September 30, 20161 Comment

Secrets of the Kitchen Cabinet

The roaches have discovered my secret. They've invaded my unit's kitchen cabinets and made little roach tracks through the dusty wasteland of cut crystal vases, a KitchenAid stand-up mixer, bread plates, a stainless steel seltzer bottle and a carved wood ice bucket.

The roaches have found the wasteland of my wedding registry gifts.

And for the exterminator to eradicate these six-legged intruders, I have to pull everything out of the kitchen and bath cabinets. Seeing all of these cooking, baking and entertaining objects is like unpacking lost baggage from a long-ago vacation. These gifts--china, crystal--have outlived my interest in home entertaining and also the marriage. The days when I thought I would be throwing dinner parties are pretty much over. Hell, most weeknights I'm balancing a sandwich or Thai takeout on the couch with my laptop. Weekends I go out to dinner. I don't need a fancy cheeseboard with four different kinds of cheese cutters to slip a slice of cheddar out of the pre-packaged bag from Ralph's. I don't need silver ice tongs to crack a cube out of the tray in the freezer. And the seltzer bottle? I don't even like seltzer water! What was I thinking?

I know what I was thinking. I was under the mid-1990's spell of the Macy's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ross Simons and Williams-Sonoma wedding registry lists. Marketers had concocted a set of fantasy images about my married life and I'd bought right in, imagining somehow once we said the "I do's" that we'd magically morph into people who throw cheese tasting parties and serve seltzer water with artisanal ice cubes. People who make their own ice cream and cheese. People who use double-boilers and candy thermometers. None of these things happen.

Now roaches claim these glamorous items as their landscape and I must take the territory back, object by object. A one gallon stock pot. Christmas china. Ceramic ramekins. Cloth napkins. A mortar and pestle. A spring coil strainer. All-Clad pots and pans that get passed over on the rare days I do cook because they're too heavy. Bon Appetit cookbooks with recipes that call for Tahitian vanilla beans and blood orange zest. Confronting these relics is like reading old diary entries from middle school: nostalgic, startling and a little embarrassing.

I pack everything into boxes and consider a garage sale. But is there even a market for these things? A quick search on eBay reveals that the last Lenox Federal Cobalt place setting of china sold a month ago for 39 bucks.  I had become a hoarder of tableware and gourmet cooking tools that I had no use for and not many people want anymore.

A friend deep in the wedding scene tells me that now, brides and grooms ask for money toward honeymoons and houses now. Crowdfunding. How practical! We should have done that.

So, if you're in the LA area and you need mother of pearl caviar spoons, cut crystal high ball glasses or a melon baller, drop me a line quick before the whole lot goes (washed, of course) to the thrift store.

Now to tackle the bathroom cabinets, which are a graveyard of hair, skin and makeup products that didn't work out. That's another blog post.

May 23, 20163 Comments

Groundwork for a salmon revival

I thought human teen-dom was tough. My own experience of navigating mean girls, not having two Polo shirts to wear at the same time (80s kids called that doubling-up) and picking the wrong boy to kiss after school pale in comparison to the rites of passage nature inflicts on its non-human inhabitants. Take salmon, for example, as a case of one species' rough initiation to adulthood. Orphaned as hatchlings, they make an epic journey from inland rivers to the sea and back again. It is an odyssey fraught with peril, as they learn to avoid predators and forage for food, only to have to find their way around manmade obstacles like dams, mining pits and pumping plants.

Of course, salmon may not be the most sympathetic creatures in the world. A search for videos and photos reveals more interest in serving the fish for dinner rather than enjoying images of it in its wild habitat. But in California, the health and well-being of salmon gets a lot of attention from water agencies and environmental groups alike, who monitor its population as an indicator of the ecosystem's health. I recently had the chance to take a tour of several salmon recovery projects around the Sacramento Valley's Yolo Bypass and came away impressed with the fresh thinking being applied to solving some big, systemic problems.

Knaggs Ranch, Yolo Bypass

The Nigirl Project at Knaggs Ranch, after the water has gone.

Let's talk about the Nigiri Project, one of three stops on the tour I took. Despite its name, the project has nothing to do with sushi, but everything to do with helping young fish prepare for their journey to the sea. The name is a play on the Japanese term nigiri, which means fish over rice, which is a perfect description of what the project does. Project managers flood rice fields not far from the Sacramento airport with water from the Sacramento River during winter months, and juvenile salmon are captured and brought there for several weeks. The fish grow large, thanks to the nutrients in the water, before they are put back into the river to continue on their way.

It's a strategy that Asian countries have used between planting seasons for many years, and it seems to be working in California as well. The salmon living in the flooded rice fields thrive and get plump on microorganisms in the water, while their counterparts in the river do not. Since beginning the project in 2012, project collaborators California Trout and Cal Marsh & Farms have also been able to replicate these results across five different agricultural floodplains throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. It works because it mimics the more natural flow of the Sacramento River before flood management practices were put in place, and it's good for the environment and for agricultural interests economically.

The Nigiri project is just one of many innovative collaborations aimed at helping fish while benefiting agriculture. Todd Manley from the Northern California Water Association has an enormous list of them, some completed and some in progress, that are happening in the Sacramento Valley. Most are public-private partnerships that give hope to those who think gains can be made when differing sides work together, not against one another. One we visited is a century-old water pumping plant on the Sacramento River that is being replaced with a new, state-of-the-art pumping plant that will employ screens and barriers that block young salmon from getting sucked into the pumps. The joint project by Reclamation District 2035 and Woodland Davis Clean Water Agency is one of the last remaining projects from a 20-year effort to protect threatened and endangered fish species while moving water to relieve nearby cities of Woodland and Davis from dependence on groundwater.

Juvenile salmon aren't the sole focus of these projects. The adults swimming upstream in the Sacramento River to spawn are kept on track and out of dead ends through a series of barriers that prevent them from taking the wrong turn out of the river and into natural drainage areas. Lewis Bair, general manager at Reclamation District 108, walked us through one of these projects near the popular fishing spot Knight's Landing.

Knight's Landing

Project site at Knight's Landing

It's worth noting that the land here doesn't even reside in RD108's service area, yet the water agency chipped in just under a fifth of the $2.5 million cost for the improvements because it knows that nature doesn't draw boundaries like people do. Bodies of water are connected, whether they are in one service area or another, so it makes sense to treat them in an integrated, interconnected way.

With drought conditions ongoing in parts of the state, Mother Nature isn't resolving the issue of water scarcity any time soon. Collaborative, forward-thinking projects like these are at least moving us -- and those young salmon -- in the right direction.

June 17, 2015No Comments

Homelessness in LA | Let’s Not Look Away

There are more homeless people in Los Angeles in 2015 than there have been since the homeless census in 2007. The biennial homeless count, released in mid-May, reported a 16% increase in the number of men, women and children living on the streets or in shelters. And the most notable change? A huge bump of 85% in the number of people living in tents, cars and recreational vehicles. My North Hollywood neighborhood is proof of this. A virtual tent city has cropped up around the 170 freeway near Magnolia Blvd.

Personally, I've noticed an uptick in panhandling around the freeway exits and the Metro stations, and I've been trying not to avert my eyes, but to really see the faces of people so down on their luck that they are asking strangers for money. They are mainly single adults, with a heart-breaking 20% of families with children. Collectively, they paint a picture of the life problems that can knock a person to the fringes of society: 20% are mentally ill, 17% have substance abuse problems, 15% are victims of domestic violence, 14% are physically disabled, 6% are veterans.

Their stories are mere sketches of details. A disability or disease or mental illness that makes it impossible to work. A boyfriend who beat her and abandoned her in LA with no money and no way to get home. I get the sense listening to these stories that a gigantic iceberg looms underneath these simple details. For a problem as intractable as homelessness, is there ever one cause? So many problems have deep roots.

So how does the city of Los Angeles respond to this uptick? Yesterday (June 16), the City Council gave preliminary approval to two ordinances designed to make it easier to break up homeless camps. The new ordinances would replace the current city practice that gives the homeless three days' warning before seizing their belongings if they're left on sidewalks or in parks. Now, homeless people will be given just 24 hours' notice, and large personal items like tables and couches can be taken without warning.

This is wrong. Criminalizing homelessness isn't a cure for it. It's averting your eyes and saying "not in my neighborhood."

When I was younger, I used to dodge panhandlers in Westwood on my way to work. I never gave them money because I didn't think they were really homeless. One of them had a car and drove to the same spot every day. He said once, in a moment of a candor to one of my co-workers, that he made more money panhandling than working. I don't know if that was true.

