Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Quest for Inspiration

I went into this weekend knowing that I would spend Saturday morning working on finishing an essay that I needed to write for one of the classes I'm taking this semester. I had already chosen my topic, selected my sources, done the bulk of my research, and handwritten (something I don't typically do) a sketchy rough draft. So, I was prepared
Then Saturday morning arrived and it hit me. I had that deep-down feeling of being restless. I couldn't focus as I sat down shifting papers around and opening tabs on my laptop. I tried various things like moving around the house, letting dogs in and out, applying my make-up, and very nearly overdosing myself on caffeine. It finally occurred to me that I was suffering from that dreaded condition known as writer's block (eek!).
An interesting side note on this is that I worked with several students this past week who told me they were struggling with this same issue. They lacked inspiration, knew what they wanted to say but couldn't put it into words, and so on. I doled out all sorts of little tips and tricks that I use to get myself over the hump. I saw light bulbs come on in their eyes as they happily began jotting notes or rearranging sentences on the computer. All of that went right out the window the moment I sat staring at a blinking cursor on my own computer. 
Usually I press on. However, I decided to do things differently by taking a fresh approach on Saturday. I put that essay on the back burner and looked for something else to inspire my creativity. Snatching up my crochet hooks and a couple of different skeins of alpaca, I relaxed with some crocheting. At first it was difficult to force myself not to obsess over a writing deadline (blah, blah, blah...), and being conscientious about my time, but I began to realize that it was exactly what I needed. 
   Instead of going back to writing, I spent the entire day, which was a rainy one, trailing that crochet work everywhere I went. It traveled from room-to-room with me. When we went on a few errands in the afternoon I snatched it up and kept it running through my fingers, while riding in the passenger seat. As I enjoyed my day of working with luxurious fiber, my mind not only relaxed but it returned to its creative center. Aha! It was a day off and yet it wasn't.  
Today dawned bright, beautiful, clear, and fresh from all of yesterday's rain. My mind had also been cleared, put in order and once again inspired. I arose knowing what direction to take. Not only was I able to tackle that essay, finally wrapping it up, but I awoke to a finished crochet project and another one well on its way. Something valuable was learned yesterday; when my creativity hits a brick wall I need to shift my focus to other things that inspire me. It really is just that simple.
 These are just a few of the things that inspire me:
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • love
  • family
  • reading
  • writing
  • observing nature
  • people
  • animals
What inspires you?
 What helps your creativity flow? 
What causes you to relax?
What keeps you in the pursuit of being you?
"Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard."
Anne Sexton

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Falling In Love With Fall

When speaking of the seasons, the word Fall instantly conjures a whole host of colors, smells, tastes, and memories for most of us. As we step into cooler days and crisper evenings, the thrill of anticipation begins to stimulate our senses. Soon the world around us will be transformed into breathtaking-burnished hues. We'll inhale that mystical aroma that's part smokiness, part leafiness, and somehow, part faded sunshine. Before we realize it, we'll find ourselves falling in love with Fall all over again.
There will be hayrack rides, fields of pumpkins begging to be picked, and blissful walks amidst a carpet of crunching leaves. We'll also find ourselves returning to all of our fun Fall activities that need a bit of planning. As we snuggle into our favorite sweater, and sip our beloved pumpkin-spice latte, we can let our friends at Paperless Post help us make all of our gatherings easier than ever before.

www.paperlesspost.com/cards/category/halloween-invitations?card=36031
Maybe you want to host a pumpkin-carving contest in your home, so that everyone's porch will be lit up for the big night of little one's tromping through the leaf-strewn sidewalks in search of candy. Paperless Post makes it fun and easy with options like this sweet Little Pumpkin Card. By creating your own account, you will be able to choose from a variety of cards, envelopes and liners. Then you get to customize your selections with different fonts, colors, and fun postage stamps. The really awesome part is that it's all done online! Not only does this save you time and money, but it is absolutely wonderful for the environment.
www.paperlesspost.com/cards/category/halloween-invitations?card=7777
You might choose to kick off the season with a simple reunion of friends and family. Let Paperless Post help you bring them together for a Fall Fete with this gorgeous Owl invitation. All it takes is a fun-filled hour or so spent online creating your personalized invitation. You'll send it to everyone via their e-mail and never have to leave the cozy comfort of your own home!
You might wish to go all out with festive goodies to eat, delicious apple cider to drink, spooky décor, and a full-blown costume party. All you have to do is exchange your own personal details on this Halloween Party invitation and send them off to everyone on your ghoulish guestlist. Although, I have to admit, if I were able to take a ghostly step back in time, I might like to join Mary and Percy Shelley at the Villa Diodati. (Some of you know how I love Frankenstein by Mary Shelley!).
However you choose to celebrate this glorious season when the sun shines more softly, the air grows misty, and the leaves swirl in magnificent abundance, let Paperless Post make sending invitations part of the fun.
 
