Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zach.

This letter may have been the easiest of all, for me. Z is for my creative, intelligent, hilarious and unique son, Zacharius. He is 11, and my only child.

i gave birth to Zach after suffering with a deep depression for 2 years straight. After he came into this world, the fog in my head lifted, and i devoted myself to him completely. He was an observant and very happy baby, though it wasn't long before i saw signs that depression and anxiety seemed to be in his future as well. i guess that's to be expected, considering my own battles.

The road has not always been easy or free of hazards. Being a parent has been the most difficult thing i've ever done. Also the most gratifying, yes, but don't let anyone tell you it's all peaches and cream, because it just isn't. When once my decisions could only harm or benefit me, i must now consider, with every step i take, the impact it will have on him. i wouldn't change any of it, and he has given my life so much joy and laughter and purpose, but there are also dark days when i have no idea what step to take next. It's all worth it, of course, and i am more than grateful to have such an amazing person in my life, and to count that person as my own flesh and blood.

My son: the reader, the comedian, the history buff, the dreamer. i was blessed the day he came into this world, and hope beyond hope i can do right by him. For in the end, being his mom is the most important role i will ever have. i love you beyond all words, Z. You are my heart.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for yesterday.

How many yesterdays make up a life? So many memories, millions of moments, many forgotten, some treasured, some changed by the mind over time, some burned in, some devestating, some beautiful, some mundane but stick with you, for no apparent reason, some life-changing. It's hard to capture the truth of a moment on film, but sometimes you get lucky.

These are just a few moments i was reliving today while skimming the pages of one of my photo albums. So many yesterdays that brought us to today, this moment. So much to treasure, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Hugs and kisses, because i am completely stumped with x. i have higher hopes for y. See you tomorrow, then.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Watts.

Not long ago, my brother pointed me in the direction of Alan Watts, and i'm so glad he did. i'm including a few videos here of some of his speaking engagements. So much of what he says rings very true with me. So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit back and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

See behind the veil.

Veil (n.) A cover; disguise; a mask; a pretense.

There are many things in this world hidden behind a veil. For a multitude of reasons, often fear, people hide parts of themselves from others. We fear someone may not like what they see and may ridicule or alienate us, and most everyone yearns to feel they belong somewhere. Our own government hides behind pretenses, to keep us uninformed and controllable. That's not conspiracy theory; you're kidding yourself if you think they tell us everything.

i can understand sometimes feeling the need to keep a part of yourself tucked away, safe from mocking and misunderstanding, but more and more i seek to let out those "secrets". i'm finding the release necessary to feel that i'm really presenting myself as who i am, and also necessary towards making strides to becoming the me i am and am meant to be. Often, when we share a hidden part of ourselves, someone else feels the courage to respond with "Me, too!", and instead of feeling alone, you both find common ground and let out a little sigh, thinking, i'm so glad i'm not the only one. By remaining behind the mask, we isolate ourselves. If we are free and open and honest, we make connections.

But let's say you pull aside the veil and someone doesn't like what they see? All you can do is be honest and true to yourself, and if someone has a problem with that, better to find out sooner rather than later.

If more of us let down our guard and shared those things we most fear sharing, i think we'd find we're a lot more alike than we think. We may find common ground with our worst enemies, and maybe, just maybe, a lot more people would feel less like weirdos or freaks or outsiders. A small connection can go a long way towards understanding and compassion, and the world can always use more of both.

Monday, April 25, 2011


i'm finding it difficult to type a long post today as carpal tunnel has rendered my left hand useless, so, i'm cheating a bit and just posting some U related art to minimize how much i need to type.

T is for Taj.

As in Taj Mahal, the musician. He's been one of my very favorite musicians for a long time. My dad has been a fan for 40+ years, and i can remember him playing his albums, as in records, when i was very young. His music weaves its way through most of my days. i've seen him live 3 or 4 times now, and am hoping to be able to again this summer. His live shows are consistently good. Aside from his music, his good looks and deep voice make me melt, oh my... Here are some of my favorite songs of his.

S is for salad.

i love salad, be it of leafy greens, veggies, pasta or fruit. Lately i've been on this antipasto salad kick - romaine or iceberg lettuce, salami, ham, provolone, parmesan and pickled vegetables (carrots, caulifower, celery...), tossed with my basic vinaigrette. One of the most refreshing salads i know of is my great grandmother's very basic recipe. It's iceberg lettuce, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt. That's it. So very simple, yet delicious with a loaf of crusty Italian bread and some chicken cutlets. My mom gets a bite of salad and a bite of chicken on the same fork, and i now follow suit. Sometimes the simplest of foods can be the most delicious.

i thought i'd share two recipes today. The first is not my family's; it comes from a place called Mazza's Restaurant and Lounge in Mount Vernon, OH. My aunt worked there years ago and shared the recipe with us. We've been hooked ever since. The second is prefered mostly by my mom and i. If i'm remembering correctly, my Italian-born great grandfather made this salad, or possibly one of my great uncles. Regardless, it's been passed down.

Mazza's Salad
Serves 2, 3...depends on how hungry you are and what else you're having

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, ripped or chopped into bite-size pieces
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced (more or less to taste, though too much overpowers)
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
feta, blue or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled, to taste (we prefer feta, i think original recipe uses one of the latter two)

Mince the garlic and place into the olive oil. How much olive oil? i dunno'. i eyeball it. Maybe 1/3 cup? Maybe a little more? Let the garlic and oil sit for 20-30 minutes. Place the lettuce in a big bowl and add the cheese. Pour the oil and garlic over the lettuce and drizzle with red wine vinegar. No, i don't know how much. i just taste and add as necessary (i don't think i should ever write a cookbook...). Sprinkle with salt to taste. Make sure to have some crusty bread on hand to sop up the dressing. Warning: do not plan on much kissing action after eating this, unless both parties partake.

