Saturday, May 30, 2009

Once an Artist, Always an Artist

In retrospect I realize that I have been an artist my entire life. You might even say it’s what I was born to be. Even as a child I loved all artistic pursuits and would spend many hours coloring, drawing, play acting, sewing and dancing. It was dancing that first ignited my passion and I trained for many years in different forms of dance, eventually becoming a professional belly dancer. Along the way I took traditional art classes and continued my crafting.

I began card making in earnest about three years ago when I was sidelined by single sided deafness (SSD) and no longer able to dance professionally. It became my therapy of sorts, allowing me to express myself on paper as I had once expressed myself on stage. As I become more involved in the various techniques, materials and applications of the craft, I find myself incorporating the more traditional art methods in which I had trained in my youth. Syncretism is a very organic process for me and is something I employed very successfully as a nightclub dancer, marrying my belly dancing moves with my strong jazz and salsa background. I feel grounded when I mix the “old” with the “new”. I feel renewed and more vital.

The newest iteration of my “old” artistic techniques is pictured above and can be seen in my artist blog, The Creative Diva, under the title “Full Circle”. I’d be pleased if you would take a look.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Make the Plan, Forget the Plan

Today was one of those days where I had a very specific outline for what I wanted to accomplish. I had to go grocery shopping, do some gardening, clear out old papers from my file cabinets, etc. The day began well enough as I ticked off at least one or two of the things I had on my plate. Then I opened my email to find a message from my son. He had forwarded to me a webpage featuring a beautiful beagle that he was interested in adopting. Upon seeing the dog I made the comment that I could look at that adorable face forever. This took place at sometime after two o'clock in the afternoon. By 3 PM, after having confirmed that that dog was still available, my son and I were on our way to the ASPCA adoption center, having decided to adopt immediately. Keep in mind I'm driving from Brooklyn, New York into the deep recesses of Manhattan on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Can you spell T-R-A-F-F-I-C?

Okay, let's cut to the chase. Her name is Marla. She is a year and three months old and by 8 PM she had already firmly installed herself as a member of the family, complete with collar, license and a favorite furry chew toy. Beagles are high energy dogs that like to sniff, lick, jump, play and, oh yes, bark. This particular one just recuperated from surgery for a fractured pelvis sustained in a car accident and suffers from separation anxiety so she howls if left alone for more than 10 seconds. She is a sweet dog and I have no doubt she will settle down into a routine in short order. My son, who will bear the major brunt of this dog's care and feeding, will no doubt have quite a bit of adjusting to do. He is used to sleeping in late and lazing around. That will all come to a screeching halt now that he's got a dog to feed and walk every day. Already he realizes that he has to pick up all the small toys, socks and other clothing he leaves strewn around his bedroom otherwise the dog will get into them. Just imagine, this dog may very well accomplish what I have failed to do...get my son to clean his room. Heck, I'll take my blessings wherever I can get them.

Today I also received another welcome surprise. After nine months of waiting I finally received my certificate of trademark for the logo I have used for all my work since approximately 1995. I can now officially add that tiny circled "R" after my logo on all the papercrafting work I do. Now I have to make the move to set up a website and put my work out there for sale.

No, today was not at all what I planned it to be.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reaching Out

Any parent can tell you... you never stop being a parent. No matter how grown, how capable, how accomplished your children grow up to become, you always carry a kernel of concern inside. It's the part of parenthood that becomes embedded in your soul the moment that tiny hand clamps around your finger. And as any parent can also tell you, parenting isn't easy. All the technological advances of our time still have not discovered a way to adequately deal with a two-year-olds tantrums or their adamant pronouncements of "NO!". Kids don't come with an owner's manual. No matter how much advice we receive or how many books we read, when it comes to raising our kids we're pretty much on our own.

My first born daughter is the mother of my soon-to-be 11 year old grandson. Scott is an inquisitive and incredibly intelligent boy with an angelic smile and a devilish twinkle in his eyes. Like most children (boys in particular), he can be headstrong and quite a handful for my daughter and her husband to handle. Unlike most children, Scott has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. The behavioral issues inherent in autistic individuals, even high functioning ones like Scott, present daily challenges that can be extremely trying. Recently my daughter, who lives many miles away from me in North Carolina, called me for advice on how to handle some of Scott's extreme outbursts, noticing that some of his behavior reminded her of her own behavior as a child. What I heard in her voice was not just a request for advice but a plea for help of the sort that she was unable to get from the myriad of professionals who have evaluated her son over the years.

My daughter is an extremely resourceful, intelligent person and a devoted mother. She is also an army veteran so she has received rigorous training in how to handle difficult situations. She has proven herself to be a survivor over and over again. She can deal with just about anything. This wonderfully capable person was calling me for help and I was totally useless, or so I felt. I told her many things about her behavior as a child that were similar to that of her son but the context was totally different. She is developmentally normal, Scott is not. Any perceived similarities are only superficial. I wasn't able to offer any sort of comfort, any sort of concrete answer to her request.

Here is where it becomes very difficult for me as a parent. My child asked me for comfort and assurance and I was unable to provide it. Because of the distance, I couldn't even reach out and hold her like I used to when she was little. As I hung up the phone on our conversation, I felt bereft and empty. I had flunked Parenting 101.

So what to do? All I could do was find a way to let her know that she was not alone and that she was still loved, even if I wasn't able to help her in that moment. As is my custom, when I want to connect with someone, I give them something of myself. In the case of my daughter, I created a card for her in which I wrote a personalized note and sent it to her with my love. You can see a small image of it above. It may be a small comfort but I hope it is some comfort nonetheless.

(For a tutorial on how the card was created, as well as the symbolic meaning of the dragonflies, click here to go to my artist blog.)

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Sights and Sounds of Mexico

As mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I spent a week in Ixtapa, Mexico where the weather was wonderful, the people were friendly and the exchange rate was favorable. My husband and I prefer to mix the typical "tourist-y" activities with striking out on our own and mixing with the locals. After all, who knows the area better than the people who live there. (Of course, knowing the local language helps immensely.) We were introduced to great restaurants, attractions and out of the way places that we might otherwise have missed had we limited ourselves to what the hotels had to offer.

There are far too many photos to post here and way too much to say. Instead, I'll let you peruse the photo gallery where I've loaded the best of our excursion. You'll find them here. Enjoy the view south of the border.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu Hits Home (Humor)

The Swine Flu is all over the news. Having just recently returned from Mexico, my family and I have been bombarded with calls from concerned friends and family inquiring as to our health. I even received a call from my daughter's school principal when she was absent one day. Apparently her classmates began the rumor that she was not only had contracted swine flu but had infected several other students.

Fortunately enough we are all healthy and whole with nothing more debilitating than seasonal allergies. But just for those of you who may be curious, here's what a case of swine flu looks like, along with a suggestion for some stylish protection. Have a laugh.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva