Thursday, December 5, 2013

the one about choosing your own adventure

(section of wall in my studio)

we are sold this idea, especially when we are little,
 that we have limitless options and potential...
that life is supposedly a blank canvas...
that if we can dream it we can achieve it...
and of course, to a certain degree that can (sometimes) be true.

i loved flipping through them, and of course, 
trying all of the options to see which one turned out to be the best adventure. 

it feels like there have been a lot of twists and turns this year- in our life and in those around us. life's been reminding me that you don't really get to choose that much about your adventure. you can choose how you cope with it, the attitude you have, but ultimately there's a lot that happens to us as human beings that we don't get to weigh in on. 

i found out this week that my friend that has been brawling cancer for far too long is not doing well. there is still hope, new attempts at different courses of treatment, and the possibility that she'll recover. i am hoping beyond hope that she does. but i feel so helpless, sad and angry. sad that the last five years she has been through thousands of hours of treatments and appointments and cancer related everything and that she is sitting in a hospital all day getting tests. angry that somehow at 38 years old i already have so many friends who have had cancer.

sometimes i wish it was as easy as flipping to page 78 to escape whatever disaster has just been thrown in your direction. feeling heavy hearted today as i think about my friend. weary as i think of how many things in this world are oh so wrong. 

the adventure i can choose today is gratitude for all of those unintentional life chapters that bring unexpected goodness, and hope for healing and perseverance in the messy, hard seasons that we can't get out of as quickly as we'd like. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


roof over my head
a home full of laughter
marriage vows even on days when we aren't each others favorite person
the sound of kids playing
my favorite scarf
our down comforter
a washer and dryer
food in my kitchen
a tribe of people that know me at my best & worst
coffee when i wake up
reminders of God in the sunrise
cochlear implants
not having to race out of the house
old friends
ruby's snuggles
m's imagination
my husband's ideals
the feeling of a job well done
blasts from the past in the form of pictures from high school posted on facebook
funny text messages
sparkling water
annual traditions
(+ building completely new ones)
my studio
clean sheets
inside jokes
magazines in the mail
time to blog

to be continued...
(what are you thankful for today?)

Friday, November 22, 2013

rain, wind, sesame street & girls

suddenly it feels like we are knee deep in fall!
(i know, i know, it's the end of november. 
but i live in oakland, people. we barely have seasons!)

this week it rained (and poured)
and the wind came and pounded our little house-
we lost power last night for hours and hours.
that work i had to do?
well, i just couldn't do it in the pitch darkness.
so off to bed i tumbled!
(and it was a good thing because i'm feeling that other very autumnal thing descending upon me- an achy, icky head cold!)

oh, and the girls' preschool was closed today because a power line was knocked down in the wind and landed on the school!

ruby and i logged the morning on the couch, snuggling, lounging, and watching sesame street on my computer.

it's funny how the unexpected- feeling under the weather or weather itself can derail your efficient plans and set you up for something that was perhaps even better- like going to bed on time, and then spending the morning cuddling with one of your favorite little people.

happy friday!
have you seen this?
my friend sent me a link to this a year or so ago when it was just in development and not available for sale.
it's awesome.
hooray for GIRLS!
(ps my girls watched this clip with me the other day and loved it)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

don't miss this deliciousness

tonight is our neighborhood thanksgiving potluck and food drive.
it is one of my favorite neighborhood activities, and since it is thanksgiving i am (of course) making my mom's stuffing. 
it is delicious -
and yes, i am biased, 
but if you are going to eat highly caloric carb-y goodness, this is your dish.

if you are not into sausage or are a vegetarian, use sauteed mushrooms instead, 
and substitute veggie broth for the chicken.

you can easily double or triple this for loads of guests.

