Sunday, July 15, 2012

Derfing With Mrs. G and Debra

Yesterday morning at 11:30, I hopped into my little silver stickshift car and drove drove drove to the little town of Peninsula, Ohio.   It took about 5 hours (with traffic and whatnot).  I was meeting the esteemed Mrs. G of Derfwad Manor at Debra's gallery, Elements Gallery.

The town is right near a place I used to go for flute lessons, Oberlin.  My flute instructor, Michel Debost, lives in Elyria, which is just up the road a piece.

I found Debra's gallery right where she said it would be, across from the scenic railway station.  And scenic it was!

The moment I came around the corner of the building, I saw this:

Many years ago, a circus was passing through Peninsula and had a crash.  All the animals escaped!  In time, all were recovered except two pythons.  One was eventually found, dead.  The other was never located, and there were numerous python sightings in the area.  So to commemorate this auspicious event, the town hosts Python Fest, including a parade and many artistic renderings of pythons scattered throughout the town.

I love a town that gets handed pythons and makes pythonade.

Catching a quick snapshot of her handmade python was Debra, our hostess for the night, and owner of Elements Gallery.

She's pretty, isn't she?  Oh, wait a second....
There she is!

 We introduced ourselves, and just as we were about to go inside, along came MRS G!

Much laughter and hilarity ensued.  Mrs. G and I oohed and aaahed our way up the stairs and inside.  Debra and her darling husband Stephen have this fantastic gallery/shop/studio where he throws pots (that's where you put the clay on a wheel and spin it and magically it becomes a cup or urn or mug or whatever, not where you toss a pot into a wall and it crashes into smithereens).  

Debra etches her tiles.  I'm sure that's not the right term, but she puts these incredibly complex, detailed patterns and things onto flat tiles (and other things too), and glazes them and puts colors on them and all that fancy awesome art stuff.  And then they sell it.  

Debra explains her approach to art, running a gallery, and life.
Part of the back room of the gallery.  That is one big roll of bubble wrap!
 We hung around there at the gallery for a while, admiring the pots, dishes, metal work, wood work, glass, jewelry, and everything, and met Debra's sweet husband, Stephen, and her charming daughter.

Dad and daughter working on some mugs.

We were starting to get kind of hungry, so we walked over to The Seraglio, a shop/gallery owned by a totally sweet Turkish man named Muffit.  Pronounced "Moooo-FIT."  Not "moooo-FEET." I asked why the party was happening, I was told that Muffit and his lovely wife just wanted to have a party for the neighborhood artists, business owners, councilpeople, etc.  I was so taken by all these wonderful folks.  

One of THREE courtyards at La Seraglio

another one

Muffit made deeeelicious beef kabobs and chicken on the grill, there was fresh hummus, baba ganouj, pita, rice, cucumber/yogurt salad, cucumber/tomato/onion salad, and a wickedly awesome pasta with a very spicy garlic sauce.  Wine flowed freely, and for dessert?  HOMEMADE BAKLAVA.  It was decadent to an extreme I'm not sure I've experienced before.

Sadly, I did not remember to take any photos inside, but apparently the building used to house a bookstore with an upstairs reading loft.  The spiral staircase to the loft is enclosed by A TREE TRUNK.  With a door.  You open the door of the tree and walk up the spiral staircase inside the (faux) tree.  It's so cool, and I can't believe I can't show you. Sigh.

There are such stories to tell you!  I met a tall, gorgeous woman who not only was a Councilwoman, but makes Fairy Gardens!

I met an older man who owns a B&B by a waterfall with his wife.  He is the oldest vegan I've ever met.

Then there was this one elderly woman everyone deferred to was sitting near us who wore an "I <3 Peninsula" pin on her ball cap.  I found out later she was Peninsula's citizen of the year, and had been town librarian.  She said that since Peninsula was an old canal town, they used to have mules that would get roped to the barges in the river and they'd tow the boats through the locks.  Her grandfather had a barn which housed the mules. When she was a girl, she found a bunch of tiny little horseshoes, and thought they were for baby horses.  Her grandfather then told her the stories of the mules that had once lived there.

It was an explosion of amazingness.  Everybody had a story.  Everybody sparkled (in a non-stupid-vampire way).  There was music, laughter, hugs, food, drink, and more laughter.

Finally, Mrs. G was starting to wilt after a LONG day of driving (a long month, really), so we wended our way out.  Debra rode in Mrs. G's car with her (her husband wanted to check the kiln, so he drove their car separately), and I followed along.  Mrs. G is very law-abiding when it comes to driving.

We arrived at Debra's Palatial Country Estate a mere 15 minutes later.  (Can't you hear the capitals?)

It was getting to be dusk, and it looked very cozy.

We were greeted by a flying pig (of which I also have no picture), and her three delightful dogs.
This is Lily, the dog that liked me.  The others were not so sure.

Her home was the home of artists.  Sculpture, paintings, books, funky furniture, many mysterious doors, cool odds and ends.  There was a beautiful mural on the stairway walls and ceiling, done by one of her daughters.  One of my favorites was a door painted by a daughter.
Isn't that lovely?

We sat on the couch with the dog, chatting, laughing, pausing, pondering.  We talked about kids, husbands, life, death, the Universe, books, art, education, wine, and Kitty Gigantica.

One thing I noticed about Mrs. G. that I didn't expect:  her voice.  Have you ever watched Sex and the City?  You know Samantha, the sex-crazed one?  If you've ever heard the actress speak (when she's not being Samantha), you'll marvel at her soft, gentle voice, as opposed to the pushy, aggressive, tough-girl voice on the show.  With Mrs. G, it's kind of like that.  Her online voice is so spunky and witty and edgy that her sweet, gentle voice was a real surprise.  I've even heard her online videos, and in person?  It's like her voice is made of that loopy, scrunchy yarn that some scarves are knitted from.  It wraps around you ... like a cuddle from a favorite aunt. She was so fun, insightful, and open to new experiences. 

Debra is a marvel.  She's raised two daughters, homeschooled both, and is a prolific artist.  She talked about "the art of business" and the beautiful community they have there. Oh, and she's wickedly funny.

I don't know what they thought of me, but I was pretty honored to be there with those two ladies.
We all went to bed (including the three dogs and all the chickens), dreaming out-in-the-woods dreams. 

The next morning, I woke to the sound of her puppies clattering on the old wooden floors, and followed my nose to the coffee.  My mug was one of their handmade ones, and Debra also made me "a glass o' pink," which was a smoothie (in a Vitamix blender, no less) made from strawberries, blueberries, banana, yogurt, and fresh pineapple. There were also muffins, but I wasn't quite ready for food.

Soon, it was time for Mrs. G to hit the road, so we gave hugs all around, and drove off (Stop Sign, LEFT, Stop Sign, RIGHT), and I drove home, my head full of new people, ideas, art, community, and stories.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To Pee, Or Not To Pee.... (story)

My mother is a sweet lady.  I love her to bits.  She's polite.  She's well-dressed.  She's pretty and articulate and makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. 

But.  Put any one of her cubs in danger or distress?  You're asking for a smack-down. 

Once, many moons ago, there was an elementary school near our house.  The principal there was rather ... old-school, shall we say.  Apparently a kid at the school did some drawing on the walls of one of the bathrooms, and This Is Vandalism.

The principal decided that meant that NONE of the kids in the school should be allowed to use the bathrooms At. All.  There was an announcement made over the loudspeaker that day, telling us that the very next day would begin the great No Bathroom Access All Day punishment.  The vandal had not confessed, and It Would Be So until we knew who did it.

My mother was incensed when she heard this.  "It's not healthy!" said she.  "It's not SAFE!" "You need to be able to go to the bathroom!" she cried, pacing about.  "What is WRONG with those people?"

