What’s in a name

Today’s post is inspired by the daily prompt from The Isolation Journals, a creative writing project with daily prompts from Suleika Jaouad.

(description from the website)
A Daily Creativity Project to help make sense of challenging times.
This spring, Suleika will be serving up daily journaling prompts from some of the most inspiring writers, artists, musicians and unsung heroes she knows. We hope this creativity project sparks your imagination and helps us all process and stay connected during these difficult times.


This is a 100-day project, but you can jump in at any time. Sign up here, and we’ll email you daily prompts through the first week of July.

I joined the project late after hearing a mention of it on a video. I am loving the prompts and enjoying the writing challenges. If you want to develop your writing skills, this is a great way to do it. Daily e-mails include prompts and examples from Suleia and guests. All prompts are available on social media (@suleikajaouard) but Suleika encourages people to join in real time for the power of shared journalling.

Here is my short response to today’s prompt:
Write an ode to your name. Reflect on how it sounds and makes you feel. What it means, where it came from and if there’s a story behind how you got it. How has it informed who you’ve become?

For most of my life I have found my name to be a burden because of its length. I go by Mary Elizabeth. Both names. No abbreviations.

I am named after both grandmothers but it is definitely a mouthful to use both as a first name. My mother decided that using both would ensure that I would not be mistaken for someone else in her large family. She was the youngest of 16 and most of her siblings had 5+ children by the time that I was born.

From the time I was very young, Mom would forcefully correct anyone who referred to me with If it was on the phone, she would promptly hang up on the caller. She would not tolerate any abbreviations. Although my family called me Mary Liz and I don’t remember when that started. For about 10 years, others used that as well after hearing a family member refer to be that way. I never liked it but of course, if I said that to my brothers, it just ensured that would be my name. When I moved away from home – and across several provinces – I always used the full name.

Until my late 30s, I would usually follow-up an introduction with an apology for the length. But that did not stop me from automatically correcting anyone who called me Mary – and, in fact, I still don’t really hear if someone calls me Mary since I just assume that they are speaking to someone else.

I could have changed my name but didn’t have a burning desire to be something else and remain proud to carry family names. I have always hating introducing myself and still have to grit my teeth but no longer apologize for a long name; I simply explain its origins.

In recent years, it has occurred to me that my name is one of the reasons that I hate meeting new people and prefer anonymity and am much better at spontaneous conversations with strangers than small talk with acquaintances.

It is amazing what an impact a name can have, even at a subconscious level.

How do you feel about your name?

Saying Goodbye to a loved pet

My heart is breaking. This afternoon, we had to say good-bye to our sweet Sasha. It happened so fast. Last week, she was enjoying sitting by the windows that we could finally open to let in the spring air. She was claiming lap times on TV nights and exerting her royal authority over kd and Luigi. But then things changed.

Thursday, she spent most of the day under a bed and was showing some signs of getting upstairs, no interest in getting on the bed. Friday morning, I called the vet. They are under limited hours and closed-door policy because of COVID-19 restrictions but said that they would get her in on Tuesday. Saturday, she seemed a little better and was eating ok; we felt relieved. But Sunday she was really lethargic and by the end of the day was lying on the living room floor, next to her favourite cat bed. In the evening I picked her up and she felt like she had dropped weight overnight. She curled up on my lap for scratches but was having breathing troubles – not constantly but regularly – taking shallow rapid breaths. She soon headed off and didn’t return to reclaim her space as was her habit.

She lay under the bed looking at us listlessly. I sat for an hour giving her scratches until she fell asleep. And both Stephen and I were up through the night checking with her and sitting with her, first by the bed and later when we found her stretched on the floor in the living room. By this morning, she was having more breathing problems and sometimes a gurgle / rattle. I phoned the vet in tears and they got her in this afternoon.

