Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tomorrow is Moving Day

It feels strange to have children who are old enough to do their own packing. David is filling the van as I write this, and Emma is upstairs cramming stuff into boxes. All she wants me from me now is to hang around with her and talk. As you know, talking is always something I can do.
Today was spent shopping and picking up various pieces of furniture donated by friends and relatives. Mum gave us two comfy beds from their spare room so Emma and David will have a place to sleep when they come home.

The house has a weird vibe, as if it knows that things will be changing shortly, and Lily is freaked. She has shifted into Velcro dog mode—never a stretch for her—and is glued to me wherever I go. I’m just crossing my fingers that she won’t start howling tomorrow. And me? I plan to do all my howling in private because the kids are just so excited.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Burning the midnight oil

I promised Emma I would keep her company while she finished off her extended paper on Children and the Law—all 52 pages of it. Tomorrow is her last day of law school…well, technically I guess it’s today. I’ve just prepared her a fortifying snack of crackers, olives and cheese, and made some for myself too.
Actually it’s never a hardship for me to burn the midnight oil especially when I’m not the one toiling over law books and policing my grammar. I always hated writing essays when I was in university. Coming up with ideas was the fun part. Putting it all together was a drag. While Emma has been working, I’ve written two pages of my book, looked at Renaissance paintings, played in Photoshop and compiled a list of action verbs. Now that I’ve been fueled by my favorite garlic-stuffed olives, I think I’ll tackle my email.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The muse takes a vacation

There are piles of stuff everywhere now. David spent the day packing and he seems to be really organized. Last week he cleaned out the garage, which was great. However, my hopes of taking over his closet as storage space for my rubber stamps have been dashed. He plans on using it to store the stuff he’s not taking with him but can’t bear to part with (like his G.I. Joe trucks). I remember doing the same thing when I left home, so I guess what goes around eventually comes around, doesn’t it?
The muse isn’t taking kindly to all the chaos around here. Today she forced me to add six pages to my book, and then—without telling me how to accomplish this—she promptly decamped. I sure hope she comes back next week. (I’ve even promised her that she will have her own dog-free bedroom).

Monday, April 23, 2007


I’ve always been drawn to Madonna and Child images. When I came across this one tonight, I realized by next week, Emma and David will be in their new home, and this started me thinking about the whole concept of mothering.
To me, it’s not linked to the biological function of producing children, because if this happened to be true, giving birth would automatically turn a woman into a good mother and the world would be a much happier place.
For this reason, I think mothering is a divine quality that can be acknowledged and practiced by anyone irrespective of age, sex or family situation. In a way, we’re all potentially mothers. Nurturing, supporting and helping people to become their best selves is something we not only can do, but should also aspire to.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Carmi’s in RubberStampMadness!

Beverly and I spent a really enjoyable day trolling the funky stores on Queen Street, eating, drinking coffee and talking. In fact, I talked so much my lips are chapped. (I think Beverly’s are too).
When I got home, lo and behold there was the latest issue of RubberStampMadness and in it the article I wrote on Carmi called “Going Full Tilt: Carmi Cimicata shares her secrets for creative success.” (I was almost afraid to read it in case I got anything mixed up!)
The article is four pages long and features several pieces of her art along with a fab shot of her studio, and Carmi with the boys (Shadow and Shamus). What I really loved about writing this feature on Carmi was that I felt inspired to focus more on what I really enjoy doing, and to be more organized.
It’s always a privilege to have another artist share creative insights with you. While we respond instinctively to the visual, we don’t always realize how much effort goes into producing the finished work. When I’m awake at two in the morning and toiling away in Photoshop, I often think about Carmi and wonder if she's burning the early morning oil like I am. Anyway, don’t take my word for how interesting she is—read the article!
P.S. Beverly, we will use all that stuff we bought today, won’t we?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Inching Along

It’s hard to get anything else done when I’m working on my book. When something is important to me, it really takes over. Although I don’t usually have problems focusing in on creative projects, this book is forcing me to dig much deeper than I normally have to.
I much prefer to do the hard things first so I can get them over with, but this project depends on persistence not front-end loading.
How people can write books quickly is beyond me. Years ago John and I went to a seminar at The Learning Annex where this guy promised us that we could write a book in two weeks if we were organized. He had published several books himself—wish I could remember his name—but they were all non-fiction, and the people in the audience who had hoped to write their novels in just 14 (!) days were really annoyed with him.
Naturally he had an answer for everything—being more of a salesman than a writer in my opinion—and the answer was this: read a best seller; use it as a template; fit your characters into it.
At the time I was working on a romance novel so I could see what he was driving at. After all, a romance novel does have a certain structure: 1. Sparks fly 2. Misunderstandings develop 3. Couple parts 4. Lusty reunion 5. Eternal love (inferred). When you read a romance novel, you know you’re guaranteed the couple will end up together, but the stories and the people involved are always different. How could anyone possibly do something like this on the fly unless you’re Dame Barbara Cartland?

Apparently Dame Barbara reclined on a sofa, ate bonbons and just yakked on and on while her secretary took dictation. Presumably, the poor secretary was in charge of correcting Dame Barbara’s grammar—such as was—and checking to make sure the heroine didn’t appear in two different gowns in the same scene. Coming up with the idea is actually the easy part; the hard part is shaping it into something worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Catching up

It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I haven’t updated my writing portfolio for almost two years. Now that I have, I’m feeling pleased with myself…not only because I’ve accomplished something I’d been promising myself to do, but also because I can put all those magazines away to make room for more stuff. (Just what I need!)
I’ve written so many articles over the years that I usually don’t read them when they come out. Sometimes it’s almost six months before something I write appears in print, and my focus always seems to be on the project I’m doing in the here and now.
I made time tonight to work on another digital ATC in Photoshop. This image is from a book of playing cards published in the 19th century. Cards have long fascinated me. I remember reading somewhere that the advent of printing meant the average person could then afford some kind of art, even if it was only a deck of cards.
I’d really like to design my own deck at some point. Years ago I started drawing black and white tarot cards, but it was too complicated so I soon gave it up. Although I’ve posted over 60 ATCs to my blog since the beginning of January, this has mostly been spontaneous. I know I’d drive myself crazy if I actually had to organize cards into suits…still, it’s an idea that won’t quite let go of me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My First Wacom Drawing

Because I’m endeavoring to start having a regular weekend again, I decided I wouldn’t work on Saturday and Sunday. I started out by playing with my Wacom tablet (thanks again Jeanne!) and it was really funny trying to sketch with it.
I’ve always done a lot of drawing—well, it’s more like doodling or cartooning really—and I’ve never been self-conscious that I’m not that good at it. Because I didn’t stop drawing when I finished grade school like a lot of people do, I naturally turn to it when I can’t express something in words. Drawing is a kind of mental shorthand for me, and lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to improve on my skills…such as they are. This may sound strange, but up until now the main thing that has concerned me about drawing is where the image is placed on the page because I react so strongly to composition.
I haven’t quite got the knack of using the Wacom stylus as a drawing tool yet, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be. Learning how to use a new tool always stretches me creatively, and I’m keen to take this particular one farther.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Body Electric

“I Sing the Body Electric” is the title of a book of short stories by Ray Bradbury, an episode of the Twilight Zone, and an album by Weather Report. In case you think I’m some kind of cultural bon vivant, I discovered this by checking it in Wikipedia.
You see, I was pretty sure this was a quote from Walt Whitman, and that he had picked it up from William Blake. I was right about Walt, but wrong about William. I haven’t had a Blake fix for a while now, and I must be due for one.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Need for More Bleen

In one of George Carlin’s routines, he talked about a math professor who had discovered a new number between six and seven called bleen. The reason I find this so funny is the professor (obviously frustrated he couldn’t come up with the answer he wanted) was driven to invent a new number so his formula would work.
I feel much the same way about language. Even though there are a million plus words in the English language, it’s always frustrating when you can’t find the one you want…the one that exactly describes the meaning you’re after. It’s enough to make you start inventing your own words.
This is one of the reasons why I generally find making art more pleasurable than writing. You can indicate a mood, an image or a color—no need to beat anyone over the head with it—because we usually respond to the visual without feeling the need to explain or understand it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bridget’s Walk for MS

Here’s a picture of my lovely niece Bridget Light—interior designer, artist extraordinaire and possessor of the greatest laugh going.
On Saturday, April 15th, Bridget is joining my sister Pam on the Toronto Super Cities WALK for MS. My brother-in-law Brian, Bridget’s dad, has MS and I wrote about one of the inventions he's come up with to aid his mobility back on November 5th of last year.
If the spirit moves you, please consider sponsoring Bridget on her walk. Just follow this link to find out more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Our Children are Moving Out

Emma and David both have jobs in Toronto that are starting soon, so they’re moving there on May 1st. The good news is they’re renting a condo together on the 32nd floor of a new building. David is really excited about the fact their view includes Lake Ontario and the CN Tower.
A couple of my friends expressed amazement that a brother and sister would actually choose to live together. But I told them Emma and David have always got on well with each other, and they’re just carrying on a family tradition. My brother Robin and I shared a place for three years back in the 70s. It worked out really well for us—and, come to think of it, I’d live with Pam in a heartbeat.
But of course there’s the whole empty nest thing going with John and me. I find I’m drawn to the bird and nest creations both Colette and Martha have posted to their blogs recently because they definitely strike a chord. In some ways, I think it will be more of an adjustment for John though because he’s such a motherly sort of guy. I don’t know any other dads who get up at the crack of dawn to make fried eggs and a packed lunch for their 20-something children.
I can’t say that I’m obsessing about Emma and David leaving—at least so far. I’m glad they’re independent and ready to embrace the larger world. But things will certainly change around here. For one thing, there will more room in the dishwasher—rearranging everything to fit has always bugged me—so I’m holding onto that thought for the time being!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Joy of Cooking

