Pretty Ladies All in a Row

These were a special order for a fellow twin Mama who owns a local dance studio, Little Dancing Stars. Last year I created bracelets with little star charms for all her dance instructors, and this year they get earrings! I do take custom orders! :-)

A ladybug came home from work with me yesterday afternoon. When I got in my van, I saw her on my windshield, and she fearlessly hung on all the way home, more than 20 miles up I-95 at 55-65 miles per hour. I was rooting for her all the way! There were a few times when I thought she was going to lose her grip, but she managed to stick it out. When I got home, I checked to make sure she was still breathing (you know, in a ladybug kind of way), and then ran upstairs to get my camera, but I couldn’t get a good shot because of the glare on the windshield. By the time the sun shifted, she had flown off. I’ve been thinking about the symbolism in that ever since. I call my girls my two little ladybugs because ladybugs bring good luck. This little gal not only had luck, but also had incredible tenacity and perseverance. I think that suits us too. :-) How about you? What have you been persevering through this week?

Flowers and Tears for the Teacher

This little flower was a bit of a surprise. The girls and I were taking a quick pass through the butterfly garden at the zoo when she jumped out and shouted, “Hey! Look at me!” I took two quick shots and kept moving. I was very happy to see what I came up with when I downloaded the day’s shots!

I also got a very sweet surprise from one of my students last night. I’ve been teaching college English for 20 years. I’ll admit, there has been many a day when heading to class at night after working all day has drained every bit of my energy, but I must be doing something right since I’ve kept it up for so long. Last night, our final class for this term, I got a reminder why. The final journal assignment I give my students is to give me an honest assessment of the class. I’ve done this for years, and this feedback is very important to me because the generic evaluation the students can complete online is just that: very generic. This format gives them the opportunity to really tell me what they think. I work on a point grading system, so because of that they already know what their grades are based on how many points they’ve earned, so they are free to speak their minds without fear of it impacting their grades. I received an entry last night that literally brought me to tears. While I’ve had some of my SGA officers and Student Ambassadors bring me to tears with some of the very sweet things they’ve said, I can’t ever remember an English student doing that. I thought I’d share it with you.

Dear Professor Warren,

Your 1101 class has been my greatest college experience. It has been rewarding, fulfilling and challenging. I have grown as a student and as a person from this experience. This class has not only taught me to be a better writer, but it has also taught me to believe in myself and trust in my instincts. I am now starting to believe that I can earn my A.S. degree.

When I first started this class, I did not know computer skills, I did not know when to indent paragraphs, I lacked confidence, and I was scared half to death of this course. I was worried that this class was too advanced for me. I had a brief conversation with you about my concern, and you just smiled and told me you could not read any of my journals because you could not open them because I submitted them in the wrong format. The one that you did read, you said it was not so bad. From that conversation, I decided not to drop the class. This class was challenging, and I am proud of myself for not quitting. I have learned so much from this class, and it has enriched my life.

One of the strengths of this class is reading the book “Steps to Writing Well,” along with writing essays that we learned from the book and from our class discussions. Your feedback on all the essays and the journals I wrote helped me to work on what I needed to improve on, like punctuation, comma splices, and sentence fragments. Writing journals was another strength of this course. Writing the journals got my brain in the writing mode and helped me to get over the fear of writing. Writing journals was a great way to get started.

The only thing that I disliked about this class was the timed essays, but you already know this. I still panic and get writer’s block, but I am working hard to get over this fear. I am determined to become a better writer under pressure. There were not any weaknesses in this course, or anything I would do differently.

Before I close, I want to share with you a special moment that happened in this class that I will remember for a lifetime. I was given the chance to write a timed essay on a special moment. I blew it because I panicked, and I got writer’s block. I wrote my essay on Sundays at Grandmama Baker’s House. What I should have written about was the greatest experience I had in my 1101 class.

The experience happened the third week of class. I remember everything that happened in class that day. I emailed you after I had written my first essay because I thought I had a learning disability. You referred me to Robin Woolbright [the campus disabled student services specialist] for assistance. When I came to class the next day, you were handing out the essays, and you told me that I worry too much. I said to you, “But you haven’t read my essay yet,” and you said, “Yes, I have. I read it about 30 minutes ago.” I looked at the 100 that I made on the essay you placed on my desk, and I could not believe it. I am still in shock. After you passed all the essays out, you leaned against your desk and told the class you wanted to share an essay written by one of our classmates and read “My Devotion to Doug” essay. When you started reading my essay to the class, I got very emotional. I will carry this significant memory with me for the rest of my life. Being in this class, and having you as my instructor, has been a term that I will cherish forever. Thank you for making this an extraordinary adventure.

