Monday, April 28, 2008

Crazy Weekend - Sharing some layouts

Recently, I scrapped some old photos of my son. All of the layouts below, including the ATC, were made with products from Scrapkitten.

This first photo is when Jeremy was about two. Isn't he cute in his little seersucker sailor suit? Page was scrapped with Whispering Sweets by ScrapKitten.
You can find it here:

This one dates from first grade. They made a silly bunny hat and Jeremy wore it while he dyed Easter eggs. He had such fun! Also scrapped with Whispering Sweets.

The next three layouts were all made with Aqua Nouveau by ScrapKitten. You can find the kit here:

The first pic is from kindergarten. In the second, he is about 6 months old. The ATC features a vintage photo of unknown man.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beautiful borders are easy

when you use one of these great border templates from AfriDigiDiva.

They are available at
Buy the set of 5 sets for $12.00 or each set separately at $2.75

I bought set 4 today and want more! Just look at the first ribbon I created for a kit I'm working on. It's at the top of this post.

This week's writing prompts

In the thrift store book section the other day, I found another book on writing. I'd started collecting them when I taught and still do from time to time. This one is called Stirring The Waters: Writing To Find Your Spirit: 9 Spiritual Practices To Develop Your Wise Voice by Janell Moon. I'd never heard of it but discovered that Ms. Moon is a poet, college writing instructor and a hypnotherapist. I'm hoping she's got a few tricks I haven't come across before. If so, I'll pass them on.

And the cards that turned up in this week's pull are:

* Then you look at me . . . " Try freewriting or streaming (as in stream-of-consciousness) as Moon calls it, for about 15 minutes and see what comes to you. Use this as the first line of a story or poem. You don't have to finish - just start and see where it takes you.

* Random Words - Freewrite on each of these words for 5-10 minutes, one right after another. For a bigger challenge, use all the words in a free write.
bones -- fool -- friendship -- affection -- surprise -- dingleberry

*If I could change my name, it would be . . .
This is straight forward. Most of us, at one time or another, have wished we were named something else. What did you want your name to be when you were 10? when you were a teen? would you change it now and to what?

* Think of 5 events from the past, positive or negative, that moved you intensely. These events had great energy at the time. Pick the one with the most energy, the one that is most alove for you now. Write about it for 15 minutes.

* At random, chose 2 characters - for now just decide if they are male or female and their ages; chose a place - real or fictional in general; chose 2 objects; chose an adjective; and chose an abstract word. Now, begin writing in story form using these elements. Write at least two pages and see what you have to say.

* My soul felt free in the night . . .
You know what to do with this. Write at least 20 minute or until you feel like stopping.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman

Just finished this novel early this morning while rain beat against the window. I enjoyed it as I've enjoyed other Hoffman novels. She tells a good story, creates interesting characters you can care about. Susannah Hunnewell of The New York Times Book section gives a concise description that fits many of Hoffman's stories so well when she says they are about " the intersection of wounded people who seek to learn where and how to give their love" ( NYTimes, April 26, 1992).

In Turtle Moon you get transported to hot, muggy, buggy, humid, Verity, FL., a small town which has perhaps more than its fair share of single mothers who have escaped divorced husbands and started new lives. Hoffman draws our attention to a 12-year-old boy disturbed over his parents' divorce and loss of the world he knew. He doesn't know how to cope so acts out and becomes "the baddest boy in Verity." His mother, Lucy, not only has her bad boy son to contend with but becomes mixed up with the town-bad-boy turned tracker-for-the-police-department, Julian. The three meet and become involved because of a violent crime that involves another single mother who lives in the same complex as Lucy and her son. Both males are in the dark, suffering, and Lucy, whose name means light, becomes a link between them.

I loved the down-to-earth way Hoffman describes the boy's thoughts and actions. It's believeable and his pain is so clear you can recall your own old wounds freshly. As Hunnewell points out, the soul and its struggles are "part of the action" in the novel. So too is a sense of magic, as Hunnewell called it, or mysticism, that inhabits all of Hoffman's worlds or, I should say, those I've read about.

The core of the story had me, no doubt about it, but then Hoffman throws in "The Angel" - the chained to the spot where he died spirit of Julian's cousin. To some extent that was fine - as far as explaining Julian's search for forgiveness, for light. But when she has The Angel fall in love with a teenage girl who is a minor character, I wanted to stop and ask where she was going with this. As it turned out, I couldn't see the need for it in the end. But don't let that deter you from reading the novel. It's a good read; a fine look at human nature. Just don't expect a neat and tidy happy ending of the happily-ever-after type because that isn't Hoffman's way nor the way of the world.

Find Turtle Moon here:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I'm not Sally Fields

She can smile and recommend Boniva for osteoporosis and I truly hope it realy works for her without side effects, but I think I need to speak with my doctor about another alternative. Two months ago I took my first Boniva pill. For those of you who have somehow missed the commericals, Boniva is a drug taken once monthly to help fight the damage done to bones by osteoporosis. As always, I carefully read the directions before taking the first dose. You must take it first thing in the morning before you've had anything to eat or drink. You must drink at least 8 ounces of water with it and you may not eat or drink anything but water for the next hour. You cannot lie down after taking the pill for at least an hour. I'm not a morning person, but I thought I could handle that. I took my first dose the day of my neice, Joanna's sixteenth birthday party. By the time I got home I had a headache and a little nausea but just thought the cats at my sister-in-laws had triggered an allergy. Later that night, I was really sick: headache, nausea. diarhea. My husband had just gotten over the flu so I figured I'd caught it. Sure enough, had fever and chills too. My bones ached and I was miserable. I stayed sick for a week, at the end of which I was exhausted and weak.

