m wood pen

freelance illustrator: have pen, will travel

11.9.12

i am in no way sponsoring skipping past thanksgiving, as it happens to be pretty high up there in my list of favorite times of year. however, based on the obviously christmas-themed illustration that tops this post, i do have my mind on the jingle bells a bit early this year. the reason? well, two.

still over the moon about seeing my north pole illustrations in the world of garnet hill…even more delighted to learn that the throngs loved the style so much, the bedding has sold out entirely!

the second reason for an early santa claus decor over here in my world?

i’m opening my heavy wood coach doors to hundreds of enthusiastic local gals, along with twenty or so uber-creative friends, for a bit of a bizarre bazaar: in one week! so, as i blast dominic halpin’s christmas album, and create a merry playlist on all possible musical devices here, i’m cutting felt, framing prints, packing notecards, stringing lights, setting up frosty, painting cedar blocks with nestling pines…and anything else you can possibly image one does to prepare for a flood of hundreds of christmas enthusiasts, many of whom have been cheering me on since the beginning.

so, with that, i’ve got to turn up the volume and get to more merrymaking….

happy friday.

11.5.12

i’m beginning to get the gist of twitter.

initially, i am sure my presence there was akin to an uninvited guest milling about the drinks table in a room where everyone spoke a different language. i would show up, trying to look my best, offering up a bon mots or two, but really feeling like i was both in the wrong party and also speaking an alien tongue.

like all ‘how to…’ books, i eschewed the advice of sham internet carpetbaggers who offer tips of how to get 20k twitter followers, as instruction manuals to me are tedious and certainly, in the twittersphere, their existence to me suggests a total lack of authenticity.

anyway, oddly enough, i felt my stride come along with the tempo of conversations. just like in the real world, face to face world, the world i spend more decades in, i’m afraid, then this new horizon of virtual living.

what happens is just that: a conversation. a shared topic. downton abbey. scotland travel. travel of any kind. the election that is a veritable fork in the road. a storm that, even with warning, has devastated an entire region of the land we all love.

so, it’s not a foreign language after all, this short-hand, stenographer-like worldwide 24/7 conversation….a ticker-tape of words that hint, fleetingly, of the actual lives behind them.

10.30.12

the pressure and news is almost too much to bear! hellish sandy pounding away at the shores of our beloved nyc and the entire eastern shores: the tweets kept me riveted last night until far too late! and in a ridiculous alter-existence, smattered in between one devastating report after another (hospitals being evacuated, fdny unable to reach burning rockaway, crane dangling on w 57th, con ed explosion) was a twitter weekly conversation known as ‘garden chat’ which sandwiched remarks more suitable for a tea trolley with a juniper-infused sweets tray from avid green thumbers (jonquils, autumn harvests, rose trimming, someone’s college son who is pursuing a theatrical career, a new puppy): the clash of realities started playing tricks with my brain and the expression ‘dual realities’ showed it’s true character.

on top of it, conjuring up an image suitable to munch’s ‘silent scream’, one fellow who i follow decried, “and there’s a presidential election in one week!”: it was just all too much.

the universe has an uncanny way of communicating. here, whispers of sweet gardens and jubilation over a bumper-crop of hyacinths; there, the jaws of hell and parting of the red sea cripple our very own big apple. and then this, the side show: politicians running around, flapping arms and saying, “look at me, choose me, love me”?

how silly and small and ridiculous humankind seems in moments like this where the ‘davids’ stand awed and humbled by the ‘goliaths’ of nature and it’s fury.

10.28.12

and so my sunday night wraps up with a new episode of downton abbey: the loveliest sort of way to wrap up a crisp and productive autumn weekend. the sensibilities, morals, manners and considerations of that time gone by conjure up my wish that much of that world remained here still. granted, i wouldn’t be able to tap away at my laptop if it were so, which means i’d have to wager a trade: all of the fancy, mind-boggling technology which whizzes life past us in such time-warped speed for the savoring, dainty, life & time spent in a more human and realistic scale: yes, i think i’d say yes.

m wood balmoral

10.16.12

so much to do and so little time! college tours trump all else this month as i pack the car once more for a little whirlwind trip with my high school gal. this week’s visit has an added bit of fun, as our pals have nabbed tickets for us to hear the president speak on the very hills where i studied years ago. so along with the rolling hills of iowa, the fabulous friendly people, a visit to a pig farm and the tour of a quaint liberal arts college, we’re in for quite a ride.

10.9.12

i’m just about fully up to snuff after a hilarity-infused weekend with some indescribable wackiness as i feted my 30th college reunion with a bevy of friends. still sore from laughing.

this morning i sketched this rabbit. i’m working on something really amazing, and the idea of memory encircled me. the more years i live, and of course, the reunion weekend was especially indicative of this new theory of mine, the more easily i can visualize the layers of time as simply the clustered barnacles on the underbelly of a great big ship.

a word, an object, an image, a song: each and every one can conjure up imagery that is blusteringly riddled with a potpourri of potential targets of memory. rabbit. that movie with james caan that i think was a book too naughty to be allowed to read. rabbit. easter chocolate bunny, sitting in the corner of my parents circa 60s living room biting the head off of even though forbidden to eat anything an hour before receiving communion in the imminent trip to sunday mass. rabbit. driving home from wisconsin with my mom in the 70s and pulling over impetuously to buy a pet that later, surely enraged by spending a life in a cage rather than a farm, learned to growl, quite menacingly, at me. rabbit. a schnazzy new vw car to rival and eventually replace, for a few generations, the lovable but death-trap bug.

see what i mean?

one word doth a thousand memories make. the longer i love, the more clustered and varied and thick becomes the labyrinth of the rolodex of my mind.

so, the original thought as i sat this morning to type? not a clue. my rabbit turned musing carried me far, far away to happy lands and easy days. as it should be, as is my mind, travel beyond just this moment as readily and enjoyably as a stroll down a hilly autumn woods.

10.3.12

my early plan in life to not follow a plan in life has turned out to have provided the best life imagined, although, for not planning i can’t really imagine, right? one path leads to the next, a friendly wave and here come more great folks, great opportunities, ideas, adventures.

makes me laugh. makes me smile. however i ended up here i’ll never know, but the view is spectacular, the challenges terrific, the opportunities, one of a kind.

9.28.12

no deep thinking for me today. a stranger’s loss confounds and saddens me. life changes in an instant, that’s what they say, and they know what they’re talking about. friday finds our small town preparing for homecoming, which means i’ve got sightings and cheering with a tot or two of mine, donning school colors and channeling every cliche in this much needed and wonderful americana autumn high school football diorama.

9.27.12

i didn’t particularly understand the creative mind until fairly recently. that is, it took a really long time for me to accept, embrace and feel comfortable in my own artistic skin. analogy of course works best much of the time, so here goes: drop an orb into a great big vat of rit dye, and certainly it’s going to change color, soaking in the hue at least skin deep, perhaps more. so, say, a ping pong ball: hollow, the outside now reflecting the surroundings it spent it’s life immersed in, and that’s all there is to that.

others, like those tidy mozzarella ovalini that my daughters love as a treat, eventually, they soak up the entire bit of their environment (imagine either that bland water or the rich flavor of spices and olive oil), so much so that their heart, soul and essence are matching richly or otherwise the environment that they’ve been floating wrapped in.

in my case, when i think of a long beginning spent as one of a kind, as in, quirky, creative, overly imaginative, artistic….take me, more like a malted milk ball. imagine that’s me, spending a couple of decades marinating in the vat of delicious, lovely chocolate….pretty environs, smooth existence, lovely shell, etc….but that inside there was something else, something robust, edgy, something with a bite.

the thicker the outer coating, the longer it took me to taste that inner bit, the embracing of which came yes, over time and life lived and evolution spun, but also because of the touchstone of recognizing members of my own tribe. physically still living, so much of the time, in that warm melted chocolate vat of sameness, i’m going to toss major credit to this vast electronic world that exists a finger-touch away.

the comfort of seeing my people, the ease of ‘getting’ it, finding that factory of clever that churns out that crispy, flavorful, inspirational malted milk essence that, for the purpose of this analogy, means= like me, is soothing to my soul.

don’t get me wrong, the warmth of the chocolate, the existence of this other kind of animal, i’m a big fan of the rest of everyone. well, not bad guys, but a classification that would, in a world of artists, be labelled, “other”.

does this make any sense whatsoever? sometimes when i speak in analogies i find my children rolling their eyes…again, probably something that comes from my overactive imagination, flowery envisioning seems more natural than succinct words at times to illustrate an idea.

see, that’s it. illustrate, describe, imagine, create, see, make, conjure. i’ve found my people, on a teeny plug in device that sits on my lap, in my pocket, on my dashboard, on the coffee table, in my backpack, in my fingers.

and am grateful to be in such grand (virtual) company after a wait of a lifetime.

9.25.12

we didn’t go out to restaurants very often when i was growing up. so on the rare chance that i found myself at a freshly set table staring at the myriad of goodies listed on a menu, i wowed at the chance to order a club sandwich. something about those layers fascinated me: i’m sure i thought i was getting more than only one persons share of food. and as someone who eventually became adept at space planning and design, i’m certain that the sheer tidiness and structure of the thing called to me: quartered, stacked, tidy triangles assembled ‘just so’ on the buffalo china place of all restaurants in the 60s and 70s, and finished off with a jaunty festive bedazzled toothpick!

i took my children on an overseas adventure last month, their first. (i don’t know how else to refer to them: they’re not really children any more…2 in college, 1 nearly out of high school…’big kids’ sounds crass and conjures up images of overfed baby goats…) i’d been to the uk, europe, italy, et al two previous times, quite ages ago, and found that i’d fed my wanderlust and longing for those aged, wonderful cultures through the meals i’ve created; music that has been my personal soundtrack; films whose subtitles we’ve all labored through; stage i’ve set in my quirky house; and most vividly, the sketches that i’ve conjured up.

this morning, i popped over to my europe sketch file and took a long look at this whimsical sketch of the champs elysee. brimming with busy little cars as they skedaddle up and down the famed boulevard. (all of the cars, of course, are quite small in europe: my friend last month shrieking that a hired hyundai compact suv was ‘gigantic’ as she dodged oncoming motorists and at one point, a cow!).

but like that club sandwich of yore, this little sketch layers so much within it’s tidy frame.

years ago, flash back to my little house in the village, a paris wind blew through my window and sent me imagining on paper. i’d always wanted to write and illustrate my own children’s book, and this little french vignette was meant to inspire me further in my story development. one thing or another, most likely life with some grade schoolers, a middle schooler, soccer, school performances, earning a living, tending to a series of adopted senior citizen dogs…i never finished the book.

but in between those dashing cars and swaying trees, i hear the back gate swing open and a posse of boys calling through the kitchen window for my son. i see my two younger daughters tugging their chef hats onto their earnest, lovely little heads to conquer a new baking project in our italian-bistro-esque renovated farmhouse kitchen. i hear the brakes of the ups truck pull up to our front sidewalk and the thump thump thump of tom’s brown boots trailing down the steps with his arms filled with packed and labeled boxed notes. the creek, slam of the corner blue postal box interjects most of the day with it’s cymbol-like clang.

accordian music wafting through the air, i’m cuddled on my great big couch in our newly built country barn loft kitschy house, watching my son leap and hide behind the barn and trees outside, chasing his high school friends as they carry on yet another airsoft battle. next to me are two adolescent gals, getting zippier and more beautiful by the minute, yet never tired, ever, ever, of popping a vhs tape of some of our ‘let’s take a trip for free’ movies: hip teen favs, “passport to paris” and “what a girl wants”; classics, “charade” and “to catch a thief”…and i can hear them, their voices slightly higher, half a decade younger, earnestly talking about ‘some day’ when they see paris, london, europe…some day…for the first time.

then, turning away, i look again at this little painting. i’m in a mercedes taxi, cause that’s what they do in france, racing past the parisian lighted treasures, tucked in tidily between two young women, my view the brilliant and majestic arc de triompe and the back of my son’s head, now a man with a trimmed beard and sparkling, all-seeing eyes…as he and the taxi driver ferry us home after a hilarious and unforgettable night all together along the seine and clambering down the steps of the eiffel tower.

and now, i’m stalling in getting my work day started, caught in this self-imposed reverie of the magic that whirls through me as i sit and stare at a silly sketch that i whipped up, gosh, probably ten years ago. memory is one powerful sorcerer, it’s mate, imagination. they’re my constant spirit guides, best co-pilots and sweetest bedtime story tellers.

this is my life, my own club sandwich, impossible to think of something as only being ‘one’ thing with this mind of mine, i see the layers, a game with time travel that costs nothing, and offers everything, happily swirling past, present, future, maybes, what ifs, all together tidily stacked and sandwiched, held together by those brightly colored toothpicks, i pull my chair up to the table, relishing the menu.

9.21.12

new wool scarf from scotland: check

my daughters’ hunter boots: check

a jaunty “teamgb” london2012 olympics cap

quirky bright yellow umbrella from paris: check

okay, chilly autumn day: come and get me, i’m ready for you!

9.20.12

i need more coffee but there’s a purring kitten on my lap…

9.18.12

dress for success! which in my studio life means: baggy next boyfriend jeans (a last minute souvenir from london), well-worn leather loafers, and a keen zip-up j. crew cardigan. autumn is here! the day has already run several laps around me in delightfully creative ways. my sketches of europe, however, are going on hold, as i’ve been commissioned to hop down (figuratively) to buenos aires for an architectural illustration, and then closer still to capture the golden dome of notre dame in pen and ink.

in other news, my very fat but darling dog, astro, is keeping his stress levels down despite his having an appointment with the veterinarian two hours from now. they’re the same team who had to perform liposuction on him to finish stitching him up a few years ago after he was mauled by a trio of rottweilers. i may have to lure him into the place with a fresh-from-wisconsin cheese curd. (i think we’ve identified the culprit in his weight issues).

when all of that is taken care of, there’s a conference call (sounds way more important than a mere phone call) from a great client to discuss some sort of collaboration: exciting!

and, in homage to my very stylish set up in my cottage industry lifestyle, i must remember to flip the laundry and call college girl who just pulled an all-nighter with a wake up call to stir her up in time for her night class.

isn’t this a perfectly marvelous day!

9.17.12

i’m one year away from an empty nest, although, believe me, there’s plenty of other stuff here to keep my nest overflowing! but in the full-time parenting sense, yes, the countdown officially is here: child 1 & 2 are settled in cozy college city apartments, and my youngest child is 17 and a half, has already applied to her retinue of colleges, went to school dressed like tom cruise from ‘risky business’, and, oh yeah, drove herself there.

the shutter ‘open for business’ of my 24/7 “mother” job is showing signs of needing sprucing up. i’m less pulled onto the parenting spot by the very early bits of business as i was when all three of them were tots and babies, and i’m fine with that. i remind myself daily that the goal is to groom, mold, encourage, cheer on, guide, push, hold and love ‘em until they’re as ready as a perfectly nested, roosted egg: off, up and away.

so what is it that i am really doing this year? what’s the plan???

soaking it all up. drinking it all in. gulping it all down…even the fitsy-pies: give me a crabby teen, or even, remotely via text, a surly college kid: the exchange and the problem and the solution and the little bit of a string still there, honestly yes: it’s nice to be in on whatever simmers and swims around these budding grown ups that sprung from their parents imaginations.

my wagging the carrot of a long trip to europe in front of my kids was both giving and receiving: i wanted more than anything to help catapult them over the atlantic ocean for the first times as, honestly, it was time. and, cue the accordion music man here: “la vie en rose” as background music to a grainy-captured image of four similar-looking people wandering down a lamp-light street: i wanted time with them, free of distraction, cell-coverage and normal life. all mine!

selfishly, i wanted to watch the whole thing unravel, as at this point in my nearly 22 years of parenting: i get it.

time flies. life moves forward. it’s not a moat or a whirlpool or an orbit. it’s a conveyer belt, an escalator, a forward-only moving treadmill and once you’ve scurried past a moment, it’s disappearing from view in your rear view mirror.

so, lapping up the moments, staring and delighting in their nearly every move, i lucked out big time by spending 2 and a half straight weeks with three incredible, hilarious, adventurous, goofy, sometimes-moody, open-minded, well-dressed, curious, tall, smart, lovely, funny, hungry people.

passports in hand, stamped to prove we’d been where we were, (along with about 5000 pictures for my nostalgia-filled slide shows), it’s just a microcosm of their lives that have overlapped with mine: for now, we’re just about all moving into those little individual pockets of our own lives, the official cluster life that i’ve so blissfully lived with my children ebbing closer to it’s finale, yes, i’m soaking it up.

the poor thing! this morning as i sipped my coffee and she grabbed her backpack to zip off to beat the early morning school bell, she found me staring at her, just staring, so much so, that she laughed and impersonated me. “i’m just thinking”, was my weak, unconvincing alibi.

“no, mom, you were staring. you do it all the time.”

and then, with a laugh and a kiss, she was out the door.

9.16.12

it’s a weekend to rejoice, as i stay insanely distracted so as not to feel the pain of missing the premiere episode of “downton abbey, season 3″ which, as well all know, airs tonight in the uk.

i’ve been sketching like a whirling dervish, and today’s bike ride and lazy cozy sunday reward feels terrific. i still have my stack of notebooks and pens stacked nearby, of course, as i have yet another fabulous new client who is so enthusiastic and wildly imaginative and supportive. the extra bit of weekend work seems like a party! there’s so much happiness around, i feel like we could break into song at any moment, like some cheesy musical.

next up, googling itv and finding some way to watch the the downton goings on via the internet: i can’t possibly wait til january!

9.13.12

today i noticed the most welcome chill in the air, and happily grabbed my noa noa gay scarf from paris! feeling thrilled to be, once and for all, through with the horrid heat of summer, i rushed off for a morning outing. in a word: happy. and to accentuate the point, i treated myself to a batch of chopped liver from my favorite deli, an experience that always makes me wish i was jewish.

brewing some fresh coffee, i’m set to tackle an afternoon’s worth of work, invigorated daily by the satisfaction i’ve found this year, thanks to some pretty exciting new clients, and some pretty fabulous memories of august adventure.

9.12.12

yoga. if you knew me, you’d see how preposterous this is.

9.11.12

today is a lousy, horrible, awful, heartbreaking day. i’d thought to add one of my simple twin tower sketches to this page just now, but felt more compelled to sketch something warming, safe, loving, cozy. i think we all could use a big dose of that today. hugs all around.

9.7.12

yesterday: red letter day. not actually a red letter, but a super wonderful exciting unexpected email from a super cool source. fingers crossed, except when drawing schematics, that this project takes off and hits the skys. have i said lately how much i love my job?

9.6.12

i met some colleagues yesterday for lunch, something that’s pretty rare in my universe. a reason to put on something besides my ripped true religion jeans, tidy up the hair a bit, and venture into the city for some grown up chat with fellow creatives. yummy.

my work-a-day world has a pace that fits into life with growing children (is there a better word for people that are now stretching into adulthood?), a house to manage, a dog to keep alive, a cat to coax into socializing, and a newly inherited kitten who is currently asleep on my lap. so an outing, for me, is a treat.

so, yesterday, i set off for this lunch, but of course, since it was ‘on the way’, i first loaded the very big car stuffed-full of the accoutrements that my college duo needed for their new city apartments. note: take advil for drive as back now aching from much heavy lifting.

dropping off my high school daughter (who held back a snarl due to my swiping the car that she typically drives), i found npr on the radio and hit the highway. a bit jittery from not having enough coffee, i pulled into starbucks for a triple jolt to snap into driving-mode. my typical early mornings back at the ranch welcome the day in a much slower, gentler, quieter pace!

traffic didn’t disappoint, so i was able to listen to the fascinating story on the radio without interruption.

pulling into lincoln park, the invasion of normandy: citystyle, began: unload stuff up two flights for daughter; unload stuff up one flight for son; zoom to trader joe’s to stock up two apartment refrigerators (helps to insure that my monthly food allowance doesn’t end up at the local pub); deliver said groceries to one, then the other, apartment.

breathe!

with a bit of time to wait before the meet, greet & eat, i found yet another starbucks, reloaded on some more caffeine, and sat at an outdoor table sketching madly for a big deadline. it felt a bit odd to be out and about doing my work, but eventually i relaxed and was happily drawing a vintage times square vignette, inspired by the extremely loud traffic tearing past my little table.

on, finally, after seemingly 200 hours of wakeful maneuvers that morning alone, to my lunch.

a happy time, a casual pair, and conversation that dipped from professional to personal and beyond, with hopes of a future collaboration, i wrapped up my city adventure, eventually, grateful for the fun but even more grateful that i’m not fighting traffic every day; not compelled to rush rush rush to get to where i work.

no matter what, the two lives meet, intersect, flavor one another, leaving me free of ever having to choose just one. work, live, live, work: it’s the patchwork of this life of mine, stitching clients, children, grocery shopping, travel, dinner and a tv night all together, magnificently!

no, despite this kitten literally attacking my hands as i type, and knowing that in a few hours i’ll be back in the kitchen simmering pulled pork for an early dinner with my high school gal, i’m swimming in appreciation for the work that i do, in the house that i do it in.

9.2.12

misty morning has coaxed me into today. i forgot how lovely a quiet slow morning can be. rather than strike when the creative iron is hot, i’m off to, inexplicably, help design a 21st of september ‘earth, wind & fire’ party, and then dash to ord for a planned assignation as courier to a pile of stuff we left in surrey. you may as well not script your life, i’ve finally realized. the bits ‘offstage’ create the most fun of all.

9.1.12

if it’s september, it must be autumn. school bells have called the kids back into formation, the last sigh of emptying summer suitcases has murmured it’s last peep, and my desk, pens, paper, paints & prismacolors beckon. here we go.

8.30.12

equilibrium finally returning…but the embers of travel adventure are smoldering just beneath the surface.

8.27.12

time flies when you’re missing europe and all of it’s deliciousness!

8.20.12

wow, around, across, over and beyond!  just back from a dizzyingly wonderful adventure with my three over the top amazing kids: feel luckier than ever to have wandered across the atlantic to explore england, scotland and france together.  clearly, i never made it near this blog, and was, in fact, happily unplugged for most of the trip. thank you at&t for not crossing borders as i wasn’t even tempted to fight it: letting go and being where we were, in that cliche moment, was sheer heaven.

back with new and exciting creative work waiting for me, i’ll leap back in to life here as i know it, refreshed and refilled and refueled with the delightful residual flakes of wandering dusting through my every pore.

7.31.12

and we’re off….a bit of running around, hugging pets & people goodbye, and son a mad dash to ohare international airport, bound for heathrow and our kookie britain, scotland & france adventure.  will be posting sketches every now and then, but mostly soaking up the glory in an old-fashioned way: diary, experience, sensory immersion in every way….cheers!

7.28.12

wow, around the corner and we’ll be there. watching the olympics opening ceremony last night with my dog and two cats, i had surreal chills from both a late summer cold & the realization that, in a matter of days, my children and i will be there smack dab in the middle of it all.

i’m not a big athlete (though used to be), but i’ve always been a fan of the olympics, and most definitely, the opening ceremonies.  the big world becoming small, the show of love and fraternal support, the mosh-pit of thousands and millions and i guess billions of people literally coming together, momentarily, in a joyous, inspiring, simple, pure spirit: gets me weeping every time….every single time.

when i saw those green hills, designed by genius and big-hearted danny boyle last night, trudged into the victorian, industrial and modern ages, i was swept among the current of my lifetime of anglophilia: take me there, let me feel your history, let my children see the place where there people lived for centuries, wash me in accents, attitudes, jargon, double-decker bus rides, jammed into the tube, strolling along the thames, whispers of monarchs and townspeople long gone, their ghosts lingering gladly for all of us to gobble up.

i can’t wait. i probably can’t blog, but i will post some impromptu sketches along the way, via my smart phone, a free wifi spot, and some rough iphone editing.

no matter: i’m dipping back in time on purpose, so won’t be dragging my modern world along for the ride.  there’s plenty of techno fast lane living back here for when we return.

for now, it’s float back in time, feel different ways of life, see civilization from ancient points of view.

wow.

7.25.12

carried out enormous family reunion. check.

feted darling daughter for her 20th birthday. check.

encouraged & oversaw issues related to son finding new apartment in the city. check.

dealt with new kitty, behavior management (spray bottle of water), and several vet visits. check.

aided and abetted daughter with new apartment furniture & fittings acquisitions. check.

hosted fab gals weekend with dear college friends. check.

worked, despite the continual interruptions provided by life. check.

it’s been an over the top summer with one moment clogging the next: kind of unusual for me.  maybe it’s the ages of my children, and the transitions that are vying for their attention, and subsequently, my assistance.  maybe it’s the hellish hot weather that kept most of us indoors rather than sprawled and relaxing on the deck or in the pool or garden.  or perhaps it’s just life itself: spinning madly, sometimes on a tilted ‘faster than normal’ orbit.

whatever.  frankly, too tired to consider anything beyond the check list that means that, officially, with less than a week to go, my main focus, my big to do list, is all about london2012, the english countryside adventure, a mini-tour of scotland, and 5 days in paris, all swaddled in the enthusiastic and kookie company of my three big kids.

the last time i was in europe, i had two tots and was on an excursion to research a famed italian violin maker.  a business trip, it was filled with a zany cast of characters that included a violin maker from nebraska, the first violin chair of the tokyo symphony, his girlfriend (his wife stayed behind in japan), an italian guide, and her kookie italian friend.  a good time was had by all, and i returned with bags filled with italian leathers, colorful clothes for the children, and two mini-espresso cups to use as i trained my children to love coffee.

the first time in was in europe, i had a new boyfriend, a backpack, and a fresh diary.  the trip lasted a month, the boyfriend became a husband and father of my children, and europe became the end all of all to me: haven’t spent a day since, in those 25 years, wishing somehow i lived across the pond, and adopted as close to a european/british/italian/french joie de vive in my lifestyle.

so i’m heading back.  years of dvd’s and subtitled movies, anything with hugh grant, pouring over agatha christie mysteries, smelling good italian leather whenever i’m out shopping, gulping espresso by leaps and bounds, cooking up exotic and non-american feasts in my country house, the whole bridget jones stuff keeping me focused on the places that i long for and that hold such mystery and infatuation for me.

i’m a planner, so i’m a bit freaked at the moment as i haven’t read all 54 books that i stacked on my ‘travel table’ last winter. i haven’t poured over every map gathered to earmark our itinerary.  haven’t really uploaded enough apps to follow the olympics, the travel options, the train fares and ferry tables.  haven’t copied passports or cc information.  haven’t even decided what to wear.

it’s daunting, at 52, to do all of this as the head of the familia, with 3 enthusiastic college/high school travel companions. i somehow feel responsible for providing them with a sure-fire fun and informative first ever trip to europe. i panic that i’m not prepared, or haven’t planned and researched enough.  i’m worried that i’ll get there and just become a noodle of absolutely no-good as tour guide.

so my choice is to spend these next 6 days going in circles around my house staring at my millions of lists.  frazzled and thinking i’m forgetting something.  thinking i’m not prepared enough, not informed enough, not ready.

granted, we have our experts in the field readily waiting: a savvy designer friend & her brit husband to host us in chaotic london; a goofy wonderful college pal set up in surrey to drive us around quaint towns and a few castles; a hired car awaiting us and an actual scotsman to point us in the right direction on the wrong side of the road as we scour scotland for it’s myths & wonders; and a cozy, gorgeous apartment in paris that will afford us soft slumber and a place to hang our hats.

so, with the above trajectory of padded locales, hosts and accommodations, i think i’ve planned just about enough.  leaving room for surprise, i’m done thinking and will now just relax and pack my bag. like the trips of old, not unlike that wacky old movie, ‘if it’s tuesday it must be belgium’, i can just throw care, planning and caution to the wind, throw things into a bag, pile the kids into the car, line up and board the plane, and see where it takes us.  no over-planning, no agenda, no big feats to check off our list even before we land.

i think the expression, go with the flow, is what i’ll embrace.  soak it in, see where the river (thames, dee, seine) take us, and come back stuffed with the newness of the old, the saturated in history, culture, language, olympics, souvenirs, beer, food, friends and a reinvigorated love of the world.

7.19.12

fell asleep last night to the glorious, and i mean, glorious, sound of rain hatcheting against my skylights, lightning dancing through the trees and thunder bouncing across the land.  the drought has actually become ridiculously menacing, and i, for one, am glad for the reprieve!

7.18.12

reading writing arithmetic: foundations hammered into my saintly skull all those years ago at catholic elementary school.  the truth is, my brain inexplicably shrouded itself in a nice bit of bubble-wrap when it came time for the hell * damnation * compound fracture portions of the day.  i avoid math at all costs, and i believe in equality, heaven, fairness, education, the right to preach, worship, dance around pagan fires, marriage, divorce, and love for all creatures, creeds, colors and fashion coordinates.

7.14.12

bastille day. in all it’s glory, although i’m a coin toss of indecision if forced to choose between the freedom of democracy and the pageantry of the monarchy…and personally, not a fan of any sort of bloody revolution!

regardless, nothing like a big birthday party to experience joie de vive.

7.13.12

heavens to betsy, would someone please push the pause or slow button on the wacky remote that’s hijacked time?

as i sit at my desk, which i know i tidied with major purpose the other day (week), i spy a smattering of small little lists.  this is my new attempt at order in the court: categorizing tasks so that my bobble-head of over-information doesn’t spin too out of control as i navigate the dual tight-rope & juggling-act that this summer seems to have put me on.

my day then has a little menu of choices, recalling a famous quote from a certain acquaintance ages ago who coached his wife into training tots to pick up toys by ‘making it fun’, as he left for the office, yet again.

so, making it ‘fun’ for me at this lightening speed summer, i skim my appetizers: projects, which this week include architectural sketches & hand-painting wooden custom outdoor ‘vintage’ signage for a few rustic clients (yes, i own a table saw); pitch, which means keep a dazzling personality holographically alive on twitter, linkedin, this blog, pinterest, etsy, my website, bla bla bla more creative blathering which some days is a challenge to do; printer, which gives me a little outing in the car to fetch fresh off the press goodies and an honorary swing to the po box to look for checks, golden!

invariably, the to do lists piling here include a dizzying amount of domestic fun, which at this point, has to be relegated per child, as despite their growing older, amasses a challenging (make it fun!) bit of oversight and coordination as i train them to be totally independent. (this week’s lesson: how to select a really safe, smart, non-fire trap, attractive, meeting all fire and safety codes per the city of chicago, hardwood floors please apartments).

don’t even get me started on the pets.  or the cleaning. or the grocery shopping. or the challenge (met, make it fun) of creating really delicious and appealing-to-the-eye family dinners. or the stacks of ready books that chant ‘read me, choose me, love me’, as i sort through the next gem to bring to bed with me.

there’s so much to do and i love it!

clearly i could go on, and on.  i love it all, the satisfaction of hitting the pillow finally at the end of the day with an overwhelming feeling of fullness: wow, this juggling has it’s merits after all, a round the clock bit of action, purpose, creativity, satisfaction, importance, pleasure, giving, sharing, making, eating, cooking, drawing, laughing, and gratefully, waking up the next morning for yet another spin on this merry-go-round.

yes, i make it fun.

7.10.12

i read a little blog post the other day that ramped up my self-confidence.  the topic was freelancers and their tendency to create full-time jobs for themselves.  which of course, is counter-productive to the whole independent “free” aspect of this type of work set up.

when i started my blog, i pledged to both myself and my fledgling ‘audience’ that i would post every single day: both words, and a new sketch.

well, what an idea!

i did keep it up for a really long time, and found the quiet of the morning an ideal time to scribble a little sketch that represented what was on my mind, or on my list of things to do that day…the operative word, of course, is ‘quiet’.

as it turns out, my life is crazy with fits and bursts of constant interruption all of a sudden…all good, all great, all fun, all family, kids, pets or actual work, but these tirades of action come flying at me not unlike the tennis balls being cannoned out of a renegade auto-matic tennis ball shooter machine: fast and furious and non-stop.

so, back to the article.  the nice man explained that he, too, bit off more than he could type when he vowed to post each m, w and f…a mere three days a week and he found it nearly impossible to come up with valuable or intriguing topics to match this schedule.

he told us, his readers, hungrily looking for absolution, that it was okay to slack a bit.  that we creatives are able to be scheduled, but that it’s really in our best interest and our best creations-potential, to create when the spirit moves us, rather than spit out little nothings on a rote basis just to meet the bottom line of that work-a-day world that we’ve all chosen to bypass.

hallelujah! instantly the feeling of guilt, those barnacles of ‘you’re not following through, you’re letting your people down, your blog is stale and totally b-o-r-i-n-g, washed right down my back, down the drain of ‘things that don’t matter that you create yourself to ridiculously stress out!).

and so, when i got back up onto my blog this morning, i felt refreshed, forgiven, and yes, freed.  my best work is that which comes slitheringly floating into my imagination at no one’s bidding, no deadline, no tapping toe of an impatient invisible blog boss: for pleasure, of mine and hopefully of yours, i spring illustrations and silly blathering here on m. wood pen blog in honor of my very own work ethic: make it real, make it good, and make it last.

7.9.12

considering compiling an anecdotal bit of stitched-together tales…stories that recall and dip into iconic events and personalities of the 20th century.  first hand kind of zany, i’m not the story teller, but would happily serve as the typist and illustrator.  just have to get it all down on paper and then see about finding an editor/agent/publisher.

but first, i’ll finish simmering the rich, aromatic marinara that’s bubbling on the stove.

as my mind wanders and my idea cache fills to a flood, i’m still tending to the chicks at home and will push this to the pile of amazing ‘somethings’ that i have to remember to get back to.

7.6.12

mini-road trip brings the weekend up front and center a little earlier than expected which, in this monstrous heat wave, is happy news.  hello soon to madison, wisconsin: town of cool (as in hip, though i’m hoping the winds off of lake mendota offer a refreshing breeze) to check out the university for #3, college bound in a year.

if the sahara-like conditions do continue, however, i’ll be forced to lead one of my LAT’s (lazy ass tours), during which i drive around in the very cold, very big car and point out objects of interest to the future college student.  granted, you don’t get quite the same up close, detailed insight as if you’d actually signed up for an official college tour, but comfort matters and so it goes, our tradition established for situations just as this!

7.5.12

and back to our regularly scheduled program, which, as the summer becomes even more frenetic, is a mystery to me.

i know that since i’ve grabbed a bit of absolute quiet today, i’m  compelled to run to my desk for some custom illustration, as well as to come up with a few more hilarious ‘vending machine’ themed greeting cards to pitch to trader joe’s.  i love seeing m. wood cards at my favorite market, and clearly the tj shoppers love seeing m. wood cards there, too!

in other news, our trip to the uk/france next month is taking shape: outlining an itinerary w/my 19 year old daughter over dueling laptops yesterday is beyond exciting.

happy thursday.

7.4.12

america

7.2.12

What on earth is going on around here? Maybe it is the end of the world as we know it: violent winds, destructive storms, raging wildfires, scorching heat, wilting gardens and really weird super fast time passing at lightening speed.

(Insert image of me shaking my head)

About those storms.  Yesterday, after a weekend-filled fun with some zany, dear old college gal pals, I loaded up the big car with two college ladeeez and my high school gal.  Setting off to the Kane County Flea Market, loaded with plenty of high-octane caffeine for VERY worn out me, and a list of goods needed for new college city apartment, we headed west.  Or was it South?  I’m really not too clear about that, and am still bedraggled from total nonstop fun I pray you to not make me remember my navigational points today.

As the gals unfolded their shopping list, my rear view was obstructed by the sheer size of the paper.  They had very cleverly used a ginormous piece of wrap-wear newsprint to jot down things such as: art, end table, couch (70″ tops), frames, doodads and the most vital item of all: a vintage wrought iron full headboard.  Easy.

Turning the car towards our destination, I noticed with a bit of panic a dastardly dark, pitch purple sky.  Calmly, I asked gal #3 if she had any inkling about the afternoon’s weather.  Ridiculously, our departure was just at the middle of the afternoon, leaving us a scant few hours to scour the goods of this really huge flea market before it’s closing time.

The radio instinctively spoke to us, as if conjured by a magic genie, “Dangerously high winds, hail the size of dairy cows and a series of storms wild enough to knock your socks off.”  Oh.  Then, college gal #2, loading up her weather doppler on fancy phone, chimed in, “There’s a huge green blob hanging over our destination address.”

As I envisioned our huge Toyota Sequoia tossing and tumbling on its way to some Illinois Oz, the gals resumed their high-pitched laughter and chatter.  Clearly, I was the only grown up in the car.

I casually announced to no one in particular, “If I was on this outing on my own, I’d turn the car around and head to a few towns with cute antique shops.”

I waited, slowing the car down just a tad, until hallelujah: the reply I’d hoped for came chiming from the back seat.  “Let’s do that, Mom.”

