Category Archives: visual art

road trip

A few weeks back, I got offered a free night’s stay at a family resort called Great Wolf Lodge.  Which is in Dallas.  Which is 5 hours from where we live.  And part of the offer was a brand-new Chevy to borrow for the drive up.

And I’m not really a big vacationer.  We go to visit family every summer, but we don’t usually take vacations just for fun.  I guess we have enough fun around our own house that we don’t usually go seeking it out.

But once the offer was out there, I got to thinking that my kids would probably really, really love it.   And so I just went ahead and said yes.

So, on Saturday, we drove up to Dallas.   And, after snagging a photo of my toes, I gave my kids our snapshot camera to take photos of the trip.  When I got the camera back, I had about a hundred pictures of the car floor, the kids’ sneakers, and the back of my head.  But mixed in among them were a few beauties:

And the kids did really, really love the trip.  And it made me so happy to see them so happy.  And taking a family vacation like that–just the four of us, mom and dad in the front seat and kids in the back with crayons–felt like another official stamp in the parent passport.  I really am a grown-up now. I’ve made it around to the other side of the circle.  Whatever I saw when I looked at the back of my mother’s head from the back seat of our station wagon, my kids now see when they look at me.  Whatever she meant to me then I now mean to someone else.  Which is a tremendous and terrifying honor, when I stop to think about it.  And also, more than anything, a blessing.

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it turns out, my dad used to be four

I am scanning photos for my dad’s 70th birthday.  Which is, actually, impossible–because my dad is 45 years old.  He has always been 45 years old, and he will always be 45 years old.  Period.

Except that here I am scanning his baby photos.  Which means at some point, he must have been four.

The same age my son is now.  And he must have played the same little-boy games and built forts and run around.  My dad at this age actually looks a lot like my son.  And the truth is, even though my dad has drawers full of family photos that he’s collected, I have not seen that many of them.  It never really occurred to me to look at childhood photos of my dad.  Because he never had a childhood.  Because he has always been 45 years old.

Like he is here:

Circa 1983.  My mom, my two sisters, my dad, and me.  I’m the supermodel in the sailor hat and braces.

I’ve seen this photo a thousand times.  It’s one of those favorites that make it into frames and holiday cards.  But it’s been a while since I looked at it.  And looking now, in this context, makes me see it differently.  I can’t help but feel so sympathetic to all these people–these younger versions of ourselves.  I know so much that they don’t know: All the things that are waiting for them, and what those things will mean, and how they will linger or be forgotten.  I know what will happen next to these people. And for that reason, more than anything else, the only thing my eyes can feel when they rest on this photo tonight is a fierce and inexplicable tenderness.

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art for Mom 2.0

It’s been a long month of sick kids (and parents) at my house.  And even though I knew there would be many, many, many of my favorite people at the Mom 2.0 Summit last weekend, I had to scramble pretty hard to get there.

But I made it.  And it was so good in so many ways.

Something magical happens when you get so many amazing people in one place.  And watching my video up on the big screen at the opening of the conference was pretty magical for me, too.

I love like crazy the theme of Mom 2.o this year:  What You’re Doing Matters.  Partly because I wrote it (and felt so honored that the Mom 2.0 Girls chose it as a theme), and partly because I SO believe it. And seeing the art show, with all those ordinary mom moments from daily life in a place of honor up on a wall in a gallery — it was powerful stuff for me.

Here’s the art I contributed:

I Mod-Podged old dictionary pages on a canvas and then wrote the words with a paintbrush and black acrylic.  It’ll be sold at the Mom 2.o online art auction (proceeds go to Haiti), and I’ll post the link when I have it.

By the way, here’s the piece of art I meant to contribute to the Mom 2.0 art show:

But after I finished it, I was kinda looking at it, thinking, “Not bad!” — when I noticed that little upside-down bird above “brave.”  And, yep:  Turns out I painted the words on an upside-down canvas.  Oops.

But I also contributed some other art!  I painted on the women who came to the art show.  Anybody who wanted one got a word — or several — on her body.  Here’s the beautiful Laurie Smithwick‘s arm:

All to say, it was a heck of a weekend.  And that — really and truly — is not even the half of it.

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defining a movement

My friend Laura asked me to make a video for the Mom 2.0 Summit art show that’s coming up in February.

And here it is!

Many thanks to Shutter Sisters for allowing me to use photos from the site.  And many thanks to the amazing photographers:  Karen Walrond, Jenny Lawson, Tracey Clark, Sarah Ji, Kristin Zecchinelli, Irene Nam, and Meredith Winn.

And here is the essay that I wrote for the video:

WHAT I WOULD TELL HER:  (If I knew what to say.)

You are a miracle.

And I have to love you this fiercely:  So that you can feel it even after you leave for school, or even while you are asleep, or even after your childhood becomes a memory.

You’ll forget all this when you grow up.  But it’s okay.

Being a mother means having your heart broken.

And it means loving and losing and falling apart and coming back together.

And it’s the best there is.  And also, sometimes, the worst.

Sometimes you won’t have anyone to talk to.

Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ve forgotten who you are.

But you must remember this:  What you’re doing matters.

And you have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.

The truth is, being a woman is a gift.  Tenderness is a gift.  Intimacy is a gift.  And nurturing the good in this world is a nothing short of a privilege.

That’s why I have to love you this way.  So I can give what I have to you.  So that you can carry it in your body and pass it on.

I have watched you sleep.  I’ve kissed you a million times.  And I know something that you don’t, yet:

You are writing the story of your only life every single minute of every day.

And my greatest hope for you, sweet child, is that I can teach you how to write a good one.

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time in the country

We’ve spent time in the country the past two weekends at my grandparents’ ranch.  This is my favorite place to be.

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“winter”

Down here in Texas, we have to work hard to create winter.

It’s not really a season in Houston, exactly.  It’s more like a series of fronts that blow the heat away for a few months, a couple of days at a time.

So holiday decorations have a kind of make-believe quality.  Like we’re pretending it’s winter.  We’re insisting it’s winter, dammit.  And the whole city has to work together as a group to pull it off.  And we’re going to make cider and feel cozy even if we have to run the air conditioner to do it.

So, in honor of “winter,” my kids and I have been stringing our house with twinkle lights, and making hot chocolate, and cutting snowflakes.  Dammit.

Just because we’re pretending doesn’t mean it’s not real.

(And PS:  I accidentally taught my 4 year old the word “dammit” today.  And then I went on and on and on about curse words versus regular.  And, yes — there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll see this conversation in the novel I’m writing now):

I said, “We just don’t want to use dammit, okay?”

“Why not?”

“Well, it’s a thing called a curse word, and it’s not polite.”

“Why not?”

“Some people think it’s rude to use curse words.”

“Do you think it’s rude?”

“I think you want to be careful who say them to.”

“Like who?  Who can I say them to?”

“You can’t say them to anybody because you’re a kid.  Only grown-ups can say them.  But they really aren’t supposed to.  Unless they’re really frustrated.”

“What if I get frustrated?”

“Then you say darn. That’s why they invented darn.”

“Darn‘s not a curse word?”

“Nope.  Darn‘s a regular word.  A regular word that is like a curse word — but without the cursing.”

“Why?”

“It just is.  And it’s a good word, too.  Try it out:  Darn.”

“Darn.  Darn, darn, darn.”

“See?  Darn is awesome.”

Darn is awesome. But dammit’s better.”

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my exquisite mother

I have one of those moms who’s a superhero.  There is nothing she can’t handle.  She should have been the President, and I’m not kidding.

But then I never would have gotten to see her.  And I love to see her.  So it was a good deal for me that she wasn’t the President.  But I’m not sure it was a good deal for the world.

She just had her 50th high school reunion, and she pulled out a bunch of old photos.  Here are a few. I could flip through her old photo albums all day long.

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