Two days ago, I took my second dose of Boniva. Had a little headache Friday afternoon that gradually developed into a mild migraine with nausea. A few hours after that the diarhea set in. For more than 24 hrs I had headache, nausea, diarhea, and pain in my bones and joints. I felt like I had the flu and someone had beaten me with a baseball bat. I couldn't have the flu again and I didn't believe my fibro was acting up. Sure enough, late last night, I fially got some relief. I'd re-read the pamphlet that came with the Boniva and sure enough, all of my symptoms were possible side-effects from the drug which, by the way, the pamphlet discribes as an "acid" (& I've already got gastric reflux problems!). Now I have to consider whether to try this one more time or just say "No!" If I try it again, I'll defintely lan in advance for my "Boniva day" by instructing hubby to go out to dinner and not planning anything for myself except making trips back and forth between bed and bathroom. And what I'm curious about and will have to research is how does an acid help build bones? The connection eludes me. If I find out, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I'm checking out the other options like Fossamax but suspect it's pretty much the same.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Response to random word prompt

I wrote this just minutes ago while reading throught the prompts I'd given last Friday. The 5 words on the random word prompt suggested a visual image to me so I tried to put it into words. This isn't a completed anything, just my initial response to the writing prompt and the image it conjured up.

Act casual as you walk past the shadow people who hang out at the nearby juke joint. Don't appear to notice them; just see them as shadows, ignoring their staring eyes. Don't listen to the words they say, trying to intice you to join them in some "fun." You don't want to enter their world for it is dark and terrible and all their promises of ease and joy are false and brittle. No matter how bad things are, you are still in the light and the light will heal, if slowly.

Attention Xashee re: I shopped e-bay

First, thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will return. Like you, I'm fascinated by vintage articles and have a particular love of the Victorian. The vanity accessories I purchased are later than that, having been made sometime in the 1920's. Still, the hair receiver is an idea that goes back at least 'til Victorian times.

Perhaps you have heard of or seen some of the Victorian mourning jewelry made from hair? If not, here is a site that will give you a little history on the subject and has excellent photos of such jewelry.

Although those who are familiar with hair jewelry tend to think first of mourning jewelry, hair jewelry was often made and given as tokens of affection. Ladies, in particular, would save the hair that accumulated in their brushes and combs tucking it into "hair recievers" like the one in my post that has an opening in the lid. When sufficient hair had accumulated, it was sorted, cleaned, etc. and used to make "rats" which were a sort of matted ball or roll of hair that were used like stuffing to form the sort of hairstyles you see on Gibson girls, or buns etc. I recall that in the 50's and early 60's when women still wore hairstyles like beehives, French twists, and buns with a ponytail coming through the center that there were "rats" then too. At that point in time, however, they were a sort of plastic mesh shape that you put beneath your hair to plump it up. Same function, different material.

Aside from "rats," the hair collected was also fashioned into remembreance jewelry -- bracelets, rings, brooches, earring dangles, even necklaces. Can you imagine wearing a necklace of braided and twisted hair? The thought makes me itch! Sometimes these remembrances were simple things like a little braid of hair that a woman might give her husband or boyfriend to tuck inside his pocketwatch case (they often had places for photos and such. Or a man might give such a braid or lock to his wife or girlfriend to wear in a locket along with his photo. The pieces of hair jewelry that are mourning jewelry were made, as you might suspect, from gathered hair of the dearly departed and as such were greatly treasured momentoes.

I hope this helped answer your question in regard to hair receivers.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gift For You!

It's been a while since I've had a freebie on my blog so today I made a little something for you, with the help of the generous designers who donate designer resources to Ephemeral Victorian to be used in the creation of blog freebies. I also wish to thank Silvia Romeo for the designer resource I used in creation of the tag and Karen Kleiman for the bow. The rose is from my own designer resource, Roses To Recolor. I hope you will enjoy this mini kit and if you do, will leave me a comment. If you have friends you think would like the kit, please send them here to get the link.

Download here:

I shopped e-bay today!

My husband and I were at our computers (they are side by side) earlier today and I was browsing antique books on e-bay. He suggested that I search for a replacement for an antique vanity box he accidently broke some months ago.

When I was in grad school, I'd begun collecting antique celluloid vanity accessories. The box he broke dated from the early 1920's. It had an octagonal amber glass bottom and a pretty, etched faux marble top in a gold tone. It was my favorite piece and used to sit on the glass shelves in the bathroom. Somehow he managed to knock it off and the glass part broke. I saved the top thinking I might find another bottom piece sometime later. On my excursions to antique and thrift stores I hadn't found anything that would do. At Christmas, my dear hubby even went through antique stores downtown searching for a replacement because he felt bad about it. Didn't find any amber pieces but bought a celluloid tray with mirror inset, with matching celluloid shoehorn and two pinkish/peach glass containers with celluloid tops. The color goes with a celluloid box I have in the guest bath. The new pieces go very nicely on the shelf that is above the vintage style pedestal sink.

Anyway, I looked on e-bay today and did find the set pictured below, which I won. The glass bottoms of these look wider than the box that was broken but the top still may fit and if it does, I'll use it to replace the one for the hair receiver below (that's the box whose lid has a hole in it).

Then I browsed some more. I'm nuts about vintage buttons and next thing I knew, I'd bid on several lots. So far, I've won two lots of vintage plastic buttons from the 30s. Not my favorites but I have a plan for these. Then I went on to look at the vintage shell buttons which are my favorites. I won 2 sets of carved mother-of-pearl and abalone buttons. I bid on a couple of other button lots too but several of them are presently at higher prices than I'll agree to pay. Especially as shipping rates are so high.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I've been nominated for the Pico award!

My thanks to Caryl at the nomination!

The award has rules, the first being to post the rules, so here goes:
1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language. (Nominations will follow rules.)
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself. In my case, that would be Caryl of Caryl's Realm as listed above.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
Make sure you visit the link above. There are crafts of all kinds shown; you are bound to come away inspired!
5) Show these rules.

