Category Archives: Oh My Ohio

The art of being a kid

We cracked two eggs a few weeks ago, separated the yolks into two bowls and added green food coloring to one, purple to another. Declan swirled a paintbrush in each and went wildly at a sheet of watercolor paper two-handed.

“You’re like Giotto,” I told him. “Hundreds of years ago, most painters used eggs.”

The cacophony of swirls on his paper was the planet Jupiter, he told me. We hung it on the fridge and admired the shininess of the paint even after it dried.

Last week, we went through several of his paintings from home and school to choose one to frame for KidzArtz, a local event put on by Mother Artists at Work. We have a whole series of wild ones called “The Big Bang” and several named after a variety of nebulae. Lately, he’s been making pictures with unpredictable names like “Saturn Falling Apart” and “A Comet Raising Into an O.” He chose the eggy Jupiter.

I’m grateful to have an event like KidzArtz in our community. The only criteria for entering a work of art to exhibit was to be a kid, be registered and pay $1 per piece, so we submitted three. When we dropped off “Just Jupiter,” the painting, as well as two framed photo series: “Arrow, Dinosaur, Take a Picture of Your Foot,” and “Look at yourself in the glass, Daddy and Megan and the City,” the mother artists oohed and aahed over his submissions and listened to him talk about them a little.

At the event, all of the kids got a strip of stickers to show their appreciation for other kids’ art. It was a great mechanism for getting Declan to contemplate someone else’s work – he had already pulled off a snake sticker and tacked it onto the panel next to a painting called “Two Suns” before we realized it was made by a good 4-year-old friend. That surprise discovery – of liking something before you even realized you knew its creator – was so exciting to him, I think he ended up showing more people his friend’s paintings than his own.

He waited patiently for a very long time in three-year-old terms to get his face painted exactly the way he wanted it (very David Bowie circa Aladdin Sane, his dad and I thought). He put on a hat and stethoscope and held an inflatable guitar to have pictures taken by GroovyDoodle, whose proprietors wisely brought all kinds of stuff for kids to put on and ham in front of the camera with. But when we tried to watch some of the kids performances, he wept inconsolably, crying “but I wanted to perform,” which I honestly didn’t see coming at all.

I don’t suppose there’s much risk that Declan will grow up without an appreciation for the arts – he was born into a family full of people that perpetually write about, teach, consume, create and actively think about these things. But I can’t understate the value of having a place, even for just one day a year, where he is able to be appreciated for his creative mind by peers (and some adults who actually know how to listen to kids), without the structure of a contest, marketing formula or some other imposed standards.

I wish more children’s events were like this one. Thank you, Mother Artists at Work!

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Walking with a balloon
Walking with a balloon from Tracy on Vimeo.

These are a couple of quiet-ish minutes that I really enjoyed today.

I’m trying to appreciate grace in small things amid the chaos we know as almost four.

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Eye sees you

Had a fabulous time at a creativity workshop with Amy yesterday, and met her two beautiful boys along with a handful of other local bloggers (though I didn’t get much chance to visit because Dec was feeling uncharacteristically shy). We came home with a poem, a cool art smock, two bags of green slime, a garbage bag crab and a belly full of Starburst candies. He kept the third eye she had him make to help him peer into his own imagination for about an hour after we’d left. He said he could see Jupiter with it in the late daylight. He told lots of his friends about her at preschool today. About her and art and poetry. And candy.

The workshop was the focal point of a mother-son day. He and I ate lunch together and laughed at squeaky straws and talked about solar flares and prominences. After the workshop, we had some time to kill before we went to see his dad and Megan Palmer play a set at Lost Weekend Records, so we went out and visited a few satellite dishes. We drove past a big cluster on campus, then found this inactive one that we could take a closer look at. He was thrilled to touch something that communicates with space.

He was quite the photojournalist at Lost Weekend. I’ll post some of those pictures another day.

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Went to the zoo a couple of days ago. This brick, laid in the Australian section, was near several others, most of which had the proper names of people who donated money, or those they wanted to memorialize.

Not sure what this one is supposed to mean.

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Watching ice melt

It’s been ages since we ran out of town for an afternoon to go for a walk. As central Ohio thawed this weekend, we headed south, where the sense of humor is alive and odd.
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to Ash Cave. It was definitely worth the drive.

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Guerrilla commentary

I did some work at a coffee shop the other day, and this marked-up newspaper ad was laid on a counter directly across from the station where you pick up your order, clearly meant to catch the attention of passers-by:
Click either image to make it larger if you can’t read the handwriting.I sense a little Guerrilla Girl action in the capital city.

What images in your local landscape would you like to rearrange?

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There’s a mouse on my windshield, what am I gonna do?

I was stopped at a red light on the way home from an evening appointment last night when I saw something moving near the windshield wipers on the outside of the car. I had been parked in the Short North, so I tried to focus on it in the dark, expecting it to be a flier for a night club or some art event flickering in the breeze. Instead, it kept moving up, up, up… until it was in the dead center of my windshield, where I could clearly recognize its form as definitively mouse-like.

I, of course, shrieked like a seven-year-old as the critter made a panicked circle before descending back under the hood. I made a meek attempt to draw it back out by turning on the wipers, and when it didn’t, worried that I had driven it deeper into the bowels of the car. I then drove the next mile or so in my own panic, a phantom mouse scaling my right leg over and over until I could get up the road where it was well lit and safe to stop.

I popped the hood, and saw that there was a little evidence that the mouse was trying to make a nest in the well of the windshield, but there was no mouse to be seen. I called Dan, whose suggestions included: “Um, maybe turn up the heat?” “Get an umbrella to swat it away with” and the extra reasonable: “If it does somehow end up inside of the car, pull over so you don’t freak out and kill yourself.” Then I tried to convince myself, and him, that it must have fallen out of the bottom of the car before I got in to make the rest of the trip home.

