Wednesday, July 27, 2016

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE LIBRARIANS


...and writers and readers and thinkers and doers!   

A lot of my friends are TEACHERS, too. Well, where I work I consider every adult to be in the teaching profession.  Some do their "teaching" while running up and down the sidelines of a court or field of play, others conduct their lessons while sweeping and mopping, quite a few provide training while serving meals and some of us educate through simply setting examples and the best example that can be set is to READ!!

So when my dear friend, the Librarian, approached me with a project that would enable students to feel more comfortable while exploring the different genres that are available in her Library - I was more than happy to help out!  Her idea was to have a set of 10" x 15" bookshelf signs that would clearly indicate the location of the various types of literature so that students could investigate independently. What a great idea!

I had a wonderful time creating the designs for and making these signs and they made me think about all of the different types of books I enjoy reading.  I've always wanted to be a writer but for now I'll settle on being a FOAM artist. I do hope you enjoy these and I hope they give you ideas about something SPECIAL you would like me to create for you!!  


You are UNIQUE and ONE-OF-A-KIND- 
so show it off with a unique and one-of-a-kind FOAMFRIEND!!

So what is your favorite kind of book to read?



Adventure? One of my teacher friends expands her knowledge of the world around us by taking fantastic solo adventures every summer.  She might be in the classroom for 9 months but the rest of the time she is out there - having experiences that enlighten her mind and lighten her soul so that when she returns to the classroom she is an even more powerful woman and educator!!
Fantasy?  One of my teachers friends worked as a substitute teacher five days a week and then went home each night to work on writing.  His genre - Fantasy. He would dress up in costumes to help his students explore the wonderful worlds that can be explored only in books.  Whether he ends up writing or teacher full-time he will give a gift to the young people!
Historic? Fiction or Non-Fiction - they both can be great reads.  One of my teacher friends is a History teacher and has found that by incorporating some historical fiction with his non-fiction lessons his students become even more excited about learning about the past. I know that I loved learning more about the Regency period so that I could enjoy my Jane Austen more! 
Humor? This genre can be found in a lot of fiction. Who doesn't love to laugh.  That's the one thing about working with teachers...they ALWAYS manage to find a way to laugh.  They take their profession seriously but not themselves.  Many of them realize that they are in a wonderful position to continue to see the world through young eyes - eyes that are not fearful or cynical but that still have room for hope and humor!








Monday, January 25, 2016

A Mantra for a Michigan Winter Monday


I am ALIVE.
I am LOVED.
I am HERE.
I am CREATING.
That's enough.

For many of us residing in the north, (including this blogger) January is a time to hibernate.  Lower the blinds to close out the grey when the lid moves upon us for days. Put on some music while you meditate or dance.  Light a scented candle. Write in your journal or send a handwritten letter to a relative or friend. Cuddle up with a few pets, drink some mulled-wine, read a good book, enjoy some indoor pastimes!

Always keeping in mind that when the skies clear to blue and shadows appear how giddy you will feel.  Strangers on the street, on elevators, in line at the store will smile and make eye contact! When the high temperature for the day is above 30 and the overnight lows don't dip below 20 ... celebrate!
Winter life in the north forces you to Live in the Moment - as failure to do so could result in great bodily harm. Any day you can go outside without having to take measures to protect yourself against frostbite or slipping - tripping and falling is truly a special occasion!

Taking my own advice I started off the new year by cuddling with the pets ( yes, the Holly Way Pride is up to five feline members now!), drinking wine (sometimes I'm just not patient enough for the mulling process), reading a good mystery novel (okay - when I say I'm going in to read for awhile it usually turns into a nap) and pursuing some of my favorite indoor pastimes!  These include doing anything with FOAM, researching Lansing history on the web while building my Pinterest gallery of Historical Images of Lansing, playing board games with my two boys, eating comfort foods and finding new ways to express myself artistically!!

My latest project is working with high-quality sandstone drink coasters with rubber nonslip backing.  I didn't have to search very far for inspiration.  It was all around me.  In baskets, sleeping on the couch, playing in paper bags, claiming the top of the frig as their princess tower, waking me too early for morning snack...yep...the Holly Way Pride of FIVE!






