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!

Just for fun

Though I boldly declared on my About page, when I began this blog, that I was all about embracing creative work for the joy of it (and nothing else), a recent post by the lovely and talented Alexandra Franzen* helped me see clearly that it’s easier (for me)  to say such words than to really mean them.

Having my own creative work space means that I no longer have lack of such space as a reason not to engage with the kind of messy projects I’ve long longed to do. But I’m not doing them, and it’s not just because the last month has been so, so ridiculously busy. (Though it has been, and that does have a real impact on what I can do.)

This might look like a lot of noise, but there's been very little action.

This looks like a lot of noise, but there’s been very little action.

I’ve observed two obstacles getting in my way:

Fear of not being good enough. The kinds of projects I want to do are visual, not verbal. And, I don’t have a lot of skill in this area. How could I? It’s not something I’ve ever made time for in my adult life. But, I really really really like to feel competent. I can re-read a million times  Ira Glass’s words on how we have to muddle through the stage of not being very good before we can get good, but I still don’t like it. That I live with a guy who has highly developed visual skills (and an MFA in painting) doesn’t help.

Fear of being frivolous/irrelevant. I’m OK with indulging in visual work when it serves some practical need. So, I’m fine with sewing projects that create something for our home, such as pillows or curtains. But to make something purely decorative (especially when I don’t yet have developed skills)? Or something no one really needs (such as notecards or journals)? I’m having a hard time giving myself real permission to do that. And yet, those are the things I’m longing to do.

These two fears play nicely into each other. It would be OK, I guess, to do frivolous things if I were good at them. But I’m not (yet), so they feel even more frivolous. And, I want to do different kinds of frivolous things–some with paper, some with fabric, some with paper and fabric, some with yarn, some with…. How am I going to get good at anything if I’m constantly flitting from one thing to another?

love card

No one really needs this. And it’s not particularly awesome.

I want to make things like Mar Cerdà, whose dioramas of Wes Anderson movie sets have been all over the internets recently. Things that serve no purpose other than to delight–but these are really, really good delightful things, aren’t they?


Image via designboom

Obviously, on some level, I know this is ridiculous.

I know there is nothing wrong with giving some minutes of our lives to things solely for the purpose of pleasure. It’s not like I’m quitting my job and moving the family to a studio apartment so I can pursue my art. I know there’s nothing wrong with creating kinda crappy art, especially if doing so is necessary to some day producing kinda good art and it’s something we’re doing because we want to do it.

I know (I know!) these feelings are about all kinds of messages we all get from childhood on that are full of crap.

But it’s still hard to get past them. Because the first step in overcoming a problem (even an admittedly first-world one, yet another source of the funny feelings)  is to admit it, name it, and share it with someone else, I am doing that here. And I am pledging to indulge in something creative just for the fun of it this week, and to share it here. No matter how not-good it is.

Anyone want to join me? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. 🙂


*I can say with authority that Alexandra is lovely because I’ve met her. She and her beau Brandon put on an amazing weekend brunch here in Portland. If you’re local, check it out. I am not a foodie in any way, but these two could might just convert me.

Link to designboom article: