Wednesday Words 3.2.16: Finding my oxygen mask

thank you girl

good wife 2

teacher dinner



One of my day jobs is coaching teachers. It’s sort of like being a life coach, but I only work with teachers and we only (mostly) talk about their teaching practice.

Last week, I met one of my coachees first thing in the morning, which is how I happened to be there when she was putting away her lunch, made by her partner. I mentioned how nice it would be to have someone make me lunch and that I’d most likely be having another drive-through meal later in the day.

She gave me one of her sandwiches and an apple. (Because:  teacher.)

I protested, she insisted, and then we got to work.

Later that day, I bit into the sandwich, and tears came to my eyes. It was just so nice to eat something homemade, and I couldn’t believe what a difference it was making to eat a simple ham sandwich. It was hard to feel how hard things have been through the contrast of real food to what my diet has been so often lately. It was hard to feel how long it’s felt since someone took care of me. (To be clear:  Cane cooks dinner more often than I do when he’s here. But breakfast and lunch have gone by the wayside, and…I dunno. I just felt cared for in a way I haven’t for a long time. And tears are just under the surface all the time lately. We’re still adjusting to the huge change in our family life and my babies are getting ready to leave the nest, and everything feels raw and momentous, all the time.)

Yesterday, I met with that teacher again, and again she had a sandwich for me. In my own bag with my name on it and a bottle of juice. (Can you even?)

So, even though my last post was all about my pledge to do frivolous creative projects for the fun of it, I came home (to take care of a sick kid) and made the thank you card you see above, so that I can properly thank the maker of these sandwiches.

But it was like that card was a trap door to a land of creative fun–because after I made the practical card, I made frivolous stuff (also above).

I have long been interested in juxtapositions of words and images, which is really what started Wednesday Words. And I love love love with all my heart old books.* I’ve also long loved collage, the creating of something new with the parts of many somethings old. I like to remix.

The first three images above are all cards, which, I suppose gives me some kind of permission I needed to make something as frivolous as collages. It’s really kind of silly, though. I can’t think of any real occasions for which any of the cards other than the thank you one might be appropriate.

That’s OK. I know I’m just working my way into this. I’m playing, and I like the small scale of the cards. It means I can start and finish in short time. There’s no big commitment. Lots of shorter works means my learning curve will rise faster than it would with fewer big works.

I love how messy my work table is now–filled with real mess, from real stuff, not just clutter because I haven’t put things away.

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I love how good it felt to lose myself in it for a while. Doing that felt as nourishing to me as a homemade ham sandwich. It filled me up enough that I was able to make a grilled cheese (and chicken soup) for the sick child with nothing in my heart but joy and gratitude for the chance to mother him just this way for a little while longer.

We really do need to put on our own oxygen masks first. This is mine.

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*All book images and words came from gutted books (which you can read about here), so I didn’t have to cut intact books. I’ve lost my source for such pages, so I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’ve used them up. It’s really hard for me to cut books that are still books!

14 thoughts on “Wednesday Words 3.2.16: Finding my oxygen mask

  1. Marian says:

    Rita, this post brings tears to my eyes. It’s not only the simple fact of the lunches (the beautiful kindness of your colleague as well as your realization that you have such a need for them right now (as sustenance in both a physical and an emotional way)), but it’s also that you have — completely inadvertently — made me feel worth-while, that all the “little” things I’m able to do for my family (baking muffins, for example) are NOT actually things that I should be dismissing (because I have been; horribly) as “things that don’t really matter”. Clearly, these little things DO matter!

    I absolutely love the cards you made! I feel like the second one — if given to Cane — would make him laugh; it’s such a stereotype you’ve illustrated, and yet there’s just that tiny bit of truth and warmth in there as well (but of course, I don’t know Cane at all, so am just guessing at his reaction; please don’t take this as “advice” in any way/shape/form!). And the “I wonder about curious dreams” creation which you’ve framed and propped up on the re-purposed drawer … it’s so lovely and full of meaning 🙂 .

    I too, feel that creative work is my oxygen mask. When my older two were very young and I felt the walls were closing in around me, just a little snatched moment of creativity here and there was absolutely necessary to sustain me and to get me breathing properly again. At that time, I had a dedicated sewing room and could leave everything out and could pop in there to sew a quick seam (for example), and then I could close the door so the mess wouldn’t drive me crazy. I have to admit I am just a bit envious of your craft room…

    You’ve had a sick child too … oh to be able to care for your child yourself… We’ve had a very rough week with our daughter (for a number of reasons) but it all began last week when she fell quite ill. She ended up at urgent care one evening, and it was SO HARD to sit on my couch (250 km away), to wait hours for her to be seen by a doctor, and then to have her call me, sobbing, as she walked home at 10pm. All of which is to say I too, am feeling very emotionally-laden these days, with tears very close to the surface 🙁 .

