Monday, September 29, 2008

Today's wish for you

No matter where you are and what you are doing today, may your heart be as light as a feather and filled with simple joy.

Pink chalk heart

Friday, September 26, 2008

Perennials in fall

Ross's cross country practices are in Manito Park this year. I use his sport practices as an excuse to spend an hour sketching or photographing stuff, so it's been especially nice having my favorite flower gardens as subject matter. The staff has started to cut back the perennials, but there are still some beauties to be seen. The goldenrod is bursting, like fireworks in the sky.


The asters remind me of the smaller bursts on the fourth of July. I can almost hear the whistles, pops, and bangs.

Purple asters

Purple flowers and red leaves

To me, red leaves mean that autumn is here in full force. The days are noticeably shorter here in the northern part of the world. I find myself chasing the last of the daylight in the gardens, shooting madly, knowing I can't quite capture all those heart-stopping moments of beauty, but I chase them just the same.

Purple plumbago (?) in sunlight

Yellow coneflowers

Soon the staff will be cutting back the roses. We've had a warm September, so many of the bushes have renewed blooms -- one last show for the year.

Rose ("Stretch Johnson")

Sunlit white rosebud

I am still shooting a self-portrait every day. I'm sure passersby wonder what I'm doing in the flowerbeds, pointing the camera at myself. I get lots of lousy shots, but now and then, one pleases me. It makes me happy to see myself among the flowers.

Me behind the asters

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Still sewin'

Sewing fluff on a bird

It happens almost every time -- I think I'm almost done with a project, but then I get a fun idea, and I have to do it! So I'm still working away on this birdie, but I think he'll fly soon.

Bird in progress

P.S. I uploaded some photos of my past work (art quilts and art dolls) to my Flickr account -- you are invited to check 'em out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rough day

When you are having a rough day, where do you find your solace, your comfort, or any little bit of joy that keeps you from hiding under the bed or running away from home?

Yesterday was one of those one-thing-after-another days. The kind of day where I keep thinking it can't keep getting worse, but it does.

Two, no, maybe three things kept me afloat:
  • a phone call to a good friend;
  • spending time outdoors, especially the chance to write and sketch while Ross had cross country practice;

En plein air

  • a long, into-the-night talk with my husband.

When the chips are down, I do best when I search for the connections in my life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fall is almost here

I've been acquainting myself with my camera's timer the last few days. Today, I put the camera on the sidewalk, to see myself under the first leaf-turning tree of the season. . . .

Under this tree

Friday, September 12, 2008

Walking to school

Holding hands with my son

Ross and I walk to school almost every morning. He needs that time to blow off a little steam and to enjoy the outdoors before he gets into the classroom. I've come to treasure those moments, too. It's a chance to plunge into my day, touch the weather, enjoy fallen leaves or frost or snow or squirrel antics. I try to have my camera with me -- often, the walk home becomes a photo shoot.

The best part of these walks is being with Ross. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don't. He'll often reach out and take my hand, or he'll reach over and give me a hug. Such sweetness! I savor these moments. He is growing up so fast -- I know he will have some years when he will not want to deal with me at all. It's inevitable, natural, and expected. But I can hope that the lovely moments we share now will touch his heart forever.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Almost done

Sewing on the eyes

Sewing on the last parts -- done tomorrow, maybe?

(P.S. Spent part of my day at my church's prayer vigil for peace. It felt like the sanest thing to do in memory of that terrible, terrible day. And sewing -- making something new and positive in this world -- felt like a way to hope for tomorrow.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Travel journal

These are some of the finished pages from my Michigan vacation travel journal. (Click on the photos for a better view on Flickr.)

Travel journal page, day one

Whitefish Point journal page

East Channel Light journal page

Peace pipes journal page

(For a photo of these interesting plants, click here.)

Tiny's journal page

Outhouse journal page

Beach journal page

(I had to make the last one smaller so that it would fit the blog width.)