Phew.

Now, thrills and spills abound accompanied us on a weirdly circuitous ride, which made me recount to my younger companions the phenomenon known, in earlier times, as the “Sunday Drive”: no destination in mind, just following the whim of our curiosity and whim as we passed, as gal #1 stated later, “more than 17 towns today.” Top sites covered on our lazy drive:  a camp for little people; an older woman on a motorcycle with an i.v. taped to her tattooed arm; a local lore boozy lakeside bar that nets the best local gossip; some obscure ugly candy and nut shop that made #3 shriek with excitement; the former home of a former beau; the site where gal #1 broke her collarbone; the site where #3 learned to climb monkey bars; the site of a haunted house where the attendants were mean and inconsiderate (or so the story goes); a bridge and creek where I once shared a surprise kiss on the 3rd of July, circa 1978, with someone who’s name will not be mentioned; a beautifully golden field of wheat; corn clearly over knee-high in time for the 4th of july; the white castle drive thru we’d visited exactly one week before; an ancient barn that was now a pile of rubble; several hundred crossings of the Fox River; and most excitingly, several dozen signs of Storm Damage, proof that we had been wise indeed to avoid the earlier attempt to drive to the flea market.

An hour later, the skies clear and my head nearly falling off of my shoulders from overall weekend fatigue, I turned the car subtly towards home.

Feeling a lightness in my sooner-than-expected group activity, I envisioned my soft pillow and cozy jammies awaiting me in the not too distant future…until…a chorus from #1, #2 and #3 sang out: we still have time to get to the flea market!

omg.

Obligingly, I pressed the pedal, adjusted our masques, and aimed around, now feeling as if we’d driven to the north woods of Minnesota and back!  With a caring and aware-of-her-mothers-exhaustion teen in the navigator seat, I soon heard soothing mellow country music to glide us softly to our original destination.

Ah, amazing what fortitude can do to kick in a bit of adrenaline when oh so tired.  As we reached the gates of the County Fairgrounds, my adrenaline kicked in and we all ran lithely out of the car, split up in teams of two, and began to scour the loot in search of some fabulous Lincoln Park-bound bounty.

Praise the heavens above: with only one full lap behind me, the hint of a return to sweltering heat combing through my hair, a fresh cool ice cream cone happily being devoured, gal #3 and I spied our own holy grail: tucked beneath the cooling shade of a circus-like tent, just to the left of the Sheep Building, to the right of the Swine Building: I spy a perfect, spindly, creamy off white, full frame size, turn of the last century, 50% off, wrought iron bed.

Ta da!

6.27.12

you’ve got mail.

nora ephron, rip

6.25.12

talk about a whirlwind weekend, and i’ve suddenly snapped out of the jumble of fun to welcome a new week stuffed full of a fabulous variety of illustration and design duties.  granted, the cooler sunny summer weather outside now taunts me: it was much easier to work undisturbed when it was hotter than the mojave desert outside…..

but i won’t complain.

after sending some windy city samples off to the fine people at the chicago architecture foundation, i’m diving into sketch mode, my trusty lamy fountain pen filled and ready to go.

best treat of the weekend: opening the package from garnet hill: stuffed with a hot off the press, or should i say, hot off the loom, sample of the fabric, designed by me, that will soon be featured in their holiday line up for children’s bedding.

tooooooooo cool for words!

6.22.12

today finds me sketching a handful of chicago architecture here at the ranch, while lucky daughter roams the windy city via train, foot, taxicab and teen-driven enthusiasm with her fabulous friends.

my kids know the city well, as it’s too wonderful not to explore as often as we can, and learning the universality of cities in general is a must-have bit of knowledge for travel for the rest of their lives.  but, just in case she needed a reminder of notable destinations in relationship to one another, i whipped up a quick loop map from memory, pointing out that the drawing was not to scale and sort of inaccurate: but overall, not too bad done by memory alone.

i remember a day at a similar age when i hopped the train with my sister and friends for a big city adventure, not yet college aged, where the enthusiasm wore off a bit too soon in the grey-columned corridors that shielded our ingenue pathfinding instincts from the glorious lake, river and top sites.

luckily, following the beacon of my dad’s bank, well, the bank where he spent his entire career, leading us to the glorious chagall mosaic, a huge otherworldly kaleidescope of color and whimsy.  thank goodness, this one nugget happened on a day that proved to be much hungry wandering: a day that i learned that i was a total dork, such a contrast to this savvy, delightful, confident, gutsy daughter of mine.

6.21.12

this crazy wordpress world entices me, every now and then, to their stats page.  or, should i say, my stats page.  or, more precisely, my mwoodpenblog stats page.

got lost there for a second: hard to remember who’s who and what’s what around here.  remember, i’m from the 50s!

so, intrigued over, yes, my coffee, i took a peek at the black-lined squished world diagram to see what areas would have mango and lemon filled in color.

the east coast?  hawaii?  the uk?

kookie surprise to see that this morning found someone in egypt perusing my illustrations and blatherings.

i don’t know about you, but this is freaky cool to wrap my head around. i know that we’re all used to this, but then again, do any of us really conceive of how colossally magical this internet really is?

do you people get it?

i’m a big history fan, and clearly am addicted to cinema and pretty much anything that has end credits and a cast.  i’m also pretty keen on geography and maps, so what i’m about to type isn’t done blindly or ignorantly, it’s a mood connection that i’m making at this very moment and will share.

when i think, instantly, of egypt, of that part of the map where it sits, the hot, sun-glaring sandy zone of always feeling thirsty, the first image that pops into my mind is peter o’toole as lawrence of arabia.  yes, i know that this is not a story of egypt, but that’s still the first thing i envision: hot, dry, desolate, sun-baked, camels.

my miracle of internet thought comes to this vision: of the everlasting trudging from one souk to the next, one oasis off in the distance (or is it that mind-boggling notion, a mirage?), the work and toil and strength and determination it takes to reach another human being; or the other side of the sahara; the other side of town; the far east; the north pole.

in physical terms, measured by human steps, counted by manual hours, days, weeks or years that, historically, it took mankind to get from there to here, i say that the fact that someone in egypt this MORNING was perusing my blog pages is a freaking miracle.

but back to egypt.  after i graduated from college with my shiny new degree in english literature, history and art, i set about finding my grown up life, guised in the form of a career in chicago, coupled with a fabulously chic apartment.

based on my idiocy and the lack of interest creatives had in my drivel in the early 80s, i was humbled by the daunting task of finding a grown up job that matched my very colorful imagination.  the funny side job that i took, really to keep from watching soap operas all day in my parents house, or miss out on cash in my pockets to join my fabulous pals on a weekly jaunt to the city bars, was running a printing press.

as in, heidelberg, apron, bars of set type, letterpress stationery, as in: ink in my veins.

i guess that that comes as no surprise if you look from here to there, as i’m clearly someone with paper and ink in my veins, but from back then, it wasn’t something to brag about.  when our savvy trio plundered lincoln park bars in search of dapper gents, we kicked in our earliest attempts at self-promotion and marketing.  rather than ‘run a printing press’, my reply to possible beaux was that i was in the printing business.  my pal who worked at the local bookshop, clearly, was ‘in publishing’.  and our third pal who was spending her first year out of wellesley sorting out the overabundance of vintage furniture in her father’s basement?  she was ‘in antiques’.

so, where was i?  oh, egypt.

as the year with ink permanently stained on my fingertips wained, i felt totally ansy.  maybe my dream of the creative career in advertising in chicago with a swanky apartment was the wrong dream.  my barometer had been wrong before, and trust me, has been waaaaay wrong since, so in my second guessing how difficult this plan really was to enact, i came up with an impetuous idea.

that fork in the road sort of thing would be appropriate to quote at this moment.

feeling like the corporate world was wagging it’s finger at me for thinking i was cooler or more talented than i was, i panicked and applied to graduate school.  i needed a training, a profession.  throw me a lifeboat, i want to get off of this slow boat to china!

at the same time, i’d dabbled in a hieroglyphs class at the university of chicago’s oriental institute.  why?  well because my mom is an archaeologist and these sorts of things came up routinely at the dinner table.  through this passing time deciphering cool milleniums-old drawings to find meaning, a little birdie told me something that caught my ear.  and wanderlust.

wanted: artist to sketch on site at archaeological ongoing dig in egypt; accommodations courtesy of the oriental institute in their posh permanent digs in cairo; cocktails nightly in the shadows of the great sphinx.

there was that fork: practicality, a design degree and eventually my tidy plan would unravel.

a unheard of, unimagined, kookie adventure far, far, far afield splashed, sprayed, awash in history, mystery, sandals and sultans.  (not really sultans, but that was the perfect word to end that sentence.)

tossing and turning: who was i, how brave was i, what should i do, how should i decide, short term or long term, dally or grow up?

i chickened out of making the decision directly by reasoning that fate would choose for me.  i’d go to egypt if i was rejected from graduate school.  spend all of my letterpress toil money in the suq of chattering, fragrant cairo. already imagining then what to pack, what to wear, how would it feel, who would i meet, where would that adventure take me, i waited for the mail to determine my future.

later that week, the mail revealed my destiny: a letter of acceptance from the school of the art institute.

oh.

6.20.12

at the moment, i feel curiously, shockingly, and alertly aware of the plateaus of unfolding truths that reveal themselves to me through the wondrous, sometimes plodding, ever-changing days, years and decades in my rear-view mirror.

6.18.12

lucky enough to indulge each (or most) mornings in this manner, i take my perking hot very strong loveless cafe diner-style coffee mug outside.  sitting in a sturdy, enveloping adirondack chair, i feast on the caffeine and the glorious sounds and sights of the season.

it’s summer, which means i spend more time out there than in say, january…and for this i’m beyond grateful.  the sing song of the gathering of busy birds is my morning music, as i’ve been deliberate to leave my iphone inside of my house and cut away, if only for a moment, from the busy digital bee life that swarms me the rest of the day long.

my lens is a bit out of focus.  i’m not fully awake yet, my glasses are not on my face but rather still at my bedside where they enabled my to leap further into a wonderful book last night.  so my view is a bit of a vaseline-lens, a bit fuzzy, the same technique used to film doris day in her close close close-ups back in the day.

the forest beyond, the red barn, my flower garden spreading out around my house…all just breathtaking.

as the coffee settles in, i try as i might to stay in this floaty-land of just easy meditation.  however, i’m not really built that way, and soon as i know it, the big world of my monday morning comes clattering into my head.  work, my lists, the things that must be done, the pitch that must be made, the drawings and packaged cards that must be taken care of.

as i wake up to this rude cacophony of grown-up responsibility, i begin to focus in on my brilliant country vista.

that barn really could use a new coat of paint.

the blooming lavender and shasta daisies are being invaded by some nasty weeds.

the sturdy vintage volvo in the gravel drive needs it’s windshield replaced.

my toes: i need a pedicure.

guess it’s time to get up and out of my reverie and begin my day for real, noting with a grin that it’s the imperfections that make me drive still straight ahead on the road.  i eschew perfection, it’s just not my style, and so i make a mental note to scribble ‘weed garden’, ‘call allstate’, ‘ignore peeling barn’ on an old note card and see if i can lure my summer chore team to roll up their sleeves today and tend to these pleasantries.

and if not?

well, it’s summer. and the living is easy.

it can all wait for yet another day.

6.15.12

as i’ve found yet another social media, creative punch card to fill with dazzling work of mine…i am astounded at just how ‘social’ i’ve become: welcome houzz.com to my repertoire rolodex!

6.14.12

this crazy summer fun is always a challenge for me: the playtime is ever-present, be it kookie kids, garden weeding & watering, sitting on the deck enjoying the simple country view, dashing to the amc for a movie marathon with plenty of popcorn…

today self-discipline has returned to the fort as i sift through these stacks of notes that are becoming taller than my laptop.  thinking about assembling a series of foldover packaged notes to sell, and wonder if fans of ball parks are also letter writers….

since i never have a test audience and just leap about with my ideas, something that i’ve just accepted in myself, i’ll go ahead and add ‘ball parks’ to the other themes so far, including americana, nyc, washington d.c., london, paris, chicago, l.a…consider it my small part in helping the poor postal service, and keeping that letter writing gig alive and well!

6.12.12

it’s a picture perfect pitch day!  new kitten, college kids leaping about, fabulous feasts, scintillating conversation, plenty of sketching and a cast of thousands…sunny day, happy day.

6.11.12

time tearing by as we approach a big travel adventure day at the end of july, and my british fever continues as i gather with three big kids, four apple laptops, five empty bottles of diet coke, six books about the tudor monarchy, seven non-easy fold out super big maps of various european countries, eight books describing the beauty and wonder of paris, nine how to’s to help decipher the jargon and history of scotland, ten must see bits in and around surrey that are all tied to our favorite movies, eleven pros and cons regarding venice vs amsterdam for the big kids solo trip wrap up, and twelve advil waiting by the wings for my frazzled brain.

oh, and three pesky pets waiting to be fed.  what a day!

6.9.12

drew back the curtain of time yesterday for a sad, brief, surreal moment and returned to real life with a half a dozen french franc plats as proof.

6.8.12

the way my life has carried out, so much so the meandering stream, well, so was my day today.

awaking with an earnest intent to get several very important things done, my resolve nodded by the ‘to do’ list staring at me as i sipped my yummy coffee this morning.

as i sit here now, my head swimming in entirely a different part of the universe than i usually do, i have to say that the i spent the day like a happy gypsy.

tossing that list out, i improvised, went with the flow, followed my heart, took the road not taken, and hung a left when i had intended to aim right.

all of this is a silly way to say that my day brought me to unexpected places, tossed me into unanticipated conversations with a surprisingly inspiring, diverse selection of people, floated me into a calm, enjoyable stream of enjoying my day in so many unplanned ways.

if i put my life underneath a microscope, it would look very much like today.

and while i sometimes chide myself for not chasing after some of those early dreams, of not trying harder to land that evasive swain, or of not sticking in places that i had hither o chosen to leap into, i see from over here that every single offshoot and byway was waiting for me all along.

is it the journey or the destination, or is it a little bit of both?

i’ll never sure, but for this happy heart, whatever it has turned into is absolute perfection.

6.7.12

well now that the hoopla in london has settled down, i will refocus on the goings on here for a while…for at least 52 days, at which point, i’ll be jetting off with my three wonderful companion-kids to explore the uk together.  then, well, there will be news-aplenty from across the pond from me to you.

for today, i’m basking in the ease of the official start to our summer: the college kids are finished, the car has been unpacked, the bathing suits have been sorted, and the fridge is stocked with savories, sweets and sauces to make our smorgasbord of lazy days complete.

with work staring me in the face, which of course is really great news, i’ve trotted through my various lists and settled on a few really cool projects to kick start.

head always thrumming with new ideas, i’ve just unpacked a new little trio of perfect pens…here i go!

6.5.12

in a nod to last night’s spectacular ’round the commonwealth lighting of fire-breathing beacons to salute the radiant queen of england, my daughter is preparing her own fire-themed evening.

the tradition here, at the start of summer and the end of yet another school year, is quite pagan: a roaring bonfire where all of the remnants of the previous terms notebooks and homework are gladly tossed into the dancing flames.

i’m reminded of the pure paganism of burning things, and was reminded last night as i ‘followed’ the beacon’s progress via a fluttering of twitter updates.  as each torch of flames danced and crackled, watched by circles of adoring and festive brits, i launched a fast-backward in time, envisioning the cluster of mankind in the history of humanity celebrating, honoring, nurturing, cremating, cooking, feasting, praying, warming, breathing and existing around a great big roaring fire.

in the tradition-rich four days that unfolded in the united kingdom, i had a bit of time to feel something sink in to my awareness.  that is this.  long live the queen, and on and on and on.  as far as symbolism goes, give me a blood and bones stalwart old gal who’s seen the worst of times and the best of times while warmly and steadfastly hovering just around the bend, the ties that bind a great nation are the ties that also link far and away back through history, creating a golden nugget of pride: in their nation, in their glory, in their sacrifice, in their service, in their people.

i’ve realized that the existence of a constant, as the monarchy represents, the stronghold of the heart of that gang of brits, really makes a difference in glueing them all together.  call it a family, with the matriarch, or down the road, patriarch, assembling all of the little ducks in a row, round the great big table for sunday dinner, something that is stronger and bigger than the turnstile, revolving door representatives that inhabit, for short shifts, 10 downing street, or the white house.

like everyone else around my age and gender, i had a hopelessly huge fan card for the diana club.  and i surely still do, and will, as i think of her radiance through the smiles of her dapper boys.  and in those days, before that paris crash and just afterwards, i was surely soured on the entire windsor clan as somehow representing ‘downers’ and ‘naysayers’ to the peppy loose cannon princess.

but, over time, and certainly in the vast bit of time over the long weekend as i learned more of queen elizabeth II’s life, i have a new, deep appreciation for her stick-to-itness, a far cry from her silly self-interested dandy of a runaway king uncle.

as i watch my parents and their generation play out their lives, there is a constant.  they lived through the depression, the awful second world war, and all that came as a result.  what formed their character, all of them, almost as chisel to a rock, is the same committed sense of duty and honor that is, sadly, vanishing more quickly than imaginable.

i have come to respect someone who puts country ahead of self.  it’s rare these days, and to have an over the top billion dollar really long weekend to toast this cute little lady is, really, the least anyone can do to thank her for always showing up, an earnest twinkle in her eye, tending to business and her great land, with her sturdy black purse eternally dangling from her bent, bejeweled arm.

6.4.12

i forgot how much i love summer….well, what i mean is that i forgot a particular reason that makes summer especially delicious.

as the school year wraps itself up, a good thing for all these kids that need a break, my house stretches out to welcome back the boxes, bundles, backpacks, books, and all ephemera that accompany one high school and two college kids.

among the goods that all need to find various places to be stashed away, best of all, for me, are the people themselves. and luckier still, for this mom who peers at the dangerous curves ahead that are marked “warning: empty nest approaching”, is that each of them, once compounded with their throngs of pals, equals a lively happy busy firefly bonfire swimming tv marathon cooking together goofing off lazy bones jones together crisply warm couple of months.

heaven on earth for me is the time just starting: my people and their people all just hanging out.

granted, there’s that little issue of my having to remember to work.  it’s dicey and my self-discipline gets a work out as i’d much rather just do nothing but swim in the energy of all of these kids.  but too, my work keeps the groceries coming, a vital ingredient to a successful summer.

and too, i guess i don’t want to ever be the dorky mom who doesn’t know when to let these rascals have their own space, a challenge in itself as our house is sort of small and wide open with literally no privacy.  but summer yawning it’s welcome warmth out of all of our french doors means our world has stretched itself to include the sweet green grass, the hugging all around cedar deck, the shady spots beneath the great white pines, the crazy collection of chairs encircling our own perennial everlasting flame of the bonfire just outside. and best of all: no bedtime, no early class, no dastardly alarm clock screaming at any of us.  time flows as invisibly as the balmy breeze of our languid hours.

marshmellows, hersheys and graham crackers at the ready: it’s time to play.

