Monday, 9 November 2015

Gratitude Season

Oh, how I love seasons (exception being the recent haze apocalypse). I'm being redundant, but I am someone that needs change and rhythms to find her center. And right now, on the edge of the monsoons, I'm feeling that tiny turning of weather with enormous delight.

Knowing that a big rain might carry my afternoon away, I'm running again in the morning. Longer runs. Some of them have taken me back to parts of Singapore that I haven't visited for years, and a recent one took me past a mighty Kapok Tree.
As my new venture suggests, I love these dinosaurs---long brontosaurus limbs stretching their way through jungles and up into wide skies.

They represent the stretching is happening all over the place. Today, brave Kaye took me to the shop that is now carrying our products. I feel like I'm in Form School, learning to say good afternoon and smile politely at kind strangers and not reveal embarrassing details or hide behind a book or pretend I have to go to the bathroom to escape actual human contact. Kaye is long ago a graduate of all-things-socially-acceptable, and her delightful conversations are leading to such good things:

If only I'd had a PR partner my whole life.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, t's a good season to be grateful for Kaye's ability to interact with humans, dark clouds slowing down our day, and trees growing. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Every day

We haven't seen the sun around here for a long time. And it's not because of the monsoon. So this weekend when the haze lifted and blue skies beamed, it was riotous springtime. We lived on the patio and by the pool. Neighbors hosted impromptu happy hours and Oscar Gus ran shirtless with Minecraft sword in hand between our house, the park, the patch of grass behind our flat, and anywhere else he could get a sunny ray on his back. Good times.

Later, Oscar asked (as he daily does) when his birthday was, and I broke the (daily) news that it was still five months away. He sad-faced and wistfully dreamed out loud "what if every day could be my birthday?" I referred to the thick haze we've all been choking in and how special these last days of sunshine have felt. Things that come only once in awhile make even the most ordinary events like dinner outside and evening games of tag feel like a party. He stared at me, as he does, and he said what needed to be said. "That's ridiculous. Are you really saying clean air is like a birthday?"

Oops. Bad analogy, mom.  This pollution is not a birthday indeed, and it's made us all so stir crazy that I've apparently lost my sense of normal. So, today, to hold onto the hope of breathing deep on my morning walks, I doodled sunny circles. It's November and time for pumpkins and winter coats in many parts of the world, but here, one degree north of the Equator, we are hoping for the haze "season" to lift and the endless tropical normal of 30C sun and rain and sun and rain to return. Just as Oscar Gus wills a daily birthday.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


There are good books in this house.

Coloring books from Praha:
New-to-me children's books:
And lest you worry about my IQ (some books that actually have words in them):

It's all inspiration and fodder for The Kapok Tree that's growing. There were stacks of our alphabet book delivered this week:
And coloring cards:

Hm. So maybe we should worry about IQ. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015


Oh good golly.
We've been up to this:

And this:
And that is why I need community. On my own, I'm a lady at a messy desk eating pretzels and googling whether or not penguins' feet freeze. With the luminous Kaye Bach by my side, I'm getting my first ISBN on the back of an illustrated book, meeting with printers and publishers and working into the wee hours of night on beyond-my-fathoming illustration projects. The boys are patient as I mutter only half sentences of reply while they shout about the wonders of Minecraft in my ear. They seem to understand the temporary neglect that reaches far beyond this blog. But stay tuned---The Kapok Tree launches the first week of November. Thanks only--and with all my heart--to my patient tribe and to the ridiculously awesome team that is the brains behind this operation. You're a dream, Kaye!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Back in the Chair

I have a quote on my desk by Junot Diaz that reminds me to keep good habits: "In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."  William Stafford would write in the wee hours of every morning. Chuck Close said "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." Stephen King has said something similar. The practice of just getting one's bum in the chair on a daily basis is what usually leads to the good stuff.

Well, my bum has been out of the chair.

