Mother Blue

I photo. I take day trips. I lightsaber battle. I analyze the stuffing out of myself.

Month: August, 2011

Chaos Theory, Part 2: Fumbling Towards Extropy

A moment of calm.

EXTROPY: the theory that cultural and technological development will expand indefinitely and in an orderly progressive manner throughout the universe, the tendency of systems to grow more organized.


I cant not focus on a single linear thought for more than a moment or two without it transforming into background noise, telephone rings, iCarly theme music, chirping birds, laundry buzzers, or my son’s interjections, “just one more thing, mom…”

I could attribute this scattered thought process to simply being a parent or being an artist, but I would be lying to myself; I have always lacked a certain sense of focus in some respect. I equate my lack of focus to that falling sensation that sneaks up on you as your body relaxes and your mind drifts asleep. The one that tricks your mind into believing you are floating in space, about to overturn and causes you to violently grip the sides of the bed. It is almost as if my thoughts can not keep up with me, or my thoughts are moving too fast for the world, and focus shocks me back into reality.

I have five Mother Blue blog entries half started as we speak. I panic and wonder if I will ever post a single one of them…

My thoughts are constantly leaping around in an almost violent fashion as I multitask between homework, dinner, schedules, play dates, and the overall well-being of my family and household. Despite my nature, I try to give routine its precedence. And despite my best efforts, focus and routine sometimes fails me. In fact, this particular post is being published later than my usually Friday deadline. The tardiness was not due to lack of focus, but more to do with the chaos surrounding my routine right now. Chaos and focus seem to go hand in hand.

Always something to do. Always something to be done.


I often lament over the fact that our nighttime routine isn’t more structured despite our best efforts, but I really like chatting with my little guy and his greatest insights usually make their way to the surface when he is trying to find excuses to stay awake. My husband and I often indulge his inner and outer “intellectual” musings, especially when he really should be sleeping.

“When is going to be blue outside?” Jackie asked one night, after completing his bedtime routine.

The shade of blue that Jack is referring to is the color the sky makes right after dawn or right after sunset. It happens before twilight, before the night sky fades to black, or the color that evolves into daytime sky. It is a hard moment to catch, for you only have a very small window to capture that particular purplely blue until it merges into something else. For Jack, blue references the passage of time when the numbers on the clock still mean very little. Blue is when his friends go to bed. Blue is right before the street lights come on. Blue is when he has to wake up for school. Blue is everything.

After Jack is squarely tucked into bed, I often lie on the floor in the hallway right outside his door and let him speak about whats on his mind before he drifts to sleep. Usually it is all very kid adventure based such as what do you think would happen if (insert ninja type scenario here) or very stream of consciousness. His thoughts occasionally drift to his friends. He asks if they are asleep now and how many hours does he have left until the “blue” happens again. One night, I asked him if we could try to capture this blue on camera. He seemed to like the idea of this project.

My husband doesn’t get home from work until after 6 p.m. and we usually don’t start dinner until after the news. Dinnertime often coincides with the “blue”. All throughout the meal, we stare at the colors reflecting off the blinds of the bay window that resides in our dining room. Dave and I repeatedly ask, Is this your blue? Is this it? Is this it? “This is sort of my blue but not really.” Finally Jack gives us the go ahead and we spring into action. We run outside to the porch. Per his direction, I snap a few photos. Sigh. It still wasn’t the right blue. I could tell by his deflated tone that this blue was almost there, but not quite right. Chicken teriyaki has kept us from the “real blue”.

The almost but not quite right blue.

I had wicked insomnia this morning. I Netflixed for a while and stared at the mountain of things I needed to do today. I caught of glimpse of the bay window. The black light in the dining room was dissolving into blue. I grabbed my camera and headed for the porch. My heart swelled as I looked outside. From Jack’s late night descriptions, I knew it was indeed THE blue. I snapped as much as I could, all the while adjusting the color temp to reflect Jack’s vision and the accuracy of the setting. I found the right blue. I showed Jack the imagery on the next day. He hugged me around my neck while staring at my computer screen and whispered that I had indeed found it.

Jackie's blue.

The blue reflecting off the porch.

The blue fading into day.

The moment when blue becomes "blue."

