Barbie shoes have long been a metaphor in our family for overwhelm . . .

They are the kind of annoying little thing that can multiply until they seem to be turning up everywhere.  They rarely stay on Barbie's feet, where they belong.

Their significance originated when Hannah was very young. Cleaning up her room was an overwhelming prospect for her, so I would have to break it down into manageable tasks.  We would often begin with, "Just pick up all the Barbie shoes.  Then come back and report."  

With three daughters, there never seemed to be a shortage of Barbie shoes (or barrettes, or figurines, or books, or whatever) laying around waiting to be stepped on. But for some reason, Barbie shoes are the thing that has remained code for, "Help!  I'm drowning in all this little stuff...someone please just take over and tell me what to do!"

Yes, this is a cry for help.  I am drowning in 30 years' worth of Barbie shoes.  There's something very comforting about family junk -- 30 years of tangible history -- and something terribly disquieting about watching it get carted out the door.  Even if it is to a new life with someone who really needs it.  Or to a daughter who has been eying it for years and hoping she could take it to her own home. Or to the landfill, where it should have gone 25 years ago.

Fact is, my brain isn't functioning terribly well right now.  I'm not much of a friend, mother, wife, blogger, or anything else.  Mostly I want to curl up in my chair and watch old television shows and eat candy.  And I've spent a good deal of time doing those things....until now.  With the packers coming next week, there is no more time for wallowing.  The Barbie shoes MUST be sorted, and sort them I will.  And am.

I've never missed a move yet.  But I'm a little out of practice.

All of our possessions that make the cut will be going into storage in Phoenix for an unspecified amount of time.  We'll be moving into a corporate apartment for the first month, then who-knows-where until we decide what we want to do next.  So much freedom!  All the things I've told my daughters are being repeated to me:  "The world is your oyster....You can do anything you want to do...Look at it as an adventure....We can do hard things...."  (But I like all that advice much more when I'm the one giving it.)

Small Works will return....sometime.  Once the dust settles.  Once at least the Barbie shoes have been put away, and maybe even a few other things.  Heaven knows there's plenty to be done, on both ends of the move.  Thanks for your friendship and your patience during my technical difficulties (read: failure to cope).  It gives me a great deal of comfort to know that, no matter where I go, my blog neighborhood goes with me.

See you soon!





I laughed at this cartoon when I came across it the other day - well, shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot trying to combat a vague sense of anxiety, more than laughed, I guess.  Yes, I'm a dinosaur.  We've documented it here so often before.  This was just another reminder. 

Then I showed it to my daughter (the newly minted teacher) to see what she thought.  And for emphasis, I added the information that, in my hometown, cursive has just been struck from the curriculum - hit by a meteor at last and destined to become quaint hieroglyphics to future generations.

As with most things, she's keeping an open mind. It's one of her best qualities.

She replied that it remains to be seen whether penmanship was important for fine motor development or not, whether those hours and hours of practice we endured actually benefited us in some way.  Or whether today's kids might be better served by spending the time learning about technologies that have a direct impact on the world they live in and the one they will grow into.

She was right, of course.

And I guess my anxiety actually comes from a worry that words themselves might become extinct.  I wonder whether kids can have the kind of relationship I have with words if they are never given the opportunity to master their creation from the ground up - to tame hands and pencils and use them to give tangible shape and meaning to their thoughts. I guess it remains to be seen.

Maybe - keeping an open mind - the speed at which kids can connect words using all the technologies at their fingertips will allow them an even freer rein, to think faster and to record those thoughts and feelings in words more completely and accurately than ever before.

Back when I studied writing in college, 

I was working on a manual typewriter.  I had to really want every word.  The beast had a very stiff touch and a reluctant return, and every error meant one kind of messy and time-consuming correction or another.  Usually I wrote first drafts longhand, on a yellow pad, then refined them on my trusty typewriter.  I was continually frustrated that my hands could never quite move at the speed of my mind. I can't imagine how much work I might have turned out if I had possessed the technology that I do now.  On the other hand, each completed piece might have felt less satisfying.  We love most the things for which we work hardest.

