Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My kid is cool...

...well, actually they both are cool. But every once in a while, there is an anecdote that bears repeating. Tomorrow is their 6th birthday - that is, 6 years since that fateful night when they cut my kids out of my stomach. It's been an amazing adventure - not easy of course, but parenthood isn't supposed to be easy. But 21 surgeries, 4 shunts, visual impairment, blindness and seizures in foreign countries all add up to some pretty thick skin but also some very good life lessons.

Creed and Zelda are now in Kindergarten. They miss their beloved Ecole of 3 years and their friends that they made there, but are adapting very well to Kindergarten. They have dedicated and attentive teachers and classrooms full of new friends. But with a birthday at the start of a new school in a new school year, it's a bit difficult to put together that list of invitees for the Birthday Extravaganza at Kiddies Acres. Of course, we'll invite their old "amis" from Ecole as we try to sift through 22 kids in each of their new classes and find out who each of the twins calls a friend in only week #2 of school.

With Zelda, it's always a bit difficult to figure out who she likes. Everyone seems to love Zelda, as they call out her name each morning and cheerfully say "Hi Zelda." She, on the other hand, seems quite indifferent to almost everyone except for the teachers.
But with Creed, we try to pull information out of him. Creed had already decided on 2 friends that he wanted to invite.
Joey is his new best buddy - they met the first day of school - and Creed mentions him everyday. So, then I asked Creed, "Who else besides Joey would you like to invite from your class?"
His answer: "Mom, I want to invite Zachy. I know that he'll need extra help but I really want him to come to my party."
Zachy is in a wheelchair. He doesn't walk or speak. He was in Zelda's PPCD class last year (Public Preschool for Children with Disabilities) so we have passed the year with smiles and knowing looks between us and his parents and his sister is in Zelda's Kindergarten. Of all of the kids, Creed wanted to invite Zachy. I love that in him. I wish every kid would feel that way for Zachy, for Zelda, for Fin, for all those kids that are loved from afar but are not always included...I wish for every kid, parent, family and otherwise to have that kind of compassion.

Happy, happy birthday to my twins - I am so glad that they are not "normal"....I love you, C & Z!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tumblr - STOP IT!

...well, I really don't hate Tumblr but I do hate how people use it. There has been this trend around for a while of posting photos - just cool photos, things people like, no words, no reasons, no descriptions, not even photos taken by the poster. They are usually photos found on the internet that people obviously like for one reason or another and want to share for whatever reason. There are entire blogs based on this. Entire magazines. Well, it pisses me off. I guess mostly because people are not giving reasons. There is an ingrained, unspoken and assumed "stamp of approval" without words. It's actually quite egotistical. "I like this, therefore you should." "I see validity in this, don't you?" But I want a conversation - is it the color? The beauty of the sunset? The shape of the clothing? The black and white starkness? The fragile patina of eroding paint?

I like photos, too. I like lots of things expressed by others in a visual medium. But recently I have realized why I need to describe what it is about something and why I like it. Zelda makes me open my eyes, my ears and my thoughts more and more each day. It's not good enough to just take a road trip with the twins and say "Hey, look at those cows!" I describe the shape, the color, how many there are, the sound they make, and the field they are standing in. If I see a cool building or a billboard or the right red ball of the sun coming up this morning - it's too easy to say to Creed, "Wow, look at the sun." The dialogue is needed. Why is it different or interesting or beautiful? How does the color compare to something else in nature? How does it make him feel?

So, I think Tumblr lets people be lazy. People who spend time looking at other people's work...the photographer had a reason to take the photo, the photo is his or her words. They are not yours. Challenge yourself.

