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Mourning

ImageWe hurried onto the front porch in our pajamas, slippers, and wrapped in blankets.  What a bright start to the day.  And within minutes, the sun was shrouded and the rest of the day was grey and glum.  Those were the most hopeful moments of the day–such a welcome.  My heart swells with thanks for my children–for their tender hearts, their sincere love, their attention to beauty, their creativity, and their strength.

Hardtack and Disambugation

I’ve gotten into a bad habit of skipping breakfast.  Because you’re just too busy, Caron?  Because you’re an HCG die-hard? Because there’s no money for groceries?  Oh no, no, no–it’s called laziness.  Or other things that I’d rather be doing than prepping food.  I’ve lost all interest in that hidden art, and so, in an effort to keep myself from getting to that HANGRY 10 o’clock hour, I decided to purchase some frozen breakfast items to hold me over until culinary desire returns.  Apparently we have a very high powered microwave.  I gather this from the fact that my frozen english muffin sandwich had the texture of hardtack with a hint of turkey sausage in for spice.

Are you wanting a little intellectual stimulus?  I’m telling you now–look no further than TEDed to satisfy.  The length of the lessons are manageable (5-10 minutes), the content compelling (try this one), and quizzes that follow offer a sense of accomplishment.  Or how about a podcast?  The Moth is my favorite, especially the stories by Molly Ringwald and Suzanne Vega.

I’m expecting something exceptional to happen today.  Here’s a picture of some kids waiting for the expected bus.

Bus Stop Buddies

Bus Stop Buddies

Listless

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When my kids get writers block, I tell them to start writing what they see/like in list fashion.  There is a folder full of these writings. And so, in the spirit of those lists, here’s mine:

I like riding my bike around town, cloves, cardamom, milky chai tea, sharpening colored pencils and assembling art supplies so the kids return from school to a workstation set up at the dining room table, wearing my slippers all day (especially when fetching the mail), champaka incense, blown out matches, fresh snowfall, fresh coffee, steeped tea, drums (think: ke$ha’s “die young”, florence’s “cosmic love”, arcade fire’s “lies”), warm December, vick’s vapo-rub, napping in a sleeping bag, star-gazing, laughing til my eyes water, talking with kids, a new pack of pens, christmas tree decorated by children, shooting stars, paint on pants, lucky charms, fidgeting, using a thesaurus, storytelling, kinetic energy, garlic naan, inordinate amounts of crushed red pepper, sriracha, onions, digging in the dirt, sweating, waking up before the sun rises, dancing with my kids, boggle, charades, the thing that happens after you watch an entire season of downton abbey and then thoughts start sounding off in a British accent.

That’ll do.

Homage to Order

compass.  courtesy of leslie.

compass. courtesy of leslie.

It’s always best to celebrate special occasions, even if the ceremony needs to take place a few days later.  Kate and I are notorious for celebrating our November birthdays a few months later, when we can be face-to-face, share some Argentinian red, new cuisine, and time together.  The celebration is mandatory–the timing flexible.

Today I’m celebrating the first of December.  One of my most recent focuses has been to go with inspiration for each day.  Follow the internal compass.  And so today I’ve amended my celebratory plans that involved writing, reading, and hiking around a favorite spot at Wildlife Prairie Park.  Instead, I’ve decided to pay homage to order.  I’ve decided to crank up the volume, put some sneakers on my big feet, and bring some order to my house before the clock strikes noon.

As a writer, I know to follow my instinct when the muse beckons.  When inspiration stirs, routine flexes for the shape and rhythm of the moments to come.  And so, as the winds rustle through my spirit today,what seems right is to tackle disorder to the ground, let a few punches fly, and stand up as the victor.  And, in a magical world, a cup of soup and sandwich would knock on my door after the battle.

just the right shade of blue

blue

the way the light falls, certain days seem to have the perfect shade of blue for each occasion.  the faintest of blue for a mournful waking morning.  pale turquoise for the following hours when sun is peeking over the forested park, and pen is in hand to map out the last days of the year.  cadet-grey-blue for the slow-ticking spell spent curled up in bed under covers, shades drawn, and no reason to get up and at anything.  powder blue for the gentle transition time.  midnight blue for post-wedding-reception dancing that continues on the sidewalk space outside the Arts Center with kids, friends, Carly Rae Jepson, and a good supplement to blue: endorphins.

music i’ve been enjoying: ingrid michaelson “ghost“, jolie holland “mexican blue“, p!nk “try“, dawes “a little bit of everything“, yo yo ma “cello suites”.

welcome december.  lovely entrance, you month of celebration, fanfare, busy steps.

