Friday, December 28, 2012


Re: Glass Box

1. Think outside the box.

2. This hint was in the prior post:
      "I told him to give it a few weeks; he may just figure it out."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Break or Not To Break....

Nine years ago, when my sons and I were faced with celebrating Christmas minus their father, we decided to begin new (and wacky) traditions, in part to honor him (he was wildly creative) and also to acknowledge and accept our revised family. No wallowing in the past!

The tradition that has lasted is our annual gift-wrapping contest, where each of us wraps at least one gift in the oddest way possible.

In these intervening years, each of us has developed our own particular wrapping style: Reilly mines the kitchen for discarded cereal boxes, lengths of foil, duct tape. Nelson goes the route of glueing-things-to-other-things. My style has not evolved so much as been a last-minute grabbing of whatever I can find that is odd. (One year my entry was wrapped in pages from an old dictionary.)

Reilly's sculptural assemblages (shredded wheat boxes, plastic yogurt tubs, string) have won nearly every year. The vote must be unanimous! (Alas, I've never won.) 

So, last Sunday I got an email from my friend J., who wrote that he had an idea that would pretty much guarantee my win: he'd help me construct a glass box in which I could entomb a small gift.

 Christmas Eve we met at his house, and using plate glass and a scoring tool, he snapped out six rectangles —

which we glued together with UV glue and an ultra-violet light —
Before gluing the last pieces, I slipped the present within –

VoilĂ !

Back home, I wrapped the glass box — openable only by breaking! — into several other boxes-within-boxes to ensure surprise.

Nelson began to laugh —

and couldn't stop for a mighty long while —

The caveat: I wouldn't be a truly tortuous mother without messing with his head just a bit more. I told him that if he breaks the glass, he'll discover what is inside. But if he doesn't break the glass, the gift will be re-upped next year, as long as the glass remains unbroken. If he guesses what's inside, he still qualifies for re-upping. And either way, he gets the gift.

breakage = only this year
no breakage = a continuing gift

He asked if it was a check for $10,000.

No, it isn't.

(But I won! I won!!)

And I told him to give it a few weeks; he may just figure it out.

Any guesses from blogland?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Funk, Bach, Cookies and Gospel

Seems like every December I re-invent Christmas, trimming and honing traditions to suit whatever hectic schedule I'm involved in. Just this morning I wrapped the clunky tree stand in an old scarf (I can't even bring myself to say the words "Christmas tree skirt"). The 5-6' tree ( there were no 3-4' trees at Lowes) has only a handful of ornaments on it. No time to drag out more! I did manage to find a book of Christmas piano music in the basement, but this week I've been stuck on Bach preludes, for their precision and simplicity: psyche-soothing little bits of fingerwork.

A tableful of cookies —

— a pile of gifts yet unwrapped, a list for today that includes PT at 1pm. Last night I wrote on the top of the list: get up at 7:30!! Begin day @9am.

Well. Suffice to say I've already ignored everything on the list.


The highlight of the holiday, though, was this party last night, hosted by my sister-in-law's family: gospel choir, funk band, ribs, fried chicken, cornbread, and people I see only once a year. After dinner, while the band was kicking it — and good gawd they are great! —Nelson leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Mom, of all the things we do at Christmas, I think this is my favorite."

Ho ho.

Damn, it's good to be alive.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh so sweet.....

Well I'll be damned if this just isn't the sweetest thing I've seen in ages —

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Packed and Outa Here, Baby

The rare smile on J.!

I'm cold.

And wet.

We packed it all up for the Atlanta gift show today — display materials, glass shelves, black springy floor, desk, chair, lights, coiled cords, step-ladder, hand-cart — on two pallets and a third pallet with boxes of one of everything we make, all shrink-wrapped, all in the rain. Finished just as it began to get dark, toes wet, black beret dripping rain down my nose. Good gawd I was ready to be done.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The joy of an afternoon off — even with this early darkness and the rain unrelenting and the temps just hovering above snow temps. I drove to the fruit stand and pondered apples and oranges (apples and oranges!) in the cold, one glove off to wrestle with plastic bags. (Black beret pulled snug, scarf wound and knotted.)

Pomegranates in a red heap.
Lemons, limes, some $$$ strawberries.
The root crops — the beets, the parsnips and yams — looking curled into themselves, hardened against what will come.

Jars of honey: blackberry and clover.
Bagged stacks of corn tortillas.
Baguettes from the Vietnamese bakery.

Nothing fancy, no pretensions.
Honest-to-goodness food, on a cold and rainy Sunday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The second (and last!) day of the holiday studio sale is tomorrow, and we swept and tidied today before I went home. The shippers arrive sometime Wednesday to pick up our three pallets for the Atlanta Gift Show; pallets, that is, of prototypes we are still in the process of making. I am so ready for some time off.

Melinda got a call today from a gallery in Berkeley to whom we mailed a shipment of 18 pieces just this past Monday, and they'd already sold out and did we have anything — anything to send her ASAP?!!

No, actually. We don't.

There's a rumor that Christmas is afoot, but I don't seem to be able to confirm it.

And I can't post today without mentioning the horror I feel at the current news. It is incomprehensible. I've written and deleted sentence after sentence here, so I'll just say that there are no words powerful enough to contain what must be endured by so many families.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some Details

I saw a row of raindrops on the red twig of a dogwood today, absolute perfection in the seven drops—

I saw the neighbor's calico cat go scuttling from the yard when I was bringing my borrowed dog out back on a leash after her dinner, and as she lunged forward after the cat I had less than a second to center myself so as not to slip headlong down the steps, slippery with mossy scum. And all so quickly over, there was no time for my heart to skip to that point of panic when the dark December night suddenly seemed lurching into crashing and broken bones —

I heard this fragment on the evening news: "The campaign against Easy Bake Ovens —"

I spoke on the phone today with a friend in Hawaii and I could actually feel the sun in his voice —

(So many details of the past twelve hours of being awake on this 12/12/12)

Homemade pizza for dinner (albeit from the freezer) and I could taste the pinch of cinnamon I put in the red sauce —

Good news, although not entirely official, concerning my book-length manuscript. Not quite ready to pop the cork on the Champagne, but it's a'chillin'.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dit, dot, et al.

I'm a punctuation geek.

I'm carrying on a decades-old tryst with the semi-colon; the em dash — yes, the em dash — is my constant companion. I'm particularly fond of using bracketed phrases (or single words [although often multiple words]) inside of parenthetical asides. An ellipsis has the power to excite feelings of joy and well-being....

On the other hand, the this modern-day practice of punctuation butchery in the form of emoticons rankles the punctuated spirit of my deepest soul. My question: who gave permission for this?!

Okay, okay. I'll settle down.

And then I discovered these Japanese emoticons, in last Sunday's NYTimes Magazine, and I must admit a certain enchantment with them:


bowing down in apology



wearing headphones



And here's my contribution to the emoticabulary:

punched in the eye

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Work Faster, Faster

It's clear-out time at work, and this week I dragged out all the boxes of pieces from this past year that aren't quite perfect. (Boxes and boxes, pulled from a shed.) 300+ pieces this year, about an average number, I'd venture to say.

Each piece has to be checked over to see if it can be "fixed" enough to sell at a reduced price. Today I lined them all up on the long table, and took out my box of tricks: razor knife, various files, clean soft rags, paper towels, paint brushes, bristly brushes, rubbing alcohol,  tubs of paint, linseed oil, UV glue.

I felt like an accidental alchemist, holding each piece to the light for intense scrutiny. I glued and rubbed and polished and painted and scraped and filed and dotted and tossed in the garbage. The skills I've acquired over the past six years are so obscurely esoteric, all born out of necessity, of making something work when it doesn't want to. The success rate actually is fairly high when it comes to these cast-offs.

The next two Sundays will bring a caravan of customers from our 800+ mailing list, and every last one expects to leave feeling unbelievably lucky.

Whatever is left over from the first day of the sale will get reduced for the second day, and with any luck, our 300 pieces of not-quites will be whittled down to a big zero.

But before any of that happens, in a [yikes] mere five days, there are orders still to fill, first quality merchandise to make for the sale, plus we must convert our cozy factory into a cozy boutique. My head is more than a little a'spin.

As soon as we're done with the studio sale and gallery orders, we must pull together our line to exhibit in January at the Atlanta wholesale gift show. Last day we can ship in order to arrive in time for the show is December 19th.

I looked at my two workmates this afternoon, and said, "you know, this is pretty much all of my life right now."

They both concurred.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gutter Cleaning & Victor Hugo

My ex-bro-in-law posted this on facebook today:

Random find while cleaning leaves out of the gutter: Page 39-40 of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables". The last line sentence is "I will weep for the children of kings with you, if you will weep with me for the children of the people."
I love this — the manual labor part of it (and apparently the leaves were blowing back as fast as he could sweep them out) and the social commentary on VH's part. AND that the x-bro posted it on facebook. 
But even better: I have his permission to use it in a poem.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Night Rain

Dramatic rain with gusty winds last night, drumming on the slanted attic roof directly above my head for hours, lashing the southern-inclined front of my house. I fell to sleep reading Life of Pi, and throughout the night, waking to the storm, felt as if a tiger were just inches away, felt as if an ocean of misfortune was swelling just outside the windows. Then I'd drift from that half-dream state into full realization that all was well, tucked-in and pounded-down, knowing I was high above the rivering streets and sturdily sheltered from fir branches cast aloft.

I thought a lot about my roof, glad for its steady repel of the elements. I thought about the few pieces of cedar siding which came loose last year some time and still need hammering back in. I thought about stains, and sealants. I thought about paint. I thought about the man I hired to paint the high-up trim, that he dug some irises corms from his garden for me, and how some wretched critter chews away most of the plant each spring.

And then I thought about gutters, newly swept clean by my sons.

I thought about my apple tree, badly in need of pruning. I thought that I could lop off a large section and string it from my living room ceiling, in lieu of a Christmas tree. I thought about the accumulation of ornaments packed away in the basement, and then I thought that I might just leave them and all their attendant memories (troubling memories) neatly packed away.

How the train engines of the brain can rev themselves up in the middle of the night!

Finally I let myself slip back to sleep, lulled by that incessant torrent.