Saturday, August 30, 2008

Souls Taking Flight

I began this project a year ago. As with many things, it started with one mini shrine and blossomed into many. The shrines were displayed at one of my favorite stores
for a time and I've promised to do a workshop on them at some point.
My mom's struggle with cancer led me to think about the transience of life. We spend years building lives, homes, families...etc. when we die- does it all disappear or do our souls simply take flight?
Each shrine contains a picture of a family member whose soul has already taken flight. The shrine above represents my Grandma Maria. Her soul took flight in 1961.
PS Found is a wonderful store located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The owner stocks Found with lots of yummy vintage ephemera, objects, fabrics, and findings. She also carries original works of art, whimsical decor items, and handmade jewelry. For the past two years, Found has sponsored a workshop led by Sally Jean of soldering fame. It's a favorite place!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Boys, Boys, Boys

I love boys!! As a young wife, I dreamed of having a baby girl. I thought it would be wonderful to have a daughter to dress up, to shop with, to spend time with. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans? God saw fit to give me two boys and I couldn't feel more blessed. As I watched my boys become teenagers I found myself profoundly grateful not to have teenage girls to contend with, to worry about, to fret over.
It isn't that boys don't have their moments, but there is something special about mother/ son relationships. I'm sure the mothers of girls would say the same thing. All I know is that I love having boys. The piece displayed here is such a perfect representation of how my Joel has always approached life! He is so full of exuberance! My Trevor is more cautious, but such a joy.
My boys often find their way into my work. They inspire me in so many ways. Trevor makes me want to be a better person; to take the high road in everything I do. Joel makes me want to express a love of life in my art the way he does in anything he takes on. Michael (my husband) challenges me to expand my "artistic" comfort zone.
I spent a rare afternoon today with all three of my boys (my husband is my third "boy") and it filled my soul with such contentment. It was a great day.
Technorati Profile

Thursday, August 21, 2008

pretty packages.......

I love to read. My interests are eclectic but I do admit to being partial to fiction. I like the departure from reality, the ability to explore other worlds with only an active imagination packed in my suitcase. The trick is to always remember that fiction does not mirror life. Matters of the heart are always wrapped up in pretty packages in well written fiction. Tragedies and heartache are handled in a finite manner. The heroine goes to Scotland to grieve over a lost love. After a three week journey (accompanied by the requisite new found hunk) the grief is magically cast aside and life is good again.

In reality, most businesses and employers will allow workers a finite number of days off to address issues of death and loss. The expectation is that upon return, the worker is ready to move on. When I lost my mother, my employer was very generous in giving me time to "grieve". I took two weeks off of work and spent all of that time trying deal with my emotions. While it's true that the time off gave me an opportunity to catch my breath and get a grip on reality, I know now that the grief did not have a finite edge to it. It is now a year later and I spent this morning crying as though the loss had taken place yesterday. It lessens for greater periods of time but it can sneak up on me with a fierceness that lets me know it's never far away.

Unlike works of fiction, our emotions can't be wrapped up in pretty packages to be placed on a shelf and forgotten as we move on to the next event. Our experiences are instead interwoven and help to shape our future relationships. Not a gaily wrapped box, but a tapestry, incomplete until our own time is ended. (I love the album "Tapestry" by Carole King!)

Sunday, August 17, 2008


August 17, 2008

I always feel vulnerable when I read about or hear about someone experiencing a tragedy such as the one I wrote about yesterday. Having faced a couple of tough losses myself this past year, I deeply empathize with others who find themselves in similar situations. I know it sounds trite, but those feelings of vulnerability do make me appreciate the people I have left in my life.

I have a little brother. We have had some issues over the years and lost valuable time in our relationship. The loss of my mother brought us back together and we are now trying to build a friendship as adults.

