Category: family

Time Drops, Drips

 Myanmar Refugees, earthquake and hurricane victims stain my paper. Ghosts. Shadows illuminated by the sparkly Autumn light. The world is a cruel place. Studio, Children; sanctuaries; escapes into creativity. In the morning, while we are waiting for the bus, Fiona hands me a little cream-colored kitty cat. She has all her little stuffed animals. “let’s go to grandpas” she says. “O.K.” I say. We walk the teddies as we crawl across the driveway. Fiona’s tights get dried leaves all over them. Jacks upstairs, I get this moment alone with Fiona in our magical space. She sees her shadow, makes it grow and shrink. She gets on the bus for school, I wave good bye.


In my studio Ghosts grow. Marks, drips and drops. My time goes by way too fast. Studio days, gone for the week. Today I sat on the deck taking a break from the studio. I remember sitting in the same place, or in the back yard. Listening to Blue Jays and crows, just like today.  Having the luxury of time, so much time for the studio. I could keep working non-stop. Now time is precious, both time in the studio and time with my family. It’s good to have restraints, balance. Responsibility.

Separation Devastation and The Greatest Day Ever

“I want Fiona” Jack cries, next to me holding my leg as I wave at the school bus, driving Fiona to Preschool. Fiona gets on the bus happy, greeting her driver, Louie, getting into her seat with a smile on her face, excited to pick up her classmate at the next bus stop. In the past two weeks Fiona has gained a new life, an independent life from Jack, from me. She has new friends, a new school especially designed for children with hearing loss. I’ve watched Fiona blossom in the past two weeks, she’s confident, creative, self-assured right now. Jack has been sad, unpredictable moods, lonely for Fiona. Between this he has been extremely brave and fearlessness on his scooter! He wants a skateboard now, but I think he’s too young still. Jack and I have spent the past two weeks together 24/7. We got tennis rackets and played on the tennis wall at the park a few times. I roller bladed and he scootered a few times. We hung out at the mall got hot cocoas and chocolate candy and road the train. I witnessed Jack go through the most difficult period of his life so far; being separated from his twin sister for the first time. There were always three of us, now there are periods with only two. From having three days a week with a guaranteed 3 hour break I had none.  Today, as I got Jack dressed to go to the jumpy house with Alan and Fiona I started to see he was over the worst part. He wore his new checkered vans I got him on sale, they are still too big, he had his new shorts and top on, regular kid sizes, no more toddler clothes, he had his green sunglasses and his mutant ninja turtle hat on. Last night we watched a Lego batman cartoon, and this morning Jack wanted to talk about his Super Hero’s.  He’s starting his preschool program on Monday and I was imagining what “boy” he’ll be? What kind of guys will he want to play with, what “group?”. My biggest fear for Jack is he is so sensitive, buts he’s big and strong. He’s smart, always thinking, and daring. He doesn’t like to play rough, he’s doesn’t like teasing. He’s both introverted and extroverted. I don’t want him getting sucked in by the mean kids or bullies. That’s my fear.

It was a hard couple of weeks, and Sunday is my birthday! I’ll be 46 years old! It’s a fine age, I am grateful to be here. I sit here in quiet, a dog barks outside, a crow is cawing and the California Red Bud are blooming like never before. I walk out to view them up close, bee’s buzz around my head, the flowers are thick, I can feel the pollen in the air. It’s Spring. I was born in Spring, in San Diego. I probably laid around naked all the time. My dad was in the Navy. My mom was 21 years old. The outdoors was revered by our family, we spent most of our time outside. “Go outside and play” mine and my brothers lives as kids. We rode ponies and picked pomegranates off trees. Our fingernails were always dirty and we were always barefoot. The other day Jack, Fiona, and I were at the park. I was talking to my friend, didn’t have eyes on Jack and Fiona. I went to check on them and they both hand their pants off and said, “Mom, we peed, we peed over there behind the tree.” I have to admit, I started laughing. It was the first real warm day we’ve had and they wanted to be naked and play and go to the bathroom outside.  But I said, “You have to wear your underwear at least!”. I had to search for Jacks underwear. “Do you know wear his underwear are?” I asked this other little boy, he was laughing too, he pointed towards the trees. His nanny was in there are handed me the underwear smiling. I wondered if she also let the other little boy to go pee there? But there’s a bathroom at that park. I guess that proves it, humans would rather go to the bathroom outdoors!

