Monthly Archives: December 2012

Fresh Air for All Things Considered in the New Year











I had a dream last night—so full of disappointment that it still hangs over me as I drink my third cup of tea (strong with milk) and watch the birds feeding outside my sun room windows.  I was on a panel about adoption, a panel of twelve to be interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.   But instead of being in a beautiful building in Washington, D.C., everything was shabby, from the motel where I stayed with my toddler (adopted?) son, to the small NPR building with the outside iron stairs, to the hot crowded hall outside the room where the interview was to take place.  I never saw that room, the room that I still hoped would live up to my expectations—the brilliant interviewer, the state of the art microphones, the leather padded chairs around the table.  I never saw it because I was five minutes late, along with half the other participants.  The door was shut and when it finally opened it was all over—“Sorry, maybe another time, come again.”  “But, hold on,” I wanted to shout, “I have something important to say—I am worthy to be on this show!”   But nobody seemed to care.  Not even a reprimand for being late—just a lack of interest in my lack of presence.  Now I can’t help but wonder if this dream had to do with one of my many daydreams—the one of being on NPR’s Fresh Air—-“And today our guest is author Ann Carter discussing her debut book, now a New York Times bestseller.  Written with wit and raw honesty, it details her experiences of adopting her two daughters. ”

Such expectations, such dreams, such disappointments.  On my third connection, I imaged Macadamia Man (not his real name) to be as funny and intelligent and caring as his emails made him sound.  I had daydreams of anticipated weekend rendezvous, of visits filled with shared cooking and country walks, of quiet times on my screened in porch, drinking gin and tonic on summer nights, good scotch on warm autumn afternoons.  And always, always in these dreams, he made me laugh.  But it didn’t end well and I chided myself for my fanciful self, for my crazy and unlikely imaginings.   Were the dreams worth the disappointment?

Since starting my encaustic series, I think a lot about birds and I have no reason to believe they don’t have emotions too.   I can see it in the robin at the top of this post.  I can see the way he’s dreaming—of spring to come, of the rains that bring out the worms, of the sweet blue eggs that his mate will hatch.  And I look at all the birds outside my sun room windows on this cold winter day, the cardinals and chickadees and sparrows and my current favorite, the tufted titmouse—all working so hard to keep themselves alive, their dreams alive.  And I know that I’m not yet ready to give up mine.

So NPR, here I come, with book and children in tow.  I can see it clearly.  We have been staying at an old but classy hotel.   I am wearing an artsy outfit and one of my “signature” hats.  We walk by the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial and then along the Vietnam Memorial Wall, a stone wall inscribed with the names of so many to remember, names that held dreams and disappointments of their own.  And I think about the young woman who designed this, a woman with a grand dream of what could be, in spite of all the obstacles she faced.

When we get to Constitution Avenue, we hail a taxi for the studio (with plenty of time to spare).   And now I see a man with us.  He is taking Rose’s hand as we get in the taxi, and winking at Helen (who is not sure she really wants to be here).   And in the taxi, headed to the Fresh Air interview about my bestselling book, this man turns to me and says something that makes me laugh.

Trimming the Tree—Ornaments of Discord and Deliverance











Tonight we trimmed our Christmas tree.  From the photo above (not to mention classic movie scenes) you might imagine us gathered round the green boughs, voices raised in song, sipping hot cocoa and eating frosted angels.  Well, we did have boughs, so prickly Wayne had to get out his work gloves, and the tree had a strange tilt that got corrected, but not before I thought it was going to tip and spill water all over the floor and electrical outlets, setting the house on fire (my mother’s influence here).   We had voices raised, though not in song.  We had angels, as in “my angel goes on top or I’m not putting up any more ornaments”.   Oh, and no cocoa but half way through I opened a bottle of wine (right after Rose said something particularly irritating and Helen mouthed “I’m going to hit her” in what’s known as a stage whisper).

Wayne seemed to take the evening much better than me and even took photos by the tree,  not stopping until he more or less got us all smiling at once.  He also managed to get me to throw out five old strings of lights by using a touch of sarcasm when I said they might work one day:  “Well, then, Helen, put them back in the box so you can get them out and not use them next year.”  He’s now watching TV with Rose to calm her down while Helen works with boyfriend Josh on an American Government essay on the death penalty (for or against and explain why) which is due tomorrow morning.  As I sit on the couch with my second glass of wine, our two dogs beside me as usual, I start looking at the ornaments more closely.

