September 30, 2010

Hero Harvest

The sunflower house has come full circle. Many of the heavy blooms hit the ground, kissing the very earth they came from, and spilling their bounty of seeds for the birds and squirrels. Other strong ones remained in the ring still standing tall to the very last hour; wilting, drying,  and preserving their fruit all nestled in concentric rings deep within the depths of their furry brown centers.
We enjoyed a crisp and cool weekend afternoon outdoors, the Craunlets clad in their hero capes, harvesting the bounty of seeds to dry for next year. The sheer joy and amazement of collection was astounding to see--that the Craunlets understood and calculated immediately the grand return that the sunflowers had yielded, and the potential for next year. They were giddy as the counted up our pile of seeds. This love of life is convicting and contagious both, and a pure joy.

September 29, 2010

[Un]Ordinary Days

It doesn't always go as planned.
As Bella smartly quipped this morning, after recovering from both tears and multiple bouts of disappointment: "Today is a day of switching."

We woke up without power, and readied ourselves in rooms dimly lit by camp lanterns. All set and excited for a special celebration day in Kindergarten, we learn at drop-off that school is canceled today, as they are also experiencing the much-larger-than-we-realized power outage. After a showering of tears and grand displays of disappointment, we return home to change Bella out of her pajamas [party attire for the movie + popcorn reward day] and into her play clothes so she can accompany us to both Story Time and Music class. We arrive to Story Time with renewed spirit--from making a splurge stop for chocolate milk and coffee, for the Craunlets and myself respectively--to learn that this too has been canceled for today. Our most brilliantly talented Story Time reader and friend is ill. Bummer.

After music class we decided that we would re-start the day after rest time with a hearty big bowl of stove-popped popcorn and a movie. On the couch; celebrating the return of electricity.

September 28, 2010

Gratis, For This I am So Thankful XXII, Again Amazed

I am beside myself with Awe. And overwhelming appreciation.

Today, sweet Bella was re-casted. And again, we claim this cast to be the best-to-date; the once-daunting number has again been made smaller. Smaller even than I ever let myself hope for.

Her bright pink cast is holding her curve today at a mere 15º--from the initial 56º scan that began this long journey. That is a 41º improvement overall. The difference between these numbers is emotionally unfathomable. Readers unfamiliar with our medical journey of first-frustration and overwhelming fear, and then subsequent and increasingly greater victories can catch up here, here and here.

So here it is, I am ecstatic and giddy, and just so so thankful for:

211. bright pink fiberglass casts. and green ones, and yellow ones too. And thank God they don't make gray ones.

212. 15º and the sound of a number both so easily pronounceable, and medically manageable.

213. health insurance, and medical sanction waivers that allow for Bella's continued care at Rainbow Babies. As frustrating as all of the fighting, and forms, and phone calls can be, I am thankful that we are again covered, and the decisions and directions of our preferred care are again confirmed by both progress and insurance. The mighty sum we would owe otherwise would be insurmountable.

214. Connie, who is by far the best nurse and friend that Belle and our family could ever wish for as a partner and advocate for her care. The very nurse that also makes it her priority, after Bella, to cast her baby doll Francie as well. So they can match. Identically. These seemingly little, though grand gestures of love.

215. Doctor Thompson and his both brilliant and patient advice, more than two years ago now, that led us down this non-surgical treatment path. Moreover, his generosity and care for Bella as a person beyond a patient is character far beyond what we have found in our medical experiences prior.

216. Cast day, and all of the celebratory traditions that have been built into the day by the Dave. The first stop after casting is PLAYmatters, a local toy store that is teeming with fabulous creative play selections. Bella chooses one for herself, and then one for brother. Following Bella + Daddies time shopping, we all meet up for breakfast-for-lunch at Yours Truly, another local treat situated on Shaker Square. And we simply share a meal and conversation--centered on the morning's good news--as a family. 

217. the slow-but-sure progress we continue to witness. The betterment that is re-shaping not only Bella's spine, but all of our hearts and lives. And for that, I am grateful beyond measure. 

218. the giggly happy girl of Bella.

