Monday, December 31, 2007

End Of The Year Thoughts

When I was a kid, my brothers, my sister and I built a Scotch broom fort on our property. We hacked down some of the plants - probably with Mom's sharpest kitchen knives - and made trails throughout the hillside patch where we could walk, or crawl on our hands and knees, invisible to the outside world. It was a hot scratchy hideout, but better than nothing - which is basically what we had to work with.

I was reading "Alice in Wonderland" at the time and found the hideout to be a quiet, private place to concentrate on the book. With two brothers and two sisters, privacy and quiet were hard to come by.

One afternoon I accidentally left the book in the Scotch broom patch. The next day, when I went back for it, it was gone. After questioning my siblings, who denied any knowledge of the crime, I immediately discerned who the culprit was. It was not some passerby. I knew it was the White Rabbit. To this day, I prefer that explanation over all others.

Have you ever wanted to believe in something so much, that it didn't really matter what the facts were? Of course you have; we all have. This is how faith prevails and religions get started. Against all realistic evidence, people chose to believe in the unseen and the extraordinary.

On the seventh night of Hanukkah this year, at our house, something unusual happened. I was taking digital photos of my husband lighting the seventh candle on the menorah. I took three photos of him until I was satisfied with the picture. Then I took one more.

In the last photograph, where he is lighting the last candle, there are seven purple ovals "hovering" around his shoulders above the eight candles - seven candles for Hanukkah and one candle to light them. How odd, I thought.

Just recently, I had read an article on what I considered a "woo woo" topic; a belief that the "orbs" or balls of light in digital photos, are supernatural and show the presence of spirits from the other side.

When I read the article I thought of the thousands of pictures I have taken. None of them ever showed the presence of an orb. Poor lighting, blurry images, someone just turning their head from the camera, yes; but no orbs. And why, I asked, would there only be orbs in digital photos and none in single lens reflex cameras. Those old photos didn't show orbs. Why not?

Well, as anyone who's used a digital camera knows, the leap in technology has not been without a price. We can see our photos right away, but many times they are much poorer images than those made with an old fashioned camera.

This, however, was my very first orb photo and it fascinated me. I found myself wanting to believe there might be something to these orbs. I have always regretted I never got to meet my husband's parents. His father died when he was very young, and his mother died when he was in his 20s. To my knowledge he only has one photograph, a wedding portrait, of his mother and father together.

There is also a roll of 8 mm movie film, which a video shop put on VHS tape for us so he could watch it. In this short film, he (a toddler) and his sister are forever in the sunny back yard of their California home, coaxed by their parents to push a baby carriage, smile and otherwise perform for the neighbor's movie camera.

This small clip of time during the early 1950s is all that's left to remind him of family times together. With my own huge, loving family, I have always felt a little sorry for anyone who doesn't have as many wonderful memories.

I guess that's why the purple orbs appealed to me. I could try the experiment again with the candles and camera, but something inside me wants to accept another explanation.
I'm not a kid any more, and I may not believe the orbs are from the other side (or that the White Rabbit really took my book) but I do want to believe my husband's family was near him that night; that they always want to be near him in any way they can - even if it's only in my imagination.

Happy New Year to all!

Femminismo's overactive imagination is sometimes handy, but it's murder when a dentist appointment is coming up or she's alone in the house at night.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

No more wind like this, please.

Yesterday we left our "comfort zone" - couch, hot tea, art supplies and sports on demand - and drove to the Oregon coast. We ended up in Seaside and saw beautiful snowy hillsides on the way. Evergreen tree limbs were dusted with snow and tall alder trees glowed pinkish at the tops in the fog along Highway 26.
Then we came upon the devastation that recent December winds left behind.
In Astoria, at a friend's home, they told us there were average sustained winds of 90 mph for 20 hours. Many of the trees around their home were uprooted - one tree's roots, ripped from the ground, were 30 feet across - and many other trees were simply snapped off, as you can tell from this picture.
Wind gusts were much higher than 90 mph. Their pickup cab was smashed by a falling tree and they lost part of their deck, but other than losing many of their wonderful trees, they were lucky by far.
The weather at the coast was mild. It was around 45 degrees, but it was too wet for us fair weather friends to walk on the beach. Besides, we had to get back home to a family gathering, with dessert and board games to make up for a missed Christmas get-together.
I hope your weather is fine and your winds are fair. - femminismo
Hey, Janet, I was in your neck of the woods!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One Less Rational Voice.

Shock at the precarious balance in the world overwhelmed me this morning as I logged on the computer to see the headlines. Benazir Bhutto had been killed, apparently by a suicide bomber, and it was one of those times, for me at least, when I wouldn't forget where I was or what I had been doing.
With our smaller and smaller world, it isn't difficult for events that happen around the world to affect us more quickly than we can imagine.
I grieve for Benazir Bhutto's family, her country and supporters and everyone who loves peace.
This is a page in my journal I have begun in memory of this day. The "empty" white tracing paper dress was just laying on my work table from another project where it was never used. Unfortunately, it finally found a purpose.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

White Christmas ... for a while.

Just for a little while, down here in Oregon's northwestern valley, there was snow falling on Christmas Day.
First it came from the east, and then the west, then straight down with very little wind. The flakes weren't very big, but I'll bet higher elevations got a lot more.
When the flakes came down, everyone here gathered around the tree to play with their Christmas toys. The wind-up kangaroo does great back-flips.
I hope your Christmas day is wonderful, with family and friends ... and your dinner is the best ever, with no one forgetting the fruit salad at the back of the refrigerator. What would dinner be with no fruit salad?
Cranberry relish? Got that? And the tiny sweet pickles and black olives?
What can't your family live without during the Christmas dinner?

Here's hoping for peace on earth. - femminismo

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Longest Night of the Year.

In the summer you can barely find this rock, it is so covered with vines and surrounded by other plants. But today it stood out in the garden, providing a deep wonderful green note in all the brown of the muddy flowerbeds.
It looks like a fairy rock. The water falling from the sky is perfect for the conditions this moss craves.
I watched the movie "Once" tonight. I wanted it to go on for a much longer time. I am still humming the song. Now it is playing in the background from the Web site linked here. You might like this movie. I did.
Now I'm going to have a cup of tea and concentrate on saying goodbye to my cold tonight. Tomorrow it will start getting much better until it's only a memory. Besides, I want to make a batch of cookies tomorrow and I can't do that when I'm sick. And there's the house to clean to get ready for a bit of company.
Best drink that tea and go to bed early. Cheers on this lovely night of the year when we can make every minute count ... or just laze about doing nothing. From here on the daylight hours get longer. - femminismo

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Painting tonight for tomorrow.

I'm painting tonight so I will have dry colorful pages to write on tomorrow and the next day and the next.
Can you decide which is prettier - the glittery page or the stamp? It's the blue foam block I heated at the Innerstandings class and then had Judy Wise step on with the great shoe pattern that looks like a fern unfolding. I don't know if that last sentence made sense, but I need - absolutely need - to get more of that blue foam and then look for marvelous texture-y things to stamp.
The woman's face came courtesy of Diane Havnen-Smith's carving her. I believe she will be at the window with the curtains flying around her face (not Diane, but the "stamp woman." Maybe she'll even get her curtains by tomorrow night.
I am also posting my January 2008 calendar just as it is, with globby sumi ink and all. Maybe you can copy and paste it somewhere on your computer so you'll know what day of the week January 20th falls on.

Today I saw the sun not once, but twice! I heard Christmas carols and had dinner made for me. I addressed Christmas cards ... sorry, Mr. Postman ... and I am now going to have some Rocky Road ice cream. Ahhhhhhh! Sweet, sweet life! - femminismo

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Couldn't Sleep - Why Not Paint?

Last night I couldn't sleep. Woke up at 3 a.m. (which was technically today, not last night), read two New Yorker book reviews and still couldn't get back to sleep.
When I finally got out of bed at 4, I found the green page and the sumi ink irresistible and this is what I got. I think she is part of me ... but not all. The wide open eyes are me however.
I was awake until 5. Slept for about an hour or so, then dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 a.m. for a shower, espresso and work.

I'm including a "story page" from my art journal. The picture suggested the story. The one girl is squinting - the sun is in her eyes - but I thought the other girl (twins?) was looking somewhere other than at the camera.
Let me know if you have trouble reading what she's thinking. I'll tell you everything!

