Monday, December 28, 2009

Origins of a Studio

The snow in Oklahoma postponed our 18 member strong family Christmas dinner until Sunday night. I think I can safely say that each of us had a strong case of cabin fever and were ready to be around some fresh faces. In a way, this was a great way to have Christmas. There was no stress, no running around, no where else to rush off to.

Of course, you may know that I took the handmade pledge, one I make every year, to give gifts that I made, (duh). Around October, I start brainstorming ideas. I pore over magazines and websites, I look through the piles of supplies stuffed into my studio. In short, I throw myself into this project.

I had already made DS cases for my nieces and nephew when I stumbled upon this super cute little Monster Chunk pattern. The crafty mania that plagues me rose up and I simply had to make these for said nieces and nephews.

Fast forward to the dinner. I wore a coat I sewed and fingerless mitts I knitted, I gave etched glasses to the adult couples, handmade DS cases and monster chunks. I cooked up a delicious and gorgeous chocolate caramel tart. When I handed the monster chunks out, and my father in law asked if I made them, and when I admitted I had, he called me into the other room.

In fact, he called me to the garage. Oh crap, I though. I'm in trouble again. He pulled out a white banner with HollyHouse Handcrafts emblazoned on it. My mother-in-law had this banner when she ran her at-home craft business. He also gave me a wooden sign of the same, that had also been hers. I asked if he was sure. I started to cry. He got a little misty. We hugged. It was touching, really.

Of course, Hollyhouse Studio is my incarnation of her Handcrafts, and really an extension of my precious time with her. While my parents are creative and thoughtful and fun and interested in beautiful design, it was my mother-in-law who gave me the tools to make the things I make. And I don't just mean hardware. She showed me that you don't have to specialize. She tried every single craft and technique she wanted to, and excelled at all of them. She showed me that you can forge a life of what you love, even if it looks different to others. She taught me, as my parents did, that mistakes are part of art and that is how one learns. She was always thinking of a better way to do things, from reupholstering a chair to painting a ceiling.

My father-in-law did not just give me a banner. He gave me a vote of confidence. In giving me that sign, he gave me a blessing. It was as if he said, "You will do this, you can do this. Keep going." As much as adult children don't like to admit this, we still crave the respect of our parents. His gift to me will outlast the cloth and wood on which it was represented.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

and now for something completely different

Wrist cuffs for attendees at 12 year old's birthday party. Tutorial can be found here.
If your last name is the same as mine, you can expect something like this under the tree. Glasses in a variety of sizes and styles etched with different themes. This is the easiest project. Slap a stencil on a glass, slap some glass etching cream on that, let it work according to package directions, rinse and give.

My sister in law hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year. I made her this cheery cherry apron as a thank you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Come, O Come or "Yeah, yeah, patience. How long's that gonna take?"

My husband and our three wild ones enjoy a CD from Dr. Demento, (crazy, right?) which has on it a little spoken word ditty about a sensei teaching a new student how to fight. The student is ready to start "hitting people" and the sensei says the student must learn patience. The student responds "yeah, yeah, patience. How long's that gonna take?" My wild ones find this hilarious.

They sense the irony without knowing what irony is. They know that as they wait for Christmas and the promise of presents, patience is hard. Waiting sucks.

At the start of Advent, I had a plan. A glorious plan indeed. We were going to be deliberate this year. We would read our Advent readings nightly, and light the candles in our wreath and pray and think and be still. We would avoid consumerism, the holiday rush, the frenzy of parties and activities.

Trouble is, I'm not in charge of assigning homework, scheduling basketball and soccer games, friends' birthday parties, choir concerts, church and work activities. And my plan fell to scattered pieces. Christmas morning is almost here and I've barely cracked open the devotional a friend gave us. The kids, though diligent in their attentions to the Advent Calendar, still have dreams of what's under the tree. And I, I am filled with a sense of failure.
I did not stay true. I let it get away from me. I did not sit still and wait. I bowed to the almighty calendar instead of the Almighty King. That is, after all, what Advent is. Preparing our hearts to celebrate the coming King.

The truth is, I'm not all the good at waiting. I don't like it. It's not fun if I can't be in control. Usually, when I'm waiting, I want to make a decision, or a plan, or find a solution. I want to do anything to make the waiting stop. Some of you are rather adept at this whole waiting thing. I asked you via Twitter and Facebook, what you do while waiting. Your answers inspired me. Many of you read, tinker, knit, or write. Most of your answers had this delightful sense of peace about them, as if you took the waiting as part of the journey and settled in for it.

I must have missed the memo on this, because when I wait I whine, I cajole, I text, I call, I facebook, I twitter, I email, I search for new projects despite the unfinished ones. All of my answers point to a restlessness, an inability to sit still, to let if flow, to enjoy the wait. Essentially, I make the wait one big drama with me in the center. Who knew?

Which brings me back to how I failed at Advent. I'm not really talking about daily countdown, a simple ticking off of hours and minutes until the next big thing. I'm talking about the kind of waiting that takes as long as it takes and looks a lot like living life on purpose, for a purpose, with an eye to the real Next Big Thing.

Good news, though. It's not too late for me to prepare this wayward heart for Christmas morning, and all the mornings after it. It starts now, with a clearing of space in my head for what matters, and a decided shoving aside of all the stuff that doesn't. I imagine my diligence will falter; I am, after all, easily distracted by the loud alarm of life and its demands. And again I will find my way back to a quiet, waiting space.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Practicing Gratitude

*photo credit: yellow goat designs

In my post Thanksgiving stupor, I found it difficult to sleep. Turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes collided with champagne cocktails and the regular family tensions. I was awakened at four by my niece who was hitting the WalMart for deals on Black Friday. She kept flicking the light on and off trying to find her jeans, a nightmare of disco strobe lights. When I finally told her leave the light on until she found them I realized I'd be awake the rest of the night.

