The Winter Collection 2016

I.

I have been surprised several times recently by simple gestures of kindness from total strangers. Unsolicited, without pretense or subtext, just kindness. It may not be that popular, but it is a real thing.

And I know that now it falls on me to keep the chain moving and pay back these gestures in some way, because that’s how these things work, and also because one woman specifically told me that that’s what I needed to do. So pay it back I will.

But this is a difficult one for me, because often in public I do not want to be kind to strangers. I want to hit them in their stupid faces. But at least I’m thinking about it now (the gestures of kindness, not the hitting part), and I can only assume that that’s the first step.

II.

It’s a new year, so beyond resolutions some people have started their various blog, sketch, do ____ a day, #photo365, etc., projects, charging themselves with the creative challenge to do their whatever it is every day in 2016.

I’m usually not into that stuff, because I’m not very good at keeping it up, and I try not to design failures for myself. A couple of years ago I said I was going to take two (!) pictures every day for a year, and I’m pretty sure by this point in January I was already over it. 365 is not a small number.

But in 2015 I actually succeeded in keeping a daily logbook in the style of Austin Kleon. It’s a moleskin planner where you simply record the facts or events of your day. Though I’m not doing another one for 2016, I thought it was a cool project and an interesting exercise. And I was able to stick to it, which means I got to feel good about myself, and now I also have a written record of the details and actions of an entire year of my life, which is awesome, in a beauty of the mundane sort of way.

logbook entry

keeping a logbook

Full disclosure: I did not actually do the physical completion of the logbook every single day. But if I skipped a day or three, it was easy to go back and fill those days in, as long as I still remembered what happened. And I did succeed in never skipping so many days that my memory got shady. And I did not feel like I was cheating when I completed a days log retroactively, so all good.

III.

This year is the ten year anniversary of me living in this little house that is my home. A decade. I have lived here longer than I have ever lived anywhere else in my entire life.

In a way this makes me feel old and sad. Especially when I look at all the cracks and leaks and work that needs to be done.

But in another way it makes me feel gratitude. It makes me feel love. I was 25 when I bought this house. I had had eight different addresses in eight years. I wanted roots somewhere.

I put some down.

IV.

My most favorite work of art right now. Hooly’s self-portrait, age 4. The artist notes that she is asleep in this portrait.

Hooly painting

V.

Journal snapshot. I added to this page one word or doodle at a time, over the course of about a month.

sketch book doodle

VI.

There’s a conversation that comes up repeatedly, especially with mothers of daughters, about how many of the powerful qualities we want our children to possess out in the world are the same ones that make us lose our minds at home. Yes I want my daughter to be strong-willed, but not when I’m late for work. Yes I want my daughter to think for herself and challenge what people tell her, but by people I did not mean me, at least not me at bed time.

During the most recent of these conversations a friend recommended an essay by Barbara Kingsolver, perfectly titled Civil Disobedience at Breakfast, from the book High Tide in Tucson. And if you feel where I’m coming from with this, then I now recommend it to you.

Her particular reference is the Terrible Twos but you could easily insert Threenager or Fournado, and it would still ring as true,  that “life with children always bursts to fullness in the narrowest passages.” It isn’t that the essay says anything ground-breaking, and it will not, for example, help you get anywhere on time, but it’s funny and tender and well-written, and that is enough for me.

VII.

Let’s make this a love house, she says to me, as she uses half a new roll of tape to secure these hearts to the wall in our dining room.

hearts on the wall

Yes little girl, let’s.

From the Teacher’s Notebook

I just resigned from my job of seven years. Ripped these from my last notebook.

from the teacher's notebook

Doodle from Teacher

teacher time doodle

from the teacher's notebook

In the Garden of Fake Clover

A St. Patrick’s Day inspired throwback post from September 2013.

I have found multiple four-leaf clovers in my backyard, and that is undeniably awesome, whether you’re superstitious or not.  I have them all taped onto index cards with the date I found them.  Hooly has one such card inside her baby book.  My yard is clearly fertile ground for special goodness.

This used to be my story.  Until today.

Today I went into the yard to cut rosemary for dinner, and I scanned the overgrown garden as I am apt to do.

A-ha! I spot one.

And another. And another.  And another…

Crap.  No one is this lucky.

Then I notice new growth of a distinctly different plant in another part of the garden–fluffy patches of what I can best describe as real clover, shamrock clover, that is (all three-leafed of course), and the somber, unlucky realization sets in.

I have been collecting imposter weeds on index cards since 2009.

In the garden of fake clover

Garden of fake clover

A member of the clover family at best, but certainly not a shamrock by any means. Undeniably disappointing, whether you’re superstitious or not.

But here’s the thing. Something good happened after finding every one of my four-leaf fake clovers.  Not immediately after, but within a month or two.  And not just front-row parking spot good.  Big stuff, like getting my first teaching job, falling in love, seeing the first healthy Hooly sonogram.

That’s called a coincidence, someone tells me.

And that’s probably the truth.  It’s not like I’m suggesting that clover alone, in any shape or form, has mystical powers.

But every time I found what I believed to be a four-leaf clover, I started looking for something good to happen.  My outlook shifted.  I became positively expectant.  And there is power somewhere in that.

After all, our lives pivot on perceptions.  We see what we want to see, and that’s what we go looking for.

When I went out to the backyard today, the voice in my head said, Look for a four-leaf clover.  There will be one today, and you could really use it right now.  

And after I had my moment of feeling duped and deflated, that phrase came back into my head.  You could really use it right now.  

And it became clear.  It isn’t the four-leaf clover I need right now, it is the feeling that comes after finding one.  What I need right now is hope.  That’s what’s been missing lately.  That’s what I was really looking to find out there in the garden.

So I guess it doesn’t matter then, that my carefully collected good omen leaves have turned out to be not what I thought they were.  Because, fake or not, they still renewed my hope.  They gave me good intentions to put out into my world.

And I may be confused about most everything, but I’m pretty sure that our best bet in this life is to just keep sending out into the universe that which we hope to get back.

So, for now at least, I will hold on to my index cards.  Not because they’re lucky, but because of how they will remind me.

 

 

Remembering Daffodils

I forget about the daffodils every year. I forget that they’re there, buried in the frozen ground.

But every year, sure enough, there they are again. I usually don’t even notice when the shoots emerge, until suddenly it seems, they’re over a foot tall.

I planted the daffodils some nine years ago, just days after a friend of mine hung himself. He was the first person I’d ever known to commit suicide.

Not the last.

The daffodils have rarely bloomed. They don’t get enough sun where I planted them. But the stems still grow, nonetheless, tall and green and persistent, bending toward the light.

Daffodil stems

Spring after spring, they grow again, untended. Spring after spring, still remembering daffodils.

 

Playa Christmas

Spent Christmas in Playa del Carmen, and it made me mourn my wanderlust.

It all started with our waiter at Christmas dinner.  He told us he was from Mission Viejo, California, but he’d come to Playa a year ago, fell in love with it, and never left. I felt a pang. He is living my vacation.

on the playa

Then on the beach a day or two later, I overheard a young woman telling someone that she was from the United States but currently living in Argentina. Another pang.  What is she doing in Argentina?  Hot Argentinian lover? In how many ways is her life cooler than mine?

Ironic and perhaps self-indulgent, I’ll admit, to have these pangs while spending a week at an ocean-front resort on the Caribbean Sea. I get that. But we all have these things that tug us, that remind us of the people we once were and the people we thought we would be.

Not that I actually want to move to Playa del Carmen or Argentina. It isn’t that specific. But there was a time in my life when I traveled easily and often.  And I thought that time had just begun. I was sure I would fill passports and have several exotic addresses.

But as it goes, one choice after the next, and things shifted. We all mourn for the other side sometimes.

Mourning on la playa

In the shift, I chose to make a family with someone, and simply put, it didn’t turn out as I had hoped.  But I am tethered to it nonetheless, simultaneously bound and free. I have many of the obligations of a family, without the actual family as I thought it would be. It is a new edge to walk, and I’m still finding the borders, though the steps are the same as they often are.  Let go of what never was and create something new, wherever that may take you.

Typical holiday/new year stuff.

–Insert your favorite inspirational meme here–