saturday (paper)

The first week of May is our busiest week of the year. Many of the things we hold dear have major fundraisers this week – We Stories, the girls’ elementary school soiree, and the Sparkle Run. So our hearts and hands and brains are all over the place right now. Forgive the brevity here.

If you’ve followed along for awhile, you know that every year I make a set of raffle posters for the soiree. Sometimes I use acrylics or watercolors – one year I used fabric. But I love to use paper, and returned to the theme this year – with lots of dimension.

The theme this year was the Wizard of Oz, and that’s a really easy theme to run with. We initially had four raffle baskets, but as we bundled auction items together we changed it to three, and the themes are built around the items the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are all seeking from the Wizard. I didn’t want to use the characters themselves, but drew on imagery from their placement along the yellow brick road, and also included the items they received in Oz, which carry the names of each raffle prize.

First up: “Knowledge is Power”. This package includes lots of items to increase your brain power.

Dimensional diploma, and lots of straw.

I also display the names of the items / donors somewhere on each board – although a more detailed description is included in each guest’s program. This year I decided to “carve” the donors name in bricks like you see in memorial plazas, and made the bricks yellow of course! This took the most time, but was worth it.

I really love the corn stalks. I tried to use plant life / greenery / trees along the way that showed the path through the forest, and how it changed throughout the story – from corn fields, to tall, slender trees for chopping, and then more jungle like when the lion shows up.

Next up: “Love is All You Need”. This package includes big ticket items that involve activities to do with someone you love.

The tin man’s heart clock was my favorite thing to create. I cut A LOT of gold chain circles, and made the dimensional daisies, and I think it turned out really great.

I like the abstract trees here, with no greenery – but I felt like it needed some color to tie in with the others, and to make the red heart pop, so I hinted at the poppy fields to come in the corner of this poster.

And the last one (maybe my favorite): Be Brave. This awesome package includes a ton of things that might force you out of your comfort zone a little!

My first thought was of Bert Lahr’s lion in the beauty salon in Oz. It’s one of my favorite scenes from the movie, and I love when he gets a red bow, and then his medal of valor pinned to his ringlets.

When there were four posters, the fourth was going to be a Dorothy one, so I already had red sparkly paper. I used it for the bow instead, and I like the ruby slipper reference here.

It was a lot of oranges and yellows, so the jungle like greenery really helped in the corners.

Raffle tickets go in corresponding glass jars, so I made these little themed tags to identify the jars.

And there you have it – what I’ve been up to all Saturday! Paper art is my favorite art.

saturday (exquisite)

I was getting my hair cut earlier this week, and the salon chair is always a great place for conversation. Somehow our talking turned to my grandparents – I think maybe we were talking about this post I wrote recently about my grandfather’s poetry, but at some point it turned to my grandmother’s numerous talents. Our family is nearing eight years without her, which seems both incredibly long and short at the same time. I think I assumed that the missing would fade somewhat with the passing years, but I find myself thinking of her more often lately than I would have expected.

I’ve been wondering about why this is, and I think maybe I’ve settled on an explanation. I’ve talked a lot about incorporating rituals into my life that help me connect with things that bring me joy and calm and respite, as well as celebrating the beauty around me. I’ve tried to be intentional about this practice, and most importantly – specific, and focused in my attention to them. Because I can remember times in my life when I’ve struggled with difficult transitions, or battled depression or anxiety, or felt immense and relentless grief – and during those periods I would frequently tell myself that this life – MY life – was beautiful, and that I should feel lucky and grateful and satisfied, not unmoored and untethered and bleak. It stayed in this vague, gauzy, abstract form that did nothing for the very real and tangible struggle I was mired in. It didn’t bring me comfort; it encouraged guilt, and feelings of inadequacy.

Specificity changed that, not overnight, but with time. I named those things that made life beautiful – that gave it meaning, that challenged me, that inspired me. And then I mapped out where those things could fit in – daily, weekly, with specificity and priority. I documented them with photos and words – many I share, most I don’t.

I found ways for these things to bleed into each other. I strengthened the ritual of early morning walking in the garden, first with E, now with F. I allowed the excitement around new discoveries in the garden to help motivate me to run a little faster and longer on the park trails in the afternoons. I brought those colors indoors – on my counter, in my vases and my lunches, on our bookshelves, in our art collections. I sought out inspiring people around me, and stopped admiring them from afar – I said hello, I’ve been thinking about this too, let’s talk more, grab coffee, collaborate. I tuck away all these things for now and for later, so if I’m asked to help out here or there, I can pull from all of those things just what I need. A catalog of petals and poses and pages and poetry and passions and people that I draw deep breaths from each day.