This turned out to be a fun little project. Some days it was hard to come up with a page, but I would come up with something. I liked having something artistic to focus on while traveling, and it took up little space in my backpack. I still haven't finished the last page, and I haven't put a cover on it. But if I never do, that's okay by me. I'm happy with what I did.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I have taken a lot of photos of my face in the last few days, and I have discarded so many, because I don't like the way my mouth and chin sit these days.


I took this photo to show how far apart my top and bottom teeth are, because of my thick retainer. I have about a quarter-inch gap -- you wouldn't think it's much, but I let it drive me nuts.

I am supposed to wear the retainer all the time, except for cleaning it after I eat. Chewing can be frustrating; I won't eat certain foods in public, because it's hard to chew them gracefully. My tongue trips over the plastic, so I have a slight lisp. I remove the retainer when I need to talk on the phone for a long time or speak to a group, because I don't enunciate very well, and I want to be as clear as possible when I'm trying to communicate.

Yeah, I pretty much hate it. Not too fond of my orthodontist, either, who has told me several times it would be easier if I'd just have the full braces put on. Yeah, no problem, I'll spend $5000 bucks on my teeth while Ross may need braces, and he's certainly going to need college tuition money. I chose years ago not to do braces, and I have been content with my crooked teeth for all these years.

Maybe I should have resigned myself to losing that molar in the back. It would be yanked, I'd be sore for a while, and it would be done. Maybe I would have been less unhappy.

So why am I so unhappy? Why does this retainer drive me to distraction? It's a temporary thing, a momentary inconvenience on the way to better-functioning teeth. Why am I unable to smile and go on my way?

Part of me is pouting and stamping its feet. It feels backed into a corner. Nobody ever asked for its permission. It keeps crying, "I don't want this!" It looks in the mirror and says "You can't eat, you can't talk, plus you look stupid!" I don't have a comeback for that.

Maybe I just need to sit with that pain for a while. Listen. And come back to the mirror with more compassionate eyes.

P.S. I do realize that this comes across as whining, and I suppose it is. I can understand if some readers are very annoyed with this stuff. I'm exploring ideas and feelings that grab my attention, and I'm trying to do it honestly but not adolescently, if that makes any sense. I hope it is helpful and/or entertaining for those who choose to read it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A brief note on the fair

Waiting in line for the roller coaster

Saturday was fair day for the Smith family. We did all of the important things: stuffed ourselves silly, visited the farm animals, checked out the ribbon winners,

Chris in front of the beer display

and went on the rides.

Ross on the roller coaster

Self-portrait on a ferris wheel

(You can check out all the photos at Flickr, if you're interested.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Congratulation, brewmasters!

Chris and our friend Matt brewed a lot of beer this summer, and entered some of it in the county fair. The fair opened this morning, so they went to check it out -- and they won some ribbons!

Their extra pale ale (Impaled Ale) won 2nd place. Their hefeweizen (Hanford Hot Days Hefeweizen) won a blue ribbon. And their India pale ale (Fruit Fly IPA) was picked as a Reserve Grand Champion!

Ironically, the best beer they made all summer, a Belgium wheat beer, didn't win anything, because it didn't quite fit into a style category. My art quilts don't fit into neat categories, either, which is why I don't enter them in fairs. The judges are really bound by the category definitions -- they may love what you made, but they can't give you a ribbon. Ah well. Chris and Matt still have the satisfaction of a beer well made. Cheers!

Self-portrait challenge

Self-portraits have begun to intrigue me. I used to think that self-portraits were terrible navel-gazing, but I've begun to change my mind.

I realize that I look at myself in the mirror less and less. (Thank you, Liz, for your bravery on this front!) I never really looked that much, anyway, but now I'm avoiding myself a bit. Partly because I'm wearing a very thick retainer, so I think I look somewhat slack-jawed and horsey. I'm getting a back molar fixed so that I don't lose a tooth, but I'm not thrilled about this orthodontia stuff.

