Friday, December 24, 2010

Dear REI

jacket

This is a little note to say thank you for being so awesome and for standing by your lifetime warranty. I went into your new Tustin store wearing my ten year old REI shell and carrying the down jacket that zips into it. Both were dripping wet since it's been pouring rain here for the last 152 hours. I took off the shell to reveal what looks like a horrible case of dandruff dusting on my shoulders. It is in fact from the jacket which, after traveling with me through countless countries and snowy peaks, has begun to disintegrate from the inside. That is why I brought this old friend in to your store, to see if I might exchange it for a newer model. A lovely cashier looked up my membership, which I have have had for going on 15 years, and discovered that the jacket transaction was on record, purchased in Manhattan Beach in 2000 for $200 cash. I remembered the price too because it was a lot of money when I was 22. I mean 27. The cashier asked if I'd like store credit or cash.

I walked to my car in the pouring rain in my t-shirt with $220 cash in my wallet. Now THAT is a lifetime warranty. Because that jacket and I had been through a lifetime of adventure together, packed into ten fun years. A part of me is sad to see her go. But an even bigger part of me is RICH and eying a sassy red Patagonia number, size medium.

You just earned my lifetime guarantee too.

warmly (once I get my new jacket),
Susie L.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tustin Lanes

Tustin Lanes

We're here for a visit with Grandma doing the regular stuff. Except it has not stopped raining since I started driving down Interstate 5 on Sunday. So we're doing the regular inside stuff. Which is very limited when your kids don't want to go to the movie theater because they suck. That leaves shopping, an activity that I try to avoid at all cost if I have my children with me, and bowling.

On Tuesday we bowled and it was epic. My daughter developed her own technique - carrying the ball to the lane, setting it down and rolling it as hard as she could. My son would run and then throw the ball with both hands. My parents used to be in a league in the 80s and I used to roam around the bowling alley when I could escape the daycare area, which I almost always could. We'd eat nachos and hot dogs and play video games while grown men and women in silky polyester team shirts flirted, cursed, smoked and bowled their hearts out.  The eighties were so awesome.

We'd go there as teenagers too. And sometimes on college break. So Tustin Lanes holds many vague but happy memories for me. And now maybe it does for them too. My son was especially enamored by the shoes. How many times I contemplated stealing a pair of bowling shoes in high school. I even came a few times with flip flops so I wouldn't miss the shoes left behind. Alas, no hope for this goody two shoes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dear friends and family


It's been an incredible year and I feel so grateful to be alive and writing this letter to you. We have many things to be thankful for, most notably our incredibly gifted and talented children. Kevin turned six in October and continues to wear the same shirt every day to school. His consistency and commitment to (his) fashion is inspiring to many other kindergartners. Janna will turn four this coming February and continues to excel in ear surgery. She had her third set of tubes put in this December and her adenoids, those mysterious non-essentials, removed. Janna is only the latest in a long line of luminaries with exceptionally distinctive cranial plumbing in our family. We couldn't be more proud of the way she is carrying on this tradition.

Robert continues to work on the next generation of hearing aids. When asked if his design will revolutionize the industry his response was, "What?" Janice's business Mishmish Studio is taking over the watercolor folk modern Judaica category enjoying double digit awareness. The two hours a day she has to work on the business is generally just enough time to turn on her computer, log into her social networking platforms and let everyone know she's off to pick up the kids. Again. In other exciting news Janice and Robert are expecting their third child mid 2011. This development has led to a major career opportunity for Janice who has now been featured in several "before category" advertising spots namely Proactive, Bay Area Body Wraps and Lunesta.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a fantastic new year.

Warmly,
The Jeffersons
Robert, Janice, Kevin and Janna

ps. This was indeed our family pic from 2009 and was used by my former employer to showcase the "Pop Art Ornament Christmas Card". Note the interesting name choices. I guess we movin' on up.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cup runneth over


Well yesterday was a banner day. It didn't start out great when a black squirrel jumped over my arm as I was opening our front gate and scared the bejeezies out of me. Holy vampire rodent! But then lady luck sent me a few emails that I had won not one, but TWO blog giveaways. And I'm even more excited to tell you about where they came from.

The first was all serendipity. My friend Liv, who I met at our October blogger/artist retreat, was hosting her weekly Happy HeArt giveaway - two prints by our other dear friend Lori, also present at the retreat. I often enter, when I remember, because the giveaways are always great. And last week's was no different. First a word on these two friends. These women and their art/presence in the world are completely inspiring to me. They each have powerful stories to tell. And their blogs are bursting with love and gratitude and beauty. But what you may not know is that they are hilariously funny too. When a one-liner is delivered with a sweet Minnesotan accent it's all the more delicious. Anyway, I'm taking the kids to visit my mom in my hometown for our winter break and will see my two oldest friends from elementary school so these will make the perfect gifts and then I'll have to order another for myself!


