Notes on Christmas

Dancing with lit candles at the Christmas candlelight services at church, red poinsettias, snow, live nativity, lots of red candles, holly, red velvet ribbons, ,shiny, golden ,sparkly things, jingling, tinkling things, an olive wood creche ……mystery and majik…….are planted in my childhood memories.

When I became an adult and lived on my own or in the early years of marriage when there was very little money, I still placed red candles, potpourri, pine cones, dried wreaths, angel chimes, hand made ornaments around the house. There was something really nice about entering the apartment or house after being gone all day and still smelling Christmas even after Christmas was gone.

Rock tumbling
Majik tricks, lotion laboratories
Whale casting kits,
things to do, movies to watch………..

Your children will not remember you for the things you gave them, but rather the time you spent with them.

I remember when my children were young, Christmases seemed a lot simpler. Or were they? It seemed we could get more for our money, you could get a lot of little stuff and it looked like a whole lot of big stuff when you were a little kid. It’s easy to remember the late night hours at the end of the day, turning into the wee morning hours, wrapping presents and then trying to stay awake long enough to tip toe down the stairs after children were asleep to carefully place them under the tree. The wonder of it all. I Looking back at pictures and movies on Christmas morning watching them watching, waiting for parents to gather around the tree to see what Santa had brought. The floor quickly became covered with wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, in between “oohs” and “ahs.”

It was up to the three of them to carry on those Christmas traditions when there became no father and no husband. The boy became strong enough to help untie and carry the tree from the top of the car into the living room. Each year the children continued to moan and groan with dragging boxes of Christmas ornaments down the stairs, untangle and check strands of lights, arguing as to whose turn it was to place the angel at the top of the tree, find the stuffed Santa and Rudolph where they would house them in their rooms until it was time to take the tree down and carefully repack and return all to their boxes.

One year Christmas changed. Was it because the son announced it was time to break tradition but didn’t offer anything up in it’s place, that they didn’t bother to get a tree, hang any lights stockings, or gather in one room in pajamas and play the Nutcracker CD? Or was it that the mother felt like it was one more battle she had chosen not to fight at that point in time, that she let it slip through the cracks? That was the year she felt as if she’d lost her son.
His heart was heavy and so was hers, and although she didn’t realize it, the daughter was the happiest- she was the light in the darkness that year for both mother and brother. They were all growing up and growing older. The mother’s heart was aching as she watched them both grow and grow away from her. She wanted to see her son’s glowing smile. She needed to know he was okay.
She had looked at him and told him adults didn’t always have all the answers, that she was not perfect. “I am human and I am doing this for the first time, ”she’d said. She’d thought later that it was as if she was not supposed to show her sadness or anger, that she was always supposed to have it altogether all of the time. She had felt empty, yet full, numb, yet she could not be numb if her heart was aching. That she felt all these things she knew she was alive .It may have been the first time that the son had no choice but to acknowledge that his mother was in fact, not just his mother, but a real person.
The years have passed. I know what it was like to provide the gifts and hopefully some of the majik for some of the years as a single parent. I have an awareness of what it must have been like for my parents with very little money to make Christmas happen for four children, and for my mother as a single parent for some of those years, but the memories I have nestled in my pores were not the materialistic things I was given. What I was given and stays in my heart was the awe and wonder of Christmas, the feeling and belief that God or something greater than I was, loved us so much that he sent a tiny baby to be born in a bleak mid winter.

For the third yr in a row I have purposely stayed away from shopping malls and stores. I can no longer tolerate or deal with crowds, the hustle and bustle. I do not get excited about Christmas coming from being in a shopping mall. There are those who cannot and do not feed into the commercialism of Christmas knowing what it was like to watch a parent try to provide the necessities of daily living, never mind the luxuries of Christmas gifts.
As I celebrate Christmas in my heart I am filled with wonder and awe, a sense of peace and hope to hold onto for the coming year. May you also be filled with that wonder and awe.



Altered Book Pages Continued.

I love jewelry. I have had a lot of it over the years, most of it given to me or passed on by my mother. I don’t think I wear jewelry well. I’m not that good at matching or finding the best to go with certain occasions. My mother wears jewelry well. I can sometimes count on her to “dress me” with just the right stuff.

