Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Valley Ford Pie Auction 2014

The Third Annual Valley Ford Pie Auction was a raging success!  The Valley Ford Young Farmers' Association, along with many community volunteers, helped to raise thousands of dollars for the building improvement fund for the historic Valley Ford Schoolhouse (where the auction and many other fundraisers takes place over the year).

Grady made a black cherry pie that sold for $200.  He was surprised and so very proud.

This event kicked off our Thanksgiving weekend and really set the mood for good food, drink + friends.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mamalode Issue 19 :: It's Complicated + GIVEAWAY

Earlier this summer, an email showed up in my in box that both delighted and terrified me.  It was from the publisher of Mamalode magazine, Elke Govertsen, asking if I would consider collaborating with Annie Flavin and illustrating eight of her poems that would be featured as the centerfold in the next issue.  EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS!  CENTERFOLD!  IN PRINT!  The theme would be It's Complicated.  Further explaining that while the theme could be interpreted as complicated, it didn't need to be.  

[To buy an ad-free copy, click here.  As a bonus, you also get an online version FREE.]

Well, I think I replied with some little joke about the J. Geils Band's 80's hit single Angel is a Centerfold and them immediately said yes.  HELL YES!  I quickly decided that I would use Micron pens and watercolors and, in keeping with the theme, keep my line drawings clean and simple.  I jumped up and down and shared the news with my husband and son.  And then it really sank in and I freaked out a little bit from time to time, but I think that's normal, right?  Right.

Mamalode gave me total creative license, but shared their preference for handwritten works.  Annie requested that her poems be read in a certain thematic order and that really helped me with my creative process while interpreting her words and sentiments.

I came up with a lot of the concepts while I was in Homer, Alaska in early August, which just so happened to be the publisher's hometown.  I was so fueled my the natural beauty that surrounded me, as well as an amazing ferry ride over to Halibut Cove, that I almost had too many ideas to sort through.  I frequented their library to look at reference books on native plants and Alaskan Native art books.  I took dozens of photos of their ubiquitous fireweed and tried to absorb all of the soul-piercing beauty and culture that surrounded me.

Fun fact ::  The Homer Library denied me a library card the week that I was there, so I had to do most of my looking and note-taking at the library.  Not a bad thing, but I really wanted a library card from Alaska.  And, yes, I'm a complete library dork.

I started working on watercolor paper at first, but then changed to smooth legal paper in the end because the watercolor paper was too textured and it was hard to drag my lines across the paper.  These weren't going to be originals for sale, so I opted for plain old copy paper and my Micron pens responded with clean, crisp lines for most of the illustrations.  I also played around with a Copic drawing pen [size F02] for the hand-lettering.  This pen was great during the assignment, but has proven schizophrenic when I tried to use it after the fact.  It barely completes a letter without breaking the line.  I'm so glad it held up during this assignment.

Motherhood, as well as the relationship between men & women, were always in the forefront of my mind while interpreting Annie's words.  Gender roles & stereotypes, assumptions based on those stereotypes & the perceived simplicity of youth were my guides.  The physicality of pregnancy and physiology of sex played a part in these line drawings, as well.  

Wanting to keep a simple color palette, I chose hot pink gouache to represent girls-women-females  and a vintage Prang turquoise blue watercolor to represent boys-men-males.  I did throw in yellow and chartreuse green to marry the two typical boy-girl colors throughout the series.  The pink and blue are symbolic and really pulled me into the stark, black lines and the stories being told through Annie's free verses.
Umbilical cords (inspired by Alaskan seaweed) were the backdrop for "Before I Was Me, I Was You"

A curvy, endless road that we're all on as parents inspired by "Each Time" 

Orgasms.  Big & Small.  Period.

Wonky flowers.  Each different.  Like our children.  Inspired by "Our Gifts"

Womb with layers of love stacked up like spoons + the baby at its core.  Inspired by "Spoons"

Double fencing and/or walls around the words in "The Way Home" serving as security; keeping home & those relationships safe inside.

Fish scales inspired by a line in this poem; also representing the number of choices we all have.

