Monday, August 21, 2017

Love engine

My heart is in Ft. Pierce today, where my three cousins, my loves, will undertake a heartbreaking and courageous act of daughterly love. Aunt Beulah, your brothers and sisters in the forever are standing by, joyfully awaiting your return, but hopefully not today. Uncle Quinn, our arms and our love are holding you now. Allyson, Cathy, Carla, you have given and are giving from a fountain of magnificent love, abiding faith. Our entire family is with you in spirit today and always. Please kiss Aunt Beulah's forehead for us. Tell her she's been a shining example of love and devotion and laughter her whole life long. Tell her I feel Gloria close by. Tell her, please, how very much she is loved, how eternally blessed we all have been, to be hers.

I wrote that on Facebook this morning, because in Fort Pierce, Florida, at 1 this afternoon, my three cousins and their dad will be taking my Aunt Beulah off the ventilator that has been breathing for her for the past week. They had planned to do it on Friday, but my uncle said, no, he wasn't ready, give him till Monday. He's a doctor and knows that even though the plan is to transfer my aunt to a lovely, light-filled hospice, she may not make it there. Since her stroke two weeks ago, she has weakened progressively and for the past week has been entirely unresponsive. I imagine her spirit has already flown, greeting her brothers and sisters who have gone before.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to make the decision to take your beloved of more than sixty years off life support; to wake up and know that today is the day your mother, who has loved you superbly all your life, might die. As her youngest expressed it to me late last night, "Mommy is a love engine." On waking this morning, my throat was full of tears, and I knew the rest of the family, scattered as we are geographically, were all gathering in spirit around Aunt Beulah's bed. On my phone, I wrote how I was feeling and posted it. I wondered if it would be painful to my cousins that I had acknowledged before the fact what we all know is possible, that Aunt Beulah might leave us today. I don't know, but the rest of the family welcomed the post, so I am putting it here too. To mark this day.

That photo was taken on Uncle Quinn's 90th birthday earlier this year. Aunt Beulah is 88, the fifth of the six Stiebel sisters. A love engine, indeed.

Update at 6 PM : Aunt Beulah is at the hospice and is resting comfortably, surrounded by her family in a spacious room with a sunny private terrace. A moment of peace, a respite for them all, thank you God.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


My brother and his two younger kids, ages 16 and 13, arrived this morning and will be with us for the week. Their older sister is my niece, the dentist with the edgy new asymmetrical haircut. She and her boyfriend went to a wedding in Baltimore this weekend, and posted this picture. They sure do clean up nice.

My daughter is thrilled her Jamaican cousins are here. She worried that after their grandma died, they wouldn't see each other as much, and she's happy to know she was wrong. She, however, is in St. Lucia with her boyfriend. My son and his girlfriend are also there. It's all sun and sea and night life, and I believe they're having a good time. My daughter posted this picture of herself on the beach they grew up on, across the street from their grandma's house. They all return tomorrow.

As long as I'm posting photos of beautiful young women in my family, here's one of my niece taken earlier this summer, on the night of her high school prom. When on earth did she get this grown? Her brother, too, now a teenager, is taller than I am. He used to be so uninterested in the rest of us, and now he's fully and delightfully engaged, to very comical effect.

Back in New York, my husband is on the mend, sitting up most of the day, and moving around the house with his cane. You can tell he's been sick. He's unshaven, which he usually isn't, but he did manage to shave his head a couple of nights ago, so he looks more like himself. He's quieter than usual amid the hubbub. I realize how much I miss his voice telling stories. Our living room was full all day. Along with our houseguests, my niece and her boyfriend came over, and we all just hung out, chatting, intermittently watching TV, catching up. There's not much else report, except that day by day, my husband is getting better, and that's everything. Thank you for all your comments and concern. I'm so grateful to have this community of souls. I felt your prayers and wishes for healing. I think they're working.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Freedom is an act

"During the Civil Rights Movement, our struggle was not about politics. It was about seeing a philosophy made manifest in our society that recognized the inextricable connection we have to each other. Those ideals represent what is eternally real and they are still true today, though they have receded from the forefront of American imagination. Yes, the election of Obama represented a significant step, but as the following election and all the days beyond that high point in American history have proved, it was not an ending. It was not even a beginning; it was one important step on a continuum of change. It was a major downpayment on the fulfillment of a dream. It was another milestone on our nation's road to freedom. But we must accept one central truth as participants in a democracy: Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society. The work of love, peace, and justice will always be necessary, until their realism and their imperative takes hold of our imagination, crowds out any dream of hatred and revenge, and fills up our existence with their power."

