Food for Thought

My mom handed me Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art the other day. Apparently, she wanted to give it to me for Christmas, but didn’t want to seem pushy. So she read it, and decided that I needed to read it, too.

I read over 100 pages in about an hour on Monday, during a tutoring session that didn’t happen (the student didn’t show up). Time well spent.

This book is just thrilling, really.

Here’s an excerpt that I read today:

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

I so completely agree with this. In fact, when I wrote my Lenten Devotion for the church pamphlet this year, I wrote specifically about creative Gifts, and where they really come from:

For Friday, March 16
Psalm 92 is the scripture I chose. The first 4 verses speak of giving thanks, specifically through music in verse 3.

I took classical piano lessons from the summer before first grade all the way through my second year of college. Mom always instilled in me and my brothers the importance of rejoicing in God’s Gifts by using those gifts often, and thankfully St. Thomas was (and is!) a welcoming church for young musicians. I remember playing the prelude and postlude on multiple occasions at the Blue Church on Bob Wallace Avenue as well as on Bailey Cove, and how incredible it made me feel each time to be given that privilege. A blessing, truly.

Now that I’m an adult, when I see kids up at the front of the church singing for us or playing the flute or piano or guitar, I now better understand the spiritual gifts that are being given back to God with those gestures. It is important to celebrate one’s gifts and talents by returning them to the Giver through rejoicing. I hope to teach my children the same — that talents should be celebrated and shared — for it is in giving that we receive, as St. Francis of Assisi said. I think God must have had that very principle in mind, or music wouldn’t be such an important part of our worship.

Bach gave us God’s Word.
Mozart gave us God’s Laughter.
Beethoven gave us God’s Fire.
God gave us Music that we might pray without words.
–From a German Opera House

I was raised by an artist mother and a scientist father, both intensely creative in different ways. Creativity has always been encouraged — no, required — in my family. And thankfully I married someone who is tremendously supportive of me as well, even if he does tease me sometimes because I can be so enslaved by my need to make things.

Do it or don’t do it.

I’m going to do it. You?

Fish Stories

I entered the Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame Scrapbooking Contest this year. I did not win, but I created some of my absolute best scrapbooking work as I worked through the challenges.

Here’s the one that started it. This is a 6-1/4″x6-3/4″ mini album I gave Jerry for Christmas. I made a secret quilt for Jerry all of last year, out of fabrics he bought for me for Christmas of 2003. I decided about 2 weeks before Christmas that it needed a scrapbook companion to tell the story so that he’d get the full impact of what I’d done on Christmas morning. This mini album is what made me decide to enter the Hall of Fame contest — I did it in about 2 days of almost solid work, and realized that I had done the hardest assignment of the entire contest, so I might as well do the rest and enter.

Cover, closed with magnetic purse snap. (that’s all fabric, sewn onto cardstock)
Cover of Album, snapped

Front cover, unsnapped:
Cover of Album, unsnapped

Cover Page

Pages 2-3

Pages 4-5

Pages 5-6

Pages 7-8

Pages 9-10

Pages 11-12

Photo on last page has since been replaced with a better photo:
Last Page

Album Back, Closed

And here are some better pictures of the quilt, taken outside with Jerry’s camera:
Fish Stories

Fish Stories Closeup

Fish Stories Closeup #2

Nervous Energy

Today I had lots of nervous energy, as I waited for a phone call. More on that in the days to come.

So I cleaned the kitchen, dining room, and foyer, including sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping, which I always let go WAY too long between times. I did about 15 loads of laundry, and folded them. Changed all beds. Put ALL of my fabric away, back in the stash, organized by color. I went through my patterns and threw out what I know I’m never going to make because they went out with Big Hair. Our trashcan is filled to overflowing. Heh.

Tomorrow, I play with the girls in the morning and then take them to Nannie’s house, go to Weight Watchers to see if my nervous energy this past week has contributed to any weight loss (I know it has contributed to inches lost), and then to a doctor’s appointment at 2:15. If there’s any time left in my afternoon, I’ll try to clean the master bedroom up, because it’s gotten quite messy, too.

