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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Grateful A Day #30: This Wonderful World

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Grateful A Day #29: Lists

How would I make it through this life without the almighty list? I am a big list-maker, from quotidian to-do lists to exercises in happiness -- thank goodness for the existence of Lists.

And really, this month's record of gratitude is just an extended list isn't it? And, for the record, here's the list so far. I am grateful for:

My sweetheart
My kids
My parents
My sister
Plenty
Creative Community
The Library
A Nap
Modern Medicine
Good Schools
Freedom
Campus Life
Craigslist
Blogging
Studio Time
Etsy Love
The Teeny-Tiny Frying Pan
Poetry
Photos
Customers
Health
Cleanliness (Godliness)
Friends
Family
Other Artists
Traditions (and a Good Step Stool)
Kittens
Technology (and the Off Switch)

Tomorrow will be my last Grateful a Day for the month, which will conclude the list. I already know what I'll post: an all-encompassing, catch-all finale (which also happens to be one of my favorite songs). So very much to be grateful for. Thank you, wonderful world!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Grateful A Day #28: Technology. And the Off Switch

It's a mixed blessing, but something I'm very thankful for -- all this technology that enriches our lives. I've spent much of the day toggling between emails and catching up on the blog and stepping away from the computer to play card games with BB before dashing off another email. (I am organizing volunteers for the SF Etsy staffing of the Etsy booth at Bazaar Bizarre this weekend -- a great opportunity, but one involving lots of last-minute details and LOTS of email correspondence! BTW I'll be there on Sunday, so if you're local and at the fair, come by the Etsy booth and say hello!) So many of my quotidian tasks are accomplished through technological help -- at least once a week, I end up doing a Google search to answer one of BJ's questions! I am on email and various sites on a daily basis, I use Facebook (I also tweet a little, but not a lot) and of course there is my Etsy shop!

And while we eschew the television and I've steadfastly refused to get a smartphone, which makes me less technologically connected than I might be, we are hardly luddites around here. I heart my iPad, and I'm thoroughly grateful for the Internet, in all its idiot savant glory.

But I'm also very thankful that it all has an off switch. And that I use it. Those times when I walk away from the screen and turn off the devices are thoroughly necessary and gratifying. Especially when children are involved.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Grateful A Day #27: Kittens!

I've always been a cat lover. Embarassing confession time: for quite a while as a kid, I tried to get people to refer to me by the nickname "JenCat," an attempt that never really succeeded. (Which is probably for the best.) About that same time, I experienced great joy upon realizing that llicense plates in my home state had six characters -- which happened to be the exact same number of characters in the word JENCAT! -- and I was convinced that when I was All Grown Up And Sixteen Years Old I would have the perfect vanity plate.

Needless to say, when I was a teenager this idea had less appeal than I had imagined it would.

In spite of never getting a vanity plate of any kind, I remained a fan of felines. I've always had cats for pets, and I miss my dear departed kitties very much.

So it was a real treat when our friend L invited us over to see her almost-three-week-old kittens. They are fostering a litter of six wee ones, whose mother had died after giving birth. Talk about adorable little fuzzballs!


There were two girls and four boys: Cali and Shelly, and Smoky, Dylan, Thomas, and Stormy. Here's BB with Cali in her lap and BJ with one of the grey boys (I think it might have been Stormy).

My kids had never seen kittens this small. They will be three weeks old tomorrow, so they were just learning how to walk! They were definitely enchanted.


video

BB with Cali.
BB with a lap full of kitten love, and grinning like crazy. Three little kittehs in that pile!

BJ liked to lay down and let one of them (maybe Dylan?) crawl all over him.

S with one of the black boys, not sure which one. He was pretty charmed as well by all that fuzzy cuteness.

L and her family are doing an amazing job with these little ones. They are bottle feeding them every 4-6 hours (having graduated from tube feeding!) and all six babies are thriving. I was really impressed with how caring and knowledgeable L was as a substitute mommy kitty -- this is exactly the kind of thing that I dreamed about back when I wanted to be known as JenCat, but the truth is I wouldn't have known the first thing about how to care for teeny tiny kittens (did you know you have to help them pee and poo? I didn't!) and even now as a relatively competent pet owner, all this was way out of my skill set. Really neat to see them doing so well, though L (who I met through my mom's group, and who is now having some sleep-deprived new-mom flashbacks!) is understandably looking forward to the kittens being more independent and not needing round the clock care!


Here's one of the little ones taking a bottle. Note that BB is already scheming...



video

What a nice visit we had -- thanks, L! -- and the kids are eager to come back when the kittens are a little older. They'd both chosen a toy (BB a ball and BJ a felt mouse) to bring on our visit, and the kittens were clearly not yet at that playful point in their development. But soon enough, they will be!

I'm very glad I live in a world in which there are kittens. And cats! Definitely something for the gratitude list!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Grateful A Day #26: Traditions. And A Good Step Stool

Two essentials for a happy holiday season in the Mama's Magic household:

Traditions. And a Good Step Stool.

Definitely two things to be thankful for!

On Friday (of Black Friday Fame) we were very content to stay home all day, avoid the consumerist madness, and work on one of our favorite holiday traditions: trimming the tree! We'd thought for a while about going back to a live tree, but we decided to stick with our artificial tree for another year. Besides, it's the one the kids know and like. (And in all honesty, much as I prefer a real tree, I like this one too. In my book, if you're gonna go fake, go FAKE.)


You can definitely tell that it's a TDBK (Tree Decorated By Kids) but that's OK by me. I don't need a designer-level, perfectly orchestrated decoration scheme. Decorated by kids is where we are and I like it that way.

It's fun to see that the kids are remembering other traditions as well. BB requested that we make ice cream cone Christmas trees again, which was lots of fun.


MMM! SUGAR!

And I enjoyed getting out the tinsel and lights and hanging up Grandma's quilt. We didn't do much decorating last year, since we were going to be at Yosemite for the holiday, so it was really nice to glitz up the apartment a bit.


Definitely activities for that step stool!

(All through my childhood, I recall my mom saying "In my next life, I'm coming back two inches taller." Sometimes I really sympathize with that statement. Other times, I figure, hey, all you really need is a good step stool! Which I finally have, now. For which I am most grateful.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Grateful A Day #25: Other Artists! Friday Feature for Magdalene Jewels and Magdalene Knits

Today's Friday feature is the featured Etsyblogger of the Month: Pamela, who runs two Etsy shops. Magdalene Knits and Magdalene Jewels.

You'll find lots of lovely, cozy items in Magdalene Knits. I especially love these precious Christmas Mary Jane booties!


And you'll find lots of pretty shiny things in Magdalene Jewels, including this beautiful Cobalt Blue Vintage Bracelet:



Today's feature fits perfectly with my Grateful for the day -- other artists! I am so thankful to all the other artists, crafters, and artisans out there. Thank you for making your art, for following your craft, for adding your creativity to the world. I value handmade so much, and I am so grateful that there are so many other folks out there making beautiful and useful things. Thank you!

Enjoy the interview -- and congratulations, Pamela, on being Etsyblogger of the Month for November!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft?

I have always loved doing something creative, whether knitting, crocheting, embroidering, quilting, painting, and for the past few years designing my own jewelry, all of which I have taught myself.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a creative nature within. The many Necklaces, Bracelets and Earrings in my shop are all created and designed by myself. As I just started making jewelry a few years ago, it has and still is a learning process. I never had any intention of selling my work, I would just give it away.

As for my knitted and crocheted items which are in my newest shop, “MagdaleneKnits” - when I found out that my daughter was going to have her first child (my first grandchild) I started crocheting little baby booties, and baby sweaters, and other little baby items, even a little lamb for Easter. I originally had scarves and neck warmers in my jewelry shop, but they have now been relegated to my “knit” shop as well. For any of you who do knit or crochet, you will understand when I say it is a very relaxing activity?

When I first started, I never had any intention of selling my work, I would just give it away. If someone said how much they liked a certain piece, well, it was then theirs – I still tend to do this with my friends, even when they want to pay me

2. Are we teammates on any Etsy Teams?

Besides being a member of the “EtsyBloggers Team”, I also am a member of the “Bbest Team”. Since I opened my Knit/Crochet shop I have joined the “CreateCrochet Team”, and “CrochetOriginals Team”.

3. What is involved in your creative process?

I imagine my creative process evolves from my own personality, and what one would term my very vivid imagination. In my “Jewelry” shop, often I will see a beautiful color crystal, which when in the light can reflect so many possibilities that my mind becomes absorbed in a certain moment or feeling or a certain song will come to mind, from there the creativity begins. The same inspirations and creativity can be found in my Knitting and Crochet work. As you can see from most of my pieces, I am one who is truly a romantic and love the feminine aspect of my being.

4. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

I think the most important achievement I have accomplished are my three children, Kelly, Keith & Ryan. I have been a single mother since the boys were infants, which only made us closer as a family. No matter what, they have always been there for me, as I have been for them. For those that read my blogs, you know that my newest joy is my little grandson Zachary, who just turned 2 in October!

In between all of this, I am also member of a local theater group as their costume designer, as well as having had a few small parts in some of their plays. I have also managed to joined forces in my work, while designing the costumes, I have also designed jewelry pieces for some of the actresses to wear on stage.

5. What inspires your creations?

I imagine that my inspirations evolve from my own personality and what one would term my very vivid imagination. As all my pieces are made with Swarovski Crystals, often I will see a beautiful color crystal, which when in the light can reflect so many possibilities that my mind becomes absorbed in a certain moment or feeling, or a certain song will come to mind, and from there the creativity begins. Those that truly know me will understand this. As you can see from most of my pieces, I am one who is truly a romantic and love the feminine aspect of my being.

6. What is your favorite item in your shop? Why is it your favorite?
This necklace which I call “The Rose” after one of my most favorite song, “The Rose” by Janis Joplin. It’s Victorian, very feminine look reflects a lot of my inner self.


7. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

Firstly, I would say to enjoy what you do, that is where you will find your creativity. I also suggest to those that are not part of a team to find one that relates to what their craft is, or interests. One, it is a good way to promote your work, and definitely do some Treasury’s – they are a lot of fun to put together. Also, definitely communicate through your Blogs, Facebook or Twitter, they are good networking tools. Most importantly since I have been here at Etsy, is not the sales I have made or hope to make, but it is the dear friends I have made during the past few years. We are there for each other during our many ups and downs, and very supportive during the many obstacles we often are challenged with.

8. If you had a gift certificate to Etsy for any one item you wanted, what would you buy?

These earrings -- actually I would love anything from this shop!! It is my favorite Jewelry shop – I purchased one of their rings “Karma” which I always wear.


9. Which one song describes your life the best? Why?

I would definitely have to say “Let it Be” by the Beatles. When I find life gets to much, and things have let you down, I start singing “Let it Be” and the words “speaking words of wisdom” brings an inner peace and I try to see things in a different light.

10. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

Shops: Magdalene Jewels and Magdalene Knits
Facebook
Flickr
Twitter
YouTube: I often do Video’s of Treasury’s I make




Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Grateful A Day #24: Family

Happy Thanksgiving! Today I'm grateful for so many, many things. We had a very nice Thanksgiving day hosting dinner here at the apartment. I was busy busy with lots of cooking and preparing, but it all came together well.

BJ wanted to do a holiday craft, so instead of our traditional Thanksgiving Bowl, we did a Thankful Turkey. BJ and I collected the pine cone base on our way home from school on Tuesday, Nana helped out by cutting out a bunch of construction paper "feathers" and a head for the turkey, and we invited our guests to write something for which they are thankful on a feather.


I wrote "family" -- so did BJ and S a few other folks -- and it is definitely one of the things I'm most thankful for in my life. Not just my immediate family, which is wonderful, but also my extended family. And the only thing missing from yesterday being a perfect day was my family back on the east coast. I missed my mom and dad and sister and her family very much.

BB was especially excited about the holiday preparations yesterday. She loved watching us get out the china and set up the table, and she wanted to help out by finding some sparkly autumn leaf "treasures" in her collection. They were very pretty scattered along the table runner, much to her delight.


Nana found the perfect orchid flower arrangement to pull it all together (thanks, Nana!) and it looked very elegant!Unfortunately, I was too busy with everything to remember to get any other pictures of the day! I'd meant to get one with my camera of the family gathering. We were joined by Nana J, S's brother and family, and S's aunt and uncle. It was a lovely bunch and a very happy thanksgiving. Hope yours was too!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Grateful A Day #23: Friends

I hope by now that my readers have figured out that the gratitude list emerging from this month's entries is not really organized in order of importance. If I were ranking the things in my life for which I am grateful, I can say for sure that friends would be more important than the Teeny Tiny Frying Pan!

I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends. I have lots and lots of lovely acquaintances, people I'd consider friends, both online and in the real world. I greatly enjoy the time I spend with these folks, whether that is volunteering together, chatting online, seeing one another at craft fairs or at events for our kids, or going to a Mom's Night Out.

I am also blessed to have a few very close friends. I'd count S as my best friend, I have a few old friends with whom I keep in touch (mostly via facebook), and I have a few women I've come to know since we moved to California. Their friendship thoroughly brightens my world and warms my heart. You know who you are!

Thank you to all of my friends -- thanks so much for being you and for being part of my life. I love you all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Grateful A Day #22: Cleanliness/Godliness

So glad to have a clean home tonight (after much work!) and realizing again how much outer chaos connects to inner malaise. If Godliness is that sense of inner peace, and a clean and orderly environment helps me achieve such a mental state, perhaps cleanliness truly is neighborly with Godliness.

Or perhaps that sense of peace is merely the knowledge that I do not have to go grocery shopping tomorrow, since I did so today! Since BJ was well enough to go to school (thankful for that for sure!) I was able to get that errand done today. Whew!

At any rate, I am very grateful that the apartment (including my studio area!) is all cleaned up. Hope it stays that way through Thursday, when the rest of our Thanksgiving guests arrive! Nana J came in this morning, and we are all looking forward to a very nice holiday. I hope you are too!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Grateful A Day #21: Health

BJ was home sick today. Not too serious, just a cold and slight fever that developed over the weekend, but he was still feeling lousy enough this morning to stay home. Happily, by the late afternoon he seemed much better and was running around full of energy as he and BB played together. Nothing like sickness to make one extra-appreciative of good health. So very grateful that most of the time, we are a healthy bunch.

(And here's hoping that BJ is all better tomorrow and the rest of us stay well!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Grateful A Day #20: Customers

I'm so grateful to those many folks who have seen my Handmade Magic and valued it enough to purchase it! It still gives me a jolt of pride and pleasure to realize that other people will pay me money to own the things I make. I get such joy out of making my crafts; it's a very lovely thing that I can earn something from the things my hands make. A big thank you to all my customers, whose support allows me to keep doing what I love!

Today I had a table at my first holiday craft show of the season (and perhaps my only one this year; I haven't signed up for any other ones at this point and may well not do so, we'll see). I was at the Jingle Fest fair in San Jose, and I'm delighted to say that it went really well. A nice mix of booths at the show, got to see many of my SF Etsy teammates, and happily there were many customers as well. Hooray for that!

It was fun to have several new items on the table. My sewn paper garlands were very popular. They are such fun to make!
I was puzzled how to package them for a while -- needed to keep them from tangling, but wanted them to be visible -- and didn't want to just buy a bunch of plastic bags. Then I realized I had a bag full of bags I'd been saving, and I had a bunch that were the perfect size, with cardboard inserts too! A little snipping and wrapping, print out some labels, and I had recycled packaging that looked pretty good, though I say it myself. The customers seemed to agree, which is always nice.

Lots of eco-friendly fun going on at my table this year. I had eco-friendly flower rings and brooches made from upcycled fabrics, with vintage buttons from my grandmother's collection.
I also had the eco-friendly Shabby Chic Christmas trees, which I'd posted originally about here. I'd made them from FabMo fabrics and more of grandmother's buttons. (FabMo is a local resource that recycles designer fabrics which would otherwise end up in the landfill. It's such a great organization!) They can hang as ornaments or stand independently. Lots of oohs and aahs over them, which is gratifying.

More FabMo fun: the little wristlet purses that I'd been working on earlier this month. I even had one customer who recognized the pink and green fabric as FabMo fabric, said she had some of the same fabric at home! Love those little synchronicities.


It's so nice to have my grown-up time (and what a lovely treat to have S visit with the kids for a little while, so they can see that Mommy does do work that earns money, not just hanging out with them all the time!) and so rewarding to earn that money from things I've made. Thank you, customers! Without you, Mama's Magic Studio could not exist.
Many of these items are not yet listed in my Etsy shop, because I haven't had time to take the pictures and write the descriptions and do all the work involved in putting them for sale online. I'm not sure I'll have time to get everything listed soon -- if there's something you see that you'd like me to work on listing first, by all means let me know in the comments! I love my customers, love hearing from you, and welcome your feedback.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Grateful A Day #19: Photos

We had a family portrait taken today. BB's preschool was doing them as a school fundraiser, so we decided to take advantage of it. First time we'd done a formal sitting one for just the four of us (if you don't count the ones taken with Santa Claus a few years back, and I don't). I'm really looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

Photos are very important to me -- my dad's influence there for sure -- and I've tried to keep a good family record through the images taken during the past six (almost seven) years since BJ was born. I was also trying to get a printed selection of the many (many MANY) digital images, because I'm old school like that. I really like having photos in albums to look at, and the kids like it too. I was years behind in this project, until I printed out a whole bunch a few months back, getting us caught up through August. (Granted, I have not yet had time to put them in albums; they are still in the boxes from Snapfish, but it's progress to have those boxes sitting on the shelf rather than all just still as files on the computer!) It was such fun to re-discover images like this one, of the kids playing in the rain a year ago:
It's a quotidian moment, but I love that it has been preserved. I can't imagine what life would be like without photographs. And thinking of how different it is, now that everything is digital, I really am astonished by how amazing it is that I can so easily snap an image and save it. I'm so grateful that I can do that.

All this musing about photography also got me thinking of a poem I wrote many years ago, before BJ was born. Since I've been thinking about poetry lately, and feeling grateful for that as well, I thought I'd share:

Double Sonnet for History’s Lessons

“In four years, more than a million photographs were made of the war. Now, no one seemed to want them anymore. Mathew Brady went bankrupt. Thousands of glass plate negatives were lost, mislaid, or forgotten. Thousands more were sold to gardeners, not for the images they held, but for the glass itself. In the years that followed Appomattox, the sun slowly burned the image of war from thousands of greenhouse glass panes.”
--Ken Burns, The Civil War


I

In sepia tones, they shot countrymen
In gray and blue — images caught on glass,
By Mathew Brady and his camera. Then,
The Civil War was lost and won; the mass
Of panes no longer wanted turned to trash,
The refuse of our history, piled high
In dark rooms where dust drifts and sifts, like ash
That crumbles away softly with a sigh
From the fire that had raged in the black grate
A short while before. Soon after the war,
Gardeners bought such unwanted glass plate
To build new greenhouse walls against the hoar
Of coming winter’s chill. The sun would fade
Each image back to clear glass with time’s aid.