Bombadil "Zen Master Vanilla Thunder"
Lucky Buckie "The Illusive"
Avalon "Grey Queen Beauty Butt"
Kadashan "Gold Cats are BIG!"
& Goldberry "Little Princess Buffy"

Soon other cat lovers realized how a void was now present in their lives and that they must pay tribute to their feline family members by having their own unique coasters made by Foam Friends! (I am assuming these thoughts were implanted by their cats.  You may think they are just sleeping a lot but in reality they are planning...always planning!)  Supplied with a couple photos of the cats to be depicted along with some details about their unique personalities - the owners of Lilly, Jack, Sadie and Bobalu soon had their very own way to "Have a Drink on their Cats!".

Not a cat fancier - not to worry.  These Coaster Creatures can be custom created to depict whatever or whomever you want... dogs, rats, birds, or even brothers and bosses!!


Hand-Painted 

High-Quality 
Creature Coasters 
by Foam Friends - $10.00 each










Monday, November 30, 2015

In Honor of LOVE



The one sure thing you can say about my father, that remained true throughout his entire life, was that he dearly loved cats.  Even when Alzheimers took away most of what made him - him, he was still a genuine ailurophile. The weekend after he passed in 2010 we adopted two little orphaned kittens and named them in honor of my father's service during World War II - Kadashan Bay -  named after the ship he served on - and Chester Nimitz - named after the fleet admiral for the United States Navy during WWII.

Over the years Kadashan grew into a "big buddha-bellied bumble bee-biting butter biscuit" of a cat with his brother, Chester, always remaining on the petite side. Tender, loving, inquisitive and absolutely adorable, our Chester was the most beautifully-marked cat we'd ever had.  He loved to tag team for moles with his brother when out back for their "supervised" excursions and liked nothing more than to jump up into his tree to sharpen his claws, check out the yard from a higher vantage point or delay the inevitable when his human brother, Jack, would announce it was time to go in! In January of this year we had to say Farewell to our beloved Chester "Wolfpaw" Nimitz.   
A young spirit with an old soul in a body that was never meant for longevity.  Gone too soon - he joined the others who have drifted in and out of our lives - bringing only LOVE and leaving sweet cherished memories.         Although the winter ground was frozen we laid him to rest next to the castle wall, beneath the branches of his tree where he loved to hunt for moles in the thick green ivy and roll in the soft black soil.

In the Spring we began construction on our FoamFriends Medieval Village.  We started with building three wattle and daub huts and a village well all made from extruded polystyrene and foam craft sheets with plans to eventually design and build a 1:12 scale medieval inn which we would name in honor of our dearly-departed little friend.

Presenting a work in progress:
CHESTER'S REST
                                                                                              For Jeffrey and I - working on this project together has been a wonderfully gratifying experience and as we near the time when the Inn will be placed upon the spot where Chester rests - we find ourselves reflecting on the dear memories of all of the many fur people who have graced our home by sharing their, all too brief, lives with us.  Once the Inn is moved outside, our Bombadil and Goldberry will have to find new napping locations or maybe a foam "cat house" is next on the project list?!  

See more photos of Chester's Rest in the Garden Village gallery tab.





CHESTER'S REST INN



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Winter is a State of Mind


I must admit that a smile crept across my face earlier this week when I watched the people of the Deep South struggling with their little temporary taste of what winter really feels and looks like.  It's not a lack of compassion for my fellow human beings - it's JOY in finally getting to share with them the true burden and character-building aspects of that time of year when our hemisphere is tilted the winter way. Welcome fellow Earth inhabitants in the southern part of the U.S. to what has been our Northern reality and what is now becoming...yours.


When you can't roll around in the grass because it is covered with inches (and sometimes feet) of snow. When the sidewalks are unshoveled or icy.  When the roads are too treacherous for travel.  When just going out to get the mail or take out the recycling makes your eyeballs hurt - that is when you discover just how strong you truly are.  Winter is harsh from the salt stains on your boots to the dry skin on your face (the only body part you can reveal for several months) and if you are not in the right frame of mind...it will creep into your heart and make you sad.


