Saturday, August 16, 2014

Letter To My Six Year Old

Dear Dew Drop,

Let me just say from the get go that you blow my mind everyday.
You are my treasure.
You have an inner light that shines no matter how cloudy the day is.
Which is not to say you lack substance
...not at all!
You have more substance in your pinky finger than most people could ever dream of having.
You talk about Pompeii as if you were there.
You like stories about destruction and earth cataclysms.
You're a chip off the old block....
and then some.

Last fall you asked if you could play the piano.
I was taken aback.
We were driving in the car- I couldn't see your face.
I thought you were joking.
Out of nowhere you wanted to play the piano.
No lead up.
No preparation.
The piano!
The piano?
Why not the guitar? The guitar is portable, you know? We're a traveling family. You've got to take that into consideration when picking an instrument.

The piano, Mama! Piano! Piano!

And so it was.
I called the music school as soon as we got home.
Signed you up for lessons.
The passion and focus that you've approached the piano was humbling.
I was so wrong to ever question the piano.
And then?
Months later?
You were walking around strumming and singing your ukulele.
I asked you if you'd like to take a lesson- to learn?
You weren't sure.
Neither was I.
Two instruments- that's kind of a lot.
But then you said "yes" to ukulele.
Now you walk around strumming and singing for hours each day.
You have a natural rhythm- you have an amazing strum pattern.
You learn songs so easily- and more than that, you want to learn new songs...
and new songs after that.
You ask to learn Woody Guthrie songs.
You request Vampire Weekend while riding in the car.
And the White Stripes.
Bob Marley.
You're taking notes on all of this music- soaking it in-
I know that because I hear it when you play.
I hear your songs and the influences that you're absorbing.

You're a balladeer.
At six years old your songs go on for a half an hour or so.
You noodle around like Jerry Garcia.
You improvise.
You tell your life's story.
You croon.


You're also the best big sister this world has ever known.
I mean that.
I've never known a child who's as loving as you are.
I didn't know it was possible to share as selflessly as you do.
I thought that after a while of having a baby brother you would
grow bored of his toddler antics, but that hasn't happened.
We wonder sometimes why you're so sharing-
obviously, we have lots of theories (we're theory having people)
Why do you defy this whole notion of sibling rivalry?
Is it that you haven't been exposed to television or movies?
It must be the lack of advertising in your life?
The fresh diet from the garden?
Travel and exposure to the world?
Having visited your family in Ethiopia when you were four?
Mostly, I think it's your soul.
You have a sharing and kind soul.
It's that simple.

You're ridiculously smart.
You're reading books that have 102 pages in them all by yourself.
You also have mad math skills.
We think someday you may end up being an actuary.
Sample conversation (that happens everyday):
You: So how old will you be when I'm 45?
Me: I don't know. I'd have to have a paper and pencil. And not be driving on the interstate.
You: You'll be 78, Mama! 78! 78 IS OLD!
Me: Thanks.
We call you Wednesday Adams because your math questions are usually on the morbid side.
You calculate how old each person in the family will likely be when Mojo dog dies.
Then you calculate how old he would (potentially) be in dog years when he dies.

Geez louise.
You're the most imaginative little person there ever was.
Every single day we walk to the river.
Every single day you talk my ear off about your imaginary friend.
This imaginary friend isn't just imaginary- you actually become her- you channel her,
 if that makes sense.
This girl who you become has been part of our lives for years now.
I walk around partly annoyed at the fact that I have to talk so much to her/about her/with her,
while simultaneously fearing the day when this imaginary friend is no longer with us.
You've created elaborate family trees with this imaginary friend-
I've had to write it all down and diagram it myself so that I don't forget who's who.

You talk a lot about being an Egyptologist,
an archeologist,
a piano player,
a builder,
an artist,
an animal helper.
I can't wait to find out what you do.
You're six.
You've got time to figure it out.
But time is flying!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mr.Lost Planet

Mr. Lost Planet has been busy.

All in a days work.
Making art.
Parenting his brains out.
Sketching plans for a tractor barn-
keeping in line with the architecture of the other buildings.
A tractor barn, by its very nature, is country-
but what about a tractor barn that is modern?
With little port hole windows cut out one side for no other reason
than to please the eye?


Worktable currently inhabited by Mr. Lost Planet.
I dig the hammer.

He'd want me to remind the viewer that this piece is not done.
It's a work in progress.

Newly finished painting.
Hanging in the kitchen.
One of my favorite things about being married to an artist is that we really paint for each other.
We're each other's audiences.
We're the ones who look at the work all the time-
we're the ones who are critical-
we're the ones who understand that each piece is part of a broader story.
I love this piece.
It kind of blew my mind.