Now who to nominate..........I would like to award the Pico to the following people who inspire me......
* Caryl of Caryl's Realm
Yes, Caryl nominated me but I have to pass it back to her because she always inspires me. Also because she was so helpful and supportive when I first began to play with ATCs and altered art. Then too, when I'm in a slump for color ideas, I go visit Caryl's blog for inspiration.
* Barb at
Mrs. Miles is a special lady. When I'm down, I can go to her blog and browse and come away smiling. Barb is a practicing Christian whose love of God comes across with warmth and sincerity. I enjoy reading about her life, trying her recipes, and playing with the digital goodies she shares.
* Cherrie aka The Diva at
I "met" Cherrie when I got a great deal on some of her commercial products (like the sale she has going right now) & I wrote to tell her my opinion of what I purchased. For those of you who read the "Smack blogs" and recently may have seen something accusing Cherrie of owning one, let me tell you, it's not true. First, because she owns her own domain and speaks out freely there, and second because that's just not who she is. The Diva, as we refer to her at ScrappersZone, may rant from time to time but she is warm, unpretensious, and caring. Unlike some digitial designers who are afraid to give away "trade secrets," Cherrie freely shares her knowledge with anyone who wants to learn. We're competitors but we're friends too.
*Chrysti at
Love Chrysti's art and her reflections on the artistic process.
* Sharon at
I "met" Sharon some years ago when I was part of a crazy quilting group on-line. The woman is an incredible textile artist! Her blog has a wealth of information on needlearts and you could spend an entire day just looking at samples of Sharon's crazy quilt blocks and drooling, wishing you had just one for your collection. As warm-hearted as she is talented, Sharon's blog is a must visit.

I do hope you will visit these ladies and see why I appreciate them.

3 new writing prompts for you

Today I drew out the following prompts:

* Random Word Prompt: shadow, people, nearby, joint, casual. The challenge here is to create soemthing using all of these random words. It could be a poem, or the begining of a short story; the choice is yours.

* She dreamed for years of love that . . .

* Ben read the words on the screen again.

These seem to be fiction oriented prompts. Even if you don't normally write poetry or fiction, but are more interested in journaling, it won't hurt to give these a try and see what you come up with. After all, you don't have to show anyone what you've written unless you chose to.

New Products from D'Ambrosio Arts

Although I've not been up to par health-wise lately, I did manage to complete 3 new products.

The first is Vintage Vegetable Ivory Buttons. My friend, Sandy R., and I are button nuts. Give us a tin can of old buttons and we're like kids with new toys. My favorites are mother-of-pearl (plain or fancy cut) and "jet" (most really black glass), while she prefers vegetable ivory and "calicoes" (buttons with a calicoe type print on them). This set of digital buttons came into being because I was scouting out vintage buttons on e-bay last summer and bought a stash of vintage vegetable ivory buttons to add to Sandy's birthday goodie bag. I noticed that some were very different than those I generally come across so I scanned them to use in my layouts. I totally forgot about them until last week. I thought others might enjoy these as digital embellishments too so made them up into a little package of 10 different buttons. Tonight I will be uploading them to my shops at Kutnkdlyskreations abd ScrappersZone. The price will be $3.50. I hope that's reasonable.

I'm also going to be uploading a little package of Corrugated Bits, which will sell for $2. Included (see especially bottom row of preview) are some generously sized shapes you can use as photo mats. There are 4 frames, lots of tags, a couple of arrows, and some shapes you don't usually see in cardboard.

The last product I'll be uploading tonight is Bits & Pieces_Yellow, another in my series of ATC sized kits. As before, you will find 12 ATC_sized backgrounds, and 15 ATC sized elements. The dominant color here is yellow. Orange will follow shortly. Price is $3.50

Check out this Month's Team Kit at Scrapperszone.

The Theme Is Music
Music, we all have it in our lives. Just as it is a part of our daily activities, we have layouts that pertain to music of some sort. April’s team kit is all about music. Files include over 50 papers, over 50 motifs and page accents, 10 ribbons, buttons, journaling papers and tags, frames and lots more.
and all this for just $10.99

Here is my little portion of the kit:

Challenges at Scrappers Zone

Just wanted to take a few minutes and tell you about some of the challenges we have going on at ScrappersZone.

I'm hosting a digital ATC (artist trading card) challenge. It's so simple to participate. Simply make at least one ATC with the monthly theme and post to the ATC gallery. For April, the theme is Spring. Use any kit you like from SZ or elsewhere. Just size your composition to 2.5" x 3.5" Details here:

Below is the gift you'll receive at the end of the month, an assortment of ATC sized backgrounds and ATC sized elements.

Scrappy's Challenge this month is easy too. It is to use the provided mini kit in greens to create a layout. See mini kit below:

If you follow the rules here:
and post your entry, you will receive an addition to the mini kit.

There's also a cool free template (see below) to use for the template challenge. Check it out here:

Or join Jody in the word challenge. The word for April-May is "Bloom" and the prize for participating is this cute mini kit:

Are you crazy about tryuing new fonts? then Nichole's Font Challenge may be for you. This is the font we're using this month.

Join Nancy in the Ad Challenge and receive this lovely kit as a prize:

You hardly ever scrap a page about you, do you? Don't you think you should? It will be a great keepsake for your family. Take a look at Roxanne's About Me Challenge:

These aren't all the challenges SZ has going on - just the first few I grabbed to show you. Please take a look for yourself and consider joining our designers in these activities:


The other day, I suggested using the clustering technique with the "dreams" prompt and said I'd come back and describe the technique for those of you who have never used it. Finally getting a chance to do so on.

This is a really simple technique often used to help people overcome writer's block. When I was teaching freshman composition sometimes I'd present the topic we'd be writing about and be greeted with groans and complaints by some students who said they couldn't think of anything to write about it. So, we'd do the clusterig technique as a class to drum up ideas.

