Friday, August 29, 2008


I am so proud of my country, so proud of my candidate, so proud of us for making him our candidate.

(Photo from Frank Synopsis)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another Summer down the drain

Two of the four kids started school today. The other two start next week. The husband's medical leave ended officially yesterday too. He returned to work and taught his first class since the surgery. Which leads me to ask myself the inevitable question:


My intentions for the Summer:
1. I was going to go to yoga four times a week.
2. I was going to finish rough illustrations for both of the children's books I want to illustrate.
3. The teens were going to plow through a reading list of worthy books we chose together and take a photography or film-making class.
4. The youngest was going to go to lots of fun camps and have swimming lessons so that, instead of just doing the dog paddle, she could learn actual swimming strokes (What can I say, she's the fourth child.)
5. A publisher was going to have accepted my novel by now.

What actually happened this Summer:
1. I went to yoga once a week till my studio membership ended and then I stopped going altogether while trying to find a studio I like better.
2. I painted one picture (but received almost 100,000 hits on flickr).
3. The teens read Brave New World ("It was boring," was their summary.) and all the Gossip Girl series (not boring). They also watched all of seasons 1 & 2 of Ugly Betty with me, went to Falling Water, and took some photos of themselves and their friends. That's creative, right?
4. The youngest did take lots of fun camps.
5. Novel is still languishing in an in box at publisher #2.

6. My husband gained 15 of the pounds he lost when he was sick.
7. I failed to lose 15 pounds (which isn't surprising, since I wasn't trying. But a girl can always hope ....)
8. I got over being furious at my husband for being so cavalier about his health and ignoring all my warnings that getting headaches every day is not normal.
9. I was once again proven to be always right about everything. (When will he finally give up having his own opinions and just do everything I tell him to do?)

So it looks like very little got done this summer. But it also looks like we all made it through alive and without major psychic scarring. I guess there's something to be said for that. And now that the kids are going to be out of the house, I'm sure I'll get a ton of stuff done. I'm already making a list.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Revelation in the food court

I'm a messy person. In my family, I was always the one everyone shook their heads about; that Elizabeth, so much emotion, so many interests, and going in so many different directions.... Tsk, tsk. Did you know that she dropped out of college? Did you meet that horrible poet she's living with? When i visited her, she took me to a party full of gay men and one of them hit on me!

My oldest brother knew, from the age of two, that he wanted to be a scientist. And he is. My middle brother was the kind of sunny fellow who could be successful and happy where ever he landed. And he is, as a highly paid, much sought-after wine maker. And then there's me. I once asked a fortune teller what I would be when I grew up and she searched and searched and found.... no answer. Even though I don't believe in such things, it was a little unsettling because if she'd been a charlatan, she would have just made something up. Instead, she looked very abashed and said, "I don't see anything clearly." It always stuck with me, somehow.

Anyway, this afternoon I took three of my daughters out for a mother/daughter end-of-the-summer shopping date at the mall. The husband (very sensibly) hates the mall, which gives these trips a giddy feeling of just-us-girls closeness and naughtiness. We wandered the cavernous fluorescent halls, window shopped, actually shopped, and finally, in that greatest indulgence of all, ate dinner at the food court. (Oh great bounty of unhealthy food! Oh thrilling lack of responsible parent urging good nutrition!) In short, we had a relaxed and unusually pleasant and cohesive time. Which led to an unusual amount of conversation. So at one point during the meal, my youngest turned to me and asked, "Mommy, if you could be anything in the world, what would you be?" Without thinking, I said, "An artist and novelist." Her eyes widened. Thunderstruck, she whispered, "Mommy, that's what you ARE!" I pondered that for a moment, surprised. It seemed she was right. I hadn't said "published novelist," (though I think that's what I meant). I'd just said "novelist." And I've written a novel. And I make art, and I even sell it.

I was quite taken aback.

Then, to compound the strange feeling that if I looked behind me I might see - instead of the branches and brambles I'm used to - a path that I, myself, had bushwhacked, my youngest said, "That's what I want to be! An artist and a writer!" Now, not only was I a person who was doing what I wanted to do, I was also a role model. Let's just say that I'm much more used to being a cautionary kind of example. Stunned, I turned to my older girls and asked, "What would you want to be, if you could be anything?" "An artist," said one. "Me too," said the other, matter-of-factly.

The conversation wandered away in a different direction. I ate bemusedly. After all these years of stumbling through the seemingly pathless wood of who I am and what I want to be, it seemed I might have to reevaluate who I think I am and how I got here. Very odd.

