Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sketchbook Project Fun Journal: Day 12

Day 12

I hope those of you in the States had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.  It was a four-day weekend for me since I have Fridays off during the summer and brought with it some much needed downtime. We were homebodies pretty much all weekend.  We went out to Ted's for dinner for our anniversary Friday night (in our usual Ted's flip flops, t-shirts and shorts attire), and then went to the beach for a bit Monday morning, but that was the extent of our excitement for the weekend.  Well, the girls did have a sleepover Saturday night, so there was the excitement that comes with keeping three seven-year-olds underfoot instead of the usual two, but between the alien pod pool, drawing in their art journals (VERY big into drawing fairy families right now) and watching a movie (I highly recommend Gnomeo and Juliet), we managed to keep them entertained.

As luck would have it, one of the things I got around to this weekend was cleaning up my studio, and I unearthed my Sketchbook Project Fun Journal! Nope, I never submitted the journal to the actual Sketchbook Project since it was a long way from finished by the time the deadline rolled around, but now that I have found it again, I'm determined to finish it!  I completed three more pages this past weekend, but in doing so and searching here on my blog, I realized I hadn't even shared the rest of the pages that I had finished already!  Yes, I am often this scatterbrained.
This is page 12.   I didn't real care for page 12, but here you have it.  I started with this scrapbook paper that I thought I really liked, but then once I got it in there, I didn't really like it any more. I tried to salvage it the best I could, adding some stamping and some doodling with paint pens, and this is what I ended up with.  I was still pretty close to my "page a day" mode when I created this one, so I'll chalk it up to lack of time and inspiration!  More catch up pages to come.  How would you have improved this page?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Celebrating 16 Years!

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Happy Anniversary to my sweet husband. Today we celebrate 16 years of marriage. This picture was taken way back in 1992 about three months after we first met. It was our first trip down visiting my father together, so Benny’s first time meeting The Dad (I do believe as of today, I’m no longer going to refer to him as DH; he is officially revealed! Luckily they hit it off immediately, and here we are 19 years later with two beautiful daughters. He’s actually got it kinda rough at times, I admit, being the ONLY male in the house…two daughters, two female dogs, two female cats. Oh well! Thanks for putting up with all my craziness for all these years, my dear!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Surrendering my Superpowers

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I had to meet with Olivia’s teacher yesterday morning regarding her reading grade. Livvie started out poorly this year, then made the A/B honor roll for the second and third quarters, and now has dropped back down as the school year is winding down. Ever feel completely powerless? Have a conversation with your second-grader’s teacher about her failing reading grade.

We talked through why this might be happening. After all, she did make the A/B honor roll for two quarters! I think with Olivia, it’s all about concentration, or lack there of (something she, unfortunately, probably gets from me). Ms. G said that lately she’ll race through her reading comprehension quizzes and just circle random answers, seemingly without giving any thought to what the correct answer might be. She’s one of the first to turn in her quizzes. We asked Livvie about this at home, and she said that when she sees other classmates start to turn their quizzes in, she feels like she needs to hurry up and finish and turn hers in, even though these quizzes are not timed. Wow, ever feel like you are trying to keep up with everyone around you when you really don’t need to? I know I could learn from that lesson. Food for thought there… I asked Ms. G to send home several sample quizzes so I could work with Livvie on them over the long holiday weekend and try to get her grade back up. Her reading skills are fine. She’s reading at above grade level. It’s just the patience it takes to actually complete the quizzes that she’s struggling with.  I also need to help her realize that she is a wonderfully beautiful individual and doesn't need to compare herself to her twin sister.

I do often feel powerless when it comes to trying to do what’s best for my children. Sounds crazy, maybe, but that’s how it hits me at times. I’m not home for homework time. Most of the academic year, I get home about 6pm Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and 9pm on Tuesdays. Fridays are my only decent days since I can usually get home by 4pm.  DH picks the girls up from school about 4pm and does homework with them when they get home, so by the time I get home, it’s time for dinner, baths, snuggling, a little reading, and bedtime. DH is great with helping them with their math, but he admits he struggles helping them with their reading and writing. And those are my strong points! That’s where I can and really should be helping them! It all comes down to time.

And that’s also where I’ve been feeling powerless lately and am trying to find ways to make some major changes. Overall I think I’m at a point in my life where, though I’d love to be working on my creative endeavors more, there simply isn’t much spare time most of the year. And I have to tell ya, if I hear one more person tell me “Oh, you make time for what’s important to you,” I think my head will pop off. You can’t create more time, so, no, you often can’t make more time for what’s important to you without something that’s just as important suffering. That’s where reality kicks in. “Find some time after the girls go to bed!” others have told me. My girls go to bed between 8:30pm and 9pm. I can’t give up sleep due to my balance disorder. It’s crucial that I get at least eight to nine hours of sleep a night or my spins pick up. My dizzy meds work to reset my balance while I’m sleeping, so that sleep is ultra-important. I have to get up at 5:30am or 6am, so that means my bedtime is typically about 9pm.

But there are changes I can make, and that’s what I’m working on. I’ve cut back quite a bit on Etsy. I’ve pulled out of all my team commitments, am saying no to new requests, and rarely even pop in to team chat threads anymore. The most I do is post team treasuries I’m included in here on my blog as a thank you to the curator. I’ll be keeping up my website and my Etsy shops as far as inventory, but I’ll be spending little to no time on Etsy promoting. I know that my sales primarily come from my shows anyway. And speaking of shows, I’ve been re-assessing my goals there as well. Though I love having the opportunity to combine both my jewelry and my photography in one booth, I’m finding that it’s just too much darn work, especially when nine times out of ten, I’m on my own for shows. And I think in some ways having two media in one booth, no matter how much I tie them together, is confusing to many visitors. Given that, this fall I’m returning to concentrating strictly on my jewelry at shows; that’ll free up some time for me as well since I won’t have to prep for two media. I’ll keep up with my photography online since it's something I really enjoy. I’ll also stick to my traditional three shows instead of adding anything else.

And the biggie, which is totally in God’s hands…I’ve applied for another faculty position. If I’m successful, that will give me quite a bit more time, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve been wanting to get out of administration and over to faculty full-time for a few years now, but it’s a difficult transition to make. The screening committees are made up of faculty members, and though many of them are my friends, many also don’t understand why I’d want to take such a large pay cut to leave an administrative position in which I excel. But even though you excel in something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something you should continue doing at all costs. I’d be happy to take that pay cut to get more time. My family needs that time, and I’m starting to realize that my health and my brain need that time, as my brain seems to misfire at least once a sentence these days. I enjoy teaching, I know that I’m a very effective teacher, and the tradeoff would definitely be worth it.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve gotten off track, and I have to re-find my way. And some of the paths I’ve been trying, and some of the groups I’ve been trying to connect with, just haven’t felt right. They haven’t felt like me. I’m not a deep-thinking, existential, the-universe-will-bring-it-to me kind of girl, and I can’t pretend to be. I am a risk taker, but I’m also a very practical thinker. I have some big dreams that maybe one day I’ll realize, but I also remain closely in touch with the reality that is life. So, there you have it: one burned out superwoman admitting that she can’t do it all, and frankly, realizing she doesn't want to try to anymore; I'm surrendering my superpowers. Oddly enough, I’ve been craving cross-stitch lately. But when I think about why I might be craving cross-stitch, it does start to make sense. Though I haven’t cross-stitched for years because it started getting too hard on my hands and my over-40 eyes, thinking back to when I was an avid stitcher, I realize it was that rhythm of the needle and thread going in and out of the canvas that soothed away stress, and that completion of a piece that brought great satisfaction. Wrapping up that last finishing stitch in a large piece, I didn’t feel powerless. I felt like, “Dang! There’s gotta be more than 19,582 stitches in this piece! That’s accomplishing something!” I need to get that feeling back. Maybe it’s time I teach my girls how to cross-stitch.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Treasury Shoutout: Team FEST and Team EFA!

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Two great treasuries to share with you today!  The one above features artists from the Etsy for Animals team. Thanks to KneeDeepOriginals for including my Whispers necklace, third row, second spot.  Click here to visit this treasury with direct links to all the beautiful work, and click here for the EFA blog.

The treasury below features artists from the Florida Etsy Street Team.  Thanks to TallyFiberWorks for including my Joe Jr, second row, fourth spot.  Click here to visit this treasury with direct links to all this gorgeous orange, and click here for the Team Fest blog!  Take a chance and enter the monthly FEST giveaway, sponsored this month by Tierrasolpaz.