A few minutes later, on a stretch of road where the speed limit was about 40 mph, the mouse reemerged and crawled across the outside windshield right at eye-level in front of me, clinging to the glass in the face of high freezing wind like Indiana Jones. It made it all the way to the edge, where I’m not sure if it took a flying leap or managed to find another way to hang on, perhaps in my door. Mice have such bizarre contortionist abilities, who knows? I climbed out the passenger door when I got home so that I wouldn’t find out, because as much tougher as I think motherhood has made me, I’m apparently a freaky coward unless I’m actually protecting my son.

Our garage is a separate structure from our house, where any mouse who has dared cross the threshold has been made into mincemeat by the cat in a matter of hours. I considered letting him pay a visit to the garage, but its too cold. Google searches for “mouse in car,” “mouse in engine” and “mouse on windshield,” were mostly useless, except to make me worry that a family of critters might now live in my engine, where they are happily gnawing away at all of my electric wires and my air filter.

The one potentially useful suggestion I found said that mice steer clear of peppermint essential oil. All we had on hand was some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint castille soap, which has been liberally applied to various parts of my car, inside and out. I’d like to see this experiment increase the product’s uses to 19-in-one: shampoo your hair, clean your dentures, rid your car of mice, etc.

Today’s ride to preschool should be… bracing.

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My brain hurts

Last night, Dan and I went out to see Citizen Cope. Since we were told (on what we thought was good authority) when the show would start, we thought we had everything taken care of for our first time out alone together to see live music in ages.

We arrived to a nightclub door still sealed over an hour after it was supposed to be opened, froze in line a for several minutes behind a smoking guy and a spitting guy. (What gives, spitting guy? You didn’t seem to be chewing tobacco, just spitting every 45 seconds.) We got in and looked around at the crowd. Five years ago, at a show like this, we would have known gobs of people. This time, it was two people. We just stared at boys in knit hats and the $70(!) sweatshirts for sale and the malingering guy with the Lowe’s race car jacket. We leaned on the embossed, cracked, gold-painted plaster behind us and shaded our eyes from the illuminated advertisements all over the room.

About an hour and forty minutes later than we were told the show would start, it started. So we stayed for about forty-five minutes and left, having heard several songs we like, save one (sun is misspelled on the playlist – it’s meant to be son):

The bass was too loud. The neighbors were nice enough to babysit, but they have jobs & can’t stay up all night on a Sunday. I know there are people who could tell us stories about the times that shows didn’t start when they expected at my old man’s old live music joint, but he would have apologized. Mostly, I’m old.

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A blue state of mind

I’m a staunch defender of Ohio. In my early twenties, I outgrew the need to see it as a geographic space somehow culturally inferior to others, or too stodgy for real ideas. But I still hear the echoes of that opinion from many who live here, and certainly from many who do not – who have formed their opinions driving across I-70 or the two-dimensional way we’re often cast by the media.

They see strip malls and corn fields and aw shucks values and test marketing opportunities. I see those things too. But I also see the home of the underground railroad and the one of the first colleges to admit women and African Americans. I see the state where the first women’s rights conferences were held and Sojourner Truth delivered her famous Ain’t I A Woman speech.

I see the Kent State shootings and the untold stories of massive anti-war protests at Ohio State. I see Toni Morrison, an author able to bring us to a new consciousness about how we understand history and race and ethnicity.

In my own town, I see James Thurber standing up to McCarthyism. I see many radical feminist collectives that thrived here in the late 1960s. I see the YippiesBlacklisted News and hear the songs of Phil Ochs. I see how we’ve preserved the work of visual poets and cherished the wild sounds of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

For every perception that this is merely a conservative or bellwether state that twists in the wind, that change and progress are something a place like Ohio can’t possibly understand, I know an alternate story. I know what’s in the roots of the buckeye tree, and there is much more than a love of sports and a fear of God.

The chance to be blue again, to think about everything that means and to remember that this, too, is who we are, is another gift this remarkable week has given us.

Sorry to those who got an unfinished version of this in their feed readers last night – this was part of my last post, until I realized it would be better on its own, went to save it for later and accidentally hit publish.

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The world weeply news

I’m so overwhelmed by this new political landscape that I’ve been mostly speechless today. Not silent, just speechless.

I was three months pregnant with Declan on election day in 2004, and I spent the next two days in bed, not believing what had happened, not believing that no one in the media seemed to consider the obscenely long lines the equivalent of a poll tax. In the strange hormonal haze of pregnancy, I gave up my news junkie ways for a while.

I’m usually an obsessively informed citizen, but I had to insulate myself from a cultural climate that seemed to consider someone with my views unAmerican. A lot of headlines simply made me cry, so I looked at them through my fingers, often ignoring them altogether, and reverting into the safety of obsessing about becoming a mom.

Today, the news has made me weepy again, but that’s only made me more greedy for every headline or perspective I can get my hands on. I’ve cried at images of the world’s reaction to our new president. I’ve gone weepy every time I watch someone get choked up over the historical significance of yesterday. I cry when I consider last night’s speech, when I consider Barack Obama’s tremendous handle on history, and his clear understanding of and love for U.S. Constitution. I even get choked up when I watch how many Republican figures seem to want to share in the national pride of the moment.

I cry when I think about how disillusioned by the voting process I felt four years ago, and how relieved that everyone’s right to vote now seems to matter to Ohio’s newer government officials.

Jennifer Brunner has gotten a lot of threats. We should be sending her flowers and thank you cards.

We counted.

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