The only way to process all of this, of course, was to shop some more. So we did. The youngest got a really cute pair of Vans with stars all over them, and the twins each got two of the current de-rigeur tee-shirts (which look, to me, exactly like the old de-rigeur tee-shirts, but what do I know?). And on sale of course. Because, in the midst of change, there are certain immutable truths we can cling to. One of which is that I am, as I always have been, a truly gifted shopper. I still don't know what I think about the bigger question of who and what I am. But I do know that my daughters are going to look absolutely adorable when they go back to school.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My friend (on) flickr

I want to introduce you all to someone who's become a very dear cyber friend of mine. I met him on flickr where his charming combination of humor, modesty, kindness, and his eye for lovely illustration made me, first, a big fan of his flickr file and then a big fan of him. On flickr he is known as Lets Look Up and Smile.
He also has wonderful flickr groups:
HEADS!!...IN!!.. SPACE!!!
Handsome Hair Models on Parade
and one of my greatest sources of flickr merriment
Life's Railway to Heaven - Wholesome Gospel Family Record Covers
'Now is the time' - The Jerry Alcorn Trio
He's also just started a new blog A Thousand Shades of Twilightwhich expresses, in words, everything I found in his pictures.

As you all know, this summer hasn't been an easy one for me. I've spent a lot of it weary and worried. Someone mentioned Proust's magic lantern to me today and it clarified something up for me. When Marcel Proust was a boy he was confined to his room frequently. He wrote, "Far from my mother and grandmother, my bedroom became the fixed point on which my melancholy and anxious thoughts were centered. Someone had had the happy idea of giving me, to distract me on evenings when I seemed abnormally wretched, a magic lantern ... it substituted for the opaqueness of my walls an impalpable iridescence, supernatural phenomena of many colours, in which legends were depicted, as on a shifting and transitory window." The computer (that terrible instrument of depersonalization!) has been my own magic lantern this Summer. Through it I've received support from amazing people all over the world, and through it I've escaped my anxieties and gone to places as varied as Italy and West Texas. And now, with great pleasure, to Australia with 1000 shades of Twilight/Lets Look Up and Smile. I hope you'll all visit his blog.

Mr. Twilight, I hope you know how much happiness I've gotten from getting to know you and how you've cheered me at the end of some very weary days. After all, how could I not smile seeing a found photo like this?

Or this vintage book cover?

Dear, you're the first person I think of when I see a really tacky record cover or a sad clown. And since I'm at the thrifts all the time, well, in my mind at least, you're often right there with me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finding Consolation

Normally I'm overflowing with words. I talk a lot. I write a lot. I remember the lyrics of practically every song I've ever heard and I remember the exact wording of everything you ever said so don't argue with me. (Yes, it is annoying. Even to me.) So I guess it's not entirely surprising that the two times my husband- the rock of my life, the pillar that holds up my sky - has gone under the knife, my post operative stress reaction has been to go flat, lose my stuffing, lose my words. Since his surgery, I haven't been able to work on my writing projects, have had a hard time coming up with things to blog about, and don't have much energy to gab on the phone with people.

Instead, I've been aching for a vacation. A long quiet vacation in a warm place where I don't have to talk much because I don't know the language. Or at the ocean, because the ocean roars over, washes away, speech. But the husband is still weak and hunched and he tires easily. So here we stay. Which, really, in the scheme of what could have been, is fine. But still....

So today, in a thrift shop, I pulled a slim volume of poetry out from its hiding place between a door-stopper Grisham thriller and a self-help tome. it was "The Art of Drowning" by Billy Collins. I opened it. It was signed, "Cheers, Billy Collins." Then I opened to a random poem. It was one called "Consolation." It's a wonderful poem, and I recommend you read the whole thing. But here I'll only quote the first strophe:

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hill towns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

It was like getting a message in a bottle, through an ocean of detritus and words, from Billy just to me. "Cheers," he tells me. And here, dear. Here is consolation. It was perfect.

Here's a link to the whole poem, if you'd like to read it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Cheatin' Heart

So, my dears, i have a confession to make. I've been leading a double cyber life. By day i'm the thoughtful blogger who grapples with the deep issues of her life. But by night I'm a frivolous, shallow flickrer. I started flickr just before we got the news about my husband's polycythemia, and then, through the stress of that time flickr was a wonderful escape - a place where I could find the humor, fun, and beauty that was so sorely lacking in my life at the time. To my surprise, I also got to know a number of my fellow flickerers, and they've become important cyber friends.

So I've decided to put my two cyber worlds together, and introduce you lovely people to my other lovely people. So any of you who feel like it, jump on over to my flickr file HERE.

On it you'll see my collection of oddities such as this photo from the Mime Alphabet Book:

Or, more recently, this peculiar 1959 ad for Hanes:

You'll meet a lot of smart, funny people who make you, quite literally, laugh out loud with their brilliantly silly remarks. Hope to see you all at my other cyber home.

Tomorrow: Favorite Flickr funsters (a phrase I ripped off shamelessly and without permission from one of my favorite flickr funsters who inhabits this dimension as A Thousand Shades of Twilight.)