Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Journals & Diaries (part 5)

I've loved this journey through the memories of journals and diaries.  I love that direct link between past and present. With that in mind, I think that I've found a way do do something pretty special with this book.

It looks like a fairly ordinary journal.  If you flip through it, you'll see that there are a lot of blank pages. Only the first 18 pages are filled.

This is the last journal that we discovered as we helped my Dad move into a retirement center last month. Click "Family Treasures" if you haven't already read it. Then click Journals & Diaries  to catch up and read the previous posts in this series.

My mother used this journal from 1994-1996.  She was in her early 70s, retired, and a grandmother of 13. This journal is not one in which she documented events.  It's a place where she kept her thoughts and insights.  She put quotes that she found meaningful and wrote how she could apply them in her life.  She wrote about her own struggles as the last pages were written after she'd experienced some mini strokes which left her sight impaired and made many of life's regular tasks difficult. She wrote about her desire to know her purpose, to remain useful and be an encourager.
Besides the 18 filled pages in the front, there were 5 pages in the back filled with specific prayer requests for family members, friends, and church needs.  Many of these had little check marks, had lines drawn through, or the words "thank you" written beside them.

And I got to keep this book.
I knew I wanted to find a creative way to share it with her other children  (my siblings) and her grandchildren (our kids).

Do you know about Blurb? Oh, my goodness!  I love it!  I use their Bookify to turn my painting blog posts into a book at the end of each year. Maybe that will be another post...

I used Bookify on Blurb to create and publish this.

I had a vision what what I wanted, and I figured and worked and tried and reworked and thought and worked again.

1st -  Sentence by sentence and word for word, I retyped the entire 18 pages of scratchy, some barely legible, handwriting.

2nd - I wanted it to be about her words. I wanted it to be a way for her messages of encouragement and wisdom to be passed on.   I wanted it to be an honoring her thoughts.

3rd - I didn't want it to be a "book to remember grandma by" project.  So I didn't put in any photographs of her.  

4th - I wanted to make it easy to read, but I was determined to also keep her handwriting. The very essence of the project was that the wisdom came from her.  Seeing her handwriting would keep that at the center. 

5th - I used her favorite colors (reds, pinks, purples).

And... this is how how it looks.
Every word from her beautiful, personal (ok, scribbly and hard to read) handwriting on the left-hand side is typed and formatted in a beautiful readable style on the right-hand side.
It's all there in a beautiful little pink 8"x 10" book.
There are truly some wise words inside this little book.
I'll snip & paste a few below. They'll be out of context and without her commentary, but still worth reading slowly.

There were two pages left in the minimum Blurb book, so I took the opportunity to list some of her favorite sayings.

Thanks to a little creativity, a little perseverance, and Bookify at Blurb.com (No, they don't pay me, but I wish they would! I have a lot of good things to say about them!) I feel like her words have been honored.

Spoiler alert, if you happen to be my niece, nephew, son, daughter, brother, or sister.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Journals & Diaries (part 4)

This tiny little book...
It looks pretty simple and ordinary, but it is priceless.
It's my mother's diary from 1939-1943 when she was 13-18 years old. My sisters said they'd seen it before, but I don't think I knew it existed. 

(I wrote about finding this Family Treasure earlier this month.)

There's no spectacular event or unbelievable story.  There's just regular life... just normal everyday life on a family farm. It is beautiful.

June 10, 1939 - We just ate peaches today.

June 10, 1940 - We picked blackberries and got 3 gallons.

June 11, 1939 - Maxine, Pauline, Ford, and Mutt came up here to practice.

June 11, 1940 - We picked blackberries and got 7 gallons.

July 2, 1939 - The Sunday evening social was at Mrs. Turner's.  She served punch and cookies.

July 2, 1940 - Papa and Paul went to town and Grandma went up to Aunt Susan's with the mail carrier.

September 11, 1939 - Papa and Paul took some lambs to sell them.

September 12, 1939 - There is a farm meeting here today and I never saw such a bunch of jabbering men. Avajeanne Norman died today.

This is just a sampling. 

There are another 360+ pages of normal... regular... mundane... practical... ordinary... sweet... wonderful... real-life events of daily life. 