My chaos theory is one of routines I should adhere to, of schedules I should maintain, of organizational skills that should be ingrained in me since birth. I grew up quite structured despite the chaos that surrounded me so I should be more apt. I struggle against nature every single day trying to adhere to the conventions of routine, but then late night conversations and the perfect blue remind me of the moments that only happen when you don’t plan things and simply let the organics of life take over.

Yikes, I just realized, this is my dining room table right now. My OCD is kicking in. I better go clean this up.

My dining room table.

My Gallery of “Chaos” or the things I am doing when I should be doing other things:

Two arms in one coat.

Jack asking for a hug but in reality he wanted to show me the turkey he ate for lunch.

Leftover water bottles and toys that need to be put away.

Dishwasher helper.

The towels in my hall that need to be put away.

Beach towels drying on the banister.

Fan experimentation.

Focus within the chaos.


and seek

Leftover feet when I wasn't looking.

One more pair for good measure.

Morning coffee amongst the cupboards.

A rare moment of calm and my sleepy face.


Chaos Theory, Part 1: The Entropy of Black & Blue (Dishes)

Energy of the universe is constant. Entropy of the universe tends to a maximumRudolf Clausius, German physicist, mathematician and one of the central founders of the science of thermodynamics

photo by Kim Rullo

a measure of disorder in the universe or of the availability of the energy in a system to do work. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.


I broke a dish…Well, actually, I didn’t… Really, I just opened the cupboard and the dishes came pouring out.

A loud cacophony of crashes ensued. Angrily, I looked downward and screamed inarticulately at the floor. Another direct result of my poor household organizational skills and my often disheveled nature, I thought. In that moment, I had no idea why this freak event brought me to that depressive, narcissistic anti-me sentiment, but there it was, unexpected and disruptive, like the mess laid out before me. A feeling of my mother washed over me as I stared at the broken ceramic shards. She was organized. I am not. She was neat. I am not.

As unkempt as some aspects of my mother’s life had been, everything on the surface always had its place.“What the hell?!” were all the words my thoughts could muster. Whomever said motherhood and domestication was a natural, genetically inherited trait was seriously misinformed. Fort maker — yes! Lightsaber battler — bring it on! Dish stacker — thumbs down.

My thoughts drifted to a friend whose mother had just died. We had spoke of our weird shared experiences that weren’t really shared but weren’t mutually exclusive either. Our different mothers wading in this underlying current of “mutual-ness”: mutual sentiment; mutual sadness; mutual self discovery; mutual regret. Regret is such a terrible thing.

photo by Kim Rullo

Crack! I stepped on one of the shards. My misstep didn’t really hurt, it just brought me back to the floor. It reminded me of the mess that was still there. Kneeling to the ground, I haphazardly started to pick up the taunting ceramic remains.

I got down low, laying my body close to the broken pieces.

I chuckled to myself and began to think, Isn’t this all so very cliché? So cute? So apropos?  The words “a beautiful lie” came to mind. I wasn’t sure what the lie was: my perceptions of my mother or my perceptions of myself. Even the random patterns on the floor were deceiving me in their own way. Strong and thick, yet jagged and broken. A few large segments with miniscule bits behind them, surrounding them. Food particles from last night’s dinner added to the debris that was adorning my less than pristine kitchen floor. They looked like mother, or at least mothers as I intimately knew them. I captured it with my camera. After half my life without her, it was what was left. Not really sad, just different, distant, objectified. Her’s and mine.

Debris and strength.

I began focusing on chaos. I began to miss her.

photo by Kim Rullo

continued next week: Chaos Theory, Part 2: Fumbling Towards Extropy



This post was written this past winter shortly after I heard news of the death of a friend’s mother. My crashing dishes and our multiple conversations inspired this true event and in turn this event prompted me to begin writing this blog. It is the beginnings of my entropy and my journey towards extropy.

The photos in this series are called “Black & Blue Mothers (Dishes).”

Shopping Carts and Flea Markets

My Secret Messages

My cell phone camera is, in a word, crap. Well, it is certainly not the worst but is definitely not the best. It has no zoom and the images colors are way off kilter. The pics can only be uploaded to the computer by emailing each one of them INDIVIDUALLY, one pic at a time, to myself. It is a long and arduous process, but I thought this might be a great opportunity to present myself an exercise in simplicity (albeit while using tedious technology).

