Category Archives: me

faking it

I’ve been taking violin lessons for quite a few years now. (I’m not really sure how to count the years, given the big interruptions. I started 11 years ago, but maybe missed 4 of those years I also don’t know how my progress in those “on” years counts, given that there have been quite a few slowdowns and interruptions.) In any case, I consider myself to be an intermediate player. Mostly, I have played classical music with my teacher. Last year, after my experience playing fiddle along with the American folksongs performed by the elementary school, I felt the urge to explore fiddling a bit more. I bought a couple of books: 1 on Celtic fiddling, and one on bluegrass fiddling. Each came with a CD. I started with the Celtic book/CD, and it was complicated enough that I decided to just stick with that. I’ve been enjoying playing songs from it for the past year or so, on my own, in addition to the classical music that I work on with my teacher. I never got around to cracking open the bluegrass book.

A few weeks ago, a musician friend of mine sent an email asking if I had any interest in taking one of the workshops offered as part of a bluegrass festival in Cambridge. I was so very tempted by the intro to bluegrass fiddling. At the same time pretty intimidated. I’d never taken a music workshop before, and have very rarely even played the violin in front of other people. I have performed in front of others now, a few times, but only after much preparation and practice. This would be going in cold.

I decided to do it anyhow.

So, today, I went to a workshop on intro bluegrass fiddling. It was a lot of fun, but a little overwhelming. It was a 2-hour course, but after about an hour and a half, I found that my stomach was empty and my brain was full. I muscled through, though. And I think I learned a lot, some fraction of which I may even be able remember. One thing that amused me was that the instructor described a lot of what he taught us as tricks, including how to play along when you don’t know the music. I’m hardly ready for a bluegrass jam, but I think I now know how to fake my way through at least one bluegrass song.

For added flavor, here is a bluegrass band playing Angelina Baker, the tune that we used for much of the lesson¹:

¹ And one which the other 3 participants all seemed to know. I felt good² that I could make the other students feel better about their knowledge by being the one who didn’t know much of anything.
² For some definitions of good
³ I’m sorry if this isn’t very coherent. I’m actually completely wiped out. It was a long day, given that I had an hour plus commute each way, and stayed for part of the bluegrass show that followed. (Which, by the way, was excellent.) And I think I am fighting off a cold. But when I commit to blogging daily, by gum, I commit to blogging daily.

bracing for the flood

Once, when I was 16, I broke a nail in gym class. The class was divided into small groups of 3 or 4, and we were doing basketball drills. The ball had made contact with one of my long, carefully painted nails and snapped the tip right off. (It seems so alien to me now, that I had invested time into the appearance of my hands, but what can I say? I was 16.) I shrugged off the broken nail and kept going. Another girl in my group of 3 had noticed me dealing with the broken nail and said, “I’d cry if I had nails like that and one broke.” I laughed. Then, before I even realized it, the tears started flowing. To all appearances, I was crying because I’d broken a nail.

The girl who’d made the comment looked embarrassed for me. I was glad that third person in my group was my closest friend, but she too looked baffled and embarrassed for me. I couldn’t explain why I was crying. I know I was lovesick for a boy who had no interest in me, and that was the explanation I gave. But really, my life had just gone through some major upheaval. It was nothing too dire. My mother had recently remarried, and had moved to France to live with her new husband. I had opted to stay in California, and finish my junior year, before joining her in France. I moved into my best friend’s house to stay with her and her family for 2 months. My sister, who was 19, moved into an apartment of her own. While much that was going on was happy, it was a stressful time full of transitions. I hadn’t even realized that I’d had tension building up until I broke a nail.

The trouble with being strong through a stressful time is that my emotions don’t actually go away. I bottle them up until I have time to deal with them. That broken nail in high school was just one such instance. I have had other equally messy and embarrassing episodes, always a few weeks after some major stress.

The past month has been a trying one. I have dealt with one crisis or ordeal after the other and kept going, because there was still more that needed to be done. I have packed my grief away and have carried around crankiness instead. Now, though, the crises are letting up. The pressure from outside is easing, and I sense that my internal pressure is still high. I can’t help feeling that the flood is coming, just waiting for the right catalyst.

I just hope I won’t make too much of a spectacle of myself.

high strung


John and I sometimes joke that the violin is the right instrument for me, being that I can be a little high strung.


When I get too tightly wound, I do sometimes snap.


It should also be noted that I have a tendency to fine tune things.

In case you didn’t see yesterday’s post, I wanted to draw attention to it. (It was the Big Thing I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.) These are some portraits of my collaborator in that endeavor.

polychromatic, idiosyncratic

Yesterday, the kids and I spent some time playing out in the front yard at my in-laws’. Phoebe had collected some pretty leaves, and I found myself joining her. Fall comes a bit later here than at home, so the big maples in the yard were still leafy and bright. I kept finding interesting individual leaves, with interesting patterns and color arrangements. Of course I had to photograph them. First individually, then in groups. Before you knew it, I realized I wanted to spread them out and arrange them by color.¹

I was channeling Andy Goldsworthy, one of my favorite artists.

I found I had to hunt around to find more of the brightly-hued freshly-fallen leaves among the crinkled older leaves, which had turned a fairly uniform shade of brown as they dried. I paced around the yard, poking at the leaves, looking for more oranges and reds. I was enjoying myself immensely.

I was somewhat startled, therefore, when a woman from across the street yelled across: “Did you lose something?”

“No,” I replied. “We’re just playing with leaves.”

The neighbor took my explanation, with a nod and a slight look of confusion, and went back into her house.

I was reminded a little of that time I probably confused (or amused) some passersby back at my house by my rather unusual approach to shovelling snow.

Do you ever confuse your neighors?

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¹ Much like I once did with tomatoes.

heat (friday foto finder)

This is the gas heater from my grandmother’s house, in the mountains of Colorado.

I took this photo in 2004. (It was years after my grandmother died, when my mother lived in the house. But in my memory, it is always my grandmother’s house.) This visit was in August, so the heat was off.

I wish I had photos of it lit, so I could show you the gas flames.

I wish I could share with you the pictures in my head of my sister and I huddled in front of the heater on cold winter mornings.

The house was an old one, with the merest nods to insulation. It had been originally built as a summer house, and then enlarged to become a year-round home. My memories of the house are warm, but in the winter most of the house was cold. The room my sister and I shared upstairs, on visits to our grandmother and for the one year when we lived with her, had a smaller gas heater in it, a wall unit that connected to our grandmother’s room next door. That heater was rarely lit, though, and mornings (especially mornings) in the bedrooms were cold. Frost-on-the-window-panes cold. I remember getting up out of the cozy double bed my sister and I shared (the bed that had once belonged to my great grandmother), climbing out from under the blankets and heavy comforter, and emerging into the chill of the bedroom. We’d rush downstairs, seeking out the relative warmth (and the house’s only bathroom). We’d sit on the floor in our nightgowns those cold dark mornings right in front of the heater, bathed in its warmth and glow. I remember leaning back against the short hallway wall the heater faced, and stretching out with icy hands or feet to warm my fingers and toes, holding them as close to the heater as I dared, my eyes transfixed by the glowing patterns of the ceramic grates and the dancing blues and oranges of the flickering gas flames.


This rather chilly post was brought to you by this week’s prompt for friday foto finder: heat. Please go see what heat others have to share.

p.s. I just noticed that my post title read “friday foot finder,” thanks to autocorrect. This makes me giggle, but I have changed it anyhow.¹

¹ Really, this needed to be a footnote.

calling cards

When I went to BlogHer in 2010, I got my act together to get some business cards printed. Unlike those cursed with foresight and preparedness, who may be easily enticed by services that can (for example) make business cards for you (with sufficient advance notice), I found myself needing alternate arrangements. My plan involved printing a regular 8 and a half by 11 sheet of card stock with 12 copies of my newly designed business card, and since I didn’t want the back to be plain, I had the image of my big doodle (currently on my banner) printed on the back. I carefully cut the cards apart with a paper cutter, giving me 12 cards per sheet, each with a different piece of the doodle on the back.


Front.


Back.

