Friday, November 18, 2011

Deck the floors with skirts of ruffles, falalalalalalalaLA!

I'm not going to scroll back through my blog to check my accuracy on this statement--so I could be mistaken--but I'm pretty sure this is going to be my first post that features a display of something I made. This has mostly been a family blog for anecdotal stories and documentation of this, that and the other...but this handmade Christmas tree skirt fits somewhere into "other," so post it I will.

In fact, here's another view. When I do decide to post a craft, I am thorough.

There's a little background that I haven't confessed yet. You see, I'm a brand new pinhead on pinterest and have only "re-pinned" thus far, which makes me somewhat of a leech on the site. I decided my first fresh pin should be this here little labor of love, so I'll add it to my pinboards as soon as I figure out how.

Baby steps.

I got inspired to make this skirt by a friend who has already posted instructions and a tutorial link on her own blog, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. Visit her (fabulous) blog for more details: A Little Bit of Everything and find out how painter's cloth, several yards of linen and HOT GLUE can provide you with some ruffle-y Christmas cheer of your own this holiday season.

Her skirt was 4x4 and took her three hours. I went for 6x6 which should have made it, what, four and a half? Five hours tops? But I lost track of the hours at some point. Clearly I am not the queen of speed.

But I am the queen of smart. I attacked this project while I had my darling sister-in-law in town because she is talented, ambitious, and motivated in this department. It was a very good idea to go into this as a team. It may have ended up in that dark abyss of unfinished projects without her to tag team with.The project is not hard, but the gluing can get tedious. It takes lots of pinching to get these frills. But this year our family tree will be proudly skirted in something other than a Target fleece blanket tucked into the most convincing circular shape I can manage, which is generally the route I have taken.

So here we go: A picture of the painter's cloth cut into a circle, cored, and sliced. (Think pineapple.) We had done two edges of ruffle before I decided to document with photos.

A close up of the ruffle process. Glue, pinch, burn finger. Glue, pinch, burn finger. Or something like that.

The best part about this project is that it picks up speed as you go since shorter and shorter fabric strips are required.

We tried to buy 6 yards of material, but there were only 5 1/4. So we bought what they had and hoped for the best, then started sweating bullets about half way through hoping we could eek out the last row before running out. Look at the triumph here as we finish with just two extra inches of fabric. It was a moment to be savored.

Now the ribbon... we chose a color for contrast. (This is not a web link, why is it typing like one?)

And wah-lah. There is always so much gratification in a DIY project. If I'd bought this same skirt somewhere, I would like it a lot. But I wouldn't spread it out on my floor and gaze at it like we did when we had finally finished.

You know the feeling, right? (Please say you do or I'm going to be really embarrassed.)

Merry Christmas tree skirting!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The prodigal blog daughter returns

“If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If the feeling persists, you probably ought to write a novel.” --Lawrence Block

It's good advice, and I really tried to following the doctor's orders... unfortunately, the feeling persisted.

So in conjunction with my husband's 100 day challenge (see here), I started writing a book several years ago. Now I never envisioned it to be a simple task, but I did think I could do it "on the side" of everything else. It was cute of me to be so optimistic.

As I became more immersed in the world of writing, I connected with other writing enthusiasts who helped me realize it would take a concerted effort and laser like focus to complete a well-written novel, land an agent, sell to a publisher, and market the book.

This, of course, is the reality check us dreaming artists try to avoid by plugging our ears and chanting lalalalala-I-don't-hear-you so we can return to our keyboards undaunted.

But I've remained committed to writing since I first started the novel, having worked on two more books, experimented with different genres, attended conferences and connected with talented writers who keep me motivated to push forward. And today I'm happy to announce a new step in the process:

I've been accepted to the Vermont College of Fine Arts to get a Master's in writing!

This is a remote program so I'll mostly be working from home, but there will be residencies in Vermont, Puerto Rico and Slovenia that will give our family some fun travel opportunities in the process. I start in January of 2012, so we'll see how far I get before the world ends.