Rep. John Lewis in Across that Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America

A handful of students stood at the center of the white supremacists' torchlit rally in Charlottesville last weekend, decrying the hate. The hostile crowd pressed in on them, shouting epithets, but the students did not flinch. They held their "Act Against White Supremacy" banner high. I was afraid for them, and I loved them, too. This is courage. This is freedom, caught in the act. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I heart this

On Facebook, my husband's younger brother posted these words: "I pray for the restoration of his health and the continuation of the joy and happiness we see here in his face."

Thank you, Bruce, both for the prayers and for that wonderful childhood picture of two brothers who love each other very much. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Pooled light

12.59 a.m.

I can't write all my fears here. I feel as if I must be brave, wear a brave face. So what's the use of writing anything then? It doesn't feel true. I listen to him breathing in the dark. It sounds labored. I'm scared.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Morning in the city

I went out early this morning to get the man a neck brace. His back is improving slowly, but now his neck is giving him hell, as he's been using it to stabilize his spine for the last two weeks and some. The heating pad has migrated from under his back to under his neck, so a neck brace seemed to be in order. He is now dozing with his neck immobilized. Before that, he walked to the bathroom and back without bracing against the walls much. He said he felt as if he was a misshapen C, but in fact his posture was straight and tall. It meant his back was holding him up without unbearable pain. I took it as a promise.

It felt peaceful strolling the city in the early morning. It's a beautiful day, not too warm, not in the least bit humid, the light falling at an angle just so. The man at the medical supply store was a bodhisattva, showing me the pros and cons of different braces, letting me know that if I needed it, they could deliver whatever else I might require. I don't know what it was about him. He just seemed so calm, so grounded and kind. It was impossible to think in a catastrophic way in his presence. I left feeling as if everything will be okay, I just have to give it time.

1. Barnard College, my alma mater. Those are the windows of the English department on the fourth floor. I knew it well. I was an English/Writing and Geography/Cartography double major. Such a long time ago, now. And yet, a blink.
2. Pomander Walk is a hidden Tudor-style village right on 94th Street on the Upper West Side. I lived in this city for decades before I even knew it was there.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


My husband seems to be turning a corner. If he's not yet fully around it, at least he's able to see around the bend to what lies ahead. Please hold a good thought.

Meanwhile, Trump is tweeting about poll numbers and fake news while North Korea tests nuclear missile warheads that could conceivably reach Chicago and even Washington D.C. He has made no comment whatsoever on the bombing of the Minneapolis mosque over the weekend. His lack of comment speaks loudly to his base.

Everywhere, people are struggling it seems, with physical challenges, emotional upsets, and one devastating tragedy in the life of someone we love. I'm trying to be present for people without allowing my perspective to turn gloomy. I'm trying to live in the light, which commonsense tells us exists in equal measure to the shadow.

It's later now. Maybe I lied about turning the corner. Tonight it looks more like we're still on approach. The muscle spasms are back. The slightest uncalculated movement brings them on, even running and jumping in his dreams. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Happy 91st birthday Aunt Grace!

My mom's third youngest sister is 91 years old today, and she wears it as gracefully as her name. There she is with two of her nine great grandchildren. The photo below is of two of her eight granddaughters, with another one of her greats. She also has one grandson among those eight granddaughter girls.

I've probably lost you in all the numbers, but here's another cherished one: Aunt Grace is one of the six girls in my mom's family, and they stayed extraordinarily close their entire lives. Three of the six, including my mom, are gone now, and the youngest two are not doing well. One had a stroke last week and is in the hospital as I write this. She also suffers from Alzheimers. The other is in and out of hospital with respiratory issues, and is too weak to travel anywhere else. Aunt Grace is the only one left who is up and about, jet setting between her children in Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Vancouver.

Those are the Vancouver granddaughters. There are four of them. The one that's missing now lives in Alberta with her husband and five kids. As you can see, our birthday girl has spawned some good looking offspring. In case you think that's an accident, here's a photo of Grace when she was in her early twenties. She was a beauty then, and she's a beauty now, inside and out, but even more than that, Aunt Grace has a delightful wit, and it doesn't quit. Her laugh rings out like bells.