This year, upon deciding on a Wednesday that I would be leaving for BlogHer on a Thursday, I didn’t have a lot of time to make business cards. I did remember coming across some leftovers of the old cards, and I made it my mission to track them down on Thursday. Given that our house eats things, this was no small challenge. However, I thought to combine the task with getting some things off my to-do list, namely getting some things into the attic. The good news is that I got the cradle mattresses into the attic (roughly 3 weeks before the last person who used them turns 4), as well as several other large items that have been clogging the frightening pile of things that is somewhat ironically called “the guest room“.¹

I also found the target of my search. Mission accomplished!

Sort of.

I guess I gave away quite a few cards in 2010, the majority to people who probably thought I was insane, and who I never heard from again.² I found 2 loose cards, and a stack of 12 that were rubber-banded together.

Upon finding them, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to give them away. You see, the 12 unique cards from a single sheet could be re-assembled like a puzzle.

Backs, re-assembled.

Since it was my last full set, how could I break it up? Realistically, I was not going to make more of these cards. Possibly ever.

In my rush to pack, I managed not to bring the two loose cards. However, I did think to cut a few blank business-card-sized rectangles from some plain index cards, and I packed a box of glittery crayons. For the many years before I ever had any sort of business card, I joked that I should just make some with crayons. The time had come for that joke to be realized.

Indeed, I did give out a few such hastily-scribbled cards on Friday. Then late Friday night, having gone back to the hotel room both tired and wired, I found myself unable to go to sleep. Instead, I sat down and did what any normal person would do: I got out my Japanese brush pen (which I keep in my backpack) and lettered some text on one side. Then I doodled a few of my smiley little sea creatures and micro-organisms on the back. I even colored a couple with crayons (and took this photo) before sleepiness kicked in.


It is totally normal to hand-draw business cards at 11:30 at night and color them with crayons. I don’t know what you are talking about.

You may also note that I have included my Twitter handle. Several people asked for it, so that is what I scribbled on the crayon-written cards. Having given out that info, I then felt that I should see what I’ve said on Twitter. I saw that it had been a…while. So I tweeted, which I’m pretty sure is one of the signs of the apocalypse. And since that one stray tweet, I have gotten caught up in a comparative tide of tweeting, which likely will come to an end as soon as my work finds me once more.³


¹ It is a hazardous space that has neither room, nor guests. (At least no guests have yet been uncovered under the piles.)
² I also gave some to my friends, who already knew I was insane.
³ I have this half-finished book review that followed me down on the train to New York, but I managed to ditch it somewhere in Penn Station. I fear it will track me down tomorrow. Those buggers are dogged.

iPhoto, eye photo

For the past 3 weeks or so, iPhoto, the application I use most for photo managing and editing has been broken. It had been buggy for who knows how long (Months? Years?), with weird things like the ghosts of deleted photos reappearing (beware the haunted thumbnails!), and tags running amok. An update became available, and I thought “yay, this should fix things!” But the result, instead, was that I could no longer open my iPhoto library. I kept getting an error message saying that my photo library was damaged, and to restore from a backup. Many things were tried, including restoring from a backup, which supposedly also was broken.

Given that I could see that my photos were still on my hard drive, and my back-up drive, I didn’t panic. However, it was very annoying that I was unable to access many years’ worth of sorting, tagging and rating. And given that my photo library was getting up over 50,000 items…holy crap, that’s an increase of about 16,000 since I wrote about my digital hoarding tendencies…but that was fairly early into my Project 365 year, and well before the photo binges of trips to Hong Kong and China… Wait, where was I? Oh, right, given that my photo library was freakin’ ginormous, it’s not like I wanted to start over with the tagging and sorting and rating.

In some ways, it was a bit of a relief. It broke me of some time-sucking habits, like looking through photos for things to post. Rating, tagging, and deleting here and there. It was almost a nervous tic to sit down at my laptop, and poke through piles of photos. Also on the bright side was that I got more comfortable at photo editing in Photoshop.

But it was also really irritating. I mean, I still do want to post photos from my trip to China, and I’d already spent a fair amount of time sorting through those. Plus all those Hong Kong and Macau photos I have yet to post. Plus, you know, I like looking at my photos.