So how do I avoid those cabin-fever cold-weather induced slumps in mood?  I opened an account with Pinterest (pinterest.com/foamfriends4u) and started experimenting with new (and exciting) ways to work with FOAM!!!   Okay...here is a warning.  
Pinterest must be used in moderation.  
Yes, it can be a time-stealer but more than that...it can put the right side of your brain on overload!!  There are so many creative people out there with really madly-wild, and not always necessary, crafting skills and I find myself wanting, no - needing, to try my hand at making EVERYTHING!!




So...I reigned myself in and tried one new thing at a time.  
First up....creating Faux Leather from Craft Foam Sheets.
MASKS!!   I could make masks!!   It's too cold to be outside so why not spend a weekend (and a snow day) and make a bunch of masks? The Woodland Spirit mask was inspired by masks made by WingandTalon Leatherworks.  

                                                                                                                                                                  The cats are my own and they are The Venetian, the Celtic, and The Garden Cat. 
       They look cool as a wall display and yes, you can even wear them if you like (but be careful wearing them around your pets..it seems to mess with their sense of reality some how.)  

Winter is truly a State of Mind and  I hope you are finding ways to cope and create until the time comes when we can go back outside without putting on 5 pounds of additional clothing, scraping, shoveling, de-icing, and on and on.  But in the meantime....May I suggest bringing a little FOAMFRIENDS into your life?   

EXPRESS YOURSELF - YOUR DREAMS - YOUR DESIRES
FoamFriends can help make your journey a FOAM-filled one!!  foamfriends4u@gmail.com

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to Get There From Here

Getting from "Here" to "There" isn't always easy.

First of all - you must establish what THERE is - then determine your PATH - then acquire the MEANS - then MOVE on it.  But wait a minute...before any of that can happen - you must discover what your HERE is.  Now...if you are planning a vacation or a trip to the market - this is not such a difficult task.

But if you are seeking a deeper movement, well, to do that you really have to focus inward.

Let the world fall away. Tune out the static and listen closely for the beat - the rhythm of your heart and your breath -  truly open yourself and tune in to the vibration of your own LIFE.
It is when we can do that  - that we are free to discover ourselves - identify our PASSIONS and begin to realize the THERE that we seek.
Then the work begins.  
Determining the PATH -acquiring the MEANS - MOVING ON IT!!

It is in these rare quiet times of reflection and introspection, often experienced when I am in the act of creating, on a solo bike ride or while in savasana, that I can clearly see how much my art really means to me. How it is the one consistent element that has brought JOY into my life from making cards and writing poems for my family to designing and creating unique pieces of art from styrofoam!
When asked, "So, what do you do?" - I must start responding with - "I AM AN ARTIST."
With this reply I set myself free to finally discover my true THERE.  

For many of the people I know, in the workplace, on committees and socially  - their passion is EDUCATION.  This is not something they fell into while seeking something else. Whether they are classroom teachers, artists, actors, students or yoga instructors- it is not only WHAT they DO but what they believe is the KEY to their own fulfillment and their hopes for human society that makes them EDUCATORS.

One such person recently commissioned me to create a piece that would not only identify her office and professional title, but would let others know what values she holds as a LIFE-LONG LEARNER and EDUCATOR.  We all have many titles - but when we find what truly DEFINES us.. it is then that we are truly FREE!!


Monday, September 22, 2014

IT'S OKAY TO "LIVE IN THE PAST" IF YOU WENT TO HORSEBROOK SCHOOL.

    Only four members of the 6th grade "graduating" class of 1971 attended the Horsebrook Elementary School Reunion on Saturday the 6th of September - 2014 - but we brought EVERYONE along with us.

     They, the other kids we went to school with and the teachers we had throughout our years at Horsebrook, are always with us. They are part of us. We are all who we are now because of those experiences - that neighborhood - and that school that we all shared. Regardless of whether our memories of growing up may be good or bad, whether we remember the thrill of winning a class election or the heartbreak of being picked last for the dodgeball team, those experiences were the building blocks of our character.

