Tag Archives: life

aurora


aurora noun, the dawn (literary)

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“But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

-The Beatles

Oh the sleep I used to get. There were some Sundays when I wouldn’t get out of bed until 1 pm. I would just lay in those crisp sheets letting their cool wrinkles enfold my rapturous laziness until my body and mind felt it was just the right time to rise, shower and go out for a mimosa filled brunch on Smith Street. And I had the nerve to complain during those days – of how hard I was working and how stressed I was – all while getting 20 hours of sleep every weekend. I was a seasoned, professional sleeper. I slept so deeply I couldn’t hear the garbage trucks driving down the street at 4 am picking up all of the garbage from the restaurants around us. I used to not go out on a Friday night just so I could sleep.

This past week, I was up at 4 am because I couldn’t sleep. There must have been some sort of sound that woke me up or dream I can’t remember that bothered me. Since it was 4 am, I just got up, went downstairs, did some cleaning, answered some emails and began my day. There just was no point in rolling around in the bed, thinking too much, wide awake. The sheets that once were such heaven are often heavy and bothersome. Sometimes it’s the kids randomly waking up or utility work being done in the street, but it is most often my mind which won’t stop racing that wakes me up and keeps me from dreaming about those brunch filled days of my Brooklyn youth.

So the other morning my restlessness inspired me to go for a walk in the neighborhood. We are blessed to live on a cove off of Narragansett Bay and the sunrise is almost always divine. The other morning, it didn’t disappoint, with the bands of dawn reflecting off of the calm water and turning the bay a soft pink color. The sails from the boats at the yacht club casting a perfect reflection in the waters ripples while cranes and cormorants gracefully glided past casting their own shadows in the water. If I could sleep, I would have missed all of it. I found myself very thankful for not being able to sleep and to have seen the sun rise another day.

How life changes in ways you can never predict.

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convenience


convenience noun, the state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty

record player

I’ve been turning over a blog post in my brain for several weeks now and am finally writing these few words down after such a long hiatus from this site. I toyed with the word “analog” after using my old typewriter a few weeks ago for an unrelated project…and then the other morning I was rather peeved on the drive into work so I wanted to write a post about wanting to be Kanye West. Then this morning I was in the shower using a bar of lavender soap and thinking to myself about the pros and cons of shower gel versus bar soap. My brain jumped back to my thoughts about analog and I realized that I didn’t want to write about analog at all. The word I was searching for was convenience…and so here we are. (I still want to write about being Kanye though.)

I’m an odd bird, which you will know if you really get to know me – or just talk to me for an hour over a bottle of wine. I collect antiques and watch a lot of PBS. I paint and sketch. I like, and work, in jewelry but not because I like the glamour but rather because I crave the tradition, process of fabricating and long history of jewelry. I’m addicted to the making of things in general. Sometimes I wonder if I watched the crayon factory video on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood too many times and it created too much of an impression. I appreciate the process, the history and the story behind physical objects – to the point where I can’t sleep some nights because I think about the details of things too much. I haven’t discovered what I am meant to create in this world or what the culmination of my obsessions might be. I’ve been a part of the back story for many things that people purchase and enjoy, but cannot take credit for their entire creation. In a lot of ways, I am a mother to the products I have worked on much in the way I am the mother of my children. I have ushered them through their troubles and tough spots until they have grown into adulthood and landed on Amazon or a store shelf somewhere.  I haven’t decided if that is enough of an accomplishment yet. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Anyway – I like the time and attention it takes to make a physical thing.

So when I think about the world today and the things we use the theme I most often happen upon is convenience. We use shower gel instead of soap because it’s easier to lather and friendlier than a hard rectangle of lard that you glaze your body with and then rinse off. We type on keyboards now and rarely write in handwriting so much so that schools have ceased to teach cursive or penmanship. Baby food comes in easy to squeeze pouches instead of jars and you can buy entire meals chopped to arrive at your home to make an authentic home cooked dinner easily and fast. We are creatures of convenience. Even as a working mom, I often wonder why we feel the need to save so much time. For more stalking time on Facebook and Instagram, judging by the world’s obsession with social media. We don’t seem to be connecting with people more with all of this time we have gained. Sometimes I think that it’s the greatest marketing ploy of all time – to get us all to think we are too, too busy and that we need all of these things to save us time when what we actually need is to use our time actually doing something. Using our senses or hands or brains instead of focusing on efficiency and convenience.