There's a tiny little devil peeking out of your chest.
It lives there.

Sometimes there gets to be an overflow of art in our house.
I like when that happens.
The piece above is currently leaning in the foyer.
It should be hanging, that's true, and it was for a long time-
but there's something about art being so plentiful that it no longer has wall space
yet still inhabits the house.

And this piece?
Takes my breath away every time.
Just like the man who made it.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Making art again.
In fits and starts.
I have this notion of rural graffiti.
Imagine the above painting if it were painted onto the side of a train.
Except it's not.
Likely it will end up on the side of the wood barn.
And I want my graffiti to be feminist graffiti.
Graffiti itself tends towards the machismo-
I want my graffiti to be sweet like sugar.

Still life with bear skull.
The skull was discovered in our driveway.
Dogs or coyotes probably pulled it in.
Still covered with fur and leaking brain juice.
We put the skull way high in a tree
for a few years.
To let nature take its course and clean it up for us.
And so no dogs would steal it away.
Took the bear skull down a few weeks ago.
It's incredible to hold it in your hands.
Look at those teeth/fangs!


Painting in progress.
Nowhere near done.
Trying to tweak my technique a bit-
use mostly spray paint and house paint.
My old way of painting is on my nerves.

Studio shelfie with spray paint cans.

Studio shelfie (well, really floor-y) with reference materials.
Reference materials.
Lots of antiquated art encyclopedias in our studio library.
The material itself is sometimes so shocking-
you forget that you're supposed to be looking at the pictures for inspiration.
Instead you become so outraged at the philosophies these books espoused.
You have to walk away- can't read this shit anymore-
come into the house to write a blog post instead.

Studio shelfie of Baldwin's work table.
"But I admired how convinced he was that his work was good, good enough to show her, and he simply needed to get it seen.
As if that were the main stumbling block,
and not the problem of making art,
the problem of believing in it."
-from The Flame Throwers
by Rachel Kushner
This book is the bees knees.
No, really.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Time Warpedness

"Clock's running backwards again. Have you noticed?"
His response:
"I noticed that but didn't do anything about it,"
....long pause.....
"We have so many other clocks," he explained.
(excerpt of an actual conversation that took place yesterday around here)

So many other clocks around here.
That's what he said.
So many different ways to tell time.
Which leads me to this: life is a time warp.
I'm especially cued into it right now.
See, tomorrow marks the day a year ago when Sun Bear joined our family.
It feels big, this passage of time.

These, my friends, are like sands through the hour glass.
These are the days of our lives.
No, seriously.
I have this strong feeling about the way time passes when you are a mother through adoption.
See, the thing is that when I met Sun Bear he was already himself.
He was who he is.
He wasn't just born into this world seconds before I held him for the first time.
He'd had a life already.
A big life.
An intense life.
And then we met him.
And he joined our family.
All of that.

But what I want to say is there's this other layer of time.
Because you have to get started loving each other and being a family slowly.
There's a first day that you're all together.
Then there's a second day you're all together.
Onward and forward that way.
And everyone involved during this process is in some kind of shock.
It's a huge adjustment and super intense to come together as a family this way.
And that takes time for everyone involved.
Day after day.
Month after month.
Which takes a lot of focus.
It reminds me of throwing clay on a wheel.
Each moment you have to keep the clay centered.
If you don't then things will collapse and fall.
But before there's a total collapse the sides of the pot will morph and bend.
Keeping the clay centered is the name of the game.
Without that everything's futile.
Moment by moment.

But, as I was saying, about the focus this involves?
The determination and exhaustion?
The perseverance through months of sleep deprivation?
Each moment while you're growing your love between your newly adopted child that child is growing.
Does that make sense?
While you're doing the work of becoming a family your child is growing.
Getting physically bigger.
More mature.
They are becoming more of who they already are, more of who they were when you met them.
They're growing out of the baby shoes you bought on Etsy before you even knew who they were.
Their hair is growing.
And they get their first haircut.
They already crawled when you met them-
now they're running.
All such great milestones.
Every one of them.
But your heart and your mind aren't caught up yet.
And neither is the child's.
So this is more time passing.
More days.
More months.
The constant circle of this works as some kind of jet fuel for the time machine.

