only – one day away from your arms!

I’ve been singing “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” over the last day, to myself. The Dusty Springfield version, of course; there is no other version. While I’m sewing or working her voice pierces my heart. I can sing as dramatically as I like, in front of my children. In front of no one else, in fact. Maybe I’ll grow a little less shy, or perhaps my children are just the most special people in my heart, and who can know the unvarnished Me.

Night Drive

believe

Night Drive

We are in for several  months of absolutely stunning, perfect weather. We’ve had nothing but sunshine and warmth, and delicious soft rains. The daylight lasts well past nine PM and I’m taken back to my childhood and how much I loved those late twilights. During the blue and white, perfect daylight the life springs from the soil and everywhere the scent of green grass and blooms; the peonies we brought in to fill a vase are startlingly redolent with a heady scent. Everything is in bloom and the hot earth is panting and giving forth greenery. It’s beautiful here; I live by the mountains and by the sea. I may travel but I would have such a difficult time living anywhere else.

My youngest son has become irascible and peevish in this last half a year. I’ve parented long enough to not worry too much, But I don’t ignore those kinds of things either: children need interventions when things aren’t going well, when they are struggling. Tonight I made an offhand comment and he took offense; this is happening with relative frequency of late. He comes in the bedroom and lays down next to me I do not say all the things the adults in my life used to say to me. I don’t tell him he has a bad attitude or he’s snotty or selfish. I do not make condescending remarks about puberty or “teen attitude”. It’s a little damned depressing these thoughts even come to mind but, that’s how I was raised. Still, It is ending with me, I won’t parent that way. I won’t treat mine the way I myself was treated. My son holds me and I put my head on his chest. Both kids’ voices are deepening, and they are getting broader through the shoulders and they are taller than I and although we laugh about it, it puts me off track a bit. Impending old age and death, a ways off perhaps but sometimes it doesn’t seem so.

The older child soon creeps in and I hold him a while too. The two children seek me out several times a day. This is why, exciting as my career is, I can’t and won’t work fulltime as long as there are kids that need this. All kids need this. To think when I was pregnant with my first, I worried I wouldn’t have enough love, wouldn’t have what it takes. Well. I have what it takes. Turns out. What surprises me is that every day I can return to that intention, that not one day goes by I’m on autopilot all day. Sometimes I think parenting taught me mindfulness more than any other practice, or tradition, or lecture, or book.

The windows are open and I can feel the sea air and I can hear the trainyard; a sole candle burns on the dresser. The house is quieting although the younglings stay up late; they too are comforted by the long summer evenings, I think. Children of their mother.

 

May 27, 2018 cd cover

“and death shall have no dominion”

I type this from on my couch, in a quiet home as dusk falls on a beautiful warm spring evening. My feet are up and my fourteen year old son’s head rests in my lap as he sleeps.

Today I celebrate seven years’ sobriety. I woke up to texts from friends, and an invitation (or rather a prompting), to attend a meeting. Of course I would go. I go to meetings several times a week and I can’t think of missing one on my birthday like that. On my kitchen counter rests two vases of lovely flowers; one from my husband, one from a friend. In my pocket a well-worn coin passed on to me by friends: VII.

Tonight my friend G. looked right at me and congratulated me on my sobriety and thanked me for my help in keeping his. I am not an inarticulate person but I find it impossible to communicate the depth of feeling I have for my brothers and sisters in recovery. They are the strongest people in my life, and the most unfailing.

Here’s the playlist from this last year. Enjoy.

[ spotify playlist ] [ zip file for CD & case ]

May 27, 2018 cd cover

 

overwork / natural high

Every day after coffee with my husband, I take a shower, tie my hair up and put on my little zip-up hoodie and get to work. I would work all day if I didn’t have other responsibilities; children, mostly, and volunteer work. And feeding myself so I don’t collapse. Lately I’ve been out of balance: too much work, too much time on other people. I need more rest; I want to take more care of my home. I scooted past a young man today at a recovery meeting, a young man with a broken face who had just a couple days clean. Mistaking my passing for affection, he gave me this little sideways hug. My heart breaks in these little ways when these moments happen; there is no point trying to express what I’m feeling so I don’t try. But I look at him and ask if he’s staying for the meeting, and I remember his name and I know it means something to me.