All you do is take a blank sheet of paper and in the center write the word or phrase you wanted to write about. Circle the starting point then just let your mind come up with any associations, without worrying about where or how they fit the topic. Each thought or association tht comes to mind gets jotted on the page and circled with a line going back to the prompt at the center. For instance, in the example below, the first thing that comes to mind when I think "dreams" is "those movies of the mind" we have when we sleep, so I jot that down, circle it and put a line from it back to the center prompt. Then something else comes to mind, that is, that "dreams" also can be used to refer to
hopes, asperations, & goals" we have. That's a different thing, not generally related to the "movies of the mind" so it goes in a circle of it's own with a line back to the prompt. I also think of a quotation I like, "To dream of being someone else, is to waste the person you are." Since that seems a different line of thought, it gets its own bubble with line back to the center. Of course, as you think about the topic, you will find you have various thoughts that relate closely together. For instance, when I jotted down "movies of the mind," I also remembered that dreams occur during R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) cycle of sleep. Because that is so directly related to "movies of the mind," I put it in a bubble below "movies" and made a line back to that. You can see evidence of my training in psychology as you follow the bubbles down that line. This particular cluster looks very neat and orderly but they aren't always; they don't need to be. The idea is not to stop and analyze as you go but just jot down any associations or thoughts related to the prompt. Sometimes you'll see a clear link between ideas and it's fine to connect those with lines. Other times you may not readily see connections. When you've given yourself a reasonable amount of time to think about the prompt, then go back and read your entries. At that time, look to see what, if any, relationship there is among the bubbles. Draw lines to indicate what with with what. You may find that you've got sufficient ideas/thoughts along one line to write about. And you may find that once you've sorted these jotted thoughts into a kind of order that makes sense for you, that "dreams" isn't really what you'd call it. That's okay too.

What you are doing with clustering is giving yourself free reign to think about the prompt and see where it takes you. It's one way of by-passing the inner censor that tries to tell you, "You can't write about that!" or "That doesn't make sense." Don't believe it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I want to cry. My past has come back to haunt me, and I want to cry. I want to curl up in a ball, pull a blanket around me to ward off this sudden chill in my soul, and cry for what I lost, for what was, and what never same to be. It's ridiculous; it will change nothing. In fact, it will make me feel worse, but right now I want to cry.

Typical Sunday here. Nothing traumatic going on. My father came to visit and brought me the Sunday paper (The Virginian Pilot) as he always does. My husband and I watched a movie, loaned to us by a friend who's a film buff,called The Departed. Good movie with lots of twists and turns and lots of fine actors but long. I picked up the paper to go through the ads while I watched. When I got to the front page (the sections were in no particular order) there she was -- Nikki.

The front page story headline read "Tech professor reflects on tragedy." Do you know now who Nikki is? If not, let me tell you. Nikki is Nikki Giovanni, who has taught poetry at Virginia Tech for about twenty years now. How dare I call this exceptional poet by her first name? Don't I know it's rude to use a stranger's first name even when she is a public figure? Of course, I do! I refer to her as Nikki because she invited me to do so.

It was a long time ago, early 90's; another life ago. I was still married to my first husband and was in a doctorate program -- the American Studies program at William and Mary to be exact. I planned to combine social psychology and literature. My general thesis topic had already been chosen before I was accepted.
My first fleeting meeting with Nikki was there at William and Mary after she gave a talk and reading of some of her work. Some months later, I got a call from one of my mentors at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Daryl C. Dance. There was going to be a program at the University of Richmond which she thought I might be interested in and I could bring a friend if I'd like; she would see me there. Sure enough when my friend, Sandy R., and I entered the chapel at U. of R., Dr. Dance waved to me; she had saved seats for us. She had brought a friend along too and wanted to introduce us. The friend was Nikki Giovanni. Nikki turned around in the pew and extended her hand. She was smiling broadly, as warm and personable up close as she appeared during her readings. The four of us exchanged small talk before the program began and when I addressed her formally, Ms. Giovanni insisted I call her Nikki. She'd heard good things about me and my scholarship from Dr. Dance, she said. After the performance -- music and poetry from the American slave era, I believe, we discussed my plans to write about another Virginia Commonwealth University professor, Barbadian born novelist, Paule Marshall. I explained that I was especially interested in the mother-daughter dynamics in Ms. Marshall's work and Nikki told me about one of her projects which involved three generations of women.

That was a rough year for me personally. I'd given up four offers to enter doctorate programs in sociology because I'd realized I would always have a need to be involved with literature. The American Studies program would allow me to use my training in both areas. I'd been so excited about it, but then became deeply disappointed and disillusioned when I discovered that the faculty wasn't supportive of the graduate students. They didn't want to take time away from their own projects to help us and that was a necessity. And there were "bugs" in the program's planning -- things that hadn't quite been ironed out and faculty didn't seem at all concerned. There's much more I could say about that but it isn't really needed. At the same time, my marriage was very strained. Then my father was admitted to the hospital for a triple bypass without there having been any warnings that he was in danger.

I argued with the then acting Director of the American Studies program when I learned some unsavory facts about how people had been chosen to receive funding and teaching stipends there. They had not followed state guidelines in all cases but had allowed the reputation of certain Ivy League school(s) to take precedence over proven scholarship, publications, and teaching experience as factors in determining who received funding. He put on a nasty snobbish attitude and informed me it had been "a judgement call" to which I replied, "I'm questioning your judgement!" The man was downright ugly to me on the phone. Meanwhile, my father was out of the hopsital but needed care at home while my mother worked. There was pressure from every side. I ended up going over the Director's head, knowing full well what that would mean. Although it was well past the drop-add period, I insisted that the Dean allow me to withdraw without penalty because my grades stood at a 4.0. When I dropped out of William and Mary, I had no idea it was the beginning of many major changes in my life. But that's another story.

Reading about Nikki today reminded me of my glory days at university. I felt more at home in academia that I've ever felt elsewhere. I loved the exchange of ideas with colleagues. I loved the students I taught and was enthusiastic about the subjects I taught and researched. Moving back here to Norfolk, my home town, after my separation from my husband, meant leaving that world behind. And I miss it terribly. So today, seeing Nikki on the front page, I missed the opportunities I might have had to know her better. I missed working with Paule Marshall on the book I wanted to write about her work, the book someone ought to write.

I missed all those wonderful students I worked with in Sociology including the young man who got angry when we were having a discussion about a wife's role in a marriage. He quoted the apostle Paul and when I suggested Paul's views didn't necessarily reflect the fullness of God's persepctive, he slammed his fist down on the desk and shouted at me: "Do you know God?" to which I replied calmly, "Yes and She doesn't have a problem with my view." That's when he called me a blasphemer. Yet, at the end of the semester, that same young man came to see me and apologized after thought and prayer and guidance from his minister.

I miss all the students I coached in writing too. Especially the ones who came in insisting they couldn't write, couldn't express themselves on paper. Writing workshop was intensive work for me but well worth it when students walked away able to write in such a manner that their messages were clear and their voices were heard.

Yes, I have regrets - at having started too late doing what I was probably meant to do -- certainly what I seem to have done best. It saddens me to think those days are gone, that I'll never be in a classroom again. It saddens me that I lost touch with so many vital, interesting people. But I have the memories and that is something.

The urge to cry is gone. It was just a weak, nostalgic moment. Time marches on and I have to move along with it. This is now and now I have different roles. On the whole, though my life is different than I wanted, it is good I still know good people, I still see beauty around me, and I still have words to create with. That's really something, you know?

Seven Random Things

This is an entertaining game where we get to know one another a little better. I was tagged by Nancy ( The rules are as follows:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and leave a comment on their blog, so that their readers can visit yours. -I don't quite know how to do that so I've given you the URL for Nancy's blog. Please copy and paste in your browser window.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share 7 Random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 random people at the bottom of your post, linking to their blog. Let each person know by leaving a comment on their blog.

1) my favorite colors are blue/greens
2) I wear gas permeable bifocal contact lens
3) I love to listen to Andre Bocelli
4) when I was eighteen-years-old, I was invited to have a drink with rock & roll legend, Jerry Lee Lewis
5) I have a closet of built-in shelves packed with fabrics for quilting and crazy quilting
6) I detest brussel sprouts
7) I find the scent of lavender oil soothing

I tag: Lisa R., Cherri, Caryl Hoobler, Idgie, Barb Derksen, Zinkibaru, abd Echo.

Writing Prompts

I've decided to go back to providing some writing prompts on my blog. It's been a long time since I did that on a regular basis. Some of you might not know but I taught writing so have gathered quite a collection of prompts over the years. Some are simple, some detailed. Most were written by others & the small cards they are printed on didn't leave me space to put credits; others are mine. I'm going to start sharing some prompts again - at least 3 a week. You are welcome to post your response to a prompt in comments if you dont' mind me publishing it to share with others. Occasionally, I'll share one of my responses too.

Here are a few to end this week:

* It was many years ago in that dark, chaotic, unfathomable pool of time before . . .
* Reflections of passion . . .
* Weekend in New England (or insert another place name) . . .

You can use the above in a number of ways. The first one would make the beginning of an interesting (if long) opening sentence for a short story. You don't have to finish the story unless you want to. Just start writing and see where it takes you.
The seocnd prompt could be used the same way of course, but is a good prompt for freewriting.

If you're not familiar with freewriting, it's a simple technique designed to help you overcome your inner censor. You select a word or phrase as prompt - put it at the top of the page, set a timer for say 10 minutes, and start writing. You do not lift your pen from the paper, you do not stop to read what you've written, you do not worry about dotting "i"s or crossing "t"s. If you get stumpted for something to say you can just write nonsense like "I'm stuck" or whatever until words come again. When the timer goes off, then you read what you've written. You are likely to be surprised by what you say because this can help you bypass that censor that tells you, "You don't want to say that because people will think . . . " and so on.

Now I just draw these prompts from a little copper pot I have filled with these tiny cards. Have to tell you that none of the above appeal to me, though they might to you. I'm going to draw one more. What luck! This one says:

* Dreams - just a single word prompt. Again, you could use it to start the first sentence of something. You could use it for a freewrite. Or you could use it for the CLuster technique. What's that? A techniwue I will share tomorrow.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Two New ATC -sized kits and a challenge

I've uploaded two new Bits & Pieces kits to my stores. Bits & Pieces is a series of ATC -sized backgrounds and elements for making digital ATCs (that's Artist Traading Cards if you didn't know). Below are previews of Bits & Pieces _Pink and Bits & Pieces Purple, so named because those are the dominant colors in each kit. I'm working my way through colors now with yellow and orange the next set. After colors I'll go on to themed kits.

You can find these kits in my D'Ambrosio Arts stores at Scrappers Zone: where you can also pickup my Easter Scene QP if you weren't able to get it previously. Sorry about that - SZ was going through a major site change but the link is fixed now.

The kits are also available at my Kutnkudlyskreations store:

If you enjoy making ATCs, please join my ATC challenge at ScrappersZone here:
It's simple: just make a digital ATC sized 2.5" x 3.5" (the standard size), with the monthly theme (for April, it's Spring) and load it to the ATC challenge gallery. You can use any digital materials you like. Participants will receive the challenge gift below. It's an assortment of 6 ATC-sized backgrounds and 6 ATC-sized elements. Hope you will join me in this challenge.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Today's response to writing prompt (warning - it's long!)

April 3, 2008 Writing prompt: I looked at my notes and I didn't like them.

I looked at my notes and didn't like them. Once upon a time, I'd called myself a writer. Ha! What have I written lately? Lists - lots of lists - most of them nothing but catalogues of things I need to do. Should do, not really want to do. Occasionally, usually when I've been reading a lot, I hear voices speaking to me, saying things in such a way that I will rush to put pen to paper and capture it. Please note, I don't mean that I literally hear voices. No, it's that certain characters I've created sort of pop up in my mind fully engaged in the midst of some situation and I "hear" what they need to say about it. So I capture those bits and tell myself I will get back to working on the novel where I've been telling their story. But I've not been good about doing so in over a year now.

I've got three novels in process. You didn't know that about me, did you? Why should you? I'm not going to tell you that I'm trying to write the great American novel, because I'm not. None of my so-called novels in process ever started with that thought. Nor do I think seriously about someday publishing any one of them were I to finish, even though my husband thinks it's ridiculous to spend time and effort trying to write a novel and care nothing about publication. The dear man thinks I write well, although his ideas and mine differ about appropriate topics, and believes if I'd only stick to it and seriously pursue publication I could make money doing so. Ah, there's the rub. It's not that I don't like money or that we couldn't use some. I'm more realistic about that aspect of writing a novel. I know the difficulties, the odds of getting published. He points to Stephen King (one of his favorite authors) and notes how many books King has gotten into print. I point out the incredibly large numbers of manuscripts that end up in the slush piles - if they get that far. I have no illusions of becoming rich and famous by writing.

