Monday, March 28, 2016

Table for One

Mi abuelita gave me this handmade table topper, and three smaller ones. I reaaaallllyy miss her, and plan to phone her in the morning to say just that. It's nice that I have been able to share the days without her amongst a  small circle of family and friends that support me with their time.  Being able to care for them was something I came to realize meant a lot to me, it was an experience in frustration to not be the one doing everything! Just goes to show, I continue to learn from this trip even after it's conclusion. 
I've been scrapping up a storm to boot! I'm working with a stacked pack of wood grains and kitchen themed papers, and the colors are all warm and the photos will be cherished all over again when my family finally sees them and hears the stories that accompany the 4x6s.

Note to self: share that completed album in a share video!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Triste Times Two

 Mismo Mujeres
"You are my favorite Hello and my hardest Goodbye..."
Truer words could not be found for the way my heart feels at having to depart from mi abuelita's casa this morning. We were all up early in anticipation of this being our last desayuno together. The poor dear even slept in her clothes and shoes so that she would be able to race her walker out to say goodbye should she oversleep! And truth be told, I pretty much wanted to crawl into bed and hold her all night long. But I think it's better to be invited lol. And if she did ask, I didn't understand it! 
What was easy to understand, was her sadness. My great aunt Allejandra stayed longer than usual to see me off and be of comfort to her, because it was so obvious that she was struggling with the pain of being left alone again. Together we have shared so many poignent moments this week. I told her, (in spanish, can you believe it?!) "We have had already enough tears, and we will have more laughs together, for all I have to do is think of you and I will smile." That she needs to live a long time -as if turning 98 next week is not enough- so that I can bring my daughters and "husband" to meet and entertain and be of help to her as well. That she will always be alive, for she and I are cut from the same natural fibers. I have lived all of these years within her heart, and ahora, es tiempre por mi corazon to crezcan, and make enough room for her to live the rest of my life within mine. And that I will be much better about phoning her, now that I really understand her "schedule." Then, being me, needing to see her smile even as tears streamed down our three triste faces, "Por favor, vaya con mi en mi bolsa- tu es mucho delgado, se que se ajuste a!" And I got the smile I needed to be able to tear myself away...

Why do we let life get in the way of our true heart's desires... it is such an American way to be. Putting aside our concern for each other. Having excuses like, oh they don't really need to see or hear me to know how much I love them, or, they can take care if themselves and would ask for help if need be. Not that the latter isn't true, but it is so much better to be with one another in person, verdad? Hitting "Like" on facebook is only one way to interact with one another and not a very great one at that. Don't get me wrong, facebook allows me to connect with my cousins in a way that my childhood definately did not. I love being able to see my friends and family growing, posts about what they are doing and places they go etc. It is a way for me to feel that I know them...

But wouldn't getting together for even a few moments over the telephone be even better? Wouldn't it be more incredible to accompany my cousins and let our children share more than we did? You know, when I was younger, the greeting cards I made throughout the year would be promptly mailed off or hand delivered. As I have sold more and more cards each month in stores, it has become apparent that I no longer actually send the cards, I make them with the person in mind and then decide that if it doesn't sell before the next seasonal greetings are appropriate, I'll send it then. Isn't that terrible!? The good news is that, as with any recovery process, the first step has been taken with my publicly admitting, "My name is Anna, and I have a problem sending out my greeting cards." Now I can be made accountable, if by no one but myself at least. 
I had to tell my father how happy I was with the time I have spent here these last 8 days. That these trips to see my grandmother have helped my Spanish vocabulary grow immensely. All the years of schooling have not been able to stick, but just 6 days in her kitchen and two with my cousins, and I can say so much and understand even more. I can hardly imagine a better way to learn than in my family's company! Of course, Google translate has my thanks as well because it was so much easier this visit to find the actual words I needed to express myself. 
But even more important, these two visits, last year and this, have helped my heart to grow. I would not say I am a grinch, but I do know the lovely, slightly uncomfortable feeling of a daily expansion within my chest. The awareness of time passed without correspondence only leaves room for improvement in the future. As my cousin Martha recently wrote, "Yes, there were flashbacks...and many tears..." during her visit to Tenamaxtlan and with our family in Tala last year. I am hoping that when I visit again- and I will, I know- I will be happier with my efforts upon reflection. My daughters and family deserve the best of my love; all that I have to give and can help to inspire within the rest of my family and acquaintances lies within my abuelita-inspired, love-filled heart.
I did not say goodbye, but instead that I will see her in my dreams each night- en mis bueno suenos!  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Craft-cation in the Making