This morning as I drove the kids to school, I did it in an almost unconscious kind of way. Usually, Evan and I pull in Circle Drive and I get out and walk with each twin to their Kindergarten classroom while Evan waits in car. The children are used to it. Zelda knows the route to Casis and that curve into the drop-off driveway as well as she knows the hill of our street, the turn down our alley and the slant of our driveway. But this morning, Evan had an errand and I took the kids to school alone. I parked the car on a side street and then began walking them down the sidewalk, up the concrete steps and around the back of the school. Creed was thrilled. He recognized the route and could tell we were entering the school from a back door. And then I heard it: Zelda asking, "Mama, what are we doing?" Shit, I hadn't told her. It was the Tumblr photo. It was the assumption. It was a lack of words. It snapped in me - the beauty of words is just as important, strong and inviting as the beauty of the visual. Have we become more and more steeped in a lazy expression of another person's declaration of their "vision"? Does any of this make sense to anyone besides me? I would appreciate your thoughts...

P.S. Oh, and another thing I have a hard time with is blogs by people that post what they are wearing every day. It seems to be a twenty-something phenomenon. Yes, you are all "super cute" and clever stylists. Bravo. But now really kids, do we really care about how you put together your "vintage find" with last year's belt from a designer sale?
Can you tell I am in a snarky mood?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Oh là là...skipped on to Paris...

...first, let me say that we had a lovely time in Telluride, New Mexico and ended our southwestern trip staying with our friends who own Rocketbuster boots in El Paso, Texas. The twins then did 2 1/2 weeks at day camp: Ecole for Creed & Braille Camp for Zelda.
And, now we're in Paris.
Arrivé, hier.
Arrived yesterday morning, major traffic jams - embouteillages - so thank goodness my old friend Manu picked us up at the airport. Gillian (my assistant at Blackmail), Creed, Zelda and me...and 6 weeks worth of luggage. For this first week, we're staying with my very good friends: Elsa & Laurent. Elsa and I went to Esmod together in the '80's, showed our collections in the same shows and sold our designs in a gallery of "Jeunes Créateurs" for a few years. We've been friends ever since. They have a son, born the same time as the twins and a daughter who will soon turn 13.
I am lucky enough to have had Gillian accompany me on the flight - flying with twin 6 yr olds is exhausting and now we all divide and conquer with the kids. Yesterday at the park, then to a café with friends and a lovely late dinner.

I will try and update often on the twins and their reactions and experiences here: Paris is their oyster!
Otherwise, the chronicles of my teaching and design experience will be in:
And of course, "le grand projet", our book La Petite Zelda goes to Paris will be followed in

Friday, June 3, 2011

Godspeed, you road warriors...

...yes, that was supposed to be us. We were supposed to leave yesterday at the crack of dawn to start our drive to Telluride, spend last night watching the sunset and drinking wine from our the porch of friends in Taos and then lazily climb our way up the mountain to arrive at our destination for dinner. We'll be staying with Moon Bear - that's Christopher, Seth's boyfriend. Craig arrives - uh, yesterday. Yep, we're behind in our travels.

Oh, have no fear...we'll be leaving today. We'll drive like the wind, that's Evan's specialty even when he's sleep deprived from putting up a last sign for a client. And on the way, I'll complete the work on my course syllabus and write the toast that I'll give at Seth's party. Yes, it's his "retirement" party. A huge blow-out of a party. I met Seth in 1980 when we were both teaching at the same small, quite new, private Episcopal high school in a rented building in Cabin John, Md: St Andrew's Episcopal School.It was a magical place for students and teachers alike, but of course, like all schools, not without its problems. Now, they are like a country club, with an endowment and a lush, sprawling campus out in Potomac.

