Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Another use for duct tape

Dr. Sheldon Cooper, from THE BIG BANG THEORY, model for all sorts of extreme behavior and poster child for control issues. As we arrived late for the series, we are catching up with reruns six evenings a week. A few nights ago, I saw the episode with perhaps the definitive Sheldon line as he tried to find new friends who would do things his way. Abandoning them and rushing to be included in whatever his old pals were doing, he explained, of the new bunch, "They were having fun wrong."

At times I wonder if there is anything other than our own attitude that is within our control, for so little else seems to be. Ah, but the years I tried to have it be different. The enormity of our appropriate inability to control much of anything was reinforced this morning as I learned of a dear family member who is facing additional treatment for a disease thought cured. A previous version of myself would have retreated into worry and blame. Today, I chose, for which I am beyond grateful, action and belief in a good outcome. That is all that is within my power.

This morning I also realized - are those solar flares and their radiation bombarding our thought patterns as well as the guidance systems for airliners? - that it was no longer, as though it had been since about 1985, my task to fret about my son's sending or not sending of thank-you notes for gifts received. It was while actively involved in 12-step programs, the ones dealing with co-dependency, that I imagined wearing a thick roll of duct tape as a bracelet, ripping off strips when necessary and slapping them across my mouth. A fine teaching tool to learn the art of butting out. Somewhere, we must be accruing points for what we've managed not to say.

Back to my search for devices to quantify the unquantifiable, the meter that can gauge just how detrimental it is to our own health, those surges of adrenalin and what-not that come from trying to have it our way. My former husband used to tell me I couldn't like some of the things I liked, because they weren't good. I was having fun wrong.

I won't pretend that I no longer fret or that my fingers don't twitch to see some wrongs put right. However, I have learned a bit about about choosing my battles. Acceptance and surrender take up more real estate in my thoughts and vocabulary than they once did. I remember Leon Russell was once referred to, or called himself, the master of space, time and infinity. Whatever that means, exactly. I aspire to be the master or at least the journeyman of growing really still and awaiting internal guidance, duct tape at the ready, surrender to what is beyond my control always at the top of the list.

Monday, January 30, 2012

*hcit* (or, How Cool Is That?) - thanks, Michelle

Recent re-dedication to mail art has me thinking of words to heighten an envelope's visual appeal. One source for a unique take on phrases is Michelle Ward's Green Pepper Press, home to her sheets of unmounted rubber stamps. The collection encompasses architecture, celestial, nature, alphabets, geometric and other themes. The site also provides information on how to mount unmounted stamps. On her blog, Michelle frequently demystifies journal techniques, such as stencilling, and offers monthly challenges for readers to link examples of their art through her Street Team.

Copyright Michelle Ward,  VERBAGE collection from Green Pepper Press, item #GPP-042.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Your comments to my previous post churned up further thoughts and feelings about feelings, how sometimes I've come to be turned around like the blindfolded, spinning portion of Pin The Tail on the Donkey.

I have, at moments throughout my life, become small with myself: small in spirit, in forgiveness, in compassion. I have been mean and miserly yet also aware that such treatment of one's self might lead to being small with others, an intolerable notion.

We are here, I believe, to enrich, beautify and ease each others' lives by whatever means we can access. (As I write this, it feels familiar, as though I have said it before. I must need to be reminded.) To do so requires that we find our larger (or as a friend describes it, our BIG "S") selves, regardless of how unfamiliar that aspect may be. There is no place for small or narrow.

On this date in history, objects and events of large and expanded natures have been noted. In 1613, it is said that Gallileo may have unknowingly viewed the undiscovered planet Neptune. I choose to count that. Then in 1887 in Fort Keogh, Montana, the world's largest snowflakes were reported, being 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. That definitely registers on the not-small-o-meter.

Here's to more, bigger, kinder, softer; to patient, attentive, indulgent, gentle; to the wider view, the higher road. We do deserve it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


We each, I suspect, have familiar inner bullies, personal quicksand, toxic enemies that sap our will and brave attempts at self esteem. In the past few days, my adversary was unmasked: the sense of not deserving (pick a word) happiness, comfort, joy, convenience or the peace that comes from order.

The circumstance that illuminated this ancient belief was the offer of a gift, something generous, unexpected, by my definition extravagant yet wanted but I found I was unable or unwilling to say, simply, yes. Thank you. It became another round of demon rassling, with the difference being this time I could look the demon in the eye and begin to wonder if it was as powerful as I'd once thought.

At any moment, I have a mental dossier of my shortcomings, evidence, that stretches back practically to quill pens. It certainly pre-dates electric typewriters and the Thermofax. No pages have been misplaced, and if they were, I'm sure there are carbon copies, smudged but legible. A part of me has clung stubbornly to the fiction of lives perfectly led - by others. It is a belief that keeps me tethered and dense, Earth-bound rather than lifting with no small grace like a wired actor in Chinese martial arts movies, Jackie Chan excepted. To soar means escaping our own gravity, those pockets full of rocks and rigid ways of relating to our souls.

I am fortunate to have the counsel, when I need it, of my son, who brings youth and, I can but hope, less baggage to a situation than I. I told him of the offer, I told him of my resistance. He found the right words: you work hard, you deserve it. To my eyes this hard work looks an awful lot like avoidance, farting around, procrastination and sloth. He helped me own that there IS hard work in the process of simply living with some measure of joy, of aspiring to evolve, of reaching out, of stillness and contemplation, of being present. He helped me say yes.

By saying yes, thank you, to the gift, I noticed that certain narrow thinking had widened. I have struggled with disorder much of my adult life. It may have begun as I spent too long in situations which felt helpless and helplessnss has clung to me though the circumstances changed. It doesn't seem as important to know those details as it does to acknowledge that impossible-seeming things became less so. I could envision a gradual step-by-step process to finding order, letting go of things and mistaken beliefs with one gesture. I could feel peace inching toward me, settling in, becoming real.

Whoever does not see life as a process is not paying attention. Sometimes the increments are so slight as to be nearly undetectable. Nearly. Then we turn and look over our shoulders at the discernible signs indicating something permanent has begun to shift. Contrary to all our assumptions, we are becoming.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why I heart Stamp Your Heart Out

ATC samples by Michele Daly
My warmest thanks to Michele Daly, one of the staff artists at Stamp Your Heart Out in Claremont, CA, for her Saturday demo of Artist Trading Cards using images from my new Rubbermoon collection. SYHO has been my home store since it opened in 1989. It is where I began teaching paper arts. Owner Joan Bunte, the talented staff and all whom I've met through my years of involvement are unfailing sources of support for my varied endeavors.

You might enjoy signing up for their weekly newsletter at the website, where you will also find contact information, should you have a question about stamping and scrapbooking products, or wish to place a telephone order. If you live nearby or visit the area, please stop in and tell them I said, "Hey."

Saturday, January 21, 2012


On Rubbermoon's Facebook page, owner Debra Valoff has been, for the past couple days, showing samples of shipping tag art which feature stamps from the new lines. I wanted to play. It feels as though many of my moving parts are rusty, even with new stamps, new inks, newly-arranged pencils. Whatever we love, we are the better for working at it, even just a bit, every day. Without that, stasis may develop, reduced creative flow, stagnation, rust.

In the journaling community, there is, and has been, a movement advocating journaling every day. On-line groups offer support to one another, provide a venue to share photos of each day's accomplishments. I've visited other sites where bloggers post about taking challenges for things like "30 paintings in 30 days." Year before last I signed up for NaNoWriMo, committing to daily writing for the month of November with a minimum number of words produced by month end. I set myself a daily word count quota as well. No novel resulted from the exercise but a lot of showing up did and the awareness that showing up, sitting down and typing something every day, before doing anything else, produces its own satisfaction.

On the evening of February 7, it will be 18 years since I received the call that catapulted me from rubber stamp amateur to professional. There was no union to join but earning money doing what we love is vastly appealing. Regaining the edge I once had matters, for I intend to keep doing this until I really am too inflexible to manipulate the tools. Plus, as Woody Allen said in another context, it's the most fun I've had without laughing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


When my second, my replacement, HD converter box died last week (older tv, no cable) I needed time to decide what my best choice might be. Yet another short-lived box or an HD-enabled small, flat-screen tv? Either seemed frivolous, for now. Meanwhile, I'm watching for the second time, as the signal-bereft set does act as a monitor, season one of FRINGE. In the first season, we have not yet been shown the East River vortex, which scares the bejeezus out of me every time I see it. Whirlpools and watery vortexes do that.
Fox is grumbling about the cost to produce the show, which it, Fox, scheduled to appear on Friday nights when the audience is notoriously small. The show reminds me of early X-FILES, and while I am not a fanatic, I am a fan.

