Saturday, January 31, 2009

Weekend creativity

On Friday, I bought the necessary supplies to do real block-printing-- a set of Speedball lino-carving tools and some Speedball Speedy-Cut blocks. I've been doing Styrofoam printing learned at LifeShards for too long! I made two blocks-- one in honor of someone getting ordained to the priesthood tomorrow (A.C.) and one for someone having a birthday tomorrow (B.L.). I have been inspired by Rachel and Emmie's block-printing! They are both wayyyyy better than me, but it is fun to start something new and learn how to use new materials. I watched this YouTube video this morning to get me started.

I've also knitted here and there-- finishing one more square for whatever the natural, green, and blue log cabin project will become (a blanket or a table runner?) and starting a log-cabin dishcloth for someone special (C. O.) who will help me with the children next weekend.

The exploration into sewing and quilting continues. I bought some new fabric on Friday, and I can't wait to turn it into something. Sometimes, I go shopping with a project in mind. Sometimes, I let the fabric tell me what it wants to be. I found myself buying primary colors-- red, yellow, and blue. I liked the old-fashioned look of these fabrics. And, I loved the red fabric with cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, and rabbits reading stories. It may be hard to see, but the butterflies also look like little flying books. I'm thinking this might make something nice for my library.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Carpool knitting and thinking

On some days, this is the only time during the day that I am able to knit-- either sitting in a carpool line or passing time while a child is at ballet, choir, or some other activity. I try to remember to keep a portable project with me always for these little windows of time.

These times are also good for reflection, dreaming, and planning, and there is always so much to think about. Yesterday, when on the way to pick up my son from school, I had an idea for an essay I would like to try to write about how the lives my children have in school have changed and are changing my life. More later.

The practice of blogging is giving me the courage to think, say, write, imagine, and do.

As I have started tentatively sharing with more and more people about my blogs, I am often asked, "Where do you find the time? How do you have time to knit, sew, and upload all of those photos, and then write about it, too?'

Well, I can't say that my house is the cleanest or most organized, but it passes. I'm lucky enough to work "outside the home" half-time. I don't watch much TV. I multitask a lot. I don't go shopping very often. As my husband says, "People make time for what is important to them." I make time for this. Other people make time for gardening, or working out in the gym, or going to football games. We all have interests and passions.

But, blogging, knitting, sewing, doing art with my children or students, reading with my children or students-- all of this informs my evolving sense of vocation. I'm not sure that I could put a label on it. But, I know that it all feels right, and that it is all linked together.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just out on a walk

I've been eying the Jasmine down the street for several days now and finally remembered to bring the camera along when Bailey and I took our Tuesday after-work walk. It is a warm, blustery day, so it was difficult to find a moment when the flowers were still enough to photograph.

How can spring be so close when it seems like I was just photographing red maple leaves and holly berries? I also saw a fully displayed daffodil in the yard on the corner. It seemed to be crying out, "Look at me, look at me! I'm the first one!"

It is only January, and we will have more cold days. But, today, it is starting to look and feel like a new season is on the way.

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Monday, January 26, 2009


You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

-- C. S. Lewis

My daughter and I are in the middle of reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. Lucy has agreed to be the ambassador between the invisible ugly people (or thumping things-- what are they, really?) and the Magician. Since we still have several more books to read together in the Narnia series, I don't yet feel like we have to ration the words each night. We read until we are too sleepy to continue-- or until "Mom knows best."

I had five cups of hot tea today. It takes me two cups of Assam Breakfast to be ready for the day each morning. Then, it was cold in the St. Therese basement library during work (3 more-- one herbal and two Darjeeling).

Now, before bed, I'll have my sixth cup of something herbal with the sweet, summery taste of Tilia (a holdover from my days in Portugal).

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain,
tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you,
those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

-- Irish Blessing

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blogging Self-Portrait

This is the third blog post I am writing this rainy Saturday morning. I have done nothing beside make two cups of tea, play with photo software to combine and upload images, reflect, and write. I am still in my pajamas.

The images above were taken yesterday at Casey Elementary. I had spent the morning with several other parents hanging up student work. When we were done, a couple of us walked around and really looked at what students from kindergarten through fifth grade had done. Because the cut-out collages above were framed, the sunshine from the courtyard windows reflected off of the glass. You can faintly see my shadow taking the photographs with my little digital camera. Taking photos is something I am often doing-- at home, at school, at work, at church, or walking the dog.

