Monday, April 30, 2007

doll blanket for school auction

For the doll who has everything:
Needle-felted embellishments on shrunken sweater fabric, wool, wool, wool. The fabric color is "graduated" from pale to dark, so the photo captures the color accurately. I just had time to snap the photo before the auction closed-- and the doll bed and special blanket went to the exceptionally-worthy Jane, for her granddaughter.

And yes, that's how sunsets look, here, over the waves at Folly Cove.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

spring libation number two: princess curly locks

Okay-- added photos. (See comments by Tad, Lisa, Pete... I consider "three" to equal "popular demand.")

She washed my hair after a shoulder massage and scalp massage, all of which felt good. She offered me a cup of delicious tea and she combed and cut my hair just like anyone else would. I bristled with the thought of the same basic blunt cut I always end up getting, on a different day at a higher price.

“I researched a stylist known for cutting curly hair—she cuts Juliana Margolis, for instance, and Julia Roberts. She’s in New York, and I thought about driving to find her, but I wanted to find someone local if I can.”

“What does the stylist do that is special?” Amanda asked. Her own hair is white and ironed straight, eyes lined with kohl, pretty and startling.

“It’s called slicing and carving, and the website suggests this style of cut causes curls to behave less like stacking cups and more like nested measuring cups.”

“That’s a good image. It sounds like different words for exactly the cut I planned for you. I was just about to say, this is where the fun begins. Have I told you how much I love cutting curly hair?”

“You mean you’re not done?”

She laughed. “I’m just getting started. You have to see this really cool curling comb I just got.” So Amanda of the very straight white hair twirled my hair into twenty-five ringlets in about three minutes, each shoulder-length shining ringlet more charming than the last. Each ringlet stayed exactly where she put it.

“How does it do that? I need…”

“You’ve got to have one of these combs. It’s magic. The curl styling comb was a freebie from Aveda two months back, and I can’t get any more. It really works for you, though. Let me show you how you’d reach the back section, to do this yourself.”

She dried the ringlets and applied more fabulous-smelling hair goop to the long curled dreadlocks. “My job is to cut each individual curl to exactly the right length. That’s how curly hair needs to be cut.” She lifted one lock after another, eyeing each carefully. I relaxed into a second cup of tea, watching six inch slices of curl fall to the floor. Either it’s going to be great, I thought, or it’s too late now. “Love,” she sang, “Each curl needs a lot of love.”

Amanda and I are going to get along just fine.

“Can you shake your head back for me? Run your hands through your hair—let’s mess it up and see what happens.” But it felt like five pounds of heavy hair was missing, and ten ringlets along the bottom returned to their nesting cup homes. The dreads on top separated into arcing fireworks-shaped arrangements, begging to be tugged and to spring back. Unbelievable!

When I arrived at school to pick up my kids, rain poured down the gutters and over the eaves. As I closed my umbrella indoors, a friend insisted, “What did you do to your hair?”

“What do you think of it?” I asked.

“I can see every individual curl all around your head! It’s raining! Doesn’t your hair know it’s supposed to be a frizzy mess?”

“I just got the most expensive haircut of my life.”

“Looks like it was worth every penny. How many pounds of hair products keep those curls shining?”

“Twenty? Thirty pounds? I don’t care.”

“I hope you bought every bottle the stylist suggested!” Leigh laughed.

“No, that would cost more than the hair cut. But I bought two. And I’m in search of a very cool curl-styling comb on eBay.”

“Can you make it look like this, yourself?”

“It’s either that or I never wash it again.” She sproinged a curl or two.

The comb arrived in the mail yesterday from my eBay purchase, and my children called me Princess Curly Locks as I hurried to wind up ringlets after my morning shower. “That’s QUEEN Curly Locks to you, minions!” I chided, glancing at my watch. Three minutes, exactly. It’s more than the zero minutes I usually spend on my hair, but three minutes is not a huge investment. I grabbed my keys and my coffee to head out the door, dripping. I let the dreads air dry on the drive to school, where other children stopped to ooh and aah and sproing my shiny long curls.