II

I want to find a way within to build
A greenhouse from my memory’s morass —
The lingering impressions that I stilled
Sometime before on mental panes of glass.
And yet I fear forgetting, letting go;
Instead, I stack them up inside my head.
It seems the next best thing to use them so:
Allowing in bright light to fade the dead
And dying likenesses that we have kept,
While sheltering each little bud and shoot
From chills we now too easily accept,
And warming older plants down to the root,
As graven pictures fade away with time
To glass that keeps out cold for love’s green climb.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Grateful A Day #18: Poetry

It's been a long time since I was writing poetry on a regular basis, but when I think of the things for which I'm grateful, poetry is still very high on the list. Whether that's my favorite poems or ones I've written myself, I am so thankful that I've come to understand and value poetry. It's a shame that so many people dismiss it, thinking they don't "get" it, or Hallmark it, thinking that only rhyming cutesie-wootsie doggerel counts as poetry.

Surefire prescription to cure the ills of the spirit: read equal parts Elizabeth Bishop, e.e. cummings, Billy Collins, Jack Gilbert, Emily Dickinson, and Richard Wright. For severe cases, add in a dose of Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, Rumi (the Coleman Barks translation), and Adrienne Rich. Repeat as needed until symptoms subside.

Once upon a time, my muse and I were in very frequent communication. I performed my poems at the local women's open mic and even got up on stage at few poetry slams. That feels like worlds away these days. I hope my muse is only on vacation, relaxing somewhere that isn't cluttered with the to-do lists of Stay-At-Home-Mom-dom, hanging out in mental landscapes that are not littered with the equivalent of imaginary Legos, painful to step on and difficult to avoid in the dark. I've been missing my muse more and more lately. I'm grateful that she was with me, so close, for so long. And I hope she comes back to stay, hopefully soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Grateful A Day #17: The Teeny-Tiny Frying Pan

Thursday nights are usually "Breakfast for Dinner" night in the Mama's Magic household. S is not a fan of mixing up the mealtime paradigms like that, but on Thursdays he has to work late, so with it being just me and the kids for dinner most Thursdays, we've made it our little tradition. I typically serve some fruit, some sort of carb (waffles, pancakes, or sometimes cinnamon rolls), and eggs for protein.

The kids like their eggs scrambled. I prefer mine fried. I also really dislike lukewarm fried egg, so making a fried egg first and then scrambling some for them is not an option. Scrambling first then cleaning the pan so I can fry an egg afterwards? Takes too much time. And I really dislike dirtying two frying pans just to fry up an egg. This means that most Thursday nights I would settle for scrambled eggs because it was easier to eat the same thing that the kids would eat.

Then, while shopping at Safeway, I saw the cutest little teeny-tiny frying pan. It was $5. "Oh, how cute!" I thought. Then I thought, "But do you really need it?" No, I concluded. I do not. You know you're committed to frugal living when five bucks can seem like just a little too much for an impulse buy like that. I actually didn't buy it the first time I saw it.

But then, on the next Thursday night as I was standing at the stove scrambling the eggs, I realized: if I had the teeny-tiny frying pan, I could fry myself an egg At The Same Time as scrambling the ones for the kids, and not have two big dirty pans to wash, and have hot eggs for everybody! Brilliant! Did I suddenly need this teeny-tiny pan? No! But did I want it? YES!

It's really rather ridiculous how happy it makes me to use this teeny-tiny frying pan. But now that I have it, every Thursday night, I'm smiling at the stove and very grateful that I spent those five bucks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Grateful A Day #16: Etsy Love!

I'm always so tickled and grateful when my work on Etsy gets noticed. Today my knitting needle earrings were featured in a lovely treasury by Starpompon -- and they sold a few hours later!

And today I was also featured on the Etsyblogger blog! Fellow Etsyblogger Gilliauna wrote a lovely little post about my shop. You can check it out here. Really feeling the Etsy love today. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Grateful A Day #15: Studio Time


I am so grateful that our family schedule once again allows me to depend on at least a little studio time per week. Most weeks, I get at least one morning of focused work time. Some weeks, I get two. Sure, it isn't a ton of time. But it is so much more than I used to have! And knowing that there's reliable time on a somewhat regular basis for me to focus on creative things makes all the difference.

This morning, I was able to spend several hours finishing up some shabby chic Christmas trees that I've been working on for the Jingle Fest craft fair on Sunday. (Local folks, I'd love to see you there! You can RSVP and get more info here.)