Anyway, I was straight out of college and freshly back from studying in France - a degree in French and a diploma in Secondary Education led me to answer an ad in the Washington Post for a teaching position in a small private school. The minute I sat down in front of the headmaster, Dr Borg - a wonderful man, he informed me that the French teacher had changed her mind and wasn't leaving. Could I teach Latin? (Well, I HAD taken Latin at Gettysburg although my professor was a drunk) Could I teach a course called Introduction to Languages to 7th graders? Basically, a course in Latin & Greek word roots, Etymology 101. Sure, I could do it. Could I teach Music Appreciation? I guess so. I had played the flute in high school. A month later: could I teach Spanish? Mrs XYZ had left screaming out of the classroom and they saw on my transcripts that I had taken it in college. I actually put my foot down when they asked me to coach field hockey (I did coach girls' basketball and volleyball, however) but not before I taught the last semester of Shakespeare to 10th graders and had one gifted student who qualified for Advanced French.

But a few months into that first year at St A's, Mr Phillips - the pain pill addicted Science teacher - was found out. The students used to say that he would disappear into his 1970's blue Chevy when he wasn't teaching and would fall asleep there. So, Dr Borg fired him, place another classified ad and here came: Mr Berg - the vintage tuxedo wearing, afro sportin', Jewish kid - fresh out of Oberlin.

Seth had been there about a week, and I, having just finished a lesson on the word root "homo" and building combinations with a bunch of howling 7th graders, was gathering up my "desk" (we all shared classrooms), as he paid me a vist. He sat down at in a kid's spot and quite seriously asked: "So, how do you keep them in their seats?" It was at that moment that I realized we were both the youngest, inexperienced teachers there - hired out of the newspaper want ads - and entrusted with these kids by the Patron Saint of lost causes, Dr Warren Borg. Seth and I bonded that day, needless to say I taught him all kinds of tricks on how to keep 12 year olds seated (!). He and I became fast friends. We went on to host an annual Beach Party every summer for the graduating seniors, chaperoned kids to concerts like the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones when their parents didn't want to go, introduced the older students to the worlds of picking vintage clothing and performing drag queens, he sang with the kids in a rock band and I in a musical...but most of all we shared with them our love of learning and our passions for the subjects we taught. Seth left St Andrew's after a few years and went off to teach at Burke Mt Academy. I stayed at St Andrew's and took kids up there during spring break to ski. When I went on to grad school and later design school & work in Paris, Seth visited me often. We made movies each summer and started Red Gun Productions with Craig, Alec and Edie. We traveled through France, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. He was a "bridesmaid" in both of my weddings, took care of me when I had cancer and is the favorite "guncle" to my twins.

And throughout it all - he has remained a very, very best friend of mine. So, we are going to Telluride to celebrate the "retirement" of Seth aka Mr. Berg, aka ICE of Ice and the Bergs, aka the 2008 Colorado TOY - Teacher of the Year, after his 30 yrs of teaching. As I also celebrate our 30 years of friendship.

Seth, Alec & Kathy filming a Red Gun Production in Alexandria, VA:

Seth & Christopher, Christmas 2010, Austin ,TX:

Seth & Creed, Port Aransas, TX:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mud May...

...rarely do I just post photos, but I couldn't resist these pictures taken last weekend at the most awesome birthday party/mudslide that I have seen in years. I want to have a party like this for the grownups...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Creed's big plans..., yesterday I spoke with my mother-in-law who wanted to talk about where the kids would go to high school and college! Not exactly on the top of our list for worries or projections at the moment, since we still need to start kindergarten in the fall.
And then I really wanted to open the can of worms and tell her what Creed's plans are for his own future.

Creed has a girlfriend AKA his "wife" named Millie. Sometimes it's Sophia or Kate, but 99% of the time it's Millie. They have been at Ecole for 3 years together now. His plans all seem to include her.

"Mom, I need money to go to Mexico so Millie and I can have a big party for our friends. We're going to ride whales."

"Dad, let's go to Home Depot and buy paint and wood for the house Millie and I are building in Mexico."

"Mom, I am needing to go to the airport at midnight. Millie and I are moving to New York to start a band"

"Dad, my band is going to be called 'Creed and the Firemen.' Do you think Alejandro will join? Millie's band is called 'Millie and the Ambulance.'"