All I've ever wanted to do, with respect to writing a novel, is to tell a story. I can look back, laugh and admit that I completed my first novel in fourth grade. Seriously, I took one of those old, black and white, hardcovered composition books and crammed it full with a story about a girl who made friends with The Beatles (I have no qualms about showing my age) and her adventures as she became an occasional singer for the band. Of course, it was a romance too with the girl madly in love with Paul McCartney and he in love with her. Are you laughing now? Many adolescent girls at that time had fantasies about The Beatles; I was no different. The "novel" was read eagerly by many of my classmates and I got lots of compliments. I do wish I still had the notebook so I could read it again as I know it would be highly entertaining but alas, the twin brother of one of my friends found it in her room. Andy was nosey. At first he thought he'd found his sister's diary; there might be some useful or at least interesting information in it. When Anne discovered him reading it (and probably shaking his head over the things girls will do), they got into a tussle and a soft drink was spilled all over it. Probably just as well. I'm sure I'd cringe reading through my youthful work.

I wrote poetry in the 1970's. Even had some published in small literary magazines and in a newsletter my office published. I tried my hand at short stories, but alas as Cicero (I think. My memory of Latin class is dim now.) said, "I write at length." So the novel is a better vehicle for me. I can't remember, however, attempting another until I was teaching composition at Virginia Commonwealth University.

One summer as an adjunct instructor I taught a class of a little over a dozen students. With one exception, all were residents of countries other than the United States. No, I wasn't supposed to be teaching an English As Second Language course in composition. My students came from Botswana, Germany, Israel, Russia. I forget the other countries. They were bright, interesting people, most between the ages of 18 and 25. I really loved that class although it was rough cramming a full semester's work into the abbreviated summer schedule, and there were some language difficulties to surmount. (One little thing that springs to mind is the lack of articles in the writing of the Russian girls. No "the"s or "a"s etc.) Because the schedule could be daunting for all, I made efforts to lighten things up.

I learned that the majority of the students wanted to try their hand at writing fiction and those who didn't particularly desire to do so were willing to participate in a writing a fiction piece for class. It's a basic truth that writing anything - even lists - a little everyday helps improve your writing. So I agreed we could do a sort of collaborative fiction project. It was a very simple set up. AS a class we would chose five elements that all must use in their short story in whatever way they chose. Everyone would write at least five pages of their story but did not have to finished it unless they wanted to. Everyone would share their writing in class. Everyone - including me. I got to chose the type of the five elements; they got to define them for the story.

The five elements I chose were simple ones: 1) time period; 2) general location of opening scene: 3) female character's age; 4) make character's age; 5)? I've forgotten. The students decided: 1) time period = sometime in the 70's; 2) general location = bar; 3) female character's age = 20 something; 4) male character's age = 20 something. They were excited as they could be - even those who didn't care about writing fiction. We agreed to work on this over the next few days at home (along with regular assignments) and when we met on Monday, we'd share whatever we'd written. A few of the students were eager to tell their friends in other writing classes about the assignment. One even asked if that would be alright. Would I get into any trouble because this wasn't a prescribed type of writing? I wasn't worried as I'd already firmed up my pedagogical rationalizations.

That summer I was in my late thirties, a wife, a mother of a teenage son, and was taking two more graduate classes in addition to teaching. I thought I'd go home that evening and pop off a few pages to complete this little assignment and get it out of the way. It wasn't going to happen that easily. The very first problem that I ran into as I thought about it on the way home was that I didn't know the first thing about bars. I never did the bar scene. I married at nineteen and neither my husband (my ex now) nor I cared much for drinking. It's not so much a moral thing although it appalls me the way some people use alcohol as a drug in an attempt to obliterate reality. I can't stand the taste of beer, don't like bitter tastes, worry about things that set off migraines, and don't care to lose control. That's just me. My idea of a mixed drink is a huge frozen strawberry daiquiri. Disguise the taste of the alcohol please. Anyway, I'd never set foot inside a bar; it just wasn't my thing. So how was I going to use that as a setting for the first scene? The other items weren't a problem. I remembered the 70's, remembered being twenty- something, loved creating characters. I just couldn't get that silly little story started!

When the weekend was nearly over, I made several attempts to start the story. All were miserable. I saw myself going to class on Monday with nothing to share. Oh well. I tried to convince myself that it was alright. Sometime in the middle of the night that Sunday, I woke from a very vivid dream. In the dream were two very vivid characters - fully formed, a situation between them. They were having a confrontation and I knew the general location where it was taking place. And suddenly I knew how I could briefly include a bar in an opening scene based on that dream. It didn't have to be a bar in the sense I was thinking of. Nothing like people sitting around drinking at Cheers. No. Since I "saw" part of the confrontation taking place at the beach, why not start at a seafood restaurant, the kind that are so familiar here. Most have a quiet little bar where diners can sip a cocktail as they wait for a table. That would work. I got up and wrote and wrote and wrote. It all came together pretty well, especially for a first draft which is all wee were doing.

On Monday, the class enjoyed reading their stories. It was fun to see how different people could take the same elements and create very different stories. Of course, many were predictable - the sort of lazy summer afternoon at a street side bar in Paris where boy and girl meet for a drink as a romantic prelude. That's okay. I read my story too - the first draft of the pages I'd completed and overall got rave reviews. Most loved the characters and wanted to hear more of them. Some asked how I'd come up with them, how they could be so "complete" (their words) on a first draft. I was a little evasive on that, although truthful. Most writers love people. We observe them, make mental note of turns of phrase, facial expressions, and so on. Most fully realized characters are composites of people the author knows, has observed, has imagined. I'd recognized a lot of what went into the two characters I'd written when I'd written my notes on the inspiring dream. I'd dreamed of the man who had been my high school sweetheart and is now my husband. (At the time of all this, my previous marriage was falling apart for reasons that aren't important here.) And the girl? In large part she was me as I'd been in the late 60's, early 70's - or as I remembered from where I was. And part of her was the me I was at that point in time, the searching me.