So, I’m happy to say that after performing a series of dark rituals, unmentionable incantations, and database rebuilding (I think that last bit may have involved chicken blood) iPhoto is now mysteriously functional again.

In marginally related news, I also have increased facility to share photos of my eye.

After the initial shock (and a number of subsequent shocks each time I caught a glimpse of my eye in the mirror from the wrong angle over the next couple of days), I got fairly used to the eye. And a few days ago (a week after the subconjunctival hemorrhage first appeared), I noticed that the red areas were noticeably shrinking.

I actually had a really great time on my trip last weekend, which was only slightly affected by my eye. I was a bit self-conscious about it at the wedding, but not a soul ran away screaming. (It was almost disappointing.)


In this photo, with me squinting in the bright light, you have to look to see the red.¹

I did wear some sunglasses for part of the time, especially during the outdoor cocktail reception. (The late afternoon sun was very bright.) John has quite a few nice pairs of sunglasses he got a few years back when he had contact lenses. I had many options to choose from, but was taken with these vintage-looking ones with blue lenses. (I chose my dress to match them.)


Seeing this photo, though, leads me to believe that my messy hair may also have deflected attention from my eye. As it turned out, my friend and I were almost late for the wedding, due to getting stuck in traffic in New Jersey. Our preparations were somewhat frenzied.

And for those of you who were voting for me to go in the pirate costume, this is for you:

Aye, photo.

¹ For those those of you (or perhaps that would be for that one of you) who would like to see what my eye looked like up close, here is that photo that John talked me out of sharing. And here is that same photo with the red of the pupil fixed with “red eye reduction.” Just because I could.

my so-called doodles

Not the most productive day, but Phoebe and I spent some time drawing together, which I enjoyed. She had picked out a set of oil pastels for my birthday present, and I had yet to try them out. They turned out to work out quite well for the sort of doodley shapes I like to draw. (My previous doodles, which live here on my blog, were done in crayon.) This doodle is not yet done, but I don’t when I’m likely to finish it.

In somewhat related news, I’m amused (proud?) to see that my doodles are coming up in the world. When I google “doodle” (as opposed to “google doodle,” or opposed to doodling google), 2 of my posts come up on the first page. And one of my doodles is in the first 10 images on google images.

I must admit, though, that my use of the word doodle may not fully mesh with the standard doodle definition (and definitely not with the standard poodle definition). Cf. what can be seen on Wikipedia: “an unfocused drawing made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied.” (This, by the way, is the definition for doodle, not poodle. Just so we’re clear.) I supposed that in each of my alleged acts of doodling, my attention has somewhat been otherwise occupied by parenting, but I have very intentionally set out to draw. Does that make it a doodle in your book? No, no, I’m not saying I’m doodling in your book. I don’t even doodle in my books. But I did used to doodle in my notebooks. I was an avid doodler in many of my classes. My recent so-called doodles have their roots in the margins of many class notes, scribbled along with the occasional haiku. I suppose the reason that I tend to call them doodles, as opposed to drawings, is that I don’t generally have a plan. I start off with a blob of some sort, and keep going. I’m pretty much doing what I used to do when doodling in the margins of my notebooks, except that I have more space. And more colors to work with. (Because, let’s face it, it wouldn’t have been too subtle to sit in class with a big tray of crayons during a lecture on semantics.)

unearthed

My post of last night, with my flourishing root vegetables, reminded me of a painting I did in an art class a number of years ago. (I think that number may be greater than 10.) I can’t remember what the class was, as I had many classes with the same teacher over several years. For this particular assignment, though, we were to paint something in response to a poem my teacher read to the class. The poem was one by her husband, a poet, and involved memories of his mother and potatoes. (Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the poem, nor do I remember the title.)

Here is what my brain cooked up:

The Potato Madonna

The painting is somewhat modelled after Medieval or Renaissance Madonnas. It wasn’t quite finished, as I’d originally imagined a more ornamental/ornate background. It’s been sitting in my basement for quite a few years, and has curved in the dampness. This was before I started stretching my own canvas, and would just buy whatever cheap canvas or canvas boards. Cheap canvas boards really don’t last well. On the other hand, I think the wrinkling and the warping rather suit the subject matter. As does the musty basement smell…