Can’t seem to get rid of the snow. Not when you have a storm every single week. Because just when you think that maybe some of that week-old frozen ice of a snow pile is ever so slightly starting to melt, this happens:
And the very next morning after a storm, more of this:
But I have to say, when I walked the girls to school this morning with the sun shining so brightly that I had my sunglasses on because the sun reflecting off the snow was almost blinding, you couldn’t help but remark how beautiful it was, particularly since it was a balmy 35 degrees. I heard similar chatter all around me as parents walked their kids to school. “Hey, it’s not so bad out, it’s kinda warm!” Apparently, 40 is the new 60.
The girls are re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books and I was reminded of how much I loved “The Long Winter” in particular when I was a kid. Made me want to go grab it off the bookshelf and read it again, partly because we’ve become such a society of complainers and wimps. Let me read about real hardships! Not that I’m not happy I live in this century with modern comforts and all, but I am rather fascinated by how people lived and survived without all the things that we take for granted today.
I remember meeting a handful of various people from my travels around the country when I was young who did choose to “drop out” and live out in nature without the comforts of things like running water, heat or electricity. They were essentially squatting in the woods, building temporary shelters which often consisted of a raised wooden platform and a network of tarps to shield against rain and wind. Survivalists, hippies, I don’t know what you would call them if you had to put a label on them at all, but it was an eye-opener for this city-raised kid. I’ve camped out in much the same fashion, but only for weeks at a time, not months like some of the people I’ve met. On a few occasions I would spend a few days with them in their make-shift homes, strangers really, whom I would just meet rather randomly, but I guess we trusted our guts and instincts enough to know when a situation felt safe. Not once in my years of travel did I ever find myself in any kind of situation that was less than safe.
Were my friends and I just lucky? Did we have a guardian angel watching over us during our travels? I have no idea, but that trust we put in the world enabled us to cross paths with people I would not have normally met had I stayed in my little bubble in the city. Sometimes I think about some of those people and wonder what they’re doing now. Like this girl I met somewhere in Massachusetts who lived in the woods 6 months out of the year in a shelter made of scrap lumber and tarps – kind of like a treehouse, but on the ground. She had a futon on the side of shack that was protected under tarps, but she often slept on the other side under stars when the skies were clear. Her belongings were minimal – some books, a few change of clothes, dishware enough to cook and eat from, a notebook and some pencils, all neatly stacked on the side of her little dwelling next to a tree. When she needed more supplies she would run into town on a bicycle, picking up only what she needed for a week or two. And this is how we met. It’s funny, but I never questioned why she wanted to live this way, so isolated from everybody and everything. When I was with her for those few days, I just accepted it as what it was.
I don’t remember her name, or the names of most of the other people I briefly met crossing paths. But on certain days like this snowy one, I think about how we traveled and learned from people like the girl who lived in the woods, that you don’t really need all this stuff to live a happy life. Isn’t this true? The snow reminds me that at times I feel like I live in a snowglobe, all insulated and small. Those encounters were like blips in my life from a past that I sometimes wonder was really mine, and I may not be the same person as I was years ago, but I keep those life lessons learned through travels tucked away deep inside and I know that it informs the way I live my life now.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
I remember being 10, do you? It’s when memories start to have real traction and you can recount the details that make distant memories still alive.
I turned 10 the year we entered a new decade, the 80s. Life then was all about living on rollerskates every free minute that I wasn’t in school, skating around in circles in my basement to Donna Summer, Blondie and the Jackson Five.
I begged my mom for Jordache and Sasson jeans, Nike sneaks tricked out with the fattest color laces you can find and knee high tube socks with 3 stripes, not two. I also wore a lot of feathers, brightly colored and on clips that we attached to our hair. They were actually roach clips, but I didn’t know that at the time. Another must-have accessory was the braided satin headband in all sorts of colors. Depending on my mood, I would wear them on my head or hang 2 around my neck as necklaces.
I was obsessed with Different Strokes and the Facts of Life, but my favorite TV show hands down was What’s Happening. I thought Duane falling down on his skateboard during opening credits was the funniest thing ever. I had a little crush on Duane; I really liked his afro.
When Solid Gold came on in the Fall, I became obsessed with that too and watched it along with Soul Train and American Bandstand. I didn’t want to be one of the Solid Gold dancers, but I was mesmerized by them at least until we started mocking them as we grew into snotty teenagers. In my basement, I would choreograph dance numbers to “Fame” by Irene Cara.
My favorite songs of 1980 were “Upside Down” by Diana Ross and “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson. Then I heard “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar and that kind of blew my mind.
