Monday, April 8, 2013

Busy Doing

This was always going to be a problem with me and blogging about my love's work: I get too busy doing to write about it.

However, I've decided right now that I'm never going to apologize for how long it's been since I last posted.  First of all, there is a lot of living that has to happen before I can rattle off a decent dose of wordage -- to set myself a posting schedule is to set myself up for guilt and angst and yawn-worthy drama.  Secondly, I imagine my reader(s) are also busy living and doing, and likely would respond to my apology with an arched eyebrow and a not-unkind, "Oh!  Has it been a while?"

I'll tell you about some of my creative progress, but first: a mental detour.

Today I was talking to my mom about Plans and Choices I Have Made and Schemes Percolating In The Back Corners Of My Soul.  (I don't say 'yesterday' because 2am is technically 'today')  Mum is brilliant, and I often wish I could clone her and share her with mom-less friends of mine.  She listens indefatigably.  Once again I verbally round the track, wondering if I should have gone into accounting or nursing or underwater welding.  You know, one of those careers that society always seems to need.  I could be lighting a blowtorch right now, or toiling home from the hospital with a real paycheck, instead of crossing my fingers that the local tourist trade will thrive this year and gearing up for my new part-time job at the local grocery store.  "I could be a CPA," I say.  She gives me the Look.  "Of course," I add, "that would mean doing math and dealing with other peoples' money... and I dread both those things..."  She gives me the Nod.

I've chosen this track because this is the one that lets me keep my pins and my thread and my sanity, or so I tell myself.  These are the things I would miss Too Much.  Serious careers don't really come in part-time sizes, and yet my artistic career is in its infancy and hasn't yet grown up to into a full-time gig, so I must blend it with whatever flexible work I can find.  Does it matter so much what the work is, so long as I get to keep pursuing what I love?  Under my mum's watchful smile I remind myself of this, and I'm most of the way to feeling better.  But still...

Perhaps the reason I come back to worry over this question so often relates to that line in You've Got Mail:  "I lead a small life.  Well, valuable, but small.  And sometimes I wonder: do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?"

I wonder.

I've officially decided I'm moving out on my own this coming spring.  Part of my hard work this summer is to build up some financial buffer room before I go.  This is probably the boldest goal I've ever set myself, and it's scaring the crap out of me -- a fact which has a lot to do with why I'm going.

I like to be home, surrounded by the safe and the familiar.  I gravitate to this spot, the same way I roll back into the me-sized divot in my futon mattress.  I want to know that I'm not letting the cozy-homebody part of me make every decision in my life.  That way, I'm fairly certain, lies stagnation.

My friend La posted this recently and I told her I intended to steal it:

"Sometimes you're 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and listening to music that for some reason is really getting to your heart.  You're just standing there thinking about going to work and picking up your dry cleaning.  And also more exciting things like books you're reading and trips you plan on taking and relationships that are springing into existence.  Or fading from your memory, which is far less exciting.  And suddenly you just don't feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home [...] and thoughts of this person you are feel foreign.  When you realize that you'll never be this young again but this is the first time you've ever been this old.  When you can't remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now.  The song is over.  The coffee's done.  You're going to breathe in and out.  You're going to be fine in about five minutes."  - Kalyn Livernois

That's me on the cusp here, contentment warring with antsy discomfort.  I'm a second-guessing champ.

So I say it all out loud one more time, and I weigh each part in my hands like a series of fidgety kittens.  My Mum reminds me of all the things I have recognized as my gifts -- the things I've decided I don't want to do without.  There are many ways to live a life, she says, and she jokes ruefully that it's her own fault for telling her children to think outside the box.  One by one, we're all taking up residence there.

Here is what I know: I am richly blessed.  I get to do what I love and make money doing it.  I'm blessed with a new job that comes with some stable income and a green apron.  I'm blessed with a rough idea of how to spend the next nine months.  Next spring I'm off to the city, to stretch myself out and see what God makes of me.  It's not just me pushing myself out the door, it's Him pulling, and that's an encouraging thought.

I sift my thoughts one more time, I tack down my decisions more firmly, I kiss my mum good-night (or good-morning), and I write my blog post. 

It's five minutes later, and wouldn't you know it?  I'm fine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


{source: Blessed Winter Rains}
Today is Wednesday, and I'm already halfway to Thursday, with a disaster of a desk and three-quarters of a checklist unchecked and a foot out the door with a cello in one hand and a groccery list in the other.  So of course, I found myself contemplating the concept of peace.  And now that I've said that, I realize this is too big a thought to throw into a blog post on a half-finished weekday, but it was enough to remind me of an old poem I wrote.  There aren't many of those (and even fewer that I liked), but this was my attempt to describe what I see when I think of peace on busy days...