Tell Me a Riddle, Teach Me a Rhyme

It was close to ten years ago when I ended a birthday tradition–curling up on the couch with a warm quilt, coffee, and reading straight through The Great Gatsby.  It was a quiet tradition that filled a few hours of the special day with words, strong coffee (read: espresso-esque), and allowed the introvert to recharge with text, and scribble personal notes on the margins while taking in a tale that I was inexplicably compelled to visit again and again.  Come to think of it, repetition seems to be something that allures me.  Revisiting–perhaps for understanding, familiarity, rhythm–has been something of a mainstay as this soul adventures along.

The tradition ended when I felt that I had read the words enough to recite passages aloud.  And when I knew the landscape of the conflicts, the main streets and alleys of the phrases, and had the same unanswered questions after so many examinations of the text.  Really, I lost interest, and at the same, gave birth to a child that needed my attention more than a worn paperback.  I have come to peace with my love for repetition,whether it be with music, literature, themes, images, memories.  I have this stillness in my soul that can only be explained by one word–acceptance.

Typically, when I write songs, the lyrics come quickly, and then there is a pause.  A few days.  A few weeks.  Sometimes, years.  Behind the Eight Ball, a song I started 5 years ago, is a great example of that process.  The scratch paper remained in a bedside drawer for that duration as I would occasionally take a look, attempt some sort of “spirit of the song” that would do the sentiment well, and then crumple up the revisions because they weren’t right.  I finally finished the song last month, though the recording is extremely feeble.  If you want to give it a listen, here’s a link to the rough draft recording.  The lyrics are listed beside it.  It was written as a plea to my mother.  For her wisdom.  For her comfort.  For her understanding.

Revelation!

A day wide open.  Cuddly puppy.  Slippers, blankets, and a pile of books on the bedside table.  New pens for writing.  Music as loud as I please.  Cake for breakfast.  Nowhere to go.  All quiet on this Western front.

 

big black car

I was inspired by Daphne’s post about listening to one song repeatedly while writing/working/thinking/doing.  For some, this would be madness.  For others, the hypnotic rhythm of a song that evokes/elicits contemplation and focus is something that is as welcome as a wool blanket wrapped tightly around body on a late November evening in an unheated garage writing studio.

Gregory Alan Isakov’s “Big Black Car” has been the background music for 485 plays this year, which is well over 28 hours of the year spent with this lovely track serving my creative state.  It is quite a gift to be inspired by the beautiful work of others.

You were a phonograph, I was a kid

I sat with an ear close, just listenin’ in

I was there when the rain

tapped her way down your face

You were a miracle;

I was just holdin’ your space

Well, time has a way of throwing it all in your face

The past, she is haunted, the future is laced

Heartbreak, ya know, drives a big black car

I swear I was in the back seat,

just minding my own

The Train Has Left the Station

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Adam Weaver + me. 2005. The Gentiles.

I’ve been rummaging through some old recordings + performances caught on tape, and also listening to music that my pals have made over the years.  Adam Weaver’s “The Train Has Left The Station” is a super extra favorite of mine.  You can hear it right here.  And he happens to be the 2nd artist in my iTunes library, followed by Adam Lambert.  Yes.  Yes.  

Have you seen the film “Bernie“?  If not, I recommend it.

We’re gearing up for a relaxing week at home.  Typically, we’d be heading to Omaha for Thanksgiving, but as work schedules have been a bit tricky, we’ll be planting our thankfulness in Hanna City and celebrating the holiday in our own home.  The kids are looking forward to wearing fleece pants everyday, lounging about in the a.m., and going wild at a local indoor playground that’s extremely loud and equipped with indoor bounce houses.  Looks like Wednesday is already spoken for in their minds.

I’ve been following “The Artist’s Way” for the past 2 weeks, and absolutely love the tools that the author employs to cultivate creativity.  “The Morning Pages” are a daily practice that involve writing for 3 pages–writing whatever comes to mind, fast and furious, first thing in the morning.  Commitment to this practice has been monumental to my creative process.  My mind is more focused after this exercise, and able to achieve a unique clarity once the scattered, top-of-my-head thoughts have been allowed to breathe.  In the book, Julia Cameron describes this practice as a type of meditation.  The dross rises.

 

 

dry erase lessons

We have a few dry erase boards around the house that the kids like to draw on from time-to-time.  I used to use them when we were doing lessons at home to save on paper costs and be all eco-friendly and stuff.  It’s a good idea, I hear.  Anyhow, tonight the girls and I were reminiscing about Henry when he was a little bebe.  What did he look like?  Here you go:

henry. one year.