Anyhow, I need to clean my closet. I told Alan I need to clean my closet so he should take the babies to the bouncy house. I probably have approximately two hours left. This is the greatest day ever.

THE MOST effective educators children have, or will ever have, Parents.

“I’m going to get the mat, it’s in my room” I say. Fiona repeats “The mat” several times. She doesn’t have her hearing aids in. I try to sign “I’m going to get the mat” to her. I don’t know the sign for mat, but I know the signs for “I’m going to get”, it works. She understands and stops saying mat. (It’s a bath mat, this clarification I will make next time). This is another example, why I want Fiona and my whole family to know sign. It’s moments like these that will come up over and over again. I realize something else at the same time, how much impact I  have with my daughter at home; reconfirming my commitment to be fluent in sign language and to use it all the time at home. We had a meeting and visit to one of the programs in the San Rafael Public school system yesterday. It was really great and I really like this woman that we are talking to, it felt so good to have a deep conversation with someone about education, I learned so much, and one thing I learned is the San Rafael School district does their homework! They care about the kids in their programs and take placement seriously. They shared Fiona’s evaluations and audiogram with a specialist for the deaf and hard of hearing, this lady is apparently one of the top experts in this field, which is pretty cool. She feels strongly that Fiona should be mainstreamed as soon as possible. I guess I can say this, Fiona is amazing! She doesn’t fit into any special program the district has to offer (but she will continue to get one on one speech and language support through her life at school). She gets to attend the special school that I wanted her to go to,  for five months, but then I am encouraged to sign her up for a regular preschool. I was told that right now she needs to hear language from peers, as much as possible. The good news is I learned the whole process is super fluid and we will re-evaluate and can change direction if needed.

I was so happy after the meeting. Our family had a great day, we had sushi, Jack and Fiona were well behaved in the restaurant. We got smoothies, watched Caillou together, Jack and Fiona rode their bikes around in circles in the living room, Fiona and I drew together, I love that. We sat on the floor and pet Billy, Fiona said how much she loved Billy, “I love her ears, her whiskers, her paws are so cute”. I realized Fiona was petting Billy where I put her tick medicine. “We need to go wash our hands” I say. Fiona and I go to the bathroom and wash our hands, but there’s no towel.  We go to the kitchen, “Get a towel out of the drawer” I say. Fiona repeats back, but she’s saying Door. I say Door and Drawer several times, but I can’t figure out how to explain the different sound, it’s so subtle. I go to the living room, “Jack say Drawer” Then I ask him to say “Door”. He does, I have confirmation, Jack understands the differences in the two words, Fiona does not. I grab a piece of paper, (My visits to the different school programs have served me well) I draw a drawer and write the word, I draw a door, and write door. I show Fiona. We walk to the front door, then back to the kitchen. We examine the two, she practices saying both words.  Then I take it further, there’s a back door, a front door, a bathroom door, ect. She starts showing me, pointing at doors around the house, running back to the drawers in the kitchen. I throw out the word Cabinet Door, but decide to save this for next time. I didn’t’ use the signs, I will add them next time. I realized something else at this moment, I am Fiona’s teacher. School is supplemental. Which also made me realize if I’m doing sign at home, and practicing with Fiona she’ll learn it. Will a teacher in a mainstream school know when Fiona doesn’t understand things because she’s not hearing properly? I don’t know. But could she thrive under the advice I received yesterday? That she needs to be around kids that have lots of language as opposed to kids who also are deaf or hard of hearing that do not use very much language? It makes sense, but it also makes sense that I need to keep up my end of the deal. I am her ultimate teacher. I want her to grow up with “Total Communication” this means oral and sign. In the fall, if she’s mainstreamed she will be getting the oral at school and the Total Communication part at home. It’s exciting Fiona is doing so well, and the other exciting part is Jack and Fiona can go to school together. Jack has been very upset lately knowing they were to be separated soon!

Aww! I can relax now, (well except for finding a preschool program!). I feel a sense of relief. Selfishly I feel proud of Fiona for doing so well and glad that Jack and Fiona will be chugging along together in their education journey, that there won’t be as much distance, I won’t need to put on two totally different hats, one rearing a typically developed child, one rearing a child with special needs. It’s going to save me a lot of energy. Today is my day off, I have a babysitter! I get to work in my studio. I’m so happy. I do have a MAJOR mess in the house though, toys everywhere, laundry needs to be put away. Grocery shopping needs to be done, I need to take Billy to the vet to get her splint off. Ugh, I guess I don’t have much time for my studio!