misty air as gray as pewter
cold, wet grass as green as green
in the aspen drops of bird-song
break the silence; birds unseen

foggy distance, split-rail fence
darker colors from the dew
gray-worn steps sigh underneath me
cup of coffee, crystal view

old house slumbers, still too early
moon has faded, still no sun
tired jean jacket, pulled in closer
long weeds whisper: this is home

cat perched high on rusty tractor
barn door swinging, sound goes far
out beyond this patch of quiet
echoes of one lonely car

feather-like the new day hovers
here the pendulum's arc is slowed
here I sit and breathe, awaiting
what will come, God surely knows…

{go with peace, my friends}

Monday, February 11, 2013


I like to think that, despite the uniqueness of family size and schooling style, my adolescence was much the same as any other girl's.  I had my share of the-world-just-doesn't-understand-me angst, and daring wardrobe choices.  (I was particularly fond of stirrup pants and baseball caps.)  I also had crushes.  These were many and various, and seldom attached to boys in my own circle of acquaintance.  Such quaint, immature specimens were hardly worth my heart.  No, I had bigger fish to fry.

First, there was Robin Hood.  Not Errol Flynn, and not Kevin Costner (or, heaven help us all, Russell Crowe).  No, we're talking the foxy gent from the animated Disney version.  I mean, he had panache!  He had swash-buckle!  And what lady can resist a bushy orange tale.  Tell me I'm wrong.

plus, there's the HAT.
Next, there was Prince Derek.  The leading man from Swan Princess, Derek blew every Disney prince up to that date completely out of the water!  (He would have lost his crown to Flynn Rider, I'll admit, but Flynn was about two decades behind and safely out of competition range.)  Derek was sweet and funny.  He had enough personality to screw up and try to fix it.  His haircut.... okay, well, never mind his haircut.

huh.  maybe I have a thing for archers...

Then came an assortment of literary figures, including Ivanhoe, Aragorn, Professor Bhaer, Edmund Pevensie, the Beast (from Robin McKinley's Beauty), Hazel (from Richard Adam's Watership Down), Mr. Travilla (Elsie Dinsmore -- if you don't know, please don't ask me to explain), Remus Lupin, and Lord Peter Wimsey.

See?  Derek should watch out.

But ultimately none of them could touch my undying devotion to one man.  Well, almost man.  He had a mellow, soulful voice, a wry sense of humor, gentle kindness, keen sarcasm, and he was always calm and resigned in the face of total insanity.  You could say I empathized.  If we could ever meet, I was sure, we would understand eachother.  He would take me for long boat rides, and even just being his friend would be nearly enough.

Except that, of course, I would much prefer he dump Miss Piggy.  For his own sake, of course.

I mean, who doesn't love Rainbow Connection??

And no, I am not kidding.

Someday, maybe I'll tell you about my one actual human crush.

but first..............who were your perfectly-normal crushes?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Germ Magnet

{source: Scott Campbell}
I love this watercolor, even though I don't smoke
and would not buy this dog.

I have a long history of being a germ magnet.  Large families tend to attract colds the way cloying indie movies attract Oscar nominations.  With so many candidates for infection, the odds go up that at least one kiddo will be a viable petri dish, and then proximity does the rest.  And generally I would catch each illness twice.  Germs evolve, after all.  I would be the first viral breeding ground, pass it on to my younger siblings, recover, and catch the mutated version at the tail end -- so neat and tidy!  Like bookends.

In recent years judicious doses of Vitamin C and exercise have helped me to navigate seasonal illnesses with fewer bumps.  This year I had a near-miss of a cold during rehearsals for "A Christmas Carol" at our community theater, but thankfully passed it by (I'll tell you about the final performance of "Little Women" sometime so that you can properly appreciate my relief).  It's been nice!

But, alas, you can't outrun a cold forever.  So today is a day for armchair activities.

Top contenders:

Drinking tea.  From my favorite mug, of course.  It makes me think of a good friend who let me pack my fragile souvenirs in our already crowded carry-on, and turquoise water beneath the cliffs of Jerbourg, and traveling in summertime.  And of how (even though Guernsey was unseasonably chilly when we were there) it was still warmer at the beach on Cobo Bay than it is in my room right now.  Today's tea of choice is Lady Grey, which sounds pretentious, but really just means I don't have the wherewithal to drink full-blooded Earl Grey.

Designing my Etsy banner and logo designs.  Back to Le Trusty Idea Notebook!  Once I've got a basic sketch I like, I'm hiring out the inking/coloring job to my sister, Katy.  However, the sketch is giving me fits.  I like these ideas in a general sense, but they're very text-based.  I'd like some piece of art -- a reoccurring little doodle that I can use on tags and things.  .......................  Hey!  You there, reading my blog: you look artistic!  Any good suggestions??

Teaching myself proofreading.  This is a line of work I'd really like to pursue, and I have a lot of the style and grammar know-how already, but very little technical expertise.  So I've bought a book.  After all, I'm the daughter of Mark If-you-can-find-a-book,-you-can-teach-yourself-anything, M.D.  Seriously, the man taught himself how to do his own house electrical, carpentry, tile, and plumbing repairs using only books.  I've got Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies as my start-up guide, and it's great -- Suzanne Gilad is delightfully conversational in her style.  So far I've learned how to phrase a diplomatic query and how to keep a running log of character details while proofreading fiction and how to spell 'fluorescent'.

