Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh, Reeeeeeeeeeeaaaally??

When this child was born, I feared for what his father would name him. The deal from the beginning was that I wanted my son to have my dad's name for a middle name. Stanley had shown up in one of those baby name books under a funky category called "Boys' Names That Could Become the New Girls' Names." Well, that wouldn't be cool to be a teenage boy and suddenly have your name become the new popular name for baby girls, so Stanley had to be the middle name. The other part of the deal was that my husband got to pick the child's first name. Scared? Yes, I must admit that made me a little bit scared. Ricky had been happily calling this child Angus, as in Angus-what's-his-name from AC/DC, as soon as we knew he was a "he." Not John, Paul, George, or even Ringo, no, the super Beatles fan thought Angus was a cool name. He said he was kidding, but I could see the happy gleam in his eye when he caught an AC/DC video. Well, I had to counter "Angus" some way, so I started referring to the child I was carrying as "Elvis." Elvis Angus?? Oh, my, can you imagine?
In the end, my husband was bouncing along the hospital corridor as they wheeled me into surgery, saying, "I think it's going to be Vincent. Yeah, maybe Vincent. . .or James." What was he talking about? I'd never heard him mention Vincent as a possibility, and this was the man who never answered anyone when they asked about the "J" in Ricky J. Garren. Since I happen to like names that have been passed along in a family, though, I grasped hopefully at the notion of "James." Oh, no offense to anyone named Vincent, but I just didn't get it. So, that's how James Stanley finally arrived in this world with a decent name.
It wasn't until a couple months later that I realized he might share names with his father, his maternal grandfather, and even one of his mother's uncles, BUT he could arch one eyebrow skeptically and look a whole lot like yet another uncle. . .and that is how this face he's making in the picture has come to be known as James' Uncle Ralph eyebrow face. It's the ultimate in "oh, really??" expressions, greatly admired by me because, although I can be a sarcastic skeptic of huge proportions, I can not raise one eyebrow archly and send out the "oh, reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaall??" smirk.
And this week has been one in need of an "oh, reeeeeeeeeeaaallllllly??", more than once, I might add. For instance, a piece of junk mail in the mailbox commanded me DO NOT BEND. Oh, really? And why not? Mostly, though, the "oh, really" bit has been a note to myself in response to the I-ought-to's. I ought to separate my paperwork every month so I don't have to dig through all of it at once when the beancounter decrees it is time. Oh, really? When have I ever, ever, ever been organized and stayed that way? I ought to do the housework first, then have the rest of the day to work without it hanging over my head. Oh, really? Am I really going to achieve anything by trying to start that routine on a snow day (when the kids will come along behind me and spill something immediately, and when I know how bad I am at the "domestic" part of domestic goddess)? I ought to do this, I ought to do that. Oh, really? Why not work with my foibles, work within the weird flow of disorganized creative chaos that is me?
That's it. I already know it works, albeit slowly from year to year. Instead of keeping all the oxygen receipts somewhere on the desk, why not narrow it down again this year? Why not keep all those particular yellow receipts in one box or drawer? Same for the housework stuff, too. Why not make it more of a habit to give the entire kitchen a spiffing up while I'm waiting for the coffee to brew, instead of just idly putting the dishes away? Yep, this working within the boundaries in order to slowly stretch them just might be the key.
Really :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Secrets You Can Learn from the Tools of a Trade

Sunlight streams through the vertical blinds in my dining room, landing on the handsaw that Joann trusts me to paint. This saw belonged to her father, my dad's cousin Raymond. It must be genetically encoded in the Greer DNA-- if you are a male, you must have a love affair with building things. In the course of this affair, you will accumulate many tools. Some will be tools you use sparingly but are glad to have "just in case." Some will be bought to replace worn-out tools. Some will be those worn-out tools, and you will use them and favor them until the day you die. I think you can tell by looking at the picture into which category this particular handsaw falls.
The barn and milking parlor I am attempting to paint for Joann represent the dairy farm Raymond had. If you've ever been on a dairy farm or lived downwind of a dairy farm, you might have an inkling of the work involved. I am pretty sure my inkling is a very slight fraction of the whole picture of being a dairy farmer, though.
Joann, when I look at that saw and try to remember the dairy farm, I realize how little I know about your dad. I know I loved his smile behind the glasses. I know every Sunday after Thanksgiving, I will not fail to think of Raymond when I hear the first car coming down the driveway at my mom and dad's. I know Raymond always seemed an especially happy soul amongst all the Greers coming and going at a gathering.
On the surface, the things I don't know (or have forgotten if I did know them when I was a kid) are most probably easily answered. How did Raymond come to be a dairy farmer? He obviously liked to build things; did he sometimes work construction, too? When he moved off the dairy farm, was his workshop enough to keep him happily occupied or did he still miss the daily rhythms of the farm?
Somewhere in here, the line of thought becomes more than just points connected by a straight edge. The "line" of thought becomes more of a branched tree of many thoughts. When I hold the handle of that saw and contemplate how to make those damn dairy cows in the pasture look like cows and not some random splotches of paint with four legs and a tail, it's not just the painting on my mind. I wonder whether your dad enjoyed morning or evening milkings the most and what it was about those times of day he liked best. I wonder if he stopped to watch the sun rise every morning, listened to farm reports on the radio, and worried about the price of milk and what it meant for his way of life. I wonder what he looked at and mused about when he sat outside the screen door of the milking parlor and took a break.
And you know I have all sorts of questions about the things he made in his workshop, why he made them, and why this saw with the broken handle saw so much use. Just this last time when we were home, Pop was talking about some of the things his daddy had the boys do. Granddaddy Greer had those five boys doing all kinds of things and writing this makes me wonder what Uncle Bill taught Raymond and the rest of his kids. You know, I mostly remember Uncle Bill after his stroke, remember him calling Aunt Lula from his bed. "Luuuuuuluuuuuuuuuu, can I have some candy?" "Luuuuuuuluuuuuuu?" Your daddy moved into town next door to them around that time, right? How many memories of his dad before the stroke joined him in his workshop?
If I sat quietly with my right hand gripping the handle of this saw, would I be able to feel any of the thoughts Raymond felt when he was woodworking? The handle has been worn smooth by use. Would I be able to hold it and feel the rhythm and the sweat that wore it down to this point? What secrets about shaping wood would it teach me? You can learn a lot from the tools of someone's trade. . .

