Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pink Poodle Ears Marie Antionette Style

Novel ideas are the spark for my creative engine.  Last night we watched Look Who's Talking Too.  I was captivated by the standard poodle in that movie and how her long ears were so fluffy.  In a stroke of insight, I thought about manipulating yarn to produce that effect.

I'm naming it the Marie Antionette style Pink Poodle.



I think these ears will work well with my plush costume accessories for a dramatic effect.  I'm thinking "before groomer, after groomer..."


To mix things up, I envisioned adding a poodle skirt.



All items are now available in the shop which you can see here: http://www.kneesandpaws.etsy.com


Today I'm going to have a few hours to imagine and play around with materials.  I loved making the brushed yarn poodle ears so much that I'm thinking about "bad hair day wigs."

Have a great weekend and enjoy the light that fall brings. xo

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mistakes, Learning and Shame

A little bomb exploded inside me yesterday. My ego disintegrated from a grenade of errors I threw at myself during a learning process.  After a long lazy summer, I returned to my shop to make some new designs for the fall season.  Perhaps it would have been easier if I had attempted to learn a new skill  before the season arrived.  There would have been less pressure to "produce a thing of value" and just play around with patterns and fabric.

I have been working on building a poodle costume with a full and flowing skirt. Once I was moderately satisfied with the skirt, I wondered what else I could make to go with it.  I had a glossy, shimmery yard of white satin.  In a feat of daring, I attempted my first blouse....by making my own paper bag pattern.

It was a two day disaster.

And for every mistake, I doggedly tried to make corrections that ended up destroying the overall piece.  I worked and adjusted, hoping to save it.  It is now a rough draft that I can no longer edit. I held on to the idea of it so hard, my mind engaged in a bull headed determination to solve all of the problems I was creating. 

Two of my road blocks to technical skill development are the idea of "fast track learning" in combination with a "results NOW!" expectation.

 I have trouble working with traditional patterns because I have not taken the time to learn the basic sewing terminology or study the art of garment making.  It's simple, yet also complex.  There are sizes to consider and lots of measuring.  It's incredibly frustrating to sit at the machine and work with precision when you proceed like Dori from Finding Nemo, her calming voice in my head saying "just keep sewing, keep sewing....keep sewing".  

I am so committed to doing things "my way" that I avoid learning something useful from a skilled teacher.

Leaving the shining white blouse in a crooked wreck of awkwardness,

I went to bed disappointed, feeling that I lost two days of my life.



In the morning  I started thinking about how much abuse I was taking during the learning process.  How ashamed I was for making mistakes.  (Why?  I'd never attended a sewing school!  I  was learning by trial and error funded only by my lucky success with costume accessory pieces!)

What did I expect?

And why did this heap of shame go along with the learning process?

Who could I blame for infusing me with the idea that I must produce a flawless piece of wonder on the VERY FIRST ATTEMPT?

My ego.

Shame on it.   It demands unreasonable and unfair levels of perfection through constant comparison of someone else's final worthy product.

If I am ever able to go forward and keep trying, this nonsense about perfection needs to end.  It's also what holds me back from writing books and stories.  Once I get into creating a piece, I end up rending the garment into shreds or stuffing it away somewhere where no one can find it.

I need a new way to think about mistakes in learning, without the shame.




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Toilet Paper Football and Poems about Smelly Dogs

Elliot doesn't like it when people say he's silly.  He takes himself seriously, but his playfulness and exuberance sometimes is interpreted as silly behavior.  His expressiveness and willingness to be unique is something I admire!  

Shall we say, this boy is FUN LOVING?

I should remember to tell him about his great-grandfather, who had fifteen children.  He entertained them all with magic tricks like balancing a ladder or a dining room chair on his chin or forehead.  He would pull coins out of ears, pull countless pranks and practical jokes.  He was also an artist who carved intricate roses into glass ashtrays that he stacked and drilled and transformed into gorgeous lamps.  He loved games.  He loved to win.  He swallowed life whole.   One year he found a goat in the streets of Detroit.  He took the goat to the police station and tied it up with some crazy letter attached to it.  The police thought his prank was so funny that they put a police hat and jacket on the goat, took a picture and sent it to the local paper.