And THEN, as if a rainbow wasn't already shining out of my tushy, I got another email from one of my new favorite bloggers, Tulpen, congratulating me on my second win, a pair of gorgeous earrings from her sister's ETSY shop called Silver and Stones. I mean what are the chances? Happy Hanukkah to me! Listen, if you are in the mood for a crazy rant or a story about one of the charming old ladies at the nursing home where Tulpen nurses or a powerful reminder that, really, the kids are alright, go visit her immediately. She drops the f*bomb a lot. As much as I would if my mom wasn't one of my readers. And then go to Silver and Stones and get bejeweled in something twinkly.

I am off to play the lottery and ride out this winning streak.

**REMINDER** The 30% off sale at my shop continues through Friday December 10. Use code CHARM3 at checkout.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Third time's the charm

belly

While I could very well blame this extended belly on the number of fried donuts and potato latkes I have consumed over the last five days - indeed there was never a more enthusiastic Hanukkah celebrant - in fact I am pregnant and the baby is due at the end of May. (The belly is not actually as large as it would appear in this dramatized photo, but still - third pregnancy starts showing at about four weeks and a day. Delightful.).

And my many feelings on the subject range from relief and joy to anxiety and terror. So that's been fun. Very relaxing. It may also explain why I haven't been able to do much of anything besides eat chicken apple sausage. But the nausea seems to have ended and I'm not quite as exhausted (as in I'm not falling asleep in the middle of a titillating game of Zingo, although admittedly this has also happened while not pregnant).

I also bought an iphone.

Which reminds me of the scene from Fiddler on the Roof when someone runs in and says "she's here! she's here!" and we're meant to believe that Tseidel had her baby and then it cuts to the scene where Motel the tailor is using a peddle sewing machine and Tseidel has already had the baby which is not nearly as exciting news as the arrival of the new foot-powered sewing machine.

To celebrate this news with you (the baby, not the iphone) I am hosting a sale in the shop through this Friday, December 10th. Since every third child knows the third time's the charm, use the code CHARM3 and get 30% off your order. All orders will go out by December 17 and then the shop closes down for some holiday travel and merry making.

Happy shopping! xo

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Everything is Illuminated

Illuminated

Last night we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with friends. We stuffed ourselves with latkes and the kids lit candles and we sang songs and spun dreidles. By some stroke of luck we managed to get ourselves invited out for nearly every night of Hanukkah which means I'll be making the salad for the next eight nights. Tonight we're off to my son's old preschool teacher's house for an evening of Hanukkah songs, more candles and more latkes.

Inspired by all of this glowy goodness I made an Etsy treasury last night filled with illuminated masterpieces. Feast your eyes! And happy Festival of Lights!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Talking shit

Potty

I have a secret. I encourage potty talk in our house. Poo and pee are funny and everyone knows it so, for instance, when my daughter slips on a stray sock in the hallway and bumps her head, we point our fingers at the sock and say in earnest you're a poo poo sock! And then we turn around and stick our butts out at the sock. And my daughter is no longer crying.

It's childish. I know. And largely inappropriate. And many things about excrement are not funny at all. But many things are hilarious. Now the dinner table is another story. The rule is that if we talk about potty stuff at the dinner table then we have to talk about chicken fingers and salad while on the toilet. That makes them laugh every time and the distraction causes them to forget what they were saying.

There are times when we take shit seriously. Like the other day we were hopping trains for the afternoon and ended up at Sunnyvale station when I was suddenly gripped by the runs. Thankfully and not a moment too soon I spied a public bathroom at the station. It had a keypad which worried me, but then we saw someone exit so we ran and caught the door. The kids came in with me and after warning them about what was coming, they huddled in the furthest corner.

Him: Do you have diarrhea?
Me: Yes, sweetie. It seems so. Did you ever have diarrhea?
Him: Yes. I don't like it. It's like the kaki flies out of your tushy at light speed.
Me: Exactly.
Her: You stink mommy.

But back to potty talk. I urge you to incorporate potty talk into your arsenal of distraction techniques. Kids are fighting? Go up and smell both of their butts and say, who made a poo poo? I guarantee they will stop fighting and fall over laughing. This is probably only worthwhile if both are out of diapers.

I'll understand if you don't want your kids to play at our house any more.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bedbugs and other visitors

Thanksgiving Leaves

Thanksgiving Leaves II

My daughter has been coming into our room every night since she could walk basically. I had set up a little blanket for her on the floor by my bed a while back so she could come in and not wake me up. But now that it's winter we use that blanket also so if I don't remember to set out another blanket then she comes in wanting a blanket or wanting in our bed. Either way she wakes me up. Every night. But thanks to what I can only imagine is a bed bug infestation in her sleeping bag, I may have broken her of this habit. Here's how it went down.

My brother came to stay with us for two nights around Thanksgiving and ended up sleeping in her bed, the lower bunk, since my mom was in the Murphy. So both kids slept in their sleeping bags on our floor. My daughter woke up the next morning covered in bites. Little ones. Dozens of them. Poor girl. My son got a few too so we thought either it was from putting them in the yardage bin while raking the leaves on Thanksgiving - an annual tradition - or the bugs came home with us from our last camping trip and have been living in the sleeping bags in our attic. Or there are just bugs in our attic and now, via the sleeping bags, they are living among us. The next night night she slept on our floor and we had our spare duvet down there for her. She got more bites. That duvet had been in the attic too. And it had also been camping. So we've now washed everything and the carpet cleaners are coming tomorrow morning to hopefully scrub away anything else lurking in the carpets. But she's convinced that sleeping on the carpet gives her bites so as long as we can keep her out of our bed, she only has one place to go and that's her own bed. Which hopefully is not infested too because that would totally ruin my plan. And we'd probably have to burn down the house.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life is Elsewhere

Destinations

I'm a little bit stuck on this subject.