"And the sun took a step back,
the leaves lulled themselves to sleep
and Autumn was awakened. "
Raquel Franco

                                    *This post is kindly sponsored by Paperless Post
                                     All sentiments and selections are my own.*

Thursday, August 1, 2019

In the Midst of Greatness

As August arrives, ushered in by the age-old love song of cicadas, I feel myself emerging from a dreamlike world. The golden summer sun sets ever-so-softer and sooner than it did mere moments ago, or so it seems to me. Only yesterday it was early June when I began summer classes and stepped into the pages of fabulous books, causing the world to dim around the edges, as I found myself in the midst of greatness.
My days were spent with dead poets, writers, dancers, artists, and men and women who fought to make our world and our nation a better place. I read non-stop, well into the wee hours. Oftentimes reading books I would not have chosen to read and yet I enjoyed every book I read. A particular favorite was Frankenstein: The 1818 Text by Mary Shelley. 
The language is beautiful, lyrical and almost poetic. It offers exquisite details of landscapes throughout the story. Mary Shelley wrote this classic when she was only eighteen years old. Within its pages are the opportunity for deep moral contemplation on several levels. For those who love works written in the romantic style I highly recommend it, especially in this version so you get the back story. I loved it so much that I chose to write a long essay about it for one of my classes.
When I wasn't reading, and reading some more, I was writing essays. Lots and lots of essays. I discovered that I have the ability to dissect and critique a book and all of its characters down to the final word and to within a hair's breadth of their fictional lives. I also really enjoyed researching and learning as much as I could about all of the real people that I wrote about.
I know quite a bit more about Ernest Hemingway than I did before and I learned so much about Picasso, Martha Graham, Virginia Woolf, Grace Hartigan, and Betty Friedan, just to name a few. Although summer classes ended, on a very high note for me, on July 25, the voices of these remarkable people still whisper to me all night long. I cannot lay them to rest just yet. I'm still conversing with them and telling their stories the minute I fall asleep every night. 
Maybe they will slowly, gradually fade into the background as the Fall semester starts for me. Unbelievably that's just around the corner on August 19. I have a feeling some of them will linger on with me for some time yet. Especially because I may embark on another new adventure soon that will, most likely, involve a few of them.
One of my professor's sent me an email during my summer classes and asked if I would be interested in working as a Writing Consultant in the Writing Studio at the Illinois Central College East Peoria  campus. I decided I would very much like to do that. So, while I continue to take classes, I will, hopefully, work a few hours a week helping other students with their writing. The professor sent an email of recommendation and I was already contacted by the director. I have a couple of days of training to attend next week. I'm pretty excited to be given this opportunity.
Though I have an odd sense of summer having somewhat passed me by, like it's been all around me, and yet slightly out of focus and just beyond my reach, I wouldn't change a thing. My typical, languid days, usually spent knitting on my front porch, found me with a book in hand or a computer on my lap on that same swing instead. It was an adjustment, especially in the beginning. But I got the hang of it. I have always loved to read and write; so total immersion was pure ecstasy. As far as knitting goes, I do have a finished shawl that needs blocking. I'll tell the specter's who whisper in my mind to hush for a time so I can block it and possibly capture a beautiful daughter in a field of wildflowers soon for a photo shoot. Although I won't be surprised if we see a faint shadow of the late, great artist, Grace Hartigan, standing in the background painting a picture, because she refuses to be silenced.

"A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle."
Grace Hartigan
(1922-2008)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

In the Presence of Angels

Spring seems to have danced right on by. 
I've found myself at the end of June and halfway through my summer classes. 
I have loved being a college student again after all of these years.
 It has certainly kept me occupied.
 Most of my time is spent reading and writing papers.
 Thankfully, those are two of my favorite pursuits.
 Another thing I enjoy immensely is the ballet,
 especially when my granddaughter is performing.
Last weekend Gabby danced in Ballet Under the Stars. 
This was Peoria Ballet's first time to offer this free production
at the Glen Oak Park. 
It was spectacular.
 The first photo shows her dancing a number from the ballet Giselle
The evening was quite warm, 
which caused Gabby's cheeks to take on the same beautiful rosy pink as her tutu.
At one point, I caught Gabby in midair.
 She looks as though she's in flight in this photo. 
That's one of my favorite things about dance.
 I love the way the body moves and sets the spirit within free. 
The expression that is sometimes caught
on a dancer's face in a single moment can
move an audience to great depths of feeling. 
I love it when I see them working the stage with all of their passion. 
The art of dance is really in a world all its own. 
It brings the inner beauty of the dancer's soul 
out for us mere mortals to experience.
At the end of it all, we glide softly back to earth. 
Though particles of the celestial cling to us as we go.
 For no one is ever truly the same after an hour or so 
spent in the presence of angels.