Back home and my children come by and pull me in for a hug (if I’m standing); they prostrate themselves across my body (if I’m laying down). The college quarter is over and my oldest child has, as a birthday present, a new computer. Both kids shout and laugh from their little basement gaming room; supremely happy. They need this time, and time with friends and food and sleep and affection and those are most of their needs. The house is only tidied when I can yell at the kids to do some work, and when my husband puts his incredibly efficient housework into effect. His body is strong and so is his mind and both rarely slip.

I am sewing on a buttery-soft jersey ITY; I am hanging up dresses on the dress form. I am hemming a little black dress and shortening sexy spaghetti straps. I am work, work, working to keep food in the refrigerator and try to stay on top of these bills. I am busy with the seam ripper with a little heater at my feet and the sunshine of Martina Topely Bird falling on my ears. And I suddenly realize in all our time together, Ralph never put his job before the family. He did his job but he stood his ground. And I think to myself what that shows our children about their value. I see so many straight couples where mother works her ass off and father has (or thinks he has) the big important job and is away from home or too tired when he gets home because he has Bills to Pay and I think it’s so often unfair, so often shit.

I stand up; stretch. My daily yoga practice is sluggish because I am tired in some way that defies explanation; still, my efforts keep those little kinks out of my neck, my shoulders, my hips. But yes I am exhausted, beyond tired. I have a call into a physician because I can tell something is wrong. Some nights by the time I’m in bed, I’m in a fog. I came out about this fatigue recently and as expected people shout explanations, solutions at me. These things can take time. I only hope I have the persistence to see it through, and that I am assisted by a pair of skilled hands and a good mind.

Hold Up!

hold up!

[Stuart voice]: “Look what I can do!”

Hold Up!

Hold Up!
The Beyoncé “Hold Up” dress (here’s the original: yes, it’s amazing!) was my biggest project this Halloween. A friend saved up and went big – she not only requisitioned the dress, she acquired the hair, shoes (which were then hand-painted), and jewerly. There is nothing I like more than someone going all-out, and it was wonderful to be a part of that.

Hold Up!

Let me get right to the knitty-gritty of how (I think) the dress was originally constructed (it’s from a collection, so there is more than one version out there – which is confusing for a reconstruction effort), and how I duped it.

So, he dress appears to be made with tiered chiffon flounces, and lace appliqué on a mesh and spandex underdress. The flounces were also roughly pleated and lettuce-edged; the bottom two flounces were trimmed with lace. The dress is hardly structured at all, a lot of bare skin shows as well as the actual push-up bra. My client found the black bra herself and hand-stitched an interlining to emulate the double-strap look on the bra. I wish I’d paid more attention to that particular bra detail, as I could have done that job for her by machine; her handstitching failed at the party she was at (bras need to be very sturdy, especially for the large-busted)!

Because the dress is mostly a monochromatic garment, I had to figure out how to get four matching colors in the absolutely gorgeous yellow of the dress, and this affected my choice of fabrics. Notice in the photo at upper left a version of the dress looks warm and poppy-colored, at left – and greenish at right; you will also notice the dress appears several different colors in this post depending on the lighting I am working with. I ended up deciding to buy my 25 yards of chiffon, and dye the other fabrics to match using a local dye artist. Note that dyeing different fabrics (including fabrics with differing fiber content) is a bit of a technical challenge, and will likely involve lots of testing and different types of dye processes.

It took trial and error to get the fabrics dyed the correct color;  one nylon lace, for instance, simply didn’t take dye. My dye artist friend (Val from FiberPlay) had to do two washes to get the colors deep enough – but they were lovely and all matched, by the time she was done. Below, you see (from left, clockwise) the chiffon, spandex, mesh, and lace I used.

Hold Up!

One other major technical component was the pleating. I believe the flounces on the original garment were cut circular, not straight – which meant the pleats were formed that way as well (I think of this as sunray pleating although I’m sure it has other names). After lots of pleating research and a few phone conversations with the *amazing* Rusty at SF Pleating (415.608.1983), I opted to send Rusty labeled strips, and he pleated them all. The pleats arrived in these fabulous crepe paper bundles. Rusty was beyond amazing and I hope to work with him again!

Hold Up!

Hold Up!

Now that I had the pleated chiffon and all properly-hued fabrics, it was time to assemble! I build the mesh and spandex underdress, using carbon paper to trace my flounce positions. I then fussy-cut the lace motifs, and applied the lace to locations on the mesh underdress:

Hold Up!

The mesh needed a stabilizer to form a nice strong zig-zag stitch.

Hold Up!
All of the chiffon flounces had to be finished by serge, as chiffon likes to fray into these teeny tiny fibers. These flounces were then either edged by serge or edged by fishing line. The latter process is so fun! You wrap your fishing line around a form, use heat (boiling water or heat gun) to seal the shape of the circular culry-q’s, let cool, and feed this line into the chiffon while hemming. This process required a lot of trial and error; you have to find the right weight of fishing line – but was super fun. I’ll have to create a tutorial someday!|

After the flounces were hemmed, I applied them to the mesh in the locations I’d traced:

Hold Up!

One regret I had was not acquiring a twist-cord blank to dye. Instead I created cord from the spandex fabric, and used it for the dresses’ back-tie, as well as the three straps in the bodice.

Hold Up!
The original dress likely does not fasten by tie, but this is the most adjustable and comfortable way to go for a costume:

Hold Up!

So, obviously my friend K. stole the show at her event. It was both an honor and a privilege to get to make her something so special! And I can’t wait for my next pleated project!

Hold Up!

May 27th, 2016

saints need sinners

Today’s a really special day for me. And as is my custom, I made y’all a little mixtape.

Click on the image to get m3u download and CD cover, zipped:

May 27th, 2016

Streaming: [ gmusic link ]

playlist:

1. Shadows Of The Night / Pat Benatar
2. Shadow People / Dr. Dog
3. Guitar Town / Steve Earle
4. Going To California / Led Zeppelin
5. Operate / Peaches
6. The Passenger / Iggy Pop
7. Missionary Man / Eurythmics
8. Airbag / Radiohead
9. Disparate Youth / Santigold
10. Turn to Stone / Electric Light Orchestra
11. The Only Living Boy in New York / Simon & Garfunkel
12. Hopeless Wanderer / Mumford & Sons
13. Electric Love / BØRNS
14. My Shit’s Fucked Up / Warren Zevon
15. Moonage Daydream / David Bowie

tryna catch a woman that’s weak

Shortly after I arrive home, the pain begins. It starts as a bit of a pinch, a bit breathless, and as usual I don’t really notice for a bit. But after about a half hour I come into awareness. So now: fright. The pain is rising, clashing, a small crescendo in my lower back – this time, on the left. The pain isn’t the hardest part. It’s the fear. I know how much worse the pain can get. I know it won’t kill me, but pain is my master. Pain like that, anyway.

By the time I am stepping into a hot shower – a futile distraction, a bit of comfort to my bones while my body runs riot and S-H-O-U-T-S! at me from the very within – by that time my hands are trembling. I am in a state of heightened awareness, of stillness. It has been about fifteen months since I’ve entered the hospital. I hope to stay out, tonight.

Out of the shower and I shakily dress myself. A hot pad for my lower back. I am shaking too much to type or text. I lie in the bed and gently rock back and forth, and shake. But maybe it won’t get worse. 

