May craft collection

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Around my house there are corners with little piles of paper, string, and craft tools. It’s been five months of crafting in this little home of mine and it’s showing. Here is a review of crafts I completed this past month.

1. I love to thrift. I love the feeling of finding something excellent for a great deal. My friend found a matching white wicker stool to add to her bedroom furniture. The only thing it needed was a little love in the form of a new coat of white paint.

2. Recently, my roommate and I hosted a brunch. To add a little more sunshine to the meal I added some colorful flags to the scones using paper, toothpicks, and double-sided tape.

3. I was really excited to use my new set of stamps. I decided to make my own wrapping paper using old shopping bags. I think it turned out pretty well.

A pair of scissors, stamps, and old shopping bags is all that you need.

The finished project.

4. I have been looking for everyday napkin rings. Inspired by this post I decided to make my own using jute. This is probably one of my favorite crafts yet this year.

A pile of PVC pipes that I covered with chalkboard paint.

A personalized napkin ring made by me.

5. This was a very quick and easy way to make a super cute napkin ring. After making this, I realized how much I like using felt. Maybe it’s the texture or how easy it can be turned into almost anything. I made a leafy garland napkin ring to add in my home.

Readers, what have you been creating, making, or editing lately?

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“Chopin’s Music is about Regret. Put More Regret into the Melody.”

May 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

That’s something my piano professor, Dr. Namji Kim, used to tell me. She was right.

This May I finally listened to the recording of my senior piano recital, which I performed in 2009. I didn’t have the courage to listen to it before now. The first piece, Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb Major, came on through my headphones. There were tears. It’s been a long time. What I felt in that performance derived from my experiences up to that moment. What I feel listening to it 2.5 years later is compounded by my experiences since then.

In February I came across Sophie Blackall’s book, Missed Connections, a compilation of her wonderful illustrations of the most hilarious and moving posts she has found on Missed Connections in New York. (You can check out a preview of her book here.) This is one of my favorite stories:

The Whale at Coney Island
– M4M – 69
(Brooklyn/Florida)

A young friend of mine recently acquainted me with the intricacies of Missed Connections, and I have decided to try to find you one final time.

Many years ago, we were friends and teachers together in New York City. Perhaps we could have been lovers too, but we were not. We used to take trips to Coney Island, especially during the spring, when we would stroll hand in hand, until our palms got too sweaty, along the boardwalk, and take refuge in the cool darkness of the aquarium. We liked to visit the whale best. One spring, it arrived from its winter home (in Florida? I can’t remember) pregnant. Everyone at the aquarium was very excited – a baby beluga whale was going to be born in New York City! You insisted that we not miss the birth, so every day after class, and on both Saturday and Sunday, we would takethe D train all the way from Harlem to Coney Island.

We got there one Saturday as the aquarium opened and there was a sign posted to the glass tank. The baby beluga had been born dead. The mother, the sign read, was recovering but would be fine. We read the sign in shock and watched the single beluga whale in her tank. She was circling slowly. Neither of us could speak. Suddenly, without warning, the beluga started to throw herself against the wall of the tank. Trainers came and ushered us out. We sat on a bench outside, and suddenly I felt tears running down my face. You saw, turned my face towards yours, and kissed me. We had never kissed before, and I let my lips linger on yours for a second before I stood up and walked towards the ocean.

It was too much – the whale, the death, the kiss – and I wasn’t ready.

Forgive me — I don’t think I ever understood what an emptiness you would create when you left and I realized that that kiss on Coney Island was the first and the last.

Are you out there, dear friend?

If so, please respond. I think of you, and have thought of you often, all of these years.

Sophie writes in her introduction,

In an effort to understand the Missed Connections better, I found myself sorting them into categories. There is the standard formula, which states the location, the time, a brief description of the person sighted, and a regret at not making contact.