I was chatting with a mom from my son's kindergarten class and she was telling me how before they had kids she and her husband had lived in Alice Springs, Australia, for three years.  And then they lived in England for two years where both kids were born.  And then they moved here to be closer to family. I told her how I'd lived abroad for almost five years too and we lamented the end of those days since now we are both fully embroiled in motherhood and elementary school and suburban splendor all the while wondering what the hell happened? When did we turn into these other people? 

Not that I used to live such a wild and crazy life. Let's be clear. In college I always took language classes at 8am so I went to bed at 10:00. Sometimes earlier. I sang in an a Capella group so that's about as nerdy as it gets. I never drank. My friends had to beg me to order a beer on my 21st birthday. In high school I only broke curfew once and that's because I didn't know Dances With Wolves was a three hour movie.

But when I was sixteen I went to London by myself to visit a friend and since then I've had the bug. The next year I went to Israel for five months. After college I went to Chile for five months with side trips to Peru and Argentina. Then I went to Israel for what I thought would be a year which turned into four+. During that time I traveled all over Europe. Always with a backpack, a Lonely Planet and not much money. But often with the address of a local friend or cousin or friend of a cousin whose couch was free. And then we took our big trip which brought me to places I'd never dreamed I would visit. Even in business school I managed to find an internship that had me living in a charming apartment in northern Belgium.

Those were my twenties. Running around the world, meeting wonderful people, learning languages. It was a ten year Eat Pray Love fest. And then I turned 30, got a job, bought a house, had babies and here I am looking down the barrel at the next thirty years feeling kind of hollow about the whole thing. And it's not just the kids. Lately I am bursting with love for these kids. But they have a funny way of making me feel tethered. Or maybe I'm the one doing the tethering.

Either way I can't figure out how to stop feeling like life is elsewhere. Because even when I was living my life elsewhere, I was still thinking about the next place. I even remember reading the book Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera, whose many books I have quickly devoured and just as quickly forgotten entirely, while staying at a guest house in Cuzco, Peru and wishing I was somewhere else. BESIDES CUZCO! Epically beautiful, spiritual and charming, "turn alpaca wool into just about anything" Cuzco. But for me life was elsewhere.

So where does that leave me? Us! Almost everyone I know around my age feels this to some degree. Bankers who wish they could open a deli. Lawyers who want to be chefs. Engineers who want to be bee keepers. I think that's why life coaching has taken off in the last ten years. We're a whole generation of people who have bought into this idea of having it all (work, family, love, adventure, passion, happiness, balance, inner peace) which, for me anyway, comes with a constant feeling like I've come up short.

To fill a gap, insert the thing that caused it.
Fill if up with other and twill yawn the more.
You cannot solder an abyss
With air. 
-Emily Dickinson

I feel the gap. Sometimes I feel like I might have found what will close the gap. I thought painting would do that. Sometimes I feel swallowed by the gap. Sometimes I'm at The Gap and nothing fits right and there's a long line and I'm wondering what am I doing here?

Seriously, what am I doing here?

And yet, of one thing I am absolutely certain. Ten years from now, thirty years from now, I will look back on this time in my life with an aching fondness and remember how simple it was when the kids were small and relied on us for everything. How squishy they were. How a kiss fixed anything. How they ran to greet us at the front door. And I'll wish I could go back. Or hopefully by then I'll have learned to live in the present.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Back Page

Back page

Do you ever mean to just look at a few pages of your old journal and end up rereading the whole thing and then forget to pick up your kids from school? This always happens when I'm trying to purge some old stuff and I come across my journals and then I am completely derailed from the purging project. I don't have that many journals because I could never be bothered to write regularly. I have one, two actually, from when I was 17 and went to Israel to live on a farm for five months. I wrote every day. It's a thrilling account of a scared shitless teenager living halfway around the world wanting her mommy but instead waking up at 3am to clean incubators. Good times. And I have another journal from college that's mostly sporadic declarations of my unrequited love for some new pony-tailed, guiltar playing, pre-med goon that had the least bit of interest in yours truly. Sad but true. That journal also has some stuff from when I moved to Israel after college and met my husband. But then I mostly ever wrote in it when I was mad at him and wondering why on earth I was living in a place where you paid your bills at the post office for a guy whose idea of fun was reenacting Exodus by hiking in our underwear through the desert. It was like dating Moses.

When we left Israel I started a new journal. We had bought tickets to fly around the world for the 8 months we had before I started business school in the States. It was a fantastic trip full of adventure and turmoil and diarrhea and sand flies and hitchhiking and purple coral and Himalayan views and lost inhalers (mine - which sort of sucked at 14,000 feet), and 16 hour bus rides and yoga and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We even got engaged on that trip.