    Those years, from 5 to 11 or 12, are when we learn about "Our World". When "expected behavior" becomes habit, when actions have immediate consequence and when the dance of interpersonal relationships is first awkwardly learned. From the lines we had to get into every morning out on the school's porch before the start of the school day to the dress code (which for girls - really meant "dress" code), the rules we followed - the respect we held for our parents, our school and our teachers made us a collective of individuals. Being human - we would find ways to compete and separate ourselves from one another - the kids from the north side of Grand River Avenue and those form the south, the "smart" kids and those who were challenged when asked to read aloud, the athletes from the non-athletic, and yes, even the "haves" and the "have nots" . But what some of us (if not all of us) didn't quite realize at the time was just how very fortunate we all were to live in the Horsebrook community...and with the Horsebrook family.

School - College - Marriage - Children - Work - Money

they all demand our attention and alter our focus.

We change our priorities - we discard what is not immediately needed or beneficial-   then....

we pause.


We reach the middle of our fifth decade  - when there is more behind us than ahead. When we get that opportunity to return to ourselves - when life's labels of student, spouse, parent, employee - are no longer what defines us. We are free to be that child again.  We look into the mirror and wonder when we became our parents - we ask ourselves if we led a good life - we seek answers that can only come from within. 
         We look back to that time in our lives when we were FREE. 
                                      When we were not DEFINED.
                                                         When the future was yet to BE.
A time when we were safe - when the grown ups would always be there to make sure we had enough to eat, a bed to sleep in, a roof over our heads, clothes to wear, toys and books and FUN.

"Time to get up. Eat all your cereal - finish the milk. Brush your teeth. Make your bed. Go outside and play.  Don't overstay your welcome. Come home when the street lights come on. Eat all of your vegetables.  There are starving kids in China. Clean your plate. Do the dishes. Don't talk when the News is on. Don't sit too close to the TV.  Get ready for bed.
Hit the sack!  It's a school night!!"

    We all walked to Horsebrook every school day.  We tied the laces of our gym shoes together and hung them over the back of our seats. We brought milk money from home and thrilled at receiving the Scholastic Book Club items we may have ben fortunate enough to order. We played "Seven-Up" and whatever that game was that involved walking around with an eraser on your head. We had visiting gym teachers and music teachers. At mid-day we all left. Some had only to walk through their backyard, some went to the homes of others, but most of us went HOME for lunch. We couldn't wait to be a "big kid" so we could serve on the Safety Patrol. We cleaned litter from the grounds - decorated bulletin boards - learned how to square dance and felt like the whole world was looking at us each year when we marched along Grand River Avenue for the Halloween Parade.

    No matter the season - recess at Horsebrook was AWESOME. Whether it was playing foursquare on the blacktop, kickball on the baseball diamond, making a "jampile" on a piece of cardboard so you could soar down the snow-covered hill, or exploring near the crick (the forbidden zone!)- it always ended with a collective groan when we would catch a glimpse of our teacher - up on the hill - raising her hand in the air to signal the time to line up to come back inside.




Lansing was booming. 
    The population growing to over 100,000 in the early 60's and reaching its peak of over 131,000 in 1970. Oldsmobile had three shifts and over 15,000 employees. There were 36 elementary schools in Lansing. Most mothers still didn't work outside of the home and many served as "room mothers", scout leaders, day care providers and volunteers. The fathers worked at both blue collar and white collar jobs - at the car plant, or the Lansing State Journal, or the Board of Water and Light or they were carpenters or plumbers.  And they would all be there for the Christmas Concert, or the Pancake Supper, or the Pinewood Derby. How very special if felt to return to Horsebrook at night. To go to our classrooms to prepare while our families were gathering in the gym.  They knew each other.  They were neighbors. They lived next door or down the street. They bought their meat from Gorman's and got their prescriptions filled at Martin's.  They cared for their family, their community - their school.

   
So you see...it's not such a bad thing to once in a while "Live in the Past" IF you were fortunate enough to go to Horsebrook Elementary School.  It was a pretty fantastic "past" and because everything is temporary and all things change - having a "past" that makes you feel good about yourself and the world is a pretty wonderful thing.