I'm less judgmental now. I don't try to guess another person's motivation behind asking for money or sleeping on the street. I think asking strangers for money must feel degrading and awful.  If there are those who find it fun or love doing it, they are a tiny majority.

I give them all the benefit of the doubt, a smile and some spare change. If it funds alcohol or drugs, then I hope it dulls the pain that day, and I hope they get further help. I wish we could find better long-term solutions. In the meantime, here are eight great organizations fighting on the front lines.

Downtown Women's Center
Provides permanent supportive housing and a safe and healthy community fostering dignity, respect, and personal stability.

Fred Jordan Mission
On Los Angeles' Skid Row, this 71-year-old Christian-based mission feeds hundreds of hungry people and provides assistance to impoverished individuals and families.

Los Angeles Mission
Provides emergency services such as shelter, food, clothing, as well as professional medical and dental services from its Skid Row location. Christian-based. Also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs including education, professional mental health counseling, job training/placement, and transitional housing.

MEND
Provides emergency food, clothing, medical, vision and dental care, job skills training and job placement assistance, English as a Second Language classes, youth activities, and a Christmas program. In the San Fernando Valley.

Midnight Mission
Provides emergency services like food and shelter, and addiction recovery, job training, education and work programs from Skid Row location. Founded in 1914.

Ocean Park Community Center
Offering services related to housing, domestic violence, physical health, mental health, life skills/wellness, income services and substance abuse in west Los Angeles.

San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission
Offers 90 days of emergency shelter to families, traveling shower trucks and hot meals. Also operates three thrift stores, and is always taking donations of household items, baby stuff and clothes. A fire destroyed their emergency shelter in May 2014, and the newly built one in North Hollywood will open soon.

Union Rescue Mission
One of the largest Christian-based missions in the nation and preparing to celebrate its 125-year anniversary in 2016. Offers emergency and long-term services to men, women and children from its Skid Row location.

Learn more about the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and its biennial census.

 

March 27, 2015No Comments

Why I’ll Likely Self-Publish

I've been struggling to find a literary agent for one of my two fiction novels for more than a year now. I've pitched the story at conferences and via email, and received a steady trickle of rejections. Mostly formulaic responses, some nicer than others, one or two with encouraging words, but all the same rejection in the end.

People tell me to take heart. Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before finding someone to accept her debut novel, The Help.

Others tell me to self-publish. After all, the greatest thing about the Internet and the print-on-demand technology is that I don't have to rely on someone else to "give me permission" to publish my novel. I can do it myself.

But since I was a girl, I wanted to be an author, and I thought authors needed agents and publishers. And to be honest, I don't want to sort out ISBN numbers and e-book formats and cover art. I want to write.

However, the truth is that I cannot get a foothold in the publishing business. I've tried to figure out the rules of what makes an agent accept your work. I've been told all of these things:

  1. It's all about the writing. If the writing is good, we'll consider it.
  2. Target agents based on their interests and other clients.
  3. Format your manuscripts properly and be professional.
  4. No typos!
  5. Make me fall in love with your characters.
  6. I've got to be hooked on the first page.
  7. Create a narrative voice I haven't heard before.
  8. Create a world that I want to learn more about.
  9. Develop a platform and fan base first.
  10. It's a subjective business.

I've worked in business long enough to know that following the rules only gets you so far, and by this, I mean that you can follow rules to a "T" but still get rejected for just not being the right fit. Which has led me to the recent conclusion that most of those tips are noise, because number 10 seems to trump them all.

Case in point: take a look at just a handful of the rejection emails (form letters) I've received.

  1. I'm sorry. This is not for me.
  2. You have an interesting idea for a book and there's a lot to like about your approach. But in the end I'm afraid I didn't come away from this quite fully convinced this was something I think I'd be able to represent successfully. (I've gotten this exact same email for both of my novels.)
  3. I’m afraid your book isn’t a good match for my list.
  4. Having considered it carefully, we have decided that we are not the right fit for your project, and so we are going to pass at this time.
  5. As interesting as your novel sounds, I don't believe I would be the best agent to represent your work.

The world of book publishing has changed. I may need to admit that despite persistence and hard work, I may not find a traditional book deal waiting for me. And that I should take advantage of the opportunities afforded by self-publishing to reach readers directly.

I'll just wait until the latest batch of rejections finishes trickling in, to be certain.

