Monthly Archives: January 2012

32 Drawers!

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My boss was clearing out a room last week as part of a major renovation of his veterinary clinic, and wondered – aloud – what to do with a large chest of drawers that had to be moved out. I responded – with, I must say, too much enthusiasm combined with too little forethought – “I’ll take it!!!”

That’s what I’ve been doing. That day, I filled every bit of empty space in my car with more than a dozen wooden drawers.  The next day, I did it again. And yet again yesterday. Thirty-two wooden drawers are now stacked in my laundry room, blocking the doors to two closets and narrowing the passageway to less than 18 inches. I have not yet brought the heavy wooden bureau that holds these drawers home. For one thing, it won’t fit in my car. For another, I need help moving it. Last and most important (and the stuff my nightmares are made of!), it won’t fit in my house!

My best calculations tell me this piece of furniture, fully assembled, is approximately sixty-five inches wide, forty-eight inches high and twenty-five inches deep. It is solid wood. It is heavy. Massive. Too big for my house. It is wonderful!

Every drawer is solid wood, with channels on the sides that fit precisely over lattice strips,  to slide open and closed without the wobble, tilt or lean that many lesser drawers are known for. Four columns of eight drawers each; the bottom row of drawers are nearly nine inches deep, the other all just under five inches deep. The bureau is painted – at this time a mild beige, though I’m thinking bright watermelon red or fire engine red or a very subtle, earthy gray…or black chalkboard paint, that would allow me to make pictures in colored chalks to suit my mood or to  welcome guests or to write the menu or just notes to myself (note the enthusiasm, in the midst of this horror story!) – but the drawers are simply stained. Two drawers have chipped corners; one has a slight water stain in the bottom. Otherwise it is flawless, though huge.

This piece, of course, belongs in the kitchen. Where every salt cellar, cloth napkin and emergency candle will have a home. Where dog food and dog toys can be out of sight but easily accessible. Where crayons and art supplies can wait for my grand-children to visit. Where puzzles and games can be easily found when company comes. Where baskets for correspondence and baskets for bills can be pulled out, dealt with, and tucked back away. Where every single day I will rejoice at having so much drawer-space.

In order to fit it in my small kitchen, however, I have to dismantle my little square, tile topped table and, for now, store it in the attic. I will have to move out two lower cabinets, the counter-top,  two rows of bookshelves that hang above them and two framed photographs and a clock hanging on the wall. Which involves finding – on short notice – new locations for everything that is now housed inside the cabinets (mixing bowls, food processor, measuring cups, colanders…),on the counter-top (at this time, 16 various-sized glass jars with flours, grains and dried beans in them, a cookie jar filled with dog biscuits, a cast-iron piggy bank and a framed photo of my grand-daughter)and on the shelves.

My mind races. Do I re-think the Living Room, now, in order to pull one of those bookshelves out and put in into the kitchen to hold the books and canisters? Should I make this just slightly more complicated than it already is and take this time to re-locate one cabinet and the refrigerator? And how about the new flooring, as long as I’ve got everything torn up?

This may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done…or one of the smartest. I’ll let you know.

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Jennifer

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Forty years ago, it was all about me. That was when my oldest daughter was born.

Every woman that has ever given birth has vivid memories of all occurrences surrounding that event. We each have our own stories; I won’t trouble you with mine, beyond these few reminiscences.

We were nineteen, naive and frightened, trying hard to be grown-up with little idea of what that entailed.

My husband started out driving too fast to the hospital. I told him it wasn’t necessary to speed. He checked it back and stayed within the speed limit while, jaws clenched, he drove through every single stop sign and red light without stopping, all the way to the hospital.

We had agreed that this would be our time, that we’d make calls to family and friends after our baby was born. As soon as he got me checked into a room, my husband called his parents and mine, begging them all to come right away. I think he may have called an uncle and a couple cousins, too.

At one point my mother came and sat at my bedside. I was in hard labor. “Oh, Mom, this really hurts,” I said. “Oh for heaven’s sake, Cindy, don’t you think I know that?!?” was her quick reply. I should have known better than to try to garner sympathy from someone who had given birth eleven times!

At three o’clock in the morning, Sunday, January 23rd, the nurse put my baby girl in my arms. I opened the blankets…counted fingers and toes…ran a finger along her tiny cheek… a palm over her small head…and fell madly in love with my new daughter.

It was all about me that night. Today, it’s all about her.

Happy Birthday, Jennifer!

Sundays

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Sundays have always held a kind of magical quality for me, special and separate from the other, more mundane, days of the week.

Growing up, Sunday was the day for going to church as a family; wearing the best dress, the good shoes, the nice hat; having the big breakfast after Mass with eggs, meat, potatoes and toast; for playing games or working puzzles; for a big, fancy dinner with the possibility of company.

As adults, we’d often come back to Mom and Dad’s on Sundays. We’d help with dinner, catch up on family news and compare the growth and development of our children.

Since moving to Beaver Island, I have usually worked on Sundays. Still, it stood out from the rest of the week. In the restaurant, the morning coffee drinkers lingered, seemed more relaxed and told longer stories. The after-church crowd came in next – people I didn’t see on any other day of the week – in their Sunday finery, for their pancakes and eggs. Now, at the hardware store, the Sunday customers aren’t the harried contractors, builders, electricians and plumbers that come in Monday through Saturday, but husbands and wives with their weekend projects. Because our hours of operation are much shorter on Sunday, even if it’s very busy, it’s an easy day. Lately, the schedule has been rearranged so that I have Sundays off.

