Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home Improvement: 2 1/2 x 3 1/2" at a Time

I've been following Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. You can read more about it here.

Day 13 Prompt: Write about the best change you made to the place you live. [Yes, I have skipped Days 11 and 12...I'll try to tackle those tomorrow, after I taken a photo or two to accompany the entry]

In terms of living space, as I've said before, the space is not my own. It's a spare bedroom. As such, it's not something I can remodel and decorate too much. Not to mention that I don't want to get too comfortable here. This is a transition space, after all, and not home.

Meanwhile, I try to make the most of the space I have. The room is cramped with all the items I either can't fit into my storage or items I was positive I needed access to."Necessities" fall into two categories: books and art supplies. As such, I keep an overabundance of books on a headboard that I'm using as a bookshelf. I use the large space below the two shelves as storage space for items with card-making or collage-making potential. I also store such items in clear plastic containers under the twin bed. This is my half-hearted attempt at organizing all of the yard sale and thrift store finds that I bought intending to use them in collages or other mixed-media pieces.

Next to the bed is a large wooden desk, but you wouldn't know it--it's nearly covered over with craft items and projects in all stages of completion.

The room is an exercise in opposites, as it is at once cramped and overflowing with stuff, yet it is also spare. You could use the word plain or maybe austere to describe the wall space. There are no decorations hanging on the walls, but I recently changed that.

For years, I have traded Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), and I've got a collect of them sitting in plastic baseball holders. But I can't see them unless I decide to get the album out and flip through it. To remedy the bare wall condition and the inability to view my ATCs easily, last week I bought a black metal frame that displays 20 baseball cards. I loaded 20 of over 100 ATCs into the holder, and voila! I've got my first official decoration.

It's not a night-n-day change, but it's a step in the right direction. I figure I can budget (even with a 40% off coupon, the frames are $15...) and buy more of the frames until I have a collection of frames housing the collection of ATCs. There are also some interesting ATC display ideas on Flickr.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

DJ's Assistant

I've been playing along with Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. You can read more about it here.

Day 10 Prompt: Album of the Year. What's Rocking Your World?

My music collection used to grow by leaps and bounds during every school vacation, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, when A. would sign up for a slot or several slots at KUOI, University of Idaho's student-operated radio station. During those vacations, the building would be abandoned except the two of us and the occasional janitor. Generally, we'd make our way to the station after stopping for coffee at One World or sometimes after a beer or two.

Last time, I was introduced to artists like Abe Vigoda, Adem, All Girl Summer Band, Brazilian Girls, Camera Obscura, Common, Dim Dim, Dragon Fli Empire, Gemma Hayes, Hello Seahorse!, Hot Panda, Jared Mees, Loquat, M. Ward, Mi Ami, Polka Dot Dot Dot, The Black Ghosts, and Vetiver.

While it's certainly possible that I would have eventually heard about these bands -- perhaps they might have gone mainstream -- it's doubtful. That's the beauty of college radio. You hear some of the greatest music that not everyone will get to hear. You hear the opposite of what the music business believes that you should hear. Sure, some of it is crap, but a lot of it is great, and these bands deserve recognition, but I'm also glad they don't become part of the industry machine--a bland, non-discerning entity that pushes what will sell and image over substance.

More than the music, I think I valued the experience of being able to witness someone I love doing what he loves. I sat there and watched him in action, marveling about how his voice, which was nice anyway, became so smooth and professional, when occasionally he had to take scheduled breaks to make announcements to listeners: identifying bands and song titles, commenting on the weather, explaining that he'd been a long-time KUOI fan and had DJ'd in the past, and wishing people well during the holidays.

I felt like an insider. I wasn't just some schmo driving around in her car and listening to the station. I wasn't washing dishes or cooking dinner with KUOI on in the background. No, I was there. In The Wizard of Oz, we look behind the curtain and find out that The Great Oz is JUST a man, but I can truly say that I never lost my sense of awe about the inner workings of a radio station.

While he worked, I studied CD art, read the band descriptions, enjoyed being privy to KUOI's in-house system of sending CD's home with DJ's, who scrawled little reviews on office labels. A. always let me be part of the CD selection process, even though he knows I'm a fan of a specific vein of music, so it was a given that I'd ask him to play folk-y, accoustic-y, or angsty chick music.