We couldn’t go into the vet’s office; I had to call in when I arrived and someone came and took her from the car. The doctor phoned shortly after and said Sasha’s colour was good but weight was down and felt like there might be liquid in her belly. The doctor wanted to take an XRay. She called me back in minutes and said that the news wasn’t good. There was cancer that probably started in the liver or pancreas but now had metastasized in the lungs. She said that there were things we could try that might buy a little time. We knew that we didn’t want her to suffer anymore than she already had. Assured that we would be able to be with her despite the current closed-door policy, we made the difficult decision to euthanize our special, beautiful girl. We held her and gave her cuddles and let her know she was loved as she drifted peacefully to sleep.

Sasha was my first feline companion. She was a kindred spirit and turned me into a cat person. I will miss her regal, elegant presence in our lives. Rest in Peace, gentle Sasha. You were loved and will be remembered!

The case for imperfection

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
Henry van Dyke

I have been accused of being a perfectionist.   It always makes me bristle.  “Ridiculous!”  I shout.  And, as proof,  I argue that my work isn’t perfect.  Turns out,  That is a classic symptom.  So is my tendency to take waaaay too long to do just about everything,  typically a result of redoing or overthinking or restarting or, worse yet,  not starting.  All in all, strong evidence of a perfectionist – or at very least, perfectionist tendencies.

It is not like I don’t know I’m doing it.  I am aware that that I am taking too long and tell myself to consider it done and move on to the next thing.  And I do to – you know, right after just one last adjustment.  It is time to get that under control.

I need to let it go so I can accomplish more in less time.   And finish more.  Take for example past efforts to keep a journal – or blog for that matter  – to track progress.  Inevitably I miss a day and then feel compelled to ‘catch up’  before moving forward, which obviously somewhat defeats the purpose.

What was my point – oh yeah, not a perfectionist.

Perhaps I could stretch the truth just a little and claim to be a ‘recovering perfectionist’ (read that somewhere at it appeals to me).  I’ve made some progress but not nearly enough.  It is time to again take up the charge and embrace imperfection.

Perfection stifles creativity AND productivity.

Aim for progress, not perfection and just get started

 

 

 

 

Aim for progress.
Aim for excellence.
Be realistic- about time, expectations, and resources.
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Start today.  TAKE ACTION NOW!!

If you have stories to tell, don’t let perfection be an excuse for getting started. Don’t worry that you have all the details exactly right.  Do not stress over finding the perfect font, the ideal picture the best quote.

Even the biggest failure beats the hell out of not tryingGet it started.  You can always refine or revise – to a point of course.

Progress, not perfection!

Where are you on the perfectionist scale?   Are you a perfectionist and proud of it? A sometimes or situational perfectionist? A denying or recovering perfectionist? Or perhaps you are the polar opposite of a perfectionist – would that be an unperfectionist – or maybe anti-perfectionist?

Share strategies you use to make sure that perfectionism doesn’t become procrastination.

It doesn’t happen here

It has been an unprecedented and difficult week in Nova Scotia. Last Sunday, a gunman terrorized a small community in rural Nova Scotia.

Portapique is a picturesque community in Colchester County. It is an idyllic place that was little known, even within the province. But it is the kind of place we all know – scenic, friendly and peaceful. The kind of community where everyone knows each other and you can be yourself but know that your neighbours will be there if you need help or encouragement.

That all changed on April 18-19, 2020 when a gunman went on a rampage overnight and into the morning. Sunday afternoon, we heard that the gunman had been capture; it was not until later that we heard he had been killed. We were told that at least 13 people had been killed and more were suspected as there were multiple scenes, several were fires had been set.

The bad news continued. By mid-week we learned that 22 people had been killed, including an RCMP officer and several who ran towards the trouble to help others. It is the worse mass killing in Canada, made particularly horrific because of the forethought an the fact that the gunman used an RCMP police car and a police uniform.

Nova Scotia Strong. The victims of the events on April 18-19. Farewell to Nova Scotia sung by Lennie Gallant.

This kind of thing is not expected in Canada, let alone in a small mostly rural province in Nova Scotia. It has shattered our peace, our security, and our safety. The situation is compounded by the restrictions of a pandemic that have us social distancing and, therefore, unable to come together to mourn as is our custom.

