Thursday, March 31, 2011
When I was in Japan in 1998, I kept hearing the same word wherever I went with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter: "kawaii." It wasn't a word I learned in the cram Berlitz Japanese class I took before we left California. So I was mystified in my first few days in Mito when people, usually older women, would stop me and say, "Kawaii ne." At a Buddhist temple in Nikko, a whole busload of older Japanese tourists surrounded us with a chorus of "Kawaii!"s.
I think I figured out pretty quickly that they were telling me my daughter was cute. I learned to nod and tell them that she was "Ni hai san," because most people usually asked how old she was next.
"Kawaii" means adorable, precious, lovable, or innocent, and it was everywhere in Japan when we visited. At the mall, we browsed whole floors devoted to Hello Kitty! merchandise: backpacks, cell phone covers, t-shirts, stuffed animals taller than a toddler, toilet paper. (My daughter was not a fan of the cute after a lumbering Hello Kitty! mascot approached us and towered over her stroller. Definitely not kawaii!)
And it's not just teenage girls, who originated the kawaii craze in the 1970s, who are crazy for cute. Kawaii mascots adorn ads, are painted on the sides of airplanes, and served as cute symbols for the Winter Olympics, held in Nagano in 1998. Even the Tokyo Police have their own cute mascots.
Usagi wa kawaii desu ne. (I'm dusting off the little Japanese I know. I hope I said, Aren't rabbits cute?)
The first batch of the Cuddle Bunny printable pdf pattern has sold out. I've listed more in my Etsy shop so that you can sew up your own kawaii rabbit. You can find the pattern here.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 1:23 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The bunnies keep multiplying! Yesterday I stitched together three bunnies that had been in various stages of completion. I am looking forward to seeing the bunnies that will get sewn up from the Cuddle Bunny pattern.
When I saw all of the bunnies I've made together in a basket, I tried to remember what the collective noun for rabbits is. A rabbit warren? When I looked it up, I found several nouns for a collection of rabbits. A warren and a colony and a nest of rabbits are familiar. But I found some unusual forms as well. A bury of rabbits. A down of rabbits and a drove of rabbits. A husk and a leash, and a trace and a trip of rabbits. For baby rabbits: a wrack of rabbits.
I'm calling my little collection of happiness a brightness of bunnies.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 12:34 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
When I imagine a child-friendly space for my own children, I imagine a light-filled room with books and toys and crafts where they can be absorbed in play, either on their own or with other children. It's a safe place, supervised by nurturing adults.
Thank you Zee, Wanda, Amber, Anastasia, Sherry, Ellen, Jill, Alicia, Monica, Sarah, Amanda, Jackie, and all of the Cuddle Bunny pattern purchasers for your most welcome support. I can't wait to see more Cuddle Bunnies being stitched up and multiplying.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 1:39 PM
Monday, March 28, 2011
Almost 100 years ago, a Tokyo mayor gave the people of the United States an extraordinary gift of 3,000 cherry trees. The trees were planted along the Tidal Basin near the nation's capital. Since then the sakura have bloomed in pink profusion in spring and have become a transplanted national treasure. This past weekend marked the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which will run for two weeks.
Seeing the cherry blossoms this year will bring a mix of sweetness and sadness. Nature gives us this incredible but brief show to enjoy every year. But the natural world also just dealt an incredible blow to Japan, shifting the main island by several feet and indeed shaking the earth on its axis. Terra firma could not be trusted--the very ground quaked, shifted, cracked--and the beautiful sea, depicted in screenprinted images of Matsushima Bay, rushed in to destroy.
How do we reconcile the beauty and the destruction? Buddhists have a certain way of viewing the cherry blossoms. They enjoy the beauty of the blossoms but recognize that at the height of their beauty they are about to fall. Death resides in their flowering, and their beauty is all the more poignant because it is so fleeting. The sakura teach us about life's impermanece even as we are celebrating this season of rebirth.
My limited Western mind has a hard time internalizing these concepts as words. They are easier to understand when I think in the language of the cherry trees. They dress in their fanciest clothes for a very little while. They don't know if a late snow will ruin them. But they dress up anyway in a joyful, hopeful seeding of the next generation that is also their gift to us.
I hope you make the time to enjoy the cherry blossoms and other flowering trees that are filling bare branches with color as March comes to a close.
I couldn't resist stitching sakura branches and my simplified versions of their blossoms on a Crafting for Courage bunny yesterday. I guess it's my way of holding on (literally) to that fleeting beauty and remembering that it will come again.
I had a very helpful elf in Texas test out the pattern to make sure that my pattern pieces matched up with one another and instructions made sense. My mom, who won the Betty Crocker Homemaking Award in high school and is a talented seamstress and embroiderer, very sweetly offered to make some bunnies from her stash of felted sweaters. They turned out beautifully, and it is such fun to see the infinite combinations of fabrics that can be assembled to make each bunny unique, with its own personality.
Have a wonderful week!
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 2:08 PM
Sunday, March 27, 2011
After a week of bunny making and very little sleep, I was so tired yesterday that I fell asleep on the living room floor after dinner. I was listening to my husband play the guitar, and then I was just out.
For a while now I've wondered how Etsy sellers do this every week. Hard-working makers fill their Etsy shelves with delightful handmade items. Their owners generously share words and photographs about their creative process and their daily lives. Behind the scenes, there is the administrative work that you don't even see: hours of listing items, correspondence with buyers, boxing and mailing, not to mention the late-night hours actually creating.
From seeing friends selling their items, I've understood the difficult logistics as a bystander. This hectic week of bunny making has given me an inkling of the why of the process, the spirit that drives them past the need for sleep and other physical limitations. (And you can say this about so many other vocations: parenthood, nursing and doctoring, serving in the military, teaching, ministering, social service work, etc.)
At the very heart of my motivation is seeing my son cuddling the bunny I made for him. It's knowing that this humble little bunny, made of castoff materials lovingly brought together by my imperfect stitches, gives him comfort and pleasure. The gentle curve of its back conforms to his little hands. The felted wool is a textural treat next to his cheek. It fills his sensory needs, and it is also a vessel for his imagination and play. He puts together a family of bunnies, a coterie of friends. He weaves stories of their adventures.
I am glad I said yes to his request to make him a bunny.
More tomorrow on cherry blossoms and friends, two of the other motivators helping my tired hands do more than I thought they could. Tomorrow is the final day for the Crafting for Courage sale, and I hope you'll let friends know or perhaps even stop in one last time to shop. Your support for the children of Japan is very much appreciated!
Note--I'm having trouble with Blogger uploading the photos in this post. For now it will have to do! Family calls.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 9:54 AM
Saturday, March 26, 2011
When I first read Joanie's (ninimakes) email asking for participants in the Crafting for Courage fundraiser, I thought of a million reasons that I should say no. A lot of them were valid. This was a busy week of afterschool activities for the kids, and I knew my time would be limited.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 12:18 PM
Friday, March 25, 2011
Whew, what a week this has been! I can't believe that Crafting for Courage, which began with a heartfelt email plea from Joanie of ninimakes just a week ago, has come together the way it has. A billion, trillion, googolplex thanks to all of you who have come out to support the sale as shoppers and as makers (and sometimes both--I've had a hard time giving everyone else a chance at all of the beautiful creations that have been offered through this benefit sale!). The rush of support for the people, and specifically the children, of Japan has been enormous. Together we have provided a donation many times over what we could have given individually. Thank you!
I made a record four Crafting for Courage bunnies yesterday, and I will be sending bunnies out to their new homes today. I don't want to get too far behind on filling my pre-orders, so the bunnies I made yesterday have already been spoken for. More bunny making today, woven in between family and school obligations, and I plan to post more in the shop over the weekend and on Monday, the last day of the sale.
I have to give a shout out to my family as well, my craft widow of a husband and my craft-orphaned children. They have been tremendously excited about this sale, and so supportive. When my husband and daughter left last night for a school function, my youngest looked at me and said, "You know what this means? Bunny time!" And we both rushed down to our basement crafting room for more sewing time together. He is the guy responsible for choosing the bunny tails and button eyes, just so you know!
Have a wonderful weekend, my friends! And don't forget to stop in and check out the Etsy shops of the Crafting for Courage sellers. Crafters are continuing to list items for the Crafting for Courage sale, and all of the proceeds will be donated to the Save the Children Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief Fund.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 9:02 AM
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I'm thrilled to announce that the Crafting for Courage online sale to benefit Japanese relief efforts is now LIVE. Click the Crafting for Courage banner at the top of the blog to check out the site for some treats for the home, family, and self. Be sure to scroll down through all of the posts to see all of the beautifully made items created with heart and soul. I hope you'll support the sale by purchasing an item or spreading the word. The sale runs through Monday, March 28.
