Personal Entries

King Tut’s Missing bits

Eight hours into the drive, and we’d played 20 Questions for the last hundred miles.  Things were deteriorating.

“Alright, I got one!”  Announced Jake, and Riley and I groaned.

Jake’s had some pretty obscure picks on his turns, the Lost Library of Alexandria being my favorite.  Jake also tends to overthink his yes and no answers:  he won’t give a definitive” yes” to a person being dead if their body was never found.  Amelia Earhart could, after all, still be alive.  This leads us to ask questions like, “Does a recognized and respected governmental body consider them dead?” Or, “Other than conspiracy theorists, do normal people believe this to be true?”

“Dude,” I ask him now, ” is it something we all know?  Do we even have a chance, here?”

“Yes,” he says.  “This time I promise you all know it.”

“Riley knows it?”  I clarify,  “Matt knows it?”


“Wait, wait.”  Says Riley,  “I know it, or you think I should know it?”

“You know it,” insists Jake, ” I know you know it because we’ve discussed it recently, and you care about this.”

“I care?”

“Yes, you care a lot about this.”

Hmm.  OK.

It’s a person.  A man.

A man who is dead.  Definitively dead?  Confirmed dead?  Yes.

Not an American.  A European.  He’s lived in the last hundred years.

A famous, dead, male European, who is neither an artist, an athlete, an inventor, nor a scientist,  an academic, a  royal.

Was he a political leader?  Yes.

“Is it Hilter?”  I ask.

“No.” Jake says.

I think for a minute.

“So,”  I ask, ” you’re telling me this is a dead, European political leader of  the last hundred years who Riley not only knows, but cares about?”

“Yes,” repeats Jake, “Riley really cares.”

“Riley really cares.  Was he a leader during World War II?”


“Is it STALIN?”

‘Yes!” Exclaims Jake, “It’s Stalin!”

Riley turns in his seat and stares at Jake.  ” I really care about Stalin?”

“Oh my gosh, Ri, yes!”  I say.  “You LOVE STALIN!  It’s always Stalin, Stalin, Stalin.  All the time with Stalin. I need to remember to get you that Stalin poster you wanted for your room.”

Riley and I are laughing now, and Jake is trying not to laugh as he defends himself.

“We just talked about it yesterday!  You asked about Mel Gibson, and we ended up talking about the Holocaust.”

“Wait, ” I say.  I was part of this conversation, and I don’t remember Riley caring deeply.  “Riley asked about Mel Gibson, and we all ended up discussing World War II? Or you and I expounded while Riley’s eyes glazed over?”  Jake is passionately interested in history, and I don’t think he can imagine that anyone else wouldn’t be just as interested.  It’s STALIN, for heaven’s sake!  Stalin is a rock star in the world of history!

“Yeah, that,” laughs Jake.

“But now that we know Ri caaaares about this stuff, there are no limits on what we can use!  Riley, do you care deeply about Nicholas Sarkozy’s Economic policy?”

“Yes, but I really care about Nicholas Sarkozy’s pinky toe.”

“Oh, you do love the politically offbeat details!  How about Vladimir Putin’s pet kitty?” I say.  “Or, Margaret Thatcher’s….”

“Left hairy nostril?”  Suggests Riley.

“Yes, Margaret Thatcher’s left hairy nostril.  Because you care about your international politicians.”

“I do care.  What about Castro’s favorite nephew?”  Ask Riley.

“Ohhhh,” I say.  “Who wouldn’t know Alberto?”

Jake has given up at this point, and is laughing so hard that no noise is coming out.  He manages to squeak, “King Tut’s missing penis?”

And then we’re off on a discussion of poor King Tut’s penis,  recently in the news.  It’s been lost, it’s been found, it’s been deemed a genetic mutant-penis which never would have worked properly anyway.  Poor Tut.

Poor us.  At ten-thirty and  after a day spent driving, I’ve just missed the turn  for my hometown because I was distracted by our conversation about King Tut’s missing bits.  The exit is miles behind us, and I only realize what I’ve done when we are almost to Philadelphia International Airport.  Tired and punchy and not making the best decisions, I exit I-95 off an exit-only ramp, and we spend the next half-hour winding our way through some rough parts of Philadelphia as we hit detour after detour.  All because of King Tut’s missing penis, which we all care about, deeply.


