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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Ideas for Creative Living

Not too long ago The EGE had given me quite a bit of cash, several hundred dollars that I was carrying around in my wallet. I'd had a lousy week, where I was just out of sorts and cranky and displeased with everything. Having money in my wallet didn't help, as one might expect it would have. Then we found a flash attachment that would be nice for his camera, and I was able to whip out the money and pay cash for it. I had no money left, not a bit, but it felt GREAT. And I thought about how much fun I have finding new homes for various things here, with y'all's help, and I had this idea for Something Fun for You To Do. It can be a weekend project, and it's pretty much guaranteed to make you feel better and haul your butt up out of the winter doldrums. Plus it generates ideas, as well as good energy. So here you go:

1--Find 5 things to throw away or recycle. This would be junk that's lying around, or things that are worn or broken beyond repair. I like to go out to the storage building and go through the cardboard boxes (do y'all save every one of those that comes into your house, "just in case" you need a box that size? Uh-huh--me, too) and take a bunch to the recycling dumpster.

2--Find 5 things to donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or your recipient of choice. These would be things that are not trash but that you don't need. Silly Appliances work well for this. You know, the electric taco maker or the heated eyelash curler or any of those things that you bought on clearance or got as a gift or drew in a white elephant exchange. Someone else might get some good out of it, whatever it is. This is a good time to go through your closet and weed out the clothes you don't really like but that are too good to toss. Donate them. You'll feel better, and someone else may fall in love with what you didn't much like. One of us may come across it and take it home to alter--you never know!

3--Now it gets fun: Find 5 things you like rather a lot but can bear to part with, and give them to someone who'll appreciate them. These 5 things can't be junk, and they can't be things you were going to donate to charity. That doesn't count. They have to be things you like a lot but, for whatever reason, don't use enough to justify keeping. Or just need a new home and someone to love them. And you have to go to the effort of finding someone else who would like to have them. If you have a blog, well! You're all set, and you have it easy. If you don't? Then you're going to have to work a little at it. Maybe it's a piece of artwork you've made, and you could put it up on your wall at work. And if someone there really admires it and likes it a lot, then you can take it down and graciously present it to them. Maybe it's a jacket that you just don't wear any more, and you know your sister loves it. Wrap it up and send it to her with a note telling her you love her. Maybe it's some hats you never wear, and you know a little girl who loves to play dress up. Maybe it's extra copies of your favorite books--people in hospitals and nursing homes always need new books to read or to have read to them. It'll take some work, because you don't want to give your cool stuff to someone who doesn't really want it--no fair to dump it on someone who doesn't want it but will feel obligated to keep it just to be polite!

I hope y'all do this, maybe this weekend? It's incredibly fun, I promise. You'll feel all kinds of energetic after you're done. And I'd like to hear about how it goes, too--about your Adventures in Giving Things Away--

And while I'm thinking about it, thank you to all of y'all who've helped me find homes for things I love by participating in my weekly give-away drawings. It's more fun for me than you can imagine, and I appreciate your willingness to play with me. Thank you!

Now I feel all tear-y eyed and have to stop.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Work in Progress

I was waiting on The EGE to get ready to go somewhere, sitting in the window working on the current piece. He started taking photos, and we got this one of the sun coming through. Isn't it cool? Makes me want to figure out how to make fabric pieces for lamps, but with none of the knots and skips showing through. Man, there's a lot of work left to be done on this one--


So I got this invitation yesterday to join the new vervearth thing, where you find blogs and websites by geography. You know me, always the skeptic. But I went there and poked around, and it seems pretty cool. I found someone making cool little stuffed animals in California. So I joined, and I put a link over there on the right so you can go check it out and play with the little panning hand, which is always a delightful way to waste time when you're supposed to be working.

Click on the plus sign in the upper left-hand corner to zero in on Midland, and eventually my little dot will appear. Cool, huh? And even cooler is that, when you click on that, the most recent blog posts, complete with photos, show up. Big fun!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere

Hello! I have a new hobby! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! From now on, my days and nights will be consumed by: water. Yes! I will be drinking water! Oboy!

Oboy is right. I do not like water. It often makes me feel nauseated (NOT nauseous!). I drink it only in the summertime, when it's hot out and nothing is as wonderful as ice-cold water. But in the winter? When it's cold? I NEVER drink cold things in the cold. And luke-warm water, which The EGE drinks? Makes me feel like I'm dying. Gack. Like eating cold soup. And not gazpacho, either.

But this week no fewer than three--THREE--people have told me I need to drink more water. The EGE, who tells me this constantly: you need to drink more water. And then John, the chiropractor, who said, "You need to drink more water." And then, today, Deborah, my new massage therapist, who did a 90-minute massage that left me in a drugged state for the rest of the day--she said, "You're dehydrated. You need to drink more water."

Egads. Three people! So I'm going to Commit to Drinking More Water. It will ruin my life, I swear: if I drink more water, I won't want to eat. And if I drink more water and don't eat, I'm going to be a veritable Pissing Machine. I have a bladder the size of a pea, anyway. If I keep filling it up all day long, I'll never be able to leave the house. Given that I can't abide public restrooms. I'll be on a short leash, indeed.

So. The massage. I used to have massages every other week when I was working on a book. I try--I reallyreallyreally try--to use good posture and sit up straight and not hunch over the keyboard. But--you know how it goes. And the more I work, the worse I get and the more I need help. I even thanked two of my massage therapists in one of the acknowledgements--I couldn't have done it without them. So we're trying again--I'm not working on a book, but there are more assignments, and I'm spending a lot of time, right here, right in this very position.

So. The massage. I worked very hard to relax, and she worked very hard on my back and neck and shoulders. Apparently, they're in bad shape. She and John both insisted that I should be having constant headaches, as tight as things are. And I keep saying, No, I don't have headaches unless I drink too much. About which I'm very careful. They're baffled by this. They insist. And I finally say, OK, listen. Maybe I AM having headaches but just don't know it, OK? Because when I finally had the hysterectomy for the fibroids, they found that I had endometriosis, which I still have, and said, oh, you must have been in constant pain. And I said, No. No pain. And then, 10 days after the surgery, I was out running (a little slowly, but still doing the 2 miles) and stopped in the middle of the street and went, Holy shit. What's this? And realized it was the absence of pain. Pain that I hadn't known I had, for years and years, until it was gone.

So maybe my head does hurt and I'm just too stupid to know it.

So she's working on me, doing a fine job, and I'm relaxing to the best of my ability, and she's asking questions, and I begin to tell her what stress I've been under. Not thinking it's been a lot, but trying to think, since she asked. And as I begin to think, lying there nekkid, it just comes out, this whole list of things that have happened in the last less-than-two-years. My father's colon cancer, my mother's fall and hospitalization and death. A week before she died, I signed the contract for the book. She died, and two weeks later I turned 50. The next four months I wrote the book and settled her estate and cleaned out her things and sold the house. A month later, my father went into the hospital for a month with pneumonia and congestive heart failure and COPD. He spent two weeks on the same floor in the same hospital where my mother died, so people remembered me and talked to me about it.

