Friday, July 30, 2010

Making Choices

If I’ve done this right, I have managed to pre-post this blog. That is, I wrote this ahead of time, uploaded it before I want it to appear online and programmed it to show up on a specific date. Since I’ll be gone for three weeks I asked my writing friend (a prolific author and internet whiz) how to pre-post. She responded almost immediately with easy-to-follow instructions. So now I can continue my tradition of blogging every Friday even when I don’t have internet access!

Last Saturday I went to a wedding. A co-worker got married, and several of us attended the ceremony at a local park. The day started out with a bang - literally. I woke up to thunderstorms crashing around. I felt so bad for the bride. I had never been to an outdoor wedding and rain is the worst nightmare. The weather forecast was for storms all day long. But fortunately, the rain stopped in time for the wedding. By that time the chairs had all been moved indoors, but the rustic atmosphere of the building was charming.

Later on my daughter served as my "date" to the reception at a great restaurant downtown. The food was phenomenal, the decor was beautiful and after a slow start, the dancing began. What a great time!

As an avid crafter, the thing that impressed me most about this wedding was the number of things the bride created herself. Each flower in her bouquet, as well as those carried by the bridesmaids and flower girls, was handmade from tissue - but they looked so real no one could tell without looking closely - REALLY closely. Look again at the picture above. Could you tell they were tissue flowers? All the table centerpieces were hand-painted and filled with pictures of Michigan lighthouses. Little rocks surrounding the centerpieces were each inscribed with a drawing or wedding-related word.

The invitations were designed and printed using a home computer. Cupcakes were served (I'm assuming they were baked by either the bride or the groom since they’re both culinary school graduates). A styrofoam cake (another example of the bride’s creativity) was on display for the traditional "cutting the cake" photo opportunity. Each guest received a jar of homemade jam provided by the bride's mother.

Weddings are expensive. There's no getting around the fact. We've already married off several children, so we know. But they don't have to be extravagant. This couple decided what was important to them, and made it happen by being smart. They put in time doing some things themselves so that they could afford to pay for other niceties.

I guess this is a life lesson we've all had to take heart from time to time. We cut back on some things so that we can have the things that are important to us. I'm here on a wonderful trip on the other side of the world because I did without some other non-essentials.

Now, if only some of our world leaders would take hold of that notion, we’d be in less trouble.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Next Great Adventure

I've lived long enough to have had lots of major milestones and turning points. I'm lucky in that the vast majority of them have turned out well for me. I had a good education, a great marriage, fantastic children, a challenging career, and now a busy retirement. And one of the benefits of being "retired" - I use the term loosely, since those of you who know me have seen that I'm busier than ever - is that I have the flexibility to travel. Since retiring from my full-time teaching job five years ago, I've been to London, Mexico, and Greece, as well as various attractions in the United States. And next Tuesday I leave for Japan.

I've been to Japan. I was actually born there, but since I was only a year old when we moved to America I have no memories of that time. I went with my mom twenty-five years ago, along with my toddler daughter. It was wonderful to introduce her to my grandmother. They had a great time playing together, and I had a good time with my cousins.

So now I'm going again. I'm excited. A little nervous, but mostly excited. This time I have a little bit of background. One, I've been there. Two, I've got two years of Japanese language instruction behind me. Three, the internet and travel guides have endless amounts of information and I can get answers to most questions with a few clicks of the mouse.

There are a few worries, of course. One, there's always a risk in traveling. Two, I'm going with mom again, and international travel can be a challenge when you're seventy-six years old. Three, though I can get the gist of a conversation in Japanese, I'm in no way fluent - and the kanji is still a mystery to me so I can't read signs (which makes me look like an idiot). And four, my daughter and her husband will join us - and they speak and read even less Japanese than I do!

Whenever I'm excited about a new undertaking, I don't sleep. I imagine I'm not going to sleep much for the next few days. There are endless details to see to. Hopefully none will be major. All I can do is dive in and trust God to make this a relatively smooth adventure.

He's never let me down before.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Picnic Pops

An annual summer tradition in the Grand Rapids area is the Picnic Pops Concerts at the Cannonsburg Ski Area. The Grand Rapids Symphony puts on eight concerts each summer on Thursdays and Fridays in a large stage at the bottom of a hill. Concertgoers bring picnic lunches and spread out on the hill to watch and listen. Sometimes they have guest artists, and sometimes they have other special things going, such as the fireworks concerts last week. This week it's a swing group called Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, next week it’s a Motown inspired group, and the following week it’s a “Tribute to the Beatles”.

The corps of symphony volunteers is there to provide many services - some work in the ticket office, others serve as ticket takers, or parking attendants. Others assist the concert goers by driving carts, or helping them carry their picnic items. My mom and dad always worked in the kitchen, which feeds the volunteers. After dad died, I took over his shift.