Italian Orange Salad
Serves 1 (because that's the only way i ever make it)

1-2 oranges, separated into segments
1 clove garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil

Place the orange segments and garlic in a bowl. Sprinkle with oregano and salt and then drizzle with olive oil. Not much, maybe just a couple tablespoons. Toss and enjoy. This salad is one of those things that sounds like an odd pairing, but for some reason just works.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

R is for rain, and ramps.

Catching up on the A-Z Blogging Challenge, again.

i love rain, except when i'm forced to drive in a downpour, otherwise, bring it on! i love the sound of it on the roof, the smell, the vibrant green after a summer storm... i always find it amusing that even though i devote many hours to art and don't think much of it, on a rainy day i feel like i'm given a free pass to stay inside and create, or maybe curl up with a book and a cup of coffee and let the hours pass by. i harbor no guilt at all for a rainy day spent inside. What's up with that? i shouldn't even be feeling guilt over making art in the first place, but i am human, and also very hard on myself.

Come spring and the rain it brings, one can find a certain little treasure in the forests of the eastern United States, and up into Canada - ramps. Ramps are like a wild leek, but they taste, and smell, like a combination of garlic and onions. They are delicious, but an avid fan will warn you about the smell your kitchen (read "entire house") and yourself will acquire after preparing and eating. My mom always relates the story of my dad eating his fair share of ramps while in season, and how she would make him sleep on the couch for days after. (i wonder if that played a part in their divorce, haha...) Every year, my dad brings me a decent bunch that he's foraged that i add to cooking or freeze to use later when the season has passed. My family eats the meals i prepare using ramps, but they are not big fans of the smell that lingers. My son is, in fact, completely put out by the smell and will vocalize his displeasure over and over.

If you can get ahold of ramps in your area, either by gathering yourself or buying at a market (if you're lucky enough to have a local one carrying them), i encourage you to try them if you haven't yet. Their taste is definitely worth their lasting odor, believe me.


Back early from my blog vacation and playing catch up with the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

Q is for quiet, the deepest and most perfect of quiet, as found in the far off pockets of this planet, in the middle of nowheres, where streets, buildings and humans are few or none. i've discovered that breathtakingly beautiful quiet in many places, but the standout was on an empty moutain road in Alaska on the night of a full moon many years ago. Everything was white with snow, save a sky so clear it was as if the black were its own kind of light. Stepping out of our vehicle and into that cold, pristine hush...words cannot truly contain a feeling like that.

There wasn't fear or trepidation in that silence, though it was humbling. Instead, it was ripe to bursting with promise, hope, beauty, breath, life. That silence contained everything, and nothing, and it was absolute perfection. That kind of silence, free of the constant hum of cities and vehicles and televisions and cell phones and airplanes and chatter is hard to find, but it's there if you seek it out. For many of us, quiet like that can feel very far away.

But what if we pulled the memory of that quiet, and the perfect innocent stillness it contained and applied that hope and promise within to this very moment? Like a grounding exercise, a way to bring us back to the present, the here and now, this moment, which is really all we ever have... Just a thought.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blog vacation...

i'm currently in the midst of a little getaway, and finding the time to post has been difficult. So, it looks like i may be on a short hiatus until Monday, April 25th. Thanks to my readers and followers, and i'll see you on Monday!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for purpose, procrastination and power.

Well, i guess O was for a day "off", and also for "on the road again". i had a busy day of packing and traveling yesterday and just couldn't squeeze in a blog post. And yes, today's post is late. Eh, such is life.

So, P. P is for purpose. i'm still fumbling through this life, trying to find what i believe, so i can't say with certainty that i necessarily believe we all were born for a purpose, or if it's all just random chaos. Really, for me, it almost doesn't matter. Either way, i'm not about to sit by and do nothing, so i seek out what i can contribute to not only my own life, but also the lives of those i love. i need a goal, a purpose, a project every day, or i'll go crazy. i need purpose, whether that means making art or cooking dinner, or, in looking at the bigger picture, someday teaching art workshops or writing a book. Purpose helps me take that next step. With a goal or deadline in sight, i do my best work. And as far as my greater purpose, some notion of why i was born (random chaos?), i just hope that i make better the lives of those around me, and that i'll be remembered as a kind and true friend, a loving and thoughtful mate and most importantly, a good mom.

Once i realize my purpose, or set a goal, there comes procrastination. Oh, my old friend procrast. Always there, keeping me lulled until the 11th hour when i then meet up with my old friend frenzy and make a mad rush to reach the finish line. i'm really adept at putting things off. As much as i love working on projects, i somehow manage to hem and haw my way there, doing "research" or reading up on new techniques before diving into the actual project itself. i have no idea why i do this; it doesn't make sense. But i'm working on it, sort of. i might work on it tomorrow, or this weekend...

Ok, so i have purpose, i'm working on the procrastination issue, so that means the next step is taking back my power. We give our power away all the time, every day, to each other, to the government, to society's expectations... Hell, sometimes we just refuse to claim it in the first place. i'm not talking about having power over others, i'm talking about the power and energy inside us all, the courage and determination and strength that makes up that part of us that keeps us strong. Claim your power, and try your best, hard as it is, to not give it away. And always use your power for good, that's important.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This is necessary.

Some things are just necessary. Take my glasses - very important. Without them, my whole world shuts down. Tonight (Friday, as i write this), my 6 or 7 year old frames broke while i was cleaning them. In half. Right between the eyes. My guess is, after so many years, they have become brittle and weakened.

This is when i discovered that the super glue i finally found after searching for 45 minutes (couldn't see, remember) was not so "super". In fact, i'd liken it more to"crazy" glue, as it's in line with the quote about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. i tried at least 5 times to make the two pieces adhere, and no go. i then deemed the glue to be a word i won't repeat here and moved on to tape. This did not prove as easy a task as it would at first appear. Apparently, this job is easier if you can see, or if you have at least 3 hands, maybe 4.

And yes, at some point in my frustration, i realized the comical aspect of this entire scenario, but i was pissed, so i didn't laugh. i told myself i could laugh it up when i could see again.

See how necessary? Forget everything else i couldn't do without my glasses, like drive, walk down the street, cook...well, i might be able to cook, but i don't want to set the house on fire, either. But forget all that. Without my glasses, i couldn't even laugh. Of course, i should be blaming the frustration for that, i guess.

Where was i? (This is why people probably hate it when i call. i can't just tell you a brief summary. I want to give every detail, for the full effect.) Yes, necessary. i depend on my glasses every day. The very first thing i do every morning is put them on. They are essential to every part of my life, always there, but kind of in the background. You take them for granted until, like tonight, you lose the use of them. Now what? It's like someone turned the power off. i can see, but it's all fuzzy shapes with no distinction. i can see well enough to move about my house, but not well enough to do much otherwise.

This made me think of other aspects of my life that are necessary but maybe sometimes taken for granted. Obviously food, water, air, shelter. Aside from that, though. What else, having taken it away, would make my world shut down, in an instant like that? The answer is my family, and that includes some dear friends, not just blood. First and foremost would be my son. Take my son out of the picture, and my world would come to a crashing halt.

i try to tell the loved ones in my life how i feel about them as often as i can, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to tell them even more. There are other necessities in my life, but none, that i can see, as important as them. They give me strength, bring me joy, make me laugh, lend a helping hand, give me guidance and advice, and so, so much more. To be content, it is necessary to have them in my life, and the love and true friendship they give.

Oh, and by the way, my glasses are semi-repaired. Presently, they are taped but crooked, so everything looks like it's coming at me; my depth perception is all off. Being unable to drive means i can't attempt a crusade for truly super glue, awesome glue or even super-fantabulous-and-amazing-best-ever-fucking-buy-it-now glue, so i'll have to wait until my better half comes home from work and can assist. When he does, i'll be sure to hug him tight and tell him how much i love him, for he is very, very necessary.

These photos were taken during my walk about my yard this (Friday) morning, prior to my glasses breaking.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Mom.

Mom by bluemama
Mom, a photo by bluemama on Flickr.
My mom at 10 years old.

i am very close to my mom; we talk on the phone almost every day. Not surprisingly, a lot of who i am is thanks to her. She's an amazing woman - strong, passionate, generous, funny, creative... She built a deck behind her house a couple of years ago - she was 62 at the time. In fact, when my brothers and i were kids, we knew when you heard power tools amping up at 6 am, it wasn't dad, it was mom.

My mom has had her share of challenges in life - one being put into Catholic boarding school at age 8 - but those challenges made her strong, and i don't know anyone who can get one over on my mom. She'll fight tooth and nail for those she loves, too. i remember once, as i was in the midst of chemo at age 15, we went to the mall. i had forgone the wig i had been wearing (it was itchy and uncomfortable, and to me, looked ridiculous) and had decided to no longer hide my baldness. As we walked through the entrance, another customer stopped, turned and blatantly stared at me. My mom reacted instantly by saying, "Why don't you take a picture? It lasts longer."

i had both my parents full support while going through chemo, but as my parents were divorced and i lived with mom at the time, she was the one who took me to every appointment and treatment. She'd brag to the other nurses and patients how strong she thought i was, how i never complained about all the sticking and poking and sickness. (i never thought myself strong at that time, just felt i was doing what i had to; i was sort of in a numbed daze most of the time.) She was the one who took care of my daily needs through all of that, and i can never thank her enough for the selflessness she showed me, when certainly she was going through a difficult time herself, with her oldest child having cancer.

My mom has had many adventures, too. Her and my dad lived in a schoolbus for part of the 60's, moving between San Francisco and Washington state, and before that, sans schoolbus, Alaska. My mom was born in New York City, yet at 18 (sorry if i'm off on the age a little, mom) she moved to Wrangell, Alaska, a very small town at the time where all supplies had to be flown in. She may have been a city girl, but she baked, crocheted, fished, all of it, and wasn't afraid to get dirty. 

i greatly admire my mom's strength of will, her refusal to be pushed around, her generous and giving nature, and so much more. At 64, my mom has more life and vibrancy than many 25 year olds i know. And she looks fantastic; i swear, barely a wrinkle, if any. She could easily pass for 45. Good news for me!

Mom, i love you more than i can ever say, but hopefully you know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for language.

Words can be beautiful. i often talk about crossing over from mostly being a writer to a visual artist, but obviously, as evidenced by my blog, i do still write. For the past several years, i have seen a disturbing trend grow and gain momentum, and it saddens me.

It appears that language is being eroded, word by word, syllable by syllable, and replaced with text speak or the usage of unknowingly innacurate words. i don't claim to be a genius, and i myself could stand to learn many, many more words than i utilise currently, but rarely will you see me throw out an "lol" or an "omg". i don't intend to put down anyone who uses those abbreviations, but when they filter into speech or every bit of writing someone produces, i die a little inside.

