Friday, December 4, 2020

It's more than just a blanket

 When I was in high school, my sister taught me to crochet. At the time, crocheting seemed like some sort of novelty that I would try for a while and eventually forget. Diane had taught me to crochet left handed because she couldn't figure out how to demonstrate right-handed crocheting to me. At the time, I thought that it would be entertaining to crochet with my nondominant hand, and I was surprised by how easily I learned to crochet that way.

But, to use a pun intentionally, I was hooked by crocheting. Because I was very convinced that I was right hand dominant, I tried to crochet right handed, with little success. People suggested that I might actually be left handed, that someone in my early childhood might have forced me to switch hands. That was true for my father, but not for me. Eventually, someone explained to me that I actually do not have a dominant hand. In many activities, I will switch hands, almost to the point of randomness, without awareness that I am doing that. Except for crocheting and bowling. I'm not a very good bowler, but left-handed bowling isn't happening for me. But I digress.

Since I learned to crochet, I have gone through many skeins of yarn, creating all sorts of objects. I have crocheted Halloween costumes, tote bags, pillows, hats, doilies, a table runner, water bottle holders, purses, backpacks, a soda can holder, scarves, a stuffed animal, and afghans of all sizes, and more. When I crochet afghans, I really love to make granny squares. There are many different patterns for granny squares, ranging from very simple to extremely complex. I like some challenge when I'm making a square but I don't want to use a pattern that will cause my brain to break. 

Sometimes, I make afghans with squares that do not match. With those afghans, the challenge is to piece the afghan together in such a way as to make it look good and colorful, as opposed to overly busy and clashing. 

One of the afghans that I made a few years ago is something that I call the "modern art afghan." The afghan was made of scraps of yarn that people gave to me. The scraps were leftovers from other people's knitting or crocheting projects. They came in a variety of colors and textures and thicknesses. I chose a pattern that would incorporate three colors per square. And then, I set to work matching up colors so I would get an interesting effect. When I was finished with that afghan, I was really happy. My mother, who watched the process of my constructing the afghan, from small balls of yarn to the completed afghan, said that she loved it, that it looked like a work of art. I said that I thought that it was a bit abstract and looked like modern art. And so, that's how the afghan got the name "modern art afghan."

Some of my favorite afghans have been those that I haven't kept. I gave one to a friend who was battling cancer. She said that she was very happy with the afghan, that it kept her warm when she was going through cancer treatments. Several years later, she said that it was time to pay it forward. So we went to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to donate the afghan so that another person battling cancer could have the warmth and comfort of a colorful afghan. Since then, I donated yet another afghan to the cancer hospital.

On the day that I donated the second afghan, I went to the mailroom at the cancer hospital, where my sister works.

I got her to go with me to the room where I was going to donate the afghan. She took a picture of the afghan and me and then, she returned to work. Before I left the building, I went to the gift shop to look around. Just as I was leaving the gift shop, I heard a bell ringing. What a joyful sound that was! I knew that, when people are told that they are cancer free, they ring the bell. But this was my first occasion to actually hear that bell ring. It was sweeter than I expected. It was the sound of donated afghans, loving family and friends, hope, and life. At that moment, I knew that the afghan that I donated was more than just a blanket. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

And this, too, shall pass

 "Many waters cannot quench love. Neither can floods drown it." --Song of Songs, 8:7.

When I was struggling with something unpleasant or hard, my mother always said to me, "And this, too, shall pass." As a middle school student (half a million years ago), I didn't understand what my mother was telling me. In my way of thinking, I was doomed to experience the same people bullying me forever and ever. The future was a haze to me. And the end of a bad situation was so far off that it didn't feel real.

Eventually, however, middle school ended. And life went on, with its usual ups and downs until about nine months ago, when everything stopped.

What the heck? The world isn't supposed to stop. Those of us who were considered nonessential stayed at home, where we battled loneliness, fear, and grief. We were horrified by the rapidly rising death toll, and we felt helpless to stop the spread and flatten the curve.

A few months later, everything started to re-open. We ventured out, wearing our masks, and we socially distanced and we washed our hands and...

The pandemic didn't end. It was more like waxing and waning. It came and it went and it returned yet again. And people grew tired of it. They became careless and they shed their masks and they stopped social distancing. 