Another half dozen moms stop me as I jump back into my car, each needing to tug a curl just to see it bounce. “Did your hair just start doing this?” Kristine asks.

“New cut, and I took a good three minutes to style it.”

“Yeesh, what would happen if I took three minutes to style my hair?”

By nine a.m., Queen Curly Locks looked exactly as I did when I left Amanda the White at the lovely salon, as she was sweeping many pounds of shining curls from the floor and admiring the pile of fireworks curls piled expertly atop of my head. I’m turning forty-five next week, and I have new hair, the hair of Queen Curly Locks, without even driving to New York City. Wonders never cease.

Addendum: There. Enough begging. Added the best I can do, aiming the digital camera down my arm (a very strange activity that makes me feel like an egomaniac. Funny, writing about myself does not make me feel like an egomaniac, but self-photography seems gratuitous. Why is that?). This photo doesn't show you the overall shape very well, my apologies-- can you see the rock star curls, though? That's after two nights sleeping on those spirals. No frizz and no re-doing the whole thing! I love my hair, but it's good to have it behave in a less-beastly fashion.

And I'm thinking I need to take all photos down my arm-- the stack of multiple chins completely disappears from this angle.

Princess Curly Locks will have her photographers snap a picture of the ridiculous sausage-curls drying, soon. I look like that snotty blonde Nellie on Little House on the Prairie. Which reminds me, must get ready for 3rd grade reading group this morning...

Friday, April 20, 2007

a different start to the same story

Months ago, I posted A Fluke Within a Mistake, an essay for a scholarship. Though I finished the essay, the different starts and pieces are still around, waiting find new homes. This is one.

The reading was about heartburn. I was a terrible cook, then, but a good eater, and I felt a keen urge to bake cookies, and to read that cookbook from cover to cover. Both urges were fulfilled in short order. I wonder how many of life’s best moments happen through mistakes and miscalculations, and the tiny seeds sown in strange places, in good faith.

So many events change us so profoundly, and the first that came to mind is the image of a snake, shedding its skin, coupled with the experience of leaving home. Then I listed all the leavings of home, and there were so many: leaving my small town for college, leaving the Midwest for so many places, each time shedding a skin but looking not terribly different from the person I was before. The adult leavings, too: leaving a profession I loved, leaving the easy ways of singlehood for marriage, leaving a good job to be closer to family, and the remarkable shedding of skin involved in childbirth and what follows. Shedding that skin left me so exposed I’m just beginning to recover after ten years.

The better question, for me, is to ask not about the myriad of leavings, but to ask when I began to come home—to come home to myself, and make a home in this world, for me and for others. This reading of a cookbook, in this odd lecture, begins that story.

The moment someone introduced me to the God who delights in the creation like a chef cooking for her best friends, I recognized that God immediately. There is a place for theology, but there is a richer and wiser place for loving the entirety of the created order, lock stock and barrel, with a touch of rosemary and finished off with butter. That’s the same place where composting turns vegetable scraps into the most delicious-smelling black gold, and also the place where color combinations raise the spirit of the handspinner of wool to new heights. There is a place to sing along with Aretha Franklin. The world—this world is full to brimming with entrancing joys.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

bike sounds

I am too tired to write—but the tired-er I get, the more my mind seems reduced to images, sounds, scents, some swirl of sensation that I can’t shake. My house smells too much of onions, and I’m wondering if Merry, who visits on Wednesday afternoons, lost some of the sprigs of wild onion she’d woven into her hair while gobbling down piles of potato cakes. Add now the scent of hyacinths, a better-smelling member of the onion family, atop my desk, and the aroma of coffee. We will burn the sandalwood and myrrh candle later, to add another layer and hopefully neutralize the onion.

As I was rushing back from the bookstore last night, my mind kept replaying the sound of my brothers pumping the pedals of an upturned bicycle, its rear wheel raised to eye-level with a couple of young engineers in training. Plaid shirtsleeves rolled up on two young towheads who might’ve been the prototypes for Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, dad’s tools and the brass oilcan and some reddish gray shoprags hanging from the upsholstery sawhorse.

“Hey Fuzz,” my older brother would greet me as I walked in with a popsicle from the freezer. “How’s the weather? Give me a hair, come on!”

“You leave my hair alone, greasy fingers. Who lost their bike chain today?”

My younger brother tended to treat me like a human being, so he chimed in, “Leave her alone—it’s a flat hair day. No rain.” My older brother learned that curly hair could be used to construct a crude barometer, from our very cool science teacher Mr. Zeigler. Curly hair shrinks into tighter curls with damp weather. Since I was a Walking Barometer, he at last found some use for a younger sister.

Anyway, there’s a story in there, or twenty, involving the texture of asphalt seen at eye level, the smell of a hot day in late summer, the sound a bicycle dropped to the pavement when there is no time to use a kickstand, the sound of the front wheel continuing to spin like a gyroscope after the bike is dropped—it’s a quiet sound. But what starts the story in my head is the whir of tires spinning in the air, the bicycle resting on its handlebars on the sawhorse in the cool cinderblock garage, the memory of straw-like lengths of plastic attached loosely to metal spokes making the clackity-clip, clackity-clip rhythm as the wheel turns. And the sound of a playing card, clothes-pinned to the wheel support so the card drums a motor sound as the bike is pedaled down the street—that is elementary school. Life was wheels. Life was imagining how far wheels can take someone. Roller skates, skateboards, anything that moved, but mostly bikes, chases, races, getaways and getting away from my house and my too-little life. I think of weaving back and forth to get the feel of a new bike or new tires. I think of speed and wind and a bandana to keep the sweat from pooling down my neck, riding my teenage-sized blue Schwinn four miles to my best friend’s house, my parents pretending not to notice I was breaking the rules of where I could ride and where I couldn’t. I was an A student, not too terrible, Honors Society kid, hard to scold too much. And I was crazy about motion, about the blue Schwinn and the hours to ride with no hands down the straightest flattest roads known to humankind. The sound of wind whipping the hair out of my severe ponytail, covered by a baseball hat to block the sun from my face.

I saw a photo of a retro-design bike, a little old lady bike, a don’t-have-to-stoop-and-bend to ride it girl’s bike, sigh, while I leafed through my stack of five juicy magazines at the bookstore. My escape. But the phone rang, an emergency, just as I finished the fifth magazine. Karen is not well. I flew back toward her house quickly, thinking of the blue Schwinn moving as fast as I can go, the sounds of travel as it used to look and sound. The blue minivan and the blue Schwinn are worlds apart, but not the experience of going, going as fast as I can.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

conversational style

My mom’s life was so filled with fascinating stories that she could talk all day if the listener did not provide resistance of some sort—she saw her stories as an invitation for a matching story from the other party. Therefore she was absolutely deadly to polite people. Her signal for you to interrupt her stream of tales was a shake of the head and a “but, uh…” If you failed to take advantage of this verbal sparring opening, you’d be pinned to your chair for the next twenty minutes by her next tale.

Scott used to throw her off rhythm by summing up her story with a funny pun or wordplay, and she’d laugh hard enough to give him a breather, to think about what he would like to say or a story he would like to tell, or an interesting question to get that story to go someplace new. She flat-out adored him, and they spent many hours laughing at or about me. (I am Not Easy to Live With, at times, which makes for good story-telling. Thank goodness it’s good for something.)

My husband and I once saw Mom at work on a polite couple for hours, waiting for them to tell a story to interrupt her stream. We were just outside the room, taking in the sun on a warm day and laughing ourselves to tears before sparing them by inviting her for a walk with us. “They are so quiet!” she said, exasperated. “I couldn’t get a word out of them!”