"Mom, can you meet us in New York and bring Millie the wedding dress if she forgets it?"

This has been going on for months finally yesterday, I asked him why he wants to get married to Millie at such a young age.

His response: She's nice. I like her a lot and we're friends.
Me: Okay - good reasons. What will you do when you get married?
Creed: Oh, we'll be parents. I'll make signs and Millie will make dresses, go to meetings and have breast cancer.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yee haw! Kindergarten Round up...

...I guess it's a Texas thing, as that's what they call the Orientation when they invite the future fall Kindergarteners to see their school. Creed, Zelda, Evan and I showed up early yesterday morning to the cafeteria where we were handed 2 huge packets of forms to fill out, and tons of info on the PTA, I am not sure I can even go there yet with volunteering - as I am still serving as the Board President for Ecole...sigh.

Next, the K teachers arrived and the kids were divided up to spend an hour in a real classroom with other equally suspicious, terrified or clueless 5 year olds. I'd have to say that Creed was suspicious and Zelda: clueless, but it all went quite flawlessly.

Now, it's back to solidifying our summer plans for Paris. Ecole graduation is June 1st when they toss their little Montessori seedlings out into the big world.
We leave for Telluride, CO., the very next day for our guncle Seth's retirement party. Back to Austin for a few weeks of camp, then off to France on June 30th. Still to do: passports, arranging apartment stay, writing my curriculum for my course that I am teaching on Fashion & Design, moving Ecole to its new location and last but not least: getting everything ready to finish the book in Paris!

La Petite Zelda goes to becoming a reality. )ur kickstarter site is up - please help fund our cause! We will get our wonderful illustrator on site to photograph, film, and sketch Zelda as she discovers the city and start working on our final draft for publishing. Merci to all who have pledged thus far...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

La Petite Zelda is going to Paris...

...come and help us write our book about discovering the City of Light through touch, smell, taste and sound.
"La Petite Zelda goes to Paris" the story of Zelda and her brother Creed who helps his sister "see" Paris through discovery using all of her senses except sight. We'll visit Le Jarden de Tuileries, La Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, the flea markets, the boulangeries, and so many other places. Close your eyes and imagine it...The book will be illustrated by Aaron Flynn - see an example of his work above! - and will be published in English, French and Braille.

I have just launched my kickstarter project so please click on the above link and see the story that we'll be writing while in Paris this summer - we need your support to make this dream a reality. For those of you unfamiliar with the Kickstarter program, it is a funding project to help artists bring their projects to realization. Each funding level will receive a gift from us, so please take a look...and merci, mille fois...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cancer makes you do crazy things... I got a summer job in Paris. I'll be teaching Fashion & Design to exchange students and the twins will come over there with me for 6 weeks or so.

Cancer is a funny beast. I have known it intimately. And for those who know me well, they are accustomed to my flights of folly. I have, since I was a teenager, or my parents could probably argue earlier than that, have figured out something I've wanted and gone about getting it. There was drawing a picture and getting it published on the cover of a book for the United Nations when I was 12, going to France for the first time when I was 15, spending every summer of my life in the mountains in a canoe, on a trail or hanging off cliffs until I was 24, deciding to become a teacher, going to grad school on a full scholarship, selling everything to move back to Paris for design school, making TV shows & movies, writing, public speaking, riding motorcycles, getting married to a not so good "was-bund" and marrying a much better one, having twins at 47, raising little kids in my 50's (one who is blind), returning to full-time designing...the list goes on and there are oh, so many things I CAN'T or won't mention (for now)...

But it's that doggone cancer that pricks you like a pin and says "Wake the fuck up and do more!" "What haven't you done in your life that you've wanted to do?" I have heard people say that they wake up after fighting cancer - they smell the flowers, they love harder, they acknowledge life and are more patient with others. I have even heard people thank cancer for opening their eyes and giving them a new lease on life. One woman once said something like she wished everyone she knew could have the mental and emotional effect of having cancer to experience how it changes you. Personally, I think that's a crock of shit and wouldn't wish cancer - even for its life-changing values - on anyone!