Several months ago, i saw a commercial about an effort to save the English language, one word at a time. The movement's members were to each "adopt a word" that they agreed to keep from falling out of use. i'm still not sure if it was a joke or an actual attempt to keep less often used words alive, and i applaud their efforts if it is indeed for real, but i find it concerning that this is even necessary.

Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? The very first time i watched it, ofcourse i laughed, it's funny, but i also felt a little sick at the thought that i could almost see those very things playing out in the real world; i could see the path we're on gradually leading us to a world where everything is a billboard for advertisers (including people's names), where there was an entire channel devoted to videos of men getting kicked in the crotch and where a person's worth is based almost solely on sex appeal. It's far-fetched, i know, but parts of that movie are not so far out of the realm of possibility if things keep going the way they are.

Anyone who watches even a smattering of television anymore can see the dumbing down that is taking place. The clever, quirky and intelligent shows are often canceled, while reality tv - i'm thinking of stuff like The Bachelor and Jersey Shore here - prevails. i've never seen the Jersey Shore, but i don't need to see it to get the idea. i'm not saying i don't watch some less-than-breakthrough television, but when the most popular shows involve cat fights and nearly every scene contains a hot tub, i have cause to be alarmed. Entertainment is one thing - i can watch even the stupidest movie and still be entertained (watch The Room, seriously - it's so bad, it's good, as in, hilarious) - but the ratings that these shows draw in turn makes tv executives continue with the same mind-numbing crap, week after week, until the only thing on is...well, shows focused on a kick in the balls. As the audience, we should demand better. Really, they're only giving us what they think we want, or maybe what they want us to want? Ok, conspiracy theories aside, there would be a signifigant gain by the powers that be in the dumbing down of its citizens. The less informed and intelligent we are, the easier we are to control.

Even more frightening, many people don't read anymore, and don't deem it a priority that their children do. i have always loved a good book, and while the raising of my son, daily chores and even making art means i read less than i used to, i still try to fit a book in when i can. i began reading to my son when he was only a few months old, and while i try not to put any expectations on him, i did hope he would be a book lover, and i'm thrilled to say he is. Sure, he still plays video games and watches tv, but for him, a trip to the library always elicits excitement, and he almost never comes away from the outing with less than a stack of 10 or more books. i never really "baby talked" to him, and that coupled with his love of reading has led to him having a broader vocabulary than most children his age. He'll often toss a "big word" into his every day speach, as if it were nothing. i love that, and it warms this mother's heart. On the flip side, he has relentlessly been made fun of at school for different reasons, one being reading. As the other children played kick ball during recess, he enjoyed sitting under a tree with a good book, and he was teased to the point of feeling embarassed to be seen reading, so he stopped doing it in front of them. And that's really sad. Yes, children tease each other for all kinds of reasons, and yes, he needs to find that place inside him where he feels comfortable being himself, regardless of their reactions, but still, it makes me sad that the other children see reading for enjoyment alone to be weird or questionable behavior.

There is a way to turn the tide. Our technology has made leaps and bounds in just the last 10 years alone, and the internet can be a wonderful tool, but letting the machines think for us can also be dangerous. We can make good use of the internet and television by discovering and learning about other cultures and staying updated on world events, and even by laughing at witty and clever sitcoms, but they can also form a wall between us, until we're all staring into screens instead of into each other's eyes.

Help keep language alive. Go to the library, it's free, and will only cost you time, but it's time very well spent. Encourage your children to read, or read to them. Show them what a truly great story can be. Help them learn about a country or culture they may have never even heard of. Take time yourself to learn a new word every day - make it a personal challenge. And once you learn those words, it's use them or lose them. i'm guilty of that myself; i've forgotten many words i learned long ago, simply because i never applied them to my speech. And if we all do that, if we all forget and don't apply them anymore, what happens to language? Does it become an antiquated notion? Will we be reduced to mumbling lol speak to each other? i, for one, certainly hope not.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Are you going to throw that away?!

K is for keep. As a mixed media artist, i can find a use for the most random, seemingly unusable items. My family has gotten used to this over the years, and has been enabling me as well, almost always checking with me first before throwing away little scraps of paper or a broken toy or some such tidbit most would toss in the trash and then get it on with their day.

Awhile back, i taught my brother a new word - ephemera. What a great word, not only its meaning, but the sound of saying it. Go on, try it. Ephemera.

1: something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural
2 ephemera plural : paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles
Essentially, i keep many things most consider trash. Vintage ephemera is even better, and rarer. i find such beauty in old advertisements, labels from bottles, ticket stubs, and so on, and all these things can be added to my work. In this way, i am reusing items destined for the landfill, and making something more lasting and beautiful out of them. Even the stickers you peel off fruits and veggies are fair game.
A drawer of scraps from past projects, including the transfer from a praying mantis soft block carving i recently did. i'm outgrowing my drawer, and that's after cleaning it out last year and attempting to organize it into a couple binders. Yes, i said i put "trash" in binders; what of it?
The only problem with the need to keep such things is that eventually, you have a lot of it, and it needs a home. This is why, right now, my studio is a bit of a mess. i'm a great organizer, but have yet to tackle this growing mountain of materials and trinkets. i intend to fix this situation sooner rather than later, because as wonderful as it is to have so many materials on hand, it's a nightmare sorting through boxes and drawers and not finding the one thing you're looking for, or even worse, not even knowing what you have in the first place.
See that butterfly on the bottom left? Yeah...i've been toting that around, from one abode to another, for years...but someday, i will need it, i guarantee.
i walk a fine line between "collector" and "hoarder", so i have to be careful. Sometimes i do filter through the piles of stuff and give things away, or sometimes, toss something, if i see that it really can't be used for anything at all, but the latter almost never happens. i always ask myself, Well, what if 5 years from now i'm working on a project and need this very thing? What if nothing else will work for the piece but this? Many items have been saved and never used because i love them so much, no project is good enough for them. It's maybe a little crazy, this need to have but not use, but i'm an artist, so crazy kind of comes with the territory, does it not?
Far be it for me to encourage anyone to start saving every bit of trash they come across - some things are indeed garbage - but think outside the box (har, har) the next time you're holding the empty box your favorite tea comes in. Now wouldn't that make a nice little mini-notebook cover? Or maybe a repurposed greeting card? And if you just can't find a use for it, send it to me, and i'll give it a home.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just the facts, ma'am.

i had intended J to be about journals, but i've written about journaling several times, and don't really see the point in repeating myself (though i am very good at it) or boring my readers to tears, so instead, J is for me, Jessica. How about a few random facts about yours truly?

1. i had the great fortune to be able to travel a lot in my teens and early 20's, thanks to my dad's job at United Airlines. By 16 years old, i'd been to nearly every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, and made trips to England and New Zealand. These early-in-life travels helped shape me to be the person i am today, and gave me a perspective i might not have had otherwise.

2. i have driven across the country 4 times, and hope there's another such road trip in my future.

3. i'm a cancer survivor.

4. i graduated from high school, but opted not to attend my graduation. Instead, i asked to work that day, which my employers loved, because much of their help was attending graduation. i kind of regret that decision now...

5. i gave birth to my son without the benefit of any pain medication. i don't recommend it.

6. i met my mate when i was 15 through a pen pal ad in a music magazine. We started as friends, but eventually became involved, and are still going strong today, 18 years later.

7. i love history, and for many years planned to become an archeologist. In high school, i'd go to history class early just so i could talk about the subject with the teacher.

8. My mom chose my name before she even knew she was having a girl - the same happened with my two brothers, and she was right about the sex every time.

9. i have a secret (not a secret now) desire to be a singer, though my abilities aren't proficient in that area. It doesn't stop me from singing all the time, though.

10. i don't know how to swim.

Well, not an exciting post today, but hopefully it gives my readers a little background into me as a person. And now, the studio calls...

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for idle.

Those that know me even fairly well know that the word "idle" almost never applies to me; hell, even when i'm sleeping, i'm tossing and turning, or talking in my sleep, or grinding my teeth... The things most people consider the stuff they need to get done so that they are then able to relax are what i do to relax, sort of.

i'm happiest when i have several projects going at once. Making art or gardening or cooking (unless it's a frenzied feast i'm fixing, with hungry people standing around asking, "Is it done yet?") are my meditations, my means of relaxation. i'm a frenzied bundle of energy most days (just ask my family), running around the house doing chores inbetween working in the studio. i do enjoy sitting quietly sometimes, maybe reading a book or watching a movie, but i have this need to accomplish as much as i can in a day. i want to fill my days with as much as possible, maybe because i have this fear that someday i'll look back and cringe at all the time i "wasted". To me, wasting my days is sitting for countless hours in front of the tv. At the end of everyday, i like to see the physical results of my time invested. i want to eat a great meal, or see a stack of handmade cards, ready to mail, or look over a finished canvas. Then, i can try my hand at the kind of relaxing most people do, maybe watch a show with my man or play a game of Rummy as we talk in bed.

i encourage relaxation of almost any kind - our days are hectic and busy, most of the time - but i also encourage action. The feeling of satisfaction you can get from a job well done makes the relaxation even more enjoyable, and having earned that relaxation time makes it all the sweeter.

And now i'm off to run errands, mail some cards, wash dishes and work in the studio.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Henry...

...Miller, that is. One of my favorite writers. i could talk about him, but i'll just let him speak for himself:

To work a radical transformation all that was required, as we saw it, was to put into practice the simple injunction: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." No beliefs, no worship, no ten commandments, no ceremonials, no churches, no organization of any kind. No waiting for a better government, better laws, better working conditions, better this, better that. Begin this moment, wherever you find yourself, and take no thought of the morrow.

Today is like all other days. There is only today.

Death is not the end of life, much less the goal. It is but another aspect of life. There is nothing but life, even among the dead.

And so, regardless of their heroic behavior, regardless of their sublime motives, I have come to regard such activity as indefensible. Even from the purest of motives one has not the right to "molest" another. The effort to bring a man to God, or to bring him enlightenment, is an act of violation. It is even more reprehensible than to subjugate him bodily. Does not the whole art of living center about the practice of tolerance, of noninterference? Before it is possible to love one another, as we are so often enjoined, it is necessary to respect one another, respect the privacy of the soul.

What we learn, of value, we get indirectly, largely unconsciously. It is too often stressed, in my opinion, that we learn through sorrow and suffering. I do not deny this to be true, but I hold that we also learn, and perhaps more lastingly, through moments of joy, of bliss, of ecstasy. Struggle has its importance, but we tend to overrate it. Harmony, serenity, bliss do not come from struggle but from surrender.

We are getting nowhere, because (metaphysically speaking) there is nowhere to go. We are already there, have been since eternity.

...the real escapist is the man who adapts himself to a world he does not subscribe to.

Here in America, to be "different" is almost tantamount to being a traitor.

This is the only reality there is. If you can get it down on paper, in words, notes, or color, so much the better. The great artists don't even bother to put it down on paper: they live with it silently, they become it.

All of the above excerpts come from his book Stand Still Like the Hummingbird. These were sections i had highlighted when i first read it, back when i was a teenager. i had intended to go through many of his books, quoting my favorite parts, but that may take all day. Really, i encourage everyone reading to search out his books, in particular this one, and also Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare and The Wisdom of the Heart.  

