Sunday, June 16, 2019

Dear Dad (2019)

Hi Dad.

I wish I could call you today. So much has happened, and I hate that you're missing it.

I think the highlight of this year for you would have been Mom's and Barrett's shows in Ann Arbor. The shows recently came down, and Mom will be driving through Milwaukee on her way to deliver Barrett's pieces back to him. All the work was so beautiful and perfectly displayed. There was a lovely tribute to you on the wall at the beginning of Barrett's space. He's in the process of finding a way to make your own art into a digital archive to share online. That will be amazing one day when it's all put together.

Mom's work continues to evolve in ever more lovely and surprising ways. You'd be so impressed by everything she's doing, and she tells me the garden is particularly lush and gorgeous this year.

You have amazing grandchildren. Rivyn is so smart and adorable and sweet. It breaks my heart he won't have firsthand memories of you. I haven't seen much of Ellora lately, but all reports sound like she's continuing to excel and she loves her school. My kids are doing okay overall, I hope. Parenting is hard, but they are such sweet kids I can't really complain.

Aden is going to be a senior this year, isn't that crazy? Especially when I think about having lunch with you on Brady Street so many years back and I was talking ahead about the idea of having kids and you teared up. And now the hypothetical child is almost a legal adult, although she's not too keen on the idea. We need to make sure she gets her driver's license this summer, but she does not like to drive. I think of you every time we get another college recruiting letter in the mail for her. So many little colleges everywhere vying for her attention, which means they haven't seen her grades. But Aden will be fine. We haven't figured out exactly what we're doing, but she's got interesting ideas in her sketchbooks and when she finally knows where to focus she will be amazing.

Aden is taller than I am now, and she's lovely. She speaks too softly, but she's kind and empathetic and good to her friends and siblings. You know what she did recently that blew me away? Ian was gone on a weekend I was supposed to go to a retirement dinner for a clarinet player in our orchestra, and I didn't really want to go to an event like that alone. My stand partner was going to sit with me, but then she wasn't feeling well and had to back out, so I just came home after the concert. I asked sort of jokingly if one of the kids wanted to accompany me and sit in their dad's place, and Aden piped up that she would go. She was in the middle of making dinner and she washed her hands and gave instructions to her brother and sister for finishing the meal themselves, changed into a nicer outfit, and happily went with me out to the fancy country club. She was charming company, and didn't mind for a minute that she was sitting at a table full of adults she didn't know and was fine with answering questions about school and her interest in animation. We chatted and laughed the whole drive home in the rain. She could not have been more perfect. What teenager volunteers for something like that? An evening with mom at a retirement dinner? I was in awe. She may drive me nuts sometimes, but in all the ways that matter, that girl is remarkable. And she has your eyes.

Mona's doing well. She's had a rough go for the past couple of years, and things still aren't easy, but compared to where we were before, it's like night and day. She chose Bay View High School and did very well in ninth grade. I think she was brave to select a school where she didn't know anyone. She likes French, which makes me think of you. All her teachers are excellent, but the student environment can be a bit rough. She doesn't regret her choice, though, and she's made some new friends. We got her a cell phone this spring so she could text people over the summer and keep connected. Dad, her artwork is so good. She's actively working on a portfolio for art school, and she is encouraged by the words you shared with me that she should be in the best places and learning great things. Because she knows you believed in her, she's convinced she can do it.

She has a pet bird! It's so chatty and cute and you'd love her. I told Mona all about the birds you had at one time. Mona's bird used to let the rest of us pet her, but now she's completely bonded only to Mona, which is kind of what I was hoping for. The only downside is I'm now terrified of anything bad befalling the bird because Mona loves it so much.

Quinn is getting so tall, and his hair continues to grow, although even he admits I should probably trim it at this point because it's getting frizzy from split ends. He told me his class got to look back on the three years they've been in Ms Tilly's room, and he marveled that the photos of him in fourth grade showed his hair just above his shoulders. (Which at the time seemed pretty long, but not now.) He kind of skated through sixth grade. Montessori should have provided him with the opportunity to pursue more of the challenging work he's capable of, but the downside of letting kids choose their work is sometimes they choose not to really do any. Quinn will be fine, so I don't worry about it. He admitted to me that he just kind of wanted to take it easy for a bit because in the adolescent program he starts in the fall he will have to buckle down and learn new math, etc. We're still taking Latin, which is getting really hard. I know Quinn has to push himself in piano and violin as well, so it's not like I don't think he's learning new things.

I just wish we had some clue what his passion might be someday. It's not like I feel he has to know what he wants to do this early, but I want to help him with it while I can. The only goal that he seems likely to aim for is owning three cats one day, despite his allergies.