However, I also tried to choose CDs whose blurbs compared the band to bands I knew A. already liked or bands that described them in a way that sounded like A.'s taste.

I can't settle on one of those CD's I like best. The experience itself--being a DJ's assistant--finds its way to my Best of 2007, 2008, and 2009. This Christmas, A. will work his KUOI shifts solo. And I'm sure I won't be able to resist logging into KUOI online, listening to my favorite voice wishing strangers well.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sweet Aftermath

I'm participating in Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. You can read about it here.

Day 9 Prompt: Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge for you?

I lost my best friend. I guess what makes it the best challenge--a challenge that will continue in these final days of 2009 and on to 2010--is that I am trying my best to put things in perspective. I'm trying my best to remember all the shining moments. I'm trying to remember that I did my best. And I want to be sure that, unlike him, I am not hateful. His personality dictates that those shining moments are now tarnished or erased. And that is his choice. I, on the other hand, know that I gave my all in 4 years and that there were tons of beautiful moments.

In honor of that challenge, I present a diary entry I wrote August 3, an entry I wrote while on his family farm. The entry captures the tail-end of a fight and also the sweet aftermath:

"I awakened first, per usual. I went and sat on the porch and read, letting the sun bear down on my legs and shoulders. It felt good, as though baking out all my discontents. Two hours later, after 10 anyway, A. woke up. I could hear him in the kitchen and wondered if I was going to get the silent treatment. Maybe 10 minutes passed until he decided to say good morning. I came in, got dressed, and started working on one of the upstairs bedrooms. A. came in and hugged me, said, "I'm sorry. I try to be a good man," and the combination of those words and the contact with his hairy chest made me teary. My only response was, "I know." I tried to continue working in the room, but really I wanted to be with A. I walked out into the kitchen and found him watching a movie on my laptop. I stood behind him and put my hand on his shoulder. He put his hand on my calf and squeezed. I sat down and watched the rest of the movie, Small Town Ecstasy, about a dad to 3 kids who was addicted to ecstasy and the rave scene, and he shared that habit with his kids.

After, we worked on the basement. We took a break to eat lunch then went back to work, this time on Kim's bedroom. Near 5, we quit. A. invited me to walk up the driveway with him to call his mom and see when she was coming the next day. Around 7 p.m., we climbed over a fence to cut weeds. At first, A. did the cutting, and I stuffed the clingy little fellows in a feed sack. Then we swapped. When finished, A. was the worse for wear, with weeds sticking all over his arm hair, head hair, and clothes. I felt a bit like a mama ape helping him pick burrs off himself, but it was also quite intimate and reminded me that there's pretty much nothing I wouldn't do for him. I think he knew it. As such, he kissed me, and we continued picking burrs.

Later, I told him that I wanted to bake his mom a pie, which he approved of and also volunteered to pick them with me, so for the next hour or so, we traipsed out into the stickery blackberries, even making a second trip up to the top of the driveway near the spring. When we returned, I made him quesadillas with TVP, onion, green pepper, with a cabbage slaw on top and hot sauce. We watched the dumbest movie, Freaks. Then we went to bed. We both made a point of showering, which crassly means that we'll likely make love. And, thankfully, we did."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moment of Peace

I've decided to participate in Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. You can read about it here. As per usual, I started late, and I'm already behind, but c'est la vie.

Day 8 Prompt: Moment of Peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a 34-year-old woman who had to live with her mom. Had to? She'd had an apartment of her own, many apartments of her own, yet the last one was subterranean, dank, depressing. And finally, symbolically, it flooded, so we moved to higher ground.

But it wasn't really higher ground of her own. She took on a housesitting gig from mid-January through mid-July, and lived on a farm between near Colfax, Washington. She planned to find another apartment after that, but time and money ran out. She'd spent most of her money on car repairs and the expenses related to visiting her Prince Charming, who was living and going to school in a far, far land (well, actually two hours away...).

