An Award – for ME?

Kate over at Will Wally Wonder nominated me for my first Blogging Award! 🙂

versatileblogger11

             Merry Christmas to me!

snoopy-christmas

Please take a moment to wander around Kate’s delightful site! I promise I’ll be here when you get back.

*thumbs twiddling*

*twiddling …*

*twiddling …*

*twid–* Oh! You’re back!

I hope you enjoyed your trip Down Under! 🙂

As with all award receptions, there are protocols, mores, traditions rules to follow. Here are the conditions I must meet, then pass on to you, my loyal readers:

  • Thank the person who nominated me for this award. That’s common courtesy – and too easy. THANKS, KATE!! *frantic waving*
  • Include a link to their blog. (You have seen this link three times, folks – now CLICK already!)
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly and nominate them for the Versatile Blogger Award. Probably everyone I nominated has already received this award, but since I adore their blogs, I could not pass up the chance to highlight them for you! I hope you will visit each and every one of these exquisite sites, and I pinky-swear promise you will not be disappointed!
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Rules #1 & 2 are done and done (see above). Here are my nominations in no particular order:

Rarasaur

She’s a Maineiac

Kelsey Munger

The Byronic Man

The Waiting

Southern Belly

Covered in Beer

Tales from the Motherland

The Matticus Kingdom

Strong Enough to Break

Spoken Like a True Nut

The Phil Factor

Life in the Boomer Lane

Laura A. Lord

Hannah Brencher

Now for 7 things about me.

Dear Kate,

Probably the most important thing you need to know is how much I appreciate laughter. Your blog always brings a smile to my face, and very often a laugh to my lips, both of which make me very happy to have met you. Most everything else there is to know about me you can find here on my blog, but I will try to think of six things which may not be immediately evident.

  1. Hmm, well, I once (no, several times, actually) rappelled from a 60-ft. tower at the top of a tree sporting a 30-ft. zip-line into a lake. My fear of heights puts this feat into the exceptional category. I seriously suffer from the kind of vertigo that makes me want to jump – rappelling seemed a better option, don’t you think? 😉
  2. I grew up playing tennis on a grass court my father built in the yard beside our house. I blame my lack of competitive spirit (my family & friends are laughing out loud – no, seriously, I can hear them from around the world even as I type) on the fact that my family used tennis as FUN, family time. Heckling one another in the middle of a backhand swing was just part of being luved.
  3. Each of my three children were born in different locations – one of them in another country. Australia, to be exact! Yep, my middle child (lovely daughter) was born in Aspendale, a small suburb of Melbourne. While we were there, I attended my first and only Grand Slam tennis tournament. To tell you how long ago that was, we watched Monica Seles (pre-stab wound) and Ivan Lendl (pre-beer gut) play and win, of course.
  4. I graduated college with a degree in music education (vocal concentration) which I have never formally used. Instead, I am the administrative assistant with the loudest singing voice in the county (no, not country – well, maybe).
  5. My favorite thing to do as a child/teen was to sit on the swing in my back yard and stare at the full moon. To this day, I am sure the moon has a face that stares back.
  6. Finally, my dream life would be to run a B&B on a remote Cliffside in Ireland (something you already knew, and I’m fairly certain will never materialize in this life). Here’s hoping reincarnation is true!

wine toast

Thanks again, Kate! To you and yours I am sending wishes for a very happy, healthy,

 

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Open Your Heart and Drink

Just imagine what could happen if everyone in the world opened their heart and drank of the truths in this video. I imagine an end to poverty, hunger, racism, hatred, discrimination, and even war. If you don’t watch anything else today, this week, this month, or this year, watch this. It could change your life. It could change the world.

 

Curing Blogger’s Block, 5 X 5

Benze put together this survey that I read on Rarasaur’s blog site. Thought I would give it a try myself. Feel free to join in!

Five Things I am Passionate About

  1. Virtuous character (whether it’s inspired by Jesus or Ghandi)
  2. Absolute truth (yes, I believe there is such an animal)
  3. Family
  4. Reading/Writing (I know, that’s two, so sue me)
  5. My Compassion kids

5 Things I Would Like to Do Before I Die

  1. Cruise the Mediterranean
  2. Clean out my garage
  3. Write a book
  4. Edit someone else’s book
  5. Get to know my (future) grandchildren

5 Things I Say A Lot

  1. Who does this? (This phrase should be etched on my urn one day.)
  2. Seriously? (This can be on the backside of my urn.)
  3. You reap what you sow, you reap more than you sow, you reap later (about 10 years) than you sow.
  4. Mercy!
  5. Say?