Aunt Grace lives in Toronto, and loves having her own apartment, even though her two daughters both live in very elegant houses with suites set aside for her. Aunt Grace has many friends in Toronto, people she calls her "angels." Her daughters flew to be with her for her big day. She is the sister whose voice is so like my mother's even their own children couldn't tell them apart. That she is 91 today, and doing well, fills my heart to bursting.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lifers at the farm

A group of them went to the farm this weekend, a mini reunion. I swiped this pic from Snapchat. These two were schoolbus buddies at four years old. They're all grown up now, and living on different coasts, but they still get together with the gang at the farm come summer, their soul cluster, all of them still close. I wanted a happy picture at the top of my blog because I don't want to dwell on the fact that my husband's painful spasms have not let go. Still, the X-ray showed no fracture of the spine, and no disc herniation or other misalignment, so the trend is positive.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Day 10

Found on tinybuddha: "We can't control everything. Sometimes we just need to relax and have faith that things will work out. Let go a little and let life happen." I am trying to remember this in the moments, and to be grateful for the rather expert help offered by our children. We have no answers, despite yesterday's blood work and X-rays, and the fierce inquiry of my husband's doctor, a tiny, brilliant woman who is anything but laissez faire. With her on the case, I trust answers are on the way.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Day 6

It's a calm blue day outside, not in the least bit humid, a gentle breeze rustling the leaves. I am mostly stuck inside, cranking through my daily 1,000 words and caring for the man whose back muscles stopped cooperating almost a week ago now; they haven't been cajoled back into service yet. Walking remains excruciating, but his appetite is slowly returning, and his mood is gentle. He is a better patient than I would have thought, considerate, undemanding, not crotchety as I thought he would be, and angry at his incapacitation. Instead he reads, is reflective and wryly humorous. And he's appreciative, though he doesn't actually say so. But I know how to read him; I know what the hand on my head in the middle of the night means. Oh how I wish him better. There will be more diagnostic steps to take once he is able to move around again, without such blinding pain. What brought this on? How to prevent its return? The body is a mystery.

Our son, keeping his dad company.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Light and dark

There's a lot going on, life happening. My husband is in a lot of pain with muscle spasms in his back, walking is excruciating for him, and our son slept over last night to help out. Our daughter just texted that she's coming over tonight to cook us dinner so we don't have to think about that, and my God how lucky and blessed we are with our children. I am humbled with gratitude for them. My son took his dad to the ER yesterday, and I think his EMT uniform got them moved through a little more quickly than would otherwise have happened. Just as I never worry about a situation being well handled if my husband is present, I realize that now I feel the same way about my children.

As for the current president's decree yesterday that transgendered people should no longer be allowed to serve in any capacity in the military, I hope someone sues his office and forces the courts to overturn him. Some say the tweeted decree was his effort to distract people from the health care shenanigans playing out in the Senate, another atrocity, but if that is so, it just shows the extent of his soullessness, that he could conceive of such inhumanity in the name of distraction. He is empty to the core, a yawning dark hole of malevolence. We will not be sucked into its maw. We will resist him and his enablers.

In the meantime, my daughter and her boyfriend are dog-sitting again this week, a chilled-out little guy named Beau. Last weekend they sat for a puppy named Ned, who they said was a cute little monster, who had to be walked incessantly. In the middle of the night, after cleaning up Ned's mess in her brand new apartment, my girl logged onto the dog sitting website and changed her profile to say no dogs under nine months, or who are not house trained. That's a picture of her holding Ned. I love when she dog sits because I meet her in the courtyard and stroll along with her as she walks the dog. Loveliest exercise ever.

Please send a good thought for my husband, that his pain goes away, that he can walk firm once more. My son says I am trying to will him better on an unreasonable timeline for what he has. Only time and rest will fix things, he said. The meds aren't fixing anything; they just take the edge off the pain. 