The EGE retired. We had Major House Construction. Then the book came out. Then the whole ordeal with the cats began, disrupting our everyday life in unimaginable ways.

Turns out, I'm exhausted and didn't even know it. I'm telling her this, and she says, gently, "Have you thought about grief therapy?" And I laugh, thinking that this is what we used to do for other people--group grief therapy. And I say, "Gee, I thought I was doing OK until you asked and I started thinking about it."

Because I feel pretty good, all considered. But apparently I've stored a lot of crap in my back and neck and now have to deal with that. They say my movement is really restricted. I knew it was hard to drive, to turn to see over my shoulders, but didn't really think anything of it. I hardly ever drive because I hardly ever go anywhere.

So I came home and, per her instructions, did NOT run, as I'd planned. And did NOT go to yoga. What I did: sit out in the backyard with The EGE and . . .well, nothing. I did nothing. I sat there, my mind and body slack, useless, with no thoughts or energy or desire to do anything. And I asked The EGE, "Is this relaxing? Because it just feels like 'lazy' to me." And he said, yes, this was relaxing. And I said, so what do you do when you do this? Can we talk? Or do we have to be quiet? And he smiled and said you can do either one. And I said, so what do you talk about? And he's leaning back in his chair, looking at clouds and watching the birds and just looking as content as he always does. And I'm sitting there, my head scooped out clean, my body slack, thinking, "This sucks. This is NOT for me." I can feel the minutes ticking by, leaving me, never to return. I sit. I breathe deeply. I am relaxed.

I'm bored out of my mind.

Tomorrow? Water!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why You'll Never See Monk in the Bathtub

Because people like us have a really hard time taking a bath, OK? I tried. Lord knows I tried. Since I'm now trying veryveryvery hard To Relax, which is pretty much as foreign a concept to me as, oh, "teleportation," it's something I have to put my mind to. And I did. Tonight, I decided, I was going to Take a Hot Bath. A Relaxing Bath. One of those Long Soaks you hear about as being akin to nirvana.

I used to take baths. I remember, vaguely. Back when I used to get regular massages. The woman would come to the house, do the massage, pack up her stuff and hide her Catholic saint cards under the cushions on the furniture, and then leave. I'd wave goodbye and get a big bottle of water and get into the bathtub, with steam and an inflatable pillow and a book. Sometimes wine.

Usually wine, now that I think about it. In fact, I dare to say that most of the Official Relaxing I've done in my life has involved wine.

Anyway. So I set out to take a bath. First I scoured the tub. Because of course a bathtub is an unsanitary place, especially if it's never used for anything but the cats' watering station, with their watering bowl and then their footprints and fur and who knows what else. Moe, alas, has perpetual dingleberries.

I'm sorry, but it's true. It's quite dreadful, and I'm sorry I had to bring it up. He's too fat to do much about it, I'm afraid. But you do think about these things when you're naked and about to sit somewhere where he might have sat. Ie, anywhere in the whole house. He's like the 900 lb gorilla that way: Where does Moe sit? Anywhere he feels like sitting.

So. I scour the tub, scrub it with the scrubby thingie, get it all shiny. Rinse it well. And then notice that the stuff I used to scrub it smells horrible, very chemical-y and nasty. And so I have to rinserinserinse and light a candle and strike matches to burn off the fumes. Fan the door back and forth to air it out. Jesus.

Then assemble the Items Necessary for Relaxing: a drink (fizzy water, is what we call it. It's La Croix carbonated water with raspberry flavor. No calories, no sweeteners, no anything but fizz and a hint of raspberry. Need I say that it does absolutely NOTHING to relax you? I didn't think so. It is not, oh, say, vodka. Or wine), books, various washcloths and a towel. Reading glasses.

The water doesn't feel very hot, even though I have it all the way over to "scald." We've been having some issues here at The Voodoo Cafe about where, exactly, the hot water heater dial should be set. I prefer "parboil," and The EGE prefers "warmish." Since I don't touch the hot water heater (more Monk-ish issues involving gas lines and pilot lights, etc.), guess who gets to set the dial. It wouldn't be me. Hence you cannot boil your flesh from your bones with water straight out of the tap. What, then, I ask you, is the point of a hot bath? I don't know.

The very last thing I do before I get into the tub is to clean out the litter box. There is, alas, one in the bathroom. There are three in our house, and they are cleaned out numerous times each day (and you aren't surprised, are you?). I clean it and bag it and strike another match (I only just in the last 5 years or so got to where I could actually strike matches. They're so scary. But strangely satisfying!). And get into the lukewarm tub, grousing because I can't find my little inflatable pillow, and the water's not hot, and I'm much prefer vodka to fizzy water if I'm going to get in the bathtub and pretend to relax.

And I lean back and try to breathe slowly, and damn if I don't smell cat shit. Goodlordalmighty. So I heave myself up out of the tub and drip across the bathroom and check, and sure enough: in the nanosecond between the time I cleaned the box and the time I lowered myself into the water, someone came into the bathroom and used the box. Clean it, bag it, strike the match. Wash my hands. Get back into the tub. Notice that I'd gotten cat litter on my feet and tracked THAT into the tub with me. Now, I don't know about you people, but I never ever get into water, any body of water, without wondering what it has in it that could go up into my vagina. Do you do that, too? Or is it just me? At some point in my tense little life, someone told me a story about some sort of parasite--I think it was in Argentina, when our friend Sarita moved there with her husband--that would worm its way up inside--oooooooh! I can't even bear to talk about it.

So I always think of that. Of parasites spiraling their way through those delicate mucous membranes into my bloodstream and, in short order, into my heart. Or brain. Maybe my liver. I think they eat out your eyeballs, too.

So, all told, I'm in the fucking tub for less than five minutes. I'm cold, I'm grouchy, I'm so unrelaxed you could strike matches on me. The bathmat's wet, the towels are wet, the tub is wet (and this is a Trial Unto the Lord for the cats, who much prefer the tub--aka, their watering station--to be bone dry at all times). If I were any more tense and grouchy, you'd be able to hear me grinding my teeth from where you are. Shhhh. Listen. Do you hear that sound like someone sharpening a knife? Or filing their nails? It's me, grinding down what teeth I have left.

Here's The Secret

No, I'm not talking about that silly little book. Did you read that? I tried. We tried to watch the video, too. We didn't last but about 15 minutes. Like I said, I don't believe in anything I can't see except love and gravity, and there are days when I'm real iffy on the whole concept of gravity. So The Secret was not for me. Or The EGE or Gabriel, either. We snorted a lot and then went and had ice cream.

No, this is the secret about why, as you get older, you keep thinking there'll be a time when you've finally got yourself figured out. When you know what you like and don't like and how your brain works and how you feel about things and how to make yourself happy or keep yourself entertained or what you want to do for a living. And you keep being surprised by new revelations. And you think, "Damn. Why am I so slow at this?" Because everybody else seems to have figured it all out years ago. And you think back to when you were a kid, and you know for sure that your parents had it all figured out. You know for sure that your mother didn't wake up one day in middle age and go, "You know, I don't think I really like pie after all." And you're pretty sure your dad didn't come home from work one evening and say, "I'm tired of being an engineer. I want to carve ducks for the rest of my life." OK, well, maybe your dad did. My dad would have been more likely to strip nekkid and run through the parking lot at the Piggly Wiggly.

But here's the secret part: while you're wondering why you're so immature and stunted and pathetic at Getting Everything Figured Out, everybody else is just as continually surprised by themselves as you are, if they're open to it. They've no more got it figured out than you do, only you can't see that because they're reallyreallyreally busy keeping it secret, sometimes even from themselves. They don't want anyone else to realize how un-adult, how un-finished, how un-grown-up they feel. Just like you. Your parents were, I'm sorry to have to tell you, faking it. They didn't have it all figured out, but they had to make you think they did. Otherwise, why would you listen to them when they told you not to put the Cheetos up your nose?

People never talk about this, do they? Have you ever had a conversation with someone who said, "Gee, I feel so much less settled and mature and wise than I'm supposed to be at this age. How about you?" I'm guessing not. Well, OK, maybe you have way more enlightened friends than the rest of us. I know I, for example, have never sat down and had a conversation about how I'm continually surprised by some new revelation about how my brain works, or what I know how to do, or how I feel about taxes or solar energy or green or Brussels sprouts or even something like what I told you the other day, about being able to tell someone, "I'm not going to have this conversation with you." Because I'm always pretty sure that everyone else already knows this shit and would turn me in to some Legion of Maturity or something, where they'd make notes about my lack of responsibility and worthiness for, um, for. . . .well. For Something, something I can't think of right now, something that surely requires huge amounts of mature settled-ness and confidence in your Knowledge of The Way Things Are.

But here was a clue to The Secret. The last conversation I had with my mother--and I know I've told you this before, but it won't be the last time you hear it, either--before she fell and hit her head and pretty much descended into complete confusion, was during our regular Saturday evening phone conversation. And she said, cheerfully, that she didn't feel 80. She said, "I feel like I'm still 14 and running down the street [she was a tomboy and played football as long as she could], trying to figure out who I am and what I'm supposed to do."

Some would argue that whatever-it-was that caused her to fall was already making her a little loopy. But she didn't sound loopy to me. She didn't sound confused. She sounded very sensible, and very calm and kind of amused, as if she'd just realized that this was The Secret, that this feeling of not having come to all the answers WAS the answer. It made me feel quite delighted when she said it, and when I got off the phone, I told The EGE and then went and wrote it down. And then kind of didn't think of it any more, much, except every now and then.

But today I was having, once again, one of those moments where I get a clue and go, "Jesus. Everybody else figured out this stuff DECADES ago! What's WRONG with me?"

I realized there's nothing wrong with me at all except that I'm willing to admit that I'm not finished yet. Some would say, probably with a lot of conviction, that I'm immature. I prefer to think of it as not being a dyed-in-the-wool grown-up. I prefer to think of it as being open to change and surprise and the confusion that comes from never quite having all the answers. And just that feeling of freedom, running down the street with the sun in my face, wondering who, exactly, I am. And what I'm supposed to do. Maybe I'll find out, and maybe it will remain a wonderful mystery.

Monday, February 25, 2008

In Which I Decide to Give Chiropractic Medicine One More Try

Oh, honeys, it's been A Day. While it was 83 degrees at one point, the wind and dust and smoke from some unknown-to-us fires have been just atrocious. Small children and pets were sailing by the house, being carried through the air until they fetched up in the branches of mesquite bushes on the other side of town. I forgot to close our bedroom window, and now we need a shovel to get the sand out of the carpet.

And then, this morning, I finally gave up and made an appointment to see a chiropractor. It was either that or slowly become unable to move much from the waist up.

But first, I have to rant a little. Sorry, but I'm just so irritated. Someone posted a nasty little comment on my video about "My Cat on Drugs" on youtube. Now, normally this kind of thing doesn't bother me a lot--I mean, really: how can you get too upset by the opinion of someone who has nothing better to do than surf around the web and post nasty comments on people's stuff? Sheesh. Pretty pathetic. If you're going to look at people's blogs and websites and videos, you either like them or you don't. If you don't, you move on. If you do, you might--if you're nice--take the time to tell them so. But why in the world would you take the time to tell them if you hated their stuff? Just move on--just keep on going. Don't hold up the traffic--just pull your vehicle on through, darlin'.

But this one--this person said, "You gave your cat Prozac? You're an idiot."--just rubbed me in all the wrong ways. It's sure not like I happily said, "Oh, gee, let's try giving the cat some drugs!" Like it was my idea or something. And in a fit of pique, I posted a comment of my own, just to make myself feel better--because,yes, it's a sore spot for me. The worst part of every day is at 8 am when I have to go out and grab Garfunkel and force fish-flavored goo down his throat. Or attempt to: he begins to produce ropes of drool the minute I touch his neck. I hate it. He hates it. It's messy and it stinks and it makes him miserable and doing it to him makes me sweat. He's taken to hiding in his kennel. I won't bother him when he's in there; he has to have somewhere in his tiny constricted world where he feels safe. So I take my syringe of foul-smelling drugs and go sit on the couch in the living room until he comes out, slinking along the edges of the porch, trying to hide. And then I go grab him and ruin his whole day. When all he wants out of his little life is to be free again.

But The EGE and I agree that Garfunkel is a LOT calmer after a month of Prozac. He still sprays urine everywhere, although not as much (the veterinary studies rec. Prozac for cats with intractable spraying habits). But the main thing is that he doesn't pace and cry all day long. He's taken to doing this cute thing when we go out--somehow The EGE discovered that if he lies down on the porch, Garfunkel will leap up on top of him, around his shoulders and chest, and fall happily asleep. Picture us, at various times of the day, lying out on our front porch in uncomfortable positions, a cat lazing on us as if we're furniture. We're big breathing couches to him.

So a big phbbbbt! to the rude person who hasn't a clue what we've all been going through here at the Voodoo Cafe. Shame on them for being rude without knowing the whole story. Shame on me for being thin-skinned enough for it to matter.

So. The chiropractor. Oh, honeys! I do not like them. I have never trusted them. I don't trust doctors, or dentists, or pretty much any authority figure. Especially, I'm so sorry to admit, White Male Authority Figures. I do not know why. I have no good reason except old G-man movies. They make me very pissy and antagonistic, which doesn't bode well for my relations with medical personnel.

But a couple of years ago, with the back and the neck and the hip and all the stuff that's been ongoing for years, I gave up and went to a chiropractor. I went only because this guy was a former Midland High basketball player, and so all the coaches knew him, and so I thought, well, why not give it a try?

It had nothing to do--I swear--with his also being a former international underwear model. Swear!

So I went in, all skeptical (and thinking that a post-modeling maintenance diet might have been not such a bad idea in this case) and leery. And the first appointment? All was well. Nothing popped or cracked or fell apart. In fact, for $180, all I got was just some various tests. No x-rays. No hands-on stuff. No help. But also no pain! Or cracking! So I figured it was all preliminary, useful type stuff. You know: record-keeping stuff. And so I returned a week later. And told him, not for the first time, that he was Not to Crack Anything. No cracking!

And he put me on the table and got out his little silver gun (quit that!) and did the snapping-of-the-gun-thing on my spine. It didn't hurt, although it was a little odd-feeling. I lay there and thought, "Huh."

And then, when he was done, I got up. And had a little headache but thought it would soon go away. It didn't. It lasted for 3 whole days. No matter what I took for it. I NEVER have headaches that won't go away. Except when I use the Wonderful-Smelling Shampoo of Doom, which smells of pina coladas and makes my head feel like I've been drinking gallons of the same.

Anyway. So The Underwear Doctor kept calling to remind me of the necessity for returning for more treatment. And I kept, kindly, avoiding the issue, saying, Oh, when I had time. Or, Oh, after basketball season. Or, Oh, when my head actually falls OFF, so you can't hurt it any more. I didn't want to come out and say that I thought he was a quack and had no idea how to help me and was just popping a little cap gun behind my back and then charging me a lot of money. I didn't say that.

But I never went back.

Until today. When I gave in and went to John, a chiropractor from the UUCOM, someone I know but have never gone to see professionally. I do not think he ever modeled underwear around the globe, but one never knows. His wife runs his office, though, and I like her quite a lot. So I went. I took The EGE with me in case John was one of those I've heard about who thinks cracking of the spine is your daily dose of fun.

First they made me fill out about a million pages of medical shit that I don't remember. I have no idea when I had my tubes tied. "Early enough to be effective," should be my answer there. I kept grumbling, and John said to his wife, "Ricë's not too fond of administrative details." And I said, "You go that right. And I'm not giving you my social security number, either." I never give that to medical people, and they never say anything about it. They just have that on there in case you're gullible enough to be willing to provide it. Don't. You don't have to, and you should never give it to anyone unless they're paying you and have to have it for taxes.

Anyway. So I took the sheaf of papers up to the counter and said, "That'll be $100." And she asked, "For all those signatures?" And I said, "No. For having to try to remember all that stuff. I just made up some of it and left the rest blank." And she said, "Oh. OK."

Then the exam. He poked around on me a lot. The EGE seemed to find it amusing that I yelped and squirmed and threatened various kinds of retaliation, from biting to grabbing of delicate areas. I think the word John used in referring to me was "weenie," although I may be misremembering, as I was busy trying to dodge his fingers as he cheerfully poked my shoulders and back and said, happily, "Big knot here. Tight here. Knot here." I wanted to yell, "No fucking duh! That's why I'm HERE." Only that would not have been true: I was there because I'd decided, sometime since yesterday, that the knot in my neck, the one that catches and often won't allow me to finish turning my head, was actually a huge cancerous spinal tumor that was going to paralyze me and force me to wear diapers and drink through a straw.

There was a funny line there, but I decided it was way, way un-PC and left it out. Go ahead and laugh. It was very funny.

But. No tumor. No diapers (unless I decide to become an astronaut (see, that's not so funny because it was too easy)). I'm going back on Friday, and then we'll see from there. I've got to set up a massage, and The EGE is supposed to work on my back and shoulders every day. That's wonderful: the doctor told him to work on the sore spots! Like an order from God or something. I love it. If I weren't so lazy, I'd go clean all the cat fur out of the bathtub and have a really long hot soak. Since I AM lazy, I'll just turn on the heating pad and lie down and read. And not think any more about the person who thinks I'm an idiot for giving Garfunkel Prozac. I won't think about that until 8 am tomorrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Don't You Wish You'd Been There?

Remember the UU auction I invited y'all to last Saturday? This is what I got:
That photo doesn't do it justice, as the fabric makes it look yellow. Here's what it really looks like:
And here's up close:
Isn't it fabulous? It's very old, so it's not one of those thin, light rhinestone necklaces. This one is heavy and substantial and very, very sparkly. Sparkly is Good!

How much? Guess!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Time for a Little Celebration Here

So today my Lovely Editor said, in passing, as just an aside in another conversation entirely, something like--and I'm sure I'm paraphrasing here-- "and since your book is a best-seller. . . ." and went on with something else, something important, something to which I Should Have Been Paying Attention.

But you KNOW I wasn't. I was all like, "Huh? What? WHAT did you just say?!" Because you know I had no idea it was A Best Seller. How the hell would I know this? Nobody gives me updates. I don't have a counter on my desktop, on the little sidebar with the bright red calendar and and the little breathing in-and-out-yoga-ball-thing, all giving me tallies every day. I used to check regularly, but that got old. You know it did. It's all I can do to floss after every meal. Forget checking stats and googling myself. (I do that only on really bad days when I'm not sure I actually exist. Google is great for that: if it doesn't list you as being dead, you're still OK, pretty much.)

Oh, sure. It's not The New York Times Review of Books. JK Rowlings isn't quaking in her boots, worried that I'm knocking her off the top of the list. But still. I feel all Sally Fields about it, all tingly and justified in my belief that This was a book people would love.

Sometimes I get it right.

And then a lot of fabulous people helped make it happen. Woo-hoo!

I was going to celebrate, but then, on our way to Kohl's to buy some 1000 thread count pillow cases (remind me to tell about that later--it's for the FABRIC, not for pillows, of course), we--The EGE and I--came very, very close to being killed. Someone pulled out in front of us, and a lot of other traffic, on a stretch of road where we were all going 55 mph. The EGE was paying attention and was not blinded by the setting sun or checking the rearview mirror or any of a dozen things he could have been doing that would have taken his eyes off the road for a split second. So he hit the brakes and gave the fool time to get across the road without causing a huge chain-reaction. And I was ranting and had my hand on my chest and turned and looked out the window, and the woman next to us, with A Look on her face, shook her head and gave a little "thank you for not hitting him and causing a huge pile-up and killing us all" wave. And I reached over and held his hand all the way to the store. So glad to be alive. Kind of puts things into perspective. A celebration, indeed. I'd better google myself just to be sure.

In Which I Discover a Variety of Things One Would Assume I Would Already Know. One Would, However, Be Wrong.

Good morning, my little chickadees! I'm always surprised to see that it's been a couple of days since I wrote anything. Of course, I'm always surprised when I look up and find that it's after 4 pm and too late to go to the bank, too--time surprises me every day. I don't really believe in it. To try to get better, I've added another gadget to the sidebar on my desktop that has a big red calendar. I have trouble keeping track of the date, since I no longer write checks (it's all on-line) and don't read the paper or, really, do anything that requires that I keep track of the date. Or the time.

And yet. And yet! I saw an ad for watches, and one of them was quite eye-catching, at least if you're me: it was made of bright orange rubber. And I, momentarily, thought, "Ooh! Pretty!" And it was $5,480. Nary a jewel on it. That was supposed to be real luxury: a plain watch with a rubber band that cost $5,480. It was referred to as an "investment piece." Oh, yeah, I'm going to think, "Hmmmm. Need to invest some money. Stocks? No. Bonds? Um, no. How about an orange rubber watch? That's it!"

No. I'll tell you what true luxury is: never having to wear a watch. After 16 years of subbing and teaching and tutoring and keeping score for basketball and LIVING by the watch, by the minute and the second, I quit wearing a watch. I don't even own one.

My goal now is to get rid of some of the clocks in the house so that most rooms don't have one at all.

Things I've learned in the past week. The first thing: Light and Color are two of the most important things in the world. Last Friday we were invited to the house and studio of a local artist who had some textiles from Thailand she wanted to show me. The textiles--batik with embroidery and applique--were gorgeous, and they alone would have been worth the trip (she lives 'way north in A Gated Community, and finding the actual house was an adventure in itself involving an abandoned guardhouse and twisty-turny lanes with Lawn Help keeping an eye on us). But her house and studio: the light! Very high ceilings and then huge windows in almost every room, with light pouring in and then all this gorgeous color. Her paintings are nothing like most I've seen, especially locally, with muted colors and lots of earth tones. No. Hers are vibrant and bright and wonderful, with many showcased on the walls. Her studio is actually three rooms and a bathroom--a huge painting room and then an office and then another room that functions as a gallery, with floor to ceiling paintings. In just fabulous colors. Everywhere. And I walked around and thought, "Yes. This is it: light and color everywhere."

I've got to get some more windows in our house. We used to get full, glorious sunlight pouring into The EGE's study (before it was his study) and the living room all winter long. Now that there's the porch, which extends 8 feet out, with the necessarily-sloping roof, we get very little sunlight. Used to, the cats and I would gather about 11 am on the bed in that front room, where I'd taken the screens off the windows and cleaned the glass, and we'd sprawl in the sunlight and bake. It was fabulous. Now there's only one little west-facing window that gets any real sunlight, and the four large-ish (ahem) cats vie for space there in the afternoon. For some unknown reason, the people from whom we bought the house sealed up and plastered over two east-facing windows. Windows that face the house of The Evil Neighbors. Now, back then, this woman's grandmother lived there alone. Maybe she was an evil old woman, too. She DID run into the house, averting her face, whenever she saw The EGE out in the yard, come to think of it. Huh. Maybe they covered over the windows to keep her evil away.

I think a fence will work better. It's my next big dream.

So. Light and Color. Ahhh.

And then, last night, I learned Another Thing. Sheesh.

I was at the library, paying a fine. I pay a lot of fines there. Used to be I was thrilled to pay fines there, as I believed (in error, it turns out) that all the fines collected went to buy new books. I figured I helped them buy about two a year, which was great. Then I found out all the money goes into the General Fund for the county government, which pisses me off. I'm helping pay for things like, oh, I don't know. Coyote traps? Barbed wire? Who knows? But I'm still cheerful about paying the fines: it's my fault I forget to turn in the books, and I'm willing to pay for that. They think it's funny that I come in of my own accord and say, cheerily, "Hi! I've come to give you money!" Apparently that's not all that common.

So I give them money and they, as is often the case, help me (shhhhhh!) get the book back to me so I can actually read it. Don't tell. And I'm over at the stacks with the new books, looking to get myself into trouble again with even MORE books. And a woman I haven't seen in a couple of years comes up and says, "Hello, sir!" messing with me about my hair, ha, ha, and hugs me. She asks about The EGE, and then she asks about my mother. And I'm kind of jerked into another place.

Because, you know, I think 18 months is the turning point, the time when you begin to get over that first stage of grieving. Not always. But often. I've seen it before, and I was looking forward to it this month. And things have gotten easier. You hear that the first year is that stage, but I think it goes on longer than that for most people: the first year is full of "firsts"--the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first this and the first that. After you get past that year of firsts and then go on for a little while longer, then things begin to smooth out.

So I don't think about my mother all the time, constantly, any more. And I wasn't thinking about her then. And then someone asks how she's doing, and I kind of jerk and say, "She died." I don't say, "passed away" or "passed on." I know you're supposed to, and people react badly when you use the word "died." But it's just like the words "penis" and "vagina." They're all perfectly good words that label something accurately. No need for "passed on." No need for "va-jay-jay." Jesus.

So she expresses sympathy and then, in the same breath, begins the story of her own mother's recent hospitalization. Now, this woman is someone I've known a long time. She's had many, many tragedies in her life, much huge sorrow (we know her through Survivors of Homicide) and many family dramas. Although she gets a lot down and is enthusiastic about many things, she's also one of those people full of Doom and Gloom. You know: things are bad, they're getting worse, I have so many burdens, the world is falling apart, etc.

So she tells about her mother's illness and how she almost died and how the doctors weren't really trying to help her because she's 84 and how this woman had to move her to another hospital, where she got better care, and now she's telling everyone how careful you have to be because they let people die in the hospital and you have to be vigilant and make sure they take care of the old people and--

I felt my throat and my chest tighten.

--and if you don't keep watch carefully, they just don't take care of old people and that's how her friend's parents died recently because they were in the hospital and if this woman hadn't been taking care of her mother, she would have died--

I put my hand on her arm and said, "I don't want to have this conversation."

She stopped, mid-sentence, and looked at me and said, "OK."

I said, "I'm sorry, and I know you need to talk about this; but I'm not the person."

She looked at me a minute and then changed the subject and started talking about how discipline in the schools has vanished and how there's no respect and how the kids are so horrible and what's the world coming to and I said, "You're right, but I prefer to focus on the positive."

Shortly thereafter we parted company. And I felt ever so free. See, all these many years, I've always either listened to people talk, out of politeness, or avoided the people I didn't want to talk to, or done what we all do: made up an excuse, looking at my watch (aha! see above) and exclaiming, "Oh, gee! I'm sorry! I have to go to softball practice now! Or the zoo!" Never mind that I've never played softball and that we don't have a zoo.

But last night I learned that I don't have to do that. I can look people right in the face and say, nicely but firmly, "I don't want to have this conversation with you." Or "I don't want to talk about this." It will work for stuff like death, but also for things like politics and religion and sex and popular culture and all those things where my own opinion is diametrically opposed to those of about, oh, 99.5% of the people with whom I come into contact.

(My opinions on these topics, in case you've just joined us and are wondering and holding your breath, all like, "Oh, I do so hope Ricë shares her thoughts on these!", are:

Politics: people get into politics because they want power. They may believe, at first, that they just want the power to change things, to make a difference. But they soon find power heady and want more and more of it. Power corrupts. Absolute power--boys and girls, do you know the rest?