I understand that people are ready for this to end. Pandemics don't end on command, however. Unfortunately, people's reactions to the exhaustion is actually extending the pandemic. People tired of the restrictions are more likely than more patient people to attend super spreader events. There's even a phenomenon called "living room spread." That's when people visit family or friends in their homes. The attitude is, "I know them so it's fine to have a meal at (person's) home." Normally, it's okay to go to people's houses and enjoy a meal with them. But now, any unmasked time with people who do not live in your immediate household is an invitation to danger. People literally do not know when they have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. And, unknowingly, they are spreading the virus to anyone who comes in close proximity with them. Although this fact has been mentioned on the news repeatedly, there are people who reject such information as "fake news."

Some day, however, this, too, shall pass. Really. My mother was right about that. We will go from crisis mode to healing mode. We will be able to share meals and hugs. We will return to the places that we've vacated. We will sing in four-part harmony. We will go to the county fair and eat junk food until we think that we are going to explode. We will swim in the lake and in pools. We will get on buses and trains and travel cross country to visit friends and family or simply to have an adventure. And, because we have had to experience isolation for so long so that we can stay alive, the activities of daily life that we once took for granted will feel like the greatest gifts of all.

Hang on. Stay strong. Look at the pictures of the people that you love the most. Talk with them on the phone or via Zoom or FaceTime. Write a letter. You are isolating yourself for them now. You are isolating for the day when you can reach out, touch, and never let go. We can do it. Together, but apart.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Your home decorating reveals you!


Earlier this year, I moved into an apartment, and I had the opportunity to create a living space for myself. In the past, interior design was not a priority. I had places to go, people to see, adventures to be adventured. But, because of the pandemic, my move to the apartment slowed down until it was in serious danger of losing a foot race to a sleeping snail. And, when my contacts with other people became mostly virtual, I gained an opportunity to learn about design in an online class format. The instructor, a professional storyteller and former interior designer, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, got me excited about about design. I couldn't wait to get started.

Because of the slow move, I had the time  to work on the design that would make me happy and would tell a story about who I am. Also, the goal was to keep the apartment from turning into a chaos of art supplies and yarn! But I didn't want just order. I wanted a design that would reveal who I am as a person and as an artist.

I read on the internet that the way that you decorate your home can give a lot of information about your personality. But there is some level of controversy about this. Does choosing neutral colors make you a boring, predictable type of person who dislikes adventure, as was suggested in some of the articles?

Or does it mean that you have interesting pieces, full of texture and unusual shapes, that you want to show off, and you really would prefer not to have a bright orange wall attract all of the attention? Can you be a person who likes having adventure, despite having neutral walls?

So I moved into an apartment with a kind of muted blue carpet and off white walls. Sounds boring, right? But that was what I had to work with. Repainting the walls was not an option. although I admit that I would have chosen a light blue, as opposed to something bold and dramatic.

But that's just as well. Bold and dramatic walls in small rooms make them look even smaller. Muted colors are better for giving the illusion of space. And, since I am quite claustrophobic, I would prefer not to have the impression of the walls closing in on me. So the plain walls were a canvas on which I could create my Alice space.

Because I've been painting for a fair number of years, I wanted my paintings to get the attention, to be, so to speak, center stage. I felt that my artwork would reveal who I am and would create the image that I was hoping to create.

My first step was to group the paintings together by theme. After that, I chose the places in which to display the paintings.

By my couch, the theme is sunflowers.

I love painting sunflowers and I love photographing sunflowers. I especially like photographing sunflowers that are hosting a very busy bee. 

In my small eating area, I chose a a more food oriented theme.

And, because I am Alice, the theme also includes tea parties. I have an eclectic set of nonmatching bone china teacups that I purchased at various garage sales.

I love to display them, and the cube storage unit is a great place to show them off.

My bedroom has a teddy bear/storyteller theme.

It is my happy space, with hand crocheted afghans on my bed.

My apartment is really small, and, through my research into how best to decorate a small space, I found out that I should go vertical and utilize wall space. Placing shelves on the wall adds interest and excitement to the room.

I love to read so I needed to arrange my design around bookcases in my living room. And I found that the height differences between the bookcases added a good deal of visual appeal to the room..

Being an amateur interior designer has been fun, I hope that this glimpse into my space reveals the story of Alice. What does the way that you've decorated your home reveal about you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Finding inspiration in the creative journey

 Today, I am starting the month-long Cornerstone Content Blogging Challenge by talking about a few of the books that have inspired me to stretch as both a writer and as a visual artist. These books offer information that helps me build my skills, as well as encouragement to step out of my comfort zone. When I am willing to take risks, I have more opportunity to grow as an artist. All three books have one thing in common: they are more focused on the journey of creativity, as opposed to being results oriented. And being focused on the art journey is a way to invite more people to join in, especially people who believe that they can't draw or write or that they lack imagination. If you free yourself of worry of what your story or your picture will look like, you can focus entirely on the process of creating art and you can do so joyfully.