I'm really happy with how they are turning out -- they are the most eco-friendly craft I've made to date! They use recycled designer fabric that I got from FabMo, some vintage buttons from my grandmother's collection (told ya, Mom, that I'd find a nice way to use them!), cork bases from the huge bag of corks that I'd been saving because I knew they'd be useful someday (my dad would be so proud!) and a little bit of eco-felt to cover the corks. And they are really fun to make!
They can stand on their own or be hung as an ornament. The "shabby" sensibility is a new one for me as well -- I like how the frayed edges sort of echo the idea of pine needles -- and it feels good to be working on the sewing machine again. Hooray for studio time!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Grateful A Day #14: Blogging

I wouldn't have predicted it a few years ago, but since starting this blog in 2007 I have become very grateful to be blogging. I passed my 1000 post mark some time back without even noticing it (in fact, I didn't realize it until just now, going back to confirm when I began this blog, and I noted that this will be post number 1099!) and while it initially felt strange and awkward to be doing this blogging thing, now it feels quite natural.

A dear friend of mine first suggested that I start a blog, and though it took me a long time to act on his advice, I'm very grateful that he made the recommendation. It's been a sanity-saver, for sure.

Or, as S puts it, he likes to read what I write here because he gets to see the "happy Jen" version of how my life is going. It's a good thing for me to consistently use that lens. And if nothing else, it has kept me writing for the past four years. It's "only" blogging, but at least it's something. Ever since finishing up that draft of the novel right before BJ was born, I have done very little writing other than blogging. I doubt I'll be starting another novel anytime soon (if ever) and I regret that my poetic muse has been all but silent for several years now. But I know that I'm happier and healthier when I'm writing regularly, so for now blogging fills that vital role for me.

When I don't blog, I miss it. It's fun to be going through my day and have those "I'm going to blog about this!" moments. I like being able to share sneak peeks of my work in progress and to write about my creative process (though I don't do that as often as I'd like, alas). It's prompted me to take more pictures of the kids, and I really value the family record that is emerging through these posts.

Speaking of family record, two weeks of gratitude posts have created a bit of a backlog in the family stuff! So here are some highlights:

BB and BJ have been getting along pretty well lately -- I snapped a pic of them hugging while BJ declared, "You're the BEST little sister in the WHOLE WORLD!" (BB had given BJ an extra piece of Halloween candy at snack time. Ah, sisterly love.)

Now that the autumnal evenings are a little chillier, BB has decided that her bedtime routine needed a little more of a cozy touch -- including a "nightcap." (Never mind that really what this means is more stuff to remove when she gets into bed, since most nights she still usually sleeps without anything on.) As you can see, Nana, she loves her robe!


BJ is a confirmed Angry Birds fan now. This has been developing ever since I got my iPad for my birthday, but now most days he starts off his morning with 15 minutes of Angry Birds. (It's a great motivator, actually: he isn't allowed any "iPad time" until he eats breakfast, brushes teeth and hair, washes his face, uses the toilet, and gets dressed. All this needs to happen without fussing to "earn" those precious 15 minutes. I'm not usually in favor of Pavlovian reward-based parenting, but in this case it usually works like a charm.) A few days ago, he finished the last level of the full version of Angry Birds, much to his delight. And, in typical BJ fashion, he decided that he wanted to re-create Angry Birds so he could play it "for real." So he got going with the construction paper and scissors....

Add in some Heroscape tiles for a background...

Of course it was important to accurately represent each of the birds(the big red one is his favorite, I'm told) along with the piggie characters. That one on the bottom isn't frowning, I was informed; it's Mr. Moustache.


Then genius struck: add in blocks!
He had fun with this for hours over the weekend. Good times.

I've been spending a lot of time at my sewing machine, so it isn't too surprising that BB asked if we could do a sewing project together. I asked her what she might want to do -- decided a quilt would take too long -- settled on making a scarf for her. She sat beside me and controlled the foot pedal. "Just like at Giki's house, Mom!"


We used some fleece fabric that I had on hand. She surprised me by not choosing pink! "I have a lot of pink already, Mom. I would like blue and white and purple!" I didn't have enough purple to do an entire side, so we decided to do a little applique heart accent. Here it is in progress.

And here she is modeling the finished product! (Yes, I did tell her to smile!)

Thanks again, K, for nudging me towards starting this blog all those years ago. I'm very glad I did!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Grateful A Day #13: Craigslist

I'm a longtime fan of craigslist classifieds. I look around the apartment, and I realize that all of the following pieces of furniture in our home were obtained from craigslist ads:

  • the computer armoire where I'm sitting to type this
  • the Ikea storage cabinet alongside the armoire (I was so thrilled to score an additional Aneboda wardrobe in a discontinued color so it would match the other two we already had! Cheaper than the originals, and in great condition, too!)
  • the dining room table and chairs
  • the sewing machine table in my "studio"
  • the train/art table in the kids' play room
Just this weekend, S scored a big stash of D&D items -- for free!

Over the years, I've bought and sold lots of stuff as well. Baby gear came and went as we needed it and then outgrew it. (Arm's reach co-sleeper, crib, pack and play, baby bjorn, Joovy stroller....) Moving out of the old house, craigslist and I were like this. (Imagine me crossing my fingers.) I'd taken a break from cl until recently, when I got the itch to improve our space a bit. New computer armoire for hundreds of dollars (even thousands of dollars!) or used one for $55? Easy to answer that question!

