Monday, May 16, 2011

Fabric Block and Stenciled Onesie- Easy Baby Crafts

Here's a couple crafts I've been working on:

I took some random scrap fabric, crinkly stuff, ribbon...and made...

A brightly-colored soft block with taggies for the baby to squish and mush and chew on.
It's a bit loud, I hope it doesn't frighten her!

And I decorated a plain onesie.
Stencil + fabric paint= voila!

I totally plan to do a few more of these with other cute designs. This one reminds me a little of a Christmas card. But I like it anyways.

Before you think that I'm a super crafty person, you should know that both of those projects were completed during Noah's naptime. Not time-intensive or expensive. Cheap and Easy- just how I like it! ; ) 

By the way, if you have any suggestions for simple baby crafts- please let me know.

In other news: we've found a name that all three of us like, it honors a family member who is no longer with us, we appreciate the meaning and significance of the name, and there are some sweet nicknames that we've already been addressing her by.
I might wait until after she's born to share the name....
We'll see if I can contain myself!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Upcoming Projects

I'm listing a few project ideas here to keep myself motivated (and to just record this transitional place in my life). Maybe, just maybe, if I've made this list public, I'll actually buckle down and get to work on a few things.
But don't really count on it. Ha!

1) First, the inevitable, ongoing project of BABY. This includes being pregnant and pursuing the cravings that go along with it. It also includes selecting a name for the sweet baby girl on the way. We're struggling big time with this if you have any suggestions- send them my way!!! PLEASE! Also, send boy names too just in case the ultrasound tech was mistaken.

In addition to the Great Name Project (which is driving me a bit insane), I want to try my psuedo-crafty hand at making pink and frilly baby stuff- clothes, toys. If you are crafty and have any ideas for simple, beginning projects- please comment.

The nearby fabric store was having a Spring sale and I popped in today. Picked up these lovely girly-girl fabrics.

Before we knew the gender, I made this bib. Because any groovy guy or gal can appreciate the King.

 2) Besides baby stuff, I want to make/decorate a special Big Brother shirt for Noah. I have fabric paint. Just need to pick up a T-shirt and get to work. That should be easy, and I like it easy. 

Noah did not try to hide his disappointment when he found out that a little sister is on the way, rather than a brother. He fantasized about teaching a little brother all of his Boy Ways.
I need ideas about how to get him excited about the new FEMALE person arriving in his life. Thoughts? Suggestions?   

3)  On top of having a baby due in August, we are also trying to move...AGAIN...and in August. We're looking to become first time homeowners. So, I guess house-hunting is another project keeping me busy. I just want an extra bedroom for the littlest one, a small outdoor space (yard? patio?) for a garden/container garden, and a kitchen that is larger than our current apartment kitchen. And I'd prefer to stay in Takoma Park, of course. I'd also prefer to stay within the particular school zone that we're already in...I like the kindergarten that Noah will begin in the Fall.

I have so longed for my backyard garden from Syracuse this spring. I've envied our non-apartment dwelling neighbors and their gorgeous blooms. And as much as I love to cook and bake, I haven't been able to stretch my wings in the closet-sized kitchen we currently have. The cheese-press Michael gave me for Christmas sits gathering dust because there is just no room for a cheese factory in our apartment. No room! So a place with more room to further pursue more PROJECTS. That'd be ideal. : ) 

4) Then there's my poetry. I would love to grow further as a writer. I need more practice. I need mentoring. I would ultimately aspire to mentor others...oneday. Takoma Park is a fantastic place to be for an artist, plenty of inspiration, plenty of people to look up to for guidance, a community that is passionate about art. 
Unfortunately, I don't feel like I can really committ to a strict, disciplined writing schedule at this point. But it is a plan for the future. 

Well then, that's enough to get me started (and I haven't even mentioned salsa dancing or learning French).
I welcome all suggestions and encouragement...crafty, baby, home-hunting, writing, or otherwise!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Celebration of Takoma Park, Spring, and a Return to Blogging

When we first moved here in July (2010), I fell in love with the politics of the place, the passion for poetry and the arts, the playful spirit, the family-friendly community, the proximity to DC, the criss-crossing trails littered with bikers and strollers and joggers, the green green canopy of trees overhead, the urban deer tiptoeing in back yards and the black squirrels chattering. 

But, honestly, it was damn hot- like a slap in the face everyday-leaving your face stinging and deep red. Some kind of humidity demon sucking the breath out of you- that was part of summer...if you couldn't find shade. And there is never enough shade to cover a Summer. Lethargy and mosquitos. Plus, I missed my garden.   

