Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Book Description
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura's dad left them. Convinced that "creative" equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked -- and together may offer an escape from her fears.

This is a quick review, one I wanted to write while the book is still fresh in my mind.

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler is a very aptly-named book: this is a dark and sad tale. Schizophrenia is never a disease to be romanticized, and the author of this story makes it clear that the heartbreak of mental illness can last DECADES.

Aura is a great character, and she's one of those that I'd love to be able to give her a hug, let her know she doesn't have to be alone, and that it's all going to be okay.  Schindler writes in a wonderful manner, she is very tuned-in to both teenagers and divorced families.

I would think carefully about having an actual young adult read this book. It's a "deep in the trenches" type book, and it's a story that deserves to be told, but not all teens can handle something like this. I can see this book being very useful in a college curriculum like Psych 101 or Humanities 101, but not at a high school level. This is my personal opinion though, and since I don't have any actual live teens in my social circle, I could be way off base.

Overall, 3.5 stars and I would most likely read another story from this author.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Disappointed In Mommy--With An Update!

My 5-year-old son loves rainbows.  He's always asking me what order the colors go in, and I say "Roy G. Biv."  I bet you do too.  :)  This is one of those you learn in school that you couldn't forget if you tried.  Just in case, though, the order of the colors is:
and by taking the first letter of each color, you get "Roy G. Biv." 

So I've been working on creating yet another art journal.  I started to say that I have no idea why I'm doing this when I have one huge art journal that is swelling at the binding but holding tight for now, a separate "Rage" journal, and 2 others that didn't work out.  But I do know why I'm doing this:
It is my goal for this year.  So, I'm down-sizing my library of books.  I started the project a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still at it.  The easiest place for me to start was my children's books section.  While James is an avid reader, there are quite a few books that we he has no interest in, and some books I've had for a really long time that are just "too nice." We've never read them, and there are people who want them, so out the door they go.

I found this Peter Pan book, and the illustrations inside are just beautiful.  There's one of mermaids that is so amazing it inspires a color scheme for an entire room!  The problem is that I find Peter Pan to be a little creepy.  Ironic, right, that I love Twilight so much and yet a children's book about a boy who can fly showing up in my kid's bedroom freaks me out.  LOL

So I picked a random page and began to create art.  And it promptly rubbed off the super-shiny page.  Markers, gel pens, even pencils were no match for the shiny cream-colored pages.  Gesso was a good idea, but I don't have any of that.  I do, however, have a lot of craft paints which will dry to a matte finish that has the perfect "teeth" for other mediums.  So I began to simply start at the beginning and paint my way through the book: backgrounds for now, and if I'm inspired to do more, it's all good.
Super-Shiny Cream vs. Blue Paint
I showed James the first several pages, and he asked if he could paint a few.  It was bedtime, so instead I let him decide what the first picture in the book should be: he chose a rainbow.
This was his reaction: I'm apparently NOT a good rainbow-maker.  Even with Roy G. Biv, I failed.  I'm still clueless why exactly, but as I finished he said "Mo-om!" in this tone of "Lord give me the strength to deal with this woman" and I looked up in time to see the disgusted shaking of his head.
As I go to bed tonight, I am a sad Mommy, not to mention being a very criticized "artist."


In spite of seeing this "official" and "scientific" rainbow, James says a rainbow has both pink and purple in it.  So I was indeed wrong: the colors go in order from left to right, which makes good old Roy G. Biv make even more sense.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Childhood Revisited, Or: The One That Got Away

Having been a child of the 80s, I owned a Cabbage Patch Doll.  Several, in fact.  My collection began with one that looked like me--brown hair, blue eyes.  I LOVED her.  Others were adopted as well: a preemie with her little spot of hair, and even a set of twin boys, although they were the last ones to join the family, because I had moved on and dolls were now just taking up room on my bookshelves.  Looking back, I can see I was a bibliophile in the making!

I thought of my dolls through the years, and I even went to Babyland General in Cleveland, GA.  There they have the original "soft-sculpture" dolls that are entirely handmade and cost around $250 or more.  It's a LOT of fun, even for adults who have no intention of buying one, so I do recommend making the trip once.

Life went on.  In 2005, we decided it was time to expand our family from 2 to 3.  While playing around online, dreaming of having a beautiful baby girl "one day," I found something awesome--a Cabbage Patch "Re-root."  This is when someone has cleaned a Cabbage Patch orphan up, given her new hair--usually incredibly awesome yarn hair!--and selling them on eBay.  I was THRILLED!  One day soon, I was going to be pregnant, what better present to buy than what made me happy as a child.  (Obviously, putting the money into a savings account makes a lot more sense in hindsight....)

