Friday, February 23, 2007

kissing sandwich

So as any of you who've been reading my posts know, I was just this side of certifiable when I found out that one of the twins had a boyfriend. Then my widowed mother announces that she is going on a cruise with her new friend, Bob. Again, news I didn't receive with great internal equanimity (though I'm fairly proud of scraping together some external calm). So now my eight-year old tells me that not only does she have a crush on a little boy in school, but at a moment when no one was watching in class, he gave her a big smooch on her cheek. Oh dear. I feel like a piece of balogna in the kissing sandwich that is suddenly my life.

love and kisses! E

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Finally, back to more edifying subjects

Here's a quote about art that speaks very deeply to me:

"The relation between morality and imagination may be a complicated one, but it does exist. Hope, forgivness -- these are not just moral actions. They are enlargements of the mind. Without them, you remain in the tunnel of the self."

Joan Acocella, from her book, Twenty-Eight Artist and Two Saints.

Sciatica: Epilogue

My massage therapist is a god. He works on some of the Steelers, so I guess my sad little piriformis muscle was no sweat. But, my goodness! After one hour ALL my pain was gone and I was giddy with reflief and drunk on endorphins. Happy end(ing).
(I'd rather not go into detail about how pissy and irritable I was the next day coming off the Vicodin.....)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day Ballad

Forgive my doggerel, but it seemed appropriate to the spirit of Valentine's Day cards.


Husband leaves for a conference
that is art historical.
Four kids and sciatica
leave me hysterical.

There's snow and more snow,
Then freezing rain.
It's Valentines day
I'm snowed in and in pain.

Hours pass, then he calls
from the airport. I'm astounded;
He'd booked on Jet Blue
and all flights were grounded.

And so he came home
(my relief was enormous),
Googled 'hip pain' and found
I'd cramped my piriformis!

So I made an appointment
For a guy to beat on me.
I can hardly wait
To get my massage therapy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New meaning to the phrase, "I'm just a bundle of nerves."

My pinched bundle of nerves, aka sciatica, is still the defining factor in my life right now. I'm limping and popping vicodin like Dr. House (how does he not just snooze all the time?) and, when I'm not drugged up, I'm gaining a very deep understanding of his irritability and misanthropy. People really seem extraordinarily stupid when you're in unstoppable pain. So here are the various things I've tried in pursuit of a pain-free leg and life:

Toughing it out (that's your basic Protestant response to most things. Not highly effective, but always choice #1 for us).

Soaking in a scalding hot bath. This works well, but is only a solution if you can live in the tub like Marat (French revolutionary who stayed in the tub all day for relief of a skin condition and was, eventually, murdered in his tub -- see cheery painting above).

Opiates, in the form of vicodin. ( A friend predicts that when I go off it I will suffer a lesser form of DTs he calls BTs -- bitchiness tremens).

Handfuls of Motrin (minor impact)

Mysterious steroid-related injections (I'll wait and see what happens. Maybe I'll start hitting home runs....)

So, tomorrow I'm trying accupuncture. After all, the Chinese use it as anaesthetic during brain surgery, so it might work...... Again, ANY advice will (scented candles? rearrange my room for better feng shui? I'll try anything) be seriously considered.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Misery thy Name is Sciatica

So I was driving my twins hither and yon, as one does here in America -- sitting in the car, sitting on my butt. It turns out that there's a bundle of nerve endings in your sitting area that, if sat on in the wrong way at the wrong time, can cause the misery called sciatica. When I finally got off my nerve bundles and out of the car, pain was excruciating -- Freddy Kruger stabbing my hip and the fire radiating down my leg. Man, middle age sucks.

I ignored it as best I could, which always worked well with physical problems when I was younger (and is a tactic I still like to try with machinesl). And other than limping, groaning and/or cursing whenever I moved my right leg (or sat down, or got up), and being really bitchy to poor Kirk, I thought it was going pretty well. But when I woke at 4 am this morning with the feeling that someone had plunged a stilletto in my leg and was twisting it, I got up, googled sciatica, decided I had osteo necrosis (New rule, never google my own symptoms between 1am and 5am.), and that it was ER time for me.

Now going to the ER is always like entering one of Dante's mid-range circles of Hell. And I've taken my husband there so many times that I know what to pack now (food, drink, books, crossword puzzles, pencils, a TV, and a Lazyboy recliner) so I'm well prepared. I know i'll sit alone in a room for hours, that different people will ask me the same five questions over and over. I'm a pro at this. Seen it all. Except I've never had a prisoner -- orange jump suit, handcuffs conected by a short chain to the shackles around his ankles, the whole nine yards -- in the room next to mine. A prisoner, with two fat policemen standing outside the room Yakking away and not paying very much attention to the PRISONER behind them. Anyone who's ever watched TV knows what's going to happen. And I'll admit, right up front, that I've watched way too many reruns of Law and Order and CSI. But there they were, so doghnut-eating-fat-cluless-cop seeming. I was certain that the young, lean, fit prisoner was going to off them with his concealed shiv and take me hostage. Which didn't happen, but it did keep my mind off the pain.

But this story has a happy ending. it's called Vicodin and it does take that edge off. Hope it gets me through the night tonight, and if anyone has any sciatic pain wisdom, I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Thursday Thirteen! Thirteen things I want to do that I haven't done yet

1. Learn how to surf.

2. Make an artwork (medieum doesn't matter, could be oil paint, stained glass, or crochet) that I think is perfect.

3. Meet the Dalai Lama.

4. OK, I know the Dalai Lama's busy saving Tibet. How about, have a nice long chat with Thich Nat Hanh?

5. Exercise every day (do you think the Dalai Lama or Thich Nat Hanh could help with sticking to that?).

6. Get a composter and compost all our vege peels, etc.

7. Dig said compost into my garden every year, turning it into a rich, abundant wonderland.

8. Knit a complete sweater (I have several half sweaters lying around. Maybe I could just put all the half sweaters together and call it couture?).

9. Start a small nonprofit that trains and enables low-income women to make and sell (and support themselves with!) crafts by giving them micro loans for materials, transportation, and childcare.

10. Go to Italy....

11. and visit John Keats's grave.

12. Take my oldest girls to Vietnam, the land of their birth, and show them how enchanting Southeast Asia is.

13. Have someone else clean my house!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Star of Panama

When I was six-years old and living in Laos, I took a walk one evening with my father. The sun hadn't set fully yet; it was that soft, blue-gray indirect light of evening. We were walking down the dirt road past our neighbor's yard. They had a lovely tall red and green hedge of star-of-Panama plants. Here in America, in a short (and usually short-lived) incarnation, we know them as poinsettias. That spikey, hard-to-say-or-spell name seems fine for the squat shrub that we give people we don't know very well. But the plants we walked past that day -- rangey, billowing out over the road, with fewer and more meaningful red stars floating above the green leaves -- those were Star of Panama, or even more lovely, estrella de Panama. I looked up at the lovely hedge and saw, floating above it, pistachio green and big as a man's hand, a luna moth. The yellow dirt road, the warm evening air, my over-worked and usually at work father walking with me, the dark green and crimson of the hedge, the luminescent pale green moth floating like a star above it and us; it was one of those shining, perfect moments you cherish forever.

So when a friend of mine recently commissioned me to do a window for her mother, of the view from their old home in Ecuador, I was overjoyed to hear that a Star of Panama tree was the most important part of that view. The Estrella de Panama tree was the heart and reference point of their garden. Beyond it they could see Mt. Chimborazo in all its moods. My friend played under the tree. When her aunt was angry everyone knew because she would go out into the yard and pull all the red leaves of the stars off the tree.

My friend and I agreed that I would do a Hiroshige-(views of Mt. Fuji)-in-stained-glass version of the scene: Mt. Chimborazo in the background, the star of Panama in the foreground. I'm excited. The drawing above is one of my prelimnary sketches for the window. As I progress, I'll add updates here.

As ever, E

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Happy Birthday to my dearest K

Today is my beloved husband's birthday. My cyber present to him is a poem. I wish I'd written it. It expresses so much that I love about him, the reason I married him, the reason he's my one true love.

Who Loves the Rain

WHO loves the rain
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes,
Him will I follow through the storm;
And at his hearth-fire keep me warm;
Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise,
Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes.

by Frances Shaw

Manic Monday's word is drift

i was writing a letter to a young woman who is very dear to me who is worried that what she's doing now might not lead to any sensible, money-making kind of future. And I thought about my own time in, and after college. And drift is one of the words you might use to describe it (if you're being generous). Here's some of what I wrote:

Most people flounder. A lot. They try on different identities, wear them for a while, then file them in "not me" and try on another one. Every "not me" you cross off your list gives you that much more information, gets you that much closer to "me."

I, of course, am my family's officially designated black sheep and flounderer, the queen of the flounder(er)s, so I speak with some authority here. I've always known what I loved, but I had no idea how that could translate into anything even vaguely practical. I used to worry that I would end up as a bag lady, pushing her shopping cart up the street toward the homeless shelter each night. But here I am with a husband and kids I adore, a big messy house, a life in art, and the only shopping carts I push are at the grocery store.

And look at Kirk. He majored in math. Math! It wasn't until the last semester of his senior year, when he signed up for a semester to study art history in London (which he mainly did as a cheap way to get to Europe and because a girl he had a crush on was doing it) that he finally BEGAN to find his path.

I remember once sitting in my back yard in Berkeley, trying to write a story. I didn't know where it was going and that made me panicky, the way I feel when I'm driving somewhere I've never been before and I don't have a map -- anxious, certain I've missed the turn off, gone wrong. The panic, of course, was making it harder to write. And it finally occurred to me that in art, there never would be a map, and if I ever wanted to get anywhere I was going to have to find a way accept that and relax, enjoy the ride. It also occurred to me that, given the many oddball choices I've made (e.g., the trifecta of impractical degrees I have -- English lit, studio art, and creative writing), this would be a good guiding principle for my life too. And it is. My life is full of amazement, discovery, and creativity. i feel incredibly lucky.

So, if you can, let yourself ride for a while without fear, and with faith that you are going toward something, even if you don't know what it is. And understand that some of your most lost, feckless times will end up being your most formative. So try to believe you're on your path, even when you can't see it, and let yourself drift.

Lots of love, E

Friday, February 2, 2007

Mother Nature, as if to prove me wrong, gave us this today....

OK. So I had my fun yesterday. It does, occasionally, get winter wonderlandish here, but not often and not for long. It will slush out soon. As Jake Johansen said about New York, Pittsburgh makes its own gravy.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

In honor of thirteen on thrsday, here are Thirteen things I hate about February in Pittsburgh

1. There are little pissy snow flurries almost every day. Not enough to winter wonderland it all, just enough to ice up your car every morning (I love the sound of frozen windshield wipers as they rip off the glass), and make you shovel your sidewalk every day because if you don't people walk on it and smash it down to wet ice which freezes and then, in the morning you slip on it and die. (I know that was a run-on sentence, but that's how Feb. in Pittsburgh feels -- like it runs on and on and....)

2. A little bit of snow very quickly turns to slush.

3. Slush puddles, which you inevitably step in. Which leads to

4. The feeling of a car-exhaust and dog-pee slurpy (special 7-11 flavor of the month!) as it seeps into your shoe and soaks your sock.

5. Gray sky. I can't emphasize this enough. There are an average of 55 sunny days a year in Pittsburgh. None of them are in winter.

6. Gray sky in combination with gray, slushy ground. Hey at least they match. It's our winter ensemble.

7. Gray sky in combination with gray ground AND gray buildings because they still are covered with the soot/smoke/toxins from the steel industry's hey day. (What is a "hey?")

8. Cold weather. I can't help it. I'm a wuss, a fragile tropical flower.

9. No leaves on the trees. (See above excuse)

10. You never see any of your neighbors and sometimes not even your friends because they're all suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and are too miserable to drag themselves out of the house.

11. Christmas bills. I know, that's no one's fault but my own, but I still hate it.

12. Kirk sneaks around the house doing guerilla assaults on the thermostat; Swoop! he's there and gone without you noticing and all of a sudden you're freezing and you look at the thermostat and it's set at 63.

13. Other people live in places that are sunny and warm(er) and I don't!