So we were talking about him and how he used to move around like a ninja when he was in utero, and he didn’t quite understand how he had been inside of his mama.  Then, as only Violet can do, she swapped subjects so seamlessly and quickly that I was a little caught off guard.  “So, mom, draw a picture for us of how Henry got food when he was inside.”  And, thinking it was a great educational refresher for all, I picked up the dry-erase marker and diagramed a very crude picture of the Ma, baby inside, and an umbilical cord indicating nutrients transferring to the young life inside.  And then Vi said, “And now, Mom, draw a picture of that hatch that opens up once the baby is out.  How the baby is fed.  I saw ‘xxx’ open that hatch one time and feed her baby.  You know.  Milk and stuff.”

And that is when the dry erase marker/board were not longer in use, and Violet and I had a great talk away from the dinner table.  Henry wasn’t interested in the conversation, Belle had turned to AFV,and Vi still wanted some answers.  I imagine she had some sci-fi reel running through her mind that my explanations could not live up to, but I tried my hardest to give her the facts.  She doesn’t laugh at anything–just stores away information as if it’s a fact she had been researching for a very long time. Her interest is as an archaeolgist, an historian, a life-long learner.

Henry now:

Oh My Stars: The Archer

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Sagittarius Sky

“Breathing this night air is like a drink of cold water,” Annabelle said as we were walking.

The brisk November air allows no distraction– attention to breathing is heightened  Each in and out is a celebrated exchange.  During the cold months we’re afforded evidence of the conversion that happens as our bodies draw breath and feel the cool oxygen awake our lungs, and witness the exhaled vapor that continues the ongoing pattern for as long as we are able to draw breath upon breath.

 

Spackle My Brain

Most of my morning was spent spackling in our attic, listening to Florence + the Machine, and thinking about a film we finished last night, “The Grey”.  The letter he wrote, to be read after his death, was only a temporary sentiment.  The brawler within would not lie down.

Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day

Darlin’ Everything is on Fire

One of my greatest pleasures is to experience life with others.  To engage in conversation, laughter, share tears, and bear witness to those seemingly magical moments that follow when hearts open in friendship that is enveloped by a sense of trust, truth, loyalty and love.  I’ve had a fairly solitary existence over the past six months, but there have been some unforgettable moments of camaraderie that have peppered the weeks.  A recent afternoon when Paige stopped over unannounced on a “cheer-up mission” with a great note, funny props, and undying empathy and righteous indignation.  Or the last-minute reunion with our old apartment pal, Monica, in Iowa City.  Monica has a way of listening with every last bit of attention that her soul can give, and joining in boisterous laughter that brings joy and levity, at just the right moment.

Sometimes this kind of life-giving interaction can happen without much one-on-one conversation, which brings me to my not-so-music-related review thoughts about the Be Good Tanyas concert at The Englert.  The songs were every bit as beautiful as you would hope to hear.  And as it goes with any live music event, there are so many interconnected things happening all at once that affect the central event.  Is the crowd engaged?  Do the performers exude passion for what they’re doing?  Is there a general sense of connection between the audience and the music they’ve come to hear?  And between the musicians and the people that love their art?

Be Good Tanyas at the Englert in Iowa City

The most inspiring part of the evening was witnessing magnetism and triumph as Sam Parton performed on stage with the rest of the band.  As she is still recovering from injuries sustained during a car accident, her presence on stage was a beacon of beautiful vocals coupled with dedication to continue performing the art that she loves.  This woman gives all that she’s got to the set, and engages with the audience in a way that is gracious, kind-hearted, and loving.  She seems to have a general care for others that spills over into her songwriting, on-stage presence, and creates a tenor of friendship among all.  It is quite something to behold.

I’m not sure how this month could get any better.  Well, if a thundercloud full of hundred dollar bills opened up over my house and rained some greenbacks upon my front lawn, I would definitely revise that first statement.  Or if I could teleport to my parents house for Thanksgiving. Barring any otherworldly events as aforementioned, the trajectory for November is a lovely crescendo that points to a fabulous remainder of the year.

I Forgot My Mittens

For some reason, I have Roxette on my phone?  Who snuck “Fading Like a Flower” onto my playlist?  I suspect a little someone that looks like this:

This one has the knack for making me laugh uncontrollably.

I had a few hours in the car this morning to listen to podcasts, catch up with a pal, and discover all sorts of hidden gems that have somehow magically appeared on my music playing device.  Best blasts from the past?  “Winter” by Tori Amos, “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson, “Islands in the Stream” by you know who, “Vibrate” by Rufus Wainwright, “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor, and “Forgiveness” by Patty Griffin.

