Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Storytelling - One Stitch at a Time

A number of years ago I was drawn down a path I had never imagined I would walk.  The world of quilting.  Well, technically it's "sewing," and "creating," but my own product does not become a quilt until I take it to the magic-weaver.  The person who transforms my imagined product into the real-deal.  The quilter.  The person behind the machine.  And the woman I go to works true magic and turns my story into a work of art.
Valerie Reynolds...quilter extraordinaire!
Get comfortable - for here the story begins.

 My daughter is a fantastic fine arts teacher - middle school theatre arts, no less!  She opens the minds and hearts of these wonderfully energetic young people and shows them that drama is not always a bad thing!  She had moved schools a couple of times and worked her magic on many before deciding to explore the world of administration.  More power to her!  Not my gig, that is for sure.  The story begins with a collection of t-shirts she had from her years teaching, and the fact that I had previously made t-shirt quilts for both my children.
Made for my daughter from shirts collected from a variety of fine arts productions.
Made for my son from shirts collected in sporting, performing arts and other activities he was involved in.  Makes a great picnic blanket for the family!
Setting the scene:

The phone rings.

"Mom.  I love you so much!   Would you be willing to make me a t-shirt quilt out of all these old shirts I have around the house?  I'll never wear them again."


"Sure," I answer.  "But it will be a while because I'm working on something else right now.  Besides my day job.  Send them to me and we'll see what they look like."

"Thanks, Mom!"

And so the journey begins.  The box arrives.  T-shirts from 2 schools for sure, maybe 3.  I have a few minutes so start cutting them down to an approximate size.  Stacked and ready to craft into a quilt, I set them aside.

About a month later (timeline is a bit foggy because the focus changed a couple of times).

Phone rings.

"Hey mom - don't do anything with those shirts right away.  I am applying for an administrative position at my old school, and if I get it I will need some shirts back.  Wouldn't that be cool!? "

"Um....yes!  But it's too late.  Cutting done."

"Oh...okay.  Well don't sew until I know about the job.  We might do just one group of t-shirts."

And so she gets the job, and now I am tasked with designing something to display in an office!  No pressure!

It was a fun project, actually, and I found a really cute pattern I hadn't seen before.  So I got to work in earnest so she could have it done when school started.  For both of us!

First to figure out the fabric to use as borders around the shirts.  Then how to arrange the blocks into a pleasing design.
Then the struggle to find the right angle to cut so there was continuity across the whole quilt.
Then to sew them all together and take them to the quilter for her creative touch.  Ta da!

When the quilt came home from Valerie's, I sewed the binding around the edge - that finishing touch - and sewed a label on the back.  I did have a little too much help doing my finish work!

Off in the mail it went, with strict instructions on washing - and getting me a photo of the quilt hanging in it's place of honor in her new office.  Thankfully my daughter knows that this is a serious endeavor and she crafts a lovely finished product.
The new Assistant Principal, Ms. Wortham, in her office.
And every Assistant Principal needs a helper!  Miss Choe looks right at home here!

Well, just in time.  I begin work tomorrow and the rest of the semester is laid out ahead of me.  I am so glad this story-telling quilt has finally come together and is hanging "at home."  It brings me great joy to create something for someone else, whether it's a quilt, scarf, photograph or book.  And knowing my work is appreciated and loved back is all the reward I need.

(On a side note - apparently I could go into business doing quilts.  
Christine says the orders are piling up!)

What do YOU create that brings joy to yourself and/or someone else? 
 Living a creative life is very rewarding.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One Fish, Two Fish....The Wit and Wisdom of Theodor Geisel

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
"I like nonsense.  It wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.  It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do.  And that enables you to laugh at life's realities." ~Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

And that sentiment is obvious when you revisit his books, or see the bronze statues depicting his famous characters.  I had the delightful pleasure of seeing 6 of these statues on display at Dow Gardens, in Midland, MI, and can't wait to re-read the books!  I happened to see the traveling exhibit advertised, grabbed a friend who would understand my child-like excitement, and hurried over, as it closes on September 1.

