Handmade Joy Exchange

Part II: What I Received

Yesterday I wrote about what I made for the Handmade Joy Exchange. Today’s post is about what I received from Sarah.

A lovely painting on silk! I never even though of painting on silk, it seems impossible. And it was from France! I have been to France twice for military deployments (pre 9/11) and this package brought back many happy memories. Thank you so much Sarah!

I’ve hung it in my office where I can see it everyday.
Sarah also sent this card she painted. I love it!

Even though I had my doubts about participating in the Handmade Joy Exchange I am so glad I did it. It really did bring me joy, in both the giving and the receiving. Thank you Anne for sponsoring such a lovely idea!

so lovely!

More on my “Creative Courage”

Part One: What I made for the Handmade Joy Exchange

I mentioned I was looking at more areas than just writing when I thought of my word for the year. I like to dabble in many different creative-ish areas. But I am, sadly, not very talented. I wish I could paint a landscape or design and sew a fabulous quilt but I am who I am. One very organized, list making, linear, planner, rule follower of a person. When I did a sketchbook experiment with a friend I was quite lacking in ideas. All his sketches seem so cool and fun. I wanted to be Bob Ross and paint a happy little tree with a sun dappled barn and a babbling brook. Or at least cool abstracts in a Paul Klee kind of way.

In this creative area I am thinking maybe my word should be creative acceptance. I am who I am and there is nothing wrong with that. So I can’t draw a picture but I enjoy coloring one. And I am good at following the directions in a needlepoint kit and creating ornaments or wall hangings. And I have done some bead work kits and sequins on felt. I have knitted scarves and one afghan. I made a quilted dresser scarf.

So maybe I am not creative in the traditional sense or exactly how I wish I was in my mind. But I have decided to believe I am simply creative in my own linear, follow directions, non-spontaneous way. And yet, there is more to the story.

After careful consideration I pushed myself to participate in Anne’s (My Giant Strawberry) Handmade Joy gift exchange. I felt like this was a pretty big leap for me. I was worried that all the other participants would be artisans with Etsy shops and booths at craft fairs. But I did it anyway.

I came up with my idea, started working on it and kept my fingers crossed that it would be suitable for whoever I got. I started off making a small needlepoint sign in spring colors. Or maybe it was a bookmark. But it didn’t seem to be enough. I decided it was a sign and then decided to make one for winter. It was supposed to be a snowflake but I think it turned out more like a flower. It would have made sense to stick with a needlepoint theme but of course why would I make sense? So I followed my creative courage and colored a leaf for autumn and made a felt sun for summer. I included a suction cup hook and now I get to imagine my “art” hanging in a window in England! I got to send my items to an Italian architect living in England. How cool is that?

I am just sorry I forgot to take a photo of the back of the sun, I put the word “Joy” on it with sequins. Oh well.

“Good Things” Thursday

One of the great things about having a child has been getting to read so many children’s books. Old favorites and new authors have all been enjoyable. One of my new favs is Cynthia Rylant. I love all her series but especially ‘Henry and Mudge’ and ‘Mr. Putter and Tabby’. (I say new but we started reading her books 8 years ago, so by new I mean not of my childhood.)

In the past I have tried both gratitude lists and joy lists but neither quite defined what I was trying to capture. And then I read “Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book” and I had my epiphany. Not to spoil the plot but Mr. Putter is having a hard time writing a book and instead writes a list of “Good Things”.

I am stealing this idea because I love it. So thank you to Ms. Rylant and Mr. Putter 😊.

Good Things ☘

  • chamomile flowers from Trader Joe’s 🌼
  • working in my sketchbook (see pics below)
  • the sound of an owl hooting in the distance ( I also like it when I hear trains or church bells) 🚂
  • learning how to add emoji’s 🌵
  • signing up for an on-line photography class that starts in April 📸
  • reading “Match Making for Beginners” by Maddie Dawson and having a great line stuck in my head: “Whatever happens, love that.” 📘
  • chocolate covered strawberry ice cream from Tillamook 🍨
  • cloud shadows on mountains (makes me smile every time!) ☁️
  • lace curtains moving in the breeze
A few years ago I gave my friend a sketchbook and one to myself. We spent about 2 years drawing pictures for the other and then swapped books. Now we are supposed to use the drawings as inspiration to draw a sort of campanion piece. I am finally getting started. My drawing is on the left and his is on the right. I got the idea from Anne at My Giant Strawberry.


Again I am on the left, my friend on the right.

I am thinking this will become a semi-regular feature, like Photo Friday. We’ll see.

Sending good thoughts your way!