Media and Art · Personal Entries

Sea Creatures

We’re headed north today, and there’s no time to post.  I have so much to do.   Gag and bind the children and tie them to the roof of the car, drug the dog….. There’s no end to my travel preparations, is there?

Karen will be caring for The Damn Cat.  Bless her.  We were going to bring the cat north with us because…..well, because I’m insane.  TDC isn’t litter-trained, however, and so we purchased a harness and leash for him, so that he could safely go outside while we traveled north.    It went about as well as you’re imagining, and my only regret is that we didn’t record the fabulousness that was Matt’s already slightly unhinged cat flying completely off his hinges.

When I called Karen to see if she could keep an eye on TDC while we are away, her words were:

“Sure.  I’ll take the cat.”

I took this to mean that she wants to take the cat forever, literally.  She quickly clarified,  insisting that she only meant she would “take” responsibility for caring for TDC while we were gone, but I didn’t hear her because I didn’t want to.  They will be so happy together.

Also, you might notice the new header.  It was a quickie I threw together from this painting, which was a collaborative piece I did with Matt several years ago.  While I worked on a series related to mapping, Matt drew his own maps of Lake Norman, complete with fish and the underwater mines for which the lake is famous.   I cut up those drawings which weren’t precious to him, and collaged them into a painting.  While I’ve had several offers for this painting, I will never, ever sell it.

I love this piece, and it hangs above my fireplace.

Sea Creatures (collaboration with Matthew Stein), acrylic on paper, 30 x 42
Personal Entries

All I did was sit on his face

At the airport with the boys, waiting in line to board their flight north to Mike,  I quickly run through my parting routine.

iPods safely tucked away?  Yes.

I’ll wait until your flight is in the air before I leave the airport, so no worries,  I’m here. OK?  OK.

You know you’re precious and I love you, RIGHT?  Yes, yes, OK, Mom, OK.

A kiss for each of my babies, and then I put my hand on my hip and point my finger at them each, in turn.  I’m not aware I’ve made this gesture, but I will be in just a minute.

To Jake:  “NO. Bossing.  Do NOT boss your brothers.”

To Riley:  “Do NOT instigate.  Yeah, I see that grin on your face, son.  Do NOT antagonize.”

To Matt:  ” Don’t get defensive. Just don’t go looking for a fight, OK?”

And they all start talking at once.  Well Matt and Jake do.  Riley puts his hand on his hip and starts shaking his finger at me, mimicking me, a huge grin on his face.

“Mom. Mom,”  says Jake, hands up and palms out, a physical gesture urging me to be reasonable, to stop being so alarmist.  ” I won’t boss.  I’m not going to boss them. I’ll just help them if they need it.”

The man in line behind them has to turn away as he begins to laugh.

“Sweetie, the line between bossing and unrequested help is such a fine one, and I just don’t think you have the  subtlety needed to handle walking that line.  Don’t. Help.”  One of the very best things about Jake is his ability to laugh at himself, and at this he laughs as he hugs me to him in a rough teenage boy hug, and tells me he loves me.

During this exchange Matt has been running a monologue. ” I am not defensive, I DON’T look for a fight.  I am NOT defensive.  Ri starts all the fights.  All I did was sit on his face, and he PUNCHED me in the head.  What?  I can’t even defend myself?”


“I’m not allowed to even sit on the COUCH?”

“Dude.”  I have no idea when the face-sitting-head-punching occurred, but I’m certainly reassured, now, that Matt won’t be defensive and look for a fight.


“Oh baby, I love you so much.”  I’m going to miss the little pacifist, and I grab him and squish him into a hug so overblown and athletic he stops his bitching and laughs.

“Mooooooom, I can’t breeeeaath!”

And as I hug him I look at my Riley.  Riley, grinning, eyebrow cocked, not-so-subtly pointing to Matt.  His brother’s head has just popped off in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and he didn’t even need to say a word.