An adorable little girl with cute snazzy-colored braids and blue eyes now had a new home--but for some reason, I ended up giving the doll to my sister-in-law.  Now, I love my SIL, I do, but I have absolutely no idea why I gave my doll away.  She ended up passing the doll on to a little girl that needed it, and I love knowing that--the love of a child is different from the love of adult, and that sweet Cabbage Patch doll ended up in the right place. But she was the one for me that became "The One Who Got Away."

I've thought of that doll through the years since, and maybe 2 or 3 times a year I've halfheartedly checked eBay for other Re-roots.  Today, for the first time, I found more!
Pink Curls!
White Braids--How cool!

Aren't they freaking ADORABLE!?  Unfortunately, none are available--but I am very happy to know that someone has made some more.  

No way.............they have Strawberry Shortcake dolls too!!!!!!  And Build-A-Bears, although the decision has been made to not allow any more of those into the house....  (We are a little out-of-control in that area, but we also usually buy 2 new friends this time of the year for James's birthday.....) :(

Check out The Patch Boutique!  Maybe they have what you've been looking for too!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review: Spin by Catherine McKenzie

I received Spin from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program and I'm so glad I did!  I've been in a reading rut lately: it feels like all I ever read is YA or Paranormal Romance.  I tend to stay away from bestsellers, and the people who usually recommend books to me have been as busy as I have with the holidays and simply Life in general.  Also, if I have to choose to spend money on books or art supplies--I have plenty of books, so art supplies are where my attention has been directed.

The basic storyline of Spin: A Novel by Catherine McKenzie is that Kate is a journalist trying to get her dream job with a music magazine called The Line.  She finally gets an interview which happens to fall on her birthday.  To celebrate, she joins her friends the night before the interview and what starts out as "one drink, then I'll go home" ends up with her showing up at the interview looking as badly hungover as she is.  Needless to say, Katie will not be the best new writer at The Line.

One of the editors at The Line who witnessed Katie's hungover interviews is also the editor of a gossip magazine.  One of America's favorite young movie stars, Amber--The Girl Next Door--just entered rehab, and Katie is the perfect undercover spy for a tell-all feature by going to the same rehab center as Amber.  If Katie can pull this off, she'll get her dream job at The Line after all.

What begins as a job assignment soon turns into a serious reality check--instead of faking an addiction to get the undercover exposé of a movie star stripped bare in rehab, Kate sees how her own drinking has become out-of-control.  Against her own will, she's feeling all kinds of emotions she never expected and finds herself experiencing the 12 steps of her own.

I enjoyed this book immensely.  It's already an International Bestseller, and I think America will fall in love with Kate's story as well when it's published next month.  The story can become a little slow at times, but never so much that I had to switch to another book and come back to finish Spin later.  It took me about 2 days to read the whole book, although I did stay up late last night to finish it.

I love Kate's conversations with her conscious and I sympathize with her unwilling self-awareness.  I found Kate's unique way of naming the other characters in the story, (The Producer, The Banker, Mr. Fortune 500, etc. - even her target Amber is TGND) to be brilliant!  It's much easier to remember the characters this way.

I've saved my favorite thing about Spin until the end of my review: the story does not end at Kate's release from her 30 days of rehab.  I honestly assumed the book would end with Kate's decision to write the tell-all article for the gossip magazine or her refusal to hurt her new friend this way.  Instead, the story kept going, and Kate's (and Amber's) stories show what life is like after rehab.

I like the movie 28 Days, but it pretty much ends with Sandra Bullock's release from rehab.  Spin is an excellent novel that provides the satisfaction of knowing how the characters try to fit the lessons from the 12 steps into their real lives.

A solid 4 stars out of 5!
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Friday, January 13, 2012

REDUCE: Missing Out on Moments Like These

I am annoyed at Blogger at this particular moment, but I'll get over it.  Because you know, there's no way it could be MY fault that the post I was editing somehow got deleted, and I easily forgive technology for its shortcomings.

So, from what I can recover: 
...Missing Out on Moments Like These:
James, Christmas Morning, literally seconds before tearing into his gifts
Do you remember this feeling?  On Christmas morning, just the very idea that some stranger brought you the perfect gifts?  And everything looks different, and it's like the perfect dream come to life.  These are the days I hope to remember as he graduates high school, gets married--those days when you think back to when life was simple (even though it isn't) and it was so easy to make your child happy (even though it isn't.)  I'm so very, very happy with my memories of the holidays this year.  We were "unplugged," no laptops, no phones full of texts or drama.