I love Spring Break — every year I have a cleaning frenzy. This one was just a little more intense than normal. Tee hee!

Newest Quilt Top

For our latest lesson at the online class I’m taking, we had to create something with the theme of “Self Discovery,” using our Likes/Dislikes collages and small quilted pieces from Lessons 2 and 3 (which I don’t think I’ve posted here… I should do that, huh?). The other night I tried making a wonky Log Cabin block using light and dark oranges, and wasn’t satisfied. So I knew that I needed to go back to the drawing board, so to speak, draw more sketches, and go in a different direction. The Log Cabin approach was too structured, and I didn’t want that. I think because it was too “safe.” That’s what I’m trying to get away from. The whole time I was making the little Log Cabin blocks my inner artist was saying, “Borrrrrrrrrring….. Can we PLEASE do something else?” So now I have two 9.5″ orange Log Cabin blocks. I might make 2 more and construct a little doll quilt for the girls.

Anyway. That’s not what we’re here to talk about.

When I was a little kid, I used to have a recurrent, totally indescribable nightmare when I was drifting off to sleep. The room had to be slightly warm, I had to be holding my mouth/jaw/tongue in a certain way (because I always noticed that if I shifted my face and yawned, my tongue would feel swollen from being in that position and if I moved it the dreams would stop), and I think I had to be really tired. The nightmare was (and this is where it gets strange — it truly cannot be described because it’s color, depth perception, heat, and motion — very very abstract) about undulating dunes of colors, usually dark oranges, reds, and purples, as far as the eye could see. And I’d be trying to move through them, unable to get very far. They’d get taller and shorter, wider, thicker, warmer, colder, and they’d kind of hum or buzz, the loudness changing the more stuck I got.

Because I could never describe these dreams in detail, I’ve never been able to fully get rid of them. For some reason they don’t terrify me like they did as a child, but it’s still very frightening to dream about being trapped by color. Helen used to have nightmares about “The Colors” a year or two ago; I’ve often wondered if she’s having the same dream, but because it’s not something I can explain very well, I don’t think we’ll ever truly know.

So. The other night, I was having an insomnia moment (all too common this week… And I’ll tell you why next week. I’m really really REALLY excited about something and it’s keeping me awake, which is ridiculous. And no, I’m not pregnant. Thank God.), so I came into my room and drew more sketches. I’ve been frustrated because I’ve been in a bit of a Creative Wasteland lately as far as inspiration goes, so the sketches were annoying me. The fourth one I did was absolutely an afterthought, but this is what I drew:


Once I drew it, I realized it was probably the closest visual match I’ve ever seen to those nightmares I used to have.

I put it together all in orange (my favorite color), with shots of light blue for contrast. The points were a last minute addition as I was sitting in the Kinko’s parking lot yesterday, getting ready to go inside and have it enlarged, but I decided they gave the dunes “teeth” and approached my fears a bit better. And I also wanted to have something that would be subtle if you were standing at a distance but you’d be able to see better as you got close. And I do love points in quilts. They speak to the geometry lover in me, I guess.

The quilt top is a mirror image of the sketch, because of the way the point rows are constructed (foundation paper piecing). Except for the rows with points in them, the entire quilt is currently held together with fusible web. I didn’t want to get into hand applique (don’t enjoy it enough) or machine stitching those curves — I wanted the instant gratification that using a fusible web product would provide. This is a wall hanging anyway (about 22″x28″ now), so it’s not meant to be super durable. And besides, the quilting and/or threadplay are going to hold this sucker together anyway. Who cares about raw edges??

Creative Wasteland

So this is a quilt that attempts to vent my frustration about my creative wasteland of late, as well as finally giving voice to those dreams I had as a kid. Interesting. I didn’t know that was going to happen, but that’s immediately what I saw when I drew it. And I didn’t know I was going to draw it — my hand just sort of did it. Go me.