Religion: it's dangerous, divisive, an opiate for the masses. It keeps people in line in ways that are frightening, and it stifles thought. It's also about power--the power of religious leaders is, often, even greater than the power of politicians, at least in people's personal lives. It tries to make people Be Good through threat and coercion, rather than through their own knowledge of right and their innate sense of compassion and lovingkindness.

Sex: there's nothing dirty or shameful about it as long as you always make sure there are 5 things that are never, ever involved: children, animals, violence, coercion, degradation. It should always be joyful, and it should be as openly discussed and taught as any other aspect of life. There should never, ever, be any need for a word like "va-jay-jay."

Popular culture: sucks. It's a way to keep us in line, just like religion, to keep us all thinking alike about all the same trivial, silly, nonsensical crap. It stifles creativity and individuality and makes us into consumers. If you can tell me ANYTHING about MAC cosmetics or Lindsey Lohan or "The Office" but can't mix up chartreuse dye or bake a loaf of bread or build a fence, then what are you doing with your one precious life?)

OK. Sheesh. That just comes out, you know? If I tried to put a stopper in it, you know my head would explode.

And here's the last thing I learned this week: you have to keep slogging on. I discovered this myself, and I've read at least two other people mentioning it, so I figure that's A Sign. Except I don't believe in signs. It sounds good though, doesn't it?

Slogging: people believe that, if you're creative and have a job you love and are making things and doing cool stuff, then every day is easy and you wake up singing and leap out of bed and are hand-beading the clothes you plan to wear that day before you even take a pee. They think you sail through the day, from one project to the next, singing and dancing wildly and spreading glitter and good tidings everywhere you go.

It's like that only on Tuesdays, OK? In August, during a full moon. The rest of the time, it's a mixture of that and days of just slogging. Days when you have to push yourself to get up and get busy and stay busy. Don't fool yourself if you have A Real Job. Working on your own, by yourself, in your own house, is, indeed wonderful. But it's also about making yourself do the work, every day, no matter what. No one's going to walk by your cubicle and check to see that you're not playing solitaire or texting your boyfriend. Nobody's going to set a meeting for 3 pm, and so you have to finished everything before that so you can present. Nobody else is really going to care what you do all day long as long as you make the deadlines, and so you could, theoretically, lie in bed until noon, checking yourself for rashes and lumps and palpitations.

What living the creative life is about, most days, is generating a head of steam that will carry you out of bed and into the studio and right on through the whole day. Some days, sure, it's like running downhill with the wind at your back, and you look up and see it's 5 pm and you're amazed, up to your elbows in a project, sweat dripping from your brow.

Other days, you're hauling a big-ass load of coal up a hill all by yourself. The wind's in your face, and you're feeling bloated and dull, as if your head has been scooped out with a melon scoop. I've found, this week, that it can be hard enough to do this when you're alone in the house and you're trying to generate enough energy to fill the house with work and ideas and sparks. If, for whatever reason, there's someone else in the house, someone who's not working, who's, oh, maybe watching The Brain-Sucking TV of Death, then imagine how much harder it is to generate that energy, to fill the house with it so that it's palpable. Ever wonder why it's so tough to get things done in the evenings and on the weekends when there are other people in the house with you? I believe this is the reason: they're in the way of the energy you're trying to generate. If they have their own passions, things they're doing so that they're generating their own energy, it's fabulous: the energy flows and bounces and fills every corner. Amazing things get done.

But if your whole family is draped over the furniture in the den in the semi-dark, watching videos and eating vats of popcorn and scratching themselves, it's a whole nother thang. You walk by the room and think, oh, you ought to join them. It's not that you want to see the videos they're watching, and it's not like you didn't eat dinner together. Something tells you that spending family time is important--and it is, of course--but that's not it. It's that this dimly-lit room, with its lethargy and snacks and video entertainment and semi-comatose humans, is a black hole that you can't battle alone.

The solution? I have no idea. But it's something to think about when you're trying to get things done. It sure explains why, on some days, when The EGE is working on his own projects, I feel energized and full of ideas and can get a TON of stuff done, just like I always have. And, on other days, when Someone might get hooked by some political scandal on CNN, there's this sucking vacuum of slogdom that permeates the whole house. He's in his study, with the door closed, and I can't hear the tv, so that's not it. It's just a change in the energy in the house. It's taken me a while to realize that this is what happens, but now that I know, I can work on it. If only I could take the extra energy from the days when it's bouncing off the walls and bottle it for the sloggy days, it would be perfect. Either that or start a meth lab in my basement.

Only I don't have a basement.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Swear I'm Not Trying to Rub This In.

At a little after 1 pm, it's 74 degrees here at The Voodoo Cafe. The Ever-Gorgeous Earl is out scalping the backyard. I took this photo when I went out to the mailbox (barefooted, in shorts and a tank top):
Just to remind myself that ahhh, THIS is why I live in Midland, Texas.

Something New From Danny Gregory. Well, Almost. You're Going to Have to Wait a While. But. . . .

Danny Gregory is working on a new book, An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration From the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers , and my friend Roz Stendahl is going to be in it. In the meantime, he's posted some snippets of the contributors' journals here. Fabulous! I can't WAIT to see this book!

And he's begun podcasts of interviews with the contributors, here.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Looks LIke We're Takin' a Little Trip

Take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me.

Jesus, where did that come from? I didn't listen to that song!

Whatever. It DOES look like we're taking a trip, at the end of April, to southern California. Book-related, of course. It's still in the planning stages so far, but I know that we'll be in the LA area the weekend of the 26th. And that we'll be driving there along I-10, there and back. And that I'd love to have an excuse to stop along the way and have coffee with any of y'all who might be 1) along the route and 2) inclined to sit and visit.

I'm also doing some workshops--the response to the panel discussions was such that I'm putting together this workshop that will give people the chance to talk about creativity and think about what it means in their own lives and do some exercises in a little booklet I'm doing. We're doing a couple along the way--so if you're along the route somewhere and have a group of people who might be interested, let me know. More about that as things firm up.

Also, if you've travelled to LA and know of Places--you know: places to shop for fabric and places for vegetarians to eat and clean-and-affordable places to stay, by all means, let me know: our last trip to LA was a fucking disaster, as you might remember: 8 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic down from Ventura, then a mix-up in the directions to the Stampington offices because they thought we were on the 405 when we were on the 5, or vice versa. Or something. So not only did we miss lunch with my editors (the bumper-to-bumper traffic), but we drove up right at 5 pm, as they were all ready to go home, and I was in such a foul mood and A Tizzy from being lost forEVER that I could hardly see straight. And then ended up with a hotel that was right out of My Cousin Vinnie: right next to the railroad tracks and way too expensive, charging dearly for this little bit of nostagic whatever (some people don't ever SEE train tracks and so think they're groovy? I have no idea).