Since my "One Word, One Goal, One Year" is REDUCE, I can see how I'm missing out on my son's life.  I take pictures--but then they have to be uploaded, edited, emailed around.  I talk to my husband and son every evening, except that at least 50% of my attention is focused on my computer, simply strolling Pinterest for Eye Candy.  My husband is usually doing Facebook games or playing World of Warcraft with his Dad online--but he's better at the whole "divided attention" thing.  I have 600+ pictures of projects I will never get around to doing or furniture I'll never be able to afford, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the day will NEVER come when I refinish and paint my own "accent pieces."

So I sit, and I stare, and I'm not actually happy being so lazy and disconnected.

But.... I have no clue at all what ADVENTURES my son is conquering with his toys just 5 feet away from me.  If the choice is between getting more and more depressed as I see more and more of what I cannot do, obviously playing with James is much more fun and satisfying.

Quick back story: My brothers are 10 and 7 years older than me.  They have joined forces to make every Christmas and birthday "miserable" for me by buying the loudest, most annoying and, to be honest, usually the most fun toys possible for my child.  (Was I really that bratty as a kid?)  James was 2 when he got a toy drum set and a RC car that made the most horrible noises ever (I will admit here that the car "stopped working" due to having the batteries removed ;P)  Similar toys followed, and it's been fun to see them top the obnoxiousness of last year's gifts.  We got a very cool 2 loop inversion-type car track last year--but 2011 brought this awesome toy into our lives:
I wonder if the creator of this set grew up in Atlanta?  Or does every major city have a point where at least 2 major interstate highways intersect?  Anyway, it's fun, but loud, which doesn't matter because it makes James laugh so much.  He LOVES this thing.  It's supposed to have several cars going at once, which takes more dexterity than we have at this moment--but just one car is still fun.  Oh, a fair warning though: the cars also tend to go flying off the track and into your walls, so that's why it's on our large coffee table in the middle of the room.
Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track Set
Last night though, I knew the track was on and cars were flying, but I didn't really pay attention until I heard the roar of a dragon.

Yes, that is a dragon (Christmas 2009) eating a "whale" (a plush dolphin purchased for $1 at a school fundraiser.)  (I especially love this dragon because I think he sounds just like my husband waking up in the morning....)

So where does the race track join the show?  Apparently the dragon had been at sea to catch a whale, and was bringing his "take-out" home to eat. Along the way he found traffic was especially bad, so of course it was a good time for a good game of Dragon Stomp:
Total annihilation is awesome stress-relief ;p
All this destruction was accompanied by my son's maniacal "evil laugh," which is most likely the source of my amusement.  I didn’t play with him, but it was enough for him to have an adoring crowd.

What I've learned so far : 
As adults, we think about "what goes together."  We think and focus on the full scene that's in front of us: these dishes go with those glasses but a different tablecloth; this old side table is too small to use as a nightstand but looks terrible in the living room; the comforter in the guest room looks terrible with this paint. 

Kids see everything as equal and useful--it does not matter that Superman and Thomas the Tank Engine could never join forces to destroy The Joker's evil lair which is comprised of wooden building blocks, Lego's and the pizza box from last night's dinner.

**I wonder how much more we could accomplish if we tried these ideas ourselves: what’s fun about this table setting for Valentine’s—oh, those cute scrapbook stickers can dress up the plain napkin holders and I can use the red Mardi-Gras beads around the chandelier to make the dining room look special.**
**This small table can go in the library so we have a place for a lamp in there.  We can move that extra rocking chair in there too and make it a fun place to read as well as store books.**  
**Since we never have company and have yet to have an actual “guest” use the “guest room,” let’s move that old sofa and the “pre-flatscreen”TV in there and have a mini Family Theater room.**
**Or, I can check the thrift stores for a comforter cover that matches the room.**

Kids play and use whatever they've got close-by to contribute to the action.  What do I have close-by to use in my art journal or to make a very cool bracelet or how can I use my craft stash to come up with something completely awesome....  Let's play!
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Word, One Goal, One Year

I found a great idea on Less Cake More Frosting--choose a word to focus on all year long, instead of making New Year's Resolutions. I've traced this idea around blogland, and found this with a similar idea: Ali Edwards' project: One Little Word 2012 | The Words

I always forget my resolutions, or feel guilty about them and end up feeling ashamed. This is a new year, and I'm going to try something new.