And this time, it doesn’t.

Today some good things happened.

– watching my son shoot baskets, dribble the basketball, his lanky frame looking more and more like his father, the man I met when he was a boy

– sitting next to my mom on the bleachers and trying to tell her about a film I recently watched. And singing, “Across 110th Street” to remind her

– my daughter showing me things that make her laugh, and make her angry, on her phone. My daughter climbing into bed with me tonight while I suffered, and telling me she wouldn’t leave my side until the pain was gone

– my husband at the oven, baking hot pita bread, and washing his hands then coming close to hold me

– the moon tonight on a drive on the beach Highway… lonesome and cold and bright as a beacon

Valentine Day 2015

Valentines Day 2015 – “a little too sweet”

Valentine Day 2015Each of my mixtapes is so lovingly curated. I listen to them enough that, over time, they come to evoke the memories of a particular time in my life. Last year, I humbly admit, I busted out some awesome double-CD love for not only V-day but my 37th birthday. This year, what I lack in quantity (no 2-disc mix), I more than make up for in twisted, sad, or otherwise super-disturbing “love” songs for the happily-coupled or singleton alike.

“a little too sweet” – the story goes my father’s grandfather always had to comment on his wife’s homemade rhubarb pie. “A little too sweet,” he’d say after taking a bite. One year, his ladywife baked the pie with no sugar whatsoever – I believe verily this to be old-skool trolling. Half the family was in on the joke, keeping their giggles in their bellies as the patriarch sat down to his pie slice, and lifted the fork to his lips. Chewing, swallowing. Then: “A little too sweet”, he deadpanned.

Enjoy, my lovelies!

[ zip file: songs, liner notes, & CD case ]

SleeveLayout-DW.pdf

Backstage, JCS

a hand on a hot stove

Backstage, JCS

I get these little sticking points, these moments of non-acceptance. I’m cast from my place of ease and serenity, or at least my finger on the pulse of the dharma – into confusion, a small smudge of despair – rudderless.  Tonight it’s in the car, as we drive to the hospital and my 12 year old daughter hears her mother praying aloud and crying, the helpless cry of abject suffering. Finally pull over at the side of the road – this is at about 9:30 PM – to vomit. Drive up to the ER and check in for pain relief. Pace and pace and breathe – finally on the bench in the lobby, rhythmic humming sounds. Placing myself in a trance to endure.

My daughter knows I won’t die, I’m only in severe pain. She gets to learn what it’s like to offer someone moral support – a loving presence. She puts her hand in mine. I tell her it means so much to me that she’s here.

These days, kidney stones pass about every three weeks. Most are a couple hours of pain – intense, distracting, maddening – but often such that I can walk about and focus on the business of others. Most times the pain eventually eases off – blessedly.

Tonight wasn’t like that. The pain started at about 2:30 and came and went, getting worse. Bringing a nausea that kept me from eating for about eight hours. At seven – right when we’re ready to take the stage for tonight’s performance – it steadily worsened. It took all I had to stay in the show to the end. The memory of getting through each bar of music, each song, each act. I was in a small, fourth-dimension place of a pain so acute the world seemed a Victorian-era vignette, unreal and distantly depersonalized.

I am home now. Exhuasted, but pain-free except for the ache in my lower back.

The hospital was kind. I am fretting about another medical bill. I haven’t yet moved off of that (futile) worry.

Still – today was, somehow, a good day. I kept a glad spirit – or I started off that way and it sustained me. And then: help, from so many quarters. A friend took me out grocery shopping. Another friend bought us our Christmas tree (!) and then delivered an oilskin envelope along with it – folded twenty dollar bills. Another friend sent me an online donation. Another friend let me help her with a home repair project. Another friend hosted my son this evening and took him out to a diner, and played video games with him besides. Another friend asked me along to her lunch. Castmates gave me hugs – castmates who aren’t particularly demonstrative.

