Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking ahead

After years and years (and years) of making the same resolutions every January, (lose weight, produce more, become perfect, give up perfectionism), it became clear that there was no resolve in those resolutions. In fact, I was pretty much doomed to failure from the moment my feet touched the floor, discovering a huge dust bunny, therefore sucking at housework, and blowing the whole perfection thing in the first waking moments of the new year.

Since I haven't yet kicked the whole perfectionist thing, looking back always begins with the disappointments and failures. I know that we all have things that we wished we'd done better on, but I feel that way about everything. Everything. Who doesn't relish an opportunity to revisit one's shortcomings? This time of year generally makes me a little crazy (er).

Instead of a resolution this year, I am going to set a couple of goals. They are just kind of nebulous, impossible to prove, and therefore fail, sort of goals.

#1: Be kind to myself. I am my own worse critic, and I can be vicious. I say things to myself that I would never even consider saying to another person. I've been working on this for a while, and I'm making progress (see what I did there?), but I'm renewing this goal for this year. (See, that? I did it again! I am renewing my subscription to this goal, I didn't fail!)

#2:  Be a little selfish. This will be a hard one. I have been driven by my responsibilities since I was a little kid. Being the oldest of six girls meant my care taking days started early. I have never been responsible for just myself. Now that the boys are launched, and I'm over the empty nest, it's time for a little self indulgence. It's mostly goofy stuff, like buying premium ice cream because it tastes better, or a pair of shoes just because they're cute.

#3: Give myself permission to play. Another toughie. What I really should say is give myself permission to play without guilt. This goal is closely linked with #2. Playing feels frivolous and wasteful, but I know that it is necessary for creative growth. Oh, wait, I think I just turned it around into a work related thing, which is clearly not play. Yep, I think it may even take a whole year to understand what play is.

I always admire folks who can make a resolution, and keep it. Does it work for you? Is there something magical about the turning of the calendar that makes the promises easier to keep? I'd love to hear about your plans/goals/resolutions for this year. Meanwhile, I think I'll go vacuum my bedroom, the dust bunnies are having a party in there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A quandry

One of the high points of my trip to Houston and Quilt Festival this year was the opportunity to take a two day class with Elly Sienkiewicz, the grande dame of applique. I have admired her work for so long, and looked forward to spending some time with her.

She is a delightful teacher, gentle, calm and quiet. She clearly loves what she does. Our class project was quite ambitious, a clipper ship with a wreath of flowers. I went into the class with every intention of following Elly's processes, how else could I learn something new? While Elly did have some strategies that were new to me (especially the embellishment with the oil pastels), it didn't take long for me to realize that the basic technique was pretty much same old, same old. Luckily Elly isn't one of those hideous "my way only" teachers. On the contrary, Elly frequently repeated that each of us could feel free to use the technique that has given us the best success. Score!

Here is my class project so far. Since the pattern came directly from one of her books, I printed out the pattern onto Wash Away Applique Sheets before class. The masts are needle turned by hand. (See, I can do it!) It reminded me that tiny needles and even tinier stitches aren't the fun part for me. I quietly slipped over into glue basting and made terrific progress.
I learned some great things with the project. Elly showed us how to use Craypas (oil pastels) to add shading to our applique pieces. I love this! I've used it on the sails, and a couple of the roses. I've learned that I can glue baste teeny tiny pieces. I've fallen into creating designs that are simple and large, to make the project more accessible for beginners. Sort of instant gratification stuff. Now I am completely intrigued by getting small. Those stripes on the flag are about an eighth of an inch wide, and glue basted individually!
So, here's my quandary: do I finish this project? Even though I've made a space for it, I have added only two small roses, the rest was completed during class. I've always wanted to do a Baltimore Album style project, so here it is. I have been following the pattern pretty faithfully, and that has been a challenge for me. It's not yet stitched to the background (well, except for the masts), so I can move it to a new background, or recenter it, or whatever.
I tell my students if they have learned everything they wanted to learn from the project then feel free to toss it. Of course, if they are loving it, then have at! We just don't need anymore obligation stuff in our hobbies.
This is a side project from a super secret project that needs to be done in a month. I fear if I put it away it will become a permanent UFO. Help me here! Do I continue to work on it, or call it good and toss it away?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The beginning of Christmas

Every year, ever since the boys were little, we've kicked off our Christmas celebrations by putting up the tree on the first Sunday of Advent.
When Kent and I were first married, we were totally broke college students. When our first Christmas rolled around, we had nothing, no lights, or decorations. I realized then what made a Christmas tree special were all the memories attached to the ornaments. We managed to put together a small tree, with a single strand of lights (remember those big, hot bulbs?), garland made from computer punch cards (now you know how really old I am), and little birds woven out of ribbon.
As the boys came along, I wanted to build a Christmas legacy for them to take to their grown up homes. Each year the family went ornament shopping, each boy picking out an ornament that had meaning to them.
Over the years they picked some pretty goofy stuff, furry icicles, smiley faces, ice cube snowmen with ice augers through their heads. It was very interesting to watch as their tastes changed and they began to look more long term at their collections.

Of course, we have continued the tradition with the grand kids. We are lucky to have Bronners nearby, which is only the largest Christmas store in the world. It is an amazing swirl of lights, and colors, and sounds all year long.
They have the very best Santa, ever. I do believe that he is the real Santa, all others being this fellow's intrepid helpers. He is so kind and gentle that he charms even the shyest child. That said, Nicole, being a two year old and tired, wanted nothing to do with Santa.
Christmas 2012: (clockwise) Nicole (2 1/2  years old), Amanda, Nathan, Santa and Alex (5 1/2).
Joy, joy, joy!