5 Books or Magazines I Have Read Lately

  1. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  2. Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
  3. Stricken by God? by Michael Hardin
  4. Against all Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson
  5. Razing Hell by Sharon Baker

5 Favorite Movies

  1. Four Feathers
  2. Pride & Prejudice (the long, 6-hour version)
  3. The Matrix
  4. Liar Liar
  5. Much Ado about Nothing (the one with Emma Thompson & Kenneth Branagh)

Join in the fun! Do this on your blog and tag me so I can see what your answers are. I had fun coming up with some questions and answers for this one so sometime when you don’t know what to write about just write a 5 x 5 post!!!

Perception Is Everything

I’ve been following Emily’s blog The Waiting, and she’s doing a great series called:

Remember the Time

This week’s theme has to do with Rules.

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The afternoon bus was crowded, so being the last one on meant serious difficulty finding a seat. That day it proved impossible. I stepped onto the and my 10-yr. old brain tried to wrap itself around the words they were chanting. “Cheater?” Cheater! But who were they shouting at? ME?? It couldn’t have been me. I never cheated.

I grew up in small town Virginia, the 4th (and last) child of an immigrant father and a mother who spent her childhood on a small family farm in nearby Chester. In this family, hard work and integrity were valued above all else. That’s not to say that none of us ever bucked the system. But as the spoiled youngest child by eight years, I didn’t dare. Bucking the system would certainly prove dangerous to my Princess standing.

Other than being known as a “Goody Two-Shoes” in school (interesting what I found here about the origin of that phrase), I had a father who had risen to prominence in our community over the years. But prominent did not equal well-liked for the Army officer turned Graduate Professor. In fact, many disliked his ideas about the education system in our small community.

While some of that may have contributed to the verbal assault that met me on the bus that day (certainly many would have loved to catch me breaking a rule), the only thing occupying my young mind was that I certainly had not broken any rules of conduct, school or otherwise. There was a serious misunderstanding here! Surely if I explained … ?

It had all started innocently enough. There was an art contest. Art was never my forte. Stick people and intricate tree branches were the best I could conceive when it came to drawing. Paintbrushes were as foreign to me as the language of my forebears. No matter your level of talent, all of the 5th graders were required to participate. Earth Day was coming, and we each had been assigned to design a poster depicting a phrase which we devised and a drawing to illustrate the importance of the Day. One poster would be chosen out of all of the 5th grade classes in our city and sent to compete with other 5th graders around the State for the grand prize.

There was only one rule: The idea had to be mine. I could enlist help with the actual writing and drawing on the poster board, but no one else could conceive of the slogan or the picture itself but me.

At the time I was developing a friendship with a new girl on my street who was a year or two older than I was. We spent almost every afternoon together in those days, wandering the woods in the neighborhood, painting each others’ nails, playing Parcheesi, and inventing imaginary games with my stuffed animal collection. (Yeah, sorry, kids, no XBox 360 existed back in the 70’s.)

I distinctly remember that big white piece of poster board atop a card table on the screened-in back porch where she and I sat for hours illustrating the idea I had come up with using markers, glue, pipe cleaners, and glitter. It’s true, she helped me a little with the art, but the idea and most of the artwork were mine.

I had followed the rule to a T.

The problem was, none of my classmates believed me. For them the idea was too good, the art too polished. They believed there was no way I had created that poster myself. That day I had been announced the winner of the contest in my school (I don’t recall where I stood with the rest of the schools or the State, nor did I even care after that day’s experience). In fourth grade I had won the student body’s acclaim and served as President Elect, rising to school President the following year. But standing on the bus that day, hearing my honor smeared, knowing that every one of my classmates believed I had broken the rules and lied about it, and knowing full well there was absolutely no way I could convince their prejudiced little minds otherwise, I broke.

Cursing and crying, I fled from the bus – and from any desire I might have harbored for a life of prominence. I never looked back. My mom came and picked me up from school that day. I will never forget the raw hatred I experienced. Back then, I could not conceive how my poster had inspired such rage. But back in those days I didn’t understand what makes people tick. I knew nothing of envy or the need some people have to climb over others to make it to the top. My sheltered, loving family had failed to teach me about the darkness I would meet in the world outside. But I learned that day, in a devastatingly humiliating fashion.

It’s interesting to look back and see the milestones of a life. I mark that day as a pivotal turn for me. I never again sought prominence amongst my peers. Middle School was a torment, a barrage of disparaging comments directed at me by several bullies in my class. Hated and envied due to my family’s money and public prominence, all I wanted in those days was to crawl into a hole under my desk and escape the pain.

Things changed for me in High School, though, when I began using a talent that was either less threatening or more revered than art: singing. I joined a small choral group and found my niche. I sang “Yesterday” at the Baccalaureate ceremony and instead of raving madness, my solo gained applause. But the scars from the verbal flogging I received one day on a bus in 1974 may never fully heal.

Despite some innate leadership qualities and a propensity for management, one of my life’s goals has been “flying under the radar”. My rehearsed response when challenged? “I am not in charge”. I always make sure the buck never stops with me. I am not interested in fans or followers, bloggers or otherwise. I prefer a simple life with my family and close friends. Amidst that safety, I discovered a talent for crafts. Crafting (unlike drawing, painting, or sculpting) will not win acclaim or notice, but working with my hands serves as a therapeutic outlet, much like the feeling of accomplishment I remember when I created that poster almost 40 years ago.

The cruelty of those 10-yr. olds may have stymied my creativity for a time, but there is healing in walking through the pain. I continued to follow rules throughout my life, and in spite of my “Goody Two-Shoes” status, found a way to win the friendship of my former bullies (ironically every one of them became a best friend by the time High School ended – some of whom I remain in contact with today).

Our experiences with the rules – breaking or keeping them – may shape the course of our lives, but the perceptions of others often prove to be defining factors in what kind of person we ultimately become.

I hope you’ll share your “Back in the Day” story. As always, God bless, and thanks for reading.

branding

Art and Community

It all started with something a friend pinned to her Facebook Page:

Teacup Bird Feeder on Pinterest

I saw it, fell in love with it, and thought, “I could make one of those!”

Since that day, almost a year ago, I have been on a journey of metamorphosis. Rather surprisingly (and delightfully), I found I am not alone. And that is remarkable considering how alone I have felt for the past 7 years.

Throughout my life I’ve come to appreciate that “art” manifests itself in many different ways. For instance, my sister graduated college with an art degree: she can sketch, paint, arrange flowers/botanicals, among other things, but spent most of her career in the graphic arts department of GM creating art on a computer screen. Then there’s me, the music major, singer/guitarist/photographer/gardener/writer/sometimes poet who used to cross stitch and sew clothes for her children. This past year I’ve occasionally taken some time to reflect back on my life (looking hard at 50 will make you do that sometimes) and the different phases I’ve walked through. I worked 25+ years in Church music of one kind (choir) or another (worship bands), but it’s been about a year now since I’ve picked up the guitar and almost 4 years since I’ve led worship officially anywhere. My musical “phase” just seems to be over, at least for now (singing to CD’s to and from work notwithstanding). Homeschooling, public speaking, and blogging assumed that creative niche for awhile, but it looks like (until today), April, 2013 was the last time I blogged anything of consequence and the homeschooling ended in 2009 when I was forced to look outside the home for a full-time job.

Working with my hands – other than sewing or gardening – is really new territory for me. My husband is a carpenter in his own right, but woodworking was never my forte. Being captured by the teacup bird feeders pictured above began what I see as a new ‘chapter’ of sorts in my creative life. As a result, I started collecting vintage cups, saucers, and silverware from Good Will stores, antique shops, yard sales – basically anywhere I could find them. Next I began looking around for ways to hang my feeders. Shying away from drilling holes (drills lie WAY outside my comfort zone), which might crack the delicate porcelains I was collecting, I went back to Pinterest to see other teacup bird feeders and discovered brilliance:

Teacup Birdfeeder II

Can you see how the little rings are attached by gluing the other side of a metal ring to the bottom of the saucer? A short trip to Ace Hardware and some enjoyable conversation with the helpful staff (their ads are true, apparently ;)) soon put the solution in my hand.

Photo0196
Little rings to mount on Teacup Saucers for Hanging

Unfortunately, these little buggers are kinda steep. They don’t look it, I know… I don’t use them anymore. I have learned to make a sort of ‘basket’ out of wire for hanging, which I like much better anyway. At the same time that I was amassing teacup bird feeder supplies, I started thinking of putting a bird bath in my cool side garden:

Side Garden
Mini-Jungle on the side of my house

The flowers, trees, and shrubs attract all kinds of birds, including hummingbirds. Colorful berries and multiple feeders have turned my side porch into a relaxing haven – that is, until the mosquitoes decide to feast. Because of aforementioned blood-sucking menaces, I do not allow ANY standing water ANYWHERE in my yard. I can’t afford to lose anymore blood! (I’m so serious about this that in March, 2013 I made hubby put up a bat house. Apparently it isn’t interesting enough to attract any bats, but I patiently await their change of heart.) Still, the thought of the sound of dripping, dancing water, and the desire to attract as many birds as possible, pushed me to search for a fountain.

Dilemma #1: No power source. The majority of the solar-powered fountains out there are just what they say: solar-powered, When a cloud goes by or when the sun goes down there is no power.

Dilemma #2: No Power = standing water = increased mosquito population. We can’t have that! It turns out that a solar fountain is rather more expensive than an electric one, but not nearly as expensive as a solar-powered fountain with a battery back-up.

Dilemma #3: I just couldn’t see dumping $250+ into a water feature so began to despair of ever having a fountain in my garden.

Weeks dragged by as I tried to puzzle out my fountain question, while every day on my way to work, I walked past bags of teacups, saucers, copper wire, glue, beads, and some river rocks I purchased on impulse thinking I could find some use for – all sitting in the garage exactly where I left them – unopened and gathering greasy dust and cobwebs. I felt stuck between a river rock and a hard place.

I knew that something was driving me to create. I mean, I was amassing supplies to make something, but this something was a something unlike any of the somethings I had ever made before (that was a LOT of somethings!)

A few months back I came down with an extreme (for me) case of writer’s block. It felt like the well of words that used to pour out of me had run completely dry … had I said everything I could find to say? Some days, just thinking about writing left me exhausted, as if over the past few years I had written the well dry … or as if life had drained all of the words worth writing out of me. (One day maybe I’ll blog about the details of my journey just to give you a glimmer of understanding – suffice to say, my exhaustion is well-earned.) My lack of writing produced all sorts of guilt in me – irrational, I know – but what is the point of having a blog if you never write anything??

At some point the truth dawned on me: it was okay to take a break from writing. Beyond that, I came to realize my desire to work with my hands was a new creative outlet that, while different from writing, still came from the same source inside – the same place the music, sewing, gardening, all of it came from. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, I began to let go of guilt, (no blogging = guilt = creativity stymied) and that’s when things got interesting. I literally waved goodbye to my blog, certain that my writer’s block was seasonal (everything comes to pass, right?), picked up my vintage cups and saucers and started mining my brain for ideas like looking for miniature puzzle pieces to somehow make sense of where this journey was taking me.

Since I knew I did not want to pay the high cost for a solar (with battery backup) fountain, I started to imagine building one. Maybe I could even figure out how to use the supplies I already had. But, how?? The first order of business would be finding a water pump.

It so happens that I work for a pump and power company (irony abounds). I started hounding my coworkers, asking every question I could think of about water pumps (I sell pumps, mind you, but not ones this small – the massive ones we rent/sell move ponds from place to place or bypass sewer lines for maintenance and repair). But thanks to my job, I kind of knew what questions needed asking: How much pressure was I looking for from a pump? How high was I going to push the water? How many gallons per minute was I looking for – a gully-wash or a trickle? And those were just the pump questions. From whether to spray the water up or suspend an outlet to let it drip down to what kind of stand to mount it all on – the questions left my head spinning. I am not an engineer, people! But as fate would have it, turns out I am. 🙂 (Would it be ridiculous to tell you that in the middle of teacups and fountains, I also decided to convert 2 – not one, but TWO – bookshelves into closed cabinets? Now you know I’m truly insane, or maybe just compulsive stupid.)

Open Bookshelf
Unattractive Shelf Twin, Pre-Conversion

Over the years I have come to accept that I work through my problems out loud. For me, writing is one way of doing that … when I write I hear my voice narrating in my head as the words take shape on the page. I understand, of course, that not everyone does this. My husband, for example, works through almost every problem in his head before he talks about it. I’m just the opposite. I’ve often wondered if my brain needs to hear the words come out of my mouth (appear on the page) for my ears to make sense of them, whereas if my husband heard his thoughts aloud he might get that confused look my blabbering so often seems to evoke. So, to work out my fountain problem, I talked about it to anyone who would listen, and even some who wouldn’t.

My bird-loving neighbor topped the list since she shares wine with me on the side porch while we invent disparaging names for squirrels and new curse words for mosquitoes and outdoor cats (bird stalkers). She’s the creative type as well, so please check out her ETSY store here.

As I talked to people, asked questions, and most importantly, began processing ideas, a funny thing happened. In my mind I started “seeing” a fountain begin to take form. Almost every conversation I had became an idea mill and I started wandering through antique stores with a whispered mantra on my breath: try to think outside the box. It doesn’t come naturally for me to look at an object and imagine it being used in a different way. Still, whether it was something someone suggested, or just another person’s willingness to let me process the problems out loud didn’t matter … my ideas continued to take shape. The internet helped too. Researching other fountains, I ran across a tutorial on making one using a teapot and basin:

DIY Teapot Fountain Instructions

The way the teapot was mounted over the pump inspired me. I have a glass bowl with a metal stand which used to hold shells. The shells are packed away so I turned the stand over and created a way to mount a frog plate in a basin like this:

Photo0148
Froggy Fountain (with impulse buy river rocks)

You probably can’t see the metal stand supporting my frog’s lily pad, but trust me, it’s there. The solar pump I finally decided on fits perfectly underneath.

In the meantime, I found a way to use the teacups and saucers I had been gathering as well:

Photo0204
Sampling of my Staked Bird Feeders

This past weekend I attended my first ever craft fair as a vendor and managed to make a few bucks:

FHS Fall Fest 2013
Fall Festival 2013
Sporting Hanging Feeders
Above the Staked Ones

Over time, my journey became more about the conversation – the connection I made with other people – than the yard art. Lucky for ME I was open enough to talk it through with so many patient people (my husband’s response when I tried to explain my fountain idea: “You’re gonna have to draw me a picture…” 😉 ). Now every time I walk into my local Ace Hardware or the little antique shops in my area, the folks who work there ask for a progress report with pictures and inquire what new project I’ve taken on now. One of them came to the festival and recognized a sugar bowl I converted into a bird feeder which came from her shop. I have this whole network of people I never knew before – who I never would have known had I shied away from this new (and kinda scary) creative process. Reminds me of blogging a whole, whole lot. 😀

I am in serious doubt as to whether I would have found a way to create any of these pieces without the input of so many others. I think when all of the projects are done it’s going to be time for a garden party (there will be WINE)! Meanwhile, please feel free to contribute any ideas you might have on how I can beautify my (or someone else’s) garden. I have found the actual doing of the work to be therapeutic, and would love to branch out into new areas, incorporating your ideas into my thought processes. So, please, share away!

As always, thanks for reading. And, in case you’re interested, here are close-ups of some finished pieces:

Hanging Feeder
Hanging Feeder
Staked Feeder
Staked Feeder
Garden Candle to Hang from a Tree or Shepherd's Hook
Garden Candle to Hang from a Tree or Shepherd’s Hook
Bathroom Chest with Open Door
Did I tell you I found the shutters at a junk store for $15? They cleaned up nicely, don’t-cha think?
Master Bathroom with Chest
My phone just will not capture the colors: beige outside and in, antique white doors, bronze hinges/knobs. We used magnets to keep the doors closed.

The one in my dining room is definitely my favorite. When we had to extend the middle shelf’s overhang to accommodate the doors (which were too short), I thought a little tile accent might do the trick. I was not wrong. My husband cut out the top shelf’s backing (peg board) and put in a 1/4 piece of plywood for the finishing touch. Voila!

I'm so happy with the way this one accents my dining room - bright and cheery!
I’m so happy with the way this one accents my dining room – bright and cheery!

Both cabinets are now complete … the fountain will not be ready for display until Spring, 2014, so you’ll just have to patiently await the final unveiling.