Friday, April 8, 2011


As i cleaned the kitchen last night, i thought about words beginning with G. There's green, like in the green glow right after a rain, or like the vibrant green of the English hillsides by the sea, or like chartreuse, one of the greatest colors, with an awesome name. Vermillion's a nice name, too, though...

There's gay rights, something that's always been extremely important to me. Oppression in any form is abhorant to me anyway, and to make that call based on who someone loves? Makes no sense to me at all. i think love between consenting adults in any form should be celebrated. There's enough hate out there.

There's gossamer. Hard to write a post on that. Really, i just like the word. i also love "sycamore". i love how both roll off the tongue. See how my mind works? i follow a path and then forget where i started. It's no wonder i find it more difficult to write than i used to.

i went through many a word, and then came to guilt. Ah, guilt. The gift that keeps on giving. i intended to write about it, to talk about my own guilt, to ruminate on how best to overcome it, but you know what? i don't want to write about that. To write about it feels as heavy as...well, carrying around guilt. So i won't.

Instead, let's talk about gardens. My dad is a gardener, and passed on the know-how and desire to plant, to care for and to reap the rewards of a yearly garden. i have had a garden every year for the past dozen years or so, except for that year we lived in an apartment. Every year i look forward to selecting which vegetables and flowers to plant. i almost always do a fairly small garden. As the main gardener in my household, it's easier to manage.

Dad almost always comes down to help me set up. It's like a ritual. We plan our space, till, add humus and manure as needed. i absolutely adore the actual planting. i treat the plant with care, even talking to it as i place it in the ground. Don't laugh; plants have an energy, too, and my vibrations can affect it. The best feeling is at the end of the day, when you get to sit back with a cold beer and see all your hard work. i even like getting dirty, makes me feel closer to the earth.

After tending, comes the excitement as things start to grow, then bloom, then bear fruit and thrive. Being able to pick much of that night's dinner is very satisfying, not to mention delicious. There's not any tomato in any grocery store i've found that tastes a bit like a tomato picked fresh out of your own garden and eaten straight away. 

When the thriving takes over, there's canning to be done. i don't do tons of canning, but the onslaught of cucumbers pretty much requires putting up some pickles, and i might do some salsa when the tomatoes are too many to eat fresh and not rot. 

Right now, my yard is overrun with spring perennials. i have never seen so many daffodils in one place, except maybe a public park. My landlord is a super woman, i swear. There's also hyacinths and tulips, and a couple of things i'm unsure of. i don't know yet where the vegetable garden will go; this is our first full summer at this house. Maybe by the storage building, in the side yard? i'll have to get on that, soon. Onion sets are already out. There's work to be done.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Soup's on!

F is for food, which also makes me think of family, and friends.

We all love food. Have you ever met anyone who says they hate food? "Agh, eating, what a chore..." And for many of us, food is tied in with family get togethers or meeting up with friends for a cookout.

i love to cook. i have Italian heritage from my mother's side, so many of my recipes have been passed down from my great grandmother (henceforth known as just "grandma") to my mom, and then to me. My love of food from other cultures has caused me to try my hand at cooking anything and everything. i started with Chinese cuisine, way back when, and have since tried my hand at Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Caribbean, and the list goes on. So far, Thai food has been some of the hardest to get right, but i'll not give up! When you've lived most of your life in rural areas, you'll find a way to have at your disposal the ethnic foods you so dearly love.

But back to grandma. She came to America from Northern Italy when she was an infant. She lived a lot of her life in New York, and later Florida. She was an amazing person. If she knew my mom was coming to visit (they were very close), she made sure to stock up on my mom's favorites. When she sent mom down to the local bakery to get bread, she always gave her enough money for two loaves, because she knew on the walk home, mom would dive into one of them. Every Sunday morning, she awoke at 6 am to start her red gravy. And yes, it's called "gravy", not sauce. One taste and you'll see why. Everyone loved her cooking.

This reminds me of a funny story. There are so many good stories, but the one i'm thinking of is the time my mom opened grandma's fridge to find two eyes staring back at her. It was a sheep's head, a delicacy. It may have been the only thing my grandma made that my mom wouldn't eat.

Grandma died when i was 7. i can't really bring to mind memories of her from life, but through stories, my mom has given me a wealth of knowledge about who grandma was. To this day, whenever i make her recipes, i think of her. Basil is very much tied up with her memory, especially fresh basil from my garden; grandma grew her own basil for her wonderful meals. No matter the dish, i often feel grandma with me in the kitchen, guiding my hands to create food made with love. i have made many of her recipes for years, but the standout is her red gravy with spaghetti. It has to be simmered for hours, for the flavors to combine properly, so most of the day the house is filled with the smells of garlic, tomatoes and Italian sausage (nevermind that my house almost always smells like garlic). My better half requests it at least a few times a month, and most who try it say it's the best spaghetti they've ever had. That's not a nod to my cooking skills, but to grandma's. It's comfort food, in the truest sense of the word.

My mom is also a great cook, and taught me so much. Getting together and cooking with her is one of the best things i know to do with a day. We laugh, we taste, we fend off the questions of "Is it done yet?". One of the best compliments my mom ever gave me was saying that she thinks i'm the better cook.

Food sustains us, nourishes us, makes us feel warm all over and holds in its smells and flavors countless memories. There are very few foods i don't like, and i swear, you'll never catch me on a low carb diet. For fuck's sake (hey, another "f" word, my favorite swear word, in fact), i have Italian lineage. i mean, pasta and bread, hello? Grandma would roll over in her grave if i stopped eating pasta.

So, today, eat, drink and be merry. Share a bite with a good friend, or get in the kitchen with your family and whip up a feast, or even just an inspired sandwich. Really enjoy the tastes, the smells. Savor each bite, as if it contained within life-giving benefits, because it does, and not just nutritionally speaking, but emotionally, too.

Oh, and as William Shatner said, "Stop and smell the garlic. That's all you have to do."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for ebullient, yay!

This month i am taking part in theA-Z Blogging Challenge.


1. overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement; high-spirited.
2. bubbling up like a boiling liquid.

My friend Barb mentioned this word as a good jumping off point for today's post, and i concur!

So, ebullient. i can definitely relate. There's no denying when something excites me. i let loose with smiles, laughter, and a voice that other moms might refer to as my "outside voice". (Which begs the question, do i even have an inside voice?) And no, i don't have an off switch. In fact, i strongly and deeply feel and show the gamut of emotions, which actually makes my battle with depression sort of make sense.

One thing that always gets my hackles up is when i am in the midst of this joyous overload, and someone says to me, "Calm down." It's almost always said with a slight hint of disgust, as if my display makes them cringe.  

First of all, this is me. i only know how to be me. Take me or leave me, i am who i am. Yes, i can be a better me, and i try very hard to do that, but what part of my off the scale excitement hurts another human being? Maybe it irritates you, and that's fine - we can't all like each other - but i have to wonder what makes you pull away a bit? Obviously, you're uncomfortable with this outburst, but why? Is it because you reign yourself in, wanting to go with the flow and not upset the fruit basket? And i suppose you want me to do the same, huh? Um, no.

Secondly ("Do you always number what you say?" What movie is that from? i think i know; tell me if you do.), i believe in living life to the fullest. What's the point otherwise? For me, part of really living is letting myself feel all these emotions, savoring the moments, be they small or enormous. There can be moments of ebullience in every single day. Relish them, because at any time, there can also be moments of hell. This is life. Try not to turn away at the scary parts. Always laugh loudly until it hurts at the funny parts. And bring tissues, too, because you will cry.

Don't be afraid of your emotions, or of showing them. i think you'll find most people, save maybe the "calm-downers", and they are downers, will in turn feel more comfortable showing theirs, and this is just another connection we can make, which is always a very good thing.

The above photos were taken in my yard in early March. My landlord planted crocuses, daffodils, tulips, day lilies, hyacinths and more back when she resided here. In July, when we moved here, these flowers had fallen back and were gone, so we were surprised to be greeted to literally hundreds of perennials popping up all over this spring. And yes, this situation provided fodder for much ebullience.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dream a little dream...

This month i am participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

i thought i'd have trouble finding the time to blog every day, save Sunday, for this challenge, but what i'm struggling with more is coming up with what to write. What a surprising turn of events. Anyone who knows me even fairly well knows i love to talk, and am almost never at a loss of what to say.

For some reason, "D" did not come easily. Sure, i thought of plenty of D words, but words beginning with D do not alone make for a good, readable post.

But, there is one very important D word: Dreams. As cheesy or cliche as it may sound, dreams are so important. You have to have dreams. Without your dreams, how would you know what goals you want to work towards? There are plenty of people out there who'd just love to crush your dreams, mostly because they've given up on theirs ever coming true.

i still carry around dreams from years ago, dreams that appear as if they'll never come to fruition. Nothing in my life points to them being a possibility, even in the distant future, but i'll not let them go. Without our dreams, our world would be empty. Without dreams, we'd never have realized manned flight, or the Sistine Chapel's painted ceiling, or even the birth of a nation called America. i know, this sounds like a bad Hallmark card, but the thing is, it's true.

Don't ever let loose your dreams. Don't ever let someone kill your dreams, or tell you you're a fool for dreaming such ridiculous things. Dreams are the mind's playground, and can lead to some amazing, never before heard of discoveries. Without dreams, our days would feel empty, but with them, life is ripe and rich and full, and the fruit is there for the picking, if only you believe.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for California.

This month i am doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

When i was 10, after my parents divorced, my dad got a job with United Airlines, working out of their San Francisco terminal. Every summer after that, my brothers and i would fly from Virginia to California and spend at least a month out there. i fell in love immediately.

Our first trip there, my dad took us straight from the airport to downtown San Francisco. We were amazed, to say the least, having only travelled before to places like Florida or Ohio. He took us to Chinatown, and we looked through gift shops and marveled at the carcasses hanging in the restaurant windows. i got my first real taste of Chinese food in the back of a little restaurant there, and it was divine. But nothing could prepare us for the magic of the Pacific.

i love the ocean, but the Pacific really has a hold on my heart. Rather than just miles of sand and hotels like you see at the Atlantic, you'll find cliff faces, succulents by the millions, beaches covered in tiny pebbles, wind and water-eroded caves, seals...and when the fog rolls in, wow... No matter how many times i've stepped out onto the Pacific's shores, it has felt magical. If i close my eyes, i can smell it, and feel the chill wind blow in my hair.

There's so much to California, specifically Northern California, that i love. The redwood forests, Highway 1, San francisco and Marin County, Big Sur, Mount Shasta, Mono Lake, Death Valley, the food, like strawberries that taste like they should and just-picked brussel sprouts, bought at a stand right by the ocean. i have lived there on and off a few times over the years, the last time being in 2003. We left because of the high cost of living, but rarely does a day go by that i don't think of it, and miss it like hell. It will always be a part of me, another home.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B here now...

