Monday, January 30, 2012

Sketchbook Mania- A Tale of Procrastination

Have you heard of the Traveling Sketchbook Project? It's a brilliant plan where anyone, anywhere can order a blank sketchbook, fill it with whatever artsy medium suits their fancy and send it back to be a part of a world traveling exhibit of artists sketchbooks. They even have ideas of themes as a jumping off point.

I loved the idea, and ordered my book just before the deadline last fall, choosing "Uncharted Waters" as my theme. It just seems to go well with the unknown future, antsy, restless, can't believe I turned 40 type of energy I've been feeling.

It came in November, and while I was excited to open the package, I was confused at how flat it was. I ripped it open right there at the mailbox, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed. It was small, thin and just so very plain. Of course the idea is that as the artist, I get to dress it up, but it just seemed so little and plain Jane.

I set it on my shelf where it sat, neglected and alone for 2 1/2 months. Poor thing.

In my defense, winter is a busy time full of holidays and celebrations and my craftiness was being used up on other endeavors instead of the sketchbook.

About two weeks before the deadline to mail the finished book back, I started thinking about the project. I had already paid, and there are no refunds. Since I'm incredibly cheap thrifty, I didn't want my money to go to waste. Plus, they blacklist you if you sign up and don't finish. I had to maintain my good name, and honestly, as soon as opened my mind to the project, the ideas started to flow.

Nine days before it was due, I actually started. First thing, a purple velvet cover, during the attaching of which, I learned about spray adhesives, and probably lost a few brain cells in the process.

For the last week, I've been sketching, painting and gluing like a mad woman. I've torn up my all of my crafty areas and made a giant mess of my home. Paint, stickers, fabric and trim are spread across almost every flat surface in view. I discovered how amazing watercolor pencils are, how helpful gesso is, and how quickly super glue dries things to your fingers. I also realized that I still like sparkly things, unicorns and rainbows as much as I did when I was 8 years old.

"Uncharted Waters" represents the future to me, and since young people are the future, I recruited my kids and the group of homeschooling kids that I do art workshops with to do postcard sized paintings to glue in. They were a natural fit and didn't let me down with their awesome work. I also scored by getting 9 pages out of the way.

Now, I'm down to the wire. The sketchbook needs to be in the mail tomorrow, and still has a couple of pages  to finish. The whole thing has been a mad dash, but it's also been incredible fun. Waiting until the last minute is not nearly as bad when the job to be done is one you enjoy. In this case, I've had a blast playing with new mediums and exploring things in the book. If it had been something like taxes, no amount of coffee in the world would have made those late nights any fun for me.

I hope to do it again next year, but I also hope to be a little more organized..

I wonder how many other people procrastinate as badly as I do? Part of the problem is probably just that I try to cram so many things in. How do you all handle fitting in all the things you really want to do?

As for me, I should be painting rather than typing right now.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Too Much TV?

I've never been a big fan of TV.

OK, that's not true. I actually grew up glued to a screen, and a ridiculous amount of my brain space is taken up by commercial jingles and sitcoms from the late 70's and early 80's. If there were ever a random trivia contest where I could win a million dollars knowing the dialogue for every Brady Bunch episode, it's quite possible that I'd be rich.

In college, I would fall asleep watching reruns of shows that were older than me, but when I eventually grew up and had kids of my own, I questioned the constant presence of television. Perhaps it was partially maternal instinct, or maybe it was an effect of granola crunching area I lived in at the time. In any case, I sensed that TV and kids weren't a good mix.

As a semi-self righteous new mom, most of what I saw on kids TV seemed relatively brainless or obnoxious, and I really had no desire to defile the brains of my offspring with such garbage. I eventually succumbed to the lure of the small bit of freedom and time that a PBS Kids show or two could buy me, but it was very, very limited. Plus, I recalled my marketing classes, and the "whine factor" that companies wanted their toys to create, so I stuck with no commercials at least.

For the most part, I've managed to be a TV snob for the last 14 years. We managed to live in a happy little box of our own with very little TV influence for a long, long time. Of course life changes, and so do things, especially things I get on a soap box about.