I love my little brother and I want to remain in touch with him. I want to get to know my two nephews and I want to remember that there is no way of telling how much time we have left together. My baby brother turned 50 this week and I am throwing him a surprise party today. I hope he likes it and I hope it helps him to reflect on our relationship in the same way it has me. Happy Birthday Johnny!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


August 16, 2008
We've had a tragedy strike our community this week. One of our high school students was struck by a car as he pulled out of 7-11. A previous heart condition caused the impact of his airbag to stop his heart and he died immediately. Our boys know the family and the older son. There is a shrine in front of the 7-11. It's the kind that seem to pop up in our community whenever a loved one is lost. This one has posters made by high school friends, flowers, duck decoys, religious symbols, and even a Slurpee Big Gulp. His friends and family members used symbolic gestures to express themselves through their grief and horror over this sudden loss. It's what artists do when completing a project.
Unless a work is commissioned, art tends to come from somewhere inside. A place where thoughts and feelings are lying in wait needing to be expressed in some way. Artists use whatever medium they work in, poets use words, grieving family members use symbols of love. I have two boys of my own. I can't even begin to imagine. The piece pictured here is called "He's a Star". Isn't that how we all feel about our children?
I pray for Mikey's family. I fervently hope they are able to find some refuge in the coming months. Though I can't imagine how they will.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Warring factions....

August 15,2008

While we're on the subject of my inner workings, I feel the need to list some contrary elements of my personality. As might be evident by now, I love to work with art materials, paint, glue, found objects, ink etc. The world of collage is as much a part of who I am as is teaching, parenting, gardening and all of the other things that reach into my soul and define my life. Collage and mixed media are also a very messy medium! Every scrap of paper, rusty metal, button etc. is potential fodder for future creativity. I sometimes think I spend as much time trying to organize my materials as I do creating with them!
The reason I spend so much time organizing is because I am also afflicted with a desperate need for orderliness in my life! This does not mesh well with collage. My life is a constant struggle between wanting to clean up my work space and needing to create. I seldom experience jealousy yet I feel true envy over some of the studios displayed in art magazines such as the one soon to be published by Stampington & Co. called "Where Women Create"( Though, with my luck, I would most likely feel a need to keep my studio space organized too (if I had one)!
Some day, I hope to have my own studio space. In the meantime, I will continue to wage battle against myself and hope that my creative side comes out on top at least more than half of the time!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Family Ties

August 14, 2008

"Thanks Mom" That was the response I received from my youngest today following a discussion about all of the genetic "quirks" he feels he inherited from me! He likes to blame his clumsiness, forgetfullness, and daily confusion on my genetic contribution to his existence.

I have had similar discussions with my mom over the years. My husband likes to call my blunders "corrylations" (my mom's name was Corry). Isn't he clever? He's probably on to something, but I also like to think that I inherited my creativity, independence, respect for learning, and sense of humor from mom. I'm not sure I ever told her that. It was more fun to tease her about the oddball traits.

Maybe someday my boys will think to credit me with at least a small part of their strength of character. Let's hope they do it sooner though rather than later....with the poor memory genes my mom passed on to me, I may just forget they've done it if they wait too much longer!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Revisiting old techniques...

August 12, 2008
I've been in a creative rut recently. It always happens this way. When I have ample time on my hands to create, I find myself with few ideas. The creative juices start to flow as soon as my life becomes crazy, hectic, and daily schedules are stretched to their limits. I may have broken the pattern today though.
While sitting in a colleague's office, I glanced over at a collage I had given her for Christmas. The piece involved a vintage photo, acrylic paints, ephemera, handmade paper, and fabric. I had been experimenting with sewing material to watercolor paper that had been collaged with layers of paint and various papers (similar to the piece in picture above). After that piece and the one above, I moved on to other more familiar techniques and found myself eventually landing in my current rut.
Today, during what seemed like an endless meeting with questionable outcomes, I found inspiration in an old piece. The good news? I still have a little bit of time left before life gets out of control again! That's progress!

Monday, August 11, 2008

it finally happened.......