Radiant beams of light, positivity, hope.  Little rays of sunshine inspired by "When I Die"
I absolutely loved working with the Mamalode team and Annie on this project.  I'm so proud of what I was allowed to do and feel complete respect for creatives all over the world that put their art out into the world for all to enjoy.  It's not easy, but what an absolute gift.  One that keeps on giving in terms of inspiration, motivation and confidence over here.

Speaking of gifts, I'd like to offer a little giveaway.  Please leave a comment on my Instagram feed or in the comment section below sharing how you plan on making this coming holiday season a little less complicated.  I'd love to steal a few of your good ideas!  I'll pick one lucky winner to receive a print of your choosing from this collection (printed on 80# card stock).

I couldn't just pick one, so Amy Larson, Tricia Kushman Anderson & Rudri Bhatt Patel all win.  Thank you for sharing how you plan on keeping the holidays a little less complicated.  Email me your mailing address and the print you would like and I'll pop in the mail next week.  Thank you!

Mamalode will also be giving away one of my prints to a lucky reader next week.  Have you started following Mamalode on Facebook or Instagram?  Are you signed up to receive their newsletters?  Have you ordered their ad-free copy of this next issue?  Well, what are you waiting for?  Sign up and you'll have another chance to win a print.

You can also submit your genius to the editors at Mamalode by following this link.  Go ahead, do it.  The theme for next month's online issue is also It's Complicated and they're are accepting submissions right NOW.  Do you have a story to tell?  I think we all do.  What's yours?  Poetry, photographs, essays & cute quotes from you kids all accepted.

Annie Flavin is also offering a giveaway of one of our prints from this series.  Follow her on Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win.

This was my first illustration assignment and I couldn't be more proud or pleased with the results.  Thank you for taking the time to read this long-winded, promotional post and following along in this fun journey I'm on.

I can't wait to see where it takes me next.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Written Word Roundup

Our reading stacks are sprinkled throughout the house and walking by these literary vignettes brings me such pleasure.

I fell behind in my Sunday New York Times reading, as one Sunday edition didn't get delivered a few weeks back.  My octogenarian neighbor called to inform me that it showed up mid-week in their newspaper receptacle and all was right with the world.  This is truly my greatest indulgence and I usually take all of Sunday to read it cover-to-cover.  When it didn't show, it freed me up for a day at the local flea market and many pieces of furniture were purchased!  So all was not a total loss.

My favorite articles from the last few weeks have been:

Selling a Smaller Soccer Ball by Claire Martin

The Problem with Positive Thinking by Gabriele Oettingen

Does Everything Happen for a Reason? by Konika Banerjee and Paul Bloom

Look Homeward, Reader (A Not-So-Young Audience for Young Adult Books) by Meg Wolitzer

And, of course, the oh-so handy Book Review section.  Always saved to read last and that's where I learn about new book titles and authors.  I add any "to-read" books to my Goodreads.com account, so that I don't forget.  I use that list to order from the library or buy from our local bookstore.

Have any of you read any of the Moomin comic strip series by Tove Jansson?  A friend gifted the first one to Grady over six years ago and it's a quirky, sweet, Scandinavian treasure.  You can read more about the author here in this New Yorker article from March 5, 2014.  The books are printed on creamy off-white paper and have the most beautiful (and colorful) bindings.  They are published by Drawn & Quarterly out of Montreal, Canada.

The characters are odd, sweet and have such an innocence to them.   They are always up for a little adventure and have a great love of food, as well as their family and friends.

You can find the books here on Abebooks.com for a steal.   I only recommend the comic strip series, as the little books of fiction have left us a bit underwhelmed and they lack the illustrations that make this series so very endearing.

Oh, and I just read about this Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition in stores now that has been published as a way to celebrate what would have been the author's 100th birthday!  I must add this to Grady's xmas list right this very second.

This is Grady's stack for the week.  He's been really into re-reading his Roald Dahl books, as well as some of the Nicholas series.

Have any of you read the Nicholas books?  They have the dreamiest, simple covers and black & white drawings.  Our first introduction to this book was from a friend who picked it up while thrifting.  What a wonderful, classic find.  

