Monday, June 29, 2015

Speaking of the ocean...

My latest "jumbly journal" is on an ocean theme.

 I started with some beautiful decorative papers that have wonderful ocean themed images on them.


And from there, I started decorating and adding fun bits and flaps and envelopes and pockets and all.

A lighthouse demanded its own tall flap.

It's over on my Etsy shop now, but you can see the full journal, page by page, right here: 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ocean, and Redwoods, and Bears! Oh My!

 This past week, my sister Laura and I headed up north for a sisters' mini-retreat up in Humboldt County.  We stayed in the town of Eureka, which is about 5 hours straight north of San Francisco.  We'd rented a cozy little house in a neighborhood full of little old 1930's houses, and we spent 5 days exploring and hanging out and taking pictures and generally having a good time.  

To get there, we got to drive through a lot of redwood forests.  There's a wonderful stretch of road called "Avenue of the Giants" where you cruise along with huge redwood trees towering on either side of you.  It's gorgeous, and it smells really good too.

 Along the way, we saw an assortment of wonderfully tacky tourist spots. And we stopped at almost every one.  Because, you know, it's a vacation thing to do.

My favorite was this one, "Confusion Hill."  What's not to like about a place called Confusion Hill?!  Apparently it's one of those mysterious places where water appears to run uphill and gravity seems wonky. We didn't venture back to that part of the attraction.  We were distracted by the carved redwood bears.

Do they have these in other areas of the country?  I think of them as a California redwood forest thing. Anyway, we admired the various poses and skill (or lack thereof) in making good bear faces.

My sister decided that she wanted to get a small one for her front porch, so we set out to check out all the bears along the way so she could pick the best one.  After various stops and much scrutiny of different bears, she decided she liked the Confusion Hill bears the best -- which meant we'd stop on the way home. Oh boy, more Confusion ahead!

I used to drive up to Eureka several times a year when I was taking a long-term bookbinding course up that way, and I always wanted to stop at this Grandfather Tree place (because, as you can tell by now, I love these sorts of tourist spots) but never had the time.  This time, we stopped.

And it was one huge tree.  The statistics were rather mind-boggling.

 At the Grandfather Tree place, I spotted the bear I'd have taken home... if he'd been for sale, if I could have afforded him, if he'd have fit in the car. (And the answer to all of those was "no.")  But I liked his look of stoic wisdom.

Then we were back on the road, to see more redwood trees.

About 5 hours after leaving home, we made it to our little cottage.  We found this place through VRBO, and we both had the same reaction -- it looked like our grandmothers' house, and brought back a lot of childhood associations. It turned out to be charming -- not fancy, not updated especially, but clean and comfortable with a grandma's house sort of vibe. 

What did we do while we there there?  Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

So you want to see how that book turned out?

I showed you the other day how I started with this piece of paper as the inspiration ...

and now there's a finished journal!

You can see all of the pages here:

And I've even listed it for sale on my Etsy shop.  I sure am having fun with these journals.

Oh, you don't have time to watch the video but you want to see a few pages?  Here you go!

I'd like to work on my next journal, but I've got some laundry and packing to do.  I'm going on a little vacation next week!  Yoo hoo! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's a journal, but it's just like a quilt


I'm still making journals.  I'm still obsessed.  But also this is the time of year when I need to compete my continue legal education credits by listening to online legal education programs, and I've found the least painful best way to do it is to have them on when I'm working on something in my sewing room.  
And while I was in there fiddling away, as I do, I was thinking about how I approach making a journal much the same way I approach making a quilt.  So I thought I'd show you the steps as I'm working on the current journal. 

The creative spark can come from different directions -- a theme, a particular recipient.  This one started with some scrapbooking paper I really like.  So I started with one piece -- sort of like a focus fabric. 

From there, I went to my paper stash and pulled out papers that I liked with the starting paper. I usually pick at least 18, as that works for my starting point of 3 signatures of 6 folded pages in each.

So there was my initial assortment.  And from there I went to my scrap paper bin, to pull out scraps that might work with it all.  

You can see (below) what I pulled out, again for my starting pile.

I realized that some of the papers had bright white backs, and this palette seemed to call out for something a bit softer. So I went down to the kitchen...

and used some really strong instant coffee to spray all of the white papers for a slightly vintagey look.  (The first time Miss C saw me doing this she thought I was nuts.)  Some people bake their tea or coffee dyed papers in the oven to get a crispy, crackly texture.  I just air-dry my papers.  I always think baked, crackly paper feels too brittle and fragile. 

While that was drying, I went back upstairs to my bin of jumbly bits to choose more that I thought would be fun for this journal. I throw a bunch of stuff into this bin.  Old book pages.  Vintage postcards.  Sometimes things torn out of magazines.  A lot of the stuff in this bin came from yard sales.

Here's the assortment I ended up pulling for this journal, below:

And from there, I went to my bin of little tiny bits.  I guess this is sort of like choosing the quilting thread color and quilting design, maybe.  These bits tend to be smaller than, say, 4 inches square.  Stickers.  Vintage playing cards.  Little bits of ephemera.  Just fun decorative bits. I always love digging through this bin and usually return to it a bunch of times once I get to the point of decorating the book pages.  (The downside of having a bin like this is that it makes you want to save every tiny bit of paper.  Kind of like how you start saving scraps of fabric and next thing you know, you're saving the teensiest strips because you might be able to use them some day.)

So here, below, is what I started with for this journal.  See what I mean about the quilt parallels? It's all about mixing color and pattern and visual texture.

So, once I have the starting "jumbly" stuff, I start by folding papers and nesting them into the beginnings of signatures. 

And then I start filling and decorating the pages.  I add more, smaller pages between the ones you see above. I use scraps to create pockets and flaps.  This is, for me, the funnest part, although it's all fun.

Here's what my table looks like at the moment. You can see the 3 nested signatures on the sewing machine table. I use my old beloved Elna Super for sewing the papers... my very first machine, bought with money my Grandma gave me when I graduated from college.  That machine is a workhorse and I will never get rid of it.

So, away I go.  This part can take a few hours, or a few days, depending on how much time I have.  Seeing as how I have 4 hours of a program on appellate advocacy left to listen to, this is where I'll be later this afternoon.  You can sew a lot of doo-dads on in 4 hours. 

Stay tuned.  I'll show you how it looks when it's finished.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dizzy Dog Creations!

Yes, I'm still making journals!  Here is my latest, with a dog theme.  And guess what?  It's available on my new Etsy shop, Dizzy Dog Creations!  

I'm having such fun making these multipurpose books.  I use a hard cover, from a new or vintage discarded book, and decorate it in a way that makes me happy.  I mix new scrapbook papers, bits of stationery and other papers, journaling cards and tags, vintage images, my own photos, and whatever other stuff just seems to fit. 

I like adding pockets in unexpected places -- see that black and white polka dotted tag on the right, above?  That's a semi-hidden card that pulls out from behind the vintage book image.

And I like to have spots for tucking things -- maybe a page or card to journal things on.  Stories of your dog's latest antics.  Memories of a sweet dog from your childhood.  Or just your list of what you need from the grocery store.  Because everything seems more fun when it's tucked behind a happy picture in a pretty book.

I make envelopes from pretty paper to include in each of the 3 signatures, for putting special things.

And I love finding the right charms or doodads to decorate the outside. 

If you want to see more, you can watch this video showing every page inside this book.

As I'm making these, it occurs to me how much it's like making a quilt.  Mixing colors and patterns and texture.  Finding things that fit together, with some surprises too.  Making something functional but pretty, too.  The obsession continues.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

A special sort of difficulty

It's that time of year when kids are graduating, having parties, getting accepted to college -- and parents are proudly posting photos and announcements on Facebook.  That's natural, of course, and it's wonderful and fun to see the kids I knew as toddlers and kindergarteners and goofy elementary school kids looking so adult and launching into the big wide world.

But for those of us with special needs kids, it's a trying, emotional time too.  We're happy for our friends and we delight in hearing about their children's successes.  We understand the pride and excitement and desire to share their kids' accomplishments.  But at the same time, seeing those announcements and successes brings up some sharp and difficult feelings of pain.  They remind us of what our kids aren't yet capable of, of what we wish they could do. We wonder if our kids will ever be able to experience those life milestones.  Some parents know their kids won't ever achieve them.  We know that our kids take a different path, with different milestones.

A while back, I slammed hard into this situation.  I was getting together with a bunch of friends with whom, years earlier, I'd been in a very fun book club.  We'd met when our kids were in preschool together, and we'd met monthly to eat out, chat, talk books.  But as our kids got older and our lives got busier, the book club fell by the wayside. I was so looking forward to the reunion we'd planned. I really, really like these women.  Naturally, the evening involved everyone catching everyone else up on what they and their families were going through.  It was all about college applications and acceptances and scholarships and what kid was dating whom and what career paths they'd chosen.  I sat there, feeling both glad for those wonderful kids and their moms, and struck dumb by how dreadfully it all hurt.  I felt like I couldn't participate -- not that I wasn't enormously proud of my daughter's accomplishments, not that she didn't have wonderful accomplishments. And, to be clear, not one of those women in the room would have judged me or my daughter, or viewed her as "less than" in any way.  It was me, confronting my own pain and jealousy and feelings of grief.  I felt a bit like I was on the far side of a deep gulf, and just couldn't even begin to reach the other side. 

It's tricky, negotiating the minefield of conflicting emotions we experience every day as parents of kids with special needs.  We love our kids. We're enormously proud of them.  We understand how hard they work and how much they tackle every single minute of every single day.  We know how something that looks like a tiny, ordinary thing can be a huge, significant accomplishment. But that doesn't make it any less painful when we see how our friends' and families' kids seem to sail along doing all those normal things that, for our kids, aren't "normal" at all. And then there's the guilt.  How can we NOT feel happy for our friends and their kids?  Does it make us bad parents if we feel sad that our kids aren't "normal?"

