PS: I passed

Mal | Art Journal,Collage,Here and Now,Media,Paper | Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

PS: I passed

Against all odds, I passed my exam yesterday. Thank you for all the well-wishes, public and private.

I’ve got one more exam to take for my license, and will likely attempt that one in a few weeks.

Hopefully I can get back to normal for 10 days or so before the freakout starts again and release some of those ideas that are bursting at the seams.

PS: I passed.

Please hold

Mal | Here and Now,Prosaic | Friday, July 31st, 2009

LA Skyline

I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.

(Andrew Wyeth)

I hate this. I have scheduled my first license exam for 8/10. I don’t really think I will pass it this first time, but at least it gives me a deadline to cram towards.

Unfortunately, it means that I have to put a stop to all creative/artistic work for the next 2 weeks. I can’t sew the beads on the ice cream. I can’t cut out shapes for my next 3 journal quilts (already planned and sketched out). I really shouldn’t even be photographing or blogging.

I guess I’ll just have to reframe this time as an incubation — a preparation for the deluge of work that is certain to come after I finish these stupid exams.

What about you? Are you incubating anything right now? Or are you actively harvesting?

The Intervention

Mal | Color study,Here and Now,Home,Organizing,Simplicity | Monday, July 6th, 2009

Mom's kits

I’ve written about my mom and her fabric “collecting” in the past. Recently, she asked us for help in creating a functional sewing room in her basement, including purging the fabric she doesn’t intend to use. Naturally, I made arrangements to take time off of work and be there with my sisters.

Fabrics in their natural state

Although she has hoarded for many years, she has never actively sought help, so I was both nervous and relieved as I made the long drive to my parents’ house. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m going to spare you some of the details here, but…

Beginning of Day 2

At the end of Day 1, we were all feeling pretty good about the progress we’d made. Then, after she went to bed, we found a few more of her hidden stashes and uncovered more than twice the amount of fabric than what we had sorted and folded during the entire first day. Let’s just say the task felt pretty daunting at that point.

Folding station

Here’s a folding station. The task of sorting and shelving was pretty monumental, and at any time during the weekend, we had 3 folding stations going at once. I’ll probably put up a tutorial on the folding process, since it’s what I am using to stay organized in my apartment, too.

Mostly, my siblings and niece worked at the folding tables, while I sat knee-to-knee with my mom and talked her through everything. (This is a downside of being a therapist, I guess — when no one else can handle the talking, it falls to you.)

Sorting with mom

I literally spent 3 days handing her fabric, talking her through each stack, and carrying it to her shelves or the giveaway pile. It’s important to note that we went through the entire collection 3 times, each time purging more, until everything she wanted to keep would fit onto the massive shelves.

Bags of fabric

Here’s one of my macho brothers hefting industrial-sized trash bags of fabric out of the house. We estimate that these bags each weighed around 150 pounds, and we filled about 5 of them.

Filled shelves

This is what she was left with at the end of the weekend. It doesn’t account for all of her flannels and other fabrics; we didn’t sort through her books/magazines/patterns; we collected all of her in-progress projects into one place but didn’t get them really put away; and we haven’t even touched her batting and notions. Oh, well. It was a good start.

Pinks, Reds, Yellows

The shelves look nice, but little empty spaces like the one you see above make me very nervous. I hope she doesn’t go out and binge on red-and-white fabrics just because there is room left in that stack. Although we did a good job of clearing things out this weekend, I think we all realize that we are a long way from resolving the underlying behaviors.

Closer up on shelves

Still, I hope she feels as clear-headed and inspired by looking at these shelves as I do when I look at the photos. I love my mom, and I’d do just about anything I could to help foster her creativity and peace of mind.

Surfacing

Mal | Here and Now | Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Surfacing

The image above is from a painting I made a few years ago. I admit, it’s one of my favorites and (unlike most of the artwork I make which is destined for the recycling bin) it resides in my bedroom where I can see it.

I woke up this morning, rolled over, saw it hanging there, and smiled. The painting definitely reflects my current emotional state, and thank heaven! All was a bit doom-y and gloom-y there for a few weeks.

I suppose there are only a few circumstances in our lives when a few select words can change everything for the better. You know, things like:

  • You’ve won the lottery!
  • Will you marry me?
  • Auntie June had a little money squirreled away, and they want you to attend a reading of her will.

Late on Friday afternoon, I was called into a meeting where just such a set of words was delivered to me. In the interest of professionalism (and not getting dooced somewhere along the line), let’s just say that in the blink of an eye, 90% of my work woes were gone. Just like that.

I’m still traveling to my parents’ house later this week, and in spite of great love and affection, that’s always a bit stressful. But, all in all, I would say I am surfacing. If you follow me on twitter, you know that I actually started surfacing the day before the good news was delivered. It all had to do with relinquishing my fantasies of control and accepting whatever outcomes might come from the difficulty and drama I was experiencing.

Thanks for your great care and support while I pulled myself back together over here. Now that we are out of raw survival mode, I should be able to get back to the business of posting about creativity and art therapy.

How about you? What is your emotional state today? Can you sum it up in one word?

Make it because

Mal | Art Therapy,Finished Projects,Handmade,Here and Now,Prosaic | Monday, June 15th, 2009

Maxed-out bag

Because I started it a few weeks ago in one of my therapy groups, and have been meaning to finish it.

Maxed-out bag

Because sometimes just saying, “I’m maxed out” isn’t enough.

Maxed-out bag

Because I just finished a whole series of blog entries about how to fit creativity into our busy lives, after all. (Thank you, Emma, for the reminder.)

Maxed-out bag

Because I’m an art therapist, and I believe in the power of art to express and explore our thoughts and feelings.

Maxed-out bag

Because even though it took precious time, it made me feel better.

The view from here

Mal | Handmade,Here and Now,Prosaic,Works in Progress | Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Markers

Pictures from around the studio — lots of works in progress right now.

Blue and green

A little something to look forward to.

Beads

Another little something to look forward to.

matisse

A month ago, Victoria of Bumblebeans issued a challenge to make a quilt based on this Matisse painting called Interior in Aubergines. She encouraged us to “turn off your brain” and work quickly, intuitively. I wasn’t able to participate in the challenge at the time due to great disarray in my workspace, but the idea stuck with me.

Last week I was given a stack of home decorating magazines and, well, add in a little late-afternoon migraine medicine and the rest is history.

Matisse collage

It’s many weeks late, and it’s a collage (not a quilt), but hey. The other submissions are really neat to look at (scroll down). I’m so glad Victoria got this idea.

What about you? What are you working on today?

What to do: Take small steps

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Current Events,Here and Now | Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Marathon

This week, my city hosted a marathon.

Since I moved here, I have wanted to go downtown and be a spectator of the marathon — to vicariously experience the emotions and triumphs of the thousands of people who undertake this superhuman feat.

So, I woke early and watched the television coverage while I dressed — the starting line of the wheelchair race, the “elite” men and women duking it out to the finish line, the weather reports and sports commentary. But, this is not an essay about the starting line or the finish line. It’s about everything that comes in between.

Once I had my fill of enthusiastic starts and dramatic televised finishes, I grabbed my camera and bound for the train. I had chosen a viewing point for transportational convenience (closest to the metro that I am familiar with) so although I wasn’t sure exactly where I was along the route, I knew I could get some pictures and enjoy the feel of the event.

Mile 24

When I realized that I was standing at Mile 24, just 2 miles from the finish line, I was flooded with emotion.I stood and cheered and clapped. I yelled, “You’re almost there! You’ve done it!” for an hour or so. I comisserated with my fellow on-lookers and enjoyed the live band and generally marveled at the people in front of me who were still running — still plodding one foot in front of the other — in spite of the pain they must have been feeling.

But, I’m not really writing about the pain, either. What most impressed me was that 24 miles ago, the marathoners had started taking steps. That’s all. They just took one step, then another. Most of them in this non-elite group were alternating between running and walking, even sometimes stopping to stand still at the water stations. They ran over to the sidewalks to hug their families and friends. But, in general, they made a gradual eastward progress. They were still at this business of taking steps, long after the excitement and energy of the starting line had past.

And that’s what distinguished them from the spectators, besides their numbered bibs. They were actively moving toward their goal. They took one small step, then another step, until they were done.

Sure, there were a handful of “winners” yesterday who took home special medals and money awards. But, for the most part, thousands of runners were just trying to finish. They were fighting only against themselves and their environment. They weren’t looking to the right or to the left to see how anyone else was doing. They just kept taking one step, and then taking another step, in a solitary journey.

Marathon mosaic

They did this in spite of being older than those around them. They did it with a cause, from a wheelchair, and in spite of all distractions. They slowed down and looked back to see how far they had come, but they didn’t stop taking steps.

Marathon gadgetry

I love this lady. She has all of the fancy gadgets — a virtual Bat-belt of snacks, water, and stride measurers.  But guess what? Even she wouldn’t make it to the finish line without taking one small step at a time.

Last week, I was bemoaning the fact that in my current life circumstances, I can only squeeze in my moments of creativity between meetings, telephone calls, and other obligations. I wrote:

…let’s face it — some days it’s all I can do to make something other than a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dinner. Some days I am happy if I make my bed, wash my hair, tie my shoes. Some days, I feel extremely lucky to have sewn one bead, one green loop, one hexagon seam.

I’m not alone in this. Many of you out there are mothers of young children, caretakers of ailing parents, and working two (or three!) jobs to make ends meet. You have difficult marriage relationships, personal crises and illnesses of your own. With the exception of people like Arlee, who will be creating for 3 months at a summer residency with limited distractions, we don’t, for the most part, work under ideal circumstances. The message of hope that I took away from my experience at the marathon was this:

All you have to do is take one step, then another step.

Someday I will finish my hexagon project. Do you know why? Because I am dedicated to pulling it out for 10 minute spurts on the subway. Because I sew a seam here and there, whenever I get a chance. Because I work on it a little, then I work on it again. I enjoy the process, not just the completion.

This is how most of us fit creativity into our modern lives. For my part, I’m going to stop wishing for a miracle — for a millionaire to marry me and magically remove those limitations of time and space and money. I’m also going to stop looking around me to see just how fast everyone else is moving. Instead, I’m going to focus on what I can do today. And, if it’s just one small step, well shoot. Mile 24 awaits.

What small thing will you do today?

Fulfilling obligations

Mal | Finished Projects,Handmade,Here and Now,Prosaic | Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Anatomy closeup

I completed and mailed my piece for the flickr Phat Quarter swap. There’s a sneak peek for you.

Stash giveaway winners

I bundled up and mailed off the stash stacks for the Granny Day Giveaway winners. I ended up sending more than I intended (including some felt because HOLY CRAP with the felt already,  mom!) but it was fun to get the packets together. One red, one blue, one brown.

Baby McGooey

I spent some quality time with the dogs, including a spontaneous photo shoot with a very sleepy puppy.

Plates

And I spent the rest of the weekend manning a booth at an art fair. We were soliciting donations for my department at work. It was a hot, dusty couple of days but I’m glad we were there.

200905178739

Late Sunday night, I found out that my sister-in-law’s father had passed away and I spent Monday afternoon and evening with her.

Sometimes we don’t get to write our own to-do lists. What’s on your list today?

Some days

Headless monster

Some days are just like this, I guess. Some days I feel all stretched out and strung — like a too-tight banjo that’s been hammered on for hours. Like a hurricane blowing out in every direction, a circle of destruction. Like that plastic monster from my yard who battled valiantly and lost — plaintive and empty.

Rawr.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do this hour, and that one, is what we are doing… Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern… There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. 

Annie Dillard

I started this blog with a few different aims and purposes. One of them was to have an excuse to be making things — an accountability to myself that I would create art in my free time. I wanted to honor my mission of bringing art and creativity to other people’s lives by also bringing it to my own life. To have that little extra push. To find and make time for creativity.

And, let’s face it — some days it’s all I can do to make something other than a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dinner. Some days I am happy if I make my bed, wash my hair, tie my shoes. Some days, I feel extremely lucky to have sewn one bead, one green loop, one hexagon seam.

Green loop

At work, I am the boss. I head up a team of people who bring the arts and creativity to those in need. I don’t always get to see patients, though in general I wish I could sit every minute of every day, with the suffering and downtrodden. Instead, I sometimes spend eight hours a day writing reports, grant proposals, and performance reviews. Compiling statistics. Oh, and I answer e-mails. So, so many e-mails. I supervise my staff, making myself available to discuss their triumphs and failures. I build bridges in hopes of building bigger bridges. Bigger bridges lead to new lands and unforseen challenges. But, it’s all in the service of a greater purpose. I have a clear vision for where I want to go with my little department, and I chip away at it one day at a time.

I also have a vision for my life outside of work, though it is not always so clear. I try to maintain a social life, courting the someday-fantasy of having a partner. I budget my money, trying to get out of debt. I attempt to eat right and exercise so that I can continue to lose weight. (Last year I lost 80 pounds, but I still have more to go.) I maintain contact with my huge and expanding family. I care for the dogs. I clean and wash and fold. I sit. I rest. I shower in the dark.

Hex flowers

And, I guess that’s what Annie Dillard is trying to say. Maybe I don’t finish a quilt in a day or participate in all the swaps and challenges and trends and movements. But, if I sew two hexagons today, and one tomorrow, eventually they start to build up. Today piles on top of yesterday and forms the base for tomorrow. It all blurs together into a pattern, just like Annie says, and I want the pattern of my life to be about compassion and creativity and community.  

So that even on days when I am only able to do the very smallest thing, it’s okay. As long as I am facing the right direction, contributing somehow to my life’s larger purpose, stringing together my days, my stitches, my pencil marks, and my paint strokes into a life of creativity, then that’s what matters to me.

What about you? What small thing did you accomplish today in the service of your bigger vision? I hope you’ll share.

New sight

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Here and Now,Simplicity | Friday, May 8th, 2009

This is a bit of a long story, and it ends with my date thinking that I fell asleep on my feet at a Bruce Springstein concert two weeks ago. But don’t worry — that’s not the punchline.

Springstein Concert

I started wearing eyeglasses in 1st or 2nd grade. Since then, my eyesight has gotten steadily worse and my vision prescription has gotten steadily stronger to compensate. I don’t want to be overdramatic — I’m not legally blind. But sometimes I do emit a little bat noise to make sure I don’t hit anything in the dark. Without my glasses, I cannot see my own shoulder clearly. Everything from my mid-sternum down is blurry, so I would guess I have a sight range of about 6 inches.

I’m a very visual person. In fact, you could say that a natural proclivity plus years of art therapy training have made me hyper-aware of visual details. But, something odd happened a couple of months ago as I was leaving work.

I don’t know that it was a particularly long day at work, but I was tired and a little stressed. I stepped out of my office and, without thinking, took off my glasses and perched them on top of my head. That’s an odd thing to do, I thought, but kept walking through the blurred haze. In fact, I walked all the way to the subway in this near blindness.

That blurry walk was so relaxing, so carefree, so quiet that I felt completely renewed. I was free from the need to process everything, to catch every detail, and to see. The stress of work seemed to fall away from me, like so many chunks of broken crust. 