The Lorax
Stepping out of the visitor's lobby and into the garden, The Lorax started us on our journey.  Such a delight!  The detail in the sculpture was amazing, as was the story behind the character.  The Lorax is actually considered to be the beginning of the Green Movement, encouraging the preservation of natural resources.   It was also Seuss's favorite book.

I am The Lorax, I speak for the trees
I speak for the trees, 
for the trees have no tongue."

"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.  It's not." ~ Dr. Seuss

Familiar character #2 doesn't need much of an introduction.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch is actually modeled after Geisel himself.  Apparently he looked in the mirror the day after Christmas and saw a Grinch-like face staring back.  "Something had gone awfully wrong with Christmas or maybe with me," he said.  Tired of the over-commercialization of the holiday, and the worry that the true meaning of Christmas was getting lost in all the trimmings, he sat down and wrote this timeless tale.

Moving on to the Children's Garden, we couldn't miss it's centerpiece.  

The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat was written after Houghton Mifflin challenged Geisel to "write and illustrate a child's primer using only 225 'new reader' vocabulary words."  I am sure I would have a difficult time with that challenge but it's obvious he was able to do so, with great success. 

My personal favorite is this next one, a story I have loved since I was a child.  But I never understood the significance of this story until I read the backstory on this visit to the gardens.


I just gave away my Yertle the Turtle book, and hope my grandchildren love it as much as I did. They are too young to know that this is actually an allegory on dictatorship and expansionism! In an interview Seuss is quoted as saying that Yertle was actually Hitler or Mussolini, but he took the mustache off his character before it went to press. The message?
"And the turtles, of course...
all the turtles are free as turtles 
and, maybe, all creatures should be."

Geisel used the word "maybe" purposefully, allowing children to think about what he was saying here, and come to the realization that there was no "maybe" about it.

Yertle the Turtle
After Yertle I was satisfied and thought I could have stopped there, but then there stood Sam with his Green Eggs and Ham!

Green Eggs and Ham
This particular story I am not familiar with, but after this experience I am planning on reading these stories with new eyes.  A National Education Association survey of children and teachers ranks Green Eggs and Ham as 3rd in their 100 most popular books.  It seems that Geisel loved a good wager, as this story was written after his publisher bet him $50.00 that he couldn't write a "cogent and entertaining book" using no more than 50 different words.  With this book he proved that wager wrong, and spent the rest of his life "complaining," good naturedly, that he never got his money.

And just when I thought I couldn't be delighted any more than I already was... there was Horton and friend, sitting tall above what looked like a mass of little Who's!

Horton Hears a Who
What a great sculpture, and setting!  A symbol of "loyalty, equality, and faithfulness",  this character came into being after Geisel visited some schools in Japan after WWII.  At that time individualism was a new philosophy and this informed his theme for Horton Sees a Who:

"A person's a person, 
no matter how small."

So much fun!  A lot of this information came from the placards near the statues, but there is also a very nice website with even more information, on the traveling exhibit as well as on Geisel and his other projects.  For instance, did you know he had an extensive hat collection?  He had so many that he turned his hobby into another book - The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

I highly recommend viewing these and other sculptures when you can, as well as visiting the website at www.drseussart.com.  There is also a Facebook page titled The Art of Dr. Seuss, and another page dedicated to, and called, Dr. Seuss.

Fun Fact:  Ted Geisel said he wrote for adults, not children.  His wife said he really didn't like children very much!

There is something about tapping into that long-forgotten child within that is rejuvenating.  
Try it!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Fest

Today's adventures included a trip to the Mint Festival!  It is fun to see the summer line-up - Potato Festival, Highland Festival, Mint Festival...every community has their specialty.

St. Johns is known for it's mint farms, and mint products.  So we spent the afternoon going through the arts and crafts show, visiting various vendors, eating fair food, watching kids games, rides, and demonstrations...and enjoying a beautiful summer day.  

It was the last day of the fair, so attendance was a little slim, but I don't personally mind smaller crowds.  We enjoyed a quilt show, as well as a photography competition, placing our votes for our favorites of each.  