Here is the synopsis:

In France and Germany practically every child of seven and upwards knows the adventures of Nicholas. Written by the author of Asterix, Rene Goscinny, and with illustrations by New Yorker illustrator, Jean-Jacques Sempe, the five Nicholas books tell of the endearing exploits of the young French school boy and his chums. Available in twenty six languages and established as a literary cult figure, the sublimely innocent Nicholas has seduced millions of readers all over the world. Considered a classic and regularly used by primary and junior school teachers, these stories have the ability to delight both children and adults. Nicholas is the first of five titles to become available to English speaking children all over the world In some way similar to the cheekiness of Calvin and Hobbes and the innocence and naivete of characters created by the Italian film maker Roberto Benigni, Goscinny and Sempe have created a world of confusion that makes you chuckle out load. Written between 1959 and 1965 these classic books are continually reprinted around the globe and offer, not only an entertaining read, but a vivid description of French life and culture.

This series is over 50 years old and absolutely timeless.  I'd go for the simple covers and not the updated, cartoony versions.  Here are a few links from Abebooks.com.  All books written by RenĂ© Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jacques SempĂ©.

All of these books are a pleasure to read aloud to your kiddo, too.

I've tried to get through this book.  Twice.  I finally gave up this time on page 133.  I'm sure this makes me some kind of Neanderthal, but I just could not get into the characters or settings.  I wanted to like them (and I did, kind of).  I wanted to care about their plot lines, but it was just too slow for me.  And, a little confusing about where everyone was from and where they were going and the politics and backstories that were inferred.  I just didn't get most of it and I finally set it aside last night.

My book club read this a few months back and most of our readers loved it.  They had a great discussion that, unfortunately, I had to miss.  I don't like to give up on a book, but I felt I had to with this one.

This is my husband's on-deck reading stack.  Wired magazines, 7x7 Magazine and a real estate periodical.  He did get a new pair of readers from Warby Parker that make him look extra smart (glasses at the top of photo).  He turned 50 this year and apparently needs TWO sets of readers now!  Just more things to keep track of, right?

Since I'm in a book lull right now, I'm digging into my stack of magazines on my nightstand.  I haven't read any magazines since August!  How could that be?  It's interesting how my reading habits have changed over the last year.  I jumped online last night after catching up on my bon appetits and Sunset magazines and cancelled my subscriptions.  I've subscribed for years, but since I started my NY Times subscription - I have more than enough to read about food, wine, travel, the arts.  I'm ready to let these go.

The Bay Nature magazine was a gift from a colleague that we have been receiving for years.  It has an abundance of local information about nature, trails, watersheds, conservancy efforts and beautiful hand-drawings of birds and plants.  I peruse through it and pass it on to Grady with an article or two marked for him to read.

This is Grady's desk and to-read stack of periodicals (the Turkey Vulture article should intrigue him). Steve signed up as a member of the Audubon Society and we have been receiving this magazine for about a year.  Grady used to really be into birding and drawing birds.  His interest has waned a bit over the past year, but he mostly enjoys looking at the images in this one.  

Fun fact:  Grady shares a birthday with John James Audubon.  April 26th.

Keith Haring, The Political Line exhibit is coming to the de Young Museum in San Francisco next week and I can't wait to go.  We watched a documentary a few years back about this artist and his graffiti-inspired drawings and murals reeled my son in.  I flagged the pages of the 7x7 November edition's article and told him that we would definitely go and see the show when it opened.  

"Touching people's lives in a positive way is as close as I can get to an idea of religion." - Keith Haring, July 1986

(Radiant Baby from Icons series)

"Radiant Baby" is one of Grady's favorite Haring pieces (above).

"An artist is a spokesman for a society at any given point in history.  His language is determined by his perception of the world we all live in.  He is a medium between 'what is' and 'what could be.'" - Keith Haring

So that's what we're reading and perusing this week in our household.  I love how reading spurs me into research; inspires me to make art or write words.  It also fosters discussions within our family, as well as pushes me expand my thoughts on the world-at-large.  

So, what are you reading?  

