Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glass Collage

I have fallen in love with mosaics. Since taking a class at John C. Campbell Folk Art School last summer, I have begun gathering little bits of glass with which to create. I think of mosaics as collage in glass or ceramics. I love looking for just that right piece of colored china and then cutting it with my tile cutter to release just that perfect shape.
I found the set of pink plates pictured above in an antique mall for very little money. They cut like a dream and are the pieces I will use for my next creation. For me, it is like putting together a puzzle whose picture has not yet been determined. I have converted a portion of my garden shed into a studio because this is a little messy to do indoors, particularly when I grout. It is fine now in the cooler weather when I can just fling both doors open and listen to the birds while I work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Sunday

It's Sunday and we have begun to decorate for Christmas. I use the term "decorate" loosely because we have decided to be minimalists this year and not put up a tree. We have so many different kinds of items to decorate with that sometimes it's hard to decide what to use. For the past three years, our lighted moose has been relegated to a shelf in the shed. Today, we decided that he should come out to play for the holiday season. We typically don't fall for the lighted animal types of things but since Janet's alter ego is a moose, we couldn't resist this guy whose head moves back and forth when plugged in. We have placed him under the plum tree so that he is slightly obscured from the road but still visible. You would think that we live in a neighborhood with many passersby instead of out in the country. That's ok. At least we see it and the grand kids will see it when they visit.

We plan to use our collection of stuffed bears and moose for the inside of the house. This plan will keep it simple for us and yet give us some festive spirit for the guests we have invited for Christmas dinner. I was watching a TV show yesterday about decorating and saw an idea I would like to try. Plain branches in tall bottles with small ornaments hanging from each branch. I might give that a try just to do something different. It would fit with our "living in the country" and decorating with a lighted moose theme. What do you think?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


As I reflect on this week of Thanksgiving and my time in Cuba, I am thankful that I have the freedom to travel. Many of the Cuban people, particularly professional people, are not allowed to travel outside of their country. We spoke to a physician who is not allowed to attend professional conferences outside of Cuba even with all expenses paid. Some of the tour guides are not allowed to visit family outside of Cuba because they are too valuable to the government and there is the chance that they will not return.

I am thankful that we no longer have rationed staples and supplies in our country. The Cuban people's rations only last about ten days even though they get them only once a month. If they have no access to tips, they cannot supplement their rations. I am thankful that I have enough soap. Actually, I have an obscene amount of soap. Soap is at a premium in Cuba for those people whose rations do not last an entire month. People on the street ask for soap. Our hotel soap was an important commodity to the people we met.

I am thankful for a comfortable home. Although everyone in Cuba has a home, the condition of the homes is often questionable. Some homes have no screens; some have only a concrete floor. Many are crumbling; many have rot from the salt air. Often, there is no hot water; the kitchens are minimal. However, in the countryside where there is extreme poverty, I noticed beautiful embroidery on the bed linens of the baby's bed. There is still a need for beauty in the midst of abject despair.

I am thankful that we were able to visit a local couple in their home. We were deeply touched by this eighty one year old man and woman who continue to be creative and industrious in spite of their meager income and daily challenges. Their generous spirits and sense of humor certainly inspired me to be more grateful for my daily life. I was moved to tears as Juana Maria hugged to her chest the bottle of 750 Ibuprofen we brought from California.

I am thankful that now I understand the strength of the Cuban customs in my family. I know now that my Spanish is the Spanish of Cuba. It is not the Spanish of Northern Spain as I once thought. I am not a Spaniard from the elite provinces. My language and heritage come from the Cuban farms and cigar factories of Tampa, patterned after the farms and factories of Havana. It took this trip for me to figure all of this out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where To Begin

I have not begun to blog about my trip to Cuba because, honestly, I didn't know where to begin. I have been home one week today and feel that I must begin to say something. My trip was not really a vacation; it was not intended to be. This trip was a search for my roots, for the language of my family, for the customs I have taken on as my own. A trip to Cuba was number one on my Bucket List. It was a necessity for my life. Having heard about the beauty of Havana for all of my childhood, it was painful to see how it has deteriorated in the last fifty years. I never saw it in its splendor but heard from my many family members, how opulent a city Havana was. The beautiful buildings, many which had been family homes for the rich, were turned into tenements long, long ago. Although many of the buildings are being refurbished with the dollars from tourism, the process is slow and the salt water spray from the Malecon Promenade is taking its toll faster than the refurbishing can be done. As Shannon and I walked along the water, I could not help but notice the crumbling buildings across the street where my friend Iris had lived with her grandmother. Cuba is especially hard on the old people and it was difficult to see them struggle. Because we are fortunate to know Spanish, Shannon and I were able to talk to the people on the street and get their impressions of Cuba then and Cuba now. I will write more as I begin to sort out my feelings and impressions of the Cuban experience and the Cuban people. It will take me a while.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Last Minute Things To Do

I am sure that there is much more to do before leaving for Cuba on Sunday but these are the things I THINK I have left to do:

* Worry one more time that my suitcase weighs too much
* Count my money one more time to be sure I have enough
* Worry that the hurricane will go more easterly than expected
* Worry again about the airplane that crashed in Cuba this morning
* Stuff more little soaps in my suitcase to leave for the Cuban people
* Eat a lot because I don't think I'll eat that much in Cuba
* Make sure I take Janet's camera away from her so I can take it with me
* List one more thing on Etsy so I can worry that I'll sell a lot while I'm away and won't be home to ship it
* Feel proud that I finished reading The Cuba Diaries that Shannon instructed me to read
* Re-read my friend Iris' book that she wrote about her childhood in Cuba
* Listen to El Cuarto de Tula by the Buena Vista Social Club which I have been singing all day
* Listen to El Tiempo Pasa by Mercedes Sosa that I sang all day yesterday
* Look, one more time, on the computer for photographs of Cuba that I have not seen already
* Bleach my mustache so I look like an Americana (like that could happen)
* Speak Spanish in my head so I am ready when I land in Havana
* Print my boarding pass
* Stay awake all night Saturday like I do before any trip I take