Thursday, May 31, 2007


Here are two pictures of jasper:

You'll notice that in both pictures, his pose is facing away from the interior of his tank and toward the glass walls. He prefers this position over all others, I believe, because it allows him to look out at the rest of the living room, where he can search for his friend, Barnes & Noble, whom he lost last winter.

Orange-Cheeked Finches and Our Own Pet Turtle

Well, the events of today leave a little bit to be desired as far as pleasant reading material goes. . . I met with a nine year old student and her case worker today to talk about the student attending the DREAMS summer program. When I asked the girl what kinds of art she liked, she simply screamed, 'NO' and when I asked the case worker if there were any issues that I should be aware of he said, 'Oh, yes, she is quite verbally and physically aggressive. Don't worry, though, she'll usually give you a warning before she gets physically aggressive on you.'. . . Hmmm. . . I'll let you know what the warning looks like when I see it. . . Also I think I might have burned my fingerprints off while trying to fix the copy machine at work. What was worse was that when I was telling people in the office about it I kept calling it the copy maker instead of the copier and so everyone thought that I meant the coffeemaker. 'Oh, the coffee maker is a breeze to fix, Emily, let me show you. . .' I fixed mushroom risotto and canteloupe for dinner, and when I was done I thought, 'Now wasn't that easy and cheap and pretty?' Well, two hours later when Sumanth and I were quite hungry again and in the Chic-fil-a drive through lane, I thought, 'easy, cheap and pretty just doesn't pay.'

We also went to the pet store this evening, shopping for food and treats for our little turtle, Jasper. Sumanth is very careful about Jaspy's food and treats while I am the one scanning for a low price and easy dispensing mechanism. The saleslady came and found us looking at the eensy dehydrated shrimps that we usually put in the tank in the morning and said, 'Ohhhh, WHY aren't you giving him frozen shrimp? They are SO much better for him. The dehydration process takes away 90% of the nutrients.' While I am thinking that frozen shrimp might smell more than dehydrated shrimp and so aren't worth further consideration, Sumanth is looking tenderly at a little box labeled 'Turtle Emergency Care Kit,' which contains things like tweezers and tiny turtle eye drops and tiny turtle laxatives.

My favorite sight at the pet store was an Orange-Cheeked Finch, which reminded me of my Grandma Bobby's back porch where her finches lived and where, about twenty years ago, I would drink limeade with my brother and watch my Grandma make linoleum block prints. Usually smells bring back memories for me more than sounds, but tonight when I heard the Orange-Cheeked Finch chirping, I could clearly picture the plastic yellow citrus juicer that we used to make the limeade.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Postcard Painting and Pomegranate Juice

This weekend was very nice and pretty aimless. Because we had no plans we were able to just come and go, taking outings to the bookstore and the smoothie place, coming back to read and take naps.

We went to the Orange Street Arts Festival, and for the first time, purchased an original painting (it is the size of a postcard and it was in the clearance bin and when the artist rung us up she did say, 'my! the deal of the day') but, still, it's very pretty and now sits on our dining table waiting for a frame.

We went to the Wilmington Youth Theater's outdoor presentation of The Tempest, but we never could find the ampitheater, so just ended up exploring a new park while looking for the directory. At least we hadn't pre-bought our tickets.

We went to our favorite grocery and bought edamame dumplings and pomegranate juice and dark chocolate chip cookie dough and olive tapenade and goat cheese.

We went to this salad bar called Sweet Tomatoes, where, for some reason, I just don't know when to stop eating. Generally, I eat about 2/3 of what Sumanth eats, but today was a different story. When he went up to get frozen yogurt, I thought, 'You're kidding--right?? Dessert after only the third course? Have you even tried the eggplant pasta or the cornbread?'

We bought one of those giant bubble tubes that makes bubbles that are three feet long.

Sumanth got his first blurb from Publisher's Weekly, calling him a 'gifted newcomer'. He said that he feels neither gifted nor new.

I started the watercolors for a children's book I'm hoping to write. The problem is that everything I paint turns out looking like a ghost.

Any suggestions? Any illustrators?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

These are the four young artists I've been working alongside the past three afternoons at a local food pantry called Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. We've been making a mosaic to cover the walls of the rather large, cement block trash can in the MH's picnic area. I say trash can, but I think I mean trash can holder, since, for the first two days of our project, a very full, bagless trash can remained inside, chained to the cement. This was unfortunate to put it quite gently. Possibly, if it hadn't been quite so full, I would have spent more time thinking about how nice it was to get to watch kids come into an unfamiliar place and make it more beautiful, but instead, I thought mostly about how terrible everything smelled and how to avoid being stung by a bumblebee dragging garbage on its behind.

Adam, the lone boy in the picture, and the artist behind the 'tree' side of the mosaic, jumped into my car on the first day of the project and said, 'I don't know where we're going, but I really hope it's to do art.' He then asked me what my favorite stuffed animal was out of zebras, hippos, or rhinos. I told him hippos and he said, 'small or large?' I told him that I thought I would like a stuffed hippo of any size and he said he thought that could be arranged. I'll post a picture of it if I get one anytime soon. On Valentines Day, Adam brought in his clarinet to play 'When the Saints Come Marching In' for me. Have you ever heard of a sweeter gesture?

Doria, the girl in the white shirt, led everyone in a rousing round of 'Down by the Banks of the Hanky Pank' while we were all waiting for the grout to firm up. I kind of remember singing some version of that when I was in school but, unlike Doria's version, mine had no references to women's underwear. Doria made the flower with the many colored petals. One of my jobs at DREAMS is to give snacks to the students after school. I think that she is the only kid who hasn't once complained about snacks. Once I accidentally gave her burned popcorn and when I tried to take it back, she said, 'Oh, no, Miss.Emily, this is good. You're good at making popcorn.'

