Friday, June 22, 2018

A Simple Summer

Maybe the title of this layout is something of a misnomer.
Maybe a truly simple summer would simply involve me sleeping in every day and, within an hour of waking, taking a series of naps like my dog does.

Let me clarify, then: when I use the term "simple" on this page, I mean it in comparison to my non-summer routine.

So far, this summer really has been wonderful, and I have been making the most of it. There have been some stressful moments, however. For instance, my hallway-painting adventure has left paint in tough-to-remove places on my body (there is a serious learning curve when it comes to all things paint, by the way), but overall, I have been loving every day and feeling grateful for this time.

This layout feels like summer to me -- the blue-sky painted background, the flowery brights, the bits of paper sunshine. Every one of the embellishments on this page (and the letter stickers) comes from the June Hip Kit Club Project Life kit. A pocket-page scrapper I am not, but I still like PL kits and use them for non-PL projects all the time.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Two Fathers

To scroll through social media feeds on Father's Day is to encounter post after post celebrating fathers. These posts profess love, gratitude, and admiration for the men who love unconditionally, who offer support and encouragement, and who model the values that shape their children in innumerable and positive ways. 

 My household is blessed with a father like that. 
From the moment he learned that he would be a father, Rob has been there, and even as our daughter begins to venture into the wider world, he is still there for her. I often look at their relationship in wonderment. Do they know just how lucky they are?

They have a comedic banter that is uniquely theirs. Their group texts make me shake my head. 

They have been pulling practical jokes on each other since Z was in preschool (and likely even before that). Whenever they run errands together, they blast the Decemberists and Silversun Pickups. They share a mutual zeal for video games and trash-talk each other incessantly while playing. 

Granted, their relationship isn't always the stuff of idyllic greeting cards -- it's more of the Shoebox Greetings variety, grounded in directness and laughter. Rob may not always agree with Z, nor she with him, but they always find a way to understand each other, in time.  

Not everyone has a father/child relationship like that. Not everyone wakes up on Father's Day and posts laudatory messages about the man who was and is there throughout it all.

Even though my father lives about 25 minutes away, he is, for the most part, a stranger to me. Here is a comprehensive list of how many times we have seen each other in person over the past twenty years: once when I gave birth to my daughter, two decades ago; once in a dentist's office two decades after her birth, when I walked into the waiting room after an appointment only to learn that for the past 30 minutes, he and my daughter had been sitting across each other, completely oblivious to the other's identity; and most recently, at two funerals. 

My parents split when I was in high school, after years of my father cheating on my mom and finally getting exposed (by yours truly). My mom really was clueless about the infidelity, despite what some very unhelpful people liked to suggest during the divorce: "How could you not have known?" or "Underneath it all, you had to have known." She really didn't know. Even I was shocked when I found out. He really was that good of an actor, the Leave It to Beaver husband and father. 

All of the Judy Blume and Paula Danziger books I read as a kid assured me that even after a divorce, dads still love their kids and will try to maintain relationships with them. Parents get divorced, not children, right? Not so in all cases, I guess. 

It took me some time to realize that it was possible that my father didn't ever really love us, that he was just playing a role in accordance with social conventions. It was a revelation to me: he did not and does not love me, not really. Maybe he does in his own way, I have told myself when I have felt the need to explain his absence from my life. 

Which brings up something even more difficult to think about: do I love him

It's a terrible question. 

I don't know how to answer it. 

Here's where my mind goes when I let myself think about how I feel about him and push past the anger to get to the heart of my feelings: I want to love him. I believe I should. I don't know how. I don't know if it would matter to him. Of course it is what Jesus would do. And the Judy Blume kids. 

I can't find peace in that thought process, so I often focus on this instead: maybe instead of loving him, I should work on forgiving him and dealing with what remains of him in my life -- baggage.  

Instead of leaving a legacy of love, he left one of mistrust and doubt, which has affected my relationships. Sometimes the effect has been positive -- I really work at relationships that matter to me. Sometimes the effect has been negative -- I worry that my relationships have an expiration date, that the love that I think is real is just a ruse and that I will not realize this until the person leaves my life, which feels inevitable, because someone who I thought loved me once, someone whose job it was to love me, no matter what, left. 

He is not a total absentee in that respect, but also in another: today, I have a Facebook father, who sends me simple messages on major holidays -- Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, and the like. It is something. Not everyone gets to have Social Media Dad. 

A few months ago, we thought Hawai'i was under nuclear attack and then learned that it was a false alarm.  Not long after that false alarm was declared, a message appeared from my father, one of the longest that he had sent.  He talked about his neighbors panicking, about people experiencing anxiety, and though he did not share what he was feeling, he told me to "have a good day!!!" 

When we thought it might all be over for us, at least one of his thoughts turned to me, and I am holding on to that. 