This list is on the back page of that journal. I wrote it while we were in Northern India, spending time in Dharamsala, the home in exile of the Dalai Lama. We arrived after a harrowing journey from Delhi, the armpit of earth, and even though I had a 103 fever and was hallucinating, we schlepped ourselves up to the temple where His Holiness was giving audience. And he blessed us and gave us little red strings. This was super awesome but had no affect on my Dengue fever. We decided we should stay put for a few weeks because the mere thought of another long bus ride was making me bleed from my ears. So every morning I'd wake up and listen to the rats run diagonally across the roof of our guest house accommodations. Then I'd go get a mango lassi at the cafe down the road and then do Yoga for four hours with a yogi named Akhilesh. Then I'd come home and read and eat and play card games with other travelers. And then I'd park myself at the Internet cafe and figure out where we would stay in Copenhagen, our last stop before London and then California. And who had the cheapest one way ticket from London to LAX.  And how we were getting from California to North Carolina. And how much money we still had left. And when I had to sign up for pre-MBA math camp. And who killed John F. Kennedy. And where was Al Capone's money if not in the secret vaults. And is there life elsewhere in the universe. And do they eat pita with Nutella.

Here I was living in a beautiful, albeit rustic, little village in Northern India with the Dalai Lama as my neighbor practicing yoga daily and eating as much chana masala and mango lassi as I could, all for $10 a day and yet completely consumed by the details of wrapping up our trip and starting business school another world away. Once again trying to control the ambiguity in my life.

How I would love to go back there now, and maybe stay in a place for $5 a night instead of $3 to avoid the rats, and just enjoy each day and each mango lassi and each yoga pose. And let all of my anxiety about the future waft away on a Tibetan monk's robes. I'd leave the back page of my journal for poetry or sketches. Or emergency toilet paper.

I'm getting the tiniest bit better at this actually. The living with ambiguity. We have a lot up in the air right now and while I still make lists and do research, I'm mostly letting it all simmer and thicken while I try to just enjoy where I am and trust the path. Maybe this comes with age? Our trip was already ten years ago. And here I am in the same breath that I write about enjoying the present, wishing I was traveling the world again. Sigh.

This Tuesday list was brought to you by the letter A.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I will meet you there

Fields
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. - Rumi

Over the summer when I was desperate for more useful parenting tips I did a search on Positive Discipline training in my area and found a woman named Linda who does parent training workshops in this method. With very little understanding about the theories behind the methods, I had tried a few Positive Discipline tricks in the Spring to resounding success, but my tricks had run their course. The kids were on to me and I needed more ammo. We signed up for the course and recently completed it. 

The painting, my first watercolor in months, is for Linda. For showing us that beyond our daily struggles, the wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a place where we can meet as a family.

*warning - here is where I tell stories about using Positive Discipline in our home. You are free to jump ship.

Things are much better now. Many of the power struggles are gone. I slip back into my old ways. Sometimes daily. But the kids are responding well and the conflict in our house has lessened. As has my own anxiety about permanently damaging them. This stuff is not easy. And in the beginning it feels  mostly counter intuitive and also like everything you've done the last six years has sucked.

 A few things that are working:
  1. Family meetings
    We just started having family meetings on Sundays. We start out with family yoga led by my son who takes a yoga class on Thursdays at the JCC. Then we talk about something great that happened this week. Then we can talk about something that's bothering us. Everyone is calm. We establish any new rules and revisit rules previously established. It's important to do this at the family meeting instead of in the heat of rule breaking or misbehaving. No one can listen or understand when he or she in limbic mode. In those moments we just try to diffuse and move on.

  2. Allowance
    We started giving the kids a dollar a week. And we stopped buying them stupid crap. Now they can spend their own money to buy their own stupid crap. But if they'd rather save their money, then we match it.  And the allowance is not compensation for doing their chores. They have chores, like bringing their plates in from the table, but they know they have this job because they are part of our family and that we all have responsibilities. If they don't do their jobs, they still get paid, but we mention it at the family meeting. So far, they do their jobs and they feel they belong. 
A few weeks ago my son had a complete freak out because I wouldn't buy him something or take him some where after school. I don't even remember. When he got home he continued to shriek about it while wearing his favorite pink plastic high heels. He ended up stamping his feet so hard that he broke both shoes. And then I had to put him in a straight jacket because he started to foam at the mouth and his head was spinning 360 degrees. After close to an hour he stopped crying and begged for new shoes. In this frustrating moment I reverted to my old ways and told him there was no way he would ever get new shoes because he didn't deserve them since this is the way he treats his belongings. Then the next day he begged for the shoes again and I said if he behaved well for the next two weeks I might buy them.  Genius. Now we're in a power struggle that he can never win with a nebulous target we have no way of measuring. Outstanding. His only choice would be to one up me by being an even bigger pest. Three cheers!

I finally figured out what needed to be done. I told him that since he has his own money now he is welcome to buy himself a new pair of heels. His little bank only opens for withdrawal when he hits $10 so he had three weeks to wait but that I would continue to give him his $1 each week and that he could take his $5 to buy the heels and save the other $5. At first he wasn't thrilled about that idea. But once it sank in that he could buy his own things with his own money, he started to feel in control. And, like me, the boy really just wants control. He has one week left before the payout so he's getting excited. And he hasn't had a major come apart in going on three weeks.