cornelia's stuffing
(you can adjust ratios to taste- 
ie, add more liquid to make stuffing more moist or 
add more sausage because it is more delicious)
  • 1 1/2 loaves white or wheat bread (i buy the cheapest store brand bread)
  • one onion, chopped
  • 5-7 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 pound mild italian sausage 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS Bells poultry seasoning
  • 2-3 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup warm water OR same amount chicken broth 
  • cooking spray 
  • cube bread into large bowl
  • saute onion & celery and set aside (or dump over cubed bread)
  • remove sausage from casing unless bulk sausage & saute/crumble
  • add crumbled sausage to bread, onion and celery
  • combine 1 cup milk, egg & poultry seasoning. pour over stuffing and mix until well distributed 
  • pour broth or bouillon/water mixture over stuffing. (add water or more broth if desired to make more moist)
  • Put in greased baking pan or stuff into a turkey. if in a pan, bake at 350 for 20 minutes covered, then bake 20 more minutes uncovered.
Yum! Enjoy! 
Best with gravy and shared around a table

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

this week (mostly)

holiday card samples
niece sadie is four!
my sweet nephew sporting a mohawk
facepaint action
celebrating kindergarten birthday friends & pinata loot
my little kitty cat
backyard chalking
watching our friend's daughter perform in fantastic high school play 
sisters in the leaves
proud after soccer
celebrating a dear friend's 40th
sharing my studio
preschool play
ice cream playdates
not pictured: some major tears, late nights, lots of laughter, scrambling to get out the door, puffy eyes, deadlines, dropping the car at the shop, some more backyard demolition & oh so much more including our first of the season rain drops!

happy tuesday!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


the first boy i kissed (not counting the boy i kissed under the table in kindergarten!) was andrew. our families were friends and we went to the same youth group at church, and we were crushing hard on each other in a write-notes-to-and-about-each-other-and-talk-through-your-friends-kind-of-way. i thought he was misunderstood in his angst-y moodiness, and that he was so cute with swoopy skater bangs. he loved the band erasure, and taped me copies of every one of their albums, with each song carefully written on the cassette liner. we wrote each other poems and so many notes on torn out spiral bound paper. did i mention that i thought he was just so cute? 

he had been born in southeast asia, and adopted by his parents when he was really young. his parents were white, and he was definitely not. his skin was the color of milk chocolate, and his eyes were deep brown, almost black. some kids at school called me "chink lover" (which was the first time i think i'd ever heard that word before) or used their fingers to stretch their eyes into slits. it hurt so much, and it was embarrassing, so i never said anything to him about it.

he was wrestling a lot with being different - different ethnicity from almost everyone in his world,  and different way of coming to his family through adoption. as much i as could understand having identity issues as an 8th grade girl (without knowing what to call them), i knew he had them. i think i probably liked the drama of it all, but even deeper, i was worried that he felt so adrift. it made me sad. i knew he felt on the outside of most everything. he kept trying to figure out who he was and where he belonged. there were plenty of times that i felt different, from the rules my parents made for me, to my clothes, to my body type, to my janky haircut in 7th grade, to always being the new kid at schools. but andrew's issues of feeling other were so much more at the root of who he was at birth. 

it stuck with me, those conversations- that which was said and unsaid. it shaped my awareness and sensitivity to otherness. i am a white, college educated, middle class american female. for as many identity issues as i've had? i'm pretty firmly in majority culture by the nature of the parents to whom i was born. 

then, i had a deaf baby in april 2008. a beautiful, perfect, deaf baby girl. 

from the first time we heard profound hearing loss and cochlear implant i began to think about identity. how would getting implants shape her identity? should we talk about her deafness? her implants? her otherness? or not? i imagined her coming to be at 18 and saying, "you never accepted me as being Deaf. i didn't want implants and i'm going to stop wearing them." or "i was always the only deaf person. why didn't you make sure i had deaf friends? or friends with implants? all i ever wanted was to be like someone else." who knows, maybe we will hear those words one day.

but i couldn't get andrew (and many other scenarios since) out of my head. 

i decided i had to just talk about identity from day one. 

embrace deafness, embrace implants, embrace all the other parts that make my child who she is. but i had to talk about her being deaf. with pride, in offhand comments, with joy, with matter-of-factness. 

i make it a point to have playdates with her friends from deaf school even though we've all scattered to more local schools. i make a big deal about when we hang out with her friends who have hearing loss, so that she knows that if she wants them to be an important part of her life that they can be. 

i show m videos that show up in my facebook feed of another kid with implants or of justin, the designer on project runway who is deaf with implants. 