6.3.12

pageantry via satellite images from there to here proved a deeply satisfying way to start my day.  steady on.

6.2.12

the sun shines it’s merry good morning to me.  my very first sip of just brewed coffee was a taste of absolute perfection. todd rundgren serenaded me with a lovely, easy tune.  i sketched a quick sweet little bateau.

now, with the ease of a gentle saturday start behind me, i’m off to murder encroaching weeds with my bare hands.

6.1.12

fine time to be stuck over here in america’s middle west!

i’m seemingly insatiable watching the chronicles of prep, pomp and circumstance surrounding the celebration this week-end (said like a brit) and beyond of pageantry in it’s finest glory.

long a fan of history, long a fan of all things british (i’m keen for all of europe & the u.k., not to hurt anyone’s feelings), i’m having near apoplexy over being here and wishing so to be plopped in the midst of it all!

merry olde england toasts this grand dame, this once little fresh faced english lass who, by fates and her uncle’s oddly placed love for a twice divorced american (who, incidentally, once waved to my young mother one day in baltimore), was suddenly pulled from her girlish tween naivite and thrust into the role of heir apparent….and soon enough, queen of england.

omg!

and here she is, here we all are, sixty, 60! years later.  it’s mind-boggling to see the timeline of the world during her solid, dependable, steady reign…the idea of a day off must never enter this gal’s orbit, and i’m readily in line with all who celebrate this wonderful anniversary.  for a culture that’s now all about disposability, here represents not only one woman’s pledge and commitment, but too the intrigue and stalwart, steadfast history of the british monarchy.

yes, i’m a fan.

waving my union jack over here just outside of the windy city, perchance my whisper of congratulations will be caught up in a wayward eastern wind and settle gently down along the thames this happy day.

5.31.12

rain storms ignite my brain storms

5.30.12

my head should be spinning as i grab a hold of this mesmerizing world of socializing through media, considering my advanced age.

but somehow, despite the consumption of time required and the challenge to come up with some intriguing content, for me, the biggest challenge is remembering all of my usernames and passwords!

now that’s something one of these whiz kids should invent an app for!

but back to the subject at hand.  social media.

first of all, i’m not a fan of that moniker: it isn’t very zippy or interesting.  it’s as drab a title (and as overused) as ‘the economy’.  as a creative with a bent for marketing and p.r., i say both of these could use some improvements.  look at how j c penney has gotten all cool as their mod thinkers have infused new life into an old brand with, among other things, a hip new logo, ellen and a hip monogrammed name.

so, social media, which for the purpose of this post, i will refer to as “icp” (internet cocktail party), seems to confound, confuse and trouble many people in the land.  how do i know this?  because this connundrum has spawned an entirely new education, conversation, publication, consternation, advocation!  a world of it’s own has landed firmly in our webby world which has the proven, decisive 1,2.3 steps that promise that elusive pot of gold at the end of the digital rainbow…or so they say.

for me, the few times i’ve delved a bit into some expert’s guidelines, i feel intellectually buried alive.  there’s a new way of language, something that is beginning to make me feel really uncomfortable: words that have absolutely no tangible reference, no sensory connection and to my left-brained audience, a strong feeling of disconnection. i just don’t seem to get the lingo!

it isn’t about technology.  i know that it all exists from magical wizardry involving northern california, a satellite, a bowl of chips, and the comcast man who comes by every now and then to replug and fiddle with the wires.

it isn’t about curiosity.  there’s a rich, vast, endlessly fascinating world literally beneath my fingertips (or voice, should i ever decide to start up a relationship with the girl who lives in my new iphone 4s).  digging like modern day, khaki-clad archaeologists, we all get to dig in like howard carter and the earl to make our own king tut-like discoveries.

it isn’t about affordability. i can manage (and would, if need be, go without food) to cover the cost of the wireless and unlimited data convenience so kindly provided by those conglomerates.

it isn’t about being ‘authentic’: for goodness sakes, who else would i be besides just me, myself, and my hair-brained who knows what i’m going to think or draw or say next self?

it isn’t about who’s on the other end of the line.  granted, we’re eons from the days of picking up the phone ala andy griffith or a good old british country manor mystery plot, tapping the line to get a hold of the operator in order to connect (ah, there’s an overused word for you!) to someone on the other side of wherever.  i like people, i love meeting them, staying in touch with them, communicating.  no matter what devices have come along during my lifetime, i’ll get accustomed to whatever buttons, bells and whistles are required in order to reach out and touch somebody’s hand.

no, what drives me a little dizzy is the assumption that anyone really needs to be taught how to do all of this socializing.

which brings me back to my icp approach.

we all know barbra’s iconic song, people, right?  we need each other, so the desire is there.  the gadgets are here.  rapidly piling up almost faster than we can say ‘alexander graham bell’, another zillion arrive at best buys, amazon and the apple store.  for me, ignoring the machination, and focusing on the people, is the only way to actually enjoy myself.

the icp is really a party.  it’s people.  scattered all over the globe.  there they are…out there somewhere.

my brain needs to visualize something tangible in order to make it through this vast electronic, digital world, so i have grounded the facts as follows:

each entity (fb, instagram, linkedin, twitter, tumblr, wordpress, et al into infinity) is really a collective cluster of eager, interesting guests gathered in a quite expansive lovely vintage hotel.  let’s even put it on the mediterranean.  anywhere you fancy, that’s where the party is happening.  up there on the mezzanine? it’s those cool cats from twitter, very few of them i’ve ever met, but gosh, they’re pretty insightful, have gobs of fascinating bon mots (they’re, none of them, long in the tooth), and i really want to catch their eye because they’re cool.  how to amuse them as they amuse me?  simple.  come up with a few of my own bon mots, too.

over with their elbows crowding around the polished mahogany bar?  it’s those wordpress guys and gals.  writers, lovers of writers, fans of writers, wanna be writers, expounding and dithering and emoting and i can just catch a few of the intriguing topics from way over here.  i’m compelled to hang out with them, too, but first, i don’t want to sound like dork, so i think i’ll share a witty little story of my own to draw them in.

outside, there’s a covered terrace looking out across the harbor, and crowding around a really big, ornate ashtray, i can just make out the faces of a few of the instagram shutterbugs.  always looking, snapping and sharing, there is a like-mindedness to this gang that gets what ‘composition, color and balance’ mean.  hey, i have a vintage pentax 35 mm camera…gosh, would i love to meet a few of them and swap stories.

see where this is going?

now, historically, i’ve eschewed ‘how to’ manuals of any kind.  my kids, just like me, don’t even know why manufacturers even bother including them with a shiny new product: we’ll just push a bunch of buttons until we’ve figured out how to work the thing.

in my world of writing, drawing, reading, photographing and socializing, i’ve never sought real guidance.  i’ve made my way, like poor audrey hepburn in the movie where she’s blind, hobbling along, feeling the walls around me, finding my way, getting where i need to be, for me.  comfortable, capable and content.

maybe it’s me: and i’m reminded of an exotic teacher who expounded to her design students, “there’s more than one way to get to marshal fields” (as, indeed, sadly, macy’s and history has left us with absolutely NO way to get to marshal fields!).  yes, there are countless methods, strategies, routes, transit lines to wind our way from here to there…to being a solo computer in a little room and somehow, floating easily and breezily on the internet highway.

call me stubborn, call me silly: but i’d just rather follow my gut and figure it all out by myself.

so, the trick is simply this: when you go to a cocktail party, put on a cute outfit, of course, then scour the room.  don’t be shy.  open up.  tell a story.  remember your manners.  say please and thank you.  pass the plate.  show interest in the people gathered and clustered and wandering about.  get to know them, listen and acknowledge.  encourage, laugh, enjoy, reach, share.

people, right?  people who need people…

now, refresh your drink and let’s hang out for a bit: this icp shows no sign of wearing down.

5.28.12

memorial day in all of it’s splendor: whizened, proud soldiers have been collecting coins outside of the local market, and each time i stop with a little donation, i spend a bit of time chatting.

one by one, their stories collected in my eager smiles and deep gratitude, i give a simple, silly fifteen minutes to them each, stalwart, ancient, almost from a different time when honor, duty and sacrifice were common aspects of the character of man.

and with every conversation, every tale, i want to capture the essence of their self-lessness, attach our chat to a world-reaching megaphone, and remind every single man, woman and child, of what it means to believe in the greater good. with my paper poppy souvenir, oh those vast battlefields of old, across the sea, a blanket covering the bones of ages of brave men, i remember again the luck of living in the land of the free, and remember, too, the infinite price so many millions have paid to keep us so ridiculously indulged, safe and cozy.

5.26.12

that old simon and garfunkel song is on my mind…”old friends, sitting on park bench like bookends…”

a lot of my life seems to orbit around, repeat visits, touching-in, status checks (the literal kind) and i find it lovely.  being in more than one place at once is the experience i have of almost a time travel sort of phenomenon: stepping through the film of decades, to be with people who i’ve known for much of my life.  overlapping moments from long ago, sparking the spirit that has always been my elixir, renewed always, reinvigorated and re-tapped.

magic comes in so many forms, less so in the miraculous but more in inspirational forms as i step forward one nashville cowboy boot at a time, with a warm hand on my shoulder from before, while my gaze is steady on the ‘next’. inexplicably, found today turning the car in an unknown direction, discovering a scenic byway, literally the next town over, that had escaped my knowledge forever.  i could have been in new hampshire, michigan, the deep tree-stuffed south. the strongest emotion was a delighted surprise and easy ‘letting go’ of needing to know where i was.  at the end, i knew i’d figure it out one way or another, so while the unknown flew past the windows on a sunny spring day, i just soaked  and lavished the newness of it all.

so rare these days, but so intoxicating.

5.24.12

happy birthday to my cute dad, rlw!

5.23.12

i say: hooray for the arts, all arts, any arts!

last night found us watching the wrap up of the ‘glee’ season and it’s senior class at mckinley high in lima, ohio.  it also pushed my cute daughter to the edge, crying out in plaintive exasperation:”these rollercoasters that our shows are putting us on!”

as a side note, we’ve suffered and wrangled our hands through the end of wisteria lane, the brutal murder of nice mike, the ghosts of all desperate housewives dead: what a zany trip down memory lane as we spied martha hoover, the evil pharmacist, rex and the whole gang of early demised fairview residents  somberly watching susan delfino drive off in her big jazzy car.

gossip girl sticks forlorn, aimless yet really beautiful serena on a train snorting cocaine next to some creepy dude, harkening back to jacqueline susann’s ‘valley of the dolls’ iconic opening and closing scenes aboard a new york metra train; blair and chuck gambling for love and money in monte carlo; dan and georgina off to rome to plot the ruin of the upper east side (working in tandem with nosy parker lola and her doppelganger, ivy)!

hart of dixie leaves ‘dr.’ rachel bilson ‘torn between two lovers’: nice bartender-country boy wade and stiff ‘he was a better actor in friday night lights’ lawyer george while poor lemon howls alone in the swamps.

parks and rec spelled victory for leslie as the new city councilwoman, though i’m really going to miss bobby rutherford…and tell me, is quincy jones’ daughter really going to move in with tom haverford?

revenge? say it ain’t so: did the white haired man really kill nolan? and since when are we feeling empathy for victoria? nice work of the writers, i’d say, to push us solidly on her slinky morticia-like side. shonda rhimes killing off sweet little grey?  how on earth is that even fair? we still can’t talk about that at home.

it’s a lot to take, almost too much: stop the ride we have to get off!!!!

thank goodness summer is on schedule and books can calm us down with their sensible …but back to glee. yes, rachel weeping, shocked along with all of us, as finn sets her free to follow her dreams to new york and the bright lights of broadway.  we did not see that coming! a totally unpredictable turn of events, it alighted me on a floating raft of high emotion: sorrow and confusion, poor rachel! sweet gentle love, the entire gang gathered at the train platform to send her off!  heart pangs of love love love as finn runs alongside the train window to wave goodbye!  nail-biting worry, yet a growing sense of control and that it’s going to be okay, rachel singing on the train! poor simpering lass, it’s all happened so fast! could there be, will there be, a turn, a lighter than air step towards that holy grail of happy endings, a feeling of optimism and euphoria?

in pure shiny hollywood this is why i love the arts, hats off to the creative genies who pull our heart strings, twist and turn them, amputate and resuscitate them all in one fell swoop: here comes that universally wonderous moment, a nod to funny girl, and her 70s contemporary clone, mtm, and all gals climbing those mountains: as rachel bounds out of the doors of grand central station in glamorous new york city, brilliantly clad in red pillbox cap and matching coat, her requisite white knee socks and some jaunty black strap dance shoes: “I’m gonna live and live NOW! Get what I want, I know how! One roll for the whole shebang! One throw that bell will go clang, Eye on the target and wham, One shot, one gun shot and bam!”

Hey, Rachel, here you are!

5.22.12

a day that will live in infamy

5.21.12

the bee gees?  robin gibb?  are you kidding me? it’s a discomfort, to say the least, to watch the world that splashes so many memories at my feet, slowly ebbing away.

5.18.12   

i’m readily, earnestly ready to admit that i’m the farthest thing from cool.

there’s this wave in culture and society, in the history of mankind, where a swoop of somethin’ happening gathers all of the ripe wannabes into a heroic crest of cool-est of all.  these winners of best of each categorical moment seemingly shine with little or no effort, and certainly no inner angst or insecurities: it’s a seemingly glorious floating above the rest of us minions who supply the avid audience. so with disco, and that era losing it’s bonafide queen yesterday, i fall back instaneously to the throng of shaking, nervous watcher.

envying of course the ‘with it’ kids in high school and college who really knew those smooooooth moves and synchronized bump and wiggle maneuvers encouraged by earth, wind & fire, kc and his sunshine band and my personal favorites, those hairy brothers known as the bee gees. in the little whitebread town where i grew up, formerly a farming land nestled along the train line leading to the big metropolis of chicago, there was only one hip place, one blotch in the seemingly utopian americana mom and pop shop established village. each and every store, ‘tommy & terri’ with attire for tots, ‘bob & betty’, a must-go for underthings, first communion dresses and panty hose, ‘lipofskys’ for brownie uniforms and levi’s jeans, ‘the townshop’ for your morning paper and a milkshake at the counter…the list goes on, stamping each store front with it’s family-friendly placard, a 20th century version of every store to come before once the founders had “wrastled” the land away from the native american indians who used to roam here.

this otherworldly post, however, shook my senses into seeing that something was going on…the sign hanging above the door of that corner clothes shop, named simply, “the pants store”, showed an illustration of the back side of a hippy girl, and shocking my catholic school girl sensibilities, hip huggers were way low, showing just the topmost bit of her ass. omg!!!

groomed and educated at the catholic grade school, i spent countless hours counting the buttons on the long black cloak-dress thingy that the old priest wore as he hobbled into our classroom to warn us of the dangers of sin.  my only naughty failing, in second grade, found two packs of ‘smarties’ in my pocket, lifted from the bins in ben franklin’s….and when i showed them victoriously to my friend, her eyes burst out and told me that stealing was a sin. i threw the smarties away.  hell and eternal flames hardly seemed worth it.

my soundtrack in those dreamy days was a combination of the carpenters, barbra streisand, donny & marie, and that brandy, you’re a fine girl song.  my house in the country kept us sort of hidden from the bigger world out there, and i wrapped up my grade school years seemingly in a fog of being very much out of the cool crowd.  granted, i was happy to watch, offering a ready joke and a glad smile, but in no way was i ‘in’ with the groove of setting trends, much less feeling comfortable around those who did.  my records spinning, i daydreamed about silly, simple, straightforward things.

so with the seventies came high school and disco.  something wicked this way comes! away with anything cotton (except for the requisite friday where we all wore jeans to school), and enter quyana and shiny clothes.  clinging slacks on boys, shirts unbuttoned to show what was going on underneath, chunky shoes on boys!  hair getting longer and puffier, facial hair, jewelry (again; on boys!): it was a funky kaleidoscope of happenin’ stuff that literally had my head swimming to keep up. what a joke. i never did ‘keep up’, it was tooooo smooth for me.  but, as an anthropologist plunked down in the middle of a isolated civilization, i was happy to observe.

a phenomenon came to town.

word on the street one friday at school informed us that there was a….disco. what? sure enough, our fourteen closest friends set up the plan (involving 37 individual phone calls, carpools and outfit decisions) and all headed to the requisite first friday night stop: mcdonalds.  a shared bag of french fries and quick mirror check in the ladies room found us climbing back into our huge big cars to drive to the center of town, our own little ridiculous ‘studio 54’ had hit the scene and we were clamboring to be a part of it.

now, i did like disco music, i still do, in fact.  it’s on one of my pandora music mixes and when i’m in a mood to stay revved up and work really fast, i click ‘play’ and am transported to this very night each and every time. what we discovered, in my fuzzy memory i’ll do the best that i can, is a side door to the ‘country cupboard’ cafe.  who even knew?  feeling like something sketchy had swarmed into the town while we innocents lay in our beds dreaming of the carpenters and ice cream cones, i followed my friends down the darkened steps.

with each close lower, i felt more and more out of my safe element and deeper into those flames of satan’s much-hyped world of boogie wonderland and it’s temptations. it’s not easy to shake the parochial stuff so soon after leaving it’s chastity-belted doors, and i prided myself with enough of an adventurers spirit to keep moving along with the crowd into this pit swimming with teens, wild synchronized lights (i would later learn that this was a result of that iconic symbol, the disco ball), and a pulsing, rhythmic very very loud wall of music. what a dork i was! so, cramped into this firetrap with hundreds of quiana-clinging school mates, i watched a wave of those ‘in the know’ take to the floor (though i don’t remember it being delineated at all from the rest of the room) and begin to do these mysterious partner-dancing moves.  i was mesmerized, and also totally out of my element. where did these people learn to do this?

as dork me stood back sipping on a tab (where were the profits for the proprietors, i thought), i watched this hip, cool, shiny, glossy crowd groove and dip and shake and twirl and spin and whatever else they were doing, in total sync with one another, and crowned myself, once more, as an observer to the throngs of everyone else who were in the know. the good news is that it was a brilliant show.  i loved the music, the dancers all intriguing performers giving me a show of this new leap towards adulthood.  it was scary and alluring and intoxicating and sexy.

how far from that priest and his talks of damnation i was heading!  and right along with the best love stories of my existence as a professional in the world of unrequited love, i got a little weepy as i watched the cool ones end the evening wrapped around each other to the soulful cry of the soon-to-be crowned-queen’s anthem, ‘last dance’. so after the cramped, loud, other-worldly night spent in the basement of the sleepy sunday-brunch corner cupboard cafe, i drove my allotted passengers off at their houses and aimed home in the saab.  i knew that something was changing, and i knew i was way way way behind the crowd.

what to do? tuck karen, richard, barry and barbra away for a bit, and start spinning donna summer on my record player. easy. 1, 2, 3….dip, turn…shake your booty.