One of the ways in which I become aware of the power of the time warpedness in which I live is when I meet other babies.
Babies who weren't adopted.
Who never lived in orphanages (plural).
Who were never malnourished.
You're never supposed to compare your child to another.
That's rule number one.
We all know it.
But it's hard not to sometimes look at 11 month olds and think about how Sun Bear was that old when he joined our family.
11 months.
At the time, last year when he was 11 months, I saw him as an almost toddler.
I saw how big he was.
Noticed the things he could already do.
And when I noticed those things I couldn't help but think of where he'd been for the past 11 months.
The kinds of experiences he had.
I was looking over my shoulder at his past- my way of grieving those experiences for him.
If not always grieving those experiences for sure acknowledging them.
Validating them.
Validating his life that he'd had up until the moment I held him for the first time.
And grieving my part of it that I hadn't been there with him.
That I had no idea, and still don't, how old he was when he crawled the first time.
Or smiled.
And can someone please explain to me why he's loathe to let anyone brush his teeth?

And through all of this fog I couldn't realize, at the time, how small he was at 11 months.
What a tiny little man he was.
Just how baby he still was.

Then there's the pressure to enjoy every moment of your child's babyhood.
The word 'fleeting' comes to mind.
Your child's fleeting babyhood.
Seriously: Sun Bear can go down for a nap,
wake up two hours later,
and has grown.
Has changed physically.

"Oh look! His skull looks like it grew! Honey, come see. Don't you think his skull grew again? His head is bigger. How long did he sleep again? This happened within two hours? This bigger skull? Just like that?
I wonder if it hurt to grow that fast just now?"

Time warp strikes again.

And then you realize a whole year's gone by.
That's me right now.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Moratorium and a Big Dream.

Proposed moratorium:
The people of the United States of America should collectively decide to avoid
beige paint.
The avoidance of beige paint should last at least 10 years
(in order for healing to occur.)
10 years would be long enough for the collective consciousness to forget to be so
From there we can more clearly asses how to make a bright future for this world.
Once our heads are clear, that is.

Most Americans consider vibrant colors to be childish.
Only for kids' rooms.
Or interiors.
Rarely exteriors.

 I ask you this:
Why are the only people allowed to use bright colors in America the corporations?

We buy more stuff when we're depressed.
It's a vast conspiracy.
Beige paint has been thrust upon society in order to keep us down!
Think about it.
What a shenanigan.

Picture this:
Jane Doe is driving down the road.
It's a rainy day.
Every building she sees is beige or white.
Day in. Day out.

A feeling of despair arises in Jane's heart.
It's a familiar feeling, this despair.
She can't place it.
Where it came from.
But then?
Upon the horizon?
Happiness beckons!
A giant billboard telling her how to live!
What to buy!
Not a beige billboard, mind you.
It's multicolored.
With contrasting colors.
She feels better already.

Join me in this moratorium.

(For the sake of full disclosure I've spent the winter staring at this.)

I'm in love with this place.

It's so lovely.
The light.
The lushness.

This place has gotten into my heart in a big way.
I'm so head over heels.
I have to wear gigantic sunglasses while driving down the road
in order that people won't see the tears streaming down my face.
I cry because it's so beautiful.
I cry because I wish I'd been born here.

This place.
This place!
This place!

Are you freaking kidding me?

But wait.
It gets better.
We found a school there.
For Dew Drop and Sun Bear (when he's old enough).
I need to wear my gigantic sunglasses at the school.
The first time I walked into the school area my eyes welled up with tears.
It's so beautiful.
I wish I'd gone there.

I must cry a lot. 

My kids need to be here.
There. I said it.
My kids need to learn a second (and third? and possibly fourth?) language.
I need to get choked up about the beauty-
to cry happy tears.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Imaginary Worlds.

Dew Drop lives in an imaginary world much of the time.
It's like an imaginary friend except it's not.
The difference is that she actually becomes an imaginary person rather than being friends with an imaginary person.
This distinction is really important because it means that at any given moment you don't know who you're talking to.
You could be talking to Dew Drop herself.
you could be talking to "Frida"
(***"Frida" is the fictionalized name I'm using for this fictionalized person. Like how Dew Drop is a fictionalized name for a real person. To keep it all fair, you see)

When Frida first appeared she was more of a doppelganger.
Like an evil twin.
She was constantly in trouble and getting into mischief.
Frieda was stubborn to her core.
When Dew Drop realized that people smoke cigarettes
guess who started smoking?
She developed a real habit.
It was hard to stop.
The word "addicted" was thrown around a lot.