So, in her quiet, wearing-a-nice-dress way, my mom staged a sit-in the very next day.  She simply went to the principal's office and told the principal, the secretary, and the school nurse (to whom she gave a serious scolding about this) that until the kids were allowed to use the restrooms, the adults would not be allowed to either.  All. Day.  And my mom said that she'd make sure of it. 

I can only imagine that at that point, she crossed her legs, arched an eyebrow, and sat back.  Waiting.

Guess what!

The bathrooms were opened.  Kids peed freely.  And my mom, no doubt, picked up her handbag, gave a gracious smile, and strode out of there with perfect posture. 

Thanks, Mom.

Monday, July 9, 2012

We'll Always Have Paris -- Or Not (cartoons)

 This post was originally published on one of my FAVORITE blogs, Rants From Mommyland, when they asked me to be a Special Guest Writer. 

[This part is from Kate and Lydia of RFML:
So, we love artwork. This is nothing new. We take perfectly lovely and sweet photographs of kittens and sunsets and Maude and jack 'em all up and make 'em say really profane and generally disrespectful stuff. So, when one of our MommyLand moms sends us a story about her most embarrassing moment AND included 27 separate e-mails worth of original artwork to got with it, ummm, HELLO! Of course we're going to run it. Mostly because we begged her to write it for us in the first place.  A very huge thank you to Kate in Michigan, who is also the dictator of the RFML SparkPeople Strength Team (where we first became acquainted with her incredible illustrating skills).  She is the Queen of the Ninja Pirate Hookers and we adore her. ]

Sadly, this is an entirely true story.

We'll Always Have Paris. Oh, Wait...No We Won't

Back in the DBK (Days Before Kids), my husband and I lived in Pittsburgh.

We loved it. We were young (late 20s), smart (he was getting his PhD and I had just gotten my Master’s), and with a small amount of discretionary cash which we spent unwisely and very well. One Friday afternoon in January, my husband called me at my temp job and asked if I wanted to go to PARIS the following weekend.


Well, turned out that there was an insanely good rate on airline tickets out of the ‘Burgh, but ONLY if you buy TODAY. 

“Ummm, even yesser!” I believe was my answer.

So we went. It was three days of walking, eating, going to museums, checking out the Eiffel Tower,

and eating some more. I felt so cosmopolitan. Such a World Traveler. We just up and went to Europe! For the weekend! How cool were we?

After shopping on the Champs Elysees (we bought him a leather coat - did you know there are INCREDIBLE sales in Paris in January? It’s true.) We were happy, tired, and a mite hungry. That’s where our story begins.

Oh, how wonderful. An out-of-the-way Café full of Parisians! Incroyable! We practiced our EXTREMELY limited French and got a table near the windows. The tables were adorably close together. Cigarette smoke everywhere.

We happily ordered coffee while we perused the menu.

 Oh, it felt so good to be able to order lunch -- IN FRENCH! Did you know that “hard boiled eggs” is “oeuf dur”? It totally is.

The ham was on the bottom, with some fancy schmancy mustard (pardon, “la moutarde”), interspersed with delectable tomato slices and some green leafy something. The halved oeufs were arrayed artfully on top, their little white bottoms nestled into what I can only assume was some mustard/Dijon/hollandaise sauce. I didn’t care what it was called. I wanted to dive in.

 Cradling this rather large sandwich in my hands, I debated the best approach. It was too tall to just munch easily, so I began nibbling on one end, all the time sitting up, coquettishly swinging my crossed leg back and forth, showing off my high-heeled boot.

Out of the corner of my heavily mascaraed eye, I saw something white fly through the air.

White and yellow, actually. My husband caught my eye. We both sat very still, smiles frozen on our faces.  

Him: “What was that?”
Me: "Maybe an egg?”