This week I have re-vamped what was my first attempt at blogging that never got off of the ground. So, yes, I now have three blogs! My Art Smart Parents blog will be used to document and reflect upon ways that parents of students at Casey Elementary support and enhance arts integration. Tiger Tales is where I document what happens in "my library" with students at St. Therese Catholic School. This blog is the catch-all for everything else, and it is my response to turning 40 and wanting to make sure that I live the next 40 to the fullest.

So, why am I doing all of this? It does take up a significant chunk of time, and I may not always be as disciplined as I have been lately. But, I have created a rhythm of taking photographs as I am inspired, reflecting upon what has happened in the many aspects of daily life, downloading and uploading photographs while I transition from community life to home, and using the activity of blogging to be more intentional about what it is that is important in this life. And, I am finding that it feeds my creativity, connects me to people who care about similar things, and makes my life richer in ways that I didn't expect.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today, I read a wonderful book, Riding to Washington by Gwenyth Swaim, about the March on Washington to first through second graders. I read the same book last week to third through sixth graders. I tied it to the inauguration by talking about the many obvious parallels.

Looking out at twenty fidgety bodies and eager faces, I was humbled to realize the tremendous responsibility and power that I have as a teacher to shape young minds who know little about what came before this amazing inauguration day. And, because I teach four-year-old students through sixth graders, I am privileged to have this conversation about the intersection of history with the present day and our future with students who, year by year, increase their knowledge and depth of understanding. Through the questions and thoughts of my students, I am equally aware of and humbled by how much I am daily transformed. My own understanding grows and is shaped by my students, other teachers, and my own children.

My hope for the future certainly springs from young minds and their passion for life. I cherish being in a vibrant learning community, and I can't imagine that I ever wanted to be anything other than a teacher.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Eve

I'm not going to the inauguration, but I will be with students at St. Therese Catholic School tomorrow watching and listening and seeing history through their eyes. Mine will probably be full of tears.

I'll be wearing my "inauguration skirt." Yes, I made a skirt today to commemorate the event. I used the bias-cut pattern that I made for my first skirt, but I added a little length. And, I added the detail of a bias tape hem that I made from some contrasting fabric (it took f o r e v e r ). I also cut another skirt out of that fabric for another day.

Lest you think I have given up knitting, I made an "inauguration dishcloth" over the weekend. How domestic of me!

In the mood for red yarn and not having anything red on an UFO (un-finished object), I started it while watching Battlestar Gallactica (4th season) on Saturday night . Then, I made the bulk of it while listening to a talk about MLK at church on Sunday morning, and later, while watching the pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial. How many times did my eyes fill up with tears? Too many times to count. My children made fun of me.

While I probably didn't have the new administration on my mind with every stitch of either project, I did have the future president and this intersection of our future and our history on my mind and heart a lot.

Peace be with you, Mr. Obama. Peace be with you.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Outside night, inside lamplight

Last night as I was checking the doors to make sure they were locked and getting ready to go to bed, I stepped outside.

I was lured by the images all around me of the dark, feathery trees against a purplish-gray sky. My small camera didn't capture the awesome beauty, but my eyes appreciated the contrasts for a few moments. The trees created giant shadows in the sky. The cold temperatures of the last few days had softened, and I enjoyed a few moments of whispery silence as the wind made only the slightest noise through the evergreens.

Then, I turned to go back inside and was equally lured by the lamplight shining in the den.

I continued to photograph the call of the lights and small things that garnered my attention along the way. Books on the shelves, the wooden carving of Jesus that was my mother's, the light-switch plate that my children made from mosaics shortly after we moved to Jackson, the brass monkey that my husband gave his grandmother and was given back to him at her passing. . .

It was only a few passing minutes, but both the dark night and the inside lamplight beckoned me to pay attention-- to giant trees and the trinkets of my home.

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle. -- Walt Whitman

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


It is Saturday morning, and a busy week has left lots of stuff in piles. It is cluttered. There is dog and cat hair all over the floor. By nature, I can't stand the mess, and I will probably spend some time clearing it, organizing it, and vacuuming this morning.

But, the stuff is good stuff-- the chest used as a coffee table in the den is piled high with books, magazines, and games. The bass on the bed is my husband's musical life line, life force, and passion. The art table in the kitchen is a jumble of handmade books, journals, paints, crayons, oil pastels, scissors, glue, tape, colored pencils and most importantly, the work of my children. The wicker love seat in the kitchen holds their coats (it was freezing this week!-- even in Mississippi), their backpacks, a ballet bag, my purse, a bag of Martin Luther King, Jr. books, and a knitting bag with a log-cabin project in process. The table scape on my dining room table is my exploration into quilting and my daughter's early encounters with sewing. The shoes on the rug in the foyer are my son's-- he kicks them off at random all over the house whenever the mood strikes him.

With two cats and a dog who have spent most of the day inside all week, the hair is clumping up in piles on the floors in the living room, kitchen, and hallway. But, I cannot imagine life without them. Bailey always greets me at the door with a bow, doggy smile, and wagging tail. He bows more than any dog I've ever known. Charlie only likes to sit on my lap when I'm on the computer. He is good company for blogging. Nellie likes to snuggle on my chest like a newborn baby when I'm watching a movie.

It is a house full of activity, interests, and hobbies. It is a house full of animal hair. It may need cleaning, but it is home. It is a house full of love.

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Friday, January 16, 2009


I spent the day at Casey Elementary helping to hang up artwork, reading and discussing two books about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a class of third graders, and observing a third grade drama class. Much of my life is spent around children at work, at church, at school, with friends, and of course at home with my own two bundles of joy. While sometimes frustrating and exhausting, being around children-- working with them, teaching them, learning from them, watching them think, creating with them-- gives me such joy and energy. I crave their exuberance.

Happy Friday, everyone. Enjoy the long weekend. Celebrate.

Exuberance is beauty. William Blake

Saints have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance. Anne Sexton

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It took me 2 and 1/2 hours to make the fabric quilt block above. It was my second attempt at a log cabinish, wonky block. The first one I put together was too busy, so I plan to cut it up and reuse some of it in future blocks. I like this one much better. This time I had the right tools-- a large mat, rotary cutter (love it!), and an acrylic ruler. I wish I had a sewing room or studio! My dining room is a mess.

I learned that I need to clean-up and keep things tidy as a go (this is the way I like to cook, too). I started out with too much on the table, so I was constantly rearranging things or moving things.

The inspiration came from some knitted log cabinish squares that I have been making (still working on the second one). I chose the colors from looking up at evergreens against the sky while I walk.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Squares and circles

Today while helping my colleague Mrs. Misenar with her art class at St. Therese, I put finished, individual, pastel studies of Kandinsky on the carpet to create a collective, paper quilt. Then, I took photos of these arrangements and put them together in a collage to make a photo quilt. I love the colors and and wonky circles! The students did an amazing job, and Mrs. Misenar always brings such vibrant energy to her teaching that it is no wonder the students' works are so colorful.

The art of these children may be inspiration for what will be a creative project for me. The experience today has me thinking about the improvisational quilt piece I am planning in my mind. I bought some necessary supplies today-- a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and some small, colorful, fabric pieces. Now, all I need is time and the willingness to make mistakes, learn, and persist to a finished product. And, I will most definitely need some help from quilting friends along the way.

I can't wait to get started.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shadows and Masterpiece Theatre

On Sundays, I look forward to watching Masterpiece Theatre all day long. Sometimes, I look forward to watching it all week. If PBS has been showing re-runs all summer, I look forward to watching something new f o r m o n t h s (thank God for Netflix). Tonight, MT is showing the second part of Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Having read the book, I worry for Tess in tonight's episode-- knowing what happens.

Watching MT is a ritual for me. My mother used to watch it. I watched Pride and Prejudice and Brideshead Revisited and episodes of Mystery with her. I wonder if it had the same hold over her as it does for me? Did she look forward to it with the same anticipation? Did she escape the daily grind of work and school like I do? Did she read novels again after a new production, or did she read old novels for the first time because of something that she saw?

My mother died 19 years ago. Just days after her death, I remember thinking to myself, "She won't be able to watch any more episodes of MT. What if she misses something really, really good?" She didn't get to see Middlemarch or Under the Greenwood Tree or Bleak House or Cranford (my all time favorite).

But, I have to hope that watching MT is just a minute morsel of heaven-- that in dying, she watches all of the MT she wants-- or that she doesn't have to watch it because she suddenly knows and feels everything through God.

When I watch MT, I sense her shadow in me. It is something I do with her-- at least in spirit. And I think, when I see and feel something beautiful or sad or horrifying or real, that she feels all of these things with me and beyond me in ways that I cannot understand.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Before 6:00 am

My children have always been very early risers. During the work and school week, everyone is an early riser (my alarm is set for 5:40 am). Yesterday, when I stumbled into the kitchen to start the kettle and check my e-mail, I found my son already up combining pastels and watercolors.