So, Elliot does't know this, but silliness is a trait he's inherited.

I have a little of this in me too.

This morning, Elliot said I was a "rhymer."  While considering this, I stopped in the middle of the stairway, turned around and worked out a poem as if lightning had just struck.  Poets and writers should always keep a white board handy for these moments...

Here's what fell out:

The Miner

The Weimaraner was a rhymer
an old-timer with a shiner
paws digging like a miner
for bones and treasures finer
long-dead and rotting slimer
life organic sleeping primer
for the young to grow inside her
seeds of earth for branching climber.



After that nonsense, we played football in the house with a fresh clean soft roll of toilet paper.

My son is growing fast, and so it's great to know that his playful nature is still alive and kicking.


Elliot has joined a First Lego League Robotics League!  Making what he loves and translating that into complex learning.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Party in Motion

We danced.




Every year comes with friends to celebrate.


Our hearts are full.



Happy summer, happy life.






Thursday, July 10, 2014

Active Peace?

Someone recently asked the question: Where have you experienced the most peace?  Is it now a memory that has become your "happy" place?

My response is a contradiction.  When we think of the word peace we think of the glassy, undisturbed surface of a body of water, or the stillness of the morning at the break of dawn.  We think of times of silence, worship, prayer.  We think of meditation, sleep, rest or even death.

Yet the most expansive peace I ever felt happened like this:

It was my first trip to the outer banks.  I brought Emily with me to celebrate my graduation from college.  We rented a shabby but cozy motel room in Nags Head, conveniently situated on the ocean side.  After unpacking our bags and eating a snack, we drove to 7 Eleven for a bundle of firewood and stopped at the fire station for a permit.  Back on the beach after sunset and before our campfire, I became unexpectedly swept up in euphoria.  The energy of the waves charged the atmosphere with invigorating, hair-raising pulses. Swhoosh. Ripple. Pause. Swoosh, thundering crash. Ripple. Pause. Silence. Repeat.

 After dropping the firewood and camp chairs in a heap, I sprinted down the beach, barefoot.  A full moon rose over the Atlantic as the sky deepened from indigo to black.  Emily and I ran together like liberated captives. No one was on the beach to see our inhibitions fall away.  Were there crabs in the sand? We were northerners unaware.  Like people who don't fear leaf piles because they are unused to copperheads, our bare feet were unafraid.

That heart-pounding full sprint under a pristine white moon brought the complete surrender and release that allowed peace to fill my being. I have spent my life fighting hard instead of waiting for it to arrive on the tide; struggling for needs, for the impulsive something I think I desperately want, for the something that needs to be done.  If the laundry ever gets caught up, it's because I'm literally fighting my way through it.  If I need to write for a grade, I'm battling all of my ignorance, all of my insecurity, everyone in the class, the people who write academic jargon, and my professor too.  If I'm working for money, I'm battling the boss, proving I can excel and master the work.  It is a headstrong me that succeeds.

On that night on the beach, after five hours of driving (and battling my way through motorcycles...it was Bike Week! How nerdy I felt driving next to hogs in Grandma's yellow Buick!) instead of being exhausted I was completely energized, so awake and alive I thought I might ascend from the sand and fly.  Which I was able to actually do, the following day, when we went hang-gliding together on Jockey's Ridge.  But even though actual flight was intensely euphoric, it was that sprint on the beach under the moon that brought the most complete and extensively deep peace. During the running, and afterward.

I've not been able to experience that depth (Or height? Which direction is peace? Submersion or ascension?) while meditating or praying, sitting quietly in silence, or sleeping.  Peace happened when I was absolutely the most active my body can be. And it happened after the marathon of paper writing at Guilford College, a place that nearly broke my spirit with nearly impossible standards of achievement.

