An honest take on life and parenthood

Fences – a series in brilliant inks

It’s never too late to indulge a long-held desire. For me, that is painting.

I started painting just a few years ago, in my early 40’s. I took a single drawing class in college when I was 20. More than twenty years would pass before I tentatively signed up for a watercolor class at a local art school in Providence, the Eastside Art Center. Although watercolor and I never became best buds, I did fall in love with inks, reveling in their intensity and rapid application.

I took a drawing course this past winter to increase my precision. I then returned to my favorite medium, brilliant acrylic inks, and worked to balance my love of energy-filled marks and abstract images with more controlled, geometric pieces.

I chose the following photograph as the springboard for a series I created over the course of several weeks this spring. These are beach fences in snow, photographed by master photographer Alan Ross, who studied with Ansel Adams.


Beach fences in snow – credit:  Alan Ross

First, I traced the photo many times with tracing paper to imprint the dimensions on my mind and train my hand. Then, I took out a snowy piece of cold press 400 lb. watercolor paper and poured out a gleaming black pool of sumi ink. I dipped my brush and rendered the image in black and white.


Fences. Sumi ink, 10″ x 14″

I took a deep breath, and moved to color. I drenched the background of the paper in the colors of fire, and painted the fences in sumi ink.


Fences on fire. Acrylic ink with sumi. 9″ x 13″

My professor then challenged me to move completely out of sumi and completely into color. I hesitated, then dove in. I worked in brilliant acrylic inks and gouache.

Here is the progression:


Celestial blue fences. Acrylic ink with gouache,  9″ x 13″


Fences at sunrise. Acrylic ink with gouache, 9″ x 14″


Fences at twilight. Acrylic ink with gouache, 10″ x 13″

This was my first time working on a color series, and although it scared me, I ended up enjoying myself immensely.

In these polarizing times, these interpretations of beach fences give me hope that we will always find a way to communicate with each other in spite of our differences.

Peace, my friends.



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8 Picture Book Treasures from SCBWI

I absolutely adore picture books. As a mom and an aspiring picture book author, I study them and collect them and read them over and over. Each book is a work of art, a dance of storytelling, beautiful writing, and colorful illustrations, designed to entertain both children and adults.

This past April, I attended the spring conference of the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in Springfield, Massachusetts. This marvelous organization has chapters all over the country and all over the world, and hosts regular conferences to provide support, education, and encouragement to those of us who want to create books for children.

At the conference, I purchased a selection of wonderful picture books by SCBWI writers and artists, and brought them home to enjoy with my Pooh. Here, I share them with you. If you are in the market for some great picture books, here is a sampling of my haul:


Lucy’s Lovey, by Betsy Devany and illustrated by Christopher Denise, made me laugh so hard that I was crying by page 4. Lucy is a little girl who has 17 baby dolls, but she loves Smelly Baby the best of all. Betsy understands the unreasonable passion of a small child for her lovey, and writes a delightful picture book with intense emotional highs and lows, along with fabulous moments of laugh out loud fun. My daughter has her own lovey, a tattered flannel blanket, so this book resonated with me to my very core.


Pappa Gatto, written and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson, is an Italian fairy tale about a cat who is looking for a nanny for his motherless kittens. Ruth breathes new life into fairy tales every time she decides to retell them. Although I had never heard of this particular fairy tale before, I found it very satisfying. Ruth’s illustrations are rich with color and detail, and often feature opulent Renaissance or French provincial clothing and scenery. Fairy tales are not considered desirable by the publishing industry right now, but as long as Ruth is writing and illustrating them, I will be buying them. Ruth smiled when I told her about my crazy cat lady daughter, and graciously signed the book for her.


Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, and illustrated by John Schoenherr, is a timeless classic about a child who goes owling with her father on a cold winter’s night. The quiet poetry of this exquisite book never loses its music. At the conference, Jane Yolen illustrated the importance of persistence with this book. After countless rejections, a small publisher accepted the manuscript, anticipating a short run.  To everyone’s great surprise, it went on to win the Caldecott Medal and has been in print continuously for 30 years. Jane Yolen herself, the grande dame of children’s literature and mentor to countless creatives, signed this book for my daughter.


A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is the biography of Horace Pippin, a self-taught African-American artist who settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. This inspirational, beautifully written story follows Horace from his time as a child who loved to draw, to his war injury in WWI that left him unable to draw or paint for a long time, and finally, his return to painting and eventual discovery by N.C. Wyeth as a premier American artist. As a native of the Philadelphia area and an artist myself, I enjoyed this reminder of the human spirit’s ability to fight through life’s clutter and challenges to allow a creative soul to blossom.


Will’s Words – How Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by John Shelley, is a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare for kids. As a former English major, I like geeking out with my daughter on great literature, so I was delighted to find this picture book. The book covers common modern expressions that can be traced to the Bard, and each spread is accompanied by lively illustrations and explanations of life in Elizabethan England. My daughter found it fascinating and fun, and of course, I was thrilled to have an easy and engaging way to talk about Shakespeare with her.


The House that Jane Built – A story about Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Kathryn Brown is another moving biography, this time about a social justice warrior. Jane Addams was born into a privileged family, and received an excellent education, although it was not the custom for girls at that time. From an early age, she noticed injustice and wished to correct it. She went on to found Hull House, which served the poor and homeless and provided job training, education, and social services to help people overcome poverty. This wonderful story is inspiring without being preachy, and serves to open good conversations with your little one about making the world a better place.


Madame Martine, written and illustrated by Sara Brannen, is about an unlikely friendship between an old woman and a lively stray dog. The story is set in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower serving to anchor the story (both literally and figuratively). Exquisite watercolors evoke the beauty of Paris, and the book has a sweet, funny charm all its own, just like the slightly stubborn old woman who just wants to be loved.


Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, is the magical story of a little Imani, a Masaii girl in Kenya. Other kids tease her for being the smallest girl in the tribe, but she has big dreams: she plans to meet the Moon Goddess. This book weaves in East African folklore and images, and features loving exchanges between Imani and her mother.  The Moon Goddess, Olapa, is as ethereal and gracious as you imagine her to be, and Imani emerges as the ultimate hero. This book caught my attention, since I visited Kenya and Tanzania many years ago and met the Masaii people, who captivated me with their regal bearing and timeless nomadic ways. Every time I pull out this book, my daughter smiles and can’t wait to snuggle in for a read. Warm and enchanting, it is a perfect book to share with your favorite little girl.

If you read or have read any of these, I would love to know what you think of them. Happy reading!

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The Pooh’s Special Friend


As a mom, I hold a special dark place in my heart for toys that take hours to assemble and are large and awkward to store (think complicated marble runs and large, noisy whirlygigs), and cool craft projects that are beyond the skill set of a child, requiring an adult to make the craft while the child directs and watches.

A good friend of the Pooh recently gave her a poncho craft project from the Seedling company, which prides itself on high quality, interesting crafts for kids. The white canvas poncho came with fabric markers in six pretty colors, bright feathers, bells, and tassels, as well as glue dots, sewing needles, and six spools of colored thread.

The Pooh happily set to work with the fabric markers. When she finished coloring in the poncho, with periodic assistance from me, it was time to affix the decorations. The glue dots were not strong enough to hold the decorations, so we had to turn to sewing.

The Pooh is now seven and takes sewing classes, but she is accustomed to using a sewing machine. She does not yet have the manual dexterity to thread a needle or knot thread. She can sew by hand, but not well or for very long.

She became the fashion designer while I became her humble assistant. I bent over the poncho with needle and thread, grumbling under my breath at yet another project that required significant parental involvement.

Some crafts are okay, but I find sewing to be especially tedious, particularly this kind that involves many cycles of needle threading, thread knotting, and doo-dad placement.

The first hurdle was thread knotting. Canvas is coarse fabric, so a single knot on the thread did not anchor the stitches. I pulled the needle and thread right through the fabric. A triple knot finally did the trick.

After I threaded the needle and triple-knotted the thread for her, she sewed aqua pom-pom edging around the neckline of her poncho as best as she could.

Next, I found that it was impossible to get the sewing needle to pierce the tough shaft of the colorful feathers. My designer insisted that the feathers were critical to the design, so I could not convince her to omit them.

I stabbed the needle through the canvas, sewing the feathers on as best as I could by sewing around the shaft of the feathers to secure them, and hoped for the best.

Next, it was time to add the bells. There I was, hand-sewing 12 individual bells at regular intervals around the bottom of the poncho, trying not to think of all of the other things I should or could doing instead.

As I mentally groused, my neck aching, needle flashing through the canvas, the Pooh suddenly said, “Mommy, Grandparents and Special Friends day is next week. Are you coming?”

I stopped sewing and looked up at my bear. “Are you saying that you consider me a Special Friend?” I asked her.

Call me insecure, but I needed clarification.
“Yes,” she said, matter-of-factly, her big brown eyes hopeful. “So, are you coming?”

My heart loosened up from tight and cranky to soft and mushy.
Regretfully, I had to tell her that I would not be coming, since the day was reserved especially for grandparents and other special people who were not mommies and daddies.

But as I threaded my needle and triple knotted the thread again for the tenth tiny tinkly bell on her poncho, the craft didn’t seem so bad anymore.

As I stitched on the bell, I said, “Sweet girl, you are my special friend too. You always have been, ever since the day you were born. You are so sweet and funny, kind-hearted and smart. I feel so lucky to be your mommy and your friend.”

“Aww, Mommy,” she said, blushing slightly, her new little freckles standing out across her nose.

We gave each other a hug and a kiss. After another hour of work, I completed her poncho, and she was delighted.  “I can’t wait to wear it to school and bring it to sewing class!” she exclaimed.

She wore it proudly into school the following morning, and I smiled as she showed it off to her teacher and little friends.

Granted, this poncho craft was a pain, but sometimes, reminders of affection come in odd packages.  The Pooh’s surprise gift of pure, uncomplicated love also gave me the opportunity to tell her how much I treasured her.

Annoying craft? Sure.

Would I do it all over again just for that moment with the Pooh?


Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.


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The end of an American era


On Saturday, I found myself crying in the produce aisle of the grocery store, trying to hide my wet eyes from the Pooh.

Trump had just issued his executive order to ban travelers from five Muslim countries from entering the U.S.. In a unprecedented move, even travelers with green cards were prohibited entry.

Although the orders of the previous few days had upset me, I was overwhelmed by the implications of this newest order. As a Mexican immigrant to this country, I felt shaken to my core.

This was not the America I knew.

As I took care of this mundane task of grocery shopping in Stop-N-Shop for my family, I moved as if I were in a dream. I chose a crown of broccoli and picked up a bag of russet potatoes, and answered questions from the Pooh automatically.

But I wept silently as I moved from one bright, orderly aisle to the next.

I cried for the people who suddenly found themselves detained in holding rooms in airports, prevented from returning to their jobs or going to their dream universities. I wept for the people who found themselves separated from parents and children and spouses in the U.S. I cried for the little kids who were separated from their mommies for hours, and the elderly who had no access to their medications.

I cried for the refugees who had been through years of rigorous vetting, only to have the America’s door cruelly slammed in their faces, with death likely to greet them upon their return.

Most of all, I cried for my country.

The shame and grief I felt ran through me like a sickly stew, dripping into my heart and stomach. I had always believed in America as a beacon of hope and a welcoming home to all, particularly those in search of a better life. American represented a promise of freedom and opportunity for all.

That shining promise was broken with the stroke of a demagogue’s pen.

As I walked through Stop-N-Shop that night, I looked at my surroundings with new eyes. I noticed the abundance and freshness of the produce and other products on the shelves. I marveled at my feeling of safety as I walked through the store with the Pooh. I realized that I was lucky to have enough money in my purse to buy the food we needed, and maybe a treat or two. We could shop in a store that was clean and well-lit, with other shoppers and staff as pleasant company.

I thought once again of the refugees and other people detained in airports, and was overwhelmed once again by my own good fortune, and the terrible fortune of other human beings at that very moment.

I imprinted the picture and sounds and smells of my shopping trip in my memory, a snapshot in time. This moment, this quiet, unremarkable trip to the grocery store, marked the end to the America I once knew.

I dried my eyes as I approached the checkout line.

I decided that I would allow myself to cry when I needed to (I am a sensitive soul, after all), but more importantly, I will allow myself to fight for the America I know and love, and for the America I want to leave for my daughter.

I refuse to give in to despair.

I refuse to roll over and give in to the dark, fearful forces of this new administration.

I am just one person, but I will speak out. I will call and write and petition my elected representatives. I will vote. I will volunteer and donate and contribute.

I will not accept this angry, harsh version of America.

I will FIGHT for the open, tolerant America I know truly exists.


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My Blue Period

It’s always there. Depression is always lurking for me, a sleek granite gargoyle waiting to move in on my mind. Sometimes he is far away and I don’t notice him. Other times, like now, he is up close and personal, invading my space.


I’m not sure when it started, but I’ve been fighting a low-grade depression now for a couple of months. Some days are better than others. The clouds break and my feet and hands feel lighter, and I can actually get some things accomplished. But many days, I’m forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other, and trying not to cry in front of people, especially my Pooh.