Born into a new Form

Walking down the trail this morning the wind starts to blow, the trees that still have leaves rustle, I hear a chime in the distance. I think of my mom, how she is part of everything, how she blows through me with the wind. I think of her laugh, her face, her skin, her voice. I don’t feel sad, I feel her presence in myself. I feel like she is here with me. She is part of me. Her birthday is Friday, December 16th and the anniversary of her death is on Tuesday the 20th. It’s been the hardest part of the year for me, the past seven years, mourning, trying to just get through the holidays. This year it’s different, I miss her every minute of every day, but I feel something new. I feel a new connection to my mom, a connection that transcends death, as if she’s been reborn into a new form. Reformed into the air I breath in and out. I have boxes of memories, trinkets and jewelry packed up after she died, I open the box and smell a bracelet, I can still smell my mom’s perfume on it. I close the box quickly, not to contaminate history, not to contaminate my present state of mind.  It’s a connection to that time, the sadness I feel, the loss. A box of loss. It’s not a place to dwell, or hang out anymore. I honor her gifts she gave to me, who she was and how she influenced my life. My mom loved Christmas, she would have loved seeing Jack and Fiona decorating their tiny toddler tree, spending the holidays together. I miss her so much,  she will be with me forever.

It’s a quiet Tuesday afternoon, babies sleeping, Billy sleeping, I hear her long body stretch out on the carpet. Pink Bear and Jacks giant stuffed dog toys sit here with me at the kitchen table. This morning Fiona came walking into the kitchen with Pink bear, dog, and all three of her tigers in her arms. The stuffed toys were bigger than her, her cheeks rosy, smiling. Jack grabbed his stuffed dog and gave it a big hug. They are filled with love. Jack gives the best spontaneous hugs. They are very sweet children. Aren’t they all though? Children are angels. It’s hard not to spoil them! I have chores to do, but don’t feel like doing them. My mind is fighting itself, “I should be productive while the babies are sleeping” it says, then it says, “Just relax and do nothing, read your book.” Then it says, “you’ll regret not going to your studio and working on naptime paintings and notebooks.” Then it says, “but it’s cold down there”. What wins? As I let out a big yawn. I want to take Pink bear and Dog to the couch and cuddle with them on the couch.

I was planning on writing what I know about life so far but I just made the most amazing pieces for my recycled Journal Project!

Really! I just got in my studio about an hour ago, late start today. Linda from Early Start did a home visit with Fiona this morning. The morning started off busy and off kilter, I was on domesctic duty, housewife and mommy Thanksgiving and everyday since then, so this morning I had to remember who I was again. I messed up my gym reservation for spin, got my times messed up, had to organize and put away all the toys from the weekend, clean the kitchen, dishes, to be ready for Linda. I also needed to take my dog, my bad dog Billy for a walk. She ran off after a coyote and didn’t come home for two hours. I was worried, called the sherriff right as she trotted in the yard and threw up all over the back yard. After Linda left it took awhile for the babies to wind down and take a nap. I finally got in my studio, after putting in another load of laundry on the way. I  started working on my recycled journal project, adding stitching this time. Heathers teaching stiching at the next workshop, I can’t go, but I got real inspired. I love stitching and I used to do a lot of it. I ripped and stitched together my old journal pages, I added collage, acrylic, and watercolor. They came out so beautifully, I am amazed! I haven’t even got warmed up yet. Now I can have the luxury of making a bunch of crap with my remaining Time!

  

 
The babies have been sick this whole time too, so I’ve been on double duty, like I said housewife + mommy. Caring for and taking care of my family. Luckily I’m not sick! I did a great job taking care of everyone. I don’t think I could of made it another day though without any alone time/   Studio time/ writing time. But here I am. It’s so important to me to have this time to myself. To not have to take care of anyone for awhile. But we did have some quality family time this weekend. Alan and I started the family hug and the babies loved it. We built super high block towers and watched cartoons. We ate dinner together everynight and I fed the babies the same exact thing that Me and Alan ate. Besides the massive amount of snot and extra crying because of the colds the babies were in good spirits. Uncle Danny came over and they were over the moon, they love him. Oh and it was Alan and my Eleventh wedding anniversary! We had a good day together, massages and a nice dinner. Eleven years, that’s impressive. I’m a good wife.

  
Poor Fionas crying and crying today. She’s not taking her nap and I really need a break!! She’s miserable for some reason. I don’t know why. Or what to do to make her feel better. 

