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Bird by Bird

Written on: February 3rd, 2009 by: in Learning Journeys

Honoré here: It is  February 3, already the second month of the year ~ 34 days have gone by…imagine! I don't know about you but I, as a member of a league of zillions of people, have made v-e-r-y little, if any progress, on my 2009 goals (smile). But why should I fret and declare myself a loser, I still have 331 days and everyday is a new day – another smile. I have been thinking and imagining and gathering and ruminating and contemplating and reading and researching and wishing and  basically procrastinating! One of my goals is really not all that complicated and certainly not at all "no fun." The goal is simply to "play at art everyday." One wonders how difficult can that be? Simply a matter of letting the inner child out, sez she.

All of the above brought me to revisit one of my favorite books/authors:  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. In my readings over the past 3-4 years, I kept bumping into Anne via other authors' words – she is/was a source of inspiration to them and so, I decided, I'd "meet her, too." And glad that I did. What a great conversation one can/does have with Anne. She's a keeper! This passage that I share from Bird by Bird  tells it all:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was Bird_by_Bird_LR
trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder ,and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”p.18.

And having shared the above, guess I'd better get goin' on my own birds. Have you got any "birds" hanging 'roun?



“They must not speak until spoken to…”

Written on: January 26th, 2009 by: in Learning Journeys

Laura here: A friend sent this imaginative quote to me to share with Honoré who suggested I share with all of our readers:

Book stack
"In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends, but they are imprisoned by an enchanter in these paper and leathern boxes; and though they know us, and have been waiting two, ten, or twenty centuries for us,—some of them,—and are eager to give us a sign and unbosom themselves, it is the law of their limbo that they must not speak until spoken to; and as the enchanter has dressed them, like battalions of infantry, in coat and jacket of one cut, by the thousand and ten thousand, your chance of hitting on the right one is to be computed by the arithmetical rule of Permutation and Combination,—not a choice out of three caskets, but out of half a million caskets, all alike." 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 


She’s Only 7 and Already a Role Model

Written on: January 19th, 2009 by: in Learning Journeys

Honoré here: One of my bright ideas for 2008 was to teach my nieces, ages 7 and 16, how to sew and quilt. I believe this idea entered my mind sometime during the summer. I finally got around to setting up a session with and for them the Saturday after Christmas. A part of their Christmas  present included a pillow form and the opportunity to select fabrics  – from my stash – for a  pillowcase and also a "bucket bag." I'd also bought a them a book to read in preparation for the first lesson.

Saturday came and tho' we had a late start, we finally got the "show" underway. The younger niece had her first lesson on threading a needle and making a knot in the "string" – which is what she calls the thread. Eventually she will use the correct nomenclature…I noticed as she threaded the needle and managed not to make a knot , regardless of how hard or as many times she tried, that she was so patient with herself. She just didn't seem to become frustrated. It was a delight to observe that and also, a challenge for both her older sister and me, I must admit, to attain that "being in the moment" state.

How many times do we as adults decide we just can't do something even before we try and definitely after several unsuccessful attempts? How often do we just give up, defeated and/or disgusted or convinced that we aren't creative or we won't ever learn? How many new learning ventures have we abandoned or never really ever started because we're convinced that we aren't creative, can't learn, don't have the time, are klutzes, etc? Count me among the group.

I learned a lot from my 7 year-old niece that day: patience, perseverance, appreciation, admiration, extreme self-care. As I contemplate and embrace my current and new learning experiences, I shall keep her in mind as a role model and try, the very best I can, to be as patient with me as she is with herself.



Sprint vs. Long-Distance Learning

Written on: January 13th, 2009 by: in Learning Journeys

Kathy here: We tend to focus on the long view in these conversations. I Sneaker
mean, the words learning journeys conjure specific images in the mind's eye, don't they? A road meandering over the hill, a sailboat on the horizon…you get the idea. But, what about the learning we do in short bursts? That learning that may not be high – or even listed – in our traditional "learning areas?"  My current book list triggered my thinking about this phenomenon. Let's call it Sprint Learning or In-The-Moment Learning, shall we?

I have been feeling a bit behind regarding tech toys and the World Beyond Blogging; so, I dug in and researched news feeds that would keep me in the loop without absorbing my life. Coincidentally, a colleague recommended an aggregator called Tabbloid that sends a digest update of your feeds to… Great, right?  Finally, along the way, I found book reviews for iBrain and Geekspeak…why not check them out too? Sure! I was on a roll!

But now…the point. I can already feel this surge…this sprint…winding down. I have been skimming through Geekspeak, not really reading it.

The next sprint? Who knows…that's where the merriment emerges, isn't it? Have you sprinted through a subject recently? We would love to hear about it!


I can read again!

Written on: January 5th, 2009 by: in Learning Journeys

Honoré here: In my post of December 3, 2008, I toyed with the idea of depriving myself for a week without reading as prescribed by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. In that post, I posited that I might just try my hand and I did – last week, December 27 , 2008 through January 3, 2009. How did I fare? Well, first off the bat, know that I, as with countless thousands, totally balked at the idea of a week without reading. Heresy! But, I willed myself to at least give it a try…and that I did.

This was especially more difficult because of the time of year and I had received two new magazines – one, a special issue – Somerset Art Journaling  that I'd been awaiting for  three months; another, my favorite Cloth*Paper*Scissors; and  a new title Making It All Work by David Allen, author of  the NYTimes best selling (for years) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  Wouldn't you know that three items would show up on my reading table during that week?!

And there they sat – beckoning me…I did read a little: the proverbial emails, news headlines, and a knitting magazine for the Great American Afghan – a class I'm going to take at the end of this month. Other than that, I was pretty faithful; know though, I battled daily with myself: why not? who cares? what's the use? who will know? etc, etc.

Sunday, January 4 arrived and I was  free – I could read again! And I didn't; can you believe that? Why didn't I? Well, only because I had a very early morning engagement: A friend and I went to the newly re-opened Smithsonian American History Museum to see the Gettysburg Address that's on display. Quite an impressive display and the document, writ in Lincoln's own hand, just totally underscores the impact of those 272 words (there is a variation of the  total number  of words, ranging between 246 -272, depending on which of the five copies one is reading; the version on display is the Bliss copy and is owned by the White House. For more on the address, check out this wikipedia article ). Finally, later yesterday afternoon, I was able to sit down and read: I leafed through the Art Journaling magazine and started Making It All Work plus looked at the newspaper headlines.

I wrote in my journal: Whew! RD (reading deprivation) week is over. It's hard not to do something, to break a habit. Harder yet —>consciously making a habit…anyway, it's o-v-e-r and hopefully never again. Sometimes I have clutched at the thought that I was "out of something to read." What would I do? How could I go on? Horrors! Well, in actuality, I'll never be without – there are a few books in this house I've yet to read; there is the Internet and my  Kindle. And I can also write, art journal, re-read, click, etc…In short, what I discovered is that I do have things to do to occupy and exercise my mind, to engage my artist's brain, to explore some new and many old learning paths. Reading is just one method I use. But after all is said and done, I am so-o-o glad I can read again!



The Pause That Refreshes ~ Part II

Written on: December 29th, 2008 by: in Learning Journeys

Kathy here: My tale of runaway reading last week was only part of the story. You remember that I was swept away with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.

What you don't know is that Meyer Followers lined up to purchase the final book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, hours before the sales began at midnight on August 2, 2008, including my 26-year-old daughter. Book stores likened the frenzy to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter phenomenon. And, frenzy is the right word.

While I missed this round, I was a part of the Harry Potter rumpus.  Wandering Barnes & Noble at 11:30pm., waiting with hundreds of children, teen and adults from all walks of life…many dressed as their favorite character…for our turn to possess, to hold, to own the next installment in Harry's adventures. It was hard not to hug the person next to you.

What did this add my learning path? I recall that around Book 3, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, I pulled out my old "research" into the power of story, the need to write/tell/hear them; I even dug up my old copy of Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth.  I began to explore the topic anew.

Meanwhile along the way, an entirely new vein in the experience emerged when the Harry Potter titles moved to film. Attendees couldn't help dissecting the director's interpretation of the book, discussing what points were made, where sub-plots fell away. I witnessed the same with Peter Jackson's vision of the Lord of the Rings ; the chorus there was "It takes a true fan of the books to make the movies. And Peter is one." 

Now, Twilight has hit the big screen. Yes, I went to see it with my daughter. Yes, the theatre was full of 12+ females madly in love with the male lead. Yet, imagine my delight when I heard them give approval to the portrayal of the Cullens' home in the woods or to the completeness of the dialogue in the high school cafeteria.  This was still a strong group reading experience. 

And, the group reading experience is the rest of this story. Wouldn't it be great if an adult novel stimulated this sort of reaction? How about you? Any altering reading experiences you would like to share?


The Pause That Refreshes

Written on: December 22nd, 2008 by: in Learning Journeys

Kathy here: The peculiar incongruity of my role as "Author Girl" at the Delaware Book Festival is my inability to read in the weeks before and after the event. Oh, I do read titles from our attending authors and rounded out October with Laurie Halse Anderson, Dale Brown, W. Michael & Kathleen Gear, Tess Gerritsen and Jon Scieszka. But, while I am now or continue to be a fan of these authors, the selections fall more into the "book club required reading" column than my "personal choices" column, don't they? 

My 'Pause That Refreshes' began the evening of Wednesday, Nov 19th when I cracked the cover of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, Volume 1 of her Twilight Series. Before I knew it, I had devoured the book. Reading before work, at lunch, after work…I moved through the remaining 3 titles swiftly. By Friday night, I had finished. And, boy was I refreshed.  My head stuffed full of the world Stephenie opened to me, a quiet settled in…refreshment.

I'll share more about the series next week. But, tell us…have you ever been drawn into a reading experience in this way?  Have you felt the pull that won't let you stop reading? Please share a title or two with us. We may need a new Pause That Refreshes.

An aside:  Remember The Pause That Refreshes? It is the Coca-Cola ad from 1929! I was investigating the history of the jolly Santa Claus created by Coke and found Winspiration. See more Coke ads.

Last, favorite Christmas book?  Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, of course!


My Story of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Written on: December 17th, 2008 by: in Learning Journeys

Laura here: This summer my friend needed to buy a book for a mutual
friend of ours as a birthday gift. I was in town and we were all getting
together to celebrate the last couple of birthdays for our group. The recipient
of this book was smart and had listed a specific title: The Story of Edgar
by David Wroblewski on her wish list. As a book lover I was surprised I hadn’t
heard of it, but sadly I hadn’t—odd title, unknown author.

My friend had made a purchase for me on her Macy’s card in
addition to buying me a lovely birthday gift so I explained I would purchase
the book so we’d be even. I assumed her silence was acceptance of my plan. Ha!
This dear friend is not a bookstore browser like me—I can browse for hours. We
found the book within five minutes and then spent fifteen minutes reading laugh
out loud birthday cards before selecting one and going to the checkout.

At the moment I was passing the book to the cashier
explaining I needed to pay for this my friend deftly lifted the book from my hand
and told the clerk something about me being her guest, this was her
town, and she needed to pay for the
book. I, less deftly, reached for the book— friends don’t grab—but my friend was quick! I had my hands on one end of the book she had a vise like grip on
most of the book and we were doing our darndest to wrestle the book away from
the other! For a more helpful visual here you go: I’m 5’9’’ and my dear, sweet
(strong) friend is 4’ 11”. In retrospect it IS funny isn’t it?

I came to my senses—I let go. It was a BOOK, we might damage
it; horror of horrors! The book lover in me won out over the responsible friend
part of me. And I find it interesting that my first experience with this particular
book was a ‘struggle’, because as much as I loved this book once I read it, I am
still struggling with it.

