Cupcake Royale…

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My son Thomas and his wife live in Seattle and there is a cupcake shop there called Cupcake Royale. They LOVE cupcakes and even bought me a shirt from the shop for my birthday one year.  Recently, they were home for a quick visit and we met them at the Woodstock Cafe for lunch before they flew home. Herb’s birthday had been the week before and since we can no longer celebrate birthdays together, I thought it would be a fun treat for all of us to have personalized cupcake pots with chocolate cupcakes in them at the Cafe for dessert.

Thomas is following in his dad’s curmudgeon footsteps, apparently, and is known at his workplace as the Grumpy Cat and even uses an illustration of the Grumpy Cat as his Google profile image, so it was only fitting to make his cup with the Grumpy Cat on it. Each pot was different and were super simple to make. I went to Smitten Kitchen’s site and found a recipe called the “I want Chocolate Cake” Cake recipe and it is great because it only makes enough for an 8 X 8 pan of cake, which filled 6 cupcake pots.

The remainder of the cups are listed on my Etsy site and I have 8 more in the kiln that are to be glazed. The idea is to make a special cupcake for that co-worker or birthday someone and they receive their cupcake in the pottery cup and everyone else gets the cupcake in the paper liner. It provides a simple and inexpensive gift and takes cupcakes to a new level.

We didn’t even light our candles at the Cafe…. I did mention the curmudgeon thing, didn’t I? But, the cupcakes were a hit and hopefully they are now being used in Seattle for ice cream or to hold M&Ms or something as a reminder of our short time together. It is always good to see them both.

The Firefly Legend and the Thistle Flower…

There is a family in my area that grew up having to take the thistles out of the farmland so that the other crops could grow. The family members talk of this as a childhood memory that they hated having to do. Now, however, they are older with children of their own and have fonder memories for those times and have embraced the thistle as a type of family crest. At Christmas this past year, I made several items with a thistle design on them just for these family members to reinforce and share that bond. While I was working on a batch of thistle mugs for one of the family members to give as gifts to her many siblings, she wrote me an email which I would like to share part of here….

“I smile in so many ways over these mugs:

knowing the joy you gain through the creation of your hands and the understanding of using the gift God has given to glorify.

I think about what my dad and grandfather must be thinking when they see us reminisce over a flower (weed) we spent days eradicating from the soil.

In anticipation of my mother and siblings when they join in with delight.

and last, I anticipate the envy of the younger generation when they witness how the Thistle has bonded us together, knowing they will want this same bond (but also knowing they would revolt as much as we did when told they have to spend the digging hours to really appreciate the beauty of the Thistle).”

So, I have embraced the Thistle flower and now also embrace their bond of family and memories that it brings but also because I think it is a really cool flower. And I recently made a large pasta size bowl that I wanted to do an unusual decoration on and kept coming back to the thistles. The botanicals that I choose are usually my favorite flowers or veggies but I also went looking for some designs to compliment the thistle when I opened one of my quilt books and found a new story to go with my thistle flower.

Kumiko Sudo does wonderful origami quilts and quilt books. Lots of flowers and textural appliqué patterns. I immediately looked for the thistle, which she did have and found that she had written a legend about the firefly, in reference to the thistle flower. I don’t know if this is a story that she made up or if it is one of Japanese tradition (after a quick google search, there appears to be all kinds of different firefly legends) but I thought it would be fun to share it with you and then show you a quick video of how I used the legend on the bowl that is now in my kiln, firing and will get posted in it’s final form in a day or two.

A Long time ago, a fly thought he would take a nap on a  thistle flower. He loved the softness and the beautiful purple color of the flower. But as he was landing on the flower, the fly accidentally struck his bottom on some of the plant’s sharp needles. Hurt and upset, he waited for the wound to heal. To his great surprise and delight, he discovered that his bottom now glowed in the dark. In gratitude to the thistle for this special gift, he decided to become a night guide for all small creatures. To this day, we can see his descendants, which we now call fireflies, working hard throughout the night.

Kumiko Sudo

And after I got her legend drawn onto my bowl, I added fireflies and thistles and you can watch the bowl spin on my banding wheel. So, stay tuned and after it comes out of the bisque firing tomorrow, it will get a clear glaze and a soft green rim to compliment the legend and the beautiful purple flowers of the thistle. Enjoy!

rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…

I have a couple of Facebook friends who post the phrase “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of every month. According to wikipedia, this phrase should be the first words out of your mouth on the first day of the month for 31 days of good luck. I know it is just a silly superstition but I think it is fun, given that I have been doing a lot of rabbit themed work. And of course, back in the fall, I got a pet rabbit to have in the studio to keep me company and bring me smiles. I named her Tang, like the space drink because it is an orange theme name to go along with my Laughing Orange Studio theme. Tang looking at rabbitLast summer I started trying to throw much larger pieces and ended up with some rather large plate/bowl forms. I decided to decorate them with my rabbit theme and add variations of gardens, trees, and flowers. So, I thought I would share some of these pasta bowls here. The first of the month is in a few days so be sure and rise out of bed and let your first words be, “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”.

