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Archive for April, 2010

Robin: Ordinary Choices Prompted by Extraordinary Love

Sometimes, while I am working on a mosaic piece, I begin to feel myself becoming anxious over the idea that I have wasted precious hours prepping and organizing for a result that is less than inspiring. The process calls for the artist to apply the grout to the point where all the beautifully hand-picked pieces are hidden. The result she is striving for is hidden underneath the muck and she wonders whether the piece will recover its brilliance once the grout dries. This is the point where, similarly to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I want to hide the object behind the spaghetti leftovers in the trash bin in my kitchen.

The correlation between mosaics and motherhood are striking. The idea of a little person coming into the world with the image of the mother and father and the community shaping and coaxing those things that are planted inside there by her creator looms large in my head these days. The parents represent the sponge I use when removing the grout. They help to remove the childish ways of thinking that could destroy a future while cultivating the personality and the fascinations the child holds and exposing her to opportunities that enhance the interests the one working with the pieces can see upon close inspection.

When that mosaic piece begins to show me things that I may not necessarily like about myself or remind me of the roadblocks that I experienced that may have detoured my life whether temporarily or permanently, rather than throwing up my hands in dismay I can promote opportunities for the child to sidetrack the pitfalls (or minimize the opportunity for long-term damage!).

Observing a mosaic piece to see how it responds to the grout as it is laid and observing a child as she responds to life as new challenges enter in — obviously one has less room for error. I am amazed that as I create new things, fashioning them with my hands, I can enter into my responsibility as a parent in a deeper way and in turn experience a more intimate connection with my Creator.

[Photo credit]

Cathy: The Universe works in mysterious ways

I will kvetch no more — this week anyway — as after my last two days of considering every option and feeling like I had none left, suddenly:

a friend offered to barter my tutoring her 13-year-old daughter for watching my 2-year-old daughter on writers’ group days.  So I don’t need to find and pay for immediate daycare just so I can have a few hours of writing and critique time a couple of times a month.

aaaand!

drumroll, please…..

Honey’s cousin needs some of Honey’s professional expertise on a public speaking gig in Colorado in a couple of weeks. And he offered to let me tag along, too. I will go to his public speaking gig, but largely, I am going to blissfully sit in my hotel room, without any interruptions and edit the bejeez out of my manuscript on Honey’s laptop!!!

and Grandma offered to watch the kids for that weekend.

I hope I didn’t die, because this sure feels like heaven.

[slightly edited crosspost from musings in mayhem]

Alexsondra: Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is done because throughout the year our house has gained weight. Yes, I admit it, my house is morbidly obese. The good news is, unlike my body weight, my house weight can all be lost by a simple trip to the “dump.” Or can it?

We created a new room above my studio. Now its contents must be tossed — oops, did I say tossed? Not exactly everything. NO way. There’s good stuff  there. No problem, we’ll put it in the basement. We just need to toss out the basement stuff. But, then again, not everything. Moving along, like worker ants, we come across stuff that simply can’t go to the dump. And even more, didn’t belong in the basement in the first place. Are there poltergeist moving our stuff around as we sleep? Now we’ve engaged a third room in the well-intentioned process of “spring cleaning.”

It was a long day, and in the end, one dump trip later, we did have a slightly thinner house. It’s still messy, as all the remaining stuff is scrambling for new hiding places.

I was going to describe this day on my facebook status. Believe me, I tried. Only when I hit the button to ”share,” it wouldn’t go through, saying my update was too long!

How’s that for a smack in the face? Or am I to accept it as my subconscious, constructive criticism?

So, I’m off to the “word dump,” trying to rid myself of all those pesky, overrated, not so profound words. Here’s hoping the little bastards don’t cling to me as I leave.

Robin: Experiencing Freedom Through Creativity

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron calls for the artist/writer to gauge his/her process week by week with questions like:

  • How many of the 7 days in the week did I write/create?
  • How am I feeling about the writing/creating?
  • Do I see any shifts in my approach to writing/creating?

While my writing time is not as frequent as I would like, my feelings about the work and the way I approach the writing have shown improvement. One shift I definitely see is that I have begun writing for the pure joy of the words flowing together. For quite a while my words felt like weapons, nothing more than rants of anger and bitterness about time lost, life stolen, accomplishments robbed.

Freedom. An interesting concept. I thought I was feeling freed up when I ranted on paper. The problem was that I put so much energy into the feelings behind the rant that when I got them out of me, I was left with an empty vessel. Not empty in the sense that I was “free” to think about other things. I found that bitterness so consumed me that getting the words down only gave me enough “space” to sustain me so I was able to fulfill my daily responsibilities. I was in survival mode in a way I did not see until I came out of it.

