The Swing vs. The Squares

comments: 118

Work1 Hello again. Flowers. Papers. Work. I made chicken with biscuits, too. Trying to get back in the swing. When life's nice, there's a gentle swing. When it's hard, it's one foot in front of the other. Step step step. I think that's called losing your mojo. I've been there before. I've done this before.

I was alone in the house all weekend, my first weekend alone. It was quiet. I pulled the dining-room table into the living room by myself so I could turn on the TV while I worked because it was so quiet. I worked on all the illustrations for the book and I did really enjoy that. I drew running stitches and mitered corners and French knots with a really nice black pen on smooth white paper and everything looked beautiful. It felt good to have it go well. I must say that I was shocked. When I looked at all the drawings at the end of the night, I almost couldn't believe that I'd done them. I forgot that I can actually draw. It's not me, it's genetic. Mostly I was amazed that it was possible for me to get something right when everything feels so suddenly wrong. I kept looking at the drawings over and over again, trying to feel confident again. You did those, I said to myself, and they came out fine. Step step step. Bird by bird.

Biscuits1 I miss my old life, the one where Audrey sat beside me while I worked, where she dropped her head hard on my foot and looked up at me, pushing against my ankle in a way that actually hurt. She could not be denied, and I wouldn't. If I was cooking in the kitchen, she could see me from her bed. We looked at each other a million times a day — doing okay, you? Doing okay, thanks. Eventually she'd come into the kitchen and snuffle up the minced onions that had fallen on the floor and spit them back out. I have totally noticed how dirty the kitchen floor has gotten without my little dustbuster, and I had to laugh at that. 

Biscuits2 When I was growing up, my father was a working musician by night and a commercial artist by day. For many years, he drew pictures for the Sears catalog. He and my mom met in their early twenties when they both took a drawing class at the Art Institute in Chicago. He was a tough critic. He did not like "sketchy" lines, the ones that are sort of wispy and sketchy, hairy lines, so I learned never to use those, and I still don't. I liked to draw those things where you enlarge a picture on a grid, drawing each square for itself alone. There was one I did of a Durer rabbit — it was like a puzzle. They chopped it up and gave you all the squares, all mixed up, and you drew them one by one in the right places, waiting to see what it was going to be. There's something to be said for the method. I remember I'd left the rabbit drawing by my dad's chair when I was done, and the next morning I woke up and went to look at it again and he'd written "Good. —Dad" at the top with a marker. I'm just going to work on my little squares and see how it all turns out.


catherine says: August 27, 2007 at 01:34 PM

hi alicia - so many things in your post touched me today - & if i'm not mistaken that's ina's chicken pot pie recipe - a comfort for us here as well - i work sometimes as a freelance technical ed for quilt books - can really relate to what you said abt your drawings - i always feel the same abt mine - when a book is published i always want to point that i drew those illustrations but i don't ever feel anyone else gets it - keep cuddling your heart...

You have such a good way with words even when the words are sad ones. I love the mix of optimism and loneliness here. The sounds of healing. Hugs and I can't wait to see your beautiful book!

PS: Now I'm making that for dinner!!

It's hard missing a pet that was always there. I was just thinking yesterday about my impending trip home and hanging out in the house just me and the dog Jolie. I had to correct myself because she's been gone one year, but I still think of her being there. When I was home for months at a time between college graduation and moving and starting a job it was just me and her at home everyday. She was my constant companion during that rough patch. Your description of having Audrey around reminds me of Jolie.

Alicia, glad to hear that your mojo is returning. I miss seeing your booth at Monticello and can't wait for the arrival of your book. The chicken pot pie looked delicious. I am so looking forward to fall and cooking again. Best wishes


a. Is that a delicious mimosa I spot on your table?

b. Bird by Bird is a wonderful book - thank you for reminding me of it. I'll have to read it again soon.

c. That was a lovely story about your father...and

d. I agree with all of those other requests for a recipe - those biscuits are beautiful! And making them into hearts - so sweet!

missed you. glad you're back and feeling a little better.

i loved that book, Bird by Bird....think of it all the time when i work. you and your drawings, stitch by stitch, step by step. life returns slowly, beat by beat, day by day. quite choked up over the looks "a million times a day" (o, i miss that still too), but then the unexpected praise from your dad...bawling. glad you are back.