I figured if I can’t or won’t wear certain jewelry, it must be used in art. Jewelry making is art so why not. Hence the jewelry on the altered book pages… sometimes broken intentionally, or not, those missing a mate, those pieces I knew would remain in little boxes in dresser drawers for the next 10 years, sewn or glued onto the pages, seemed to land there intuitively.

You can of course, click on the individual pictures and get a closer view. Enjoy!

I Have Something to Say- Notes on the Altered Book Project

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this project of transitioning this book from A Help Me to be Good book to a Help Me to Be Me book. It's not quite finished yet but I thought I’d share the progress since I first introduced it back in May.

Toward the end of the book on a page which reads I Have Something to Say there is a pretty little girl’s face in the midst of jewels and leaves. She looks eager, bright-eyed, excited. At the bottom is a little flip up cover in which the following is written:

This book is dedicated to a little girl I’ve never met. Yes, Niyah (pronounced Nigh yuh) this was once your Help Me to Be Good Book. I wanted to make my own book to tell my story, a book about being Jo.
Although I have not met you, I know you are much loved. In the process of creating this book I was reminded of few important things: THINK BIG, NIYAH. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something. Believe in yourself and go after your dreams.
Thank you for getting rid of your book so I could make mine.

:) Jo

**Niyah’s mother is a coworker, a good woman, a friend. She gives permission for Niyah’s picture to be in my artwork and on this blog. 12/13/09


More Doodles

December Doodle

It’s a cold winter night, yet early in the season. The dryer hums, the dog’s toenails play a ticky tacky tune on the hard wood floors as he crosses, skids, turns the corner to where I am sitting. I learned nearly two months ago he has Cushing’s disease and diabetes so I am learning to be more comfortable giving him insulin twice a day.

My eighteen yr old college student daughter sings to a song on her Ipod while she cleans her bathroom upstairs. Some of the yard has been raked, leaves bagged and dragged to the front for pickup. Every Fall I hear this little voice in my head that asks, ”What in blazes were you thinking of when you decided to buy this house with this much yard?” I was pretty efficient, tidy in previous years. I was almost proud of the 40 or so 10 gallon bags that would line the curb. I told myself I could do a lot of thinking, get a good work out. Ah. Physical labor. Fresh air. That was in previous years.. This year I really couldn’t have cared too much, except I didn’t want too many nasty looks from my immaculate neighbors across the street. I told myself not to be too hard on myself, as long as I got the leaves up before the first snow fall. Life is too short to worry about getting up all the leaves and besides, I had more important things to do. More important to me.

More important things to do…… like doodling. I have rediscovered the joy of doodling. You know the stuff you did while daydreaming in school all over your notebooks and lined paper? The stuff you probably were told wasn‘t art but really was or is. At my job, I doodle every morning sitting in my car before going in to start my work day. I doodle what’s going on around me, or in me. It’s a way to get out of me what needs to come out so I can start my day, kind of like doing Morning Pages but little more coherently. I doodle on a work break and when I come home from work. I may doodle for several hours forgetting to eat. I doodle on post it notes, on Netflix return envelopes, on paper dressing gowns and covers while waiting to see the doctor.

I must confess I am hooked on Micron and Faber Castell artist pens. My eighteen year old son is an art student and is home on winter break so I may consider stashing these pens during this time.

My dog, Buddy, is now stretched out on his blanket snoring. His body twitches every now and then. He sighs, a peaceful doggy dreamland sigh. I might have to doodle him.



Go-Lightly should be named Go-Quickly or Go-Rapidly. Go-Volcanic Eruptionly. He who decided upon this name was not very honest or never experienced this. it was kind of like the feeling like I had when my body "became" not my own when I housed two aliens during my pregnancy. When you drink this vile drink of nasty sea water within a short period of time your body, indeed, is not your own. You DO need to settle yourself IN, so to speak, no, ON, to that one seat where you have easy access to your cell phone, your writing and or reading material, and maybe some pleasant room deoderizor. Incense would work. Forget about tv and movies. All you'll see is food or people eating lots of food. You don’t need to worry about spending time in any other room in the house. The last place you are grateful for is your bed and that is because you are so exhausted, weak, and hungry. You've reached the half way mark of what you’re supposed to have consumed out of that very large plastic jug. You do want to go to bed as early as possible so you can get up at the crack of dawn to begin and finish what your are required to drink in time to get to the hospital.