5.17.12  

engineering + math + science = heartsongs studying structure, design, architecture and all of that jazz comes in handy when i have to draw a bagpipe.

actually, when i have to draw anything. my scottish friend is celebrating a birthday today.  i love being able to say that, “scottish friend”…as in, a scottish fellow who lives in scotland. so for today’s facebook special birthday m. wood doodle, it was a compelling task…either that or the loch ness monster. now the fact that i even know this scottish fellow is because of a pair of john’s: hughes and belushi.  a forever fan of both “ferris bueller” and “the blues brothers”, somehow the windy, gritty city of my backyard compelled this guy to impetuously travel from the glorious green highlands to a grey november weekend in chicago.

fast forward to my being in town to, of all zany things, stand in line for the casting call to my matt damon movie. (notice it’s “my” matt damon movie…). late that night, after a giddy evening of food and spirits, i wound up, on a dare from my pal, striking up a chat with the tall, dark stranger, smack dab in the middle of the packed crowd of the zebra lounge.  stranger things have happened, and they just keep on happening, in my life, anyway.

but the moment that the rolling vowels and consonants came rolling out of his smiling mug, i was hooked.  “you have an accent!” was my immediate reply and the start of a great conversation and even greater friendship. since he’s a stewart, i did a bit of research, meaning, walked over to my mudroom to find my scottish wool scarf, featuring the scottish tartan, a deeply appreciated gift, used daily this past winter. my cat watched me stroll past her food dish (set near the lovely display of wine, always at the ready for unexpected guests), and noticed, with a frown, that i didn’t stop to “top off” her kibble.

back at my desk, i took a look at a few photos of bagpipes in my eyewitness scotland book…then settled with a pen and paper to do the odd looking thing justice: transforming a blank piece of paper into a black line, color rendered birthday bagpipe sketch. i had no idea that there were three alternating length wooden sort of handles, each stretch of wood clustered together by a toggle…that all of these moveable arms were tied together with a braided rope, gaily tasseled at the end.  who knew!

the fittings remind me of detailed working drawings when, back in the day, i was drafting elevations and sections of custom designed millwork for architectural projects: everything that is built by hand has to be fitted together somehow, and i love learning the ‘how’ of it all. so, the cutest part of this bagpipe, which just suddenly occurred to be named aptly, as it is a bag with a bunch of pipes, is the little mouthpiece.  in a reverse trumpet sort of shape, the rounded end is fitted into the wool bag with, of course, a nice round fitting, and the tapered end is the little bit that the musician blows into. in a reverse shape appears to be the actual horn.  i could be making this up, but i just drew the identical shape, only the tapered end is fitted to the bag (beneath a lovely fringe of wool), leaving the horn-like end unencumbered.  yes, i think that is where the shrill, ages-old, unworldly bagpipe cry escapes from.

that old argument, nature or nurture, comes to mind.  but i think the wordsmiths who came up with these catchy sayings left out one important factor: add in spirit, or ancestral genes to that and i will, one hundred percent of the time, vote on the side of the ethereal inheritence that, by nature of our stone soup dna, as having the strongest vote in how our heart sings. i’ve spent my life loving the hypnotic strains and sounds, notes and chants, tunes and ballads from the portion of my ancestry that hotbed of history in the united kingdom.  great britain, for my history has taught me that, and ireland.

yes, the french part of me swoons along to edith piaf and the accordian sounds of a parisian street cafe, but deep in my lungs, blood and soul, i’ve felt a yearning connection to the other side of the channel. the little flute thingy, is that a flute or tin whistle?  a fiddle, stomping feet, angelic sweet voiced enya, clannad, the march of the constant single drum to carry the melodic scream of a lone bagpipe, the floaty waves of voices that conjure ghosts and centuries of life, stacked up one by one, layers of tradition, jigs, tartan, green, sheep, twinkles in the eye and a solid, sleepy march from one tried and true century to the next.  simple, unfussy, digging in the soil, loving in the technicolor green grass, fable upon fable, wink with a side of smile.

years ago, i was set to meet my waiter then-boyfriend in london and then discover all of england, scotland and ireland on a backpacking adventure.  the maps and plans were set, the british air tickets tucked safely beside my very first passport.  before our initial parting, whereby later i’d meet him for the start of our monthlong trip, we made the fatal decision to see “room with a view”…. strike the uk, give me italy!  helen bonham carter, dame judi dench, firenze, italy, italy, italy!

yes, my life has indeed had it’s share of distractions, and i’m a bonafide impetuous elf, time and time again. after meeting in rainy, cold london (it was january….), we set off for the south, following the sun as it showered us with a roman holiday of our own, and a lifelong love of all things italian…saving england and it’s sisters for another day.

that day has taken twenty five years to come.

so the best of all, in this morning bit of side-tracked research, is that not only is my friend having a birthday today, but that, in a matter of a couple of short, busy, summer months, my children and i will be trekking to the mysteriously beautiful land of scotland itself to buy our pal a belated stout ale, wax and visit at the pub, and enjoy a personally guided tour of his beloved country, castles and all. and on our list?  check out a highland game with the haunting soundtrack of a gathering of bagpipes, of course!

5.15.12  the older i get, the easier it’s become to whittle.

5.14.12  kind of swimming in the pool of major mother’s day luvin that my children bathed me in.  i said, “no gifts, just major garden chore laboring…”.  well, the labor came, and so did the gifts.  which i loved, and got me all weepy.  the three seedlings of mine ARE the gifts, i keep telling them, really really really.

and magic world of the child=parent connection finds that even the pretty-paper-wrapped tokens that were presented to me yesterday calculated into tangible proof of how close we are, how the connection grows and flourishes, how they ‘get me’, and how, most important of all: they’re each so remarkable thoughtful, generous and not shy about showing their feelings.

blessed me to spend even a fraction of moment in their glad, zany, thoughtful company.

5.9.12  my mind is blank, my desk stacked high with a zillion things that are vying for my attention. that darned sunny day is teasing from over my shoulder, luring me outside to dig in the dirt, tidy the garden beds, inspect my little buds as they push through the crumbly blanket of soil to the warmth and bright morning.

gosh darn it.  do i close the curtains, shut the french doors, avert my gaze?

or just scramble at my work, blast the music, draw really really fast….and earn the reward of a late afternoon stroll through the spring jubilation just outside my door?

we all know the grown up thing to do….and since i appear to be among that classification, i guess my fate for today is sealed.  turn up the volume, here i go.

5.7.12  by luck of a trade of talents, a crew of vigorous fellows spent a long day here murdering, exhuming, and eradicating the sea of nasty, menacing weeds that took over what once was a casually woodsy and wild flower garden bordering my country house.

to reward their hard work, i of course served them a tray brimming with sandwiches, cold drinks, spicy bbq chips and a trio of hershey bars.

to me, these fellows are heaven-sent!

the palette cleared of the obstruction of too many hours of dismal toil that i clearly am too old to do, i ran off to the nursery bright and early to fill the volvo with a first batch of perennials in yet another attempt to tame the wild earth. this is the view that sits just outside of my french doors, as in a daily view, as in a view that should inspire rather than reduce me to tears.

the day to plant was sunny and cool, and boy, was i inspired. i had chosen my tools with care…walking over to the red barn to fetch a long handled spade, a strong-tined rake, and my pretty bright orange edger.  i gave a little wave to my huge vegetable garden, letting it know that i’d be there soon enough…but first, i really needed to kick in some fragrant floral fun first.

the fun of a family compound is that there is always an avid audience.

my first visitors were a pair of white with black spotted pets: chin chin the cat perched on a few tumbled tree stumps (our idea of stepping stones, eschewing the too-tidy geometric ready to buy ‘stones’ that are frankly over my budget).  she seemed peeved and not too mildly bored.  astro, the really fat dog, dubiously guarded a spot of fresh soil where he had, the previous day, buried a perfectly good soup bone.  no worries, pal: it’s all yours.

so, my solo system of planting and garden design is simple: carry the goodies, one by one, from the back of the car, and plop them down in various positions on the beautifully fresh black soil of flower garden canvas.  standing back, i’d eye the groupings, rearranging pots as i saw fit, until i was satisfied with the families of color, texture and fragrance that were sure to burst forth in a few weeks of watering and sunny shiny days.

i’m sure my inspiration came from the saturdays of my childhood.  after spending seeming entire weekends at d. hill nursery, my parents would arrange to have a barn-load of trees and shrubs delivered.  building a house on a former indian river bed-cornfield-early settler farm, our property was ringed with old oak trees and ancient elms, and nothing in-between.

so, the fun part came when my parents would stride out to the huge yard and start ordering their five kids around.  as in, “lizzie, be the birch tree, go stand over by the pool…john, you’re the blue spruce, go over there by the kitchen door…matt and mary, stretch out your arms and go behind johnny, you’re the white pines…” and on and on we’d go, statue like, the wood children appropriately playing the parts of young trees that would soon enough be rooted and thrive on the five acres where we’d all grow up, my parents settle for their entire lives, and my children and i eventually build our own house to add to the family compound fun of generations on the same soil.

back to the task at hand, as so many of the moves i make here where i live mimic and conjure up incredibly vivid memories, i look over my tools and choose the pretty edger for both it’s lovely color, and also it’s handy handle…just the thing to help me get this job done.

digging away, i’d managed to plant half a dozen perennials before another visitor happened by.  settling cozily on my wide deck in an adirondack chair, a steaming cup of coffee at her side, my cute mom waxed on the loveliness of the scene.  quoting several poems memorized as a youth, she took a break to ask me, “wouldn’t you rather use a spade with a point?”.

i looked up and smiled, at this point, a bit winded from crouching amidst a pile of dirt, crumbling bits of it in my gloved hands, patting down the soil and tucking in my azalea plant.

“i’m good, but thanks”, came my speedy reply.

a few more poems recited aloud as i moved on to the “deer resistant” little low-spreading evergreens, squinting my eyes to envision their color and texture against a few of the round wooden tree trunk disks that formed a path through what would eventually be a lush gorgeous field of flowers and fauna.

out of the garage stepped my cute dad.  he had some chore of his own on his mind as he approached his car, but first stopped when he noticed his wife, my cat, my dog, and his daughter.  the latter: covered in mud.

“wouldn’t you rather use a spade with a point?”

i took a deep breath, chuckled to myself, looked up first at my mom who let out a great big laugh, smiled at my dad and answered, “i’m good, but thanks.”

it does take a village.  it really does.  one big happy village.

5.1.12  may day!  garden day!  dig out ripped jeans and old frye boots day!  prep advil for eventual back ache day!

4.27.12 i just read a nyt book review of anne morrow lindbergh’s final book, “against wind and tide”: a posthumous printing of diaries from the last 40 years of her life.

years ago, when i was in design school, i’d fritter away my paltry tax refund on a people’s express airline ticket to washington, d.c.  staying with a great pal in her apartment which featured a view of the washington memorial, i fancied myself a bit of a lone artistic wanderer.  while she spent her day working at george washington university, i set about on foot to discover the city i would come to love. sketch book, 1978 pentax camera, a good pen and my diary in hand, i wandered about, soaking in the history, architecture, and poignancy of our capitol city.

at the same time, i was tentatively stepping into some form of adulthood, whereby everything felt illuminated, each sensation, thought, discovery, awareness, like lightning rods inspiring my creative self at each turn. sitting beside the newly unveiled vietnam memorial, i sat quietly on a bench, shaded by those iconic blooming cherry blossoms, watching somber vets lean against the reflective black wall. flashing back to memories of watching the television news, anchored by walter chronkite, who read from a piece of paper while the images flashed by of newsmen interviewing young men dressed in camouflage.  i didn’t get it then, and i don’t get it now: you mean, they stop shooting long enough for the interview sequence?  i pondered: if they can control it for that, why can’t the just stop shooting altogether?

but i digress. my trip went along these lines: sit alone, observing, and then consuming the emotions and reactions as though i, myself, was the camera, tape recorder, dictaphone, and witness to both the centuries of history that that town magnifies, as well as the present day world as it witnesses that history for themselves. deep stuff!

one day, i wandered into a great dusty old bookstore.  rows and rows of books stood patiently as i sauntered down the rows, taking my time in the air conditioning for a bit of a respite from that powerful sun.  always a sucker for an intriguing jacket design (i buy my wine for the same reasons), i reached for a book a bit on the top shelf.

anne morrow lindbergh.

huh.

my zeal for history assumed that she was somehow related to lucky lindy, the hero who flew across the atlantic during the great depression. the flower and the nettle.

huh, again.

catchy title, further intrigue. my curiosity firmly at attention, i opened the book and read the liner comments.  it sounded really good.  hobnobbing with the expats, a literal history of the u.s. during a pivotal time of national, international, technological and social change, i was hooked.

luck followed this first find and i noticed a few more of her published novels: tomes that held her very own personal history awash in a time that has always fascinated me.  what better way to get my history groove on than by learning and getting to know this woman at the same time?

my days continued much the same: solo wandering, sitting on a park bench, sketching and writing. but more and more of these hours were spent falling eagerly into her world.  somehow, that sweet shy young woman sent me on a vast journey as i read each entry, each year, each triumph, each horrifying loss, each moment of her savoring, reflecting, recounting, reliving a gloriously complicated life. i found her simple in her needs, delightful in her love, grateful for her family, protective of her solitude, eager in her curiosity, and solemn in her awareness and clarity. i finished all four novels on that trip.

i probably wasn’t the best company after hours, rushing off to my bed to gobble up more of her words. when i finished, i felt like i’d had more epiphanies than i could count: certain that i was much better armed in a sensory way, for the life i was just setting out on.  i’d found a companion for life, a safe, sturdy, wise mentor to keep on each and every bookshelf for the 30 years since.

and glory be, what news to discover this week: a posthumous collection of her diaries from the last 40 years of her life has just been published.  there’s more, more, more.  and ironically, my age when i first met her was nearly the same as she was when she wrote her first volume.  and now, at 52, if i get the math right, we’re a comparable age now: her final 40 has come into my life as i set out on those of my own.

my friend. found again.

4.23.12  preparing for a trip to the uk and france this august, i’ve been digging well into every literary tome i can find, burning that midnight oil on fascinating reads.

yes, i still read books, and will for the unforeseeable future…i’m a big fan of the tactile and audible bits that come with turning page after page. believe it or not, i never really understood how world war 1 got started, never knew why everyone referred constantly to the trenches…and don’t even get me started on napoleon!  who knew! so there’s drawing to be done, cooking to be tended to, and that most of fun task of mothering…but in between all of that comes my solo time stepping back into the past, one word at a time.

4.17.12  every year when i moan, whine and complain about everything winter has to offer, i have to remind myself about this glorious thing called spring. the cycle, the circle, again and again and again: each green bud, tweet of bird and stretched out longer and longer days thrill me like a first love. hither, garden tools: here i come.

4.16.12  the “morel” of the story is…the morel mushrooms have arrived!  foraging a bit in the elm-littered forest, the clarions of our springtime have popped their brain-like little heads up from the rain and storm soaked earth…ready for the plucking!

4.14.12  when i was growing up, i had a love-hate relationship with saturdays. no school, sleep in, laze around, watch tv, plan a sleepover: you name it.  it was the first day of the two day ‘good times’, and, being a fan of relaxation from an early age, it was made for me.

however there was the issue of my dad, giving my mom a break, a house in the country, and plenty of chores. the saturday drill: wake up to find a list as long as one page of a yellow legal pad filled out with everything that had to happen that day.  when the chores were done, you could play, free to be. so, nix the sleeping-in plan first of all. with a bit of math, you’d divide the 20-30 items (both indoors and out) by 5 (total number of wood kids….) or 6 (if some poor sap spent the night on friday and was silly enough to be here when the chore list appeared), and then check off the ones that you wanted. the reason to get up early?

simple.

to avoid things like: hauling huge branches, mucking the horse stalls, planting trees, or cleaning the toilets.  the smart ones got to the list in a hurry, checked off: waxing the slate floor, dusting the living room furniture, driving around on the tractor, organizing the pot cabinet. my high school brother, who turns 54 this very day, was a bit of a night owl and was always the last one out of bed in the morning.  we all know what this means!

now that i’m a grown up, i find that i’ve flipped inside-out in the way i embrace saturdays.  especially in the glorious springtime!  up early, savor that coffee on my deck as i make my very own chore list.  my three kids, when here (darn that issue of college life anyway, i could use a strong hauler right about now), know what this list means.  they’ve heard the lore, they’ve begged to be excused, feigned sprains and illness: all the tricks that my siblings and i all tried, and failed at, back in the 60s and 70s.

i love chores.

you won’t find me lunching out or shopping on a sunny day, the horror and the waste.  rather, you’ll see me pulling the old poles out of the vegetable garden, sketching a new scape for the front ‘wild and casual and natural’ garden, and pulling out the pine sol for a nice fresh bit of floor mopping. the reward?  loving the tradition that my parents instigated: love where you live, tend to your life, use some elbow grease and then, at the end of the day, freshly showered and ready for a relaxing evening: sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. nothing like it.

4.12.12  i’ve altered today’s scheduled programme, something that had to do with springtime, birds, and some aggressive work, instead to take a moment to have a moment of silence for all who perished in the titanic.