My mind turned to my worries. Darkness has a way of making our troubles crawl out of the crack in the closet door, turning them into to veritable bogeymen of the adult life. I felt restless and thankless, despite the family exercise earlier of sharing what we were most thankful for.

When it was my turn, I chose to give a glib reply to keep the cycle moving and get the focus off me. But as I blinked into the darkness (after the kid left the room, having shut off the light), I felt disappointed in my answer, and in myself. I preach to my kids the importance of being thankful but I had not walked the walk as they say. I won't let any Christmas stuff into the house until December. I rail against the marketers who push their purchasing agendas on us. I don't want us to shuffle past this day of thanks without pause, especially since truly considering Thanksgiving should turn our minds to a proper attitude for Advent.

Advent, in case you're wondering, has nothing to do with Christmas shopping, or Black Friday, but that's a soap box for another day.

One can only toss and turn for so long before one must confront the reasons for worry, the darkness that frightens. I started ticking off my concerns, and challenged myself to find its converse and found that indeed, there is much to be thankful for.

Worry about money turns to thanks for a warm bed and a full belly.
One kid struggling with a tough school year turns to praise for a great school and active teachers who love her and care for her.
Blended family newness and all it's awkwardness becomes a bigger, more joyful family with more stories, more life, more experiences, more to love.
One family members' struggle with depression gives rise the thanks for doctors, medicines, therapists, and relationships that potentially heal the hurt.

My list went on and on and for every half empty glass, my mind found a fresh source to fill it. I found that as I ticked the yuck off my list, I fell into a sense of peace. I remember reading a devotional years ago that asked readers to practice an attitude of gratitude. This kind of thanks is so much more than the pop-culture, Oprahology that some practice. It is an intentional remembering of the source. It is a reminder of the words of the apostle Paul who exhorted Christians to "be thankful in all situations." He did not say be thankful FOR all situations but in all.

This is why I can find the silver lining, the half full cup. This is why when I practice an attitude of gratitude, it does more than illuminate the half fullness. It in fact, brings it to overflowing.

*I LOVE these earrings. Just in case you're wondering what I'd like under the tree...just saying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feltalicious Holiday Garland

I bought a great applique letter pattern from to use on t-shirts. I love the cute curvy puffiness of this pattern. But my kids are a trifle too old for cutesy tees. I didn't want to waste the pattern, so I stitched out the letters for Merry Christmas and suspended them from ribbon. This little holiday spice will hang by the chimney the day after Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, I realized, of course that a Give Thanks garland would keep us focused on giving thanks until the thunderous hordes hit the stores.

Another use for this sweet pattern would be hair clippies. I used a few other patterns on colorful felt to make these sweet little pony decorations. On the back, a hair clip is inserted through a slit in the felt and secured with craft glue. Slip it above your pony tail or (as the girls are doing at our middle school) wear a huge clip right at the forehead. I don't totally get the look, but I'm not in 6th grade, so there's that.

To do it, simply stitch out your applique on felt using tear away stabilizer, trim away excess fabric. To make a clip, snip a little opening, slide a clip in, and dab a bit of glue. To make a pony tail holder, simply cut another smaller piece of felt, glue down the holder, then stitch the felt down, without going through to the front.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Five Smooth Stones

Is it an arrogant assumption that everyone knows the story of David and Goliath? The idea finds uses in our contemporary vernacular from the playground to the sports broadcast. It is the classic tale of the underdog prevailing. And really, who doesn't love to root for the underdog?

I read this biblical story a few weeks ago and despite my previous knowledge of how it all went down, some new details, or old details I hadn't caught before, stuck themselves to my brain. I can't stop thinking about this little shepherd going up against a nine foot tall giant covered in iron. The little guy's ammunition? Five smooth stones.

David goes to the battle because his dad, Jesse, sent him to check on his brothers, who had been sitting at in impasse with the other army for forty days. He's basically a courier, taking cheese to the big boys. When the army tells David that no one will fight the giant, Goliath, David flips. His understanding is that anyone should be willing because they are the army of God.

He tries on the king's armor, but it's enormous and he's not used to it. So, he takes his sling shot, grabs five smooth stones and goes out to the battle. Of course, the giant thinks this is hilarious, and if you were the giant you probably would, too. Then David does the unimaginable: he fires up the slingshot with one of his five stones and lets it rip. It sinks into the giant's forehead, whereupon he falls to the ground. David rushes over and cuts off his head. I imagine a hushed crowd on all sides, here. Maybe some crickets chirping...

The point is, five smooth stones. David of course had training. He was a shepherd and his job was to protect the sheep at all costs. He knew how to fight bears and lions. But, he did not go to the army looking for a fight. He was simply carrying out his dad's orders. He had his weapon, but I noticed he had to find stones.

There's a lot to say and think about this passage, like most Scripture. I find myself now thinking through each day, wondering what my five smooth stones are. I ask myself if I am on that path of obedience, am I confident in the outcome? Do I know where to find ammunition if I am called to battle? We all have giants to face; life can be challenging. New stresses often seem to pop up in droves, like a crowd of unwelcome vultures, pecking at us until we're mad.