Monday, October 27, 2014


Sitting in bed last night, I started thinking about why I haven't been writing in my One Line a Day Journal since the middle of summer.  It feels like I went on a quiet strike and subconsciously wanted to try and stop the marching on of time.  The jotting down of little quotes, soccer game scores, animal deaths on our street, and weather observations came to a screeching halt around the time we went to Alaska in August.  I've religiously kept this daily journal for over the past four years.  It is one of my most prized possessions and now I want nothing to do with it.  It's irrational to think that by ceasing to record our daily happenings it will somehow slow down time here in our household.  I know this and yet I can't bring myself to write in this journal any longer.  It makes me too nostalgic and sad for my son's younger years.
G's 11th birthday back in April 2014

I also noticed that I didn't do a birthday post for Grady's 11th birthday.  Or for my 44th birthday.  Both milestones I've happily recorded in the past.

So much has happened to me since my 43rd birthday post a little over a year ago.  That post was edited a wee bit and turned into an essay that appeared on Mamalode.com entitled Snap.  I started writing again and made this little blog public.  I signed up for Write Doe Bay, a writing/creative retreat, and attended same in April.  I've made dozens of new friends (a big surprise at my age).  I've been drawing every single day since January 1st of this year and stretched myself in so many new and invigorating ways.  So why wasn't I coming here to write all about it?

Two months ago, Grady started middle school and I recently made a vow not to write about him here on the blog, but I'm having a hard time.  He turned 11-1/2 years old yesterday (see, I'm already breaking my vow).  We marked the occasion by measuring his height on his door jamb (4' 9" to be exact).  A bi-yearly ritual that tracks his growth and stretches my heart during the small morning ceremony.  He grew an inch over the last six months.  He's also grown in so many other ways that cannot be ticked off with a big fat black Sharpie.  He's evolving and transforming into a young man right before my very eyes and, to be quite honest, it's a little hard to take.

Blogging about my days should naturally include my son, right?  It's hard to cut him out of my process, as he fuels me in so many ways creatively and as a human being.  I want to walk the walk in terms of putting myself out there, following through with an idea, taking chances with my art and life.  I want to find the beauty in every day and share ideas, images and feelings with others.  I want to be kinder, softer, more open to the world.  I want this for my son, too, and I want him to see me doing it in real time.

An old friend recently wrote to me and asked if my husband had died or if we divorced because she didn't see a mention of him in my recent blog posts.  This made me pause and think about why that is.  My husband is a private, introspective person.  He doesn't need bells and whistles on anything.  He isn't into social media and he's mildly confused by all of the sharing people (um, I mean, his wife) do on Facebook and other social media outlets.  He's pensive, thoughtful, intelligent.  So why do I give him the privacy he deserves, but yet I take Grady's privacy for granted?  Why is my life only worth sharing if I'm doing so through my lens as a mother?  I don't have answers for all of these questions, but I'm searching for them.

There's also the hypocrisy factor at play here.  I am adamant that my son can't be on social media, yet I share away on Instagram like it's feeding my soul.  Sure, I ask my son if it's okay to post a picture of him on there, but will he feel differently next month about it?  Next year?  Why do I need to share him via this outlet?  If I'm so sure that he can't handle the social media platforms right now, why am I drawn to it and inserting him at my own whim?  Shouldn't I be protecting him from all of this?  From what, exactly?  Again, no clear answers.

Will I have to abandon this space and start anew?  A move like that seems disingenuous to me and I'm working on having more real, authentic conversations and moments in my life, not less.   Would I act as though I have no family, when they give so much meaning to my existence?  These have been hard questions.  Lots of pondering and reflection, which is good stuff, too.

It's complicated, right?   Sharing images and pictures of my little boy seemed like a loving thing to do  when I started writing in this space and a way to honor and capture our lives as they were unfolding.  But now?  Now I'm not so sure.  Now it feels like I'm exploiting his privacy and over-sharing.  His peers could pop on over to this site and see things that might embarrass him at school.  As the days progress, he's getting older and pretty soon this will all matter to him in a way that it doesn't right now.