When Fall arrived, the brilliant changing leaves made me swoon. They catch your heart on fire as you remember remember remember all the Falls that came before. O' the bittersweet power of memory that Autumn exposes. The crisp air, the orange glow enveloping life in a bubble- reminding us to harvest and then come to rest and be mild.

Then the Winter was on us like a gray sweater, stark and svelte. Streamlining desire, suppressing, forcing us into hibernation- a chance to be more thoughtful. A turning inward because the outside world is so so cold. If the snow or ice builds up, trees and power lines snap under the pressure, and you could be huddled without power- realizing how helpless you are to the whims of nature (and ineffiicent electric companies).  

Now! Pure JOY! It's Spring! Takoma Park is known as Azalea City, and I never knew how lovely a city could be. Everyone must have conspired long ago to plant and nurture all of these gorgeous gorgeous trees and flowering shrubs, so that Spring would bring such incredible ecstasy. Green little sprouts and sprigs of hope frame your perspective. Buds shake their darling heads- affirming- yes- YES! The birds echo that same sweet song- oh baby- YES! Of course, this is not the ideal if you have allergies. But I am loving it today. Everything is exclamation points and Capital Letters!

I regret that I haven't written much lately. But I regret even more that I haven't carried my camera along through these seasons. I've wanted to take photos more and more because the beauty is just overflowing.
Back to it!
I can't stay away long!
You see, after trying to conceive for well over a year, sinking into despair because I thought I was infertile (which meant that I had to face the fact that I'm getting old and closer to death), and then getting pregnant- out of the startling blue- I've just been processing the news... excited, and completely absorbed in analysing the possibilities and limitations that the birth of a second child will bring.
So there. That's my excuse for being absent from the blogosphere these long months.
Plus, I was hibernating along with the other creatures.
But now, it's Spring. I'm awake! And hungry!  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boys and Guns, Apples and Arrows

I've voiced concern before over the kind of person Noah will grow up to be.
After a conversation today, (which really is part of an ongoing debate about violence and masculinity between me and my 4 yr old), I'm fairly certain that he will take great pleasure in rebelling against my peace-lovin' hippy ways.

Dinnertime talk:

Mad: Noah, must you turn your garlic bread into a gun tonight?

Noah: Yes, Mom!

Mad: Why do you turn your bread into a weapon, darling?

Noah: So I can kill the bad guys.

Mad: But Noah, can't you just give the bad guys a HUG and turn them into good guys?

Noah: No!

Mad: Why not, honey?

Noah: I need the bad guys to be bad so I can shoot my gun and kill them!

I actually realize that Noah is not atypical, that many boys behave this way, that it is not a personal attack on my values. Sure sure.
Rationally, I realize this. And I take deep breathes. But it's hard to not have internal alarms going off; blaring, warning, warning, your son will be swept up into a cycle of violence and retribution...that doesn't end...until it all ends.  
I don't know what is cultural, what is learned on the playground, what is absorbed from cartoons, or what is biological.
And what to do? Forbid him to pretend? Make guns such an enticing taboo that he will be even more drawn to them? Say no, no, no...and force him to play guns secretly...making them that much more powerful and seductive?
I don't have any answers to those questions.

Here's irony for you: this quote (with it's weaponary and shooting) popped into my head which expresses this feeling of helplessness that parenting can be. The essence of the quote is: 'having a child is like shooting an arrow into the have no control over where it will land'...someting like that.
However, just now when I tried to google the quote to get the accurate wording, I couldn't find it.
I only found bizarre and violent mentions of children getting shot with arrows, and of course the William Tell shooting an apple from his son's head.

Nevertheless, Noah is an arrow soaring in the sky, already beyond my reach. Sigh. Boys.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Time Capsule/Frankenstein Love Letter...or: I never throw away anything written to me

I was looking, tonight, through a dusty box of old poetry; trying to select enough tasty morsels to read to a captive audience (I have a reading on November 18th). Within that dusty box, there was an entire history recorded, cryptically. Some of the things I wrote should not only be thrown away, they should be burned and the ashes should be stomped on, scooped up, and tossed over the edge of a cliff. But, alas, I can't do it.
In fact, I'd rather humiliate myself a little more by sharing a few things here. Oh, why not.

