Thursday, January 30, 2014

Purr Girl Rules

She nags. Once she's up in the morning, she's on your case. Just try to do email before breakfast -- you'll hear about it. But then, morning isn't the only time of day she nags. Just try walking into the kitchen -- she's there. Doesn't matter if the food is in her bowl or not. If you don't stay and watch her eat (or pretend to), she will let you know her displeasure in no uncertain terms.
She won't fetch. Every morning she sits on the side of the bed while I get dressed, waiting for me to open the sock drawer where I keep her toys. (They go in there at night because she will find them at 2 a.m. and run wild through the house tossing her mice and fish.) I throw one and she bolts after it like a cheetah. She tosses it around with abandon, then abandons it and comes back for another. The thrill is in the chase.
She still has bits of her inner alley cat -- if you rub her soft furry tummy (because it really is warm, like a mitten and it's cold here!), she will grab your wrist with her claws and gently put her teeth around the artery in your wrist, implying that if you don't gently remove it and fast, she'll claw the heck out of you or bite down and leave you in a pool of blood on the floor.
But she purrs like a motorboat and she's learned how to snuggle. And if anyone tried to take my sweet purr girl away from me, this silly black an white fur ball that makes me laugh -- well, they're not going to get very far.
Sweet Lizzie (and she is sweet) is here to stay. And nothing makes me happier.
(The last two photos were taken by my friend, Judy Winter)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dreaming of Paris and Remembering Montmartre

I have been listless and more than a little down in the dumps lately.
The visit of my long-time friend Suzanne from London, Ontario, brightened my mood some, as we filled our time together with long talks, movies, shopping and eating at some of her favorite spots (mine, too!) But it has been cold and I have been gloomy and when I am I often think back to Paris. It felt like a good time to participate in Paulita's Dreaming of France party.
Because of the sadness in my heart, I suppose it made some sense to revisit the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. Rick and I did this with "Peter's Paris" blogger Peter who was a terrific guide to not only the cemetery but to the area in general.
It was a rainy day as we walked by the graves of the famous and the ordinary. The rain made the stones deeper, richer in color. The flowers just "popped." (I believe this was composer Jacques Offenbach's grave.)
I can't hear the guitar music of Fernando Sor (which Rick will play on occasion) without thinking of seeing his resting place.
The sculpture was beautiful and poignant. It cried out with emotion, sorrow and grief.
This is my favorite photo from the trip. As you know, I love cats and there are generally more than a few roaming the cemeteries of Paris. But on this day, it was very rainy (think "April Showers," which capsulized our April in Paris.)
At the time we were in Paris, our Marmelade Gypsy was back home in Michigan, every day closer to his last. (We lost him about two weeks after we returned). I was having a lot of separation issues on that trip, for though I knew he was in safe hands, I also knew his health was very fragile, something that if I'd known when we booked the trip, we may not have gone at that time.
Eager to see one of the "cemetery cats," I was thrilled to find this one hiding on a shelf in an elaborate marker. I didn't dare get too close -- I didn't want to scare him. So I snapped the photo and thought little more about it. But when I saw the pictures later, I was entranced by both the memory and this handsome cat.
I didn't get another cat right after Gypsy died. I couldn't. But then a friend was fostering a mom-cat and her kittens and while the kittens were easy to place, Mom was less so. But I was willing to take her on.
Right now she is purring right beside me and every time I look at her I think of the Montmartre Cat. No, they aren't dead ringers for each other. But perhaps that cat imprinted its pretty black-and-white features on the heart of this soul who loves her orange cats. Maybe. Just maybe.

Postscript: For more on the beautiful statuary at Montmartre's cemetery, visit Peter's great post HERE.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Creativity Journal with Jacqueline Sullivan

Jacqueline Sullivan has always been one of my favorite teachers. Her instructions and demonstrations are clear, she is very generous with her time and supplies and I always end up with something I enjoy when all is done.
The Creativity Journal class was no exception. The goal was to create a journal from watercolor paper that we would bind together, having used some interesting painting techniques and tools to create the journal and papers we would include.
Our group was large and one of the delightful things about the end result was that everyone's book looked very different! Below are some of Jacqueline's deli papers.
We began by using gesso and stencils on a large piece of watercolor paper -- both sides.
The stencils had a number of patterns -- curlicues, leaves, starbursts, squares. Later we would see a little magic with these!
After they were dry and we started painting we discovered they acted as a partial resist medium and the stencil patterns showed through! Such fun! You can see it here in the upper right most clearly.
Then we painted a number of deli paper pages, again with the acrylics, to use later.
I have to say, I just loved the ones I came up with! For that matter, I loved everyone's. It's such a great surface to work on. (I discovered this in my gelli workshop, but there we were printing rather than direct painting.)
The we started working on our watercolor sheet, painting over the gesso with diluted walnut ink, sumi ink and some color when desired. We used a variety of tools for a very abstract look. Jacqueline is an officially certified Golden teacher and it was a pleasure to use the Golden paints she provided.
This was Jacqueline's...
...and this is one of mine. Notice how the stencils held the resist when painted over. You can see it in the leaves and in that brown part in the lower right corner.
We also painted a contrast sheet we could cut into pieces and use when desired. we used a variety of tools for this -- paint brush ends, corks, wallpaper brushes and more.
When all the painting was done, we started cutting apart our large watercolor sheet. The sections were folded into pages that were carefully stitched together.

As you can see, some of the pages had "flaps" which you could either glue down  to make a pocket (I haven't done that yet and not sure I will) or to serve as another page.
Then we began adding quotes and the painted papers, along with embellishments.
Of course, Jacqueline was there if we were stumped, had questions or needed an opinion.
Soon it was show and tell time. Everyone's was different!
Here are a few pages from mine.

I'm still not done, but added things after I returned home from the workshop, like beads in the front and some stamping and embellishment inside.
There are pages I'm not that fond of -- I think I filled the page too much with color and stencil and it needed more white space. I'm OK with that -- it was a class and I'm there to learn.
Next time I'll try some different things.
When all was said and done, I was thrilled with the results, enough so that I know this isn't my last journal -- it is the first of many.

(After I did this one, I did another with my friend Kate. Still learning the technique and a few pages drive me nuts -- but I'm learning! Look for more soon!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Saying Goodbye to One of Our Own

Who could have imagined, even ten years ago, that men and women around the world would be linked together and form strong, genuine friendships that began by looking at a computer screen and connecting to a blog? And who could imagine that having one of these friends leave this world could be so heartbreaking?
Tonight I received an email from fellow bloggie Lisa with the sad news that one of our own, Diana Losciale, better known to bloggers as "Oh," author of "This Writing Life" (formerly titled, "Oh, Books! Oh Paper! Real Life!), passed suddenly, following a very brief and courageous battle with cancer.
I came to know Diana when we took part in Becca's "Write on Wednesday" posts early in my blogging days. (In fact, many of you WOW folks, I still follow!). I loved her blog because it was such a mix of joy, passion, musings and warmth. Her own exuberant personality and big heart jumped off the page with her keen observations of life and her deep love for books and writing.
Diana loved many things -- her writing and books, of course. But also paper arts, photography, fashion, coffee (definitely coffee), Paris (maybe next to coffee), Christmas, her dog Huck, Archie (her name for all squirrels), art and travel and above all, her family. And that was just the top layer. She would devour "Poets and Writers" or "The New Yorker" with the equal intensity as she would "Vogue."
She was also a writer, editing and marketing professional by trade and by freelance. When Diana was editing a prayer book for those dealing with cancer, she asked me to contribute. It was the first (and only) time my poetry has ever been published. I hope that during her illness, she looked at a copy of that small book and found comfort in it.
As we followed each other's lives online, we decided, along with Kerry, that we'd like to meet. So, the three of us -- from Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin -- convened in Chicago for a delightful weekend two-and-a-half years ago, a weekend filled with art, jazz, good food, better talk and a lot of sightseeing and of course, shopping. Diana wrote about it here, and here are my thoughts.
We all had complete confidence it would be fine -- but those we left at home wondered, "why in the world would these women who never met each other take a chance that they could spend a weekend together?" (Not to mention the potential that one of us could be an ax murderer!)
They needn't have worried. It was as though we'd known each other forever.
A year later, I visited Diana in St. Louis where we simply had the best time. Both Christmas nuts, we first fortified ourselves with a fabulous lunch, then hit three great shops that had just put up their displays. (In fact, as I put the things I bought this year, I thought of that wonderful day when we were both like kids in candy stores.) We marveled at the beauty of the butterfly garden.
 I couldn't help thinking, what a perfect venue for Diana. Every butterfly was lovely, colorful, in motion -- just like she was. Diana was in flight -- savoring every beautiful flower, special moment, bright day. 
We did a lot of photography that day...
... including a selfie.
And we talked non-stop about anything and everything.It was simply glorious.
It's funny, but Diana is around a lot in my space. A postcard she sent "just because" of the Eiffel Tower hangs above my computer. "I'm thinking of making a quiche today," she wrote."Something has me thinking of France. Maybe we should do a blog meet-up in Paris."
Wheat that she gave me during that St. Louis visit, left over from the displays at her daughter's wedding, is in a vase on my desk, moved this place and that at different seasons. She's just "there."
Lisa said Diana had cancer surgery in November. I didn't know this, and sure couldn't tell from her Christmas card with a long note ending "We didn't get together this fall, but look forward to a rendezvous in the future. More later!")
Yes, I am shocked. And heartbroken.
We all get on the blog, we share our stories, we learn of others' lives and passions. We mourn their losses -- of jobs of health, of loved ones; we rally to support them when life is challenging. We care. With every comment we build relationships. Relationships that are stronger than we know or realize.
But I realize it tonight like I never did before.
There is a new star in the heavens and it is bright, witty and it's going to twinkle more than most all of the others. It is called Diana.

(As I went through Diana's blog tonight, I copied some excerpts from her posts to share so if you aren't familiar with her writing, you may discover it. I have to say, it was very hard to choose, so these are snippets from just a few of her many posts. I am not sure how long her family will keep it active. I hope for a very long time, because I know it's a place I would love to return.)

From "Big Doings" (May 6, 2011) 

Would I have ever thought that planning a wedding could be so much fun? It’s magical.  The world has turned a different color, has taken on a new shine and everyone, absolutely everyone, loves love and rings and real weddings and ideas. Including Snarl – he is quietly proud of his sister! And he has graduation on the horizon so we get to escape to U town to celebrate and party for a weekend and cheer for him. 

From "Sunday Summer a.m."(May 29, 2011)

Neighborhood humans are already turning on their air conditioners whose hum hits more of a bass F, an odd counterbalance to the nymph cicadas song which is at least the F above Middle C. It is a stream of sound. Those cicadas who are closer or older or bigger perhaps only by days, have learned to make the sawing, cheeping sound we recognize usually in the height of summer evenings. It is a male chorus. It is part of the “look at me” mating cycle of life.

Mother Nature has lifted her skirts so far this year, showing us some very odd ankle, some very rude knees, and a flash of crazy thigh. She is  dramatic, dangerous and petulant. She is not purposeful. She just is. 

And she is kind to offer this magnificent morning.
This crazy orchestra, this warm light, this buzz and concert of her creatures to this empty nester. That’s the sociologist’s term, though.

There is very little of “emptiness” in this nest.

From "Holiday Writing Non-Whirl" (December 3, 2011)

So as I write and sip at the dawn of this weekend morning and gaze at the boxes of Christmas lights that will somehow spring to order and stage themselves for outdoor and indoor decor, and wonder about getting out there into the holiday fray, a great deal of which I really do enjoy, but moments in Blogland are  holiday-precious and full of friends and friends-that-would-be if actually here.

From "When Snow is a Good Thing" (December 29, 2012)

 With no camera at hand, there was nothing more than memory to capture the moments of the snow: the delight as though we were in a huge carriage; the gladness for a warm coat; the reflections from fogged home-y windows sporting wreaths and lit garlands; the silence of the snow as tho’ all were paused, listening for the sound of snowflake on  trees; the quick memory of snow as a child and the wish to rush off and find a sled; the way laughter sounds in the thick white air; the “hush” that comes with holiday giving us time, giving us some sort of shelter in which to ponder all that is good and all that can be good.

  From "Summer Drinks" (Sept. 17, 2012)

Little Archie comes creeping, creeping on little fingered paws. She’s come nearly every morning (that Í’ve been looking) for a drink, taking the same path, taking the same pauses midway.She’s a third gen nearby-tree squirrel as far as I can tell and she often travels alone tho’ I think she has two brothers. Very wary and very fleet, she is. This birdbath (or was it really for holding seeds? We don’t know)…anyway, this birdbath used to be Huck’s outdoor drinking bowl in the summer. So he thought. He lapped up the water whether it was hot or cold, fresh from the hose. Which is partly why we are not annoyed or astounded that Archie sips here. Huck wouldn’t have cared. We are tickled to see a critter braving the wall and sitting up to put her paws on the side of the bowl to drink. 

Then she scampers off to eat her fill of sunflower hulls and hominies.

From "Moving Around" (January 12, 2013)

The trouble with organizing stuff is that once it’s all in a nice tidy stack, on a shelf or in a drawer, so much thought and exertion went into achieving that cleaning-and-tidying that you feel finished with it and may not return to any of the now-organized matter…whereas a lovely old desk piled with tasks and treasures in a more casual manner, off to one side in such a manner if it’s a very large desk therefore leaving workspace, offers up treats, surprises and reminders as you muck through it, all the while aware of and ready to tackle whatever is the major task at hand.
Ya gotta love it, all the comforts of Sunday, wherever you can find them, as you teeter on the precipice of Work Tomorrow. While America is glad to have a job, sometimes the schedule just makes you want to put the typical time compendium on tilt and run it your own way.   As the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey says, “What’s a weekend?” I am intrigued by how such a character, if real, would actually measure time.
Perhaps not at all.
And that sounds like a fine idea to me.

From "Crushing Cuties into Potion " (January 6, 2013)

They were left on the counter, having somehow escaped the holiday feasting madness…five little cuties…all alone…one of them was rather hard, its juice having gone somewhere, seeping through its skin maybe, I dunno. But it was rock hard and refused the juicing I was about to give the other four…because there’s magic in that juice…and writers can always use a little magic.
Be at peace, my friend.

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