P.S. I know my little brother is standing over your shoulder while you read this. He's probably making a crack about me doing too much talking and not enough working. He might even be right. . . but I bet he also knows this isn't just any old handsaw blade that needs painting ;-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

P.S. And Then the Little Birdie Said I Oughtta Tell You About These Peeps!

So, I woke up to even more snow on the ground and to the sight of one of the cardinals actually sitting inside that funky globe of a bird feeder! Making eye contact with the cardinal was my first mistake. It was like the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the one where Ferris is racing home on foot and crosses the road right into the path of his sister. They stare across the hood of the car she is driving. She narrows her eyes and slams her foot on the accelerator a split-second after he runs. Well, same thing for me and the cardinal, in a way. Soon as I made eye contact, it was a race to see whether I could even reach for the camera before that bird found his way out of the globe! Guess who won? Hint-- you don't see a picture of the cardinal in this post, do you?
What's a girl to do? Ahem, I heard that, and I am well aware that this time next week, this "girl" will already have turned 43, thank you very much. Now, back to the question. What's a girl to do? Well, one thing she'd like to do today is shine a spotlight on the sweethearts who left messages yesterday :)


Another thing I'd like to do is say a big THANK YOU to Capt. Elaine for passing along a blog award! Yep, the internet sure does a lot in the way of bringing us all together with people who share our interests! Isn't it great?


P.S. Here are some more peeps that little birdie told me you might enjoy:

Woohooooooooo! That oughtta keep ya entertained and happy for a while! Now, to figure out how to escape the Mommy-Brain Syndrome today and get some work done. With temperatures in the teens, the kiddos won't stay outdoors for very long at a time. Two snow days in a row is practically guaranteed to result in a few minor squabbles, don't ya know!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Little Birdie Told Me!

A little birdie told me a few things,
and then he spread his wings and away he flew.

A little birdie also told me you can leave the name of one of your favorite blogs in my comments and I will post a link to it right here.
I'd like to write more, but the muse is not cooperating. Apparently, snow and ice and brrrrrrrrrrrrr-cold were not mentioned in her contract. In fact, even as we speak, she is switching to her lightweight-faerie-travel wings and heading for the southern hemisphere. I begged her to use the magic pixie dust instead, thinking she'd spill some on me and I'd get to go along with her. She was not amused. Have you ever h-he-h-heard chattering muse teeth? Not a delicate plinkety-plink, contrary to what you might imagine.
Talk to ya tomorrow!
P.S. If you see a faerie looking creature, a middle-aged woman of sorts but with wings velcroed to her fleece jacket, would you tell her I'm all out of sorts without her? You might also mention that those Crocs lined boots had better be returned to me a.s.a.p.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Speaking of Developing Your Own Style. . .

We've been talking about "How to Dress Like an Artist," as well as the artist's cloak (remember the last paragraph?). The point of these blurry faux action shots of Katie (okay, okay, I forgot the camera was in no flash mode) is that outrageous style is something some people develop early in life. I think that's the point. . .but you know me and rambling thoughts, so who knows what ideas we'll stumble across today :)

Kate is a non-girly-girl after her own Mommy's heart, except she does non-girly-girl with a flair I could never have imagined when I was six years old and she's been dressing herself since she was four! Some of those early combinations of red with pink or shinysequineddressup with t-shirt were a little much. I would make her switch to jeans instead of the fake fur pretend dressup skirt before we left the house. Occasionally, I would look the other way when she chose plastic Barbie-style high heels instead of real shoes.

It wasn't long after James started kindergarten, though, that I began to realize Katie's clothing combinations were beginning to look more stylish and artsy than I'd previously recognized. She'd put her favorite green floral spaghetti strap top on over a coral/gold/white paisley skirt. . and when I looked closely, I'd see the patterns echoing one another, as well as the greens and golds blending. It was remarkably cool, this style.
That green top and coral skirt combo is my favorite example, but there have been plenty others. The pale aqua velour sweatpants with the baby blue long sleeve shirt under a bright aqua and lime green soccer style t-shirt looked curiously soothing to the eye, and I almost told her not to mix all those different blues and greens!
The farmer girl hip hop ponytailed tomboy look from yesterday was another one of those outfits that had her father saying, "Did you get a picture of that?" Camoflauge ball cap worn sideways over side ponytail + purple velour shirt with tiny sequins at the neckline + overall/jumper dress + embroidered blue jeans + healthy dose of I-think-I'm-a-teenager attitude = funky, unique style. Who woulda thunk it, huh?
Of course, the possibility exists that I am blind to style and wouldn't know it if it bit me on the denim covered derriere. Still, I am proud of my little girl's look. It started before she discovered Hannah Montana, so most of it comes from her own personality. . . oh, she interprets what she sees on t.v., but not literally. She plays with it, messes with it, makes it her own. I like that.
Yep, I like that, and isn't that the way we start developing our own styles as artists? We see something, say a round bead here and a curlicued focal bead there and a colorful frit-covered bead over there, and we put all those images into our brains, play with them, mess with them, and make them our own. Pretty soon, we're pulling a brightly colored, large round bead out of the kiln and marveling at how the curlicues around the top and bottom edges frame it all!
The image of that bead is just that, an image. I don't think I've ever made one like that. Heck, the only frit I've had came as a surprise gift from Amber ( *Naos*Glass) a long time ago, and the shop vacuum ate it! But in my mind's eye, it is a very pretty image, this pink and yellow and orange bead. Nevermind that I hate working with pinks, don't like many yellows, and always forget about the possibilities of orange. The point is that if I did actually make that bead, it wouldn't look anywhere near the same as anyone else's interpretation because we take these ideas and images and play with them until we make them our own. Oh, man, just typing this makes me excited about art! It is a world of endless possibilities!
You know I happen to think the comments on this blog are the best part. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the comments make this blog into a conversation among friends, as well as a fountain of ideas and food for thought. . .so, come on, tell us something about the way your own style has developed over the years :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Draw with a Pen-- Just Do It, My Friend!