There are questions about how things were handled, why there wasn’t a wider alert. Answering those questions will take time but we trust that they will come.

For now, the province and the country are in mourning. We will do what we always do and come together. For now, we’re showing our Nova Scotia colours; we’re wearing our tartans, waving our NS flags and reaching out as we can to support our communities in these times of social distancing.

For the first time, the RCMP will not be able to hold a regimental funeral for a fallen officer. Today, we’re wearing red and standing with the National Police Federation and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia. RIP Const. Stevenson and all innocent victims of the tragic events of last weekend. #WearRedFriday#NovaScotiaStrong

Preparing to ‘let it go’

Let it go

There are some stories that we need to let go.  Or more accurately, some related baggage that should be discarded.  It’s important to keep the lessons but unproductive, even unhealthy, to cling to all thoughts of would’ve, could’ve or should’ve.

You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

This is a tough one for me. I’m always reviewing, reliving and reprimanding myself over things that almost certainly are minimal or forgotten by others involved.  My husband, who is much more able to put things behind him, has come to accept that I do not easily move beyond a perceived error. He once told me that the difference between the two of us on that front is that I always think that I can still fix things. Pretty insightful really (he doesn’t have to know I said that). That idea definitely gave me something to think about as I strive to become [more of] a free spirit unfettered by regrets.

Today’s challenge

Strive to let go of stories that hold you back by prompting feelings of anxiety, anger, jealousy, regret, envy or any of a myriad of other draining emotions.

Take what  learning you can from the experience then let go of the rest.  Admittedly easier said than done but start today to find ways to begin that next chapter.

  • Get a realistic picture of the situation that you are reliving, one that is not focused only on what you did / didn’t do and wish you hadn’t / had done.  Name at least one positive outcome or lesson or identify some progress that was made toward a goal.
  • Name the event so you can catalog and let it go (some strategies on how to do that next time)
  • Describe the event / situation. Try to be objective. Use as much or as little detail as you like.  This can be just for you or something that you choose to share.
  • Identify what you did wrong (by your reckoning) AND what you wish you had done differently.  Sometimes you might want to check your perception with others.
  • Try to objectively consider whether it would truly have resulted in a ‘better’ outcome, with ‘better’ meaning one that would not have caused you to have regrets.
  • Consider how other parties would feel about the situation Try to be realistic. How did they react? Would they even still be thinking about it? It is quite possible that they didn’t notice or place the same value on what you said or did.

With practice, you’ll soon be able to do these steps more quickly, more easily and more decisively.  Although it might be difficult, try to check your perceptions with others at least occasionally to help develop more realistic assessments.

Coming soon – strategies for helping move past any lingering negativity.

Start a photo project

Social Isolation Memories

There are plenty of places to find inspiration for a photo project – 365 days or 100 days – 52 weeks – 12 months – 4 seasons –  a particular person or object through the year – or an unexpected time of social distancing.  A photo project might be a fun diversion during this unusual time and it can offer a way to track some changing activities or looks that might be unique to this current situations.

I completed my first 365 day project in 2009 with a picture a year, a layout a week.   I finished the layouts and published the book in early 2010.  It was rewarding to complete and it is great to look at all the day-to-day moments.  In the years since, I have done weekly collections in a digital format.  

ALbum cover for 2009 365
Album cover for 2009 365

Photos are a great way to capture everyday moments.  The routines of your day can be interesting or entertaining in years ahead and I am always amazed at how often I look at photos and think, “Oh, I’d forgotten that I used to do that all the time.”  If you have children, they will look back at the images and marvel at their daily activities.  OK, it might take them awhile to appreciate it but eventually, they’re sure to get there.  A  photo project can take as little or as much time as you want and can be focused or random.  The details are up to you.

Challenge:
Start your own photo project.  

 What will your project be?  There are many options and these are just a few

  • Set a schedule an keep to it, whether it is every day, every week, or 10 days a month – choose a frequency that is realistic for you
  • Decide if you will shoot at the same time each day/week… 
  • Share on Instagram or twitter with hashtags like #100daysofphotography #project365, post on FaceBook or your blog and/or print albums
  • Develop a theme for the year or change as you go along, perhaps a theme for each month or season – or maybe random images or shots at the same time every day
  • Challenge friends to have their own project on the same or different themes and keep each other accountable

Many photography or creative art sites have challenges or opportunity for sharing.  If you are seeking inspiration for your own photo project, you might like:

digital-photography-school.com/start-a-personal-photography-project

captureyour365.com/

expertphotography.com/365-photo-challenge

Share your projects

Share your stories, tips and ideas in the comments 

Have you completed a photo project in the past?  Are you doing one now?

I would love to hear about your projects – and see your results.

 

The Plymouth Tapestry: Stitching 400 years

Many people are familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings through an embroidered cloth almost 230 M  Long.

Learn more in this short film: The Bayeux Tapestry – Seven Ages of Britain from BBC One

This spectacular piece of work inspired a group of embroiderers and historians in Plymouth, Massachusetts who were looking for a project to celebrate the 400th anniversary of their town.

The project was a huge undertaking that involved many stitchers and designers. Elizabeth Creeden designed the drawings and did sample stitches and colour selections for each of the panels.  Early in the process, it was decided that this would be a communal project.  There were workshops that allowed interested community members to learn stitches and take part in the project.  Panels were also taken to other events to provide more opportunities for volunteers to participate.

The Plymouth Tapestry was conceived as a multi-year project, which will be completed in late 2121.  It will include 20 -6 ft panels. The completed tapestry will tell the story of the pilgrims, the Wampanoag people and the general history of the area.  One of the challenges is very different records and stories of history.

We realize we are telling two different stories and two very different kinds of traditions and ways of passing on knowledge. With the English side, it’s all about written records and documentation….. It’s wonderful to have an Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal member sitting at the table with us, and she said, “You know our history isn’t the same. We don’t look at it in the same way. We have an oral history that’s gone on for thousands of years; we share stories of our people.

Quote from The Plymouth Tapestry, by Cheryl Christian in Needle Arts (Dec. 2018, pp 18-24)

This work will tell the long history of Plymouth and leaving a lasting legacy that will be remembered as is its original inspiration,
the Bayeux Tapestry.

Read more about the Plymouth Tapestry and its stories in The Plymouth Tapestry or visit the Pilgram Hall Museum website.

A new tactic

Sometimes you have to move on

For many years, I have wanted to restore an old trunk.  Several years ago, I picked up one that had be thrown out with the trash.  It was in decent shape and I took it home with the best of intentions to either restore it to a measure of its former glory or create something new and creative with it.  I was sure if I couldn’t find a space and use for it in my home, I could sell it and at least recoup costs – all while learning some new skills.

I didn’t have time or space for that project where we living at the time but we were in the processes of packing for a new home with a planned workshop.  The trunk went into our project pile.  Where it sat.  It was moved several times when we relocated, needed space, even when we had a flooded basement. And still it sat and sat.

I purchased some supplies including a suitable paper liner for the top tray.  I did some research on best strategies.  I even looked at ways and places for selling.

But I had reasons (excuses) that I couldn’t get to it – no room in the shop for the project, lacking the proper tools, not confident about where to start.  And all the while it almost taunted me as an unfinished project that was not progressing.

Last Fall, I decided that I had been keeping this around taking up space for too long.  It was time to let it go and move on to other things.  Two factors that sealed this decision: 

  1. Other projects took priority because they were more interesting or current
  2. I didn’t have an connection or history to that particular trunk and it occurred to me that this was neither my story nor something that I need.

Finally making that decision allowed me to set this aside, albeit with some lingering resistance.  Doing so would give me more space to work on other projects, tell other stories.  I still have an interest in this project  but when and if I decide in the future to finally tackle my goal for a trunk restore, I am sure that I can find another one.

I considered trying to sell as-is but that would have taken time and didn’t want to reradd to my list or have it continue taking up space.  So, I emptied out and took it out to the road on Curbside Give Away Weekend, when people put out furniture, equpiment, toys and more out for free pick-up.  Some time during the weekend, it was taken away to a new home for someone else to use or restore. 