Lots of resources on Positive Discipline on Linda's website and the Positive Discipline website. I haven't read any of the books but it's on my list right after I finish that third one in the Swedish murder media sex trade books.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Special Ops

Special Ops
Second Generation Special Ops Reconnaissance Unit circa 2006

So my son goes to the parent participation school in our neighborhood which I know I've moaned about because it means I teach there and I get more emails than President Obama and it has generally taken over our lives. And yet we couldn't be happier about the place and the community and the education that our son is getting. Our closest and oldest friends in the area also send their son there and even though the boys are not in the same class they play a lot at recess and are generally happy to be together at school. The funny part is that the husband of this couple and my husband were in the Israeli army together. Basic training and the whole bit.

Fast forward twenty years and these two comrades in arms are sitting in parent education class for entering kindergartners at a public school halfway around the world. We were laughing about that the other day. I mean what are the chances?

The story goes that on the third day of training the parent education chair, a tiny woman from Hong Kong, asked for five volunteers for a role play activity and this friend leans over to my husband and whispers, in Hebrew, oh man, this is going to be rough. As if their commander had called everyone into formation and shouted, I heard that someone fell asleep on guard duty last night...

Oh man, this is going to be rough.

Running with 80 lb. packs for six days? Good times. Long reconnaissance missions in the dark with no food? Easy. Crawling through artillery fields along enemy territory? No problem. Getting up in front of fifty parents to act out some positive discipline concept? We surrender!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To Buy List

list2

This is the list that's on our fridge of the things we need to buy. Even though it's on the to do side of the list. You'll notice glasses is on the list. We've been on a spending freeze the last few months so the list has grown. We also lost a few things and a few things broke. But in the last month we've started working through the list. Buying the bunk bed and toy bins was huge and has helped to realigned my chakras. My new watch arrives on Thursday. And I used miles to buy an ipod shuffle since I lost the ipod nano that I got as a gift from an old employer. Thankfully my daughter found my husband's ipod in my car today. We had looked there, in the exact spot where she found it, without success. But last week I had the car washed and I suspect a very honest car washer found it and put it in that safe spot.

So now we're down to only a few more items. My husband needs new prescription sunglasses because his are broken and I need new glasses because I feel like I've been wearing the same pair of shoes for three years. He also needs a new bike (unfortunately one that will likely cost more than his car is worth, by a lot). I need a new wallet. We both need new phones. And then we just need the minivan and a new house. And a winning lottery ticket. And a nicer list pad. Done.

Artsyville has more lists for your Tuesday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Handmade Hanukkah


Friends of mine are hosting an intimate Handmade Hanukkah open house on November 14 from 11-3 in Sunnyvale, CA so if you live in the South Bay I encourage you to come and get some holiday shopping out of the way. I am selling my matted prints for 20% off. Such a deal!

See you tomorrow for List It Tuesday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Other Stuff Everyday Month


Well art every day is not happening. I really applaud those of you doing the art or the writing or the journaling everyday. It's completely awesome. And every successful creative person will tell you that it comes from some daily creative action. I wish I had it in me lately. I tend to be a little less aspirational on an everyday basis. I'm more of a "brush your teeth every day" gal. Or a "reorganize the bookshelf by category everyday" type. Maybe I'll make a badge and everyone can participate in my non-clinical  OCD. How about "check craigslist everyday for toy storage bins"? Because that's my latest obsession. And thankfully I indeed found what I was looking for. So, along with a "new to me"  bunk bed and three large bins for toys and goodies, it looks like we might be able to stretch this house for a while longer. And it might even be the case that my kids can actually put away their own toys since they now can see where the toys go AND access that spot without climbing the shelves of their closet and risking their lives everyday month. AND, even better, they can see what toys they have and actually play with them. AND since all of this coincides with my sinus infection, their newly imposed independence suits me fine. So instead of art, I'll be squirting warm salt water up my nose everyday month. There must be a badge for that.

Here are more of my own personal badges. You can use any you like. Or tell me your own everyday badge in the comments. Let's start a revolution!







Thursday, November 4, 2010

Forgiving

Whale

In an effort to get myself out of my raggedy funk and to half-assed participate in the Art Every Day Month, I went to Michael's last night and bought some acrylic paints. I have two very small chunky canvases that I bought years ago thinking I would love to be able to paint with acrylics on these little fatty canvases and pop them on the wall without the torment of framing. The thing is I don't really know how to paint in acrylic. Some initial observations:
  1. Adding a new acrylic color on top of an old acrylic color makes it the new color and not a neat hybrid of both. 
  2. Must mix on the pallet and not really on the canvas. Not so with watercolor. 
  3. Adding water does not solve any problems and only thins the paint and makes it yucky.
  4. Accidentally putting my quilted paper towel on the wet paint makes for a cool texture.
  5. I have no control with acrylic. 
  6. I don't know how to add text to a canvas. Initial attempts were not pretty.
So this is a little whale. He's part of a series I am thinking about that incorporate some of the quotes I use in my name prints for kids. I want to add a quote to this guy and I'm not sure how to do it. Or maybe I should just leave him be. The nice thing about acrylic, I'm discovering, is that I can screw up plenty and cover my tracks with more paint. Watercolor is not so forgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Raggedy

Raggedy Ann

My mom brought my old Raggedy Ann doll with her on her last visit to give to my daughter. I got it as a gift when I was born. So she's 37 also. And I was looking at her while I was trying to clean up our house and figure out creative ways to make more space where there is none and I thought, George Jesus we look a lot alike. I'm growing my hair out and it's looking crazy. My clothes are ill fitting. I have giant bags under my eyes that just kind of fade into my crow's feet. And I have that same grin. That "everything's fine" grin. When actually everything feels like it's about to come undone. And I thought, tell me about it sister. Maybe I need some red striped sock therapy too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Double take

Halloween2010

Homemade lion costume: $22.50
Old Navy butterfly costume: $10.00
Realizing I dressed them exactly the same three Halloweens ago: Priceless.

Happy November!

Halloween2007

Monday, October 25, 2010

The four day gift

Jars

I am moving slowly today. I'm coming off four days with seven sassy women in the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. Still marinating in what we created there together. When I got the invitation back in August my husband took one look at it and was like, under no circumstances are you missing this thing. Whoever these women are who thought this up are clearly fabulous. And he was right. All of them fabulous. All of them with special gifts that unfolded beautifully over our long weekend together. There was a rough schedule which we only kind of abided. We mainly let the weather decide if we should go out or stay in. When we went out we took walks and breathed in the lake and bought candy and had moose mochas and admired Scandinavian handicrafts. And when we stayed in there was a lot of creating going on. Bookbinding and collaging and sketching and coloring and beading and inking. Not to mention the hysterical laughter, cooking, dancing, storytelling and sharing. I took advantage of my time away to read and take naps also. It was just what I needed. It was just who I needed too. Thank you Liv, Rachel, Aimee, Jen, Carissa, Kolleen and Lori. Big love to all of you.

Birch

Fair Winds

Travel



Candy

Pictures

Making

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Treasure hunting

Pinata

**somehow this didn't post last Sunday. Posting now even though it is horribly out of date.

Today was the last day in a string of unending commitments that started at the end of August with the first day of kindergarten and just has NOT. LET. UP. The parent participation school, while incredible in many ways, feels like a day job. The amount of emails alone is enough to make me cry uncle. Every week there's something. Meetings, rocket day, potlucks, walk-a-thon, sign ups, parent education training, class pictures, conferences, observation. Not to mention the fact that starting week after next I am actually working there two hours a week. Teaching math, no less. Which would send my Algebra teacher Mr. Oster into hysterics.

So that coupled with five Jewish holidays, one of which is eight days long and involves inviting people to eat outside in your tabernacle and obviously cooking for them, plus the birthdays and last weeks big show, I am just WRECKED. GRIZZLED. KNACKERED. Pull me out of the toaster, BURNT.

And today was the final event - my son's birthday party. We couldn't celebrate last weekend because of the show so it was today instead. He decided to invite only kids from his new school which I thought was a bold choice. Twelve kids including a few younger sibs. We had it in our home.

Here is where I stop to mention that I would LOVE to spend $300 and have it at some kitschy bouncy house place where up to twenty kids run around like maniacs and then have cake. I would love that. Then I don't have to plan, call, clean, strategize, and run seventy-two errands.  We've been to a lot of these parties and my kids love them. But every time we go, I feel dirty. And they're all the time hosing you down with hand sanitizer which only exacerbates my feeling. I mean my son goes hog wild every time at these parties but it's not for us. I still reserve the right to have one of these parties if ever necessary. Just saying.

So my husband came up with the idea of a treasure hunt, which we were unable to plan until the day before out of shear laziness. But given this fact I would say it was still totally awesome. It even rained but that didn't scare our intrepid treasure hunters. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive we read my favorite book from the mid-seventies Sloth's Birthday Party. It's about a really messy sloth whose friends celebrate his birthday and it rains during the story so it seemed very apropos. Following the story the rain abated and we split into two teams. The reds and the blues. And then we sent everyone to stations around the neighborhood including our neighbors Juan and Irene, our compost bin, two different park locations and inside our murphy bed. I had my mom, Grandma Seuss, write the clues the night before and we made sure the order for each team was different. Each clue had a puzzle piece inside and once each team had been to each station they came back home to build the puzzle with all ten pieces which turned out to be a map! After much scrutiny and a little parental guidance the kids found "buried" treasure in the crawl space behind our house. A piƱata! Hooray! We hung it up outside and bashed the crap out it, collected candy and headed inside for pizza and cake and the customary lifting of the birthday boy in the decorated chair, once for each year and one for next year. I think we even topped the year we got him a cell phone cake. Especially since the whiskers on his lion cake were made of tootsie roll.

And with that I prepare myself to take leave of this suburban life for a few days of relaxation and inspiration on the North Shore of Lake Superior with seven celebrated women. More when I return...