So, I began to experiment.

I walked blind to the subway nearly every day after that, and each time I did, I felt refreshed. When I deprive myself of visual acuity, it disengages a part of my brain that chatters at me non-stop. I no longer wonder Where did she get those shoes? or Why did he look at me that way? or Is that person in pain? or They look lost; should I help them? Instead, I get reconnected to breathing and centering and just walking. Sure, I think a little bit about not tripping or stepping on invisible-to-me gum, but only a little bit. I think about the basics. I eliminate the distractions and am left only with myself.

I’ve started  to experiment with un-vision-ing in other settings. To unwind before bed, I now take my shower with the lights off. This intense experience reduces the sensory input to an almost raw and primitive state. I become hyper-aware of my body sensations, the pounding rhythm of the water, the steam and the shadows. I shampoo, soap down, rinse, and all the while am relying on my body to judge my place in space and time. I don’t know exactly why, but this not-seeing quiets everything down and I sleep marvelously well. 

When I was invited to a Bruce Springstein concert a few weeks ago, I decided to go even though (a) I’m not really a Bruce fan per se, (b) it was on a weeknight after a long day of work, and (c) the tickets were general admission which meant close proximity to the stage in exchange for two-and-a-half hours on my feet. My date was a rabid Springstein fan who has never missed a Boss concert within 100 miles.

By the time the show started I was already tired, and a little cranky, but I was determined to enjoy myself. It wasn’t too hard — there was plenty of good people-watching and my date was a really nice guy. Soon, my therapist-brain began to formulate theories about the people around me based on body language, clothing style, and interactions. The show itself was visually interesting — lots of lights and staging and imagery. I was hearing each of the songs (even old classics) for the first time so I know I was missing a lot of the messages and meanings. Although I was entertained with these little games, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like an outsider in the sea of fans — each singing along to every lyric, jumping up when everyone else jumped, and pumping their fists in the air.

I sighed, long and loud. I tried to exhale the stress of my workday, my aggrivation at myself for agreeing to this event, and my hyperawareness of the clock. Only 142 more minutes to go. As I exhaled, I shut my eyes. When I did, I felt a surge of electricity.

Woah.

I did it again. Within moments, I was caught up — swept away in the same unifying undertow that had already washed over everyone else. No, I didn’t know the lyrics. I was still tired. But I was lost in a surge of rhythm, beat, vibration, release. I felt my body in the midst of it all. I was aware of my skin — the place where my body meets the world — but I lost my sense of self and became part of the rush of the crowd. There was only me, and my breath, and my vibrating sternum, and the balls of my feet, and the roar of the crowd, and the energy of ten thousand people all riveted to the same purpose. I danced, and crooned, and roared, too. And then I stood very still, eyes closed, leaning against my date.

What happened? Is it like the proverbial blind woman whose other senses are heightened? Do I rely so much on my sight that my other senses have atrophied? Can this new skill be used to my advantage in my therapy work, my art-making, my relationships with others? Whatever it is, I’m curious to follow this path where it leads. (I just hope I don’t trip on anything along the way.)

Granny Day

Mal | Current Events,Here and Now,Simplicity | Monday, April 13th, 2009

An image last year's Granny Day.

This weekend, I celebrated Granny Day — 10 years after my sweet grandmother passed away. I used to celebrate Granny Day on the day she died, but for the past few years I moved celebrations to her birthday. I wrote a bit about her a couple of weeks ago when I was musing about passing on textile arts.

Blueberry Pancakes Coming Up

Celebrating Granny Day is no easy task. The idea is to live like she did for one day. It involves making delicious food from scratch, doing something creative, giving something away. It involves waking up early and going to bed late, calling someone you love to check up on them, and making sure all the chores get done. It involves fulfilling your own needs while being sensitive to the needs of others. It’s a little exhausting.

