Today you were bashful for the first time. I took you along Alberta and we entered a few stores, and when a sales lady commented on your stylish straw fedora, you hid your face in my shoulder. Then, when we visited your dad at his office, you tensed up on the elevator and clinged to me, which you’d never done before, and hid from the other passenger. Then, when we all went to get coffee and strangers on the sidewalk commented on your hat, you hid from them, too. So cute! Your hat is pretty dapper and people enjoyed it on you. You were adorable today. Your grandma said that your dad was shy when he was little and used to hide behind her legs. I wonder if you’ll do the same?
You were delighted to visit daddy. Delighted. Like it was Disneyland, or Christmas Day. What? Daddy? Daddy! You sat on his desk, on top of his papers which were sprawled out everywhere, and smiled so much! It’s kind of rare that I get to see you smile so much. Rare and wonderful. You’re a very stoic baby. I can tell when you’re cold or in pain by the expression on your face and your face gets red from the cold… but not by any sound. You never tell us.
I also took you to the field today and sat you among the flowers and lush, green grass and took your picture. You were amazed and happy to be in the field, your first time enjoying the great outdoors. I’d taken you once before, but you couldn’t sit up and you definitely didn’t enjoy it. This time, you looked around and smiled hugely and were like, “what is this marvelous place?” Maybe you were just in a good mood today.
What is this marvelous place?
We were up all night last night. IF ONLY YOUR DAD WOULD STOP SNORING. Seriously. He kept waking us both up all night long.
I love you, boo. I had a few hard days and bring myself back to the realization that this is a miracle. You’re so tiny, and it’s such an incredible experience to be with you, to tend to you, to share your life and experience of the world. You, baby. You.
It felt, truly, like living in a movie. And when I held you over that silver bowl, and looked down on your face, haloed by the bowl’s lip, with your white baptismal outfit, and then the priest poured water on your forehead, it felt like I was witness to a film. It was too real, too surreal, mixed.
We hired a professional photographer to record the early moments, before the baptism, and to photograph the family and Godparents. Your dad was smiling the entire time and, for most of the two-hour service, he held you. He held you, fed you formula, and then you were knocked out. Chris stayed up the entire night before, working, then was up for the entire ceremony, until about 12 or so.
He said that, as your Godfather, he’d be buying you a beat up car when you’re eleven or twelve, to tinker with in the driveway. And that it’d be a real beater, worth about 500 bucks or so. He said it was tradition.
And he said this kind of mischievously and grandly and like he really did research this and it was a real thing. And so I believe him. I believe he learned this and that, somewhere somehow, it’s true. It IS a Godfatherly thing to deliver a beat up junker to play with.
Chris and Ryelyn gave us a bottle of champagne, and they went in, with Nana, on a wooden key fob for your dad with your name engraved on it, and a silver jewelry box for me with your name on it. And maybe, if I ever get a tattoo, it will also be your name. That seems appropriate and meaningful.
I wish that I could have recorded that moment, of looking down on you as you were baptized, or that we’d had a photographer for the whole service so I had some photos of you as she, the priest, poured water over you.
It was, possibly, one of the most important days of my life. And also, hopefully, one of yours. A day you’ve already forgotten, but that will somehow be with you for every day you’re here. Which is a loooong time, I hope. I love you, kiddo.
Ritual. Tomorrow is a very, deeply special day to me. You won’t remember a thing but, I think, deep down, you’ll care. As an adult, you’ll care. It’s an identity thing. Tomorrow is the day of your baptism. I’ve just finished ironing your entire outfit–handmade by your Grandma on your father’s side. Little onesie, blanket, bonnet, bib, booties, all white with a gentle blue ribbon sewn into it. All antique looking and beautiful. Our house is full of family–your grandparents, and your grandfather on my side. Nana is in her house up the block from us, and tomorrow we re-create Easter and, with this one, also erase the last Easter from our memory. Last Easter, Abba was alive, and we hunted for eggs with the girls, and it was a big day. And then he died. So, this Easter, we baptize you, and we wipe the slate clean for future Easters, too.
Chris bought a suit for the occasion, and Michelle sent me pictures of the dress she’s considering, and your dad will wear a suit and I just ironed my skirt, bought new shoes, got my hair done, hired a photographer.
After, we go out to brunch downtown and drink mimosas, and Chris and Ryelyn got your father a cigar. It’s such a big deal. And we imbue this day with meaning. We rub it in, massage it in, create the meaning ourselves. We could do nothing; we could wear jeans and t-shirts, not celebrate, not make it a big deal at all. The day, however, is such a big day that first, it calls on us to meet it at a higher level than that. And second, life is also meant for pleasure, and pleasure is, in part, waxing on.