    Marian recently posted…The Day the i-Pad Wandered Off To Die …My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, Marian–That would just kill me, to know my sick daughter was walking home alone at night! Even though they’re so grown-up, when they are sick they are our little kids again, aren’t they? Dang it, you’re making me choke up. Tears ridiculously close to the surface these days!

      I know the little things matter. I know that when my kids talk about their younger years, they don’t really key in on the big moments. It’s the small things, the little rituals, the day-in, day-out things that matter. I am seeing, with Cane gone half the time, how much it is those things that bind people together. Yes, how we show up for each other in the big things really does matter. Those things can break our relationships, I know, when we get them wrong. But more and more, I think relationships are made in the day-to-day.

      I hope your daughter is doing better! And you, too.

  2. Lisa says:

    Hugs to you, and I’m glad that someone gave you comfort at a moment when it was needed.

    I’ve been meaning to comment on a few of your posts, but I’ve been laying on the sofa for the past week with a terrible cold, caring for children who also have terrible colds. I will be back with witty commentary as soon as I climb out of the Pit of Pestilence and Disease I find myself in. Until then, I love the collages, especially the dream one.
    Lisa recently posted…CSA adventuresMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I’m so sorry you’re in that particular pit. I just hated being sick when my kids were young because they still needed all the things done. You know, pesky things like eating. At least they’re in there with you. Nothing worse than being sick around healthy children, who can’t help but capitalize on your weakness. 😉 Take care. I’ll still be here, playing with scissors and glue, when you climb out.

  3. Mandy says:

    I love reading your blog. It is so honest and I really look forward to seeing your projects big and small. Love your new crafting room. I am not sure if you are a person that believes in prayer but just know that I am praying for you. I have twins as well and they graduated last year. It is bitter sweet to a mamas heart. I know that I don’t even know you but if there is anything you need to help you make it onto the next part of your life’s journey just let me know. Strength and peace to you!

    • Rita says:

      Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for taking the time to write, and thank you for the kind words and wishes. Always appreciate connecting with another twin mom. 🙂 I realized pretty quickly that each stage/transition was going to be intense because of the double dose. I still remember crying in the car after I dropped them at kindergarten the first day–which feels like not very long ago at all! But I also know that there are good things to look forward to, too, just like there were back then. Hope to see you here again–

  4. Kate says:

    I seem to have found the same pit as Lisa. Stupid colds.

    It both makes me sad that a sandwich made you cry but also happy that the kindness was there needed it. Those little things…

    Your cards are great!
    Kate recently posted…The Little ThingsMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Hope you are feeling better! That pit sounds awful. I know. Sandwich crying is a little pathetic. Chalking it up to straws and camel’s backs and such. 🙂

  5. Sarah says:

    I’m so glad your colleague was able to show you the care you needed. (Because, teacher indeed.) What a sweet story. I hope you’re feeling better now and that you’ve had a restorative weekend.

    I really like your cards/collages. The “curious dreams” one especially intrigues and resonates with me. But I dig the others too and their slightly tongue-in-cheek humor. As a set, what I really like about them is that this medium seems to give you an opportunity for emotional collage, if that makes sense. You can play with different tones and attitudes and feelings on these small canvases. That seems really useful and maybe a good match for a lot of the bitter, sweet, and bittersweet things that are going on in your life right now.

    Wishing you a healthy, creative, and balanced week!
    Sarah recently posted…My home this season: February 2016My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Thanks for all the kind words about my goofy little cards. 🙂 I like the idea of small canvases. I used to write poetry, and I think I chose that genre because a poem is a small canvas, too. (As are blog posts.) A small canvas is good for perfectionists. Allows me to obsess over every detail. Not that I’ve done that with these cards, but I sure do with poems and blog posts.

  6. Kari says:

    With all of my writing, I don’t even have a desk.
    I don’t have a “writing area”.
    My kitchen table is my writing area and when I am done, I pack up my computer and put it away in the living room.
    It makes me sad that I don’t have a writing area.
    I love yours and it is inspiring me to create my own.
    Kari recently posted…If I Had John Hughes On A Deserted IslandMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      It makes me sad that you don’t have a writing area. I do actually write all over our house, but I’ve been doing it more and more in the project room, even when no one else is home and I could be anywhere in the house. I think I like it there because I’ve put things up on the walls that make me feel good and that fuel my creativity. I think you at least need a desk. And then you can do something all cute to it and blog about it. 🙂

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