Sunday, January 27, 2013

We Are Winter

We have been getting together for dinner with three other families for a while now. There is a total of thirteen children and when they are all in attendance everyone has a friend present and there is truly nothing better than having a friend present.

It has worked out that each family's dinner lands in a different season and we are winter.  Winter is difficult for me, sun worshipper that I am, so this bit of manufactured warmth in the form of a house full of friends is nourishing.

I feel that the house is just starting to come together, is just starting to feel like mine, and a party always brings a burst of energy for the filling in.  I had originally painted this hallway a light blue and it never felt right.  Experimenting with colors for our bedroom doors I fell in love with this saddle-leather shade.  Not right for the doors, it seemed just the thing for the hallway, a bridge between our room and Bill's Calke Green study.

An old bench, one that had not even found a good home in the old house, held space here. The painting was my wedding present to Bill, and if it's not something that we would buy now, it reminds me of where we were when I was so much under the influence of other people.

I had seen this chest and it kept knocking on the back door of my consciousness.  Readying for the party I decided that it was, indeed a good idea.  When I went to buy it, it was out on approval with someone else and, I am embarrassed to say, I had a temper tantrum.  A small one, but a tantrum nonetheless.  I called a friend in full froth and as I was finally winding down I said, "I mean, I get that's it not a kidney," though I was behaving as if it were.

I just wanted the house to be pretty.  Just wanted to do a little less explaining and apologizing.  Just wanted things to be right for this crew that I like so well.  The shop called in the middle of one of the boy's basketball games to say the piece had come back; it hadn't worked for the other buyer.  A few friends said, "karma."  But I am not sure this cosmic kick-back is what my bad behavior earned and I am looking over my shoulder wondering what the universe might have in store.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Patience and Process

I began at the paint store in the knowledgable hands of Vic, on whom I can always count for advice and a story or two.  He assured me that Benjamin Moore Regal was the way to go and he was right; it covered dense and dark in one coat.

When I told him what I was doing he looked down and nodded his head.  "You know, I can paint a steady, straight line," he looked up from under his brow and finished, "with either hand."  I smiled back, "You know, I can, too. Pretty much."  

 And I did.  The lines waver slightly - you can see that they were not taped.  I like it better.  No pretense.

I made a quick guide and started at the center of the longest wall and moved toward the door.  I was intent on getting the worst out of the way, the Catholic school girl in me still so deeply embedded that I felt the need to earn satisfaction through suffering.  But I succumbed.  Succumbed to the creamy temptation of the paint and the soft "shush" of the brush on the wall.  The marking scrambled my brain, but the painting soothed my spirit and before the small space filled with the scent of the intoxicant I realized that this was what I sought from the beginning.  

In no hurry, with my focus on what was right in front of me, I took it a little at a time.  There was the bother of corners and plumbing, but even those, with patience, were managed.  Standing back now, with pictures and props in place, it looks as if it all worked out as it should.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Math and measuring are a hateful and horrible business.  I wonder at people who find comfort and security in numbers and order, while I am perpetually vexed.  There are fifteen squares in the powder room and I did not execute the meander correctly once.  Each time I had to reconnoiter the bit in the middle.  Each time.

Beyond that, there are tricky parts both behind and beside the toilet and under the sink.  In a perfect world, one would execute such a project free of such obstacles.  It is not a perfect world.  As I found myself lying on the floor wedged between the toilet and the wall maneuvering a yard stick with one hand and a pencil with another, I was reminded of an interlude in the lower berth of a bunk bed in Stillwater, Oklahoma my freshman year of college.  This latest feat, at least, yielded satisfying results and left no lingering notion that looks foretell neither intelligence nor prowess.

Beyond the physical discomfort was the anxiety of making a mistake.  Pencil, of course, can be erased, but inky, black paint on a flat, white wall is the sort of slip that is difficult to undo.  This is where one needs to exercise forethought and caution.  Regardless my focus and enthusiasm, slip I did.  Today I face sealer and more dreaded calculations as I finally hang the silhouettes.  At the moment, from a language perspective, it's a bit of a PG-13 environment.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dirty Little Secret

I am writing for the Kansas City Star monthly; you can read my latest piece here on what a mess I am.  (Images of new storage solutions from Serena and Lily guest star.)

Image courtesy of Serena and Lily.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Girl Talk

I pushed the button on my phone as I left yoga to see that Shelby had called.  Shelby cuts my hair and on my list of VIPs he falls just behind anyone with whom I share DNA.  "Darn.  Sick," was my first thought.

"Patricia, I'm just making sure you're alright.  We had you down at 9:45...." Just so you know, "making sure you're alright" is code for "where the hell are you?"  Or it would be, except Shelby is so nice.  I had him on my calendar at 11:15 and I'm not quite sure you can understand the importance of this in my life, but this one misstep might have meant that I would not have a haircut (and color, to be honest) for four more weeks.  Which in the scheme of things means nothing, but in my day-to-day, well, it's significant.