But I must admit, cancer - even in the tiniest ways - makes me do some things differently. Ever since I lived for all of those years in France, I've always said I would like to go back and spend a month there every year - especially now that Creed & Zelda are around. But, did I ever attempt a plan? Look into it? Do any research? Well, no - I would visit, attend shows, visit museums, have parties and delight in old friends... And then the other day I saw the post and with my "life's too short, eat dessert first attitude", I applied for the job: each day imagining a summer where I could teach what I love and spend time with my dear friends, introducing my kids to the city that is such a part of me, soaking up "ma dose" of inspiration, work on my book (oh! you didn't know that I was writing one?), and make new connections for my one-of-a-kind slow fashion movement.

So, here we I have the money for the plane tickets yet? Well, no. Have I secured us an apartment yet? Well, no. What will happen at my shop while we're there? Haven't decided yet. And there's husband: watching, wondering, silently shaking his head, waiting for the plan to unfold...and it will.

Less then 90 days and counting...on arrive!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yoko, hello...

...yes, it was me...the crazy woman that had to thank Yoko Ono for her support of the Braille Institute free books for blind kids. When I heard that she would be here for SXSW, I only barely imagined just running into her with Zelda and introducing the two of them. But SXSW had come and gone, and there I was on a quiet Monday in my shop, chatting with Jerry, my neighbor. And then I saw her - crossing the street, coming towards the sidewalk in front of my atelier. She was so petite, in black and white, with her face obscured by a fedora & sunglasses - but I knew it was her. She didn't stop but kept walking on with her 2 assistants.

In a split second, non-thinking moment, I went after her, leaving my shop unattended. I caught up to them and passed them, and when her assistant spoke, I turned around as if to be surprised. "Oh, my...Yoko Ono." As I spoke - who knows exactly what I said except for "my 5 1/2 yr old daughter is blind and thank you so much for supporting Braille literacy" among other things. I saw her shoulders drop and relax as she listened and realized that I wasn't such a crazy stalker - only a mildly crazy one...she offered her hand to grasp mine, smiled and said to send Zelda her best wishes.

And then I moved on - but to where? I kept on walking to Jo's, met my friend Aaron at the front of the line and said - still reeling from my Yoko encounter - "I have no money with me, can you buy me a tea?, and here comes Yoko Ono." And then as we waited, there was a tap on my shoulder, and all of Jo's was staring, as Yoko wanted to talk to me again! She wanted to thank me this time, for stopping and explaining my situation and talking about la petite Zelda. She told me it "made her feel so much better." So, I wasn't such the crazy stalker, but the grateful mom that so appreciates every few months when we receive that Braille catalogue in the mail for a choice of free books, and on the front of the catalogue reads: with grateful support from Yoko Ono Lennon...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I have been away...

...physically, mentally and spiritually... life gets in the way. But so much is happening - especially in the lives and development of the Toxotwins. So, here it is, their recent photo taken during SXSW:

They are healthy but not without their interesting behavioral quirks. Their tenure at Ecole is nearing the end. Three years in a French immersion pre-school with Zelda splitting her time at a local elementary school for her various therapies: Braille, speech, OT, and O & M.
Creed is growing like a weed and imagineering stories beyond belief which usually include a girlfriend or two, parties in Mexico, building a house, his fireman friends and Clifford, the big red dog.

Today is my 53 birthday as we head out to the flea market fields of Warrenton/Round Top to see friends and pick through treasures.

more later...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicago, Chicago..., I have written about this before: our trip to Chicago for the twins' participation in the Toxoplasmosis Study Group at the University of Chicago. This was our 4th trip up there to see Dr McLeod and her team in the past 5 1/2 years. Before I continue, however, I just need to say something about "Toxo". It sucks - it really does. Yes, I've said that about cancer. BUT, there's a big difference. Cancer can be treated and one can be declared "Cancer free." (Don't get me wrong, definitely NOT trying to make light of I have known 2 people these past few weeks who fought their cancers to the bitter end...)

