Saturday, February 28, 2009

Please bear with me....

If there's anybody out there actually reading this blog, I apologize for the huge photo files. They're probably taking forever to load. Please bear with me as I'm still trying to figure out how to shrink the files to a more reasonable size. Right now, I'm at a standstill, surmising that I need special software. Windows XP has an automatic means of shrinking photo files when sending emails, but I can't find anything for uploading to the web. Seems kind of stupid to me to have it available for one use but not another.


My mom taught me to knit about 3 different times in my life. The last time was just over a year ago. And I've been knitting scarves ever since. I'm really enjoying it. I like how quick they are. So far, all I do is knit. As in...I don't purl or do any other stitches. Just knit. Whenever I get sick of that, I'll branch out. So far, I like the ease and mindlessness of only the knit stitch, or "garter stitch" as it's called when you knit every row.

I've had my scarves for sale and gotten some encouraging feedback on them.

On the green one I added a strip of "eyelash yarn" down the middle. Then I added the fringe opposite to the yarn pattern.

I love this scarf. It's made of super soft multi-colored yarn. I figured out how to make curved ends and then I added 3 layers of fringe on one end making it really lush and fun. The other end has a single layer - I thought it would be too bulky to have it on both ends.

I did the same with this off white scarf, plus I added the eyelash strip down the middle.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Journal Covers

Thought it was time I post some recent artwork. I have really enjoyed painting composition book covers to use as journals or notetaking notebooks. Here's my first one.

It's hardly any good but I love it. It represents a growing bravery and freedom in my art. I have always loved Impressionism with it's loose and broad brush strokes, it's generalization of objects. But I was always so rigid in my painting, enslaved by a fear of imperfection. After all these years away from art, when I picked up a brush again I deliberately chose to be loose, broad, and general. And forgiving. I wanted a photo of Alaska on it but didn't know how I would paint around it. When I found this out of focus photo of the AlCan Highway I was really attracted to it. My husband took it out the windshield. It would go perfectly with the messy and very imperfect job I knew I would do of painting. The photo just seemed to call for the rest of the cover to become part of the image.

I am loving copper and turquoise lately so I decided to paint this next cover to look like patina-ed copper. It looks much better in person. I took the photo before I painted the label with the word "Sundays". It is the journal I use to take notes in at church. Unfortunately, because I had been using the book for a year already, I forgot to Gesso it before I began painting. The first time I used it (last Sunday) the paint on the binding started cracking and peeling off! So now I'm in trouble. I'll probably have to go back and Gesso over at least the binding tape. So far so good on the cardboard parts.

Next is my favorite. My husband takes all the best photos but this one is all mine. I love birch trees. I'm kind of proud of this photo because it sold once already. Someone actually bought one of MY photos! MY framed photograph is hanging in someone's home! That feels pretty cool. I also like this photo because it represents to me the importance of being open to observing your surroundings with fresh eyes every moment. We were at a certain place taking photos of Denali (Mt. McKinley) for quite awhile. After shooting Denali - THE photo destination - I realized how easy it would be to not see anything else. When walking back to the car I intentionally stopped and turned around, looking for any other possible photos. I turned and there they were. This beautiful stand of birch on a hill just above my head. For the binding I used some birch bark my husband brought home for me a couple years ago. (That was not fun. I used E6000 glue and man, that stuff not only stinks, not only is carcenogenic, but it's super tacky and nearly impossibly messy! But it is also wonder glue.) And yes, I'll probably run into problems again with opening and actually using the book. I'll have to be careful in deciding it's use.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How I Became an Iditarod Fan

How did I become an Iditarod fan? I’m one of those people who doesn’t read the newspaper of my own city but likes to read papers of places I'm interested in. So I regularly check in with the Anchorage Daily News online. Just two days before last year’s Iditarod I read an interesting article about the 2007 winner, Lance Mackey. I found a video clip of an interview with this ordinary guy who sounds part humble, part cocky. It showed his first place trophy sitting on top of his refrigerator in his humble cabin. I saw the way he loved his dogs. The whole sport just grabbed me. I like sports. I like dogs. I like Alaska. Boom! Iditarod fan.