There are the ones written to a known person, which deviate from the formula, but this person is usually inaccessible…

“I am trying to track down a long lost love of a dear friend. My friend was in a very bad car accident in his 20’s that made him unable to use one hand. He had a son with this ‘drop dead gorgeous’ jewish woman in NY about 40 years ago. They lived together before it was status quo. They loved each other, but he says they were destructive, so he left. But he never forgot her, or his son. I promised I would try to find the woman or her son. He knows neither one may want to see him. This man is the closest thing I have to a father. I am proud to be his friend, and I think he is worth knowing, even now.”

I think what makes Sophie’s illustrations of chance meetings and stolen moments on the subway so charming is that people are forced to include the little details we don’t often get to hear, the details that can identify one person out of the millions. Details about how they were drawn to someone because of their scrabble tattoo, the way they knitted so nimbly, that they were wearing a shirt with horses on it and that a man with admirably scruffy hair twirled her into a waltz in the middle of a NYC street. Even so, I am most drawn to the searchers who are looking for someone they have known well in the past. The long-lost dear friend or former partner holds more weight in my memory. There is more at stake. The Whale at Coney Island has stuck with me since I read it months ago. It’s a beautiful story and plea. I am also moved by the appeal of the friend in the second one, that “This man is the closest thing I have to a father… he is worth knowing, even now.”

And yet, they are bittersweet, not only because we are not sure if they’ll be answered, but also because I wonder if things will work out even if they are answered. These people have had years to idealize. What are either of them expecting from their search? That the other will accept them back, that they can pick up where they left off? That the other person hasn’t replaced them and begun to live content in their present reality? And if they have, shouldn’t we wish that for them?

I wonder how we can expect that we know what we want, now, when we’re removed from the other and influenced by loneliness. As though now suddenly if we could only see that person we’d be happy. That we’d be content and the old patterns would evaporate into something perfectly good. What is this in us that can’t let go? Why the persistent curiosity about what things might have been like, what kind of tea that person drinks these days, what they do when it’s rainy out, and whether they’ve dismissed us. Haven’t we proven we’re not trustworthy? Are we “worth knowing, even now”?

I recently read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Most of the main characters struggle with regret and letting go:

It’s the tragedy of loving. You can’t love anything more than something you miss.

I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live, Oskar. Because if I were able to live again, I would do things differently.
I would change my life.
I would kiss my piano teacher, even if he laughed at me.
I would jump with Mary on the bed, even if I made a fool of myself.
I would send out ugly photographs, thousands of them.

Again in Incredibly Loud, the main character speaks with a man who was never on good terms with his father. When his father realized he was dying, he began to write letters to nearly everyone he had known. Many were very moving and vulnerable. However, to his son’s surprise, the letter he received did not attempt to make any reconciliation or show any emotion. It was a logistical letter, to get affairs in order:

“You were disappointed?” “I was angry” “I’m sorry” “No, there’s nothing to be sorry for. I thought about it. I thought about it all the time. My father told me where he’d left things, and what he wanted taken care of. He was responsible. He was good. It’s easy to be emotional. You can always make a scene. Remember me eight months ago? That was
easy.”

He was responsible. He was good. It’s easy to be emotional. You can always make a scene.

Maybe the missed connections searchers are brave. Or, maybe loving something you miss is the illusion. Maybe those who have a shred of true care left for the other’s well-being are the ones with the courage to leave that person alone, to resist the urge to make pretty speeches and let them move on in peace. Maybe that is the good and true thing to do. As Greg Watson says in his poem “Now,” to have, from a distance, a certain contentment, to be…

…happy, to have kissed
your mouth with the force of language,

to have spoken your name at all.

Whatever the answer is, whatever we feel after the fact, we have all made choices that brought us to where we are. It’s difficult to remember why, but I think the truth is, we chose.

Guest post by Anna Marie.

On Creating Taking a Long Freaking Time

May 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

Guest post by Steven Grahmann.

It’s probably cliché to say I got the idea for my novel in the shower, but that’s how it happened.

I’d always wanted to write a book about my favorite topics – outer space, culture, bullies, and an ordinary kid becoming extraordinary without having to develop superpowers. But I needed an idea that would draw all those things together. That idea had eluded me for years but it popped into my head one morning, and yes, it was in the shower. I started writing as soon as I was dry. And I figured the process would be fast and furious – I’d be done in a year, tops.