This morning I read a post from 3 years ago.  Daphne’s words continue to be a sweet balm to my heart.  Today is the day that I’m celebrating my birthday (yes, early, I know), so how could I not give myself a break?  I’ve got a heap of books, guitar, notebooks, and a mug of coffee at hand.  My heart is giddy to see the Be Good Tanyas this fine evening, and to experience the day as it unfolds.  Good afternoon, Iowa City.

Ingenuity

It takes a lot of ingenuity, determination, strength, and courage to climb out of a hole.  I’m sure there’s some sort of mathematical equation that could be used that would include the depth of the hole, number of resources available, attempts made, and measure of fortitude.  But equations will often fail when there are so many variables that cannot be quantified.  How to measure the willpower of the human soul?

I sure do love what Pearl S. Buck said: All things are possible until they are proved impossible and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.

Time is a friend of possibility.  Reminds me of this Charlie Peacock song from a few decades ago.  It’s not the most listenable, but comes to mind as my sister and I used to listen to Charlie Peacock’s music when she first got her driver’s license and we’d cruise around town.  And, while I’m at it, might as well give a nod to the 77’s.  Nowhere else.

Hanging out at Farm & Fleet. May I say: the music in that store kills me.

Art night

Markers, Paints, Soccer, Solitude

Everyone is doing their own thing.  What a relaxing morning.  I’m in my studio basking in the glory of a quiet space away from Toby Mac’s music blaring in the kid’s room, Violet and Belle duking it out over UNO, and the pup wrestling around with a new bone. A cardinal flew in here the other day, and I reacted poorly: a loud shriek and the red beauty darted out the door.  I wish I wasn’t so easily startled.

The kids and I have a precious day together, and as much as I love our new “kids go to school” routine, I cherish together time so  more than I did before.  We’re planning to pack up our art supplies and venture to a painting class at Lakeview Branch library, followed by lunch out, and then to Finn’s soccer game.  I think this beautiful weather requires a trip to Forest Park, as we haven’t been there in 1/2 a year.  Saturday feels so smooth today.  So welcome.  That’s probably because I went to bed at 8 o’clock.

Over the Rhine was amazing.  I sat in the back of the dim auditorium and let tears flow as my heart was stirred with so many memories of their music over the years.  Their melodies and lyrics strike a chord in my core.  They are able to communicate joy and sorrow in a way that I experience it in my core.  And it’s such a gift to see musicians stretch themselves: Linford singing falsetto after only hearing him front “Jack’s Valentine” in that dead pan style.  And to hear them talk about their process as writers and musicians is something I always look forward to.  Each set that they play offers a bit of insight into how they do what they do, which is almost like a mini workshop.  It’s hard to miss the inspiration that comes in seeing artists give themselves full to their craft.  The thing I love about knowing this band and watching them grow over the years: they have grown into deep confidence that what they’re doing matters.  They’re serious about it, and they’re having a good time, as well.  Infectious.

That sort of on-stage camaraderie makes me miss musical collaboration.  I remember old songwriting sessions with Austin, Adam, Ali, Kate, and Caitlyn conjures the desire to make that happen again.  That it needs to happen.  And since I’m on a war path to DO, I’m looking into HOW to make times like those happen again.  Saturday dreaming.

Over the YES OF COURSE!

My evening plans have changed in an incredible fashion.  Over the Rhine an hour away?  Who could say no, besides ole cranky-piano-hater-Ali?!  Bloomington: I love you.

Go Down Easy

Long Lost Brother

Anything At All

From “Anything At All”

I follow you from town to town
I need it
I’m better off when you’re around
I mean it

Sooner or later
Things will all come around again
Sooner or later
I won’t need anything
Anything at all

I walk these streets alone at night
When it hurts me
A perfect life’s an oversight
You curse me

Should’ve known better
Than this esoteric love
Down to the letter
It don’t mean anything
Anything at all

You and I

I wrestle with these guilty thoughts
And I’m losing
You’re all I am I’m what you’re not
Confusing

Sooner or later
Things will all come around for good
Sooner or later
I won’t need anything
Anything at all

My Alternative to No-Shave-November

You know folks everywhere commit this month to “Novembeard” or “No-Shave-November”.  I’ve decided that neither of those monikers work well for me.  Why? A. I am a stickler for my own personal facial hair.  I have an unconscious habit that involves checking the rim of my face for anything that feels like a hair that might want to poke through.  It’s true.  My mom even bought me a set of tweezers, enhanced with an LED light, for easier surveying.  Ridiculous.  B. Not shaving legs hurts when wearing jeans, tights, or any other pant-type apparel.  That won’t work, either.