My son tells me of fan sites and message boards for the programs we enjoy, or did enjoy before they were cancelled, of just how wrapped up in and dogmatic about the invention viewers become. Between FRINGE, current and earlier, and Hulu's access to the newest JUSTIFIED, I've been reminded why I generally lean toward fiction. Perhaps more so now as I find myself saying, "I don't know," twenty or more times a day in response to everything. Everything.

My states of unknowingness may likely remain that way; there aren't answers to questions I ask. Is Steven Hawking right and will mankind only survive by colonizing space and is the most remote possibility of that more than 100 years away? Will there ever be anything resembling harmony between our political parties again? Did Congress really pass a bill that allows the government to detain without charges or explanation - and in an undisclosed location - anyone who fits any profile of what may constitute a terrorist? When did a quart of brand-name ice cream start to cost more than $10.00? When did access to a computer begin to equate with the likelihood of becoming a best-selling author? Why are we being told relentlessly that we need coaches for everything from what to wear to, especially, how to promote ourselves and all the things we are supposed to be trying to sell?

In fiction, someone who knows their craft ties up the loose ends. Someone - or in the case of tv, a team of them - knows how things turn out. They reveal to us, an episode or a scene at a time, why or who.

It is not that I need answers to all my questions to feel comfortable. I believe that much of life is intended to be a mystery, but come on. I can tell the difference between an existential unknown and deliberate misdirection, intentional lies. For now, the unsettling FRINGE universes seem less baffling than my own.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Modern conveniences, color and not much about the sun

Thinking this might be a flash fiction day, I Googled a bit, seeking current challenges. The "snake hunter" photo was not an answer, nor was a three-sentence story told from the POV of a, in my case, mosquito. Worthy challenges, just not quite hitting the mark.

Another site suggested the title of whatever song came up first on one's Shuffle as the title for the story, or, lacking an iPod or iTunes, mentioned Pandora. Am I the last human to know about Pandora, a radio site where one can choose from eight or so categories of folk music? I'm not sure that I agree it belongs there, but my first tune was George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun."

As I spent the first part of my morning photographing (yes, at the last minute with the flash and its glare) and copying color pencil samples I was mailing to a rubber stamp store and as I had the choice of a sun image or a sunflower, I squinted and proclaimed the signs were lining up. Or so it seemed.

Our scattered clouds have gone back to their corners, leaving open space for sunshine to reach around trees and a wall, warming my left knee. I guess I'm not fiction-inclined today, thinking instead of elements connected to my stamping.

For years I lusted after any impossibly costly color copier that I would lease and have in my home. Having been through the travail of a black and white copier and its paper jams and toner mishaps at my last real job and knowing - this was in the 80s - how long one could wait for the technician, it is a fact that I hadn't thought the matter through. Luckily, if you want to look at it that way, the cost was too crazy and my credit too ordinary and that fantasy, though not forgotten, was surrendered.

That brings us to this morning. Six a.m., in my home, in my house clothes and house hair, and I am making color copies of my samples there, steps from the kitchen, in mere seconds, really. I am awed once again at the advancements that make our lives better, richer, happier, easier and the world is not, entirely, careening down the greased chute to extinction based on too many years of too many bad ideas. May I never lose the wonder and gratitude I feel for being able to make color copies at will.

The magnitude of this only-dreamed-of luxury ties for Best Thing with the US Postal Service having procedures set up that allow citizens to print out labels with postage on their computers, schedule pick-up for Priority Mail at the front door and not have to take every package weighing more than 13 ounces to the post office. In a flat rate box, with printed label and pick up, it's on its way, no questions asked. When I discovered that, my life improved by a factor of at least 7.

My few hundred word overture to flash fiction was not worth preserving, other than that it brought up colors and caused me to spend time with the names for such I found in researching Memento stamp pads, such as Tangelo, Rhubarb Stalk, Paris Dusk, Bamboo Leaves, Potter's Clay and Grape Jelly. I wonder if one could work from home inventing color names for assorted products. I remember sending for, with great anticipation, a Mr. Peanut bank, paid for with several cellophane peanut bags and a small amount of cash, finally picking his color from among, I believe, three or four choices. I thought he would feel most like himself in Peanut Tan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thinking of letters and lights

In some quarters, the second week in January is considered National Letter Writing Week. There seems to be a difference of opinion on the subject. If we allow every week to be a time of correspondence and sending odd, lovely or controversial snail mail, the debate evaporates.

One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of FLOATING WORLDS: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer. Neumeyer is interviewed on the subject HERE.

Examples of illustrated envelopes from the book.

Mr. Gorey simply makes me want to be better at everything I set my hand to.


Other post-Christmas musings.

The Christmas tree still sits beside the bookcase but the lights have not been turned on for three nights now. I leave the Christmassing of our home to my son. It asks more than I have to make it happen. Yet I would not be unhappy to have that warm glow of the lights for a bit longer. For years (years!) I’ve thought of having some light strings in my bedroom - I have a string of heart-shaped lights which haven’t left the box since I bought them 12 or so years earlier. There are unused clear lights I could add, maybe a spare clutch of the small, multi-colors I favor, left from when we got bigger trees. Our artificial, pre-lighted tree has been the right answer on so many levels. When the in-town tree farm prices hit $80 for the smallest fir, I knew we were finished with that. Freshly cut and drilled to drink up water from its specifically-designed stand, it would stay moist and fragrant. We’d bought from the farm for so long that I no longer trusted the dried-out offerings from tree lots. Especially as December almost always brings wind which speeds the drying. And there was no reason or possibility of going to the Chinatown auctions to buy a tree right off the train. Our little bright tree is just right. But there is something that reaches beyond the season in the lights, plus the string of large, old-fashioned bulbs we have draped around the wrought iron baker’s rack that holds the children’s book collection. Both bring an inner and outer warmth, the absence of which I feel when they have been extinguished for the year. It would be a gift to me, and not take away from what the Christmas lights add to human days when it is their season, to allow myself the simple gift of finding a place to drape, in safety, a few strands of light that I could see from bed, like having a bit of Christmas, like a plate of cookies each bedtime, to sweeten the fact of being human, of longing for what cannot be had or regained. Light and color feed my soul. I need to take that more seriously.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Keith Jarrett and the shoebox

The friend who gave the Keith Jarrett album and opened another door into music's vastness has been gone several years. Her memory visited me over the holidays, thinking of her caroling parties through the narrow lanes of a local foothill canyon, how we managed to increase our numbers with neighbors who grabbed their jackets, and a bottle or a violin, and fell in among us. Her name was Jane. We were reporters together, neighbors, and got ourselves tangled up in the drive to start a guild at our paper in a county, and a chain, that had no tolerance for organizing. Soon after, we slid over into advertising and public relations. At her memorial service we were each handed a box of Junior Mints. She occupies almost as much territory as real tinsel, hung a strand at a time, in the land of what Christmas once was.

There is a threshold over which we step and discover that not everything about the past still has the power to wound. Benign melancholy, bearable and casting an ochre-colored light over people and events, carries a warmth that doesn't deny loss but makes appreciation possible in spite of it. How much of life's sweetness is in spite of, rather than because of? Compare and contrast, as they used to instruct us on those long-ago essay tests.

Since the brain and heart, as organ or metaphor, do not require that much space within the body, I imagine all their contents fitting into shoebox. Tied with string for its creases and corners soon began to wear and droop, a shoebox was issued to each of us. Before we ever speak, we can tell our brethren by the battered parcel held close in the crook of an arm. There is comfort in acknowledging we have histories. Angella's post of January 6 introduced me to the characters from Showtime's Homeland, people whose pasts, it seems, are always with them.

If we were rocks, I think we'd be categorized as metamorphic. A simple sentence on-line tells the story: "Heat and pressure can change many things." Who we were travels forward with us. Where we've been and with whom somehow still leaves room in the box for what comes next.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Do the next indicated thing

Because we hear her, or of her, too seldom, Nina Simone sings Leonard Cohen.

It is not easy to identify whether the no-man's land sense that follows the year-end holidays is a place where only I falter, or whether most of us fall into a wandering torpor. Under clear skies with mid-80s temperatures, under the shadow of a passing blimp on its way to the Rose Bowl, today it feels that I'm waiting for the courier to arrive with my assignment. Mine arrives via index card inside a manila envelope. The note says, Do the next indicated thing. I can just hear the subtext: stop tap dancing. Catch any bus that passes.

Yesterday my son found and printed for me the DON'T BREAK THE CHAIN chart from The Writers Store, a simple grid of 365 blocks to be crossed off each day that one has written something. There is room, fortunately, to add 366 for this leap year.

Wanting to keep IT, whatever It is, as simple as possible, I will do all I can not to break the chain. In the meantime, I have a collection of new rubber stamps that needs to be turned into samples. If you see Rubbermoon's posts on Facebook, the two most recent cards as of Monday morning, submitted by Kathy Lewis, are glorious, light-hearted and inspiring.

So, with a blog post and my weekly retail paragraph completed, I can draw my "x" through box number 1 (I got a late start). So far, so good.