Having an only child is the choice we made for our family.  What started out as a happy surprise, has turned out to be my life's greatest gift.  I'm not being melodramatic here.  I mean it.  Being a mother is my nirvana and has opened up the way I see the world and interact with it.  Seeing how we're teaching him right from wrong gives me great pleasure and responsibility.  Exposing him to new authors, artists and music is fun.  Hearing his views on life and the natural world fills me up in a way I never would have known had we not had him.  Watching him try new sports or a math equation brings back a sense of wonder about the world that I kind of forgot about.

But isn't this his story to tell?  I'm not sure how to straddle both worlds and do it gracefully.  I'm torn between telling my story and honoring his.

It's no wonder I've noticed a lot of bloggers writing less and less as their children get older.  An imaginary line seems to have been drawn as the kids approach middle school and I didn't get it before, when my son was only a single digit in age.  I'm starting to get it now.

Documenting and list-making are my thing.  They give structure to my days and I get to act like an historian for our family.  I don't want to give that up.  After perusing my blog, I think I've landed on what I like about it and how I can morph the practice of writing into a small exercise in cataloging our lives in a way that respects the privacy of the two guys I live with.

What I've come up with is a little kick-start to my writing routine to help phase me out of writing about my kid in an overly sentimental and way-too-much-information kind of way.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of reading blogs written by women I respect and glimpsing their domestic lives.  I love recipe-sharing, simple DIY's, and lifestyle stories.

Therefore, I think I'm going to pop in here a few times a week to share what recipes were a hit in our household; what books or articles I read that I think my friends would like; and movies, too.  I'll also share what art projects or home renovations we're doing.  Design and thrifting are becoming passions of mine and I love the chance to reorganize and refresh a corner of my home.  I'm going to write what I know and what I like to read.

I guess I'm reorganizing & renovating this blog space in a way, too.  It's time.

I hope you'll follow along and let me know what you like to read here and any feedback you have about writing about your children and how you reconcile their privacy issues.  I have so many unanswered questions, but I truly look forward to the process it will take for me to figure out the answers.

That, my friend, is my real life right now and I'm slowly embracing it and trying to sort it all out.  Wish me luck.

Happy Monday, friends.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Full Circle poem on Mamalode.com today

New poem, Full Circle, and artwork featured over at Mamalode online today.  I drafted this poem shortly after I returned from Write Doe Bay in April.  After a little tweaking and soul-searching, I submitted it to Mamalode, along with a line drawing I'd been working on in Lisa Congdon's online illustration course.  You can head on over and check both out here.

Next month my work will appear on the printed pages (so exciting!!!) of Mamalode's Fall issue.  The theme for this issue is It's Complicated.  At the request of Mamalode's publisher/CEO, Elke Govertsen, I collaborated with Annie Flavin and illustrated eight of her powerful and heartfelt poems.  You can pre-order copies of the magazine here.  I'll be sharing more about this project as the release date gets closer.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Full Of It

:: My new art portfolio gifted from a dear friend
:: Sylvia Plath knows what she's talking about
Life has been full lately.  Like, really full.  Like, bursting at the seams full.  Overflowing kind of full. You get the drift.

My husband likes to remind me that it's always full.  And, I guess when I stop to think about it, well, it is.  But the busyness of the beginning of the school year just about did me in and I'd like to pop into this little blog space of mine and jot down a few words to punctuate the end of…well, the beginning.

To commemorate the lighter, more care-free after-school calendar, I'd like to write a post dedicated to the creative & beautiful tidbits of daily life that have permeated my world lately and kept me sane for the past six, socially stretched thin weeks we've just had.  Here's what's been going on in my world.
I discovered the most talented Australian artist, Nicole Law, on Instagram (IG handle :: nicolelaw.au).  Her work is gorgeous and it inspired many hours of line drawing in my daily art journal (above left).