 

December 12, 20146 Comments

Lessons from my father

My father provided me with countless life lessons, many of which sunk into my head while I was pretending not to listen. I've written a previous blog on my favorite piece of his advice, the one about eating an elephant one bite at a time. In honor of the second anniversary of his death from Parkinsons' Disease, I thought I'd share a few more bits of wisdom from John Lipinski.

1. He with the most tools wins. Dad was an airplane mechanic and as far back as I can remember, he always had at least one tool shed filled with shiny Craftsman tool chests on wheels, and filled with hundreds of well-organized screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, pliers, utility knives and wire cutters. He fixed my toys, my doll carriage, my barrettes and later my car with his magic tools. And even with such a large inventory at home, I can still see him walking the aisles of Sears eyeing up the latest socket wrench. Tools to him were like shoes to most women. You cannot have enough. This also is true for pens.

2. Girls can do anything. My dad was absolutely convinced that my sister and I could do anything we set our mind to; and he convinced us too. There were about two minutes in high school where I tried umpiring Little League baseball games. My dad thought this was cool and supported me 100%, even though the head umpire didn't share Dad's enthusiasm. Full disclosure: I volunteered because I thought it would be a nice way to meet guys. Turns out it was really more of a good way to get yelled at by angry parents.

3. If you can't be charming, then be quiet. My father was unfailingly kind and engaging to most people he encountered, and especially those working service industry jobs at restaurants, liquor stores, ticket booths and donut shops. Like Will Rogers, he never met a stranger. On the rare occasion that he didn't like someone, he was never confrontational or unkind. He just went quiet and reserved. In an age where everyone posts exactly what is on their mind for the whole world to see, there is something to be said for simple silence.

4. Time accelerates. This is one of the lessons he imparted when his health was failing. The time goes faster and faster the older you get, he told me. Don't waste a minute doing things you don't want or need to do. I like to think he would be very proud of me for committing fully to my fiction writing because it has been my lifelong dream.

5. Be impulsive. For a lot of families I grew up with, buying a new car was a big event, one that was planned for and discussed for weeks, if not months, before the purchase was made. In our family, there was no such warning. Dad just showed up with new cars he bought on a whim. I don't believe he ever bought anything he couldn't afford, so it wasn't irresponsible. It was just...impulsive. Dad would drive off in the morning to pick up something at the Redbud grocery store, and come home in the afternoon with a brand new Oldsmobile Delta 88 or Chrysler Cordoba (with Corinthian leather!). It was always interesting. And Dad was the one you wanted to go with to the TG&Y because he'd buy you stuff Mom would never dream of.

I see his influence in my life everywhere, and it's one of the ways that I know he is still with me even though he has left the earth. With love to you, Dad. I hope you found peace through those four doors.

July 29, 2014No Comments

Value confusion

Values

I'm more accustomed to hearing about values being talked about in a set - I'm thinking mainly of politicians touting "family values" and "American values" - as though there is some established list everyone who is important has agreed to. It also makes me think about times I've heard the word used as window dressing for intolerance and discrimination -- where "our values" means "not yours."

But what are values exactly? I wasn't 100% sure I understood the concept outside of those examples. Do values in fact come in some pre-existing set, such as a religious doctrine or mission statement? Can values be right or wrong? Are they unique or shared? Where do they come from?

What a relief to know that my friend Priya Kapoor, even after earning her master's degree in marriage and family counseling, struggled with this definition as well. Her new book, Give YourSelf Permission to Live Your Life, is about how you can live the life you want to live, rather than the one you think you are supposed to live. And the foundation of trying to figure out what you actually want from life is first trying to figure out the things in life you care about the most. Those are your values.

Values "can be accessible or tangible concepts such as family, work or respect. More often than not, however, they are emotions like love, peace and grace or behavioral traits and characteristics like communication, nobility and honor," she wrote.

Values are internal and personal, and shouldn't be based on what other people want for -- or from -- you. If you think about how you spend your time, money and resources, and how you have fun, then you will find your values. They are the things that make you happy. Basically they are how you live your life, day-in and day-out. After working through the exercises in the book, I determine that my core values include humor, independence and love. Priya's include open communications, respect and diligence. But no one set is better than another -- having different values just means that you don't prioritize things in the same way as another person.

Values are shaped by our families and the society we live in, however, they are not a moral code or doctrine that must be swallowed whole. They don't have to come in a pre-ordained set. Instead, they are unique and personal. They are our own judgment of what is important in life. Thanks, Priya, for making it clear.

