Friday, January 24, 2020

Five on Friday: Bullshit Reasons I Can't Work on My Memoir

This week I present to you, in varying degrees of legitimacy, five bullshit reasons I've come up with recently for why I can't sit down and work on my memoir:

1. The kids had a half day/day off from school.

2. I organized a giant community event that is now over.

3. I don't know, man, my hair is just a really weird length right now.

4. This house is a goddamned mess.

5. I'm tired.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Five on Friday: Feeling, if Not Acting, My Age Lately

I've had many opportunities to go out with friends lately and I'm headed out to Karaoke Night at the dive bar for the second time in a month tonight. Having a more active social life again makes me feel like I'm not necessarily acting my age . . . because the last time I went out this much was definitely pre-kids.

But after I have a great time tonight, come home and pass out hard after the couple of drinks I'll have, I will most likely have middle-of-the-night insomnia. And I will totally be feeling it all day tomorrow. 

So while I don't always feel like I'm acting my age lately, I sure have been feeling it. Other examples:

1. I will take you on in the random inexplicable pain challenge and I will dominate. Have you hurt your arm trying to put your jacket on? Go back to preschool, whipper snapper.
2. I play a lot of Scrabble. I've always played Scrabble, but it's sort of a . . . lifestyle choice now, I guess you could say.

3. My friend's son guessed that I was 37 years old, which naturally gave me a little charge. While that momentarily made me felt good and young, I then realized how low my standards have gotten. Imagine being 21 and having someone guess you were 37? Oof.

4. I think I need to have my blood pressure medication adjusted.

5.  And, all the proof you need to prove how old I actually am: finding my kids' shoes like this gives me a serious case of agida.

(if you're not a New Jersey/New York Italian: agida)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Five on Friday: Adapting Traditions Part 2: Gingerbread 2019

At the end of November, I wrote a post about our changing family's need to adapt some of our holiday traditions now that our oldest daughter is away at college, the rest of the family is super busy, both parents are spread too thin and the boys here are pretty apathetic about maintaining them. My dilemma has been that my youngest daughter is still very interested in these traditions and she deserves to have them.

Interestingly, when I looked back, I realized this has been a struggle even before my daughter went to college! I had forgotten that in 2017 I had written a post about which traditions to save, skimp or skip on that year. The last entry says that we will never skip our favorite holiday party with friends where we smash our sometimes over-the-top annual gingerbread creation.

Well in 2019 that was exactly what we had to skip . . . even though I started reaching out to all of the friends in mid-November, there was not a single date that worked for everyone. I proposed an alternative to my family: since we couldn't have them all here at once,  we'd be sure to make plans with each one of them over the holiday. Additionally, instead of them coming here to help us smash our giant gingerbread, we'd bring the gingerbread to each of them. (Also I gave the friends a date for the 2020 party to put on their calendars NOW.)

It took a little while to get to visit all of our friends, especially with the weather ruining some of our initial plans. But now that they've all been gifted with their own little gingerbread houses, I can share the pictures with you:

1. The original, made together while our oldest was home for Thanksgiving. Our home is on the right, a building on her campus is on the left:

 Our family's real-life rainbow directional pole (top) was recreated with the last names of our friends that we were gifting gingerbread too (bottom)

We hosted Christmas Day for my side of the family this year and the kids got to smash and eat these with their cousins.

Now for the individual houses of our friends:

2.  This is the only one that had any sort of real personalization for our dear friends who have named their home "The Hive" and might be a little obsessed with Volvos:

3. Next comes this one that helps to prove my point that we should stop calling them "gingerbread" houses and just call them candy houses . . . 

4. Exhibit B:

5. Last but not least, this one that was decorated by our oh-so-witty and irreverent oldest son, with the wrong date on it and a person that wasn't supposed to look like the President but sort of does anyway:
Did I mention that the houses we gave to our friends were also sort of piƱatas? As if there wasn't enough candy on the outside, we surprised our friends by filling them with candy on the inside:

If you'd like our family's recipe and tips, see my article on the Farmers' Almanac website.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Five on Friday: An Art-full Holiday

I had so much fun being crafty and making gifts for friends and family this holiday season. I was also surprised and delighted to be the recipient of so many lovely pieces of art. From the silly to the sublime, I adore them all:

1. This is just one sample of the many wonderful drawings my youngest daughter has been creating lately. Many of them were given away to make other people happy but I got to keep this one all to myself:

2. The very best thing about this card from my BFF is that she laughed all through giving it to me. I am sure she is actually *still* laughing about it and that is something I really love about her. Also, this is super relatable and I am going to incorporate "downcycling" into my vernacular:

3. The next two are gifts from friends from work and were not made by the gift givers . . . but I do know the artists and each one is poignant in its own way. 

First up, a joint gift from two women I didn't even know last year at this time who I've met and grown to love through my new job as the Curator at our small local Museum. They gave me a print of a painting that I had admired.

Our last exhibit was a watercolor show that included many book illustrations by a local artist and delightful human, Doris Ettlinger. She painted this for a book called T is for Teacher and had used our former school house Museum as inspiration. If you wondered what the inside of my Museum looks like, it's this: (coal stove, clock, chalkboard and all!)

4. Something I was very proud of creating at the Museum last year was the Plein Airing of the Quilts . . . an event that invited artists to sit in our yard and paint (known as a "plein air" event") while we hung our historic quilts on the line to air them out.

The quilts looked so beautiful and attracted so many visitors. They got much-needed fresh air and sunshine and were easier to enjoy. My assistant (who is also now a good friend) and I extended the original one-day event to last for the entire month and have agreed that it will now be a twice-yearly occurrence. 

As a very special "Merry-Christmas-Happy-New-Year-Happy-Work-Anniversary-Congratulations-On-Your-Success" gift, she purchased me an oil painting created at our Plein Airing of the Quilts. The local man who made it is a supporter of the Museum and a talented artist. (I don't think he has a website but you can read about him here.)

I adore this painting and all that it symbolizes.

5. You might think it'd be hard to top that in poignancy but there's a reason I saved this one for last . . . my amazingly talented and intuitive oldest daughter has become extremely prolific in linocut printmaking. Basically, she carves an image and/or words (in reverse) into a block of soft linoleum and then makes prints with these stamps.

For my gift this year, she combined my wounded, flying heart rape survival imagery with the lyrics that I found so much comfort in after my rapist's prison term was up.

This kid! She outdoes herself with creative gifts every year. The thought, love, care and detail she put into this one is going to be really hard to top . . .  isn't it amazing?

Friday, December 27, 2019

Five on Friday: Holiday Laughs

Hope everyone is having a restful, joyful, delicious weeks with lots of belly laughs. Here are a few funnies from our holiday week at home:

1. Christmas Eve:

9-year-old A: "Can (19-year-old sister) B put eye make up on me before we go to Grandma's?"

Me: (knowing that sometimes B has a little too much fun with this) "Can you just not look like a drag queen please?"

Her: "Definitely."

Me: "Sure"

 2. Christmas Morning:

13-year-old E, distributing gifts:  "This one says To the love of my life in Daddy's handwriting  . . . I guess it's for you"

This shirt was a gift made for me by the love of my life.

3. Christmas Day:

Me: "Did you see this picture A drew? She's been watching this videos on how to draw"
Our neighbor: "Oh that's so cute! Who's that, Zoloft?"

4. Christmas Evening:

11-year-old Z:  "I didn't really get any toys this year."

Me:   "Well, you are getting older . . . you didn't even ask for any toys!"

Him:  "Wait, what did I even ask for anyway?"

(glad I didn't adhere exactly to the ideas he kept shooting at me)

5. Morning after Christmas:

9-year-old A: "I'm bored."

Me: "Nope."

Friday, December 20, 2019

Five on Friday: Home Made for the Holidays

I meant to post this earlier this morning but I got involved in a sewing project . . . for myself. I know it's the holidays and I shouldn't be buying or making anything for myself but here we are.

See, what happened was this . . . I rarely fit in time for being creative. Then the holidays come and inspire me to make gifts for people, which then gets my creative juices flowing and now I have a new bag:

It's a present, Dave . . . from ME to Me.

But I have already made and given lots of homemade gifts this year and am proud of some of the things I've been seeing my kids make:

1. Felt ornaments! I really love making these little guys and I think they make sweet present toppers:

2. But what presents did they top? Things I forgot to take pictures of, so you'll have to use your imaginations. (Two were lavender-flax seed pillows made with a cute bumblebee print fabric and one was a set of reusable fabric bowl covers and snack back created with pink gingham and floral oilcloth)

3. My Middle School boys announced that they needed holiday hats for school the next day and begged me to take them out and buy some at around 8pm the night before. I did not. However, I did grab their older sister, some supplies and hot glue . . . so Merry Christmas, boys.
There were also some candy canes involved, but they were missing by the time they got home from school.
This one even lit up!! 
4. My oldest daughter is an extremely talented artist who recently opened an Etsy shop to sell her amazing linocut block prints. I adore these vintage ornament stamps, which were inspired by some we inherited from my Grandmother and always hang in a special spot in the kitchen. I'm guessing the gift is also homemade . . . but I'm going to have some trouble ripping the awesome wrapping paper to get to it.
5. When I've asked teacher friends about what gifts they've loved best, they always say personal notes are their treasures. I bought little gifts for some of the boys' teachers and I asked them to write something heartfelt for the ones that were really special to them. I hope this goes on Mrs. Bean's most treasured gifts list:

Friday, December 13, 2019

Five on Friday: Every Ornament Tells A Story

I can remember one of the simple pleasures of childhood came each year when we decorated the Christmas Tree. While children are rarely nostalgic, handling the ornaments that I myself had made in preschool and kindergarten certainly gave me a taste of that sentimentality.

As an adult, I find that almost every ornament we have makes me nostalgic. Of course there are the obvious ones, all those "My First Christmas" types as well as anything with one of the kids' photos in it. But there are memories and emotions tied to nearly every ornament we own:

1. I offer a sampling of the "obviously these ornaments make me sentimental because my kids made them" category; most notably featuring the glass fused Santa that my oldest daughter once left as a gift for Santa along with the cookies (and I had to hide it for a few years before returning it to her) and that time my kids got wooden ornaments to decorate (and my oldest son did it his own way, of course)

Glass-fused Santa on the left
This is the opposite side of the plain wooden girl from the top photo.

2. The sparkly pear collection . . . I bought these for myself our first Christmas in our first home. We had a pear tree there and pureed pears were my first two babies' first foods. To this day, my daughter really loves pears and I wonder if it's because she ate so many of them as a baby.

3. The mermaids! These have all been gifts and are indicative of the fact that I've always loved mermaids, dressing up and saying to hell with society's beauty standards.

4.  When pickle ornaments started becoming popular, my entire family wanted one: our Grandmother, Babci, famously loved pickles and reserved the right to give each new baby of the family their first taste. Over the years, my collection of Babci-related ornaments has grown, which I love because it helps me feel her presence at the holidays as well as keep her memory relevant for my children. Aside from the pickle, I own some of her vintage glass-blown ornaments, her tinsel (she would put each individual piece on and off each year which I thought was insane but now I do that, too) and one of her posing with Santa that one of my sisters made for us all.

5. New memories being made yearly! I got this Suffragist as a gift this year and I know she will always remind me of the friend who gave it to me (whom I just met this past year through my new job) as well as all I have done and am planning on for celebrating 100 years of Suffrage!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Five on Friday: The Reluctant Mom of Athletes Challenge

I’ve been nominated to participate in the 10-day “Mom of an Athlete” photography challenge on Facebook. To play along, I’m supposed to share an image of what it’s like to be a sports mom or a moment in my child’s sports life, without any explanation.

I occasionally do play along with these photography challenges and while I do fit the bill as a Mom of an Athlete more accurately I’d be called the Reluctant Mom of Athletes.

As a person who doesn’t follow televised sports nor play sports, I have surprised myself with how tense or excited I can feel on the sidelines watching my children play. (I’m telling you, this year's soccer playoff game was a serious nail biter!) But at the same time, I find a lot of the youth sports culture can be a little over-the-top.

Let me tell you a little story that sums things up . . . picture it: Mothers’ Day 2019. It’s pouring. The boys have a travel soccer game at a field about 45 minutes away. As Reluctant Mom of Athletes, I normally opt out of rainy or particularly cold games. However, for this game, being Mothers’ Day and all, one of the other Moms had organized a sideline brunch and I had signed up to bring some of the food (sucker).

That morning it was so rainy, so dark and gloomy and windy, I kept saying to my husband, “They’re going to cancel, right?” And he kept bursting my damn bubble by saying, “It’s a turf field, Gi, they’re not canceling.”

So we got in the car, got stuck in traffic (there was some sort of overturned produce truck incident) and arrived late only to find the other Moms huddled under the pop-up canopy that they were struggling to keep from blowing away while our children got soaked to the bone on the turf field.

I had never so strongly questioned our commitment to sports as I did in that moment. I placed my food on the damp table and was greeted with, “Happy Mothers’ Day!” As the wind blew a pile of paper plates off the table, I said, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done . . . and I’ve done a lot of dumb shit in my life.”

I then grabbed a Mimosa and sat in the car.

Thus . . . Reluctant Mom of Athletes photography challenge. No explanations, just pictures: