Friday, July 3, 2015

The Sound of Silence

It's funny, how sometimes the universe will simply hand you over what you need right when you need it most.

Last week, during an evening Yoga session in a class I usually don't attend, with an instructor I am not familiar with we were handed out single word intentions written on crumpled pieces of paper before class to focus on. I pulled out "forgiveness." Not something I could place immediately in my life with any particular specificity, but I held focus.

The next day my car radio went out. Completely. Facing the kind of stark silence I can't remember ever knowing while driving. In all the years I have been. The radio being a source of easy comfort for me for as long as I can recall. In the backseat of my mother's Buick or my step dad's Bronco. In my Ford Falcon coming from a cheap boombox sliding around next to me in the front seat en route to all those seemingly important after school errands. Or existed in less desirable frequencies that come in the form of a static, patchy AM station discussing things I had little interest in. (Currently the situation after my antenna was broken this last year when my car was stolen the second time. My desperate ears eagerly ingesting different degrees of static, still preferred over dead silence. To help combat the ugly fact of our hopelessly clogged freeways being part of Southern California traffic these days, or my kid's fighting, or the nature of my own thoughts which seemed to shrink up and settle to the backseat of my mind's eye as soon as I click that seat belt and ignite the engine.)

In college one of our professors, during a lecture in the subject of "White Noise" asked us if we ever turned off the radio while driving and listened to ourselves, and our thoughts, in the car. I remember thinking, knowing, just how difficult that would be for me. A test I would force upon myself thereafter, occasionally, in brief bouts of curiosity. And then a whole lot less after having kids. With my music suddenly gone I felt riddled with a genuine sense of unease. Fidgety, bothered, unfocused. For a few days I even played music from my phone in a sad, muted attempt to regain my steady state of mind while driving. Before realizing fairly quickly what a pathetic replacement it actually proved. Eventually, it got easier though. Within the second week I had stopped reaching for the volume altogether, or trying in vain to smack the system back into life. In it came a kind of acceptance. A resented surrender but still. We rode with the windows down and felt the June heat against our cheeks. I listened willinglyy to the less than ideal sounds of rush hour traffic, and talked the backseat brigades through the brink of so many silly arguments that arise in light of long car rides. I sat in simple silence where I heard myself and my thoughts bloom in real time. I found new reason to sit down and write again. I listened to my better ideas. And stopped focusing on all the songs my head was craving to keep me company in the car.

Shortly after that our cable and Internet went out. I had forgotten to pay the bill on time, apparently, and spent a good part of my morning arguing over the phone with an unaffected operator because I knew the money had been sent, online, and in the delay I refused to double pay. In the meantime our house fell into the same case of stagnant silence. So the handful of shows I would flip on to ease my dish duties or aid me in my attention to laundry piles late at night, disappeared. So too did the small indulgences that came in the form of Nickelodeon cartoons I let the boys watch early in the morning or late at night, when I needed the time to finish up emails, or edit photos. All our "help" was gone. It went on this way for another week. With no Internet to fall into when bouts of my own mid day boredom sprang. No online browsing, or pretty Pinterest inspiration to dwell on, or articles to consider, or regular communications to uphold. They lost the same luxury. No TV to break up their days. No skate videos or paper airplane tutorials to turn to in the midst of a long, hot summer weekday.

Yet same as the car radio situation. We all came to adjust. They were drawing - more - almost obsessively. They built forts and sometimes laid around the house in plain misery. But then pulled themselves out of it and constructed paper weapons or stabbed holes in cardboard boxes. One day as I was laying down for a quick nap I heard Rex in his room stacking rocks he had collected at the beach days before on his window ledge. He's been known to keep his favorite items there close to him while he sleeps but this went on for over an hour where I was reminded of how simply they are entertained when they are forced to. By all means, we aren't what I would consider to be an overly stimulated household in the first place. We do our best to keep everything in moderation and I've never had an issue with the fact of their cartoons as a helping crutch when I need it but I still found it oddly comforting to see just how easily they come to accept their hours without any of it. How stacking rocks on your window ledge becomes a new source of pleasure. Finding fresh beauty in that which we are constantly in danger of overlooking otherwise.

Gradually, though, it all returned. One day Arlo sat up front and flipped on the radio like it had never had issue. The payments finally came through and our cable was restored and the inter webs were revived. And life as we knew it returned to normal.

As for the intention, it marched on. Holding a steady spot in my days' thoughts. In new silence I was able to stop and really consider it. I found smaller (maybe less obvious) places where it fit. And while I can't say I honestly miss the quiet in our car rides, I do appreciate the reminder that these past couple of weeks offered us. How sometimes it's nice to get reacquainted with the sounds of your own head considering how hard it's become with all these alluring distractions available to us at every turn. Good to know we can still function as ourselves. Unplugged, uninformed, unconnected. With the sound of silence as our only soundtrack. Still not my favorite. But with renewed respect with jus how vital it is to check in with here and there. Learning to embrace it, even when it arrives in the strangest of ways. Or forced upon us entirely. In times where it seems it might just serve us best.

And in light of it, I am proud to announce that rock stacking has become a new thing here.  Showing up on every window cill in every room. Offering cheap thrills, free entertainment, and understandably  sandy bed sheets. But still far more appealing than anything Nickelodeon has going on.











Monday, June 29, 2015

String Art

So, I've been trying to incorporate a few simple crafts into our weekly schedule during summer break but the boys aren't always as enthusiastic as me when it comes to these kinds of endeavors. Are boys ever. . . ? Typically they loose interest fast and seem more satisfied with the old stand bys - crayons, paper, pencils, paper airplanes, and more recently, watercolors. Which is fine but occasionally I like to push them a little more as far as arts smarts go. 

This weekend's attempt at basic string art, thankfully, proved an immediate successes. All given the fact that it involves a hammer and lots of noise. The craft is super cheap and so much fun.
Only a handful of materials needed including:
- Pencils (for drawing or tracing your desired shape outline)
- A pack of small nails 
- Hammer
- A plank of wood (we used whatever was cheapest and cut it into various sized squares, with a few to try our hand at and practice on)
- Embroidery thread in whatever colors you have in mind for your creation 



There are plenty of videos and tutorials on you tube under "string art" for all kinds of fancy, layered techniques, geometric designs and 3D versions but all of them seemed too complicated for our initial go at it so I stuck to simple outlines, basic shapes and kept the nails spread further apart for the younger boys seeing that it does require some pretty focused fine motor skillls keeping the string taunt while wrapping the nails to ensure that it stays nice and secure as you work it around the outline. 

I followed no real pattern on any of these, just double wrapped some of the nails sporadically as I went along so it didn't all fall apart upon every missed nailhead. The more nails you include, the more intricate your design will appear and the more consistent your string pattern (and nail depth) stays, the more balanced the end product will end up. Again, I didn't worry much about that because I was really just trying to show them the basics. Tying the string off and starting a new color. Keeping the sting tight, etc. On the next round, I'll think we'll all probably attempt something a little more detailed. 

All I can say is that it's a great way to get kids excited about an afternoon craft. I swear these old summer camp style projects are still the best. Just like the God's Eye's we did a few weeks back, it was something I didn't have to force on them, that we all enjoyed equally. And now, will have this pretty little rainbow sitting on our shelf in honor of one incredibly joyous ruling for so many of our dear friend's who's rights were finally validated across the country the Friday we made it. 

Indeed, a great day to be a barefooted American in the backyard with a full heart, three eager boys, positive news vibes, and a big table to sit and craft around.



You gotta try it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Craft Habits

I love seeing the work that goes into any form of art almost as much as the art itself. This sample booklet I stumbled across on Pinterest yesterday I fell in love with. Isn't it a great way to house stitch trials, old designs and favorite patterns? A handy way of reference, but also a lovely account of textured record showing one's work and progress. 

Thinking I need to sit down one of these days and start one for myself. 


"I started making this sample book many years ago. I have cut up old bits of domestic hand embroidery and sewn them into a book. I find it a useful reference tool when I am stuck for a stitch. In some cases I have deliberately sewn the fragment in back to front as I find the random marks on the back just as interesting."

- Words and photo found here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

With the Girls

First, a fore warning that in sharing these last two vacation posts right in a row comes as only a result of being regretfully behind on all regular postings here. Result of an even more regrettfully inconsistent laptop that has me dropping by the Mac Genius bar like it's my side job. And still babying a faulty hard drive I now refuse to put too much trust in after it's let me down now so many times before. 

That said, the days between the hotels and road trips have been stacked with all of the standard summer break chaos wrapped up in trying to entertain a house full of boys during these few summer weeks. When we're not camping we are fighting, usually over mine craft, and a single iPad that never seems to hold a charge past 25 percent. Sneaking and scolded hands for snagging popsicles in the morning when too many distractions turn impulsive temptations into real possibilities, tearing apart the house, building forts that look like land mines in the loft. Yelling at one another because, well, because there's always a new reason and brother to find real frustrations in. Being bored, and watching too much TV. Eating cereal for dinner (when, on certain days, it comes to that) and complaining, for no reason at all (unless you can find someone who thinks plain (healthy) boredom counts legitimately towards real junior heartache.)

Anyway, we are just getting caught up from a short weekend away with a few of my favorite ladies at The Ace Hotel, with a grip of kids in tow. All of which happened because of a discount code I received in an email that seemed the perfect excuse to get out of town and settle into the 110 degree desert heat and park it by the pool where we could watch our kids splash themselves into exhaustion and then collapse into a big cool bed after a full day of poolside fun. 

And we did. We ate, and drank and laughed and played. I got hit with a major migraine early Saturday afternoon (an instant, familiar effect of heat + beer. A combination I've never really been able to successfully carry out) that lasted through most of the evening, so I missed some of the glowing pool party with balloons and beach balls lit up in the water at dusk, but was thankful to have friends who helped care for the boys while I rested up and pulled through the headache. 

The heat was brutal. So hot it scorched our feet on the concrete straight out of the pool. But the desert evenings always make up for it. Sherbet colored sunsets and cooler temps replacing the afternoon's blazing heat waves. A couple of us sat out close to midnight by an empty pool after everyone else went to bed and enjoyed the end of the evening with a slice of pizza and a clear and painless headspace. 

Getting away like this with grilfriends is something I think we all need and deserve sometimes. To carve out a little time to share a summer's passing. If only for a night. To feel young, and carefree and splash around in a big pretty pool with or without the kids. Whichever way you can take it. 



Liebling and Burke


LIEBLING AND BURKE FOR INDIEGOGO from Jessica Blair on Vimeo.

Please take a minute and check out my best friend's latest venture over at Indiegogo where she is working really hard to build an online, plus sized clothing site that will feature both new and vintage items in a cool refreshing step away from what's currently stocked in larger sizes in most mainstream shops. You probably recognize her from photos here, which means you already have an idea as to just how stylish she is, so if this endeavor speaks to you at all just keep in mind, that like all of these personal campaigns constructed of passion and dreams, any little bit helps. And if not in the form of money, word of mouth and repostings come free and are equally appreciated. She's only got a little over a week left!

details and contribution info HERE

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Big Sur

Last September we had a couple nights booked at Tree Bones resort in Big Sur, just the two of us set up in a yurt for the weekend of our anniversary but ended up having to cancel due to a last minute sitter fall out. This year we were determined to get up there and decided to just drive the whole family up the coast and stay wherever we could find closet to town. With plenty of warning about how slim our chances of actually booking something, last minute in such a popular season, were. By now, if you are a long time follower of this blog you know that we are not apt to much planning when it comes to mapping out these road trip destinations, booking hotels in advance, ect. I tried not to let the fact of it cloud my enthusiasm for the trip. As a new and young couple, out routes would unroll on a whim. Obviously we had that freedom then. We would make up the direction of our trips as we went and it was all part of the thrill. Parked roadside with a big map stretched out across the dashboard. Checking into hotels we spotted as we passed. These days, admittedly, it's a littler harder to keep that spontaneity up but by nature it's all we really know at this point. And for the most part I would say that it tends to work out for us more times than not. Meaning, when you go into a road trip with meager expectations, it's easy to come away fulfilled, with major gratitude for the new places you've managed to swoop in and inhabit randomly for a few days rather than be disappointed by plans that run risk of falling short, or apart altogether.

That said, I was still shocked to find a few vacancies over at the Fernwood Resort, smack dab in the middle of Big Sur with every cabin tent on site boasting "river facing views." I booked immediately and we set off in the middle of pretty heavy rain storm up the coast, dropping off a truck full of teepees in Santa Barbara on our way up. It was a long, wet, at times miserable drive. But with four kids, in close quarters, and a six - 8 hour drive, that's always to be expected right? Remedies being coloring books, iPad indulgences, chewing gum privileges and one lone country CD by our friends, The Freight Shakers, cranked up louder than the backseat chaos that played consistently the whole ride up. Helping drown out those sporadic whine fests that pose a serious threat to our sanity at on these long, trying highways.

Speaking of which, Highway 1 is a beast once you get deep into that snaking climb up that big windy mountain. 100 miles of mounting anxiety for me. And a couple nauseous boys in back. It was rough. And no matter how "pretty" the scenery proves, I just want off. Especially when my nerves start reaching boiling points and I start to slip uncontrollably into the manic shadows of insanity mirroring Tourettes that has me looking, sounding, acting like a mad women. Which of course, everyone else in the car finds rightfully assuming.

Fernwood though, is a No Cal dream. Best case scenario in an unplanned place of rest nestled amidst the redwoods with a big handsome lodge up front and a quaint general store with pretty, bare faced college girls manning the counter eager to help see you through whatever quests your vacation agenda may have on file. We stayed one night in the hotel but felt much more at ease bunkered in the cabin tents down below, next to the river. The space is airy and open, with dogs allowed and a lush romantic view from all the netted window panes. The boys explored on bikes around the dirt roads, dodged poison ivy, and rode a slow cool current in plastic tubes down at the river's edge. Over, and over and over again.  I could have stayed there for weeks. Watching them collect sticks to try and redirct the damns path, skipping rocks out across the water, scooping out a small shallow pool on the sand bank for their littlest brother to slop around in. All the fighting and fussing dissolved at the river and for those few hours we spent there it was easy, sunny, slow, and peaceful. The ever alluring spell of Big Sur turned all the way up and gripping.