100 years ago this week.

my mom is a bit of a ‘swami’, as in, sort of intuitive, clairvoyant, and anything along those lines. which means that i grew up in a sort of unorthodox, spiritually-aware household.  throw in a firm catholic foundation for good measure, well, at least until my parents had us all storm out of a mother’s day sermon where the doddering old priest condemned all single mothers to hell. i guess like a good baker, you temper life with a bit of this and a bit of that. i sort of believe in everything, and have had very little reason to abandon any of my hodgepodge potpourri spiritual basket.

so, here we are, a childhood where i would ‘send my mom a message’ while she shopped at the jewel, which, robot-like, found her inexplicably pushing her cart over to the candy aisle (trust me, a rare indulgence in those days), reaching for a bag of chocolate covered raisins. as the bags were unpacked, to her sounding cry of, “au secour!”, sure enough, out came a bag of just what i had “asked” her to buy for me. inexplicable!

winding through life, i’ve had many reasons to keep one foot on either side of the world: the real, human, blood-forging physical world, and that filmy, floaty unseen bit that i know is out there. i spent decades firmly believing i died in the titanic.  as a little girl, i was unable to ever look at photos of sinking ships.  our summers spent on the idyllic st. lawrence seaway were partially spent in little terror as huge freighters, proudly flying flags from all over the world, lurched by.

no, i’m no fan of those big creatures that bellow smoke and threaten to leak and plummet to the depths of the unknown seas and deep, chilly rivers. so, when that james cameron man came out with his ‘kind of the world’ film starring that boyish leo (i’m not a fan) and that darling kate (where do i get her autograph?), i had absolutely no intention of seeing it. who cares if it costs 100 million dollars to make and was sure to be an oscar favorite?  what on earth would convince me to sit in bloody holy terror for a few hours, just to relive my earlier doom?

as i find a challenge a worthy adversary, and am trying my best to not be a big old chicken, i was eventually peer-pressured into seeing the movie.  the only agreement i made to myself, as i chomped soothingly on popcorn, was that now, as a mother of three children, i indeed was brave and would face my fears head on.  heart thumping, romance established, that silly plot that killed time as we all enjoyed the sumptuous hug of that beautifully appointed ship, i waited for the final night and that damn iceberg to thrust itself into the peaceful gaiety. i kept my eyes open the entire time.

years later, on a trip to nyc with my daughters, we followed my tradition of staying always at a different part of the city.  finding a macabre pull towards this most scary subject, i booked a ‘captain’s room’ at “the jane hotel”….face my fears once again! this cool hotel, renovated and decorated in a sea-faring, circa 1912 style, was originally built as a small-roomed berth sort of hotel to accommodate the crew members of in and outgoing behemoth vessels of the atlantic.

ahoy matey and all that, the bell caps wore those darling “telegram”-delivering lad looking vestments and jaunty round caps; the room keys were affixed to large brass fobs and tucked into those old wooden cubby cabinets; the decor of our room was early 20th century; the view was the hudson river and the proud, welcoming statue of liberty. but what really pulled me into choosing this hotel over all others? it was the hotel where the survivors of the titanic were brought to stay during their arrival in new york, and where they stayed during the investigation.

on top of that, a memorial service for all those lost was held in the hotel ballroom. who could resist this chilling, historical and spooky vignette? sure enough, it was fabulous, and sadly, my gals and i weren’t visited by any ghostly apparitions. call it a quirky part of my unconventional childhood, but i was really hoping, though biting my nails in apprehension, to see or at least feel, something otherworldly during our stay. no such luck. but, it did churn up a wonderful visit that paid homage, in some small way, to that terrible, horrible disaster.

as a member of the club of the living and a big, big fan of history, i savored the six-degrees of separation factor of our time at “the jane”. so, here we are, 100 years later.  i’m still afraid of ocean liners, but as a designer and illustrator, i can’t get enough of their style, engineering and formidable existence.  today is a day to take a moment to pause for all who suffered from this great and horrific tragedy and cherish the breath that comes still to us, here and now.

4.10.12  here we go again. with my two oldest children settled into their college world, the caboose has pulled up to the station and i’m caught a bit unawares.

last night was college night at the high school, and my youngest set off, friend in tow, to scour the eager college admissions reps for information.  like a mini-convention, these crazy kids filled a great big bags with attractive brochures and free pens.  ah, if only the decision was that easy. like a good little offspring, she visited my cute alma mater, and had a captivating chat with the rep.

i’d be lying if i said it wouldn’t be cool to have one of my children spend their college years where i had such an idyllic time ages ago, and still carouse a few times a year.  but, since it’s not about me, i will just sit back and see what sort of a list she comes up with. i know for a fact that my car will be headed south this june: nashville and the south in general, with it’s pulled pork, country music and easy ways pulls my gal. dotting a map, i’ll have her choose a few schools to loop through as we gaily road trip from one academic playground to the next, ready to peek into worlds unknown, which at some point, might become a part of her story.

if i had it all to do over again, what would i have chosen?

back in the ice age, my list was small, the internet was a jetson-like fantasy, and my worldliness was nil.  i’m sure i’d have done what i did, nestle into a little mini-world of an iowa hilltop, still stretching my wobbly legs, still not quite ready for the big, scary grown up life that was just around the corner. my kids are way more ‘with it’ than i was at this age, probably a combination of a nonstop gust of information, experience and awareness that didn’t seem to be on the menu in the 60s and 70s.  it’s a fascination thing: watching life anew from this vantage point.

the plot thickens as each of my tots stretches forward well into their own stories, and i am riveted. the best movie around is the one you star, or co-star, in, yourself. stay tuned: it’s sure to be a happy ride.

4.9.12  back to the studio, back to some really fun sketching, back to some toe-tapping background music, and back to a fresh cup of coffee to delight my senses and get me back into the swing of things after a fabulously fun, sunny, balmy, springy holiday weekend.

4.5.12  for years, i owned-designed-ran a prominent notecard company, one of those little “cottage industries” that are a dime a dozen nowadays.

stacks and stacks, thousands of offset print inventory bedecked with my whimsical little illustrations stood at the ready in the high basement of my renovated farmhouse in the village.  boxes and boxes of envelopes, packing tape galore, stacks of pens and order forms, shipping cartons, a wrapping center, and an innovative device called a “cd player” to offer musical entertainment.  all just a few short steps downstairs from my kitchen. what a buzzing, humming hive of fun!

neighbors, typically destitute single moms like me, walked over after dropping their children off at school, creating my little enclave of busy bees chatting, answering phones, packing orders, personalizing invitations, packing and shipping orders. and colluding. birds of a feather and all that, we single moms did stick together.

i’m sure you’ve all heard of a phone tree: that set up designed to relay vital school information such as a snow day or church on fire to alert parents of a change in their children’s schedule.  nowadays, it’s text and twitter and group email blasts, totally convenient but yep, a bit impersonal.

well, our little collective of gals, scraping dollars together to get enough food at the market to feed the brood, had our own inventive phone tree. this involved the water man, from the village.  sure enough, that bill was due like clockwork, was it once a month or once a quarter?  i have no clue from this safe distance of time, but back in those days, the phone would ring with vigor: the water man from the village is coming down north avenue to shut off the water!  you could almost hear the devilish, foreboding musical theme song to his shark-like arrival. of course, none of us had paid our bills.  times were tough, a budget was a challenge to meet, the children constantly needed new shoes (those darned feet kept growing!), food and shelter.

sorry, water man, but he was last on our lists of people who got paid!

so, this was the tip off: once that truck was spotted over by the library, making it’s evil way to stop at the naughty houses who were filled with negligent paupers, turning off their water supply, the phones would start ringing.  house by house, here he crept. with the alert coming ahead of time, this was the job: throw off your icky yucky baggy sweat shirt and jammie bottoms, clasp on a push up bra, wear some tight jeans and a dangerously low-cut top, dab on some lovely alluring fragrance to cover the smell of bacon or pinesol, slip on a pair of heels and some fresh lipstick.  then, casually and in a state of calm, saunter out on the front sidewalk to pick flowers or tend to the mailbox….don’t let them know you’ve seen them coming!

sure enough, as the poor fellow would pull up and be greeted by yet another sexy lonely housewife, his knees and his resolve would weaken, he’d hear your brief little sad story, climb back into his truck, granting you leave for one more week, just enough time to gather the thirty two dollars required to cover the months’ worth of water. batting your eyelashes in deep gratitude, with a hint of a really big thank you in some realm of his imagination, off he’d drive, leaving you without shutting off your water supply.  victory!

yes, we girls do have to stick together, don’t we?

these days, i work solo, having moved beyond my notecard realm to something more independant, varied and challenging.  i love it, i do, in my country hideout, the one with it’s own well: a comforting security after those crazy days in town. do i miss the collective village of like-minded sleuthing women down the block?  yes, at times i do, but i’m still just a text away from pulling them back into my cozy orbit, and now, too, and always, flooded with hilarious memories of those early fun ever-so-challenging days behind me. indeed, it does take a village.

and then some.

4.2.12  i have totally lost track of time.  apparently, a whirlwind weekend to my alma mater & it’s cozy sweet little town has whisked me out of my structured days and put me into a daze of relaxing, crazy fun. wine bar, delish pizza from a ginormous imported tiled italian oven, a gallery opening, live music and even livelier conversation, rich cappuccino, fresh baked mixed berry scones, an entree to the mysterious world of knitting, a fine hearty lunch and then a heartier country hike, a much-needed lazy afternoon to the accompaniment of a fine cello player…then a party and merriment galore!

fabulously wonderful friends, rows of tilled earth, the fragrance of cattle and pigs, the peaks of red barns and towering silos were glad company for my mini-adventure, and now, back at the helm, i’m rich with energy anew, catching up and catching on…it promises to be a fabulous week.

3.30.12  ahhhh, iowa!

3.29.12  i couldn’t write a better script.

3.28.12  with a flourish and great enthusiasm, a super cool commission has landed at my feet from one of my favorite places on earth, new york city. yes, it’s buildings, yes, more architecture.  i find it fascinating that the iconic steel, glass & cement shelters that have been raised over the decades become etched into the emotional pool of so many of us. a modern-day charm bracelet, i’m flattered to be asked…sketch a tower or two, take me back, ah that french bit of souvenir…to come back, always, to come back.

3.26.12  funny how just a short drive in your car can land you into an around the world trip. my meeting, and granted, this was a business meeting, combined a smattering of delicious nibbles, coffee & tea; rich conversation which spread far and wide to cover topics ranging from germany, france, scotland, australia, tasmania, dubai, england, and toronto; the soundtrack of two lovely australian accents and the accompanying slang of their countrymen; a dissertation involving all things curry; a dynamic duo times two of enough talent & expertise to launch an empire; and of course, the amusing little bark of a very fluffy cute dog. and all of this adventure, a stones throw from my little corner of the world, reminding me again of the vast coolness of the creatives.

3.25.12  greated the day with enthusiasm and surprise. and coffee.

3.24.12  a delicious rainy day has appeared which compels me to do one thing and one thing only: disappear into a fabulous book.

3.23.12  is it today already? so the festivities of a riotous birthday party kept me up way way late, but so worth the lost time with mr. sandman.  the early summer weather has, gratefully, backed down a bit by offering me a sprinkling, gentle rain…the best backdrop for a cozy quiet restorative sated day. happy friday.

3.22.12  i’ll take an extra jolt of coffee this morning, please. had a super fun meeting last night that included great conversation, thrilling vintage automobiles, and crisp prosecco.  did i say recently how much i love my job? arriving back at my house, i was welcomed by a pile of college girls, wrapped in blankets, watching back to back episodes of “lizzy mcguire”. heaven!

so in lieu of hitting the hay, i grabbed my favorite jams, grabbed some popcorn, and joined the “kids” for a zany trip down memory lane. thank goodness for the arts, that’s all i can say.  it’s the lifeblood of my life, and in these unpredictable moments, something as silly as a midnight snack and reruns of a disney channel beloved television show, we’re all transported back in time to another era in our family adventure.  talk about simple days, happy ways, goofy, earnest, idyllic time to play. worth losing sleep over any time.

3.21.12  when i was young, i couldn’t get a handle on the expression, “greenwich mean time”. always wildly visual with an over the top imagination, i could only envision a place or a moment where the time was, naturally, mean.

at some point in high school or college, i must have had someone explain to me what they really meant, that it’s a title, that it means sort of actual, based on a point on the map and a center to the global clockwork by which we could all set our timex watches.  to keep on ticking.

throw a few decades into the mix, and i’m back to my earlier beliefs.  there actually IS a mean time, which, gladly, i’m mostly free of in this happy land of my life, at this moment. one thing i hate to rehash with my children, once wild eyed, optimistic, fruitfully hopeful, is that, sadly so, life is going to toss some lemons their way.

as hard as i try, swinging my mothering-instinctive virtual tennis racquet to chase away the blues, the hardships, the gullies and the challenges, i am only human.  granted, i’ve got a killer backhand, but despite my eager attempts, some stuff always slips through the cracks, presenting us all with a day filled with mean time.

as i watch their fortitude, cleverness, and determination build, i guess it’s okay that i can’t, like a super power flying about with a cape and a primary-colored costume, keep them out of the diabolical dilemmas, dramas and quandaries that just come with the turf. those smarty pants sages meant it: it builds character, pushing the power of one into a mega-force that learns to appreciate, value and deeply savor the flavor of, yes, greenwich good times.

3.20.12  i never appreciated the difference between a revolving door, the kind when you can keep going in and out of a place…and a turnstile, the inventive yet diabolical device that allows only a one way journey.

this morning, while i waited in patient line to drive through the high school lanes, the kiss goodbye from my youngest child fresh in my mind, i took it all in. washed suddenly with one of those darned epiphanies that come more and more frequently, i took a trip back in time through the years that i’ve been making this very same early morning drive. corey is a junior.  her brother is a junior in college.  her big sister, a sophomore.

with sips from my coffee, the cars chugging in place to make their all too familiar loop, i did the math. this is the 7th year in a row that my job is to drive my car to this place, watch the teeming teens stream from their range rovers, impalas, jeeps, bmws, explorers, minivans and pick up trucks.  it’s a veritable merry-go-round of sameness, the only variations are the weather and the mood of the particular teens sitting in my car.

it’s an early morning clarion call, so crabbiness is always an option.

so, for 7 years, i’ve been fused to this task, this first peek at the day of thousands of high school kids.  the slide show played in my mind…the kind of car i drove, the outfits of the students filing into the building, the energy of each of my children as they reached for the door handle, bracing themselves to join the throngs of high school academia.

my children need to eat.  it’s no secret that i’m a night owl, so this 7:20 bell call of the start of first hour has my alarm here ringing way too early for my own good, and yet, it’s the job i signed up for in 1990 and there is no clause for excusing myself from the start of the day. nor would i want to, despite what my kids would think after much texting and whispering and calling, “mom…it’s 6:30…”.

if i’m in my good form, thanks to the clever child who pushes the start button of my little coffee maker, the aroma will start to kick me awake before i’m on my feet.  automaton-like, i’ll make way way to the kitchen (luckily, a mere 9 steps), and pour the magic elixir into my mug and open wide. next up: a blatant ignoring of the warnings about cholesterol.  we’re a bacon and eggs kind of family, or an egg and ketchup sandwich clan, or best of all, an egg in the toast gaggle.

so, with my java attached to my left hand, i’ll risk the safety of all by flipping on the gas burner and cooking up something hearty for the teen who is about to make their appearance at the kitchen island. these are good days. why is it so satisfying watching your children eat the food you’ve made for them?  who knows, but it is.

it’s the first joy of the day, the first tick in the to do list of being a parent and sending them off with a dose of goodness & attention. you matter to me. as i was in the que, heading out of the vast parking lot, i wondered why it took me so long to realize that, this raising kids thing, rather than each experience being like a revolving door, revisit, relive, redo….it is just like a turnstile where there is only one direction to go: forward, never back.

so, maybe this caboose of mine is feeling a bit more tended to.  and not for any personal, specific reasons (really, kids, trust me: i love you all the same, and i like you like that, too): it’s more about my getting it: this is the last of the line.  this is the final bow.

this crawl out of bed, inhale my coffee, flip the egg, grab the car keys, head out the door, lean over for that goodbye kiss: it’s the last frontier of my daily bread, my view, in the not too distant future, of that oft talked about empty nest. i’m soaking it up, every last crumb of it, as the best years of my life.

3.19.12  pinch me.

have to admit: this is pretty darn cool.

while loitering online just now, in between some work objectives, trolling for books about england’s monarchy, & researching chinese painting, i took an irresponsible swing over to tmz to read about lindsay lohan putting herself under house arrest.

there’s no denying we fell loopily in love with her back in the day when she landed, all freckles and perk, in the nervously anticipated remake of “the parent trap”.  in hindsight, though a big fan of hayley mills, it really wasn’t difficult to trump that kind of cheesy first go at twins cavorting and cajoling their parents into a reconciliation.

since then, and i’m certain it’s the burning maternal stuff going on, i’m still rooting for her.  kind of like those awful decisions that jenny made in “forrest gump”, we keep holding our collective breath as she makes a right turn then a wrong turn….no, the audience cries, don’t go down that dark road!!!

so, i’m off topic, again, but this is how my mind works.

as i landed on that gossip website, a page i typically avoid, i learned that lindsay’s probation is ending in two weeks, and a plea from her friends has convinced her to just stay home in the evenings so that she can avoid further skirmishes and trouble.

sounds like a wise decision.

as i felt a bit restored in my hope that she’s going to get it together, i glanced up at something oddly familiar that was topping the website page.

could it be?

way beyond cool: my cocktail blueprint print, centered in a crate&barrel banner ad, right there for all to see!

and in my favorite game, the six degrees of separation, does this mean me, my print, lindsay lohan, dennis quaid, meg ryan……the game could be endless, and i’ve stalled enough already this morning so it’s back to work i go.

for as much as i love to kill time with my insatiable curiousity about pretty much everything, i get a killer satisfaction over seeing something that i pored over for weeks last year, yes, even skipping a taylor swift concert for my daughter, sketching, drafting, and drawing at my kitchen table…blazing

a pretty fine feeling, indeed.

3.18.12  glorious day that started with vivid dreams of adventure, landing me smiling and happy to awake, find that first and best cup of coffee, savoring the easy wonderful weekend.

the drab chill of winter, at this time of year, always seems worth it, if only for this celebration of exciting, fresh, warm possibility.

and, as is the best of all when you choose to not expect, to not plan, to not search…along comes some pretty extraordinary surprises.

just when you least expect them.

3.17.12  wanderlust is knocking

3.16.12  i’m exactly where i’m supposed to be.