Lately, some of my days involve so much driving and running around that we are exhausted and brain dead when we get home. Now that winter has finally hit with a vengeance, we have times of being cooped up and feeling lazy. We have a house full of creative materials, which we use, but within a couple of hours, the inspiration or motivation runs low, and it's too cold, too rainy and overall too nasty to go outside. Then, I start thinking about the rot box.

Boy Child is always happy to turn it on, while Girl Child is more likely to be checking the handy function which will tell us exactly how much screen time we've had in a day, week or whatever, and informing me of it.

It never seems like it's been on as long as it has, which is probably how people end up watching the enormous amounts of TV you hear about in statistics. In my defense, we're nowhere near the national average, and it's usually educational-ish, so I can at least count some of it as homeschooling, but's TV.

After years of (sort of smugly) saying "We don't really watch TV," I'm wondering if I can still honestly say that anymore. I don't think watching a documentary is the same as a reality show, but technically, we're still staring at a TV screen. Since the handy screen time tracking feature has shown that we do in fact, use the TV more than ever, I guess I should probably at least lose the raised nose / downward cast glances about the subject.

Parents in general, and homeschooling parents in particular seem to swing widely in opinions on TV. Is it a tool, or is it trash? How much is too much? Does it interfere with more creative endeavors? Does it increase bad attitudes and materialistic envy? What does your family do when it comes to watching? Since the box is obviously open for good in my house, I'd love to hear how other parents deal.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seeds of Sharing with Kiva

Nuevo Amanecer GroupAntonia Godoy

A couple of years ago, my birthday loot included a small wad of cash, and for some odd reason, I didn't have much on my buying wish list. Sure, I could've found ways to blow it all at the mall, or put it to use on household expenses, but those options felt wasteful or boring, so I decided to just share a chunk of my blessings.

A friend suggested I check out Kiva. If you haven't heard of them, they're an organization that does amazing work helping people all over the world. They offer micro business loans in places where you can't just go get a credit card and start charging. The loans are all to help entrepreneurs in their small businesses, rather than just for people to consume stuff, and if you decide to support the idea, it's considered a loan, not a charity donation. Lots of people pool together their money to make up the total sum needed, so you lend as little as $25.

Soñadores Con Proposito 3, 6 & 7 GroupMujeres Unidas Group

Choosing who to loan to seemed like a great family / homeschool project, so I hollered for the kids to come check it out with me. We spent quite some time browsing- there's a huge variety of kinds of businesses, people and countries of origin to consider. You could wander the site for hours..

Since half of my family comes from Colombia, and I majored in Fashion Design in a previous life, we chose two women who had clothing businesses in South America for our fist two loans. They paid us back back in installments, and in a short time, I had enough money back in my Kiva account to reinvest and make another loan.

AgripinaJose Herbert

We're now up to our 10th loan, all from the same original $50. That's right- my $50 extra birthday money has been a part of supporting ten different small businesses from all over the world. Talk about bang for your buck! It's also an awesome way of planting the seeds of sharing in my kids.

Choosing the next  borrower is almost always a family affair and done using a completely random system of whatever strikes our interest at the time.

Flor  De Azucena GroupUvumilivu Group

Sometimes, we just love a name, like the Uvumilivu Beauty Shop or The Divine Baby Jesus Crafts Group, and other times, we just love a picture, like the one of Jose and his cool red zipper mobile. Sometimes a type of business or s

ection of the world catches our eye. You can't really go wrong. The loans are rated according to risk, and the repayment rate for me, has been perfect so far.

The process has been a springboard to learning more about different countries, cultures, politics and businesses, and the world. The kids find the places on the globe, Google pictures and read about the places. We might end up trying a new food or watching a foreign film. My adventurous offspring now want to try to visit some of these businesses in our travels, and I too would love if that could happen. In 

the mean time, my kids decided to pool some of their extra holiday cash to do a loan of their own

I'd love to invite anyone with a few bucks to spare to head over to Kiva via the link below, and invest in some seeds of sharing. Come on, it'll make you feel good.......Bring your kids along too- it's a great lesson and a good deal of fun.

Divino Niño Jesus GroupPacajes Group 

Our Family loans so far....