Sunday, January 31, 2010

Memory Quilts

    As kids grow, there are so many memories that you just want to preserve in one fashion or another. Of course there are photos and other memorabilia that you can combine in scrapbooks and albums, but another great source of memories is t-shirts.

We have been making these memory quilts for a number of years. While many t-shirts find their way to Goodwill and Salvation Army, and a few wind up in the trash, there are always some that touch that spot in your heart, or tug at a cherished time. The type of shirt changes as the kids grow older. The first we did were favorite shirts, and then they switched to shirts with the logos from camps or sports teams.

Before sending each girl off to college, I made sure they had a quilt commemorating all their high school activities. Now you can even print pictures from your computer onto fabric and include them. I haven't actually tried that yet, but how fun would that be!

The process I use is simple. I cut the design out in a square or rectangle. Then I add strips of fabric to each side until I have about a 16" square. The largest t-shirt design I have encountered will fit in a 16" square. Then I put the squares together with a border between and finish with another border or two.

Choosing the background materials and colors is an adventure for some kids and my girls always liked to help determine the arrangement of the shirts as well. It can truly be a family activity, and when you're finished, it is a memory that will last a long time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Once a Mom - Always a Mom

You don’t stop being a mom just because your kids grow up.  Once a mom, always a mom, and one of the hardest things you ever have to do as a mom is to let go.


It’s not something that happens to you only once either.  The first one comes usually when the baby is brand new and you’re handing her over to a friend or relative so you and your husband can have a dinner out.  That is fairly easy to survive, even if you want to call home several times during the meal to check on everything.


The next big one comes when you leave her at day care or school for the first time.  The anxiety is excruciating if she’s screaming and clinging to you the whole time.  The teacher will always tell you how they’re “fine” as soon as you’re gone, but you still are racked with guilt at leaving.


There are more small ones as they grow: the first sleep-over, the first date, the first trip to camp.  And then you’re hit with what you think will be the final blow…leaving for college.  We moms are crying at what is such an exciting time for our children.  .  The emotions don’t seem to match. We know they may not always make the best decisions, but now it is up to them to find their own path.  We can no longer do that for them.  If you think that’s the end, it’s not.


When your  “babies” have babies you switch from Mom to Grandma. Society hints that this is a relaxing role of enjoying and spoiling the kids and then sending them home.  In reality, you are still Mom…Grand Mom and the feeling that you need to protect and support has not gone away, but it has doubled.  Now, however, you have lost control.  Now, you have to sit back and pray and do whatever is asked, because to offer unsolicited advice will backfire on you.


The bottom line with being a mom is that you do the best you can do, you hope and pray that they grow up healthy and happy, and then you do it all over again, hoping and praying the same thing for the next generation.


Yes, once a mom, always a mom, and in spite of all the trials and tribulations, I am so thankful that I have that role.  To have the love of a child is the greatest gift of all.


This is part of the Steady Mom’s 30 minute blog challenge

Monday, January 25, 2010

To journal or not to journal….

With my apologies to Shakespeare, the real question I would ask is what kind of journal.  Journaling has been used as a tool for just about every kind of self-improvement program you can imagine.  To lose weight, use a food journal.  To train to run a marathon, use a running journal.  Mental health experts recommend using a daily journal to help patients deal with crisis or depression.  Gardeners like a gardening journal to keep track of how their plants grow to determine the next year’s gardening plans.  The list goes on and on. Keeping a journal can be a rewarding experience, but lots of people don’t know where to begin. Perhaps the best way is to decide what kind of journaling you want to do, though this isn’t always easy


One of the first journals I was introduced to was the Morning Pages in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way .   I was so enamored with her program to develop your creativity, that I taught a class in it for several years.  Many mistakenly believe that some people are just born creative and others are not.  Each of us has creativity as part of our make-up.  It’s just that some people find ways to tap into it more.  The Artist’s Way is a great program to wake up your own potential.  One of the main tools she uses is the Morning Pages.  Her rule for them is that you have to write, by hand not computer, at least three pages of something every day.  When I started, sometimes there were several pages that consisted of “I don’t know what to write, but I have two more pages to go” and statements like that.  It got easier and easier and proved to be a great source of inspiration.


If three pages seems daunting, you might consider an idea journal by Julie Jordan Scott.  That is a small notebook that you have with you most of the time where you just jot down things when you think of them.  It might not even be a complete sentence.  It is a stream of thought type journal. 


