Monday, July 30, 2012

Little book on a long journey.

In my summer efforts to clean the apartment, I bought these cute plastic containers from Target to contain notes, letters, and cards that were previously held in mismatched shoeboxes. While these do look more uniform, I am regretting their see-through nature. Oh well. As I transferred the contents from shoebox to plastic box, I tried to recycle what I could... envelopes, cards that were only signed (no note or personalization), anything that I didn't feel sentimental about. Needless to say, the "to recycle" pile was pretty small. At least I tried?

A bunch of gift card holders and envelopes were part of the discard pile, but as I was about to recycle them, it occurred to me that I should make a little upcycled book. So I did, using a basic pamphlet stitch.



Pockets in the back, just like a Moleskin.


Little Book, may you be covered in paint and collage and words and love.

I know you will be in good hands with a friend on the left coast. Au revoir, Little Book!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Digication vacation.

As August approaches, it's time for me to start to get my head (back) in the game. Cue High School Musical reference:

At the close of the 2011-2012 school year, I was required to submit a digital portfolio for review. We were given the freedom to use whatever method of creating it that felt comfortable -- you could make a PowerPoint, a Flipchart (via ActivInspire), a Prezi, even a Microsoft Word document. I decided to create and submit a Digication e-portfolio. In grad school, we were required to create a Digication site in order to apply for the Patricia Lion Krongard Award, given every year to an outstanding graduate from MICA's MAT program. While I did not win (but hey! I was a finalist!), I did create a very professional-looking digital portfolio that I could share with prospective principals when I was interviewing, in addition to a hard-copy, physical portfolio in a binder. You can check out that first Digication e-portfolio here.

So what is Digication? It is:

  • A user-friendly portfolio-building website aimed at students and educators
  • Free to those who have an NAEA membership!

If you're interested in starting one and you have an NAEA membership, go to, click on "create an e-portfolio". I'm not tech-savvy whatsoever, and I found that using this platform was self-explanatory and simple to use. Sometimes the text-formatting is a little clunky and your design options are limited, but other than that, I've found that it's an easy, attractive, uniform way to present your work as a teaching artist.

While I completed my current Digication enough so that it could be submitted to my principal / assistant principal for review, it's not as thorough or filled out as I would like. Ultimately, I'd like for it to double as my school's art website (the art department doesn't have a link on my school's website). Time to put an end to my Digication vacation!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rest for the weary at Wrightsville.

N. and I just returned from our summer vacation in Wrightsville Beach / Wilmington, North Carolina. We've gone with my family for several summers now, and I've been going with the fam (when I could) since about sixth or seventh grade so maybe... since 1996 or 1997? I truly wish I could post photos dating back that far! Alas, they are at my parent's house. Anyway, we love it down there. In fact, we love it so so much that we opted to get our professional engagement photos taken in downtown, historic Wilmington by the wonderful husband-wife duo, Amanda and Brent, of Millie Holloman Photography. They were truly a joy to work with-- smart, funny, sweet, laid-back-- and I CANNOT WAIT to see the edited photos! They'll be ready in four to six weeks. No need to rush the summer, but seriously. Can. Not. Wait.

The group of people who we have vacationed with has waxed and waned over the years. We discovered Wrightsville through my mom's godparents. Originally from Michigan (where my mom is from as well), they retired in North Carolina, a few hours away from the beach and brought it to our attention. We vacationed there with them one summer, and never really looked back. Living in Maryland we have some wonderful beaches nearby, but nothing quite as picturesque or relaxing as we have come to find the Coastal Carolina and the Inner Banks area (not to be confused with the Outer Banks... also nice, but not the same thing). Since those first summers with my mom's godparents, who have since passed or become too elderly, we have hosted my grandpa and his girlfriend, my aunt, uncle, and cousins, and friends. My brother has since lost interest in the trip, my relatives live in Michigan and have made the trip inconsistently, so for the past two years it has just been me, N., and my parents. We're hoping that Summer 2013 ushers in a new Wrightsville Beach era... everyone seems to be on board for a melding of my parents, my fiance and his parents, and his sis and her hubby! SO looking forward to it!