So, anyway, I'm trying to get an early start and plan things a little better so that the trip, while quick (we have to get there and get back and resume the whole Drugging the Cat Thang, as I can't ask the cat sitter to do it (he's now starting to fight me when I dose him) and can't afford to put him in the hospital, where they would do it but make him stay in a tiny cage, where he would surely lose his mind) and cheap, is not also another disaster.

Does anybody want to just adopt us and come get us and take us there and drive us around and take care of us? Maybe I just need a better map of the area--we do fine in Dallas and Houston, so I don't know why LA was such a nightmare--I was repeatedly calling my editor asking, "Isn't there a way to get there on surface roads?" And she kept saying no, not really, and telling us to stay on the freeway, which was like a giant parking lot. In Texas cities, you'd just jump off at the next exit and drive through town to get somewhere. You can't do that in LA? Huh. Man, things have changed since I was in junior high and lived in Ventura and we went to LA all the time--they'd take you to Disneyland for making the A/B honor roll. Imagine: a school bus stuck in traffic for eight hours. The horror! Like a giant convention of whining.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Let's Get it Right, OK? Or, Omigod, It's Another Rant. And On a Weekend. You'd Think I Would Get a Hobby

I know, I know: everyone can have their own interpretation of everything. I understand that belief. But I don't agree: if you're going to use someone else's song or poem or words or whatever, you have to go with what they said they meant (and I understand, too, that you can argue, if you've studied literary criticism, that the poet/writer/songwriter could actually mean something different than what they SAID they meant. We're not going there, OK? My days of lit crit are long, long past.)

Anyway, so I read once again, in this Time of Loving Bird Images, a reference to Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" and how it's about--duh--black birds. Crows. Ravens. Grackles. The Cool Bird of the Moment, whatever it is.

No. It's about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, when he wrote the song. If someone's going to claim to love the song, esp. in a publication, the very least they can do is understand what it was about. If you want to believe it's really about birds, then go write your own damn song.

Same with, oh, Robert Frost. Jesus. "The Road Not Taken." If I hear one more person talk about how this is about how the road you choose makes all the difference in your life, I'm going to beat them about the head with my various texts from my Frost graduate seminar. Weighty tomes, indeed--there will be much bashing and bleeding.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

He is saying, very plainly, that the two roads were no different, although he might at first glance have thought they were. He chose one, thinking that, someday, he'd come back and take the other one, as well. He knows he won't. And he knows himself well enough to know that, someday far from now, he'll be telling this, with a sigh, claiming that one road was indeed different from the other and saying that he chose that one and it was what led him wherever-he-ended-up. The poem is not so much about chosing a road and following it as it is about justifying the choices you make in your life, claiming a reason for action that doesn't have anything to do with the real reason. The road he (the narrator, remember--not necessarily the poet) chose was not picked for any particular reason--the other road would have done just as well--but, someday, he's going to want to have a reason he can give to justify that choice.

And this one:

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours?
Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Robert Frost

How many times have you heard it quoted as saying that "good fences make good neighbors," when, in fact, he (the narrator, remember) is saying the opposite? Saying that the belief that good fences make good neighbors marks us as savages living in the dark, believing things that make no sense just because we've heard them passed down to us.

So, my point? If you're going to use others' words--poems, songs, stories, whatever--and you know I hope like hell you won't, that you'll use your own words and learn to trust them and craft them and let them teach you how to say what you think and feel--if you MUST use other people's words, then make sure you know what you're using. Because I don't give a damn about personal interpretation here: if Paul McCartney wrote the song, and he said it was about the Civil Rights movement, then it's about the Civil Rights movement, dammit. It's not about birds just because someone wants it to be about birds. What right does someone else have to take his words, his song, and say, "Oh, no. I think it's about ravens. And my interpretation is just as valid as his."

Wrong. Go write your own song about ravens.

Or, if you're very clever and take time to think things out, you can posit a credible interpretation drawing paralells between African American women in the US in the 1960's and an injured bird. But in that case, you'd be writing the song yourself, wouldn't you?

And now that I'm warmed up: how dare people think they can see these two things in the song--the women and the birds--and focus just on the bird, just seeing the song as being about birds. Oh, sure: it's so much easier to make art that's about birds and flight and feathers and nests and, goodlordalmighty, those damn omnipresent eggs. Much easier to do that than to make art about racism and sexism and the really hard stuff that's still out there everywhere and doesn't have a nice simple solution like that one we see everywhere: Just Fly Away.

Yeah. Right.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


As you know, I've been having Lighting Issues in the sewing studio. Ever since before we bought the house, there'd been a 3-light fixture in place. It worked pretty well for the light I needed. Then, about a year ago, it started going out. Sometimes it would do fine, and sometimes it would short out. Only we didn't know that was what was happening; we thought the bulbs were bad. Who keeps track of these things?

So finally I wised up and got Richard, the electrician, to come out and assess the situation and suggest possibilities. I needed more light. At that point, I was functioning on 2 60-watt bulbs, and that just wasn't enough. Because there is no attic space above this whole new part of the house, he couldn't install track lighting unless I wanted cords running down the walls.

So I found this 4-light metal cannister fixture made for ceiling fans, and he came and put it in as a regular light (the ceiling is too low for a ceiling fan). I thought it would be perfect: the heads all turned and swivelled, so I could direct the light wherever I wanted. But I didn't take into the account that the metal wouldn't allow the light to shine out except just as spotlights. It drove me NUTS. There were huge dim areas EVERYWHERE.

So we went out and found another one pretty much like the one we started with, except with 4 lights. And we bought that and were going to install it outselves, but on the way out of the store, I saw a little chandelier. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. But I couldn't quit thinking about it. I've always wanted a chandelier--I'm such a magpie for sparkly shiny things. But we don't have the ceiling height for one except in the rooms where we have ceiling fans. OK, truthfully, we now have ceiling fans in every room except the sewing studio and the bathrooms. But never mind. I've never had a chandelier.
So I went back and got the guy to open the box so I could see how much of it was plastic and if any of it was glass. I could gradually replace the plastic prisms with glass ones. Amazingly, only the tiny little buttons on the sides of the frame are plastic. All the rest of the frou-frou things were glass. Whoa!

So I bought it.

And The EGE and I spent an hour yesterday installing this sucker. Two ladders, many tools, much sweating. And it looked like this:
Not bad, but not nearly finished. You knew that. We went out and bought a bunch of glass prisms. And this morning I took those apart and put them on and took apart a vintage ("VINTAGE"! Aieeeeeee!) glass necklace and attached that. And wrapped twinkly lights around the top. And look at it now!
Another couple packages of prisms, and I think it will be Absolutely Perfect, don't you?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why Do You Do What You Do?

So you're makin' art. Whatever it is you're doing, you're doing it. Why, though?

