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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Should I?




New Year’s Resolutions. Will I? Will I not? Anyone have a coin I can flip? Are they a good idea, or an albatross weighing heavily from our necks, pressuring us excessively?

I’d tend to pick the latter. Then again, making a New Year’s Resolution can be a good way to kick off something I was intending to do anyway. Having an agreed-upon start date is good motivation. It’s a fresh start. A fresh new year. Okay. I’ll do it. Sounds good!

But honestly, I have a knee-jerk reaction to the word “resolution.” Resolutions almost always involve the word “should,” and there’s a lot of pressure in that word! “Should” is often used in reference to something we don’t completely want to do! (I should get up early and clean the house. I should start my taxes in March so I’m not panicking in April. I should eat more fiber but I really want to eat more chocolate!) And don’t try to trick me by saying that I can avoid the pressure of “should” by using the word “ought.” Or the phrase “I will.” I can’t be fooled that easily. It’s not my first New Year’s Eve.
 
Am I the only one who associates New Year’s Resolutions with penance? Impossible. Many people kick off resolutions on January 1st because they indulged over the holidays and feel they must atone. But I’m not sure it’s the best time. On January 1st many places are covered in snow or rain or hail or all of the above and it’s gray and freezing and depressing and there’s no sun and the days are short and the heating bill is long. So why choose this season to add to the misery? Why kick yourself when you’re already down? I say April 1st is a better choice for forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do. At least in April it’s sunny and warm and things are growing and there are flowers and nests full of baby birds and things are more cheerful so this is a much better time to embark upon a new fitness program or some other resolution you don’t completely want to do.

Here in sunny San Diego, we can’t claim evil weather as a reason not to do a New Year’s Resolution. But I’m thinking of the rest of my fellow Americans, in places colder and wetter and grayer than here. Don’t you think April 1st is a more reasonable day to start something difficult? It’s more manageable to stick to a challenging resolution when it stays light later and you can wear shorts and spring grooviness is in the air. Who’s with me? Let’s get a petition going. Or let’s forgo a giant stack of paper and just start a movement. We will not make resolutions on Jan. 1. We may consider making them April 1. And if, by 8pm on April 1st, the resolutions aren’t going well, we can just say it was all an April Fool’s Joke and (ha ha ha) the joke is on you people! Later I’ll insist that I was kidding the morning of April 1st when I said my resolution was starting today and that from this day forward I would be rising with the birds, dusting my house before dawn, saying positive things to myself in the mirror, eating bran and fiber for breakfast, washing my breakfast plate immediately after using it, leaving surprise gifts for neighbors, smiling all day because there’s no room for negativity, not swearing (not even once, all day!), chewing each bite twenty times, standing and sitting tall without one hint of slouching, flossing every single tooth—twice, walking ten miles a day, biking to work, never again using sarcasm, volunteering for Jury Duty, cooking a balanced dinner that is ready right on time, whistling while I work, leaving anonymous notes in mailboxes with inspiring messages like “You rock!” in them, doing the dishes after dinner instead of leaving them overnight, not thinking any mean thoughts about neighbors/coworkers/bosses/strangers/meter maids or politicians, and going to bed with a smile on my face. And you fell for it!

 

I won’t promise I will do all those things, each and every single day. But I suppose I could try to tackle a few of those ideas--maybe one per day. I could try. That’s all I can agree to do. But it’s not a resolution, okay? I don’t want the pressure and I don’t want you playing cop, checking up on me. I’ll call them suggestions instead.

 

Yes, I like this new plan. New Year’s Suggestions, possibly starting on April 1. Or not. We’ll discuss it in March. Or April.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cheery Chevy


 
This 1957 Chevy Bel Air wagon is rocking its holiday cheer. Seriously, you can learn a lot from cars. This car is owned by someone in the neighborhood, Jack. I blogged about this car years ago. See here. I love its style. I wonder if Santa could borrow the wagon if his sleigh gets too full. (See, I’m full of solutions!)