I'll start by sharing a strange creation of mine. I can't call it a poem. I didn't write a lick of it. Way back in the dawn of time, people used to write actual physical tangible letters to each other. There were folds and creases and handwriting quirks and doodles in the margins, tear drop stains and lipstick streaks. Well, I took a bunch of letters written by friends and family, cut them all up and pieced them back together into a freakish Frankenstien letter to my 19 year-old self.  Don't strain your eyes trying to read these! I'll type it all out for your amusement! It's been over 15 yrs since folks wrote these words to me. Some are no longer alive. Some are lost to me in other ways. But I have their crazy, wonderful, earnest and silly longings and wishes in this time capsule to myself.  

July 5, 1994 Tuesday Morning
Dear Madona, Dearest Niece Madona, Hey Tyler, Ty, To Tyler from Jon-Boy,

After you're rich and famous, I'll say

Same people, same places

Did I tell you that Aurielle lost her two front teeth on the bottom?

I can hold a pencil in my fingers.

...and I can't. Isn't that unfair? You can work 4 days a week at the club and you don't think that bothers me? But I don't say I have no respect for you. I love & respect you.

my period is very irregular lately

and the radio said Lollapalooza was rained out

Mike sounds soooooo cute, I think that blond hair and

my theory that rap music is a communist  plot to weaken the infrastructure of American society

backbites her own children, Ok? Try to give the person the benefit

computer you ganked from the family. Why you little devil.

When we were fixing to take the boys back swimming he gave me

fast cars, a nice house, a couple of rug rats, a small harem, and to in general just be happy

the children put on plays, skits, sings and dances

but we claim healing in the name of Jesus!

What do you want from life? Well, besides sex

go down the river in Mason's boat. That's one of my favorite things

and not be so possessive, I will promise to be everything to you, including your future

I do worry about you

(one was killed by a pack of dogs) then the dog catcher

He made the Dean's List.

I came into the theater today looking for a job. Do you remember?

I have emotional problems

I would rather call you Madona, but if you like Tyler I will call you that. Sometimes I call myself Chicken Wang

Cold Cold in MN tonight

you haven't found you a fella yet! there has to be one nice single cute man in Minnesota

Well we got to the beach last night, however, I never left Lake Butler

We stood on the front porch last night and watched fireworks. They were mostly duds.

watched a movie and later that night called and said you would have kissed me if I had tried

don't strike me down with your wrath

1995 will be the best

incredible friendship and relationship. I'm ready to commit myself

Forgive me for getting pissed off

housework keeps me hopping

I have the feeling you're a booty call. I like Bryan, he's nice, but 

Hot! We need the rain

Don't lead me on or use me as a security blanket

From Will The Temp Guy reading the Barbara Kingsolver book, Grandma, Love, Erica M. Freeman, I love you, Jon, Dawnnita, Your Friend, Travis, Love Always, Aunt Beth, Cousin Fritz and Cousin Biener, Love Jay, Love always and forever, Mommy, Aurielle and Smokey, Love you, Granny Erlene, Always Friends, Leslie, Love & Hugs, Shannon, Love ya honey, Mary, Love, Aunt Peg

P.S. If the pictures do not arrive soon I shall gather my tools of torture (handcuffs, whips, etc.)
P.P.S. Everyone says hi and sends their love. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A few recent poems...with a disclaimer.

I'm not extremely confident that my poetry is anything. I just write it because I have to. I don't edit very much. I don't rewrite. I don't strive for perfection because life is too short...and there is no such thing as PERFECT in poetry or life. So, there. I have given you my disclaimer, and at the same time set the expectations low. I'm off the hook! And so are you. Enjoy. Or not.
There's only 3 short poems to endure here. The last one being the most 'positive'- written today.

A few poems written recently on trains or during walks home... (listed chronologically):

Unanswered Questions

If I cross a line
Will you
Remind me
Where the boundaries are drawn?

Is the question
‘What part of me do you see
that I am blind to?’
Or is it
‘What part of you is blind to me?’

I have only the
Most miniscule inklings
Like the faith in a silent god

A defense mechanism
Preventing the harshest of falls

What Can Stop a Train?

The expectation of amnesia
Understanding we experience
Then choose to forget
Especially those things
That would force change
What we can’t change

The mind races along
A high-speed train in its dark passage
Grasping for nothing
But a steely track

If we could only
Brake, pause, seal in amber
The touch of skin
The knowledge of a line crossed for the better
A connection tender
Sweetness recollecting, tasted on lips

But what can stop a train
From plowing along its predestined course
You? Me?
Figures illuminated ahead on the tracks
Phantoms disappearing on impact

Wishes for you:

To discover a secret hidden message
Written on your window’s condensation
Carving out heat from autumn chill.