Fortunately, it’s not the kind of debilitating depression I have experienced in my 20’s and 30’s. On those occasions, I barely existed, dead on the inside, unable to work or do much of anything. Right now, I am able to get out of bed, stay clean and presentable, fulfill my responsibilities, and accomplish the tasks of basic living.

But it is frustrating. I’m a busy person and I have so many things I want to do. Depression cramps my style. It sits on my productivity like an anvil. I am annoyed because it takes tremendous effort to take care of the things I need to do, and there is no energy or creativity left over for the things I want to do.

I am working to stay social and connected to others, because I have learned that isolation will send me into a terrible downward spiral. But I confess that I want to retreat from everyone and just be left alone until I come out on the other side.

I have started a gratitude journal as one small way to fight back. I also have resolved to keep moving and stay engaged in daily life. I will continue to build my writing business so that I can look myself in the mirror and not feel as if I have wasted my talents. Domestic life as a stay-at-home mom and housewife may be okay for some, but it is not for me. The paid work gives me a boost of much needed confidence. It is a path out of the drudgery of housework and cooking, and the demands of parenting.  The paid work died down over the holidays, but I am already working to build it back up in the new year.

If I am going to be a mom to myself, I also know that I need to get more sleep and exercise. Finally, reaching out to other people and helping them in small ways brings me little bursts of happiness, a targeted antidote to the deadness creeping up on my edges.

You don’t have to worry about me (in case you were). I’m around and about and accessible. I’m not avoiding anyone. I know I just have to get through this blue period and that it will end. If it goes on too much longer, I’ll find a doctor to prescribe a mild antidepressant to pull me out, but I want to give it another month or so.

But if I seem not quite myself, you know why. I have experienced this before and I know that it will pass. The granite gargoyle will retreat back onto his perch, far away and out of sight, and I can get back to fully living again.

Thanks for listening.


A day in the life…

Hello my faithful blog followers! I am in the process of creating a website that will link to this blog, and decided to ask professionals to take new pictures and update my look. Here is a special preview of the pictures they took. I am not easy to categorize, but somehow, they captured the glam geek look I wanted. Also, if you’d like to check out their other work, catch them at

luniac photo

Wendy is an accomplished scholar, artist and children’s author. When she ask me to take some shots for her updated website I jumped at the chance. What a beautiful morning we spent together. I loved hearing about her journey, and I cannot wait read her book when it comes out!  In the meantime check out her blog here: adventureswiththepooh

(Hair + Makeup by Kristen Lemoine) 

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A Note to Trump Supporters from a Hillary Supporter

I am still processing the results of this election. I accept the results because I believe in our system and our democracy.

I accept Trump as our President. However, I do not support Trump as our President. That is my right as a citizen. I will continue to call out every instance of inciting hate and violence, racism, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, lying, cheating, and childish behavior that this man celebrates and exhibits. The President is supposed to be someone noble for all of us to admire. Instead, we have a man who represents our basest instincts.

I know many of you voted for Trump. You are family members, friends, classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. I understand many of your reasons for voting for him and struggle to reconcile the person I know with that fact. Then again, I’m sure you have your own conflicts with having me in your circle, so I suppose we are even.

Know that even when things get ugly, I will never support or advocate violence against Trump or his supporters. I ask the same of you and people who protest against supporters of Hillary, Bernie, Black Lives Matter, or any other peaceful people who have opinions that differ from yours. Do not celebrate or support violence.

But I will not be silent about Trump. And I am not alone.

We may disagree about the results of this election, but as long as we can be respectful to each other, I would like to keep the conversation open, even when it is hard to listen.

We can agree on one thing: we all love our country. So let’s talk.


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Goodnight, Sweet Prince


I’m anything BUT funky and freaky, but let me tell you – I loved Prince.

When he died two weeks ago, I could not accept his passing for two entire days. It seemed so impossible. He was Prince! The Purple One was ever present, always would be.

His music and presence indelibly marked my formative years and some of my most important friendships. Prince was an eternally youthful, endlessly creative artist who didn’t give a rat’s ass what people thought of him. He mesmerized me.

I am embarrassed to admit that I never went to see him in concert because I thought he would be around forever. I ran in nerd packs and I was not a big concert goer. In the back of my mind, I thought that there was plenty of time to see him live one day.

The regret is KILLING me.

All I can do now is binge on his music, his videos as they come to light, pictures, old interviews, and articles.

Writing is my other coping mechanism, so here we are.


I take four things away from Prince’s passing.

  • Go see your favorite artists perform. If you love an artist, go see them in concert. It doesn’t matter if they are still huge stars or not. Live performances by truly talented artists trump video and the in-person experience cannot be replicated. If you are a geek like me, I encourage you to bust out of your dorkdom for a night so that you do not live with salty regret later.


  • Exercise quiet good. We now know that Prince gave to many organizations and people with little to no fanfare. He frequently gave anonymously or instructed the organizations to avoid publicizing his philanthropy. I started practicing this philosophy last year, and I enjoy the sweet secrecy of it. It’s a good feeling, and I remind myself of it on days I feel low.


  • Be yourself. Prince defied labels and boxes. We could each see some of ourselves in him, even if none of us resembled him at all. He was also far from perfect. He was vain, he could be eccentric and temperamental, and he could be a jerk sometimes. But he was unapologetically himself – impossible to categorize, impossible to forget. And what a sense of humor! We loved him in spite of, or maybe even because, he was so very human.


  • Use your talents. Prince was a musical genius, a modern Mozart with spectacular dance moves, huge stage presence, and incredible fashion sense. While the rest of us mortals were not blessed with the range or depth of his almost supernatural talents, we each have something of value to share with the world. He considered some of his work better than others, but it did not stop him from making music or venturing into uncharted waters with varying degrees of success. Even when he was successful, he continued taking risks and growing artistically. He squeezed every last drop out of his talents. So should you. So should I.

With that, my friends, I leave you. I am off to enjoy more of his incredible music, as I attempt to get used to a world without him.

Peace and be wild.


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A sweet surprise from Grand Central Station


Lexington Passage. Credit: Google images

The day before Valentine’s Day, I stopped by the Jo Malone shop in the Lexington Passage at Grand Central Station. The elegant glass box of a store is small, as all of the stores in the corridor are.

I could not pass up the chance to browse at my leisure without a tiny curious Pooh or impatient husband at my side, so in I went.

Jo Malone is a scent lover’s paradise. The exquisite fragrances are neatly displayed and easily accessible. A topper with a black fabric bow accompanies each bottle, so you can check out each one without spraying it.

I shamelessly sniffed all of the fragrances there and pined for a few of them. I asked the young clerk, “Is business good for Valentine’s Day?” She told me it had been slower than she expected.

I continued my browsing, looking at the candles and bath oils and other lovely items perfectly arranged on the shelves.

While I browsed, a well-heeled woman asked for a sample of Wood Sage and Sea Salt from the clerk. She tucked it into her expensive purse, and left, presumably for the Upper East Side.

I observed the exchange, thinking, “Hmm. You can request a sample? Interesting.”

A short time later, the clerk offered a cologne sample to me, even though I never requested one. But hey, I love Jo Malone and I was not going to turn down her offer. The products are expensive, so I have not ever splurged on them.

When I arrived back to my hotel that night, I found the tiny box, and discovered that she actually gave me TWO samples! Dark Amber and Ginger Lily, and Peony and Blush Suede. Both were beautiful fragrances that I loved. She was clearly paying attention to my fussing.

So to the attentive clerk at Jo Malone, thank you so much. You totally made my day. I hope karma brings you a delightful surprise of your own this week.

JoMalone_1253x585_1253 x 585_2014-02-13_06-13-01-PM

Jo Malone products. Credit: Google Images



And Now We Are Six


The Pooh appeared in this world six years ago, fat snowflakes heralding her arrival in the evening darkness.

After I gave a final push, Dr. Heinzel announced, “It’s a girl!”, which caught me by surprise. I had been expecting a boy.

The nurses weighed and cleaned her, wrapped her in that universal white blanket with blue and pink stripes, and brought her to me.

I took one look at her smushed face, red and puffy from my 22-hour labor, and fell hopelessly in love.

Fast forward to today.

Once again, fat snowflakes are falling outside my window, but we are home this time, together on a snow day.


The Pooh’s days of infancy are far behind her. The baby chub and delectable tiny toes are gone, replaced by skinny legs and long golden brown hair.

She sees herself as separate from me now. She is her own little person, with perpetually warm hands and a fierce heart and a sharp wit.

Today she is six. Six years away from birth, six years away from twelve and tweendom.

I will enjoy this day, this sixth birthday, and I will think about the night she arrived, and the days after, and each birthday since.

Because each birthday is a celebration for mommies too.

Happy birthday, Pooh.



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