But there's the promise, the one David was so sure of, that the battle's been decided. The promise wasn't that life would be perfect, or that he would never be asked to do anything hard. In fact, it's pretty much guaranteed that action will be required on our part. And when it is, will you be able to find five smooth stones?

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The big ol' purse up there is for Becky who is from the 'burgh (City of Champions) but lives in MI. She saw a FB post about a pattern I found and she and her mom both chose lovely fabrics to have custom built bags just for them. Her mom uses hers for her knitting. Becky says hers is for Bible Study materials. I hope she has a big Bible, since this bag is nigh upon enormous.

There seems to be a proliferation of babies in our circle of friends lately. I do enjoy looking at the baby items in stores, but more than that I enjoy making one of a kind goodies for these nuggets o' joy. I had ordered some fold over elastic for shorts for my girls to wear under the unis. Then, I learned how it works wonders for edge finishing knits, so I decided to give it a whirl. I got to learn a new sewing skill and make a cutie pie dress for a new baby! Two good things in one.

The purse was en route to Becky's this week. The dress was delivered via backpacks at school. Hope the new baby likes it. I know the mama did.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Plug a Blog Day

Found this trolling my various favorite spots. Please go have a look. It will make you smile.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All This Remembering Makes My Teeth Hurt

Dad and my son 6 years ago. The crazy kid on Hilarious Hair Day in Kindergarten. Note the purple hair.

Our son turns 6 years old today. I remember discovering my pregnancy a week after dinner with "the girls" during which I said, "I'm not having any more kids. Why would I? I have two great daughters. We are all set." A week later, I started doing the math, wondering how many times I could have counted the days wrong and blushing that I was describing my decision to have no more children while pregnant.

The idea of a third child took some getting used to. And then of course this sweet and funny little boy entered our lives on November 4, 2003 at 10:10 pm, at home, while his sisters slept upstairs and our two dear friends cooked and cleaned and tended. I would never want it any other way.

Yesterday, to celebrate his birthday, I painted his room in colors he chose himself (limeade and bayou blue, FYI), to surprise him after school with his new cool room. Painting rooms always makes me think of my dad, and birthdays always bring out the nostalgic old lady in me.

I remembered, as I painted, my dad taking me to the hardware store, age 12, when purple was my pride and passion, to choose colors for my own room. I remember Dad explaining about Spackle, and brushes and rollers. I remember his patience and feeling special, grown up, proud.

Once home, I wanted to start slapping paint on the walls right away. Instead he showed me how to fill the holes I made with thumb tacks in my posters. Then sanding it away, wiping down the baseboards, moving the furniture, taping off the ceilings...the prep work seemed unending. Until, finally, we got to start rolling on the glorious color. Dad and I also made a set of deep purple shelves for my walls. He showed me how to cut the lumber, sand the edges, find the studs, the whole bit. My dad wouldn't let me do anything half way.

My childhood was not idyllic. Neither was it horrendous. These memories are like freeze frames in my brain. They flash up, abrupt and earnest, calling to mind the best things about their grandparents I want my kids to know. My sense of gender inequity comes as much from my working mom as from my liberated dad. I cut grass, took out trash, weeded the garden, set the table. I learned how to check and change the oil in my car, change a flat, and to be and do anything I want to be. So did my brother.

That's where memories of my dad and my son's unexpected (but joyful) birth intersect. Painting his room, I remembered all the great things I learned from my dad. And I felt so pleased that my son and my daughters get to know him. I remembered feeling lost and scared when I was first pregnant with my son. I was unsure I would be able to handle three kids.

Painting my room with my dad clearly made an impression on me. He cared about me, he allowed me to choose the colors, as gross as they were, and he showed me the right way to do something. Remembering while I painted was fun, and it reminded me of how I want my kids to remember me. I want my kid to remember he picked the paint and painted on the polka dots. I want him to learn to do it the right way, and I want him to remember the gift of time we had together.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

6th Grade Lessons

Last spring, I sat in my car in the pick up line at school, happily minding my own business. I was probably listening to sports radio, maybe leafing through a catalog, waiting for the urchins to be released to the sunny possibilities of longer days. I saw her coming and I should have known better. Another mom approached the car, smiling. Nothing unusual about that; I'm a friendly gal, I like to chat. Then she dropped the bomb.

"Wanna be sixth grade parent coordinator with me next year?"

"Well...." I stumbled, unsure. "What's involved?"

"Nothing big. Just organizing the parents." She said. She may have mentioned something about camping, but I was lulled by her confidence, her surety that it was a small job, the blossoms swaying in the breeze.

Many people have wondered how I got "roped" into this job, and I wonder myself, but I have to say, the trip to the camp for one little overnight happened at the exact right time for me and my parental neuroses.

We all have a little garbage we drag around about our kids: Is she friendly, does he get in trouble, who are her friends, what do others think of her...It's all brushed under the smooth rug of our perfect smiles. But it's there.

My friend and I drove to the camp to cook meals for 80 people and witnessed the glory that is 6th grade. I'm not sure what the kids learned, but, let me tell you, I gleaned so many important tidbits, it was the perfect antidote to my parental worries. I will say here that I noticed they were writing poems about nature, drawing what they saw, orienteering, canoeing and team building. Yeah, whatever. Back to me.

I watched the kids pour off the bus and run into a wide field carpeted with tiny yellow flowers. They scrambled for a snack and gathered into small pockets of friendship. The groups ebbed and flowed, at first separating into boys and girls, then flowing into focused groups of activity. Explorers, athletes, chatters, resters. They rambled about the field, completely happy. Everyone had time to be alone or with a group, whichever they preferred.