3.15.12  is it the chicken or the egg?  the horse before the cart?  a self-fulfilling prophecy?  some kharmic, intuitively accurate label making?  an obsession with hollywood that just went too far?

when it came time to come up with a name for our third child, there was the requisite digging through family trees, flipping through baby name books (never did it for me), staring at maps of the faraway lands of our ancestors….searching, searching & searching some more for just the right moniker.

the previous two carried mantles that did come straight from family names, almost pre-determined during the courtship of their parents.  but this third one…this final work of art…this brand new promise…what was his or her name supposed to be?

okay, so it’s true that my kids have unusual, if not complicated or confusing names.  the boy has a girl name that means christmas and is constantly pronounced incorrectly.  don’t people speak french?  and the girl, well, it seems simple to us, but the world inexplicably has decided that her name is really a different one.  and to complicate matters entirely, they all have an alsatian last name which our entire orbit of people mispronounces, misspells, and butchers.

so when it came down to my absolute final choice, i had to call on my savvy marketing skills to convince the baby daddy (and to foist more importance on the toddler boy, we gave him a vote, too).

you see, the name that this baby, should she be a girl, needed to have, at least according to hormonal me, came right out of a movie. it wasn’t just the movie, it was the character and all that she was, that so inspired and delighted me, and i knew to my core (pun intended) that this little person yet to arrive was the spitting image, energy-verve-hilarious-passionate-bubbly-adorable-kookie-wise, of the cinemascope gal.

but now, to rock the vote and entice my people to agree with me.

back in 1995, the wonderful world of movies was at our fingertips, as long as you didn’t mind loading the red volvo sedan with a four year old blue eyed boy and his sublimely sweet blond little sister, drive off to the library, scour the shelves for the vhs in mind, stop at the bakery for a couple of donuts (our friday tradition), swing by the po box to see if there was a check (our daily tradition), then back home to fill the remaining hours until daddy came home with some romping and napping.

tucking little hallie to bed and popping a big batch of popcorn, i made my p.r. move to win the vote of the gents of the house.

as the movie began, i, for one, was swept away with the theme song and image of the white carriage gliding through the busy circa 1968 streets of new york.  noel seemed pulled in the second he tasted the popcorn and saw the white horse!

but i knew, the vote that i needed, the 50-50 deal that was on the table back then, was going to need a bit more convincing. he looked dubious.  he looked unattached.  he seemed uncertain!

but, happily, as the plot thickened, and jane fonda, robert redford, charles boyer assembled in that hilarious scene involving a ferry to staten island, belly dancing and too much unidentified liquor, mildred natwick cooed, “corey, darling…”

and then it happened.  i saw the connect, i saw the approval, i saw the delight.

we had a name.

so, the story veered wildly off course a little bit after this cherubic firecracker landed in our lives.  our nuclear family was suddenly way off course, as though that horse and carriage trotting through central park was suddenly caught in a storm that whipped the reins and drove us all into a maniacally uncertain and frenetic future.

the landscape for this baby became a patchwork; a nontraditional world that would become her childhood, her foundation, the beginning of her story.

others would have withered, but this outrageously expressive, optimistic, determined, passionate, strong gal grabbed a hold of the bucking bronco that life presented her and rode like a rodeo star.

at one point, i had a little nickname for her, simply: “trigger”:  she makes things happen, she knows what she wants, she cajoles and loves stronger than anyone, she fights for what’s right and isn’t afraid to get bruised along the way.  she nourishes and delights, feels and gives warming affection, calculates the next few steps ahead to avoid those often unpredictable bumps in the road, grabs a hold of a problem and vanquishes it to dust.  and, like her namesake, will do anything for the people she loves.

so the chicken and egg, the whole thing.  did she grow to match this plucky persona, or was this baby growing and poised to join our lives,  already armed with the fortitude, strength, courage, heart and perseverance that she knew she was going to need.

yep, that’s my 17 year old birthday girl.

of course, to keep her as moniker-challenged as her big brother and sister, we spelled her name the boy way (who knew?)…oops!  as the cornelius brothers and sister rose sing, “it’s too late, to turn back now…”

next time you have movie night, pop in “barefoot in the park” and take a look at the kind of daughter i lucked out with.

3.14.12  two things.  i heard on the radio this morning that encyclopedia britannica has printed it’s last set of information tomes.  kaput.  finito. over.

what?

another corpse from the battle of new vs old…how could ‘they’ let this happen?  (whoever ‘they’ are, anyway…)

i think i’m on a jag here, talk about groundhog day with my whining on and on about the ebb of life and the uprising of technology…yes, like a broken record.  i chided myself on the drive home regarding my preoccupation with the death of the world as i knew it.

maybe that’s what happens when you cross that 50 yard line…and from 52, the view ahead is definitely shorter than the view behind.  i seem to be happiest when i cling to the safety of those gadgets, sounds, images and tools of this now bygone era.  nothing i can do about it, apparently: time does indeed flow forward like the great nile and from my literal felucca, i wave weepingly, earnestly and longingly to the valley of kings and queens, the temples of luxor, the great pyramids and ironically, even to the guard at the door of that powerful civilization, the mighty tall majestic and fierce sphinx who couldn’t stop the wheels of progress.

yes, i know that the way the world works is amazing, and as i lamented the death of the encylopedia, i was suddenly a young gal in high school, begging my mom for a ride to the library. the reason?  i had put off, til the last minute, writing an essay about john f. kennedy and that bay of pigs pickle, and needed, at the last hour to do my research.  “go look it up in the britannica” was her easy reply as she stirred the simmering pot of spaghetti on the stove.

i left the kitchen with my notepaper and pen and settled, indian style, on the living room floor in front of the long line of proud leather-bound books.  i loved the order of the things, all numbered and standing ready like skinny soldiers, to educate and inform.

reaching for the “k” volume, i carefully turning the onion-skin pages, momentarily enjoying the texture and sound of each flipping sheet.  kennedy, kennedy…john….joseph…backup, remembering my alphabet, jack and john definitely come before joseph.

uh oh.  oh no.  are you kidding me?

i flipped to the front of the book, finding the page that, for some reason, i’ve enjoyed reading as much as i do the end credits of a movie.  scanning up and down the teeny print, i find what i’m looking for: “published in 1929”.

hitting the dead end, i slide the book back into formation, grab my school work, trudge back to the kitchen, and in one fell swoop, convince my mom that the ride to the library is now non-negotiable if she ever wanted to see me make it to college.

the second thing.  kharma is always watching.

no sooner did i get back to my still piping cup of coffee, toss off my cowboy boots & slip into a pair of summer cozy flip flops, pop open my studio french doors to welcome this crispy nice spring air and flip on my computer…when…

my brainiac macbook announced, with a snide little chuckle, “you have no internet connection”!

panic set in, i restarted the o mighty wonderous magic machine, i crawled about on the floor to unplug several blinking electronic boxes, i noticed a new batch of astro and chinchin dustballs, threw off my jaunty yellow hoodie in a fit of frustration, took several gulps of my now room temperature coffee, and sat back in my chair thinking now of a revised day wherein i would not be communing at the apple altar of my livelihood.

instead, what comes to mind?  what on earth can i do with my morning?  how will i possibly cope??

simple.  by reaching for one of my other handheld devices: a worn, elegantly designed, totally outdated and clearly extinct, enclyclopedia britannica…for an easy ride down memory lane.

3.13.12  this is a little freaky.  but the cool, good kind of freaky as opposed to the maniacally, bad kind.

i was just settling in for some shut eye, and thought check into the mechanical side of my blog headquarters.

typing the word mechanical just now totally sidetracked my train of thought: from my blog and the point i was going to make…smack dab into the swirling, clockwork, wheels, pistons & whatsy-who-sits that made up so much of the set of marty scorcese’s fabulously inventive “hugo”…which i was mesmerized by yesterday.  i’m still a bigger fan of my new boyfriend, jean dujardin & “the artist”….both movies looked amazing, which to people who are totally visual like me, means quite something.

but, the aspects of “hugo” that drew me in, more so than the sad situation befalling the little orphan boy (so sorry not to have more of jude law in the picture!) who’s over-dyed hair distracted me during the entire movie, was the focus of the physical mechanical bits & pieces that whirred the story along.

so much of our world now is invisible to the eye, not because it’s hidden from view, say, in those great clocks that acted as beacons to entire generations of progress, but because our technology has become invisible: wireless, no plugs, no whizzing wheels or ropes to pull bells.  here i am, typing away on a schnazzy white keyboard and these words will, really magically, be sent to all points in the globe by the push of a button.

i don’t know how it works, and it hurts my brain to even consider understanding it.  the intangible components of so much of life now, while super cool, is super confusing and super removed from us.

i guess that’s progress, and it is mind-boggling.  but the stuff that really gets me fascinated is what goes on behind the scenes, what makes things work, and how each small piston, gear and wheel can power these grand clocks, the enormous, powerful locomotive trains, the teeny coiled spin of a wind up mouse.

yes, i was drawn in immediately for the mechanism portion of the film, and find that my curiosity is piqued anew, as is my awe for the smarty pants who figured all of this stuff out so long ago.

so, it’s the behind the scenes that got me started on this writing jag, and as i was checking out how many clicks i had accumulated on this crazy blog of mine, i noticed a new information option hidden somewhere on my dashboard.  lo and behold, i found myself staring at a map of the world, stretching dabs of colors to lands far beyond the coasts of the atlantic and the pacific.

in disbelief, i realized that this nifty guide was showing me where my blog visitors were coming from.  are you kidding me?  see that map up there?  can you see that??

so, totally mind-blowing, a natural high of trying to grasp the mechanics of this impossible-to-grasp concept: i sit in my house, i sketch, i scan a drawing, i upload it onto this page, i type some weirdly whimsical or personal or goofy bit of gathering thoughts, and push ‘update’, then go back to my day of creating, parenting, reading and sleeping….and then, soft as a whisper, the humming wizardry of wireless internet satellites internet wireless ping ping ping sets to work, sending messages off to the wild blue yonder of this teeny tiny gathering of kindred spirits, of curious adventurers, of faceless open minds who, if only for a moment, are layering their minds upon mine.

so freaky, so cool.

3.12.12  monday is fun day when you love what you do and you find energy and inspiration by connecting the cables from idea to task to wonderment.  the faces from faded photos have found their way into my now life, and it’s surreal and intimate and comfortable and right.  i see that i had really good taste way back when, and gladly keep my world open for them to stay.

all of this joining of memory and possibility seems to have put me into a  very powerful surge of creativity at this split second moment, and i’m not sure what to do first.  so, i make lists, i blast off emails, i sketch like crazy, and throughout, feel the inspiration that comes from these unpredictable, unforeseen, unscripted connections bouncing the balloon of my imagination higher, higher and higher still.

3.9.12  well isn’t it an absolutely gorgeous day?  sprinkled with adorableness, happy kids, coffee, conversation, sketching and merriment.  the sun is waving it’s big smile at me and as i watch the sweetest little birds enjoying my newly filled hanging cafe, i send out my welcome smile to joyous, bountiful spring.

3.8.12  oh my gosh, this is funny….i just made myself laugh.  and feeling grateful that, for the most part, the past stays in the past.

when i pulled up this ancient dachsund sketch for a client, i was yanked back in time to the zany days, ages and ages ago, during a very ugly custody battle.  not sure if there are ‘pretty’ ones, say, the way you’d ask for a ‘nice piece of toast’, or something that has a positive spin.  if my experience has the flavor of an average battle, then i’d say, no.

anyway, seeing this long, proud critter again after so so many years did bring an overwhelming feeling of ahhhhhhhhhh, yes!  we all made it through those days with our heads on straight and peace, eventually, in the land…wouldn’t wish it on anyone, by the way!

but the best part of this?  read on.

i’ve raised my kids, no matter what they’re faced with, to always try to take the high road.  yes, it’s lonely up there, sometimes…but it’s got a much better view, fresher air, and a better feeling of satisfaction than flopping around in the depths of mud-slinging and revenge.  they repeat me, sometimes with frustration in their voices after describing a particularly devilish situation that they really wish they could remedy through equally nasty behavior…”yes, i know, take the high road…”

well, the reason this dog illustration makes me laugh, and here’s a confession to show that i don’t always practice what i preach, back in the days of running my stationery business, back in the days that dear oprah picked m. wood studio as one of her favorite things, waving my cards around on national tv for everyone to see, what no one knew (well, a very few), is that i had named this card after a ridiculously biased, icky, unattractive, sour-hearted court appointed mediator!

really, like this made the situation any better?  but somehow, laughing and giggling through those yucky obstacles of courtroom drama and all associated misery just made it seem less scary.

so, here she is, officially stamped on my archives of catalogues, “our dachsund, ms. warren”….sold with a companion card, a robust, poofy, dandy turquoise standard poodle, named, affectionately, “mr. m.”, in honor of a deviously two-faced charlatan who also played a hand in wrecking havoc along the way.  scoundrels!

yes, kids, i’m guilty of dipping my toes into those fuzzy waters of wanting to strike out, only it’s so much more satisfying doing it with pen and paper than with a sword or ugly word. it still makes me laugh, and pulling that dachsund drawing out of it’s dusty corner brought me squarely into that long-ago moment with a shuddering flash.

so, the past is back there where it belongs, and every now and then, as i scour through my thousands and thousands of sketches and drawings, a nugget of remembrance comes slapping up to breathe and focus, before i safely tuck it back into it’s safe little place.

ah, the good old days.

3.6.12  what a day: chockful of surprises, intrigue, jaunty conversation, big big summer plans, bright sunshine, a toasty warm deck, happy animals, savory spaghetti on the stove and the knob switching from winter to spring.  hooray.

3.5.12  islands on the brain…sea air, clapping waves, shellfish & sand.  have to love the power of this imagination

3.2.12  and as i march into march, i’m tingling at the thought of longer days, teasing breezes, startling green and impossibly warm sun.  it’s pretty much the only reason, at my age, to endure nas-tay this thing called winter.

so now and each time of year, when the days miraculously stretch out just a bit longer, then the birds come back to frolic by the great white pine, and our wool makes way for cotton….i know, again, how ready i am to soak in it’s essence.

2.29.12  it’s really swell that my day is sun-shiny wonderful, as i’ve just read sad news.

i know it’s unavoidable, life goes in only one direction, right?

so, davy jones just died.  and with that, i see the curtain inching just a bit more closed on the groovy life that i swam in during my childhood.

years ago, my grandmother-in-law stomped around the gravestones of her parents and siblings, all long gone.  this gal lingered a bit over the stone that etched her very own name, plus her birthdate…then cackled loudly that “it’s not time for me yet!”.  she was about 90 at the time, and over lunch at her favorite central illinois cafe later that day, there was a sobering moment to our conversation when she pointed out that, yes, it did get sort of lonely when you’d outlived everyone, that the landscape of your entire life had vanished right before your eyes.

so, i think of her often, especially as my world slowly, but consistently, slips from view.

sure, the dial and touchtone phones are long gone, as are the b&w antenna tv’s and clock radios with that flip-flip-flip number mechanism that i would listen to at bedtime.  the turntables have vanished, and yes, there’s a bit of a retro love affair with some revisiting (sorry, the new ones i still feel are just imposters).  penny candy disappeared decades ago, along with tape decks and chrome-wrapped really big automobiles.

one by one, the dominos knock over something that is the visual-scape of my life, and with that darling little davy jones going off to the big groovy jam in the sky, i’m thrown back instantaneously to a clump of five rag tag country kids, clustered in front of the tv and studying the out-of-this-world ‘coolness’ of davy and his fellow monkeys.  and, wow, the over-the-top thrill, on a lucky friday night, to find the swingin’ brit mixing company with the goddess of the universe, marcia brady of that iconic “yours, mine & ours” predecessor to all of the broken and re-patched homes in millennium america.

it didn’t get much better, it really didn’t.

so, as i said, it’s good news that i was literally flying high in gleefulness today with an assortment of o-so-pleasing tasks, chores, projects and creative stuff.  it comes down to this, really, as all we’ve got, plus that storage chest of slides of all of our days gone by, moments gone by, is this very single wonderful pure sunny-day moment.

oh, and two slabs of smoked, robust, spicy bbq ribs sitting in my fridge for tonight’s dinner feast.

rip davy jones, you really did make me a believer.

2.28.12 i’m giggling about something…my latest quandry.

the other night i found myself swaddled by the love and older faces of a few dozen grade school pals.  thank you, yes, oh god of social media, for making something this inexplicable happen with the click of a few buttons.  (and the dispensing of several last minute signs to help direct guests to my bat-cave like secret hideaway).

in the merriment of reconnecting after….38 years (but who’s counting), i found the energy high, the liquor flowing, the smiles cracking past the ear lines, and the love of grounded familiarity ever-present.  i felt instant reconnection to these people, who all fell immediately into close legions of hilarity and recollections.  it was fabulous!

as the evening swept along, i found that my hostessing tasks were keeping me from digging into some of the pow wows, and i longed to hear, too, what the heck these people had been up to for nearly the last 4 decades.  ever ready with unusual ideas, i gathered in the kitchen with jo and omg that dashing ricky, to share my plan.