I was fascinated by the movie-material story of how his dad, Dick Mackey, helped organize the first race back in the 70’s and then dramatically won it the 6th time he raced. He was wearing bib number 13. Then years later Dick’s son, Rick, was running his 6th Iditarod, drew bib #13 and he won it. Can't top that, can you? Well, in 2007, it was the 6th time son Lance was running the Iditarod. It was the first and only time the Iditarod committee allowed mushers to pick their bib numbers, so of course Lance picked bib number 13. He won! AND he did it on the heels of running another 1000 mile race just 3 weeks before! AND he used many of the same dogs. His training and racing knowledge are changing the sport. No one had ever before considered running both 1000 mile races back to back with any serious competitiveness. Evidence now suggests that instead of the dogs being spent and needing a longer time to recover, they actually show greater strength, endurance, energy and enthusiasm the more miles run. Oh, by the way, Lance Mackey not only ran both races within weeks of each other, he won them both. Two years in a row. It literally stunned the mushing world. Oh...and Lance is a cancer survivor. Didn't I tell you it’s movie material?

I always knew the Iditarod existed but never thought much of it, even with my interest in Alaska. Finding out more about it just two days before the 2007 race was the perfect breeding ground for fanship. Two days later I was all over the internet and the Iditarod site "watching" the race. It's really interesting. The challenges these men and women face are real and big. They never know how the weather will factor into things but it always does. Last year's race was during a "heat wave". Temps "soared" up to the 40's making the trails and dogs slower. The dogs prefer temps below zero. The year before, weather affected the race with nasty storms producing white out conditions.

Well, I could go on and on.... but I'll spare you. ( I guess I kinda already did go on and on.)

Controversial Sport

Sled dog racing is a controversial sport because some people think it’s cruel to race dogs. Yes, sometimes dogs get injured and the truth is that sometimes accidents happen and a dog dies. Everyone hates this and mushers and vets are constantly studying how to keep the dogs safe and healthy. Because of these unfortunate happenings, it is a very controversial sport with heated angry objections. BUT I have learned that: 1.) the dogs LOVE to run. Musher Martin Buser constucted these giant "hamster wheel" things in his dog yard. They’re not for training purposes; he did it because the dogs love to run. They get in there on their own and just run and run. 2.) The mushers LOVE their dogs and take the most excellent care of them. To hear Lance Mackey talk about his dogs and see him interact with them, you can just tell he adores them as do other mushers I’ve seen on video clips. 3.) The most common reason I’ve heard as to why a musher gets into racing is that they love dogs and nature, and love being in nature with their dogs. They’re not in it for the money. Mushing is definitely not a lucrative professional sport. The costs often far outweigh any race winnings. A lot of professional mushers take on summer jobs to make ends meet. Some offer tours of their kennels as a means of additional income. As for glory seeking? People are naturally competive. These men and women are athletes, but they ALL give credit where credit is due and claim their dogs are the true athletes.

Favorite Websites, Part 4 - Iditarod

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a 1000 mile race of dog teams pulling a sled and musher from Anchorage to Nome Alaska. It commemorates the lifesaving Diptheria serum run performed by mushers and dog teams in around 1926 that saved the town of Nome. Anchorage hosts a "ceremonial start" on the first Saturday of March. It’s coming up on March 7th this year. Crowds of people line Anchorage’s 4th Avenue to see the dogs take off. Dogs are so excited they bark and howl and leap in the air. They just can’t wait till they’re given the signal to start pulling and RUN! It’s amazing to see their excitement. For various reasons over the years, it was decided to make the official start of the race in Wasilla the day after the ceremonial start in Anchorage. The race winner will cross the finish line in Nome in about 9 days. The Red Lantern award given to the last musher across the finish line is earned approximately a week or more later.