I'm in the final throes of library tote bag research and pulled the trigger on a blank canvas bag & sent it off to the screen printer for a small first-run production with my original artwork.  Hoping to have these back by the end of the month and in my new etsy shop by November 1st.  Crossing my fingers it all works out.
My new domain name has been registered and I figured out how to redirect my old blog address to the new one.  This was a major feat for this technologically challenged gal, but I did it without any help, thank you very much.
My library addiction was fed a lot this month and I'm really enjoying revisiting Jenny Rosentrach's Dinner :: A Love Story & her new follow-up to that book Dinner: The Playbook.  Really great, easy to execute family dinner plans for weeknight meals.

I'm also slowly digesting artist Lisa Congon's new book Art, Inc.  Is there nothing this woman can't do?  She is such a huge inspiration to me.  She's self-taught and didn't pick up a paint brush until she was 34.  She is prolific and one-of-a-kind and she inspires me daily with her words, images and blog.
I was gifted the out-of-print book of poetry by Gary Young entitled Pleasure.  I've checked this out from the library a handful of times and that's always my indicator that I must add it to my small home library.  The author is also a printmaker and lives in Northern California.  Since it was out of print, my dear book-loving friend contacted Heyday Books (the publisher) and they sent her a copy - that she, in turn, gifted to me.  I absolutely recommend this book and appreciate his prose-style poems on family life, nature and the relationship between those two worlds.  Here's one of my favorites:

The swallows hide their children in the dark, in frail mud cups beneath the roof.  They fly from the house and come back.  They make loops in the treacherous air, then return.  They live here, too, and they're not afraid.

His poems are without titles.  Here's another that is seemingly simple, but conjures up lovely sensory inducing images:

We bought halibut fresh from the boat, and poached the firm white flesh with onions, fennel root and wine.  We mashed potatoes, nibbled jicama, and Killarney laughed because the meal was white.  She's written a book about her mother, and that night I decided to illustrate the book with clouds.

And one more, because I can't say enough about this little book:

It's a joy to be subtracted from the world.  Holding my son's naked body against my own, all I feel is what he is.  I cannot feel my own skin.  I cannot feel myself touching him, but I can recognize his hair, the heft of his body, his warmth, his weight.  I cannot measure my own being, my subtle boundaries, but I know my son's arms, the drape of his legs, smooth and warm in a shape I can measure.  I have become such a fine thing, the resting-place for a body I can know.

And while I don't read poetry every day, I do have a small stack of my favorite poetry books that rest on a side table in the living room.  When I have a few minutes in between tasks, I like to sit down and open one of them and see what I find.  Usually, it's just the right thing to make me ponder this life I'm living.  This short respite seems to bring my day into sharp focus.  I love how a few words can do this.
I look forward to the delivery of the Sunday New York Times every single weekend.  I try to leave the day WIDE open so that I can sip my coffee, have a leisurely breakfast and read the paper from cover-to-cover for the entire day.  It is the most decadent and inspiring chunk of time during my week.  The graphics are to die for and are the well-written articles are a wealth of inspiration.  It has something for everyone in our family and I'm turning into one of those ladies that clips articles and pulls out sections for my two fellas + friends.  Yes, I'm that lady now.  Consider yourself warned.
We've had a bit of a heatwave over the last 10 days, but the fog has returned in the early mornings and late afternoons.  The fog created a need in me to mix up grey watercolors and try to paint this scene (above, right) from Doran Beach in my art journal.  I have a long way to go in this department.  As always, I am a work in progress when it comes to watercolors.
October's Babylon Book Club selection was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  What a beautifully written book.  Themes of friendship, life, death, the beauty of the natural world, hope, and bravery run throughout its pages.  A must read.

A gangly flock of turkeys has been traipsing across our property for over a month now; eating fallen apples, dropping feathers, clucking & calling with all their might early in the morning and as the sun dips down to say goodnight in our back pasture.  They are both annoying & adorable all at the same time.  They're leaving feathers as some sort of peace offering.  I happily accept these feathers.
I've been taking a creative process in watercolor workshop with the super talented artist, Jean Warren.  She's been working in watercolor for over 30 years and is such a talent.  She makes it all look so easy (when it's absolutely not!).
I'm the newbie in class and was quite intimidated to paint next to my fellow, more accomplished  students.  I'm realizing through these classes that I have a hard time being a student.  I really don't like to be told what to do.  Isn't that funny?  That I pay for classes and attend them - and then quietly push back and try to find a way to do it my way?  Not funny ha-ha, but funny-what-the-hell-are-you-doing-Tammi kind of funny.