The financial slavery our family was under for years had me in such mental and emotional bondage I thought there could be no way out; there was no hope for any new dreams. The emotional disappointments in my marriage began to cause me to question the value of creative expression (or expression in general, for that matter). The only expression I seemed to engage in revolved around a vicious cycle of suppress/release.

I realize now that, if in my freedom, I am not experiencing an ability to change or grow, I should challenge my interpretation of freedom. Change and growth does not have to look like a mass exodus from life and the responsibilities that we hold. But the awareness of pain needs to be coupled with the desire to feel redemption or we run the risk of some weird manifestation of pride and self reliance. Freedom is a gift from God; a grace. Freedom means to be released from bondage with the implication that we gain the ability to pursue something (inwardly or otherwise) that is new, edifying, satisfying.

Writing holds something for me today that life experiences snagged from me long ago. The words on the page help me to experience redemption.

How have you experienced freedom through creativity?

[photo credit]

Cathy: writerly crisis of faith and confirmation of all my fears

This entry is a combination of a couple of recent posts on my personal blog.

on Monday, I wrote:

writerly crisis of faith
Almost two weeks ago, I gave the first 33 pages of my baby, er, children’s novel manuscript to my critique group. We meet tomorrow. During school vacation. At my house. With my gang of mayhem and two other kids added to the mix. And the one person I know outside the group will not be there, so she returned my pages with her comments yesterday.

I’ve done a lot of work on those first 30 pages in the past 6ish years since I started writing this little tale. They are the initial inspiration, and what I always felt really worked about the book. The changes I had made were on the small side, grammar, tense, slight rearranging of things. Now I feel like I have to move a thought bubble that wraps the first third of the novel very nicely and turn into a scene that will be the new opening of the book. Not that that was her exact suggestion, but that’s where my mind took it.

But I love my opening! There’s a great slow build to what happened to make this kid so upset in the opening lines.

I have had other readers who really loved the opening. I have four more readers to hear from tomorrow.

How can my heart be simultaneously in my throat and in the bottom of my gut at the same time? I feel like I have a big envelope to open, and it either has very very good news, or absolutely horrid news to bear. Quite possibly both. And once I open it, I will have to cut my big ball of dough in half, knead it, fold it over and over again into itself, pound on it, and hopefully, a beautiful loaf will emerge from the oven.

I know, mixed metaphor central, but give me a break!

Anticipation is a killer.

On Tuesday, came:

confirmation of all my fears

Great writers’ group this morning — afternoon. We wrote, I was interrupted by kids a variety of ways (school vacation and toddler), and then we got hungry, ate lunch and discussed the first third of my novel, as I mentioned yesterday.

They confirmed all of my misgivings about the manuscript’s current state, and now, boy do I have a lot of work to do. But it’s good, not the dread that my anticipation was giving me.

I kind of wish I was done already…but I guess this is what they mean about 2nd draft work. It’s not just about picking through the first draft and the million and a half edits already done, but about the complete restructuring of the storytelling… focus description into action, rearrange parts, rethink what is important about characters and how they serve the story, get rid of unnecessary adverbs…you know, the big stuff.

So big stuff, here I come. Right after this diaper change….

Psst! And guess what else?  They liked it, too!

Alexsondra: Bunches of Bowls for Gathering at the Well

The Gathering at the Well

These little gems just got pulled from my kiln. It’s been so many years since I last fired a glaze kiln, or produced any functional pottery, I was more than relieved to see that they all made it through the firing. It still amazes me, when  I hold a finished bowl in my hands, remembering the hours past, when it was a simple lump of moist clay.

Each one has its own little personality as it stands on its own, waiting to be admired, touched, and lovingly used by its new owner.

They are mine, but not mine, much like our  own children. We join with God in the creation process, always remembering that children are gifts. It is the same God, who generously infused me with the gift of making these bowls which soon, will no longer be mine.

When I was forty something, my mother took my hand in hers, stroking it gently. She said, “It’s amazing that I can still feel your hand as it was so many years ago, when you were just a baby.” It’s equally amazing that I remember the roadmap left in each of these bowls by those very same hands.

[Cross-posted from Mud of the Ages: Tempered Tantrums.]

Tammy: Art Journal–Fiction

“People from a planet without flowers
would think we must be mad with joy the whole time
to have such things about us.”
~ Iris Murdoch


There are no rules to art journaling. You get to play using color, words and images. Art journal on cold-pressed watercolor paper or a box of Chex. Artist quality paints or cheap acrylics. Graffiti grunge or elegant typography. Just have fun, explore, create, get messy. This was a fun page to put together; it has a little bit of everything!