When I ask people, they most often say, "Because I have to." They're compelled, they feel incomplete when they aren't doing it. Fair enough. It's the process, then. The act of making. But let's go further.

What do you want to happen with the stuff you make? What is its end purpose? Do you want to keep it? Give it away? Have it in a gallery where people can see it and talk about it? Have it in a museum collection where it will be valued for posterity? Have a collector buy a lot of it and show it all together? Give it to people? If so, why? Store it in the closet so that it won't be found until after you're dead and people will look at it and go, "Oh, wow. I had no idea she had so much talent. I should have asked her to marry me after all."

Do you want to surround yourself with it, keep it next to you and fill your world with your dreams made concrete? Do you want to spread it around the world, imagining a world made more beautiful by the art you've sent out into it?

Do you want to be famous for it? So that, when people see it in a shop or gallery, they say, "Oh, that's X!" Do you want to make enough money from it so that you can travel and have nice stuff? Be honest here. Don't say, "I don't care" or "I want it all." If you say you don't care, then I'll dare you to take the next thing you finish and immediately smash it with a hammer, set it on fire, and then soak it in a tub of dirty water. You don't really mean that you don't care, do you?

If you say you want it all, that's too easy. Stop and really think about what it is that you want from what you make. Take some time and figure out the end purpose you envision, the one you maybe don't talk about. Write it down.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Everybody's Hustlin'

Have you noticed? How everybody's got an angle, a hook, a plan? You get notices every day about new websites that look not at all like a website you'd want to visit and wander around in but just a shop--just like the storefronts at Etsy. Sure, they're great at what they do, but a personal website they're not.

You get comments on your blog that are nothing but tries for links or hooks to sales sites--and I'm not talking about the spam ones; I'm talking about the ones with a real person who says, "Gee. Love your blog. Check out my store! Buy something from me!" It's like those people who show up on your doorstep and act like they're people you know from high school but have maybe forgotten due to the thinning hair when really they're just random salemen trying to get you to buy siding.

Then there are the contacts from people wanting you to tell them how to get in XYZ Gallery or this show or that book or magazine. Now, helping each other out is great. It's what life is all about. But so many times, the people wanting your help are, to be frank, Just Not Ready. When, in the past, I've talked about Getting Your Stuff Out There, I meant that: get your artwork out in the world. But maybe I should have been a little more specific. Send it out, show it off, share it. But don't rush to set up a storefront website and try to get an agent before you've really done the work, learned your craft, honed your skills, thought about what you want to do.

Sweetie, if you're using a hot glue gun on anything you're making, you need to take it a little more slowly, OK?

Making art just becasue you want to sell it seems a little off, you know? Sure, many people make art and make a living at it, but I'm thinking not a lot of them started out saying, "Gee. I wonder if I can make a living at painting so I won't have to put on panty hose every day?" Maybe they did. But I'm guessing it was more like this: "Gee. I love to paint. I paint every day. I wish I could do nothing else BUT paint. I wonder if I get good enough at it if people might want to buy my paintings so I can do more of them?" And then they set about working at it so that their paintings are so fabulous that people can't wait to have one in their lives.

See the difference? I sure hope so. Because I've gotta tell you: I see a whole lot of crap out there. Sloppy, shoddy, poorly executed crap. Stuff that the makers wouldn't want in their own homes but don't mind selling to other people because they want to be able to say: I'm an artist. I sell my art. I see tons of wearable art that I'm looking at going, "It's fabulous, but what in the world is going to happen to it the first time it has to be cleaned?" It's not thought out. It hasn't been tested. It's just something that seemed like fun at the time. People will contact me and ask what paint to use on a garment, and I have to shake my head and tell them that it depends on what they're doing and what else they're using and how they plan for it to be cleaned. And the only way to learn this stuff is to TEST it YOURSELF. It's all about knowing what you do and what the results will be and knowing that from practice. Testing. Experimenting. Learning Doing it over and over and over.

If you do something and your sister-in-law raves over it and wants to trade you a cut and perm for it and then shows it to her bingo buddies and they all want one just like it, that's great. And if you want to make a bunch more of whatever-it-is and offer them in the local bazaar, good for you. But if you think that means that you can quit working and learning and experimenting and can coast along churning out hundreds more of this Thang you've done, then be honest: you're a producer. You're in it for the money. You're not making art, you're not learning, you're not growing. You're churning out multiples of something For The Money. And that's OK: as long as it's not hurting anyone, it's right livelihood, of a sort. No need to worry.

You see them everywhere. People so eager to Be Successful at what they do that that's all they think about. Not learning. Not expanding. Not playing and creating wild innovative wonders. But being successful by selling their stuff. It's like the people who move to Santa Fe just so they can get in a gallery. Never mind that they just started making whatever-it-is last year. Someone liked it, and now they want to Be Famous. They don't lust after long hours in the studio, uninterrupted. They don't dream of days spent making their stuff. No: they dream of their name on a gallery postcard and checks in the mail. Oh, sure: those checks are great for paying the car insurance and putting braces on the kids' teeth. But are they going to fill your dreams at night, when that idea whispers to you and begs you to make it real with paint and brushes?

But you know: you can tell. You can tell by looking at the work of someone who Got Famous. The work before, the work they were doing for themselves, because they had to? It's full and rich and luscious, and you want it, want to touch it and study it and have it for yourself. The work they do after? It's still nice enough, but there's something missing, something thin and pale and not quite as rich. It's the same for people who are doing it for any reason other than the real one: that they have to. If they're doing it for any other reason, you can smell the thin-ness, the paleness, the lack of passion. But if you see the work and it makes your eyeballs quiver and your hands want to reach out and touch it and your brain rocket back and forth in your skull, then you know. You know they'd be doing this even if nobody else would ever see it, even if it would never earn them a penny, even if nobody ever looked at their website. That's what we're talking about. About making art that's not about money and fame and agents and galleries and publication. It's about true, mad, senseless love. Over and over, no matter what. Settle for nothing less.

Using Stretcher Bars for Embroidery

I have embroidery hoops in every single size on the planet. Wooden ones, metal ones, plastic ones. For years, I struggled with these babies, wrestling the fabric into them only to have it slip out or pop out right in the middle of the project. Oh, sure: I read about wrapping cotton around the frame so things wouldn't slip, but ick: that's a lot of work for an umpzillion different sizes. And never mind that I didn't usually need something ROUND. I needed something rectangular or square.

Enter Stretcher Bars. Now, y'all have probably been using these forever and are snickering at me behind your hands, saying, "Jesus. That's what you get for living in the middle of nowhere. You don't know from embroidery, even."

Anyway. Now I NEVER have to use slippery embroidery hoops but have a TON of these bars in every size from 7" to 23" You wanna know how many pair I have? OK. I'll go count 'em.

Um. 126 pair.

Yikes. I had no idea.

Anyway, here's how I use them. Simple, handy, a life-saver for larger projects like the ones I do.

You don't necessarily need to buy 126 pair. Just in case you were wondering.