The gold paint makes it a little hard to read, what with the reflection of the light. But perhaps it's more mysterious that way.
Today I laughed, I listened to someone talk about their pain and touched her hair and hugged her when she cried, I talked to my littlest sister and my younger brother, and I kissed someone with peppermint breath. Ooh la la!
Be safe and well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sumi ink discovery!

My first attempts to use sumi ink during a Judy Wise workshop did not work out well. I used the wooden end of a paintbrush as my writing instrument and I just got globs.
Then I tried to use the ink on my tea bag calendar. Same writing instrument. (I will show you the results of that later.) : (
Tonight, using a new writing instrument, a chopstick, I think I have found a better drawing tool. Because the chopstick was coated with paint, the ink rolled off and I had to go back to the well pretty often, but I liked my lady picture. Her nose may not be the perfect distance from her mouth, but when you're working with ink rolling off a chopstick, you hurry.

I have been painting pages in my art journal books, but not writing very much. I've been pretty consistent, however, with this blog lately. It seems to have to be "one or t'other." Paint or type.
I hope you guys know what I go through just so you can have something new to see when you check in on me. (Leave a comment, pleeeeeease.)
Today I saw a man carrying a bicycle toward a bike shop, I saw a coworker with his shirt tucked in for a change, I saw a beautiful young girl in a head scarf, I saw a nearby house is now owned by the bank and I saw trees without a single leaf.
Today I heard a car honk at another car that could not move.
Today I smelled espresso and fresh ground pepper.
What did you see, hear and smell? - femminismo

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Button, button ... bracelet.

Last night, at ArtHouse, hosted by Bodacious Beads in Hillsboro, I made a button bracelet. There is a closeup - which will be small - posted on the far left.
I have been going to ArtHouse with two friends and so far have made a journal, shrinky dinks and, now, a bracelet. Next month we will do collage. ArtHouse is held one Saturday evening each month.
At left is my bracelet in the foreground and JoAnn's bracelet in progress, held by her. It will be elegant when she finishes. The green buttons, culled from another friend's button jars, are the most beautiful green. At one time they must have graced the most elegant of dresses, or perhaps a jacket.
JoAnn has a good eye for color combinations.
I was so proud to have actually finished something. I live in fear, however, that my jump rings are not together well enough and I will someday have seed beads all over the place. Ah, well. Que sera, que sera. - femminismo

Saturday, December 15, 2007

January's Calendar Is Almost Here!

As some of you know, I've been saving tea bags like there's no tomorrow.
A. Empty the dry used tea bags B. Spread them out and smooth with hand C. Sew rows of five empty used tea bags together in strips D. Sew them to a strip of five more dry used tea bags
Voila! Now there are enough "spaces" to write on and make your own calendar for the new year. Well, the first month, anyway. Above are the tea bags sewn together in strips.

And then ... here (left) they are laid out to see how many tea bags I will need to sew on the seven strips of bags. Turns out to be five. (Well, approximately. I came out a little long with the five bags, but it's nothing scissors won't cure.)
I actually sewed the long strips onto the top strip with some thread I found on the living room chair. It had unraveled from a piece of fabric.
I felt as if I could be a pioneer woman, recycling everything the way I did. Well, except for the lack of central heating, microwaves and craft stores I could be a pioneer woman.
Actually, as I discovered how resilient the tea bag paper is, I wondered how it was made and discovered it is quite a waste on our planet to use paper for tea preparation. There are other methods, fortunately, for making tea. Plus you'd get to read the leaves.
Now that I think more about it, if I were a pioneer woman, I would probably recycle this paper for more utilitarian purposes and use it in the outhouse. Here is the proposed calendar on the wall, before letters and dates are stamped on it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Oldest "Ornament."

One of the oldest "ornaments" on my tree is not really an ornament, but a pair of baby shoes I bought at an estate sale. (See them at left.) I took out the newspaper stuffed into them and found a piece dated Feb. 3, 1944. I love to put them on the tree each year and imagine the sweet child who wore them.
Also, to the left, is a photo of the empty tea bags I am stitching by hand into a January calendar. (It's not an original idea, but one I saw on someone else's Web site.) However, it will definitely be one of a kind, since I'll be altering it in my own way. How ... I'm not sure yet. I'm making rows of five tea bags stitched together, and then after I have seven strips, I'll stitch those together. Then I'll stamp numbers on them.