However, babies born with congenital toxoplasmosis will never be Toxo-free. They are born with that nasty little parasite swimming around in their eyes and their brains -thanks to transmission through cat feces (no, I don't have cats), improperly washed fruits or vegetables, or undercooked meats. So, if you have a cat - keep it inside. If you're pregnant, get tested. Cook your meats, wash your vegetales AND wash your cutting utensils. And if you're not immune, get treated.

Over the past 4 visits to Chicago, I have had the opportunity to talk to other Moms. None of them can remember being ill while pregnant or how they could have possibly contracted the parasitic infection. Some have kids with no symptoms, others have kids with varying degrees of effects on the eyes or in the brains of their children. But the one thing we all seem to have in common is guilt - even if we don't discuss it. How could we have let this happen? We were so careful when we were pregnant. If they were like me, having undergone fertility treatments, I was tested beforehand for everything - or at least, I thought I was. I often wonder if the twins will resent me when they learn more about this affliction. Will Creed be pissed at me because he can't play football or hockey with 2 shunts in his brain? Will Zelda hate me because I transmitted the parasite that caused her blindness?

Shit, I really didn't want to go "there". I think I have gotten off track from telling about our weekend. I'm stopping here. For now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Watching a movie: one blind, one can see..., we've taken to watching movies in our little house. I, for one, love crime TV, but Evan is always freaking out that Creed will see violence, blood and death and I guess he's right. So, on weekends, in the mornings, we watch cartoons on PBS and then usually a movie on a dreary cold day like today.

Creed is like his Dad: if there is absolutely anything moving on the screen, he is fixated. Frozen. Un-interruptible. (Is that a word?) "Creed, Creed, Creed!" I can shout. "Evan, Evan, Evan!"'s the same non-responsiveness.

Zelda watches TV with her ears. She walks from her room, leaves her Lego's or books or beads - or brings them along with her - then stands right next to the screen and listens. It all depends on if she hears something sufficiently interesting or recognizable. She can sing with the Biscuit Brothers or recognize Elmo's voice and then will repeat or count along. She'll echo the dialogue and ask questions. "Mom, who's that?"

So, today we decided to watch the animated "Beauty & the Beast" (not to be confused with Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bete", one of my favorite films). Both twins were on the "big bed", with Creed hunkered down to pay attention and Zelda sitting nearby with her "tickets". She likes to play with a stack of unopened mail - sorting it, holding it, counting it, etc. The movie begins and instantly Creed gives a dissertation on how Gaston is the good guy and the Beast is bad. So bad, that he wants to close his eyes and not see him. It's scary. Meanwhile, Zelda is happily singing and listening to the voices and songs. When they enter the castle, she shouts "They're in the bathroom" - because she recalls the echo of when we go into a public restroom. When the wolves are barking or the Beast is growling, she'll say "Mom, it's the dogs!" I try and describe the difference to her but the action moves fast and so does Zelda...she is bouncing, smiling, rolling on the bed, but always listening. I try and relay the plot, the characters and the action but to no avail. She's just not there terms of patience and wanting to understand. Nothing is scary to her and she can leave the action at any moment. In that way, Zelda is like me. I rarely get frightened and actually like horror films and I can also multi-task, knitting, emptying the dishwasher, sewing a dress, while a movie is on.

But the three of us do make it through the film: "tickets" and cookies all over the bed. Creed leaning on his elbows, riveted to the screen. He appreciates when the Beast turns from a "bad guy" to a "good guy". Zelda likes that Belle is pretty and that there were some songs. But alas, at the end, she still says, "Mom, can I NOW go and listen to Manu Chao?..."

Zelda "watching" a movie...