This is a palace for Momo, the Queen of GarrenLand. Please note the cat flags flying from the top of the castle, as well as the nifty cat ear shape to those parapets (or whatever is the correct term for those pieces of wall that stick up on castles). You will also notice the uniformity of the upward slant to each window. This drawing was done by James, who apparently has also inherited his mother's weird proclivity for always tilting things that should be symmetrical (if you look closely, you'll see all the glass faces and masks I make usually are wider on the right as you look at them and narrower on the left). I am so pleased with this little boy for including some great feline cat-eristics to this drawing. Way to go, James!

This is what happens when Katie "just feels like drawing a house, not a particular house but just what I want to draw." Kate's stylized people are very intriguing to me. Lately, they have developed a few very long eyelashes at the corners of their eyes, and this slight exaggeration does much to tell you about each character. I also really like the towers she added to her house, very magical. Way to go, K-a-t-i-e!

This is my ink pen sketch (yep, Elaine, you read that eraser, just some ink and me attempting to dance with the paper). The sketch is based on the newest bi-weekly challenge photograph at Different Strokes from Different Folks. How cool is that idea? Post a photograph, and then post everyone's different interpretations of that photograph. The previous challenge was a photograph of the Jefferson Memorial at night (and you can see Capt. Elaine's watercolor of it).
I have stood inside the Jefferson Memorial at night and been in awe of the magnitude of what our forefathers created. "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man" is inscribed around the inside of the dome, and reading it is a memory I will always hold dear.
Oops, back to the drawing and painting challenge! Lack of torching does strange things to a glass girl's mind...makes her dabble here and there and everywhere looking for a little creative satisfaction. Nothing has been "just what I wanted," though. Clay is only satisfying if I model it and then pour plaster over it in an attempt to make a mold. I'm so 'skeered I'll have the wrong thicknesses and blow up my clay creation in the kiln that I make things toooooooooo thin and they crack apart before I can even contemplate sticking them in the kiln. Wood, then? Nah, too cold in the garage. What I have suspected before is that I am addicted to the immediate results you get from melting glass. Okay, so you have to wait those hours and hours for the annealing and cooling in the kiln, but you get to see what you've shaped in the flame the whole time you are melting and shaping it.
Sketching with an ink pen is sort of akin to that. Immediate results that you can see growing across the page. No real erasing and doing over (technically, I think you can use an eraser, and I know you can melt in/off globs of glass gone wrong but I have come to enjoy letting the glass decide what it wants to do). Just start making lines. . .lay 'em down one after another, don't pause in the middle of a line, keep the repetitive motion flowing. It was like meditation. Took me an hour and a half because I was stopping to get this or load the washer or empty the dryer or find that. BUT even when I stopped, my mind stayed focused on the feeling of laying down those lines. It was beautiful. I think I'll do it again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How to Dress Like an Artist, the I'm a Grown Woman and I Just Wear What I Like Edition

Did you read this terrific article that Lori Greenberg found? It's called "How to Dress Like an Artist." It's a little bit serious and a whole lotta tongue-in-cheek, unless you happen to be a 19 year old art major in college, in which case I'd say it's a little bit pierced-doohickie-thingie in the tongue or cheek and a whole lotta serious. It is more than just a bit of entertainment, though, no matter what the age of the piercee, um, artist.
If you doubt that people in the real world have expectations about the way an artist should look, check out Marcy's Suburban Mom scenario near the end of this post on her blog . Just as an aside, let me say, Sorry, kiddos, I remember college, and no matter what you are doing, I'm pretty sure you're going to one day find yourself acknowledging that it was different from out here in the real world.
Okay, now back to expectations about how an artist should look. For the guys, I have no doubt in my mind that your hair should do things a crew cut could never imagine, no matter what your age, brother. . . but this only applies to guys who don't work with power tools because hanks of hair freezing up a shaft that should be turning are never pretty. Ditto shafts that shouldn't be turning with your hair wound 'round them. For the rest, I'm not sure that a specific piece of clothing is "the" key to looking like an artist. There's more to it than whether to go with faded and ripped (as in denim) or ripped (as in fine musculature) and straight from the hand of the hottest designer. Nope, you can't buy the look. It's something that grows and stretches and shrink wraps itself to your personality.
We women get a little more wiggle room in this "how to dress like an artist" party, though, simply because women have had more practice and options in adornment throughout history. I don't even want to talk about the fairness of this. Please! We've been hobbled by high heels and tortured with pantyhose, but then again, we've also gotten to pick the color of our hair if we want and stolen the painter's palette for our eyes and lips and nails and clothes if the desire struck us.
I think the subject I'm dancing around here is that political and social ramifications aside (don't get me started on Barbies or those hobble skirts from a century or so ago), we women have the best end of the deal when it comes to how we want to present ourselves to the world these days. We can go girly, or we can go not-so-girly, or we can go girly one day and not-so-girly the next. . .whatever strikes our fancy, as long as our pocketbook (or pocket) can handle it.
What does all this mean for us creative women who are a shade over 20? I think it means a bunch of things, some clear cut, some confusing. We have more options, so we have more decisions to make. . .and that can be good, bad, or somewhere in between. Since I can't seem to tie this whole post up into neat little packages, I guess I'm going to have to resort to just making a bulleted list of thoughts about "how to dress like an artist" when you're a grown woman :)