She consoled herself with the mantra: only for a semester, only for a semester, only for a semester. But it is the second week in December, and her prospects don't look good. No fairy god mother came and made things right. Instead, there were more car troubles, student loan payments, bills, and a heart that was too big for her body (damn heart on damn sleeve and damn those who plucked heart from sleeve and then decided said heart was not suitable). So she's revising her thoughts on Prince Charmings and is not sure she believes in Happily Ever After.

This realization means she cries a lot and bides her time and talks to mirrors and herself. She gets lost between stacks of books. She gets lost between the sheets. She thinks it is strange that she hasn't lived with her mother since the age of 7. And yet there she is, sleeping on a twin-sized bed with an 80-pound dog and a blue-eyed cat.

If one didn't know any better, you might think that mattress an island. An oasis. In the morning when she swings her feet over the side, there is only ocean. Danger. But in the small space of that mattress, among the blankets and warm sighing bodies of those creatures, there is peace, one evening at a time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recycling X-Mas Cards

So I scout out local thrift stores and buy large mish-mash packages of Christmas card leftovers. Generally, they group anywhere from 3o to 50 cards and envelopes into a baggie and charge $1.99. I don't particularly like these cards, but I like to get envelopes this way, and sometimes I snag the sentiments and use them on my handmade cards.
I really liked the texture on the inside of the card, and I decided I wanted to use that texture for some Christmas cards.
I'm going to show you how to use 90% of this card to make your own prettier (I think) handmade cards.
There were four distinct textures. I cut the card backs into 1 1/2" squares.
Then I inked those squares. I used Ranger Distress Ink in brick and Marvy Heritage Ink in Pond Green.
Notice how my card front is a panel I cut from the inside greeting of the original card. I cut it to 3 3/4" x 5". Then I mounted 3 of my inked squares. Finally I decorated the top with green and gold ribbon.
Finally, I mounted the card panel onto a green card. Voila! A re-purposed Christmas Card! What do you think?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Best of 2009 Blog Challenge: Day 7

The prompt for today, December 7, is "Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year."

I don't know how to paint, but I'd love to know how. I'm particularly drawn to abstract painting and graffiti or graffiti-inspired painting. I'm constantly experimenting with techniques I find online, in magazines, and on blogs and internet sites.

I'm also interested in how mixed media finds its way into other types of crafting like sewing. I'd love to make my own clothes or to be able to give existing clothing an artsier feel.

This time last year, I bought the book, Canvas Remix by Alisa Burke. Burke imagines a world where art isn't passive. Canvas, when cut to form, becomes apparel and journals and crowns and household decor that is not necessarily relegated to a wall.

I visit Burke's blog often and am taken by her need to re-purpose common everyday objects into beautiful pieces of art. Cereal boxes get turned into beautiful napkin rings. Sweaters that have seen better days get turned into funky new pieces of winter wear.

You should check out her blog and her book.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gearing Up for Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

Blogger Gwen Bell challenged herself to write a blog about the bests of 2009. I'm going to try to play along. I think it will be a challenge. First, it's been a shitty year, so I think it will do me some good to try to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. Below you'll find the rules of the challenge, the prompts for each day in December, and finally my entry for December 6.

How to participate in 5 simple steps:

1. Write on one or all thirty-one of the prompts for the month of December

2. A post can be a sentence, photo or 3,000 word essay

3. Link up your blog or Twitter account if you're going to tweet your bests, on the list below (add your name to the bottom where it says: You are next...CLICK HERE to enter your link)

4. Tag your posts and photos #best09. (These are the posts I've read so far, saved on Delicious daily.)

5. Share your best moments of 2009 over the course of December. Don't get hung up on details or length - if there's an aspect of the question that doesn't resonate, change it to meet your needs.

(Read the Q&A for more.)

The #best09 Prompts

December 1 Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?(+ giveaway)

December 2 Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

December 3 Article. What's an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious'd and reference throughout the year.

December 4 Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies? (+ giveaway)

December 5 Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

December 6 Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

December 7 Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year.

December 8 Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

December 9 Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

December 10 Album of the year. What's rocking your world?

December 11 The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

December 12 New food. You're now in love with Lebanese food and you didn't even know what it was in January of this year.

December 13 What's the best change you made to the place you live?

December 14 Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

December 15 Best packaging. Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

December 16 Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What's yours?

December 17 Word or phrase. A word that encapsulates your year. "2009 was _____."

December 18 Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

December 19 Car ride. What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?

December 20 New person. She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?

December 21 Project. What did you start this year that you're proud of?

December 22 Startup. What's a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special?

December 23 Web tool. It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn't live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

December 24 Learning experience. What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?

December 25 Gift. What's a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving?

December 26 Insight or aha! moment. What was your epiphany of the year?

December 27 Social web moment. Did you meet someone you used to only know from her blog? Did you discover Twitter?

December 28 Stationery. When you touch the paper, your heart melts. The ink flows from the pen. What was your stationery find of the year?

December 29 Laugh. What was your biggest belly laugh of the year?

December 30 Ad. What advertisement made you think this year?

December 31 Resolution you wish you'd stuck with. (You know, there's always next year...)

December 6 Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

In the 6 1/2 years I've worked for LCSC, I've always been afforded the opportunity to attend either a conference for college-level and secondary education teachers, or I attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. Due to budget cuts, funding hasn't been available for me to attend these conferences. Or to be honest, because I'm lower on the academic totem pole, my chances of applying for and getting such funding are nil. Preference is going to go to professors.

In non-academic areas, I also dropped off the radar in terms of teaching art-based classes. I no longer work at Paper Pals on weekends, and even though I am tied to 2 Degrees Northwest and was propositioned to teach classes, I have to admit, I feel like I've lost my mojo. My confidence in my abilities is just not there. It's not that I don't have the skills. I am creative and produce lots of art during a year. However, it's as if I have stage fright. The thought of having all eyes on me is terrifying, which is ridiculous, considering that I teach college-level English and have all eyes on me on a daily basis.

I have the best of intentions. At the end of summer. Laurie, one of the directors of of 2 Degrees Northwest, asked me to develop class ideas, and I did. Yet even after I proposed the courses, I backed out before the classes could even be advertised. Maybe the fear is that I'd go through such work and be excited about the classes, and then no one would sign up for them.

I also stopped attending any conferences and literary readings sponsored by the college and the Humanities Department. It's not that I'm not interested. In fact, I looked forward to seeing Scott Russell Sanders, yet when the time came, I skipped it and bought his newest book--the book from which the lecture sprang: The Conservationist Manifesto.

So to finally get around to answering the question posed by the Best 2009 Blog Challenge, I guess my best conference came in book form, where I could enjoy it from the comfort of my own home.

If you'd like your own private Scott Russell Sanders conference, you may want to read this.

I appreciated his take on the possibilities for meditation in nature:

"Although I have tried meditating for shorter or longer stretches since my college days, forty years ago, I have never been systematic about the practice, nor have I ever been good at quieting what Buddhists call the “monkey mind.” Here beside Lookout Creek, however, far from my desk and duties, with no task ahead of me but that of opening myself to this place, I settle quickly. I begin by following my breath, the oldest rhythm of flesh, but soon I am following the murmur of the creek, and I am gazing at the bright leaves of maples and dogwoods that glow along the thread of the stream like jewels on a necklace, and I am watching light gleam on water shapes formed by current slithering over rocks, and for a spell I disappear, there is only this rapt awareness."

This conference--the one I attended in my pajamas, with a cup of tea in hand and a dog curled at me feet--reminded me, no, alarmed me: it has been far too long since I've been in the woods. I miss it. And I need to reclaim peace in my life, perhaps one trail, one tree at a time.

A Card for Kate

Jennifer McGuire has created a new card drive for sick children and their families. I encourage you to read each of their stories and to make time to create just a tiny little bit of sunshine in their lives. You can read about it at:

For those crafty souls out there, it may help to know that they are giving away craft items once per month. For every child you write to, you are entered into a drawing for some really great products.

However, I think if you read about them and look at their photos and visit their blogs, that will be the only motivation
you need. I read about 5-year-old Kate this morning. This beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed girl likes to paint, and she loves her puppy. She should be spending her time doing things all 5-year-old girls do. Instead, her world is blood counts and hospitals and all things that revolve around brain cancer.

The card at the beginning of the post is what I created for Kate. I plan to create a card for each of the 8 kids. I hope all my friends will consider sending cards too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Help! I Can't Stop Saying the Word, 'Creepy'

They found a 23-year-old WSU graduate out on Albion road (between Pullman and Colfax, Washington)? She was bleeding and unconscious. Her injuries led authorities to believe that she fell out of a car or that she was hit by a car.

This is disturbing for multiple reasons:
1. It's mid-week. It's not like a weekend when a young girl might go out and whoop it up into the early morning hours.

2. It's in the boonies. I know that some WSU faculty, employees, and students live there and commute the 15 or so minutes into Pullman, but it's still relatively remote and small town.

3. It's not so far from where I housesat for 5 months last January through July.

She's in Spokane and still in bad shape--still unconscious.

Is it weird that I want her to wake up so that she can solve the mystery? I've done a lot of thinking about that sort of stuff lately. Victims and bad guys alike so rarely get a chance to speak after something awful happens. For instance, I'm glad the gunman at the Texas Fort Whatever survived and did not kill himself or wasn't gunned down. That so rarely happens. I would like to hear him explain his actions.

And the same is true with female victims of violence. It would be nice if this girl could recover and solve her own crime, thus putting away the person/people who did this.

Yesterday was creepy news day:

1) the WSU girl was discovered bloody and unconscious

2) a WSU frat boy fell out of a window and seriously injured his back (although that's almost expected these days--so much so that it seems prudent to design/rebuild fraternities so they are single-level with bubble wrap lawns and trampolines for further cushioning...)

3) a 77-year-old man hit a bridge on the Snake River while boating and died (and there's a creepy follow-up article in the Tribune this a.m. that ends with reassuring readers that no damage was done to the bridge...I bet that makes the family feel great...)

4) This is my fault: I caved and watched the interview Oprah did yesterday with the woman whose face was ripped off by a chimp...While I should have been disturbed by the face behind the veil, I was more disturbed to witness the usually cool, calm, and collected Oprah so totally uncomfortable. Case in point: at the end of the interview, she wanted to sort of shake hands with the woman, but the woman not longer has fingers (only one thumb on one stump), so Oprah sort of grasped one of her stumps and the woman's one thumb sort of went over Oprah's hand. Oprah laughed nervously and called attention to the thumb. The woman said something to the effect of, "It's a little piece of me." Yee...

Even more disturbing is the letter Oprah read from the owner of the chimp who did all the damage. The last sentence of the letter wished the woman a "fully and speedy recovery." Isn't that the most insane and insensitive thing to say? Of course this woman will never recover fully. She has no eyes. She has a mouth big enough to fit a drinking straw through. She has one finger. Her scalp is still open. Her nose is a big chunk of thigh skin they grafted onto her face. I don't think she will fully or speedily recover. Even if she becomes eligible for a face transplant someday, will she ever recovery emotionally? Will her daughter?

Friday, September 11, 2009

New Cards - August

All of these cards involve my nail polish technique. I basically buy old nail polish at thrift stores and yard sales. Then I put some water in a shallow pan. I drizzle the nail polish in interesting patterns. The nail polish clings to the water's surface. I then place a piece of glossy cardstock down on the water's surface. The nail polish then clings to the paper. It's beautiful AND it's recycling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Poetry


They're measured in hands,
which is not that different
from that dark assessment
I conduct nightly, if lucky:
my one hand spanning
between breast and breast,
covered over with the softest
salt and pepper hair
and sweat, the summer's doing
(or mine). One hand,
moving over stubble
and full bottom lip. Yes,
this is a one-handed kiss
that misses nothing. This,
a hand bandage around the bicep,
with its ink gone green with age: caduceus,
a skin oath. Do no harm
I and your tattoo say. Let me
be the nurse this night, release
what hurt I can find by inching
where I know you best
in my own tall way. Let me
offer pleasure as its own sort
of whisper, or gauzy
as the curtains billowing. Let me
with this hand let in night,
dry hillsides, and apples scattered.
They've gone to alcohol.
In sun, there was the buzz of bees
drunk on that sweetness. And now
sugar is on the soft lips of the horse who lives.
He lowers his head to windfall and I, to mine.
We all glow white as the backbone
we found at property's edge--a puzzle
of femur, hip, and head, all resting on a bed
made bare by want. You said scavengers
and left me with the skull's weight
still in my hands.