Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Train of Thought

We headed out early
Thursday night for the final rehearsal of the play that the girls and I are performing in.  We have been rehearsing for months, and were excited to finally be getting close to opening night.  It was raining, finally, and none of us who have lived in drought-stricken California could complain.  Of course, rain means that everyone instantly forgets how to drive.  We took it slow.  Malcolm, the neighbor boy who had agreed to run the spotlight for the show, sat beside me, and we chatted cheerfully as we drove along the freeway headed down town.

After we exited the freeway on 65th and turned right, I began to merge over to the left for our  next turn. The traffic was moving at a good speed on the busy road, but suddenly came to an abrupt stop. I pressed the brake, but instead of feeling the thick resistance of the brake pedal under my foot, it just felt like I was pressing into an air bubble.  There was no resistance, and like nightmares I have had of being in an out of control car, we surfed forward as the tires simply rolled freely.  I pumped my foot into the brake trying to get it to respond as the car in front of us got closer and closer, but I felt the brakes only lock up as the car moved as though it were sliding on black ice.  But there was no ice here, we were just not stopping.  Finally, I pounded the brake into the floorboard with all my might, and a grinding sound echoed through the car as we jerked abruptly to a stop just inches from the bumper of the car in front of us.

What a relief!  My heart pounded, and as a rubber smell filled the cab, my mind switched from deep gratitude that we hadn't crashed, to concern over the possibly damaged, certainly malfunctioning brakes.  I asked if everyone was alright.  I even flashed for a moment to worry over the folks in the car ahead of us, wondering if they had seen the near miss and become frightened.

Then, in only a moment, I became aware of the fact that we were stopped directly in the middle of the train tracks at rush hour.  I looked down the tracks toward the light rail station about a block away.  I thought I could see a light of some sort, and quickly focused on trying to get us off the track, but the car ahead was much too close to maneuver around.

The girls began to panic.  "Mommy!  That's a train!  I think a train is coming!"

"Mommy? Mommy! Please go!  Please go!!!" Tessa began to cry.

I knew this wasn't a great situation, but trying not to over react, I noted aloud that the train was now stopped at the station.  I knew we had time to clear the tracks because the crossing gate had not even closed yet.  As soon as I thought it, though, red lights began flashing, bells clamored right above our heads, and the long stripped wooden arm began to lower over the top of our car.  The girls started screaming and I laid on the horn frantically, contemplating whether I could plow the car in front of us hard enough to give us room to clear the tracks.  I glanced one more time behind me as the train headlight got bigger and bigger, and I saw that little Tessa would be hit head on.  At the screech of my horn the cars in front of us pulled ahead far enough to allow me to clear the tracks, and I whipped our car out from behind the car ahead of us, and sped up the empty lane for a few car lengths, just so our spirits could feel safely distant from the train that now passed behind us, filled with unharmed and oblivious commuters.

My hands shook as I drove extra slowly the remaining mile to the church along surface streets.  Tessa was crying, and Malcolm laughed nervously as he proclaimed over and over how close the train had come.  My own mind flipped back and forth between minimizing the event - telling myself that it only looked like it had been a close call - to inflating it into a scene from a Hollywood action film.  I talked to the girls to calm them, but inside, I wanted to cry too.


A few hours later, I found myself standing in the wings off stage.  I had long since shaken off the scare of the train, the play having demanded my full concentration and focus.  My main scenes were now passed, and I waited with Ellie and Tessa there in the darkness, surrounded by wavy black curtains, for a coming scene in which we would join a chorus of angels.  During the rehearsals we had usually been apart, as I rehearsed my scenes and they learned the parts for the "towns people".   But now, with all of our parts well ironed out, we waited confidently, the monotony of dozens of rehearsals behind us, the nervousness of opening night still a day away.

Tessa walked up to me and wrapped her little arms around my waist on one side, and Ellie joined suit on the other.  Tessa, lit softly in her white gown by the blue glow of a tiny nightlight, looked up into my face and sweetly whispered, "Mama."  It was a statement, a quiet version of their daily bellow of "Daddy!" each time Guy comes through the door after work.  It says, "You're here.  You're mine."

It took me a moment to call my mind into the present.  I was busy listening to the lines being spoken on the other side of the black curtain, and my train of thought was onto the next scene we would do, on to my cues, the music...

In that moment I became aware, quite suddenly, of how tiny Tessa was.  And Ellie seemed to have sprouted up several inches as I realized how much she must have grown lately.  Then I remembered the train, and the scare, and the blessing of what didn't happen that night.  How blessed we were, and are.  My mind rolled along an alternate reality for just a few moments, wherein we had not gotten the car to move.  That was as far as my brain would allow the thoughts to go.  It was just too hard to imagine the ripples that a rock that size would have thrown into our little pond.  Instead, I just held them tight, and pressed my cheek to their heads.


Stay tuned for previews of my
 Coming Open Studio Art Show!
  Five days to go!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dry Spell

"Water water, everywhere
, nor any drop to drink!"

In other words, like the ancient mariner, lost at sea (man, that dude comes up a lot for me lately), I am adrift in a sea of projects, so much so that it looks, here, as though I am doing nothing at all.

But I promise.  I am.  Busy bee, that's me.

I am getting read for my annual Open Studio Art Sale!  Year four, and really working hard.  My sale is the only way our family can afford to have Christmas, so it's a pretty big deal to me.  All other worthy and partially completed projects have hit pause (don't lose faith in me, Ellen!).  I am working till about 2 am each day, and when we aren't doing school, I can be found in the studio (except when I'm at rehearsal, but more on that later). The children are raising themselves for the next few weeks.  I wish them very well.  Don't ask me about my house.  I will just get crabby at you.

There have been a few glitches this year with my sale.  I really have focused a lot of energy on pottery, since people seem reluctant to pound a nail in their wall to hang a painting (it's a little hole people, not a remodel!), but bringing home a pretty little vase or bowl seems less intimidating (if you decide later it was a mistake, you can just stick it in the bathroom cupboard to hold Q-tips and floss, right?).  I was so excited and nervous to fire up my kiln for the first time!  I loaded it three levels deep with shelves on pillars, and then unloaded it (oops, forgot to put in the pyrometric cone plaques - little cones of clay that melt at a certain heat so you know when your kiln is hot enough), then reloaded it, then unloaded it to move all the support pillars (it turns out that to peek in to actually SEE the cone plaques, you probably shouldn't block the peep holes with supports), then LOADED IT.  At one point, because I was holding it wrong, as I leaned over with the largest, most beautiful bowl I have ever made, the weight of the bowl snapped the edge I held, sending it crashing down on top of two more bowls, breaking all three.  The lessons in patience go on and on.  But finally, I was all loaded, thrice and for all.

I checked and triple checked to make sure everything was in order.  I nervously pushed the on switch, and then parked my booty on the cement floor to see the show.

Ever watched paint dry?  Yeah, it goes a smidgen faster than firing a kiln, only you don't get that fume-induced euphoria.  After a while my ol' lady butt asked why we were sitting on cement, and I decided that the mosey-in-and-out method of kiln watching better suited me.  All went quite well until it was time to switch to high-fire (begin suspenseful music, here).

Click.  Off.

Blew a breaker.  Popped it back on.  Lather, rinse, repeat x 2.

It turns out that my kiln isn't like my jeans.  Even though my tush is a definite 14, I can squeeeeeeze into a stretchy 12 if I'm slightly dehydrated and had a lot of fiber the day before.  But no amount of greasing the zipper and hanging upside-down off the bed will let you squeeze 30.5 amps through a 30 amp breaker (wow, not just TMI, but TMI with visuals.  You're welcome).

The solution?  Well, the short answer is an electrician and $500, but the truth entails many trips to a ceramics studio 12 miles away and the loss of several pots in transit, because, well, I don't pack well, that's why.

So what looks like the Blog Sahara Desert is really an underground river, moving fast and hard (or a tornado, by the look of my house).  I'm here somewhere under two coats of glaze, a pile of wool, three layers of candle wax and a stack of beads, but I promise I will post as soon as I get my first load back from being fired.


If you are interested and live locally, the girls and I are in a musical production that opens this weekend and plays through December 5th, called "Savior of the World".  It is the biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ put to lovely music and with an awesome cast.  I am honored to play the mother of Mary.  And my girls?  Well, they are the best "towns people" you ever laid eyes on!