Goodnight, sweet marvel. Tomorrow will be beautiful. Tomorrow you will be baptized in the name of the three, and loved, loved, loved beyond love loved.
Your father looked at me, made a face, and said, “It tastes like wet marshmallows. Ew, gross.” He stuck out his tongue in disgust then, with a sour look, ate more of the frozen yogurt sample. After a hard swallow he said, “alright, which next?” and I fell in love with him, all over again.
Yesterday was a hard day. Not because anything in particular happened, but because I’ve been stressed by the fate of the world, by the logistics of family coming up for your baptism (what to feed them, especially), and it was a long day and I was beat. We went out for dinner, and you kind of talked/yelled for a lot of it, and it was hard to keep you settled. Finally, I’d had it and jumped up then swung you in your car seat, back and forth, which kind of settled you down, and we left. And then we walked by my favorite frozen yogurt shop, where you can try a dozen free samples, giving yourself tiny little tastes of any one you want. It’s heaven and I love it, and it was hard when we learned that your dairy intolerance means I can’t eat any dairy, either. That was a devastating moment, when I learned that.
Let’s see. I’d just had eye surgery and was doped up on extremely strong pain killers, and I was embarrassed by my eye and wearing strong, black sunglasses (and a hard plastic patch at night that I had to tape onto my face. It looked gorgeous.) And then you were suddenly sick… sick enough to make an emergency appointment with the pediatrician, where I learned that you’re allergic to dairy.
“He’s in pain,” said the pediatrician, before she squeezed the sides of your stomach and you squealed a little bit. “See?” Geez. I’d had no idea you were in pain. You’re a stoic baby. When you’re cold you just look stoic and kind of miserable. But you don’t cry. Why do you put up with it? Or assume that’s just how life is? Why do you know how to suffer? She also said, “He’s perfect,” and held you up and kissed you. “Just perfect.”
So your dad and I walked by the frozen yogurt shop and he said, “want me to try every single flavor and tell you how awful it is?”
Which totally wouldn’t work because I know they’re all delicious. So I declined. But then he pushed us toward the door and made us go inside, gave me a taste of their gross berry-no-dairy flavor and then asked which one he should try first. The Toasted Marshmallow “Wet marshmallow. Bleh.” The European Tart (my favorite) “Rancid.” The Country Vanilla “Gross. It’s gonna make me sick.” The Double Chocolate “Tastes like those fudge bars we used to get from the grocery stores as kids, but way worse. What next?”
I felt like we were in a romantic comedy. It was one of those moments where life felt special, and I felt so lucky to be with your dad. I hope you’re just like him.
A few months ago, my friend gave me a Ninkasi Beer sweatshirt that says “Perpetuate Better Living” across the front. I totally missed the point then but, just recently, I somehow awoke to the true meaning, and it’s been haunting me ever since.
Perpetuate Better Living. It’s not just a tagline for beer. It’s a way of life. And my friend exudes that kind of life. She knows how to turn situations around and how to really enjoy life and to delve into the things she loves. I want to make a print of the phrase and hang it by the door, so I see it every time I leave the house. Perpetuate Better Living. Choose to enjoy life.
And there’s so much of it to enjoy, and there are so many ways we can live better. You know how they say that many small actions lead to big change? There are thousands of small things you can do and choices you can make to have a better experience of life.
For example, this is small, but, are you listening to your favorite music? Did you stretch? I’m home a lot with a baby and realized that our house is pretty silent, so I put on some of my favorite music and the babes and I danced. And now that’s part of what we do. But I did it because I was thinking of the phrase and wondering, ‘How can I enhance this moment?’
Maybe that’s a massaging of the tagline. Enhance the moment.
You can remember to eat lunch, or make yourself eat something healthy. Turn off the TV. Go for a walk or run. Get more sleep. Wear lipstick. Treat yourself. Do your nails. Call friends. Speak kindly to yourself.
There’s an extension to others in the tagline, too. Perpetuate. So reach out. The friend who gave me the shirt is constantly giving to others, and so is her fiance. My closest friends are all givers, sometimes almost to their detriment. There’s also the important element of enhancing others’ ability to achieve their dreams, and live their lives well.
What if you treat life like it were a wonderful party at your house, and you’re the hostess. You’re cleaning up and decorating — changing your life — to gear for this party — your better living. Then, when all of your friends and people in your life are there, you’re like the hostess, passing out drinks and champagne and getting everyone talking and ensuring they have a good time. That’s perpetuating better living beyond yourself.
Maybe that’s the point to life.
I’ve been through a lot in this life. The phrase makes me laugh a little, as it’s been soooooo much. From important people dying to, well, let’s stop there. It’s easy to let the drudgery of life take over. To forget to do the simple things, like stretch, turn on music, eat. But it’s all there, for you, waiting for you to choose to make your life that much better. Drink water. Go outside. Wear your favorite shirt/outfit. A thousand little options are all just waiting for you to turn them on, to enhance the life you’re walking through.