"Dance is another way of putting things. 
If it could be said in words, it would be;
 but outside of words,
outside of painting, outside of sculpture, 
inside the body is an interior landscape 
which is revealed in movement."
(1894-1991)



                       *This post is kindly sponsored by Paperless Post
                                All sentiments and selections and events are my own.*

Saturday, April 27, 2019

In The Secret Garden

Long ago, there was a young girl, who being drawn to beautiful colored threads, took up stitching. Her first attempts, made in her early teens, were simple embroidery. She found this to be a very soothing and satisfying way to spend an occasional winter evening or summer afternoon. 
As time went on, she advanced to more intricate types of needlework such as crewel work, Swedish huck embroidery and counted cross stitch. Her love for the feel of the soft, satiny fibers gliding through her fingers grew with each passing year. She was delighted by the delicacy of the stitches and the beauty of the colors combined. Her mind was filled with ideas for lovely things waiting to be made.
Although she taught herself to do the simple embroidery of the early days, as well as the crewel embroidery, others picked up the thread from there. The connections she made with those who taught her along the way was one of the most wonderful aspects of the journey, as she continued to ply her needle. Friendships were being formed and relationships became deepened.
When the girl was grown, but only just, she worked in a salon. Virginia, a lovely older lady, came to her every Thursday to get her hair styled. Sharing a love of needlework, she began to instruct her in the fascinating art of Swedish huck embroidery, or huck weaving. Once again, she was thrilled to learn something new. 
In that same salon, the girl learned to crochet from another special woman named Lois. With list in hand, she purchased supplies and took to the new form of needlework like she had been born to do it all along. She crocheted feverishly whenever time allowed. 
Soon after, the young girl got married. When her new husband had to work in the evenings, her dear mother-in-law decided she should spend one evening a week with her learning to do counted cross stitch. This phenomenal lady, an artist with threads and paints, took the young bride under her tutelage and schooled her in the art of beautiful stitchery on fine linen. 
In the early days of motherhood, the young woman took up her knitting needles for the first time. She paid for some classes at a local yarn shop and thus began a lifelong passion. As the years went by she continued to crochet and, for a time, she did a bit of embroidery, but not often. Knitting had become her one true love in fiber art, with crochet running a close second. Through all of the many things that took place as her children grew and life took its twists and turns, her deep love for knitting grew like a well-nurtured garden. She knew that nothing would ever pluck it out of her soul, for it was well rooted deep within.
She also knew that long before there was knitting or crocheting, and before she ever threaded a needle with a delicate strand of embroidery floss, there was something else planted in the secret garden of her heart. It was the constant, unseen thread woven through the tapestry of her life. Her love for words. Not remembering a time before that love, she assumed she had been born with it mixed in the soil of her DNA.
By the time she was in grade school her love for words and books came out on paper in stories from her own imagination. There were diaries and journals scribbled across and filled over the years. Her pen flowed with poetry that her mind couldn't shut off once she entered her early teenage years. 
In her late twenties, she started college in pursuit of a nursing career. After accumulating most of her college credits for an Associates Degree, she changed her mind and dropped out of school. Life continued and she happily did many other things. As she developed her knitting skills, she continued to write. She embraced the new thing called a blog when it first entered the scene. She was elated to have a creative outlet for her writing and loved connecting with other fiber artists and people around the world.
In the fullness of time, that wild, nearly abandoned jumble of hopes and dreams began to take root, flourish, and bloom within the center of the garden of her life once again. For a minute, maybe even two, she feared that the girl was now too old to accomplish those long ago desires and turn them into actual goals. Then she lifted her face to the sun and decided to grow in a new direction. 
Although the coming of June 2019 would find her in her mid-fifties, she would be starting that same month by going back to school to finish off her degree. First, she would work to get an Associates Degree in Arts with an emphasis on English. Then she would move onto obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in English.
She could finally feel herself coming full circle. She had found the key to unlocking the next door and was excited, if a bit nervous, to step through it. For she believed there was a beautiful garden waiting on the other side. Even if it was going to take time to prune, water, feed and nurture it. It would grow in the way it was meant to. She had faith. She knew she was on the right path this time.

"At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done,
then they begin to hope it can be done,
then they see it can be done -
then it is done and all the world wonders 
why it was not done centuries ago."
Frances Hodson Burnett
"The Secret Garden"


*Special Note - For those interested in the beautiful embroidery kit shown in the photos, you can purchase it, while supplies last, from the very talented Alicia Paulson, author of the much-loved blog, *Posie Gets Cozy"

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Far Better Things Ahead

.
The budding of each glorious spring always brings the hope and promise of a fresh beginning. It allows us to shake off the old and step into the new. As we breathe in its daily transformation, our hearts become joyful as our spirits grow lighter. Spring brings us many causes to celebrate. It offers us Easter, Mother's Day, weddings, birthdays, and graduation ceremonies. What's not to love about this season that gives rise to new growth and the wonder of things to come?
If this is the springtime that finds you preparing to graduate, let Ever-Pretty help you choose the perfect graduation dress. They have many beautiful styles to offer. This long, floral print dress with its graceful high low hemline is a lovely choice for an outdoor ceremony. 
Maybe you prefer a shorter floral dress. This knee-length one, with its dainty, rose print is just the thing. The overall effect is totally charming, with its rounded neckline and peekaboo cutout sitting just above the waistline. 
You might want to go a bit shorter in length with this all over lace dress. The darling babydoll silhouette can be dressed up with a pair of simple strappy high heeled shoes. It has spaghetti straps and a v-neck that points down to a row of decorative buttons. 
If you love the feminine touch that lace gives and really like white this gorgeous v-neck dress with its asymmetric hem will be just what you want when you receive your diploma. It's one of the selections in Ever-Pretty's collection of white graduation dresses. A fresh face of natural makeup with just a touch of nude lipstick will complete your youthful, buoyant look in a white dress. 
Before heading off to college, celebrate your accomplishment with a trip after you graduate. By choosing this short one shoulder dress for your special day, you can easily incorporate it into your everyday wardrobe. This sweet summer dress will take you from graduation to that far away land you've been dreaming of.
Set your spirit free with this fun retro-printed dress of little red lipsticks when it comes time to shop for college graduation dresses. Once you've worn it to your commencement ceremony, you can make a fabulous first impression on your first day of your new job.  
There's a long road of hard work behind you finally. Graduation is your right of passage into a bright new future that awaits you. A future that's filled with the possibilities of a lifetime of dreams. Ever-Pretty is honored to be a part of all that lies ahead in your life. Let them help you choose beautiful, affordable graduation dresses to wear for your graduation ceremonies and parties and for all the days ahead. Great adventures are on the horizon!

                     "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."
                                                             C.S. Lewis

                        *This post is kindly sponsored by Ever-Pretty.com
                                All sentiments and selections are my own.*

Monday, April 22, 2019

When Blue Flowers Sing

There's just something about blue that makes me sigh with deep delight, especially when it's found in nature. Tiny wildflowers, so vivid they might have come from an artist's brush strokes, sing out to me in the early spring. They fill me with an overall sense of calmness and well-being. When I spy a patch of lovely blue sprouting up from the earth, I am awash with serenity. It's like nature has gently encompassed me with azure skies above and a blanket of sapphire flowers dancing about my feet. When Mother Nature arrays herself in shades of blue I am completely soothed.
Suddenly I find myself wanting to be surrounded by as much of this mystical color as possible. I mimic nature by dressing in more blue clothing. I find myself choosing gorgeous blue fibers to create with. This stunning handpainted sock yarn is my recent example. I love the way the colors fade in and out of vibrancy. 
Once again, I chose a crochet pattern by designer Kristin Omdahl. I'm a huge fan of her feminine touch in crochet design. You can find pattern details and see how the scarf lays while being worn, in this previous post
I am always totally captivated by a piece of crochet that has flowers worked into it. This scarf makes me particularly happy with its charming blossoms that flounce around when in motion. It's long enough to wrap in any way that suits the mood of the day. Being lightweight and on the somewhat narrow side, adds to its extreme femininity. 
Recreating a little fraction of nature is always very centering for me. I am deeply grounded by the beauty found in nature. So when I'm able to express any part of it in my artwork, whether it be crocheting, knitting, or writing, I am wholly satisfied. The sense of connectedness I derive from it is absolutely freeing. 
The next time you encounter a field of magical blue flowers, dancing beneath the brilliant sky, stop for a moment and stand very still. You just might hear them singing to you too. Or sit down amongst them and allow your soul to be set free.
"Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions."
                                        ~ Yves Klein

"Flowers are my music."
                                                              ~ Thomas Walker Arnold