Friday, December 28, 2012
There's always lots to celebrate this time of year, but we had an exceptionally merry time this year, beginning Christmas Eve. We attended an early mass at our local church and came home to a dinner of royal proportions, including shrimp cocktail, crab legs, fresh cheese ravioli, and broiled lobster tails drenched in butter!
After we ate and cleaned up, we spent a quiet evening together, and then came my favorite part of the whole season: the stillness of the holy night. I got to enjoy a few peaceful moments alone after all the work was done for the day.
The morning brought a dusting of magical Christmas snow and a flurry of present opening, which never seems to last very long! Then a hearty Christmas breakfast and another flurry of activity preparing for a big family get-together. Here we all are! It's surprising not one of is is making a goofy face in this shot!
and a musical interlude provided by my lovely and talented nieces!
This year, we also celebrated my oldest daughter's 16th birthday!
And to top it all off, last night my husband and I got to spend a little time alone to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We certainly had a lot to celebrate this year! God bless us, every one!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
About two weeks ago, I came across the latest picture book by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis, Each Kindness. It was a reminder to me of what a unique art form the picture book is, combining the best of fiction, poetry, and visual art. The story is about a typical elementary school girl, Chloe, and the new girl in her class, Maya. Chloe has many opportunities to be nice to Maya and make friends with her, but instead turns a cold shoulder, not letting her into her circle of friends. One day their teacher relates kind acts to throwing a pebble into a pond, how the ripples travel outward, getting larger and larger, just like acts of kindness spread. She asks each student to tell something kind they've done and drop a pebble into a bowl of water, but Chloe passes on her turn, realizing she hasn't been kind. Maya moves away before Chloe has another chance to make friends with her, and the book ends on the poignant and thoughtful note that if we let the moment pass, it is "forever gone."
I suppose it's coincidental that I read this just before the recent tragedy in nearby Newtown, CT. Just as on September 11, 2001, this event seemed very personal, because of our nearness to the location, and because I used to teach children in kindergarten and first grade, and still have close friends who had to return to their classrooms Monday morning, prepared for questions and ready with reassurances. It's been on everyone's minds all week, first trying to grasp the enormity of such a senseless tragedy, and then empathizing with the parents who rushed to the nearby firehouse, heard the horrific news, and had to somehow cope with the violent death of a child, their empty bedrooms, their unopened Christmas presents, their funeral arrangements. And of course, there are dozens of unanswerable questions: how could anyone do this? Is there a profile for young men who are more likely to commit such acts? How can this be prevented from ever happening again? Who do we ultimately hold responsible?
A coworker brought up the illusion of safety that we wrap ourselves up in every day, the assumption that because we are alive and healthy today, we will still be alive and healthy tomorrow. Indeed, life is very unpredictable, and we'll probably never know why that young man could ever conceive of and carry out such a plan. Factors such as a genetic predisposition to mental illness, family situations, cultural influences, religion or lack of it, education, even friendships all had a bearing in making Adam Lanza who he was. I think it would be impossible to draw up any kind of a profile predicting which individuals are more likely to lean towards such violence. But we want to blame someone or something: violent video games and movies, lenient gun laws, poor parenting, or mediocre treatment for mental illness.
We want to blame, we want to prevent, and we want to do something. People want to ease the pain somehow, and they're holding candlelight vigils and prayer services, sending flowers, making donations to charities in the names of the victims, even signing international e-cards and petitions. All of these send out ripples of kindness, which may begin to erase the pain of that horrific act.
And yet, I can't help thinking that in going forward and trying to prevent anything like this ever happening again, there's more that we can do and the responsibility lies with each of us. We may not personally be able to change gun laws or influence the kind of video games being produced. But we can begin by being kind to everyone we come in contact with during our day, starting with our family. If we make a committment to approaching the day and all its challenges with an attitude of peace, love, compassion, and forgiveness, we may begin to erase the anger, violence, and hatred so prevalent in our society today. It could be as simple as withholding angry gestures towards the driver who steals your parking space, speaking to your children and spouses with respect and patience, smiling at the coworker who always seems to be in a bad mood.