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

You probably don’t want to read this post. It is full of frustration and indecision and fear. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day or good mood so seriously, you don’t have to read this. But I have to write this. I have to get all this out of my head and throw it into the universe. I am secretly hoping by doing this that I will magically be shown the path I should take. So here goes.

I had my doctor’s appointment on Friday and I got what I wanted, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Only now I am afraid to take it. Let me start with the doctor. I have seen her a few times but I don’t really feel comfortable with her. I can’t be positive but she looks like she has had plastic surgery (face lift kind) and something that plumps lips. And she has blonde hair that looks dyed. I feel like I am looking at a Barbie doll. I am not questioning her competency or intelligence but it made me uneasy looking at her.

Secondly the office was really crowded and she was running rather late (I thought) for a 10:00am appointment. Things felt rather rushed I realized later. She asked me about getting tested for the breast cancer gene, how I wanted the therapy delivered and we talked the cost of bio-identicals. Bam, Bam Bam.

When I climbed into bed Friday night I realized I had made a pretty big decision in a rushed and ill-informed manner. I panicked and then told myself it wasn’t set in stone.

We were very busy Saturday, lots of errands and by the time we got home I was exhausted. I laid down on the bed and started crying. The fact that I am in a lose-lose situation hit home. I suppose an important fact I should add here is that my mother died of breast cancer at the age of 33. There can be no doubt that colors how I think.

And now it is Sunday morning. Spouse and small child went up to Phoenix for the Nascar race so I have the whole day to myself. I am still in my jammies, still in bed with my name on a homemade blueberry muffin. (Just waiting to digest my thyroid meds, about 1 hour.)

So let’s run through some scenarios:

SCENARIO ONE: I get tested for the breast cancer gene, find I have it and decline HRT. Now I get to continue to feel miserable and hear the ticking time bomb ALL THE TIME.

SCENARIO TWO: I get tested, don’t have it and take HRT. I feel better but still worry because frankly it seems like nothing conclusive has been discovered about HRT and cancer without the gene.

SCENARIO THREE: I don’t get tested and take the HRT. Will I still feel better? Or will all the worry about probably triggering cancer cells (if I have them) cancel that out?

SCENARIO FOUR: I don’t get tested and I don’t take HRT leaving me right where I am now. All I can do is hope that once menopause kicks in I feel better. Let’s say that takes another 2 1/2 years at most. (I’ll be 55 then, surely I will be in menopause?!) I have already survived 2 1/2 years of this craziness. My biggest fear is that the mood swings and irregular periods and hot flashes are going to get so much worse before subsiding. That is what triggered looking for help in the first place. I am afraid I am going to get worse and have the summer from hell. Life is too short to lose a whole summer if you don’t have to.

SCENARIO FIVE: I accept the crazy situation and move to a one room cabin (two with the bathroom) up in the mountains on a lake. I walk around the lake and do a photography project where I take a picture of the same tree everyday and document the changes until I am done with this phase of life. There are no inconveniences and keeping warm with just a woodstove is a piece of cake. I eat healthy by default only shopping at farmer’s markets and local places. I sleep when I am tired and hardly ever have to clean as it is just me. Okay, this isn’t a viable scenario but it is in my head so I am putting it out there.

And then there is the as yet unknown scenario. I think about how the anti-depressant made me so sick and wonder if I should try St. John’s Wort? Studies appear somewhat inconclusive but it is used a lot more in Europe. And yet I find myself hesitating. Has anyone out there used it? Can you share if it worked or not?

My biggest fear is what happens if I run out of hope? If have nothing left to try? I like to think I will be okay just soldiering on. If I continue the yoga and meditation and 10k steps I will survive one day at a time. And one day I will wake up and it will be like magic, my energy and enthusiasm and patience will be back.

For now I am holding tightly to that hope, it seems that is all I can do.

As for today, I will survive. Later I will get dressed and go to the library and pick up the copy of “Enchanted April” that I requested. A trip to Italy this afternoon seems to be just the thing. I have lots of happier posts to work on too and I figured out my next sketchbook idea which I am excited about. I will enjoy the peace and quiet and not having to cook. I’ll take a nap if I feel like it.

And now I wait patiently for the universe to send me my answer. Thank you for listening.

Preparing for the Storm (Photo Friday)

I am a weather geek so living in southern Arizona is rather boring. Ninety percent of the weather is hot and sunny. We do have winter and summer monsoon seasons but they have been pretty tame most years since I have lived here. This winter we have actually been having winter. Well, as wintry as it can get here. But still, it is exciting to have a reason to watch the weather channel. And be able to wear my sweaters.