Anyway. I look in the mirror and my mouth and chin don't look right because of the retainer. Then I look at the sagging skin under the chin, my nose with its perimenopausal zits (man, I had fewer zits at 16!), the hair going grayer . . . and I am not very kind to my aging self. I am so much better at criticizing myself than at having compassion for myself. My friends have told me through the years that I am way too hard on myself, and I know it. Critiquing my looks is the least of it.

Seven-thirty a.m.

(This morning, 7:30 am -- looking warily at the camera.)

If I can learn to look at my physical self with more patience and love, can I learn to embrace my mind and my soul, too?

I've been doing some inner work over the last few years, and I have made progress. Yet I see that it's all one piece -- whole cloth, if you will. I foolishly sweep away part of my life if I ignore how I look at and live in my body. The inner and the outer need to heal together.

There's a great group on Flickr, called 365 days. You take a self-portrait every day for a year. A self-portrait must include any part of your body. It's a great photographic and artistic challenge. How do you avoid the boring and the cliched? How do you not get sick of looking at yourself after a month? How do you represent yourself every day?

I wonder if I can use the camera to learn how to embrace myself.

I'm going to try it for awhile. I have no idea if I'll keep it up past a week. I will put the photos up on my Flickr account, but I doubt I'll be putting them on the Flickr self-portrait groups. I'll put some up here, too -- I'm sure I'll have things to say about some of them. If you don't find them interesting, that's okay, because I'm sure I will not love them all, either. I am more interested in the journey than in the outcome. I'm being public about it all because (a) it keeps me honest, and (b) I am hopeful and grateful that you may want to witness this journey with me.

Dandelion foot

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Here's part of what I was stressing out about last week.

A woman that I barely know, who lives in Albuquerque, had trusted me with some of her jewelry and beads. I'd had her stuff for a year and was about to see her again, so I knew I had to come up with the goods. But I was stressed out about whether I knew her tastes well enough to produce necklaces that she'd like.

She'd given me a necklace that had pretty colors -- semiprecious chips with Bali silver -- but it had been strung in a very uninspired fashion. When I looked at it, I thought it needed a deeper, contrasting color and some additional silver beads, mixed up in a more interesting arrangement. Amethyst was my immediate choice, and I had some chips in my stash in the right size. I also have a small stash of Bali silver beads, so I pulled that out and added a few.

New and improved necklace

The other project was more challenging. The woman had given me some large coral beads she'd bought on her travels (in Peru, I think). She handed them over to me, without any preconceived notions about what to turn them into. I had made a few suggestions when she gave me the beads, but she didn't give me a specific direction, assuring me that she would love whatever I made.

Eeeek. Can you understand why I was second-guessing myself so much?

In the end, I made a necklace that I would be happy to wear. I chose to make a short necklace, since the coral beads were so large and heavy. I chose African brass beads, light in weight and full of texture. Turquoise would add a visual spark. I looked in the local beads stores for an appropriate clasp but found nothing, so I made a hook from wrapped brass wire -- the first time I've made my own clasp. I wore the necklace for a few hours, to make sure the clasp would hold up.

Coral and turquoise necklace

Sunlit coral and turquoise necklace

I wrapped both necklaces and the leftover beads in bright blue cloth and tied the roll with gold ribbons. (When I take too long to finish something, I try extra hard to present it in a nice package.)

And the verdict? She was delighted. She put on the amethyst and silver necklace right away, because it matched the outfit she had on. She oohed and ahhed over the coral necklace. I told her that I thought that it was a very Albuquerque necklace, especially with the turquoise, and she agreed. In fact, she said she didn't own any turquoise jewelry, which surprised me. Now she owns a little.

She bought some amber beads (in India, I think) this year, so I may be working with those, sooner or later. Although she's also toying with the idea of taking a beading class, which I think is an excellent idea for anyone who love jewelry.

Now I need to restring my mother-in-law's necklace. I am so thankful that she is a patient woman -- and she won't have to wait a year, either.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First day of fourth grade

He didn't get a great night's sleep and he's nervous as hell (it takes him a while to adjust to a new teacher), but he's ready for the challenges ahead.

First day of fourth grade