Maybe we will never be able to rebuild, but we can acknowledge each other, and that is something: you are my daughter, you are my dad. I don't think either of us knows what that means. I don't think we will ever know. 

So I woke up today, grabbed my phone from the nightstand, and sent him a Father's Day message. Maybe that reveals the answer to that difficult question: yes, still, even now, yes, inexplicably, bewilderingly, ultimately, yes, in my own way, the only way I know. 

Friday, June 15, 2018


Lately, I have been

...hand-cutting circles. Lots of them. Like so:
These were cut from the remnants of the May Hip Kit Club main kit. It's a great way to use paper scraps as well as accents that might not seem to work with one's page themes but that can totally work with one's color scheme. 
...painting -- and not just for crafting purposes. I'm actually painting walls in my actual house, with actual trips to an actual hardware store involved. The gloomy gray hallway is being painted a lighter, warmer color -- Craft Juggler from Behr. If I survive that, the kitchen is next. Over the past two days, I've been procuring supplies and watching tutorials. By this time next week, I hope to be paint-covered and proud. 

...trying not to binge-watch the entire second season of Queer Eye in one sitting. It's impossible, I know. I love this show. Just watching the Netflix trailer made me cry. 

...reading the Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. The first book was incredible, pulling me in right away and leaving me nearly breathless with curiosity and anticipation until the end. I'm almost halfway through the second book, Torch in the Night. It's just as engaging as the first. HIGHLY recommended! chili AND eating it. This is a big deal. I hate chili. I've hated it all my life, and every time I think that I should give it another chance, I taste it and cringe.  Then, a few weeks ago, my husband was coerced into entering a chili contest at work. We had never made chili before, as the only time chili ever appears in our house is when it is in a take-out container for one. Still, I love to cook, and I love my husband, so I compared recipes, looked at the common elements, and modified a recipe that uses accessible ingredients, incorporates lots of heat, and is based on my idea of how chili should taste.  It actually worked -- he won the contest with a pot of chili that a coworker dubbed "Netflix and Chili." I even tried some and thought, huh, not bad. 

A few days ago, my husband was craving chili again, and since I'm the one on summer break, I volunteered to make it for him, not planning to eat much at all. I made a few more tweaks to the recipe and included super-fresh veggies from a local farmer's market. I ended up eating four bowls of it!  I share with you the recipe, in case you, like me, hate chili but want to give it another chance. (This is the halved version of the recipe, since the first time we made it, we needed to use multiple pots to hold it all!). 
 2 tablespoons olive oil
0.5 pound ground beef
1 pound chuck steak, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (reserve some seeds) 
1 pasilla pepper, minced 
2-3 Thai bird chiles, minced (seeds left in)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1  15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (Cento is a good brand)
1.5 cups seeded and diced Roma tomatoes
1-1.5 c. diced Maui or other sweet onions (two small onions)
2 diced red bell peppers
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed 
1.5 cup beef broth (approximate)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional or to taste)
grated sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese (optional)
Heat Dutch oven or heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil immediately followed by ground beef. When ground beef is nearly browned, add the cubed steak, garlic, jalapeño and pasilla peppers, and Thai bird chiles (and a little salt and black pepper to season, if desired), and sauté until the steak is seared, about 3-4 minutes.  
Add water. When it reaches a boil, add cumin, chili powder, ground chipotle chili pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
Add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, stirring to combine. Simmer uncovered for five minutes on medium-low, and then add the fresh tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Simmer uncovered on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender (check to be sure onions are clear — alternately, include the onions earlier in the process after searing the beef). Stir occasionally, as mixture will be thick. 
Add black beans and 1 cup of beef broth and continue to simmer uncovered for 20-minutes. If a thinner consistency is desired, add the additional 0.5 cup of beef broth. Let simmer uncovered until you are ready to eat (we let it simmer for about 45 minutes - 1 hour after adding the beef broth). Add cilantro, if desired, just before serving.  
Ladle into bowls, top with cheese, and serve.  

...making my way happily through the ICAD challenge. Here are the two most recent cards (days 14 and 15). 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ICAD 9-13

Even though creating these cards is different from my usual crafty preference -- scrapbooking -- each feeds into the other. As I set aside a few minutes each day to just experiment and enjoy the process without worrying much about the product, I find that I am coming up with ideas to use on future layouts. 

The first card above revealed that the go-to grid can be kicked up a notch with the addition of fabric. I alternated chevron-patterned ribbon with paper scraps. 

The second card was meant to be a simple paper collage but it ended up telling a story of sorts. 

The third card had me trying something new -- tea-dyed papers. It's super simple! Just heat some water, add one or more teabags to it, and after steeping it for a moment, remove the teabag, and, when it cools enough to be handled, brush the teabag across the surface of the paper. I used the same concoction over different papers and then pieced together a grid.  You can even use the leftover tea in a spray bottle. 

