Thursday, April 14, 2011

G is for Grand!

(Grandma Sue & Grandpa Joe at their 50th Anniversary Party)

Three birthdays draw near in my family, my daughter's (who shares hers with my Mother) and my husband's. I am pausing to reflect on years past and the life I have shared with my own extended family. I have decided that there is nothing more Godly and Grand than family ties. As a child, my fondest memories are of times spent with relatives. Some of my life's "firsts" were those shared with parents and grandparents, and I hope that Sissy and Bubby are forming memories they can treasure like I have. I see my brother and I as children, reflected over the years in our own kids.
Some of my earliest memories of my extended family were of Sunday lunches in Tarkio, Missouri, driving to see my great grandparents and waiting for the red barn to appear, signaling our arrival. Grandpa Joe would drive us south in his giant car, and we would be nestled in the backseat watching the fields fly by. I was probably only seven or eight, so my mother would probably be shocked to know that I recall Great Grandma making green beans with bacon, since I really didn't like green beans as a child. I remember sitting near a cracked and worn but lovingly cleaned counter top watching her bustle about and gather food for the table. She wore thick glasses, floral polyester dresses and support hose, but she was beautiful because I loved her so much. She crocheted an afghan for my bed in my favorite colors, and I still have it. Poppy was always there too, as we called my Great Grandpa, a tall figure folded into his comfy recliner chair. He always had a pack of Double mint gum in the bib pocket of his blue pinstriped overalls, and he would gather his grandchildren into his lap so we could seek a piece of gum and stay for a chat. I remember his chuckle was so quiet it would just shake his chest a bit while I sat with him. He would take us outside to feed apples to his horse after lunch.
My Grandma Sue and Aunt Lois continued family tradition for the next generation, as my large family grows ever larger. My Mom's eight siblings are strewn far and wide across the Midwest, and their families have families now. My Dad's three siblings are close to home in Iowa, though a smaller family they are nonetheless part of my family tradition. I am blessed that I am never short of family to send Christmas cards to, the only trick is keeping up with that many addresses and stamps.
On my Dad's side of the family, my great grandparents lived in Skidmore, Missouri. I remember dinners there too, usually for annual summer family reunions. My Dad's parents would take us to visit other times too, Grandma and Grandpa Johnson were very involved with my brother and I and our cousins. Many summer days were spent on their acreage playing with my cousins and growing tan and covered in mosquito bites.
While taking my own children to have photos taken with my nephew T.J. I recalled a similar photo of my cousin Eric and I when we were three. My Aunt Jan still has a hilarious recording of he and I playing and singing. As usual, I was the straight...aptly and primly singing the alphabet, while he sang "Fiddle-dee-dee" over and over endlessly. It wasn't really a song so much as a laughing, mocking interruption that I'm sure was meant to frustrate me. He was my best friend in childhood, once saving me from walking on an injured bare foot by pulling a nail from it, and running to get help. I remember being so scared, but he coolly handled the situation, though I don't think that we were more than five years old. In better times, he and I would squabble over the snacks Grandpa would give us while we watched him stock his delivery truck. He delivered chips for Guy's Foods, which seemed very glamorous from the point of view of a kiddo :) Grandma taught me all she knew about canning and gardening, and I loved picking my way through her garden choosing juicy berries from the raspberry bushes, or watching Mom pick green beans and tomatoes. I loved sitting with Grandma and Aunt Jan at the kitchen table, watching Grandma pin curl her hair and paint her nails, or embroiled in a cup of coffee and a game of Yahtzee.

I am so thankful for the loving Grandparents my children have had, and the attention that is lavished upon them. It makes the family circle feel complete. Sissy asks when we will next see "my Nonnie" (my husband's grandmother). Bubby adores talking hunting and cruising Cabela's with Grandpa Bill. I can't get him to stop wearing the camo jacket that Grandpa bought him, even though it's much too small. Sissy loves to help and watch Mom and Nana knit and cook, while Daddy and Bubby 'fix stuff' in Papa's garage. Sissy insists that Grandpa Gary likes to do puzzles and help her play dress-up! Bubby never forgets to complete a visit with Grandma Judy with one of her squeezy, swinging hugs. Sissy and Bubby are both convinced that it is their job to make sure Gramma Jane never runs out of cookies, or her own songs, original stories and artwork for her fridge. When at her closet every morning Sissy asks what I think Gramma would like her to wear, or if Gramma will pick her up from school. My kids are so secure basking in the love of their grandparents, and I know we are blessed by God to have such awesome relatives.
Aren't Grandparents Grand?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

E is for Everything, F is for Family

Dearest readers: it's time to condense. As the bloggers' challenge presses on without me, I feel it is time to catch up by whatever method is available to me. So in that vein, I make a logical conclusion in my head that my Everything is my Family. Hey, it's in alphabetical order.

The Miller family was founded in 1994. My college sweetheart and I had been together for nearly three years, and (though we had not graduated) it was time for us to forge the love of a lifetime. You know that reference, honey, I love you! On June 18, my Everything-Michael Miller and I, Jami Johnson Miller said "I do."
We met in September of 1991, my freshman year and his sophomore year at Northwest Missouri State. We were in Graphic Design I together, and the flirtation was very mutual. Ours was a whirlwind romance: He asked me to be his girlfriend on September 18th, 1991, he asked me to be his wife on January 18th, 1992, he presented me with a ring on March 18th, 1992 (yes, that's six short months)...and we were married on June 18th, 1994. Next year, we will celebrate 18 years of marriage....since '18' seems a momentous number in our history I plan to celebrate our love 18 times bigger than previous years :)

Since then, we have lived a life very like most middle class newly marrieds. We lived in a dinky second floor apartment with garage sale furniture
until we were finished with school (those were blissful days anyway). We went to Italy and Sicily for a month on a work study trip and were in Rome for our first anniversary. We made many wonderful friends on that trip and in college, many of them are still part of our life. Hi Heather, Troy, Janice, Brian, Jen et al! We moved same said shabby furniture to Kansas City in 1997, and then to our first home in Liberty in 1999. We made many more friends when we moved down to Missouri to be closer to Mike's family. We also went to Germany and Paris before we had kids. (That's us on the Eiffel Tower at right.) Hi Becki and Greg :)

The most notable exception to the somewhat common 'story of us' was that we waited for nine years before having children...this was a choice, not a difficulty. We wanted to be ready. Our families were indignant, ha ha ha. I still remember the bone-crushing hug Mike gave me when he came home from work the day in March that we found out we were expecting. I'd been forced to call him at work to tell him before he came home so he would know before the girls at work did. Hi Rheana and Mary :)
And then there were three! Wesley Christian Miller was born on November 6, 2003. He was the darling red-headed grandchild Gramma Jane foretold, and we love him so much. We marveled that those crazy nurses at the hospital who were actually going to send this tiny baby home with us. What were they thinking? *cue laughter*

Like most new parents lament, those days flew by so quickly. When Wes was not quite potty-trained, we had barely touched on the discussion of a second child and we were expecting again. There's a tribute to the power of suggestion: That time, God knew we were ready before we did. Keira Noelle Miller was born on April 25th, 2007. She is our little blond angel baby, and she shows us daily that cute has an attitude :)

Now as Mike and I watch our little family grow and learn, we are awed and amazed by our fierce love for our children. Wes is now seven, and Keira nearly four years old. They are an extension of my endless love for my husband, who is truly my everything. My family and I are so blessed, and I am so grateful that we are healthy and happy. I have faith that God has a place in Heaven for us that is truly beyond my imagination, but I tell you that I can't imagine that life here on earth gets much better than this.

Monday, April 11, 2011

D is for Dance, and dream!

I watch my darling 'almost four' year old Sissy daily...she skips, twirls, leaps and dances through her day with abandon. I so delight in her antics. Laughter bubbles out of me as I ask her for the umpteenth time to slow down or walk. But should she? Her enthusiasm is intoxicating. I really adore watching her dance. She hasn't even been enrolled in a class, but she tells me she wants to be a ballerina when she grows up. "You absolutely can be!" I tell her, "you just have to practice."
I love her innocent confidence, she makes up stories, sings her own songs and dances the day away. Dream, girl! =)

While most of us 'adults' are still designing our dreams, I love to hear children talk about theirs. Most are simply confident that the world is open to whatever possibilities one can imagine. Listening to a child talk about their future with passion is refreshing and inspirational. People around me tell me that working with children is a challenge, and they are not wrong. But I feel that children have a lot to teach us. Jesus tells us to have faith like a child... since having my own children and working as a teacher, now I know why. A child has no doubt that anything is possible. Worldly wisdom may try to teach us that is not so. But I say, listen to the children in your life. Have faith in your dreams and work hard to make them come true. How can you succeed if you don't dance?

One Lady

C is for Caterpillar :)

So, who doesn't love the idea of a butterfly? It's a beautiful creature, an ethereal and wonderful evidence of God at work in our world. I love to use butterfly imagery in my work, and it seems I am not alone. Many published papercrafters use them as well. I am thinking of caterpillars today, because of the absolute joy that my preschool class exhibits every day as they watch the caterpillars in our room build cocoons. The anticipation of butterflies is almost too much for them. We all know the process: egg to caterpillar, caterpillar to chrysalis, and finally the beauty emerges as a flying wonder. The metaphor for an artist is easy to translate.