Crocheting coffee cozies.  A friend of mine made one with buttons up the side that was super cute, and I want one for me, and then some extras to sell.  Here's my first try!  I can't figure out how best to wrap it since I don't have a cup on hand.  I guess I need to get over to Starbucks and buy myself a mocha. (What a lovely excuse this is!)  I'll show you some more pictures once I've finished!

Sleep.  I have no cute pictures to go with this one.  I really love to sleep, but I enjoy it the way babies enjoy birthday cake or pigs enjoy a good wallow: it's completely undignified. 

And when I wake up, I'm going to stop being so dang productive, nest up in a pile of used Kleenex, and watch Mostly Martha.

Friday, January 25, 2013


{photo credit: Delphine Devos}
It's January here.  (What?  It's January there too?  What a coincidence.)  Not January-with-snow, because I don't live in the right kind of mountains for snow.  North Carolina is too far south, and when white flakes brush the bare branches of the Smoky Mountain National Forest -- they generally melt by noon.

Not that I mind so much.  I love snow when I have no place to be, but my little car doesn't get along with snow.  Especially since the only kind of road they make out here is steep and curving and shoulderless.  Bad things happen to geriatric Fords.

In any case, what we have right now is worse.  Today we are iced in!  The upside?  I did not, in fact, have anywhere else to be today.  So I'm putting on my favorite chunky sweater, enjoying the fire in the grate (and the brother whose wood-hauling efforts make this a no-effort delight), and cooking up a vat of French Onion Soup for the family.  (My family is large enough that all food must be prepared in vat-sized quantities.)

{photo credit: Sacramento Street}
Lest this post sound complaintive, I must confess: I generally enjoy winter!  I love the clothes, for one thing: scarves, sweaters, boots.  My activities keep me indoors most days, so I don't miss running around outside so much.  I like hot beverages, and reading books, and listening to the little siblings and the cats go stir-crazy.
In Watership Down (one of my favorite books), Richard Adams describes the difference between the way men and animals perceive winter.  When men talk of enjoying winter, he says, they don't really mean they enjoy cold air and barren fields and frozen water.  Rather, they enjoy being impervious to all of the above!  We have built our warm houses and heated them, sewn our quilts, knitted our sweaters, laid up our stores, and bound our books.  Let winter have its day, and we shall sit in our warmly lit caves and smile!

{photo credit: Curious Sofa}
So here's to January:
Pass the coffee and let it snow! 
(or, you know, sleet.  hm... oh look,
now there's hail pinging off my car...)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Origin Story

That's what they call that sepia tinted part in every superhero movie where they nip into the protagonist's past and show us why he/she gave up normal existance and decided to wear their underwear on the outside of their tights.  If John Williams is on the job, there are violins in the background, playing the classical version of a power-ballad.  ......It's also usually fraught with angst and tragedy.

Here is wear I abandon my cute comparison and skip onto the part where I'm not super, ideas are not heroes, and massive coffee consumption does not warrant a soundtrack (bummer), but we escape tragedy.  Isn't that nice?

Where do ideas begin...

my sister gave me this notebook...

If you are me, ideas begin in notebooks.  Not because that is the logical place to put an idea (if you have one), but because you have several beautiful notebooks on hand and you need to justify their existance.  So you pick your favorite, crack the cover, and create an idea to put inside so that it can be your 'idea notebook'.

Philosophical question: If you arrive at the same destination either way, does it matter if you waddle there rather than walking?

So my goal is to turn my multitudinous hobbies into some variety of steady income.  I've sold work on commission and in local shops before, but never tackled it with any true seriousness.  This time I want to see if I can make a proper go of it.  And because I am me, my ambitions immediately manifest themselves as lists.  So here I go, writing things down, in a notebook which is now my Idea Notebook.  So many questions to answer...  Which things shall I sell?  What materials will I use?  Which things are best suited to the local market, and which things will I list on Etsy?  (Can I even DO this??)

I want to continue doing what I love, and someday (maybehopefully) I will look at my moderately thriving little creative outlet and think back to this moment.  This, ladies and gents, is my Origin Story.

And how did I get here, you ask?  I guess that would be an Origin-Origin Story.  I'll tell you about Clara Dora, and my magpie love of shinies and fibers, and my mum.  I'll even tell it in sepia.

but first.............where do you keep YOUR ideas?

the promise of still-to-be-filled pages

Sunday, January 6, 2013


{photo credit: Google}

pinfeather  /ˈpinˌfeT͟Hər/
noun.  A newly grown feather.

pinfeathered /ˈpinˌfeT͟Hərd/
adjective.  (of a person)  One who has a newly grown idea.

Sarah Engel /SAR-ə iNG(g)əl/
noun. A pinfeathered dabbler.

{Merriam and Webster may quibble with me over these,
but I just looked them up and they're both dead.
So I think I can take 'em if it
comes to fisticuffs.}