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Monday, May 23, 2011

Mix It Up Monday: Mermaids Spray Paint and Stencils


I’m finally weeding through all the Mermaids and Mamas pictures and getting ready to write the wrap up post, but I wanted to share a few things from my girls with you. Sunday morning as a wrap up, we do a “show and tell,” letting all of the girls take center stage one by one, sharing all the art they created over the weekend and telling everyone what their favorite activity was. To a one, the favorite was the spray painting with stencils. I learned this technique from my artsy friend Martha Lever, and I became instantly addicted! It was so much fun to watch the Mermaids do it!

These two pieces are Sarah’s and Olivia’s spray paint stencil art. Since they’d had some practice at home, they did a little better than most of the girls, but everyone had such a great time, I don’t they think they really cared how they looked in the end. To make a spray painting spot for us, my trusty assistant Whitney taped down two large plastic table cloths under the pavillion walkway so we’d be in the shade but still have some airflow to keep the fumes at bay. We left everything there to dry, and then about lunch time, a huge storm came in! Whitney ran over and at least grabbed all the art so we were able to salvage that, but the girls had a great time later picking stencils out of the woods. The rain was very heavy and blowing sideways, but at least all my stencils survived! Thanks for the inspiration, Martha!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mix It Up Monday: Catching my Breath!


Happy Monday! Things around here are, thankfully, finally starting to slow down! We had a great time at Mermaids and Mamas Artful Adventure this weekend, and now I need to catch up on some sleep! I’ll share pictures later in the week.

I so look forward to summer term at work. Things slow down for me, Commencement is over, and I finally have time to breathe, write year end reports and start planning for Fall term. That cycle never ends, but at least during the summer, we don’t do any lecture or music programming due to lack of budget and lack of traffic. This summer term seems to be even slower than others, possibly due to the lack of Pell grants available this summer. I still teach one class during the summer, but even that feels a bit more laid back than my fall and spring term classes. And I have Fridays off! That’s the best part of summer term. :-)

I have lots of catching up to do at home as well. My studio is an absolute disaster thanks to my frenzied Mermaids and Mamas prep. I can’t really even walk in there without stepping on or over something! I was so dead dog tired when we got home yesterday afternoon that I just let it stay that way for now. DH was kind enough to unload my van for me and just piled all my bins in the garage until I could get to them. Best not to have cans of spray paint sitting in a hot van all day! I also have a gazillion photos I need to edit and post and have several new jewelry pieces I haven’t listed yet. The piece you see here is one of my new pieces called Peach Blossom. Again, I’m really loving incorporating vintage lucite pieces into my bling bracelets. I love the extra texture they add. Looking forward to hopping around and catching up on what you’ve been up to now that I have a little more time!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In the Midst of Chaos, the Reasons Why

Me and Courtney
As I’ve shared with you here and here, my past couple of months have been very hectic and at points very trying. It’s in these times that I question why I always find myself with so much on my plate. Admittedly, there are things I could drop from my plate, but I rarely do. I juggle a 40+ hour-a-week job that at this time of the year is very stressful, I teach two college level classes on top of that, and then I have my family and creative business to juggle into that. Most often, it’s the creative business that I have to let slip, even though the teaching is also done by choice. This week I was reminded why I do all this juggling.

Today, Courtney, my Student Government Association president, walked in with flowers. She’s been with me for three years and is graduating on Saturday and moving on to the University of Florida (as she rubs in often since I am a Florida State University graduate, arch rival). She has most definitely been a bright spot in my days for these past three years, and I will greatly miss our long talks and her sweet spirit, thoughtful ways and quiet leadership of our group, but I know that we will stay in touch and remain close. She is one of the reasons why I juggle so much.

Last night, Whitney and Olympia came over to help me plan out the agenda for Mermaids and Mamas. Whitney and Lymp were students of mine about five years ago. Lymp was a Student Ambassador and then my SGA President, and Whitney was my volunteer coordinator. Whitney also used to travel with me pretty regularly as my arts festival assistant. Now, they’ve both moved on in their lives but we remain very close. Olympia has finished her bachelor's degree in social work, is looking into master’s degree programs and works full-time for the Ronald McDonald House as a program manager. Whitney has gotten married and has a sweet baby boy, and she’s continuing school and is currently in the Public Relations program at the University of North Florida. The three of us enjoyed catching up last night, and they are both going to help me with Mermaids next weekend. After they left, DH commented that he likes when “my girls” come over. And he meant these girls like Whitney, Olympia and Courtney, “girls that love you.” And he’s right; many of these young ladies that I have the pleasure of mentoring do become very much like daughters to me. That is one of the reasons why I juggle so much.