In the meantime we play games together a lot, and I can teach him all kinds of random things that way. We've been enjoying a board game called Concept, which is kind of like charades in a way, but with pictures on a board you select in combination to get your point across. We've had to stop within games so I can explain things he's never heard of. So far he's learned about Joan of Arc, MacGeyver, Judas, Free Willy, the Lascaux caves, Tina Turner, and St Peter, among other things. It's a fun game.

(Although Mona's mind works a lot like yours, and I would have paid money to watch the two of you play Concept together. She was tying to convey Calvin and Hobbes the other day, and she kept giving clues about things made of metal. It was impossible, and Quinn and I had to give up. However, I did point out to her that one of my guesses was "a philosopher" which should have gotten me closer to the answer, but she didn't know Calvin and Hobbes were also philosophers. She didn't even remember Hobbes in the comics was a stuffed tiger. I have no idea what she was doing. Which remains the fun and challenge of raising Mona. Quinn and I think more alike, so I was able to get him to say "MacGyver" even though he'd never heard the name before. I can only imagine what direction you would take this game.)

Ian's doing well. He just got back from two weeks of some kind of strategic war game on the west coast. He finally got his 20-year letter, which means he can file for retirement soon. That will be a struggle for us in terms of health insurance when he leaves the Army, and the extra bit of income will be missed, but I kind of want Ian home at this point. All those weekends away and conference calls and the stress of working within that system.... I feel he's earned the right to use his time in other ways by now.

We bought the violin store building. That's been a lot of work and expense, but I believe it will pay off in the long run. The Airbnb we opened in the apartment above the store this spring is booked every weekend through summer, so that's going well. I kind of want the girls to paint a mural on the wall facing Rusk. I asked the landlord once about painting that surface and he objected, but now I'm the landlord.

Dad, I wish you could see my latest books! I finally finished Seducing Cat, and it's much better than the draft you read so long ago. I finished Just Friends, Just War, too, and Mom's got cover ideas. That book is also much improved from the draft you went through, and I could have used you for the few lines in French now in it. I feel like I finally have a handle on how to approach writing a novel from the start. I finished a draft this month of a new novel that is so much better than how my first drafts used to go. It may be the best thing I've written. (Or maybe it's terrible. Impossible to know. Creative projects are frustrating like that.) I wish so badly you could read it and tell me what you think. I could use your proofreading eye, although Barrett's pretty good in your place.

I think of you every day. There is a movie coming out called Yesterday, about a man who wakes up and is the only person alive who remembers the Beatles, and he gets to introduce the world to all their songs and become a star. I think that would have been fun to see with you on opening day with my kids. They like the Beatles. They are not in love with most of the music of their own generation, saying it lacks melody and thoughtful lyrics. Reminds me a bit of how you had to wait for music that interested you to come around, too.

I miss you, Dad. Happy Father's Day, Yesterday, today, and always.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

No Way To Turn

This has been a rough week, logistically.

Ian's out of state doing Army things for two weeks, and we're over halfway through it, but boy there are some times handling everything alone is okay, and other times it's hard, and this time I am barely hanging in there.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mom Time

I've been making a point this year of pinning people down for commitments to actual face to face time.

We have the illusion through technology of seeing people we don't really see, of being with people who aren't really there. I know through years of blogging there are people who feel they know me, but the information doesn't often go both ways. I know there are people I feel connected to, whom I don't reach out to either.

I don't take for granted that I have remarkable friends whom I only know through social media and would not know otherwise. I value those friendships and relationships. They matter.

However, there is nothing quite like real time with old friends and new, where you can share a bite to eat and catch up and laugh. That is life sustaining.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Varnish Workshop 2019

 This was my fifth time at the violin varnish workshop.

The joke (for people like me, who have now been to this varnish workshop multiple times) is that we must be slow learners. But the truth is, I learn something new each time, I add to my knowledge and skill set, and find ways to improve.

Plus there is the company.

For one week I get to be with people who enjoy violin work the way I do, but in a hands-on way. At Violin Society of America (VSA) conventions there are hundreds of like minded people to spend time with, and that's great, but sometimes overwhelming, and somewhat clinical. However, to spend time in a small space with about a dozen people who are all working is amazing and rare. I love it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Seducing Cat

My book is done! My book is up on Amazon! It's called Seducing Cat, and if you like it please leave me a nice review.

There is a print edition and a kindle edition. Buy my book!

This book is potentially more interesting if you've read my first novel, Almost There, which is also available at Amazon in print and on kindle.