Date: Mar 18, 2016 7:09 PM
Alright, if you've read even more than one or two posts on my website prior to this week's travel blogging, you've seen enough evidence that could be used against me in a court of law to prove I'm a serious craft-a-holic. I've seen videos of people who travel with a little washi "just in case," and been amazed that I'm not one of them- with a video boast to boot! Whenever I'm in the mood, I love to just pick up a pile of stuff and make something from it. The times I've taken projects to work on while on non-craft-related vacations aren't many, but they are increasing with each opportunity!
While it still didn't amount to much, last year I brought along a whopper of a kit that included mas papel, stickers, etc, and I happily crafted a card for both my father and my uncle while sitting at la mesa de me abuelita. You know I was hoping she would be crafty too but there wasn't a lot of interest shown :-)
This year, days before I left, I was inspired to attack my planners. They keep track of so much that happens in my life, but you know what's funny? I wouldn't have a clue that they were CraftWithAnna related if I were a stranger opening them! And did you notice I said plannerS? Last year I abruptly changed planners is the middle of the year while undergoing some major life changes. So, yes, I have two volumes of life which I'd like to have reflect more of who I am right now in this year.
First inspiration came when I was trying to decide whether or not to even pack the planner that I'm using now, which started in July 2015. Yep, it actually starts in the middle of the year. Pretty cool, huh? So, now that it is March, there is a lot of info in there- but do I need to take six months worth of growing as an individual along in my carry ons? It occurred to me; I could rip out those pages. And... I could do the same thing to the planner I used for the first half of 2015, which I adored because of it's elegance. And it has a purple cover.
Now I have a complete record of my daily documentings for 2015, and I can find a way to bind the two parts together at a future time if I feel the need. Although I love that purple cover, it is debossed with the numbers, 2015... nothing my sharpie can't fix! But inside it also has all the wrong days with dates etc. I figured, I could cover up what ever I want and really decide as I go what I want the days to look like :-) Such freedom can be overwhelming though... 
Back to my dreams of toting washi around and what I brought along for this trip: multiple colors of thin tape (adhesiva), a child size pair of scissors (tijares), and the Maggie Holmes stickers I got the last Creating Keepsakes Convention. They are so cute! But honestly I hadn't brought myself to use a single one in my planner. I guess that means they're multi-functional- in other words, a good buy! I also brought along my first SMASH roller,  which happens to be a date stamp too. A couple other small clear stamps and some brown ink, a bottle of TomBow clear liquid glue, and only about 5 pieces of A2 sized cardstock.
I've really enjoyed my first attempts at jazzing up my documenting style. First of all, I find it very interesting to go back through the days and find I can now remember what I was doing with large gaps of unfilled time. Large gaps existing because of the lack of memory at the time of writing! And I love thinking about the times with my family, especially since I'm missing the heck out of them on this voyage South.
Second of all, it's crafting- Hello! It seems another bonus of starting it while down here, where the days are long and each hour contains so much of doing so little, is that I can fill my calendar with details that are more than just, did the dishes, fed the horse, collected eggs, yelled at _________. Yes, I keep track of when I lose my temper. I like to keep myself accountable, and also to document what I may have been eating i.e. crap sugar foods that may have triggered the angry mom lurking inside me. I like patient, loving mom so much more, and I document when she shines, as well.
Okay, you've read this far, it's time for the bonus bonus round: today, mi abuelita inquired about the contents of my ziplock o'craft. Whoooop! I think she actually wanted to try some stamping lol. & She may just get her chance!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Learning the Language of Love