Mushing was and still is an important means of transportation in many parts of rural Alaska. Lots of places today cannot be reached in winter except by airplane, snow machine or dog sled. Mushing certainly is a different kind of sport to "watch". You have to watch it by checking the current standings on the internet, checking local online newspapers and newscasts, seeing photos from various check points, or being a paid subscriber to the Iditarod's daily video coverage. Check out the very short video clip on the Iditarod home page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Favorite Websites, Part 3 - My Favorite Blog Right Now

I have read two books by Jon Katz; both of them this year already. Jon Katz began writing about dogs when he adopted a troubled Border Collie who disrupted his very calm, predictable suburban life with an explosiveness that only a highly intelligent, dysfunctional, and frightened creature with endless energy could. Jon writes so honestly and vulnerably about his relationship with his dogs, how this one sometimes brought out the worst in him, and how his dogs have taught him much about himself. Border Collies are working dogs bred to herd sheep. This particular dog led him to dare to think beyond mediocre surburbia and do something "rash". He up and bought a farm, some sheep, and a couple donkeys. He and his dogs moved in and set about running a farm and it was in so doing that he seemed to find himself. He lives in upstate New York where he continues his writing while running the farm.

I enjoyed his books (listed at right) so much that immediately after closing the 2nd book I jumped onto Google to see if he had a website. What I found was a wonderful surprise. Not just a book-promoting website, but a beautiful site and blog (Bedlam Farm) filled with his photography of the farm, his animals and his life in rural New York. He has several blogs within his site, the largest is called Bedlam Farm Journal. He also has Live Your Life, Today at Bedlam, and his Hospice Journal. He and his dogs volunteer visiting hospice patients. This has been such a blessing not only to the patients and families, but also to him. He often posts several times a day, either writings or photos. He continues his open vulnerability about life, conquering anxiety and fears, writing, art, his farm, and of course, his beloved dogs. After having written several memoir style books about his dogs and the farm, he is returning to fiction. He’s sharing the writing process with his blog readers and it is so interesting.

I just love this blog. I appreciate his openness about his weaknesses, about his quest to grow as an individual, his search for "a spiritual base" (I think that’s how he put it), his love for dogs, his pursuit of art beyond his writing. And I am totally envious of some aspects of his situation. I’ll save expounding on that for another post sometime.

Take a look at some of his sheep - they have these beautiful cinnamon colored faces!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Favorite Websites, Part 2 - Best Cream

I have what seems to me a secret. I have found the world's best hand and foot cream. I know there are other fans of this wonder cream, but there are lots more people out there that need to know about it. It is Leavitt Cream. As I understand it, it's an old, old family recipe. Its ingredients seem to provide a moisture barrier that keeps the healing moisturizers IN your skin while at the same time keeps the damaging affects of water and wind OUT. This stuff actually heals your dry and damaged skin. No kidding. And fast, too. It's not for slathering on your arms and legs everyday. (It's thick and can't possibly be slathered anyway.) But for dry elbows, feet, and hands...this stuff is awesome. It's unscented but I'm told you can customize it by adding a couple drops of your favorite perfume.

One jar has lasted me a year, so even at the single jar price of $15 (or the 2 for $20 internet special) it's well worth it. You've got to try it!

Favorite Websites, Part 1 - Seward Cam

1We first went to Alaska in 1990. We were both hooked right away. My husband was hooked big time; he and Alaska just seemed made for each other. I was hooked mildly by comparison. We went back as often as possible. Then in around 2005, while he was there for several weeks having driven up, my hook was set deeper (see how I've learned the fishing lingo from him). I remember surfing the internet while he was gone, "looking for Alaska." I found the Seward Cam. We go to Seward every time we go to Alaska because it is such a great tourist town with lots to do. There's the Sea Life Center, Exit Glacier, great shopping, the Marina, and lots of charters to take - fishing, whale watching, or a simple tour of Resurrection Bay. It's a great town. It was so fun finding this webcam. I've had it as my home page for years now. I check it several times a day all year round. It's fun to see the weather change as winter comes on and see how few daylight hours there are in winter - about 6. From this webcam I've saved photos of some pretty gorgeous days. And some pretty horrendous snow storms. I even have some with my husband in them. One time when he was in Seward, we were on the phone together and he walked down the dock. I could see him on the webcam while I talked with him on the phone. Cool. Here's a recent photo after a huge snowstorm earlier this month. I have never seen the snow stay on the water like that. It stayed there for over a week and is just starting to melt.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Scent of A Memory