I've missed you.Thank you for coming back and letting me know that you're going to be okay. And for sharing such lovely thoughts on what we do, and how we don't know how it will turn out but we just do what we need to do.

My boy will be up from a nap in a few minutes and then he and the dog will be under my feet, and today we are going to make bean bags the throw, for fun. I hadn't thought of doing that in such along time, but reading your words and waiting for your to post for days has put me in such a not-wanting-to-wait mood. I've taken more pictures. And posted them. I bagged up four quilt tops and took them to a quilter. I'm making bags that I've dreamed about, but didn't have time to start. I'm doing and doing and doing, rather than putting off, much because of you and your words and the thoughts that we really don't know what will happen. Ever. And your sudden loss and recovery efforts are so endearing and thoughful that I feel possessed to get moving and keep going.

I ramble a bit, I know, but I want to try to express the friendship that I feel with you through this lovely little place that you maintain online and thank you for not just shutting down, but sharing, even the hard things. You are making a difference.

*laugh* we used to call the family cocker spaniel "Hoover" because of this helpful cleaning behaviour! It's funny, I thought it was just us...

I can't believe you make chicken-and-HEART SHAPED - biscuits! Your eye for detail (and sweetness) never fails.

Your words are so sweet and sad, I was so sorry to read about your loss. My girl Maisy Blue looks at me from her dogbed while I cook. . . somehow my apron matches her dogbed, and we're always exchanging that very same look.

looking forward, looking back...step by step Alicia.
xo Kali

What a lovely picture of Audrey up on your shelf... a place of honour with all sorts of other things that makes your heart feel well.

Alicia, I know of what you speak. After losing my wonderful Brodie on August 3rd, the weekends are the most difficult.

But I imagine our girl and boy are sitting on a hillside somewhere watching us try our best to keep moving forward. I bet they're so proud of us and telling each other that clearly they did a good job in how they raised us to be indepedent and positive.

We will always miss them. But we are so much better for all they taught us. He was the grace that sustained me and my little slice of heaven. I was a very lucky girl.

Take care,


Beautiful post. I could so picture Audrey asking you for attention and how lucky she was to have you and Andy for her family.
The chicken soup and biscuits look delicious. Glad the drawing went well. How nice to have inherited such a wonderful talent and "eye" for beauty.

Hang in there. I lost a puppy seven years ago. Two months after she died, we got two puppies. I still cannot look at photos of her without weeping. You'll never forget her, but time does help. As another person said, too bad you can't fast forward to that time.

Mmmm, now I'm totally craving chicken and biscuits. Say, is that a picture or a painting of Auds on your bookshelf? It's lovely.

That's a lovely story. Thanks for sharing. Your biscuits look superb; can't wait to see how the drawings turned out in your new book.

There's been a lot of bird-by-bird-ing in my life recently, too. Funny and reassuring to see that I'm not the only one! The chicken and biscuits look delicious, even today, the hottest day we've had here in weeks. Lovely photos, lovely words. Lovely to see you're back.

lovely - so glad you're getting back into the swing (and the squares!) ... and the chicken and biscuits look yummy yummy - thanks so much for sharing!

First Steps back. Big hugs and lots of confidence bursting from the Web to you. The hardest, by any stretch- but usually the most poignant. Good to see you back A. Give Andy hugs from all of us too, as I'm sure his first steps back to "normal" (what an awful word) should also be acknowledged. Yummy chicken. Maybe someday you'll give us all the recipe? We missed you!

I liked your reference to Anne Lamott's book (it was, wasn't it?). You know you'll get there, even if you can't see how right now. You're on your way.

Hang in there. I lost a puppy seven years ago. Two months after she died, we got two puppies. I still cannot look at photos of her without weeping. You'll never forget her, but time does help. As another person said, too bad you can't fast forward to that time.

Keep taking those steps, day by day. Your memories will stay with you and comfort you.

What a beautiful dinner. It nourishes me, just to look at it.

Sending you a fierce hug.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at