The day Granny died, she woke early and pruned down the raspberry patch on their small, self-sustaining farm. She made her weekly bread from scratch — enough loaves to share with neighbors (as always). Granny worked on a sewing project, went and voted, took dinner to a neighbor who’d been sick, and watched the news while she crocheted. Before she went to bed, she wrote in her journal and tidied up. In other words, according to my values, she lived the perfect last day.

Me and Granny

The picture above is of Granny and me working on a quilt together. It’s the last photo I have of her, and was taken about 2 months before she passed away. I’ve lost many people in my life since I lost Granny (and, let’s face it, at this point she would be well into her 90′s and probably gone anyway), but I still get teary-eyed every time I talk about her. She was incredibly influential in my life.

Granny Day 2008

Granny believed in hard work. She believed in learning (a teacher and school librarian for 50 years). Granny believed in giving things away, in abundance for all, and in caring for others. She was creative and dynamic but in a quiet, humble way. She was keenly insightful with her advice and her counsel. She lived close to the earth in literal and figurative ways. Granny was a dynamo and we all wanted to be like her. I still do.

Granny Day 2008

You can celebrate Granny Day, too. Simplify things, get to the raw, whole ingredients, think of your loved ones, serve those around you.

Do you have someone that you miss?

Stitching with Mom

Mal | Here and Now,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Binding a quilt

My parents were visiting for the weekend, which means that I didn’t get any of my chores done (laundry? food? shopping, anyone?) but I did get to spend three days stitching, designing, and laughing.

My mom is a very talented seamstress who spent the last 30 years raising her 7 children. In the past few years, as the last of us have finally moved into adulthood, she has made more free time for sewing, and gravitated toward quilting specifically. Every Tuesday night, she and two of her neighbor friends move into a large sewing room that one of them owns. It has a design wall, a television set, a mini refrigerator — you get the idea. Basically, it’s a needle-and-thread bomb shelter from the rest of the world. Mom calls Tuesday her “sanity day” and on particularly tough non-Tuesdays, she’ll sneak over there by herself to work. It’s kind of inspiring how she uses her chosen medium to regulate emotions and frustrations, connect with others, and find an inner center.

My mom also buys lots of books, takes lots of classes, and meets lots of other quilters. I, for my part, am a child of the Digital Age and because my mom lives far, the nearest thing I have had to a quilting tutor is the internet with its crackling circuits and bytes. It’s not exactly the most nurturing of teachers, but in this day and age it will have to do.

Binding stitch

Mom wanted to see what I’ve been working on, so I showed her some of my recent successes — the doll quilt on the wall (I’m sorry! I just think it’s cute!), the Obama cross stitch (with some trepidation, as our politics are quite different), and the next installation of my band sampler (stay tuned for photos).

What I most wanted to do, though, was share my recent frustrations and failures. I knew she would have fixes and solutions for me. I, as a visual learner, would benefit from her wisdom as she sat next to me, demonstrated with her able fingers, and brought clarity to my confusion. A few times, I asked her questions whose answers I already knew. I enjoyed making her feel wise and important and smart. I wanted to soak in the look on her face and savor the moment.

As we sat there together, chattering away, needles in our hands, I felt something deep and primal and wonderful at work. We were taking our part in the cycle of textile arts — one generation learning from another. For various reasons, I have more memories of that experience with my grandmothers than with my mother, so it was nice to close the gap a little bit. Plus, she taught me the neatest binding stitch I’ve ever seen. Armed with this little finishing gem, I think I am going to quilt like crazy, now.

What about you? Who is your best teacher? Do you teach yourself? Have you had a generational moment like this?

Think less. Do more.

Mal | Here and Now,Media,Works in Progress | Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

200903128081 

A recent idea for a project was going to require some problem-solving.

Things in my life this week feel extraordinarily complicated. Craziness is firing on all cylinders, and much of my free time has been drowned away in worry and doubt.

Resolving the project was going to push me beyond my current skill set. It was going to lead me out of my comfort zone and force me to take a hard look at my mistakes.