At the hospital for the second procedure- the barium, I’m lying on the table with an open -in -the- back -hospital gown and the doctor comes in and tells me he wants me to turn over on my side away from him. Oh, so you mean like as in my backside is completely exposed. As in my backside is in your face? I am butt faced or you are . I am sorry. I can think of no other way to say this and I am trying to have a sense of humor about this, as he proceeds to tell me what he will do next- insert this, inflate that, pictures, lots of pictures. You’re going to feel this and feel that………and at one point they twist you, turn you, tip the table upwards to where if you don’t know there's
a ledge or they dont tell you to straighten your legs, you’d think your next stop was the floor. You have to get off the table once you are "deflated," visit the commode and then get back on the table for some final pictures. It's your final bow, so to speak. You don’t mind at this point, just as long as you leave with some dignity.

I am quite certain there a lot worse tests than these, however, I can now say I have joined the ranks of those who have gone before me. I appreciated the kindness of the technicians and thanked them as I was leaving. And I am grateful to have not only a job, but health insurance which allowed me to have this test without robbing me of one entire paycheck. My tests came back fine for which I am also blessed.

I leave with a few translations from the Tao which I found quite suitable for this discussion - all in good humor.

Practice not doing. Everything falls into place. There is a time to be in motion and a time to be arrested. A time to be vigorous and a time to be exhausted. Empty your mind of all things. Let your heart be at peace.

My children, having graduated in May will be off to college in less than two weeks. Rooms will be empty. We are forever moving, changing, growing. And my hair is more silver. It is the way of life.

The Way of Life - Part One

Several weeks ago my brother, Jim, filled up the back of my van with boxes of discarded books and magazine/journals after I accepted his offer to search through them for altered book or collage work projects. It took a week or so to go through them, passing many of them on to coworkers, leaving some for the recycling bin and the remainder to the local Veteran’s Hospital reading table.
There were a few books and journals I kept for myself, one of which I kept and read and then proceeded to tear up and work in to the above picture. The Book is called The Way of Life and so my work above is also called The Way of Life.

The Way of Life according to Lao Tzui, a sixth century B.C. Chinese philosopher was considered the Father of Taoism. I was intrigued with this book, the musty smell of yellowed pages, the art work, the sketches, the words were poems, verses, song-like. Of note, I found some really beautiful, very short videos on YouTube on Taoism which had wonderful art work and photography.

So, where am I going with this? I am thinking about my experience of having my first colonoscopy in mid June. I consider myself to be a humble person, however, this experience made me more so, or should I say, the preparation for the procedure did. This was followed by another procedure, a barium about 2 weeks later, as the first one was rendered incomplete.

You know I swore I was going to have a sense of humor about delivering and raising two babies at one time and I’m sure I asked my mother during my pregnancy how she did it. She had an 18 mos old and then twins. I do not know.It’s all a blur. You just do it (like the Nike saying goes) and maybe try to have a sense of humor. I am not sure my mother really had a sense of humor as she was going through it. It’s always easy to tell someone after the fact. And while I would like to think I had a sense of humor through some of the raising of my twin son and daughter, I know for sure, as most parents, it was not possible at all times.

I set about trying to make sense of these very timed instructions the day before the prep day. When I went to pick up this “Go -Lightly” at the pharmacy the technician was confused as to why he could not find my prescription in the drawer. I whispered that I thought my RX was probably TOO BIG for the drawer and pointed to the large white paper bag on the top of the cabinet. He grinned just a wee bit.


My Father's Crayons

In the room I recently transformed and proclaimed as my studio, there is an old wooden, hinged cigar box sitting on the far left end of the brick and board book shelf, visible upon entering the room. Greystone is lettered on the outside lid and Cabinets - 20% Havana Filler aged in cedar in lettered on the inside cover. This 3” box is filled to the top with my father’s crayons, some, unbroken, some intact, and others, paper faded, broken in small pieces. My father’s name: David Bennett, 3542 SE 62nd, Portland, Oregon, repeatedly is scripted and written over one side of the box in pencil. It is easy to imagine then my father in art class using these crayons. It is easy to imagine this being able to physically touch the box and the crayons. I was offered this gift sometime after my father died more than fifteen years ago, but the box went in to one of those wooden rollaway kitchen storage cabinets which stored all my collected art supplies and anything having to do with creativity for at least 10-12 years. It has managed to make its way to the bookshelf thereby becoming quite visible and aromatic each time I enter the room.

