Today I am 35

I have been gifted this life for the last
35 years
or 12,784 days
or 18,409,789 minutes
or 1,104,587,350 seconds.

How do you measure a life? Tears have been shed; deep, aching laughs shared. I’ve held hands, children, secrets, love. I’ve been a sister for more than half my years, a parent for the last six, a wife for nearly eleven. I’m still learning and growing, but am also more aware and anxious about the passing of time. I want to make it all count, to know I’ve done well by the time gifted me, both for myself and those I care about.

These keystrokes in a blog, those words in a journal, my brushstrokes on a canvas—it’s all a form of mark-making, mark-leaving. Both assertive—I was here!—and inquisitive—did you notice me? Today, I take all of that in and look forward to stepping into a fresh year of my life.

Published in journal, true life stories on Wednesday, March 27, 2013
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Papermaking SkillShare recap

Papermaking Workshop Handout
Papermaking workshop photos by Kafi D'Ambrosi

Photos courtesy of Kafi D’Ambrose | Studio Kafi

So, that was mad fun! Yesterday afternoon, as part of a SkillShare organized by Mesh Baltimore, I taught a handful of people how to make handmade paper by recycling their junk mail and household paper.

I thought this would be a great subject to teach because I originally was motivated to try papermaking after seeing a 30-second animation about the process on the DIY Network (true story!); if I could learn all about it in 30 seconds, surely I could teach other people how to do it in 55 minutes!
Seeing the workshop participants lift their first sheets out of the vat and reveal their successes when they removed the deckle was really inspiring and exciting. Also, while I was crazy nervous about being in a teaching role (especially after discovering many of Mesh’s workshop leaders are or have been actual classroom teachers!), the informal and fun atmosphere of the workshop really made me relax and I had a great time—and hope the participants did, too.
As promised in yesterday’s workshop, I’ve uploaded a handout with some basic papermaking information and links to additional tutorials and resources about papermaking. I hope, however, the main lessons participants took home were these:

  1. Paper has been around for centuries. As a result, there really is no one true way to do things.
  2. Papermaking is a super forgiving process. Don’t be tense and know there are many ways to fix, undo or reclaim your mistakes.

You can never step into the same river twice. Nor can you pull the same sheet a second time.

From my papermaking workshop handout.

I had a great time both teaching and learning throughout the day and am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this event. The next Baltimore SkillShare is set for March 2, so check out Mesh Baltimore’s web site and Twitter for more details about how to attend and get involved yoruself!.

Published in modus operandi, true life stories on Sunday, January 20, 2013
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Giveaway: Handmade paper for sharing my upcoming papermaking workshop

Turning Junk Mail into Your Heart’s Desire

I am thrilledthrilledthrilled to share that I will be teaching a papermaking workshop as part of Mesh Baltimore‘s SkillShare this Saturday, January 19. I will be one of more than a dozen presenters sharing skills and topics we’re passionate about–ranging from the crafty and DIY (like my paperworking workshop and another on wet and needle felting) to awesome skills (like photography and meditation) to the financially savvy (like  making a budget or using your smartphone to save dosh). The whole idea and inspiration behind this event resounds with me ever so much:

At Mesh, life-long learning is far more than a catch-phrase; it’s who we are. Our ever-changing array of classes—suggested and taught by local people like you—offers inexpensive and lively ways to satisfy learners’ curiosity and to develop skills they never knew they had (but always yearned for!).  Mesh is a place where people come together to learn new things, to share ideas, and to celebrate creativity, ingenuity, and community.

And I don’t think I’m the only one, so I’m eager to get the word out and meet lots of crafty, creative, inspired people this weekend. To that end, I would appreciate it if you got the word out to your network, your tribe via social media and generally hollerin’ it off a mountain or pier—doubly so if you’re near to the Baltimore area. As some extra special motivation, I’m posting my first blog giveaway:  I’m offering two lucky winners some handmade paper of their very own, either in the form of six handmade paper hearts (see above) or one simply stitched booklet of handmade paper. To be entered into the giveaway, enter these simple steps:

  1. Share this post on Twitter and/or Facebook;
  2. For each network you share to, leave a comment below letting me know where you shared it and if you would prefer the handmade paper hearts or the booklet of handmade paper. (Please remember to double-check your email address before submitting your comment.)
  3. Check back on Tuesday morning when I announce the winners!

FINE PRINT:  All entries must be shared and received by 10pm EST on Friday, January 18. While I encourage everyone to share this event, I’m only willing to ship to US addresses at this time. Winners will be contacted by Monday, January 21, and asked to provide a mailing address; in the case of no response, I’ll pick a back-up winner. Winners will be chosen at random. My friends and family are encouraged to enter, same as everyone else!

Thank you so much for supporting both my workshop and the overall event. If you’re in or near the Baltimore area, I definitely recommend you check out the roster of SkillShare sessions and consider registering if a few of those strike your fancy. I hope to see you Saturday!

Published in giveaway on Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Remember & learning my way through grief

Prompt 2, Completed

I woke this morn with the image of the flower on the left side of this journal spread, made back in 2009, in my mind. Today would be my mother’s 55th birthday. Saturday will be the sixth anniversary of her death. I didn’t—couldn’t—speak at her funeral, so instead friends got together and organized much of the content of the service and served as the officiant. I’ve never regretted passing up opportunity to say something in public about my relationship with and love for my mother. Instead, I knew that choice was good and right because it offered me the opportunity to take care of myself and also meant that I truly felt I had said everything important to her already—while she was alive. I did, however, cobble together her obituary, knowing that, other than her brother, I was the person in her life who knew her the longest and could best sum up who she was, not just in those shining years before the cancer diagnosis, but the length of her journey:

PAMELA JOAN THOME. January 8, 1959 – January 12, 2007.
Lived a varied and joyous life: beginning in a Polish neighborhood in Chicago, traveling across the Midwest on the dog show circuit and up and down the East Coast, stamping her passport to see the Crown Jewels in London, and making her home in a quiet neighborhood in Port Richey, FL, while enjoying a creative and beautiful life as Her Excellency Baroness Duva dea Pullea in a kingdom known as Trimaris. Her resume lists many jobs, but first and foremost was her dedication to her children, Michael (11) and Angélique (28) of Port Richey. Also survived by a brother, Larry (44) of Buffalo Grove, IL, and countless people who called her “friend.” Died after a more than yearlong battle against cancer, but her humor, love, and joie de vivre stay with us.
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

And, of course, since then, I’ve written both about and to her again and again—here, in a separate blog that chronicled a lot of my grief and in my journals private and shared (as above). I’ve learned a lot through processing my grief (my mother used to exclaim in (sometimes) mock exasperation, “Joy, another damn learning experience!”), and today two lessons stand out to me:

  1. Say it now. My mother made it a point to tell me she was proud of me, that she thought I was awesome in part because she did not get those messages from her parents. I learned from this and, therefore, had countless opportunities throughout our time together to tell her how important she was to me, how much I valued her. I didn’t realize until she was in Hospice was a gift this was; in comparison to her experience caring for her dying mother where she still felt like she had to prove herself, I could just act in love. Tell the people in your life what they mean to you, do it now. I have a lot of grief about my mother’s death, but none of it is invested in things unsaid.
  2. Change it now. My mother’s last marriage was to an emotionally abusive alcoholic. Extracting herself from that relationship was a painful and slow process, but the person she became afterward was truly magnificent. Gone were the caution, exhaustion and timidness and, instead, she became a vibrant woman who inspired many around her. She accumulated so many new experiences in the time between her divorce and her death that I am alternately emboldened by her lust for life and devastated that it was cut short. Some years after her death, I realized that the time she had to learn and establish who she was after the divorce was almost exactly the time she had spent being diminished by that relationship—six years. The perfect balance of those two periods of her life is strangely symbolic to me. If you’re investing your energy, money or heart in something that is not nurturing or supporting you, change it now. We don’t know how much time we have, and don’t you want to be the best version of you for the most time possible?


None of these messages are particularly unique to my experience, but sometimes we need to hear something over and over again in different words and formats before it sinks in and becomes the thing that prods us to act differently going forward. If this isn’t your moment for an epiphany, I only hope these words are one more step toward that realization.

Published in quotes, true life stories on Tuesday, January 8, 2013
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