My son was off from school Wed thru Friday this week. We had planned on going camping at Madera Canyon but changed our minds when we saw cold and rain and snow in the forecast. Tuesday night we had a hard freeze, temps down in the twenties. So Tuesday is when the ‘inclement weather’ work began.

I picked all the lemons and a few oranges on Tuesday.

We left the lemon tree all covered up as it is supposed to be below freezing again Friday night.

On Wednesday my son and I took advantage of the sunny day and went to the library. Books and UNO are hunkering down requirements.

Thursday morning I got up in great anticipation of a foul weather day. An 80% chance of rain, wind gusts up to 40mph. I continued to work preparing to hunker down.

First order of business was to make cookies. In case the power goes out. (The power has never gone out here, but still, one wants to be prepared.) Oatmeal cookies so they are suitable for breakfast if required.

Oatmeal Gorp cookies. These have dark chocolate chips, dried cherries, toasted pecans and toffee bits.
I dug out my flannel granny nightgown.  I haven’t worn this in years!

Now it is 4:00p on Thursday. It is finally beginning to rain! And there is wind spattering the rain against the window. (See picture at the top.) I just want to sit here and stare out the window! (And that is exactly what I am going to do after I set this post up for publishing in the morning.)

Raindrops are falling on my patio!

The plan is to post photos next Friday of whatever weather we get tomorrow (today for you).

Keep your focus!

Photo Friday: It Felt Like September

My son is now going to a private school that observes Jewish, Christian and the traditional secular holidays so he was off on Monday for Rosh Hashanah.  In fact the entire month of September he has one day off each week!  With new computer time rules (which are working!) I find it is best to “help” him find things to do if he has a lot of free time.  On Labor Day we went fruit picking at Apple Annie’s.  This Monday we went hiking up at Mt. Lemmon.

IMG_8094Some early fall color starting.

We began with lunch at Viv’s Cafe because it is good to start a hike with a full stomach.  Then up, up, up the mountain we went.  The temperature dropped from 100° to a delicious 72°.

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We decided to try a new trail and I was hoping to do a loop but after a long time of climbing uphill and unsure of exactly how much further we still had to go we decided to simply turn around.  The hike back down was sheer perfection.  Blue skies, a few clouds and oddly, some rumbles of thunder in the distance made the perfect autumnal hiking ambience.  The path was shaded with dappled patches which I absolutely love!

IMG_8101The rain cloud.

IMG_8100A stop at a scenic overlook on the way home. I believe that is the San Pedro Valley.

Driving back down the mountain we could smell rain and observed some wet stretches of road way but no rain fell on us.  We decided to stop at DQ for ice cream which ended up being our dinner and came home to collapse on the couch and watch “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”.

IMG_8105Dinner!

IMG_8097A dried up plant that screams autumn to me.

Best Monday in a really long time.

Keep Your Focus!

Photo Friday

My son started school this week and last week we ticked off one more summer bucket list item:  make pasta from scratch.  Turns out it is harder and more time consuming to make pasta than we imagined.  So here are pictures of what a real person’s kitchen looks like while making pasta.  (As opposed to say a food blogger who would have glorious photos with nary a stray pile of flour.)

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Pasta dough rolled out and waiting to be cut.  Notice how it is nowhere near a rectangular shape?  Apparently I can only roll out round.

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The big picture.

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I found a tip on-line that said you can turn all those uneven edge bits into pasta for soup. Done!

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Stacks of drying pasta in my momentarily Italian kitchen!

My son ate the bowtie pasta for dinner and we froze the rest. I have a feeling this will be my one and only pasta bucket list item.

Keep Your Focus!

Photo Friday

(Above photo, ooh sparkly rock with fern.)

This week I actually went out on an expedition to take pictures. And to keep small child busy since he was out of school for six days with the Arizona teacher walkout. Yikes!  It is always lovely to go up to 8000′ and feel the crisp air and smell the pine.  Added bonus was getting away from the pollen which my sinuses really appreciated.

We didn’t walk far but it was a scenic, if rocky, stroll.

One of the reasons we didn’t stay very long was there was a lot of tree cutting going on by the Forest Service.  We kinda felt like we shouldn’t be in the area though there were no signs or anything forbidding it.

Bridge photos are always good.

Looking up is good too. It was such a beautiful day.

There is a stream here (this is the view off the bridge), not much water which is bad, there should still be some snow melt flowing this time of year. This is more how it looks in early July before the monsoons start.  Hope we get some rain this year.

Keep your focus!