Originally, I tried to solve the problem the way I always do — by thinking, plotting, and obsessing over it.

Obsessing over problem

Obsessing, though it is my preferred mode, is not always the best way to solve problems. Even cognitive ones.

Sometimes, taking a breath and getting to work is the only thing to do.

I needed this reminder — to stand still and tackle one hurdle at a time. To slow down and peacefully experiment. To stop rushing and obsessing and pushing. To take action, but calmly. To give myself permission to fail, but insist on trying anyway.

Think less. Do more.

Growth is coming

Mal | Art Journal,Here and Now,Prosaic | Monday, March 16th, 2009

Growth is Coming

I’ve had trees and buds and blossoms on my mind a lot this week. I suppose most of the world is sitting up to take notice of nature’s cues as spring marches toward us. But, since I live in Southern California, the differences between the seasons outside are much more subtle and apparently I was making art about buds and new growth last fall.

I’ve grown increasingly tuned into my internal seasons. I feel like this image is related to Friday’s post in a way that is both obvious and subtle. It’s more about holding on and less about letting go. It’s more about hope and less about acceptance. Both are important processes in growth.

20090227-goodmorningworld

Here’s a final little image I found in my journals this weekend. I have to say that I did not feel this way about the world when I woke up this morning. But, I’m grateful for my journal because it reminds me of the wide range (and transitory, temporary nature) of my feelings. Yes, my mood was a bit foul this morning, but sometimes I do wake up feeling joyful!

What about you? Do you keep a journal, or do you wish you did? Have you gained emotional insight from your journals or sketchbooks? Please share!

What to do: Cultivate potential

Mal | Here and Now,Prosaic | Friday, March 13th, 2009

20090313-treebuds

One of the small citrus trees outside my front door is suddenly covered in buds.

I mean, this tree has virtually exploded with potential. Its branches are alive with a snowstorm of possibility — the hope of new life. 

20090313-tree

There are many more buds on the tree than the tree could ever support eventual fruit. Hundreds more flowers than could ever be pollinated, plucked, and eaten.

And you can already see evidence of it — little white dots are beginning to blanket the ground underneath. Some of the buds drop off naturally, I assume. Maybe they are too weak, or too crowded, or too tenuously attached. Some of them are knocked loose in the wind or get jostled loose by dogs playing beneath the tree and kids kicking their soccer ball around it. Others cling tightly to their stem, but soon there will be more buds on the ground than there are blossoms on the tree.

See the cast-offs there on the bricks already?

20090313-droppedbuds

For me, the buds seem to represent ideas, dreams, intentions, wishes. They represent potential results. Some of the wishes are good — strong and healthy and plump — and will withstand a little wind to become fruit. But, it’s important to understand which of the ideas are fruitful and which are better left to decompose underneath the tree and fertilize next year’s crop. It’s important for me to identify which of my potential projects has “staying power” and which is born only to die.

I’m in a phase of abundance right now. I have lots of ideas and creative energy. I have lots of things that I want to do and see and experience. My “ideal self” is peeking out at me from every imaginary corner. You know the one — she wakes early and writes in her journal, takes the dogs for a brisk walk, does yoga, and eats a balanced breakfast before arriving to work on time. She never runs out of gas, receives a late bill notice, or leaves trash in her car overnight. This ideal person never forgets to take her vitamins, eats fast food, or gets to bed late. She makes her own clothes and gives only handmade gifts and produces and produces and produces.

But I am faced, every day, with the realities of life’s limitations. I don’t have enough hours in the day. I must sleep and eat and pay bills and clean. I try to cultivate a social life and am actively searching for a romantic partner. Yet my current fascination with stitching, my art journals, and even this blog are brimming with potential ideas. It’s a blessing to be cursed with abundance. I’m so grateful to have too many ideas.