Patience, grasshopper. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thank you, Gus

Gus Trowbridge's book Begin With a Dream tells the story of Manhattan Country School, the progressive elementary and middle school my daughter attended for the first decade of her life in the classroom. It's a memoir of how Augustus Trowbridge, whose forebears made the family fortune as merchants in the triangle trade, would use his privilege to found a school in which there would be no racial or economic majority and where each child would, in the immortal words of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Gus and his wife Marty were utterly inspired to do this work by Dr. King. Gus once told me how he and Marty sat in front of their TV screens watching the brutality that transpired during the 1965 March on Selma, and in that moment they knew they would have to do something to rebalance the scales of privilege in America. They would devote the rest of their lives to doing that. "Differences must be immediately experienced, treasured and understood," Gus wrote in the school's inaugural brochure, "because a school that avoids differences places education outside the context of living."

As an editor, I ended up being a sort of midwife to Gus's book and I believe it is work I was meant to do--work I was honored to do. Perhaps it is why I happened across this small progressive school in the first place, and why its very walls whispered to me that this was to be my daughter's place. Surely it is why, the first time I heard Gus speak at a conference about his life's work, I went up to him afterwards and gushed, "You need to write a book about this." He looked somewhat startled, I was a stranger to him then, and he stammered, "Well, I'm trying to do that." Gus was retired by that time, and was no longer a daily presence at the school. But four years later, he approached me in the living room of the school, which was then located in what used to be a very grand townhouse on the margin of the Upper East Side and Harlem, and he said, "Well, I have completed a draft of that book, and I would like it if you could read it and tell me what you think." It was the first time we had spoken since the day I so presumptuously suggested he write his story.

The next day when I dropped my then fifth-grader off at school, Gus had left for me 600 single-spaced pages in a binder. Over the next year, working together, we reorganized and edited the book down to 353 pages that tell the very moving story of a man committed to a mission despite all manner of obstacles, and a school committed to realizing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. My daughter is immeasurably richer because of her foundational experience at this school, and its working organic farm. But not just my daughter, our entire family was positively imprinted by our connection to this "beloved community." Thank you, Gus, for the lifelong friendships forged, the minds opened, in a school that sends children out into the world as people of conscience, courage, and purpose, as connectors, as healers, as change-makers. Thank you, Gus, for using your life to pursue our highest good. The world is a better place because you were here. Rest In Peace. You've so richly earned it. Your legacy will live on.

Augustus Trowbridge
August 14, 1934—July 09, 2017

This appeared in "Remembering Gus Trowbridge." I'm re-posting it here for my own record, and because I believe good ripples out. Gus's vision and purpose changed us all.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Summer Friday

We had a great time with dear friends on the roof last night, dining of all manner of summer salads. It was too hot to cook, and at least two of us are trying to reduce our girth, hence the green leafy fare. It was all as delicious as the company. I did break down and have some delectable mini palmiers at the end, which I am trying not to regret this morning because, if you're going to indulge, well, enjoy it for Pete's sake. Thanks for the treat, Pete!

I love these people, my fellow travelers. We started out on this journey together when our children were preschoolers. Now we ask whether our kids are liking their jobs, and wonder if they're partying too much, and discuss pros and cons of one son going for a deal on an electric car, and hear the latest updates on the wedding plans for a daughter who's getting hitched early next year. Of course, we also talked about Spicey finally quitting the White House, and about health care reform, laws governing presidential pardons, and the real true Handmaiden's Tale horror of a possible Pence presidency. And then we exhaled at the extravagant sunset, turned our faces into the humid summer breeze, and talked about movies instead.

Friday, July 21, 2017

1,000-word day

I wrote my one thousand words today and found my way into chapter four, the title of which is "Paper Boat." Today's words will change many times before I am done with them, and I hope they will be greatly refined, but at least I have made a start. Every chapter is a new hard start.

My son gave me permission to post this picture, which definitely speaks more than a thousand words to me. My daughter says he might be the coolest kid she knows.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

True hearts

My kids are making me so proud.

That's my daughter at a fundraising dinner series she helped to plan and stage, as part of her job. Three of the city's top chefs each cooked for sponsors and donors on successive nights, all for the cause of feeding New York's hungry. I attended the second evening of this event, as the tickets were more affordable than the usual $750 for the organization's galas, and the dining was family style.

