Books, Books, Books!

I apologize for my lack of posts in the past couple of weeks, but life has gotten crazy recently. But now I’m back and hopefully will have a few months of regular updates until things get crazy again. We’ll see.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given some free furniture from my aunt who is upgrading, and it included a couple of bookshelves, which when added to the bookshelf we bought from a friend moving last summer, allowed us to finally unpack all of our books and CDs, which was about ten boxes. And this is after we’d weeded through and removed several boxes to pass on and donate. So yes, we’re crazy about books. For me, I really do like to re-read series, and there are some series I’ve revisited so many times in my life, so it was like unpacking old friends. I still had several books I had saved from my youth that I put up in my son’s room, as we started reading chapter books together (a chapter a night, plus two picture books before bed – his first chapter book was The Little Prince). I’m excited to share the books I loved with him, and also it is definitely intentional that I am reading books with both male and female protagonists. I want him to love stories about every body.

Anyway, my big mother’s day gift that I asked for, since we’re still recovering financially, was time to alphabetize the books. So I did that. It’s the first time all of our books are together and organized since 2011. And 2010-2011 was the first time we ever had our full collection together in one spot. So it feels good. Because I’m a dork, I wanted to start reading through the shelf, reading one book in between two works on my Kindle (which is generally heavier works or indie books or whatever I can get for free that sounds interesting) but couldn’t decide if I wanted to start at the beginning or the end, so my husband suggested doing a random letter generator and I got ‘R’. So I just finished a short story collection of Kim Stanley Robinson called The Planet on the Table which I had never read. It was good. Really deep. There was one particular story that was a “what-if” about American WWII military involved in dropping the atomic bombs in Japan that dealt heavily with the notion of personal responsibility. It’s an important question to ask – who holds more responsibility? Who has more blood on their hands? The person giving the orders or the person pushing the button/pulling the trigger? To say “I was just following orders” does not erase culpability. Ever. But which carries the bigger burden?

I don’t get to read as much as I did when the baby was nursing more, but I still manage 10-20 minutes a day usually. Sometimes a little more. So now that the short story collection is done, I’m going back to the two I was flipping back and forth on the Kindle – a book on Qigong energy which I’ve been reading in segments and incorporating bits of what I’m learning into my little time for meditation I still manage to squeeze in during the week and Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea, volume 1 of 3 volumes, which is super long and intense but really good. I got up to a section on art that I’m going to do a post about eventually, but I don’t know how to cut down the section in the book. I’m about halfway through both of those, and then when I finish them, I’ll move on to re-reading the Harry Potter series, which I haven’t touched since I was given the 7th book when it first came out. So that will be a fun palate cleanser in between the heavier works I’m tackling.

So yeah, I’m a lifelong learner and I love exploring topics deeply, but I also enjoy disappearing into a good work of fiction. I’m glad that I am going to try to balance both moving forward. It may help inspire me to start writing fiction again.

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Getting and Keeping Organized

I am a messy creative who thrives on organization, which is something of an oxymoron but is the absolute truth on how I operate. When I’m in the middle of a project, whether it be painting or sewing or baking or sculpting, the act of creation itself is mess-inducing. When I’m writing or making music, I get distracted from everything else. So piles end up building up – a stack of paperwork here, paint that hasn’t been put away in two weeks over there because I only get a short time to work, etc. I will then slowly drive myself crazy until I reach a breaking point and need to organize everything in my life. The problem, though, is that when projects keep coming, I don’t have the down time to organize my life in useful ways. So one of my goals while being out on maternity leave is to lay the groundwork for keeping myself organized. I’m starting in my workroom (eventually I’ll want to invest a couple thousand dollars into this area, but we’re a few years down the road so I’m making due with what I have in the meantime), which is where I keep many of my supplies, and I’ll hopefully have time to get to the arts and crafts and music area – but we need to buy some shelves first for that. So what am I doing?