I take deep breaths and allow the natural process of pruning take place. I try not to stand in its way. I follow the growth wherever it leads and I feel grateful, today, for what I have.

What about you? Are you in a phase of too much or not enough?

Band Sampler: Counted Cross Stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Current Events,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Band Sampler: Cross Stitch

I mentioned before that I burned out on counted cross stitch when I was a teenager. However, at the beginning of my band sampler I wanted to document all of the stitches I already know. Naturally, this includes cross stitch.

Cross Stitch Obama, close up

My aversion to it was so strong, however, that I had decided to count my name at the top of the sampler as my homage to counted cross stitch. That is until I found out that Julie from Subversive Cross Stitch was offering a pattern of Shepard Fairy‘s iconic Obama poster for free.

Cross Stitch Obama, note

Because I’d like the band sampler to also function as a kind of visual journal, and because I was so moved and elated during the time of the election, I knew it would be a great inclusion. So, here is the counted cross stitch portion of my band sampler.

200903038049

If you’d like to try your hand at cross stitch, here are some tutorials and links:

I sped through this project, and there are lots of errors and missteps. But, it’s done and I can walk away from cross stitch again, for now.

How about you? Do you have any media or projects that you dislike? Have you ever moved past dislike back to enjoyment?

Biting the trinket

Mal | Collage,Media,Paper,Prosaic | Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Collage Girl

What is this girl thinking? Is she sleeping? Is she scowling? She emerged from a collage activity during one of my groups this week, and I’ve enjoyed postulating about what part of me she might represent.

Today is Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras. There’s a new girl at work from Louisiana, and her mother shipped a traditional King Cake overnight express. Well, no one explained to me about the little plastic baby baked into the cake, so when I bit into something hard that was all arms and legs, I honestly thought a beetle had traveled to California from Louisiana.

20090224-plasticbaby

But, no. That painful little crunch apparently signified the onset of a year of good luck!

Normally, I wouldn’t put too much stock into such a thing, but last night when my back tire popped and deflated not ten feet away from a tire store, when the guys who work there were still cleaning up even though the shop had been closed for over 30 minutes, and when they quickly changed my tire for a reasonable price, I thought: THANK YOU BABY JESUS! I hope I didn’t spend all my good luck in one night.

Please share! Have you had good luck recently? Do you celebrate Fat Tuesday or Lent? How do you make traditional celebrations meaningful for you?

Colored flowers

Mal | Current Events,Home,Prosaic,Simplicity | Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Valentine's Day

My dad sent me these flowers for Valentine’s from 2 states away. Something about the colors really appeals to me — feels like a vintage print.

I spent a good portion of the day cleaning my house to get ready for a [pretend to watch a video but really make out on the couch all night] date. The cleaning included clearing off the table pictured above, which doubles as a dining table and a craft/work space. My sewing machine is now put away for at least a few days, which means I can focus on some hand stitching — getting a jump on the band sampler and hand stitching a quilt binding. Pictures to come.

Being in a clean, clutter-free place inspires my creativity.

What I aspire to be

Mal | Current Events,Media | Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Work in progress

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

I aspire to be one of those people that President Obama talked about in his inauguration. I want to be known as a risk-taker, a doer, a maker of things. It would be such an honor!

PS: Yes, I finally cracked open my new sewing machine and I am in love.

Work to be done

Mal | Current Events,Home | Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Obama taking the oath

I called out “sick” from work today — something I am hesitant to do — because I wanted to celebrate the inauguration and catch up on some chores.

Power couple

It was such a thrill to see President Obama and his beautiful family. I am so inspired by his calm, collected demeanor and his articulate and appropriate speeches.

Inauguration speech

I was particularly pleased when some of the favorite musicians from my childhood played a version of the song — Simple Gifts — that inspired the title of this blog.

Simple Gifts at the inauguration

And now, as our new President said,

…everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

Everywhere we look, there is work to be done

Amen, Brother Obama.

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