My daughter had told him about how to combine the watercolors and pastels from her art classes at school. I love how the knowledge of the technique was passed down from a nine-year-old to a six-year-old. We had been playing with pastels and watercolors separately over the holiday break. The supplies were still out even though I had not been pleased that the art/craft table was piled up with many different supplies and projects in various stages of completion. Paper everywhere.

Sometimes, a little chaos creates surprising results. All factors in the universe intersected for this to happen, and I love that.

One more story about another intersection involving my son:

For about 24 hours, I have been following a serendipitous labyrinth of links through the internet about improvisational quilting. It is amazing how much time I have spent at the computer looking at other peoples photos on Flickr and tracking down blogs about quilting. It is like discovering an alternate universe-- like stepping through the wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. Or, it is like spending the day in a large university library doing research--going up and down staircases, in and out of corridors, following Dewey numbers down rows of bookcases and shelves, and browsing books next to the one I thought I wanted. Yes, the librarian in me shines forth!

Well, I've had fabric strips and squares on my mind as I prepare to cross over into the world of log cabin quilting from log cabin knitting. When I put my son to bed last night, he said to me, "Don't forget to cut the square."

I did a double-take. What? Was he reading my mind? He didn't know that I had been designing wonky squares in my mind all day.

He clarified the statement when he saw the puzzled look on my face. "The Rice Krispy Treat square, Mom. Remember, you said you would cut one so that I could have it for breakfast when I get up early, and you are sleeping-in."

Before 6:00 am.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Needle and Thread

Yes, two sewing machines set up on the dining room table! One for me, and one for my daughter. But, even my son was engrossed with some simple embroidery on the sofa. Out of scrap fabric, my daughter made headband slip-covers for a plastic headband. What a great idea! I cut out and prepared more gratitude wraps. Last Sunday afternoon, all of our hands played with needles, fabric, and threads.

I hope this day and this weekend will find us in the sewing room again.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

One of the things we did really well this year was end our Christmas. In the photos above, we are practicing for the Feast of Lights gospel tableau, making crowns and stars in celebration of the three kings, and burning the greens outside of St. Andrew's Cathedral last night in downtown Jackson.

But, this blessing by Howard Thurman takes the ending of Christmas and charges us with a beginning:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among all,
To make music in the heart.

by Howard Thurman

It is always hard to give up Christmas. But, work has started. School has started. It's raining and raining today. Bombs and guns are exploding in other parts of the world. Children are hungry right here in Jackson.

I am thankful for the words of Howard Thurman reminding me about what is really important during this transition into the new year. It is a tall new year's resolution, but really, it is what each of us should resolve to do each and every day.
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Raindrops and light

Just when I thought the sun would not shine yesterday, it did. I looked out of my bedroom window and saw heavy raindrops glistening on the Japanese maple tree.

Today, the children rehearse for the Feast of Lights celebration tomorrow night at church. Shepherds, angels, and wise men will take over the nave, and the evening will conclude with the burning of the greens. Our own tree is still up all the way through Epiphany. I will take it down on Wednesday on my mid-week day-off while the children are in school. This Christmastide is winding down. I return to work tomorrow for lesson planning, cleaning-out, and catching up on loose-ends.

It has been a full, rich Christmas season. Two birthday parties, holiday celebrations, lots of sewing, knitting, painting, putting together, walking, cooking, visiting with family, movie watching, and playing. In our family this time of year is saturated with celebration. Epiphany is also my husband's birthday (shhhh- he turns 40 this year). I still have one more cake to bake!
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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shadows and my skirt

The first photo is the shadow of the Japanese Maple whose leaves are drying up and slowly shriveling into the soil.

This morning, I re-made my skirt by cutting off the first fold-over elastic waistband, putting on another, and shortening and evening out the hem. It is much better. I thought about it all night from 12:50 am until about 3:30 am or so when I may have fallen asleep again. I even went to the computer at 2:00 am to see if I could find any extra help from an online video tutorial about skirt-making. I'm proud to say that I figured it out sometime in the early morning hours.

The photo above was taken "pre re-do," but I like the way the shadows from the window frame intersected with my shoes, the carpet, and my skirt. There hasn't been sufficient sunlight today for such a photo with the new version of the skirt. I am slowly learning through my mistakes with the new/old Pfaff machine and appreciating the act of designing and creating something that is uniquely mine.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

Positive and Negative Space

Photos of a tree-- the live oak in my front yard-- through its noonday shadows. It reminds me of printmaking with positive and negative space. The canvass is my cracked driveway. The sunlight is the paint. The shadow is the engraving.
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