Wow, there really is nothing like being immersed in another language. Have you ever had the chance? Let me tell you, it takes a bit of confidence and a lot of desire. Being out of one's normal environment, having no one to ask for clarification about what you hear or what you say, and wanting to keep trying even when it feels like one big epic fail. Or at least, those are some of the emotions/reactions I'm dealing with  :-)
Despite my efforts to prepare in advance by trying to learn more Spanish than I felt I had the last trip out, I still falter for understanding and for how to express my answers when I actually do know what is being asked. I'm really glad my dream was just to be able to sit and hold hands with mi abuela, and not to have long drawn out conversations about the history of our family, or I would have been even dissappointed! Oh, the words I thought I had learned though... why are they so quick to fly from my thoughts when I try to recall them?!
I love knowing that my grandmother doesn't get so frustrated with my attempts that she stops our talking. Nope, she chatters away in her sweet but scratchy voice with a smile, starting with a hug hello in the morning and ending with a "buenas noches mija!" just before I turn off the light. Over cafe en la manana, we smile and exclaim about los pan deliciosos, about la temperatura de cafe ("Mija, tu cafe no es caliente! Si, Abuelita eta bien por yo!") y de leche, which she thinks  I want, even though I told her it makes my stomach hurt. Or did I..? Again, it is hard to know what I say back, what she can hear, etc. Yet, last night and today we bonded over the same things that people all over the world connect with no matter the culture- food preparation.
Last night we agreed to cook some vegetables, including the papas y ajo, bollo, tomate, y chayote, a native invasive vine that produces a yummy yummy fruit. Boiled, it's sort of like a potato in consistency and a zuccini in taste. She had one on the counter when I arrived with spikes on it's rind, and my father picked another from the yard which had a smooth skin. Not sure what the difference is, perhaps it has to do with when it is picked, or there could be different varieties.
After a full two days of travelling, I was hoping to sleep in, and lucky for me I had a chance to sleep in until...7. I almost even fell back asleep- now I know I'm sleepin' at grandmas! Once up, I quietly gathered my cleaning supplies and headed for la cocina. The potatoes when into a pan of agua to boil, but I wasn't sure what to do with the chayote... but I soon learned through verbal exchange enhanced by example :-) It gets the top cut off, diced lengthwise in four, and into a pot of water it goes for a boil. Watch out for those pokey things- ouch! When it's cooked to completion, the flesh peels right out of the skin like an acorn squash.  It's experiences in dining like this that make me yearn for the ability to bring home a taste for mi familia.
Since that is really really against the law, I'm content to share these delicious foods with mi abuela en ella cocina. The foods she cooks are so much like mine; chicken, rice, vegetable soup. The exotic inclusions bring as much flavor to the food as her added helpings of the most special ingredient of all, love, do.
Now if I can just get her to understand about the cow's milk... y no mas tortillas, por favor!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mercado Madness

Stepping off the plane in Guadalajara, I was greeted by the most amazing sunrise I have witnessed in a long time. Ay, Dios Mio! what a gift. Can you picture me, nearly the last one off the plane thanks to my seatmate who I think, wanted to take it slow. No bother, I expected a wait upon clearing customs, and I don't tend to feel impatient in these, hurry up and wait situations. And, I knew why I was being given the gift of time to exit when I stepped out the door to see this:
I know, right?
So, back to the picture in your head of me, bleary eyed from lack of sleep and extended travel time, pausing at the top of the exit-the-airplane stairs, doing a little snapshot while my seatmate carefully decends in front of me. She was taking her time, and I was taking my selfie lol.

