Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Challenge of Literature

Good morning! The lovely Miss Erin Prais-Hintz of Treasures Found and Tesori Trovati is again hosting a creative challenge! Erin hosts quarterly challenges for those of us who would like to stretch a little bit creatively. Her spring challenge is The Challenge of Literature. Erin was formerly and English and Literature teacher and loves to read. I, too, love to read - and I have a wide scope of genres that I enjoy reading depending upon what day it is and how the stars are aligned ;)

My youngest daughter Gabrielle is a published poet! She's had two poems that she wrote in high school published in separate student anthologies through creative writing competitions. She has also written several lovely poems about her brother that we've published as In Memoriams on either his birthday or anniversary. I had thought to create a piece based on one of her poems but time (lack of) got in the way and I didn't have time to create the components I wanted for the piece.

So, I created a piece (it's not quite finished, there's a bit I'd like to add to it) that I had started quite some time ago while thinking about my oldest daughter Caitlin. She has an affinity for ladybugs. In all cultures ladybugs are considered lucky and when she was younger Cait used a combination of ladybug and luck as her ID for a social networking site (and yes, Caiti, there is a ladybug bracelet in your future but not this one!). I've made this piece using gold-filled chain, headpins and clasp; the individual charms are vintage German glass pendants that I picked up years ago at The Beadin' Path. I've painted designs on some of them and a few of them have either heart shaped beads or rhinestones glued to them with painted portions to resemble ladybugs. So, without further ado: Ladybug, Ladybug
Now, the poem/nursery rhyme Ladybug, Ladybug is a bit morbid! I remember chanting the first line as a child when a ladybug would land on me. I certainly didn't know the remaining lines and didn't realize there was more to it until looking for a piece to relate to the bracelet. I couldn't find a ladybug poem that I really liked (I'll have to speak with Gabi about that!), and The Ladybug's Picnic (which I prefer) is a children's song (maybe I should have saved this for the next Challenge of Music?). There are quite a few variations of the rhyme, and while they end slightly different, they all begin the same:
"Ladybug, ladybug fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children will burn.
Except little Nan,
Who sits in a pan,
Weaving gold laces as fast as she can!"
So, sit back with a cuppa and enjoy the hop! Thanks so much for hosting another lovely challenge Miss Erin!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's pronounced Bangor, not Banger!

 Statue of Paul Bunyan
Yes Willie Geist (@WillieGeist1), I'm up Way Too Early and I've spent half an hour trying to find a way to contact you directly on your websites. I'm sure I've overlooked it because I'm so dang angry.  I should have gotten in the shower and should be on my way to work. Instead, I'm writing a mildly ranting blog post. Please, please, please national news correspondents - will you pronounce the name of the city of Bangor, Maine correctly?! It's Bangor with an "or"- a long "o", not "Banger". Banger, Maine doesn't exist!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Button Swap Blog Hop - Reveal

First, a very big thank you to Cindy Wimmer of Sweet Bead Studio and the art retreat Art Bliss for hosting this very fun button swap. I haven't collected many buttons over the years (but I've certainly collected a whole lotta' other stuff). This was a lovely way to stretch my creativity. Unfortunately, I could have alternately titled this post "Button Swap Gone Wrong" or "Poppy Gone Wrong".

I sent Cilla two tree of life clay buttons by Christine of beadfreaky on Etsy. I LOVE them! The tree of life has significant meaning for my family as it reminds us of TJ for a good many reasons. I also sent her two mother of pearl hearts that I've had for probably 15 or 20 years? I bought several at a very small bead and button shop that used to be in Freeport. I also drilled several pieces of sea glass to be buttons. Finally, I made a hand-painted stained glass button sealed with Ice Resin. This little culprit is the reason my buttons got in the mail a little bit later than I had hoped as I had to wait for the resin to cure.
 My buttons for Cilla
So, we'll put "Button Swap Gone Wrong" up for consideration first. My partner for the button swap is the lovely Cilla Watkins of Tell Your Girlfriends. Cilla sent me a lovely assortment of buttons - 2 clay floral buttons from Valou Poppy of France, an embossed clay heart button, and a polymer clay button from Jane Perala of Canada. They are all lovely. However, Cilla has yet to receive the buttons I sent to her. (Cilla's buttons did arrive on Friday - YAY!!) Her's came so quickly. I have never mailed internationally before, and I didn't think it would take more than the 6-10 business days (and I thought it would be on the shorter end), but I was intending to mail them out with over three weeks before the reveal. When I went into the site to create the postage, it required the phone number of the recipient - I didn't have that. I emailed Cilla and didn't hear back from her (she was on vacation in Mexico the lucky duck). Finally after a week of emailing, I just entered my phone number. That was two weeks ago and she still doesn't have them. Further, I can't see where they are through the site, only that they left New Hampshire two weeks ago. I.Am.So.Frustrated. (I'm still not happy with Whenever I've mailed priority through the USPS I can see the actual movement of the package, not through I don't think I'm going to continue to use this service. I am so sorry that you don't have your buttons Cilla. I'm mortified.
 Cillas buttons for me
Now, on to "Poppy Gone Wrong". I intended to make two pieces, a multimedia art piece and a necklace. Well, life always gets in the way and this was a difficult week, so only one piece has been made to date. The other will materialize in the next couple of weeks. I am not an artist, even though my kids have called me that. I am a crafter. I've always wished I was an artist. My sister-in-law Denise is a wonderful artist. I can bluff my way along, but it doesn't come naturally to me. I wish it did. I took decorative painting classes years ago. Anyhoo, when I first laid eyes on the buttons Cilla sent to me, I knew what I wanted to make with the orange poppy button - a piece of art. Kerry Bogert has created some multimedia art pieces over the last few years and I was inspired by the art she created. Mind you, my piece came out nothing like my mind saw it. However, I was relatively happy with it (except the poppy petals are too large - haven't worked with polymer clay in about 16 years) until I decided to darken the edges. Poppy.Gone.Wrong. The bottom and lower right edges are too thick and hard - I should have thinned the paint more so I could rub it in and take some away. It stuck, and stuck good.
Poppies symbolize eternal sleep, consolation and remembrance among other things. As this has been a difficult week with the anniversary of TJ's death and Mother's Day (he passed away on Mother's Day eight years ago), the meanings associated with the poppy were quite fitting. I also found a quote by Sri Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian spiritualist leader, that reminded me of the messages we've always tried to instill in our kids: "Have constructive thoughts, consoling words, compassionate acts." Something I need to remind myself of on occasion as well.

There are lots and lots of creative folks who are sharing their designs today (sorry again, Cilla), grab a cup of coffee or tea and go take a peek - and if you're a mom, Happy Mother's Day to you!

 Kim Roberts and Partner unable to participate at this time.
Pam Ferarri and Stefanie Teufel (will share their reveal on a later date)
Stefanie Teufel and Pam Ferarri (will share their reveal on a later date)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Eight Years

TJ - 6 days old, March 1985
Eight years ago today we lost our beautiful boy. May 4, 2004 - Mother's Day. Today is the day that everyone remembers, but for us it was a week-long series of events. TJ was injured on Thursday, May 6 when the defective tailgate he was sitting on collapsed. The steel support cables rusted and snapped. No one knew that they were damaged because they were sheathed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury. T was 19 years, 2 months, and 11 days old. He had not been out of high school for a full year.
July 1986 - me (expecting Caiti), Tim and TJ
TJ was in a medically induced coma for 2 1/2 days. Tim and I made the decision to end medical treatment after midnight on Mother's Day after speaking with his neurosurgeon. The only option at that point was to attempt to reduce the swelling of his brain surgically. He had a 1% chance of surviving the surgery. If he survived the surgery, which was unlikely, life as he and we knew it would never be the same. Existing isn't living. T had worked far too hard to be happy and independent to be subjected to an existence that was, in my opinion, less than human. He had worked far, far too hard to be independent.
Caiti, TJ, Matt and Gabi

T had been picked on, bullied and beaten up for a large portion of his life. He had a very full plate of issues to deal with; he had bipolar disorder, anxiety, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette Syndrome. He had severe language-based learning disabilities, but oh, was he beautiful. TJ looked perfectly normal, but his brain didn't work they way most people's brains do. Because of this, he was an easy target. He "looked" normal, but he didn't always "act" normal.
Senior picture, late summer 2002
TJ was lucky. He had a brother and sisters who loved him very much. Caiti and Matt included him in most everything they did. Of course, he would invariably embarrass them and they'd say that they'd never bring him again, but the next week he'd be out with one or both of them and their friends - they both have wonderful friends. Gabrielle was 5 1/2 years younger than T, her friends didn't see his differences the way older kids did and they thought he was a neat big brother. TJ was well and truly loved though it wasn't always easy.
The Gang, June 2003
The last year of T's life was the best. He had a job he loved working as a landscaper in a company that nurtured his abilities. The guys laughed with him, not at him. He got his drivers license and was finally, fully independent. He had met a wonderful young woman who loved him for him, and didn't judge him. Gillian was and is an amazing woman (who has since met a wonderful man who welcomes us into their lives and together they have an absolutely adorable little cutie patootie). She gave him what we had only dreamed he would find - true happiness and "normalcy". We will love her forever. Some people live to be 90 and never have a year like T had. We're so grateful that the last year of his life was filled with happiness.
T.J. and Gillian - I'm not suer if this is 2003 or early 2004
T thought that no one outside of his family loved or cared about him. At his wake they stopped counting at 1,400. It's the largest wake they've conducted and that funeral home's been in existence for many, many years. The church was filled to standing room only. I think it's safe to say he touched a good many people's lives. He continued touching lives even in death. TJ was an organ donor. Five people who were dying are alive today because of his gift of life. Two people who were going blind can see. There are many others who have been helped with his bone and tissue donations. He is our hero.
Graduation party - June 2003
We miss you every day beautiful boy.
Fishing with Nana & Grampa - I think T's 8 or 9