Since then I’ve purchased the book, selected the ideal time
to read the book in as few a days as possible—I knew I’d be swept away. I
discovered an exceptional storyteller in David Wroblewski and lifelong memorable
characters in Edgar, Almondine and the other Sawtelle dogs.

I loved this book. I didn’t want it to end. Yes, I’m a dog
person but I’ve never read an animal story as insightful and uniquely engaging
as this one. The chapters written from Almondine’s point of view (Edgar’s
canine soul mate) felt true and achingly real to me—as though we as readers
have stepped into an alien yet familiar mind.

If you’ve read the book maybe you’ll understand my struggle
with the end, and if not perhaps you’ll be intrigued enough to experience it
for yourself. This truly is a book to be experienced and mulled over, then
talked about, and talked about some more. I hope you’ll share your experience of Edgar’s story with

NOTE: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was chosen as an Oprah's
Book Club selection and you can read more here. There is an excellent Q&A
with David, but warning there are ‘spoilers’ here so if you haven’t read the
book browse with care.


All Tattered, Torn, and Well-Loved

Written on: December 10th, 2008 by: in Learning Journeys

Honoré here: The other day I pulled out my Christmas decorations, among which are several of my favorite holiday books. One I've had for I bet close to twenty years is Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas. This is a book that my grand-nieces , now 22 , 16, and 7, along with others, have read and enjoyed, year in, year out. And it looks it: the dust jacket is in pieces and I keep thinking, what can I do to salvage it?

I've come up with several ideas from tape to collage to scanning the cover and then printing out on fabric – how clever is that? (Taking that route would also require another learning curve: editing the scan in a photo-editor software program, printing on fabric, etc.). And finally, I thought the easiest thing to do is to buy a new book. Besides, it's time my nieces had their own copy.

Well, a quick check on Amazon  tells me that plan doesn't work either; t'aint any copies available in English and those that are – collectibles- might cost $175!  Ummm…back to the drawing board. And for the time being, guess I'll just remove the dust jacket on my copy, make a photocopy of  what's left of it to use on a temporary basis until … Sounds like a plan to me.

What are some of your favorite Christmas and holiday books? Please share them with us.


A week without reading!?

Written on: December 3rd, 2008 by: in Learning Journeys

Honoré here: Last Sunday I was reading  the latest  (Dec/Jan) issue of "Quilting Arts Magazine". Award-winning art quilter, Katie Pasquini Masopust was featured and when asked about her process, she replied: "I am very focused and work/play at my art daily." (p.31). Well, bells went off in my head. What a profound thought and immediately, I decided that's just the formula I need to adopt . I decided to do a little more research on Katie and other quilters/artists' takes on how they practice, on a daily basis, their art – whatever the medium.

So, to the Internet I turned. In addition to books, I find blogs a great Book stack
resource for discovering an artist's examination of her process. In reading one blog,  I was stunned: the blogger was reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (TAW) and was at Week/Chapter 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity.  During this week, "the tasks, essays and exercises are designed to catapult you [the reader]  into productive introspection and integration of new self-awareness." One tool Julia Cameron warns us  not to skip is reading deprivation: no reading for a full week – count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 days! "Say w-h-a-t?" ( in your best Hannah Montana voice).

I immediately scanned my bookshelves for my copy of TAW; found it; found the chapter and read all about Reading Deprivation, p.87 – 89). The blogger, understandably,  was beside herself. And I? Well, I decided I'd re-read TAW; after all, it has been several years…and so I am, along with a few other titles, several are by Katie Pasquini Masopust.

What will I do when I get to chapter 4? I'm steeling myself for that – not that I have to not read for a week – but I might just for the experience (horrors…and this coming from a librarian!). Reading is very much a part of my life; I begin each day reading, journaling, reflecting… I'll let you know when and if I do not read for a week and how it was. And if any of you want to read TAW, just click on the Delaware Library card logo to access the catalog and locate a copy in a library. Oh, and BTW, any one up to the challenge of not reading for a week?