We may never know if a kindness towards someone like Adam Lanza might reverse their tendency towards anger and violence. But certainly, the world would be a better place if each of us could overcome our self-centered, ego-driven tendencies, and send out ripples of loving kindness all day long, wherever we go.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
here). I think the people that followed me were reluctant to "mess up" the fabric because they liked it so much. Each one just added a little touch in these two pieces above and below.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Above, I got a piece of fabric that was painted with teal green acrylic paint. Although the fabric did not feel stiff, as you might expect with paint, it was on the dark side and a challenge to add to. The second person added the dotted circles using more paint and a pencil eraser. I simply dipped a pastry cutter into gold acrylic paint and made the thin wavy lines you see running all around.
Below was a piece of fabric that was dyed with a shibori technique in that beautiful blue color. The second person added the black dots by printing with bubble wrap. I added the white lace effect by printing with a metallic paper doily and acrylic paint.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
So this year, I bought myself an early gift: the little Nativity pin you see above. I found it at Darlene Hardenbrook's Etsy shop Freeheart1 (where she has some beautiful polymer clay pieces - the design of this one is so special, she had it copyrighted!). I hope it will be the perfect little reminder to myself not to get caught up in the anxiety of rushing, buying, wrapping, overdoing, but instead to take it one moment and one day at a time, and try to prepare my heart for the Savior's birth. Amen to that!
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Quilting Arts Magazine! I originally posted it here before I mailed it in. Now that it's in, I'm glad I took the time to create one. It was a fun challenge to get my vision down in the small 4x6-inch frame, I got to use both fabric and paper (the book is paper) and now I get to see my work in print! Fantastic! (If you go to the link where I first posted it, you may notice I positioned it with the feet pointing up. I intended for the viewer to imagine themselves in the artwork, being the person relaxing with a book in the sun! But QA decided to place it the other way around. I guess that works too...)
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The fallen leaves are cornflakes
That fill the lawn’s wide dish,
And night and noon
The wind’s a spoon
That stirs them with a swish.
The sky’s a silver sifter,
A-sifting white and slow,
That gently shakes
On crisp brown flakes
The sugar known as snow.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Yesterday, I felt just like the Pillsbury Dough Boy looks - absolutely thrilled to be there!
It's hard to describe how exciting it was to see the Thanksgiving Day banner, the first marchers, and that first balloon come around the corner onto 6th Avenue. I think the only thing that could be more exciting than attending the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade would be marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade! I may just have to become an employee so I can experience that!
I love how huge the balloons are, even in contrast to all the skyscrapers. Spiderman was so awesome!
There were some awesome floats as well, including Sesame Street and many muppets. Bob was even there, smiling and waving.
Unfortunately, I am not up on all the latest celebrities and didn't know who some of them were... But I did recognize the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Anyway, hope you were able to be "in the moment" as well, wherever you were, whomever you were with, whatever you were doing!
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I've been a little slow getting my groove back, partly because I'm just not feeling particularly motivated (see previous post) and partly because of the construction project going on in my studio area, which has left my worktable completely covered with stuff that used to be on shelves and has made the atmosphere down there not very conducive to creativity. But a few weeks ago I had started playing around with a way to recycle plastic bags which I read about in a recent issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. You basically start with white plastic bags (but not the thin grocery-store kind), putting several layers of plastic between two sheets of baking parchment and fusing them together with an iron set on a medium-hot temperature. The plastic shrinks and wrinkles a bit from the heat of the iron, but if you keep the iron moving in a circular motion, it smooths out and fuses nicely into a base material. Below is my first attempt, where I used a thinner, cheaper white plastic and then fused shapes cut from other colorful bags. I layered it over some heavy interfacing and stitched an abstract design with black thread all around the shapes. Then I pressed it one more time because some of the shapes weren't quite fused all the way. Unfortunately, the cheap white plastic shrunk just a little more, causing the interfacing to curl. It was a good first try, but my second attempt today was more successful.