Just last month, it only took a matter of hours to sell the chest of drawers that was replaced by the new Aneboda cabinet. Listed it in the afternoon, gone by the evening! I recently sold off the kids' bike trailer that we only used a half dozen times (so good in theory....) and last week I was especially relieved to sell off my only example of craigslist buyer's remorse -- I'd bought a new bedframe that just didn't quite work out when I got it home and we set it up, sold it off the next day. I felt pretty bad about it at first, given all the hassle of getting it here and taking down the old one and setting up the new-to-us one; I just had wanted it to work so badly, I didn't measure carefully enough when I went to check it out. But then I decided to give myself a break. Considering I've been cl'ing for years, only one bad purchase is a pretty good track record.

Craigslist, whatever did we do without you?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Grateful A Day #12: Campus Life

Our living situation is pretty unique for a family of four, and it's something for which I am very grateful. In January, we will have lived in this situation for two years. It's going so well, we have every intention of trying to stay here as long as we can.

What's this unique situation?

We live in a college dormitory.

Not your typical dorm room, mind you -- all four of us are not cramped in a single room, sleeping on bunk beds. We have a nice little three bed, two bath apartment in the staff and faculty wing of the residence hall. It's actually a step up from the small bungalow we used to own, both in square footage and in layout (we gained a bath *and* a bedroom when we moved here).

Sure it has its hassles (visitor parking is inconvenient at best, it is occasionally noisy, especially after finals) but all told, it's nearly perfect for us at this stage in our family life. The kids walk to school, S walks to work, and the financial benefit allows us to continue having me stay home. We don't have a yard of our own, but we are surrounded by lovely grounds (and we don't have to mow a lawn, ever!) and we have lots of perks (the pool in walking distance, athletic events to attend like the soccer game we went to today, even cafeterias for food if we're so inclined). Sometimes I get a little sad that we're not bringing up the kids in a home of our own -- especially when I think of my own parents, still living in the house in which I grew up, and all the roots and memories that such a situation allows. But that kind of stay-in-place stability is very rare these days, and it would be unlikely to be ours even if we were living in a home. And as S pointed out, while we may not be giving them memories contained in the same set of walls through their lives, we are giving them a really unique experience, filled with equally valuable memories. True, that. And definitely something to be grateful for.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Grateful A Day #11: Freedom

"Freedom isn't Free" is making the rounds, as it does every Veteran's Day, and I'm reminded of how grateful I am that there are people willing and able to serve our country to preserve and protect the freedoms that we value so much. (And so grateful that I'm not one of those people. My strengths and inclinations do not lie that way at all.) So very thankful for those freedoms, so thankful for the sacrifices that have made them possible.

I saw this quote on a friend's Facebook page today:

"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

- John Adams in a Letter to Abigail Adams (12 May 1780)

So much truth there (though of course today I'd amend it to include sons and daughters). So thankful that I and my children have that right to study poetry and the other arts. That freedom has enriched my life more than I can express.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Grateful A Day #10: Good Schools

One of the things I'm grateful for on a daily basis -- the fact that both the kids are in good schools. We are particularly pleased with BJ's elementary school, which is simply extraordinary: frequent field trips, fantastic teachers, a child-centered approach, and wonderfully supportive community. What's not to love? BB's preschool is good as well, and we're feeling even better about it now that she seems (knock wood) to have turned the corner and decided that school is fun. She really looks forward to being with her friends these days.

This evening, we had the yearly holiday banquet for BB's preschool, and as we were walking back from that, I was feeling so very thankful that both kids are going to schools that meet their needs. It's a blessing, no doubt about it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Grateful A Day #9: Modern Medicine

I have been blessed with pretty good health throughout my life (knock wood.... another big reason to be grateful!) yet even though I have not battled a major disease or anything like that, I have many reasons to be grateful for modern medicine. Just today, I was thinking about this as I drove BB to the Kaiser clinic -- last night, she began showing a prominent rash on her chest, belly, and back, and she's also been complaining on and off about a sore throat, so after a phone consult with the Kaiser advice nurse I was told to bring her in for a strep screen, just in case it's scarlet fever.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, the mention of "scarlet fever" would have sent mothers into a panic. Now, while I'm not delighted at the prospect, I know that if she does have it, it is treatable and my daughter will likely be fine. I have my doubts that she has anything wrong with her, actually, since her appetite and energy levels have both been very normal. But better to be safe than sorry with something like this. The fact that I can bring her in for a quick throat swab (didn't even need an appointment!) and know by tomorrow whether or not she's in any danger? Now that is something to be very grateful for.

