My mom’s 56th birthday

It’s unfair that my mom is not turning 56 today. It’s stupid and sad and dumb. I hate that she will never be more than 54. She would have been really good at being old– the coolest, most kickass, cowgirl boot wearing old lady on the planet.

I don’t really know what else to say about it, but here I am drinking a big latte (“Give me the biggest latte you have,” is how my mom often ordered at coffee shops) and I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of the day. I will probably do some drawing. Maybe see a movie. Have a really good dinner.

My mom was really good at birthdays. In our family we have the tradition of waking up the birthday person really early by singing happy birthday and bringing them breakfast in bed. I used to lie awake on my birthday morning, pretending to still be asleep, listening for that soft singing coming from down the hall..

Mama’s favorite breakfast was bacon (extra crispy), orange juice, and coffee.

My sister was born three days after my mom’s birthday in 1987. I was two and have vague shadow memories of the day which could just be impressions left by people telling me the story so many times. But I was there, running around the hospital room in my pink converse sneakers, holding the doll they gave me (Linda Lou) so that I had a baby too. “Mommy, let’s leave our babies here and go home now,” I have been reported as saying. Mama always called Phoebe the best birthday present she ever got.

I wish I could take my sister out for wine and chocolate today. I wish we could play cards and laugh and cry together and listen to the mountain sounds and watch our mom paint the sunset. But since we’re on opposite sides of the world right now, I’ll reach my arms out and we’ll hold the whole world and Mama will be the sky and all the people that love her will be part of it and we’ll all eat green chile and homemade tortillas and sing Long Black Veil. We’ll ask, “Do you want to have something or do something,” and she’ll reply “do something” so we’ll go to the movies or climb a mountain and dance all night drinking red wine (dry and cheap) or tequila (never waste good tequila) wearing skeleton dresses and long earrings and cowgirl boots (of course). We’ll wear straw hats and paint outside (en plein air). We’ll pop popcorn and each have our own bowls and paint our toenails and watch the Alice Neel documentary.

We’ll keep living and keep having birthdays and it’ll never be as good without her but we go on anyway. We’ll do the things we love. We’ll make our lives what we want them to be and use our own brains.

I love you Mama. Happy birthday.

workin’ hard

I’m in the middle of a big project. When my mom first got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 she started making a comic book. It was called The Adventures of My Left Breast, and chronicled her experience through diagnosis and treatment, her feelings and thoughts, frustrations and hopes. She wanted to make something out of what was happening to her, to be an active participant instead of a victim.

When her cancer came back in 2011, I started making comics about it from my perspective. I hadn’t fully processed it the first time, and wanted to document my own experience of what was happening. I’ve continued working on these comics since she died, trying to figure out the right format for this work, and now I’m making a big cancer comic book with my mom’s comics and mine together.

working on cancer comicsbig cancer comic book

Looking through my journal and remembering all these moments and details while drawing them has been really healing for me. I feel like I’m working on a project with her. She made me promise I’d finish her comic book, and this feels like the right way to do it.

I’m making so many new pages! And I’ll post some new stuff as I go.

 

nun shirts!

Nun shirts for sale! Inspired by the movie Ida and my friend Janet. nun shirt with boxnun shirt on bedme wearing nun shirt A fantastic gift for the movie lovers in your life, or for yourself. For sizing reference, the small fits me perfectly. It fits me like a man’s shirt, long and slim, very soft. They are now available to purchase in my Etsy shop, and will also be for sale at Images Cinema and the School for Style.

sometimes, a girl’s best friend is her cat

My cat, Henry, died yesterday. He was six years old, and seemed totally fine, happy, nothing out of the ordinary until he was found dead in the backyard by my dad. I don’t know how he died, and it’s a shock to my system that he’s so completely gone.

Henry was there for me during the most difficult times in my life so far: the death of one of my best friends, a depression, confusion about my life, leaving my long-term live-in boyfriend in Brooklyn and moving back to Vermont to live with my parents, my mom getting sick again and then dying, living for the last fifteen months without my mom. When I didn’t know how to explain myself, my feelings, Henry was there and I didn’t have to say anything. He’d look at me and blink his big golden eyes. I’d blink back. He’d blink again. He’d lie on my stomach, his considerable weight a comfort, his gentle little head rubbing my chin.

I cried all morning, his death washing over me again and again. Then I went to work. After work, all I wanted to do was decorate this pair of white Keds I’d bought. So that’s what I did while eating half a bag of chili lime chips:

sneakers

Today I’m going to wear these sneakers. And I’m going to work on a comic about Henry and later I’m going to see a play with my sister Phoebe and my friend Janet.

Thanks for choosing me, Henry. I’m so glad I got to share your life and be your person.

Henry the cat, 2008~2014

me and henryme and henry 2

 

working at home

I love Wednesdays. They’re usually my work-at-home day, when I get to spend the whole day writing, drawing, making things…doing my own work. When I lived in San Francisco for a couple months after college, I lived this kind of life: Wake up, breakfast, go for a walk/explore the city, write, draw comics, dinner, watch a movie. Every day was my own. I wanted to see if I could live this life of a professional writer/artist, and if I would enjoy it. I did.

I enjoy my cinema work, too. It gives me a place to get out of my own head, be part of the movie world that I love, have a role in the community. And I’m so grateful to have a “money job” doing something I truly believe in. But I still yearn for the day that I can support myself and my family using my own work.

I’ve worked very hard to get here, to this point of being able to work part-time at a job I like, and have time to do my art work at home. There have been many “money jobs” in my life that I did not believe in so strongly, jobs I dreaded going to. Many morning on the NYC subway I fantasized about not getting off at the right stop, I’d just keep going, have a different day than going into Midtown offices to work as a temp doing things like data entry, refilling coffee in the break room, filling out someone’s Weight Watchers booklet for them, getting yelled at on the phone, getting hit on by older men with photos of their wives right there on their desks. One day, in one particularly depressing office, a man said to me, “I always wanted to be a fashion designer. Then I got a job here and it was just so easy. So I stayed. It’s been twenty years.”

So here I am, living a lovely life, able to pay my portion of the rent and utilities with the money I get paid working at a non-profit art house cinema. And I have time to write stories, make comics and drawings, and even earn a little money from that. I have health insurance. I get enough to eat. I did this, I got myself here. (Of course with the help and support of people who love me, like my parents, who have helped me when I was barely scraping by, and have always supported me emotionally– I know how lucky I am to have this.)

I also know how lucky I am to have a partner who values my work as much as I do. I know this is rare and special. But I’m also saying that I helped make this happen. It didn’t just fall into my lap. This kind of life is totally possible, but you have to make it happen. I make decisions about what is most important to me. I work every day.

When my mom became an artist (well, she was always an artist, but I mean deciding to live a professional artist life), she and I would have conversations about this often. She in her forties and fifties, me in my twenties, both of us at the beginning of our art careers, figuring out how to live, work, love, and be ourselves in the world. Hanging shows together, giving feedback, going to museums, seeing movies, sitting at the table together drinking coffee and drawing.

working at home

Every day, making coffee in Mama’s espresso pot, doing my work, she’s with me. Even when I forget, even when I don’t know it, she’s there.