Some things are greatly lost in this quest for convenience. The process, the details, the work – all of those things that make great things great – are lost in making some things easier. Take oil painting for an example. There is acrylic paint now that dries faster and blends easier than what the great masters used, but there is something lost in that medium when you compare it to traditional oil painting. The color is not as rich and the texture is like plastic – because that is what it is – plastic. Painting in oil requires patience. You can only load so much paint onto a canvas until everything blends and turns brown. You have to thin it with Gamsol – but not too much or you lose the thickness for building it up and creating that impressionistic texture. You have to wait for the first layer to dry to add the second, more accurate and refined attempt. And there is the key – the waiting. In that waiting – in which if you were to try and continue hard headedly to fix the layer you’ve put down you would only make things worse – you learn what you must do that will make the painting good. Because you are forced for days to look at your errors in the shadows and light, in tones, you figure it out. You reach a different perspective and in reaching it are able to approach things in a better more enlightened way. The convenience of the paint drying quickly eliminates the most important element of oil painting – the standing and looking back. The reflection on what you’ve done. The reassessing and having another go at it. That is what makes the painting better.

The record player is another example. I have had one since we purchased our first home in Pawtucket over a decade ago. My husband thought I was crazy when I brought it home from the Homegoods for $50 with an old record of traditional Italian music from the Salvation Army. But once he heard the crackles and pops, the imperfections, the way it sounded bouncing off the walls of our new house, he was hooked as well – more so than me at this point. Now, streaming music is a beautiful thing that I enjoy, especially when listening to very loud Notorious B.I.G. on the way to work on a Monday morning. However, it never makes you listen to an entire album the way a record does. You gain the convenience of hearing any song you want to at any moment, but you don’t get to know that artist in the same way that a record forces you to. For example, Radiohead –the bends. Radiohead is pure genius listened to on any format, but when you listen to it on vinyl and it’s not convenient to skip past your least favorite track, the music becomes a statement that the artist is making rather than a few songs that are great. In the case of the bends, Radiohead creates a mood that is only captured when listened to as an inclusive album.  It changes your perspective on what it was you thought you were liking and captures a rainy day with a beauty that cannot be described with words. It also makes you appreciate how amazing their music really is.

My last example is probably my favorite – the Moleskine notebook. I have for many years, and always will, take my work notes in a Moleskine notebook. I have all of my old ones from my many jobs piled up in the furnace room of our home. Sometimes, when I am struggling to remember why I do what I do or I see something that was a project I worked on at a store or online, I will go down to my stacks and pull an old Moleskine. I almost always remember which one it is in. They are a history of my career. I’ve never been able to journal in a book but can and will only take work notes in one of these durable, black leather books. This blog is the closest I have come to chronicling anything digitally, but my Moleskines record the winding and odd journey of my career from my very first job here in Rhode Island. I find it magical to flip through the pages and remember where I was when I was writing those notes and how my handwriting changes from page to page, year to year. Sometimes there are sketches or other peoples writing – you know those times where your coworker wants to tell you something but has to write it on your page? Sometimes I remember what those comments were about. Other times I can’t remember who wrote them or what they were about, but they are always amusing nevertheless.  All of those moments, thoughts and places are in these black leather books in a way that typing something on a computer will never be. More convenient to type? Of course. But not nearly as important or as special in my life.

I saw that our local bookstore is selling records and the record stores we visit are all bustling with customers where not too long ago I was the only one there. I also saw a Moleskine store at the Short Hills mall during a recent visit. (I’m not so sure about bar soap vs. shower gel as I am still on the fence about that one.) I think that people like convenience and the ease it adds to their life and I do as well.  But I also think that people secretly crave and need something else. They need the experience, time, perspective and manual work that only analog, old things and tradition can offer to fill in the details of life.

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cynanthropy


cynanthropy n. a form of madness involving the delusion of being a dog, with correspondingly altered behaviour.

Ms. Stella - My Own Beloved Canine

Dogs are in their heyday – a veritable canine renaissance is occurring as I write this. They have their own boutiques and wardrobes, gourmet food and superstores. They wear rain coats to keep their fur dry and have special sections of the park just so they can run and play with their fellow dog-kind. There is an entire industry of groomers and pet photographers that make a living off of primping up their fur and making them pretty. They have entire charities existing to save them from the harm of puppy mills, hoarders and general mistreatment. It’s even safe to say that some dogs have it better than some humans. The top 1% of dog society probably lives better than I do…so would it be so “mad” to want to be a dog?