And the cardio-drumming demonstration was amazing!  We particularly enjoyed watching it from our picnic table viewing spot!  

There were tasty treats for everyone....

Summer is waning, and fall will be upon us sooner than we want to admit.  But I'm intent on enjoying every minute of these last weeks of summer.  And it's particularly enjoyable sharing these days with good friends.

Another day comes to a close - another spectacular "good night."

Monday, June 27, 2016

Intro to Michigan's Diversity

One of the places we like to show off when people come to visit is Mackinac Island.  We have 7 grandchildren who live out of state, so when they come it is only natural we want them to visit this magical place.  I am glad we only had 3 of them at a time, though.  The energy level is amazing!

The weather totally cooperated.  We stayed in St. Ignace on Thursday night, and headed to the Island as soon as we could get going.  Deep breath.  It's a process.  One of the reasons we stayed in St. Ignace was so we could drive them across the bridge, as well as show it to them from the water.  Our ferry trip even took us under the bridge, which was exciting for everyone.

No one was disappointed as we took the Island tour, checked out the new Grand Hotel stables, had lunch at the fort and checked out all the attractions there, then shopped for fudge before heading home.
Not our own ride, but we loved seeing the dappled grey's hooked to the Grand Hotel carriages. 

Rhianna enjoyed Aunt Christine's company a lot.

Food always tastes better if you have a gorgeous view! 
Chloe borrowed my hat so she could look like Grandpa.
Video clip of the musical demonstration.
Wow!  Chase certainly appreciated all the "choices"!  However, there were times he had to forgo certain treats due to his fairly new braces.  He is very good about it, though.  
Fudge making is so interesting...and the smells hook you!

It doesn't matter how many times I cross the bridge, sail/motor under it, or visit the Island.  I absolutely love everything about this area of our state.  And as you can see from the photos, the kids appreciated it as well!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pleasantly Exhausted

I love summer.  I love vacation.  I love spending time with family.  When these three things I love converge it is a recipe for a pleasant exhaustion.  Tonight, at 9:02, I am waiting for bedtime.  Not just for the kids, but for us!

Daughter Christine arrived on Sunday with her two fabulous children.   A family gathering was a "must" for Father's Day, and we managed to get almost everyone together for a meal and lot of catching up.

The next day dawned warm and clear, so it was time for an errand or two.  The kids wanted to help take Kaycee to the vet for a check-up, so that was our first outing of the day.  Then a walk and trip to the park gave us an adventure.  Warm and humid, the best comment of the day came from our yellow rose of Texas, Chloe - "I thought it was supposed to be cooler here!"  Playing a new game was also on the activity list.  Over, and over and over again.  No surprises there!

Let's not forget a movie date to see Finding Dory!  The sound of the all the children laughing during parts of the movie as fun.

In the evening we sorted out some books, as it is time to pass along what is left of my classroom library.  It was fun looking through the books, reading some stories, and watching the excitement on the faces of the kids as they found something they were intrigued or excited about.  Yes, there are a number of books ready to grace the bookshelves in their rooms back home.

And today was a big outing day.  The kids and their mom went to visit a friend in the morning and the quiet was a bit deafening!  In the afternoon we all went to a wonderful discovery museum and spent an hour and a half exploring the world of bees, rockets, sea creatures and building things.

After that we hit the Splash Pad and enjoyed a warm summer breeze as the kids played in the water.  Another opportunity for family time when Kory, Mandy and the kids met us there - bringing pizza for supper.  Kaycee joined us in the park and really wanted some pizza, but she settled for ice cubes.

Ah...I hear a story being wrapped up and some sleepy children ready to get to bed.  Tomorrow's another big day - when you come to Grandma and Grandpa's there is so much to do and see!   Their cousin is arriving by plane in the afternoon, and one more grandchild will join the festivities for the rest of the week.  Oh the adventures we will have!

Time to get some rest or we are not going to be able to keep up with them!  And though I am clearly losing my ability to concentrate and form complete thoughts....it is a pleasant exhaustion which is setting in.  Grandchildren are delightful creatures! :)