Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bottled Courage



This girl.
this one.


Winnie
(a.k.a. Kaylen)
has a bone scan and CT tomorrow.

out of sunny skies, we are all stormed over.

They've seen a spot around her femur that is "worrisome."
Worrisome.

That's a gentle way of describing what this mama feels.
All my courageous muster has flown out the window.

And Winnie is my most heart-filled wildebeest.
Dreamer, writer, artist, she feels
every nuance in the room.
Like rough swallows
and puffy eyes.

We have no certain news yet, but
some of you have asked how you can help us as we wait
and I have been thinking...

Definitely prayers
and best thoughts
and any bottled courage
you can send our way.

Do they make that?
Bottled courage?

So here's what I'm thinking -  what about sharing your
words?
verses?
poems?
quotes?
book recommendations - for an eight year-old adventurer and for me.

words to help us remember 
that there is courage
in love,
in faith,
in hope.


















I will post news when we know what there is to know.
Thank you, friends.

UPDATE!
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Good, good news from the docs.
It's not cancerous.
She's still in for some fun ahead with some sort of procedure,
but we'll take that any day over the big one.
Thank you, thank you all for the love and thoughts
and prayers poured our way this week.
Thank you. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Funny Thing about Mice



It's a little bit scary to tell you things I'm happy about. 
Things that feel like little green tips at the edges of my wintered-over branches.
 
Not that it's wrong to feel pleased with good things,
but when I remember the gravity of last year
I wonder -
is this okay?
this joy? these painted things?
Will I jinx it somehow?

 
Over the last year, I convinced myself I have permanent writer's block.
But then this week, a few words eeked out, and I wondered.

Maybe it's not writer's block.
Maybe it's just fear.

Fear is something we all have, isn't it?

Fear of failure. of something bad happening.
of shadows. heights. the dark.
Scratchy things. fish. being alone.

What are your crazy fears?



You know what's funny?
All that health craziness last year - that was like facing off against a lion.
I borrowed as much courage as possible.

Now I'm standing on a chair shrieking about a bug -
worried about putting stories on paper!
worried someone won't like them!
 

Oh, for a good gulp of perspective!

I just read "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo.
It's about a mouse who battles darkness with courageous love.
It's beautiful.


Despereaux strapped on a belt of red thread,
a sewing needle sword,
and plunged into the dungeons to save a princess.

While I don't have dungeons, or a sword,
I want to have courageous love like that mouse,
not concerned about what people will think.
brave.
true.
every day.
not just on heart surgery days. 
in the daily dirt.
in being a writer and artist, too.


So here's what I'm doing.
All fueled up from my Illustrating Picture Books class,
I'm going to the SCBWI conference this weekend.
And I'm entering my art in a portfolio show.


To go with it, I did a little spring cleaning on the blog,
redesigned The Portfolio.
I hope you like the new look around here.
I hope it's good dirt.
And if you're coming to the conference, let's hang out!
I'll be the small mouse in the corner.

 


The Tale of Despereaux
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo









Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?


Words still glomm together in my mouth
like lumps of peanut butter.
I speak to people and wonder if they notice, too.
Can one be socially lame, but robustly well?
Because I am so alive, so well 
since the surgery.

Maybe these word troubles are writer's block,
part of my recovery from troubles;
an awakening to the idea that life is short.
that more than publishing stories,
I want to love.
to make it count wherever I am.

I still want to write, but my words are hiding.
So...
I'm taking an art class.
 
And oh, what a class!
It's UCSD extension course llustrating Books For Children
with renowned book designer Joy Chu.
And it's amazing.

Maybe I'll find a back door to writing this way,
through visual storytelling.
Or not.

Maybe I'll just enjoy it -
watering a different part of my brain.
creating art.
(happy sigh)


And how does the rest of this garden grow?
How is that sacred dirt of every day?
 
We have a lot of dirt lately.
Lots of squiggly worms that I don't take pictures of -
like scowly faces, and kids throwing fits,
messy hair,


















piled-up laundry,
crumbs under the table.

But how can I not be thankful?
Even for the wormy parts.
There is less to show from this garden now.
but more to feel.
more to soak in and wiggle around.

more family days.
paint and shaving cream.
















 a new outlook for Pip!

Sugar Snack turning five!















Not much of a gardener in reality,
still I will tend this sacred dirt,
I will water my back doors to writing, 
and see what wriggles.
what grows.

What are the back doors in your creative life?

What are your cover crops?

When you get stuck, discouraged or allover uninspired,
what do you plant?

How do you water your creative self?

Cooking class? Archery lessons? Trapeze?
Balloon animals? Book club?