On my last trip to Mexico, it was in the airport leaving the US for Guadalajara that it really hit me- no habla espanol. I may have learned a bit more, gained some confidence, or just been made less unaware of my transition between countries, and it wasn't until I got into the customs line that I needed to consult my dictionairy- to complete the customs forms.
Once I got my stamp- and searched in vain for where the heck did they stamp my passport last time- it was time to head out the double doors and look for mi padre. I didn't expect him for another half hour or so, and took the time to sort through some of my bags, grabbing goodies like my camera and the muffins I'd made at home out for the ride home to Tenamaxtlan. With a little eyeliner and some hair poofing, and to heck with the rest, I had just completed my rearranging and looked up to see his familiar face with the kind of smile that is rare enough to be treasured on it. As our driver, Pancho pointed out, "many years were gone, and happiness came in their place, in the instant he saw you (as in, me)." Aww, wasn't that a sweet comment?
Off we went to the historic district for El Mercado, and this time I knew just what (not) to look for. I'd brought along a bracelet that I've wanted to wear ever since I received it many years ago. Trouble is, my tiny little wrists just swim in it. So, our first was to the jewelry repair guy. Ok, now just for a moment, think to yourself what that would entail in you hometown... would you walk in, have the bracelet fixed right in front of you, try it on, have it adjusted again, and then walk out of there with your now removed gold links in hand a d a perfectly fitting bracelet for roughly $3? Me neither=instant impression of awesome.
Was I ever glad I'd done that bit of hair poofing because in that same hour I was given another gift- pics with mi padre! Although they are not "perfect" i.e. one is blurry, one I'm not looking at the camera, and two were taken from afar but don't include all of the statue behind us, I will always look at them and smile. In part because of their rarity- last time I was out I got the same far away statue pose, but the last time my father and I were photographed sitting with each other was during my first visit to Dodge City almost 15 years ago. Dang it, he looks younger and I most definitely do not... perhaps if I were to trim my mustache, it would have the same effect!!!
Well, our breakfast was delicious, enchiladas con papas y queso. Conversation was fun to follow along the best I could and Pancho knew all the hit songs playing (in English) over the sound system of our restaurant. I learned that my father once considered that line of work and thought he "used to" cook really good. No wonder those carne asada breakfasts from last year still remain as some of my favorite memories :-)
Also fun to follow along were these two men as they searched out the best place for me to purchase some huaraches, or authentic Mexican sandals. Found neutral colored pairs I'd have bought at two different places, one pair was 200 pesos and the other 250. Not bad prices, it works out to be the equivalent of between $11 and $17 depending on the current exchange rate. This has long been one of my favorite past times- trying on shoes. Didn't get either pair but it was still fun to look, get prices, etc. I also found out later on that the two pairs I had picked out both had plastic soles- now why didn't I see that!
Perhaps I'll have some more shopping opps while here. I'll be looking for small festival dresses por mi hijas, a map of Tenamaxtlan and the area, perhaps some coffee cups or a tee shirt por mi esposa, zapotos y las blusas por yo, y mas cuentos por tu, mis amigos.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tena-tive Travels Take 2