The highlights of this year included:

  • Officially closing the chapter on teenage / early twenties sleep habits. N. was up every day at 6:15am to join my father for tennis. I was up at the same time every day, with the exception of one (it was the day of the photo shoot... wanted to look as well-rested as possible in those evening photos!), and also joined in for (horribly inept) tennis-playing. It felt surprisingly good to rise with sun-- that way we felt like we weren't taking a single minute for granted. And watching the sunrise over the ocean is definitely an added bonus :)
  • Okay, I've already mentioned it once, but-- the photo shoot. Before the shoot, I had an amazing experience at Salon Fringe, also in Wilmington. I was in the sweet, capable hands of Melissa Kinnamon, who coincidentally knows Amanda and Brent, our photographers. Her husband actually surprised her with an anniversary photo shoot last year. It was so cool talking to her about that shoot before I was about to have ours. I requested a cat eye, a bright red lip, and a side-swept curly-messy bun, which she was so into because... take a look at their retro-inspired shoot aboard the USS North Carolina! So beautiful, romantic, and cool. I wish I could (affordably) have her come up north to do my hair and makeup for the wedding. If only!
  • As always, beach time with my baby. And we barely got burnt this year!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer reading.

"The world can be a horrible place at times, but we don’t have to participate in this, we don’t have to harden our hearts as we’re taught and told to do, in order to survive or be sexy or attractive lovers or perfect parents or interesting people. We do not have to make ourselves into mysterious gifts, waiting to be chosen or read or understood by those who will earn us, unwrap our secrets, and then what? We can be something more authentic, and speak from a different place, a different planet. This is why I like being a writer, because what it demands is both simple and incredibly hard. To be a human being. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Why don’t we allow for mess? Why are we so afraid of it? What do we expect from the veils we pull down over our eyes, our minds, our hearts? How can we possibly connect if we never let people see what we truly are and what it would take to make us free? Now, when I can’t fake a single emotion I don’t feel (or at least not for long), I wonder how I’ve lived this long being any other way. Maybe it’s that I haven’t really been living, and that now I am like Adam, like Eve, my feet still wet from being newly created, awkwardly learning how to walk on dry land." 
--Emily Rapp, from Someone to hold me, complete article online at Salon

Where she writes, "This is why I like being a writer...", I feel like you can replace the word 'writer' with  'artist'. To simply be a messy human being is so hard. I know I'm afraid of it, I know that I wrap myself in veils. I also know that art helps me to deal with the mess, helps me to literally make messes, and throw back the barriers. But it's always a work in progress.

Emily Rapp writes powerfully about her experience of having her leg amputated at the age of four due to a congenital defect in her book Poster Child: A Memoir. I actually just recently purged this book from my collection. There are many books I hold on to, but there are some, particularly memoirs, that I think serve a greater purpose than sitting on my shelf and are meant to go back out into the world. This is one of them.

These days she blogs at Little Seal: Ronan's Blog about the inevitable death of her son who was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs. Check it out for some hard, beautiful stuff.

For me, summer reading is not about easy, beachy books, thick water-logged paperbacks with dogeared corners. As a creative writing minor, I tend to take my time spent with books very seriously, summertime or not. That doesn't mean I only read stuff with serious content (I love me some David Sedaris, for example), but for the most part, I only do read "serious" literature, ie: no Hunger Games or Twilight for me, thank you very much (my nose is way, way unapologetically up in the air).

There are two exceptions I can think of: 1) children's books, 2) with N.'s encouragement I am reading A Song of Fire and Ice series, otherwise known as Game of Thrones, popularized by HBO's... Game of Thrones. To say that Nate is obsessed is an understatement. He simultaneously discovered and watched the entire first season one hungover day after law school finals, and from that point on he was hooked. He devoured the entire book series in a matter of months (on top of law school workload), and not only anxiously awaits HBO's Season Three, but the author, George R.R. Martin, is working on the sixth book in the series, which is also highly anticipated in the our little household (mostly on the N. end of things, though :). So I am plodding along through the first book, aptly called, you guessed it, A Game of Thrones.