Map

Birthday Lift

Lion cake

Monday, October 11, 2010

To Life

ToLife3

I am fall over and die exhausted. I did my first big show this weekend in Palo Alto. The kind where everyone has a tent. And you pay money to do it. And there's food and music and lots of people walking around. I decided to do it last April and thought oh I have plenty of time to psych myself up and get myself ready and prepare inventory. And yet I didn't want to get too psyched about it for fear I would completely fall on my face. You see, I have done small holiday boutiques for schools and synagogues and the damn Junior League. And all sucked. But something told me that this show would be different. Namely because it's a Jewish cultural street fair and a lot of my work is culturally Jewish.  Good match, me thinks. But the fee to participate was $200 which I thought was A TON for a six hour stint. And I knew that preparing for this event would mean a lot of hours of printing and matting and framing and organizing. Plus I don't own the kind of stuff one needs to attend these kinds of shows. The only tent we own says REI on it. And no walls or grids to hang art.

But my husband, engineering genius that he is, after seeing some of the pictures from the Sawdust Festival this summer, came up with the idea that we could use our sukkah (temporary dwelling we build in our yard every fall to celebrate Sukkot). And I thought, that is the best friggin idea I have ever heard. We were planning to build it anyway and sukkot would be over the 29th of September so that would give us another full week to play around with how to show art inside. We borrowed some bamboo siding from another friend's sukkah and Mr. Rosen fashioned a few beams in which to drill screws for displaying framed art. I bought some fabric from IKEA to hang as the roof. We borrowed tables, grabbed some of our own furniture, a few tschachkes of the middle eastern variety and created a place I can only describe as a desert oasis in a sea of white tenty sameness.

Mr. Rosen has built this structure many times. We've had it for three years now and he has labeled all of the wood for quick construction. But it's still construction. Unlike those little EZ-Up tents this thing requires a drill. And a contractor's license. So we got there plenty early. Within forty minutes I was able to get inside and start merchandising the art. (I actually videotaped the whole thing but we'll see if I can edit it into fast motion. Stay tuned).

Now I don't know if it was the sukkah or the fact that no one who comes to this show has seen my work or that my quota for crappy shows was fulfilled, but this show kicked ass on every level. I felt great about my space. My husband and I were in total teamwork mode. I spent the day working with my mom who is a saleswoman par none and was great about getting email addresses for the mailing list. The weather was beautiful. I met a lovely Yemenite Israeli retired professor who now makes spectacularly intricate filigree jewelry. And I made my booth space investment back five fold. Plus my husband and I got to bask in the eight hours we actually owned real estate in Palo Alto where, on any other day, our 100 square foot jewel would go for 1.2 million.

A few lessons learned:
  1. Having a flip bin is key. People spent several minutes engaged in flipping through $30 prints and many bought. They were a bargain compared to the framed art. 
  2. Next time have a $50 bin also.
  3. No one buys after they "think about it".
  4. 80 degrees feels like 95 when you're wearing jeans.

ToLife1

ToLife4

ToLife2

ToLife5

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Six

Six

Hi kiddo,

I haven't written in a while. I used to write you letters on your birthday but after we had your sister that kind of yearly obligation was more than I could handle. But you and your antics did inspire me to start this blog so that kind of counts for something. I can't hardly believe that you're already six. SIX! That's like 42 in dog years. You're almost as old as Uncle Aaron! We don't always see eye to eye on things, like how often you should wear your green J Camp tee shirt or whether marshmallows make for a nutritious breakfast, but we sure do have a connection, you and me. For better or worse, we are locked in tight. Here are the things I love about you lately.
  1. The way you crack an egg.
  2. Your singing voice.
  3. Your loyalty to your (stuffed) kitty.
  4. Your enthusiasm for electricity and science.
  5. The way you draw fingers.
  6. Your love of shoes (this kind of bugs me but I can totally relate).
  7. Your heart.
  8. Your goodnight secrets.
  9. The way you look just like your Grandpa.
  10. Your imagination.
  11. The way you still crawl into our bed in the morning.
  12. Your willingness to try new foods (that's new!)
  13. Your compassion.
  14. The way you memorized every word to the Oompa Loompa songs.
  15. Your spirituality. 
  16. That your favorite birthday present was the label maker.
  17. The way you are unapologetically your awesome neurotic self. 
I love you.
Mommy

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sign of the times

Mountain Lion Warning

A few weeks ago we got an email from the principal of our son's elementary school to let the parents know that the kids would be having a lock down drill the next day.

Lock down. Really?

And I thought, man we live in a crappy time. You know? Our kids have to have drills in case there's a SHOOTER on a suburban elementary school campus? I was whining about this with my grandmother the other day. She had asked if we were still thinking about moving back to Israel. She's not super fond of the idea. She thinks it's too dangerous. So I mentioned the lock down in Mountain View. And how the world sucks everywhere nowadays. And how much simpler life must have been when she was young. And she said, yes. True. Well, except for the war. And the holocaust.