This month i am doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

B. Well, B makes me think of many things, and it's hard to choose only one to go with, so i won't.

B is for books. i love to read, and used to devour a good book in a few days. Family life and making art eats up a lot more of my reading time these days, but i still try to squeeze a book or two in when i can. i love all kinds of books; if it's a great story, i'll read it, true or imagined. As far as authors, there are so many... Joseph Campbell, Tom Robbins, Barbara Kingsolver, Clive Barker, Douglas Adams, Roger Zelazny, Louis L'Amour, Richard Brautigan, Anais Nin, Rumi, Henry Miller...oh, i can't just pass over Henry like that. Although i had been writing long before i read his work, Henry Miller made me yearn to be a writer. More than that... He made me yearn to really live, taught me to look at the world in a different, but wonderful, way. Books have the power to make you laugh, weep, understand... They can be life-changing. Books. Are. Necessary.

And, brothers. i've got two of them, both younger than me, both awesome people that i'm grateful to have in my life. They make me laugh, a lot. They stand up for me. They are there when i need them, as i am for them. One of my brothers is having a birthday today, and as i am reminded, once again,  of how quickly the time goes by, i am thankful my family and i are close, and that we've spent the years that have passed so far together.

The letter B can't help but make me think of my friend Barb Black. i mean, the letter B begins her first and last name, and i sometimes call her just B. She is anything but "just B", though, let me tell you.

Barb and i met several years ago on the internet. We've only talked on the phone once, but she is one of my closest friends in the world. i remember when i first saw her posts in a forum we were both members of. i was completely new to forums at all, and as i read through the threads, Barb always stood out. She was hilarious, first of all, and i am drawn to those with a great sense of humor. She also showed intelligence and an open-mind, and i remember thinking, i want to know her, but i'm new here, and why would she want to talk to me? Eventually, we did start talking, and over the years, a deep friendship developed.

She is an amazing person. i have a great deal of respect for her honesty, her candor, her raw nature, her generosity, her wisdom, and ofcourse, her stellar sense of humor. i am extremely fortunate to have her in my life, and to share as a part of hers. i really wouldn't want to imagine a life where i didn't call her a true friend, for that is certainly what she is, and those you hold onto, tightly. Ofcourse, if they're a true friend, they hold back.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Art.

So, at the 11th hour, i signed on to be a part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, which begins today. i first got wind of this through my very good friend Barb, who is also taking part. i've needed to give my blog a little more attention anyway, and this is as good a means as any. Here's to hoping i can find the time to keep up with this, but i hate to not follow through on a commitment, so, yeah. Motivation.

And we begin, ofcourse with A. i think we all see where this is going. It's the reason i started this blog, it's the thing i feel a deep, unexplainable passion for. Some days, it's the light in the dark, and the thing that fills the void, the hole that empties and must always be refilled.

It's art.

i've been making art since i was little, just like everyone. As children, we may not have even indentified it as art; we just did it because we enjoyed it, it felt good. If mom wanted to put it on the fridge, great, a little validation is nice. But we did it regardless. And we didn't stress over whether it was "good enough" or not. We also didn't question if we could draw a tree or a dog - ofcourse we could! We could hold a pencil, right? And we knew what trees and dogs looked like, so, that's all we needed to produce a drawing.

But at some point, someone probably said it wasn't any good, so we put it aside for the more practical things in life. Let's all hurry to get on the wheel! Get up, shower, breakfast, go to work, take a lunch break, back to work, go home, eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed, rinse, repeat. Well, i didn't set it aside, and i never was any good at running the wheel. i stumbled often and fell off into the bedding...and then i went to sleep. Oh sure, there was a time art wasn't in the forefront as much as it is now, but i always enjoyed making things, creating something beautiful out of scraps of paper and paints, and i always had creative ideas for projects, usually several at once.

i don't care one little bit if anyone thinks my art is good or not, well, let me rephrase that. It feels great when something i make cheers someone, or brightens their day, or possibly makes them think. But, even if no one ever liked a single thing i made, i'd still be making art. i have to. i have no choice. It's in there too deep, has its hooks in and is not ever letting go. It defines me, in many ways. i used to write, a lot, but not so much anymore. i have a harder time these days finding the words to convey my meaning, but with art, it flows. i can say so much more in that medium than with words, and it's because the things i really want to say don't have any words. They are feelings, they are things to do with magic.

Like every human alive on this planet, the universe has thrown some challenges my way over the years. We all have setbacks or tragedies come our way, and we all struggle with something. For me, the one thread weaving its way through the good and bad times, through every part of my life, is depression. i've had that nasty monkey on my back since i was 13. Only once did i try medication, and that didn't last long. Mostly, i just tried to manage it on my own. It improved when my son was born, though sometimes it would still pop up at my doorstep, reminding me, "Hey, i haven't gone away. You know one misstep, one or two really bad days in a row, and i'll have a hold on you again." Then one day, after art had become a more dominant part of my life, i realized that i actually felt good, really good, content even. i paid attention and found that if i didn't create something (even a garden, or a well-made meal can be art) on a regular basis, i was more irritable and unhappy. i realized art was not only a fun way to express myself, it was also a form of therapy. i can now live a happy, full life, with depression, and without medication, thanks to art. Plus, i get to tell my story. Everyone has a story, and it deserves to be heard. We are all kicking around on this rock, trying to find our place, and the least we can do is share our visions of this world and each other with each other.

i ask that you not be afraid. If you want to make art, make it. Don't let anyone stop you. And even if you think your skills are lacking, just enjoy the process. The cool thing is, the more you do it, the "better" you get. You will find your style, your voice, because you can't not find it. It's yours, it's unique to you, and it's in there, just waiting to be heard. So, tell your story, because no one else could truly tell it but you.