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fit at Fifty

This post might get a little personal for some and will ramble a bit, just a warning. So, I'm going to be 50 at the end of July. 50. How the heck did that happen? For the past year, every time I've said to my mother, "well, I'm almost 50" she's said, "STOP THAT!" My life is more than half over, I'm sure. My years to this point have been spent as someone's daughter, someone's wife and most importantly, someone's mom. My husband and I met when we were in 7th grade - I was 12, he was 13. We started dating the summer between our freshman and sophomore years of high school and dated off and on through high school. We were married a little over 2 years after we graduated, I had just turned 20. We had our first child, T.J., 2 1/2 years later.
Parson the peeling trim paint. TJ's graduation, June 2003.
I've battled with my weight for a long time. When I was younger, I thought I was fat. There are a lot of reasons why I thought that and I won't get into that, but it's not something I spent any real time worrying about with my kids. They have always been active in one way or another and more importantly, happy. That's all Tim and I have ever wanted for them, to be happy. I was never huge, but I always had hips and thighs even when I was thin. I think I'd have been called "curvy".

After I turned 40 I noticed that the weight didn't come off quite so easily as it did when I was in my 20's and 30's. Three years ago I had a hysterectomy. I had a physical, I hadn't had one for a while, and was found to be quite anemic. Suffice it to say, I had every test known to man to try to figure out why. Ultimately, it was because I had fibroid tumors and a hysterectomy was required.
We don't generally look like deranged serial killers! It was a very cold, windy day.

Well, initially I lost weight as I was recovering from the surgery. I have THE most sedentary job on the planet - I sit in front of a computer 8, 9, 10 hours a day. I snack out of boredom. Hysterectomy + age + sedentary lifestyle = the heaviest I've ever been in my life. There's a whole list of other issues as well, but the biggest problem, one I've had for a good portion of my adult life but has gotten worse over the last few years has to do with the health of my gut. I have a stomach ache every. single. day. I have cramps and generally just don't feel well.

I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and I'm finally doing something about it. It may result in weight loss, it may not - but it's a start. I'm hoping that if I start to feel better, I'll become more active and the weight will start coming off. A week ago I started using the Arbonne Essentials 30 Day Feeling Fit Kit. The kit includes protein powders for shakes to be used for 2 meals a day as well as a detoxifying green tea and a few other items. This is all used along with a whole foods diet using organic foods and eliminating caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages, artificial sweeteners, refined sugar, dairy and gluten. Never in my life did I ever think I would attempt something like this and let me tell you - my husband is not a fan, but he's trying parts of it and only mocking me a little bit.
This is my favorite photo of our family session from the fall of 2010. Sums us up perfectly.

This is what I can report a week in - I haven't taken heartburn medication for the past week, I haven't had abdominal cramps (the kind that double you over, feel nauseous and cry), I haven't felt bloated and gassy (sorry), and most importantly - I've only had diarrhea (really sorry) once. You need to understand that cramps, diarrhea, stomach aches and just generally feeling crappy have defined me for the last few years. I'm taking control of what's left of my life because I'd like to eek out as many years as I can - I'm still waiting to be a Nana.......... I want the years I have left to be happy, healthy and whole. That's what I've always told my kids I want for them. It's time I have it for myself. So, I'm going to start getting to work at 7:30 and leave at 4; I'm going to do what I can while I'm there and to hell with the rest of it; I'm going to stop worrying about things I have no control over - if management doesn't care, I don't care; I'm going to start spending regular time in my studio; I'm going to add exercise back into my life; I'm going to continue to eat healthier - it's been a lot easier than I thought it would be. I'm going to start living my life, not just existing in it.

If you're still here and reading - thank you!