Perpetuate better living. Life is and can be so much better. Why not enjoy this experience as much as possible, while you’re in it?
That’s what I want to remind myself every day, and what I want to consciously live through. That’s now my motto, my being.
It’s about Love. About my friends, and other beautiful women like them, loving themselves and feeling loved and appreciated. That’s what it’s about.
Aside from Valentine’s Day being my absolute favorite holiday. I always passed out Valentines to my friends. I didn’t care about the “romantic” aspect of the day–I cared about my friends feeling loved. So in high-school, college, and beyond… my friends got Valentines from me, telling them that I love them.
And while filling out a questionnaire about the future, and what I want in the future, two important concepts kept circling back to me.
The question was asked several times in different ways: What two things are important to you?
My answers: Animals and My Friends Loving Themselves
Which felt silly. My friends loving themselves? What kind of answer is that? And what can I do about it?
Well… Valentines. I can make reminders of how awesome they are. And I can make a collection of these love tokens. Tokens to reflect back at them how beautiful they are, how creative they are, how stylish, filled with life, etc. I can make and send them valentines.
And… projects like these help you gain practice in the arts. With this, I’ll get some good hand-lettering practice. I’ll learn more about watercolors, guache, different papers, pens, etc. I’ll be posting on social media. And, hopefully, I’ll have some beautiful prints to share. Beautiful tokens to give out. Some Valentine’s packages to use and give to my friends. Things for others to purchase for their amazing friends, too, to share the love. I’ll have something more to offer to the world.
So, yes, Valentines. And I’m loving it.
I love the process. I love encouraging more love in my life. And I love thinking of my girlfriends as I make these. It’s a win-win-win all around.
Why am I writing, illustrating, and watercoloring a book that’s meant for the Kindle? I mean, shouldn’t all things creative, that have to do with books, be for the Printed Page?
Great question, and one that I feel like I really want to share. Sure, I’d love to print this myself and sell a stapled together, zine-type version in my Etsy shop, but the original function of this piece is for the Kindle, and every time I think of the reason, I see this scene:
A mom, reading to her three year-old daughter on an iPad, in the hospital.
I used to be a volunteer at a children’s hospital, and by stroke of fate I volunteered on the floor for kids with cancer. I was supposed to be a baby holder. That’s right–they need people to hold babies at hospitals, and you can volunteer for that! Just as the coordinator was signing me up for my shift, her parter signed someone else up for the same slot–like, a half a second before she put my name in, someone else got it, and there were no more baby-holder positions available. So she asked… How did I feel about kids with cancer?
And thus my life changed in a radical way, and I spent some of the best times of my life in the hospital halls and rooms, entertaining very sick kids. Very sick kids who played baseball in the halls (we did), who were sometimes stuck in their rooms (and we had to wear gowns, gloves, and masks to visit them), and kids who were going in for major surgeries, or carting around giant IV poles with, sometimes, 5 or more different bags going into their arms… and kids experiencing very uncomfortable side effects from their chemo.
These kids couldn’t leave the hospital unless it was because a) they were finally well enough to walk out, or b) they were so sick that they would go home, spend time with their families, and join a spiritual realm. On occasion they could leave for a day or two between weeks, or months, of chemo. Those were always exciting trips for them, and reliefs for their parents (usually the moms, who also spent days/weeks/months in the hospital).
They couldn’t go to a book store. And no used books were available to them (germs). So iPads and computers became portals to other worlds.
So when I think of putting my books online, I think of these kids. Maybe I can reach some of them and give them something a little entertaining, a little different, a small diversion. They’re the first goal, and all the other goals follow behind that one. xo
It feels so good to finish it, and it felt so draining working hard on it–yesterday I had an intense illustrating session and, at the end, felt like my brain had melted–much like it felt after studying for hours for nursing school (so glad that’s over).
Yet, it’s still not finished. I now get to scan it, color it in, do the calligraphy/hand lettering, then put it all together and make it an Amazon Best Seller. Ha. 🙂 My goal is, you know, oh, a hundred or so of these books on Amazon. Think it could happen? And why not iBooks, too? And the printed page, and the Etsy zine, and etc. etc. etc. Just make the work, then put it out there and let people purchase if they like. E voila! A working creative artist.
Now I get to do something I’ve been LONGING FOR for two days now… or a week now… or longer… sketching the plants around my gardens, and working in the Henri series. Because I miss just doing, and not having to have the illustrations be perfect.