Tent pitching also showed me that though I'm a mom who likes to help out, my kid, our kids, are totally capable of things I never knew. Each group of three kids pitched their own tent. The knew how to spread the tarp, build the poles, pound the stakes. They organized their gear in their tents, then stood proud and beaming. My kid pitched a tent. Cool.

I watched at meals as they filed through the line, some greedy, some reticent, all hungry and ready to step up. They piled food onto their plates, filled their cups, and swallowed their food. (Note to next year's group, bring more chicken nuggets; those kids can eat.)

I had thought I was a helicopter parent, hovering about my child, helping her with every decision, big or small, lending a hand whether necessary or not. I learned at this trip that I am no where near being a helicopter mom. If I was, my helicopter's been grounded for a long time. And marveled.

These children are comfortable with who they are, in love with life, and skilled in many ways. I don't know if I ever felt that comfortable as a child, but they took my breath away with their confidence and ability. I allowed myself a small pat on the back, and a mental one to the other mamas who manage to let loose the strings and watch our babies fly.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sweet New Bag

Huge new bag for my friend Sheila. I posted a pattern I wanted to buy on Facebook and Sheila asked extra nice. We designed it together and she plans to use it for knitting projects. Because I like her I used extra fabric to make a knitting needle roll up and a key fob. I tucked those inside the bag before I sent it off.

She reports that she loves her bag and will take it with her the Rhinebeck for the wool festival. Wish I were going, too. Now I'm working on one for Sheila's daughter. I wonder what freebie goodies I'll put in hers? Maybe a wet diaper/clothes bag for her sweet little one.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Crafting for Sanity

Lots of impending changes coming up for this family . Crafting keeps my hands busy and my head from exploding. So, today's installment keeping me sane involves a tweet.

A silly, winding story for your Thursday pleasure. My friend @kt_writes, whom I've mentioned before and previously, wrote about why people feel the need to impose rules on tweeting. Generally speaking, I am a rule abider, but if they are dumb rules or imposed by someone I feel has no authority to be telling me what's what, I kind of ignore them.

My friend does this, too. Apparently there are some folks who don't want to read tweets about what people eat. But my friend is a foodie and rather a good cook. She tweets frequently about good grub she's enjoying. I like this because it gives me ideas to make for my family, who will soon tire of breakfast for dinner, I fear. (I can't drive to her house every night for dinner because the drive is longer than I thought it was, but that's for another day.)

She then tweeted her need for a shirt that proclaimed her affinity for eat-tweets. My friend breaks rules, too. We're so dangerous.

Ergo, today's creation. I'm sending this little number to KT knowing it is simply too enormous for her, and that she may never leave the house in a goofy, shapeless tee. I hope she keeps eat-tweeting.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Letting Go All Over

Yesterday, I dropped off my eldest child at 6th grade. Amid the usual back-to-school excitement, supplies, and other emotions there was a hard stone of fear sitting on my heart, and I was completely caught off guard by this.

I thought I would be consumed with anxiety for her brother, our youngest, who started full day everyday Kindergarten (Praise the Lord). He barely got a second thought for thoughts of my eldest.

She's been at this school since she was three. She knows almost every single kid in her class. Her dad works on the same campus for goodness sake.


It's sixth grade. She has a locker. A locker, people! She changes classes, every day, with a different schedule every day. She has lots of books. And a sport. And band. She will be expected to know where to be and how to get there. She has to pack her sports clothes every night. She has a mouth guard.

Yesterday she got herself from school to lunch to a field hockey meeting, to the field, to her dad's office. I cannot describe how worried I was during that period of time. I mentally paced through all the steps she would take. Get bag, eat lunch, change clothes, get to meeting, learn new stuff, meet new people, remember to go to Dad's office. CALL MOM!

I am embarrassed to admit this because of what it says about me as a parent and person. I had to wonder why I was so worried. Is it possible that I have so little confidence in her upbringing and abilities that I think she can't get across a campus by herself? That thought makes my heart stop and my eyes bug out.

Deep breath.

There might be a kernel of truth in that; I have, in the past, been known to smooth things over, make excuses, pamper and otherwise fly around her micromanaging her life. (How did I become THAT woman?). I think it's the knowledge that the next few years fly before my eyes as I watch her grow and change and become more of who she is every day, and she'll be beyond my reach. I felt an urge to bring her back to me, to hold her, to tell her things she might need to know, as if I was sending her out into the wide world unarmed.

So I promise not to pack her bag, not to bring her things she forgets, not to make excuses when she fails. I promise to listen and love and fiercely protect. I promise today to untie the apron strings and let my girl grow into the world and to be there when she stumbles.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Linen Lovelies

Made some cute little linen lovelies yesterday. Set of three lunch bags, unlined. The big one fits a sammich and has a cotton floss around 2 button closure. Then, two littler velcro closed bags for your crunchy snacks and your .... something chocolatey. This linen is machine washable, btw.

Then, this completely adorable boxy pouch. Lined with same linen and zippered closed. Tiny little pouch can be thrown in your purse or attached to your backpack. Fits lipstick, or you know, whatever.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I'm a notorious plant murderer. I can't help it. No plant is safe in my vicinity. My mother in law had a grass green thumb and my dad is a master at coaxing tomatoes and basil from the earth. I imagine a wanted poster hanging in every greenhouse from here to Pennsylvania, warning all gardeners to be on the look out for the nefarious plant killer.