Though I've been an infrequent blogger as of late, I'm re-committed to posting regularly, partly because those of you who have kept up on the blog have been so encouraging of my writing along the way. Thank you for believing in me, and thank you in advance for being my sounding board in a few months when I will surely be thumping my head against the table wondering why the heck I thought going back to school was a good idea. Long road ahead...

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 09, 2011

No baby. No blog. What, then?

In the time since I last blogged, I could have had a BABY.

Nine Months. Enough time to make an entire human being--and I don't even have a lousy blog post to show for it.

It's like the opposite of being pregnant--a concave stomach that sucks more and more inward until my stomach is stuck to my spine and I have to lean backward just to keep from folding in half. No baby. No blog. What, then?

What is my grand excuse for not documenting these precious, never-can-get-them-back months of my offsprings' fleeting childhoods?

Now, don't think I'm going to go pawning the blame off on someone or something for this deficiency. I take absolute full responsibility. My fault. My problem. All me.

But there is this one little hiccup.

It's the constant running dialogue in my mind between myself and the hypothetical 'anyone who cares' (or even 'doesn't care but will listen anyway.') I yap on and on in my head, sharing my thoughts, observations, opinions and sentiments with this great hypothetical listener, and darn it if this hypothetical ear isn't such a great listener, that my thoughts don't get very far past it. Who needs the therapy of pounding away at a keyboard when such efficient telepathy exists?

But thinking instead of writing means the moments are lost and Jim Croce frowns down upon me from his great pillow in the sky as I bypass the closest method we have to saving time in a bottle. That's what blogging comes down to for me--making moments stick that otherwise disappear, and here I am letting them go.

Oprah is likewise displeased. I was three years behind on Oprah shows when her last-ever episode aired, but in my heart, I've been a committed Oprah fan since the days she kept me company during endless hours of nursing my first-born child. The least I could do was send her off with a few tears. And of course she sent me off with a few of my own. These were her final instructions:

"I want you to know as this show ends: Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. And when you do that, you will receive in direct proportion to how you give in whatever platform you have."

Her words resonated deeply with me. I am a mother and my family is my platform. It is my job to savor each moment, maximize the experience, and use every moment of every day to serve my circle of influence. But as my heart thumped a rhythmic sound of triumph and renewal, I realized it was not my heart at all. It was, in fact, my three year old scraping something against the outside windows, over and over again.

I checked.

It was a knife. A really sharp one.

And he had slashed two out of three screens covering the front bay windows.

So much for my personal platform.

I felt drained. Withered. Defeated. Betrayed. This is what I get for turning my attention to a TV show for five inspirational minutes! (And you wonder why I had to give you up in the first place, Oprah?) In that moment, I felt smaller than the world's cutest hot dog.

Oprah was Oprah, bidding farewell to the tens of millions of lives she had touched with her show, and I at slashed screens and realizing that my own small circle of influence was currently not influencing much good.

It took all the energy I didn't have to firmly tell my son "we don't use mama's sharp knife."

He promptly stopped what he was doing and took the knife inside through the side door. Wow. That was a fast, cooperative response. Sure the screens were slashed, but did you hear how quickly he obeyed?

I went inside the front door to continue our lesson on not slashing screens but he was nowhere to be found. And then, the same scraping sound as before. My stomach dropped.

Now he was at the third screen.

At this point I was beyond a failure of a mother, but before I could check myself into an institution, I noticed one small detail. My son was now using a butter knife.

He didn't know slashing screens was not okay. We hadn't gotten to that point in the reprimandation. What he did know was that "we don't use mama's sharp knife" so he replaced it with a dull one. He had been exploring his world and learning that knives cut mesh screens. (Awesome discovery, by the way.) And if sharp knives weren't okay, then butter knives must be. Pretty smart logic if you think about it.

So maybe my platform was still intact in its own, humble little way.

I promised Oprah that day that I would get back on the blog wagon. Mostly because it's the best way I know to commit these moments to memory. I didn't start during summer vacation because of that key word "vacation"...but now it's back to school for the kids, and back to the keyboard for mom, where I will busily plunk away at documenting the good, the bad and the mom-ly.

So out with the thinking and in with the writing. We get one chance to bottle time, and I don't want empty jars.