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.