Working in the kitchen, I see all the volunteers as they come in from the hot sun to get something to eat. There are people from all walks of life. Former businessmen, educators, factory workers as well as high school and college students all work side by side. There are entire families who come and volunteer - what a great way to teach children about the meaning of charity!

Annamarie Buller is the volunteer coordinator for the Grand Rapids Symphony. She has the job of contacting the hundreds of people who work each summer, assigning them to their various jobs on eight different nights, seeing to their needs, and in turn seeing that their work takes care of the patrons' needs. She does all this with a cheerful smile and a great memory, greeting people by name and thanking them even when it would be so easy to growl at their seemingly endless complaints.

The Grand Rapids Symphony, like all organizations, depends on its volunteers to avoid the cost of paying for many of the services associated with putting on a performance. They can always use more hands. Volunteering with the symphony reaps more than a few rewards. Among them: working with a great group of people (you tend to see a lot of the same people from event to event), the satisfaction of helping a worthwhile organization to grow and continue, AND the opportunity to hear great music at a fraction of the ticket price! And if you volunteer at the Picnic Pops, you even get dinner!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Organization of My Mess, Part Two

So I think I have most of my daughter's stuff out of the one room. It's stacked in the living room, since she hasn't been here. She'll probably tell me to toss it all. I'll have to deal with that when the time comes - or maybe bring it to Goodwill. I even got ambitious and emptied her stuff out of the bathroom. I came up with all kinds of makeup, which she told me to toss, and a bunch of medications, which I tossed right away. I now have lots of drawer space in the bathroom!

Now I have to organize my own stuff. I have a bunch of scrapbooking stuff. That will go in the large file cabinet in the other bedroom. Now I have all kinds of fabric to sort. Most of that should probably go in the basement, in the large vertical files. But it's so nice to have it handy when I have the chance to work on it!

I've got some really pretty fabric that will make nice skirts. Last week I got a pattern I'd like to use to make the skirts with. And I've got some pretty Asian-inspired fabric to use for quilting. And there's a bunch of heavy-duty canvas that I started making tote bags with. But I've had to put my sewing and crafting on hold while I attempt to organize. By the time I’m done I’ll either forget about my skirt and bag and quilt projects, or I won’t know where I put them. And that makes me unhappy.

But in order to make my children happy, and keep them away from my stuff, I have to be unhappy and organize it. I guess that’s the way it goes. They seem to think if it’s organized, I’ll be happier. Okay, maybe eventually. I just hope they let me keep my laptop out.

Maybe I’ll hide it in one of the bathroom drawers I just emptied out.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to Creative Hodgepodge


This weekend I am celebrating three birthdays.

Sunday is America's two hundred and thirty-fourth birthday. I'm going to celebrate with my extended family tomorrow, and on Sunday I'll play in a concert band at a community fireworks celebration. I'm very thankful to be an American.

Another birthday to celebrate is my own. Fifty-five years ago my parents began putting up with me. Thankfully they decided to keep me!

The third birthday is for this blog. My first post was uploaded on July 3, 2009. So "Creative Hodgepodge" is one year old tomorrow. I have faithfully recorded my thoughts on a regular basis for one year. I don't think I ever wrote this regularly in a diary or journal.

I started the blog as a means of being accountable. I have several writing projects and I wasn't making much progress on them. Somewhere I read that writing anything, including a blog, would stimulate my writing creativity. So I started writing. And writing.

I also have all these craft supplies and ideas for projects. I needed to get going on them. So I put in writing, on a blog where anyone could read it, that I in addition to writing, I would spend an hour a day working on something creative (non-writing). That worked well until school started that fall. After that my sewing and crafting was much more sporadic. Later on I added a health goal (i.e, losing weight) since my doctor told me I needed to. I lost 20 pounds, got a clean bill of health from the doctor, and pretty much gave up on that. I love to eat!

Has the blog been successful in helping me reach my goals? I've added a whole lot of words to my samurai story, but I haven't finished it - not totally. I wrote 40K on a new story (the sequel to the first one). I've sent in several submissions to Chicken Soup. None have been accepted. I've written a lot about my family. I've written a lot about myself. One of my friends says my writing has gotten more "direct" - that's a good thing. As for the other goals, I've finished a lot of craft, sewing, knitting, and crocheting projects. I'm trying to use up what I've got - I even resisted buying a lot of scrapbooking paper last week, even though it was forty percent off!

So all in all, I guess the blog has paid off. I’ve still got stories to write, and several rooms full of crafting supplies. So I guess I’d better wrap up this post and get to work!