June 13, 2014No Comments

Nirvana: Yup, that’s the voice of my generation

Picture of grungy guitar

I was angry in the early 1990s Los Angeles. My new college degree in business wasn't helping me find a job in California's deep recession and weak recovery. I was working two part-time jobs -- one doing car insurance quotes on the phone and the other working as a receptionist in a Malibu doctor's office, selling prescription medicine for baldness to one of my teen idols. It was disheartening to say the least.

Just a few years earlier, it seemed like any business student who was willing to work long hours and be just a little smarter than their competitors could make a million bucks overnight in mergers and acquisitions. Remember Michael J. Fox outwitting his boss in 1987 movie Secret of My Success? Or 1988's Working Girl? I was going to be just like Christy Wills or Tess McGill, a top executive in her 20s making millions and drinking champagne on the rooftop of a Manhattan skyscraper.

I remember reading a career guidance book from the time that suggested that young executives should be making a salary that was three times their age, with three zeros at the end. In other words, at 22, I should have been making $66,000 a year. In 1990. When I finally landed a full-time job in 1991, it was as a receptionist for a PR firm making a third of that. Ouch. Where was my glamorous life?

Hearing Nirvana's Smells like Teen Spirit on the radio was a revelation -- a sign someone understood my anger and disaffectedness and my sense of humor, as well as my disdain for anyone who would try to sell underarm deodorant to adolescents with the ridiculous name of "Teen Spirit!" Nirvana's grungy sound and music video set in a smoky gym with goth cheerleaders was the perfect antidote to the relentlessly upbeat hits of that same year -- REM's "Shiny, Happy People" and Jesus Jones' "Right Here, Right Now." What on earth was there to be so happy about?

"Hello, hello, hello, hello, how low. With the lights out, it's less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us."

Back then, we probably would have completely discounted any kind of nod from some institution like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because that's how we were -- angry, disaffected, disappointed by the opportunities we were presented with and definitely NOT IMPRESSED with how things were turning out. But 23 years later, even Courtney Love admitted that the band's induction in 2014 was an honor that Kurt Cobain would have liked, had he lived to see it. His heroin addiction led him to put a shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger in 1994.

"I found it hard, it's hard to find, oh well, whatever, never mind."

And that is the great thing about music. Like sex and art, every generation invents it for itself. 23 years later, all that anger is gone and in general, I'm a pretty happy person. But in 1991, Nirvana's music expressed my anger beautifully. It made them the voice of my generation, evocative of that place and time and those feelings. Hell, I know they weren't the Beatles or Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones but Nirvana was all mine.

May 26, 2014No Comments

Turning sexism upside down

A handful of North American women pastors and church leaders sparked a great Twitter conversation Friday night with a simple technique. They wrote down all the discouraging, sexist things people said to them along their career path. Then they replaced "she" with "he" and "woman" with "man." A sample:

You can't prove she harassed all those men.

There's always room for men in the church community. We have rummage sales and bake sales.

Pastor had a great hairday.

So you're the pastor's husband? Can you play piano?

The meme was just too delicious to remain about one profession. Women of diverse backgrounds and professions began chiming in.

George Carlin & Richard Pryor, but they were the exceptions.

We had to send the boy home from prom because his sexy outfit was turning on all the female chaperones.

There is a man in the film. He's the cab driver.

Great idea. Let me present it to the Board.

I started thinking about some of the sexist things people (men, mainly, but some women) said to me over the years. One man suggesting I should "bat my eyes and flirt" with men to sell raffle tickets at a fundraiser. A workplace where women were expected to organize the holiday party. A friend who was told her voice was too high-pitched for her to be taken seriously in business. My mother remembering when people assumed women only went to college to find a husband.

He's hot, he probably slept his way into that job and they keep him around for diversity

A man's gifts are so unique and precious he should be protected.

And of course, the worst was when people were dismissive of your dreams, assuming that you'd get married, have kids and forget all about doing whatever it is you wanted to do beyond that.

You'll forget your dreams of being President when you find the right man

The results were startling and shined a light for me on how deep sexism or any kind of discrimination can go. It's shocking how accepting I can be of certain cliches about women, but how strange they sounded when you changed it to be about men.