I love this interview in Nerdette with Felicia Day, which wasn’t only hilarious, but insightful: she talked about the incremental development of progress. How she, as a child, would practice the violin out of sheer boredom, and learned the lesson that in order to master something big, you first have to break it down to the little parts and learn those. There is no “become a virtuoso in three seconds.” Instead, it’s “let’s learn this move over and over and over again,” until it becomes real; until it becomes muscle memory, and then you add it to your repertoire.
Thinking about that, it feels like mastery is really mastering a bag of smaller tricks. Like, marbles. Masters of the craft have simply filled their marble jar of tricks, and you’re just beginning. don’t worry about being a master; just focus on the marbles. I’m kind of learning that with Poi. Every move is composed of figuring out a lot of smaller moves, then eventually putting them together.
That’s how I feel with drawing. Only, with drawing, I also like the aesthetic of noviceness. I like my drawings to look hand drawn and imperfect. Because there’s play and freedom in that. If I work too hard and something is too realistic, then I don’t want to use it. That’s why I love drawing the Henri series: because it isn’t perfect, and I’m being so far far from well-drawn, it lets me try to draw anything without fear. Because it’s SUPPOSED to look messed up.
Like, I drew this picture for The World’s Best Auntie Book and couldn’t use it. Why? It was trying to be too realistic and perfect, and there wasn’t enough play. It wasn’t messed up enough, silly enough, etc. And when it starts to look too life-like (for me) then it’s also easier to compare with reality and to see where it doesn’t pick up.
But if it’s a silly drawing/cartoon where messing up is part of the whole shebang, then the expectations are totally different. That’s the freedom of play. This picture is way more fun and was way more fun to draw.
However, drawing over and over and over kind of naturally leads you to a better drawing place. You figure out how to draw an arm going one way, or a head turn, or ruffles, or whatever. and then you’re leading yourself into the more realistic and out of the place you want to be. And then… you’re intentionally deciding if you like that or not and you’re developing a style, and choosing a way to draw. That’s where Im kind of finding myself, which is a weird position to be in–one I’ve never been in before.
Also, I’m kind of in love with Katie Daisy right now. Aren’t her illustrations old-world and beautiful? They remind me of my childhood favorite, The Golden Egg Book. Where is that beauty? Lost, lost, lost… ah, the tragedy! 😉
Michelle and I were discussing children’s books today when I gave her an armful of ones left over from my nieces, and she said “I really love the pictures. I love them more than adult books, actually,” in an apologetic kind of tone… but I totally agreed! They’re AMAZING. Stunning. Visually pleasing. A lot of hard work goes into them! They’re beautiful and silly and graceful and works of art. And they’re hard to do.
Little things, like drawing the same person over and over, can be hard. Drawing it once? Easy. Drawing it twice yet different? Whole New Story. Or drawing, say, a bunch of kids and making their proportions all match? No head too big or body too small? Hard. A challenge. So now, when I look at children’s books, I REALLY appreciate all the work that went into them. It’s talent and design. It’s practice, practice, practice.
I remember listening to an interview of an illustrator who became one in her thirties (or was it forties?) who said that she had to get good, first. She had to learn how to draw! And Kelly Rae Roberts kind of says the same thing in her book Flying Lessons. She wasn’t an incredible artist at first. She had to learn and develop her craft, and it took years.
All of this to say… starting something helps you appreciate those who do it well in a deeper, more satisfying way. You’ll love it. And, at the same time, starting something means to master the little marbles and add them to your jar. Don’t worry about all of them–they’ll come. Just go for the one-by-one for now. Eventually, your jar will overfillith…. it just takes a lot of fun practice.
Both: drawing for the children’s book, My Favorite Auntie, and the Betsy & Iya Garage Sale! Where I got a ton of jewelry making supplies–yay + f un!
You know, when you laugh aloud while drawing something, then it’s a success. And I think all of my practice drawing is finally paying off! As in, I can finally start to draw. That, and learning that even if it’s not perfect, it’s great the way it is. I had to learn that because so much of my drawing wasn’t and isn’t perfect, and that’s what I love about it. I think I learned that from Kate Bingaman-Burt, as her drawings are just that–drawings. They’re not realistic re-creations, they’re whimsy, filtered through her hand. The imperfections are what make them perfect. Anyways, that’s how I justify continuing to draw and create, and how I let myself create.
It’s imperfect and that’s what makes it unique! Uniquely mine! Perfect in its own way. 🙂
Part of what lets me create is… well, this YouTube video with Steve Jobs and Alan Watts was REALLY inspiring, of late. Especially the part by Steve Jobs about connecting the dots. Looking back, we can see where they all connected. But looking to the future, we don’t know yet where or how they’ll connect, but we can trust that, based on history, they will. So follow your bliss, as they say. I’m finally giving myself permission to do that.
And that saying that… the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago… and the second best time is now.