And so I assure you, especially my closest friends, that my alternative has nothing to do with razors.  Instead I have named this month with three variances: No-Laze-November, No-Daze-November, No-Haze-November.  Of course there are plenty of other options out there (No-Spays, No-Craze, No-Grays [heaven forbid]), but these are the three that I’ve claimed as my own.  But what does it mean, Caron?  I’m so glad you asked, darling readers.  The creed to this type of month goes as follows: I will not enter the haze of thinking about what is not mine, I will not enter the daze of remembering what once was mine, and I will not laze away the month trying not to do those things.  Kinda goes along with Thanksgiving a little, eh?

The fun part of taking that creed is found in all of the “I Wills” that follow, and the sheer exuberance of getting stuff done, so I’m free to do the stuff that fuels my soul.  You know how it is: sit down to write a letter, but realize that the kitchen is trashed and you really should take care of that blight so you can actually focus.  And then another eye sore pops up.  And another and another and the list eventually grows as long as that one chin hair that you can’t see, even with LED tweezers.

So this month is marked with extra focus on executing tasks coupled with a large portion of focus on excelling at work, goofing with my kids, fitness stuff that no one wants to hear about, and writing/reading more than I have in years.  There are two months left of 2012, and I’m set on making this year live up to it’s name.

Doing stuff like: getting dog groomed after much neglect, incorporating auction purchases into their appropriate locations, making ornaments, playing music at Peoria Pizza Works (tonight, yo! come! 9pm-1am), slaying laundry, roasting coffee beans, working on new songs, riding about on my bike (gloves on, of course).

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Who could pass this up for two tens and a five?

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And the same for this one? Anyone spy the “White Rabbit”?

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Many “Coat of Many Colors” ornaments for an exchange. Mad props to Michelle for the coat template.

Mornings

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I got into the habit of waking early during my last 2 years of college work, as I learned that my most productive, creative work was accomplished upon the start of the day.  Clarity was mine at dawn.  And so I’ve continued that same routine, even as my children were babies and blocks of time for sleep were more like little splinters.  Somehow my body seemed okay with dark circles under my eyes, as long as my soul was fed.  Adaptation at it’s finest.

And that is why I read this Billy Collins poem over and over again.  Any poem that praises the morning for what it is: ripe with possibility.  A hue cast upon time that encapsulates hope, love, tenderness, possibility, affection, newness, and many other really great things that could be summed up by the line of the poem: “This is the best”.  Granted, I’m talking about mornings that are not preceded by late-night soirees.  In the event that an evening of fun spills over into the next day, I’m talking about the morning after that morning.

The most notorious early riser under the age of ten in our home is Violet.  She is a ray of sunshine in the morning.  It’s her best time of the day.  This morning she hopped in bed with me and we cuddled as she asked “Who won the election?”.  This is how most mornings go for us.  We’ll talk about the dreams we had,  craft ideas she’s been thinking about since the previous morning, and anything else that pops into her always-switched-on mind.  Before bed last night she was reading aloud to me from a Dummies book about Yorkshire Terriers.  We talked about the dreams we had for our pup, Pip. I had dreamed that Pip had puppies.  Vi dreamed that Pip could fly.

Most mornings I walk the kids to their bus stop (which is about 100 paces from our front door).  There are moms everywhere, most of us still in our pajamas, kissing kids and bidding a good day upon them.  I love this part of the day: a farewell to my children as they embark upon new adventures, humble hellos to the neighbor mamas as we’re all braless, without makeup, and looking forward to our second cup of coffee.  The sense of community is great during these mornings.  “Can you keep an eye on my kids this afternoon?  I have to work late.” -or- “Can I borrow your bike?  I don’t have the car today.” -or- “Can you sign for my Fed-Ex package?”  Little shared efforts in life that bring folks together–interactions that make you feel apart of the collective happenings on the block.  

Today I’m bound for Hobby Lobby.  I have some ornaments to whip together for an exchange that’s happening tomorrow night.  TOMORROW NIGHT?!  Yikes!  Somehow I commit to things that sound like a great idea at the time, and then forget about them until the deadline is fast upon me.  Some people, however, work best under pressure.  Good thing I am one of them.  Also, a favorite coffee shop is celebrating their 1st anniversary, so it only seems fitting that I should splurge on some fine espresso to fuel the modge-podge application.