Recently I've been enjoying the book poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.  Actually, I've been savoring every word.  The book is just a celebration of words, really - poetry reduced to its most basic components. If you are a lover of ideas, and more specifically of the magical ways in which words can convey meaning, you should pick it up. 

"Poetry has an interesting function.  
It helps people be where they are."
 -- Gary Snyder 

If words strung perfectly help us "be" where we are, and perhaps more importantly, understand where others are, then I guess I should make room for the possibility that words will always be much more than the sum of the letters that create them, and that how they come together is immaterial.

And if that's the case, I guess I need to let kids be where they are, and that is definitely in a world of fonts.  Not penmanship.


Magpie Fri.

detail from image by Francesca Woodman


I put my ear

against tomorrow

listening for a sound

a beat, a sign, the wave

of drumming fingers

to a future song

and I can almost hear

to sing along

but almost says it hasn't

quite become, half-born

a foot, one hand, a hint

and who knows what

will happen when we get

to then and there


 I know, I know -- still AWOL, because I've been sicker than sick all week.  Brought back a nasty little souvenir of some kind from Phoenix.  But I did manage this.  Thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for luring me to the keyboard.  Click over there now to explore a hundred more...



We sold it!  
It's a miracle!

Getting all the closets cleaned out before the packers come will be an even bigger one.

To celebrate/recover...I took a little 10 day trip without really mentioning it to anyone -- anyone being, in this case specifically, YOU, Dear Reader!

I couldn't tell you, because the sale did not really become final until I was already well into my vacation.  You understand, I hope!

Since we signed the papers, I believe I have gained 5 pounds.  The revelry must end.

And it will....Monday.  
Small Works will return on Tuesday, August 14.

Miss you!

(sorry,  I said that with my mouth full and while wearing a swimsuit, but it isn't the first time in our friendship that I've been glad we're not blogging via Skype...)



Someone smart once told me, 

"Art asks questions.  Ask good ones."

Actually, it was Hannah while we were eating lunch yesterday...she threw that wise gem out over fried chicken tacos and a bowl of melty queso studded with green chiles.  It was a perfect lunch and a perfect conversation.

I thought of it again today while I was eating a much less-perfect lunch alone with the August issue of American Craft magazine. In the "From the Editor" feature, by Monica Moses, I read about a new book called Unintended Consequences by Edward Conard, an uber-wealthy investor who uses the term "art history majors" to slam people he thinks aren't contributing enough to the economy.

Guilty.  I haven't contributed enough to the economy in years, actually -- and I shudder to think what he might say about an English-major-turned-fiber-artist.

But Monica Moses offers a perfect response:

"Yet what endures in a civilization is not its spreadsheets and financial instruments but its plays and sculptures, its sonatas and paintings.  As John F. Kennedy put it, 'Aeschylus and Plato are remembered today long after the triumphs of imperial Athens are gone.  Dante outlived the ambitions of 13th-century Florence.'  What has power in the long run is the creative stuff.  So shouldn't we invest in the art of our own age?  Shouldn't we appreciate the art of the ages?  In their own way, isn't that what the art history majors of the world are doing?

Money is a funny thing.  Central as it is in our culture, it is only a means to an end.  The Edward Conards of this country don't hang financial documents on their walls.  Even they see beauty and meaning elsewhere.  Money is the middleman, and the real value is in experience, feeling, and art."

It seems to me that the reason art endures is that the questions remain largely unanswered. 

Willa Cather said, 

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."

So although I am feeling a great deal of personal uncertainty about what my exact artistic direction should be, I am glad to be reminded that asking the questions remains valid and meaningful -- important even! -- no matter what form they take.

Nice to remember I'm really happy
being exactly what I am.
Whatever that is...artist, writer...
maybe I'll even think about going
back to school for an MFA in art history.

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