The student who wrote this is what we call a “returning student.” I would guess she is in her early 40s and has now set a goal of finally earning a college degree. When she gave me this entry, she told me she wanted to talk to me about it before she left, so she waited while I got the rest of the group situated, and then I grabbed the entry and walked outside with her. I hadn’t read it yet, so she asked me to read it first while she waited. Of course, by the end of it, my eyes had welled up with tears, and when I looked up at her after reading it, she had tears streaming down her face, too, so I just gave her a big hug and said, “Thank you. I will keep this forever.” That journal entry touched me deeply. It reminded me why I’ve worked two jobs all these years so that I could teach at night, and it reminded me that I am very blessed to be able to do that. Through teaching, both in the classroom and in Student Life, I am blessed with the opportunity to change lives and empower others to believe in themselves. Can it get any better than that?

A Good Mail Day!

In addition to the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, look what greeted me in my mail box Saturday! This lovely piece of mail art from Roben-Marie Smith! Roben-Marie is a huge inspiration for me, and we finally got to meet in person at Artful Journey in February, so I was truly honored and jumping-up-and-down excited to receive this piece from her.

I need to get hopping creating some mail art to share with unsuspecting friends! Thanks for making my day, Roben-Marie. :-)

Telephone Line to Heaven

Running errands this afternoon listening to a song on the radio that had “Heaven” in it:

Sarah: Mama, what does Heaven look like?

Mama: Well, I don’t know Sarah. I haven’t been there yet, but the Bible says it has streets paved of gold.

Livvie: I know what we could do! We could build a phone that will reach all the way up to Heaven, and then we could call and ask what it looks like!

Sarah: Yeah! We could call up there and then when Jesus or God answers, we could ask Him if we could talk to your Mama and Daddy’s Mama, and they could tell us what it looks like!

Livvie: Yeah! That would be so cool! Mama, is that armadillo we saw on the side of the road yesterday in Heaven?

Mama: Livvie, have I ever told you the story about the Rainbow Bridge?....

These girls never cease to amaze me. Not sure if these railroad tracks lead to Heaven, but Sarah spotted them and thought the flowers growing in between would make a pretty picture. And I’m sure there’s someone that armadillo will be waiting for near the Rainbow Bridge. After all, God loves all creatures great and small…even smelly and armored.

I Made This! ~ Mint Julep

One of the blogs I like to keep up with is Everything Etsy. I have it on my Yahoo! home page so I get updates immediately. Kim shares great Etsy finds as well as great tips on running an Etsy shop in general and lots of fun tutorials. Plus she’s a fellow Floridian who lives darn close to one of my favorite places on earth, Boca Grande. Every Thursday, Kim has an “I Made This” blog party, so I thought I’d join in today. Here’s a new necklace I finished recently in prep for the Tifton Love Affair Fine Arts Festival May 1-2. This will be the first time I’ve participated in this show since it typically falls the same weekend as our Commencement ceremony at the college (for which I’m responsible and will be pulling out my hair until it’s over May 8), but this year, I got lucky and the two didn’t conflict. I initially named this piece Mint Julep, but maybe I should call it The Luck of the Irish instead! :-) Happy Thursday to you.

Birdhouses and Green Slime...

Anybody home? One of my Picture Spring assignments is to “reflect and look back” by looking back through my archives and selecting a photo I haven’t shared before. I captured this shot last October, just outside a really fun little shop in Apalachicola. I wish I could remember the name of the shop! I’m sure I’ll be back over there soon. Finding this picture again reminded me of that trip. I was over there to check out the property I’ve been dreaming about and had such a great day just wandering through all the funky little art galleries and antique shops in Apalachicola and dreaming about what I wanted to do. I had lunch at “That Place in Apalach,” a great old diner. It was a much needed couple days of solitude. Rare for me! But little trips like that refuel me and remind me of my blessings.

I got home late last night so I didn’t get to talk to the girls before they went to bed. This morning, they both excitedly told me about some card project they needed to do for their teacher. I think Olivia said it best. Livvie: “Mama! We have to make seven cards for Jaxson de Ville!” Mama: “Why?” Livvie: “So I can win a big bucket of green slime [sang with opera-like gusto]!” So there you have it. We have to make seven cards for Jaxson de Ville so Livvie can win a big bucket of green slime. Talk about reminding you of your blessings! How blessed would this world be if all it took to make us all happy was a big bucket of green slime? What’s your “big bucket of green slime”? What would really tickle your toes? Maybe you are already blessed with it.

The House That Built Me

I’ve been slowly working through my Picture Spring assignments. This has been an interesting process. Essentially we are given a prompt every day. Something specific to capture. I was hoping to learn a few more new technical tricks, but at the minimum, it’s at least forcing me to look at things differently. One recent assignment included finding love in our world, literally! I’ve looked for heart shapes in nature and on the streets for years, so this was an easy share for me. But even as long as I’ve been looking, I only recently discovered this heart on my front porch, right at the top of my front porch steps. And to think we’ve been here for 10 years!

It reminded me of the new Miranda Lambert song “The House That Built Me.” Have you heard that song? Here’s a YouTube link to the video. The first time I heard it, I loved it. It was one of those songs that immediately brought on the tears. I didn’t really have a house that built me, growing up. We moved around a lot so we really weren’t in any one house for too long. I think the longest was four years. But then I thought about my house now. This house…in all its Papa Smurf blue exterior, pink porch ceilings and green doors glory…this is really the house that built me. It’s the house that brought me to who I am today: a wife, a mom, and yep, even though I hesitate to say it out loud some times, an artist. In this house, I’ve come into my own. And I hope, looking back, my girls will feel the same. Go listen to the song and then tell me about the house that built you. I'd love to hear your story.

New Blog Look?

Just playing around. What do you think? I was visiting my friend Leah's blog and just loved the clean look to it. You know I'm a crazy color girl so I can't go completely clean, but it's a start. :-) Now I just need to figure out how to get rid of those diagonal lines over there in the sidebar. It's a basic Blogger template that I adjusted to the sizes I prefer and I can't find those darned lines in the code. I know just enough about html to be dangerous.... Suggestions? Like the new look? Prefer the old look?

Swaying in the Breeze

This is my back porch swing. It’s not your ordinary back porch swing. It’s actually a twin mattress for which we built a frame and then suspended it from the porch ceiling with chain, making it a fabulous place to take a nap. I made the new pillows this weekend on my get-the-porch-back-in-shape-for-spring-and-summer marathon (which also included a heck of a lot of flower potting).

The striped pillows are actually recovered from previous summers. I just made new pillow covers out of Sunbrella fabric. The large floral pillows are my brainstorm I mentioned in my last post. Guess what I made them out of!? Two king size pillows and one four dollar vinyl tablecloth I picked up in the clearance aisle at Wally World. The tablecloth was 60” x 120”! That much Sunbrella would have cost me nearly $75! The brainstorm didn’t hit until the moment I happened to pass by the tablecloth, and I can’t even remember now what I was looking for! I wasn’t quite sure how it would sew up initially, but I really didn’t have any trouble with it. So there you have it. Go make yourself some fabulously awesome pillow covers out of a $4 tablecloth. Only basic sewing skills required!

As for that swing, I need to spend more time on it. My pace lately has been beyond frenetic, though I won’t be able to slow down much for another few weeks or so (thus my lack of blogs lately). Spring Break last week was just too much of a tease, even though it was a fairly busy tease at that. Today we had our Spring Fling; I dished out 800 slices of pizza in about 45 minutes. I think that was a record. Monday is my annual Student Awards program, truly my biggest event of the semester, and then closely on the heels of that program, I'm hosting the college-wide High Honors luncheon May 3, and I’m one of the two main contacts for Commencement, which is May 8. We’re expecting 800-900 grads to walk this year. In between all that, I have a big juried fine arts festival in Tifton May 1-2.

I’ve been struggling with all this juggling more than usual lately. In one aspect, my Artful Journey retreat was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced; it did truly change my life. On the other side of that, it’s made me want to make changes in my life more and more, and those changes won’t come easy, if I’m able to make some of them at all. Sometimes being a grown-up is just no fun at all, is it? The bills still must be paid, your family still must have health insurance, your future still must include a retirement plan of some sort. The trick is figuring out where your follow-your-heart dreams fit when reality stares you boldly in the face. I’m continuing to work on that in little bits in pieces here and there. Mermaids and Mamas is coming together nicely, so that’s a wonderful start, but following my artful dreams full-time is still a long way away. So tell me. What do you do when you hit stumbling blocks? Other than lay on the swing and sway in the breeze...

Mermaids and Mamas and More

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve posted! We’ve been on Spring Break this past week week, so the girls and I have been staying busy. We spent Monday being totally lazy, lounging around in our pj’s all day…we needed that after Easter Day down at the lake! Tuesday, we spent the day up in Fernandina browsing the galleries and shops and going to the beach, and then Wednesday we went to the Zoo with friends. Thursday and Friday, the girls had Daddy time since I had to travel over to Tallahassee for some legislative meetings.

This weekend, I've gotten back to work! Yesterday I created new pillow covers for my back porch swing and had a genius moment I'll share with you later this week. I still need to photograph them! I’ve also been working on my Picture Spring assignments, so I’ll share more of those with you soon. I’ve started getting caught up on jewelry photography as well as some custom orders, so all in all, we’ve been hopping around here. I'll share some new jewelry with you later this week too.