I outed myself this week with my classmates and finally let go of my way (which, incidentally is no real way at all).  I began to listen and apply what was being taught to the blank piece of paper in front of me.  It was a small revelation, but really made me look at how I resist change, new ideas coming from others & concrete advice.  I guess I like to fumble my way through things until I figure them out, but as I'm getting older I'm also realizing that if I'd just listen up and give it a try, I might save myself some valuable time.  And, let's face it, time is meaning so much more to me now that I'm getting older.  I don't want to keep fighting unnecessary battles.  It's just silly.  I'm finally realizing that and ready to move on and accept the help of others.
We celebrated our wedding anniversary this week and I gifted a piece of original art to Steve to mark this occasion.  Again, inspired by this artist, I utilized my drawer full of hand-carved stamps and created a wonky little homage to our 13 years by printing 13 wonky circles on kraft-colored card stock with red screen printer's ink.  It took several takes to get it just right, but I absolutely love it.
September was filled with milestone birthday celebrations, first school dances, dinner parties, soccer & flag football games.  It was also filled with big batches of waffles, school lunches, Manhattans, lots of sparkling wine & homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Steve & Grady make the best waffles I've ever had.  At my request, they kindly double the batch and store the cooled waffles in clean, used plastic bread bags, stacking the waffles one on top of the other - so that they lay flat.  During the school week, Grady just pops two in the toaster to reheat and voila! - breakfast of champions.  I've never made a waffle in the 15 years we've been together and I quite like that fact.  We received our first waffle iron as a wedding present and it died late last year from old age and constant use.  Our new All-Clad belgian waffle maker should last us until Grady is out of college.   I love that this is totally Steve's domain and that he is training his son to take over this culinary task for our family.

I thoroughly enjoy listening to the father & son morning banter and witnessing the two of them  cooking together.  Plus, it really helps out with our weekday morning routine by having these in my back-pocket (I mean, freezer).  Recipe can be found here.
Of Bristle and Bone, oil on panel, 60 x 48 inches, 2014
We had the pleasure of attending our dear friend's art show Between Head and Hand at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco last month and it was amazing.  Kai Samuels-Davis is such a talent and we were so proud to take in the show and see our friend's body of recent work up on the walls in this beautiful space.  Click through to his website to see more of his work.

Books & periodicals litter almost every available flat surface in our home right now.  When I'm not busy trying to cram in a little more reading, I'm playing catch up with my downloaded podcasts.  I'm absolutely transfixed by Ira Glass's new podcast Serial.  Have you listened to it yet?  Go download it.  Seriously, right now.  It's my new favorite thing.

Happy October, everyone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Middle School Concussion

Middle school is giving me a headache.

I'm writing this in jest, sort of, but I kind of feel like I was hit in the face with a bat and I'm slowly coming out of my middle school concussion and trying to shake it off.

I would also add that I was wholly unprepared for how these past six weeks were going to go down.

After researching middle schools last Spring, we decided to move Grady from the small town school he has attended for the past six years into a much larger charter school in town - about 10 miles away from home.  We knew it would be more rigorous academically and that appealed to us, plus with more students on campus we figured our son would be thrown into more social situations and have considerably more opportunities to try new things via his elective choices.  All in all, it looked like a good fit.  We also felt like we wanted him to be exposed to new friendships, new teachers, new ideas and have new experiences in a safe setting, like middle school, before he entered the big bad world of high school.

To that end, we jumped into summer with the mantra of try new things!  We traveled to Portland and Grady attended a marine mammal camp in Homer, Alaska.  He kept a creative writing journal and skateboarding became his summer thing.  My mother sent a box of cool new school clothes and we bought the requisite back-to-school supplies, so I thought yeah, I think we're ready to start school.




I mean, I was absolutely expecting that he wouldn't want to pose for a first day of sixth grade photo in front of his new school.  Sure, that would be embarrassing and I could surely give him a little leeway on that.