In 1980 I played with Weebles (they don’t fall down!) and Ker-bangers (also known as Clackers). I can’t tell you how many times I would hit and bruise my arm on that thing, even hitting myself in the eye a few times. Maybe that’s why they were banned in the mid 80s, or maybe I was just a super uncoordinated and clumsy kid. I kind of hated that toy, but I played with it anyway. I didn’t have any Barbie dolls except for a collectible Cher doll whose butt-long hair I chopped off at some point, but I did have Color n Curl Candi, you know, the toy where you can style hair and apply makeup on a creepy doll head. What I really wanted for years and years was the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine and the Easy Bake Oven, but I never got either of those toys.
In 4th grade, I was obsessed with making dioramas for book reports and became somewhat competitive about them at school. I had to make the best diorama, each one more elaborate than the one before, topping all other dioramas in the classroom. What a brat. There was a fair amount of bullying in school when I was 10, and I joined in with most of the other girls in the class picking on some of the girls that the mean girls singled out. I was still sort of newish to my neighborhood and I wanted to fit in. The previous year, I was the one who got picked on, primarily by a girl named April who would follow me home from school, taunting me the whole way home.
When I was 10, my best friends were Cecilia (but she was really kind of a frenemy) and a girl named Giselle. But I really wanted to be friends with a tomboy named Irene. She had the best tube socks and cut off jean shorts and rode the skateboard as well as any boy in the neighborhood. She didn’t really hang with any one crowd; she was way too cool for that.
In 4th grade we would make each other friendship pins which were tiny colored beads that you would bead onto tiny safety pins. You’d then collect those and hang them from bigger safety pins and wear it on your shirt or attach it to your bookbag (cross shoulder, of course. We didn’t wear backpacks in the 80s). The more pins you had, the more popular you were. We would also obsessively make braided ribbon barrettes in as many color combos that we could think of so that we could match every outfit. My favorite combo was green and purple.
When I was 10 I was still obsessed with unicorns and had a velvet black light unicorn poster up in my room. It hung there for years until I took it down and replaced it with band posters, probably Duran Duran and Def Leppard.
I have a 10 year old in the house now. I’m thinking back to all my 10 year old memories because I want to remember what it was like and to have some sort of window on what it feels like to be that age so I can understand her world better. Still a kid, but somehow different, older, definitely testing the boundaries of adolescence.
Is being 10 in 2014 so much different than 1980? Yeah, maybe. We were explaining to the kids what life before the internet was like, how we had to search in our Encyclopedia volumes (I had Funk & Wagnalls) to do book reports or actually leave our house and go to the library if we needed to look up something. NYC is also worlds apart from when I was a 10 year old. But trade in the friendship pins for Kid Robot Yummy keychains (kids are obsessed) and feather roach clips for Rainbow loom bracelets, and being 10 is still being 10.
I remember being 10. Life was still uncomplicated, but the world was certainly getting bigger.
Happy 10th birthday, kid.
Posted by Jenna | 17 Comments
Nothing new here, just a whole lot of snow, a whole lot of cookies, a whole lot of work. But things are starting to bubble ever so slowly. There’s life under all that white, I swear. Second month into the year and the year is already taking shape. Nothing concrete, but a feeling. Sometimes that’s all we have to go on, isn’t it?
We sit at the table lately talking about where we’re going. The answer isn’t an easy one. It’s a bit hard to not to feel like we should be doing more when seemingly everyone around us is going big. We’ve chosen small and I think we’ll keep it that way, at least a little while longer because things, in fact, are working fine so why change anything at all? Why? We ask ourselves. Why settle for fine when we can dream big? Does it even make sense for us to go bigger? I don’t want to give up my freedom, I argue. Is that an acceptable answer? Maybe I hide behind it too often as an excuse, but it’s all I’ve got right now and the one thing I always come back to.
The business certainly roots us here, but there’s a certain amount of flexibility that keeps us from feeling stifled. I’ve come to realize that I try to protect that, above all, and it’s how I want to live my life. Maybe that is dreaming big to me. I didn’t necessarily think that it could last as long as it has and we may never get rich on this lifestyle we’ve crafted, but I’m almost ready to accept that it’s a tradeoff I’m ok with. At least for now. Small risks might net smaller paybacks, but possibly with less stress involved and damn if that isn’t worth something.
Right now, from where I’m standing, that’s huge.
Posted by Jenna | 9 Comments
Truly schizophrenic weather. 55 degrees on Sunday, and Monday morning we woke up to this. A neighbor told me a few months ago as we were walking down our block that he thought this was going to be a cold, snowy winter. Well, he was right. We can’t control the weather so might as well make the most of it. Took a walk in Prospect Park during the storm and I’m so glad I did. Trying to convince myself that I can’t fritter away my life indoors in my sweats staring at a screen (and oh, I am completely in love with my sweats). Gotta get out and live life and see things.
It was breathtaking, the snow.
What is it about snowfall that makes the city so quiet? I admit my mind was still rattling around with too many thoughts when I left the house and walked up towards the park, but once I stepped inside the park, I was completely enveloped in white, like walking into a softly padded sensory deprivation chamber. Even the sky was the same color as the snow.