They say that our sense of smell is the greatest trigger of memories we have. I proved that true once again tonight. I had to run up to the store for some things and I bought a Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers Strawberry lip gloss. When I opened it up, the aroma sent me immediately back to my junior year in high school, a ski trip to Purgatory, to the condo we stayed in and the upstairs bedroom I shared with my girlfriend. Boom! I was right there.

I have other smells that take me back to a specific place and time. For instance, the smell of rubbing alchohol takes me right back to the bathroom of one house we lived in. I was in 7th grade and had just gotten my ears pierced. I had to clean my ears around the special gold stud earrings twice a day with rubbing alchohol. That smell takes me right to the very medicine cabinet mirror I used to see what I was doing.

Another one is the smell of Neutrogena bar soap. The original transparent orange bar. That smell takes me right into the bathroom in my dorm suite Freshman year of college. I love that smell. It reminds me of all the fun I had away at school that first year. Seeing myself in that bathroom reminds me of something that's funny to me now - not so funny then. Nearly every morning I would get out of bed and into the bathroom before my roommate, but only by a few minutes. The very first thing I had to do was brush my teeth. No matter how badly I had to go to the bathroom, I brushed my teeth first. It got to where it NEVER failed that the instant I was done and tapping my toothbrush against the sink - mere seconds away from going to the one and only stall for, by now, some much needed relief - my roommate would come marching in, eyes half closed, and head right into the stall. I had to stand there and wait for her. Every day. Aaargh!

Then there's the smell of mildew. I actually love the smell of mildew. It takes me right to the food cellar in my Nana's basement. Sometimes I would spend the day - or more likely a few hours - with her. She would play games like "I Spy" with me and let me throw clothes down the laundry chute to her. Then I'd run down to the basement to see where they landed. The chute opened up right next to the cellar door. From the cellar I would smell a mixture of mildewy moisture, potatoes and onions. To this day, I love the smell of mildew because it reminds me of fun days when I was being loved by Nana.

Funny how smells take us back.....

Rockin' Rock

I have a paperweight I really like. There are many artists and crafters at our church and the leadership decided to hold a December arts fair to let the artists show and sell their work. It was also nice for the rest of the fellowship as they got to do some Christmas shopping. Among the mostly adult artists was Emily, a 10 year old girl with painted rocks. I absolutely loved that she was there. I love that her parents have so affirmed her as a person and so encouraged her creativity that she had the drive and confidence to set up a table and sell her painted rocks. I simply had to buy one. She had a ladybug, a rainbow, and some other subjects painted on her rocks. And then there was this one different rock. It just had some dabs of colors painted on it. I loved the abstract nature of it and I loved that this little girl chose to paint abstractly on one of her rocks.

I was attracted to this rock for another reason. When our church does its once a month prayer night, called Sacred Space, they always have a "Praying in Color" table with paper and markers. I always start at this prayer station because it helps me settle down and doodle my way through the transition from the busyness of the day to a quiet heart ready to pray. At the December 2007 Sacred Space, they had little cards printed with words like Prince of Peace and Emmanuel for us to decorate and possibly use as Christmas ornaments. Here is one of the ones I did. I have kept it in my Bible ever since because I just really like it.

And then, I painted a composition book cover with that design.

It’s the journal I’m currently using. I didn’t originally intend to leave the white spaces between patches but didn’t have much choice because I didn't want to risk the colors mixing. And I couldn't paint a second coat because I wanted the directional brush strokes to show. I think it looks a little like a psychedelic giraffe, but I still really like the concept.