219. the silly and supportive little man of Nate.

220. the strong and steady-sure Dave. Always patient, and trusting hopeful. For his perspective and wisdom and heart, and the fine leadership of our family.

Cleveland, I Like You A lot.

Some delightful person created this colorful text drawing, and posted it just off-center behind the mirror in the ladies room at Zygote Press. And when the unoccupied stall door is ajar, as it always is, one can read the Creative Cleveland poster over their shoulder also.
What a sweet and hopeful sentiment.

September 26, 2010

An Actual Work Week

I had a 5-day privilege this last week to attend an Artist Educator Training Professional Development Workshop. Although that sounds somewhat incredibly boring, it was a week of dreaming, and creative overload...and just what I needed before all of my Fall teaching commitments come into full swing.
The week was hosted by Progressive Arts Alliance, a non-profit that I work for as an Artist-in-Residence to the Cleveland Public Schools, and facilitated by Arnold Aprill, the founding and Creative Director of Chicago Arts Partnership in Education. It was a whirlwind week of presentations, new ideas, creative hands-on activity and a lot of clicking and clacking on the laptop dreaming up art plans for this coming semester. The week also afforded much time for sipping coffee, munching on pastries and conversing with colleagues. By the end of Friday's session, I was amazed at the small but mighty network of artists that I shared the week with and frequently have the privilege of working alongside. A dynamic team of local artists with talent as Turntablists, Emcees, Poets, Musicians, Filmmakers and Producers, Web Designers, Weavers, Painters, Printmakers, Rappers, Actors, Set Designers, Singers and Dancers. These photos are mere glimpses into the days and and hours of activities, and the company of the various artists,  that  I enjoyed. 
After a work week of creative exchange, I am renewed and encouraged, and very excited for my upcoming residencies that are on slate for this semester; the potential of printmaking again seems limitless.

September 24, 2010

Speaking of Dinosaurs; and Kindergarten Thoughts

A conversation ensued between Bella and Dave last night that I unfortunately only had the privilege of hearing third-party, this morning while we were enjoying our coffee. Apparently, Bella was expounding about a literacy game that they play in Kindergarten where students take turns pointing at a picture or an object, and then the other students say words that rhyme with the one that was indicated.

Belle: What rhymes with dinosaur? Trinosaur?

Dave: Well, that's not exactly a real word. I imagine the game that you are playing at school is meant to include actual words.
Belle: Well, then what rhymes with dinosaur?

Dave: [after much thought] How about a rowing oar?

Belle: Dad, can you give me something the kids will actually understand?

Right. Something like Trinosaur, I suspect. I laughed so hard this morning that I almost slipped off the counter and spilled my espresso. It is uncanny how Bella thinks and talks right now. How her mind is overwhelmed with so many transactions and thoughts. How she articulates her kindergarten colleagues as "the kids". She is changing the way she speaks, with double inflections on most words now, like ridiculously over annunciation for clarity hitting the front and back of each word extra hard. It is nutty to listen to; this sudden new pronunciation and her increasing vocabulary and reasoning skills. Her discreetly wanting advice for friend-making and general fitting in. Like we have now become most important as a sounding board for her thoughts, new ideas, and wonderings. 

Her folder comes home from school daily teeming with coloring pages, drawings, numbers and letters, small books, flashcards, charts, sight words, grouping and sorting and all sorts of worksheets and learning activities.The depth and quantity, both, is just astounding.
It is a magical season. And such a lovely window into her mind, and the little lady that she is becoming. Kindergarten, at almost a month in, has already been so transformative.

September 23, 2010

Roaring, the Dinosaur and Boy Kind

In finding his identity, Nate has learned that he really likes to roar.

The increased solo-time during the day is unleashing a whole new Nate, and one absolutely rich with surprises.

September 21, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XXI

We are dancing on the cusp of seasonal change. Today we call it summer, and tomorrow we will call it Autumn. This alone is a great point of thankfulness in this household. Perhaps its the cool and crisp air, the gorgeous leaves in their vibrant splendor, the warm apple cider, pumpkin desserts and coffees. This season also seems to ring in a whole lot more time cuddled in as a family. It has been a full week here, with a lot of pruning and refocusing.