If that still seems too much, but you’d like to give journaling a try, then I would suggest Keel's Simple Diary .   It is already filled with questions.  You don’t even need to do it daily.  Just pick the option to the question of the day from multiple choices with a few lines to elaborate on your choice.  It’s quirky and fun, and doesn’t require much time.  It does provoke some thought and might just make you craving for more.


Some journals need to be kept personal.  Knowing no one else is going to read them allows you to freely express your thoughts and feelings. Others need to be shared like scrapbooking and blogging.  Many people like to incorporate several journal ideas into one, and that’s great! Just pick your favorite ideas and begin journaling.


Do you keep a journal? Has it has enhanced your life in any way?



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oh no, I'm technology dependent!

At what point did I become technology dependent?  It scares me somewhat, as I pride myself on being down to earth, old fashioned, and independent.  

I am shocked that I feel anxiety whenever I realize I've left my cell phone at home.  What's that all about?  I didn't use to have a cell phone, and it seems that I got along fine for all those years.  I can't remember the last time I took a call that was a crisis of some sort.  I'm not knocking cell phones.  I think they're terribly convenient.  I especially fell in love with text messaging during hurricane Katrina when I found that the texts would go through when phone calls would not.  It was a great relief to be able to contact my family at that time. I'm just questioning the emotion surrounding them that has taken them from convenient tool to necessary appendage.  And now with all the so-called smart phones, it's even worse.  People can update their status on Facebook several times a day, and even add pictures, using their phones.  Why is this necessary?

My computer dependence is just as bad.  I have to have my daily "fix" of checking my hotmail and several other sites.  Again, there is seldom anything on there that couldn't wait a few days, but I have now conditioned myself to "need" to do it every day.

I meant to write a different blog, but you're getting this one because my computer died.  It was hit with some virus thing.  My own spyware scans couldn't clear it off.  Lucky for me, I have a computer tech in the family.  I simply called him to come over and clean it up.  Well, he's sitting there, doing this or that and what does he say?  He says "huh?"  Well let me tell you, "huh?" is not a real good thing to hear from a computer whiz.  He even called and talked to one of his fellow computer technicians.  It turned out he would have to take my computer in to get a different scan done using an external drive, or something, I didn't really understand.  I did get the part about taking my computer away for a couple of days until he could get the time and whatever else he needed to fix it.  What?  I can't not have a computer!  I suppose the panic in my whine was impressive, as he brought me a substitute computer to use.  (He has this kind of stuff).  Sounds great, but all is not rosy.  The computer he brought me is a mac.  It gets on the Internet just fine, but I can't seem to find a word processing program on it.  It's probably here somewhere, I just can't find it.  And apparently, macs don't cut and paste the same way windows do.  I can't learn all this stuff over.  It's also not configured to connect to my printer. So I am traveling in the dark ages of Internet surfing and not liking it.  I know, I know.  I hear you.  At least I'm on the Internet, and I am thankful for that. 
I am preparing my next blog, which will be wonderful, I'm sure.  I'm using the ancient tools of a pen and a piece of paper.  Wow!  It's like riding a bike.  You don't forget how.

Now, let me go find my cell phone, so I can leave my house to run non-technical errands.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unconditional Love

What is it about dogs?  

They fill our lives with love and companionship, and ask very little in return.  Each of the dogs in our lives, and the current count is 5, is very different.

 Stuart is my daughter Paige's dog. He is a Jack Russell terrier. He is treated as the first child of the family.  Christmas cards include his name, and he of course has his own stocking.  He has a crazy annoying habit of barking and spinning around in circles whenever he thinks someone is leaving.  I guess he likes company of any kind.  I think I saw Cesar Milan work with a dog that did that too, but we have no Cesar here.  Stuart is also extremely tolerant.  Little girls give him too tight hugs, and pull on his ears and he takes it all in stride.

The cute little pug is Henry.  He is the baby of the group and belongs to my other daughter, Leann.  He's been a really easy puppy, so far and just craves attention.  Henry has been very good in dealing with little kids too.  The only problem is when he gets excited and bumps into them, some of them can't keep their balance.

 Maggie is the old dog of the current bunch.  My daughters and I drove out to a farm about an hour away to get her as a puppy.  She was a birthday surprise for my husband.  Little did we know that she would turn out to be one vet visit after another.  When she was little she apparantly had a serious infection of worms, but it was misdiagnosed at first and the "treatment" actually made it worse. Finally we switched vets to a really great, caring person who helped get her through it all.  She's a beagle, so she has that loud beagle bark and a tendency toward being overweight.  All in all, she's just a sweetheart who would be happy just laying around on the couch with you all day. 