For Mother's Day I asked for (yes, I asked for), two hanging pots of flowers to put in front of the house. My children and husband looked apprehensive. Their eyes searched my face for clues that I was joking. I told you I had a reputation. But they acquiesced and bought the plants. I can't even tell you what they are, but they are fairly common little flowers, in purple and white, my favorite colors. They went right outside onto my little flower stand that I hadn't used since I brought a geranium to its knees in 2004.

I watered them, and the kids enjoyed helping. We bought a little watering can. We left it outside right by the flowers. We watched them and watered them. And the pretty purple flowers began to shrivel. They turned brown. Their stems looked dried up and puny. I watched them die a slow and painful death. When we poured water into the pot, it streamed right out the bottom, its soil was so hard. But I couldn't throw it away. The poor dead Mother's Day plant smacked of failure. Putting that mass of sad leaves in the trash would signal my complete ineptitude.

The pot sat on the picnic table in the backyard, taunting me all summer long with its brown limbs and cracked earth. Every time I looked at it, a part of my gasped with despair.


Last week, as I sat at the kitchen table, drinking my coffee and surveying the scene of the backyard, I caught a glimpse of purple in my peripheral vision. Wha? I'm used to brown out there, not purple. A closer inspection revealed that in fact, my dead plant had resurrected itself. There were new shoots and blooms springing crazily out of the dead dry soil. As if the plant did not accept dying. As if it didn't understand dead plants don't regrow.

Lately, I've been feeling a little like that "dead" plant. My roots can't get enough water and my blossoms have faded. I haven't had the energy to turn my face toward the sun and I'm waving the white flag. Just this morning, I was shaking my fist at God and all His people whose lives seem to be falling right into perfect place while I seemingly spin my wheels looking for a way out that won't reveal itself. The house is falling apart, school fees are overwhelming and it just seems too much.

After my little pity party ended, I marched that plant back out front, to the flower hanger, with it's blossoming white friend. They looked so cheery and purposeful. So resolute in their return to life. That plant reminded me to hope. That plant wasn't dead. Some old dead bits needed to be removed and the new growth isn't all big and showy. But it's brave, and new, and tender, and...there. And I will rise again and there will be a solution and my roots will be refreshed and I will be ready for the next heat wave.

New Goodies

Here is my fashion model, modeling a new embroidery design. I love this design for all kinds of reasons, and on all kinds of embroiderables. If you've invited one of my kids to a party this summer, most likely this was the gift. Pick your letter, pick your colors. I love dots.

This is a piece of vinyl that I cut Abby's name out of. The vinyl is lightly adhesive and sticks to the wall in the kitchen, showing through my fun new pain color. Also? You can see that I have written with chalk on this little speech bubble. It's her new weekly home calendar.

Cool, right?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Accident Residue

A few weeks ago, our 11 year old suffered a minor injury in a very unminor way. She fell from the slide at the pool and passed out in the water, in the arms of her friend. I have not written about this event because, frankly, it scared the crap out of me. You will forgive the crude phraseology since it truly is one of those scenes that unfolds horrifically in slo-mo every time it comes to mind. To top it off, every single emotion that was crammed into that incredibly short interval from fear to comfort overwhelms me on an annoyingly regular basis.

Cut to today...weeks after her fall, and surely over a span that would allow her newly inhibited mother to have healed. Right?

Tubing on the lake always makes me nervous. It reminds me of learning to drive with my dad; the most important lesson he taught me his favorite and most oft-repeated lesson was that he was less concerned with what I was doing and more concerned with what "the idiots" around me were doing. On special occasions, those idiots made the transition to even lower life forms than I feel it's appropriate to admit here. I will say I learned some colorful language from Pops.

Back to on the lake I watch all around us, cutting a wide swath with my mama bear eyes, trying to ensure no other boat comes within a football field of my precious cargo. And the kids know their cues: how to signal faster, slower, okay and stop. The girls, 9 and 11, were cruising along happily today while their father, my husband, sped about trying to create wakes for them. And then he flipped them, much to their delight. And my subsequent horror.

The boat dropped from under me, my heart thumped inside me, desperate to make sure they were fine.

They were fine. They loved it. They were laughing. I felt stupid. Although I did notice a look on the face of the 9 year old. She felt what I felt; I am certain. She looked about for her sister in a panic, wanting the same confirmation I wanted. I needed to know, and so did little sister, that the big girl landed safely in the water, did not hurt her head, had not passed out, was not bleeding from anywhere....

And in that moment I knew we, my middle child and I, were still not free from the trauma of that day. The one who was injured remembers little of her accident. The rest of us will not soon forget what we felt on that day. I suppose time is the only eraser for the erratic and consuming emotions, and my desire, my goal, is to make it okay for the sister, and for me, to talk about it as much as possible.

Which is why I finally wrote about the day my girl was hurt.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Up and Coming

Last night, as the 5 YO could not sleep from inexplicable ear pain, and we fruitlessly tried to comfort him, I wrote a gorgeous post. I mean. Gorgeous.

Then, sleep came to all of us and with it went my lovely little vignette. I wish I could remember what it was to be about. I got nothing. Not even a clue...could have been community, Bible Study, self-talk, finding my niche...who the heck knows.

Since I want to keep my writing mojo going (or to get it started....) here is a little list of goodies I've been working on. Pictures forthcoming...someday.

Totally cool vinyl wall speech bubbles with a cutout of my kids' names. The coolest part is? I can write on them with chalk. Chalk. I know! So each kid has a bubble on the wall in the kitchen and their weekly schedules are posted and updated. And? And? The wall color shows through where the names are cut out. Totally.