  • Continuing the unpacking process – there are still boxes and boxes from my move in April
  • As I unpack, I am questioning everything I have kept in the past. Will I use this leftover art supply or scrap of fabric or bit of yarn, or should I toss it out or donate or try to sell it? There is no reason to keep things I can’t repurpose and use up.
  • Find a home for everything that I am keeping that is easy to get to (ie. not stacking bins so high that it’s a pain to put something away in a bottom bin, etc.). Label the homes if necessary.
  • Decorate my workspace to make me want to spend time in there.

All this is of course challenging with an infant, so I’m really only chipping away 30 minutes here and there. But to continue on my organization efforts, I’m also organizing myself electronically which I can do one-handed while nursing or holding her sometimes. My project right now is going through my oldest email account and saving emails I want to save on my harddrive and unsubscribing from way too many companies – places I bought an item from once or twice and get bombarded with offers from, restaurants we never go to, and so on. It was a bit nostalgic for me, because I unsubscribed from a bunch of businesses in the Los Angeles area finally. It is bittersweet. I really loved being out there in my mid-20s, and I had a good time. I’m happy with the life I’m building here, but there were so fewer responsibilities ten years ago. One of those responsibilities is currently sprawled across my lap napping right now as I twist myself in an odd position to write this blog so the laptop isn’t too close to her.

It will be a long time until I’m fully organized because I’ve got areas of unpacking and sorting in my personal life too, but as long as I can really designate a spot for everything to go, picking up the pieces of my creative whirlwinds will be a far easier task.

A Tale of Two Earrings

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I was almost twelve when I got my ears pierced. It was a rite of passage, and I was pleased with my little stud earrings. My ears didn’t heal properly, though, and I had issues with an infection and the holes trying to close themselves up for months. It turned out that I was allergic to the metal in the earring and I needed to switch to solid gold. So my mother, even though we were tight on money at the time, bought me gold posts instead. And my grandparents bought me beautiful birthstone posts for my birthday, that were not meant to be worn every day.

Fast forward several months, and I had already lost one of my everyday gold posts, thus having to wear my peridot earrings every day. I had gotten cast in a touring production of the ballet Hansel and Gretel, and while on tour, we accidentally left my earrings on a music stand in the room we were dressing in. My mom called the following day to see if anyone had turned them in, but they were lost forever. So, knowing that I had to have gold earrings, she pulled out the earrings in the photo above for me. They were my great-grandmother’s earrings brought with her from Sicily in the 1920s. My mother warned me to take Very Good Care of these earrings, being an heirloom.  And I did. My ears stopped trying to heal themselves over after a while, and I would switch out my earrings daily, but these were the pair I wore the most and that I slept in to make sure the holes wouldn’t try to close themselves in my sleep.

Fast forward to 2007, when I lose the earrings in southern CA. I had them on my desk and then they were gone. I searched everywhere, feeling sick to my stomach, but to no avail. Then when we moved apartments in spring 2008, I searched again. Still nothing. I put out a heartfelt wish to the universe that I would be incredibly grateful if they somehow ever found their way back to me, even while acknowledging how impossible such a task seemed. I assumed they had somehow fallen in a crack or under the carpet or our cat had swiped them and were lost forever.

Yesterday, I come home from work, and I saw one of the earrings sitting on the butcher block in the kitchen. I asked my husband about it, and he said he had found it while unpacking and sorting through a bin of art supplies. In that bin was a canvas papercraft organizer that I had sitting next to my desk in CA, and even though I’ve been through that organizer multiple times over the years since, it seemed that at least one earring had worked its way in so deeply that I never saw it. He showed me where he had put all the papers that had been in the organizer in our new art cabinet, and a few hours later, shrugging my shoulders at the likelihood of finding the match, I started sifting through. By the time I had gotten 1/4 of the way down the pile, I had found it. After over 8 years of thinking them lost forever, I had my great-grandmother’s earrings again. And I’m of course wearing them today.

It’s funny, because of course they’re just a “thing”, not even worth very much if I were to try to resell them (though because they are a unique design in that they enter from behind and hook in the front, there may be value there). But in many ways, it feels like a blessing from my great-grandmother on the house and the next chapter of our lives. And as I’m having a daughter, it’s nice to know that I now have something sentimental to pass on to her someday.

My First Author Interview!!!

A few days ago, the blog “Flying with Red Haircrow” posted an interview by me.  Check it out here!

We’re loaded in and slowly unpacking.  It was exhausting even with movers, and we headed back yesterday to clean and load the last of our bits.  We have a lot of crap because of our business (merchandise, art supplies, some machinery, etc), because of our hobbies (we both love to cook, my husband brews beer, we each play a couple of instruments), and because my toddler has more toys than any child has a right to have thanks mostly to his grandparents.  So… I figure about two weeks until we’re fully settled in, if we’re lucky, with some bits of creative work going on in the meantime.  Hopefully the physical exhaustion will lessen over the weekend though.

What “Stuff” is Most Meaningful? What do you carry closest to you, or what carries you?

My husband and I did a flurry of cleaning this weekend in preparation for putting our Christmas decorations up next weekend (while we no longer consider ourselves Christian, we still love to celebrate and have combined the season into a glorious hybrid holiday, but my spirituality is not something that needs to be discussed now so we’ll just leave it for the moment).  And part of our cleaning involved FINALLY decorating our bedroom.  When we first moved into our current apartment, our son was still sleeping in our room, and the tops of our dressers became depositories for his diaper-changing accessories and then became the dumping ground for a myriad of other things (clean clothes that we were too tired or too afraid of making noise to put away, old shopper’s club cards from when we lived on the west coast, etc).  He moved out of our room for at least part of the night over a year ago, yet somehow decorating our own space just seemed like the last thing we had time to do.  We also truly believed that we would only be in this apartment one year, but then signed a lease for at least another year this summer.  We keep telling ourselves that Fate will never let us leave if we don’t unpack everything!

It feels amazing to have our pictures hung, our dressers decorated, my jewelry organized and not in a giant messy pile.  I’ve actually made our bed for five days running now, including the pillow shams!  Then I started feeling a little ashamed about feeling so GOOD about having our shinies out, like I should be better than that, above such material goods.  But my husband reminded me that this is our feng shui. We artists are inherently tactile people.  I see something, and I want to touch it and soak it in.  I thrive in texture and color and shape.  It’s also such a lovely mixture of “stuff” that we have.  New prints that we’ve purchased from various art shows and conventions we’ve been a part of, antique statues mixing with new figurines, a fountain that was a gift to us from my brother-in-law, a reverse blade samurai-sword on a stand from a costume my husband wore one year for Halloween, lots of cat figures (both antique and new) as I’ve been drawn to cats since I was a little girl and have found big cats to often be my spirit guides in meditation, pretty stones and polished shell pieces found at the beach mixing with gifts of crystals from Pagan friends that sit next to a statue of the virgin Mary crushing the snake and a rosary from my great-grandmother… it is a glorious riot of things to feed our senses, and it’s actually less than it used to be as we now have a toddler with a reach that grows daily to contend with.

We’ve survived the past year and 1/2 without this decoration in our room, without many pictures hung, with boxes still piled in the corner.  But having a place of sanctuary to return to each night means so much.  My creative drive has been soaring, my libido is through the roof (something that’s been very touch and go since giving birth – lack of sleep and financial stress will do that for you), and I finally am starting to feel like this apartment may be an okay home instead of just a dwelling place.

The next time we move will hopefully be to the house we will live in for at least the next decade, if not longer.  We’ve moved way too many times since 2008.  But wherever that house is, and whatever work needs to be done, I think we should focus on getting our bedrooms done first so we can all have that place to retire to and dream.

I’m curious, what do you value in your life, as far as your material possessions are concerned?  I can go days without my cell phone (sacrilege!).  I often go all weekend without checking my emails/social network sites.  We went several months without a TV (we would watch shows/movies online occasionally).  But I hold little pretty things and art work and gifts from those who know and love me close to my heart.  I think even if I lived in a tribal society, I would be collecting pretty stones and painting or drawing or carving anything I could to fill that need I have to decorate.  I don’t really think that makes me materialistic in the modern sense of the world, but I do wonder if I could be happy living a minimalist lifestyle.