If it weren’t for friends, if it weren’t for kindnesses large and small – my life would have little meaning.

And now, exhausted, I am back to pacing myself. Tomorrow: a matinee. I am behind on work for clients. I am tired and will need to recover further.

I can’t figure out tomorrow, today. That is for certain. I am grateful for the help and support I get. May it always remind me how worthwhile it is, to help and support others!

ER

Jesus Christ Superstar

this is just a saga now

In a few hours I take the stage in opening night for a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s not a big deal, but it kind of is. For me.

I can’t remember when I decided I’d audition for the production –  a while ago. See, first of all I have loved this particular rock opera deeply for about twenty years. When I heard we were going to produce it, I felt this pang. It was something I would have loved to do. But I couldn’t do it, no way. Right?

I blame my husband’s influence – his role a year ago in The Rocky Horror Show. I remember he said his duty to himself was to audition. And then do what followed, whatever that was. I remember respecting him for his attitude. And I was so proud to watch him participate. I think I went to the show six times – as many times as I could, given our family schedule!

It’s all well and good to be proud of Ralph, but when it came to me – I almost lost my bottle. I hadn’t been on a stage since I was sixteen. I wasn’t “in” with the theater folk (because yes, we do have a scene, even here in little old Grays Harbor). I didn’t have any dance or vocal workshops or classes under my belt to help me out during auditions. Since I’m a woman, I am “too old” to get a lead (yeah. Theater is like that). I have no formal training in any way in acting or stage work. I was about a half hour late to auditions, and I got to sing some tricky vocal parts in front of people I didn’t know (at all) – almost all of whom had experience and were known to one another.

I was surprised – and honored – to get a callback and be asked to join the ensemble.

So my introduction to the world of Theater has been … well, amazing. The amount of time and work has been about what I thought it would  be (that is: grueling, when like me your presence is needed at home in the evenings). The egos and insecurities are also about what I expected. We’ve had some rows, some tensions – and ugliest of all, there has been gossip. When I hear the latter, I turn heel and walk off. So honestly, I’ve probably been spared a great deal of whatever unseemly bits there are to be had. And for this, I’m grateful.

I tried to think of myself as someone in service to the production. So: no complaining. No whinging. No asking annoying questions (this one was hard, because I had so many!). No second-guessing or picking on others. Show up – and do the job.

The world of costumes surprised me. I am a pretty detail-oriented tailor and the world of stage costumes is considerably less so – yet the pieces have to perform well, and be easily donned or torn apart or thrown back together. That said, I tried my best to be helpful. I found one dress for a lead in the costume room; I found a few other pieces for soldiers which the director put to use. I put together three of my own ensembles (including sewing my own hoodie, and making my own hair!). I put together Jesus’ second and final costume. And I made a lot of pom poms! Most fun: I got to craft a gold laurel leaf crown – out of real laurel leaves. The world of stage costumes, though new to me and not my forte (yet), has been fun.

And overall I am amazed at how much work it takes to put something together. Everybody – from my own 12-year old daughter running a tech aspect of the show, to the director, to the cast, and the musicians in the pit, and the prop stage workers, and those who clean the theater and take tickets – every single body involved is needed. People pour their heart out and at the end of the day – it’s all to please an audience. To make people laugh, or cry, or feel like singing. That’s what all that work is for. That is pretty fabulous. It really is.

So tonight I wash pieces of my costume (I have four major costume changes), scrub my face (the layers and layers of makeup required during dress rehearsal – pretty gross!), and finish making up opening night gifts for my castmates.

To say I’m glad I went for it, is an understatement. And the thing is … if I never would have went for it, I’d still be dithering around wondering if it was something I could do, or something way out of my league. I’d be sitting in the audience feeling a kind of cramped envy.

So yeah. I don’t have to go through any of that. I get to do it. Just do it! And I’m beyond grateful.

Jesus Christ Superstar