My girl got to sit with us; usually she's up and around, working. My darling husband was supposed to come, but he had been feeling under the weather since Tuesday, so my niece was my date instead. It was us and my girl, and her boyfriend, rubbing shoulders with New York's deep-pocketed crowd, the ones who care about hunger. I sat next to a lovely woman who told me she grew up poor in Cuba, and knew what it was to be hungry. " I had no idea my circumstances would change so significantly," she said, putting an arm around her husband. "It's all thanks to him." She shared that he was from a Philadelphia Main Line family, and was a corporate attorney. "He is the best husband," she said, "and now we have houses and enough of everything, and since we'e going to spend money anyway, why not feed people who still don't have enough to eat."

This woman also told me that my daughter is absolutely beautiful, and she is, and last night she was positively radiant in her semi-formal attire, greeting and mingling with the evening's guests. It's her smile that makes her shine, though. It's hard to miss. My niece and I patted our hearts and said, "Look at our little one, in her element, and affording us such experiences."

The five-course meal was cooked by Angie Mar of the Beatrice Inn. The lavender  and anchovy prime rib was way too rare for me and my niece, but my girl took a whole portion, saying simply, "This is the chef's vision. I trust the chef." The warm plum and blistered tomato tart looked beautiful and was divine— I was so busy enjoying it I forgot to take a picture—while the roasted bone marrow with lemon cream fraiche and caviar was perhaps too sophisticated for my humble palate. The edible flowers made it look appealing though, and I took a brave taste. For dessert, the bone marrow creme brûlée tasted a bit like warm smoky brie. I ate most of it, trying to decide what I thought.

The best part of the evening was being with three fine and funny young people whom I love, and also meeting the people my girl works with, and having them, to a one, tell me how much they adore my daughter. One woman said quite seriously, "I didn't realize at first how fresh out of college she was. She has such a solid and humane core, and a very reasoned judgment." Even her bosses came over to rave about my girl, and the woman next to me leaned over and whispered, "She's the most popular person in the room."

In the cab on the way home, I told my daughter about all her good reviews. She said, "Mom, they kind of have to say that to the mother." But I, the mother, believe they were speaking true.

Before we parted, my girl gave me a sprig of lavender and told me to make sure to give it to her daddy. "He will know what it means," she said. "It's our thing." Indeed, when I dutifully handed it to him in his sick bed, he smiled very broadly, and sighed contentedly. I am happy to report he is on the mend and went to work this morning.

My son meanwhile is doing his firefighter promotion training at the Fire Academy this week, and what should we see posted on their Insta site last night but a video of our boy doing the Hose Drag, over a caption that said, "Train with a purpose!" I don't know how to post the video itself, but here is a blurry still from it. They are so different, these two children of mine, one in a world of glitzy schmoozing last night, the other gritty and sweaty in training. But they are both, in their own ways, working to secure people who need some help. They fill my heart.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Chihuly Nights

Last evening the man and I went to see Chihuly Nights, a glass art installation at the New York Botanical Gardens, with music, cocktails, and food under the stars. It was hard to capture the drama of the illuminated glass forms with my iPhone camera, and my husband decided that we will have to go back so he can photograph the pieces with his Nikon set up. Dale Chihuly is a glass artist who works out of Seattle, with a team of glass blowers. The work is really breathtaking. These pictures don't begin to do justice to the experience of being in their presence. The evening was hot, wet, and muggy, but we enjoyed strolling through the gardens in the dark, feeling the spitting rain, and coming upon these moments of spectacular color. They appeared lit from within, vibrant against a silhouette of trees, plants, people, sky. The shapes seemed entirely organic, enchanted even, as if they grew where they are, yet each individual piece was fashioned by human breath working its magic on hot molten glass. Here are but a few of the installations. If you're interested, this map has clickable dots that open up daylight images and info about these and other Chihuly pieces in the sprawling gardens-wide exhibit.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's normal?

The TV is on in the background. I'm half listening as Congress interviews the proposed candidate to replace James Comey as FBI director. I am struck by the degree to which the questions are designed to ferret out the man's willingness to admit and act on criminal conduct on the part of the American president and his staff. When has an FBI director's confirmation ever been so clearly tied to his being a clear challenger of the White House? The cynic in me thinks it's all just stagecraft.

The man, whose name I can't be bothered to look up, is doing his best to thread the needle, to please the president who nominated him, and the committee members who see the president for what he is. It all adds up to obfuscation and double speak. I already don't think much of the man by virtue of the fact that he accepted an offer to work for this president. That's wrong thinking of course: The part of me that knows that is hoping people with courage and integrity sneak past the gate and get themselves in a position to act against the criminal tomfoolery that passes for federal governance these days.