I peered at the far side of my sandwich. Whaddya know -- an oeuf was AWOL. Whoops. I snuck a glance under the table, expecting to find the egg where I could discreetly kick it out of sight.


 Maybe under my seat?

 This was not funny any more.

An egg cannot just disappear. NOT EVEN IN PARIS. I was starting to hyperventilate a bit. Then…

I looked at the woman at the table RIGHT next to us. She was so exquisite. So chic. So… wearing white. In January.

 Ummm, oh. no. it. didn't.

[Instant Replay]

I began frantically searching for...for what? Words!

She glanced down, wrinkled her flawlessly alabaster brow, and said in mellifluous French,

Oh God. What? Is she telling me she’s calling the cops on the Ugly American?

My husband, seeing that even the tiny shreds of my Frencherican had abandoned me, translated. “Honey, she’s saying that it’s not easy to eat those sandwiches.”

I was desperate. I was sweating and hideously embarrassed. I needed to get out. We flagged down the Garcon and paid the bill -- and probably tipped him about 427%. I couldn’t meet the Chic Woman’s eye as we left. However, I did hear a very French snort.

So, just a review:



Next time I visit gay Paree, I’m gonna change my name. And avoid oeufs. Dur.

Wisdom Gained Through PMS?

I was trying to Google just now.  I think I might have PMS, and I'm trying to see if in fact my body/brain/soul is trying to teach me something.  I searched "women gaining wisdom through PMS."  And I Googled "women learning from PMS." 

Know what I found?

Page after page of "how to cure PMS," "what you need to know about PMS," medications, and (GAG) jokes about women with PMS.  "Dreaded PMS," "PMS suffering." "Easing the suffering and pain." 

Not in hundreds of entries did I find anything about learning about ourselves through PMS.

What do I expect to learn through PMS?  Hm.  Well, that the world listens more when you yell.  That people "snap to" more when you sear the earth with your glances.  Anger can dissolve into sentimentality.  Dear friends seem dearer.  Irritations are much, much more irritating. 

Broken things get thrown away when you can't stand seeing them anymore.  Seething, silent arguments stay silent no more.  Tiny pinpricks of hurt release a volcano of words and stomps and demands. DEMANDING is far FAR better than asking.  Ask forgiveness later, if necessary. 

Righteous anger is white-hot and cleansing.  Irrational anger is usually based in rational (but small) hurts.  Happiness can be fleeting, but feels wonderful and light. 

Just because it's part of a cycle doesn't make it not real.  "It's just PMS, right?" is a sure-fire way to get yourself murdered. 

The "hold me/leave me the hell alone" part of PMS seems to be a balancing act.  It's as though we're testing the waters to see who is sensitive enough to understand and accommodate.  To see who respects us and values us, despite our emotional ups and downs, and to see who is just putting up with us when we're Cheerful and Sweet. 

I'm not against medicating PMS.  But I don't think that women would have it if it didn't do some good.  It may be the only time the world gets to hear us without all that censoring.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Water, Water (not really) Everywhere

It's hot! Damned hot! REAL HOT! (thank you, Good Morning Vietnam)

It's well over 100F here in the great white north, and it's annoying.  I'm grateful it's just annoying.  It could easily be deadly.

Today I had to run some boring errands (bank, post office), and I stopped off at the QD (local convenience store) to grab a diet Coke.  I stood there and saw the big cooler full of water bottles and had a thought.  I bought 10 of them, because I know lots of locals take buses on the route I was going to drive.  It was 3 p.m., and the heat was at its worst.

I pulled up in front of bus stops and opened my window, waving the bottles of water, yelling, "It's too hot not to have water!  Please take it!"

Not one person turned me down.  I also gave some to the guy with the sign "Homeless family.  Anything will help.  Willing to work."  He looked pretty dazed with the heat.  I hope it helped.

For a mere couple of dollars, I was able to help a few people -- just a little.  But I think the surprise that somebody was thinking about them maybe helped too.

Tomorrow, more water.