Next up I have the cutest oilcloth monogrammed mini yard/garden flag. Is there no end to the cute? Pray tell me no! The one I made for our yard is a big background of black gingham, with a smaller cut of hot pink lace on top of which sits an even smaller slice of black dots boldly emblazoned with a hot pink know for our last name.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Putting the Sweet in Sugar Lake

The Lake. Sugar Lake. A tiny little patch of happy in Pennsylvania where our family has had a cottage, this cottage, for 109 years. I can still see my bare feet, blackened from the hot tar from the road, running up those stairs, a stinky hot mess of a kid loving her summer.

When I'm there, when I think of it, images float into my mind. This is what I see.
  • Playing Trivial Pursuit on the screened porch
  • Tin cups in bright colors
  • Fighting over who would get the turquoise towel
  • Carving our names into mushrooms Grandma found with us.
  • Wearing my first bikini
  • Swimming in the lake, standing on old inner tubes, playing king
  • Eating all my favorite foods, nary a thought to my waist line

Makes me smile.

Now I live 1000 miles from this childhood idyll and being there is worth ever hard earned mile. My joy comes from two sources. The first is simple remembrance. Some people who have enjoyed the cottage are no longer living, some I haven't seen in over 20 years. The whole family doesn't always get there every summer but no matter who is there, we still, ALWAYS play Trivial Pursuit. Walking in the slamming back door into the kitchen is entering a family museum. My dad's high school art work, my aunt's books, old fishing rods. Even the curtains, made by hand by my great grandmother, still hang.

I'm awash and downright glowy with nostalgia. I've smeared vaseline on the lens of history and only the beautiful remains. But whatever.

Because the second source of joy in being there is watching my kids. Five of the seven cousins scrambled around the yard all day and well into the night on July 4th. The ambled from one activity to the next; from art on the porch to swinging, races in the yard, smoke bombs, fishing, bug catching. The whole bit. They wake up and play. All. Day. Long. And they go to bed tired.

It may sound like I'm romanticizing a pile of wood and glass and nails. Maybe I have. Nothing wrong with a little childhood idyll.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Make New Friends and Keep the Old?

photo credit: Simon Howden

Remember that song? My kids learned it in kindergarten. The song asks us to make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. What if the old friends are also the new friends?

I found myself asking this question all day Tuesday and into Wednesday. My family loaded up the car and hurtled from Tulsa toward Pittsburgh, PA (City of Champions). Since this trip is over 1000 miles, we stop on the way to presevere parental sanity and some semblance of routine; usually we stay at a hotel with a pool. But this year, after reconnecting on Facebook with a long lost friend whose home was almost a midway point, we planned to stay with her.

My emotions jiggled inside me; I was nervous, excited, anxious, giggly, happy and curious. I met Kristin when I was 19 years old, almost 20 years ago. We had an intense friendship over several years of college and wrote and spoke regularly. Then we graduated, married, had babies and lost touch. I wondered during our drive to her house what seeing her again would be like.

I knew the big chunks: kids, marriage, struggles, the usual. But did she still love music? What was her husband like? How about her kids? Would we have anything to talk about? Would my husband feel totally out of place?

Turns out, Kristin, like me, is different than she was all those years ago. And strikingly the same. Thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate and kind. I honestly can't remember what drew me to her in the first place, but I do know what draws me to her now. So I find myself with a brand new old friendship. One that I hope will grow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happiness in a Mug

We all have it; that terribly incessant inward groan. Must. Have. Chocolate.


It's summer. It's hot. You don't want an ENTIRE cake, just a bite. A nibble really. Microwave cake in a mug to the rescue. Ready in five minutes and guaranteed to meet that chocolate need.

My mother sent me this recipe. I have no idea of its origin. If you do, then do tell. Thanks.

Microwave Chocolate Cake in a Mug

In a large, microwave safe mug, mix
4 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa

Mix well
and add
1 egg

Mix well again

Now add
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
and a splash of vanilla

Mix well and place in microwave. Cook on 1000 watts for 3 minutes. It will rise up in your mug. It's all good, no worries.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes (yeah, right!) It will slide right out of the mug and you can start placing it in your face. hothothothotswallow.

You can even share it. Again, yeah, right!

Made one this morning. Kids loved the idea. I love the taste. Let me know if you try it or have variations.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One of the Eight

Earlier this summer, I posted 8 promises I made to myself, thanks to magpiegirl and her fabulous blog.

Here we are, nearing the end of June (!) and I pat my back with some progress. Sadly, some of my progress means grieving. Our sweet dog, Chewy, had to be put to sleep on June 9th after 12 fantastic years with our family. Chewy, you might remember, was a huge old Rotty who thought he was a cat. I called him "E's dragon," because he always slept at the foot of our 5 year old's bed, protecting him.

Sparing the details, suffice it to say his demise was quick and relatively pain free (as far as we know). In a shocking twist, I was charged with this final task, a day of vet's visits and finally the putting down. I say shocking because I am pet-ambivalent. Critters populate this house because I am a sucker for my children. I make sure there is food and they get outside for personal business but that's all they get from me. Love and petting and all that, they get from three happy children.

Turns out, this putting a dog down business is tough, even for the "pet ambivalent." I suppose I find Chewy's connection to our family on a broader plane. My sister-in-law who adopted him witnessed Chewy's birth. He was present and loving when my mother-in-law passed away suddenly and he was a solid soldier friend to my father-in-law in that painful hour of grief after her loss. Chewy seemed like a connection to the past, to people and memories and times that only exist in the ephemera. And so saying goodbye to him was like releasing that tenuous grasp on those vague figures.