Rachel, in the orange, and I worked on grouting the butterfly today. She picked the stones and tiles for the butterfly so carefully that I think she got a little sad to see all the white go over them. That is one of the steps of the mosaic making process--you coat the whole mosaic with this fudgy, white cement and then quickly wipe away the spots where the tiles are so that they can show through. Rachel started wiping away the grout almost immediately. 'I think I see one of the pink stones on the wings!' . . .and then, 'Oh, good, the eyes are still under here, he can see now!'

Gates, in the navy jumper, gives me daily advice on my wardrobe. For example, 'I wish that brown and purple went together, Miss Emily, because then you would match, but they really don't.' . . or, 'You've worn those shoes four days so far this week, Miss Emily, is it because you really like them, or because you don't have more at home? Because, if you have more at home, you really should wear them.' I've found that she has a very good eye for color but I also think that it's easy for a person that always wears a school uniform to tell other people they don't match. I am touched that anyone pays attention to what is on my feet. Gates made the fruit, although I am responsible for the malnourished looking banana.

Below are pictures of the trash can holder from both sides.

Trash Can Pictures

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Peanut Butter Kitty

About a month ago, I found myself standing next to Sumanth at the food table at an MFA (the degree that Sumanth is studying for in creative writing) end-of-year gathering. We don't tend to have a whole lot of friends at these events, so we always seem to end up akwardly hovering over the food table having a conversation like this one:

'Did you try the hummus?'
'Yeah, it's really good. Did you like it?'
'Yeah. Is it homemade?'
'No, looks like it's from the store. Do you want to get some?'
'Yeah. We should get some. When do you want to go?'
'Tonight, probably. Does that sound good to you?'
'Yeah, let's go tonight. Lowes or Harris Teeter?'
'I don't know. Do you want a drink?'
'No. Do you?'
'Yeah, I'm going to get one.'
'I'll come with you.'

Anyways, a month ago, when I was following Sumanth from the food table to the drink room, I saw two small girls jumping up and down in a side room with their mothers watching. One of the girls had short brown bangs and immediately introduced herself as a peanut butter kitty. Her friend was also a peanut butter kitty, I learned quickly, and if I wanted to, I could be a peanut butter cat. By the time I left that night I learned that peanut butter kitties 1)eat peanut butter, 2)can get stuck in peanut butter, and 3) are made of peanut butter. I also found that while I'm not good at making party talk, I am better than average at being a peanut butter cat. Anyways, the mother of the brown-banged pb kitty asked if I babysat, and so today I spent the morning with Maia, my new four year old kindred spirit.

When I was little, I loved to make beds for fairies to sleep in. I mainly used a combination of leaves and flowers and grass and dirt, and I remember that the most important thing was the thick mattress and having a pillow available, in case the fairy wanted one. Since then, I have tried to pawn my love of fairy beds off on every child I spend time with. "Wouldn't you like to make a nice place for the fairies to sleep tonight?" I've asked on countless occassions. Usually the children are polite, and pretend that they didn't hear me, and remind me that it's time to play with the My Little Ponies or watch Finding Nemo. A couple have seemed interested before, but they usually start looking at me funny when the beds blow away and I tell them that it's just the fairies getting under the covers. Anyways, today was met with Success. Maia took the project on with ferocity. "Let's put down two pillows so that fairies can lay side by side." and then "Let's put flowers all the way around the edges, but leave a space for them to get in." "Yes," I said, "Let's definitely leave a space for them to crawl in. In fact, we can make a night stand out of the bark here for them." I think it was at this point, that Maia saw how into it I really was because she kind of gasped and said, "Oh, are fairies for real for real?"

"That," I said, "Is a very good question, peanut butter kitty."

Monday, May 21, 2007

DREAMS Showcase

Last Thursday marked my first Showcase (semi-annual recital/production) at DREAMS, my first enjoyable workplace (besides Baskin Robbins where most of the enjoyment came from Pistachio Almond and Maui Brownie Madness), and so I thought it would make an ideal subject for my first post on my first blog.

Although I've been working at DREAMS since January, and have experienced many afternoons of earsplitting chaos {"Miss Emily, where are my Cheese-Its? I hid them under your mouse pad and they're not there any more. "Miss Emily, We NEED air freshener over here." (said while spraying lemon pledge furniture polish directly at another student) "Miss Emily, did you know that there is a hole in the wall? It is big enough to put my foot in." (Now it is bigger)}, I have never been through a week as crazed as last week's build up to the Spring Showcase. At one point, someone at work was so busy that she actually came into my office and asked me to flush the toilet for her. (This has resulted in much thought on my part about the time and effort that goes into flushing a toilet. Sumanth said that if I don't start saying no to requests like this, he doesn't know what is wrong with me.) Anyways, it was a very busy time of transforming our small, fairly shabby art school into an art gallery/reception hall/and theater. Thursday was the most fun, putting up vases of tissue paper flowers, hiding the extra drums under pieces of fabric, and making 72 ham sandwiches.

Although I'd been expecting behavior problems, all the students seemed to know exactly what to do. No one ate too much food or tripped over the white lights or cried out for air freshener. I stationed one of my favorite students (an eleven year old boy who wore a shirt and tie to the event and even colored a mustache on his upper lip for added maturity) as the greeter, and he welcomed everyone that came in with such kindness and humility that I got a lump in my throat.

Here are a few pictures of the artwork and the drama.

Pictures from the Showcase