However, much to this mother's delight, he happily posed here at home and he felt pretty good about himself on the his first day of sixth grade, at a brand spanking new school, nonetheless.

What I was not expecting was the following:

1.  Girls.  I know.  I should have, but I didn't.

2.  The fact that my son would want to wear skinny jeans and a heavy knock-off letterman's jacket every. single. day.  Even in 80+ degree temperatures.

3.  The sports schedules would make our family out to be a bunch of late afternoon gypsies, shuttling from one sport to the next and all the while trying to figure out how and when we would make dinner on a nightly basis.

His first locker

4.  Girls trying to friend me up on social media as a way to see pictures of my son.  Hmm.

5.  The homework schedule.  When in the world would homework happen?

6.  The trumpet.  Didn't see that one coming.

7.  A boy-girl school dance wherein my son would rip the crotch out of the front of his pants from channeling Napoleon Dynamite and doing - the splits!

8.  Grady's sock penchant has been renewed and it's all colorful, knee-high length socks for this boy.  Turquoise, red, black - all the time.  It's a look I wasn't prepared for, but I'm slowly embracing.

9.  My son asking for my help in proofreading a breakup email he was drafting.  What the…?

10.  Flag football.  I had not one clue that my son would be interested in this activity.  None.

11.  And did I mention the girls?  The cheering.  The texting.  The squealing?  Oh, I remember being eleven years old.

Holy shit.


The sports are coming to an end in the next week and I kind of love hearing him play the trumpet.  The first dance was a rite of passage and he has a great (albeit embarrassing) story to accompany that experience.

And the girls.  Well, I think they are here to stay.

So all the while when I thought I was preparing my only child to go to middle school, little did I know I should have been preparing myself for his middle school experience.

Mamas of little ones?  Here's what I want to say to you:

G @ four years old circa 2007
Cowboy hat, favorite polka-dot ribbon serving as a "dog harness" and his first pumpkin carving contest

Enjoy the first days of elementary school and the fact that your child dressed himself in some crazy get-up, or you picked out the adorable matching outfit.  Those days are numbered, my friend.  I write this as a cautionary tale and as a friendly warning.  Soak up the cuteness.  Take a picture.  Walk them to class as often as you can - even if you're in your pajamas/yoga pants.  Write down funny little things they say.  Savor it.  It's so freaking special.

Go to as many school plays and musicals as your schedule allows.  Cherish the handmade art they bring home every week.  Go to the dreaded PTA meetings and volunteer your time as much as you can, because your child will not want you to do this when they hit middle school.  Trust me.  I know you can't believe this right now, but it's true.  I didn't want to believe it either.

The bake sale?  The field trips?  The class parties?   Yes, go.  Buy store bought goods and throw them on the table.  Just go.  Your child wants you there.

You're so lucky.


I'm coming to understand the ins-and-outs of middle school and my son is settling in just fine.  I'm always a little slower on the uptake.  And while I reached out to his homeroom teacher to see how I could assist in class, she gently reminded me that typically, middle school is when parent presence inside the classroom diminishes.


And, yes, of course.  It's the time where I should start to let him have more freedom and loosen the parental grip I've had for the past decade.  I get that.  Really, I do.

You know how it's a good thing that you have nine months to process that you're pregnant and bringing a life into the world?  Well, I think it's a good thing middle school is three years in length because I'm going to need that long to navigate this new territory of tween-dom, emotions, friendships and, yes, girls.

And to that end, I think I have to step away from writing about my son for a bit.  It seems like the right time to give him some privacy and space.  I'm embarrassed to say that over the years writing here in this space, I have shared openly without much thought to his right to privacy.  Sure, I ask him if he's okay if I post a photo - but, now I'm not so sure about all of this and feel like I need to look deeper and examine this issue.

I need more time to figure it out.

It's a new world over here in our household and, honestly, I look forward to the coming changes and new adventures.  I'm just going to need to commiserate every now and again with friends and relish in this time of rapid growth and change - for all of us.

And, this mild middle school concussion is sure to go away, right?

I'll just need to stock up on the Advil.  Stat.
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