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Celebrating Imagination and the Wonderful, Wild Ride that is Life

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Random thoughts on a sunny winter day

So, I have received more than a few responses to my Christmas letter this year. Everyone keeps saying the same thing: "You should be a professional writer." I have heard that a lot in the past, especially when I was keeping my Tour de Pink blog (which I sincerely miss and plan to start up again when the biking moves outside...I can't wait.)

I am always flattered when people like my writing. It brings back an itch in me that I had since I was a kid. I alternately wanted to be a writer (because I loved to read) or an artist (just like my Grampa). Those were my dreams. In fact, I would often read my stories and poems to my family out loud. It's really one of the few things that I would do that made me feel that I was connecting with them (especially my parents) on a real level.

Many people don't know that I had a hard time choosing between these pursuits when it came time to go to college. I couldn't decide between art or writing. I knew I had some talent for writing; after all I won a James Michener Scholarship to help pay for college. But I also wanted to be an artist; I think because that was what had signified true success in our family. Everyone admired my Grandfather and spoke about him in terms usually reserved for geniuses. So the pull was strong. But I remember my sister trying to help me decide. She frankly told me that I was not that good of an artist. Ouch. But she was probably right.

So, I ended up at the University of Michigan for my first year of college as a pre-English major. The U of M was a huge mistake for me (that's a whole other story) but the English classes I took were top notch. My favorite were the reading and appreciation courses. But I also took a very important course my second semester: poetry. I didn't know it when I signed up but it became pivotal in the direction of my life. There were only a handful of us in that class (an anomaly in my experience at U of M) and I was the only female. There were some really good poets in there. And some not so good. I never knew where I fit. They all had problems with my "emotional" style, my vocabulary...I believe it was all code for "femininity". They weren't being nasty, it was all in the interest of constructive criticism. But I found myself trying hard to write like someone else. Pretty soon I doubted any talent that I might have. (In their defense I occasionally read those old poems I wrote, and they are overwritten windows into the soul of a teenage girl filled with issues and angst. But of course, that's what I was.) Anyway, I started to return to the comfortable desire to draw and do art. It was private and comforting. Eventually I got up the courage to approach my poetry instructor one night after class. It was getting dark, and he was in a hurry to get somewhere. I asked him point blank if he thought I was good enough. (What a question! And so typical: like life is a yes or no answer!) He said "Maybe if you have to ask that question, you know the answer." Ouch again.

Eventually I transferred out of U of M for my sophomore year. I went to the Cleveland Institute of Art because that was where my Grampa had taught; and my parents had attended. (I always assumed I got in because of Grampa.) I can tell you the same worries and creeping thoughts of inadequacy plagued my entire time there. In truth, I never felt at home. I was an academically minded student in a place with people who never showered, enjoyed French black and white movies about nothingness, and never read a book unless they had to. (Of course I'm over-generalizing and mean no disrespect, they were just so much more "artsy" than me, and confident about it.) I know I made the literature and art history teachers very happy: I was probably the only student they had who was truly interested! I enjoyed my time at CIA, and grew artistically. But I was never sure I belonged.

In truth, this feeling has plagued me my whole life; like I have never truly delved into the depths of me. I suspect it is common for all of us. So when people say I should be a writer, I agree. But I say to myself, "Writer of what?" I only know me. I honestly have no idea how I would start. If I'd stayed the course way back in 1985, maybe I would have learned. Regrets. They are everywhere I look. They are in my thoughts when I fall asleep, they are on my mind in the morning. It is impossible to live without regrets. But at the very least I can say I have lived. The search for me continues.

In the end, life has dealt me a big, giant practical joke of sorts: I have a soon-to-be college bound daughter who has her eyes set and writing. She is conflicted between the two, doubts her abilities, but is also proud of them. It is all so familiar. Too familiar. She at least has come up with the novel idea to study both at once. She is, unlike her mother, a genius. Of course, I am little help in this discussion. It's too close to my bones. I just hold my breath and believe that she will find her way and have faith.

Life. That's my pursuit. My major. And, truth be told, it may be the only thing I'm good at.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dreaming of Summer

I know it's the end of January, and we've got a long way to go until summer. But still, I can't help feeling myself pulled there. Maybe it's because my office, though quaint due to being in an old building, is very cold and drafty, particularly by the ceiling high windows that I love. Today I found myself in Target, staring at the Smith and Hawken display. They had bright colors, and birdhouses and silk flowers that made me think of words like "new", "young", and "spring". And then there was the end cap full of bright enameled kitchen things. Toys, really. Spinning utensil holders, paper towel holders, bread boxes, and canisters. All in unabashedly sunny summer hues like apple green, robin's egg blue, cherry red, and juicy orange. I wanted them all. I shouldn't torture myself like this. And I sure wish the retail industry would stop adding fuel to the fire. I think it would be less depressing if they kept the shelves stocked with firewood holders, plaid pajamas, and wool socks. At least I wouldn't be tempted to dream this early in the game. And don't even get me started on the "seedling kits". I thought Target was based in Minnesota. That's just downright sadistic!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Letting go...maybe

This is going to be a photo intensive post. I have fnally finished (?) my little book and I am documenting the entire thing here because I think I am going to put it into the silent auction for our scrapbooking event, Scrap for Survival. (For more details on that, visit the crop blog.)I say that I think I'm giving it away because, I'm having a hard time with this. This is why I'm never able to sell anything. All the stuff that I put my heart into, all the stuff that is truly my best (to me), I am in love with. Now, I'm not saying this is the best . It's really unfinished. I envision it full of special photos and memories; it's meant to be a journal, a place to write your secrets and dreams, a place to keep your favorite mementos. So, this is a photo intensive post because if I give it away (to a very worthy cause mind you) I want to remember it in detail. So here goes, my dream journal:

I used all sorts of vintage goodies in here from photcopies of vintage cards to old book pages, corsage pins, and my personal favorite: that pink ribbon with the silver squiggles on it.

I just love the turtle dove story and illustrations from an old book I own.

I used tons of Tattered Angels glimmer mist and Tim Holtz crackle paint to give it that vintage look and tie all the pages together.

One of the fun parts of this project was using pages of varying types, shapes and size and seeing how they would all look layered on each other.

I enjoyed using my paper piercer and some crochet thresad to hand stitch on some of the pages. The page below looks really unfinished to me...I just can't stop tweaking!

These are by far my favorite pages. I love the sequined heart and the vintage image on the inside back cover. Plus who doesn't love a little envelope to hide their secret wish?

So out of this project came my class project for the crop. (We offer three classes as part of the day long event, and I'm teaching at least one.) I'm unveiling the project here because, well, nobody checks my blog so I don't think I'm spoiling anything! Here it is! My altered valentine canvas:

I decided to use the same paint and decoupage on canvas idea, but made it something we can (hopefully) complete in an hour. I thought it would make a nice decoration.

Here's a close-up of the front of the valentine. Again I photocopied a vintage card. I used glimmer mist to alter doilies and give the whole thing a distressed look. I glittered some brads, and made my own paper (inked up computer paper sprayed with glimmer mist) to punch flowers and matt the image on the back which is the backside of another postcard. I love it! It says: "To Gramma, From Ralph". Perfect!

So that's what I've been up to. Now I just need to learn to be able to break the chains of motherly love. Any helpful hints would be great!

Evidence of a Life