This week I'll be blessed to spend time with my beloved abuelita down in her home town of Tenamaxtlan, Jalisco. The last time I went was such a magical, unforgettable time in my life; one I honestly did not think would be repeated. The thought of returning there within a year's time is simply wonderful and I have a few people I'd like to take this blog post to thank for this opportunity at living out another dream come true.
Growing up, I hadn't had much contact with the Hispanic side of my family. Most of my familial influence came by way of my mom's mother, whose parent's immigrated to the Midwest from Norway at the turn of the century. Around my 20th birthday, I made contact with my father, who had not seen me since I was an infant. My life's ambitions not being much at the time, it was almost unfathomable to predict that over the next decade and a half, this "stranger" to my life would become such an important confidant. There isn't a week that passes that I don't think of him and the three sisters I have as a result of his second marriage. 
What a joy to have each of them; their individual personalities, strengths and character traits flavor my life with unexpected beauty. Knowing of them alone was enough to give my life a perspective it had lacked. I no longer lived fully for myself, but as an example for my younger siblings. Never mind that my younger brother never inspired such a reaction from me; after all, he's a boy! And aside from that, our older brother (step brother to me) always seemed to be our guide for what was cool, hip, current, etc. 
Getting back to my father, who came to America as a young adult to make a new life for himself... well, I guess all daughters have an idea of what a father should be, and learn to reconcile what we get from them with comparisons to that ideal image. Do I expect warm and fuzzy accolades and praise? No. I can count on him to tell me what he thinks of my decisions and actions with honesty. Sometimes my feelings get hurt by his words. Yet I know he loves me. Do I expect him to hug me when I'm sad, to tell me Everything is going to be alright, hija... No, I don't think it's reasonable to expect him to treat me as if I were a young girl, living under his roof, to be coddled and comforted. I'm now a grown woman with children of my own... hard to believe but a truth I must face now that I am in my mid-thirties. Sometimes I get emotional talking to him. My voice breaks, or tears leak out and I sniff and snort with abandon as my nose runs and think, How embarrassing! And yet, he continues our conversations as if it is normal ( I guess it is, I do it so often :-) ) In other words, he loves me the best way he knows how. I'm very grateful for that. For the chance to get to know him, to learn from his life's lessons, to follow along with his changing ideals and dreams as he does mine.
A few years ago, my aunt Natividad reached out to me through the power of yahoo email and her type-A+ student son, mi Primo Luis. I have known acceptance and love in a form I had never expected from my sweet considerate Tia and her thoughful, funny son. When I write here, I write to you, to them, to my chosen assembly of family and friends. To share a snippet here and there, and have it read with enthusiasm... to have it shared with my loved ones who don't access the internet... talked about, praised, inspired by... well, it's an unexpected blessing to say the least. 
I have my aunt to thank for the inspiration to pursue the dream that started for me the afternoon Ray took me to eat at a Mexican restaurat early in our dating. As I've written before, on the wall there was a large map featuring the small town of my heritage, Tenamaxtlan. I dreamed out loud that one day I would love to take my daughter to meet my grandmother in her home. He told me then, of course, you will. Little did I know that I would have to little blond hijas, or that political unrest and drug wars would cause such unrest that taking them to Mexico would be considered unsafe for them to adventure along with me to. Regardless of how my dream played out, last year I was given the opportunity to visit mi abuelita and not a day has passed since that I don't include her in my prayers. If I needed permission to want to know more about my family, or maybe just an angel in my corner of persuasion at being given a chance to see for myself the home that she and her sisters-my sisters- grew up in, mi tia is the one I find in my corner, clothed in God's love and light. It seems that whenever life is getting to me, a simple card or note of encouragement from her finds it's way into my heart and uplifts my soul. 
Spending time with my grandmother was fulfilling on so many levels. After years of pining for the simple luxury of holding her hand, in silence, if need be, we finally rested together on her tiny love seat. After so many times of wondering, Why do I seem to be built so different from anyone else in my (mother's) family, I was able to feel with my own hands the same diameter of wrists, shoulders and knees that mi abuelita shares with me. And I was struck this afternoon by the grateful realization that, without my own mother' support, I may not have enjoyd all of this nearly as much. 
She raised me. She has made sacrifices I'm aware and unaware of for my benefit. How many women would be so encouraging of my relationship with a man they had been divorced from for so many years, had not recieved spousal support from, a man who to my knowledge had never followed through with any  attempt to  contact me through my formative years? Does she let the past interfere with my enjoyment of the present gifts of these relationships? Does she warn me that I'll be dissapointed, tell me that my feelings get hurt on purpose, attempt to disuade me from pursung these long-dreamed-of meet and greets? No, for she loves me. 
Just as the best mothers do, she rejoices along with me. She suggests ways for me to show my appreciation, listens to my stories, reads my emotional outpourings here on my blog, answers the phone with all the love I could hope to hear on the other end of the line when I'm homesick to hear a familiar (American) voice, helps me with my Spanglish, and admires my photographs of family she only heard of as a young lady less than half the age I am now. She loves to see my happiness. Her heartfelt involvement allows me to embrace my "other" family with none of the restraint I might feel if I was afraid of her disapproval.
 I get the feeling that, although my parents haven't seen each other in a literal lifetime, they are given the opportunity to see each other within me. They make up for past resentments with each other through their inquiries about my interactions, and being grateful for that gift, I am able to be open with each of them about my own familial concerns, share my stories celebrations with delight, keep a space for them both in my heart~ the place where dreams are born. 
 Follow along with me this week for another emotional journey to la casa de me abuelita y mi padre en Tenamaxtlan, Mexico~ a place where dreams were realized and expanded upon. You can read all about me last trip there under the "Travel" tab up top :-)
Now I want to know- what would be your most heartfelt dream come true? Who would be most impacted by it's realization? Ever met someone you'd only heard of only to realize they were a vital but missing part of your life prior to your introduction? I'd love to read about it, comment below, & live well, friends!