 Redford is our first rescue dog.  We got him when he was about a year old from the LaPorte Animal Shelter.  They thought he was a Manchester Terrier mix.  Other people have thought he looks like he is part Schniperke.  I really couldn't say, but he definitely has that terrier personality.  We had plans for him to be a truck dog and ride with my husband in the semi truck while he traveled across country.  That plan fizzled when Redford turned out to be too energetic for that lifestyle.  One time, he got out of the truck and ran off.   It turns out, some guy had Redford in his fenced in yard and was holding him for ransom.  20 bucks and 20 minutes later, they were back on the road, but after that Redford came home to become "Mom's dog".  He's really good except when he's around Stuart.  As the only two male dogs in the clan, they do not get we keep them separated.

 The last one you see is my Abby.  She's My baby.  She's our other rescue dog.  I got her from the Buffalo Animal Shelter.  She is half Maltese and half Beagle: a malteagle....or a beaglese....a real designer dog.  She has had these long wisps of hair around her face since she was a puppy.  We thought all her hair would grow long, like a Maltese, but no.  Some is long.  Some is short.  Some is soft and some is sort of wiry.  She's just a bit of a wack-o combination and her attitude matches it.  I would have to say she reminds me of Odie in the Garfield cartoons.  Both Redford and Abby follow me around wherever I go when I am at home.  It's described as my little parade.

Each of these dogs has characteristics that are annoying at time.  But each also offers tons of kisses and loves to cuddle.  I can't imagine not having them in my life.  When I've had a hard day, they are always there to remind me what is important in this life.

What is it about cats? Oh, that's another subject, for another day.

I hope you have some unconditional love in your life.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Appreciating Words As Images

The New Year is a time of rebirth for many people.  I, on the other hand, find that I am in a constant state of renewal and rebirth.  I am always looking for my creative path.  My life could be a list of all my passions and you would find that while I move freely from one to another, several are recurring.  I never seem to stick with one long enough to become very expert at it.  I am both a perfectionist and an impatient person.  Those two traits are often at odds with each other and my art often shows the battle.

One of my repeating passions is calligraphy, which I think is often under appreciated.  It is easy for people to understand the incredible effort that went into building the pyramids with the lack of technology at the time, but how many stop to think about the singular awesome effort that went into creating an illuminated manuscript during the same time period.  Can you even begin to imagine writing out the text of a book with a quill and dipped ink?  Not only did a scribe have to write the letters, but keep the lines straight, the spacing even and the shape of the letters consistent.  Then, they had the additional skill of creating elaborate designs and pictures on many of the capitals. 

To do good calligraphy requires a lot of practice. My own endeavors have not resulted in a skilled calligrapher, but they have taught me the joy of truly beautiful lettering.   Many people like seeing handwritten invitations and other simple works of the calligraphic art, but how many of you have really looked at calligraphy as an art form?  It is fascinating.  The letters are more than precise and beautiful.  They are often done in layers, combined with other media and graphics.  Sometimes, you can’t even read the text, but that doesn’t matter because the sense of the subject comes through in the design. 

If that sounds crazy to you, then I suggest you check out some of the artwork of my friend Anne Binder.   Anne is not only an expert at using the ageless tools of scribes, she has a loving appreciation of the papers the words are hand printed on.  She patiently taught me the italic and uncial hands, but she also introduced me to the world of painting a story using words as a visual medium.  Her  poet series  is an excellent example of calligraphy as art, so much more than just fancy writing. 

 So in this day and age of computers, text messages, and e-books, I would challenge you to take the time to actually write something slowly, carefully, one letter at a time.  You may be surprised at how calming and refreshing the action.  You may begin to understand the scope of the diligence and creativity involved in a beautiful art form centuries old.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Art of Celebration

 I believe in celebrating.

 When the girls were young, we celebrated all sorts of holidays and special occasions.  We made an effort to have at least one fun celebration a month.  Some were easy like Christmas and Thanksgiving.  Others we had to dig a little deeper for like Guy Fawkes day.  We would invent food or activities to support the event.  

One of our regular celebrations was Epiphany, one of the Christian feast days.  It is sometimes called Twelfth Night or Kings Day.  It falls on the 6th of January or on a Sunday close to that date. It commemorates the three Wise Men finding the baby Jesus.  It took them the 12 days of Christmas to follow the star to make their way from far away to the stable in Bethlehem.  Or so the story goes. 

When the girls moved to Louisiana, they found that Epiphany was an even bigger deal down there.  It was the start of the Mardi Gras season.  Where we had been celebrating Mardi Gras as a mere day, the folks down there had a whole season of celebration. 

 The New Orleans tradition, begun in the 1870s, borrows heavily from European ideas.    As part of the celebration of Mardi Gras, it is traditional to bake an oval cake, actually more like a sweet bread, in honor of the three kings - the King Cake. The shape of a King Cake symbolizes the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power. A small trinket shaped like a baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is hidden inside each cake.  

King Cake parties are held throughout the Mardi Gras season. In offices, classrooms, and homes throughout Louisiana, King Cakes are sliced and enjoyed by all. Like the biblical story, the "search for the baby" adds excitement, as each person waits to see in whose slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who finds the baby in their slice will be rewarded with good luck, that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering. 

I have adopted the celebration and bring a cake to work every year.  Our cakes are watered down somewhat from the New Orleans tradition.  They aren’t sweet bread usually, and the gaudy colors are missing.  In fact, we can have anything baked you can hide the ‘baby’ in.  The basic rule is  if you aren’t willing to bring in another cake should you get the baby, then you can’t eat a piece of cake.  It's amusing to watch how people slice the cake, some desparatly trying not to get the baby. 

If you missed the opportunity to celebrate Kings Day, it's not too late.  The cakes are good throughout the season until Mardi Gras in February. 

A good listing of holidays and events can be found here  from the University of Kansas Medical Center. 

Whatever you're celebrating.  Have fun!  That’s Renaissance Living!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Goals for 2010

In all honesty, I didn’t really have a plan in the beginning. I just decided to start a blog one day last week  It never occurred to me to have goals.  One of my past lives as a writer seemed to be calling out to be revived, so I started my blog as a way to share ideas I had learned over the years from friends and family to anyone who might possibly be interested. The fact that anyone besides my daughter might actually read it would be a triumph in itself. 

Along come the folks at Savvy Blogging, who have challenged me to post my blogging goals for 2010.  I am really terrible about setting goals. I don’t know why,  but it is.  I am actually a very organized person.  I am great at making lists of things to do and getting them done.  But that is an immediate process, and goals seem so broad and out in future space, somehow.  However, I love a new challenge, so here goes: 

1. Post at least once a week. I want to blog regularly so that readers can count on finding new content when they come to call. 

2. Create quality content. I have a hodge podge of topic ideas including but not limited to frugal living, gardening, crafts, art, family fun, nature, and healthy living.  I’d like to have some how-tos  for some of those things as well. 

3. Collect ideas in writing.  Write them down as I get them, so that when I do manage to get to the computer, I have not ignored or forgotten a great idea. 

4. Have guest bloggers.  I have some wonderful people in my life, who are more expert in some of the fields I love.  I hope to have them share ideas on occasion throughout the year. 

5.  Become a part of the blogging community.  There is strength in numbers and working with other bloggers brings a fresh outlook on different topics. 

6. Get 25 "Followers".  Help me spread the word! Maybe I could even reach 100 by the end of 2010?! Who knows?  I pulled those numbers out of a hat, but 25 seems possible, I think 

7. Inspire people to comment.  Comments are a big thing to a blogger because it says you’re not out there alone, and you must be doing something right.  I plan to listen to my readers and my peers to help make this blog the best it can be! 

For someone with no goals in mind, that turned out to be a long list.  My underlying goal is to write a blog that will be beautiful, enjoyable and useful.  Through the process of posting , I hold myself accountable to leading the kind of life I truly believe in, and begin to connect  with other creative souls. Sound doable? I sure hope so!  I suppose only time will tell!  Please know that I greatly appreciate your feedback and input


This post linked to Savvy Blogging

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Kitchen Garden

A snowy, cold Sunday in January may not seem like the time to talk about a kitchen garden, but it is actually one of the best times. Now is when the serious gardeners do their planning for the upcoming year.

I would not call myself a serious gardener, but as a Renaissance Mom, a kitchen garden of some sort is a must have. Homegrown food is cheaper and fresher than anything you get in the grocery store. You know what chemicals, if any, have been used growing it too. It is also good exercise and can be fun.

 I started off a couple of years ago all gung-ho and put in a raised bed for vegetables (I still have the wood for the 2nd bed I had planned). Raised beds are the way to go, I think, for a number of reasons. The first is that it is less work. Where I live, the ground is almost solid rock, so digging out a garden is hard labor. The second reason is that you know you are starting with good soil which will give your kitchen garden a good start. That first year, I planted tomatoes (lots of tomatoes), cucumbers, and peppers. It seemed reasonable at the time, but as it turned out, my bed was a little more demanding than I had time for. The tomatoes flourished to the point that many were wasted because I didn’t pick them in time. We never picked the peppers at all and I got only a few cucumbers out of the deal because the vines managed to grow over the edge of the bed and were annihilated by the lawn mower. 