I’m always looking for spare moments to make progress on something creative, like drawing mandalas or embroidering. The first layer of this art journal collage was written while my daughters were in swimming lessons. I wrote pretend bits of short fiction in the form of slow journaling. Little mini-stories of detectives searching for clues, a lavish purse, and personal trainers pushing vitamins. Writing each letter slowly, constrained by the wavy lines, allowed time to have fun with the words.

Later (as in months), I added bits from an old children’s math text (discovered in my dad’s attic), quotes, paint chips, maps, psychedelic batik cardstock, cotton fabric stamped with a handmade FIMO stamp, fluid acrylic paint, even a 35mm slide case.

Have you tried the Kick-Start Art Journal Prompts?

[Cross-posted from Daisy Yellow; image copyright Daisy Yellow.]

Editor’s note: If you’re ever in search of creative inspiration, go immediately to Daisy Yellow — do not pass go, do not collect $200 — just go. Tammy’s blog is one of the very best blogs in the artful blogosphere — never fails to delight the senses and empower the creative soul.

Robin: That ONE THING Essential to Your Survival — What Is It?

“Sometimes you will find you have a piece of equipment so vital that you will be totally lost without it — in other words, it is essential to your survival.” ~Ruby Redfort in Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now by Lauren Child

We had about a 60-day lead time for our move to Germany at the beginning of this year. I really had no idea whether I would be able to get the items I would need in future for all the creative prowess that my daughter and I had developed while my husband was away, so just to be on the safe side, I decided to ship about 3 boxes forward of various crafting supplies. One of those boxes was a large moving box of yarn. AND I AM SO GLAD I DID. The average price of yarn in Germany runs about 6 euro for one skein (approximately $8 US). I would have had to depend on international shipping, which involves extended wait times and varying shipping rates.

We live in pretty tight quarters — one-bedroom basement with a large living/dining area — so I was a bit hesitant at first to claim some creative space. But the time apart during deployments has somehow given me the courage to say that I need a space and then requisition a corner. The craft/creativity aspect of my life is so incredibly valuable and necessary to my well-being as a person and as a mother who has to endure the long periods of time alone. Even though we are all together in Germany, my hubby still works 17 hour days 5 days a week and is on call the other two. Not to mention, we are here without a family network and we live away from the base where my husband is assigned, which hinders making new friendships.

Maybe you have been waiting to lay claim to a little space, a little creative time, and you find yourself frazzled and depleted because of it. Make this the day that you recognize that one thing you need to get back into the swing of your creative life. I truly believe we benefit from having a creative life emotionally and mentally, which ultimately permeates the other areas of our lives.

Aimee: My music lesson

usually i’m the one barking the orders in the house, but today i was the student. my artsygirl came home with a note from her music teacher offering all students the opportunity to be the music leader for a day if they practiced the lesson she sent home. my daughter took this task to heart. she set up her class in our living room which once again has dirty floors, recruited my younger daughter and me to be her students, and she directed us through school chants, songs, dances and scales. when we didn’t stay in our proper places, she ripped up a papertowel and marked our spots with a sharpie to keep her class in order. birdiegirl continued to be a troublesome pupil and was eventually sent to the principal’s office, and i was in danger of a timeout in the red chair when i took this photo. in the end i recovered my standing, learned the chants and songs and scales, and earned a prize.

it was a change to see her take on the role of a leader and enjoy it so much. usually she’s the dreamer — reading in the sink, writing stories, ringing the doorbell wearing speedo goggles and identifying herself as an orphan from minnesota in search of a new home — basically just lost in her imagination, which is her most endearing quality to me. but i think i often just see her through that lens, and it has shut my eyes to the fact that she can step away from the dreamer and do other things, too. it surprised me, in a very good way. it certainly made up for yesterday’s surprise, when birdiegirl piddled a river all over herself at 7th and kentucky and i didn’t have a shred of extra clothing with me. (another lesson, i guess.)

other lessons i’ve been digging this week: 1) cecilia’s tutorial on how to make patterns, 2) jen’s polaroid journal made from glassine envelopes, 3) jan’s painful reflection on hauling too much crap down the stairs, and 4) jennifer’s brilliant article on the struggle between art and ambition, the dilemma of putting your passions on the market, and that tiresome question of “what do you do.” and of course, please visit alexandra, who chose this weekword and always has wise (and funny) lessons of her own to share.

[Re-posted from Aimee's blog by permission.]

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