And I'm not one to argue with the likes of Diaz or Close or Stafford, but I am one to enjoy a very good and very long and very delightful break. And break we did. The whole family took two delicious months and, well, stayed out of chairs.

But I'm back. Daily. And I've got an addendum to those artistic greats' wisdom. Yes, do what you do every day. Every day. But don't underestimate the sabbatical. Sometimes a planned absence can do a creative process good. In my case, it grew a tree.

I came back to a Singapore that is now the home of a dear friend, and she is savvy enough to map out the way to a business venture, and I am clueless enough to go along with it. So, she does the heavy lifting meeting with printers and potters and fabric makers, and I get to sit right here and enjoy this chair.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Making space

This morning's walk was bright with the scent of mango season and plumeria blossoms, but I'm making space in my heart for sagebrush and fresh cut grass. We're heading stateside. Watch Instagram for image updates, and in August I'll return to both Singapore and blogging with a fresh supply of good coffee beans, flip flops, and Micron pens. Happy summer from One Green Bee!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Religious experiences

It's a question asking kind of time.

First, the five year old is having a spiritual and scientific crisis. We've been reassuring (and talking completely out of our backsides) curious Oscar that Santa can defy the laws of physics. "Why?" Well, Santa was made special. "I am special too," he declares and tries to walk through a wall. Head bruises and confusion later, there are more questions. "Is the tooth fairy a winged princess or a tiny man elf?" "Why can you not cut water?" If he tries very hard can he "take a nap in fire?" If he jumps with his eyes closed, "will the landing not hurt?"

Possibly from the walking-through-wall attempts, he appears to share my middle-memory loss and cannot recall the word Bible. "Let's read one more story in that book...what's that know that one book with all the stories...the book about that one guy Jesus and that other guy the Good Samurai?" Yes, I do happen to know that book.  And I think it's The Good Samaritan. Almost nightly, I hold up his children's version and ask if that's the one he's talking about, and he's always totally incredulous, "Yes! How did you know?"

I've been asking my own incredulous questions at a mystical place in Singapore: Haw Par Villa. It was started by the Tiger Balm brothers, Aw Boon HAW and Aw Boon PAR (imagine that), and it is a wonder devoted to Chinese folklore, mythology, and Confucianism. My comrades in tourist crime and I had quite the time marveling at things like this:

And this:

All I have to say about every photo I have is, "what the heck is happening here?" Of course, you might ask yourself that about this quiet moment I took pondering the magic with an alarmingly unwooly ram:

As one of the exhibits is titled the "Ten Tortures of Hell", I cannot with good sense post the rest of the photos, but you might do some Google Imaging and then make some time for a surreal walk-through. (leave the children at home)

Thus, this morning, post-Haw Par Villa-ing with questions, spirituality, and sightseeing on my mind, I listened to soul-filling inspiration and doodled a beloved site that is equally boggling but far more comforting. It sounds very expat posh/stupid/nauseating/embarrassing to say, "Angkor Wat is just one of our most favorite places!" But the truth is, it is. I'm cringing too, but we have big hearts for Siem Reap and for the clarity and serenity we've found temple touring and teaching there. So, I'm drawing a tremendous place and people love letters:

And then I'll gear up for what will be asked later about leprechauns, the Easter Bunny, and elves.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Fish out of water

We are swimming. Swimming hard upstream against the current that is the last three badly behaved weeks of school when colleagues lose their kindly edges and students think about college and summers and change and fray their rational edges, and the temperature in this country sky rockets to places that leave us all with heat rashes around our literal edges. It is a Desitin applying, staring-into-space-after-work, repetitive-activity-so-time-passes, not-wanting-to-do-much kind of time.

And I can't have wine.

Someday, I will write a coffee table book that no one will buy about medical experiences in foreign countries. It will include the Czech doctor that ate his ham sandwich lunch in front of me while I sat naked from the waist down on an office chair. It will also include my April visit to the neurologist for some memory issues where he couldn't remember how to administer the memory test, and so I read both the test and the answers out loud for us (at his request), thus nullifying my results and confirming my waste of money. Later he hooked me up to a machine that checks for carpel tunnel, ("but my wrists don't hurt. That's not why I'm here!") cranked it up as high as it would go, and then realized it wasn't on. When he flipped the switch, I received an electric shock that is worth pantomiming at summer BBQs.

Right now, I'm on medications for really boring low-immune-system-needs-a-break kind of things, and they mean I can't have wine. They also mean strange doctor visits where awkward things happen. It is one of the ways we are expat fish out of water sometimes, people with norms we don't even know (like paper gowns for the pantless) are our normal and not everyone else's.

Wineless and weary, I doodle. I stare. I re-read Oscar the same books, and we wait for these three weeks to go away so we can fly across the pond to home waters. Of course, there we will mess up and use the word "lift" for elevator and wrinkle our noses at what passes for rice, and turn all shades of pink when Oscar reveals his otherness at a picnic and marvels at mysterious foods like caramel corn and tater tots. I guess we are fish out of water just about everywhere these days, but there is something about that feeling of not quite fitting in that is becoming the very norm we need to thrive.

Swim on!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Getting to the meat of it

When the blog got a facelift about nine months back, I started writing elsewhere, and I mostly used this space to post art. And it was always awkward. What I draw has a story or even if it doesn't, I'm always thinking on story, and so the times I uploaded just images didn't feel quite right, but it felt clean.

And today, I found myself in an odd place, going through a cooking blog that I first discovered when we moved to Prague (before we moved back to Singapore) and Oscar was just a baked ham of a baby.

Due to certain dietary restrictions around here (Apparently I've been poisoning my man with too much spirulina, spinach, and almond milk. Honestly. The doctor told him, "Your wife's smoothies are killing you."), I had to look up my favorite whole food, all fat, all natural, add-some-more-butter-to-that-chefs, and start looking for ways to get him healthy again. Too many vegetables apparently can get a guy down. As I scrolled, I found myself back to posts that were from the first days when I discovered the blog and was settling into a new apartment, a new city, and a new role as a mama at home with a discontented child. I felt the whoosh. The whoosh is that wave of tears that the people around you don't understand because you've stumbled across something that can never be explained without looking bonkers-city. There was no way I could turn to another adult and weep out, "See this bacon and leek risotto? I used to buy those ingredients in Dejvicka square using my very bad Czech with a baby Oscar hollering like a banshee on my back! It was terrifying and I miss it!"

They were also the same weeks I started blogging for the first time, mostly to document what felt like was a life shrunk to the size of dust balancing on a single atom. Those days were tiny and long and dark and gray, and I honestly do not remember much. But I have the posts. And I have the recipes.

And now, while I plan how to put good fats into my over-ironed over-vitamin-C'ed husband's system, I'm thinking on those days, these days, and this blog.

The past two weeks have been messy. Full of messy people and lives and responses and reactions. Good friends have been hurting in ways no one can help and good people have been pulled in painful directions. Our own household has been worn down and kind of low on the fun meter. And you know what? That's normal. When you're an adult, you still have rough edges, and they show sometimes. You have a choice: You can sit in the mess and love the people around you no matter how much they've stunk the place up, or you can sit in the mess and bad-talk the messier ones. I choose the former.

And while all the mess is churning, my community has doggedly chugged on. Rituals continue. Text messages come in. Community saves. I would very much like to give into the agoraphobia that beckons, but I cannot. My running partner brings me far more healing than my podcasts, and sitting by the pool while my Oscar sprays children in the eyes with his super soaker and my neighbors share their hummus does more for my soul than the book I was hoping to read. I love to be alone. I love to be alone in magnificently large doses, and I am more than happy to retreat. For days. But alone does not allow me to give and receive love, to acknowledge and sit in the above messes, and to marvel at the tolerance of children being assaulted by water guns. Life is not about me getting what I want and having space; it is about participating, even when it's reluctantly.

