Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Live the Life"

I didn't make many Christmas presents this year. I love to do it when I have time, but this year, it wasn't possible.

However, one morning while showering, I had a flash of inspiration about a gift for a friend. She has started to work on a book. I won't go into detail about her wonderful idea, except that she intends the book to be in a binder format. I wanted to encourage her writing, and I thought, what if I gave her a binder to fill? And if it were interesting to look at, so much the better.

After some starts and stops, I came up with a cover that wraps around a small binder. It's a mixed media quilt, with blue painted paper (left over from my zine covers), felt in the middle, and commercial fabric for the binding and back. The ties are pieced together from scraps.

(Click on the photos for larger images.)

"Live the Life" binder cover

"Live the Life" binder cover (unfolded)

"Live the Life" binder cover close-up

I quilted the tentative title for the book on the cover: Live the Life. I think it has so many possibilities, that title. What would it mean if each one of us would live THE life, the life we came here to experience, the one of our wildest dreams and greatest possibilities? We would be living from our hearts -- hence, the embroidered heart on the cover. (You may recognize it from earlier this year.)

I'm not sure if the paper will hold up to wear and tear. But I hope that the binder cover gives the growing book a little hug, every time it needs one.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Images from Christmas

Sometimes it seemed like a mighty struggle to get to the finish line that is Christmas Day, but we did it this year. For all my internal and external grumbling about the work, I do love Christmas. I love finding great gifts for everyone -- it is a creative endeavor.

The biggest news? Ross got his Wii this year. He had asked for it last year, and we said no. But this year, he has worked so hard at school, we've been impressed, and thought he had earned it. He was in a little shock, at first . . .

Photo number one -- he's not sure if he can believe what he's reading on the box:

Ross opening Wii (number one)

Photo number two -- it's starting to sink in:

Ross opening Wii (number 2)

Photo number three -- it really IS a Wii!

Ross opening Wii (number 3)

Ross and Wii

I bought Chris a piece of amber for his office. Isn't the color amazing in the sunlight?

Chris and amber

Gus and Bubba loved their toys, too.

Gus with feather toy

Bubba gnawing on toy

There were the quiet moments, as well.

Bubba under the tree

I walked to Gaiser Conservatory today to photograph the annual light show. It was a cold walk, and I waited for my lens to defog before I could snap away.

Christmas in the greenhouse

I tried out my new macro lens (the one thing I really really really wanted for Christmas). I didn't get anything spectacular -- too hard to shoot anything really sharp without a tripod -- but the 100+ year old Christmas cactus, lit with pink lights, posed prettily for me.

Christmas cactus flower

I am fortunate to have next week off from work, and am looking forward to relaxing with my family -- and getting in some art time!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Enthusiastic heart

I was scheduled to teach a 2-hour workshop on making pincushions as gifts this Saturday at Corbin Art Center. I had been asked to design this class -- it wasn't my original idea. I agreed, thinking it would be pretty simple to do. But then I started to fall into my bad habits: I didn't even think about the class until 6 weeks ago; I came up with the supply list a couple weeks ago; and this week, I was trying to get the class samples made. I can be a queen of procrastination.

I was struggling to find enough energy to sit down each night to sew. I wasn't horribly excited about the class. It felt like an assignment, and I wasn't working from a place of enthusiasm. So, it wasn't a surprise that I didn't have a lot of drive to get the work done.

When I came home Tuesday, there was a message on the answering machine: the class had been cancelled. I was relieved! The rest and relaxation that I've gained far outweigh the money I could have made Saturday morning. Sometimes the wishes that you don't utter are heard and made manifest, in spite of yourself.

The lesson that I need to learn, over and over again: I work from my heart. Enthusiasm is my engine.

Pink heart pincushion

(I did manage to finish one class sample -- a simple felt heart pincushion. Maybe I'll sew a ribbon on it and call it an ornament? or maybe add limbs and call it a plushie?)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My 2009 zine

I apologize for not posting more lately. I am paddling along in the river of life right now, trying to keep my head above water. (Hoping not to drown in the flood of the holidays!) I know I will find a rhythm to this, eventually. I think blogging will still be a part of my routine, but I'm open to whatever will be the best path for me.

I did want to show you the covers of my zine:

"Something Extra" #2 zines

I am participating in Alma Stoller's I Heart Zines 2009 swap. Last year's swap was really cool -- I loved the zines I received. It was a huge push to get this year's zine finished and out the door on time, but I did it. It's called Something Extra #2 (The Circle Issue).

I made my covers by hand again this year. I painted white ice cream bags, then stitched them to the pages of my calendar from last year. (Every recipient gets to read my family's appointments and events for a month of 2008.) Then I cut out a bunch of circles from fabric and paper, and glued or sewed them on, and also traced blue and white circles with markers. Each cover is its own goofy self.

The swap theme is art/craft zines. I wrote a large article about the art of sand mandalas. I also wrote an article about a no-sew fabric doll that you can make with kids, plus a couple of other small pieces to fill it out. I tend to struggle with article ideas, but in the end, I am amazed that it comes together. It's a good stretch for me. And when the swap package arrives, it's wonderful to read everyone's else zine. So much honest effort and beauty and passion . . .

There is a postscript to last year's swap. Somerset Studio asked Alma to write an article about the 2008 swap; the article is in the current issue (Nov/Dec 2009). She highlighted a few of the zines, and Something Extra (#1) got a mention! It's a thrill to see my work mentioned in a national magazine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Charter for Compassion

The Charter for Compassion is an international, interfaith document that urges us to consider compassion:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.


We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Watch a reading of the entire charter (approx. 2 minutes) here.

To learn more, and to sign the charter, see

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!!

Today, Ross carved his jack-o'-lantern mostly by himself.

Ross spooning pumpkin goop

Ross carving pumpkin

Ross and jack-o'-lantern

Didn't it turn out great?

Trick-or-treating is coming up soon . . . and Chris is currently creating his costume. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Windy flowers

It wasn't swine flu.

But it was a virus, some sort of crud, that gave Ross and me a fever for a few days. I slept a lot, but I did manage to do a little hand-stitching, as well. Ross was (annoyingly) perky, but running a 100-degree temperature -- go figure. By the weekend, we were both doing much better.

I'd been feeling very out of touch with the natural world, so on our windy Sunday afternoon, I grabbed the camera and took a little walk. The flowers were waving around madly and the light was getting dim, but I clicked away, anyway. (Sharp focus can be overrated.) I tossed out most of what I shot, but I thought I'd share these, in honor of this October Monday.

Dark purple asters

Japanese anemone profusion

Wind-blown Japanese anemones

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hello world

I'm out here, sort of. Trying to keep in touch with folks as I've plunged into this new job has been a challenge. Doing any sort of artwork has been a huge challenge. I embroider for a few minutes when I'm waiting to pick up Ross from school, but that's been about it.

And now, poor Ross is sick. I think it's swine flu. He's trying to nap at the moment, if his fever and stuffy nose will let him. My busyness may have to halt.

If I get sick, I wonder if I can crochet while lying down . . .

Friday, September 18, 2009

Newness, part two

Lots of newness around here. Our new cats are getting used to their new surroundings.

Gus and Bubba at the door

Ross and Chris are settling into their new school years. And I have opened the floodgates to new in my life. Exhibit A: a new job! I've been teaching classes for the city's park & rec. department for a couple years, but I haven't had a steady job since a couple of years before Ross was born. Out of the blue, I was asked if I would become the communications coordinator for my church. It's a part-time affair; the largest responsibility is creating the weekly bulletins and the monthly newsletter. It didn't take me long to say yes.

Exhibit B: I have begun to play a new instrument: the shakuhachi.

Picking up the shakuhachi

The shakuhachi is a traditional bamboo flute, invented by the Chinese and perfected by the Japanese. It is used as a Zen meditation instrument, and is often featured in traditional Japanese music. You've heard it in nontraditional places, as well -- the flute heard in Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" is a synethesized shakuhachi.

I stumbled upon a local group of shakuhachi students, and they have very kindly allowed me to join their group. One has lent me a shakuhachi to play.

Shakuhachi under the Japanese maple

This is a notoriously difficult instrument. It takes a long time to learn to get a sound out of it! I played clarinet and saxophone as a kid; I find it very humbling to pick up a woodwind and not be able to get a note from it. Frustrating, too. It takes me back to when I was learning clarinet when I was eleven, and it seemed as if everything I played sounded awful.

Shakuhachi mouthpiece

But the frustration gives way to laughter. I can laugh at my lofty expectations, and smile at the way the shakuhachi puts me back to square one. I can eke out a few notes, and they sound terribly flat. But I'm thrilled to get any sound out of it at all. I have to be conscious of posture, breath, mouth position, everything, in order to make a lovely note. It is good practice in staying in the moment, being in the Now. No wonder the Zen monks used it for meditation.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Lots going on these days -- lots of newness that I've plunged into. It's been a shock to the system, like jumping into the North Atlantic on Memorial Day. Gasping at the icy water as it hits my body, I will be catching my breath for a while. I feel excited, yet part of me wonders what I've gone and done. Fear makes me want to look back, maybe turn around, yet I know there is no taking things back. I'm keepin' on, keepin' on.

Some news I can't share just yet, but it will arrive soon.

For tonight, I'd like to salute you, wherever you are:



Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gus and Bubba

Ross had been bringing the subject up for weeks. "When are we going to get a cat?"

We'd said that we'd get one after we came back from vacation. Or maybe two -- I'd started to think that one cat in our house might feel lonely when we weren't there, so two could be better. But one thing after another came up, and Chris and I felt we had too much going on. Not enough time to find a cat and give it a proper welcome. But when Ross started to get tears in his eyes every time he brought up the subject, I knew it was time to put aside our busyness and find a new pet.

We didn't plan to get two cats on Saturday. We slept in, then decided to go out for breakfast, which is something we almost never do. As we enjoyed eggs and pancakes, I realized that this might be a good time to bring home a cat. Ross was immediately enthusiastic, and Chris easily agreed. He said he'd been missing a cat to greet him when he got home from long work days. Chaplin had always been a source of comfort for him.

We thought we'd start with a trip to Petsmart to pick up supplies (a new litter box, food, toys, etc.) When we got to the food aisle, we started to pull down Chaplin's favorite varieties of Little Friskies. Chris and I both started to cry. One more wave of grief rolled through our lives, but it left as quickly as it had come. Ross hugged Chris every time he sniffled.

We looked at the cats in the store's adoption center. We went from cage to cage, saying hello to each cat, reading the name tags and adoption information. One adult tabby was very friendly, meowing and pawing at his cage bars. His name was Bubba -- perfect for such a big, affable guy. He made an impression on all of us. After some more shopping and discussion, we asked to visit with Bubba out of the cage.

What a heavy cat! I thought as I picked him up. Chaplin had lost a lot of weight in the last few years, so I wasn't used to the bulk of Bubba. He was calm and alert, didn't hide under the cages, and let us pick hold him without squirming. We noticed one of the kittens was very interested in Bubba. One of the employees had told us that Gus' litter mate had been adopted a couple weeks before, and Gus was clearly lonely and looking for a playmate. When Bubba went back in his cage, we asked to visit with Gus. Such a cute kitten, full of life! He let us pick him up, and he purred for me -- which surprised the woman who was supervising us, because she'd never heard him purr. Ross had been talking about getting a kitten ever since Chaplin died, so he was quickly smitten with Gus.

The adoption information for both cats said that they got along with other cats. I wondered if we should trust that. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Bubba was big enough and old enough to hold his own with Gus, and Gus could learn from Bubba. Gus would have the companionship he was looking for. Ross would get a kitten, and Chris would get a lap cat. Perfect.

Chris and I did the paperwork; Gus was from the city shelter, and Bubba was from the humane society. Then it was off to find two collars, a second litter box, and so on. As I went through the checkout, Chris and Ross brought the boys to the car, and off we went.

Gus was immediately comfortable, exploring and playing, playing and exploring.

Gus under chair

Gus and Ross with feather wand

Gus and Chris in living room

Bubba was much shyer at home than he had been at Petsmart. After a little exploring, he hid under our bed, and later, he went down to the basement and hid under the futon frame in the family/computer room. We gave him lots of space. Today, he got more comfortable, and he's been upstairs with us for a good part of the day.