I suppose many years ago, before dogs and cats became only second to humans as domesticated animals, being or acting like a dog would have appeared as somewhat alarming. Perhaps someone with this type of madness would drop down on all fours and begin herding people or animals. Maybe they bit random followers or sat by the front door keeping watch and barked when strangers came by. Perhaps they chose to live in a glorified hovel called a doghouse in the backyard. I do believe that although some dogs still perform the aforementioned duties,  the majority of canines live a much more luxurious life these days (do you know anyone who houses their dog in an outdoor shed?) and that having the delusion of being a dog would not be that far afield from being your average college student.

Let’s examine this, shall we?

College students sleep quite a lot, as do dogs – over 10 hours a day. I fondly remember my slumber as a college student. When you have minimal responsibility in life and the only reason you really have to get out of bed is to read Ulysses and sit for an hour to listen to a professor ramble on about Kant, you sleep really, magnificently well. It’s that deep kind of sleep where you wake up feeling new and refreshed. (Once you have a child or a job, this never happens again.) My dog sleeps very much the same way I used to so long ago. She is a 60 pound figure of peace laying amongst down throw pillows on my memory foam mattress…the bed I worked half my life to afford…for at least 10 hours a day. It is arguably her bed as she sleeps in it far longer than I do. So one point for dogs in that respect. My bed in college was a glorified twin cot…which was an upgrade from the top bunk of my freshman year.

College students don’t tend to eat very high quality food – mostly what can be scrounged up cheaply or found at the school cafeteria – cold pizza, cereal, ramen noodles. One would think that humans would win out on the food argument, but unfortunately I have evidence of the latter. Recently as I was in the pet store buying some supplies for Stella, my own personal Holstein – doppelgänger, I scoped out the selection of kibble being offered. Honestly, I don’t think most college kids could afford to eat what some dogs routinely enjoy. $40 seemed the average for the medium-sized bag. This food had organic lamb and rice or bison meat – no chicken beaks or grade B meat. I even noticed Gluten Free dog food – because dogs get celiac too, apparently? And it’s not as if most dogs even exclusively eat only kibble. They get half of what their humans eat most of the time. Since most students will have to do a minimum of dish washing and microwaving, the dogs win this point too as their lack of opposable thumbs means they will never lift a finger in the kitchen.

Well, college students have indoor bathroom facilities, you say? Have you ever been outside a college watering hole on a Friday night? Well – there is a bathroom in the bar, but let’s just say some collegiate members have been frequently known to squat when they need to – males and females alike – especially if the bathroom line is too long. I would think that fraternities and sororities could support this point as well. I have heard stories but have no firsthand experience with the Greeks so I would call this one a wash between dogs vs. students.

I could go on for days but, all in all, I wouldn’t say wanting to be a dog is completely crazy or even very much delusional. They have to be one of the most loved species of animal in existence and are finally coming into their own. It’s quite arguable that dogs are treated better than a good percentage of humans. However, they mustn’t rest on their laurels. If the internet is any indication, it would appear that the cats are hot on their heels…

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pinion


pinion noun. the outer part of a bird’s wing including the flight feathers

Several months ago I went for a run in the mountain reserve near my home with my son in his stroller. I remember not feeling particularly well that day and being in a bad mood about something I can’t recall. Running is a stress reliever for me but I always listen to loud music in order to ignore the pain that running causes and to not hear my own huffing and wheezing all along the way. That particular day, I had forgotten my earphones. Like I said, I was in a bad mood but I still needed to run because I knew it would make me feel better. Instead of focusing on music I focused on the nature around me and tried to ignore my bodily groaning. I noticed a sparrow in the middle of the trail, not flying or walking, but just looking up toward the sky. Of course when I got closer to him, he took flight, but I was left with an amazing feeling that things would be okay. That all I had to do was remember to look up and the sky would still be there the same way it was for the bird.

Throughout my life there have always been symbolic birds. It all started with my mother when I was a child. I had never met her father, my grandfather. He died when my mother was around 20 from a heart attack, but I can tell that she loved him very much. She always told me that her father came back as a pigeon after he died. Now, we are Catholic so we don’t believe in reincarnation, but my mother was very sure that whenever she saw an animated pigeon, or one that stood out among the rest, it was her father. Maybe it was because her father used to keep pigeons on the roof when she was growing up in Brooklyn or maybe the pigeon’s stout stature and tenacity recalled fond memories of her dad. Either way, my grandfather is a pigeon.

The first grown up book that I ever read was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I still have the paper back copy that my dad gave me and have read it over and over again. I kept the same bookmark I used as a kid in the book and every time I open it to read I feel like I am sitting by the pool at my grandmother’s house in Bergenfield reading it for the first time. I’ve noticed over time that memories of my father become fainter and I have to think harder to recall him. This book is like a totem for my memory. If there were ever a fire in my home and I could save something other than the obvious – baby, husband, dog, wedding photos – I’d reach for this book next. In a way, if my grandfather is a pigeon then my father is definitely a seagull.

But back to my bird story. So this sparrow I saw was looking up at the sky and I had never noticed a bird doing that before. Usually the birds that I see are scavenging for food or picking up bits of garbage to build a nest. Somehow I feel connected to that sparrow. He wasn’t looking at the sky because he longed to fly again…he took off and flew seconds later. The sky is a sort of home to a bird…second only to their nest. Perhaps the sky can be my second home as well. The place I look to in order to clear my head and get above all of the nonsense clouding my sight on the ground.

The sky is special place that only clouds and birds can really call a home. People and planes can visit it to get from here to there, but not really experience the sky the way a bird can. It’s interesting to think about skydiving and space needles and all the odd ways humans interact with the sky. It is as if we go up high to make where we actually reside and live every day seem a little more special so that when we go back down to the ground, we have a different perspective.The difference is we have to work pretty hard to get above the ground to look down. The sky is always there in abundance and all we have to do is look up for a different perspective.

Who would have thought that keeping your head in the clouds would help keep you more grounded?

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voulu


voulu adj. lacking in spontaneity; contrived

How many words do you know that end in a “u” like this one? I don’t think I know any others, hence the reason I chose it.   Voodoo ends in an “o” but that doesn’t count. It’s the “u” that makes this word special. For some reason this word makes me think of the Lululemon shopping bags they give out – because spending 80 dollars on something you are going to sweat in should come with a little free inspiration. So in the spirit of spontaneity, I am going to ponder some of these sayings from my shopping bag as an exercise for today’s post. Now some of these quotes are well known and wise, while others sound like they came out of the mouth of some type A, female, yoga freak psycho…so I’ll include both varieties.

Do one thing a day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Okay. I think have this covered. I wake up and deal with a screaming child that’s usually covered in urine and jumping on a crib mattress. I also face several different kinds of poop – baby, dog and if I’m not careful, some other kinds when we go to the mountain for a walk or run. Poop is very scary. I don’t know if Eleanor got the verb in her quote right though. Am I supposed to drive the wrong way down the highway or drink bleach? I suppose in the Lululemon yogaverse I’m supposed to do a head stand in class and be in the moment while fearing that my $80 tank top will flap down and expose my flabulous belly…

“Salt + High Fructose Corn Syrup + Butter = Early Death”

What if I dip a carrot in it?

“Friends are more important than money.”

Does this hold true if you go shopping with friends? I would think that the two would cancel each other out. What if you wanted to buy a special present for your friend and you have no money? What if the friend is dying and it’s the very last thing you can do for that person before they expire? What if you and your friends have no money and you can’t buy food? No, wait. What if you and your friend have no money and you need to eat but the only way to get money is to not be friends anymore? What’s more important then? Gotcha Lululemon.

“This is not your practice life. This is your actual life.”

Shit. I thought we were just practicing and I’m already sucking at this. Well, I’m going to stay in bed and eat donuts all day since I’ve already screwed this up.

“Visualize your eventual demise. It can have an amazing effect on how you live in this moment.”

So this morning while munching on half of a banana I visualized my death. Hm. Now let me go do something that scares me. Hand me the bleach and a donut because this ain’t practice. Tootles! I’m going to drive the wrong way down the highway now!

“The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you two steps behind. DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW!”

This is the last quote because the bag is yelling at me now. Unfortunately, I know people who live like this – many of them. I had never really met anyone who was like this until I moved to NYC and worked on 5th Avenue. They are the perfect young ladies in the Chanel boots with perfect teeth and pencil skirts. They carry their lunch in little Lululemon bags and talk about their Wall Street boyfriends and where they ate dinner last night. They can take you down with one swipe of their perfectly manicured paws in a meeting and then pop 3 Aderalls in the ladies room 30 minutes later. They are on top of their game all of the time – except they are ALL THE SAME. Like little fembots from an Austin Powers movie waiting to shoot you with their boob guns.

The thing is, if you are constantly forcing yourself to change, eventually, you will not be the same person. Change is good on a small scale. No one is perfect and I think trying to be a better person or eat less fat is a fine thing to strive for. It’s a matter of what you are changing and for whom. So DO IT NOW is a dangerous thing. If anything, Lululemon should be a little ashamed of this quote on their bag. Yoga is about being in the present, meditation and self acceptance – at least when you are doing it right. This element is important even in Bikram, which is pretty intense.

So here is a quote that would be more fitting to be on a yoga bag:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

The world would be a better place if we spent less time on changing ourselves and more time trying to change the world around us through our deeds and actions. This is the change we should DO NOW.

Namaste:)

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diaphanous


diaphanous adj. (of fabric) light, delicate or translucent

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I don’t think of babies as being light, airy and delicate. Perhaps it is because my own son is a toddler now and destruction seems always in his wake. Sure. Babies are delicate and “diaphanous” in some ways. In the grand scheme of life, however, I believe that at birth we are our strongest…let me explain.

When we are born, we are new. All of our parts have been oiled and our bones and skin have never been used. We are taken out of our packaging and arrive into the world in a most dramatic way. Even our lungs have never breathed air before. And from that day of birth, we grow to be more and more used. When my son walks around, he seems so solid and strong – like his legs are made of steel – but each day they learn a pattern, a gait. They get worn in.

It is as if the world erodes us and makes us more light and delicate as we journey through life. “Diaphanous” makes me think of the delicate, translucent skin of an old woman’s hands…or the thinning white, wispy hair of my long deceased grandmothers. And why cannot this be as beautiful as birth and youth? The fact the the world has washed away the newness of a person the same way the ocean waters erode the land and shores? I think it is just as beautiful, if not more so.

I think it best to live life in quest of losing more and more of yourself. Life is to let the world take of you what it will until there is nothing left. Sometimes perhaps it will be pain that leaves a permanent scar, but other times it will be the joy of laughter that will force a dozen breaths from your lungs…never to return again – permanent and beautiful all the same.

We are born with the strength of steel, and if we are lucky die with the delicate lightness of lace.

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daughterboard


daughterboard n. a small printed circuit board that attaches to a larger one

It is a little known fact that I once worked in a factory soldering mother and daughterboards all day. It was for 6 months after my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and I did not go away to college as planned. Since we didn’t know if he would live much longer, it was important for me to stay home. My father was the provider in our family before he became ill. My mother had worked here and there when I was a kid, but her jobs hardly paid the bills. It was necessary for me to work and bring in money right after my father had brain surgery and so I worked with my aunt who was the manager of a factory in Little Ferry, New Jersey.

Those 6 months of soldering boards were the hardest yet most valuable months of my life. I had spent most of the summer preceding it anticipating college life. To say the least I did not expect my father to have brain surgery and given a death sentence. As much as I was disappointed that I had to work, the soldering and assembly that I worked on at the factory brought a sense of order to my days. I remember sitting at my bench listening to the radio and soldering each tiny circuit one by one onto the boards. I was actually very skilled and perfected just the right amount of solder that I needed to get the perfect weld. I used to solder dozens of boards a day. There was such a sense of satisfaction when the bell rang at 4 pm seeing the pile of work I had completed. It’s a satisfaction I rarely attain from work to this day.

Eventually, I was put on the telephones – which I didn’t like as much. I frequently hung up on people by accident and I didn’t like acting cheerful and chipper to strangers constantly. My boss wouldn’t let me read when the phones were dead so I collated instruction manuals.

During my 6 months as a factory worker, my father’s health improved. He had lost most of his eye sight since the tumor was in his occipital lobe, but the rest of his brain functioned well and his body was strong. He knew I needed to go away to school…that if I didn’t I would likely be stuck working in a factory in New Jersey. So when January came we rented a mini van with my aunt, my mother, brother and my father and drove to Providence to move into my dorm room – a semester behind everyone else.  It was a proud day for me – much different from my previous trips to visit the school. My father and I had driven to Providence my senior year in high school several times for orientation and my interview. We always rented a car and I would nap in the back seat so I would be in good shape for my interview. I still remember the peach air freshener and NPR playing on the radio. Whenever I smell those little peach tree air fresheners, I think of dad.

I suppose the reason I digress is because I never thought that working in a factory for 6 months would serve me well in life, but I often find myself thinking about those days – especially when I was working before Graham was born. I find it so strange that often times the events in life we are most embarrassed and ashamed of are the most important and formative. They are the most honest accounts of our lives and represent our most intrinsic qualities.

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