I see the one that Helen made in first grade, a straight-edged triangle tree with a gold star on top, blue sky surrounding it.  I see a clay cookie in the shape of an R, a present to Rose when she was still a baby.  I see a photo of Helen and me on a road trip to Wyoming, now enclosed in a cardboard snowflake.   And as I look at these ornaments, they manage to deliver me from my disappointments about this evening.   It wasn’t all I had hoped for, all I would have liked it to be.  But we still got the tree trimmed, as a family, with the ornaments that remind us of what we’ve done together.   And they remind me of something else.  At least for tonight, my daughters are alive and safe in our warm house.   And for that I offer up a prayer of thanks.

Life is short and oh so fragile.    May there be peace on earth and good will to all, and especially, especially, our children.








Unhelpful Hints for Creativity

Need to organize materials for the workshop.










Yesterday I was trying to get ready for a creativity group meeting I was hosting at my house.   I was planning to demonstrate the use of encaustic to make art and then give the members a chance to create their own pieces.  As usual, I had too much to do in one short day and decided to ask Heloise for help.  Here’s the way our correspondence went:


Dear Heloise—-I have a workshop tomorrow and don’t know whether to focus on cleaning the house, making quiche for the potluck that’s part of the workshop (my idea to add that extra special touch), or getting the materials ready.  Could you please give me some advice.  Can’t Decide in Kansas.

Dear Can’t Decide—Since you obviously have waited too long to get ready for this “workshop” or whatever the hell you’re calling it, you had better just do a little of each and hope the participants in this “workshop” don’t have too high expectations.  And don’t bother to write again.  Heloise

Dear Heloise—-I must say I was a little shocked by your reply, as I had been told you offered complimentary cleaning people in cases like mine.  As for the “workshop”, it may not be real but there’s no need for negative remarks.  One participant (who sadly had to cancel at the last minute) even referred to it as a “master class” and I think she wasn’t being sarcastic, though it’s hard to tell the tone via email.  So, just to let you know you could have been more helpful.  Can’t Decide in Kansas.

Dear Can’t Decide—Might I suggest that instead of spending the time writing to me, you start on the jobs for this “master class”, or whatever the hell the dropout called it.   Heloise

Dear Heloise—I don’t know how you start your morning, but do you really jump out of bed and immediately start cleaning and cooking?  If that is the case, might I recommend a book for you, “Starting the Day with Quiet Meditation or Sitting Drinking Tea While Checking Email”.  I think it could improve your attitude.  Just saying….Can’t Decide in Kansas.

Dear Can’t Decide—Have you by any chance had trouble finding a mate on  Just saying….Heloise

Dear Heloise—-Funny you should ask, as I have had some issues there, but that’s too long a story to get into here and I’m rather surprised that you would ask this question knowing that I have so much work to do today.  However, if you would kindly resend the question the day after tomorrow, I can answer it and tell you how my workshop went.  Until then, I wish you good luck with your “advice” column.  Will Decide on My Own in Kansas.


So what I decided was to start with one thing (cleaning litter boxes), finish it, do another (brushing dog hairs off the couch), and so on, bird by bird, until things were more or less ready–oh, and with a short nap late afternoon.  And now, the next evening, the last participant has left, the materials have been put back into my cluttered art room, and I am thinking about how things went.   Everyone said it was a success and, without the uncertainty of tone via email, I don’t doubt their sincerity.  I think it was great because each person came up with unique pieces—something only she could do.   And we had fun in the process, we enjoyed being creative.  There’s not much like doing something different to spark creative energy.   And that’s why, Heloise, it was a real workshop, whatever the heck you may want to call it.

Encaustic materials ready to go.

Imbedding into the wax.


Flocks of Linen












Two things that are lovely on this earth—flocks of birds and linen flapping on a clothes line.  Here’s a poem about them.


The Flock


They rise up like

billowing linen on a line

set free from wooden pegs

their ruffled hems fanning out

as borders of black and pink cross stitch

smooth into silent shades of gray

leaving behind airing pillows

and comforters stuffed

with feathers.