The book is by no means poorly written. I just have some personal problems that are slowing me down.

1) I know what happens. I've watched all of Season One. Yes, HBO made changes and yes, reading the author's intentions for his characters is a different, more illuminating experience. But HBO put pictures and ideas in my head, so now when I read it's a constant battle with comparison.

2) It's fantasy. I just can't take the genre seriously. I want to, for N.'s benefit, but I just can't.

3) George R.R. Martin's female characters can't escape the male gaze. And here's a picture of Martin to illuminate that thought:

"I know what women, er, my male readers want." --George R.R. Martin
When I'm not trying to get through A Game of Thrones, I am nearly finished with Susan Sontag's book of essays, On Photography. Classic, necessary, timeless text. Photography changed and alters everything for everyone everyday (let me qualify-- for Americans, at least). Your concept of how attractive you are does depend on how you photograph, no? And on and on and on. Reading it makes me feel very responsible on one hand, like I'm a good little art student, but then irresponsible on the other because I didn't do a single photography lesson with my students last year. Sorry, Susan. I'll get on that.

Sorry, Suze.
Next up? Towards the end of the school year someone left a bunch of adult classics in the lounge up for grabs. I'm not one to pass up free books, so of course I dug through the pile. I came up with a few good ones that I had always meant to read. One was The House on Mango Street, which I read shortly after snatching it up. I loved it. Written in a series of vignettes, it's the coming-of-age story of a Latina girl in Chicago. The prose was gorgeous and well-wrought and drifting off with Cisneros' words in my head was a sweet way to greet sleep. I was skeptical because it has been required reading for some English classes in high school, but never for a class I was in. I distinctly remember everyone belly-aching about it, which made me question the text. Should have figured that sixteen year-old mob-mentality might not have had the best taste in literature...

I also pocketed Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which I will begin after I finish with A Game of Thrones and On Photography. The title alone is what has always intrigued me about this book, it's just so good, it stays with you. Goodbye American suburbs, Westeros, urban Chicago... I'll be off to Nigeria!

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Now that the school year is done, I can kick back and... clean the entire apartment. I spent the majority of my 4th thoroughly cleaning our bathroom. Even though our apartment is by no means large, we have a disproportionately large bathroom, complete with several sets of plastic drawers that we've put in there for extra storage, plus our tiny washer  / dryer unit.

With the exception of one summer between the ages of 18 and 26, I have moved every. Single. Summer. And thankfully, we're not moving this summer, wahoo! But one of the things that always frustrates me about moving is that you scrub down your entire home... only to leave it. Our last landlord was a jerk and was always implying that he thought we were trashing the place (which we obviously weren't). To spite him (and to ensure getting our security deposit back), I scrubbed every inch of that apartment until it shone. But instead of feeling vindicated, I just felt sad because I was never going to experience the joy of restocking the immaculate refrigerator that I spent two hours cleaning.

So this summer, room by room, I'm going to change that! Starting with the bathroom. Essentially did "moving-caliber" cleaning where I pulled everything out from all the shelves, drawers, dusted and sanitized every surface, purged old products, reorganized, and did all the little things you never do (often enough), like take down the shower caddy and scrub it, scrub your lint filter with an old toothbrush, dust all the baseboards, etc etc. It was a thrilling 4th for me! Heh. Note sarcasm.

Now it's time to tackle... the closet. I have a huge problem with letting go of... everything. Clothing, things, people... eh. So I am quite proud to say that after a thorough combing of my closet, I have found five tops and four skirts to give to the Good Will. This is big. This is major. I'm also keeping two simultaneous lists: 1) things to have tailored, 2) new outfit ideas. Now to tackle the under-bed boxes and the dresser drawers and hopefully double my Good Will pile. Wish me luck!

Good Will gifts.

As my list of to-tailor garments grows, I get a bit worried. These three pieces, all for upcoming weddings, are currently being worked on:

And while I love them all and want them to fit properly, my bill came to a little over $100! Oy.

Might be time for me to whip out my needle and thread and take some risks. Or solicit a local fibers major... hmm.

I digress. May my dresses return to me soon and let the purging continue!