Tree and Rabbit1 Thistle rabbit dish farm rabbit Anjelka Tray Crimson Rabbit

Good Reads

BookBub

Yesterday was A. A. Milne’s birthday. I saw this posted on Facebook. I love Winnie the Pooh and there was a quote from one of the books. When I clicked on the post that was from Book Bub Blog, I noticed another link to a site that I have ignored for a while called Good Reads. So, they have a 2015 Challenge on there and I decided to take the challenge to read 25 books this year. I don’t know that I can do that many and yet, I don’t know that I can’t read more than that. We don’t have television, per se, so it isn’t like I am watching a ton of crap that is offered there so why not take the challenge.

Currently, I am reading lots of Buddhist type books and self help in order to get my head straight after my son’s death. For now, those are soothing and are inspirational. They are helping me to realize that I have things to work through. So, I need to update the site with those and add the books that I have read that I haven’t put on the site for a couple of years. I use a Kindle app on my phone and on my tablet and recently added it to my laptop but friends have been giving me real books to read and I still love to turn the real pages too.

I recently was gifted the book “Being Mortal”, by Atul Gawande. It is a great book about senior and medical care in our country and how there are some wonderful things that are being tested in nursing home facilities to allow seniors to feel like they are alive and not being treated like prisoners. There is still a long way to go to change the mindset to allow more of this to happen but in an age where we are keeping people alive, many times at ridiculous measures, it is nice to read that someone is trying new ideas and trying to treat these people with respect they have earned.

Another book that I just received is called Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I have only read a few pages but it looks like it is going to be a comforting book from a woman’s perspective on dealing with suffering and making suffering manageable.

And I was loaned Paul Newman’s book called “In Pursuit of the Common Good” about how he and his partner started their salad dressing business with all natural ingredients and the funny ways that they went about putting their product out onto the grocery shelves. They were trying to take the local approach and kept running into the large corporations who stifled their creativity.

It has only been in the past 10 years or so that I have really started reading in earnest. I tried to go back and read thing the classics because I wasn’t really interested in reading them when I was “supposed” to be reading them. Books like stories by Mark Twain, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and A People’s History of the United States. I found that I really loved reading the biographies of our founding fathers. And I remember thinking to myself, as I was reading Mark Twain, “this is really good” and being embarrassed to say that out loud. Reading wasn’t really emphasized in my house growing up and it was in my husband’s. He is now a librarian so I have a good resource to go to for ideas of what to read. Both our boys were and are voracious readers.

So, I will go and update my list and see what the 25 books may be for 2015. I think, currently, I have about 6 different books in process at the same time. I may have to reread Winnie the Pooh just for grounding though.

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.

“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh.

Such wish words from a bear.

Day 300 of Acceptance

 

Today, December 31, 2014, it has been 300 days since John died.

baby johnI know this has been hard for everyone involved on all different levels but I feel I can truly say I knew him first. 31 years ago I felt his body moving in my body. It was an easy pregnancy. He was an easy going baby. I nourished his body with my own for those nine months and then nursed him for another 6. I have had numerous mothers, both counselors and my GP all tell me that it is always harder for the mom to lose a child.  I believe that Hallmark could sell a lot more cards if, instead of celebrating all mothers in the spring on Mother’s Day, we were to acknowledge mothers on our birthdays. I know this year, on January 17th, his 31st birthday, I am going to be thinking of my part in bringing a wonderful person into the world who will never know the change he has created, both before and after,  the lives  he touched and the personal hurt I feel, as his mom.

My meditation leader gave me the advice to give metta to all  mothers who have lost sons to kayaking accidents as a way of holding them in my heart and sending them loving kindness during my meditation. I don’t believe that they would be able to feel my message and I think part of the practice is to help me to realize that I am not alone on this journey.  I can think of them and their suffering . I often wonder  how they are dealing with their  loss. Are they angry? Do they wish they could talk to their son? Do they wish their son would have seen the danger they put themselves  into?  I wonder if they have the same frustration that I have of wanting to talk to my son, to find my missing son. If they have had a day where you get the same feeling you had when that child would play hide and seek in public and the panic you feel, only to find them and be angry and happy at the same time. Only now, that panic never resolves itself. If they are angry at their son for being arrogant and not recognizing how powerful water can be, thinking they are capable of coming out alive. If they are angry at all those other young men who are still putting their own lives in danger not thinking about the pain and suffering their deaths will create. I think of the mother in WVA who’s son, Chris Schwer died in 2012 and how she is just now reaching her 1000 days. How many more mothers have to do this? We got two more years than she did. Do I want a relationship with her or those other mothers?…..no.