The nature of our daily adventurings were modest. Per usual. A quick peek at the breathtaking views of Pfeiffer Falls, lunch on the sands at Pheiffer Beach (where we managed to get our giant kite up and sailing) sitting at high tide and laughing until it hurt. That beach felt magical. What I imagine the sands of Capri might resemble. Maybe just because it's so different than what we're use to. Exotic. Unfamiliar. And until the wind turned brutal, straight bliss watching the hours slip through that incredible gaping hole between the ocean landscape I only came to know the day prior in photos in the brochures at the resort we were handed when we arrived.

Breakfast at The Big Sur Bakery was a must. Everyone said so. So we went. And it was lovely. The wild cacti, sunshine on the patio, and so many cute birds that seem to dive in and land just to watch you eat. The food was good but not mind-blowing like the hype had suggested (hence, the dangers of overly inflated expectations) And it was more expensive than I preferred for a big family breakfast. I paid a lot for my latte that was mediocre at best. Highlight being the surrounding landscape and stone walkways with a morning yoga session up the stairwell in which I found Rex watching from the stone stoop, hypnotized by the scene. He urged me to join them and seemed disappointed when I explained I wasn't wearing yoga ready clothing. He then pointed out the bruntette instructor in the mesh tank on his way out, and admitted plainly to his father on the walk back that he had seen "her boobies." He didn't. But a mesh tank play tricks on the eyes. And, he's five so it counts I suppose.

Another fun stop was wandering into the Henry Miller Library. Mike and Arlo sat on wooden benches and played dueling guitars that set the staff fawning and my heart flopping happily with pride at their matching abilities to draw smiles from strangers by way of music. Surrounded by so many beautiful books, postcards, art and beauty stacked in that place. A resident cat named Theo and a few hippy helpers tending to the grounds where we played ping pong on the deck and sipped complementary coffee on the newly shone grass. The highlight being, however, the conversation with a vibrant old lady sitting beside her friend who fell in love with Hayes and wondered (aloud) how such a "beautiful child" could possibly  belong to us. Mike and I laughed, like you would, at such a thing. Until we realized she wasn't kidding. Actually, I kept laughing but saw poor Mike grow immediately insecure in light of his golden locked child with the shinning bright eyes that the old lady in the wooden bench kept claiming must have come from someone else. "OH MAMA, WHAT WERE YOU REALLY UP TO?" she hissed, laughing wickedly at her own absurdities and all I could think was, man it must be fun to be so old and crazy that you can sit in the sun with your tea telling people their DNA doesn't quite add up to the sheer beauty of their youngest offspring.  - Though, to her credit Hayes IS a pretty baby. So pretty in fact that everywhere we went I was stopped and complemented on my beautiful daughter. A correction I've grown too tired to inforce so opt instead for a simple thank you for those sweet enough to stop us.





The last bit of piece of magic happened early on our evening walk around the grounds where we stopped to get a look at the vintage turquoise camper with the dull orange lights glowing in the windows and the succulent gardens wrapping round the width of the trailer. The owner took note and came out to welcome and invite us in. Arlo and I slipped inside and talked to a pretty woman with long black hair and a crop top who told us how she worked around the grounds, in whatever area they needed each day, every shift in exchange for room and board on this little slice of heaven with a makeshift bedroom off the back of the trailer made of canvas tarps, and a big bed that faced straight out to the river. She was low key and talked about her instant connection to this place three years ago. But how "they" are staying put until new land somewhere else in town becomes available. She said Big Sur is full of big money but explained that the rich are different in that they will invite you to their home and welcome you like a friend. She also described the community as "progressive"and painted a great image of some of her other artist friends hanging on the fringes of society who come here simply to rest in plain beauty. She also recommended coming back for an adult trip and doing a midnight "soak" at the Eschalan Institute (which I am only keen on because of the Mad Men finale where Don's greatest epiphany happens atop it's grand hillside in this Mid Century architectural Mecca) I mention this particular scene but she seems notably baffled. Which tells me that people who live where the river runs don't need or want cable television. Not even when it includes the chiseled visage of Mr. Draper. I gave up on explaining. . .

By the end of our trip we were all kicking and dragging our feet packing the truck up. Desperate for another day. Another hour at the water or short hike around the beach.

Because who knows about the "next time,"or just how lucky we'll be. Information on the online site claim that sites book up a year in advance so we can't be dead set on returning here on the next go round. But when and if we do, I hope to have the Airstream finished, parked and shinning on that spacious peaked campsite. That beautiful baby we somehow managed to create, skipping rocks on his own, and maybe a couple Xanax in tow to hep ease the old highway pains on the way up.


For now, I just happy that our California Dreams have all been so majestically expanded.
Until next time, Big Sur.