, and for this weekend of merriment & celebration, i’m trying to play the appropriate background music.

john philip sousa just isn’t cutting it.

i remember the years and years of outdoor patio parties that i’d host.  twinkle lights and chandeliers hanging from my trees, the immortal clink of cocktail glasses as friends clustered in hilarity and conversation.  platters and plates and tiered structures of antipasti, treats and sweets.  every possible ingredient for a sparklingly wonderful summer party.

now, i know that i’m supposed to get my ‘patriotism’ on, and as someone who’s actually seen our nation’s fourth of july parade and viewed the fireworks from the steps of the lincoln memorial, i can vouch for my affinity for all things americana.

but here’s the thing.  all i can muster enthusiasm for is my scintillating mix of accordian-infused tunes.  give me dean martin crooning out ‘volare’, the urgent longing of ‘o sole mio’ and a jazzy version of ‘arrivederci, roma’.  how can i justify this?

ha, that’s a cinch.

we’re the great melting pot, the fabulous land of misfit toys, the bursting forth new world filled with brave and daring hearts who risked life, heart and soul to jam into freighters, steamers, ocean liners, pan am propeller planes, rafts and outboards to get over here to our side of the world.

so, i say, bring on the accordion music.  embrace our people, their colors, their homelands, their customs, their accents, their cooking, their celebrations, their stories.

a one, a two….

07.01.11  late breaking news: my power is back on…after another humbling, goofy 20 hours in the dark, without internet, unable to open my fridge, and reading by candlelight last night.

when one is forced to do anything but what one would normally do, wow, isn’t it lovely?

here are my moments:

sitting on my deck in the pitch black of night, sipping a hearty cup of coffee, watching a preliminary fireworks show provided by the wind, the wild branches, the criss crossed electrical wires: boom, sparkle, pop.  brilliant.

morning, drive off to starbucks to buy much needed coffee.  met a wonderful new friend while sipping my cappuccino.  late to get my caffeine fix, i, in a rare moment, did little of the talking, and managed to have a great time anyway.

the entire afternoon: welcoming the army, and i am not exaggerating, of com-ed and tree trimming trucks clogging my driveway and private drive.  men after men, hard hats, shiny reflective vests, all looking stern and thoughtful.  the plan?  tree guys cut down bad branches, com ed guys stand around and visit for 3 hours.  and what a profound conversation ensued.  really.   delightful!

the late afternoon: the dying bars on my iphone compelled me to drive around to power it up….my only link to the outside world of the 21st century.  i invited my cutest dog ever, astro, to come along for the ride.

remembering that i have run out of dog food, we pulled through the mcdonald’s drive-thru so i could get him a hamburger & a glass of water.  it’s a hot day!

next stop, a little park along the river in the next town.   sort of an old fashioned place to match our 19th century day.  sketching along the river, astro tied to my toe, sharing water and the lovely wind that came flying by, i found myself in a reverie of just being, doing nothing, cut off from the entire world and loving every minute.

the day of wandering wrapped up with a thought-provoking, lively conversation with a hobo-looking engineer who was walking his daughter’s dog.  having a thing salvador dali, he launched into a fascinating discourse.  i urged him to see woody allen’s latest movie.

then, inexplicably, several french people bicycled by, asking me to direct them to a trail that followed the river south.

not knowing my way around this particular town, i yelled back to my new friend, bill.  he wandered over, as i chatted a bit in french to the french, and together (bill was a little hard of hearing…) pointed them in the right direction.

wow, full as the moon, happy as a lark, what a day out norman rockwell.  and how apropos, since i’m on my americana fourth of july kick.

a slice of apple pie is all that’s missing…

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