Color Kissed

Fuckin' Juice

I love finding great supplies for art-making.  I’ve stopped being a complete raven, bringing home all the shiny bits and bobs that make me squeal (or caw, if we keep the metaphor).  Now I look specifically for flatter objects and materials—all kinds of paper, fabric, seed beads, flat charms and too-dads.

What I love most are fibers and ribbons.  I order a lot of specialty ribbon and fibers from Flights of Fancy, but my all-time favorite source for ribbon and silk cord is the Etsy shop, Color Kissed Silk.  Tammy always helps me find exactly what I need—or makes makes special arrangements for me.  Because all the ribbons are hand-dyed, nothing in stock stays in stock.  It just morphs into an even more delicious combination of colors.

Solstice 2014A couple of weeks ago, the design for my 2015 holiday card came to me (I love when that happens).  I started ordering my supplies—card stock from Stampin’Up (because their paper is rich, heavier weight, and worth the money), metallic paint spray from Lindy’s (for my required level of grunge and mess), and ribbons from Tammy.

It’s a simple card (not like last year’s major production), but I expect to make about 100 cards this year.  The list of people I love and admire keeps growing, which is only as it should be.  Making my Solstice cards is Christmas for me—sending out all that attention, beauty and love into the world.  Ahh.

Anyway, I told Tammy I needed yardage this year.  And like always, she had everything I needed.  I also planned on making a lot of cards between now and ArtFest in March (I hope to be part of the Artists’ Fair and show off a little), so I ordered a gob of new ribbon and silk cord.  When my order arrived on Saturday, I went into beauty overload.  For two days, I played with my ribbons, laying them out, sorting, figuring out a new way to store them so I can see and feel them all as I pull a card together.  Aren’t they gorgeous?



Old FavoritesAs I sorted my old stuff in with the new, I found snippets of silk cord that Tammy doesn’t make anymore.  I kept them to remind me to ask if she had any of these old colors stuffed in a drawer somewhere, but always forgot.  So I contacted her yesterday to find out.  Here’s what she said:

I have a bag of scraps. I don’t know what is what … I don’t have any of the originals to compare so I can’t identify any of them… I will send it to you and you may find some use for this mess…  keep in mind this is just end pieces thrown in a bucket so they are not at all organized, labeled , or pressed…..I am not even sure what length they are… Put it to use if you can… they will go out tomorrow.

Holy Jackpot, Batman!  I asked what she wanted in the way of payment.

Nothing, they are just scraps… that I should have thrown away long ago, not sure why I ever kept them…

Oh, I know why.  It’s called Synchronisity.  And Abundance.  And the fact that the Universe abhors a void, so while its taken away my compulsive eating, my Beauty Glutton still gets to binge on a Bucket of Ribbons!

Somedays, it’s really good to be on An Adventure.

Chop Sticks

Uncover in the Mess

I am playing the violin, that’s all I know, nothing else, no education, no nothing.  You just practice every day.—Itzhak Perlman

Changing behavior.  That’s the Work in front of me these days.  How do I pull the power plug from my life-long companion, Compulsive Eating and her little sister Compulsive Spending?  How do I change personally destructive behaviors that have actually served me by easing the emotional turbulence of bipolar disorder?

The short answer is slowly.  With lots of help from my therapist.

It’s a painful process, waking up.  And that’s basically what’s called for in changing behavior.  The whole point of compulsive eating and spending is to go to sleep, to numb the pain and shut down the barbed, twisted thinking.  Nothing hurts when you’re unconscious.  But, nothing changes, either.

I’ve always believed the path to change and to a healthier life was through mindfulness.  I’ve tried my best to raise my consciousness and to pay attention.  But these two compulsive behaviors have been stronger than me for a long time.  I knew I needed help, and more than what I found in meditation and self-help books.  Once my therapist and I decided to focus our attention here, I felt real hope for the first time.

Scales and FingeringWe work in baby steps, and in a spirit of Practice.  It’s a lot like when I learned to play the piano.  I do my drills every day.  I play my simple pieces, missing notes and flubbing the rhythm.  I get frustrated and have little tantrums.  I rebel and skip practice, then have to spend extra time at the keyboard the next day.

We watch and pay attention to what happens.  My moods flop around and my thinking strangles itself in convoluted knots.  Then, that all evens out for a day or two before starting in again.  It’s hard to choose to stay awake through all of it.  It’s painful.  It’s humiliating.  It’s ugly.  Megan reminds me that this is practice.  Every small success is just that.  And every fall back into old behavior is just that.  Perfection and failure are not words we use.

What seems to help is to stay busy with projects, especially creative work.  I’ve long understood the connection between watching TV and overeating, so anything that can keep me away from that is helpful.  Playing with my junk and pretties fosters joy and a sense of mastery.  I can use a little of that right now.

To point me in a positive direction, I decided to make something out of gratitude.  And what do I have the hardest time being grateful for?  People.  What better target for this project than the people who brighten my days with small gifts of kindness—the baristas at my Starbucks, the grill cook at the cafe who makes my toast, the group at my UU fellowship who sponsored my Peer Support training, the friends who consistently schedule time to be with me, the virtual friends who lift me with their words and images, the actors and actresses who sit in the dark with me when I’m at my worst.

Blessing CardI sat at my table, creating little Blessing cards, holding each face in my mind, generating positive juju.  I decided to purposely use up a lot of my favorite materials—an antique German prayer book, purple card stock and ribbon that are no longer available,  fibers from a company that went out of business.  I used my favorite things to prove to myself that I have all I need.  Plenty and more.

I ended up making more cards than I needed.  I could have sent them to a lot more people—the folks on the fringes of my life—but I decided to trust my first take on the purpose of this project.  To keep it simple and immediate.  So, I put the rest of the cards in my Etsy shop.  Maybe someone else can use them.

And while I worked on this project, I kept my budget and lost 7 pounds.

Okay.  That’s lovely.  Now.  Back to the keyboard.


Finally, the Answer

For the last six weeks, I’ve been hearing the dreaded question—What can I do to help?—many times a day from the blog-o-sphere, from cards and letters, in phone conversations, and in face-to-face connections.  Usually, I have no answer, or the answer I give leaves folks frustrated and itchy for a better answer.  Finally, I think I’ve got it.

My blog accepts donations.

I added a Paypal donation button to my sidebar.  As I’ve said, pride is dead here in Sandy Sue Studios.  Since my strict, German/Irish work ethic of putting my head down and slogging no longer functions, other options must be considered.  This is one.

A New Venture

collage art, handmade cardsToday I opened my Etsy Shop—Sandy Sue Altered.  It took about two days to list the cards I have in stock and figure out the system  (If you can blog, you can certainly set up an Etsy shop).  It cost about $13 for the listing fees and to have Etsy handle credit card orders, which seems wonderfully cheap.  I think I’ve covered everything, but who knows—there may be surprises ahead.

I have zero expectations.  No delusions of becoming the Bill Gates of collage art handmade cards.  But, it feels like I have to take some kind of action to get the Universe’s attention.  Hey!  Buddy!  Throw a little moola in this direction!

Please stop by and look around.  If you’ve liked the artwork I’ve used in these posts, you’ll probably enjoy yourself.  Let me know what you think.

Amazed in Blogland

Yesterday was a first for me.  Someone reblogged my post to their own blog.  I didn’t know whether to be flattered or run to the teacher and tattle.  So, I zipped over to this rapscallion’s site to see what was going on.

Well, for Heaven’s Sake.  Ian Reese is from Mumbles, South Wales.  I could not have made that up on my best writing day.  His motto is Nid bod ond byw, which is Welsh for Not existing, but living.

The more I explored his blog(s), the more perplexed I became.  This young man writes mostly thoughtful political commentary about what’s going on in Britain, or posts wonderful photography.  How the heck did my little post on searching for the ultimate coffee shop fit his gestalt?  And how in the world did he find me in the first place?

Sometimes this blogging business feels like the ultimate in serendipity.  Social Media meets the Laws of Attraction and Karma.  You get what you put out into the world.  What goes around, comes around.  Toss a bit of your soul into the vasty, cyber seas and it comes back in a bottle made of diamonds.

The people I’ve met by keeping this public journal are deep and wide, soulful, striving, loving human beings who shock my socks off every single day.  Even old friends and members of my family reveal parts of themselves here that are surprising and tender.  What a miracle to connect with such beauty!  What a miracle to be found, stumbled over in the electronic dark, by minds and hearts so open and giving.

Ian, if you’re out there, buddy, I thank you for this amazing gift.  And I promise to keep on living, not just existing.

A Gratitude Journal Page on Thanksgiving

Cultivating a thankful attitude can be a challenge with bipolar disorder.  The illness tends to shun the finer energies of love, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance for the heaviest emotions.  It twists truth into lies and reality into gruesome Grimm fairy tales. It takes vigilance to recognize The Dark Voice inside one’s mind, courage to reject the falsehoods it whispers, and superhero strength to open the mind to Light and Life instead.  It takes hard work to foster gratitude.

This Thanksgiving, however, I’m finding it easy to be grateful.  I may be uncomfortable and limited from my recent surgery, but the tumor the surgeon removed was benign, and I can look forward to healing completely.  This holiday season comes so soon after my dad’s death that the rest of the family still orbits the gravity well he occupied.  I’m so thankful that we can talk about him without awkwardness, that we can experiment with new rituals to see what might hold meaning for us now, and that we love and support each other as we hold Dad’s absence gently.

These are big blessings in gratitude.  But, I find I’m even more thankful for the moments of grace that dot my bipolar existence.  The sudden release of depression’s grip, an easing of anxiety, the way my thoughts untwist like a coiled rope let loose, a deep breath that tilts my head up to see the stars.  Like the illness itself, these gentle turns come without warning and in spite of anything I might do.  I don’t earn these moments.  They are Grace’s gift, a Mystery.  I can only lift my face to the sun and say, Thank You.

Feeding the Magpie

To keep myself entertained while I heal from surgery, I thought I’d use some of the images I’ve gleaned from magazines to make a new batch of cards.

I’ve cut out stuff all my life—pictures, maps, headlines, graphics.  Like a magpie, I’m attracted to shiny bits and faces.  I remember keeping a folder or envelope full of paper scraps as far back as fourth grade.  And, yes, I still have some of those gleans.

I used to hold on tight to my collections, not wanting to use up the precious friends I’d gathered around me.  But, these days I use what I collect.  This past spring I finally made a collage of the Spock/Leonard Nimoy images I’d been hoarding since I was eleven.  It felt wonderful to finally put those pieces together and create something new and meaningful to me.

My philosophy on hoarding has changed completely over the past few years.  I buy something at a garage sale because I intend to use it, not keep it in a pretty dish.  Why not use the best, the funniest, the cleverest bits I have to make the best pieces I can?  What’s the point in holding on to primo material if it just sits in a folder?  Plus, the more great stuff I use, the more great stuff I can collect to take its place.  The Law of Abundance, baby.

Digging through my junk and the thousands of words and images I’ve clipped makes me very happy—like running my fingers through gold coins.  So, while I’m laid up, I can cackle to my heart’s content and spin those treasures into art.  Here are a few of the cards I’ve made to keep my magpie happy while I heal.

Point of View

Ah, Autumn!  Cooler nights, crisper air, and the first bout of lung crud of the season.

I’ve decided I must have allergies the way this stuff sticks to me—the barking cough, the abundance of eye-grit, the little fever that comes and goes, the way everything between eyebrows and belly feels too raw, too open and too thick.

I moaned about it last night while I watched Drop Dead Diva (DVRed for my convenience).  Here we go again, another winter full of snot and feeling like roadkill.  But, this morning I got up and rearranged my bedroom, cleaned and dusted and put it to rights.  I set up a new little area using a dining room chair, a purple batiked table cloth, my CPAP machine, and a gorgeous print of the Spocks (Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto) my friend Deb gave me.  It’s in the Wealth corner of my apartment, Feng Shui-wise, so I’m bringing in an abundance of healthy breathing.  Either that or pointer ears.

Oh, I barked the whole time and sweat like a little piggy, but there’s something about cleaning and rearranging that offers possibility and potential.  Turning my bed around will give me a whole new perspective and my cats a different view out the window.  Being sick, or depressed, or manic is much in the eye of the beholder.  If we can change our perspective, we change our experience.  And if we can change our experience, we’re free.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 28

When my car sputtered its last breath in February, my parents generously offered me the use of their truck—a 1999 Ford F-150 with an extended cab and topper.  I’m not used to driving such a behemoth, and regularly jump curbs, but it’s a reliable vehicle, we got thanks to the used car dealership.  The only thing it needed since last winter was an oil change, which seems amazing for a twelve-year-old truck, and a true gift considering the endless repairs my old car required.  It’s a gas-guzzler, as my dad warned me, and to fill it up would have cost me over $75 this summer.  But a full tank of gas can last me a couple of weeks.

I’m grateful to my parents for the long-term loaner, and grateful to still have the independence a vehicle gives me.  I’m saving my pennies, and some day (I figure when I’m around 60), I’ll buy a new Toyota Rav4—my Once and Future car.  In the meantime, I’ll be taking real good care of the Ford.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 15

Since I kill anything I stick in the dirt, I appreciate the gorgeous gardens I see all around me.  Flowers, vegetables, rocks, grasses, bushes, trees, landscaping (especially in Culpeper, since it is so nostalgic for me) or wild abandon, the variety awes me.  There’s something magic in running across a blaze of color on the street, or finding a hidden patch of tranquility tucked around a corner.  I appreciate the hard work and expense of those patches of beauty, the goofy doo-dads and statues stuck amongst the greenery, and the way they gather in the wildlife.  Seeing other people’s gardens always makes me take a deeper breath and release whatever tension I’m carrying around.  What a gift—right out there for anyone who happens by.

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