I learned that they went to "singings" at the church a lot.
They also did a lot of "practicing" with each other for performances.
4-H was a really important part of their lives.
She wrote about food preparation a lot (picking, peeling, shelling, canning).
She wrote about sewing (quilts, aprons, dresses, mending).
Home Economics was the class she wrote the most details about.
**I love that since she became a Home Economics teacher.

I spent the day with my aunt (my mother's youngest sister) after finding the diary. We sat on her couch and read every single page together. It took a really long time because she had an explanation for every page... who the person was kin to, where that place was, the backstory behind the events... It was a wonderful day for both of us.

It doesn't end there.
We found another journal.
This one is a kind of book of quick writes, writing prompts, pages with topics to write about.

It isn't finished.  She only wrote to the in the first quarter of the book, and she only wrote on the top half of the pages.

I want to honor this book, and I have an idea... I think I want to continue it... write on the pages she didn't get to... write below hers on the pages that she did.  Why not? I wasn't sure if it was appropriate, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

Here's an example page: 
"Describe your grandparents' houses. Did you visit them often? Why or why not?"
"My grandmother lived with us, and I loved her dearly.  My other grandparents lived at Mount Ida, and we did not visit often.  It was 25 miles away, and that was a long way then."

** I know it's off topic, but I really want to tell what I know about her grandmother that lived with them.  They called her Grandma Prudy.  Whenever the peddler came down their road, she'd give each of the girls (my mom and her sisters) a penny to spend. She always had a little money of her own because she got a few dollars from the government because her husband, Grandpa MacReynolds, was killed in the Civil War. 
Oh!!! There are so many things about this snip of a story that is nearly impossible for my mind to take in.... First, Mom said, they'd shop and shop on his wagon to see what they wanted to buy... with a penny!!! Second, my own mother's grandfather was in the Civil War... I think of that time period as being so so so long ago! Third, her name was Prudy!  How perfect is that! Fourth, a peddler?? Really?  A traveling Walmart? 

I like knowing that my love of writing and of the written word is something that links me to my mother.  I like knowing that I can claim it as a trait that I got from her.

And... just when you think the Journals & Diaries series has come full circle... ah ah ah... not yet... 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Journals & Diaries (part 3)

These journals are pretty special.

I began writing in the first one on the top row the day this little one was born.  Each journal entry is written like a letter to her.  It was filled by the time she finished elementary school.  The tan one with the daisies holds middle, junior, and high school.Then the purple one started when she left home and moved to college.

I began the blue one on the bottom row the day this little one was born.  Again, each entry is written as a letter to him.  The black and brown one began with middle school and continued through high school.  The green one starts when he left home and moved into the college dorm.
A lot of life stories are in those six little books.  
I suppose that someday I'll give them to the kids. I don't know. I don't think I want any advice on when that should happen.  I'll know when the time is right for that.
I am so thankful that I began these and that I've kept them up through every phase of their lives.

I would absolutely encourage anyone to keep a book of letters to their child(ren).  So what if you didn't start the day they were born.  Start when they're three or when they start school or when they begin junior high or when they leave home.  If you do, you'll be glad.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Journals & Diaries (part 2)

This piece of furniture sits in our bedroom.
Look closely. What do you see?
(Ok, not too close... I guess I should have dusted before snapping a photograph.)
Let's see... there's a television... some folded blankets... a few photographs... and journals and diaries and journals and diaries and journals.

If you didn't already read Journals & Diaries (part 1), you might want to click and read that first.

It's important to me to choose the just-right journal.  It has to "fit" for the way I feel about life at the time. It has to "feel" right; I mean literally "feel" as in "touch." I have a writing friend who once asked me, "Why do you hold journals like that and rub them that way when you're choosing one?" I'd never realized I did that, but I didn't stop.  It just needs to feel like where I'd want to pour myself for the next 3-4 years.
When I look over the covers of all of my adult journals, I notice a lot of greens, cool colors, soft florals.  (I don't know what was up with choosing that red harsh one.  Maybe it was during a midlife crisis period!)

There are so many reasons I write or keep a journal.
  • I can keep a record of important events, hold on to things I don't want to forget.
  • It's habit.  It's what I do.  
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder did it.  Then after she was 60, she told the stories of her life in books that I loved to read. She's one of my heroes. I've always wanted to be like her. 😊
  • Writing in present tense captures the very essence of now... Stories told "in the now" have so much more power than "I remember when" stories.  Memories have a way of rounding the edges... the hard becomes easier... the sad isn't as raw... the angry isn't as harsh... the joy isn't as sappy... the turmoil isn't as big a deal... 
  • Writing is therapy.  I believe writing is the physical act of organizing thought. When going through a mess, sitting down and writing about it often helps to work it out.  I have noticed that there are some times when I literally avoid writing because I'm not willing to work through it yet. I don't want to put the energy into thinking clearly about whatever it is.  
Some of my journals, like these, had a specific purpose.  
In 1998 I became a part of the National Writing Project and was active in it for many years. 
These journals are filled with quick writes, reading responses, and regular journal-type thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
Another difference is that every entry in these has been read and responded to by a writing partner.
As a co-director of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project Open Summer Institute for several years, one of my favorite things was reading and responding to the participants' daily journal entries.
True, you write differently when you know someone will be reading it. It's a different but powerful kind of journal writing experience.

If any of those reasons sound like good ones to you, start!  You don't have to have started when you were 8.  Start now.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Journals & Diaries (part 1)

Writing in a diary or journal has been a part of who I am since... well... since... I actually know exactly when it began... January 1, 1973. I was 8.

  • January 1, 1973 - I watched the orenge bole parade and traist in my coloring Book. and got mad at ↻.
  • January 2, 1973 - I had a good day at school.  But after it. I got mad.  I didn't watch Big Vally.  And thats Bad.😕
And, I was faithful to continue writing in that little blue diary from 3rd through 6th grades.  I went through spurts of writing daily, then forgetting, then getting back to it, then skipping a while, but always returning.
  • August 24, 1975 - Karen is at college I'm by myself
  • August 24, 1976 - Mom cut my hair. I went to the dentist got a tooth pulled & my teeth cleaned. we played in the jim. Karen C. might move.
  • August 25, 1976 - I was at school all day it served a terrible chillie, slaw, carckers, and pie.
For the most part, I documented events.  There wasn't much outpouring of feelings and emotions.  There wasn't much therapeutic examination of thoughts. I was a little girl... a kid who wanted to put pen to paper... already a writer in my heart.

Then came junior high and high school...
I filled a whole book for each of 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grades.  And there are even a few loose pages folded inside those high school books when the small page just was not enough to explain the whole... the whole... the whole...whatever it was that needed explaining.  
Inside these six little books you can read what was spilling out of my teen-aged mind to fill the pages . 
Yes, there's still a documenting of events, but there is way too much plenty of drama emotion and spewing a deluge of feelings and opinions.  There's also evidence of teen-aged hopes, dreams, and expectations. I rarely, basically never, missed a night of writing before I went to sleep. 

I wonder... could journal writing be the reason I have such clear memories from when I was young?  Maybe because I relived it as I wrote it down?  Just an thought...

These three hold my college memories.  Hmmm... interesting that there are occasional sentences written in shorthand... ha ha ha...  Too secret for regular English, I guess!

It seems, however, that something must have happened in the middle of the little green one. Suddenly I stopped writing completely.  For the first time since 3rd grade there are pages and pages and pages that are completely blank.  
Well... something did happen.  I met a guy... ahhh... sigh... I was just so busy being crazy in love with that guy that there simply was no time to write! Nothing... not even an occasional page.  

(Oh, well... I got to keep that guy.)  

I guess he made up for keeping me from writing by buying the blue calico journal to get me started again. 
**I know I wrote 1-22-84 on the first page, but I know it was actually 1985. 

From that point forward, I haven't been a daily journal writer, but I've been a consistent journal writer.

My friend, Sandra, encouraged me to write about why finding my mother's journal was so meaningful.  I thought it was going to be one post, but I think I may have enough for a whole series of posts about journals!

We'll see what's next!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bear the Chihuahua

I have so many memories of time with my cousins at my grandma and grandpa's house.  They lived far down a dirt road with only my uncle and aunt as neighbors.  Their son (the first grandchild) was grown by the time  the cousins near my age came along, but Aunt Muriel (which we all pronounced Mearl) had two little chihuahua dogs that she carried everywhere.  Oh, how we wanted to play with those little dogs!  But Sandy and Cocoa would have none of it!  They loved their Muriel the best.  No amount of coaxing could convince them that playing with kids could be better than being held. Although none of us ever actually lost a finger while trying to pet one of them, it wasn't for their lack of trying!