Trying to keep up with all of the changes, I find myself this week incredibly thankful for:

201. Sunflowers on the dining table, and eliminating most of the surrounding clutter that the room always and quickly commands on all of its horizontal surfaces.

202. Knowing what day it is. Beautiful daily reminders that keep us all on the same page. I am beyond thrilled with how lovely and yet functional the days-of-the-week napkins turned out.

203. Little Nate Stashes, and his special and specific places for things. Like his sunglasses, and his shoes. Set just apart from the rest.

204. Snippets of Belle stashed around the house. Like a sweet fragrance of her, with us as reminders during her school-day absence.

205. Taking more time for reading real books. Right now I am reading Nurture Shock, and I LOVE IT. Insightful, and quick-to-read--but challenging--chapters on children concerning sleep, creativity, lying, school performance, sibling relationships and much more.

206. Laundry. Being relatively caught up on it, including the dreaded rag load. And all those various cloth napkins, washcloths and dish towels [as much as I do love them] Cleaned, dried, stacked into neat piles, and put away. It always feels like such a fresh start. All of this function, folded up and awaiting its next use.

207. my favorite necklace. Made out of beach plastic from the shores of Lake Erie. Such a daunting thing made beautiful. It is lovely and lightweight, and so comfortable and easy.

208. having a reader in the household. Bella is really taking ground in her word recognition. It is astounding what she has memorized, and further what she sounds out on our refrigerator words.

209. the leaves and flowers of my potted hanging plants are succumbing to fall. Black-eyed susan vines, now many shades of green, yellows and oranges.

210. this week's opportunity to participate in a fabulous Artist-Educator Training program, hosted by Progressive Arts Alliance, with speaker/facilitator: Arnold Aprill, the founder and Creative Director of Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). I am 2 days into the 5-day seminar, and am really enjoying the conversations.

Hope your week is off to an equally bright start, and full of rich surprises and play.

This Real Created World

We recently enjoyed a most fabulous day at the zoo--one that was just over-brimming with magic and delight. It was incredible to awe at the various created animals, get close to them, interact and just observe. The weather on this day was cool and cloudy, and we were inching into the zoo's off-season, which meant that we practically had the place to ourselves. It seemed like the animals knew and appreciated these factors as much as we did.

It was Nate and I, and we met up with a friend and her son who is around Nate's age. We shared several hours together. Talking and playing in person. Sharing in life, taking in the cool air, trekking up the long hills and tackling tall stairs. It started me thinking about real life, and the actual personal interactions that blow life into our spirits. and while I do very much LOVE all my digital interactions, nothing compares to the real. And I mean this in every sense.

E-mail will never touch the sheer joy and excitement of actual correspondence. And texting is a far cry from a live conversation, one with listening, responding, and all sorts of non-verbals not indicated by a word sandwiched with asterisk. I think it is all the abbreviation that is bothering me right now. The brevity and speed that so many digital platforms both require and encourage. I am so keenly aware in this moment, of distraction, and attention. How convenience and display [yeah, I am talking about you facebook] have crept into normal, that we no longer have the patience for investing in real friendships. One's that take a heck of a lot more time and honesty. And ones that endure and embrace run-on sentences, and tangents. Ones with no character limit.

Our zoo day recently, was just this. And it was magical, beyond anything I can describe here. Though these images--a shadow of our experience--are pretty charming:

I think we all need these real exchanges; we were created for relationship. And when we give ourselves these moments, our whole being knows and appreciates them. I think they add days and years to our lives, and if not, they certainly make them richer. I don't know about you, but I want a whole lot more than an occasional moment. And I am concertedly trying to take them back this season, to re-make them into the frequent normal. The everyday. Outside, and real.