One of the last assignments I give in my college English class is a final journal entry asking the students to give me their full assessment of my course. I ask them what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they’d like to see me do differently, how much they think they benefitted from the course, etc. Though I've had a few that have taken the opportunity to express their displeasure over the years, the vast majority of the entries I receive are very positive, and every once in a while, I get one that truly moves me. This week I received one of those, so I’ll share it with you here:

"I’m usually pretty good at describing situations, emotions and expressing my gratitude towards an individual, but journal number eight will put me to the test. I struggle to find the words to describe what this class has done for me. Furthermore, I may not ever be able to relay to any one person reading this how thankful I am to have had such a great professor in Ms. Warren. She has motivated me to strive towards something that I love to do, but have always been hesitant to consider even a remote possibility of becoming actuality. Up until this class started I hadn’t written hardly anything. I always loved to write when I was younger, but after a few life altering decisions and a change in priorities, I put writing away and considered it to be impractical and unimpressive. Once I came to a point in life where I found myself writing again as a way to cope with a bad situation, I couldn’t put my pen down. However, the purpose for which I was using my writing faded away, but the pen stayed in my hand. After nine years of writing absolutely nothing, I began to write as if I had never stopped. With Ms. Warren motivating me and complementing me, along with teaching me the basics that come with writing, I have been given something that has opened so many doors for me. Writing has allowed me to process thoughts, deal with guilt and come to an understanding of my life as it is now. I have absolutely nothing but praise and gratitude for this class and its professor.

One of my favorite things about this class is the freedom that Ms. Warren gives her students to be able to input their own thoughts and feelings into their writing. I’m not sure, but there are probably other professors that are slightly more stringent in their essay format requirements, which I have to think hurts their students. To allow an individual to open up his or her heart and place it onto a piece of paper is nothing short of awesome. Ms. Warren’s style allows her students to be creative, which I believe is a staple point in writing. It also makes writing fun. As long as you stay within reasonable range of the given type of essay, Ms. Warren allows the students to be themselves and be creative. That does wonders for an individual. Personally, after a couple of my essays, I would go back and read over what I had written, and I couldn’t recognize what I was reading. I didn’t remember writing any of it. Having the freedom to allow my personality to develop throughout an essay almost literally takes me into another world. I go into a “zone” as some would describe it. It’s comparable to driving to work early in the morning and upon arriving to work somehow you don’t remember how you even got there. Somewhere in between your house and your place of employment, you blacked out, but somehow made it there alive. That happens to me in my writing. I go into another world and quite honestly I can get carried away. But when my imagination combined with my personality takes over, the finished product more often than not surprises me because I can’t believe the stuff I come up with sometimes. Imagination is the thoughts of your heart. Ms. Warren allowing me to just be myself on paper has broadened my imagination and love for writing.

I’m actually sad to be leaving this class because it has really opened a lot of doors for me. I really don’t want to leave. This was my first semester of college and at the beginning I was very worried that I just wouldn’t like it. But at the end of the second class I was addicted. I couldn’t wait for the next lesson and the next writing assignment. Quite honestly, this class has given me something to focus on while a lot of bad things have transpired around me. Instead of being constantly depressed and dealing with a tough situation in unhealthy ways, I was able to sit down and write a story that took me into another world. It was a breathe of fresh air. This class has given me a sense of purpose, Ms. Warren has motivated me to press forward and I admittedly cannot fathom any other possible way of beginning my college career other than starting it in this class with this professor. I have loved every minute of this class, and I lack the words to express my thankfulness for everything that it and its professor have done for me. I know that most students see this class as just another class. But for me, it has been a doorway into another life."

That is why I juggle so much. I read that journal entry three times in a row, just to let it all sink in. I realized that by the middle of the second reading, I had tears running down my face. It came at a time that I really needed a pick me up, Monday, and pick me up it did. This student actually was in both of my classes, English and Student Life Skills, and mine were his very first college classes. He’s a very talented writer, and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to help him explore that. With my encouragement, he submitted a couple pieces to our literary magazine and even started a blog to share his writing, so he may pop over and see this. If he does, I hope he doesn’t mind that I shared it! It really did mean a great deal to me.