i made her a book about her hearing loss journey with pictures from her surgery and her deaf school and her hearing aids when she was itty bitty.

i talk to her a lot about her teacher of the deaf and her therapist and her audiologist to make it simultaneously normal and special.

maybe i post about it a lot on social media like instagram or facebook or my blog. maybe i talk about it too much. sometimes i wonder. maybe vocalizing it is overkill. after all, she is so so much more than deaf. but it is also impossible for me to separate the fact that she also is deaf, even though she talks and sings and shouts and presents as a hearing child.

am i doing it "right"? who knows. but for now, i err on the side of talking about identity early and often. on celebrating the way god created my daughter and letting her know that i love her just the way she is.

i posted this on facebook, but i was amazed at what m came up with for her weekly writing assignment last week for kindergarten. they can write stories and pick from topics. i read through a bunch of them, and then she said "i want to write about 'what i like about me'!" then she drew this self portrait with one of her implants and dictated the following to me:
"I like having cochlear implants. Everybody's different. I have a magnet in my head which is special. When I was born I had a big surgery. First I was deaf when I was born. First they said I couldn't have a surgery then they said I could and that made daddy very excited. I'm born deaf and you're just the way you're supposedly to be. I like being deaf and my implants." 

wow. that's all. wow.

last year i went to an alumni panel from m's deaf school. an 11 year old deaf, bilaterally implanted little girl was talking about herself and life, and it was all very normal- school, sports, family, friends. she is completely mainstreamed in her classroom and thriving. and then at one point she said, "but i'm deaf on the inside." 

hoping my girl can know who she is inside and out, and that matt and i can know how to celebrate and support her as she figures that all out. isn't that what we all need to have a strong identity? validation that it's ok to be who we are from the top layer al the way down?

Monday, November 11, 2013

how is it november again?

so here i was, blogging like a mad woman, 
when suddenly 800 deadlines plus an online class descended on me and
(yep!) radio silence.
so hello, how are you?
remember me?
i used to frequent this web address.

to be fair to myself, there is only so much you can get done in 24 hours.
as matt can attest, i've been pushing it for the last two months with going to bed at 2, 3 and 4 am. i'm not going to say i've been the most stellar parent of late, 
but it is amazing what caffeine (and a lot of help from my husband) can do!

so, the deadlines: i am working on a project i can't quite talk about yet, but it involves 10 cards that will roll out all at once, and potentially 5 pieces of wall art on canvas. i was working like crazy on that in august and september, and now i'm waiting on final tweaks from my art director.
plus, some papyrus work: christmas cards, valentine's day card, with a bit of mother's day thrown in.

enter the 5 week class i signed up for in the summer (before i'd gotten all of these deadlines):
i've been doing freelance greeting cards for ten years now, and love the flexibility and freedom it gives me to be with my kids and work on my paintings. i thought it might be a good idea to take a crash course in some other illustration markets through a big artists' agent. little did i know how intense (and amazing) this 5 week "make art that sells" class through lilla rogers studio school would be!
i learned *so* much- and fumbled through learning photoshop at the same time.

here are my five projects, some which i only did using paint and paper and others which i used some digital processes too:

week 1. bolt fabric- bolt fabric is used for all sorts of things- quilting, curtains, dishtowels, etc...our theme was to include vintage pyrex and berries in some way; now that i've learned some photoshop and a bit of illustrator i would rework this. i did love the cute little pyrex!

week 2. home decor
i kind of loved these plates! this week was the hardest for me since i know NOTHING about photoshop, so i don't know how many hours i poured into this project.

week 3. children's book illustration. we had to illustrate a cover or double page spread for a russian folk tale called "the language of the birds" 

i loved this one, and would love to illustrate a kid's book someday! 

week 4. wall art.
this felt like a weird hybrid between my paintings and my illustrations, but to use collage (which i never do) and play around was so fun! we had to include some kind of text and something floral, and our colors were chosen for us. my palette was limited to red and blue plus neutrals:
i ended up submitting the first one - which one do you prefer?

week 5. gift. our assignment was a zipper pouch incorporating some sort of personal collection, so i used the only thing i collect (besides kid's toys and gray hair), succulents! this one i used photos of my succulents, plus paintings and drawings that i scanned in. thanks to help from my brother, i was able to rock the photoshop and come up with this!

my class is now over, and wow: i learned so much. the funny thing is that my two favorite projects are the ones in which i used both digital and hand painted elements. they were also the biggest challenge for me, but they showed me how i could incorporate my handmade elements with digital in a way that felt authentic to me. now i am taking a breather (for which my husband is rejoicing), but i now want to learn photoshop and illustrator and use them with how i typically work. it was really pretty amazing to learn so much  in such a short amount of time.

i loved the culture of the class- there were some very accomplished artists in the class and yet it felt so supportive and noncompetitive! so refreshing! that is not what my mfa or undergrad experience was like: critiques could be brutal, and although i had supportive peers, the overall culture felt a little more cutthroat!

so nice to be back in this space and share what i've been working on!
happy monday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

how to be a good parent

um, no, i'm not giving you the answer to that topic, 
i'm asking for the answer.

in case there were doubts over whether my childrens' temperaments differed, 
here is photographic proof.
you should know that
a. my kids dress themselves.
b. took these photos minutes apart and each of my girls posed as she wished.

here is the question: how do i nurture their individuality, not compare them in unhealthy ways, and celebrate their similarities (yes, there are some), and differences? this is one i wrestle with often. i always appreciated how my parents treated my three siblings and i differently according to our personalities and strengths and weaknesses, but now as an adult, this has come up as an issue sometimes where one sibling or another has felt slighted or that different treatment was inferior treatment. so i wonder about this as i wade through the deep waters of parenthood, and the 80 million choices you make in a week about how to respond to your children. 

of course the reality is no matter what parenting choices i make i'm sure my kids will be in counseling for years related to me, so there you go.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

this week, more or less

a few moments from my phone...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

the one about redwood trees

today matt and i took a walk through armstrong woods,
a beautiful california state park
                             that is full of amazing redwoods stretching up to the sky.
           (sidenote: did you know state parks are open even though national parks are not?)

i always think redwood trees are pretty mesmerizing, 
and it's so peaceful to walk quietly among these giants.

some of the felled trunks were over 1400 years old.
kind of humbling to walk through so many years of history and life, 
all while celebrating 11 teeny tiny years of marriage.

there were a bunch of trees that wore the marks of fire-
some had been hollowed out from fire, and yet were still growing and healthy, 
others bore charred trunks;
a few had actually been killed by fire,
the remaining trunk a short black stub in the midst of the surrounding trees.

the fire scars looked recent,
so we were surprised when a sign said the last fire that had touched the forest was in 1923.
90 years ago, and the damage looked as if it could have happened last year.
at the same time, i was amazed at the resiliency of the trees. the trees that had been hollowed out at the base while the tree kept on growing struck me the most.
this lower area is called a goose pen, because when european settlers came, the burned out base of the trunk was often large enough for them to corral and hold their livestock in.

why am i blogging about burned down redwood trees?
well, the remarkable thing is that despite the fire taking out the strongest part of the tree - the base of the trunk - the redwood then responds by healing and making itself even stronger around the damaged area. somehow it fortifies itself! (trees are smart like that.) 
over the long term, the fire makes the tree stronger.

and then, those trees visibly carry the scars forever, even if they are thriving and healthy.

we human beings usually want to fast track the healing process.
we want it to happen now,
and when we've decided we are whole again 
we don't typically want the scars to show.

this month - next week in fact -marks five years since my family was forever changed.
five years ago...
 it was the last time i've seen my dad, and the events of that season led to my parent's divorce, the sale of their home, and my estrangement from my dad.

it's been on my mind so much lately,
maybe because sometimes i still miss my dad or at least parts of having a dad,
maybe because the anniversary is soon,
maybe because it's still hard,
maybe because our family will never be the same.
my entire family bears wounds from all that happened,
and i don't know that those wounds will ever fully heal.

my hope is that in the way that these redwoods bear their scars and grow in new ways, 
that i will continue to feel strong, healthy, and more whole
while allowing my injuries to show.
and that our family will find ways to keep moving closer to each other,
to find healing individually and collectively.