We're not sure how Frida appeared in our lives.
One day life was normal and the next it wasn't.
It's been years now.
Frida is always temporary- and she makes that known- she's just a visitor.
Last summer she warned us that she'd be leaving.
We begged her to stay but she would not relent.
Each passing day was filled with commemorating whatever activity it was as "Frida's last"
Frida's last time to the river.
Frida's last time working in the garden.
Frida's last time going to the park.
We prepared our hearts for the inevitable farewell.
My mamma heart felt sad- I found myself looking at Dew Drop (I mean Frida)
as if my real little girl were leaving-
as if we were commemorating the last days of her childhood.
 It was like a countdown to the end of  her imagination.
 I tried to get right with it- that my girl had undergone a leap of brain development- and was now moving into The Big Kid Realm.
 Surely I didn't believe that Dew Drop would keep being Frida forever?
That would be weird.
She couldn't be thirty years old and still turn into Frida several times a day.

But the day Frida was supposed to leave came and went.
She decided to stay.
First, it was on a day to day basis if she were staying.
Then week to wee.
   Months later and she's still here.

                                                            Frida has another family.
They live on a boat with 119 rooms.
They're currently stranded under a bridge on an icy river in Pennsylvania.
Frida's father has been making repairs to the boat- all in vain.
 With each new repair another thing breaks.
 His work never ends.
He gets hurt and has to stop all work for weeks at a time in order to heal.
Frida's mom has been busy designing and sewing uniforms for the entire family-
 the uniforms match the sails she's sewing for the boat.
There are siblings, too:
an older sister we'll call Fran.
A "born baby" we'll call Fern.
And a two year old brother we'll call "Little Frankie."
There are aunts and uncles and grandparents (the paternal grandfather happens to be none other than Santa Claus himself!)

As I said, Frida used to be a bad girl.
She bordered on being a delinquent.
She was sneaky and she was disagreeable.
She smoked cigarettes, for crying out loud!
Somewhere along the line she changed.
But Little Frankie, her younger brother,  takes the cake.
That boy?
Nothing but trouble.
You can't imagine the things he does to his family.
He's accident prone and clumsy.
He lacks decision making skills.
No one quite knows what to do for Little Frankie.

The parallels between Frida's life and Dew Drop's are many.
Frida has another family- just like Dew Drop.
Frida's family live on a boat. Dew Drop's live in Ethiopia.
Frida's family is made of black and white people- just like ours.
Frida's life, if you listen carefully, is full of echoes of Dew Drop's.
It's all woven together.

When Nelson Mandela died we decided it was a good time to start teaching Dew Drop about some of the great heroes of the world.
We told her about Desmond Tutu and Gandhi and Rosa Parks.
The next day, wouldn't you know it, Frida wasn't allowed to sit in the front of the pretend bus.
 Frida got arrested for refusing to move.
Frida was a hero,and we had to pretend that we were outside of her jailhouse window.
When Frida was released from jail we shook her hand, patted her back, and thanked her for her bravery.
A few days later Frida came out with this:
"Babba, Frida is black.
Really, really black."
Frida has a gift of processing new concepts.
She can try things out.
She's safe.
Frida talks about God and race and what it's like to feel different from her friends.
Frida overhears adult conversations and picks out the parts that suit her, weaves them into her own reality, and the next thing you know you hear about Frida's acquaintance who everyone wonders if he's depressed- just like a conversations Babba and I had while preparing dinner the night before.

"Mama, do you want to talk about Frida?" she asks me everyday as we begin our walk to the river.
I always say yes.
And then, "Mama, did you get an e-mail from Frida's mom?"
That's the prompt for me to say something like "Well, yes, she mentioned they're still  having difficulty fixing those darn windows on the upper deck of the boat."
Frida takes this and runs with it.
On and on and on.
She tells me about the boat and her family there.
It morphs and transforms- it crosses into other realms.
There are magical powers and intense storms.
There are disagreements and punishments.
There are family friends and even a new villain named "John Chief Redding"
It can go on for hours.
I listen and prompt more when I need to.
I egg Frida on.
I ply her for details.
I ask questions.
Frida won't last forever.
One day she'll leave for good.
 Half the time I have no idea who I'm talking to.
"Mama, look at my face. Am I Frida or am I Dew Drop?"
For the longest time I couldn't tell.
They both looked the same.
But I can tell now (hint: it's in the eyes)
Below is a Frida quiz:
for each picture try to figure out if you're looking at Frida or Dew Drop.
I'll put the answers at the bottom of this post so that you can check your score.

1.) Frida or Dew Drop?
2.) Frida or Dew Drop?
3.)Frida or Dew Drop?
4.)Frida or Dew Drop?

 5.) Frida or Dew Drop?

***Quiz answers: 1.)Frida 2.)Frida 3.)Frida 4.)Dew Drop 5.)Dew Drop

Friday, November 15, 2013

Update From Our Little World

Sun Bear
Sweet Potato Jones.
What to say about him?
He's the love of my life.
He radiates happiness and joy.
He's a mama's boy.
And he sleeps through the night now.
You heard right.

my life's been token over in the very best kind of way.
But damn- it's so exhausting.
No need to cue the violins.
I'm not complaining-
just giving a heavy sigh.