Painting this little guy brought up lots of Sandy and Cocoa memories. Although this little blonde chihuahua looks just like my memory of Sandy, I trust that Bear is much better behaved!

Original Oil Painting on 12"x 12" Wrapped Canvas.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Family Treasures

I  haven't painted much this season.  I try never to use the phrase, "I've been busy," so I'll just say that life's stuff has occupied most of my time lately.

A couple of weeks ago, my 91 year old dad moved into a retirement center (where he’s very happy, I want to say), so my siblings and I went through all the family things.
The favorite item that I discovered and got to keep was my mother's diary written in between 1939-1943 when she was 13-18 years old.  What a treasure! 
(It’s funny to see it there 80 years old with a tablet in the background. I could have cropped it out of the picture, but I kind of liked its symbol of the passing of time.)
I guess it triggered me to think about other keepsakes that I’ve had hidden away.

I am the 20th out of 21 grandchildren and the youngest granddaughter, so we didn't each get lots of things after my grandparent's passed away. Thanks to my Aunt Anita, the youngest of her generation, 
I ended up with this very special quilt. It has been safely stored in a bag in the back of a closet for… for a long, long time.
I guess I was saving it for… hmmm… for what?
I decided today was the day to find a place to honor it.
I also brought home from Dad’s house, Mom’s quilt rack.  I’m sure there’s a proper way to use it.  I don’t know what that is, but I figured out something that worked.

My mother, along with her five sisters, mother, and grandmother, made this quilt together about 80 years ago. (No sewing machine, just needles, thread, and busy fingers.)

  • I wonder if their personalities show through in the squares that they designed.
    • My mom’s, Gladys, is yellow!
    • Aunt Audine made hers sideways!
    •  Their grandmother sewed hers upside down.
    • Grandma, put her first and last names.
    • Whoever GNT is didn’t seem to finish her block.
    • Aunt Anita, the youngest, only made one.

  • I wonder if this was a winter project for the evenings.
  • I wonder how many hand stitches are in it.
  • I wonder how if all of them enjoyed working on it.
  • I wonder if they purposefully chose their colors or if they just grabbed whatever was in the rag bag.
  • I wonder if there was a reason they put some going the wrong direction, or if they just weren’t paying attention .
  • I wonder if they knew they were creating a special family heirloom, or if they just need a new bed covering.
  • I wonder if this pattern is still a thing, a pattern that modern quilters use.

The other quilt was one that my mother used my whole life.  I believe she got it as a wedding gift from her mother. I think she called it a double wedding ring quilt.  I know she was always proud of it, but that never stopped her from using it.

  • How many tiny little scraps are in it?
  • Was there a plan for sewing them together, or did they just grab and stitch?
  • How long did it take to make from beginning to end?
  • Did Grandma know when she began it that it would be for Mom’s wedding gift?
  • How many different beds did it cover during its lifetime?

So… today… I walked around the house until I found a place where the quilt rack would fit.  I folded and refolded until I found a way to get the two quilts displayed on the rack rather than forgotten in a closet. And… I love that they are no longer safely stored in a bag but out where they can be seen, talked about, and loved.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Blowing Bubbles (Again!)

Let's try this again.

This an example of what happens when you want to be finished... you try to convince yourself it's fine... you focus on all the things that ARE right... "I love the bubbles and the shirt and the toes and the..." hoping the face will miraculously be become right too.
... sigh... 

When will I ever learn?

If you flip back and forth between the two, you'll see the little nips and tucks that made the difference.

* Reshaped the ear
* Moved the eye down and back
* Took some off the lips
* Skinnied up the neck
* Shaved off the chin
* Straightened the nose
* Backed up and softened the jawline
* Lowered and softened the brow
* Lightened the cheek
* Highlighted instead of shadowed the nose bridge

Goodness gracious!  Seems like I just made a whole new face!

I still love the bubbles and the shirt and the toes and... but now I love the face too.

I may sound a little like I'm giving a speech at the Oscars, but I have a few people to thank. First, my art friend Nelvia so gently let me know it wasn't quite finished. Next, my art partner Jolene helped me find each needed tweak during our weekly paint time. And of course my neice Bev trusted me to put her little one on canvas. Thanks, guys!

Next, I think I'll paint something low stress like maybe a lime.