Sundays off!!!  I don’t set the alarm; I wake up to the sunshine coming in the window. I put real cream (or, sometimes, real Bailey’s Irish Creme)in my coffee. I take my coffee upstairs to my studio and watch CBS News Sunday Morning. More entertaining than regular network news, though they cover important issues, I find it enlightening rather than depressing. I take the dogs for a long walk. I have lengthy telephone conversations with family or friends; I write letters; I make art; I read; I write. Sometimes I nap, on the sofa, with the afternoon sun streaming in the front window and the little dog curled up by my feet. Sometimes I fix a more elaborate than usual meal, without the time constraints of a work-day. Others times I throw an easy “one-pan, one-dish” dinner together, and concentrate on other things. It’s up to me…it’s my day off!

Madeline

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Madeline is my absolute, very favorite granddaughter!

Madeline is a good organizer. She likes to have a plan, and to stick with it. When she visited here, she did a great job of rearranging my studio shelves.

Madeline is creative and smart. She’s a great reader, and she can relay the gist of a story in a way that makes me want to read it, too. She is a wonderful story-teller. Like her Mom, she’s not in the least intimidated when it comes to making art. She’ll tackle any medium and any subject matter. Whether with paints or colored pencils or markers, Madeline will impress me with how she uses the material at hand. I’ve seen her get frustrated in her attempts, but she won’t say, “I can’t draw people…or horses…or whatever…” She knows she can, or that she’ll try until she’s able to.

Madeline is generous and kind. She loves all animals and takes good care of her own pets. She doesn’t like to see anyone unhappy, and she won’t tolerate anyone feeling left out. I’ve seen her go out of her way to include the smallest, shyest child in whatever activity she was doing. She once said to me, “Grandma Cindy, you are the nicest woman in North America”. Now, that’s generous!

It may be unfair to single her out as my favorite granddaughter, since she is my only granddaughter. I can honestly say Madeline is the best 12-year-old I know. Or, at least, she will be tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Madeline!

Studio Time

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Now that the holidays are over and my work schedule has settled back into a normal pattern, I’ve been able to get into my studio on a more regular basis. It always takes me a while to get back into the routine.

The first step is just showing up. That’s also the hardest thing. Even though my studio space is right here in my house, there are obstacles.

My job, with driving time, keeps me away from home for up to ten hours a day, five days a week. My other job – after school art classes for kindergarten through eighth graders – occupies much of the sixth day, with planning and preparation. The dogs – and I – need a daily walk; I try to fit in a bit of other exercise as well. I live alone, so any house-cleaning, laundry, home-maintenance, yard work or gardening that gets done falls into my schedule, too. I cook for myself most days. There is, then, the computer, with all of the distractions it offers; books in progress and magazines waiting to be read; there are people I should call, and letters I should write. There are issues of personal upkeep, and – though I long ago wrote off things like manicures and dying my hair  – the older I get the longer it seems to take, just to maintain some standard of personal hygiene and good grooming! So, there are plenty of excuses for not working in the studio!

Once I’ve re-committed myself to art-making, it’s a matter of letting myself play, and letting myself fail. Success never comes right away, no matter how many good ideas were floating around in my head before I got there. It’s hardest to stick it out through the first few days, the crude attempts at merging colors and shapes. That’s when the “inner critic” is strongest, too. After awhile, though, things start to fall into place. One idea leads to another and then another. Patterns start to emerge. That’s when I get excited about getting up the stairs into the studio!

This little collage is one of several I am putting finishing touches on. I put one together quickly each day, like a gesture drawing. They incorporate bits and scraps I’ve pocketed or saved, and generally reflect my mood. It takes several more sessions to finish them, adding watercolor washes and other colors as needed, to balance the design.

I like the small, square size. Framed, they measure 14×14 inches. I’d like to display them in rows, like dates on a calendar if – instead of numbers – we used our wildest thoughts and feelings to mark our days.

…And on to the New Year

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“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one and precious life?”

~Mary Oliver

2012. I’m expecting big changes this year.

I’ve had quite a few ideas swimming around in my head…things I’d like to do or see or be a part of. I’ve entertained these thoughts without judgment and without action. I know it’s too soon after major life trauma to do anything drastic. But I’ve been entertaining some pretty monumental thoughts.

Life is short. That fact has come crystal clear to me in the last several months. In less than two years, I’ve lost two siblings. My brother, David, was ten years younger than me. My sister, Sheila, was four years younger. My mother, almost exactly twenty years older than me and so generally healthy that we fully expected to have her around ’til age 100, died last August. If  I am more fortunate than my brother and sister, and avoid premature death…if  I live as long as my mother did (though I daresay she took much better care of herself than I did for much of my life so far)…I have about 7000 days left. On top of all that, this is the year I will turn 60. So, as Mary Oliver suggests, I’m thinking of what I want to do with my life.   Perhaps that means a change in location or lifestyle or livelihood. Maybe it will just be a greater awareness of and appreciation for my life as it is: a change in perception. Either way, there will be changes.

I’m also planning for small changes this year.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, and I are both going to lose some weight.

I have several variations of my usual collages, paintings and collagraphs underway, and have plans for a series of charcoal drawings.

I intend to learn how to download photos, to improve this blog and so that I can showcase my artwork.

I plan to continue my writing practice. I will also write letters and notes of appreciation regularly.

I am going to organize my time so that I can accomplish what I want to in any given week.

Finally, I am going to live with intention rather than out of habit.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!