The first time he spotted the moon, on painting and process, Rhythm and Presence. 

“That” Jack says. He’s pointing through the window, at the sky. He notices the moon for the first time. I wonder what he thinks ? Is it a giant light? I explain it’s the moon, I tell him it’s always been there, he just couldn’t see it. I think about how there was a first time I noticed the moon. I wonder when it was, who told me the story about the sky? Did I see stars? Was I outside? 

  
I can only imagine it was just as exciting as it was last night for Jack. 

We went to Early Start today, Fiona’s school. I find it exhausting, all the  emotions   from all the different kids, so many things going on, it’s definitely over stimulating for me, I can only imagine what it’s like for the babies.   They were so tired they fell asleep in the car. I had a little time in my studio to paint. I am getting great results in my notebooks. 

   

  

 I was thinking about what I would say to someone if I was to explain what I’m doing in here. The first thing is total experimentation, with color, line, collage, automatic drawing, texture, and accidental mark making.  I get an idea or see something in my mind I want to make. I start working, letting the initial brush strokes or paint splashes guide me. Sometimes things flow, sometimes I get mud or rejects.

  
 I used to not work like this. I always had a figure or a face. I would paint faces over and over again. But  I always wanted to paint abstractly. I was awful at first because I over work everything. I took a painting class from Heather Wilcoxen and she taught me how to paint like I wanted to paint. She taught me to leave things alone and trust myself. I learned  about Wabi Sabi around the same time and loved the freedom I felt working in this way, spontaneously.  I still enjoy working with the figure sometimes. My work has so much to do with memory, loss, and dissapearance I want to use the figure or a face to work through these emotions. 

  
But I love the feeling of working purely from my gut just making marks. I love working with collage, re-working my rejects. It’s exciting and when I’m working In my studio I usually feel just right and that it’s the only thing that matters at that time. I’m fully present. 

   
 
I recently took the Rhythm and Presence workshop with Carl Heyward and Heather Wilcoxen. I loved it and feel like it helped me with integrating my line and collage. I enjoyed working with the other participants in the group. It was just what I needed at the right time. I felt inspired to try new things, I learned so much and had so much fun. 

  Alot of the time when I’m in my studio it’s during the babies nap time, so I only have a small amount of time to work. I naturally work super fast so sometimes it’s good to have that  time limitation to prevent myself from overworking and overthinking. 

  Carl talked about automatic drawing in the Rhythm and Presence workshop, I’m really into it. I have been incorporating that into my work and doing it in my notebooks everyday. It’s so interesting, I close my eyes and look away and draw. It’s like the moon, the lines have been there all the time, I just couldn’t see them. When I looked away they appeared to me and Now I like my line.  

Unbreakable inseparable. And recognizable. 

February, almost two years ago, the days were still short, I remember carrying the babies into the house, it was dark already. The bassinets were set up ready for Jack and Fiona to lay in. I hadn’t seen Billy for almost five days. I missed her terribly. I opened the back door to let billy in, she ran towards the bassinets, ears pointed, hair raised. One of the babies made a strange newborn baby sound, billy looked like she was going to pounce, she didn’t know what it was, I think she thought it was a wild animal. I had to put her out. I told Alan I had to take her for a walk, he would have to take care of the babies by himself for an hour. I walked up the trail with Billy and cried. I felt like and she looked at me like I had betrayed her. 

  
This morning after I walked down to the park with Billy, Lindsay, Bruce, Jack and Fiona I was going to leave them at the park to play and take Billy up the trail. She walked slow, her eyes twitched, she kept stopping and pulling on the leash. She wouldn’t go, she wouldn’t leave the babies at the park. It was not an option. The first time this happened I felt like Billy loved the babies more than me now, my dog. This time I realized we have become a pack. An unbreakable, inseparable group of people and animal.   

  
Jack and Fiona are hyper aware of me and my presence or absence   And so is Billy. And it circles out from there.  Family, old friends and new friends. 

  
But what makes the bond? What connects people or disconnects them? How come some people Make me feel like I can be me and some people make me feel uncomfortable or confrontational? People always talk about finding their   “tribe.” I believe that is true, there just are people who mesh. I used to think it was an artist thing, that I didn’t relate with certain people because they weren’t artists. Now I think it goes deeper, because I’ve found people  who aren’t artists that feel good to be around. I feel like I can be myself and am accepted. Not many, but some!