Here are some of the books that have provided inspiration for me:

Writing Down the Bones.
 Natalie Goldberg is a real inspiration. She is everything that I want to be: a writer and a visual artist. She's written a whole bunch of book about writing, about painting, and about exploring your creativity. She says that writing is a creative act, that the goal is to shed the rules, not add new ones.

One suggestion is, when writing a first draft of anything, write continuously. Don't cross out words or edit in any way. In fact, turn off the internal critic and the editor side of your brain. If you've turned off that little voice in your head that tells you that you can't write, you can feel free to create without fear. 

The Zen of Seeing.
Frederick Franck (1909-2006) expressed his creativity through drawing, painting, and writing. The Zen of Seeing  is handwritten because the author considered the book to be a love letter to people who long to create art, and personal letters should be handwritten. Drawing is all about seeing.

Frederick Franck encouraged everyone to draw, including people who do not believe that they are capable of drawing. He said, "Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a Way of Being." What could be more inspiring than that?

Doodles Unleashed. Traci Bautista's book is full of color and fun.

We all doodle and this author has taken doodling to a new level. She helps us doodlers explore the world of mixed media and not to limit ourselves to traditional art materials or tools, such as paints and paintbrushes and canvases. She suggest tools that we would have never imagined using, such as correction fluid, typography, collage pauge, tissue paper, and so much more. Traci Bautista inspires me to be more creative and to truly love and relish bright colors, shapes, and texture.

Friday, November 13, 2020

November gratitude: alliteration sponsored by the letter G


Today, I express my gratitude to the letter G. Yes, literally the letter G. It's the first letter of my last name. Oh, and all of the pictures have something green in them because green begins with G.

So I was thinking that it's time to do a creative writing exercise. I was hoping to form a creative writing group that could meet in person.

But the town in which I reside (Grand Island, which, of course, starts with the letter G) is now placed in the infamous Yellow Zone, which means caution because the number of COVID-19 cases has gone up. So I don't think that the creative writing group is likely to happen soon. 

Eventually, the pandemic will end, and normal life will resume. In the meantime, I'm determined to keep myself busy and entertained. 

Here is the exercise: I am going to share ten words that begin with the letter G. And the trick is to write something that includes all of these words. It could be a story, a journal entry, a poem, or any other writing format that you enjoy. To get my G words, I'm going to use a random word generator. The word generator that I am using (link to word generator: Random Word Generator website). The random word generator allows you to choose both the beginning and ending letter of the word. I am just going to choose the beginning letter, which is G. You can choose a word type, if you like. And you can also choose the length of the word. 

I asked the random word generator to choose ten words for me, beginning with the letter G. The words that I got were: goal, general, girl, glance, grant, groan, gem, grip, guide, gown. (I am taking the liberty of changing the tense of the word to fit with what I am writing)

I am going to write a poem, using the format of blank verse. This has a meter of ten syllables per line. The poem is unrhymed. So, here goes.

In the mirror, I spied a girl in a gown

but nary a gem around her long neck.

And by and by, a man came to her,

gripped her hand and guided her to the door.

But a war soon separated the pair.

The army took the man far, far away.

Their goal of sweet forever long postponed

by generals conferring in a room.

Alone again, the girl packed up her gown.

Reflected on love granted and then gone,

She slept the broken sleep of the lonely,

hearing screams and groans of terrified men.

She wrote daily missives to her soldier,

sharing her dreams and goals for their future.

When the war ended and he returned home,

the couple knew that they had grown apart.

The girl gave away her gown and her gems,

and locked her dreams and goals into a box.

Well, there you go. A poem. And now, it's your turn to use those words for a story or a poem. Have fun!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

November gratitude: feathered friends #wordlesswednesday

As I was walking down the Riverwalk to my watercolor painting class at Partners in Art on Webster Street in North Tonawanda, I noticed the busy birds about me, in the grass and on the trail. So I stopped to photograph them, these fine feathered friends, many of whom aren't especially popular with us humans because they are often implicated in thefts of our food. Which could make them felonious feathered friends in search of our food. But I digress. Anyway, here they are: the fine felonious feathered friends forever in search of food. And I am grateful for them for being such good sports and posing for me on this autumn day, as I walked down the trail.