Sometimes it's hard to have faith in humanity. That's when I have to open my heart wide and follow the sage words offered by the mountain lion warning sign at the Fremont Older Open Space Reserve in Saratoga.
  1. Face (metaphoric) lion.
  2. Back away slowly (or)
  3. Be large.
  4. Shout.
  5. Keep children close. 
  6. Pick up children without bending (at the waist - your back will thank you).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A little peace

peace
Uncle Martin wearing Berkeley tee. Photo credit: three year old daughter

I am on hour 8 of about 28 hours to myself in my own home. The last time this occurred was 49 years ago. It was only six years ago actually.  My husband went to Rome for "work" while I was six months pregnant with our son. We had just moved into our house and I was frantically unpacking and putting together furniture and lifting heavy objects against my better judgement. It was hugely enjoyable.

And here we are again six years later. Somehow it just never works out that I am alone in the house. I have certainly taken trips with friends and gotten away from the kids for short periods. But they've never left me behind. Until now. And I can't tell you how much I miss them. And how happy I am to be in my home by myself.

Especially now because I am way behind on a lot of things. I've been contracting the last two weeks at Shutterfly and while I certainly enjoy the change of pace and seeing old friends and getting free coffee and cereal in the morning, there is very little time leftover to manage the other parts of my life. And in two weeks I'm doing my first big festival which means I need inventory! And price tags! And displays! Plus we're on our third Jewish holiday out of five for September and our preschool is closed more often than it's open. All of this together is just not super conducive to me getting much done.

So this short period of peace and quiet is exactly what I need to get ready for the festival, purge some emails, make some food for the week, go to the farmer's market (alone), exercise and run a few errands. And figure out how to make this happen again before another six years has passed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicken swinging is way better than confessional

Whispers

It was Yom Kipur, the Day of Atonement, on Saturday and I repented. Not really. I fasted and that sucked. And I wished I'd had some time while I was fasting to examine my life and talk to God. Or at least take a nap. But parenting duties continue on Yom Kipur so my guess is the next 8-10 Yom Kipurs are going to suck the big winkie. 

Leading up to Yom Kipur I tried to read a few stories and get the kids to understand this whole idea about repentance and forgiveness which I boiled down to feel bad and say sorry.  A little of that might have sunk in. Or not. My daughter was unusually bristly it turns out. She told each member of her family that she didn't like us and that she wasn't our friend anymore. But since she couldn't say Yom Kipur and instead called it Yom Kipod which means Porcupine Day it seemed to make perfect sense.

We did start a new family tradition this year to try and give the kids something to remember for next year. There's custom called Kapparot which literally means atonements. And traditionally you swing a live chicken over your head three times (I'm not making this up), recite a blessing to transfer your transgressions to the dizzy chicken and then you kill the chicken thereby eliminating your sins. You can read all about it here. Apparently only ultra religious communities still do this and under strong opposition by animal rights groups.

We didn't slaughter a live chicken for the obvious reasons. We did take stuffed animal chickens, whispered our sins and secrets to them, tied a shoelace around one wing and flung them around for a while. And then I took my daughter, dressed her up like a chicken, told her I was sorry for all of the yelling and mean things I've said and swung her around too! Meanwhile my husband was making a delicious lentil salad, chocolate banana bread and fresh lemonade to bring to my brother's house where we broke our fast in the most gluttonous way possible. We can atone for that next year.

Repenting

Swinging live chicken

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bead Therapy

Necklace

I have a favorite necklace that kind of looks like this one except it's very, very long and the glass beads are smaller. I bought it for a dollar in Manikaran, India, a small town in the Parvati Valley (far north), well known for it's geothermal activity and a sacred spot for the Sikh population. We were there in 2001 and my clearest memory is going to the public bathhouse where I stood out like, well, a naked white girl in an Indian bathhouse. So when I left the bathhouse I went to the marketplace and found a few things to help me fit in better - about thirty glass bangles and the necklace. It might have worked if I could have stacked the glass bangles all the way up my arms, around my neck and up both legs, so that no one could see my casper white skin. Alas, I still received many stares. And I sounded like a wind chime.

In Santa Fe, at my favorite store, they had a bin with glass beads for $3 a scoop. I got three scoops with the idea that I would maybe make a similar necklace or several (three scoops is a lot), even though I'd never done any bead or wire work in my life. Except for once when I was 16.  I feel a tangent coming on...

Friendship pins (safety pins with beads on them) were big back in 1989 and my friend Andrea and I made a lot of them. So many that we started stringing them through elastic and making them into bracelets. And then we started selling them at the children's bookstore where I worked part time. And one day a lady came in and wanted to buy thirty of them for her daughter's birthday party! So we made thirty and it took forever and our fingers bled and she only paid us $120 which, at the time, we thought was a TON of money even though it was essentially about $2 an hour but then we didn't talk to each other for like two months and it was kind of a disaster. Soon after, Macy's started selling similar items for about $40 each. Let this be a lesson to you readers. ALWAYS PATENT YOUR IDEAS. Our company was called Cheesy Beads. I promise this will tie together in a second...

Lately I have been in a creative rut, feeling a little strangled by my watercolors.  So today, I went to the bead store two blocks from my house with my India necklace and my pile of Santa Fe glass beads and high hopes that a little wire and bead work might kickstart my creativity. The guy at the store sold me a round nose pliers, a bunch of eye wires and a clasp and sent me home to look at You Tube for instructions. Which is what I did. And here is my necklace which, on me, is more of a choker, ironically, but in the bigger picture, might just be what I needed to open up the flood gates.