Scott has not yet mastered the interruption-fest of the rest of my family, shouting and guffawing over one another. When an Italian-American friend told me, “in my family, if we don’t interrupt you, that means we’re not listening. Interruption is our way of showing we care. Interruption is participation. If we don’t try to one-up your story, that means you’re not trying hard enough. And if you don’t use hand-gestures, you’re not going to get a word in edgewise.” I nodded enthusiastically. “You don’t have to be Italian for that!” I find the rules of engagement for civil conversation are just brutal on me— waiting politely seems like spectating in a world where I’m accustomed to being one player among many. I’m working at it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

bird nest factory

Twenty-six handcrafted birds' nests sold from the school store, plus three more "on order," and an additional two or three if I can stand to make any more... I am stunned. There is no more robin's egg blue wool to be found, so some are blue-lavender and some are an unnatural blue-cobalt. But my delivery team tells me the nests are in high demand, anyway, with parents stopping my husband and children in the hallways at school, whipping out wallets and happily dickering over who gets which nest.

The first six nests were crafted from handspun yarn, and they were my favorite ones. The handspun had "too much twist," so it twisted into a pile of twiggy-looking loops, twisted back on itself. I quickly ran out of handspun and have been digging through my yarn bin for any suitable colors and textures. I can produce four nests in two hours, and then four the next day-- more than four becomes stressful. (I say this, with six little nests on my to-be-finished tray, and a sick boy at home, and a lot of chores and writing to do.)

Lucky me to find a spring craft in great demand. Today I could hear the cardinals calling from the backyard as I worked on my nests.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

an unfinished egg description from last week

With ten days to go until Easter, I pop open the luxurious carton of Jumbo White Eggs. Have I ever seen eggs so large? It’s been awhile. I snip open the new egg-blower from the school store and quickly pierce four tiny holes in the large ends of four eggs. With only fifteen minutes until Scott and Brendan leave for school, I’m forgetting the learning curve with new technology. The squeeze bulb is not gentle enough—the egg bursts and the shell is as valuable as any other broken eggshell. Into the compost pile, and I purposely crack two other eggs into the bowl with the other raw egg, with a dollop of milk. The butter is already sizzling in the pan.

When the school boys are out the door, Madeleine joins me examining the new egg blower and I pull out the box with the very-tired-old egg blower. She is home with a slight fever for another day, but she loves German and she giggles as I give a dramatic reading from the back of the box. “Sprecht und hygenisch!” reads the label. Bohren, Pumpen, und some multi-syllabic word for rinse that is just too cruel to print. The “old” Blas-Fix blower is yellow plastic, with a long hypodermic needle on the end. It has a tiny “bellows” that fills with air, and blows slowly and evenly into the tiny opening in the egg. The eggwhite streams fairly easily out of the egg, but the yolk is tricky. After a few pumps, I look closely at the opening to find out why the egg doesn’t flow more easily, and just as I turn the end in my direction a stream of egg yolk releases in a spray across my pajamas and onto the floor. Oh yeah, I forgot that sometimes happens!

After pumping out the egg contents, the old German egg-blower fills with water to rinse the inside of the egg, and this is when the bellows leaks streams of water in four directions. That’s why we replaced it. Unfortunately, the new egg-blower is not nearly as controllable or effective. But it looks indestructible, as it blows a side off of one, two, three eggs in a row. (They are fun, though, and we will find other uses for these unconventionally-broken eggs. One is shaped like a baby bassinet, another like two boats, a third has a flap, like a submarine hatch that opens and shuts.)

Three eggs for scrambled boy breakfast. Three broken, and six whole eggshells, blown and rinsed. One dozen jumbo white eggs.

My children love Ukrainian egg-dying and we will get started tonight, dying one egg after dinner each night in a series of colors until the whole range is visible on the egg. It calms them and focuses their energy before bed, and it’s good for me, as well. Hopefully they will blow their own eggs free from the scrambled innards, soon, but it’s best if I get a good headstart.