My post is dedicated to caterpillars today because I am focusing on growth. I am doing all in my power to improve myself, feed my soul and grow. Rather than stew in my middle-agedness, that is! It's not easy to feed my creative self and become a butterfly. I think (mostly because I am living it) that this stage of my life as an artist is the hardest. As an art student, my idealism was abundant. As a young married with a future to build, art was an outlet next to my career. Now, as a mother that works part-time and cares for my family, art is simply an escape. My limited time also limits my options to create. I must carve out time to make things, sometimes at the expense of balance in my life. Yes, I am a caterpillar that is currently starving a bit....but one day soon! I have aspirations for butterflyhood :) If you read my post about belatedness, you'll know that I am just talking about patiently waiting for my bliss to come, and making time when I can.

I find a little time to create with my kids, make learning crafts with my students, but most importantly I still crochet a bit. I know that summer will help my personal UFO list, and I look mostly forward to getting organized and caught up with the to-do list in my art journal. The process of organizing the mess that is my craft space will push me to complete and create even more! I also plan to add to the list during my clean up, and fill scrapbooks and binders with inspiration for when I DO have time.
If you too are a caterpillar, may you find some nourishment for your creative soul!
One Lady

Monday, April 4, 2011

B is for "Belated Bliss"

Yes, it is the second day of the blog challenge for me, though the rest of the challenge is racing on to day four. I will catch up at some point! Procrastination is somewhat of a given in my life. The family and the job come first for me. A laid-back state of "Belated" is just how it is when you are an artist, a mother, a teacher and a blogger!
I am very happy to tell you that my list of UFO's has stabilized, since I am not adding any new projects to date. Once I have moved on to the BLISS of summer, I plan to make a healthy dent in the craft room :) I want to make more incheys, like those pictured at left.

My artistic inspiration abounds this year, since I will be spending my summer at home with the kiddos: Bubby is aged seven and Sissy is nearly four. Mama-san is planning some home school lessons to keep up our first grade and PreK skills, and those will include some art projects that my boy will like....and some glitter for baby-girl too. We entertain a darling teenaged neighbor that is a budding babysitter, so I hope to add an etsy shop to my tableau while she plays at my house. I would welcome any hints or tips from the pros at this point, I plan to start with crocheted purses with handmade wooden handles.
Don't miss the next Belated blog post, manana!
One Lady

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for "Artistic Ability"

I love being creative. I am messy, disorganized, detail-oriented in a maddeningly fantastic way, and I have no handle whatsoever on what I want from my creative endeavors. I just urgently want to create. My varied media include crochet, embroidery, paint, beading, jewelry, paper crafts, baskets, sewing, drawing, floral-arranging, and more.
My least favorite thing about being creative is my dearest friends saying this unflattering sentence..."you're artsy-fartsy, think of something we can do." As if.
I forgive you, but I don't like what you are saying to me! Here's why:

As if an inate problem-solving ability and a vastly divergent view of the world makes me silly.
As if a craft can create itself, and roll off my fingertips with no thoughtful effort. Voila!
As if I was born with creative ability, and ability cannot be learned or taught.
As if studying art in many different paints, glues, media and construction techniques makes me able to spontaneously fix anything with enough duct tape and bailing wire.
At the risk of sounding uppity: Nope, sorry.
I know that artsy-fartsy is meant to be complimentary, even off-the-cuff comedic. Rather than feeling positive, it feels shallow and prickly with spite.
Artistic ability is valuable to me for many reasons. I nurtured a love for beautiful things humbly made by hand since I was small. My mother taught me that doing things for myself made me feel accomplished. I love you, Mom.
I went to college, studied and read voraciously, worked late nights and early mornings for five years, practiced, failed and tried again at being an art student until I could stand among the best of them. Proudly, the people I studied with are the most capable people I know because they don't give up. Beauty cannot be created in one quick try, it is a labor of love.
Artists (in my meager experience) are skilled thinkers and astute observers who record visually those things that cannot be said by words alone. In fact, I find writing this makes me value more highly an artist's ability to capture nuances that are flatly impossible to express in words.

Over the last 20 years, I have met artists and artisans of many skills. I continue to be amazed and inspired at the width and breadth of their combined knowledge and prolific works. My lifelong aspiration is to be counted among their number. They work hard, tirelessly expressing the human condition and creating master works that speak for themselves.
Forgive me when I say, "I am an artist so keep your flatulent words to yourself, if you please."

A-Z Blogging April Challenge

Thanks to my friend Misty from Encouraging Sweetness, for suggesting that I sign up for this challenge. Blogger's Tossing It Out has challenged savvy bloggers to blog daily except Sundays alphabetically for the month of April. That's 26 days (just like a marathon is 26 miles) and I will be working my blogger muscles to the max to keep it running!! Join us for the fun!