  • First admission. I have always wanted to look like one of those people with "style," one of those casual but elegant women who can mix vintage and modern and end up looking like they stepped out of a magazine instead of like someone threw them into a thrift store dressing room and made them get dressed in 30 seconds. It seems that these women are almost always the creative or artistic type. I thought that would be me, but I'm always a day late for the newest trend and a dash of flair too short. So, even though I've always wanted to look like an artist, I've never quite gotten the hang of this sort of style. . .and I sigh when I admit to myself that I don't really want to go to any of the trouble these women do in order to look that way.
  • Besides those unique women who have that casual but elegant and creative look, have I ever really paid attention to how someone's dress fits in with their creative/artistic background? Yes and no. Yes, because during college, I could pick out the art majors a mile away (it had to be the burgundy hair flashing against the black trenchcoats). No, because I've learned you usually can't read the entire book of a person's life and personality by simply skimming part of a chapter. I remember one of the librarians during my grade school years. She looked like an "artist" to me, with her hippie-cleaned-up-for-a-day-job clothes and long hair in braids. . .but she was a librarian, and her husband was the artist in the family. Looks can be deceiving, no?
  • I think for me, once I really found the medium (glass!! hot, molten glass!!) that let's me express myself, I started feeling confident and complete on the inside. Dang, all of a sudden my preference for worn out t-shirts and torn jeans makes sense! I can work in those. I can wipe spilled bead release on the hem of my t-shirt. Who cares if the glass spits and pops little pieces onto my old jeans when I'm torching? If I want to practice using that hand-me-down welding machine (oh, I gotta get that thing out again!), then short hair that springs back to wild, uncontrolled life after I remove the welding helmet is perfect.
  • But do I *look* like an artist? Ummm, no. I don't think so. . . unless you look beyond the clothes and start to see me. See my obvious delight when someone asks what I make. See my eyes twinkle when I tell someone else, "Oh, you can do that, and here's why I know you can." See my ears perk up when someone has a new tool or a piece of scrap metal or a bit of glass. See all those things about me, the way I notice and admire those same types of things about you, and you'll never forget I am someone passionate about making things. That, right there, is my artist's cloak of many colors, and I like to think I wear it well :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

If You Fill It, Will the Squirrels Come?

So, let me say right up front that I have mixed feelings about squirrels. I've never been a hunter and never really wanted to eat fried squirrel, but I have been known to become frustrated with the bushy tailed thieves stealing bird feed. . .and PETA forgive me, I have cursed those little buggers as "nothing but highwire walking rats with fuzzy tails."
On the other hand, I've also been known to leave ears of corn for those cute faced rodents in the trees. I do love to watch them do their acrobatics as they travel the branches of trees. If we had any regulars in our backyard, I'd probably give them names, too.
Squirrels. . .gotta love them when you're not cursing them :)
What do you think of this birdfeeder the kiddos (with the help of Grandma) got me for an early birthday present? Do you think the little birds are going to figure out their entryways? Do you think that multitude of starlings (ah, yes, another critter who inspires mixed feelings) in our trees will attempt to raid it? After all, it is a "bird" feeder. . .gotta be more intriguing than the cat chow they like to steal! Most importantly, do you think I'm going to wake up one morning to find a squirrel stuck inside this thing, running circles like a hamster on a treadmill? Heaven help us all, that would be a sight, but the rescue would be even worse! Those little round holes in the wire are the only entrance to that part of the feeder. The lid comes off so you can fill the core, but it doesn't expose the rest.
Yep, I can see it now: squirrel running frantically around and around inside the cage, woman doing the same thing outside the cage! Will you please send our squirrels smart-brain-wave vibes so this doesn't occur??
P.S. Yep, that's a trash can lid with rocks in it. I thought I'd recycle it by cleaning it up and making it a birdbath. Hmmph. Got it all prettied up, stacked those cool rocks with imprints in there to make it more shallow (thanks for those rocks, Grandma Vicky!), tucked the last of the Christmas tree trimmings around it, filled it with three or four jugs of water, and came back later to discover it has a slow leak somewhere. So much for that idea. But, I can tell you that I got a lot of satisfaction out of putting it all together there. It was fun. Guess I'll have to recycle something else and fix the problem :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I wait for blessings carried upon the wind,
and in the solitude I find peace and harmony again.

Well, I am here to tell you that I have experienced enough solitude in the form of being away from my torch! I took this sculpture out earlier this week and started taking pictures. In the process, the magical quality of glass melting struck me all over again.
Oh, you don't have to be a glass melter to know the feeling. You could be a painter, sketcher, quilter, potter, wood shaper, or just about anyone else who "makes things." Yep, that's us, the "people who make things." We build, we carve, we loop metal rings together, we stitch together. . .because we need to do it. Like Ellen said, it's almost as if the need to create is present in our DNA and cannot be denied its expression.
Do you know my grandmother used to make flowers out of egg cartons and pipe cleaners? This is the grandmother who lived in the house where the only running water came from a handpump off the kitchen. This was the grandmother who didn't have a telephone or feel the need for one until I was way up in grade school. She never struck me at the time as being an artist, but what do kids know?? Now that I look back, it seems she might have had some thoughts to share about creating if I had asked her. Did you know she filled an empty television cabinet with those egg carton flowers? Do you know it really was a pretty sight, those unexpected flowers peering back at you when you looked into the "screen"?
Here's to the joy of creating, just to be creating! We'll talk about moments of solitude and regaining peace and harmony another day. . . I feel the need to make something this afternoon! Gotta run!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

C'Mon, Show Me a Great Piece of Glass!

Uh, huh. I'll show you mine, if you'll show us yours!


There's mine, along with a link to more pictures of her in my gallery pages. Okay, I showed you mine. Now, it's time for you to show us yours :) Leave me a link in the comments, and I'll post your name and the link right under this paragraph. Get click happy, peeps! Let's have some fun!


Deborah's Glass Beads-- Hey, Deb, great to see ya! I love this green in Electrical Static!


Lindis is a gorgeous piece of glass wrapped into a glorious pendant, DaBatt Deb!


Oh, my, talk about Fire and Ice and demanding but delectable Divas! Check Mallory's newest ladies!


Yummy! Marcy's given everyone an Ice Cream Mini-tutorial!


Diana, your ceramic and glass goodies are yet another fine example of great glass!


Thanks for playing and clicking, everyone!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Much I Know Is True :-)

  • Boys will be boys will be boys, especially when it comes to toys. Uncle Bubby was quite delighted to show James the car collection again this weekend. The difference this time is that James has started to really notice cars. Yesterday morning, he ran out of the house in sock feet to get a closer look at the car. Mind you, this is the car he has ridden in off and on since his birth. Mind you, it was still verrrrrrrry cold outside. Why did he run outside without his shoes? Because I had the car's trunk lid up and he had to see "if those are two different lights on the back of the car, Mom. Can't you see it? The red lights are on the bottom *and* on the trunk. That's sweeeeeet!" So, you can imagine James' newfound delight at the thought of getting to inspect the car collection in Uncle Bubby's room!
  • Time stands still in Michael's (or Hobby Lobby or any other craft store) and in Barnes & Noble. This is especially true if you do not have these types of stores in your hometown. Whenever I come to my parents' for a visit, I almost always end up going to Michael's and the bookstore, even if I can't think of a single thing I need. Today was one of those days, and I thoroughly enjoyed browsing all around Michael's, even though I walked out empty handed. Ah, the bookstore was nice, too. I snagged a book about labyrinths for $4. Can't wait to open that up and browse.
  • Winter is beautiful, really it is. I know that to be true, really I do. I'm trying to convince myself that I can stand a few more months of such beauty. I'll let you know how that goes...when I unthaw!
  • A bit of inspiration in the form of a colorful picture is always welcome! Check out Mallory's blog (For the Love of Beads, in the side bar) to see an awesome set of pictures of her lava lamp, as well as a creative challenge. Looks like fun!
  • When you start out by saying "this much I know is true," you will inevitably tick off your muse and not be able to think of all the important things you wanted to include in such a list, LOL. Guess that means tonight is a short one, folks! Hope you've each had a terrific weekend and that Monday treats ya right!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Little Mrs. Merry Freaking Sunshine Says:

  • It is always easier to apologize than to ask permission.
  • A half-assed, but-let-me-explain-why apology is not a real apology.
  • When the world hands you lemons, ask if you can please substitute limes, and make a big margarita. Once again, I think I am fixated on warm places and vacations at the moment, LOL.
  • Don't Dish. Don't Direct. For crying out loud, if you're gonna watch t.v., then go ahead and put up with cable's constant price increases. Trust me. The satellite always messes up in the middle of the fourth down or at the most dramatic point of the movie.
  • Aw, come on, don't even try to tell me you didn't see that 25 m.p.h. sign! This might be the first house as you leave the farmland and come into our little town, but surely you can spare a minute of your drive, especially if you are driving one of those tractor trailers to the grain elevator...Damn, son, you've got the rest of the winter to sell that grain, but my children are gonna cry for months and months if you run over their cat. P.S. It's quite likely that someone is going to have to restrain me to keep me from personally going to hunt you down and torture you until one of us dies if you lose control of that vehicle and come up in my yard and endanger my children in any way.
  • Read the directions, okay? If you can't understand them, then ask someone. Seriously. Dude, I have a college education and still have trouble understanding some directions...but if I need to ask a question, then I do it.
  • Thank goodness, the houses in this neighborhood are far enough apart that we can't look out the kitchen window straight into their dining table to see what's for supper. Of course, this could come in handy if your neighbor happens to be a really great cook. Let me tell you, though, while we are looking for houses and are tempted by beautiful houses that happen to be set very close to other houses, it is good to be reminded that a neighbor can make or break your peace at just about any time if they choose. You get this little tidbit of wisdom because I've been thinking about what a rotten neighbor is doing to hassle the peacefulness of someone's household lately. . .and I don't like it!
  • There. Yes, I do feel better now. Thank you. You know what? I've hit that stage in life where I'm trying to be a better person, trying to let other people live their lives without me trying to steer them in the direction I find appropriate, trying to do my best to live and let live. BUT along with the beginning of this awareness comes a heightened awareness of the intolerance and ignorance of people who haven't traveled the same distance on this long and elusive journey to maturity. And, no, I don't really want to ever reach the end of this journey, but I do want to keep making progress as I go. And, yes, I do have lots of gratitude for those of you who've already been where I am now. . .thank you for putting up with me!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Soak It Up

Every time I scan past this picture, the same sensation fleetingly crosses my mind. It is the sensation of warmth from laying your palm onto a piece of terra cotta that has been soaking up the sunlight.

Can you tell what season it was when this picture was taken? Early winter. My eyes see the purpled hen and chicks with some crinkled outer layers, but my brain sees a warm, sunlit flowerpot.

Feel it? Bet you don't even have to close your eyes to imagine it. If you are a gardener, you've picked up so many pots that you can feel the not quite smooth, barely bumpy, fairly interesting texture of this pot, just by looking at a picture or hearing the words "clay flowerpot" or "terra cotta". If you are a lover of gardens, you've trailed your fingers lightly across many a clay pot as you walked through gardens, stopping to admire everything from hardy hens and chicks to delicate impatiens.

Feel it? Bet the creative part of you doesn't even have to stop and think about it, you just feel it, soon as your eyes light upon the image. The artist in you, the lover of beauty, the soul who is appreciative of all the many varieties of color and texture made possible by Nature. . .the artist grabs this image and begins to play with it. You begin to mentally catalog the colors you like and don't like, the almost imperceptible differences in texture from top to bottom, the balance or imbalance of clay and plant and wood. Isn't it amazing how many of these vignettes our brains hold?

Life. Soak it up!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hey, Is Everybody A-Okay Today?

So how's hump day going for everyone?
What's one thing that made you smile as soon as you saw it today?
What's one thing you wish you could get done by the end of the day?
What's one thing you've made or seen that you'd like everyone to see today?
Just leave your answers in a comment, along with the online address to the one thing you've made or seen that you'd like us to see. I'll edit my post to leave a link to your picture, Etsy item, you name it (well, on second thought, if you are a spammer, then I might not put up your link unless I find it amusing). C'mon, everybody, let's hear what's made ya smile today! Tell us about something you've done or hope to do by the end of the day! Share a bit of your art--- you never know when you'll make the connection with your biggest fan!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Zen and the Art of Gambling at the DragStrip

If you're a big time gambler, might as well go ahead and click on something else (feel free to click on my Etsy shop if you've got dough burning a hole in your pocket, but be forewarned, I don't take tokens as payment) because this is going to be boring. I've never even been to Vegas (although, after clicking on that link, I can say I truly regret never having experienced a place that had Frank Sinatra as the Grand Marshal of the 1946 Helldorado Days Parade). Heck, I've never even been to a riverboat casino, and they are just about everywhere on the rivers these days (check it out-- 9 in Illinois, 10 in Indiana, 10 in Iowa where even the dairy cows must be gambling in order to keep that many casinos in business!).

I can tell you, however, that I have glimpsed the possibility for addiction in myself. Yep, and it comes in the form of arcade games with Chuck E. Cheese ticket bonanzas (go ahead, click it, you know you want the jingle "where a kid can be a kid" stuck in your brain for at least the next thirty-six hours). In case you've never experienced Chuck E. Cheese, let me tell you, it's like crack for kids. Uh-huh, addiction might be a theme here. By the way, you know how guys have this annoying habit of claiming they go to Hooters just for the terrific chicken wings (as if! just admit you're going to ogle the chicks, guys, and don't try to feed us baloney about chicken wings)? Well, just as Hooters might indeed have pretty good wings, C.E.C.'s does have decent pizza, all things considered (and when I say "all things considered," I mean that parents with kids in tow don't usually get to enjoy a fine brick oven pizza in a quaint little bistro).

What do parents do while their mini-me's play ski-ball and jockey for position in the line for the fake roller coaster "ride" game? Well, the first few times, you nervously tag along behind your offspring, feeding them tokens, carrying the soda cups in case someone clears off your table while you're up, and fending off five year old hustlers who target innocent newbie kids, asking nonchalantly, "You got a token I can have?". The nice thing about C.E.C.'s is that those little hustlers are really the biggest threat to your child and a fake smile accompanied by a "Does your mama know you're hustling my kid?" usually takes care of that problem. You see, parents and kids get matching numbered handstamps when they enter the place, and kids cannot leave the premises without an adult with a matching handstamp. There ya go-- temporary peace of mind for the price of a pizza. After a few more trips, you finally figure out you don't really need to follow the munchkins and wince every time they "waste" a token on a game that obviously isn't going to give up any tickets (tokens go in the game slot, play the game, win anywhere from one to hundreds of tickets, take tickets to cheesy prize counter at end of visit to redeem for cheesy prizes).

What's a parent to do while the kiddos play, then? Don't say call somebody on your cell phone, because you'll never be able to hear them over the din of all the games, shrieking two year olds, and Chuck E. Cheese's animated, fur covered, rodent robotic, rock band! You can try a book (I took along one about creating backyard attractions for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife this time), but chances are you'll find it hard to concentrate. Chances are, there will be some obviously seasoned C.E.C. parent veteran playing a game near your table, and you will become mesmerized by their ability to make the game spit out tickets, tickets, and more tickets. Hey, if you're gonna go, you might as well hope for lots of tickets, right? Sunday night, our table was right by one of those hit the button as a certain light is lit for a split-second kind of games. This particular one mimicked a dragstrip-- Corvette revving its engine (don't even ask how many decibels are possible on a mere game), announcer booming the countdown, and the peel of tires as soon as you hit the start button.

Wait a minute, Ang. Where in the name of all things strange does Zen come into this post? Hang on, I'm almost there. I sat there listening to the "announcer" over and over and over, as some thirty-something dad played that game for all the tickets he could get. He was pretty good, too. His back was to me, but I could tell how he was timing it from the slight movement of his right shoulder a second after the peel of tires. Oh, yeah, I had to try that. While the kids are away, the mommy will use some of their tokens and play!

Needless to say, the game wasn't as easy as that guy made it look. Hand-eye coordination being what it is, you must know I was handicapped from the get-go (go ahead, call me Grace, call me clumsy, call me just plain un-freaking-coordinated, it ain't news to me). I fed the game a token. Hit the start button. Tires peeled. Lights traveled down the strip. Damn. Missed it. No 57 tickets for me, just three measley tickets. Repeat about four times. Hmmph. Sit back down. Read about birdbaths and try to resist sneaking a few more of the kiddos' token stash.

Well, shoot, we paid for the tokens, didn't we? And the kids are gonna be happy if we add to their tickets, right? Of course, right. I grab five more tokens (we used the coupon deal that came with 100 tokens this time, so maybe James and Kate won't notice). Three tickets, stopped about four lights before the jackpot bulb. Four tickets, close but no jackpot. Here's the Zen part, guys. I could feel my arm moving, could feel the effort to make my hand press the button a split-second too early or too late. . .but the next time the tires peeled, my body almost felt as if it was floating along with the electric current and I hit the jackpot without even feeling as if I'd moved. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet! That right there, that had to be some sort of Zen moment!

Oh, do you have to ask? You know I took more tokens and tried it again. And again. Hope the kids don't notice too many tokens missing. Here, one more time. Aha! Jackpot #2. Still the sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet Zen moment. Same with Jackpot #3. Just in case you didn't hear me, it was swwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttttt!

I think I'm hooked. Anybody want to meet me at Chuck's for lunch?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Help Me Convince Myself. . .We Create Because We Need to Create, Right?