Lastly, I’ve been working on my latest retreat project, and that's what I wanted to share with you today. Carmen and I set an April 1 make or break date for Art and Dreams Bound. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the amount of registrations we needed to make the retreat a go for this time around, but we aren’t giving up! Carmen is a very talented artist and, having experienced one of her online classes, I know she's an excellent instructor. I fully believe we had a great offering; I guess the timing just wasn't right, and we probably need to invest a little more into advertising. Lessons learned! We’ll try again another time!

Since I already had the retreat center reserved, I decided to implement my Plan B. I mentioned a while back that I’ve been taking an online course with McCabe Russell called Mermaid Warriors. It’s been a great course, and we've had some awesome discussions centered around working with young girls and all that comes with that...confidence issues, self-esteem issues, mean girls at school, etc. I’m adding some great ideas to my skill set and quickly seeing how I can take what I’ve already been doing for years—experiential education retreat planning and facilitation—and working in art. To that end, Mermaids and Mamas Artful Adventure is ready to roll! I’m very excited about this project and I hope it will be the first of many more to come. Please hop on over and read more about it here. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you have four-to-nine-year-old girls in your lives, just the first age group I'll be working with, I hope you’ll consider joining us!

Picture Spring...

I’m taking an online photography class from Shutter Sisters’ Tracey Clark. It’s for the month of April, and each morning we are given a prompt to shoot. Here are my first three prompts.

Day 1’s prompt was “Beginnings.” I’ve been wanting to photograph my next door neighbor’s pear blossom tree every since it started to bloom last week. It’s really gorgeous, and it definitely shouts “Spring has sprung!” I also played around with a couple new Photoshop tricks I discovered with this one.

Day 2’s prompt was “Good Morning Sunshine.” So yes, my mornings can be a bit bizarre. She asked, so there you have it: a mass grouping of naked and half naked Barbies raising their arms in praise. They were sitting in the corner near the kitchen table, joining us for breakfast. I cannot make these things up.

So to have a nicer take on Good Morning Sunshine, here’s my sweet Tink lounging on my bed, basking in the morning light coming through the window.

Day 3’s prompt was “Step Into Spring,” for which the instructions called for picking up your camera, taking 30 steps and shooting what you see there. My camera was on my desk upstairs, so I counted my steps down the stairs and into the living room and ended up next to the coffee table, littered with the fairies the girls and I had made the day before. They were playing checkers.

For another take on those 30 steps, I went back upstairs and counted again, this time going out my front door. Viola! My front porch bench. Funny story behind this bench. I was over in St. George about five years ago when I stumbled across this bench in the dressing room of a little boutique. It didn’t have a price tag on it, but I had to have it. I made the store owner an offer and took it home. Pretty fabulous, don’t you think? I played around with lighting effects here too. This is an effect called “2 o’clock shadow.” I found it under “render” and “lighting effects.”

Today is the Lord’s day here in our home. If you are the Easter celebrating sort, I hope you have a most glorious day of celebration. Easter Sunday here brings a family reunion of sorts down at the lake house in Keystone with tons of DH’s cousins and a big Easter egg hunt. I shared last year's event with you here. I hope you enjoy the day no matter how you may celebrate it.

March for My Babies

DH and the girls and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on April 24. Our beautiful girls are the exact type of babies the March of Dimes strives to help. Our girls were born seven weeks early and spent three weeks in neo-natal intensive care before we could bring them home. Now, much thanks to the incredibly wonderful doctors and nurses at Shands and Memorial, they are happy, healthy little girls. I know things are tough all over in this sagging economy, but if you have a few dollars to spare, we’d love your support in our fundraising efforts. And cheer for us on the 24th! The link to our page is here.

Time for April Free Bling! picked number 23 out of 29 entries for March’s Free Bling winner, so congrats to Cindy S. from Boston, MA! You can visit Cindy’s blog here.

I just created April’s entry this afternoon, sothey are fresh off the bench. These are made with crazy lace agate briolettes, silver shadow Swarovski crystals and sterling silver findings. They hang about 1 ½” from ear to tip. To be eligible to win, simply visit either of my Etsy shops (here for jewelry and here for photography) and leave a comment in the comment box below with the link to your favorite piece along with a way to reach you and where you are from. Or email me with the subject line FREE BLING and let me know what your favorite piece is and include where you're from by midnight Thursday, May 6, 2010. Want two entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via Friday, May 7, 2010. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders or subscribe in the reader of your choice in the right column over there. Be sure to join my Facebook Fan page over there in the left column for Fan specials! Thanks for stopping in!