September 19, 2010

Be More Quiet Now

I pulled the plug. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to deactivate my facebook account. I was committed to quit on Saturday. I wavered today, and started eliminating friends. What an incredibly cruel process. I got so again frustrated, I remembered why I resolved to quit. And impulsively--but decidedly--I shut it down. I was already spending a lot less time there, and trying to manage increased privacy, etc. But there was always a distracting pulling. Something to steal my attention away for just a quick minute.

All of these voices chiming in, cheering me on. It was just getting too noisy. It makes me think of an interlude on David Crowder's Collision album -- which I love. It is a simple line repeated...and as it does the song ramps up musically and the delivered vocal line becomes louder and louder. The message so clear. In all of this noise I find myself engulfed.

Be more quiet, now, and wait for a voice to say 'be more quiet...

And now I am more interested to learn the increased [real] burden of maintaining friends. What a silly word friends has become. I started thinking about this way back when I participated in the filming of the Cleveland International Film Festival Trailer [jog your memory here] when I delivered my simple line: I know that everyone around me is a friend.

And I find myself there again full circle, questioning what the grounds of friendship are. And theoretically with a few intentional clicks today, I lost more than 400 of them. Though I hope this is not the case.

But, in this moment -- I am enjoying the quiet.

September 17, 2010

On Being a Hero.

Some days just flat out call for a cape.

Today was one of those days, and it was both magical and grand.
Now, if I could just get David Bowie's Heroes song out of my head.

September 14, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XX

Today we touch 200, and as I stride into the bicentennial digits, I am reflecting on a mostly bold and beautifully breathtaking week.

It is one marked with the cool and crisp changing of seasons, conversations with friends around our dinner table, and much hearty + homemade goodness coming out of our kitchen.

Today I am ever appreciative and most thankful for:

191. gorgeous endings. And the signaling of new beginnings coming up on their heels; the way that death beautifully makes way for new life.

192. pumpkin. Especially this most delicious pumpkin roll, lathered with rich cream cheese filling, and laced with toffee bits. It's just heaven.

193. lovely surprises by post. A handwritten note from a friend, and these charming vibrant bird clips. Unexpected thoughtful. A bright spot, and a exquisite reminder that the walls of this house can extend to include our long distant friends and family members. And that they can live both alongside and among us, even if mostly through post and correspondence.

194. the subsequent fun times in the soon-fading sunflower house armed with the treasures from #193.

195. anything autumn. And at this very moment, a pair of sweet little autumnal baskets that I just treasured upon. Further, their promise to be soon overflowing with nature finds and turning leaves. And their wee little leather handles that are just the right size for the Craunlet's fingers.

196. bouquets of fresh cut flowers on the dining table. Keeping vibrant life visibly in the center of our relationships, a reminder and celebration every time we gather around her round top together.

197. Nate navigating his independence. He is figuring himself out, and generally up for a good wrestle and tackle on the rug. And his laughter again fills the empty rooms of the house during the day. He is growing up so much in this season.

198. be it chronic and compulsive, I do enjoy it. Immeasurably. The rescue. I picked up this print from the current Zygote Press exhibition: Take it! Featuring prints by Terry Schwarz. And I especially love this one, as it resonates with me so.

199. lovely full and rich--nearly unbelievably profound--conversations with Isabella. Like the conclusion of one of our most recent chats about favorites. Favorites is a conversation play that we entertain around here all of the time. What was your favorite part of today? Of school? Favorite foods? Favorite park? And on and on. Reflecting on the good, and sharing both perspective and preference. Generally, these conversations are light-hearted, playful and quick. The other day, Belle was listing her favorite bits of her Kindergarten days. Lunch. So I inquired further, exactly what she preferred most about lunch. And she responded quickly, delivering her response with a large grin; that I can eat whatever I want, that I could even decide to eat dessert first. Then she paused, thinking further to herself, and still smiling. And I countered; Do you know what that is? What it is that you are talking about? It is freedom. Again quickly she retorted, this time in delightful agreement and victory: Yeah! I have freedom!

200. for reaching two hundred. for big round celebratory numbers, and the culmination of all these small things. These little wonders, and sweet kisses that life affords. The paying attention, and the adding up of thanks, and counting of blessings. Gratis has proved profoundly impacting on my heart and daily outlook...and I am eager to move into even greater numbers in the coming weeks, and hope you will stick around for the ride too, as I continue to cull the good out of the endless ordinary.