I cried like a baby. I blubbered and blubbered. I even took his collar! I stayed right by his big old sad face until he was still and then I stayed some more. I felt a shift in my heart, and I could finally admit that I loved that dumb old dog.

So you see? I am making progress on my 8 promises. I am embracing my inner pet owner. Or maybe the pets are embracing me?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On a Long Leash

If I don't get up at 6(ish) every day to run with our rescue dog, Cooper, he leaves enormous and smelly "presents" for me under my sewing table. No where else in the house. Always directly under where I sit. Since I spend at least an hour a day in my studio I like it to be poop-free. I know, crazy!

I paid the price today. Slept til 7. The rascal left his surprise. I didn't want to risk another, so I laced up the old sneakers and took him out. Running with him is a lot like trying to shop for groceries with a toddler and thank God I'm not doing that anymore. They have to touch everything, explore, pull stuff out, run around, get lost, have tantrums.

Cooper bolts out the door and promptly stops to smell the mailbox. He then eats a few grass blades from the neighbor's yard. There are some flowers down the street he simply must mark. Because he is young dog, and because I have seen his crazy morning excitement, Cooper runs on a leash that extends and retracts. This works best for both of us: I don't have to wait for him and he doesn't have to wait for me. We are always connected.

That's the idea behind a leash. It keeps two parties connected. One of them must hold the leash, keep it stable, make sure the other end doesn't get wrapped around a pole or run off unhindered. The leash holder must know the path, must know when to spur the other on, must know when to stop and wait for the "leashee" to smell that pretty flower or chase that taunting bunny.

This morning as I ran with Cooper I was reminded that as Christians, God gives us a pretty long leash. I don't want to get to literal or too wildly metaphoric about it, but it's true. It's easy for me to get distracted by the next new thing, or what those people over there are doing. I want to go check it out, see what they're up to.

At the end of the day, I'm still on that leash. And I'm cool with that. It's a guide, it's a comfort, it's an anchor that tells me where home is, and that I'm safe, that I'm headed in the right direction. And it's always there. All I have to do is turn around.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I Been Busy

Angela wants a sushi belt for summer. A "sushi belt?" you ask. Yes, a sushi belt. I ordered some sushi fabric up from an etsy seller in Hawaii and made this sweet number. Ribbon lined and interfaced with stiff facing to hold its shape. Two silver toned D rings make the belt fully adjustable.

These little ladies are for my friend Laureen who prefers tea but does not prefer it when her tea bags get sucked into the bottom of her purses. Tea bag wallets are fabric envelopes that will hold your favorite brews in four little pockets. You could probably fit 2 bags in each pocket. Held closed with a ribbon and button.

When I moved to Oklahoma from Pittsburgh, PA, City of Champions, the one thing I could not get used to is the use of the word "sack" for every bag-like apparatus. My spine tingles, and not in a good way, when I hear this word. In honor of my new hometown, Tulsa, I made these poop sack sacks, because, well, they make me laugh. Or the name does. Poop sack sack. Just what it says it is. Clips onto a leash and carries 3-5 disposable bags for poop picking up. Could also be for "diaper bombs" as my sister calls them or even your car for trash. Whatever you need a "sack" (ew) for.
My friend Mary asked for a fabric, behind the door hair doodad organizer for her daughter. She wanted clear pockets and a place for headbands as well. Here is my iteration of that. It hangs on a rod, has a ribbon tool holder (center) and four large vinyl gusseted pockets (and 2 small ones on either end). I thought the hair holders and barrettes would work in the pockets and the headbands could slip into the ribbon. Also, another ribbon or two could be added, as well as more pockets. It can be monogrammed or otherwise customized, and more pockets might make a nice addition as well. Of course, this is just the sample but if you want it, let me know.

Also, the image placement here is giving me a headache, so sorry about the weirdness.

Leave a comment to win a poop sack sack.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lessons from the Boat

Kids are profound and detailed observers. They see things I might never notice but for their attention. I found myself thankful for their perspective this Sunday morning, when we, like my friend Kristin, skipped church for the great outdoors.

A stiff wind blew across Grand Lake o' the Cherokees as we loaded up the boat for a quick morning jaunt. Now, Oklahoma is not mountainous terrain, so we take our hills and turn them into mountains in our imaginations. These imagined mountains rose up around us, the boat chugging out into open waters. Once out past the white peaks that formed near the dock, the boat settled into a rhythm perfect for this kind of kid observation.

I watched as my kids and their cousins craned their little heads around, trying to absorb everything. The shape of the clouds, the color of the water, the Blue Heron and the big fish. Their eyes and minds darted over the surface of the lake, scanned the horizon, interpreting their world, their fingers pointing at all they saw.

Someone turned on the boat's radio and I rolled my eyes. I would have preferred the relative quiet. But a song was playing with lyrics that reminded me of my exact spot in the world. It's refrain proclaimed "from sunrise to sunset, I will fix my eyes on your glory."

I took a short moment, I didn't want to get all preachy up on them, to say that everything they saw was made by a God who loves them. Now, it could have been just me, puffed up that I was giving a lesson, but it seemed like their eyes changed, their necks lengthened, their focus sharpened.

They see the hilarious creativity in a God who gives the Heron its funny color and long neck, who makes a fish slippery and scaly, whose trees bow in the wind and whistle His name. I said, when something does what it was created to do, it shows God's glory." Here endeth the lesson, but I watched them watch the world.

