Friday, October 31, 2014

Time and Trees


Last Wednesday I took off, alone, to Ohio to visit my grandmother and other family. We usually travel as a family, but I wanted to go longer than a weekend considering the seven hour drive and work and school schedules for everyone just wouldn't allow for a family trip this time.
     We moved a lot when I was a child, and my parents have changed houses and home towns in my adult life, so Grandma's house is the closest thing I have left of a childhood home that is still tangible to me in a physical sense. It is always heartwarming and nostalgic to go there. Memories and long standing routines flood me at every turn. By not having any other responsibilities other than myself, I was able to spend some one on one time with my grandma doing the things we always do. Additionally, I was able to just look around and really see the place I spent so much time as a child. 
     Grandma is usually up before the rest of us and I generally find her reading in the 'new' living room, which predates my existence on this earth. There is never a paragraph or chapter to finish first. She simply places her bookmark in the book and we start our day with a hug. I don't think I've ever spent a night there where the morning hug didn't occur. Then we have coffee and breakfast. Even if she's already eaten she sits at the table with me. In recent years she's adjusted to the idea that we make our own breakfasts but she still asks if she can make me anything special. 
     The rest of our days are simple and easy:  talking, playing cards, running an errand or two, planning meals, watching the news and the game shows, reading, visiting with other family members who come in and out, sitting on the front porch. I occasionally go out and do my own thing for a few hours but I'm never gone from her very long. 
      The conversations are loud so Grandma can hear and filled with a bit of repetition that naturally occurs with the older folks. We talk about the past and what family members are up to. We talk about Grandpa. His absence is the proverbial elephant in the room and has been for nine years. It isn't the same for me without him there but I often feel his presence. Talking about him keeps him alive between us. 
     We usually play any number of games of Rummy 500. We all play Rummy 500 with Grandma. The whole family puts in their Rummy time. It is one of my favorite things to do with her. She's good, really good, and taught us all the game when we were kids. The lessons were hard because you learned to lose gracefully, because you did lose...often. Grandma never let you win because you were a kid. If you won, you always knew, and still know, you earned it 100% on your own. Once when I stayed for a week helping her when she hurt her knee I think we played 25 games. We tied at 12-12...and played that last game way past her 830 bedtime in order to not end up even. I don't remember now who won that last game, but the competitiveness and concentration rivaled the final rounds of the World Poker Tournament.
     All these routines of a visit settle against a backdrop of a house and property that has seen 64 years of evolution. The home's only inhabitants were my grandparents and all of us. The scissors are still in the same drawer they were ever since Grandpa put the new kitchen in place when I was very young. I can always find a pair of nail clippers, the Oreos, and the bottle of bourbon.
     I still remember the old kitchen, straight out of the 1950s with its pink walls and blue and red tiles. I still picture it sometimes when we sit at the dining room table, because to this day it seems odd to sit there. We always sat at the kitchen table before the new kitchen.
     I took a walk around the property on Thursday, a most perfect fall day,  and took some photos of trees and flowering shrubs. It gave me pause to think how the trees have grown over the years and I no longer felt like a little girl as I always do when I'm there. I felt every year of my almost 41, especially when I stopped to remember distinctly trees that used to stand but have long ago been cut down. Very few things can illustrate the passage of time like the size of trees on a familiar landscape. My mind's eye always seems to fill in the missing items when observing the property.
     One tree in particular was so large that we always feared it would come down in a storm and destroy the house. My grandma retold of the day my grandpa leaned against that massive tree and it moved. They had it taken down shortly after and was rotten in the middle.
     In the front yard stands a tree about 30 feet from the road. I stayed there in summers for extended visits when I was young and Grandpa still worked. He took part in a carpool to the office. I would spend my days with Grandma watching the stories on TV, hanging laundry on the line, playing cards when I was old enough, and she'd start supper in the late afternoon. Around the time it was getting close to him being home, she'd let me sit under that big tree by the road and watch for his carpool. As soon as I saw the big red four door truck, I'd jump up. He'd get out at the end of the driveway and we'd walk up to the house together.  I still see myself under that tree every time I'm there. My mother used to do the same thing.
     As Grandma and I sat on the front porch the last evening I was there we talked about the trees. She relayed when they were planted, when some were taken down, and how the place had changed over the years. I thought about the changes not just to the trees, but to the entire place. A ten point buck leaped across the road and through the yard into the neighbor's back yard. We were both awestruck and speechless. When she went inside shortly after, I closed my eyes for a few moments to recall the sounds I used to hear, what I still hear if I listen. In general it is so very quiet compared to when I spent time here growing up.
     The buzz of activity the garage once hosted and the normal household routine of keeping up with kids and grandkids is present in my memories and again my mind fills in the details. I see Grandma's beautiful annual flowers in the flower bed which is now a concrete patio, rarely used. The garage, closed usually, is always open in my mind with the hum of the air compressor and the clanking of tools in the background. On the quiet front porch I hear laughter of family and friends with the occasional 'pop' of a soda or beer bottle. The kids are riding their bikes up and down the driveway or playing ball in the front yard. It's all there and always will be.
     It cannot be denied that the time there is limited now and that is an incredibly difficult inevitability. Grandma is a pretty healthy 91, but still 91. I still see her as 60ish...I don't know what's going to happen to this place when she's gone, but I'm happy she is still able to live in her home and has the support of nearby family to make that happen. I wonder if, in her quiet days spent there, her mind also completes the scene in a similar way mine does and it gives her the same peace it brings me. I hope so.
     We are approaching the season of thanks, and I'm so grateful to have this place that has served as a second home to me all these years and that I can still experience it hands on. I have so many places I've called home and like the trees that have come and gone here over time and left seedlings or roots behind, there are pieces and parts of me that live on everywhere I've been.
    I felt called this past weekend to slow down, observe, look, and feel the place that has always been special to me. It is very much a part of me as are the people that are part of the mental picture I paint of it, and I'm ever thankful I am a part of it as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

 The beautiful fall explosion of color in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

We took a drive roughly 30 miles along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park today. The difference from just two weeks ago is unreal in terms of the color. This is my favorite time of year here, but truthfully, the mountains make it pretty all year long.

Shenandoah River serpentines through the valley.

Texture on the ground...liked the mix of green grass, pine needles, and multiple leaf colors. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Sketch Challenge

The internet is a beautiful thing. I'm amazed how much is out there to inspire. The hardest part about card making, scrapbooking, or really, any paper craft is the layout, especially when you've not been in the habit of creating things. Eventually your own vision takes over and you come up with layouts on your own, but for now, wow it's making things just happen. Sketches have long been a springboard for creativity. It's like a puzzle you assemble, but you make up your own pieces. I came across Freshly Made Sketches Blog yesterday so decided to play along with this week's sketch.
The stamps are from The Stamps of Life, Branches4Flowers and the patterned paper is from Basic Gray, Green at Heart paper stack.

Rainy days

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there really is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." -John Ruskin     

I often stand in this spot with my morning coffee. Some mornings, when I'm up early enough or season is right, I catch the sunrise over what we call in the neighborhood, "Mt. Wakeland". It's a man made berm with trees between two phases of our planned suburban community. Not at all a mountain by local standards, but it's all we've got in our back yards. The back of our house faces several other homes, and toward the east and the sunrises are usually beautiful. Today, I just look at the mud that remains from a patio installation (ahem, reinstallation) this summer, the withering remains of a cherry tomato plant among other hodge podge plant items, the patio furniture that needs to just go, and the soon to be minor stream that will present itself in the corner of the yard. I also remember that the cleaning people came on Monday and by days end their work on my kitchen tile will be for nothing what with the dogs' paws tracking the gunk inside. 
     Fall has descended on the Shenandoah Valley and daily the palette of color changes around us.   It is by far my favorite season here and one of the reasons I immediately fell in love with this area when we moved four years ago.
     Today, it's a dreary gray color with steady falling rain. Too much rain. This is the type of day that I always think of my grandmother, Adele. I often call her on days like this, thankful I still can, but a week from today I'll be visiting with her, so I forego the call. When I was little these were the days that the electric bill be damned, every light in her house was on. I sometimes do this myself to brighten things up a bit, to attempt to ignore the blah.
     Today though I'm just listening to the steady drip drop on the siding and windows and enjoy the peace it brings. I notice how green the grass still is and has remained most of the mild summer. I like green. I hear the occasional starting of the sump pump in the basement, which is music to the ears. I process through some emails, look at some creative stuff online, pay a few bills, pour another cup of coffee, and get ready to tackle the mess I created for myself in my guest room when I moved furniture to the den for my craft stuff. Kent's parents are coming Friday, and the current state of the guest room is well, not conducive to guests.
     I could complain about the rain, but why? It's just another kind of good weather.
Edited: Guest room put back together. I'm glad to have comfort in the fact that my normal rotation of house  guests don't really care too much if there's a few things lying around or things are put in the closet out of sight. It's tidy and functional. 😄

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Christmas motivation

For the nearly 4 years since we moved to Virginia from Indiana I had my craft area set up in the basement. It's unfinished so I really had as much space as I wanted or needed. The problem is my previous space in Indiana was full of light and in a more public area of the house. This led to many harmonious hours of creative time without having to hide away from the family in the dark.
I would go downstairs here and there and try to focus and get some things done, but it just never felt right. I've also spent a lot of time the last few years getting healthy, eating right, exercising, reading, etc. I've also gotten away from the cards and paper stuff and into more art journaling and painting...sort of spread my wings a bit. I definitely need the creative outlet though, and always have felt more in balance when I'm doing something with the fun supplies I've hoarded  accumulated over the last 12ish years. 

Last week I made a plan to move my supplies to our office/den right off the family room.  This meant resolving myself to the idea that the dogs' kennels would need to be in an unused area of our formal dining room...they can move the one time a year we actually use that room. It's been a good move thus far. I'm finding I feel like creating again. And that's a good thing for me. 

I've reconnected with Splitcoaststampers and found lots of inspiration and some challenges that are helping me get back my creative vibe. It's overwhelming to look at the vast selection of images I have on hand to work with so I'm focusing on one or two companies which seem to speak to me right now. 

I remember from before that I am more motivated when I have a goal or a purpose in my work. So, with the Christmas season coming up, I may 'practice' a bit with images that I can send out the door when the time comes. Used to be I'd make duplicate cards, one to keep, one to send, but thanks to digital more. The majority of what I'll be making will be given to someone. Lucky friends and family! 

About this card: Stamps are from The Stamps of Life, set is Holly4Christmas. Papers are from The Paper Studio Old World Winter pack.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lovely as a tree.... always a classic.

A male friend had an accident a couple weeks ago. I wanted to do something nice for him and his wife as they welcome us to their home always, and I value their friendship a great deal. It is always a challenge to come up with a masculine card for a guy. Well Lovely as a Tree, Stampin Up! is a classic choice. It always works. I used some patterned paper I had in my stash, and coordinating solid papers and inks. The image is stamped on glossy paper. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Daughter is 14....and likes owls.

This week I brought all my fun creative things upstairs from the basement to the den right off the family room. In the process I found a lot of unused things from The Stamps of Life. My daughter loves owls right now, and her birthday is tomorrow, so it was logical to come up with something in her favorite colors of pink and green. The set is called Owls2Love, it's from a couple years ago. She loved it! I know it's typical to be specific as to what was used in these things, but I have so much stuff that I am trying to use through, I have no idea where most of my things came from. I'll do my best to describe. 


     Some of you may be returning because I let you know I was restarting this blog thingy. While the name is the same, none of the old content is here because, well, it's old content. If you are really that interested, I can figure out how to grant you private access to the old blog. I read through it last night and this morning and it was some good stuff, but I just couldn't click the button to reactivate it and editing things that were very out of date was too daunting.
     I shut it down several years ago because I just felt too 'out there'. Social media has evolved to such a degree that it seems like you always have a window into your life and something had to go. I'm a different person now, in a different place in my life, with different things to share and the purpose of restarting the blog is to, well, restart.
     For those of you who are new, welcome. Originally I blogged to share my paper crafting (cards, scrapbooking, etc) with the folks I interacted with in that circle, and EVERYONE had a blog. I still interact with a few of them and I hope they visit again. I plan to do a little of that again, plus photography, writing, etc.
     Over time, the 'Old' Watercolor Garden evolved into a place where I could discuss the random stuff that went through my mind and satisfy that writers urge. Facebook became the preferred method of sharing randomness, but it and other social media are just not fulfilling something inside me that I'm needing right now...I guess I need to flesh things out more. I don't know...We'll see where this ends up...