As women, so many of us tend to take on so much to begin with. And women with young children, like me and many of you reading this, have even more piled on our plates. There definitely are days that I do feel completely overwhelmed, and there have been days when I’ve just plopped down on the floor, tears in my eyes, exhausted under the weight of it all. I’m lucky to have reminders like these to pick me back up. Not only do I have a wonderful family at home, I have the privilege of growing a wonderful family around me through the professional work that I do, and when I need that gentle nudge, each of them reminds me of the importance of the other. What more can I ask for?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Feeling the Weight of My Years

Miss Jasmine 2 (Oldsmobile)


I spent the weekend in Tifton, Georgia, at the Tifton Love Affair Fine Arts Festival. Though the crowds were a bit sparse, I have to say the committee that put on this show was by far the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. From the time I submitted my application until pack up when they walked around and gave all the artists a free festival t-shirt, this group lived up to Tifton’s nickname of “The Friendly City.” I was also honored to be awarded a Merit Award for my Miss Jasmine, shown here. It was my very first festival award, and I was very excited. And I was even more excited when towards the end of the day Sunday, the festival chair brought me a check, as I didn’t realize the award came with a monetary benefit! That was certainly a nice surprise to help out what was otherwise a slow show sales wise.

I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster here lately, probably a bit more down than up, I’m afraid. And today has been a particularly emotional day. The Tifton show came in the middle of a really, really busy time for me, so while I always enjoy my shows, I’m a bit frazzled by everything facing me here lately. In addition to my work and art commitments I told you about here, I’ve been facing some personal issues that’ve got me a bit down. About a month ago, Walter, my best friend at work, told me he has decided to retire early. I will miss him terribly, as he’s truly what keeps me sane on the job; his last day is May 31, and we can’t talk about it much because we both starting tearing up! A week later, I learned that a very dear friend and former business partner of mine has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. He’s sounding remarkably positive, so I’m glad for that as I feel the fight against cancer or any major illness is helped by a positive attitude. He and his family remain in my prayers; he will beat this. The day after I learned that news, my great Aunt Livy fell and broke her hip and clavicle; she’ll be 90 this August and is now in a rehab facility. Last Thursday, another of my closest friends lost his father, also to cancer; he wrote a beautiful post about him on Facebook that brought tears to my eyes as I know how badly he’s hurting right now. And this morning, I was greeted with an email from a friend that another dear friend of ours lost his battle with cancer last night. Charlie was diagnosed in September and went into hospice care about two months ago. He was a truly amazing man, and such a tragedy, as are all those lost this way, but Charlie was something else. He first fostered and then adopted three special needs kids and built a beautiful family with his wife Trish. He touched every student and colleague who had the pleasure of knowing him, and I feel blessed to have been touched by his grace. Cancer sucks.

Today I went to lunch with one of my oldest friends, Melody. With our hectic lives, we don’t get to see each other often, but when we do, we very easily pick up right where we left off and feel like we did 30 years ago, the very best of friends. Melody and I have led remarkably parallel lives, having lost our mothers within a year of each other (hers to cancer…did I say cancer sucks?) and having experienced the pain of infertility for years before finally having children, within three weeks of each other. We talked a lot today about all that we’ve been through, and she helped me try to work through a personal family issue I’m currently trying to wrap my head around, but I’m not quite there yet. Fighting back tears in Moe’s was a first for both of us today, since neither one of us managed to fight them very well, but just spending an hour and a half with her helped me clear my head a bit.

I returned to my office after lunch to an email from one of my best friends from college, who tomorrow morning will be having a lawyer serve divorce papers and a restraining order to her husband of nearly 20 years. I knew this day was coming as she’s talked to me about it in depth for nearly two years now, sharing what she’s been experiencing at home, but I think hearing that news today, on top of all the other news I’ve heard over the past month, just brought everything to the forefront. Her email today shouldn’t have surprised me as she had been on my mind all weekend, and I almost called her on my way home from Tifton last night to check on her but I knew she wouldn’t be able to talk freely; we’ve always had a second sense for each other, even though we now live on opposite sides of the country. My heart has been aching for her and her family ever since I read her note.

Life’s funny sometimes, isn’t it? Things can be moving along swimmingly, and then BOOM, it hits you with a trail of things to trip you up and bring you back down to the ground. I don’t get down often, and when I do, I don’t usually share it here, but something told me to let this all out. Will I pull this post tomorrow? Who knows. Most times I don’t feel anywhere near my true age; many days I feel like I’m still in my late 20’s or early 30’s, one of the benefits of working around college kids all day. Today I feel the weight of my years, and all that comes with growing up, the emotions working around me and falling off me like Jasmine’s peeling paint and years of rust.