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas—whatever you’re celebrating, enjoy. Cheers…

Friday, December 19, 2014

Adding and Subtracting

It’s holiday card season, and I’ve up to my eyeballs in envelopes. My card list forces me to assess what has happened in the last year—the ways in which my circle of friends and family has changed. This year there are names I’m taking off the list—people who have died. Most years the list expands and contracts, changing shape from the form it took the previous year. This altered shape represents life itself: an ever-changing scene, like the fragments in a kaleidoscope—tiny movements creating new configurations.

I go through the list and edit: the 104-year-old matriarch gone, a baby born. I know it’s part of life. But I hate erasing a name from my list. It’s all on the computer, and with the click of a mouse, name and address are gone. Although removing names from my list is startlingly abrupt, I’ll never forget those who have passed. In the last nine days I learned that another two people I knew died. A cousin by marriage passed. She was extraordinary, sharp as a pin. She hung on long enough to celebrate her 103rd birthday, and two days later it was time for her to go. Our friends’ dad passed just last night.

I’ve been working on our cards for the last two weeks. Cards have arrived from overseas and from other parts of America. Two friends sent photos of new babies—babies I didn’t know existed. I guess a lot can change in a year. Subtracting names from my card list feels uncomfortable. But it’s also a weird feeling to realize that I don’t know that much about the lives of certain people on my card list. Should I feel glad that people still want the connection with me, even if it’s only once a year by card? Yes. But an announcement of a baby I didn’t know existed also highlights how infrequent our communication is. It makes me feel more distant from the senders, not closer.

Maybe this is a dilemma most of us face. How do we know when to prune our contacts list? I’d rather have a smaller number of real friends, not a giant number of acquaintances. Perhaps in the new year I’ll do a post on Dunbar’s Number. Dunbar wrote about the size of our tribes—the number of people to whom we can maintain a meaningful connection. Some of these cards depress me when they show how little contact I have with the senders, but other cards give me a boost. I know it took effort to address the envelope, to buy a stamp, and to mail it to me. I know I matter to those friends. Some have hand-written notes inside—a sign that someone took the extra time to write something personal to us. I’ll try to focus on those ones.

In an age when a lot of our communication is via computer, an actual card sent through the mail is a sweet gesture, a more personal touch, an old-fashioned and meaningful way to connect. This week we heard that our friends are expecting a baby next summer. I know that a year from now when I’m tinkering with my card list, I’ll add their baby’s name to the list. I may have to subtract other people from the list: elderly relatives or friends who have passed. It’s not easy. But it’s life. It’s hard to say goodbye to people. But maybe I can turn the losses into reminders to feel grateful for those who are here. I can’t stop change, but I can remember to appreciate fully the special connections I have with people …

Monday, December 8, 2014

Feathered Fun


I may have mentioned my obsession with flamingos once or twice before. A while ago I began sewing a dress out of some darling flamingo fabric but I ran into a problem I didn’t know how to fix. So I put the dress aside--for two years. That seems silly now but let’s not dwell on it. Recently I took that dress out and told myself that I was going to finish it, and I did. It’s not perfect but then again, I’m not building a piano. The design is my own creation—something with touch of a 1950s or ‘60s vibe. I dig it! Obviously, a photo session with a midcentury feel was in order.
 
I wanted to experiment with making some of the photos black and white. It adds to my vintage theme. On the other hand, it deprives everyone of seeing how delightfully pink the flamingos are, and gray flamingos just don't bring it.

I decided to make a killer headpiece to go with the dress and a cute pair of flamingo earrings my friend Roxie gave me last week. Every Monday should be this fun!





 
 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cheap Frill Tutorial #5: Belt or Headband or ???


Let’s cut up our clothes!

Yep, I said it and I meant it.

Now, I don’t mean you should grab the nearest pair of scissors and cut to shreds every last article of clothing you own. That would not be practical, given that it is winter (at least here).

What I mean is this: do you own an article of clothing that isn’t working for you? You love the color or fabric but something about it isn’t right? Don’t be afraid to take some scissors to it and make it better!

I recently bought a shirt at a thrift store (LOVE thrift stores—more on that in the future). I liked the fabric and knew I could use it for a SSP (Someday Sewing Project). At home I tried it on and didn’t like how the elasticized waist band sat so I cut off the waist band. Then I promptly forgot about it because it’s December and I have a lot to do before the 25th!