I'm in the process of figuring out an affordable way to make my book available on other platforms, but in the meantime, Amazon is the way to go.

Didn't my mom and brother make a beautiful cover? My mom did the artwork, and my brother did all the design work and fussy tweaking. (They did the last cover, too, and I can't wait to see the next one.)

I've actually written a lot of things, but I'm only now getting around to finishing them up and getting them out into the world. The next novel is almost ready to launch as well (hoping to have it out before the year is up), and I'm over halfway through two other books that I keep moving back and forth between. I also have an interesting project that I need to find time to finish that is a repair diagnostics book for teachers to help them troubleshoot violin problems. That one I need to do illustrations for, and that takes more time for me than writing does.

In the meantime, read my new book! (And I hope you enjoy it.)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Peeps Procrastinators

Last year we did the Peeps show at the Racine Art Museum proud. Aden won the Peeple's Choice Award with her Jurassic Peep, Quinn got a prize in the kid category from the mayor, and my Peeps Violin (which is incredibly faded but still gracing the front window of our violin store) even got reprinted in the paper last week.

This year? Well, we ran out of both time and inspiration this year. I couldn't think of another violin related Peeps project, Mona and Aden each came up with things that were more ambitious than they could do in the few hours we had available, and Quinn took a long time to decide on anything. So we simply went with things that made us laugh.

Behold! With the least amount of effort ever submitted to the Peeps event, Aden's Sunny Side Peep:

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Doughnut from Machus

Today's my dad's birthday.

I don't think birthdays count when you're dead. I mean, at the end of this month it will be J.S. Bach's 334th birthday, which is vaguely interesting, but doesn't mean much. That information places him in a historical context, but unless he was still around to celebrate, he isn't really turning 334. He's just gone.

This is the fourth birthday of my dad's where it doesn't count.

Except it still kind of does.

I feel like I don't need markers on the calendar to remind me of my dad. I think of my dad all the time. It still hurts that he's gone more than I would have imagined. But then he still haunts places like Facebook where on days like today an algorithm clicks into gear and tells me to wish him a happy day. I hate that algorithm, and we need to untangle my dad's memory from it somehow.

So thinking specifically about my dad on his birthday a couple of things come to mind.

The first is that we shared a birthday month, but not an astrological sign. I'm a Pisces, and he was an Aries. Not that I think those things mean anything at all, but my dad every once in a while would offer to read us our horoscopes from the paper when he came across them. My mom's inevitably said she would be receiving more responsibility, so she was not a fan. The running joke when my dad read our horoscopes was claiming never to remember which sign I was. I honestly could never tell if it was a joke, or if he really didn't remember.

The second thing is the doughnuts from Machus. In his years running the gallery he acquired a sort of fan club of people who didn't necessarily bring in much business, but who liked to hang around and talk to my dad. My dad was smart and funny and wacky in subtle ways. I understand why certain people just wanted to be in the gallery with him. I did, too. There was one man in particular named Dr Stemple (who died several years ago) who used to bring my dad a doughnut from Machus on this day every year. They were dense, and covered with thick chocolate. My dad loved them, and used to say it made up for the number of hours Dr Stemple distracted him from work he was supposed to be doing.

I'm too busy to run out today and find the equivalent of a Machus doughnut. Weirdly, the closest thing might be those waxy chocolate covered doughnuts from Entenmann's, which my dad liked just as much as the expensive doughnuts.

I miss my dad. I wish he were around so we could celebrate today. I'd get him whatever doughnut he wanted.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thoughts on 50

50 is a weird birthday. It's got me thinking about other birthdays, since I have such a big collection of them now.

I remember clearly turning six. Mostly because I had a red and white checkered record player in my room, and among the kid-friendly records that I could play on it was a recording of Peter and the Wolf, and I believe it was the flip side of that one that included some sort of conversational sounding bit with a man asking, "Are you six? I'm six." Which looking back was absurd because that would have been a six year old with serious hormone problems. Anyway, I remember being very excited to put on my record, and when he asked if I was six I could finally answer, "Yes!" (It was anti-climactic as you might imagine, but you take your satisfactions where you can when you are six.)

14 was pretty good. My golden birthday! 14 on the 14th. There was an official Rubik's Cube solving race happening in town on my actual birthday, and I took 6th place and won a t-shirt. (It read "Cubists do it faster" which was not a particularly appropriate prize for a kids' contest, but I grew up in inappropriate times I guess.)

16 I had outlandishly deluded hopes of a car, but I got my own set of keys with a yellow clippy key chain, which was a pretty nice present that I didn't know how to appreciate properly at the time.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Phones Are Coming

We ordered smartphones for our daughters this week.

One of them has reached a point where it's impacting her social life because the native language of her friends is now texting and she is out of the loop in being able to coordinate with them outside of school if she wants to.

The other one doesn't actually want one still, but she'll be 18 this year, and we need to get her moving toward adult accessories like a driver's license (which she is dragging her feet on) and a credit card, and the phone fits in with that. Besides, she has had one too many incidents recently where she was supposed to meet us somewhere and botched it, and being able to call her would have been useful.

So we got to 15 and 17 in terms of no cell phones, which in this day and age is fairly unheard of. I still don't plan to get one as long as I can borrow my husband's spare Army phone when I need to. The 12 year old I don't foresee needing one until high school and then we'll see if it's really necessary.

I'm thinking we may be the only parents around handing our teenage daughter a phone with the express purpose of hoping she will text friends on it. It has relatively nothing to do with emergencies or communicating with us in my mind. I just don't want her out of step with her peers if having a cell phone could make high school in any way more bearable as she plods through it on her way toward art school.

While deciding what phones to get, we had an interesting discussion in our kitchen about how they physically feel. I think part of my aversion to cell phones and touch screens in general is I can feel a vague zap under my fingertips when using them. I really don't like it. Turns out my girls experience that same sensation when using touch screens and they don't like it either. My son and my husband feel no such electrical tingling in their fingers when they use them. I wonder what that's about. (It reminds me a little of how back in the days of TVs with cathode ray tubes I could hear one if it was on, even if the volume was off. I hated that sound.)

At some point I will need a cell phone myself, since giving my daughters a way to call me if there is nothing to connect with is silly. I'm hoping to hold out for another year, but it's hard to know. Since apparently in a week or so the majority of people in our house will have cell phones for the first time, and that could change things regardless of what I would prefer.

In any case, this will be an interesting transition. I'm glad my kids have developed skills apart from cell phones over such a long time. I hope they don't get sucked in so far that they become phone zombies like the ones we see all around us everywhere we go. They say they want to actively avoid that, and I believe them. So we'll see.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Positive Anymore

Welcome to my rambling thoughts on working with words, while I put off getting out of bed on a Sunday morning.

I've been doing a lot of writing lately. Not as much as I'd like to do, but more than I've managed in the past several years. Most of it is stuff no one will ever see--sketches for alternative timelines or extra scenes that use my characters in ways that don't fit in the books. It's a blast, though. It's like playing extra music for fun that doesn't count as practicing.

I started my first novel (Almost There--go read it if you haven't yet!) when I had two small children and wanted a project I could carry with me in my head as I cared for them. It wouldn't matter if I never finished it. (How many people who say they want to write ever finish a novel? Seemed like very little pressure there.) It sounded like a nice diversion. I didn't expect to love it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ecological Fiction and Hidden Ubiquity

This past weekend I was able to duck out to Michigan for a day to attend a show opening for both my mom and my brother. The only downside was the drive out on Thursday night was so snowy and horrible that the trip took about ten hours, and it was so blinding at times I had to drive on the rumble strip for parts of it in order to figure out where the road was. My two daughters came with me, and they stayed wide awake until we arrived at 3:30 in the morning because the whole ordeal was too scary for them to sleep. (Although we did listen to Aden's version of a mix tape which was good and my new favorite song is She's Kerosene by The Interrupters.)

However! Having survived the drive we all felt a renewed sense of gratitude for life, and were rewarded with not only the beautiful shows, but time with extended family we haven't seen in a while. Plus my mom made a really good cake.

If you can't read the card, the shows are at the Rotunda and Connection Galleries at the North Campus Research Complex, University of Michigan, 2800 Plymouth Rd, Building 18, Ann Arbor MI    January 25-May 3 2019

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Dorothy Parker Is Missing!

It finally happened and I can't believe it.

Our car got ransacked again last night (only two days after the last time), and our copy of The Best of Dorothy Parker is actually gone.

The break-ins are getting more annoying, and today when we all went out to our car the mess was way worse than usual with CDs and napkins and other random items everywhere, but no Dorothy Parker to be found. It was the only thing missing.

Maybe this is our version of a Little Free Library now? Will they return it when they are done? Bring us a different book? What new book should we replace it with? Maybe I should put in a copy of my own novel as a self-promotion? (Except that I like whatever's in the glove compartment to be something I can pull out and read if I'm stuck somewhere, and I already know how my book ends.)

So there's that. The end of an era. So long, Dorothy Parker. Your best was finally good enough.