"So, birds always do what they were created to do," one of them wondered. I agreed. More thinking.

"So, they always bring glory to God." Yep again.

Not only are kids observational geniuses, they are also perceptive. They knew what I was getting at. They knew that this idea applies to them. When His creations are doing what they were created to do, it reflects Him.

I observe my kids as intently as the observe their world. I don't know all they were created to do. It will be an amazing journey to find out.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just Say No

I have never been a bumper sticker kind of girl. There is something so personal about slapping a slogan on your car for the whole world to see. It always seems vulnerable and in-your-face for me.

I feel the same way about t-shirts and other apparel. I won't even consider shirts with store names or silly sayings; I do not permit my children to shill for mass producers either, by splashing their little bodies with someone else's name. I just don't like it.

Facebook status updates lately have been like a huge traffic jam I'm stuck in, all the cars idling in a sea of personal opinion and assumption. And I will not be silent another minute.

My "friends" invite me to join their various groups assuming my participation. Other acquaintances decry their political affiliation in an attitude that presupposes my agreement. People complain about the current president and his cabinet, others reference past presidents and their apparent greatness or lack thereof.

I'm not a total scrooge. Some slogans make me laugh, or think or evoke some emotional response. Some of them are even empirically true. But there are two things I dislike about them. The first is that a life reduced to platitudes is not one I want to live. I'd rather not be tacked down by one stupid quote shouted from the rooftops of my status update.

But the second is more insidious and divisive. The animosity people display toward current or former administrations does little to change anything positive. When one can not move beyond her hatred for leaders she is ignoring the point of our democratic system. Whining about it doesn't change anything. Hateful rhetoric, again, has no positive point or result. Our country is more divided than ever and these rallying cry ideologies not only get in the way of a system that is beautifully, if not perfectly, formed, but they hearken to days where dissent was not tolerated, where differences in opinion could get you killed.

I'm sure I sound a little Pollyanna here, and most people would not choose "patriot" as their first word to describe me. Perhaps the real reason I hate these slogans is the arrogance behind them. The arrogant stance that one's position, idea, or belief is supreme. The puffed up assumption that if I know you then I of course agree with you.

All they really make me want to do is roll my eyes or dig in for a debate. Until now, I've either bitten my virtual tongue or been rendered utterly speechless. I need a strategy for replying that will be kind but stop the madness. Any ideas?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reduce Reuse

I am getting a little obsessive about this green product thing. Check out my new cleaning towels. Made from, of all things, diaper fabric, they are like paper towels you can wash.

I love how soft and pretty they are in the morning sun. I guess if they're clean it means I need to give the kids some jobs to make them dirty.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


8 Things

In thanks to magpiegirl, who shared her 8 things, I am wracking my brain coming up with my own.

8 Things I Promise Myself:
  1. To get a pedicure ONCE this summer.
  2. To embrace my inner pet-owner
  3. To let go of the imperfection, or rather, to embrace it.
  4. To blow bubbles with my kids.
  5. To strip the wallpaper in my kitchen
  6. To finish the Artist's Way.
  7. To sit still until I know
  8. To rock a bikini in August (in the backyard)
'Kay this was way harder than I thought it would be. I plan to revisit in a week. I noticed that my list was a lot of to do's. I sat and sat and waited and waited, thinking of concepts or ideals that I needed to reclaim or grasp. I think, in the end, the list reflects that, even if the shape of them is in activity.

What is your list?
Don't forget to link back!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If Wishes Were Bags

I made this custom bag for a friend at the kids' school. I am so pleased with how it turned out that I am considering changing my name to Laurel.

Quilter's cotton encased in 12 gauge vinyl, navy piping, solid blue lining and super lovely straps (not white lest they show smudges said my friend). I love it.

It is going to be her swim bag. Perfect for that.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Super Cute Custom Packaging

One of my many "jobs" is a Mary Kay consultant. I really love the products and meeting interesting new women. But my heart is in my studio where if I could I would create all day (that is my goal this year, and I am getting closer every day, but that's a story for another day).

One of the most important components of MK, or really any business, is quality customer service. MK encourages women to be who they are and act with integrity in our interactions with our customers. My friend Bea is a shining example of examplary customer service. Her stock is full, she returns calls quickly, she gives free shipping and delivery, and she takes product presentation seriously.

In the coming days, fellow MK ladies and other home business owners can start sharing Bea's passion for product presentation by visiting my etsy shop. I am stocking my virtual shelves with business card/sample holders, small product bags and customer note cards. I can offer them in sizes from 1" to 23" and virtually any color. These will be fully customizable and built to customer specifications. The other cool thing about them is they will be cost effective for the home office. Each order will come cut and ready to assemble, with score lines marked, a bone folder included and instructions if necessary. Also a glue stick!

Think of them as little diy kits for showing the best of your biz.

See images for ideas.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Brain Overload

I was out of town for a week. I've been back almost a week. I'm still behind on everything. Dirty Laundry is strewn about the house like so many ghostly children, dishes dangle precariously in the sink,custom orders call my name. The dog keeps pooping in my studio, the kids have almost daily year-end events for which I mindlessly (and happily) volunteered.

Today it is my intention to finish a few custom orders, wash some dishes, cycle through the laundry and play on the video game with the littlest kid. I know that when I do this, he will yell at me, because my gaming skills are lacking.

On my list of fun things: cloth napkins, a kindle case for EM, teacher's summer fun fabric buckets, and lunch with the big boy.

The picture above doesn't pertain to anything other than well, I like it.