“a circle of truth?” they replied, sounding a little alarmed?  no doubt, they first thought i meant to orchestrate a pagan ancient rite that involved long brown robes and some sort of sacrificial goings on.  after all, we were all little children together sitting earnestly in rows listening to the hell and brimstone ‘talks’ given by a handful of priests and nuns ‘back in the day’….

i explained to my pals that no, the circle of truth wasn’t a creepy thing, but really just one of those “get to know you” games that teachers and retreat leaders seemed so eager to introduce to groups.  they eased into my plan, though with a few caveats: we need a time limit! (3 minutes was agreed upon per person)…. we need category prompts! (two dozen notes with scribbled ‘category’ topics was whipped out, stat)….we need to get their attention so that they will play the game! (harder to do, someone brought jagermeister…).

finally i was able to corral these people into the living room, forming, yes, a circle.  it took quite a while, and i longed for the day when mr. mullinex or sister bernadette would take out a whistle or a stern beady-eyed glare to get these people obediently moving!  but, eventually, yes, they all refilled their glasses and little tapas dishes and gathered round.

hilarity ensued, like, i mean, hilarity!

one of the gents had a second hand on his watch, and was the timekeeper. (though his eyesight shot, i think he took to just counting “one one-thousand, two one-thousand…”)  the pool of ladies sitting nearby took it upon themselves to thwack the restaurant/hotel desk top bell thingy to begin each ‘talk’, or hit it again eagerly if someone was boring or droned on too long….RING!

fun stuff.  and i got the ‘scoops’ that i was missing during my earlier hours of running, fetching, greeting, hugging, and delegating.  (single gal that i am, i’m prone to accept and rely on the kindness of gentlemen who volunteer for beer, wine, coat or recycling duty).

so here’s the part that i was just giggling about.  as we went around in alphabetical order (which is totally apropos as we all learned the alphabet TOGETHER), we finally wound over to the W’s which meant, as was the st. anne tradition, i was last.  believe me, i was grateful for this, though in the 60s when i was the last to make it back indoors after a freezing recess in the icelandic-ly cold streets, i’d longed to be an A.

anyway, i flew through some sort of engaging cliff note version of my life post the age of 14, landing smack dab into my fabulous current life as a goofball creative 52 year old.  sensing the crowd was sated with my update, i reached for my prosecco, eager to give the floor to anybody else.

out of the blue, my sweet dear old friend leaned forward and said, “missy, can i ask you a personal question?”

oh dear.

here it comes.

uh oh, my reputation proceeds this party……

i took an extra gulp of that italian bubbly beverage and steeled myself for whatever she was poised to ask me.

she leaned forward, intent, and her pose made me prepare for the worst…

“when did you stop being preppy?”

what?

omg, that was the last thing i expected to be asked, and the question so threw me, i was without words or thoughts for several moments…seemed like forever until i put together some sort of unintelligible reply…found my funny side, “oh those teen daughters of mine make sure i look hip so as not to totally embarrass them”, etc. and as i spoke, i felt like i was BETRAYING something deep within me that really…did…like…being…preppy.

it seemed like my answer was a flop.  where was my clever banter that has been my sidekick since i was 5?  worried that they’d think i’d grown up and gotten B O R I N G, i made sure i threw in a few more bon mots to keep my avid audience from frowning.

but since then, i’ve wondered…when did i stop being preppy?  have i? huh?

so here’s the thing.  growing up and making it through the cotton of the 60s and the quiana of the 70s…by the time the 80s came and lisa birnbach’s bible made it to my eager hands, i did feel (get ready for a big fat cliche here, folks) like ‘coming home’.  i mean, how else would i feel when the verbage, illustrations, nicknames, architecture, weekends, expressions, menus, geography and attitudes were things i’d already grown up with.  lobster.  tennis.  sailing.  horseback riding. lacoste. sperry. ll bean.  brooks brothers…a veritable roll call of americana with a bent towards haberdashery history!

well, i don’t know about you, but i grew up with a television.  and on that black and white screen i spent countless hours (added up i’m sure it’s years, oops) learning and living alongside of katherine hepburn’s tracy lord and cary grant’s dexter in ‘the philadelphia story’….plus the hundreds of iconic glory days of starched shirts, shiny loafers, thick leather ladies handbags, summer lobster boils depicted in movie after movie after movie…(hello, doris day’s ‘it happened to jane’…see what i’m saying?).

yep, i grew up staring and learning and assimilating this world that here, sure, aims more towards the east coast than my little sleepy chicago suburb, and it was this button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves world that i wanted more and more of.

duck shoes, penny loafers, top-siders, baggy jeans, crisp white cotton tshirts, headbands (yes, i did do that for a while….), plaid skirts, irish wool sweaters: who wouldn’t embrace this world of natural material and sensible colors and patterns?  and the bloody mary’s….

i could go on.

so, basically, the day that i was given an autographed copy of the preppy handbook (which later fell into the pool from my imbibing on too many preppy g&t’s) was a clarion call to embrace and love the first lifestyle i really had been exposed to, and one that was a mainstay in our culture.

fast forward to life here over fifty, i still have my preppy days, of course i do.  but along with the decades of life since the 80s, i’ve dabbled a bit into something to be described as ‘fashionable’…or at least, again, according to the teen gals in this life of mine, ‘cool’ and ‘hip’.

being creative comes with a burden of attempting to look a bit, well, ‘out there’…but i can assure you, well, at least assure my pal who was compelled to ask me that riveting question: if you hung out in my room and dug a little into my shelves of folded and hanging clothes, you’d surely find enough traces of preppy stuff to know, wholeheartedly, that it’s firmly rooted as part of my bizarre, kookie lifestyle dna.

promise.

2.27.12 and another happy oscar night fills the house with twinkle, glitter, glam, pomp & gaiety.

this gal scored 11 points for some lucky guesses and found the evening with it’s nod to the glory days of old hollywood especially apropos.  the best of all, of course, jean dujardin and that glorious, glistening smile of his…vive la france avec a dab of tinseltown.

2.26.12  the best day of the entire year….!!!

2.24.12  if it’s friday, it must mean fish…or any other friendly nugget from the sea.  there’s something endearingly old fashioned about all of that…a whoosh out of nowhere that links the ages into the present, tradition, fasting and feasts all intertwined.  fascinated.

2.21.12 mardi gras, ah the joys of a fat tuesday and all that implies.  inexplicably, i’ve never been to new orleans and now have a burning desire to do so…this year, perhaps?

in other news, my ‘to do’ list is frighteningly long after much merriment so will roll up my sleeves today and manage, despite some ‘lollygagging’ around in my mind, to get a ton of work done.

2.20.12  so this is what fun feels like?

2.16.12  a deliriously happy day today…

2.14.12  it’s a funny day, this valentines day thing.  it skewers the population right in half…or at least, on clearly opposing sides: those that have, and those that have not.

i remember the devastation of adolescence where, each and every valentines day in high school found me, ridiculously, longing to have my name called as cupid’s volunteers hand-delivered single stem carnations to the lucky ones in my classrooms.

i have to laugh: i couldn’t get a date in high school if my life depended on it.  why on earth did i presume that, on this bright pink day, a mysterious secret casanova would suddenly appear to woo me? so, rubbing my bruised heart strings, i’d just get through the day as speedily and less dejectedly as i possibly could.  i remember that craving to know what the heck love felt like.  who really likes cheesy carnations anyway?!?  crazy.

a particularly wonderful year in college, i got my revenge on cupid’s coldhearted passing me by years earlier when i was treated to a madcap mountain of flowers: my room mate and i comically managing the que of suitors, coming in one door, up the stairs, buzzing me from the lobby: ah the feeling was sweet for sure, if not certainly fleeting.  none of that year’s swains was able to capture my heart, but at least it was a hell of a better way to spend the day than in years past.

since then, i’ve had feast or famine, both deserts and tsunamis of blooming champagne feasts.  i know all too well both the parts of meg ryan bounding towards tom hanks, or bridget jones bounding towards chocolate, the telly and some cabernet. i know why cupid carries an arrow: you really do spend the day acutely aware of that darn arrow and it’s potential to sting.

decades have passed since those sad little days in high school, my dan fogelberg records worn thin from overplay.  but what buoys me up, scouts honor, then and to this day is my realization that since valentines day is all about love, i’m good to go: i’ve been swallowed up, surrounded, basked and warmed by a life brimming with amazing, wonderful, constant, loyal, tingly, hilarious love.

there’s a stack of diaries to testify to plenty of romantic playing footsie since high school; there’s that cool thing called my amazing true-blue family; there’s a life spent with the dearest, kookiest friends imaginable, and (drum roll please) the sprinkling of yumminess sweet enough to last a lifetime: the best love of all embodied in the goofy, heart-bursting warmth of my children’s smiles.

happy valentines day indeed: no matter what it looks like, love does make the world go round. and boy, does it feel good.

2.13.12  monday comes, around the bend, the bees all do their thing and make busy.

for me, it’s drawing, printing, thinking, planning, painting, smiling & wondering.

2.12.12  as i type todays date, i’m taken by the synco-pattern of these numbers, all strung out, a one and a two, a one and a two…which brings to mind, well, lawrence welk, but also dancing, music and today, the shrouded grammy day which will now forever be known as the year that whitney houston died.

i’m first to admit that i was deeply sad when, after an evening at the movies with my gals (btw: “the vow”, seen from the second row in an inexplicably packed theatre, will give you a very stiff neck and a bit of malaise…didn’t quite hit the mark), followed by a festive dinner at the lucky monk, i heard the news.

after being talked into ordering a grilled cheese hamburger by our very chatty, former thespian and now full fledged foodie waiter (really, i was only after the deep fried pickles, but bring on the carbs!), our conversation bridged subjects ranging from channing tatum’s good looks, the brilliance of amanda bynes in “what a girl wants”, and happy reminiscences of last years trip to nashville and our shared love of, yes, deep fried pickles enjoyed amid the honky tonk country twang of music city.

out of the blue, corey interrupted our conversation by reading aloud from a text that had pinged itself into our late evening dinner.

“dad said that whitney houston died.”

“what?” was my shocked reply…how could this be?  plus, i never knew he was a fan.

“yes, she died an hour ago.” added hallie, “some girls in the bathroom were just talking all about it.”

i don’t know really what was more surprising: the news, or the surprising litany of messengers who carried it to us.

the pickles arrived, and i found them to be incredibly soothing as i wrestled with my feelings.

48.  a mom. a deeply talented woman.  a star.  but…also, a woman who had boarded a train headed for a big derailment.  so really, was i surprised?  wasn’t the writing on the wall?  didn’t we all see this coming?

well, maybe.  but maybe, too, for the pollyanna’s like me out there, we cling to that eternal torch. the light, bright, hope that somehow, the suffers can just hold on for that one sunny “me” moment that will kick start the obvious strength buried somewhere in a darkened soul’s vault, profound and resilient and determined enough to grab a choke-hold on the demon and send it to the trash where it belongs.

so i guess that’s the saddest part.  this communal outcry of grief all across the flickering social media boards carries, for the most part, the same message.  we hoped that she’d overcome it, we’d felt the power of that voice, & that dazzling smile belting out a generation’s iconic anthems.

benighted by clive davis, whitney houston was music royalty, carrying that dionne warwick, cissy houston & aretha franklin royal soul sister torch into the millenium.  and we were all rooting for her, rise above.

sure, there were demons, and i’m happy to throw a punch to bobby brown, just as i eagerly threw blame to that ridiculous, ego-maniac dodi al-fayed who played a partial hand in the death of that other earthly princess.  but we all know, diana didn’t need to get into that mercedes.  and sadly, we all know that whitney didn’t have to keep riding on the spiral down.

the tragedy, as i see it, is as simple as this: when mere love isn’t enough, where is the hope?

2.10.12 well it’s a red letter day around here in the wood family…my adorable, plucky, courageous, hilarious mom is turning 83!

2.8.12 maybe it was watching dick van dyke give a sag lifetime achievement award to mary tyler moore…or maybe it’s just because i’m a bonafide forever fan of all things 60s.  and when i say that, i mean the early bit when you could find doris day lolly-gagging around with rock hudson: music by devol.

the way the world looked in that iconic stylish time can’t be outdone, but it can sure be celebrated.

check out my moderne aire patterns on fresh ink…me thinks they’d look fab on pretty much anything.

2.7.12 every single vintage vw bug reminds me of my childhood, most notably a long road trip between chicago and new mexico, in 1963.  my parents stuffed their small children into the back seat and set off across one state line after another, pushing the peddle and strumming the ukelele for musical accompaniment.  back in those days, the 25.00 radio was too expensive for my parents to buy, so ‘clementine’ and other yokel tunes were the soundtrack to our road trips.

as i consider my distaste for small cramped spaces, i think i’ve traced my particular claustrophobia to the shifts that we each had to spend plunked in the back luggage bin…god love the days before seat belts and sensibility!

2.5.12 one foot in the present, one foot stepping to the next moment, and my mind, often and unstoppable, glancing back to the before.

1.31.12  the arrival of the sun has reminded me of the best thing about winter: it freezes my toes and my fingers and dulls my senses, sure…but it also gives me this wait, wait, longing and surreal appreciation of that miracle of spring…the beautiful outdoors…the warmth of a summer breeze, the long easy days.  keeping the faith, as always.  hurry!

1.29.12  i have a running gag with my children, after fashioning myself somewhat as a ‘joke writer’.  the sweet things humor me, via electronic means of communication and also right to my face: not because the jokes are funny, but mostly because my attempts to construct an absolutely perfect joke are.

i have more respect for the wordsmiths who crafted material for the greats because it’s really kind of hard!

the one i’ve been working on the most has to do with history…(and the delivery counts on a certain voice when delivering the punchline).  i’ll save you the torture of sharing it here…maybe one day you’ll hear it as part of an opening act on letterman or the tonight show!

but back to history, as, after-all, it hasn’t changed in years.

i went to see ‘the artist’ yesterday afternoon.  i was as transported as i’d hoped to be, for several reasons.  i’m old, so anything that harkens back to time-gone-by will typically thrill me…our hero ‘george’ had me swooning from the get-go…but most of all was how i found myself so pulled into the simplistic form of story telling.  the rise, the faltering, the new generation who speaks a cooler language, the loss, the crisis, life in the balance, and then, my oh my, the phoenix coming out of those ashes in a splendid cinemascope triumphant, love-conquers-all, tap-dancing happy ending.

this is history, and i reflected on my drive home on how repetitive life really is.  as a parent i’m sure i bore my kids to tatters with my lectures and wise old owl lessons….trying to remember how many millions of times i, too, rolled my eyes at some advice or pointers from elders.  i mean, really!  but what comes with age, really just the rolling flip of the digital clock that keeps layering number atop number, days upon days, hours upon hours, moments upon moments, life upon life, learning, living and loving and back again: it’s all the same, it’s universal, it’s what living brings to all of us.

lights, camera, action.

growing up, i’d watch black and white movies and television, and really, have always envisioned life before 1959 as actually taking place void of color.  it’s shuffled in my mind that way, and it’s taken a few decades and more to embrace the reality that each and every ‘now’ that came before any of our lives was someone else’s ‘now’: in full living technicolor, stuffed with emotion, challenges, trials, tribulations, victories, loss and love.  each time at the bat is exactly the same to the player: modern, each it’s own contemporary time of wonder, invention, amazement, the shiniest, best of all, the cusp, the apex.

clearly i’m tossing out the ego here to wrap my head around this: it isn’t about me.  it isn’t about anyone, it’s not solely owned or claimed by any generation, race, culture or dynasty.  we all just get our one chance, our single moment to shine, breathe, taste and feel…soaring or crashing, reaching and falling…giving and growing.

a silent movie pulls you in to sheer emotive living.  take away the words, the language, the lies and the fables, and all you have left is sheer human emotion.  the face never fails the truth, not really.  and majestic life careens, stumbles, climbs and wanders into awe, single strokes of so this is who i am, this is where i’ve come to be, this is how i feel, this is what it is.

history, tick tick tick of that big ben clock, circling the same orbit, players changing as swiftly as the bells chime, beckoning sweet love erstwhile.

1.23.12  blame agatha christie…i’m a bonafide, tried and true, card carrying anglophile.  that plus some strong genetic dna pulls me to a constant craving for all things in and around the glorious united kingdom.

more to follow…i’m on a roll.

1.21.12 well it’s clear that i’ve been slacking off a bit with my commitment to jot a daily bit….what can i say?

regardless, here’s my latest vending machine cartoon…inspired both by the dearth of bad news repeated constantly about our economy, as well as my top notch career advice shared with my three growing children…..

watered down, it’s all about finding your passion, no matter what direction it sends you, right?

happy saturday.

1.16.12 so hopping back to the task at hand, after all, it is a monday…i’m sated from watching the golden globes, and envigorated to get a bit of work done today.  granted, i won’t be handing out trophies or getting dolled up in a dior gown…but i will be reaching for top notch accolades in the “creative” category.

last week’s fun included a request from trader joe’s for some more humorous greeting cards.  pen and twisted sense of humor had me scribble out a few more of my ‘vending machine’ cartoons.  i can’t help it: i’m vintage at this point, though try to keep one foot firmly in the ‘now’.  i can’t stop the appeal that draws me to old stuff, the world of automats and exact change still intrigues me.  and apparently, intrigues trader joe’s, too, as they picked one right off the bat to add to their line.  cross that off my list!

so this morning, i’m grabbing my yellow legal pad, i’m checking my scribbled jottings: my plethora of creative wonders to whip up, and most of all, can i just say, i’m grateful that this is the work that i do.  the fun never ends, the satisfaction builds with each project, and i am having an absolute blast dipping into my weird, technicolor brain, that, so far, has never failed to delight.

what’s next?  well that remains for us both to see!

1.15.12 we all know how much i love architecture, and have been lucky to be commissioned to draw so many iconic joints around the country…

but i feel like i have to make a confession, should my affinity to sketch ball parks & stadiums lead you to believe i’m a big sports fan.

in my jargon, the term ‘super bowl’ means filling a vast table with bowl after bowl of lovely savories to nibble on during award show after award show after award show….the first down tonight?  the golden globes, of course, in all of it’s delicious, raucous, celebratory, tinseltown splendor!

in the kick off week to my “super bowl” season, my gal doris day was given the career achievement award the other night by the los angeles film critics association…and to top off the kitschy fun?  table topper brochures for the gala event featuring photos & films of the irrepressible apple pie sweet miss day. who could ask for more?

so, on to my season, with the tv warming up for a season of red carpet wonders!

1.11.12  and so with winter comes that icky grey monotone world where sky matches the dun color of the frozen earth.  a total drag, which is why i do my best to play make believe: i draw where i wish i was!

and today? well, clearly, i’m happily visualizing a day magically spent within my crate&barrel cityscape “santa monica pier”…ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

1.5.12  i’ve been sitting on a very cool secret for months.

sym·bi·o·sis/ˌsimbēˈōsis/

Noun:
  1. Interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

i love crate&barrel, i think we all know that…and i love architecture (another secret that i haven’t kept very well!)…and truth be told, i love anything that nods to the sophisticated world (fast disappearing) which found dapper gents & bedazzled (as opposed to “blinged”) ladies sipping (not guzzling or chugging), beautifully sublime cocktails over scintillating bon mots and sly flirtation.

the love just keeps on growing, thanks to this wildly fun & fabulous new piece, “cocktail blueprint print”…just spotted on the c&b website, i can spill the beans at last!

with that, here it is…and i couldn’t be more proud!

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/decorating-and-accessories/art/cocktail-blueprint-print/s686339

1.4.12  that is way cool: this is the first time i’ve typed the new year…always an amazingly exciting time in my early years as a diarist, i find it as satisfying and thrilling now at my age.  funny.

so i’ve been playing hooky for quite some time, with absolutely no regrets.  an extended time home for the college kids, we took the holiday break to the extreme in totally goofing off.  as it should be!

to appease my total guilt at basically ignoring my creative endeavors and requirement to earn a living, my macbook was as stuffed as the thanksgiving turkey, due to some glitch, and i was unable to scan/add/upload any new files, which made work at m. wood pen basically stand still.  finally able to pull myself away from the fun, i booked an appointment at the genius bar to have my apple man fix the problem.

luck would have it, gorgeous taye diggs chose my number and merrily, swiftly and effortlessly fixed whatever ailed my shiny white apple!  so, the excuses are over, the machine is ready for power-creating, and a fruitful dive into a new year of m. wood pen splendor.

here we go!

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