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Monochromatic Monday

This weekend I followed along with's challenges posted every two hours online. It was sporadic bliss! From the time I heard she'd be providing some serious scrap inspiration, I looked forward to the amazing pages I would create. Unfortunately Fortunately, I was so busy interacting with my family and teaching classes and enjoying time with my honey that the ten or so layouts I created, are all in my mind.
By the time Sunday night rolled around, I was ready to put adhesive to paper. BUT now, I had all those unrealized ideas and no direction...okay, there was a lot of direction but no one telling me, DO THIS NEXT. I tried to entice honey to direct me- no thanks, he said. Asked my kids- deeply ensconced in their lego-playing bubble, there was (no response) no help there either.  Originally, I was fired up about using a monochromatic color scheme, and had already chosen these two photos and decided to go with the color red, (or pink, or orange, or brown). So, a monochromatic attempt at scrapbooking commenced.
 I opened up one of my treasure boxes- a container that contains I don't know what until I open it. Oh, hello beautiful, un-opened collection pack from Echo Park of paper and stickers in the Victoria Gardens line! You are just as pretty as when I don't remember buying you :-) I got out that gorgeous sheet of swiss dot with damask details and started to build a corner cluster at the top left.
Sticking with a limited color palette was more challenging than I had anticipated. I started questioning, is it alright to use this sentiment sticker with yellow and green on it? Does black really count as a color? Is brown a shade of red, or orange, or do I care? Then I just told that voice to be quiet because, I really wanted to finish this layout before bedtime.
After all my pieces were in place and firmly adhered, it was time to add the title, Fascinating Mechanisms. Worked backwards. Talk about a brain fry! But I was able to enlist honey's help, and that may have made him feel important enough that the next time I pull out paper and glue, he remembers to bring me a glass of wine.... oops, I was dreaming there for a second :-)
There tend to be the same types of embellishments on all my pages- stickers and bling are so standard to see in my books. Loops of bakers twine and gelato-painted corners were my Shimelle-inspired additions. The painted parts really make me happy! And so do those huge ombre gems from Queen & Co.
I know that using a collection pack made this process a lot simpler than if I had gone shopping from my group papers. I have tendency to over grab- which makes decision making turn into kit making which I'm coming to understand, doesn't always create completed scrapbook pages. I literally grabbed one 12x12" paper, a cut apart sheet, and the sticker sheet, and it all looked beautiful together. I also saw some lovely juniper green and greys that I'm now anxious to mix  together.
Hhmmm... monochromatic color schemes throughout an entire album... now that sounds like a very pretty challenge! So, I'm off to attempt squeezing in the creation of a new page for our current album. But I want to know, what's your favorite color? Would you use it to monochromaticize the interior your house? Was it always your favorite or has your taste in the rainbow changed... and, thanks for reading here today :-)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bob Ross Results

 Can you find "Bob?"
Okay, so last night I was leading this amazing group of local moms through a "Purdy Inspired" waterscape painting class. I had my examples, my Bob Ross afro, and technical jargon loaded, and a smile on my face as class started. I felt prepared. A few hours of YouTubing will do that to a person :-)

 What I did not expect was the adorableness that describes the enthusiasm of my class. Everyone brought their smile -and their snacks, yum. Despite their protests of, "I'm no artist!" "I'm scared (get that wig away from me)!" and, "What, no wine?" their attention to instruction was refreshing. Happy clouds would be made tonight!

Having no idea what to expect in the way of how experienced the group would be on average was intimidating. Fortunately, my classes are always designed for ages 3 and up, and the format and instructions are based on how well my practice classes with my resident artists go.  In other words, no matter how "bad" at art you are, you should be able to create something awesome if you take a class with me.

So, another thing I was not prepared for, was the talent that came- everywhere I looked I was in awe of what materialized on canvas. Could it have been my entertaining teaching style that produced such works? No, I'm sure the presence of the Holy Spirit was there guiding our brushes into love strokes. As the concentration of creative energy continued to build, the smiles grew brighter. Paint started flying. It was AWESOME.

 And, made even more enjoyable by reading what my friends (I can call them that now) wrote online this morning. They love their art- success story after heartwarming story of family admiration warmed my soul all over again. There is nothing quite like riding home with  big smile on your face and then having it refreshed all over again the next morning, reliving the good times of the night out before...and without the hangover!

 Thank you, God for these women!

Three babies and a "Bob"

Looking for more incredible paint teachings- look for "Mural Joe" and Donna Dewberry and prepare to want to paint Everything You See.

edited to include this following praise: