Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bow Ties and Buttondowns

Today is Father's Day. As with Mother's Day, there are really no words, cards or gifts that can adequately reimburse our parents for what they have given us. Yet, as a parent, I expect no reimbursement. I only want and hope that my kids will become happy, loving adults who carve out lives for themselves filled with years of contentment and occasional moments of pure joy.

My dad just turned 89.  He has had eighty-nine years filled with the excitement and adventure of his youth, the anxiety of his education and working years, the joy (I hope) of fatherhood, and the relaxation of retirement. My brothers and I heard stories of his year of schooling in Switzerland, of learning to fly, of serving in the military during World War II, of becoming a doctor. We remember games of baseball in the back yard, tennis tournaments on local courts, driving to and from the school bus and him bringing us our lunches when we forgot them. We remember best, however, years and years and years of vacations in NH and day trips to parks and beaches and local tourist attractions, amusement parks and museums.

He seemed to do all of these things as if he truly enjoyed them as much as his three children did.

When my dad retired from the practice of medicine exactly 25 years ago, we had a big party with a tent in the backyard and tons of food on a beautiful July day. For his seventieth birthday, my mom threw him another party to which everyone anyone could think of came and celebrated. Little did my mom know that a few weeks later, he went water skiing in New Hampshire on a part of the lake she could not see from their summer house. For his eightieth birthday, we had another party, but on a smaller scale. For his eighty-ninth birthday just three weeks ago, my husband and I visited along with one of my brothers. Our children are scattering, much as we did, and it is getting harder and harder to bring us all together as we once had all those years ago.

People who see pictures of my dad in his button-down shirts and bow ties (I have never seen him in any other kind) tell me he is cute.

And you know what? He is. He still is.


Layout Notes

Me and Dad and the Glass Bottomed Boat

Unfortunately, I did not record the supplies I used for this layout, but it is one of my favorites. The orange shapes are Tim Holtz Fragments colored with Ranger Alcohol inks.

Talk to the Animals

I believe these photos were taken somewhere in NH, but the date and exact location are unknown.

The sun embellishment was made bystamping a foam stamp on to a metal sheet. I then cut out the stamp and dry embossed the image with tools from Hero Arts.  I sprinkled and heated gold and copper embossing powder on the rays and then dotted on dimensional paint.  I did the same on the bear and moose charms and the bear paw and used the same dimensional paint on the border and the tag.  I aged the letters by painting them, covering them with Tim Holtz Crackle paint and rubbing ink into the paint after it dried. The paw was painted with spray ink using a paint brush and then coated with Diamond Glaze.

Supplies:  cardstock - Basic Grey; patterned paper - Tim Holtz; metal - unknown; foam stamp - unknown; embossing powder; Viva Pearl Pen; die Tim Holtz (tags); metal animals - unknown; chipboard paw - Chip Off the Old Block; markers - Y&C Gel Extreme, Micron; bear charm - Dondero's Rock Shop (N. Conway, NH); embossing tool - Hero Arts; ribbon - unknown; ink- Ranger Distress; gems - Prima; paint - Making Memories; glaze - Distress Crackle Paint, Diamond Glaze

Doctor, Grandpa, Father, Friend

I did not record the supplies used in this layout.


Supplies: cardstock - Bazzill, Paper Company; patterned paper - Tim Holtz, Bo Bunny; chipboard letters - Target; chipboard butterfly - Dusty Attic; photo editing software - Photoshop Elements 9; flower medalion - unknown source; paint - Plaid; Stickles; marker - Zig by EK Success.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wonderment on the Eve of the Wider World

In exactly five days, my son will be a high school graduate, attending the party in the high school gym that the parents put together. This party is a much-anticipated annual event and planning begins in the February of our children's junior year, more than sixteen months in advance. In some towns, it is called Project Graduation. In our town, it is called Grad Ball.

Grad Ball is not a project for the feint of heart. It takes lots of planning, designing, painting, hammering, painting, cutting, painting, pasting, painting and heavy lifting. Did I mention painting? In other words, it takes lots of hard work. Some parents put in hours that add up to days and weeks of effort. I think they go weeks without seeing their children.

It is one of the greatest tangible gifts that the parents in this small town can give to their children.  It is the only gift that all the parents together give to all of the children as a class.

It begins with a meeting at which we twist the arms of two talented couples to become the Grad Ball chairs. Next, more arms are twisted to chair the many committees. Some are tough jobs like running the annual fundraising event, the Beef Steak Dinner, and some are smaller, but just as important and time consuming like gathering each senior's baby picture and framing it for display at the event.

Next comes the most important decision in the life of a senior parent - choosing the theme. One would think choosing a college is more important, but, in truth, it most definitely is not. The choices are narrowed to three and and each chosen parent must build a miniature version of the event. Every skill learned in helping small children create dioramas in a shoebox is put to good use at last. The winning diorama, chosen by popular vote, becomes THE BOX. The box is carefully guarded and secured with a padlock when not being used for reference.

The big fundraising event - with auction items and great food - takes place in November. Work on the decorations begins in January in what is called the Rifle Room. I have no idea where the name came from, but it is jammed with the ghosts of Grad Balls past - signs, posters, boxes, decorations, wall panels, floor boards, cans of paint, and on and on and on. Serious work takes place in the Rifle Room - repainting the wall boards, building the dining tables, creating the decorations. Every night, parents populate the dim low-ceilinged room and have a very good time.

We create collages for ads in a journal that every graduate brings home. It is filled with words of wisdom, wishes and expressions of pride, joy and love. (Some parents wisely choose not to reinvent the wheel from one child to the next!)

Things move into high gear on the Friday before Memorial Day. Construction begins in the gym. The windows are blacked out to prevent senior spies from learning the theme. The floor is covered with tarps and then boards that have seen innumerable Grad Balls and have been trampled on by hundreds of parents and new graduates. The walls are covered with the panels created in the Rifle Room. Suddenly, the gym is not longer a gym, but a giant set.

For the next few weeks, parents labor in the gym to create something magical. One year, Hogwarts rose from the floor. Another year, a TV studio complete with a Cash Cab with a lighted ceiling came to life. Many years ago, the Titanic made its fateful trip once again. This year, well, the theme for this year will just have to wait.

I do not paint or hammer or decorate, but I do photograph.  So, I have many many a trip to the Rifle Room and the gym over the last few weeks to take photos of the progress being made there. With only five days to go, things are moving along quickly as the set takes shape. Not until the lights dim on that last night, however, will the full effect be revealed. Not until that night will the efforts of many parents come to fruition in the most wonderful of ways. 

Sometimes I think that the monies spent on this event could be used for something better, but when I see the friendships that are created from parents working together closely for a common cause, I know it is worth it. When the set rises from the floor of the gym for an event that will keep our children safe and under our watchful eyes, I know it is worth it. When I realize that this will be the very last time that all the kids in this class will be together before going off into the wider world, I know it is worth it. When I see the look of wonderment on the faces of our usually jaded teenagers, I know it is worth it. 

It is worth every single penny that was raised, donated, haggled over and spent. It is the last thing that we parents do together for our children, the event we have been waiting 13 years to help create, an event that we had hoped, somehow, would stay somewhere off in the future and never really arrive. 

Layout Notes


The story of this event in on the card in the pocket just under the title.

Supplies: cardstock - Recollections, Paper Company; chipboard letters - Pressed Petals; paint - Ranger Paint dabers, Viva Paint Pen; ribbons slides - Making Memories; glitter - Ranger Stickles; marker - Micron; other - invitation, journal ad; tape - Queen and Company.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On the Side of Living

Eiffel Tower
If you look very closely at this photograph, you will see from the cars that it was not taken recently or even anytime in this millenia. In fact, this picture dates back forty years to my childhood when I had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.

I had the pleasure of going to France when I was thirteen.  Without my parents, but with my friends and my favorite teacher.

In the sixth grade, I started studying French. My teacher was a French native whose name, Mr. Dupuis, was quite simply the most perfect name for a language teacher that I could imagine. He was the curmudgeonly type, growling at our horrible accents and terrible memories, but he had his moments.  That first year, he collected popsicle sticks from the students at recess (we could buy frozen confectionary treats in a store run by the eighth graders) and took the entire school year to build an Eiffel Tower. The next year, he built a guillotine and even added a little piece of copper for the blade. He used to threaten that he would cut off our tongues if our pronunciation did not improve.  Oddly enough, he did not return the next year.

That was where the eighth and ninth graders in my school got lucky. Mr. Dupuis was replaced by Miss Fitzgerald. She had plans. Big plans. She decided to put together a trip to France during spring vacation. I asked my parents to let me go. They cited the fact that my confirmation was to take place in the middle of the trip as the reason to say no. They argued that I could go always go the following year. I hardly ever asked my parents for anything, but I begged and pleaded and made a general nuisance of myself. They relented. Good thing, too, since there was never another trip. Another teacher took over the French program the following year.

Pont Neuf and Notre Dame Cathedrale - 1974
And so I went. We flew to France in April of 1974 with my French teacher, my wonderful and beloved homeroom teacher and my classmates. We saw all of Paris. We saw the chateaux of the Loire Valley. We saw the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy. We visited what I consider the most beautiful place on earth - Mont St. Michel. Each graduate from that particular school had to create what was called a copper plaque that was hung on the walls of the school. Mine hangs there still.  

This trip created a monster. I became someone who loved to travel. I became a francophile. I continued studying French through high school and into college. After graduating, a friend and I went to England, Ireland and France, visiting all the places I did not see in 1974. I have been back with my husband, three times. I bought a pair of shoes that last time in 1996 without uttering a single word in English. I have them still.

Mont St. Michel - 1974
It has been more than 17 years since I last saw Paris. I miss my favorite place on this planet.

Let me digress. I sing with a regional chorus here in northern New Jersey.  In 1989, we went on a horrible cut-rate tour of Italy that was absolutely awesome. Thereafter, children came along and those wonderful trips were no longer a possibility. In the last twelve years, members of my chorus have gone on tours of Prague, the Czech Republic, Austria, China and Australia - twice. I stayed home, seething with jealousy because I could not visit places I had yet to explore.

This summer - in just six weeks - the chorus venturing off on a tour of my beloved France. My children are now 18 and 20. They really do not need me for much of anything anymore except car keys and cash. So, I have been brushing up on my rusty French, buying black clothes and comfortable sandals, airing out the luggage and making plans. I am going back to France. One woman from that fateful trip to Italy is coming as well. We will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that trip (and of my 29th birthday) in Rouen, France.

Vivre-Live (Art Journal Page)
Many years ago, my mother gave me a fairly plain silver bangle bracelet. Engraved on this bracelet are the words, "Il faut vivre and non pas seulement exister."  We must live and not merely exist. I am definitely in favor of living.

And that bracelet is coming with me to France. I plan on wearing it - every day.

Art Journal Page Notes

I created this page in anticipation of the trip to France coming in July in my Smash/Art Journal.

Supplies: Smash Book - EK Success; paint - Plaid, Ranger Paint Dabbers, Liquitex Acrylic Color; ink - Ranger Archival Ink, Ranger Distress Ink; embossing powder - Ranger, Sparkle and Sprinkle; stencils - Simon Says Stamp, Stampers Anonymous, unknown; modeling paste - Liquitex Basics, Dreamweaver Translucent Emobssing Paste; letter stamps - My Sentiments Exactly; stamps - Stampers Anonymous/Tim Holtz, unknown (Paris postmark, fleur-de-lis); mica pieces - unknown; images - downloaded from the internet (altered in Photoshop).