I love words!
I really do. Words can be used to heal and to hurt. Words can change emotions and even the future. As James learns more and more sight words, I really notice just how amazing--and confusing--our language can be. The subtle differences of a color are a good representative: this Wikipedia page actually names over 20 versions of pink!

I'm a true bibliophile and I L-O-V-E my books. I love books from when I was little all the way to the one I'm reading right now! I've read books to my son almost every day of his entire life. Recently I've been able to read WITH him as well :)

I spent time really listening to my soul on this One Word One Year thing, and I've chosen:
There are so many different meanings, so I'm cautiously excited to see where REDUCE leads me this year. Some ideas already:
  • reduce time in front of my computer and playing with family instead
  • reduce money wasted on grocery shopping by sticking to a list
  • reduce my fears
  • reduce regrets
  • reduce not listening for God's guidance
  • reduce unhappiness
  • reduce my useless drive for perfection
  • reduce my horribly unorganized & out-of-control craft supplies
  • reduce shame
  • reduce loneliness
Hmmm, I'm starting to get a little freaked out now....
  • Reduce making lists that only trigger more anxiety!!
So, let's see where "Reduce" leads me this year :)
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Friday, January 6, 2012

And then...

Blogger is not cooperating with me.  I shall avenge the death of my beautiful post by plotting its demise tonight :P

I conquered the evils of random computer malfunction and got my post published.  In a random "God-wink," the post labeled "A Matter Worth Defining" was the post that was giving me trouble.  I said then that I thought I could feel something on its way, one that may even have multiple definitions.  Indeed so!  I learned about the "One Year, One Word" idea only yesterday.

I believe I'm on the path God has planned for me :)
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A Matter Worth Defining

I like the "She Art" by Christy Tomlinson, and I saw that there is a new class she'll be starting soon.  I would love to take one of her classes, but I need to learn some more art education before I take that plunge.

For this post, the reason I mention her is this:
I have "abandonment issues," and I see many family members and friends all struggling as well.  I think tons of people have the same challenge, but we all seem to be dealing with it on our own instead of sharing our emotions and fears with each other.  I think it's almost like abandonment is the foundation of our lives.  I can feel the rumbling even now, just the very idea of leaving THIS me and creating a new one who makes better choices.

So I've come to think of "abandonment" as a big bad scary creature living in between the cracks of life and doing its best to make the cracks deeper and more painful at all opportunities.  Like this:
As I looked at the NAME of the new class, I realized something.  It's called
"The Art of Wild Abandonment" and I first thought it was a class to express your emotions into art or facing the stuff in your past to make art now.  But then I realized something: there's more than one way to define that scary "A" word.
"Abandon" does mean "to leave completely and finally; forsake utterly; desert: to give up; discontinue; withdraw from" etc.  And everyone has faced these feelings at one point or another.  You, me, the fencepost, everyone.
it also means: To yield (oneself) without restraint or moderation; give (oneself) over to natural impulses, usually without self control.
and THAT's when I figured out what the class is about.  It's about letting your inner critic take a nap so you can create without fear.  It's about being a kid again; it's about leaving your problems at the door and taking a ride on the roller coaster of LIFE.  It's interesting how the same word has sort-of opposite meanings.
So I guess that's the road I'm on now.  And I’m opening my heart and soul so that when I get to where I’m going, I’ll be able to fully immerse myself in what I have to learn. 
Random back-story:  Another one of my favorite words is "temper."  I first became aware of it when my brother was living above a couple who were tattoo artists and they had named their son "Temper" and I loved it for a name.  It has several meanings that are opposite as well:
  • to soften (as hardened steel or cast iron) by reheating at a lower temperature
  • to harden (as steel) by reheating and cooling in oil 
  • to anneal or toughen (glass) by a process of gradually heating and cooling
  • to make stronger and more resilient through hardship : toughen <troops tempered in battle> 
Amazing how the same word can mean "soften" and "harden."

I bought a pad of art paper at Wal-mart last week.  It has a smooth surface on one side and rough on the other.  Crayons and colored pencils use rough surfaces, while paint and markers do better on smooth.  This only matters to "Artists" and I've always just used whatever was around me.  So this was a step-up!  I was very happy with my "grown-up art supplies", and I wrote on the cover "Duel-Sided Paper" with my favorite marker.  Jason saw it and laughed and told me that there was a huge difference between "duel" as in a fight and "dual" as in having 2 of something.  Apparently my paper is the "to-the-death" kind!
I'm beginning to see a pattern here.......   I'm sensing something coming, and it apparently has multiple, maybe even opposite meanings.
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