That was five years ago.

Sometimes it depresses me, how long this has taken. It makes me feel guilty, too. Have I done something wrong? Should I be waking up before the sun or spending my evenings in coffee shops listening to The Decemberists on my headphones and hammering away? Or should I be practicing more – journaling or blogging everything that happens to me in order to hone my craft and get the juices flowing? Should I be working harder?

I’ve learned a lot of lessons during the process of writing my book, now titled The Ordinaries and in its fourth draft. Here’s one lesson: the creative process often takes longer than you, and others, think it should. Here’s another:  there are seasons in the creative process – and sometimes, it’s ok not to create at all.

I’m not sure that “seasons” is the right word, actually, because it implies that it’s out of my control, like winter. No, I’m pretty sure I have complete control over when I create or don’t create. So the main reason my book is unsold, unpublished, out of tune and unfinished is that I’ve chosen to do other things rather than complete it. As someone who defines himself (for better or for worse) as a creative person, this was an extremely difficult – and extremely important – truth to grasp.

There have been times when I’ve needed to rest instead of create. There have been evenings (many!) when I’ve chosen to play with my kids instead of rushing off somewhere to write (I’ve even told myself “I’ll have time to finish the book when they’re teenagers and hate me.” Writing simply can’t compete with the fact that they like me right now). There have been times when I’ve been celebrating, or engaging with others, or staying healthy, or grieving, and I need to put my energy into those things instead of working on my book. There are times when I’ve decided that the amazing thing in which I just took part was a piece of art in itself, and I don’t need to write it down or add it to my book or share it with other people – it was mine and the memory is enough. And through it all, my process – this process of fleshing out the idea that struck me in the shower that morning – has stretched out longer and longer and longer.

And even though the way I feel about that is complicated, I think it’s ok. We creatives have to give ourselves a break. Good things take a long time. There have to be breaks in the process of creation, or else there’s no time for living. And if we don’t live, we have no stories to tell.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play Legos with my kids.

Can’t get enough of her

May 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

About her book, Mindy Kaling said,

This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It’s mostly pink. If you’re reading this book every night for months, something is not right.

I finished her book in 5 days as I listened to her read driving in my car. I thought there was something wrong when I have been working my way through another novel by an Indian author, who I will not mention, and am still on chapter 3. I gave up. I decided to try a different Indian author and I am so glad I did.

Here are reasons why Mindy and I should be best friends:

1. We are emotional people. I get emotional when I see the commercials of orphans, when my students tell me they didn’t eat breakfast or had nightmares the evening before, or if I hear stories of someone’s birthday being completely forgotten. I cried when I got into graduate school, when I found out my friends were getting married, and I cried at absolutely anything remotely super exciting or super sad. I respond with tears. So does Mindy – she even says so.

..I find it incredibly impossible not to cry when I hear Stevie Nicks’s “Landslide,” especially the lyric: “I’ve been afraid of changing, because I’ve built my life around you.” I think a good test to see if a human is actually a robot/android/cylon is to have them listen to these song lyrics and study their reaction. If they don’t cry, you should stab them through the heart. You will find a fusebox.

A remarkable thing about me is that the time that elapses between a sad thought and a flood of tears is three or four seconds.

2. I’m not athletic. I have a confession. In high school my only Bs were in gym class. I can’t throw, catch, swing a bat or tennis racket to match the ball. Fear and the fact that I’m not very competitive takes over in any sport that I do. Luckily, I never was the last kid picked because there was always that kid who picked his nose and smelled funny. However, I can be quite the star in a kickball game or tag.

A handful of experiences when I was small have made me a confirmed nonathlete. In psychology (okay, Twilight) they teach you about the notion of imprinting, and I think it applies here. I reverse-imprinted with athleticism.

3. She’s absolutely smart. We’re both very intelligent women. Not in the “I’m so smart that I want to argue with you and make you feel small or less than” kind of smart, but an “Oh, that’s a good idea or different view” or “Thanks for that insight” smart. We like to share it because we think it will better the person and world. She’s spreading her witty wisdom with the world in her new project, of course, called “The Mindy Project.”

I dream of us sitting in my backyard eating brunch, laughing and crying over stories of our childhood, giggling and dreaming over men, and planning on how to solve poverty issues within our communities. Well, maybe we’ll just walk up and down the street and give away leftover popsicles from my fridge to children and ask them to play with us. Is that creepy? If I did it with Mindy, it wouldn’t be. I love this lady. If you want some more of Mindy, read some excerpts of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me here.

A nod to Mindy Kaling.

Nikolaj Lund: Photographer & Musician

May 21, 2012 § 5 Comments

Today I am inspired to be playful by Danish photographer Nikolaj Lund. Besides capturing some stunning landscape images and portraitures, Lund also happens to have a masters degree in cello performance and classical music. I love how he combines his two areas of passion and revitalizes the image of classical music, a more traditional genre.

The results are surreal, unexpected, and joyful.


A nod to Nikolaj Lund.

Weekend do: Sunshine love edition

May 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

This little heart in my body is beating with impatience for summer vacay. Guys and gals, I’m pretty lucky to have my summer vacay be three months long. In the hot summer months, I’ll be a face of freckled cheeks, arms of tan skin, and sleeping in until after the sun wakes the world up.

In anticipation for summer vacay I have started parts of my summer rhythm. Here’s this weekend’s do.

1. Do eat locally and seasonally. You will find so many ways to be creative with the fresh produce in your garden, farmer’s market or fridge. This is a fun way to expand one’s pallete.  Show a little love to local farmers and it will be returned with a loved tummy. OooO the rhubarb is a new pallete love of mind.

2. Do spend daylight outside in dirt. I say “Get dirty!” This summer I will be helping a friend with his organic CSA farm. I’m excited to learn from him about soil, growth, and tending to plants. I already have spent hours in our front yard planting some flowers and plants. However, the backyard is a forest of weeds, but I’m hoping to turn it into something beautiful. I have the summer to do so.

3. Do take long road trips. A road trip isn’t truly a road trip without the windows down, singing along with the music blaring, and the good ol’ sun shining on bare skin. Aww… yes.

Readers, sit in the sun and do good, real good, with what you have and with those who are around you. Happy Weekend!

Click on photos for photo credit.

Feeling my way through a pottery tour

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

This past weekend I experienced my first pottery tour. A pottery tour is when a potter opens up their studio space to allow the outside world to see the creations of their work and other potters’ work. Out in the beautiful sunny countryside my friend and I drove from studio to studio. I touched almost everything my eyes set their sight on. I just couldn’t help it.

Below are some of my favorite potters from this weekend.

1. Shoko Teruyama was the first potter I lingered over. The combination of her glazing and intricate drawings was really interesting to me. Her own words about her work are beautiful and is shared below:

I create characters based on human relations and things I have experienced.  To me it is much easier to draw owls than humans.  I don’t want to tell specific stories to people, I want people to create their own.  Sometimes you feel like the weight of a turtle standing on top of you and sometimes you feel like an owl standing on top of the world.  Some of my characters have a dark nature.  I think that is life.  Sometimes dark things happen.  Overall, I want my work to have a sense of hope and a sense of humor because life goes on.

2. By the time we arrived at Linda Christianson’s studio I probably had held at least 100 mugs. My first mug is one of her creations. The angles of the mug fit like a perfect puzzle in the palm of my hand and my small fingers lined comfortably on the curved handle.

3. Josh DeWeese’s ceramics reminded me of a dark Alice in Wonderland cupboard full of tea pots, vases, and mugs.

4. Suze Lindsay’s work has so much personality, so much. I was able to speak to her a little bit and learned that she was a speech-language pathologist when making pottery was only a hobby. Knowing this little fact made me love her work even more.

A nod to these beautiful and inspirational potters.

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