And so I miss my grandmother in this moment, because I’d like to share this all with her. Partly because I know that she would draw equal or greater joy in the collection of these things. But mostly because I wish I could share with her my thoughts on this. My grandparents loved me and my sister unconditionally, and they were passionate about everything that we were interested in. But in my memories of my grandmother, I will always be young – and so I miss these deeper conversations I’d like to have with her now. I wrote these words as part of her obituary –

Jo was a gifted artist, particularly with textiles, and graciously shared her numerous talents throughout her life with family, friends, and the many church homes served by Jo and George. She was exquisite in every sense of the word, and she leaves a lasting legacy of a beautiful life and a life made beautiful.

– and I really meant them. I just wish that I could talk to her about them now. I’d like to tell her how I squeezed up my face in thought and reflection in the quiet of my dad’s office the day after she died. I was looking for words, and had no shortage of them – but this kind of writing requires a complicated balance of both depth and brevity. It was not enough to simply acknowledge her passing and our grief in biographical form. I needed to be specific, to name what I had always thought of in a gauzy, vague, and abstract sort of way. I wish I could tell her that the specificity required of me in that moment would become a seed that I have tended now for almost eight years. That when I finally relaxed my squeezed up face and settled on those words something had changed in me. I would tell her that I look for the exquisite in every part of this life – the challenges and the setbacks and the triumphs and the mundane – and the whole of it is so very, very beautiful.

saturday (spring fever)

Last Saturday turned into some kind of vortex that sucked us into flurry of activity and decision making and financial outlay that made my head spin. We returned home just before midnight with a new car, collapsed into bed around 1:30 am, woke sometime later to a huge spring storm with intense winds and hail (that I was convinced was going to crush said new car), and we’ve been trying to catch our breath ever since. At some point midweek I realized that this blog never even crossed my mind over that weekend, but several things have been percolating in there since then. Having trouble deciding where to land. Here are a few things I’ve been bouncing around in my third story:

Food – access / planning / health / privilege

Aging – agility vs. fragility / forehead creases / privilege

Notre Dame – collective grief / architecture – history / complicated church feelings / what we mourn – what we miss / Western bias / privilege

Travel – summary of spring break trip / new history / surprises / complicated feelings about the South / privilege

Air Travel Anxiety – where I was / what I did / how it worked / (likely some privilege in there as well – can you tell I’m deep in that thread as I work my way through my current Witnessing Whiteness sessions?)

Over the course of the week, anytime I’ve had some time alone to think, I’ve been churning through a lot of thoughts on all of these things. But just when my head starts to settle into the discussion, I get distracted by all the SPRING.

My attention span is ridiculously short these days. As soon as I can get outdoors, I’m there, marveling in everything that is unraveling. A few times this week I’ve started crying while I’m running. It starts as a giant grin on my face, and the next thing I know my cheeks are wet and my eyes are watering and I just feel like a different sort of oxygen is pumping through my body.

Last night I stayed up way too late working on several things I was behind on, and then I missed my sleepy period and was wide awake for several hours after everyone else had gone to bed. This morning my alarm went off, and I was so tempted to just shut it off for good, and sleep in another hour until my yoga class.

I hit the snooze button and kept my eyes closed and thought about it some more. I convinced myself the sleep was important, and I set a new alarm for an hour later. And the sun streamed in, and I could hear the sounds of the birds outside, and I flopped around in the bed for a few more minutes until I couldn’t stand it anymore. It’s spring, and I just want to be in the middle of it. I turned off the alarm clock and rushed around to catch up on my time.

So the other items can wait a little longer. The day has caught up with me, the sun and the wind and the exercise has worn me out. I’m ready for bed, but E’s begging me to watch a Gilmore Girls episode with her. I’ll curl up next to her and drift off while we’re watching, I’m sure. M and F fell asleep while reading – we all need the extra zzzz’s.

Instead of more words I have more pictures. I couldn’t decide. I’ve uploaded almost all of them, taken over the past two weeks. I know I say this every year, but it all happens so fast. First it’s slow, until it’s not, and then who can sleep when there is so much gorgeousness out there to discover?

The words can wait. Spring can’t.