I always think it seems silly to write “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to write a post this week,” as if everyone’s sitting around holding their breath, WAITING for one. It’s such a quiet, solitary task, writing these posts on my own, without real audience in mind.
But I know you’re out there. I’ve read wonderful, inspiring comments from people. Working distance from home the past 8 or so years has made me pretty solitary. I don’t talk to many people all day. I have my very good friends I text & call, and I have a wonderful family, but day-to-day is so quiet…I like it! I really do. I ENJOY time to myself; I soak it up. But since it’s so quiet, I often use the internet as an outlet; as a way to communicate. I know there are people who find wonderful things in the things I post, and I am so very grateful for those comments. That anyone would take the time to write something thoughtful means so much more than you can imagine.
The reason I started this blog was to share ideas with people, to encourage them to try new things, and not be afraid to jump in and do it, no matter what the outcome. I wanted people to know that art isn’t perfect. It takes work and practice, and sometimes even if you do the best you can possibly do, it doesn’t always turn out the way you planned it in your head…and that’s totally OKAY (and sometimes even BETTER!).
I put more pressure on myself than anyone else, I think. Don’t most of us? That makes my standards (for myself, at least) very high…sometimes unattainably high. I’ve always maintained that a positive attitude can change a LOT of things. After a lifetime full of military culture, I consider myself an “optimistic pessimist.” I live by my own Army Wife mantra: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Having such high standards for myself means I don’t like to admit when I’m having a hard time. I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking,” and it nearly makes me cry with each chapter, because it’s so absolutely FOREIGN to me. Although I have needed lots of help from time to time, my life has been all about trying to maintain self-sufficiency. It’s seemed shameful to me, to admit that I’m having a hard time, even to my family. In military culture, not being able to handle things just ISN’T AN OPTION. When my husband is deployed, I CAN’T break down–things would just fall apart for EVERYone. He would fall apart. Our family would fall apart. So you have to stay strong and hold it all together the best you can. Some duty stations, you get so very lucky (like we did in Alaska), and people pull together like family does, and we all help eachother–some even becoming lifelong friends. Some duty stations (like here), they just leave you out to dry.
In any case, I’ve always felt that spreading bad times creates more bad times. I don’t pretend they’re happy times, I usually just keep them to myself. I figure EVERYONE has rough times. Everyone’s got their own struggles. What good does it do to share mine?
But yes. It’s a hard time right now. I know it’ll pass. Bad things pass, just like the good things, so the best I can do is find gratitude wherever I can, and be thankful for what I do have. Gratitude has always gotten me through rough times.
So in the spirit of change, instead of a complaint, I’m going to send out a hope. I want to send out a hope that the ones we love know how special they are to us, and will ALWAYS know they are special to us. I want to send out a hope that things will change for the better. I want to send out a hope that we can find a way to make the things that we love touch someone else in some small special way. I want to send everyone a warm hug from many miles away, and tell each and every one: THANK YOU. Thank you so much.
I’m gonna giving myself a mulligan. Let’s try this again next week. Or in another week. Let me dust myself off and get back to you, okay? Time heals everything, and gives you new perspective. I’m looking forward to that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I have a soft spot for Alaskan roller derby. Not long ago, I painted a helmet for a derby girl on the Rage City all-star team out of Anchorage, Alaska. (Have you seen my post about customizing derby helmets?) Since I used to play derby (on a much smaller team) in Alaska, I was super excited to hear that Rage City is raising money to travel to Texas to play in the heart of derby’s rebirth! And since we currently reside in Central Texas, I’m excited to see that happen.
Roller derby teams are almost always non-profit businesses, which means they have to raise all their money to play, to travel, to rent the practice space, to hold general insurance, and to hold bouts ALL by themselves, by hitting the pavement and asking for help. They have car washes, bake sales, make their own merch, all in their spare time, just to keep their team alive. What people get from derby is SO much more valuable. It’s strength from a quiet, shy girl who never really had a voice. It’s power from a bigger girl who always felt “in the way.” It’s determination from a geeky girl who never played a sport. These ladies work and train HARD, all while living everyday lives, working everyday jobs, being moms, wives, and students. Even if a team gets beat in a bout, there’s still so much love & respect for each other for actually having the nerve to get out and DO it that it doesn’t matter a whole lot. They know the work and dedication that goes into it. And there’s a fun bond in derby because there’s room for everyone–all shapes, all sizes, all ages, all walks of life.
SOOoooo if you’d like to help Rage City make their way to Texas, or support a fun, exciting sport at the same time, please go over to their GoFundMe page and help some sisters out!
When my daughter was nearly two, she was VERY MUCH into the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. She also loved tea parties and hats. (See where I’m going with this?)
Since my husband was deployed, I decided to make a “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” for my daughter’s second birthday, and have a fun time of it with some friends. Keep in mind, deployment can make you a little cuckoo. I threw myself into it, but I didn’t need any additional stress, so I planned it WELL in advance, and although it seems like a ton of work, by the time party day came around, I just sort of got everything out & laid it nicely around the room. Easy peasy.
So I had this funny sketch I had done of my daughter intensely focused on her “tea” that was perfect for the invitations.
The idea was that kids could show up in hats & have some fun. My friends surprised me, and most had not only their kids in hats but themselves as well! One thing I’ve learned from homemade kid’s parties is to have something for kids to DO right off the bat, so there’s no awkward waiting-around-for-everyone phase (kids have been known to have short attention spans). So I got some inexpensive foam visors from the craft store, a few plain stickers, lots of foam stickers, and let the kids have at it. We didn’t even have chairs–I just laid tablecloths on the floor (which fit the “tea party” theme anyway) and let the kids play with the stickers & hats while the mamas talked.
I got plain ol’ cookies (I think they were pre-made grocery store ones), and decorated them with hearts and card symbols with a simple tube of icing.
I had little paper signs that said “eat me, ” “drink me,” “we’re all a little mad around here,” and “don’t step on the mome raths.”
I had splurged a little on a local bakery’s mini-cupcakes, and put store-bought little sugar roses (from the cake decorating section of stores) in them.
My neighbor, a crafty friend, had helped me sew some little bloomers and an apron for my daughter, to pull of a sort of “Alice” look.
The fancy footwork came with the cake. I had done a full-fondant cake for our daughter’s first birthday (more for me, just to see if I COULD), and didn’t really feel like taking that route again. But I did have my mom’s awesome buttercream recipe, and a ton of food coloring. I even made the cake batter rainbow swirl, as I had seen all over online. Fondant eyes, teeth & nose, 2-layer cake, and boom–the Cheshire Cat. (I even accidentally jacked up the top layer, and calmly just cut it out and drew his ears on the bottom.)
As one of the fun parts of the party, I had a few mini felt top hats for anyone who didn’t come with a hat and didn’t want to feel left out. (Also, they decorated the place nicely.) When I was researching some party ideas early on, I had seen an awesome tutorial online that was super easy and fun to do, and basically used felt and random embellishments.
I hot-glued everything together, and mostly used plain felt sturdied with cardboard (although the pre-made sturdy felt works best). I had seen some hot-glued to headbands before, but I wanted something a little sturdier, so I decided to hot glue the top side of hair clips to the underside of the hats, and it worked REALLY well. It allowed the hat to stay on through the whole party.
They were so fun to decorate and embellish with pennies, feathers, buttons, and whatever else I had lying around, and I even invited some guests to take them home as party favors.
All in all, a “fancy” birthday party that seems like a lot of work, but when done in little steps well in advance, wasn’t so bad at all. I had a great time with friends, the kids had fun, and the best part is I wasn’t stressed at all! Seems silly for a party she’ll never remember, but as I said, during a deployment, sometimes your friends are all you have to help you make things better. I was grateful for everyone that showed up, and I’m pretty sure everyone had fun!
The felt hats were especially fun. Might be a cool kid’s project to make a couple of hats up in advance, and let the kid decorate them…
Just before last winter, when we lived in Alaska, I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the artists in Fairbanks’ Paint the Pipes project that my friend from Chartreuse told me about. Essentially, in the hopes of beautifying Fairbanks, artists were selected to paint designs on the vent pipes downtown. I did two designs, but my design called “Dreaming” was the one that was selected. (Personally, I think the tangled ravens could’ve looked pretty cool, but I get why it might be a little…less upbeat.)
When I first moved to Alaska, I was overwhelmed by a sense of isolation. I didn’t know many people, I had a young child, and my husband was scheduled to deploy. A counselor once told me about an artist, a woman who moved to Alaska during the Gold Rush, and painted to comfort herself, and had written a book about it. The book didn’t necessarily comfort me, as much as remind me that this “adjustment period” in Alaska will pass. And it did! Soon I met some of the very best friends I’ve ever had at a duty station. But I thought of the native babies that grew up in those harsh conditions, and how they not only survived, but thrived. Being relegated to the indoors for a good chunk of the year, I often wondered what they dreamt about, or what they did to pass the time. I thought of however rough the conditions, you always have your mind, your creativity, to take you other places.
So “Dreaming” it was. I was very very sick when I began painting my steam pipe, and winter was coming….so I had very little time to work on it. On top of that, one of the developers of the program set up a time-lapse camera to document my progress on the pipe, which I didn’t mind, but it sure was intimidating. I often thought, “I’d better move around and finish this up quickly, or it’s going to be one heck of a boring time-lapse.”
I did the majority of the painting the first day, probably in about 3 or 4 hours.
Then I was able to come back another day (still sick, sadly) and paint some more detail. Probably another 4 hours or so.
And finally: COMPLETE!
I was so excited to see it in the wintertime, that I drove out to take a picture after the snow had fallen. But to my surprise, CHUNKS HAD FALLEN OFF. The city had primed the pipes, but since mine was a steam outtake pipe, it was warm, so mine was the only one that cracked. They had never tested the primer in winter, I guess.
If you’ve ever read Vonnegut’s “Bluebeard,” (one of my favorites), you can appreciate the irony.
Luckily, the bottom part seems to have kept fairly stable. They asked if I’d be willing to come back & repair it, but sadly, we moved just before summer. I hope it stays together for awhile, or at least until someone can repair it. I won’t even speculate as to the symbolism….and I hope passing tourists do the same!