A few days ago, in my attempt to reconfigure the avalanche of stuff in my art studio, I found the delightful scrap of fabric that I’d cut off the shirt. Either I was procrastinating getting back to reorganizing the studio or I was inspired to share what this scrap of fabric could be. 

(Now before I go further I feel a little sheepish even calling this a tutorial. Except for the initial cutting of fabric, there is nothing involved in this tutorial. Is it even a tutorial? Oh well. Maybe I’ll call it an idea…)

Headband:

This waistband from the shirt was elasticized and it could stretch around my head twice. If you have a scrap of fabric that doesn’t stretch around twice, stretch it around once and tie the ends at the back of your head. Colorful, keeps my bangs off my face, and keeps ears warm. (Cleopatra eye makeup entirely optional.) 

 
 
Headband-Scarf Combo:

Again, my fabric scrap was long, so I had enough material to make a figure 8 (the part where the loops cross goes at the back of your neck). This one is fun because it looks a little different, and keeps both ears and neck warm (which is a major bonus in a freezing place like San Diego!). 


Belt:

If your scrap of fabric is too long, gather the extra and fold it back and forth a few times in front before anchoring it with a fun pin you’ve made with felt and beads. (If you haven’t made a pin like that, don’t worry. Even a safety pin would do. But fun pin is obviously just more fun!)  



Actually, there could be a lot more options with this loop of fabric. You could wrap it around your wrist a bunch o f times as a funky bracelet. There may be endless possibilities.

A word of caution: if you are going to keep pieces of fabric for SSPs (Someday Sewing Projects) or FAPs (Future Art Projects), please learn from my story and know that you may end up with a huge amount of stuff because almost anything can be repurposed. The danger is that you may end up with an avalanche of stuff in the room where you keep such things. But this is the case when you have lots of creative ideas. It goes with the territory.

And now I must get back to my studio reorganization. I know you’re curious about all the other random things I’m finding in there, but I must put my foot down and insist that you wait until January. Please, no more interrupting me!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

California Dreamin’ (or not)


Forget raining cats and dogs. Last night’s storm sounded like an entire zoo in the sky. At three am I got out of bed to use the bathroom, my bladder feeling full after hearing so much water fall outside. I’d been asleep (kind of) for four hours and the rain had woken me at least ten times. This is not good for blogging--I need rest in order to dream up funny blogs! But the whole thing got me wondering: was I waking up because of the intensity of the storm or because we’re not used to rain in San Diego? In places where it rains a lot, do people just sleep right through everything but the very loudest storms? Note to self: ask friends in rainier places…

I know our garden beds will be happy for the rain. We are in drought conditions here, and we definitely need rain. And my car did need a wash. But after a restless night listening to the percussion section in the sky, this California non-dreamer needs a nap…

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Scalpel and clamp, STAT!


I have never performed actual surgery. At least not yet.

But tonight I had a moment when I thought, “This must be what it feels like to be a surgeon, mid-procedure.” I was in the middle of a chaotic furniture rearrangement and pile relocation and mess transfer between my bedroom and my art studio. I began to panic a little. The mess was just so huge. I began to regret ever attempting to make the switch. But on I plowed. At that moment I imagined a surgeon cutting organs, staunching blood, and trying to remain organized even as the mess got messier. It would get bloodier before it got better. I decided that like a surgeon, I needed to keep going, even though things were pretty crazy during the middle of the procedure. The surgeon’s end goal is getting the patient on the right track toward recovery. My end goal was getting my bedroom and art studio on the path toward looking less like the town dump. (See, this is an excellent analogy!)

Like a patient post-procedure, the two rooms undergoing some changes will bear the scars of surgery. There may be swelling and discoloration. There could be stiffness and sweating. Recuperation might take a lot longer than expected. But there was a reason for the procedure and I already can see some positive change. My bedroom looks better (even if my studio looks worse for now). Still, changes had to be made and I hope that with some good physical therapy this studio can be rehabilitated from a bruised bag of bones to an organized castle of creativity where—inspired by actually being able to find things—I will make even more art magic than before!