Happy new week!

September 8, 2010

This Golden Preview of Yet to Come

A prelude to Autumn deposited itself on the threshold of my front porch step. Beautifully released, and brilliantly golden.

I am hungrier than usual for the season's change. I am finding myself welcoming Autumn with open arms, like a dear friend coming to visit. One who has been away for far too long; one who's comfortable company I so desire.

September 7, 2010

Constant Progress

Growing unseen, it is such a victory to tug on their green shoots, and discover the array of magical color awaiting us.

Most of our crop will likely be baby carrots at this rate, as we are far too eager and impatient in this household...why are we all in such a hurry to grow up around here?

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XIX

Long weekends are such a sweet kiss to weary spirits, and Team Craun rung out every glorious minute of our extra time together with comfort, ease and style. We find ourselves now marching into this short week well-rested and with much-renewed optimism.

This week, I am again undone with Thankfulness:

181. for all of the lovely voices that I have had conversations with from nearly every department within Medical Mutual. And for the gloriously good news, though we are still awaiting formal confirmation, that our Medical Sanctions are once again lifted for continued care of Bella. YEAH! as casting can continue [and be covered by our insurance without penalty] and we can keep saying NO TO SURGERY! Awesome thankful, here. For those less familiar with our medical journey with Bella, you can catch yourself up here, here and here.

182. that I could actually restrain myself from copy/pasting the above item of thanks into all of the subsequent and remaining slots for this week; a terrific battle of self-control.

183. Annual Family Reunions. We attended the 73rd Annual Wagner family reunion this past weekend. What a legacy. It is so awesome to connect with extended family, to feast, and play games, and just share in life. To know it happens every year is incredible.

184. Glittery gold. We ran with our GO FOR THE GOLD! theme, and really outdid ourselves. Shocker, I know. We even re-purposed and gilded old trophies, for the youngest, oldest + furthest traveled awards. Our "grand prize" for the games that Dave + I organized for this year's reunion were stencil-your-own t-shirts in gold. Merriment abounded, and the Craunlets did a bang-up job on their very own T's...first time ever printing; I think their results are pretty slick.

185. THREE DAY WEEKENDS. And the prelude-to-Autumn weather we enjoyed here. A double-win in my book. Sweet chilly breeze, you are so welcome in this home.

186. Hot cocoa and bubble blowing first thing in the still-cool morning. And the Craunlets who never fail to propose the sweetest and most casual comfortable ways to savor and celebrate the additional time that Holiday's provide us.

187. Hearing sweet Nate's newest phrase of encouragement: You're the best!! Even though his loyalty changes with the wind, his enthusiastic delivery of that statement surely wins me over every single time.

188. Bella's tender love of her brother. In choosing a partner for games at the reunion, she indicated her selection by slinging her arm around Nate. Kindergarten seems to have motivated this unspoken support, appreciation and outward affection towards her best sibling. It has been movingly tender to watch as a parent.

189. Family bike rides in the park, and metal ching-chinger bells.

190. Relentlessly loving this city. Even when an emergency gas leak consumes our lawn and driveway, causing all sorts of inconveniences strung along two calendar months, promising more frustrations yet. For sloppy jobs, forgetting an entire section of sidewalk, brutal treatment of our tree, and possibly the worst ever earth grading + re-seed effort. For the subsequent and awful teenagers that etched all sorts of irritations into the freshly poured and unattended pavement [as we were on vacation]. Because truly none of that really matters--and as aggravating as it all is--dangit, we are going to keep on loving CLEVELAND!

Hope you all are on a good start to enjoying the short week. I am already looking forward to this weekend!

September 2, 2010

This Comfort

I could live like and under this. So so lovely.

Artist and image credit: Joetta Maue, see more here and here.

Re-enlivened vintage linens, and hand embroidery. So charmingly reminiscent of the maternal hands of my family and upbringing, yet so sweetly rebellious.


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