August 11, 2008
I couldn't have been more surprised than when I woke up the other morning craving a cup of iced coffee! I have always been a tea drinker and thought the taste of coffee was wretched. My mom used to tell me that I would start to drink coffee once I grew up. (she also assured me that I would become a Republican once I grew up.)
One morning in early June, my friend Carol mentioned having become addicted to iced coffee. She said it had helped her to give up diet pop. Well, that is something I have long struggled with so I decided to give the coffee a try.
What do you know? After 52 years, I have finally developed a taste for coffee! I guess you were right mom. However, come November, I am absolutely, positively, without reservation going to be voting for Democrats! (still struggling with the diet pop!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

there are days............

August 9, 2008

There are days for celebrating, days for contemplating, days for ruminating, and days for just being lazy! I think they're all great. This is a day for personal reflection on all of my blessings. The greatest blessings being my family and friends. The sun is shining, the temp is in the seventies, and Friday was payday!! Isn't life grand??

Thursday, August 7, 2008

mother nature

August 7, 2008

I love thunder storms! I have such a deep respect for nature in all of her moods and fancies. No matter how advanced we think we are, nature is always there to remind us that she is in charge! I feel connected to her in a deeply spiritual way. Living in an area where winter is the norm and warm weather is a fleeting three month blessing, makes me want to be outside as much as possible in the summer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the sort to engage in outdoor sports. And, winter is my least favorite season. I just enjoy "being" with nature whenever I can. Having gone through a crisis of faith since my mother's death has increased my appreciation for mother nature. But in the end, Nature, God, isn't it all the same thing?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

fresh starts

August 6, 2008

I've been a teacher for 30 years. Prior to that, I was a student for 17 years. I've never thought of a year in chronological terms! Years go from September to June. Events end in June and new events begin in September. That is the rhythm and cycle of my inner clock. I wouldn't know what to do if things didn't change in September. Sure, I've worked odd jobs during the summer but the sameness of going to the same job doing the same thing 12 months out of the year is a concept I cannot comprehend. I love my school cycles and I love the regular expectation of change and new beginnings.........

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

hope denied

August 5, 2008

At some point during your loved one's illness, you realize that hope is a fleeting thing and that your family's journey is heading towards an inevitable conclusion. Cancer can feel like being enclosed in a small dark box from which there is no escape. It consumes your every thought, every minute of every day. Your spirit is weighed down by chains of despair. Without realizing it, I made this piece mid journey with no thought of how it would evolve. When done, my family told me that it was the darkest piece I had ever made. That made perfect sense to me as I couldn't conceive of any light for a very long time after losing my mom.......

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Possibilities.........

August 3, 2008

I have insomnia. It started when my mom became ill and I have yet to beat it. In addition to a lack of sleep, mom's illness has lead to a lack of faith on my part. A Catholic my whole life, I found myself struggling with the same questions that plague people going through similar tough times. As a result, I spent last night reading a new book that spoke to my questions about religion and filled the time normally spent staring at the ceiling. The book I read is called The Shack, written by William P. Young. The author takes a very different look at questions of faith, the holy trinity, redemption, and forgiveness. It isn't "preachy" and it doesn't try to sway the reader in one direction or the other (I tend to resist that sort of coercion). It didn't solve my problems, but it did give me lots of things to think about. I would certainly recommend it to those open-minded enough to consider alternate ways of looking at things. The book got me thinking and the insomnia led to my recent artist's block opening up a crack and revealing a couple of new ideas I'm trying this weekend. All in all, a fairly productive night! Though I admit to being super exhausted now!

Friday, August 1, 2008

August 1, 2008
When a loved one is first diagnosed with cancer, your emotions run the gamut from absolute despair to determination filled with hope. You listen for stories of people who have beaten the odds and you convince your self that your loved one will do the same. I wanted my mom to fight. I begged her to go through with the treatments because she was so healthy in every other aspect than with the damn cancer. I convinced mom to have hope. Neither one of us realized just how advanced the disease was and the treatment was a nightmare for mom. I'm left with feelings of guilt for having asked her to suffer through them. Who knows how much longer she may have had if we had left things up to nature rather than relying on hope..........................