This somehow makes perfect sense.  The peacemakers of the world are activists.  They might have meditative or spiritual practices that support the work they do in the world, but mostly, they work incredibly long and grueling hours to help people, sometimes in utterly devastating and dangerous conditions.

What this notion of "active" peace means for me is not to be afraid of doing the work that comes with my life.  It means not being lazy about my writing practice, my parenting, or my relationships.  It means staying focused on my food choices and exercises.  It means not falling into the rut of despair when the work just seems overwhelming and endless.

For me, peace happens during intense sprinting, when I can do nothing else except surrender it all.




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Decade of Boyhood

I have a terrible confession.  When Emily was two years old, I was working as a nanny for a family with four children.  The youngest were newborn twins.  The middle child was a boy not much older than Emily.  After caring for five children all day (four who were still in diapers), I would come home and barely have the energy for my own housework and meal prep. Then came a series of migraines that sent me to a dark room, praying for relief from the hard driving freight train in my head and bouts of nausea.

This work was my passion but it was also intensely demanding and stressful.  Though I loved children and was committed to a life of caregiving and teaching, I was drowning in an overload of demands that needed my immediate attention.  This job was also the reason why Emily ended up being an only child for such a long time.

I was also terrified of having a son.

Even though I grew up with two completely loving and wonderful brothers, the idea of parenting a son after my experience with nanny-hood made me inwardly faint.

Eight years later, what I trembled to imagine came true.

But by that time, my whole world had changed.  I had developed an open mind to God's plan, whatever that meant for me.

So God gave me what I feared the most.  When my heart was the most open, when I trusted my higher power, when I dared to take a huge risk in love,

Richard and I became parents of a beautiful son.  I don't believe this was merely a result of science and chemical reactions.

For the first time, Emily experienced what it felt like to have a brother.   The love, respect and appreciation that I have for Emily expanded as I watched her accept this new family development, which might have caused hurt and jealousy.  Instead of being resentful, she just loved her baby brother and celebrated with us.





Infused within the miracle came the joy and security of taking this leap together. Richard has been the most incredibly committed, supportive and engaged father and continues to be Elliot's best friend, role model and teacher.



Play-doh shoes, hats and scarves for toy animals are just one example of Elliot's creative inventions.

















We love you Elliot, more than words can say.  Happy 10th Birthday!  It's been a happy, love filled and exciting decade for all of us.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Signed Copy of The Signature of All Things Giveaway

I have a gift I'd like to share with my patient, kind readers.  Many of you have been with me since 2010, leaving supportive comments and uplifting my heart with your regular visits.  Thank you so much for sharing love and thus helping me to continue to take the risk of writing.

Your love is my soft landing.


Many of my friends who have stayed with me through these years are also leaving their blogs, and just now it feels kind of like the end of an era.  Perhaps the personal blog has gone out of fashion.  Maybe it is just entirely too much to maintain with any sort of enthusiasm.  I have often wondered if I should leave this space and go forward into a new project.  But even if it feels lonely here in my little blog corner, I still have an impulse and a desire to write.  And this space feels like a comfortable old shoe.  So for now, I will write at least one more post...and this one is in order to share a gift.

Those of you on fb know that I love Elizabeth Gilbert.  This year I did something completely self indulgent and purchased a single ticket to hear her speak in Asheville, North Carolina.  I rationalized that since Richard loves the mountains, we could fit in a hike and camp overnight.  But as the date neared, Richard decided that this type of occasion required better accommodations.  He spoiled me by reserving a comfortable hotel room and later splurged on a delicious Italian meal before the event.  This weekend I noticed little connections to "Eat, Pray, Love" as if it were a theme, minus the divorce.

"Eat"


Included in this unplanned theme was the mystery and excitement of travel. On a reconnaissance mission to orient ourselves for parking and navigating, we decided to explore the UNCA campus before dinner. Granted, Asheville is not Indonesia, but its location in the high country makes it feel as if you are visiting a place separated from the rest of the world.  UNCA felt like a different kind of university, unlike the ones I am familiar with here in the Piedmont.  It felt very secluded and intimate.  The entrance was a long drive through a botanical garden (so appropriate to set the mood for a talk on The Signature of All Things).  What was supposed to be a mission to establish our whereabouts (so I wouldn't feel rushed and have to run in my dainty sandals with heels) became a romantic walk under tall hemlocks and through blooming botanical gardens. Once we neared the general area, I entered the Ramsey library with its beautiful old library smell and sacredly silent walls to ask about the event location.  The young man behind the desk relayed the directions and mentioned that he was also working at the event. He wondered if I had purchased my tickets already, generously offering that there were a few left if I needed more.

After a fantastic meal at Pomodoro's, we drove back to campus, hoping that there might still be a few tickets left. We were having so much fun together that Richard and Elliot decided that they would attend if it wasn't sold out. Which it did.

 At the entrance of the auditorium, I suddenly felt as if my family date was being disrupted; that we were going to have to be separated because of my selfish purchase of the single ticket.  But Richard told me to go in and have a great time.  He would wait for me during all of it, the talk, the book signing and the pictures. He would take Elliot and go exploring.  Before leaving to have their guy-time adventure, Elizabeth Gilbert walked by with a smile and said "nice dog!"

 Once inside, I found a seat near the front and experienced something unexpected.  A fluttering in my heart bubbled up, just like it does during Meeting for Worship.  I felt the presence of the Spirit with me.  Other women in attendance describe that as "the energy in the room."

The energy kept rising as Liz spoke to the crowd of women and men in the auditorium.  After a brief introduction, she read a passage from her new novel, and then spent the rest of the evening answering questions.  I raised my hand and asked if she had written a childhood memoir, and if so would she ever publish it.  She responded in a serious tone (different from her usual up-beat humor) that "every writer waits until someone they love dies before they are able to write those stories. I do plan to write mine, but I am still waiting."

Her answer helped me to have peace about a conflict in my own heart.  I also have stories that must wait.  There is no need to rush to make public the stories that helped me to become who I am.

I also loved Liz's explanation on the interconnectedness of memoir and fiction.  She said, "fiction writing is like writing memoir and memoir  is like writing fiction:  in memoir you are creating a version of yourself that people close to you might say "but you're not like that at all!"

So I felt encouraged to go forward in experimenting with fiction and to be less intimidated by the idea of research...which is a good remedy for my lack of imagination.  Perhaps through fiction, I will discover that I have written my memoir, leaving not facts and dates and actual people, but thoughts and feelings and the impression of complex relationships.

It was an enriching, happy and energizing experience.

Then came the standing in line part.  Which would have been fun...all those happy, smiling women to connect with!  Except that since I've made a huge change in my diet...leaving sugar for more fiber...I have been regularly gassy.  So while waiting in line, I'm praying  "please don't fart, please don't fart, please don't fart, especially next to Liz..."


Once at the book signing table, I told Liz how much I loved her fb page, and thanked her for such giving.  In person, she is warm and open and kind.  She hugged me close to her side during our picture together.

"Pray"


God was merciful... the other talking end of my being stayed silent.

When I came out to greet my patient husband, son and dog, who could see the book signing through the tall glass windows, Richard commented on how Liz was different from the typical famous person.  He was impressed by her warmth toward people.

Elliot excitedly told me about a stone labyrinth and all the hidden places he explored.  I was so happy and relieved to be reunited so that we could continue our Asheville adventure.  I realized that while it's great to be independent and do things for myself, I enjoy experiences much more when I can share them with my family.

And so I have something to share with you...a signed copy of The Signature of All Things in paperback.







Please leave a comment either here or on my fb link to this post.  I will choose a winner through a random number generator.  If you are chosen, I will contact you through fb and ask for your mailing address.

Good luck to all!

Love,
Jenny

P.S...we had so much fun exploring:







"Love"







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