The fourth card may seem unextraordinary, but within its layers there is meaning. I started with watercolors, and then used invisible ink (a Versamark pen) to write the deepest wishes of my heart, and then I sealed them with fairy dust -- embossing powder. 

I created the last card this morning, also trying something different -- I wandered in the garden, located a small fern, and used it as the base for a combination of crayon rubbings and as a stencil of sorts, applying paint to the fern and pressing the fern between two index cards with a brayer. I cut the resulting cards and "grafted" them together to create one fern with five variations.

Even though I know that these cards aren't masterpieces, I also know that they are not supposed to be -- the point is the process, and I'm loving every moment. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Summertime Goals

Each summer, I have the wonderfully liberating but inevitably troublesome habit of letting time sweep me away so that when school begins again, I feel sort of disoriented and anxious.

At the end of the two months, my fellow teachers wander back onto campus looking freaking radiant, with stories of all they have seen and done, and when they turn to ask me how I spent the summer, I try to find an exciting way of turning mutterings like " brushed my hair once..." into something that doesn't make them regret asking me such a loaded question. 

Making a list of goals for the summer will not necessarily improve my answer to the agonizing question when it comes, but it will help me to be a bit more...centered...and to make the most of the gift of these sweet days. This isn't a "to do" list. It's a "do it if you feel like it, and maybe try to feel like it, if you feel like trying to feel like it" list. 

1. De-clutter. This is going to be really difficult for me, as I sentimentalize every freaking thing or refuse to acknowledge that it has exhausted its possibilities. That piece of paper that I used to prevent spray ink from getting all over my desk? I could use that on a future project, I'm sure. Into the scrap bin it goes!  That stack of partially used composition books that has accumulated over the past twenty years? I might need something from one of them. What if someone needs the agenda from that one faculty meeting ten years ago at that school where I no longer teach?  You never know... 

2. Garden. My yard is a wild, wild place, where everything is verdant and thriving and entangled and beautifully terrifying, and this is all because I don't really touch anything. I want to learn how to tend to the plants in my yard so that they don't eat my house -- kind of like Morticia Addams and her killer plants. I also want even more color in the yard.  I may be a little too ambitious with this goal. Last week, I purchased two flowering plants from Walmart's garden section. One was an annual, and it's already on its way out -- within days, the leaves lightened and the flowers started drooping, despite me not overwatering it and placing it in a shady area, as the instructions said.  The other one, a lovely anthurium, is still alive, for now. I really want it to live. I'm trying not to get attached. 

3. Paint. Just typing those five letters made me laugh five times with some choking noises between each typed letter. Me, paint? Umm, on paper, suuuuure.  On walls? Cue the choke-laughing again. I'm going to start small, with a hallway that doesn't get much light and is kind of dreary because it is painted a dark gray. I don't even know where to begin, honestly. With wiping down the walls and using primer of some kind, I'm sure.  Maybe I should research this more. Or I could just paste cardstock all over the hallway and work with that instead. 

4. Notice. I'm going to let Mary Oliver explain this one: "Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." I will NOT spend my summer staring at screens. I will NOT spend my summer staring at screens. I will NOT spend my summer starting at screens. 

5. Create. This is the time of year when I feel most free and most creative. The world is color-rich and so much seems possible. Every single day, I will create something, whether that is a scrapbooking project, a poem, or even a dish in the kitchen. So far, so good! I've been keeping up with the ICAD (Index-Card-a-Day) challenge for three entire days now. Only 58 to go! 
6. Read. Throughout the year, I have stockpiled "break books," books that I read just for me, on my terms, at my leisure, no lesson plans or assessments required. I want to choose reading as often as I can. 

I think I'll stop there. I have a lot to do and need to get started! Suddenly, I really want to add one more:  

7. Sleep. 

Note that I did not agree to brush my hair this summer. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

I'm an ICADian (Again)

Even though I have yet to make it through the full two months of an ICAD (Index-Card-a-Day) Challenge each summer, I always make a go of it anyway. It's about "creativity, not competition," as the challenge creator and Daisy Yellow genius Tammy Garcia contends, and that is what brings me back each time around. No pressure. Just play. 

So yep, I'm in again! 

There are prompts and themes that one can follow (or not), and this time around, I'm not going to rely too heavily on those. I am just going to see where a blank card takes me each day. 

For the first card, I worked with simple supplies that were close at hand.  I just started dripping ink on a blank card and added more and more droplets in layers.  
This summer, I'm going try really (really!) hard not to judge the products. I'm going to block out the voice in my head that evaluates the "final" index card creations in terms of likability, and listen to the one that just simply hums along as I am creating the cards. 

Wish me luck!  If you're playing along, good luck to you!