I loved the #sexismturnedaround conversation and found it illuminating of just what kinds of stereotypes I still had rattling around in my head. Words are powerful. We need more conversations like this, and definitely more kindness, respect and compassion for others, instead of snap judgments and stereotypes.

May 4, 20144 Comments

A curious Mom

May 5 is my mother's birthday -- happy birthday, Rosemary Rosick Lipinski! -- and when I think of my favorite things about her, I think about her lifelong sense of curiosity. It has been one of her best gifts she's given me (besides the decades of devotion and financial and emotional support, and the Barbie townhouse with working elevator). I believe this because curiosity keeps us open to surprise, interested in others, compassionate and a dedicated life-long learner, and these are all good things for individuals and for the humankind.

Her curiosity drives her to make friends wherever she goes -- striking up conversations in waiting rooms, check-out lines and restaurants. She always gets to know her neighbors. While I spent my teen years rolling my eyes at how she would learn her seat mate's life story before the end of every airplane flight, I now realize that it is that curiosity that keeps her connected and able to find humor and insight in every day activities. It was that curiosity that made her an avid reader and patron of libraries, enrolled her in college courses in her 30s, moved her to protest against the Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant in the 70s and 80s, got her elected to church council, turned her an expert caregiver when Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and that encouraged her to figure out email in her 60s and Skype, Facebook and the iPad in her 70s. My mother has never been static; her interest in the details of life and people keep her spirit young.

...One can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways.

Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance [1934]

Curiosity is a remarkably powerful characteristic, and I'm glad my mother is equipped with such a generous amount. Studies link curiosity to improved health, intelligence and relationships. It's crucial in the pursuit of happiness. That’s because curiosity — a state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something — creates an openness to new experiences, laying the groundwork for greater opportunities to uncover moments of wonder, joy and delight. Curiosity and seeking out new experiences helps lay down new neural pathways in our brain, and research is being done into the links between curiosity, neuroplasticity and resistance to dementia.

neil-degrasse-tyson-tweet

Watching her exercise her curiosity in daily life taught me some life lessons as well. I know from her that the more inquiry and energy we invest in a topic or a person or a conversation, the more interesting they become. And that in turn leads to more opportunities to experience discovery or inspiration. Curiosity has also helped me as a creative writer, because it makes me more alert to the little details that can tell whole stories. Think of Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery by noticing that a dog did not bark at night, and wondering why.

einstein-quote-tweet

So, Mom, on your birthday, thank you for the gift of curiosity along with all the love. May we grow curiouser and curiouser with time.

Nota bene: I love this photo of her because of her plucky pose and "Mom" tshirt. Doesn't she look ready for anything? It was probably taken around 1999; she's standing on a vacant lot on Railroad Street in Larksville, Pennsylvania, near where her childhood home used to be. 

April 17, 20141 Comment

Pysanky

One of my favorite Easter memories is making pysanky with my parents, sister and friends. We stood at the stove for hours, carefully applying melted candle wax in patterns on hard-boiled eggs, using a straight pin from my mother's sewing room stuck into the eraser of a wooden pencil as our stylus. In between layers of wax, we dipped the eggs in dyes, starting with the lightest yellows and proceeding through to the darkest purple.

PysankyThe art of pysanky is said to be ancient, rooted in Eastern European pagan customs of sun worship ceremonies. A symbol of life and hope in many cultures, the egg with its yellow yolk was a tangible stand-in for the sun; the white representative of the moon. Once Christianity took hold, the egg was adopted as a religious symbol of the Easter celebration and pysanky designs took on Christian significance. The ancient sun designs now stood for the Son of God, triangles stood for the Holy Trinity and stars showed God's love toward man.

The symbolism was likely lost us as kids but pysanky as an art project was plenty cool. Even cooler was the legend that making pysanky kept evil at bay.

It has been told that far away there is a very large and evil monster chained to a cliff. This monster has servants who travel in every country each year taking a tally of how many pysanky have been made. Each year that less eggs have been decorated, the monster's chains are loosened and there is more evil in the world. If ever there were no pysanky made, the evil one would be released and he would destroy the world. But, in years that more pysanky are made, the monster's chains are tightened and the power of love and the goodness that the pysanky bring is felt throughout all nations.

From "Ukrainian Easter: Traditions, Folk Customs and Recipes," compiled by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn, Ukrainian Heritage Company, 1983

Pretty good reason to make pysanky, isn't it? Makes me want to break out the beeswax candles and the food dye. Khrystos Voskres!