Saturday, December 6, 2008

Papers and punches, and stamps, oh my!

I should be packing but a little over a week ago I discovered a marvelous blog for the House Mouse Monday Challenge, and things have not been the same since. As happens with most blogs, reading that blog led me to many other blogs. Once I thought I had no interest at all in making cards. Now, I can hardly wait to get my move behind me, so I can really get started making cards. Aside from the fun of doing so, I will no longer be making Hallmark or American Greetings more rich than each already is. (Let’s not talk about buying stamps and ink and papers, etc). After the initial outlay, I think I will come out ahead. I will finally have a place to use all the wonderful quotes I have gathered for years and will be able to make a card exactly as I want, not having to accept the current trend in cards. I have a goodly supply of pretty papers as well as cardstock, and one heavy duty punch and another, not quite as heavy, with interchangeable cutting plates (die?). I have brads and photo corners, and some colored pencils, but need to venture into better pencils from Prismacolor, and a product called Gamsol (or turpenoid), to help blend the colors onto the design. It’s like another language, and in a week much has become clear and card making seems like it could be more fun than scrapbooking. Oh, and as I continue to pack, I just KNOW I will find the box of rubber stamps from D.O.T.S. (now Stampin’ Up), along with the few Pooh stamps I have. I have learned it is less costly to buy unmounted stamps, but of course then you need to find a way to handle them during use. There are still a lot of company abbreviations which are foreign to me, but I will figure it out. It has become apparent that not all scrapbooking clubs are created equal and some are actually reasonable, with very nice owners, willing to work with someone in the middle of a move.

There is someone on Word Press (where I first had my blog but then they changed everything about working with it, and made it too difficult) who would like to do a 1 on 1 Christmas card exchange and in preparation I ordered my first Christmas stamp. Knowing what stamp I will use, I spent some time last night in my old standby, “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”, looking for just the right quote for this first card I make. I found one that was wonderful and appropriate, but this morning, while browsing some other quotes, found one even better. It pays to write down, or keep in some fashion, bits of prose or poetry which touch you in some way. The card develops in my mind, as I wait for the stamp to arrive. In looking at one of the scrapbooking magazines last night, I learned there is a preparatory sort of journal for those who dabble in paper crafts, in which you can save sketches from projects in magazines, to formulate your card before you ever make your first cut into cardstock. Must find one of these or at least be sure to carry a notebook where I can jot down ideas.

So, for now, the packing is calling rather loudly to me once again, and I must get back to it, but just needed to stop in to let my friends who have been reading this know that I have not disappeared. Stay tuned for updates on this new chapter in my ever growing category of things I just must do/make!

I did have a chat with a friend the other night about just the above - why there are so many things we both feel the need to try. Some seem content with one craft or art. I love so many of them - sewing for dolls, photography, quilting, knitting, and now, the wonderful world of paper crafts. How does one get it all done, especially when there are daily challenges on the paper craft blogs? I always need cards, so can begin to stockpile to be prepared for important dates as they arrive. Themes are not always so particular as a holiday, but can be a color, or a category such as a “thank you” card, and thus you could use any stamp and papers you wished, so long as you stay in that theme. (Hmmm, for every bag of “stuff” I have thrown out, getting ready for this move, I somehow sense some paper crafting supplies coming in to replace them….)!

Well, back to the sorting, tossing and packing, at least for now. More later.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We are such stuff as dreams are made on...

Recently I was telling a friend that despite the turmoil of the last eight years, I had not given up on dreams. She told me I must be strong and never stop dreaming. This dream seems almost impossible, but I will hold on to it a little while longer. I have long wanted to see Alaska, for a lot of reasons, but two in particular - 1) I knew that the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, who taught me all those years ago, once settled in Nome and on arrival were welcomed by the Sisters of Providence in Anchorage; 2) and, several years ago, while still doing medical transcription, one of my accounts was Providence Hospital in Anchorage. One of the staff physicians, a neurologist, had been educated at the University of Pennsylvania, and I loved the fact that she would expound on what she saw outside her window as she dictated, so the reports were often filled with accounts of moose sightings, and severe snow storms.

I was astounded by how different things seemed in Alaska, medically. Instead of people being driven to the hospital, it seemed that many went by boat, or were air-lifted. Also, the accidents were of a different type from those one finds in the suburbs of Philadelphia where fishing accidents seem rare, at least to the degree suffered by commercial fishermen. I was also saddened by the sheer number of people suffering severe depression from the extended darkness.

I guess we all experience episodes of extended darkness, even if not literally, times when there seems no way out of the dark, to find the light again. It is during these times that I am most grateful for my faith, which comforts me as little else can during troubling times. After faith come my friends, some of which I have known since very early grade school years, and some who are much newer in my life, but just as precious. All are beacons of light when the path is locked in darkness.

It is one of these newer but still cherished friends who encouraged me to dream a few weeks back. Several months ago I received notification about a cruise to Alaska, which will feature workshops for a sweet doll, Bleuette, and the rest of her family. Bleuette was offered in France, from 1905 to 1960. She started out being offered as a premium for subscriptions to a weekly magazine for little girls, La Semaine de Suzette. Before the first issue was ever sent, they ran out of the initial 20,000 dolls and needed to find more, quickly. I won’t delve into the many molds used for Bleuette and her various looks, at least not at this time, but since learning of her a few years ago, she has lodged firmly in my heart, in a place previously held solely by the Mary Hoyer dolls of my youth. I see many similarities in these dolls in that each had not only commercial clothing available, but also patterns for many more items, thus allowing little girls to learn important techniques that would help them when they established their our homes. Someday I hope to say that I have made all 1000+ patterns for Bleuette (another dream), but for now, I shall concentrate on being able to take the cruise to Alaska.

At this moment, it is possible that this dream might come true. It will require a lot of discipline - sewing when maybe I just don’t feel like it - but I know that I have the ability to make this happen, and with good friends supporting me in my dreams, they are more likely to become reality.

What do you do with a wedding gown from a failed marriage? Despite the outcome, there seems something awful in discarding it. The satin is too heavy to be used for anything else, and it lay unprotected for so many years, that I doubt it could ever be worn again, should a granddaughter ever desire so simple a style.

The photo above holds many treasures and remnants of dreams. The Madame Alexander doll is wearing the christening gown I made for my first child, a daughter, back in 1968. It is from a beautiful McCalls’ pattern and was supposed to be embroidered down the front with a tree of life design. Back in 1968 I was not doing embroidery, so instead, I cut the lace corners from my wedding hanky, and appliqued them onto the center panel of the gown. Directly opposite on the left is part of the bodice and sleeve of the above-mentioned wedding gown. The little bear was a gift from a son, and is a favorite. Her name is Guinevere. The scissors are treasured for close work. Pearls are essential to me, even more so than diamonds. The entwined hearts in two shades of purple are shown on one of the hankies I made for the girls in my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding party. What a joy an embroidery machine is but I do love hand embroidery. The tiny bits of pink by the tip of the scissors are earrings in the shape of roses. I believe the company which made them was 1928 or something to that effect. I also have a pair with smaller roses, and pearl drops below the roses. The doll in the center is a Mary Hoyer. All my childhood ones were lost in a hurricane. This is my one and only at present. The roses by the bear’s feet are in a small urn, and are just decoration. The quilt, while not one of my own, is still cherished. I love the colors and the pearls and embroidery on it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We all have promises to keep

It has been a very long time since I first heard Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” but the poem has stayed with me all this time, particularly the lines…..”…The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” Most recently I am reminded of a night in Minnesota, in January of 2000, shortly after my daughter was released from the hospital. She had been admitted with unrelenting headaches, and I feared the worst. I did not convey peace to fellow flyers as I white-knuckled it from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, rosary beads in hand. It was the sickest I had ever seen her, and nothing seemed to be helping. However, at the end of the week of my arrival, a kindly resident happened on treatment, when he stayed up all night, not willing to give up until he found something to help her. It amazes me still that something so simple as high doses of caffeine and an NSAID would be sufficient to stop excruciating headaches that had plagued her for months. This resident noted a not often reported condition called “occipital neuralgia” and high dose caffeine is the treatment. Within 24 hours she was almost as good as new. (She had taken up running several months before and apparently this condition ensued from the way she was holding her shoulders, which compressed the occipital nerve on each side of her neck. Never caring for exercise myself, I delighted in telling her that trying to get healthy could really hurt you!)

Once we got her safely home, and feeling better, fluffy white flakes fell from the Buffalo, Minnesota sky, as if to wash away the fear and anxiety of the previous weeks. Although it was very cold, I ventured out into the storm, to enjoy its cleansing nature, and walked the edge of the woods near her home, thinking of this poem all the while.

I did not know it yet, but I was very soon to be on my own, after 28 years of a mostly turbulent marriage, so this particular night of peace was most welcome in the months to come. The poem has become a mantra of sorts, to keep the promises I made to myself when faced with living on my own for the first time in my life. I had gone from my parents’ home to college, back to my parents’, and then I was married, and moved to another state. I truly was afraid of how I would cope, alone, at 53 years of age. I guess I ‘got my Irish up’ because I have made it, not always easily, but I have survived, thanks to some exceptional friends and some wonderful rescue Beagles.

I first used Promises to Keep as a business name back in 1997 when I started sewing doll clothes for American Girl dolls and My Twinn. It seems apppropriate now, so I have made it the title for this blog. We all make promises, and some of the most important ones we make are to ourselves.

We need to remember that we are important too, even if we have no one else. Find a place you love, a place which soothes your spirit, and go there when the world around you becomes just too much. For me it can be the edge of the woods on a snowy evening, but just as readily it can be at the edge of the sea, or in botanical gardens (Longwood Gardens) where I see God’s glory all around me, and know that Someone cares.

"Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here, to watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near, between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake, to ask if there is some mistake,
the only other sounds the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."