I called. He relented. I went, slightly sheepish in my workout wear and slippers.  As I "processed," a woman I have known for twenty years was having her hair dried.  When wet, it springs in inky dark ringlets hitting just at her jawline.  As Shelby worked her hair with a brush the circumference of my fist it bloomed into the most delicious curls.  Big, soft and full, they framed her face in a kind of Hollywood glam I fear I'll never know.  She looked back at me through the mirror with dark eyes and I mouthed, "I want my hair to look like that."  She smiled.

Back in the chair, where I should have been quietly grateful and repentant, I looked up at Shelby from under bare lashes and said, "I want to have big hair."  Not in a Veruca Salt kind of way, but wistfully.  Just shy of desperate.  Rather than apply the flat side of a brush to my backside, he went to work.

As I left, less conscious of my yoga pants and no make-up, I glanced into the book store window on my way by.  Big, golden curls winked back and in an instant I thought, "Sometimes it is so fantastic to be female."

Photography, Howell Conant, with thanks to the helpful reader.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Block Head

The last time I was in New York my friend Michael was telling me, "Today at work I made a reference to Brancusi's The Kiss and everyone just looked back at me totally blank."  As they began searching on their phones, trying to put his remark in context he asked, "Do you not know Brancusi's Kiss?" and someone replied, "Oh, Michael, you know the most obscure things."

Toiling away in obscurity here as well, I made a new friend.  He reminded me a little of Brancusi's sculpture, though he is only half of that whole.  A quarter, really, as he's unable to press against a heady female from shoulder to foot.  He could kiss, I suppose, though honestly, he's far too timid.  It's more likely that he'd make a cerebral connection.  A quiet observer, he seems amused by our busy abode.  He is the second sculpture that I passed at first glance and circled back around to collect later.  Sort of the opposite of catch and release.  More satisfying, though.  I'd rather have him in the end than enjoy him for a while and have to let him go.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Progress Report

These silhouettes have rested against the wall of the overly-large powder room for the past two years.  I mentioned it to someone once and she said, "I didn't realize that wasn't where they were supposed to be." Yes, this can sometimes happen.  They remained, happily at home, after I painted the top portion of the wall (and ceiling, which you cannot see here.)

I showed my eldest, who is both creative and good at math (which I do find admirable, if annoying), the picture of the Greek key and asked him, "Do you think it will be hard?  I mean, for me.  Do you think it will be hard for me?"

He studied the image briefly, never pausing the back-and-forth, back-and-forth of his lacrosse stick and said, "I think that if you think it will be hard, it will be hard, but if you think it will be fun, it will be fun."  Which was an admirable perspective.  Still, slightly annoying.

So I started Sunday.  Because, hard or not, fun or not, it is nothing if I don't begin.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tie One On

My new year starts Monday as the younger boys head back to school.  I know that January is supposed to be a time of pared-down and scaled-back, but my eyes keep catching this image each time they sweep my inspiration board.  I spent the holidays in black and gold with red nails and lips so there's consistency there.  Also, recently asked, "How many bracelets do you think would be too many?" I could only reply, "I have no idea, but I'm not there yet."  But beyond that, my look is remarkably restrained.  Usually straight.  Mostly fitted.  Almost masculine.  The image next to this one on the cork is cropped black pants with white socks and black oxfords.  The one below, white blouse buttoned to the neck with a black lace sweater.

So how to explain the allure of this avalanche of excess?  Those bows.  Those white satin bows, with their tails docked short.  The gleam of the silk, the clipped "V" of their ends.  For someone whose wedding dress had not one sequin, one pearl, one peek of lace - only a line of satin buttons as embellishment - it seems distinctly out of character.  But they are so wonderfully feminine, I can't help but want to slide the satin between my finger and thumb.

Could this be the dawn of a new year and a new me?  Perhaps.  Perhaps this is the year to break out and be brave.

Image, Meadham Kirchhoff Spring 2013 Ready to Wear via  Photography Alessandro Garofalo.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mrs. B at AD - All Wright

Last month I attended the Italian Masterworks and Important Design auctions at Wright in Chicago.  As I anticipated it was something of an adventure, at least for someone like me who loves picking the brains of creative people about process.  Richard Wright and I talked uncharted career paths, modern design, living with young sons and the impossibility of the Death Star Lego set.

As these things sometimes do, being there made me want dip into their world a little bit.  As I watched Mr. Wright's associates take bids over the phone, I wanted to feel the receiver pressed to my ear, hear the excitement, or frustration, of the collector yearning to capture his heart's desire.

You can read the piece at here.

Photo courtesy of Wright.