A young man from Germany, one of my best students, was quite critical in his review of my work. Now I mean that in the best way. That is, he gave careful consideration to the clarity of how things were expressed, tone, voice, and so on. Dieter was a jewel of a writing student. Not only was he able to express himself well and determined to keep improving, but he read the work of his peers (and his instructor in this case) carefully and thoughtfully. He critiqued (or responded as we prefer to say in writing workshops) thoughtfully, truthfully, meaningfully, and with considerable sensitivity. So I wasn't entirely surprised to have him point out a passage that he felt didn't ring true.

My characters, obviously a little uneasy with one another, but working at being polite and observing good manners, had been talking over dinner. (I got them out of the bar and into the dining room quickly.) The male character, Paul, had just lost his resolve to be totally charming and well mannered and had uttered a comment that opened an old wound in their relationship. Katie, the female character, had conflicting emotions: she was hurt, angry, even panicked to a point, but also experiencing longing for what she thought she couldn't have, determined to avoid opening wounds further, determined to pretend all was right with her world when so much was wrong. It was the sort of comment that might well have ended the dinner. Should have ended the polite pretense of both parties and resulted in, at the very least, Katie stalking out. When, instead, Katie managed a polite, if choked remark to the effect that she wasn't going to discuss that further and stayed put, Dieter declared the scene didn't make sense. From his perspective and, it turned out, the perspective of many of the young people, no woman would put up with the blunt and bitter comment made by my male character. Why on earth would she want to have dinner with such an insensitive jerk? Why indeed? My best answer was that life and relationships are never as simple as we'd like them to be. I'd written past the dinner but hadn't brought that part with me. Some of it was a little too personal, even fictionalized as it was, for me to share at that point. I did remind the students that they didn't know the characters back story (the history of the characters prior to this particular point in time), couldn't yet see motivating factors, and so on. I agreed that in the scene Paul came across as the insensitive jerk and that Katie came across as stupid or perhaps lacking in self-respect. And I told them, just a little, about the scene that would follow where things did indeed fall apart and where the reader would gain a little understanding about what might be considered bizarre behavior.

That was the beginning of one of the novels I have in progress. Because the story wouldn't leave me alone. It expanded. Not so much in a biographical way although I surely used elements from my biography. It just took on a life of its own. Stories can do that. Character come alive in some sense and insist on telling their story. Often they evolve, seemingly on their own, into something other that what you originally imagined. Really, it happens. Read what any fiction writer who has written on the craft has to say about this. I'm not crazy. At least I'm not alone in being crazy this way. So, for a long time, I'd get up in the night or early in the morning (and I am not a morning person) and steal a couple hours to work on the story Paul and Katie wanted me to tell. Then my reality changed sharply. I got a divorce. I moved back to Norfolk and in with my parents for a short while. My high school sweetheart, who had stayed in touch with my parents all those years, came over to help me with my computer. We fell in love again - no that's not right because we both admit we never stopped loving each other although we went separate ways. Next thing I knew, we were deeply involved again and then we were making plans for a future together. Throw in looking for employment, dealing with his first wife (I'm number three.) who decided to interfere with our happiness as much as possible, two step-children - one a nice, but neglected boy sorely in need of love and discipline and an angry and self-destructive young woman, plus a now long-distance relationship with my dear boy who was going to college, and an assortment of amusing if sometimes irritating new in-laws and the novel took a backseat to life.

The other two? One dates back from years ago, conceived back when I was a supervisor at the local telephone company bored on a late-night shift and dreaming of other lives. The third, started with some characters who just popped into my head with their assorted problems in living. What do all three have in common? My fascination with people and the relationships we form. Oh, if I were writing a blurb for the back of a book jacket, I'd describe them in different terms. For example, the first one would be described as having themes such as "the importance of friendships" and "the enduring quality of love." I can laugh at myself. As I told you before, I have no illusions of grandeur in this regard. An former writing student, feeling herself sufficiently mentored and improved in her writing, decided to lecture me once on the importance of symbolism and lofty themes in writing. She would not write what she described as grocery store paper-backs. Certainly not romance novels! Disdainfully, she spoke of writing truly "literary" works and told me the novel I was working on about Paul and Katie was a romance and as such not a literary work. She'd lost respect for my writing; she would be so much better. I have to laugh now thinking of that somewhat heated discussion. It didn't matter that I made no pretense to writing a "truly literary work. I was fascinated to hear her definition of what was literary and, I confess, being a serious student of good literature, I did try to educate a bit. Tried to steer the conversation to a discussion of "true and lasting value" in a work of fiction - what it is, why it matters, examples, and so on. I'm sure I managed to bring up the fact that such beloved and valuable classics as The Scarlet Letter have been described as romances. And the fact that human relationships are something we can all relate to, can recognize the mystery in. That for me, one of the criteria for "true and lasting value" consists of learning something of the human condition.

Oh dear, I'm on my literature soap box it seems! And all because the writing prompt I picked for today was "I looked at my notes and didn't like them." It reminded me of some notes I'd jotted down to put with one of my novels and my dissatisfaction with myself for not writing much of late.

Check it out: I Am Not My Hair

Today my friend, Cherrie, posted an entry on her blog called "I Am Not My Hair" (go here to read: This was a response to complaints from some of her readers that she hadn't done another rant. It struck a nerve, making Cherrie wonder if people saw her as one-dimensional. She wanted to correct that impression and I think she expressed herself well. Those of us who know her don't think of her as she worries some might . . . "an angry, PMS’ing bitch that sits and thinks of things that get on [her] nerves." We know she is multi-dimensional.

But this brings up a good point. When we read blogs, we do form opinions of the writers. Sometimes our opinions might be correct, that is, we might be able to fairly well gauge a person by what he or she writes. However, this is often not the case. So, think about it. You are not . . . what? And if not that, who are are? Maybe you only want your readers to see certain aspects of your personality. That's your choice. Maybe you want to share more or yourself. That's fine too.

When I started this blog, I wanted to share not only my art work (how pretensious that sounds) but writing prompts from my collection for those of youwho like to write. I never got any comments on those, however, and when I started doing digital design, gave it up. I'd intended to share thoughts on what I was reading and other things too. But then I got involved with the digital scrapbooking world. I did countless layouts for creative teams and spent what other time I had on trying to design kits of my own.