I couldn't be prouder to have my bunnies part of such a positive project and with such an amazing group of women. I made the original one for my son as we were crafting together one Saturday morning. He carried it to school with him for an entire week, loved it, cuddled it, showed it off to his friends. When I told him that I would be making and selling more bunnies to raise money to help the people in Japan affected by the earthquake, he was excited but a little worried. He found a Sharpie marker and wrote "2" (it was the second bunny we made) and a heart on his bunny to make sure it wouldn't be sold.
As the rabbits have multiplied in our crafting area this week, my son has been having fun introducing his bunny to the new bunnies in their baskets. He has made blankets for them and wants to go to the thrift store to buy them clothes. Of course he knows what the bunnies' favorite kind of music is: hip hop. I'm glad that he has an "action" figure that is handmade and that he can pour his own imagination into.
You can purchase a bunny of your own through my Etsy shop. I will be donating all of the proceeds of the sale to the Save the Children Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief Fund.
In the next week or so I will be sewing more bunnies to fill pre-orders from family and friends. I'm also working on a pattern for the bunnies that I will try to list in the Etsy shop once it's been tested. It would be fun to see how other crafters interpret the Crafting for Courage Bunny, and I can't wait to try the pattern with some recently thrifted fabrics.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 1:38 AM
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
What a difference a week can make. Just a few days ago, the branches of trees and bushes seemed naked. The world was brown and bare. This week the flowering trees are solid with reds and pinks, and the forsythia is ablaze with a golden fire. Spring, like hope, can sneak up on you like that.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last week, there was such a level of destruction that it seemed beyond the repair of human hands. The threat of a nuclear catastrophe still hangs over Japan and the world. Yet people in the most heavily affected areas are returning to their jobs, lining up for food in makeshift markets, salvaging bits and pieces of their possessions--returning to some semblance of normal life. Hope blossoms in the mundane.
Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes in the disaster and are living in schools and other temporary shelters, some still without electricity. Save the Children estimates that 100,000 children were directly affected by the disaster, losing family members and homes. The organization has set up child-friendly shelters to help children recover from the trauma they have experienced.
I can't begin to imagine the fear, anxiety, and the loss of a sense of security that this disaster must have brought to these children. But I want to help in some small way to lessen their pain, to offer some hope.
The Crafting for Courage online sale begins tomorrow, Thursday, March 24, and will run until Monday, March 28. By buying a handcrafted item or two from the Crafting for Courage participants, you can support the efforts of Save the Children to bring hope to the children directly affected by the quake and tsunami.
All items will be presented on the Crafting for Courage blog, with links to the Etsy or other online shops to purchase the items. All of the proceeds from the sales will be donated by the sellers directly to the Save the Children relief fund. Click back here tomorrow for a link to the Crafting for Courage site.
* * * *
Thank you so much for all of your kind comments about the felted-sweater bunnies, which I'll be donating to the Crafting for Courage online sale. I have had several pre-orders from friends (thank you, Zee, Monica, and Wanda!), and I'm stitching as fast as I can to have some ready to sell in my Etsy shop on Thursday. It is a joy to put together the cheerful colors and to see the personality of each bunny emerge as I stitch. Here are a few sneak peeks of the bunnies.
Hope to "see" you tomorrow at the sale!
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 2:12 AM
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief.
I have heard about some wonderful handmade items that will be part of the sale. Sonia of Cozy Homemaking has a beautiful post about the project and a glimpse of one of her hand-stitched offerings. Joanie of ninimakes, who has energized us all with her organizing efforts, is stitching up a sweet doll with the most beautiful face and a hand-dyed textile that captures the sky. Margie of Resurrection Fern, who designed the dragonfly and sun logo for Crafting for Courage, is working on her distinctive and serene covered stones.
There are a few others that I can't mention right now, but you will be inspired by their work. I'll save those for a later post.
I hope that you will join us in our efforts to support the people of Japan. You can help by donating an item to sell. You can purchase one of the Crafting for Courage handcrafted items. You can spread the word about the sale to friends and family members. You can donate to the charity of your choice. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details about how to donate an item to the sale.