To find a forgotten 5 dollar bill
In last year’s coat pocket.

To discover a fresh route
To walk your way home
sun-on -your-back.

To find a capital M, Mystery
That unravels your heart.

To discover a gift that was never lost,
you didn’t know you possessed
Until it was too late to do anything
But appreciate its grace.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water related disease... Blog Action Day

Even though I grew up in relative poverty, I feel extremely lucky.
I was lucky to be born in a wealthy, developed country/America;
where water is piped into our homes,
where there are public drinking fountains,
where drinking water does not kill you.*

Does it sound and feel crazy to you that 46% of the world is not so lucky? 46% of the world does not have the luxury and convenience of H2O piped in. What do the other 46% do to hydrate their bodies, to wash their babies? Because water is what they lack, they live a life consumed with the quest of obtaining it.
This quest rests heavily on the shoulders of women (or rather, carried on top their heads), who often walk 8 hours a day to gather water for their families, their children. And even then, the water may be full of human waste, chemical run-off, hidden disease and death.

Did you realize there is a CLEAN water crisis going on? Probably not, because if you are reading this blog, you are more than likely priveleged enough to have a computer and priveleged enough to have ample amounts of disposable time to read my silly ramblings. Clean water is something that you, if you are anything like me, probably take for granted most of the time.
I'm trying hard to not take it for granted today. I thank my lucky stars that I am spending my time/life thinking, laughing, reading, writing, loving, dancing, teaching, learning...instead of gathering water.

There are ways to make it better for ourselves, our children, and the other 46%:

1) We can conserve water, not be so wasteful. After all, it is a limited resource. In fact, it becomes more and more limited as the world population grows and our current water supplies get more and more contaminated.

2) We can educate and empower ourselves about our world. We are all connected, sharing the same sky, earth, and water. Learn how what you do affects others. Be mindful of your impact in the world. Take responsibility.

3) We can support the efforts of groups devoted to working on the water crisis. Groups like and charity: water work to bring wells and fresh, clean water to that 46% of people not as fortunate as ourselves.  
4) If you are tired of helping others and worrying about the problems of the other 46%, then help yourself and your children:
Make sure that lawmakers are PROTECTING PEOPLE, water, air, and NOT POLLUTERS!

If you want to learn more or check my facts, visit,
and read the National Geographic's Special Water Issue (Our Thirsty World). 

~Clean Water Cheers!

*However, with the rising toxicity of our waters, that is questionable. Many links are being made to water and cancer clusters. We've all seen Erin Brockovich, right? Maybe I should revise my statement to "drinking water does not kill you immediately."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Your Hometown: a left-brained and a right-brained approach to perceiving the place.

Maybe you're like me, and you're far, far away physically (and spiritually) from where you started. But maybe, like me, you still have internal conversations with old friends or family who have departed. Maybe, like me, you never stop loving people you grew up with and you visit them in blurry dreams.
Or maybe not.
Maybe you're not like me at all and the past is the past is the past...
Nevertheless, you might still like to check out these sites.
Your hometown- a left-brained and a right-brained approach to perceiving the place:

1) Arcade Fire's The Wilderness Downtown interactive video site. You really really should have Google Chrome for this experience. Just download it and all is good. The Wilderness Downtown is pretty neat. You put in the zip code from your hometown (or anywhere) and the video captures parts of your hometown using Google Maps and some awesome music and art. The result is a custom-made music video!
It may not be the hometown of your childhood memories, but, really, you can never go back to that.
It's lost. Only accessible in  those aforementioned blurry, time-smeared dreams or glimpsed running by out of the corner of your eye.

If you are unfamiliar with Arcade Fire, they are responsible for the emotional, epic music in the Where the Wild Things Are film. It's pretty interesting hearing this epic music playing over images familiar to your life. Kind of like a soundtrack to a memory from the past.

2) Patchwork Nation. This is a totally different experience than The Wilderness Downtown! Patchwork Nation is a research and reporting project that maps information about America in a more compelling and complex way than using those tired old monikers like Democrat and Republican...which really don't get to the heart of what people are. Patchwork Nation looks at the factors that might make you a liberal or conservative; like race, income level, religion, education level...but it also challenges those assumptions by showing that we are more complicated than those labels.
So, like with The Wilderness Downtown, you punch in your zip, and it spits out information relevant to you. It shows you the demographics of your hometown, or current town, and puts your county into a category like "Monied 'Burbs" or "Boom Town" or "Tractor Country" or "Evangelical Epicenter." These categories can be problematic too due to the fact that they are based on the county, not the city or neighborhood. For example, my current zip was categorized as a "Monied 'Burb", even though there is a huge immigrant population here in pretty dire poverty. Yet, because the wealth of nearby Bethesda and Chevy Chase are in the same county, the entire area is classified by that wealth.
In spite of it's limitations, Patchwork Nation gives insights on how we are changing politically and otherwise. You can see where all foreclosures are taking place and how that effects how people vote. You can see where counties with Cracker Barrels are versus counties with Whole Foods. You can create some cool map/data mashups.
Maybe I'm just a nerd. But, it was fascinating for me to see the data on the different types of communities that I've lived diverse they are, or what they have in common.
My hometown, Lake Butler, FL, currently has a population of about 15,000...and about 86% of those people consider themselves to be Evangelical Christians.
The town I reside in now, Takoma Park, MD has a population of 950,000...with just about every religion represented...only 14% Evangelical.
Very interesting!

When the creator of Patchwork Nation spoke to a group of us last week at Greenpeace, I asked him if he knew of any similar sites that study this kind of human data, but on a more global level. He pointed me to Gapminder, which looks at world trends. Cool mappy stuff.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Small Shaving Tip: If you can't beat the system...break it!

A couple of random tips for the ladies (and applicable fellas too):

1) If you shave your legs with hair conditioner, they will be much softer and smoother than if using shaving cream. You may find yourself unconsciously caressing your own legs in public, causing great embarrassment to yourself and those around you.
That has been my experience anyways.
Go ahead and try it, and let me know if you have any similar experiences.

2) If you do use conditioner to shave your legs, then you should probably be seated whilst shaving. Otherwise, as the bottom of your tub becomes all slicked up with the magical, mysterious, unpronounceable and surely toxic conditioner oils and ingredients, you very well may find yourself sliding right out of the tub and onto a hard, tiled floor, whirling and spinning around like a character from Electric Boogaloo. And let me assure you that it is not fun at all to breakdance in the nude.

That has been my experience anyways.
Go ahead and try it, and let me know if you have any similar experiences.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Transportation Meditations: Part 3: Public Trans.- The Metro

Maybe it's just that I'm in the honeymoon phase of my relationship with the Metro, but so far- I heart it so!
First of all, oh my, the people-watching opportunities are unbeatable. There are all kinds of folks elbow to elbow ("It's called Speed Stick- It's not expensive!"). In the mornings, people tend to be on the quiet side, waking up. But in the afternoons, whoa, what conversations (with occassional splatterings of profanity) I overhear. Sometimes complete tragic dramas are played out over a mobile phone. And I think I might have witnessed a baby being made yesterday. Are we either exhibitionists or voyeurs?
It is truly Public Transportation Theater. I went to a Creative Writing Group meeting the other day, and one of the writers insisted that the Metro is the best place to get story ideas. True dat. It's also a good place, as a writer, to listen to genuine dialogue, genuine slang, speech patterns, etc. to include in your writing. You know, slang that's more current and authentic than 'true dat'. But I digress.
Another few reasons I love the Metro (so far), are: it's easy, effortless- a lot simpler than driving into DC and parking. There are so many OneWays, traffic, crazy drivers, traffic, and more traffic, and road rage. The last time I drove to DC was for a Dr's appointment for took FOREVER to traverse 7 miles, and when we finally arrived home, I just wanted to drink. Nerve-wracking. The Metro, on the other hand, you step on, no, yeah, the train shares it's track with nada...and then you step right off, convienently at your destination. On the way, you could read a book, listen to your Ipod, people watch, or even have a long, loud personal conversation on your phone for everyone on the train to hear, etc. Whatevs!     
Also, I adore the fact that I'm not driving a car that is idling through traffic, burning up the fuel, smogging up the air.

My only complaint is that during the peak hours, the Metro fares are a wee bit expensive. 3 bucks there, 3 bucks back. Not really expensive, I guess, if you consider that to park a car in DC, I'd be spending at least $10-15 a day! And if you factor in gas costs, car maintenence, insurance, and monthly car payments....well, that 3 bucks there and 3 bucks back is certainly the more frugal choice.

I realize I haven't shared my adventures with buses yet. Soon to come, ok!
In the meantime, I'd love to hear about any of your Public Transportation experiences/opinions/eavesdroppings.

Gray Sea

Gray Sea