**Warning-- this is post is not all sunshine and "I'm soooooooooooooo busy and in demand that I can't even stop to go to the bathroom" brags. In other words, if you are truly trying to do the positive Laws of Attraction kind of thing, skip this one and read again another day :) **

Yes, can you help me convince myself that the most important reason we create is because we need to imagine art with our minds and then form it with our hands? I keep preaching that this is the point. I get frustrated beyond belief when creative people pick at each other for no good reason other than that they're afraid someone else making money will prevent them from also making money. I like to think that I create because I need to create, need to express myself. I like to think that I do so without bowing to the pressures of "will this idea sell".
You know what? It ain't working at the moment. The practical, intellectual side of my personality can see the recession and the effect it is having on so many purveyors of "necessary" goods (another clothing chain is closing its doors here, for instance). If people aren't buying as many necessary items, then they sure don't have extra money to be spending on art for the soul. Oh, I can tell you reason upon reason why art is a necessity, but that doesn't make more money magically appear in anyone's budget, does it? I get it, and I don't let that part wound me.
What gets me down is that I do understand, I do think it's going to take a while for the economy to strengthen, and I don't want to waste my resources making uninspired pieces of glass just to say I'm working. If that $40 for an oxygen refill is harder to come by, then why "waste" oxygen melting glass every single day? So, if I understand, then why is it depressing me? I think it's because creativity and activity feed one another. Creativity, when it's really pulsing through your veins, doesn't slow down, doesn't take breaks unless someone outside your bubble of imagination says "hey, do you think we could get a real mom-made meal tonight" and instantly reminds you that you do have other responsibilities in the world. Creativity, at least for me, feeds on activity. . .the more I make, the faster the ideas come. On the other hand, the fewer things I make, the less inclined I am to even start on more. . .creativity slow down.
What next, then? Well, I have to put the torch out of the way for a few days while we take care of other things around the house, so I'm going to let myself enjoy having an excuse to not torch for a few days, let myself think about other stuff. I'm pretty sure it won't be long until I'm longing to fire up the torch! Ain't nothing like glass melting!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thief! Cat Burglar!

Little thief! Little cat burglar! Momo has been climbing on one of my desks, weaving and slinking around glass goodies, nudging stray papers out of her path, and messing with my feathers and spirit stick in the jar by the window. See the pretty feather with the stripes? Yep, she stole it. Well, she attempted to steal it. She lost her grip, and the feather fell down behind the desk and couch. Ha! Good luck retrieving that, ya little feline fink, LOL. Next, she took that grassy looking pod thingy (don't ya love my technical terms?). Apparently, it must have been some sort of spot that little birds liked for perching because Momo the Great Bird Hunter snatched it from the jar and chewed it to pieces.
Sorry to just post a cute kitty getting into trouble pic and run, but I sorely need to straighten my "studio" and both of the desks here in the living room. I'm also carting home extra children after school today so they can all play. I got the three girls a purple Hot Wheels car apiece (the 97 cent car, in case you don't have that brand where you live) and the three boys an orange car apiece. So far, my idea is this: Girls on the purple team. Boys on the orange team. Each team member has a card of some sort with checkboxes. Each time they complete a task (hmmm, I'm thinking up stuff, but probably along the lines of an obstacle course or scavenger hunt), they check off the box. Some sort of road race theme to tie it all together. Hamburgers, fries, and soda (grape for the purple team, orange for the orange team) at the "diner" at the end of the race. Think I can fill a couple hours up with that? I'll let ya know how it goes :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Little Mrs. Merry Sunshine Chokes on a Lemon Seed While Attempting to Make Lemonade

Little Mrs. Merry Sunshine Chokes on a Lemon Seed While Insisting She Can Make Lemonade from Lemons!

How's that for a headline? I'm just saying, some days are going to turn out sour no matter what you do.
You know those days. Those are the days when your brand new underwear rides up your crack, your almost wornout socks ride down under your arch, and cat or dog hair decided to ride all over your dark blue wool coat. Those are the days when you absentmindedly park beside a puddle, only to realize it when your stocking and high heeled feet sink underwater. Those are the days when you duck as soon as you walk out the back door because you're certain the bluebird of happiness is waiting to take a dump on your head.
Boy, oh, boy, today was starting out like one of those days. . .and then a simple virtual hug and kind word from Mallory made me smile. So, to each of you who's feeling fairly crappy or even downright bitchy today for whatever reason today, I hope tomorrow is a better day. . .and don't forget to spit out those lemon seeds if you do try to make lemonade from today's lemons! To each of you who's spread a smile or passed along a hug, I hope you know what a difference your small kindnesses can make in another person's day!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gimme Some Lovin'. . . and Spread It Around to My Friends :)

Just for you, Deb, I will accompany that post title with this:

Ah, what a great song!

So, some of youse guys has been spreadin' da love, and I gotta say Tanks for dat!

Rachel from Wilmoth Farms Handmade Soaps passed along this cool Kreativ Blog award.

These are the rules:
1. The winner may put this award on their blog.
2. Please put a link to the person that presented you for this award.
3. Nominate 5 blogs.
4. Put links to all their blogs.
5. Leave a message for your nominees.

Deborah from Sweetwater Designs Lampwork passed along this Lemonade Stand blog award.
Pass the award along and nominate up to ten blogs which show great attitude/gratitude.

Thanks, ladies! It's an honor. . .and it's always hard for me to narrow down any list and just pass along an award for a few, so thanks for being patient with me :)

So, how did I do it? Who did I pick? Bwahahahahaha! I didn't. Well, at least, I didn't try to pick five or ten of my favorite blogs that I follow (waaaaaaaaaaaay too hard to narrow that list down!). Also, I have to admit (yet again) my utter haplessness when it comes to copying images on the web and reposting them, so you have to go to Deborah or Rachel and snag your own award image.