Not one single book that I have read for grieving parents says it gets better. I don’t see how it ever will. I think it will get easier but never better. How can it? I feel my life is now a sandwich that is just bread. And it is that awful white bread that has no taste. There is the first slice of bread that represents everything before John and a slice of bread that represents this new chunk of life without John. The middle 30 years of my life has been removed. Not all of it, but a huge part of it.  Now, I have to find the “meat” to life or the PB&J, as it were. Something to fill the emptiness.

I am learning through reading about mindfulness and meditation that I need to find a way to “awaken” and allow things to be as they are right now. To be grateful. To learn to not judge and to let go. I don’t feel I am getting very far.I am still judging, I am still very upset, I am still frustrated. I have a lot of trouble “letting go.”  I am reading a book by Tara Brach called True RefugeThe book has given me meditations to try to work through my tough days and is something that I am trying to do daily to retrain my brain’s neurons.

Tara says there are  three gateways to finding refuge:

Refuge in the Buddha (an “awakened one” or our own pure awareness)

Refuge in the dharma (the truth of the present moment; the teachings; the way)

Refuge in the sangha (the community of spiritual friends or love)

Together with Rick Hanson’s book, Buddha’s Brain  and information about our brains and how they work, I am hoping that I can train my brain to deal with all the parts of the process and will hopefully come out the other side a different person.  A better person. One that can live with the constant ache in my heart but realizes that I have to continue. I have no other choice. This is my best plan to cope given that I don’t believe there is any higher power that can help me through this or can make it all make sense. The phrase that is a constant both with Rick and with Tara is that “neurons that fire together wire together” and I am hoping that I can awaken the bad neurons and replace them with better ones that know how to move forward. Giving myself positive affirmations to heal historic wounds that have come along for the ride.

Sometimes grieving my son feels like looking at a webpage. The main body of the page is the grief that Herb and I share. There are many embedded links in that body of grief. Many issues from our collective pasts that influence our sharing of our loss. That part of the page is full in and of itself.  Then it gets even more complicated with the sidebars on the page. Under each of those links are the other persons whose lives have been touched by John. Those links are hard to click on sometimes because, just like a webpage, they take you into places that you didn’t even know existed. Places that don’t add any value to the healing or the “getting easier” part. And just like on the web, places that aren’t even related to the subject but are just distractions.IMG_20141231_101104491

I had a customer stop in who shared that her brother had died in his 20s. Her mother had a hard time the rest of her life. The customer commented that as 20 somethings, they couldn’t understand why their mom still grieved for their brother. They would say to each other, ” she should be past this by now”. But, as they got older and they watched their own kids grow up, only then did they understand their mother’s grief. They couldn’t imagine watching their own child grow into adulthood, be at the start of adult life and then losing that child.

Tomorrow starts 2015. Tomorrow, when I move a pebble, I will be able to look at the calendar and use the day number as my number of pebbles, at least for 31 days on the way to 700 more days to acceptance. Yesterday, I counted the pebbles in my jar. I counted them twice. As with other times of counting, I got to add extra pebbles to the jar. Bonus pebbles. There are 2 pebbles that an acquaintance sent me to add to my jar, (one of John’s college room mate’s mom)  some driftwood and beach pebbles from Whidbey Island when we went to the west coast last summer, and a large pebble that I picked up the day we walked by the Rouge river with John after driving across the country with him. The large Gratitude stone in the photo was given to me by a good friend so that I remember each day to be grateful. Thank you everyone for helping us get through these 300 days. 700 more to go…I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for small things. I am grateful that I had John and that we got to enjoy him for 30 years. I just wish it had been more.

 

 

 

Build Your Own Fairy Garden Class

Fairy Garden collage

Fairy Garden Items

Shenandoah County Parks and Rec has asked me to teach a Build Your Own Fairy Garden Class. I thought this would be a fun way to introduce, not only fairy gardens but, working in clay. Hand building clay items is relaxing and fun and a great way to experience the ceramics process.

The class is listed in the Fall Program Guide that came in the mail about a week ago. Registration for classes started on August 18th and the deadline to sign up for my class is the 23rd of September. You can download the form here…

The listing in the catalog reads as follows:

Build Your Own Fairy Garden

Fairy gardens are a fun way to add whimsy to your outside garden, porch or patio. They can also add interest to an indoor potted plant. In this class, you will build all the accessories to make your own fairy garden out of stoneware clay while leaning about hand-building with clay and the processes that it takes to make miniature items. You can assemble a fairy garden when the accessories are finished and this class will  help you do that too. There will be three total classes. During the last class, you have the option to take your accessories home to assemble your fairy garden or bring your plants along to class for assistance in assembling! PLEASE NOTE: Registration deadline is September 23 For ages 13 and over.

Saturday, September 27th, 9:00 am-12:00 pm

Saturday, October 4th, 9:00 am-12:00 pm

Saturday, October 11th, 9:00 am-12:00 pm

The class will be held in Community Room #1 of the Historic Courthouse in Woodstock, VA and the fee for the class is $59.00 per person. The fairy garden kit, in my Etsy shop sells for $120 so this is a great opportunity. Don’t miss it!