It may not seem much, the work of a few hands, but together we are creating something bigger than what we could accomplish individually. We are crafting a small offering with great love (to paraphrase Mother Teresa) as material and spiritual support for a people in need of both.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 1:36 AM
Monday, March 14, 2011
The room started swaying. I grabbed my daughter and clung to the doorway between the kitchen and living room as the entire building moved slowly up and down as if it were a boat riding long swells. The small earthquake lasted only half a minute and caused no damage.
It was the first of several quakes that we experienced in our three months in Japan in the spring and early summer of 1998, an expected part of life for people living on the island nation riding the fault-ridden "Ring of Fire."
My husband, who had been driving to work, called me from his cell phone to make sure we were OK. He felt the ground swaying, the telephone poles buffeted as if by a brief, strong breeze. But other than traffic stopping momentarily on the two-lane highway beside acres of rice fields, life went on.
We lived in Mito, a bustling city about 75 miles northeast of Tokyo and near the epicenter of the recent devastating earthquake. Anxiety about a potential earthquake became a constant background buzz in our thoughts, just as it was for our Japanese neighbors and for our Southern California neighbors back home.
But that anxiety didn't stop us from exploring. Three times a week my daughter and I biked to the International Center and took a language class. After my husband came home from work, we walked to Kairakuen Park and admired the plum blossoms. In the evenings we jogged along Lake Senba and on weekends rode in the swan boats.
Further afield, we stayed at a European-style ryokan (with the perfect Japanese-style bath) in Nikko. My daughter dashed, wet and laughing, down the hallway from the bathroom back to our room as we chased her in our cotton robes. We cleansed our hands at temples on forested hillsides and in urban parks. We walked the ancient, winding lanes of Kyoto. We stayed overnight at a monastery, strolling through the peaceful grounds in the morning rain. We went to a spring plum festival, an apple blossom festival, a rice festival, a Children's Day festival with koinobori floating across a wooden bridge.
One weekend we drove north up the coast, along a winding highway south of Sendai with rugged cliffs and towering pines that reminded us of Northern California. We hiked through the forest to the cliff edge and watched the Pacific waves battering the shore. We had hoped to go to the Tsunami Museum in Karakuwa, but we ran out of time. Today that area is horribly altered by the earthqake and tsunami, its land still flooded and homes and lives destroyed.
As I watched images of the earthquake and the resulting tsunami sweeping cars, boats, and buildings away, I remembered the faces of friends I had made in that short, sweet time in Japan and prayed that they were all right.
In one photograph I saw the face of an older woman, her expression of shock and resignation at yet another tragedy. And I remembered the red daruma doll heads that are sold at Buddhist temples in Japan, symbols of perseverance and good luck. The dolls are weighted at the bottom so that they always right themselves when tipped over. They embody the phrase, "Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up."
A continent and an ocean away now, I'm sending prayers for my friends as they pick themselves up yet again, as they salvage what they can and rebuild their lives.
**Thank you, Joanie, for inspiring me to sit down and commit this post to electronic type. I have been writing and rewriting in my head for the last few days as my anxiety grows. Your beautiful post on your California earthquake experience gave me the push I needed to connect with what I was feeling and share it.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 1:51 AM
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Today I am grateful for this blog. For encouraging me to keep track of my days in photoessay form for the last three years.
Over the last few days I have been looking back at my old blog posts. I wondered what was going on for me in March of past years, what patterns I could identify.
What struck me was how much energy and enthusiasm I had for sharing my crafting and everyday adventures with my children in 2008, the first year I started blogging. In 2009 and 2010, as my children grew and matured, I changed as well, and my blog posts became more contemplative. I noticed also how much closer in contact with nature I was in Ithaca than I am here in Maryland.
My energy is definitely quieter these days, and I'm accepting that change in rhythm as well. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, soaking in imagery and metaphor and wisdom. I am still crafting, but I haven't felt compelled to share my creations on the blog as much, and I will have to look at that more carefully to understand why.
I found this post, A Really Good Day, from March 5 of last year, which reminded me about gratitude.
I will keep this in mind today: "Let the gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you, and then it will truly be a good day." Brother David Steindl-Rast
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 11:48 AM