The second year, I decided to plant herbs instead. They are perennials, so don’t have to be replanted every year. They also didn’t seem to need as much attention. To my surprise, some of the tomatoes from the year before decided to reseed themselves. When I found those little plants at the edge of the bed, I just staked them up. As it turns out, I got a more appropriate amount of tomatoes for my household and my grandkids loved to help me pick them. Lesson learned. The herbs grew nicely, and smelled great, but I have to admit, I did not take cuttings from them and use them in my cooking as much as I could have, nor did I cut any to dry to use over winter. Another lesson learned there.

So, for 2010, I plan to plant tomatoes again, but fewer plants than year one. I also will hoe up my soil really well before planting anything. I want to try the peppers again, but I vow to watch them more closely. The herbs will continue to grow, so I’m fairly pleased with that part. I just need to be more aggressive about using them when I cook. I also think I’ll plant some onion sets in a few empty spaces in my flower garden. The other thing I’m considering is getting a big tub and planting potatoes in it. My friends Tracy and Kevin had success with potatoes that way and it doesn’t sound too hard for me.

Now, if you have a big garden, and time to spend in it, I would suggest looking through the seed catalogs and planning out your plot. If you are going to put in a small garden like my raised bed, I suggest the square foot method which can put a lot of plants into a smaller space. It really does help cut down on the weeds too. I planted nasturtiums last year to give it some color (and they’re edible so they look pretty in a salad if you want to do that). Some people plant marigolds in and around the vegetables because they are supposed to repel creatures or something. I don’t know if that’s true, but they look pretty. If even that is too much, I would suggest considering a window garden. You could even start with one tiny pot, planted with the seeds of your favorite herb.

Anything is something…and for Renaissance living….nothing tastes better than fresh food grown from your own yard.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolutions, Goals and Dreams

A goal is not a resolution. Resolutions seem to be done without a lot of thought which may be one reason people seldom manage to keep them. A goal is something you should think hard about. It should be finite and measurable. The other thing about goals, is that you need to write them down along with steps designed to achieve them, and then review them and mark or reward your progress and redefine them as necessary. It is said that if a goal is not written down, it is not a goal but a dream.

That being said, here are a few of my goals for 2010.

1. I want to lose 15 pounds. To do that I plan to continue to take my lunch to work at least 3 days a week. I am going to do 5 minutes of strength training, 3 times a week and at least 10 minutes of cardio/interval training 3 times a week. These are very trackable steps toward a measurable goal.

2. I want to run a 5k. To do that I plan to use the above at least 10 minutes of cardio/interval training as the c25k program. I am going to sign up for the Dash to Splash run in June as soon as I can. This one has a definite end date.

3. I want to pay off my largest credit card debt. To do this I will follow a financial plan that includes making a budget and regularly plotting my spending.

Those are all great goals designed for a healthier life, but none are as important to me as my main goal for 2010 which is not measurable, trackable, nor does it have a definite end. In fact, it has no end. Does that make it a dream? If it is, it is one that I intend to come true. I plan to thoroughly enjoy my year by spending as much time as I can having fun with my family, especially my grandkids.

What are your dreams? It's time to follow them.

New Year, New Decade, New Start

2010...Two thousand ten...twenty ten....

The date sounds so futuristic and yet here we are. I have gone through the process of renaissance living off and on for more years than I can count. This year seems an especially appropriate time for such a revival. One of the beautiful things about it, is that you don't look back. I am looking forward toward a great year.

It's a new year, so many people are thinking about their new year's resolution. History tells us that 90% of us blow those resolutions within the first few weeks. Rather than that, why don't you think about what you want out of your year and why. The essential part is the why. If you don't have a really good reason, that you believe in, it will never happen.

Renaissance living means to live a creative life, based on what exists in the world around you. It might be considered by some to be a frugal lifestyle, but that is not really the case. While it may have some frugal applications, we will not be clipping coupons or recycling our plastic sandwich bags. I'm not discounting those activities, I'm just saying they are not necessary to experience a lifestyle rich with art and beauty and joy in what is around us. Renaissance living is sort of a half-full view of life. Can you find the positive around you? Can you make the most of what you have?

Life is a great experiment, but I already know that the greatest joys in life don't come from things, but from people and activities. I'm out to have the best year ever. So come with me for a year enriched by family, friends, and creativity.