Years ago, I read a novel about a woman who died and had to learn about what happened next.  After a series of tasks, she met with her guiding angel, who explained to her that because she'd been so good in her life, she could choose to return to earth in the highest form of being there was, to do the greatest service there could be on earth. It would be a hard path, the angel explained.  But it would give her the most opportunity to teach others and make the world a better place. When the woman agreed, she was reborn on earth as a baby with special needs. 

I think of that often. I think of how amazing our kids are, how much they struggle in ways that aren't even visible to most people.  And how for us, their parents and friends and families, they help us to understand so much at a truly different level. We experience compassion and patience we didn't know we had.  We see people differently, understanding that everyone has struggles that aren't visible on the surface and that we may never know.  We see the world in a different way, too, and end up choosing paths we never expected to travel. We learn gratitude, and how to live in the moment, because sometimes that's all we can do, all our kids can do.  Yes, our kids teach us so much.  And, on our best days, we can help share those lessons and grow.

Which is not to say that every parent doesn't feel and experience these things.  I'm convinced that that's what parenting is about, mainly -- learning patience and compassion and understanding for some separate person that, no matter how much you try to shape them, is different from you.

But for those of us with kids with special challenges, you know what I mean.  It can be easy to forget, especially as we're watching other kids forge ahead.  It's hard not to wonder "why couldn't my child's life been like that?  Why couldn't my life have gone so normally?  Why are things always harder for me?"

So at times like this, I try to remember how lucky I am.  I have an amazing, creative, funny, smart daughter.  She's taken me places I never could have imagined.  She teaches me so much all the time.  Because of all of it -- the pain, the difficulty, the uncertainty, the struggle -- I've become more patient, more tolerant, more open to different approaches and ideas.  Parenting has stretched me more than I ever thought possible.

If you're feeling all of these things, there are places where you can share your frustrations, your pain, and those mega-accomplishments that, to folks with NT kids, would seem like little ordinary things.  There's a great book called "Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children."  It's written by two moms of special needs kids, who write with great humor about the ways things can be tricky and how to cope with them.  And, even more helpful to me, those same women run a facebook group here where parents like me share their joys and frustrations, their tricks and strategies, their good days and bad days.  There's a lot of humor, a lot of help, and most of all, a whole lot of understanding. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

My Jumbly Journals

I mentioned recently that I've been in the throes of an obsession a creative path involving the sewing of paper.  I thought I'd show you what I've been up to.  I'm making journals.  Actually, I'm developing my own style of journal I call "Jumbly Journals,  because they are a happy jumble of images and materials and patterns, but still suitable for journaling in or sticking things in or using in all sorts of different ways.  (Some people call this sort of thing "junk journals," but I think that makes them sounds... well, junky.)

I've made books for a long time, but I got enthused in a whole new way when I took an online class from Mary Ann Moss called "Remains of the Day." It opened up my eyes to using a huge variety of fun stuff in one book, and I've been messing around with them ever since.  (In case you are interested, a new session of the class is open for registration right now.)  In any event, I've been fiddling and honing my methods to make them the way I like, and I'm having a blast.

This is the one I finished a few days ago, with a travel theme. 

I don't know why, but it needed these beady things hanging from the side.  They also work as bookmarks.

What's that you say? You'd like to see inside?  Well, here you go.

I like to use a wide assortment of things inside.  Some of my own photographs.  Bits of old calendars. 

I like a mix of old and new stuff.  That "Fountain Paint Pot" page is from a vintage travel souvenir booklet I found at a yard sale.

I've been using bits of maps.  Even the occasional perfect greeting card.

The hardest part, I'm finding, is leaving space -- for writing and sticking photos and memorabilia.  I like to have lots of pockets and flaps that will hold journaling cards and pages.

Here are a few pages from a book I made a while back.  There's no theme, just stuff I thought was fun.  I use the occasional old yearbook photo (from a random old yearbook, again found at a yard sale).

I'll use old copyright-free photos, and bits of the really thrashed children's books I find at the thrift store.

You can tell in this early book I kept forgetting to leave SPACE.  I was having too much fun mixing things in. I think there's a quilterly aspect to this, mixing disparate things and colors and patterns to make something pleasing.

But I love it.  A lot of people who make junk journals glue everything.  Me, I sew.  I like the way it looks and feels to have stitching on the page, and I think I mentioned how much I love the pocka-pocka sound sewing through paper makes.  It's a very happy sound. 

Here's one that I'm finishing now -- it's almost done, I just need to sew the signatures into the cover.  It's on a reading theme. Shhhhh, don't tell anyone.  This is a gift.

I found a great assortment of library-themed scrapbooking paper, and I've had such fun mixing it with other bits and bobs.

I'm in love with the paper that looks like card catalog drawers. I think I need more.  Just because.  To hoard and love.  And maybe use from time to time.

I'm even starting to think about selling these on Etsy.  Do you think they'd sell?  I'm just having so much fun making them that I don't want to stop.