Well, in response to Cherri's post, let me say that I am not:
* just a scrapbooker
* just a creative team member
* just a digital designer
* just a person with fibromyalgia and other disabling medical conditions
Granted, that's about all of me you've seen of late, but that is not all of me.

Spring is renewal and I'm working on making some changes, reawakening parts of myself, renewing some aspects of my life, and so on. Don't be surprised when you find posts here that aren't about scrapbooking, digital design, or fibro.

A new month and a plan for balance

Yes, I'm a bad blogger. Whatever my original thoughts about using this blog, things changed. I spent most of the winter sick and now . . . well, I'm sick of being ill and franctic to get my life back in some sort of order.

I need a new blog header. I need to figure out what's wrong with the blogroll. I have kits to upload to my stores, need to do some respondig in my groups, yada yada.

Then there's housekeeping to catch up. The usual laundry, kitchen chores, dinners to cook, bathrooms to clean, dusting, and so on. And the major tasks like undoing the mess I've made of the back bedroom and decluttering and on and on. I made a plan that I' to start this month. It's aimed at achieving some balance. I shared it with the designers at Scrappers Zone recently and many thought it a good plan. Here's what I wrote:

1) Fight procrastination: for each day list the 3 most important things to do and do those first.
2) Clean the house: start using a timer and set it up in room after room. For 20 minutes, do whatever I can in that room. Then take a 15 minute break. After break, move to next room for 20 minutes and so on.
3) Decrease anxiety/depression: keep daily list of what I do.On bad days even thigs like getting out of bed and getting dressed go on the list because that can be a real effort. At the end of the day, read the list and see what I've accomplished. Why? Because some days I look around and can't see that I've done anything and that's depressing. The list lets me know Ive done what I could on any particular day. When dealing with chronic pain conditions, it's easy to feel overwhelemed and depressed because I'm not able to do the things I used to do, things other people think of as normal.
4) Exercise: start going back to aqua therapy. First week for 2 days, 30 minutes in the pool. Work up to hour three times a week. Then add the few floor exercises I can do when I'm feeling my best.
5) Improve the house: For April, it's a declutter plan. Set aside a box for removable clutter. That is, as I go room by room, find at least one thing I no longer use or want and put it in the box or bag - unless it needs to go in the trash. At the end of the month, I'll sort the items into those to give away to friends and those that will go to the thrift store that benefits the local children's hospital.
6) Keep the mind active. Learn something new each day. For April this will be doing a lesson in my Photoshop CS3 book.
7) Nurture the creative spirit. Set a weekly artist's date as Julia Cameron suggested in her book The Artist's Way. This will be a time to get out of the house, go somewhere and tune into whatever is beautiful around me.
8) Maintain relationships. Set aside a day each week to communicate with family and friends. Probably sounds silly to you, but I don't care to talk on the phone much and am no longer the letter writer I once was. But once a week, at least, I'll make a point to call someone or send a note.
9) Nurture the soul. Set aside time each day for meditation/relaxation/prayer. I tend to be an on-the-run sort of prayer person. I typically pray like I'm simply having a conversation with God. However, it's good to take time to be still and quiet. I'm beginning to use Sharon Salzburg's meditation CDs called "UnPlug."
10) Do something just for me. Create something every day just because it feels good. Not necessarily digital art. I'm eager to get back to doing some small crazy quilting projects. And today I realized I hadn't mentioned writing. Writing a little something every day is good on so many levels.

At the end of the month, I'll re-evaluate and see what needs adjusting.

Near the end of week one now and here's how I'm doing:
1) Fight procrastination. I'm listing alright but still procrastinating. Monday set the tone when the first thing on my list was dealing with the health insurance company and trying to figure out why I've got denied claims I never knew about and why I've gotten a collections letter. This did not go well and set the tone for the rest of my day. Hasn't helped the week either.
2) Clean house. I don't like carrying around a timer! It does help me in the morning when I sit down with my breakfast and a novel. Setting the timer for 30 minutes keeps me from losig track of time if the novel is good. I have accomplished some household things I wanted to this week although not as much as I'd like. Have had a couple of bad pain days and a couple days I ran errands that wore me out. The plan could be helpful so I'll continue to try it.
3) Decrease anxiety/depression. The lists do help as they have before.
4) Exercise. Dismal failure here. I have not been to the pool. I need a new bathing suit so will try to go to Catherine's tomorrow and find one. Have a coupon, might as well use it.
5) Improve the house. Did a little decluttering but haven't been consistent. Will try to be the rest of the week. I did go through and collect books I finished, sort them, and bag them to go to friends.
6) Keep the mind active. Only did one CS3 lesson but have been reading a lot - fiction and non-fiction.
7) Nurture the creative spirt. It's been raining this week and kind of gloomy with weather moving from 75 degrees on day to 30's the next. So no artist's date so far this week.
8) Maintain relationships. Had breakfast with our friend, Brenda, Sunday morning. Called my brother for his birthday on Sunday and talked to my sister-in-law too. Made a cake for Dad's birthday yesterday and took it over. Ran into my cousin by marriage, Becky, and chatted with her awhile. It's been years since I've seen her. Have been chatting with my friend, Cherrie, on-line and commenting on her new kits. Have plans to call my friend, Wanda, in Keysville and catch up. Haven't talked to her since before Christmas. That is planned for tomorrow.
9) Nurture the soul. I like Salzburg's CDs - actually I've only listened to the first one so far. Since I've had a lot of neck and back pain this week, I've been lying down to listen. Very simple program really. And I confess that each time, I've relaxed enough to fall asleep before the end of the CD. That's a good thing for me.
10) Do something just for me. This is an easy one. So I managed to finsih 3 kits I'd started and work on some other things too.

All in all, I guess it's not too bad. And my neck feels much better so I'm hoping to get some things done around the house before the week is over. I want at least 10 items in my de-clutter box. I want all the laundry caught up before Sunday. By Saturday, I want to have a box of books and stuff ready to mail off to my brother. I intend to find a bathing suit before Monday so I can do aqua therapy. Yada yada.