I think a snow storm might very well be my favorite time to be in Prospect Park. In a city so crowded with people, it’s sort of a shock to have the park – or really any public space – pretty much all to yourself.
Except for the dog walkers. There will always be the dog walkers.
Posted by Jenna | 13 Comments
Love those days when you wake up in the morning with no plans, but in a moment of spontaneity, end up having one of those great NYC days. I’ve never taken the girls to the Chinese New Year Parade and have never gone myself, though I did live in Chinatown when I was 18 and remember watching the crowds pass by from my apartment. It was raining that particular year and the memory that is most vivid is seeing the tops of all those colorful umbrellas from my 2nd story window.
Usually the thought of going to any parade is quickly chased away by visions of shivering in the cold and tethering the kids to my body for fear of losing them among the overbearing throngs of people lined up 6 deep on the sidewalk, but it was 55 degrees today. Apparently with the winter we’ve been having, 55 feels like summer.
So, about that confetti…who knew little bits of paper could be so much fun?
Happy Year of the Horse.
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
I’ve been having horrible insomnia lately. The kind where you toss and turn and keep looking at the clock because that window of time between sleep and the alarm gets increasingly short. I’m guessing because there’s a whole lot of stuff swirling around in my head. Some of it’s low-bubbling anxiety that I’m trying to prevent from surfacing, but most of it is actually good things, ideas that are in the very early stages of incubation, or in my case, trying to incubate.
Brenda, a very talented designer and long time blog reader, asked me to participate in her Get Fueled series where she asks creative people about their process. This essay was a bit of a challenge because I’m not exactly sure what my creative process is and quite frankly, I’m not even sure I properly answered Brenda’s question. So I rambled instead (very typical). I might very well have a process that I’m not consciously aware of, but it did make me realize that I do have a different process as a designer than I do when I’m creating work of my own. One of things that I was finally able to articulate for myself in answering this question is that for me, I see design and art as 2 very separate disciplines and they often can’t co-habitat successfully in the same creative space in my brain.
For obvious reasons of needing to make a living and supporting my family, I’ve been a designer for the majority of the second half of my life, whereas art and writing music was all I did for the first half. I really do admire people who can churn out a drawing or a piece of art every day, but I’m not that person. I think I really need to totally immerse myself in whatever I’m doing without any distractions and THIS is what I think my process is as an artist – to have the freedom and the time to just stare at a blank piece of paper for hours if I need to and then run with an idea all night. There’s something to be said about the luxury of time in that regard. I sometimes look back to when I was younger in school and wonder, was I more creative back then? Why can’t I be that prolific now? But then I realize it’s because of that luxury of time when I didn’t have to wake up to a job or a deadline or raising kids. I didn’t do anything else but create. I’m sure that my age has a lot to do with it, as well as the fact that my kids are growing into people right before my eyes, but I have college and retirement so much on the brain right now. You need money for both, and that’s where my focus has been lately.
But isn’t being a designer creative? Yes. But for myself, the answer is also no. I think I’ve always looked at being a designer as a job, separate from other creative processes. I never thought of myself as being particularly good at being creative on demand, so I think it’s a bit ironic that I ended up being a designer where work is always deadline based. But as I mention in that essay, I think those constrictions and parameters have been very good for me. And let me back up a bit when I wrote earlier that I admire those people who could churn out a drawing a day. The fact is, I am being creative everyday when I’m working. I’m not churning out drawings or paintings, but I am designing and when I’m done working for the day, the last thing I want to do is go draw. Photography, however, has been an enormous breakthrough in terms of trying to fit in personal creative work with freelance work. It’s a little less daunting than being faced with a blank canvas and that’s been really instrumental in getting back to being actively creative again. I think this is primarily why I’ve resisted trying to turn photography into anything other than a hobby.
But getting back to that insomnia. I think I’m having anxiety because I’m feeling so creatively empty these days. Work has been steady and great lately, but recent projects haven’t been creatively interesting. Ironically this might very well be the reason why I have the head space to think about personal projects right now. I’ve been thinking a lot about some work that I did in college, a series of mixed media photo collages – and later Photoshop collages when I was learning Photoshop in the mid 90s – incorporating old photos and new photos. The idea has piqued my interest again. The challenge, of course, is finding time (it’s ALWAYS about time, isn’t it? It’s the bane of my existence, really, being pulled in so many directions every day and never feeling like I’m caught up), but I’m determined this year to try and make it work and see where it leads. I am still very interested in collaborations with other people and I think this is ultimately where I’d find the energy of the creative process most invigorating since I work so much on my own a lot of the time, but life schedules have made this a challenge and in the end, a failure. So I’m finding that I need to turn inward. Whatever the means, it’s time to get creative again.
P.S. I think I might be the queen of rambling blog posts. Guess I didn’t get that memo that nobody has the attention span to read long blog posts anymore, sheesh.
Posted by Jenna | 22 Comments