My friends,
I thank you for your friendship and patience. 
for the many ways you make this world beautiful.
through your actions and special talents.
for your unique words and work.
for the nurture of your families and friends.
for the many creative ways you give of yourself to the world.

May your garden grow and grow
and grow,
with lots of good dirt
and wiggles. 

Another bonus from my new class? Library finds!

Here are some of my latest faves:

Journey
Mr. Wuffles!
Sea of Dreams
Journey, by Aaron Becker (Won a well-deserved Caldecott Honor this year!)
Mr. Wuffles, by David Weisner (Another Caldecott Honor winner)
Sea of Dreams, by Dennis Nolan
Flora's Very Windy Day
Harry & Hopper
Missing Mommy: A Book About Bereavement
Flora's Very Windy Day, by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Harry & Hopper, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Missing Mommy, by Rebecca Cobb 
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
Nelson Mandela

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert On a Beam of Light, A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson
Bon Appetit!, the delicious life of Julia Child, by Jessie Hartland
Martin de Porres, the Rose in the Desert, by Gary Schmidt, illustrated by David Diaz


Monday, December 23, 2013

Light and Wishes

 
This year, this crazy Everest of a year!
Out of all of it - 
the stroke, 
the sickness,
the faintings,
the heart surgery -
out of all this year, 
I have packed this jewel into my life suitcase:

Even in dark times, there is light.
    Maybe not a beacon, blazing with answers.
    Maybe not something you can grab onto or tangibly feel.
    Maybe not a voice that speaks that everything will be alright
      - because sometimes, it's not alright.
    Sometimes the rotten stuff still happens - 
      like war, and poverty, and cancer, and loss.   

But I have this for you, my friends...
Even in the dark times, there is light.

    Light of hope in something better. 
    Light of remembering shining moments already lived.
    Light of kindness and compassion in friends and strangers. 
    Light of faith.
For me, it is faith in Divine Arms 
that stooped down to walk in human skin
and faced trouble with love. 

in Divine Arms that are just there, like in these old words - 
 
                      "the eternal One is your hiding place, 
                       and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Even my darkest times this year, 
there was light.
Not blazing. But enough.
Even in my most scared, most vulnerable times,  
there was this awareness of not being alone.
Not anything tangible. But enough.
Everlasting Arms.
Here is my wish for you, friends.
I wish for you 
Thankfulness
in each of the sacred rites of the day - 
dishes, drop-offs,
broken pencils,
squabbles and stomps,
"stop wiping your face with pancake!" 
"don't squirt tomatoes on the ceiling!"
and writer's block,
and in all the great gulps,  too -
a happy home,
a healthy heart, 
life.

Love
like everlasting arms, 
Love that surrounds and lifts 
when you can't lift yourself.
 
Joy 
that goes down to your very roots and comes up laughing.

and Light. 



I wish you the deeps, my friends. 

Blissful Christmas!
Bright New Year!
Beautiful Life!


 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Roots


In true page-turner style, the night before heart surgery,
I was rain-checked.

For a good month, I gnawed at this news like an old bone,
waited to hear if the docs would favor heart surgery after all,
or have me remain in this temporary place of not-quite-well.

 
What can we do when things aren't all better?
How can we meet the sacred in illness,
in poverty, in sadness,
in our imperfect selves?
 
Drink tea. Read good fiction. Take bubble baths.
Go outside and watch clouds.
And then, take a serious look around. 

Ill or not,  I am rich!

clean water. warm home. books.
food. literacy. art.
paint.

waves on the beach. limitless sky. stars. 

music. beauty. family.

love.
I could recount these riches all day.

Even ill, I am abundantly well.
 
I haven't been able to write.
That's the outlet that's suffered most since the stroke.
I'm tired, dizzy, and struggle with an aching head.
My dear friend Margaret Bloom of We Bloom Here
sent a breeze of wisdom my way,
likening this time to winter.
Sometimes leaves dry up and branches are stark,
but roots still go deep. 
 
Every time we struggle, may the roots go deep.
to grow us in compassion.
to grow us in perspective.
to grow us in steadiness,
and light.

What do we do with our troubles?
Find the gifts in front of us.

Even in our troubles,
there is sacred to be found:
laughter, forgiveness, grace, love.

Here's to deep roots and good dirt, my friends.

Epilogue:
I finally made peace with this middle ground,
and the next day: news!
Heart surgery is back on.

Friday, November 8, here we come!

Feel-good books:

14823919
15768811 15815400
Cover
Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery,
by Anna Branford, ill. by Elanna Allen
(Thank you for the get-well-read, Margaret Bloom !)
The Mighty Lalouche, by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall
Tea Rex, by Molly Idle
!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
A Sick Day for Amos McGee,
by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin E. Stead

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