As a child, (and sometimes beyond), along with making my own dancing girl paper dolls, I also loved to color. I loved the smell of crayons, the color of crayons, the newness of crayons. The last time I can recall buying any crayons was for my elementary school aged twin son and daughter as part of a required school supply and it was only the basic # count of 8 or 16. I cannot remember exactly except that everything I ever bought for the last 17 years came in twos, and all I had ever known was Crayola. “C” for crayon and Crayola meant childhood. My father’s box of crayons held both Crayola and Crayonex. I thought perhaps I had uncovered some vintage crayons, thinking Crayonex was the predecessor of Crayola, when in fact, I had not, and they were not.

It’s not my intention to give you the history of crayons, but I did learn that Crayonex crayons came out in 1932 from a company originally known as the Paramenter Crayon Company, in Sandusky, Ohio and N.Y., which later became the American Crayon Company, the oldest and largest manufacturer of crayons since 1835. Crayonex were listed in 1921 in the Teacher’s College bulletin supply list as a necessary item for children in rural schools. Crayonex box #3, 8 colors were 10 cents a box and box #4, 16 colors were 20 cents a box.

I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to hunt for and then buy a brand new box of crayons. Maybe it was an excuse to take myself on an Artist’s Date, buy myself something reasonable inexpensive, maybe it was a yearning to color. Imagine my delight with a box of 96 crayons. “Gad Zooks” as my father would say, is the equivalent of OMG!! (I never heard my father swear.) I now have to decide upon using metallic blue, steel blue, turquoise blue, sky blue, cadet blue, pacific blue, navy blue, wild blue yonder, periwinkle, cornflower, midnight, cerulean, denim blue, or just plain blue. I determine having to make this decision has given me the blues. Too many options, too many choices, overwhelming, like a kid in a candy store. Good thing I don’t have to decide about the scratch and sniff or glow in the dark ones.

I’ve been doing some doodling thanks to my friends over at, but I found myself wanting to add some color to one of my doodles, which is in part, how this entire crayon thing came about.

It’s been nearly 40 years ago since my father “left his position” of being my father and more than 15 yrs since he died. I wanted to know him more than I did. It has taken me all of those years to realize I got more than my myopia and scoliosis from him. I view those crayons as a representation of my life, of our lives, leaving us sometimes broken and sometimes intact. I have to tell myself that he would be proud of me, would get a kick out of knowing his box of crayons holds a special place on my shelf and in my heart. Those crayons have served as a reminder recently that I can be metallic at midnight, choose to wear turquoise or denim, and I, too, am able to ride high, into the wild blue yonder.


Imagining Sea Dances

This is another page of my altered book project. I love this blue. I love the sea.
Imagine. Imagine the sea. Imagine sea dances. Imagine not wanting the sea or sea dances. Imagine no sea dances. Imagine not wanting........


MAY 16, 2009

Books have always been important to me. Book in my house never got or get thrown away. They may be given freely to someone or to an organization, a library, but never just tossed in the garbage can. Recently, I have a fascination for taking a garbage or throwaway book find and imagining what it could become. My first attempt started when a coworker happened to mention she was getting rid of some of her young daughter's books to which I excitedly said,"No! Please bring them to me."

This is my first attempt making an Altered Book. It's not a fast process by any means, but it has taken on new meaning for me in terms of using all types of mediums, and it's by trial and error to see what really works. Suddenly, embroidery thread, butttons, dried flowers, ribbons, hem binding, stickers, stencils, even shredded paper from my shredder has made its way to the pages. I also have a "thing" for anything vintage, so it will, in time, make its way to a page somewhere. I recently remembered I already have some vintage photos from my collection of family photographs from my trip to Oregon in the summer of 2006, which will at some point find a place in an altered book or art journal page.

Somehow, I think maybe a seven year old child might enjoy looking at this altered book more than the original. The title A Book About Being a Bad Sport (a help-me-be-good-book) has become a book about being Jo, a help-me-be-me book, in case you cannot read my sticky note.
I used to make these cut out paper dolls when I was a kid and happened to find them just about the time I was beginning this project........ and since I am still a kid and a dancing girl, I had to remake them for this. They are after all, part of who I am and this book is after all, now, about being me.