All I can do is sigh, roll my eyes, and love them with all my heart.

Personal Entries

Car talk

Yesterday I drove halfway to New Jersey to meet Mike, pick up the boys and bring them home.

Here are some of things I was surprised at having to say to the wee children as we drove:


“OK. New funeral rule: no telling “your mom” jokes to your father on the day of his mother’s funeral.”



“Stop! Do not retaliate in the car!  When you get home you can hit him in the head.  I promise.”



“Honey, I can’t discuss Ivy League schools with you while you have chocolate on your face.”



‘OK.  Second new funeral rule:  Do not pick the eyeballs out of the smoked fish on the kosher buffet.  People will think you are troubled.”



“RILEY. No!  Stop!  DO NOT PEE IN THAT BOTTLE RILEY STEIN.  DO NOT!  Stop it. I am serious!  No peeing in bottles.”



“I’m not rejecting you, I’m just telling you to be quiet.”



“Third rule: Do not leave your little brother alone outside playing basketball with the strange funeral crasher who doesn’t seem to know who died.”



“Don’t threaten truckers.  If you lived in L.A. you’d be dead by now.”






Personal Entries

Have a lovely day, my grasshoppers

Heading home today, and with a smile after a reader emailed to tell me my Carnelian Creamsicle Ring was on the front page of Etsy!

While I don’t enjoy having low days or times when failures and rough patches seem to come to the forefront of life, something like the boost of having a piece unexpectedly featured reminds me that as I’m working so hard to build my business and bring good things to my life, the effort I’ve put in is working. Good friends, happy children, pieces I’ve made being loved by the people who have purchased them…..  I did that,  I’ve put good things in motion.

Another cup of tea, and I’m hitting the road.  I am just like Jack Kerouac, but not so much.  Ok, not at all except that I’ll be driving somewhere.

Have a lovely day, my grasshoppers.

Media and Art · Personal Entries

Australia gets a sticker

Canada, I can’t even look at you.

I was raised by the hippies, and man they were literate.  My Mom had her degree in English, and my Dad in Russian Literature (a very, very useful degree, I must say).  They were articulate people, and felt that accents were simply mispronunciations.  With that system of anal retentiveness in place, my sister and I spent large parts of our childhood in New Jersey and Philadelphia and escaped both those accents.  Anything we picked up during our summers in Maine was alright, for some complicated reason. 

When I travel, my lack of accent has led many to ask if I am Canadian, and I’ve always felt secretly pleased about this.  Not because I’m ashamed of my own country, but because Canada was cool,  and I’m snotty enough to enjoy being defined as vaguely international.  It seems racy and a bit mysterious, and if there are two things I’d like to be and am not, they are racy and mysterious.

But now I know that being Canadian is to be a non contest-entering kill joy. And that is not racy and mysterious.  Not one entry, Canada.  Not one.  After all these years of affection, and….nothing.  Maybe others have always known this about you, and when they confused me with a Canadian it was because, specifically, I was not racy and mysterious at all.

I’ve decided I’m going to handle this as an elementary school teacher would, by focusing on the better behavior of your classmates.

Australia, I love the way you are behaving.  You joined my contest so nicely, and I appreciate that.  Over half the entries were from Australia, and now I know that you are very, very good at insulting things. You were creative and prolific in your condemnation. You applied yourself and you did beautifully, and I am proud of your level of achievement and hope that you are proud of yourself, too. You deserve recognition.

The remainder of April will be Australia Month at Vaka Design.  If your mailing address is in Australia, you may have a 10% discount and free shipping on anything you purchase at through the end of April, including custom work.  Your 10% will be refunded via PayPal after purchase, because I don’t know how to do it any other way.  I only want this sale to be for you, Australia, because you are the best insulters, far better than other nations which will go unnamed.

So, my little Australian ducklings, go and tell your Mom, and your sister and your Auntie.  Tell them in your lovely Aussie accent that there are pretties just for them.  But don’t tell the Canadians, because I’m a bit put out with them.