Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Eight

Another essay! Yay!


I am a musician. I am a writer. I am a mother. I have ADHD. I am planning to write 50,000 words in the month of November. (You can see what’s coming, can’t you.)

My personal requirements for writing usually make for a very short list: Functional computer (pen and paper will do), reasonably sturdy chair, quiet, and the urge to write. Notice, please, that there is no mention on this list of proper writing attire, time of day, glasses of water, or mood-setting procedures. It is not at all unusual for me to be hunched over the keyboard in the dark far past my bedtime, hair awry, wearing nightclothes rumpled from tossing and turning while an essay pings around inside my skull until I surrender to the inevitable and write it.

But a focused writing goal changes all of that. Suddenly I have a list of finicky little requirements that would put a pop diva to shame. I sit down at the computer, and wonder how I didn’t notice before that it gets really warm in this room. I open the window just an inch or two and decide that I should probably move the ironing board out of my line of sight so that I’m not tempted to work on the pile of wrinkled clothes waiting for my attention. I’m still too warm, so I take off my sweater, fold it neatly, and lay it on a chair instead of dropping it on the floor according to my usual habit. I sit down again, and I’m thirsty. I head down to the kitchen for a glass of water, put in an ice cube (I never use ice! Why now?) and decide I should put a few chocolate chips in a bowl in case I need extra sustenance.

I should probably use the bathroom since I’m down here anyway. I’m washing my hands, and I realize that the light in this bathroom is much better than the one upstairs. I seem to have more grey hair in this mirror. I’m not going to try to pull all of them out, but that one right at the front has got to go, and so does that one, and just a couple more … OK, that’s better, now I can write. I pick up my water and chocolate chips and walk past the piano, which I have neglected for the last few days. Oh, look – I left my book of Chopin Preludes on the music rack! I love the C-sharp minor “Cello Etude” so dearly, and maybe a quick run-through will put me in a writing frame of mind. I play through it with passion and feeling, and yes, the creative juices are flowing in earnest now – so I play the Revolutionary Etude and the Grande Valse Brilliante too.

I catch myself before I get too inspired and move on to Brahms, and trundle back upstairs to the office. I sit down yet again, and realize that I’ve left my water and snack downstairs. On the way back down, I am appalled by the state of the family basket of shoes by the front door, and take a moment to put them back in an orderly fashion. There, now my mind is at ease and I can write. I return to the office, find a spot for my water and chocolate chips, try a few (they’re just fine), take a sip of water, and spend five minutes adjusting my chair. It has been fine for months. I don’t know why it’s too high now – or too low – or maybe it was too far forward – now it’s messed up completely and I have to crawl underneath it to look at the levers to figure out how to put it back. There, much better – ahh, telephone.

Call finished, I return to my computer, and am embarrassed to recall that I never sent my sister that recipe she asked for. I open up Facebook and bravely ignore the red notification box, going straight to my sister’s wall. Oh, look – new pictures of my nephew! Is there anything cuter than a toddler who’s learning to color for the first time? I love being an aunt, and of course I comment on a few of the most recent pictures. Wait – recipe! Fortunately I know it by heart, so I fire off a message to my sister and close down my web browser, conscience eased and mind at rest. There, now I can write!

I finally open up a blank document in Word, and it regards me silently. I gaze back. Nothing happens. That really is a very large pile of ironing, now that I think about it, and – NO. No ironing, no telephone, no sandwich, and definitely no more Facebook. As a last-ditch effort at procrastination, I pin my hair up out of my face, take off my watch, and remove my socks (since I am certain that I write better when I’m barefoot), but it is no use – it is time, so I close my eyes for a moment, smile slightly, look at that lovely expanse of white on my screen, and I begin to write.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Five

What on EARTH possessed me to think I had the mental facility to learn French?!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day Three Hundred and Ninety-Nine

Here are four more pictures for Item #80, the Windows/Doors/Stairs photography project. Clicking on any picture will give you a full-screen shot in much better resolution. For reasons unfathomable to me, Blogger's largest size option for a picture within a blog post is really not very big, and when you click and drag to increase the size, it loses resolution. My next 101 Things project will not be on Blogger, so I should probably start looking for a new site in 550 days or so.

The clock tower at Willamette University, late afternoon.

Another view of the clock tower, taken at the same time.

Window into stairwell at the Chemeketa Parkade, downtown Salem, Oregon.

Gated stairway into building on Commercial Street downtown.

The beach at Manzanita, Oregon - not a window or door, I just liked it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day Three Hundred and Ninety-Eight

Finally, another essay! (Item #41)


Pride Goeth.

As I've gotten older, I've gotten increasingly less interested in the opinions of all but those who matter most to me. I don't worry as much about my hair, I spend less time fretting about my funny walk and ghostly skin, and I have even found a small measure of resigned acceptance of my post-baby figure.

That said, when I was approached with an offer to include me in a project featuring local artists doing what they do, I thought, “Oh yes, of course you can photograph me in the daily nitty-gritty of my work, as long as I can have an hour to do my hair and makeup, and I need to find that one good red lipstick, and I think maybe those REALLY flattering jeans and my good black boots, and can you not shoot me from the side because I don’t like my double chin?"

What I actually said was, “Yeah, sure!” You know, all casual-like. And then arranged for the photo shoot to take place at rehearsal (in the performance hall at the local university) instead of at my house as originally planned. I mean, sure, it’s a great idea in theory. But for a photographic feature that focuses on process (the hidden, solitary hours of solo practice) instead of the final product (the black-satin-clad, high-heeled, sparkly-jeweled performances), I was a little worried about just HOW nitty-gritty this might be.

My actual practice sessions involve stepping over an abandoned wooden train-track construction to get to the piano, clearing elaborate Lego creations off of the bench before I sit down, and making sure there are no marbles under the pedals. There's usually a cup of tea or a can of diet Coke on a coaster proclaiming "I had a mind once - now I have small children." A small pile of M&M candies (for energy, you know) is a distinct possibility. I generally have my hair in a ponytail to keep it out of my face, I rarely have makeup on when I'm at home, and I almost always practice barefoot. Pajamas and a bathrobe are not unheard of. I’m all for honesty, but this was a little more honesty than I wanted posted on the internet.

I thought this would be a good compromise – I’d be more casual than on a performance day, certainly, which is highly dependent on good makeup, hot rollers, hairspray, and a quite literally breath-taking amount of Lycra under that smooth sweep of black chiffon. On the other hand, this “casual” snapshot of my work would still include a lovely nine-foot Steinway, polished hardwood floors, and beautiful lighting. I decided on jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, my good black boots, and of course I would allow ample time for carefully understated makeup and a complete blow-dry of my waist-length hair. I’d leave my librarian-esque glasses at home in favor of contact lenses, put on a little eyeliner so you could see my eyes, maybe a touch of lipstick. As my imagination picked up pace, I envisioned (remember that thing about pride and falls?) my hands tenderly drawing music from the keys as my hair cascaded around me in a shining, smooth waterfall of blonde, eyes closed in a moment of transcendent oneness with the music.

So, at 8:45 I’m on the phone with Hannah, the soprano I’ll be working with, getting everything settled regarding the hall and the photographer. I’ve spent the last 45 minutes getting my son fed and ready for school, and I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be in my preparations. I realize I’m cutting it close, so I say my goodbyes to Hannah with a cheery “See you at ten!” Hannah says, “No, you mean 9:30!” I say, “Um, yeah! Sorry, you’re right, 9:30.”

At this point I hang up and explode into full-fledged Panic Mode. I am wearing a green nightshirt with a cartoon of a giant black bear on the front. I am barefoot, unfed, unshowered, and my sleep-tousled hair is rampaging in a highly unflattering multitude of directions. It takes twenty minutes to get to the university, and it is now 8:48.

I fly into the bathroom, barely taking the time to remove my glasses before I get into the shower. I take the fastest shower I’ve had in years, forgoing conditioner (I know I’ll regret this shortly) in favor of speed. I hop back out of the shower, scrubbing my hair with a towel as I charge back to the bedroom to get dressed. Jeans! Black sweater! Earrings! Socks, I can’t find my socks, dang it! Here, laundry basket, socks, run, run, run, back to the bathroom … auuggghhh! My HAIR!

I am faced with the inevitable result of a fast shower, no conditioner, and a mad towel-drying rampage. Helena Bonham-Carter’s rats’-nest of hair in any one of her freakier movie roles is a good point of comparison. There is no way, NO way this is going to metamorphose into a smoothly shimmering waterfall, or even a moderately ripply stream. There is no help for it. I get it just dry enough and just detangled enough that it doesn’t appear to be harboring small birds and woodland creatures, and twist it into a bun, stabbing blindly with hairpins until it feels like it will withstand the mad rush to the university.

Contacts … no time, I guess I’m Marian the Librarian today. Makeup … quick, a little powder and mascara, and let’s at least cover up that spot in case he decides that pimples add to the artist-at-work ambience. Lipstick? No time. DANG IT.

Run downstairs, gather music, grab a granola bar, no time for tea, do I have a pencil?, purse, boots! No time to go back and get them, I’m late, sneakers will have to do, but oh NO these are bootcut jeans, and I guess they’ll just have to drag on the ground, nothing to do for it now. Run to the car, run back for my cell phone, run to the car again, come on light turn GREEN, park, mad dash across campus, and I’m here.

Beautiful piano. Perfect light. Shining wood floor. Lovely Hannah. And my scuffed-up Converse sneakers, cheeks flushed from hurry, hair already trying to escape the hasty updo, and clothes disheveled from the careless dash from the car. Everything was rushed, mussed, breathless, and not at all what I had in mind. The photographer said it was perfect.

I can live with rushed, mussed, breathless and perfect.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day Three Hundred and Ninety-Four

Here are two more for Item #78 (sew 10 items of clothing for each child). These are the first-day-of-school outfits, and I got the last stitch in at around 12:30 a.m. the night before school started. And that was WITH planning ahead!

Buddy's shirt was a breeze - he picked out the material himself, and even when I suggested some nice blue material with baseballs on it, he insisted that the strange-looking striped material with olive green, mustard yellow, brown and orange was exactly what he wanted. And when I got it home and started cutting it out, I realized it was perfect. He looks great in those colors, and I was very pleased with the end result.

Boo's dress was another story entirely. After much poring over pattern books and agonized discussion over the merits of various dresses, she settled on (of all things) a little retro-inspired outfit that was done up in the pattern book in a tweedy plaid, clearly reminiscent of a classic Chanel suit. And nothing would do but we found it in plaid, and as luck would have it ... pink.

Boo is not all that into pink as a general rule (more of a lime green and orange kind of kid), but this was The Dress, and I was determined to make it.

Do you have ANY idea how many pieces there are in a lined, tailored jacket and matching flared skirt? And do you have ANY idea how long it takes to sew a stabilizing line of stitching around each and every pattern piece as soon as it's cut out, to keep it from unraveling to bits while it's sewn? (Answers: A lot, and a long time.)

Fortunately, the extended family spent a couple of days out at the Oregon coast right before school started, and there was a quiet table in the corner where I could work. I have no idea what all the rest of the relatives did, but I got quite a bit of work done on the dress. I sewed like crazy the next couple of days, and quietly tiptoed into Boo's room in the wee small hours of the first day of school to hang it up for her to see when she awoke.

And it was worth it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Three Hundred and Ninety-Three

I am starting to regret the "healthy, trimmed" part of Item #92 (grow healthy, trimmed hair to my waist). Every time it gets close, it's time to get it trimmed again. I took this picture earlier this week, and my hand is about waist-level - I suppose the straggliest little bits are probably waist-length, but that hardly qualifies as healthy, does it?

I got it trimmed later that day, and ... hang on, let me go measure ...


... it looks like I have about 2.25 inches to go. So, if I get a half inch trimmed for every inch it grows (which is about what it comes out to), it should be trimmed and healthy and waist-length in early spring. Hurrah!

The idea, of course, was that I would then lop off a bunch and donate it (Item #34). But now I'm not so sure ... I've found out that much of that hair does NOT in fact go to the sad-eyed little cancer patients on the website, but goes instead to wigs for adults who might just be in the mood for blonde hair this week. So for now, I'm going to keep wearing it, and do a little more research on donating it before I do anything involving scissors and tears.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh Dear ...

... I keep checking my blog to see if there's anything new on it.