Here's Bubba!

So far the two guys have gotten along pretty well. Gus follows Bubba almost everywhere he goes, and Bubba has been pretty tolerant of Gus' bad manners. I think they're going to be great together. The start of a wonderful friendship.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Patchwork scarf

When I needed to come up with a big project for my youth sewing camp a few weeks ago, I panicked. What would appeal to ten and eleven year-old girls, be fairly straightforward, and fun? Plus, I had included fabric painting in the course description, so I needed to work that in. In the end, I decided on a patchwork scarf made of half painted fabric, and half commercial fabrics. Here's my sample:

Blue and orange patchwork scarf

After I made mine, I knew I had to simplify it a little more, so I made their patchwork rectangles longer, so that they'd sew 4 rectangles on each side, instead of 5. It'd be a stretch for the kids, but I hoped they'd have fun painting fabric, at least. And they did -- never underestimate how much tweens love glittery paints!

We painted first thing in the morning, and put their fabric on racks outside in the 90+ degree heat. Then I had them cut out their commercial fabrics before they went to lunch. After lunch, the paint was plenty dry, so they cut out the rest of the rectangles. The tricky part was getting them to piece the scarf together correctly. I don't get uptight about crooked seams, but they were sewing stuff together backwards, so there was a lot of seam ripping. Much moaning and "this is stupid" and "I don't like scarves" and so forth. In the end, I think 3 out of six finished, and I was really impressed at how nice the scarves looked. This is probably a better project for more advanced and motivated adult students, because the kids just didn't think they were that cool. But I do love mine!

My kid, now

My son gets annoyed when I start snapping a lot of photos of him. Can't say that I blame him, but what's a mother to do? Sometimes I have the urge to freeze the moment, and to capture that lovely boy just as he is.

With sunflowers at the farmers' market

(at the farmers' market)

Swinging the water bottle

(on the hiking trail)

Heart leaf

(you've got my heart, kid)

First day of 5th grade

(first day of 5th grade!)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Talking about swine flu

Tonight Ross and Chris and I were sitting at the table, playing cards, when the subject of swine flu came up. Chris and I both lectured Ross about washing his hands, and using tissues, and keeping his fingers out of his mouth, and other such things. We were not delicate about the matter. We told him that many people may die from this thing, and that if his dad, a diabetic, gets it, he may well end up in the hospital. Not to mention that Ross himself is in a high-risk group this time.

My responsible, serious boy started to look very grave indeed. And I wondered if we had gone too far, if we had needlessly scared the crap out of him. He lightened up as we resumed the game, so I don't think he'll have nightmares, but still, I wonder.

How do we as parents convey vital information in a manner that gets our kids to pay attention, but doesn't cause them distress? I always try to be straightforward and honest with Ross, but sometimes I know I'm lacking in subtlety and compassion. Is it a kindness to soften the message a bit? Or do I risk having him not taking the information seriously if I try to cushion it?

What have you said to your kids about swine flu? When you were a kid, do you remember something your parents said to you in a serious situation that was helpful, or harmful? (I'm thinking about diseases like AIDS and polio, but also more broadly -- death in the family, serious illness, and so forth.) I'd love to know what worked, and what didn't work, for you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In any moment

In any moment, I can choose to be my truest self.

I can let go of the past, my "story," my grievances, my tightly wound-up adultness, and just be.

A simple miracle, emerging in every moment of our lives.

Light rays and clouds

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our new car

My wonderful, diligent husband did a lot of research and dragged my reluctant self to dealer lots, and now his efforts have paid off: we have bought a new car. Introducing our 2009 Hyundai Elantra:

Our new car

We've mostly been a 1-car family over the years, but Ross will be going to a different school this year, and we needed a second car to make sure we can get him there and back again. (Talk about a spendy school supply item!) Plus, our Jeep is 12 years old -- still running fine, but it doesn't hurt to have something newer, just in case.

Ross in Hyundai

Can you believe that he'll be learning to drive this car in 5 years??? Yikes!