So I set off to try to capture my day in a compelling way. No zoom, no flash, low resolution, a few words, a few things, a few moments, captured in utter imperfection.

Heading through tunnels


Second hand store:

Leftover Christmas

Leftover Dolly

Leftover Sitcoms

Leftover Croce

Leftover leftovers

Leftover upswing

"Al — Just to thank you for being a stout fella and a good agrivator. Wishing you a good race."

Leftover Kitsch

Leftover seating

He never stopped riding.

Leftover stain

Leftover legs

Leftover tinting

Spontaneous Husband

The clouds that followed me home

Lost and Found, Part 2: Belonging

My purse is filled with funeral cards.

My purse is filled with funeral cards. It seems as if I had been averaging a funeral home visit twice a month for the last six months. I guess that is the trappings of aging with an aged family.

I headed out the next day, triple checking the viewing schedule on all my smart phones and electronic devices. With my constant travel partner in tow, we set off on an encore performance of the previous day’s plans. I debated on wearing the same dress from the day before, but after revealing myself at Burgerfest I thought better of it. Me arriving in town in similar fashion and appearance from the day before came across to me as too deja vu, too trapped in limbo. It was like adding another ghost to this ghost town.

It was strange venturing out to the same location. The day before, I felt this weird sense of loss and reflection and today everything felt a little forced. I think I may have been exhausted from yesterday’s circumstance. As I drove, my mind drifted back and forth to past and present and the limitations of yesterday.

I arrived at my cousin’s funeral, just as I did every other funeral this past year, not knowing what to expect. I was the outsider and I knew it. I almost felt I did not have a right to be there, like a ghost or relic from the past. I was interrupting the grieving of family who spent the last 17 years together, celebrating birthdays, backyard BBQs, life, death and day-to-day struggles together. Maybe I should have adorned yesterday’s clothing.

Wow, we have not seen you in ages… I am such and such’s daughter…

Entering the room, I saw familiar faces that had aged slightly since I last laid eyes on them. I walked in and was recognized by a few, to other’s I explained my lineage. I offered my condolences. We began chatting about our shared histories.

August 1964. Aunt Lilly, top row, 4th person. I think Linda is next to her. My Grandma, second row, last person. Photo courtesy of my cousin, Donna.

I remember my cousin being one of the kindest women I had ever known. She had always seemed to make family appearances and miscellaneous functions with my other, equally kind aunt. Aunt Linda and Aunt Lilly, they always seemed so inseparable, like soulmates. In fact their names merged into one entity when referred to by the family. AuntLindaandAuntLilly. It seems so sad to me now that death separates them.

Growing up, there were two or three houses of cousins all in a row. Our neighborhood not being the greatest and my mother’s fear of the decline that had taken over the town led us elsewhere on certain holidays. As an alternate to the traditional door to door tricks and treats, every Halloween we would get dressed up in our costumes, walk over to grandparent’s apartment to show off our costumes and get some treats. Then we would pile into our Oldsmobile and drive to the trifecta of houses my cousin’s lived in. The most glorious bags of candy would be waiting there for us. They were packed to capacity. It was more candy than you could EVER collect in one night even if you scoured five neighborhoods. At least that is what I speculated in my young mind.

I don’t remember when the Halloween adventures ended, just as I can’t pinpoint when we all eventually lost touch. My grandfather died in 1990. Four years later mother died. Then my grandmother passed away four years after that. My closest connective tissue to that part of the family had rapidly started dying off and my siblings and I were trying to navigate in our own little “brave new world” that existed without the parents and grandparents that had guided us. Time simply marched on.

My grandparents on their wedding day.

I made my way around the room as Jack made friends with another cousin. They shared some goldfish crackers and talked shop. I began reintroducing myself to everyone and repeatedly telling my Halloween story. I get nervous in crowds and tend to talk… a lot. I think I was also trying to prove to myself (and others) that I had a right to be there, even when my cousins showed no signs of thinking I was out of place. In fact it was quite the opposite.