I'm including a picture of the almost fully decorated tree. It's such a soothing and somewhat bittersweet walk back through time as I hang each ornament on the tree remembering times past - when and where I bought the ornament or who gave it to me as a gift, the home I was in when I first hung it on a tree. The smell of the tree brings back even older memories. Memories from times when the tree was held straight by tying a cord to it and attaching that to a nail in the wall. The ornaments were made from leftover tin foil and there were strings of freshly popped corn and circular chain links made from lined writing paper glued together with paste made from flour and water. The tree lights were huge - and hanging all over the tree branches were heavy strands of tinsel, probably lead-filled.

I hope you are warm and safe tonight with sweet memories of your own. - femminismo

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Seventh Night.

Tonight we lit the seventh candle on the menorah. What a lovely warm glow they cast on this cold dark night. There were gifts to open and dinner to enjoy, with dessert still ahead. What could be better?
I'll answer my own question: I talked with a treasured friend tonight. She is in Michigan, where there is lots of snow.

"Treasured friend" sounds good, doesn't it? I didn't want to say "old friend," even though that's what we are. We've known each other a long time. She was my first real friend and I had to wait until I was in high school to find her.
Hearing her voice on the phone takes me back - back to our teenage years - and reminds me how very far we've both come. She is one of those people you never need to apologize to for not calling. (Well, you should, but ... you don't absolutely need to.) You just pick right up where you left off before. Plus she reads my blog! Thanks, Barb, for being such a good friend. When I want to remember who I am, and where I've been, I'll always call you.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tis the Season.

Cookie making is becoming addictive. And it's more fun with granddaughters doing the hard part: mixing. This takes muscles.
Leesheea and Shey joined me for the afternoon. We made chocolate chip cookies, of course, and then peanut butter with fork tine markings on the top.
One cookie was so picture perfect it needed its own frame!
These two "cookie pals" are perfect company in a warm kitchen on a cold night.

Leesheea's arm was a blur of movement as she stirred in the chips. I hope you have some good company for your cold winter nights - which officially begin on Dec. 22.
A warm fire, a good movie or favorite book, and hot chocolate or a toddy on frosty nights - can't think of many better things. Best wishes, femminismo.

Working on pages.

This morning I took the now-dry water soluble crayon pages (example shown at left and far left) and put in the Mutts cartoon I had been saving since Dec. 2. I noticed the colors were very similar, and although the little cat didn't meet Jane Goodall, he may happen upon the African princess who is walking her own special magical path in the jungle.
The sumi ink was great to work with using a fine pointed brush. The calligraphy-like strokes of the tree leaves felt lovely as I loosened up my wrist and let them flow.
This page is coming along. I want to add more color to the princess' jungle, but it may be a pastel jungle and not so very raucous. (Her name is Roya and she can roar.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Not Alone in the Dark.

It was a dark and stormy night.
Really, it was!
It was pitch dark, pouring rain and I was leaving Clackamas on the right
highway headed in the wrong direction: north instead of south.
There was no turning back. I knew what eventually lay in front of me. It wasn’t going to be pretty, either. It would involve three lanes of traffic, with more vehicles constantly merging onto the road on my right.
I stuck to the middle lane. All of us were eager to get home, especially those large pickups and SUVs — passing on both my right and left — throwing up water spray that covered my windshield. The wipers were going rapid fire, “swish, click, swish, click.”
Northward I flew, saying aloud “I can do this!” Again, aloud, I spoke to my fellow drivers: “We all just want to get home safe.”
The radio was off. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but staying in my
lane and remembering to breathe.
Parkrose exit. I could have gotten off there. Powell - another exit with
a name I knew. I pictured the long stretch of Powell Boulevard and the
bridge to the other side of Portland.
The freeway seemed to collapse in length and become shorter and shorter
as the minutes went by. The airport exit came up before I knew it. I
would have to get off this road soon or end up in Washington.
The airport exit! I knew the airport. I could find my way home from the
airport. I had gone out of my way by a long shot, but from there I knew
I could find my way home.
Unfortunately I turned off at Cascade Station, thinking it was the first
parking area for overnight or weekly parking at the airport. I didn’t
know it was a humonguous new shopping center with stores for almost
anything you might or might not need.
I considered going in and asking for directions, but something akin to a
Y chromosome kicked in. If I asked for help I would be admitting defeat:
“I couldn’t do this alone.”
I have a difficult time asking for help, but that’s too long a story.
I did call my husband on my cell phone, however, to let him know I might
be late getting home. I had called him when I left Clackamas.
“Where are you now?” he asked.
“I’m out by the airport. Yes, I can see it from here. I’m at Cascade
Station, near that new Ikea store. Oops! Someone’s in back of me. Gotta’
I dropped the phone into my lap and drove off. Ahead of me was a Subaru
in a right turn only lane. I saw a blue sign: I-84. Things were looking
up. When the light changed we both turned right and then stopped at
another light. I decided to trust the Subaru and followed its taillights
when the light turned green. Soon we were on I-84 ... going in the wrong
Sandy Boulevard. Another familiar street. I abandoned my friend in the
Subaru and left the freeway. Now I was on Sandy, headed east or west.
Your guess would have been as good as mine. No daylight; no sun to show
me my way home; no stars either. Only more rain.
My cell phone rang. It was my husband asking “Where are you now?”
“I’m headed down Sandy,” I said. “Say, there’s an adult toy shop. Need
I don’t know who I was trying to reassure with this attempt at humor,
him or me.
I stopped at a light then. There was a car beside me on my left and I
glanced over at the intersection of the one-way cross street looking for
information and saw a sign that read “City Center.” Yes!
“I’m at an intersection,” I said, “and there’s a sign to city center.”
“Take that,” he said. “You can find your way back that way.”
However, to go that way I would need to cross three lanes of traffic —
one beside me on my left and two other oncoming lanes. I remembered my
driver’s education manual and knew this wasn’t an option.
Then I spotted a motel on the right just through the intersection.
“I’ll bet I can turn into this motel, go through their parking lot and
turn onto the one-way street headed toward downtown. Goodbye,” I said.
Soon I was hurtling toward “downtown” which turned out to be I-84 again,
but in the correct direction. I got into the left hand lane to make sure
I would get the Salem and, eventually, Beaverton exits.
Finally I was really on my way home. I was on my way to the safest place
in the world. Why had I ever left it, I wondered.

That night, holding my husband's hand and trying to fall asleep, I was amazed to have traveled all that distance and come to rest, at last, here in this snug harbor. A million thoughts went through my head. They were all related to my trip and the “what if’s” that so often haunt us late at night.
What if I’d had an accident? What if I hadn’t been lucky?
But I had been. I was lucky to find my way home safely, lucky to be snug
in a safe little house with someone I love. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
I believe in skill. I believe in intelligence. But I’ll trust lucky any day.

— femminismo trusts luck too much, sometimes, but hardly ever buys
lottery tickets.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Baking Cookies

I spent last evening baking chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (why bother with cookies unless there's chocolate in them?), working on art journal pages and watching "Tin Man." I loved the sister story it contained, and the strong family/humanity theme.
The cookies were for a reception at Valley Art Gallery where I volunteer. The Mister and I only ate two cookies each. (Not a total breakdown on our dietary goals.)
I worked with water soluble crayons and gluing in some collage. More fun ... and now the dining room table is covered with my "projects" again. Sigh! Well, I did keep it pretty clean for almost two weeks.
You'll notice in the cookie picture I did put in a plug for our other eating habits: whole grain bread, apples ... and can you find the red wine?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Art-full Journals

Today I spent some wonderful hours in Clackamas at Diane Havnen-Smith's lovely home with the fabulous Judy Wise teaching marvelous art journal techniques. I thought I took quite a few photos, but came home surprised at the small number of them.
However, I did come home with a short video of our time there ... where Lisa was "teacher's pet" because she would listen to the teacher while others were talking ... and more talking. What a good time laughing and enjoying everyone's different views of art and life. There were so many techniques and materials ... and learning how to use them all was part of the fun.
I still have a lot to learn, but oh what a fun journey to journal!