In my life, I have benefitted from basic antibiotics, pain medications (especially when I slipped a disc), and the support of various health practitioners (doctors, midwives, acupuncturists, massage therapists, occupational therapists, among others). Infertility specialists worked with us for almost three years to allow us to (finally!) conceive our son. His life and mine were likely both saved by the emergency c-section that I underwent when he was born -- my severe pre-eclampsia was treatable when my daughter was born.... I shudder to think how things might have turned out so differently if I was living in a time before our own.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Grateful A Day #8: A Nap

Cranky Mom + Nap = Grateful Mom

Talk about your simple equations. Yet finding a way for this to add up can be such a challenge!

(Awake at 4:30 a.m. -- curse you, daylight savings! -- but able to fit in a quick snooze today between morning volunteering at BJ's school and pick up time. Thank goodness for a nap. And thank goodness for the alarm clock that allows one to be scheduled! Now if I just knew a surefire way to quickly remove the pillowcase creases from my cheek before heading out the door...)

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Grateful A Day #7: The Library

I've always been a fan of libraries. (Since I'm a huge fan of books, this isn't too surprising.) Since having kids (and downsizing the bookshelf space in our apartment) I've discovered them anew. Today, BB and I spent a lovely morning at the local library, choosing books for her preschool (library mom is my parent participation job) and selecting some for ourselves as well.

There are many things I'm less than crazy about in our country, and to my mind we don't support libraries nearly as much as we ought (especially in these shrinking-budget times) but the fact that libraries still exist at all makes me hopeful that we're doing something right as a society. It makes my book-loving heart so happy to know that there's a public place I can go to be surrounded by books, a safe bright place I can bring my kids to spend a morning among one of my favorite things in the world: books! And we can browse the shelves for as long as we like! We can bring some home with us for a while! For free!

Lugging home my tote bag full of books, I felt that familiar post-library-visit rush of gratitude, and I knew exactly what I'd post about today. To libraries (and librarians!) everywhere: thank you!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Grateful A Day #6: Creative Community

I am so grateful to be part of so many creative communities. I love life as a stay-at-home mom, and I feel amazingly blessed to get to spend so much time with my kids, but after a day spent playing Enchanted Forest a dozen times with my daughter or volunteering at my son's first grade, I particularly value the opportunity to interact with other grown-up, kindred spirits.

I participate in many different creative communities, including various Etsy teams. Most of my volunteer time goes to SF Etsy, for which I am the team captain. A lot of energy also goes into my leadership council position for I Heart Art: San Francisco. I am a long-standing member of the EtsyBloggers and EtsyMom teams, and I recently joined the South Bay Etsy team for folks in the South Bay San Francisco area.

Much of this community happens virtually, through various online venues (which is perfect for the schedule and committments of a SAHM!) but more and more often I'm able to participate in some real-world stuff. It was such a treat last week to get together with some of my SF Etsy folks for our Craft Swap and Meet Up at TechShop SF! Just today I finally finished up the banner that I'd started at the Meet Up (thanks, GoGo Craft!) from our banner workshop. I'm looking forward to using it to decorate my craft table at the Jingle Fest Craft Faire in just two weeks! (And let me tell ya, participating in a craft faire is definitely being part of creative community!)
(Actually, checking out this pic now, I see I might want to tinker more with the lettering, maybe outline the white with black to make it "pop" more. I am especially pleased with how my stencilled dragonfly turned out, though.)

The Meet Up was extra-special, because my sweet friend and team co-leader Rochelle of Haute Mélange organized a little gift for me from the SF Etsy team, in recognition of the time and energy I give to the team. It's a car magnet with the SF Etsy logo on it, and name and the web address for Mama's Magic Studio! Rochelle wrapped it up and had everybody sign the package. Some very sweet thank you messages on there. Wasn't that incredibly thoughtful? That's the kind of boost I only get from being part of creative community. Good for the heart, good for my hands (which always love learning how to make something new!) and good for the soul.


Rochelle, me, Devon of TechShop SF, and Lisa of Tickle and Smash -- Craft Swap organizers Extraordinaire!

All my Etsy stuff definitely feeds my need to be part of something larger than myself, something with creative spirit and energy, but I also have the privilege of being part of other creative communities. While it's not as active as it once was, since our kids are now in school, I was very involved with BJ's playgroup (and, to a lesser extent, BB's as well) -- and let me tell ya, that was one great bunch of gals! Motherhood is nothing if not creative, and I'm still friends with many of the moms that I met through those groups. And now that BJ has started elementary, I have the great good fortune to be part of the parent participation community at his school. It's not the same kind of creative energy that I get from my other involvements, but it is amazingly rewarding and a huge boost to be part of all that.

It all takes time, and a lot of it, but it's worth it! You get what you give with these sorts of things, and because I give so much of myself, my time, my energy, I really get a lot out of participating in all of these creative communities. It keeps me sane, keeps me grounded, connects me to what much of what I value most in myself and in the world. Definitely lots to be grateful for!