I began talking to another cousin’s wife and started to tell the Halloween story again. For some reason, I began to reflect on my words as I talked. It became less the rehearsed speech of a nervous person and more a story and heartfelt memory. I began to tear up as I repeated the same words of that same story. I thought of how AuntLindaandAuntLilly remembered to send us birthday cards every year without fail. I remembered being baby sat by another cousin, the cherry tomatoes we used to munch on laughing and talking in my living room, TV glowing in the background. I remembered the warmth I felt every time I was around those people.

We noticed the sounds of our respective sons cavorting in the back room and chuckled. I mentioned how sad it was that we all lost touch. How sad it was that most of my immediate family had passed away and that for my siblings, baring a few exceptions, there was not much of an immediate family left. She looked at me as if she understood my longing and feeling of loss of family on so many levels. Of course that may have been my perception of the moment, but in that instant, I felt a connectivity.

Goldfish crackers with cousins.

I gave my family a few more hugs and condolences as I was getting ready to leave. We were extended an invitation to their 4th of July celebration. Unfortunately, we were not able to attend because my husband had some major dental work done and needed cared for that weekend. I was sad we could not make it, but I hope to reconnect at their Labor Day extravaganza.

We got in the car and headed for home. We made one last stop at my old place on the way out. Jack wanted to see where I grew up.

Jack hamming it up.

Serious Jack.

Took a different route home than I normally do from this area. Instead of taking the parkway, I took the back roads through West Mifflin towards Century III Mall. There was one last place I wanted to see.

I wanted to live in that house. I constantly curious about the goings on there. The brick footbridge complete with the flowing creek underneath was always so romantic to me. Especially on our nighttime drives back from the mall. I stared longingly at this place each and every time we passed it. The warm glowing orange lights the space omitted at evening time was so inviting. On one of our nighttime travels, I passionately proclaimed how much I would love to live there one day. To this my mother responded, “Yeah it is lovely, but they probably have rats (because of that creek).” My mother had this gift of being both sharply acute and unknowingly obtuse all in one sentence. I think sometimes her overinflated sense of reality and practicality prohibited her from seeing the space in the gloriousness only my 13-year-old eyes could conjure and imagine.

I was irritated that my mother was so cautious, at times. But my mother’s love, fear, and harsh realities led to some brilliant Halloweens. I never tricked or treated until my son was born, but I thank her for giving us such a beautiful memory.

My "dream" house.

The creek below.

I made one last pilgrimage to my hometown the week following my cousin’s funeral. It was for the death of my godmother’s father who also happened to be my next door neighbor. He was the first person I ever knew to have tattoos. I think he got them while he was in the war. A blunt and funny man. They had a German Shepherd named Thor. He taught everyone in the neighborhood, including my mother, how to drive. My godmother asked if he taught me as well. I told her that he tried. He took me out on the highway to teach the basic rules of the road, but I guess my skill set was sorely lacking. He clutched the passenger seat with purpose. When we arrived back in Duquesne, he asked me to pull over at the local “Moose” so he could get out and grab a drink. I patiently waited in the car. Through all his years serving our country and his stature as the neighborhood driving guru, this 16 year old girl had somehow broken him. My godmother, her brother, and a few other funeral attendees laughed heartily at my story.

My godmother holding me as my parents looked on at my baptism.

I spoke to the director of the funeral home for a few moments after that. He had buried most of my family including my mother. I always promised myself I would thank him for being so kind to us in the days after my mother’s death so I set out to do just that. He remembered me once I mentioned my last name. We talked a lot about our town’s decline and some of the residents that were no longer there. After a few moments, I shook his hand and made my way home. I recounted the past few weeks of mourning and revisiting the past. I always had a sense of not feeling like I belonged to anything on so many occasions. These few weeks of retelling bits and pieces of my childhood gave me a sense of being tied to something; of being part of a shared memory of a collected group of people; of being part of a town’s history, and the documenter of my own, still developing… something…

The funeral home waiting area that I felt compelled to photograph. It looked so different from what I remembered.

Finding the right chair.

Still searching.

Receipts and funeral cards from the past several months finally expelled from my purse.

Jack horsing around with the camera while trying to take my pic. He told me later that if he took my photo he would like to be in the pic as well. Hence his two fingers. He did not explain this before taking the photo. I was nervous that someone may exit the house and complain about us being on the property. Jack captured my face at the height of my nervousness. We laughed heartily after this photo was taken when he explained what he was doing.