May I present to you, my cop-out of the day, chosen after a couple of hours of thinking about this, getting stumped, going to fix a peanut butter sandwich, checking on the kitten, checking on the cat, checking on the children who are constantly bothering the kitten by checking on her, typing a few more sentences, still not being happy with what I've written, etc. Here are links to blog posts about unusual blogs or ideas for blog posts :)

Vandelay Design on 13 Ways to Create Unique Blog Content

Blog Core Values on Unusual Blogs

Ode Magazine is an online community with several blog contributors

Truly Unique and Outstanding Blogs listed here

Hope you'll have fun checking out these links! I know I'm going back in search of one I saw in a list. It was named "World's Dullest Blog," and the last entry had over 200 comments!

P.S. If you want tried and true good blog reading, just click on any of the great blogs on my Smidgeon of Reading blog list :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cat Wars. . .or How to Distract the Human from Work

**The following Moochie quote must be read in your best Steve Martin fake Frenchman accent. The management thanks you for your kind consideration.**
Meeeeeeeeeeeow. Certainment, Madame, I shall seek out this, how do you call it, orange infidel, for I am (insert fanfare) Inspector Moochie Clawseau!
I do not wish this great nation of GarrenLand to be overrun by such orange fur much as this. Please allow me, Madame, to assure you that the black and orange fur medley, that is moi, shall remain in complete control of the situation.

** Momo's reply should, of course, be read in a humbled whisper with a slight touch of indignation.**
Aw, geez, Mom, I didn't drag this piece of toilet paper under the bed, I swear I didn't so much as blink at that old Mooch, and I'm thinking this helicopter might be useful for launching some rockets at Moo...uh, I mean, at intruders! Yeah, that's it, intruders, gotta launch some rockets.
So much for concentrating on a serious, businesslike post for today. *sigh*
As soon as I sat down at the computer, I heard the galump-galumpity-galump of a housecat doing an impersonation of a leopard across the kitchen's linoleum floor. Either that, or the Pony Express is back in business and has a route right through my kitchen. Exactly how is it that such a lightweight teenage ball of fur can make that much noise running across a floor?
It wasn't long before I realized the purpose behind the galumping. The Mooch had casually strolled through the door and proceeded to the kids' bedroom while I was carrying in groceries (hot dog buns for the hot dogs for the hot dog lovers in the family, portabella mushrooms for sauteing for the non-hot dog lover in the family-- me). Moochie is not much of a housecat, but she felt the need to beat Momo to the door today. Momo, however, considers her adolescent self Queen of GarrenLand, She Who Shall Not Be Removed from the Glass Desk nor from the Back of the Couch (she who's got another think coming!). Momo was on a mission to track down this aging feline interloper. . .and the galumpity-galumping began!
They galumped through the kitchen, back to the breezeway, through the kitchen again, around the living room, over the couch (well, at least one of them got caught in that act), and down the long hallway to the bunkbeds. Naturally, I had to go see what was happening. I had to bring the camera, and I had to shut the bedroom door so neither of the cat culprits could escape before I took some snapshots of the fiasco. I do apologize for the lack of action in the shots, but the animals were constantly moving and certainly didn't offer to pose for me. Little boogers. Guess I better get to work now. Talk to ya soon!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

If I could wipe your slate clean,I would.
But that would also wipe away all the good you've become and done.
So, I won't.
Instead, for you, I wishmany fresh starts.
Use them when you need them.
It's one thing we feel we can't allow ourselves,so let me "give" them to you.
Fresh Start in my Etsy listings.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Get Your Motor Runnin'

Get your motor runnin'.
Get a kitten with a V8 purrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Get a kitten with some peachy, velvety furrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

4 months old
Rambunctious conqueror of old socks

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hittin' the Bottle for New Year's??

Well, no, not the way most people mean when they say "hittin' the bottle." This picture just happens to have some pretty glass bottles, bright sunshine, clear blue sky, weathered wood, and a bird's nest. I think that pretty much sums up my New Year's wish for each of you-- glass to melt or ogle, sunny days and intense colors to slather on like so much lip balm for the soul, and bits of nature everywhere.
Glass for Looking: If you enjoy looking at the sunlight as it passes through a piece of glass, if you like to see a flash of rainbow colors from a crystal as it sways in the window, if you find satisfaction in watching the evolving creations of glass artists, then you should know you are in the business of making the Muses smile :) Each time we gaze happily upon a creation, whether it be from the hand of a mortal or from the hand of a god, our admiration pleases the universe. Each time we reflect upon our amazement at the beauty we find in someone's creation, our words evoke a deep satisfaction and encourage that person to create more.
Glass for Melting: Chances are, if you enjoy looking at glass, then you might have discovered the joys of melting glass in the flame or in a kiln. Maybe your "glass for melting" is really fabric for quilting, clay for throwing, or yarn for knitting. Maybe you create by capturing these things with your camera. Whatever it is, may you have plenty of opportunities to feed your soul this year. May you find renewed joy in the small details that you thought had become old hat. May you find yourself exploring and stretching your skills and ideas. May you find satisfaction in all you do, whether it be one tiny stitch among many or the finishing touch on an elaborate piece.
Lip Balm for the Soul: You know how a simple stick of cherry chapstick (alright, I'd forgotten about that song until I typed that, and I'm not gonna bother going back to change it) smells sweet when you pull off the cap and then soothes your dry lips as soon as it touches them? May you have many nice moments such as that. . .a sweet long note in a song, a blue in the sky that sears itself into your brain in a good way as soon as you step out the door, a soft skein of yarn that caresses your hand before you realize you meant to caress it, a tart squirt of juice when you bite into a piece of navel orange, a hint of fresh baked bread in the air when you first walk into the kitchen.
Bits of Nature Everywhere: May you find them, wherever you go, wherever you live. From the marvel of geodesic engineering called a dandelion to the majesty of a bald eagle powerfully diving toward the river to grab a fish, may you find nature every day.
Happy New Year!