So, I was pretty amazed to find Emily’s rock. I think it’s pretty cool that we both like this kind of abstract display of colors. I like everything this paperweight represents: the coincidence of design, her confidence and creativity, and her parents’ obvious nurturing and affirming encouragement. Emily’s rock rocks. In fact, Emily rocks!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Measure of Creativity

I was always drawing as a child. But I never really thought about art as part of my life. My mom did a huge thing for me when I was in high school by giving me a fancy little paint set, the "real" kind in the tubes. It was out of the blue and I asked her about it. Her reply changed my life. She said I was always good at drawing and she just thought I should keep art in my life, maybe take some classes at school. I signed up for a class the very next semester. I continued by taking some drawing and painting classes in college. But I wasn’t natural at it, not super talented like many of my classmates. Then in college I had a boyfriend who encouraged me to take a ceramics class with him. "Ceramics? ...Ceramics?" The thought had never crossed my mind. I had never thought of art beyond my own limited experience with drawing and painting. After all, when you think of art, you think of a painting, right? I said I’d think about this Ceramics class for the next semester.

In my painting class I worked nearly half the semester on one painting. Then, I had about 5 paintings to do for the second half. One Open Studio Friday I was frantically painting trying to catch up. The Ceramics teacher came in and said, "I hear you’re taking my class next semester." Completely stressed by the Painting requirements, I said, "I don’t know if I can handle it. This painting class is too much for me." He assured me, in his drawling West Virginia accent, that Ceramics was nothing like painting and to just give it a try. I did. And while my boyfriend and I broke up during that semester, I fell in love with Ceramics and discovered my love for three dimensional art.

Well into my declared major I decided to minor in Art. I loved it! My art experience at the small Christian college I attended could not have been better. I became a serious ceramics student and was trusted with a key to the studio. While other girls without dates pined away in the dorms on Friday and Saturday nights, I was always in the studio. I was hooked.

I have always been too insecure to call myself an artist, though. In college I thought it arrogant of my fellow students to declare themselves artists. The title of artist, I thought, was something someone else should give you. I thought you had to be identified and considered an artist by others before you could really claim it of yourself. And even though others do call me an artist now, generous friends mostly, I still have a residual insecurity that makes me feel almost embarrassed to claim it for myself. I’m not good enough to really be an artist. I tend to think the same way about writing. I am not a writer; I just love to write. I am not really an artist, but I do have a measure of creativity.

"A measure of creativity." That is how I’ve come to describe my artistic inclinations. I cannot help comparing myself to others whom I consider artists. My creativity falls far short of theirs. Still, I know I have been given a measure. It is more than some, much less than others.

In life-after-college, I had varying creative expressions working at a flower shop. As life wore on, sadly, my creativity went dormant. Just keeping up with life was demanding enough. In the last few years I have been granted a Creative Awakening. My mind became awake to creativity again and I began getting ideas and seeing possibilities, always in three dimensional forms. I also came face to face with the reality that my chosen medium is prohibitively expensive. If only I was a drawer, I realized one day, all I’d need is a piece of paper and a pencil to do my art. But noooooo, I’m a 3D artist who chose clay and needs thousands of dollars of equipment to make my art! Part of my awakening has been finding other three dimensional means of creative expression.

With this Creative Awakening have come some beautiful opportunities. Namely a Sunday School class at church where we went through the book The Artist’s Way, and a women’s Bible study class entitled Art Expressions where we are learning how to meditate on scripture and then translate what we’ve learned into a creative expression using various media. (More on this later.) The result is that I am learning to accept the measure of creativity I have been given and run with it, even though it's much smaller than I prefer and I can still be quite intimidated when I look around at the vastness of the gift in others. It is freeing me. My creativity is growing as I become less focused on the measure of creativity I lack and more focused on the measure I have. I am learning to let go of perfectionism and just create something. If I don’t like it, throw it away or start over. I have also found painting again. And while it still is not my strong suit, I am enjoying it.

On this blog I’ll be posting photos of some of my works. Art is meant to be shared. It is hard to create something and not want to show someone. I guess it’s the same with other forms of creativity. Writers are not often content to simply write in their journals or write stories no one will ever read. (Except William in Finding Forrester, and I don't think he was as content as he tried to tell himself.) Actors are not content acting out monologues in the privacy of their bedrooms. Actors are meant to act for people. Writers are meant to write to and for people. Artists are meant to share their art. Creativity is meant to have an audience. So, in spite of my insecurities, I’ll post some work. Of course it will only be work I’m happy with, don’t you know. ;-)

Blogging - Past, Present, and Future

I've decided to do a little catch-up. Since I'm not necessarily at the beginning of a new adventure, since I'm sort of jumping into this blogging thing right in the middle of my ongoing ordinary life, I thought I'd write not only from the present but also from the past. It may be things I've already written and have stashed away in my computer, it may be new writings about something of days gone by, it may be what's going on today, or what I'm looking forward to in the future. My story along the way has made me who I am today. The story I'm in the midst of is what shapes the future me. Since this blog is about sharing my story, it's all fitting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Blog Worthy Life

I have been considering starting a blog for some time now. I was troubled by two things, however. I wondered if anyone would want to read it (or whether I was certain I even wanted anyone to), and I felt the need to have something around which to center the blog, like an adventure, a particular pursuit, or a hobby. Without such a central theme, I hesitated to begin.

I’ve asked myself why I want to start a blog. The simple answer is that I love to write. The deeper question is, do I have anything to say? I don’t want to be someone who doesn’t have anything much to say but, my, doesn’t she say it well! (I’ve read books like that and they were very annoying!) So I’ve asked myself, do I live a blog worthy life? Do I have anything to say? Do I have anything to say that anyone might actually want to read? If I was embarking on a specific adventure like spending a semester studying in England like my friend's daughter Miranda, or embarking on a special project - like an intentional exploration of how homemakers accomplished their homemaking a century ago like A New Old Fashioned Gal, or if I had far away friends and family to keep in touch with like my friend Linda, or if I was a prolific artist brimming over with uncontained creativity like my friend Angie...well, then I’d feel justified in setting up a blog. Or, say, if I was embarking on the adventure of moving to 5 acres of land, building our own house with our own hands completely off the grid, using generators for electricity and hauling in our every drop of that’s blog-worthy. Unfortunately, that was 10 years ago when I hadn’t even heard of blogging, much less owned a computer or had the electricity with which to use it. Perhaps when we embark on the next adventure...a seasonal move to Alaska. Again, there will likely be no electricity. I will have to either use a computer by generator (that sounds kind of risky for the hard drive) or hand write my posts in a journal and make a weekly trek to the most likely wi-fi location - the best laundromat in the country, the Wash ‘n’ Dry in Soldotna 17 miles away.

So what made me take the plunge? God, through a number of means lately, has been showing me that each of our stories are valuable and worthy of being shared, regardless of how exciting they are or aren’t. I recently went to a women’s day retreat where one of the speakers, Linda Thompson, had exactly that message for us. She said, "Telling our story may help someone make sense out of their story." It’s as simple as that. We each have a story, uniquely ours. We live in community as relational beings designed to need each other and love each other. Part of that interdependency and love is sharing our stories with each other. So, while I’m sure my blog will get much more interesting with trips to Alaska and the someday seasonal living there, I’ve decided I do lead a blog worthy life, even now, simply because we learn from each other’s stories. Period. Everyone has a blog worthy life.

Now, after all that inner wrestling about the blog worthy life, I do feel rather foolish when I lift my head up from all my analyzing and realize that hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of people have a blog. It’s no big deal. Ppphhhfff! Why NOT start a blog?
What can I say? I guess it just takes me a long time to think my way around to reality sometimes.

So...welcome to my blog.