 

Magna Carta as a stitching collaboration

This morning, I received my weekly Inspirations: All Stitched Up newsletter  in my mailbox.  (Issue 222, FEB 21, 2020).  Reading this is always a welcome way to start my day with creative ideas.  If you do – or admire – hand work, you can sign-up for this beautiful newsletter at Inspirations Studios.  If you are so inclined, you can also catch up on the spectacular work in past issues.  Be warned:  that is a exercise almost guaranteed to take you off on a journey of exploration that might well steal hours from your day.  Happily, it is oh, so worth it.

An article that really connected with me this morning was the
story The Magna Carta Reimagined by Nancy Williams.

Ms. Williams described a large piece currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney, Australia.  It is a gigantic work of the Magna Carta: An Embroidery created by British artist Cornelia Parker for the 800th Anniversary celebration of the signing of the document in 1215.  In honour of this show, the MCA has posted a conversation with Cornelia Parker and MCA Chief Curator, Rachal Kent.   Ms. Parker describes the

For my piece Magna Carta (An Embroidery) (2015), I took an image of the Wikipedia entry of the Magna Carta on its 800th birthday and had it printed onto fabric. The fabric was 15 metres long by 1.5 metres wide – and was cut into around 50 strips so that all the words were embroidered by many contributors. That’s what I like about Wikipedia; it’s made by hundreds of
people imparting their little bit of knowledge, rather than the definition being written by one authority figure. I liked the idea of multiple authors embroidering the definition of the Magna Carta, from prisoners to judiciary to
lords to MPs to well-known personalities and infamous whistle blowers, like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who both embroidered for me.

(read more of Cornelia Parker in conversation with Rachel Kent )

This short video gives you some additional insight into the planning, motivation and process of creating a piece of this scope.

If the video doesn’t display, try this link Magna Carta (an Embroidery) on daily motion 

I find this project really exciting in its success at bringing many different people together on one creative expression.  It is especially moving in its success to allow space and encourage individual touches and variations.  It incorporates accidents, stains, errors and variety. Participating embroiderers range from beginners to established professionals and educators and the range of skill is reflected and embraced in the work.

I love that this piece also reflects changes that have taken recording and reporting from a limited few people of means and inherited privilege to a project such as this that reflects people of a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.

Have you taken part in a collaborative work? What was the result?  Did the experience impact your process or style?   Share your experiences, or your thoughts on Magna Carta: An Embroidery in the comments.

My Father’s Daughter

Missing you on your birthdayDad was born on February 5 so this day is always an emotional one for me.  Dad loved his birthday, which usually turned into a birthday week.  He saved all his birthday cards and every year around mid January, he would start to display them around the house, adding more from the collection each day and looking forward to new greetings.  There were always plenty of those; he was much loved. He always said we didn’t need to get him a new one each year but, of course, nobody  listened.  He would have been disappointed if we had.  He most cherished cards with a thoughtful note and he relished revisiting old wishes.  On the other hand, he was amused by cards being reused with a new message added – because he appreciated the practical approach.

As my siblings and I grew, we moved away for school or work and were separated by distance.  But those of us who were near, always gathered for Dad’s birthday supper and cake.  If any of us couldn’t make it home, we always checked in by phone and he anticipated the calls for days.  He loved to chat and laugh with family members.   In fact, he typically had multiple cakes and meals shared with various friends and extended family.

I miss Dad every day but on his birthday, his loss is especially strong.    We’ll toast his name and light a birthday candle for him today.

I was very close to my father, and by all accounts, am very much like him.  I made this digital scrapbook page to capture some of the similarities.

My Fathers Daughter layout
My Father’s Daughter is a digital layout created with products from scrapgirls.com

Do you have a family member who is very like you – or very different?  Challenge yourself today to write a story or do a layout to compare your personalities.  You’ll be glad to have the reminder and it will mean a lot to your children or grandchildren as it might help them understand why you (or they) act or look as they do.