If I Ran the Circus

Welcome to the first, official post of Happy Go Home.

Disclaimer: I realize that makes no sense seeing as there are a whole bunch of older posts here. The thing is, I used to blog about our house in Oakland, California. It was called Paint It Yellow and it was so fun! Then I had a kid and sort of lost track of things and it lay abandon in the back of my mind, swimming in guilt. Gah.

I decided to resurrect that content because it’s still relevant and I like a tidy package, having everything all in one place. So if you’re curious about seeing half of the projects required to renovate an old house and other random things that happened between 2009-2014, please take a look-see! Fact is, we did finish and I always intended to blog about it. I took lots of pictures and started lots of posts. I will be traveling through time on occasion to show the finished work. Because damn, we are proud of that house.

But anyway, it’s 2017 now, and I’m here at this awesome crossroad in my life. I have been granted an opportunity to reinvent myself, well, more like rediscover. Both me and my husband Mike, are creative people. We value that about each other and craft our lives in order to nurture that drive. He is blessed with amazing artistry, drawing and painting like no one. He avidly works like a dog and does so with purpose. I am no fine artist and have always been more graphically inclined. I visually organize and simplify everything I see and do. It makes me perfect for my day job which is magazine and book design—visually presenting information in a palatable way to readers. But I’ve been solving the same problems for years and years and I just don’t feel creative about it any more.

Not cool.

So I think. When do I feel excited? What makes me get up in the morning? Of course, our daughter Thora does. She is 6. But beyond that, I kind of don’t really know and I feel sad. Then one week this past spring, Thora brought home a book from her school library: If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Suess and that night we curled up in her bed to read. I felt a rush on the first page and by the second, my eyes had swelled with tears. I remembered this book. When I was a kid, I swallowed it whole.



Those cans and empty boxes, the nail in that board, the tufts of weeds, that sunken roof of Sneelock’s Store. How was Morris walking on that fence? I soaked up the minutiae. Me and Morris, we both wanted to clean up those cans.

In that moment, reading this book to my daughter, 30 years after I first found it, I remembered that this is what I’m all about. That organizing brain of mine is good at more than one thing. I am not limited to graphic design and… I guess I forgot, it’s always been this way. My whole life I’ve fantasized about spaces — rendering an attic addition on our seventies ranch so I could have a bedroom upstairs, waking up in the middle of the night to refold towels until they all look just-so, always moving furniture around, agonizing over a Fingerhut catalog, heart waning for those matching goose dishes… seeking to control chaos in all realms.



Of course, Morris makes the most amazing circus. He’s very ambitious, but the Circus McGurkus is a little much for me. The thought of it actually gives me hives. I would clean up that yard. I like recruiting Mr. Sneelock, giving him something to do, maybe even quit that pipe. But my goals and imaginings for this empty lot are much simpler. I’d start by creating a blank slate, ok? Maybe build a house, a garden, dust up the store and put something in there people actually want to buy. Can I be in charge of the window display?

I suppose it’s pretty ridiculous to think so hard about such a simple story. But inspiration is everywhere and Dr. Suess was very good at planting seeds. I think I will always be a graphic designer, but I long to use those skills in different ways, to simply do more. The challenge is taking that motivation, wonder and drive and essentially turning something I AM into something I DO. If I see something ugly/messy/broken, I will want to make it beautiful. And when I do that, I feel happy.

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