So today, while printing off recipes for chicken wings and pulled pork and all the things that will restore my husband's depleted soul, I felt compelled to participate in my community in words, and to expose a bit of the mess (I like to tell people I lady-fooded Patrick, but that's sexist and offensive. But honestly--I over-soy-ed the heck out of him).

So here we are. Roast beef on the menu and only words on the page.

The baked ham in a rare sleepy moment and his always-sleepy parents at the morning Dejvicka market.

PS: Speaking of mess: Very certain that plastic cup holds a vino sample; they started pouring at 8:00am. Na zdravi!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hand-lettering revival

I'm having fun with lettering these days. At some point this week I gave myself a little permission to abandon straight lines. It's been a wobbly-handed, cold and flu, arthritic time, and I embraced it. So, inspired by my not-best-self, I drew a couple gifts, and I think I like them!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Sick day circles

My Oscar Gus has been under the weather, so days that were meant for projects turned into days laying on the couch with a fevery little dude. While he took in fluids and inane cartoons, I doodled patterns that were forgiving to bumps from a five-year-old that doesn't sit still well. He's on the other side of his flu and back to school on Monday, but I'm not sure if where I'm at with this drawing is the ending or the beginning...

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


Three days shy of two months from today, I will be sipping a microbrew that doesn't cost $14 while looking out at these mountains. There will be long pants, the last of the sunflowers, morning hikes, slow coffee, and (ridiculously) good people. Yes. We are counting days:

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Poppies and pranksters

Yesterday at school, O learned about April Fools. It was a massive discovery. A mind-blowing revelation. And thus began hours testing pranks and calibrating what works. While looking at mom, you can't say, "Guess what? You're a rhino! (pause) April Fools!" Mom just rolls her eyes. But you can say, "Oh, man! I just cut my foot! (mom walks over to look). April Fools!" Jokes that get a reaction = awesome. And for a Five-Year-Old-Tomorrow, that is intoxicating power.

So this morning, there was a plastic ant in his dad's smoothie, a report that there was a snake loose in the house (plausible in a ground floor Southeast Asian flat), and a fake, "I can't find my shoes!"

Godspeed elementary teachers.

That jokester O is home soon, and while I prepare for part-two, I've stolen a couple joke-free hours to doodle and to paint. My sweet sister gave me a tin of Winsor & Newton watercolors this summer, and today I played:

Nature and spring were on my mind, so while those starts dried, I grew some poppies with my pens:

A couple hours of quiet restore both soul and humor. I'm ready for all the plastic insects that Almost-Birthday-Boy has to offer.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Lucky Day

When you're a Green married to a Patrick, March 17 calls for a little celebrating:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Speed doodling

Singapore shophouses

One of my favorite things about this city/country are the pockets of shophouses: Colored windows and shutters and doorways piled in elegant but friendly rows:

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Chugging along

The Little Engine That Could

I'm doodling designs for a nonprofit that provides art supplies and recreational materials to children in psychiatric facilities. They are The Little Engine That Could, and they are telling kids that They Can.

Thursday, 26 February 2015



Chinese New Year is over. We're two months into 2015. And, we are on the other side of travel season---Travel season and visitor season and are getting back into regular-routine season. (of course, as I write this, P is sitting at work with a packed suitcase for an afternoon flight to India)

We savored holidays in Laos with amazing Gram and Gramps, where I drug them to Ock Pop Tok and Passa Paa two times just to touch the textiles. Then I was off to Japan with 20 of my closest high school student friends. We hiked in waist high snow, ate sashimi every day, and we admired sewer covers:

Everything in Japan was art. I had to restrain from buying bowls adorned with budgies and every last twee handkerchief.

Since returning, I've finished a commissioned piece and started to doodle patterns that Nagoya left ringing in my mind. Like the commissioned art demands, I'm trying to use this fresh 2015 start to "Do Something Brand New."