Meanwhile VP Pence takes pains to distance himself from Donny Junior's meeting last summer with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have incriminating material on the woman who was Daddy's main roadblock in the race for the White House. This is apparently enough of a smoking gun that Pence put out a statement that when Donny Junior met with the Russian lawyer, he, Pence, had not yet joined the campaign. The man is as bad as his boss, and that's saying something.

The president's son-in-law Kushner and then campaign manager Manafort did join Donny boy in the meeting with the Russian lawyer, however, and some now theorize that Junior's colossally stupid release of his emails pertaining to setting up the meeting are intended to protect Kushner, who, as a campaign official then, and senior advisor now, could be indicted for taking the meeting. But, I don't get that reasoning. Kusher was there. And he failed to disclose this meeting and several others with the Russians on his security clearance forms. In any other administration his clearance would be revoked, he'd be removed from his position, and perjury charges would be brought against him.

It's all one big clusterf*ck, and it is diverting us from some real true dangers happening in the background, laws being passed under the radar, by Republicans who will continue to ignore the criminality and woeful ineptitude and mental instability of the president because he sucks up all the press attention and leaves them free to do their dirty deeds in the dark. And I, for one, am entirely convinced that the Russians didn't just peddle oppo research and hacked DNC emails, they actually tampered with voting machines in at least three states. That's why the return results last November didn't make any sense. And if they could tamper with actual voting machines then, why can't they do it again for the 2018 mid terms? Combine that with voter suppression laws and jigsaw-like gerrymandering of voting districts, and we might be stuck with these idiots and mercenaries for a long time to come.

I don't even know why I am writing this. Just venting, I suppose. Some days, I have no heart for any of it. Today is one of those days.


In other news, all the kids happened to stop by after work yesterday, and we mindlessly watched Forged In Fire and talked and dozed and ate dinner and laughed at some summer memories from their shared childhoods, and the house felt entirely normal.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Missing this place

Every summer when they were growing up, my kids and their cousins spent a month in St. Lucia with their grandma, my mom, at her house in Rodney Bay. That's her beach at dusk. My children came of age on this beach, and next month, they and their significant others will travel to spend a few days there, and to partake of the restaurants and karaoke houses and beach bars, on the strip they once were too young to explore. It's all steps away from my mom's house, I guess our house now, which has just been vacated by our lovely long term tenant. My brother and I are considering doing vacation rentals through sites like Airbnb for a while, encouraged by our kids, who want to be able to take their friends there. The house could not be better situated for sea lovers and foodies and shoppers and beachy night life. When the kids heard the house was going to be unoccupied again, they immediately began making plans. I hope they have a wonderful time, and if ghosts do whisper to them there (as they do to me), I hope the fact that the memories made in this place were such happy ones, will make them smile.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

We went to Santorini

My girl and I had so much fun at the Wine and Paint class last night. She had given me a gift certificate for the class for my birthday, and last night we redeemed it. Smart girl, she knew the best part of the gift for me was the chance to do the class with her. She brought the wine, a rose and a Malbec. Even when she's kidding around, she can't help but present the bottle as a sommelier would—our education dollars at work, haha.

The walls of the studio walls were filled with paintings from other classes, everything from Georgia O'Keefe's poppy to sailboats to Monet's garden to a portrait of the studio owner's pet. We had chosen to paint a scene from Santorini, Greece. The deep blues and crisp whites appealed to us. Our teacher assured us she taught kindergarten by day, and so was well equipped to lead us through the stages of making the painting while we drank wine."Just one thing," she implored. "Be sure to rinse your brushes in your water jar and not in your wine glass. Every class, it happens."

We got really giggly at certain points, such as when the paint brush seemed to want to go its own way, despite our teacher's very detailed paint-by-numbers approach to mixing colors and covering the canvas, section by section, and building up detail in layers.

We did all end up with paintings that  resembled the master, though I see sections in my own painting that I'm itching to correct. Maybe I'll get some acrylics and set up one of our kids' vacated rooms as a paint studio! I still have an easel in storage somewhere.

The finished product, and two very happy painters. My daughter is the best traveling companion. She has such a bright spirit. Thank you, my darling girl, for the most wonderful of evenings. I'm so on board with your proposal that we do it again soon.

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