This girl? Are you freaking kidding me?
Leaps and strides of amazingness going on here.
Soccer! Spanish! Piano! Beautiful friendships!
I've never in my long legged life known someone who's as thoughtful as Dew Drop.
She spends time asking herself such questions such as,
"Is it okay that I don't like princesses and mermaids that much?"
"When birds fly really high do their wings touch the moon?"
"After Pompeii, what was left?"

The above picture is a depiction of the impending doom I feel about winter.
(even though I'm outta here in 2 months- I know. I'm a wussy. )

I'm fending off winter 'issues' and trying to keep focused on the sunny side of life.
Keeping on the sunny side is a full time job considering how short the days are.
But still.

It's the bare bones of the trees.
The hollow stalks of my vegetable garden- it turns into a bone yard this time of year.
The lack of anything exciting sprouting or growing.
I ask myself if it's better to prune the dead flowers from the shrubs or to leave them?
Better to be honest about death and decay and face it?
Or snip them and pretend those blooms never happened?
I'll never be a winter lover and I question the honesty of those who claim to be.

I'm making little books out of things I find in my recycling bin.
Stuff like this keeps me ticking.
It's impossible for me to get into the studio with Sun Bear toddling the way he is.
He has to be watched every second.
He has a radar for contraband activities- sharp objects, power chords, hot woodstoves, toilet brushes,
he will find them all.
He will laugh when told not to touch them.
He will keep threatening until someone drops what they are doing and scoops him up.

I can make art in the kitchen while he's in his high chair mashing bananas into his eyelashes.
I still need to be a making things girl.
It brings me some amusement and reminds me that I'm still an artist-
despite no time to 'make serious art.'
Finished product.
It's a new phone book.
Sweet (I know).
I kind of really love it.
It's a recycled graham cracker box.

It seems like I've already blogged my discovery of 'tab making'?
If I have already, and I'm doing it again, well then....
it just reiterates how happy it makes me.
These are the tabs for my phone book.
It's alphabetical, yo!

(psssst. Check out the tabs! The tabs! They're real tabs! I made them! They stick out from the side of a book! They give the look of someone who's organized! They're tabs for crying out loud! Real tabs!)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3 haiku


giving it my all
oxytocin love response
succulent ear lobes

Dear Kindred Spirit,
My daughter lost her first tooth
do you understand?


from one kid to two
forget about NPR
embrace the chaos

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bloody Butcher


Heirloom corn.
And yes, it's name is really Bloody Butcher.
We've debated changing what we call it- maybe something like Red Rubies,
 something less macabre.
It's drought resistant.
Very hardy.
2-3 ears per stalk.
Each stalk produces roughly a cup and a half of corn.
Used for milling.
One of the oldest varieties- Virginia, 1845.
So Bloody Butcher it remains.

In order to use the corn you must dry it first then remove each
It takes patience and concentration.
And strong hands with callouses don't hurt either.
You can also use a bamboo spork to pry the corners
(I like to get sporks involved with as many tasks around the house as possible.)
An already de-kerneled cob works really well, too.
(and when you do it that way you feel connected to ancient humanity. At least I do. Like I could be any woman anywhere at any point in time taking the kernels from corn.)

While doing this work the other night I had to stop.
I had to put the corn down and walk away.
The corn was too beautiful.
The kernels too vivid and perfectly spaced.
There was a design here.
No accident.
Thoughts of God and creation crept into my agnostic brain.


We also grew Hopi Blue Dent this year.
It's equally as lovely as Bloody Butcher but didn't produce as well.

Freshly ground cornmeal.

Empty stalks.
If one were so inclined they could fashion one of these into a corncob pipe.
They could gather wild plants like lobelia and mullein- maybe throw in some hops.
Sit on the stoop and smoke it.
Discuss the weather.
Feel ole' timey.

Slow food baby tip: use the empty stalk as a teething toy.

It's Hip To Be Corny Cornbread Recipe:

2 TBS coconut oil
2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

2 cups cornmeal

1 tsp. soda

2 TBS honey (or pepper jelly!)

1 3/4 cups buttermilk (or enough to moisten well)

Put coconut oil in cast iron skillet in 400 degree oven.  Mix corn meal, baking powder, soda, salt and honey: add egg and buttermilk. Batter should be thick.  Add heated shortening to batter and put batter into heated skillet and bake in 400 degree oven 20-25 minutes or until brown.

Piping hot from the oven.

Red crust on the outside....

...but inside?