After a hard slog on my book this afternoon, rustling up some Fettuccine Alfredo was relaxing. I’ve never been into cooking that much. But for the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed it—mainly because it’s something I know I can do and it gives my family pleasure—most of the time anyway.
While I was cooking I thought about what challenge writing really is. Probably not a good thing for someone who has written so many articles to admit. You’d think I could do it with my eyes closed by now, but I don’t find it gets any easier. Writing is all about thinking, and you really have to concentrate.
Rewriting my book is proving to be harder than writing it. Today I felt like I was working on something separate from myself. The book seems to have taken on a life of its own, pushing me to go deeper, be clearer, make it better. (And here I thought I’d just be doing a house clean).
Now that I’ve passed the halfway point, I realize that it’s going to take me longer than I thought. So much for schedules and goals. I read something the day about the Apollo space missions. Apparently they were only on course a fraction of the time, and those forays into space were all about trying to get back on track. I guess inner travels involve much the same thing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thought on Journaling

It was a relief to start a new journal last night. Everything I’ve been doing for the last few weeks has depended on visual accuracy and clarity of thought (but, I have to add, not always accomplished). What I like about journaling is that I can forget about grammar, spelling and how everything looks. I just emote. Emma says that journaling is the one thing she does for herself, and I can see her point.
I don’t mind sharing some of my journals with other people. But the one I just finished? No one will be looking at that one ever. Maybe when I’m dead? Even then…hum-m…perhaps I should start gluing the pages together now, or just rip out the pages I’m okay with, and then burn it.

As I write this, I’m thinking to myself: “I’m making it sound like my journal is packed with salacious gossip.” But it isn’t. Instead, it’s a lot of dark night of the soul whining that I wouldn’t want anyone else to read. I don’t even like rereading it myself.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Book Update

If I haven’t emailed you lately, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just working on my book. But sometimes it’s hard to stay on track. A couple of nights ago I was reading Cori’s blog when I decided to check out her links. Next thing I knew I’d spent an hour reading about what waiters hate about the people they’re serving. Then I watched American Idol and part of Miss Congeniality 2. What was I thinking?
The thing is, I actually enjoy reworking my book. But I have bad days and good days obviously. On Wednesday I did ten pages and believed I was ahead of the game (for once). Then Thursday was a bust. Not in terms of the time spent in the creative inferno, but what I actually managed to accomplish.. I had decided to redo four illustrations and nothing seemed to come together. This really bothered me, so I switched to cooking instead.
While the Yorkshire puddies were baking, I sat down and had a think about things. I realized I have this awful habit of believing that if I just drive myself like a maniac, I’ll be able to finish my book in just one day. Realistically, this is just absurd—and it’s also hard on me mentally.
On the other hand, I’m convinced that you have to push yourself if you want to accomplish anything worthwhile. But there must be a happy medium somewhere, and I’m determined to find it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It snowed today

Granted, it didn’t snow much, but I always think of April 4th as the official end of winter mainly because it’s Robin’s birthday—and I’ll never forget the terrible snowstorm we had on that day (sometime back in the last century…1975 maybe?)
Anyway, I decided to make Robbie a birthday ATC in Photoshop, but it kind of bombed. Always does when feel like you just have to produce something!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Digital Overload

I realized yesterday that the reason I always seem to be tidying and reorganizing is that I not only have art supplies, writing projects and personal stuff to deal with, but there are all those computer files too…over 15,000 in Photoshop alone. I’ve been backing them up religiously ever since my computer crashed a few years ago—first on CD and now on an external drive.
There’s nothing worse than losing images you haven’t backed up—well, okay, there are worse things—but still, it’s an awful feeling when part of you evaporates into the digital void. You can always resurrect typewritten documents if you have a scanner with OCR software like mine does. But how to recreate a Photoshop file you’ve lost? You just have to start again from scratch.

The external drive I’ve been using is almost full so I had to buy a new one recently. Now I have back ups of the back ups! It took me most of yesterday to do this, and my head is spinning. The worst thing is I discovered forty or fifty projects I’d never gone back to and that still look interesting. My life needs a sidecar.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Taking a Quiz

I finally understand myself…sort of. John had David, Emma and me take an online quiz to find out whether or not we are right-brained, left-brained or in-between.
You probably already know the theory that one side of the brain tends to dominate the other—the left being logical, sequential, rational, analytical, objective and focused on the parts that make up a whole, while the right is random, intuitive, creative, holistic, subjective and synergistic.
I was sure I was left-brain dominant because I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to organize and analyze things. But it turns out that the right side of my brain rules the mental roost, so I guess I’m just trying to compensate. Both Emma and David are left brainers. Is this the result of being brought up by an all-at-once thinker for a mother?
The most interesting thing about the quiz results was that John is balanced between left and right. Apparently this is unusual. But somehow it doesn’t surprise me. John is the only person I know who not only loves poetry and art, but is also obsessed with accounting programs!